Invitation to become more engaged, deepen relationship

By Rev. Canon Stewart Murray
This article appears in the February edition of Crosstalk, the monthly newspaper of the Anglican Diocese of Ottawa

The decorations and music of the Christmas celebrations have only just begun to fade away when we are once again invited into the annual journey of Lent. The Christmas and Epiphany colours of gold and white are replaced with the somber purple of Lent and the joyful singing of Alleluias is put aside until Holy Saturday and the triumph of the Resurrection. But we must not let the joy of Christmas leave us as we enter the 40 days of Lent. To fully understand the wonder of Christmas and the incarnation of Jesus Christ, we need to see them in the light of the events of Holy Week and Good Friday. For the incarnation of the living God in human form is the first step in the plan of a loving Father who seeks to bring healing, love, and mercy into our troubled world. The events of Christmas were God’s response to the prayers and the cries of our hearts in the midst of the brokenness of our lives.

St. Paul, in his Letter to the Philippians 2:7, gives us an insight into the plan of salvation:
“Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.
“And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

In Jesus’ life and in the manner of His death and resurrection, we encounter a deeper understanding of the nature of God and of the depth of His love for us. In His incarnation we are able to grasp on a human level what love is. We see in Jesus’ public ministry His desire to heal, to feed the body and the soul, to lift up the human heart and imagination. In Jesus, we see love in action in the midst of life, in times of joy, sorrow and trouble. In the everyday scenes of the scriptures we see Jesus responding to the needs of others at the wedding at Cana, at the funeral bier of a young man and in His many encounters with the sick and suffering.

Lent gives us an opportunity to reflect on the times in our journey when the love of Christ has touched our lives; the times when the hope of the Gospel has given us courage, strength and peace. The theme of God reaching out to us in Jesus sees its ultimate expression in the drama of Holy Week and His death on the cross. For in the cross Jesus embraced the brokenness, fear, darkness and death caused by our estrangement from God, and rose again.

Christmas, Lent and Easter are not merely times of looking back on some interesting historical events, but rather are opportunities to see our life experience in a larger context. We are invited to enter into the events celebrated in order to become more engaged in what matters in life and to deepen our relationship with God in Christ. Our parish communities are places of encounter with Christ, where together we seek to respond to the invitation of Christ proclaimed in word and deed at Easter. Let us take up the challenge and share in the work of the Gospel and in the risen life of Christ. As Jesus proclaims to all who desire a richer life: “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” John 10:10.