Guest Blogger: Rev. Dennis O. Rinehart, Retired United Methodist Clergy, Wooster, Ohio


God’s Advent Surprises Continue

Life-giving sunrises or comfort-cradling sunsets radiating across the Lake Erie shoreline at Lakeside Chautauqua never fail to ignite God’s whispers of surprise: “I am with you.”

God’s surprises come when we expect them the least, but need them the most. No human plan or personal effort breathes them.

God is always the Initiator. God knows what we need before we ever conceive, acknowledge, ask or understand what we need most.

In Luke’s Gospel 1:26-28, God takes the initiative to send “…the angel, Gabriel, to Nazareth, to a virgin pledged to a man name Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. ‘Greetings, you who are highly favored, The Lord is with you.’”

What makes Mary so highly favored? No social standing, personal wealth or individual accomplishments count. With God, Mary is highly favored for her undisputed, undeniable, absolute dependence upon God’s holy character through her life-experiences – even when she does not understand her ‘why-questions’ at any moment.

In 2008, retirement began after 39 years of pastoral service in the East Ohio Conference of The United Methodist Church. Within that year, my wife, Debbie, became very ill.

Our fears paralyzed us. Our circumstances crippled us. Our faith seemed faint until we allowed Jesus to hold and carry us when we did not understand.

Out of those dark nights of the soul, Jesus renewed our faith in Him, even when we did not understand our ‘what’ and ‘why’ questions. All of this happened throughout the Advent season.

Three days after Christmas, Jesus opened the doors of healing grace and specific action. Debbie and I learned together again how God’s Advent surprises continue.

“For nothing is impossible with God.” – Luke 1:37 (NIV)