In this year’s Advent message, Bishop David Bard notes that some surprises are bad. But he adds we can also expect to be surprised by God’s joy, hope, and love during this blessed season.
Dear Friends in Christ in the Michigan Conference,
Advent. The word is from the Latin for “coming” or “arriving.” Maybe, like me, you can hear the Vince Guaraldi Trio playing “Christmas is Coming” from the Charlie Brown Christmas Special.
Christmas is coming. The Advent season lets us know that Christmas is coming. Cards will be purchased, family letters penned, trees trimmed, yards decorated with lights. Lists will be made, grocery lists, gift lists, and checked twice. Travel plans will be formulated.
Christmas is coming, and there are bound to be some surprises along the way. The psychoanalyst Wilfred Bion once wrote, “life is full of surprises, most of them bad.” Not exactly a cheery holiday thought, yet it contains a modicum of truth. That sting of lights you want to put outside just won’t work. Surprise and not a good one. When COVID first arrived in the United States, it was a surprise and not a good one. We now find ourselves experiencing a fourth surge of the disease. In early October, my mother, a life-long non-smoker, was diagnosed with incurable lung cancer. Surprise and not a good one. Visiting her one weekend, we woke Sunday morning to find that one of our vehicle’s tires was flat. I could see the nail we had driven over. Surprise, and not a good one, and it is no easy task to get a flat tire fixed on a Sunday.
Many of life’s surprises can be uncomfortable, or painful, or disconcerting, or destructive. Hurricanes are surprises, even when we might forecast them. Flooding is surprising. Fires are surprising. Cancer diagnoses are surprising.
The good news of Christmas is that there are surprises filled with wonder and joy and that no matter how many difficult surprises we encounter in life, surprises of wonder, joy, and love remain more powerful. Shepherds, keeping watch over their flocks, are surprised by angels, and there are good tidings of great joy. A child is born, a son is given, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, the Prince of Peace. Surprise and good news. God cares. God loves. God arrives to redeem.
My hope and prayer for you, for me, for all of us, is that during this Advent and Christmas season, you will be surprised by joy in some way, surprised by hope in some way, surprised by love in some way.
I also want to invite you to join me in being a surprise of hope to people near and far. I invite you to join me in contributing to the Bishop’s Advent appeal, which will be dedicated to disaster response in Michigan, in the United States, and throughout the world. This summer, we were surprised by flooding in the Detroit area. Hurricanes, fires, and flooding have devastated parts of the United States this past year. This summer, Haiti experienced a devastating earthquake, and more recently, British Columbia has experienced unprecedented flooding and mudslides. Surprises and not good ones.
Let’s surprise people with hope by our generosity in this difficult season. I thank you for considering this.
Again, may Advent and Christmas be a time when you are surprised by joy, surprised by hope, surprised by love. Blessed Advent. Merry Christmas. All in the name of Jesus Christ, who arrives again and again into our lives and into our world to heal and redeem.
Deep peace of the Spirit this Advent.
David Alan Bard
Michigan Area Bishop
~ Note the Bishop’s Advent Appeal for Disaster Response will be split 40% to International Disaster Relief, 40% National Disaster Relief, and 20% Michigan Disaster Relief. Click here to make a gift online.