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Living the Connection

by | Dec 15, 2013 | Not In USe

By Bishop Bob Hoshibata

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Bishop Bob Hoshibata is the Resident Bishop of the Phoenix Area of The UMC and provides leadership to The Desert Southwest Conference.

Dear Members and Friends of the Desert Southwest Conference,

In these waning days of the season of Advent, the symbols of Christmas adorn streets and homes everywhere you look. Have you completed all your preparations for Christmas? Greeting cards signed and sent? Christmas tree purchased (or assembled) and decorated? Holiday travel or entertaining plans in place? By this time, I imagine that most of our preparations for Christmas are completed, except, perhaps those last-minute presents that need to be made or purchased and wrapped and delivered.

In the midst of the busy-ness of this time, I hope you have also been engaged in spiritual preparations for Christmas! As people of faith, Advent is the time to reflect on the importance of this season for disciples of Jesus Christ. Perhaps nothing is more critical to our lives and our world than for each of us to ponder how we are affected by the life, teaching, and the death and resurrection of Jesus as an extension of God’s love in human life. What does it mean to “Keep the ‘Christ’ in Christmas?”

At worship services on Christmas Eve, one of the poetic passages I love that is often read comes from the words of the prophet, Isaiah. These words help us reflect on the meaning of the coming of the Christ child in our lives and in the world. For me, these words tell of the great need for us to live our faith in a world that is challenged by the proliferation of evil and hatred. In Isaiah’s words:

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness on them light has shined… For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

–Isaiah 9:2-6

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This year, I find myself focused on what it means when we say that Christ is the Prince of Peace. Isaiah spoke of the deep darkness that envelopes humankind. I suspect that many of us experience that deep darkness of the world in a variety of ways. Daily, we are bombarded by the news of civil unrest in many cities and towns and many corners of our nation and the world. Some are despairing because of natural disasters. Others have experienced loss of a loved one. People are hurting because of hateful actions that harm others and destroy lives. Injustice in a myriad of terrible and terrifying forms negate the sanctity of life and the dignity of each person. Prejudice and fear divide and denigrate members of the diverse human family. When there is such a preponderance of bad things happening, it is not surprising that we may feel that we are walking in darkness. Our world desperately needs a reminder that the One whom we worship came to bring the light of God’s peace, or shalom to our world.

The shalom that God wishes for us is more complex than just an absence of war. The Hebrew term has a deep meaning rooted in the wholeness of a person and her or his relationship to others, with ourselves, and with God. To live in a state of shalom requires that each person experiences a state of being that is peaceful and that when a person is in a right relationship with self, other and God, that is when a person’s life is complete. When a person is not at peace with self, or when a person is not at peace with others, or when there is no peace with God, then shalom does not exist. This means that God’s will for us is that we love all persons! If we have hatred in our hearts for even one person, that means we are not yet living in the completeness of God’s shalom. That is when we pray for a transformation that can take place when Christ is at the center of our lives and when our faith strengthens us for the important work of becoming right with ourselves, with all others and God.

So the good news is that the child born in the Bethlehem stable is the Holy One who is like a great light to those living in despair. To people of faith, the Christ child represents the reassurance that God is with us and that through the Christ child we are given a model to emulate in our own lives. Through the Biblical narrative of his life, his teaching, his preaching, and his actions we learn what God wants for our lives. For us, the Christ child is the light of life in a world of darkness. As Christ-followers, let us reaffirm our commitment to live following the Prince of Peace, studying his life, emulating his example, dedicating ourselves to keep yearning and striving for shalom in our lives and in our world.

Will you offer this prayer with me?:

God, loving and living Creator: We give thanks for your reassurance in this holy season that you are present with us. In spite of the darkness of the world that sometimes seems overwhelming, you come to us to remind us that you do not give up on us, and that in Christ, you renew your faith in us and our hope for shalom. May we find ways to demonstrate our love to others and to you this season, and may the deeper meaning of faith in Jesus Christ be more important to us than the materialism of the secular world. Bless us with the joy of the peace in our lives, in our communities, and in our world. Amen!

Shalom to you in Christ,

Robert T. Hoshibata

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