I greet you in the name and spirit of Emmanuel, God with us.
We have entered the Advent season. This is a season of waiting, watching, and preparing for the “God with us” mystery—the incarnation mystery. This is the season of anticipating the gift of the Christ child.
Advent is also a time of joyous proclamation: a time of Magnificat, a time of prophecy, a time of singing praises, a time of inversions and reversals. Advent is a time of broken silence. It is a time of loosened tongues and open mouths.
One of the central characters in the Advent drama is Zechariah. Do you remember Zechariah? Take a few moments to read Luke 1:5-25, 57-64.
Zechariah was John the Baptizer’s daddy. Zechariah dismissed the angel Gabriel. So, God made Zechariah speechless—froze his tongue for nine months—because he did not believe God could perform the wonderful miracle that Elizabeth, an old woman, could conceive a son, John. But when Zechariah affirmed that John was, indeed, chosen by God, his mouth was opened and his tongue loosened.
To be Advent people is to be a people of open mouths and freed tongues. To be Advent people is to proclaim, unabashedly, the power and promise of God’s coming in Jesus.
We are called to be people of loosened tongues—to see the possible when those around us see only the impossible.
We are called to be people of loosened tongues—to speak out for peace and justice when those around us rush to war.
We are called to be people of loosened tongues—to stand with those who grieve and suffer when those around us are too busy, cynical, or apathetic to do so.
We are called to be people of loosened tongues—to name Christ’s presence in the midst of despair when those around us are caving into hopelessness.
We are called to be people of loosened tongues—to proclaim salvation in Jesus Christ when those all around us seek salvation in cultural gods.
In my get-acquainted visits across the state, I have discovered congregations in every district of the Minnesota Conference engaging in transforming lives, families, neighborhoods, communities, and the world. I have been introduced to congregations with effective, sustainable, fruitful disciple-making and disciple-sending systems. I have been encouraged by congregations that are living the scriptural imperatives of cultivating spiritual vitality, reaching new people, and healing a broken world.
One of their common characteristics is they have “loosened tongues.” They are reflecting and proclaiming the presence of Emmanuel, God with us!
And, so I pray with you this Advent season:
Lord, the calendar calls for Christmas; our preparations have begun.
We have traveled this way before.
During this Advent season,
let us see what we have never seen before,
accept what we have refused to imagine,
hear what we need to understand and act upon,
and speak what we have feared to say.
Be with us in our goings, that we may meet you in your coming.
Astonish us until our tongues are loosened, and we sing, “Glory! Hallelujah!”
Then equip us to live as Advent people and Advent congregations, fully available to accomplish your Kingdom purposes.
In the name of your Incarnate Word, even Jesus Christ. Amen.
Have a blessed Advent. May you receive the gift of an expectant heart and a loosened tongue!
Bishop Bruce R. Ough is resident bishop of the Dakotas-Minnesota Episcopal area.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church