By Carol Scheppard
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Grace and Peace to you in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. We rejoice this Advent season as we celebrate the incarnation–God’s astounding act of love to become human, live among us, and lead us out from our darkness. “And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.”
As the angels proclaimed: “I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find the child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger… Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors.”
God chose to be born into a troubled world of political upheaval and social unrest that our obsession with principalities and powers might be shaken at its core. Yet more astonishing, God chose to be born in a barn to humble, weary travelers that we might know the amazing power of divine transformation, power that is ours as we claim our appointed place in the Body of Christ.
Have we heard this story so many times that we no longer recognize its magnificence, no long anticipate its transformation, no longer trust its promises? This Advent season can we experience this story with fresh eyes and ears, stepping out in bold expectation of its fruits? God can and does and will transform our lives and our world as we open ourselves to Christ’s presence. Let us wait together with eager anticipation, watching and listening for the movement of the Holy Spirit.
And as we wait, let us not forget who we are. We are the Chosen of God/the Body of Christ, a manifestation of his presence on earth and the agents of his kingdom. As such, our first task is to worship God and God alone, turning from all forms of idolatry (pride, wealth, or power), and testifying to God’s abundant steadfast love.
Our second task is to take care of each other, supporting one another in faith and ministering to the needs of the widow, the orphan, and the stranger in our midst. In worshiping God alone, we stand apart from principalities and powers, channeling God’s steadfast love for the oppressed and the powerless. As it was in the world at the time of Christ’s birth, darkness presses upon us and threatens to extinguish our hope. Remember that the light of Christ shines in the humblest of places and blazes among the scattered and the dispossessed. As the Body of Christ our rightful place is with Jesus at the back of the barn.
So, be audacious this Advent season and Risk Hope! Worship God in all God’s glory and take care of those who stand alone in the shadows. “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.” Our God lives and reigns in this world and the next!
Warm regards for a blessed Christmas,
2017 Annual Conference Moderator
For more information about the 2017 Annual Conference of the Church of the Brethren, go to www.brethren.org/ac