By Bishop Mary Virginia Taylor
Sometimes pictures speak louder than words.
This photograph was taken at the Breakfast with Santa held last month at Mount Hebron United Methodist Church in West Columbia. Everything had been prepared. The scent of pancakes and bacon lingered in the air. For several weeks, members of the congregation had selected the names of children from their Angel Tree. Wrapped presents held clothes and toys that had been purchased for each individual child. As the Rev. Emily Sutton called every child by name, he or she came forward to receive the special gifts from Santa Claus.
For the 70 children served by the West Metro Hispanic Ministry, this was an exciting time.
Of all the pictures taken that day, this is my favorite. The faces of the children in this portrait reveal the various ways we may greet this New Year. A big sister is eager to unwrap the surprises that await. A baby sister wants everyone to know she is not happy. Clearly, she does not like Santa. And then caught in the middle is the brother who is unsure about the whole thing.
How will we face this New Year? In his Gospel, Luke begins his story with the announcement of a messenger named John. The angel Gabriel tells Zachariah that he and his wife, Elizabeth, are going to have a son. The proclaimer reveals, He will turn many sons and daughters of Israel back to their God. He will herald God s arrival in the style and strength of Elijah, soften the hearts of parents to children, and kindle devout understanding among hardened skeptics “ he ll get the people ready for God (Luke 1:16-17).
During Advent, we focused on preparing ourselves for the birth of Jesus. But often on the days following Christmas, many persons experience a letdown. We keep missing the point. Any new parent will tell you that the birth of a child is only the beginning. There are so many wonderful days ahead. As Christians, we rejoice that God is with us in Jesus.
The Santa suit may be packed away for another year, but the invitation to herald God s arrival, to soften hearts and to kindle understanding among skeptics is always before us. The task of Christians is to get people ready for God. We are always preparing the way.
In the middle of December, we traveled to Bishopville to celebrate the life of Jeannie Alexander, the mother of one of our pastors. It was said that day, Her glass was always half full. Her positive influence on the lives of her neighbors and friends was evident. The sanctuary was filled to overflowing.
At the cemetery, I overheard a woman introduce herself to family members. She was there because Mrs. Alexander had meant so much to her mother who had been her neighbor. On days such as this, an exclamation point is placed on a life well-lived for God.
So here is the question: How will we live the days of this New Year? It has been said that days sometimes go by slowly, but years go fast.
It is my prayer that all of us will live these days and this year sharing the good news of Emmanuel!