Dear Friends in Christ
There is an old Jewish story called, “Could this be Paradise?” In the story, a man obsessed with paradise, leaves home and family to find Paradise. During the journey an imp plays a trick on the man and he ends up traveling back to his home and spends the rest of his life wondering if he is in Paradise or not. As I sit here in my office looking out on the beauty of a cold and slightly snowy Oregon morning, I find myself asking the same question, could this be paradise?
We are all in a place of our own choosing to some extent and thus, unless we are terrible at making choices, there will be some element of paradise in every life. Our lives are, however, also made up of the collection of events that have happened to us and around us throughout our lives. It is likely that paradise is not the sum total of our experience of life. But listen again to the question, could this be paradise? As Advent approaches and we contemplate the coming of Christ into the world it is good to ask: What would it take to turn the world we live into the paradise of God? What could we be involved in that might make a difference in my or someone else’s experience of the world? How might we enable ourselves and others to come to find God’s paradise in everyday life?
Jesus came into a world dominated by the Roman Empire with its vision of world peace created by Roman domination: The Peace of Rome. In the midst of this world, Jesus invited people to see a different reality, God’s reality. He invited people to imagine a world dominated by God’s love. World peace, created, not by domination, but by love: The peace of God.
In Advent we will read once again the story of the announcement of the angels, the struggles of both Mary and Joseph, the birth in a stable among simple animals, and the reactions of those around the event. We will hear Jesus called Emmanuel, God-with-us, and we will contemplate the meaning of this event for our lives today. I pray that, through the challenging and hectic events of the month ahead, you will find time to sit quietly and reflect on the world around you. May you pray for the world and its challenges; that God might be present to those in need. May you pray for those you love; that God’s love might be manifest in them. May you pray for yourself; that you might glimpse paradise in the accidental and ordinary events of life.
The peace of Christ be with you and yours this Advent and Christmas.
Bishop of Oregon