Advent Musings from The Bishop:
It been a “minute” since I have written anything even close to a Bishop’s pastoral letter. It has taken a season like Advent to move me. Maybe because Advent is the season that God decided to announce God’s final “Word” over the darkness that threatens to consume us. Advent, the season of “Hope,” a hope that no despair can overcome. Advent, the season our hearts cry out in one voice, as Charles Wesley reminds us: “Come, thou long expected Jesus, born to set thy people free; from our fears and sins release us, let us find our rest in thee. Israel’s strength and consolation, hope of all the earth thou art; dear desire of every nation, joy of every longing heart.”
Advent settles my soul because I know Jesus has, is, and will come. I must confess that none of this may sound coherent; these words are not in response to anything, they are simply the musing of a heart that refuses to give in to the darkness because I believe God has not given us spirits of fear. We belong to an unshakable kingdom, and we are called to live into another reality. The advent of that kingdom broke into the world in Jesus Christ, Immanuel, God with us. The ultimate consummation of that kingdom will come when Jesus returns.
It is the gift of this longing that makes our heart rejoice at the amazing possibilities yet to break forth, even in the midst of the darkest night. While the world wrestles in the midnight hour of sin, violence, and injustice, there is still something in my spirit that lets me know that this too will pass. We believe our light has and will come. We believe the narrative that the good news for all people has been written. We know the end of the story; now it is time to live as if we do.
God is near, but the darkness threatens to keep that presence at bay. The voices of our pain, hatred, injustice, violence and despair make it hard to hear the piercing scream of a baby born in Bethlehem. However, that same voice speaks calm into the raging sea, calling forth life out of death, with the voice of authority setting us loose to live a different way, “a more excellent way,” the way of agape. The tender hands of Bethlehem’s child coming to heal the sick, feed the hungry, cloth the naked, and touch the untouchable, freeing us from our bent toward sinning.
Who could have believed that the heart of this child would bear the weight of the world, wrapping it in mercy, forgiveness, reconciliation, and grace? This is the heartbeat of God’s redemption song for all creation. Immanuel comes with agape running in his veins, flowing compassionate reassurance that this too will pass – the assurance that no midnight can last forever. The advent of Jesus’ first coming makes perfect sense even though my rational mind tells me it is insane to think God would come in such a way, a baby born to a teenage girl In the presence of a carpenter and some shepherds.
It will be this child who grows up to turn our worldviews upside down. Have we forgotten why He came? In the words of Jim Croce, “You say you love the baby, then you crucify the man.” We crucify Jesus in our words of hatred. We bury Jesus beneath a thousand things crowding our calendars, no time to contemplate what his coming really means, even while we are already preparing in earnest to celebrate his birth.
I pray we journey through Advent as people who are not without hope, but whose hope is rooted in the coming of Jesus Christ. “Come, Lord Jesus, Come!!!!”
Bishop Leonard E. Fairley