Merry Christmas from President Nelson

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Dear Tyndale Community,

Romans 5:6 says it all: “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died...” This verse captured my imagination as I left Tyndale’s service of Lessons and Carols. If this verse had been written for Advent, it could have said: “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless Christ was born!”

It is not easy to hold on to the idea of a Jesus who came to save the world when there appears to be little peace and a poverty of goodwill.

I have always loved the way Mary and Elizabeth are portrayed. They have strength of character. A type of ‘can do’ faith in God. These two women grasp the power of the moment and choose, out of the depth and substance of their souls, to accept God’s call on their life. Luke makes much of Zechariah’s disbelief and Elizabeth’s and Mary’s acceptance. He uses the three characters as counterpoint comparisons of how to live a life of faith. Advent hope can be turned into reality when we choose to believe in what God is doing even when He appears to be absent!

The angel Gabriel’s visit to Elizabeth and Mary is a call for them to align themselves with what is already taking place. Mary’s response portrays a depth of character we often miss. Gabriel does not ask Mary if she would like to be the mother of God; he tells her that God has been gracious to her, that she will bear a son who will be king of Israel forever. The angel does not ask her opinion or whether she would like to try out for the role. He just states, “The Lord is with you.”

Mary is mystified by his words. She does not give her permission. She simply asks, “How can this be?” It is only later that we hear her response in the fullness of the song she sings.

“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me – holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors.”

Mary grasps the fullness of what is taking place in the birth of Jesus.

The Eastern Church calls Mary theotokos, “the God bearer”.  We are also called to become a theotokos. Like Mary, we may be wondering “How can this be?” Ultimately, as Christians, we are called to step forward and say “Here I am; let it be with me according to your will.”

My point is simple. At this time in which fear, violence and evil seem so at work in our world, we hold on to the promise of Christ’s birth and the Jesus we serve. Like Mary we say, “May it be as you have said.”

Have a blessed Christmas!


Dr. Gary Nelson
President & Vice Chancellor
Tyndale University College & Seminary


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