Dear South Georgia Conference family,
Sherrill and I are preparing to celebrate our fifth Christmas here in the South Georgia Conference, and we are thankful for the opportunity to serve Christ with you.
This advent season I have been contemplating Mary’s visit to Elizabeth, which may be one of the most overlooked parts of the Christmas story. The angel Gabriel tells Mary of the son she will bear and then adds, “And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren.” Mary immediately goes to see Elizabeth. This is a monumental visit, but I have never seen a Christmas card depicting it nor heard a Christmas carol celebrating it.
This year let’s correct that. I invite you to join me in noticing the momentousness of Mary’s visit with her relative. Elizabeth is carrying John the Baptist, whom we refer to as the last of the Old Testament prophets; the culmination of the Old Testament. Mary is carrying Jesus, who is the New Testament. Both women are necessary. Elizabeth is carrying the one who represents the story that produced Jesus. Mary is carrying the One who represents the future of that very story. And there they are together in the same house for three months!
Mary and Elizabeth each carried a divine gift. But neither of them had the whole story. Each needed the other in order for the story to be complete. This story has been captivating me for weeks. It challenges me to recognize that Mary’s visit to Elizabeth is a foretaste of the way the Gospel makes relatives of us all through faith in Jesus. Black, white, Hispanic, Korean, older (like Elizabeth), younger (like Mary), etc. - each of us is needed for our story to be complete. Each of us carries a divine gift that God intends to use for the good of the whole.
The wisdom of Mary and Elizabeth is seen in the way they recognized their need for each other and rejoiced in it. May God give us the gift of that wisdom this Christmas. The wisdom to recognize that we need each other. The wisdom to respect the divine gift God has given each of us to share with our brothers and sisters. The wisdom to rejoice that, through us, the Gospel of Jesus Christ can fill the communities of South Georgia.
Yes, Mary and Elizabeth had many unanswered questions. But they knew they needed to be together. That’s what I know about us. We belong together. What a picture!
This Christmas, may we recognize and rejoice in the relatives - the brothers and sisters in Christ - God has given us throughout South Georgia.
Sherrill and I thank God for our wonderful South Georgia Conference family, and we wish you a blessed and meaningful Christmas!
Alive Together at the Table,
R. Lawson Bryan