Greetings to you in the name of Jesus Christ, the One whose birth we await during this holy season of Advent.
The Church marks time slightly differently than does most of the world. Though Advent falls at the end of the calendar year, it represents the beginning of a new year in the Church. Advent simply means “coming,” so, in these days leading up to Christmas, we prepare our hearts once more for the inbreaking of God into human history. We rehearse the story of the birth of Christ in Bethlehem once more, and we also hope for our attention to become more and more attuned to the many ways God enters into our lives today and every day to come.
As humans, we tend to make sense of our lives through the telling and retelling of stories. Over time, the stories we tell about our families, our friends, and ourselves take on lives of their own, reminding us who we are and what it is in our history, both good and bad, that compels us to live with integrity and intentionality.
The story of Jesus’ birth in a stable in Bethlehem of Judea remains captivating more than two thousand years later, in part because it tells the story of God’s coming into the world in an utterly surprising way — not as a military hero who would rescue Israel from Roman oppression as many had hoped, but rather as a vulnerable Infant of refugee parents. This helpless Child would become the Messiah, the Savior of the world, not through power wrought by violence, but rather through the power won through love, justice, freedom, and peace.
There is a Kenyan proverb that says, “When you pray, remember to move your feet.” During Advent, we pray that God’s love will continue to break into a violent world that longs for God’s peace, into a despairing world that longs for God’s hope, into a broken world that longs for God’s healing. And, as we pray, we move our feet. We wait for God’s coming by feeding the hungry, tending the sick, encouraging the downtrodden, and freeing those who are captive to oppressive powers that threaten to render them anything less than the beloved children of God that they are.
In the act of reaching out to a world in need, we believe we encounter and embody the love of Christ, who came that all might have life, and have it abundantly. If you have ever had the sneaking suspicion that the holiday season compels us into a deeper longing than all the marketers of consumer goods would have us believe, join us in prayer and worship at Shadyside Presbyterian Church, either in person or online. And while you pray, remember to move your feet. Together, we can do something that will bring a glimpse of unexpected kindness and mercy into the world. And if we do, we believe the story of Christmas — with its astonishing angels, lowly shepherds, guiding star, and dingy stable — will once again take on a life of its own.
To you, to the ones whom you love, and to the ones whom only God loves, we wish a blessed Advent season and a Merry Christmas.
The Reverend Austin Crenshaw Shelley
Senior Pastor and Head of Staff
About Rev. Shelley
Read more about Rev. Shelley.
Watch a brief video introducing Rev. Shelley.