Thursday, December 3, 2009

A Letter from the Bishop

Bishop Ed Little Writes his Diocese-

Dear brothers and sisters,

As an avid mystery reader - I must confess that the more gruesome the tale, the more I enjoy it - I make it a point of pride never to sneak a peek at the end. I want to wait until the very last moment before discovering “who done it.” Was it the jilted fiancĂ©? The bitter business partner? The resentful cousin? Part of the pleasure is in the waiting. While some mystery readers do their best to figure out who’s guilty, I prefer the surprise. I don’t want to know - until the very last page. A gasp of surprise is the sign of a great mystery.

That’s why Advent presents something of a challenge to me. It tells the story in reverse. Advent begins at the end, on the last page, and moves to the beginning. And so, on the First Sunday of Advent, our focus is on the second coming of Jesus. “Give us grace to cast away the works of darkness . . . that in the last day, when [Jesus] shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal” (Collect for 1 Advent, BCP p. 211). On the cusp of a new church year, we gaze into the future and recognize that Jesus has history well in hand. As John puts it in his vision of the future: “I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (Revelation 21:1-2). From the opening moments of the Christian year, we know how things are going to turn out!

Having opened the book and sneaked a peek at the end of the story, we move to the middle - to John the Baptist, Jesus’ cousin and forerunner, who appeared on the bank of the Jordan River when Jesus was about 30 and preached about the coming Savior. The Second and Third Sundays of Advent focus on John’s ministry of preparation. This year, the Gospel readings come from Luke. “[John] went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins,” we will hear on 2 Advent (Luke 3:3). And then, the next week, John will confront us with his grim yet hopeful message. “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” And yet, John adds, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire” (Luke 3:7, 16). John invites us to review our lives and prepare our hearts for the coming of Jesus. His message is always fresh, always challenging, and always appropriate.

Much more here-

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