GOD WITH US
“Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.” (UMH 246)
The JOY of God’s Presence is overwhelming when a great light shines in our darkness. Our dark thoughts are so easily pulled toward worry and fear. Our attention is on the frailty and limitations of life rather than on the One who gives life, the One who is “the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation; for in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible – all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things and in him all things hold together.”
Janet and I pray you will prepare Him room in your thoughts, desires and decisions giving a visible sign that the Light of God, Christ our Lord, is indeed present. The reign of God is now at work in you, and through you into the world. Through the birth of Jesus, God has become the visible image by which our lives are filled with God’s glory and peace. God loves you!
It would be our prayer that every congregation will express this Christmas joy by praying and singing, “Come, let us adore him!” We choose to live in the light of God’s hope. We pray for this war-weary world, that the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ, will grant the peace of God proclaimed by the angels. We pray for those who have made themselves available for service in public life and leadership will find the presence of God to be the value and virtue that inspires them to govern with mercy and fairness. We pray those who have been baptized will find strength, meaning and renewal by recommitting themselves to prayer, worship, sacraments, and the reading of scripture.
Advent is the time of preparation; a time of expectation. May this holiday – Holy Day – become the first step in a new journey traveled in the companionship of God which will create a new expectation for your personal life, your loved ones and your church family. This regeneration and renewal is the source of a life that is the light of the human race; a light that shines in the darkness of this world (even though the darkness has not – and cannot – overcome it).
St. John has reminded us that Jesus was in the world, and “the world came to be through him, but the world did not know him.” This is still true today. “But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name, who were born not by natural generation nor by human choice nor by one’s own decision, but of God.” (Jn. 1:5,10-13).
Here is the promise of this new life, “For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray – but when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit, which he poured out upon us rightly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:3-7).
Almighty God, Prince of Peace, may your peace abide in the hearts of every soul within our Alabama-West Florida Conference and throughout the world. Amen.
Bishop Paul L. Leeland
Resident Bishop, Alabama-West Florida Conference