ADVENT REFLECTION: John The Baptist by Enuma Okoro

December 20, 2018

From Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, and saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand. For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. And the same John had his raiment of camel’s hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey. Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan, and were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of [...]

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: Silence by Enuma Okoro

December 11, 2018

From Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believes not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season. And the people waited for Zacharias, and marveled that he tarried so long in the temple. And when he came out, he could not speak unto them: and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple: for he beckoned unto them, and remained speechless. And it came to pass, that, as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished, he departed to his own house. (Luke 1:20-23) Traditionally we read Luke 1:20-23 as God’s punishment of Zechariah for his lack of faith in God’s words.  The angel [...]

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 [...]

ADVENT MEDITATION: To Believe by Karl Barth

December 13, 2015

From Lukas 1:5–23 Then the angel of the Lord appeared to Zechariah, standing at the right side of the altar of incense.  When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear.  But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard.  Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John. Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” The angel answered, “I am Gabriel.  I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news.  And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, [...]