ADVENT REFLECTION: Bearing The Word by Enuma Okoro

December 24, 2018

From Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shined in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.  There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.  That was the true Light, which lighted every man that comes into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world [...]

ADVENT REFLECTION: What Are You Waiting For? by Enuma Okoro

December 21, 2018

From Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away. (Luke 1:53) We assume the time John the Baptist spends waiting and preparing in the wilderness is in order to steep his identity in God.  From before John’s conception, God has claimed his life.  John’s primary identity will always be in relation to Jesus and in how John lived out his call to ministry.  Someone like John is always bound to make people, including us, uncomfortable because his existence points us away from ourselves and toward the Kingdom of God.  We do not naturally and without some inner resistance make the shift from self to God.  John’s life and ministry compels us to [...]

ADVENT REFLECTION: A Holy Friendship by Enuma Okoro

December 19, 2018

From Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent And Mary abode with her about three months, and returned to her own house. (Luke 1:56) Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waits for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draws nigh. Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge stands before the door. Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience. (James 5:7-10) The narrative leaves out so much information concerning the [...]

ADVENT REFLECTION: Mary And Elizabeth by Enuma Okoro

December 18, 2018

From Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda; and entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth. And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: and she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were [...]

ADVENT REFLECTION: Holy Retreat by Enuma Okoro

December 14, 2018

From Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent But of that day and hour knows no man, no, not the angels of Heaven, but my Father only. But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. But know this, that if the goodman of [...]

ADVENT REFLECTION: Divine Preparation by Enuma Okoro

December 13, 2018

From Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived, and hid herself five months, saying, Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men. (Luke 1:24-25) After Zechariah’s visit from the angel, he returns home with nothing to say to his wife.  But soon, to Elizabeth’s astonishment, she becomes pregnant.  Elizabeth remains in seclusion for the next five months, and it is just as well given Zechariah’s muteness.  What can there have been to say?  Sometimes contemplation is the most fitting response to God’s word or action in our lives. In traditional religious circles, we are rarely taught the value of quiet [...]

ADVENT REFLECTION: Barrenness by Enuma Okoro

December 9, 2018

From Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years. (Luke 1:5-7) It is a cold word, hollow-sounding, devoid of warmth, almost iron-clad in its finality: barren.  Elizabeth is a barren woman.  Could anything be more devastating in a culture that prides women on the fruits of their womb?  Imagine her wondering what Zechariah might secretly think [...]

ADVENT REFLECTION: Advent Day 7 Personal Reflection by Enuma Okoro

December 8, 2018

From Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent Doubt is common to more people of faith than perhaps care to admit it.  Ebbing back and forth in trust and belief is not something to be proud of but it is also not something of which to be ashamed.  It is simply part of our human condition this side of Heaven.  Some people experience less or more of it than others.  We find grace in the stories of scripture that highlight characters who experience doubt and questioning, who want proof of God’s words to them.  We can take spiritual refuge in people like Zechariah and the disciple Thomas who needed proof of the resurrection.  Sometimes God’s goodness sounds too good to be true.  At times our disbelief testifies more to the [...]

ADVENT REFLECTION: Devoted Doubt by Enuma Okoro

December 6, 2018

From Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years. And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings. (Luke 1:18-19) How do we hold onto our belief in God’s promises in the midst of doubt?  At what point do our prayers become rote, tinged more with habit than with hope, based more on what we feel is required of us than in what is possible with God?  Zechariah has a difficult time receiving the angel Gabriel’s words because they do not fall in line with the reality of his and Elizabeth’s circumstances.  [...]

ADVENT REFLECTION: Remembered By God by Enuma Okoro

December 5, 2018

From Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard,” (Luke 1:13a).  It is difficult to put ourselves in Zechariah’s shoes as he heard those words.  How would we respond if God sent a personal messenger to tell us that our pleas had reached God’s ears and all that we had desired was coming to pass?  Do we have a big enough imagination to believe that our prayers can indeed rise up to God?  These five verses from Luke 1 are packed with so much grace and divine kindness that it is hard simply as a reader not to be overwhelmed.  How must Zechariah have felt?  The angel informs him of God’s abundant generosity.  Not only has Zechariah’s prayer been heard, but [...]

ADVENT REFLECTION: Intercession by Enuma Okoro

December 4, 2018

From Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense. And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John. (Luke 1:10-13) Prayer has a power we will never be able to understand.  We may never know how the prayers of others may have impacted our lives, or how our own prayers of intercession affect other people.  When Zechariah enters the sanctuary, behind him is a community praying.  [...]

ADVENT REFLECTION: Lament by Enuma Okoro

December 3, 2018

From Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent Unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul. O my God, I trust in thee: let me not be ashamed, let not mine enemies triumph over me. Yea, let none that wait on thee be ashamed: let them be ashamed which transgress without cause. Shew me thy ways, O Lord; teach me thy paths. Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day.  Remember, O Lord, thy tender mercies and thy loving-kindnesses; for they have been ever of old. Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions: according to thy mercy remember thou me for thy goodness’ sake, O Lord. Good and upright is the Lord: therefore will he teach sinners in the way. The meek [...]

ADVENT REFLECTION: Waiting With Unanswered Prayer by Enuma Okoro

December 2, 2018

From Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent Part One: Surprised and Silenced by God Traditionally when we think of Advent we immediately call to mind Mary, Joseph, and the angel Gabriel.  But in the Gospel of Luke, Zechariah and Elizabeth are the first two people we meet in the Advent narrative.  Much as John the Baptist was the forerunner to Christ, his parents Zechariah and Elizabeth seem to be the forerunners for the holy family.  The angel Gabriel comes to them first to astound them with good news.  Yet, Zechariah and Elizabeth teach us that receiving divine good news can be fraught with all kinds of tensions and questions.  It is an understatement to say that Zachariah and Elizabeth are caught by surprise.  Their [...]