|It may not have been Christmas in July but it was at the least a very summery Advent as Marlys Hershberger, pastor of Hollidaysburg (Pa.) Church of the Brethren, invited the Sunday morning worshippers into the special time Mary experienced as she waited for the promised arrival of her son Jesus.
Relating stories of her pregnancies and the various fears that accompanied each one, Hershberger spoke of “40 weeks of anticipation. That biblical number of trials and waiting. Forty weeks of living in expectancy, as transformation takes place, as new life is develops within, ready to come forth, growing, to be revealed.”
That time, she said is not one simply of waiting, but of preparing, learning, and growing as one waits for new possibilities to be revealed. Using the Magnificat from Luke 1 as her text, Hershberger celebrated Mary’s anticipation of God’s promises, both made and waiting to be fulfilled.
“Is our ministry as the church in the present age very different from Mary?” she asked. “We, like Mary, live in an age of the already and not yet. We live in a time when the kingdom of God has already been inaugurated in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But we also live in a time when the kingdom of God is not yet present in all its fullness, all is not yet restored and made Christ.”
She concluded, “The church lives respecting the day (of Christ’s arrival). The kingdom is not yet full present, but it is already here and to live otherwise is nothing short of disastrous. We live in a pregnant time. The church is not much different than Mary. Are we not called to pregnant living also?” All the ways in which churches bring Jesus to their communities and within their fellowships becomes part of that pregnant, expectant living
Earlier in the service the congregation was introduced to the story of the late Bill Powers, of Mt. Morris (Ill.) Church of the Brethren, whose special ministry at the age of 92, confined to a wheelchair and requiring extra oxygen, was to greet every member of the church by phone on their birthday. His phone list included, on Dec. 25, no one less than Jesus. When it was pointed out to Powers that he had no phone number next to that name, he replied that one way or another, the two always managed to talk together. It was one more way that Powers in his ministry demonstrated how to take Jesus seriously.
– Frank Ramirez is pastor of Everett (Pa.) Church of the Brethren
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