Faith without work is dead
My brothers and sisters,
Another Christmas season has arrived and, with it, we have another opportunity to demonstrate our gratitude to an ever-loving and faithful God. If recent history has taught us anything, it is that life is precious and that we must appreciate every day as a gift from our heavenly father. We all have learned that when all else fails, God is with us. As it states in Psalms 46:1-3, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though its waters roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with its swelling.” As we celebrate Christmas, we should now know without a shadow of a doubt that the real reason for the season is Christ.
This year, we have returned somewhat to a state of normalcy. Though we are still admonished to follow the established protocols regarding COVID-19, some of us have returned to work and regular activities. This year has also brought great loss. In some cases, multiple family members have succumbed to COVID simultaneously or in a short space of time. We have witnessed and experienced much pain, suffering and change. We have endured destruction, death, sickness and uncertainty on a mass scale for a long time. Those of us who remain have courageously moved forward day by day, step by step, with the help of the Almighty God and an abiding faith that better is coming.
This year, Bahamians also had the opportunity to make their voices heard at the ballot box. The majority of voters decided, once again, that change was the way to go. As is our tradition, the voting process and the subsequent transition of power was completed peacefully and democratically. We should be proud as a nation, as we understand that the privileges we enjoy to speak freely and to elect the people who we would have to lead us is not practiced globally. We pray that the new administration will continue to work in the best interest of the people and toward the advancement of our country. It is my belief that our circumstances have presented many opportunities for Bahamians to take a greater role in the economy of our country. Circumstances have also illuminated many issues that should be addressed. We must heed the call of the future to avoid the continuation of past behaviors – no matter how familiar and comfortable they may be. We must blaze new trails to rebuild and fortify the middle class and ensure the upward mobility of future generations in their own country. I wish the new administration all the best.
As Christians, we should be rejoicing in the fact that God has allowed us to reach the end of another year. Whether or not you can afford to give lavish gifts or to partake in hearty meals and gatherings, you are blessed to be alive. After everything that you have endured, you are blessed to be of sound mind. Those of us who have changed careers, opened businesses, realized our calling, forged new relationships and ventures, you are blessed. Waking up every morning is an indication that the plan of God for your life is still in motion. As Jeremiah 29:11 states, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” With this in mind, we must plan for a brighter future, understanding that while God has the best laid plans for us, faith without work is dead.
As 2021 makes its way into the annals of history, we look forward to the new year with great hope and anticipation. I believe that our God will do a new thing in this coming year and that those who have waited, prayed and worked will see the manifestation of their faith. It is the season to soar.
On behalf of the Bahamas Christian Council, the wider Bahamian Christian community, myself and my family, I wish you a merry Christmas and a prosperous and spirit-filled new year. May God bless you and may He continue to bless the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.
– Bishop Delton Fernander
Bahamas Christian Council president
God is the source of true peace on earth that creates the goodwill that the angel talked about
… peace on earth and goodwill to all people. (Luke 2:14)
One of the most well-known sayings in the Christmas story, as recorded in the Bible, are the words of the angels to the shepherds in the field at night. They foretold that Jesus would bring peace on earth and goodwill to all people. This startled and confused the shepherds. However, Jesus’ life, teaching and actions eventually showed everyone how this could be possible. Jesus is still in the business of making peace and goodwill.
What is peace? It is the absence of war, but it is also the absence of or freedom from disturbance, conflict, uneasiness and worry. Peace is well-being and contentment, which God brings and which God’s people should nurture, inspire and create wherever we go. In other words, we are God’s ambassadors (2 Cor. 5:20), we are a letter sent from God to the world (2 Cor.3:3).
Peace is the ultimate desire and goal of many people. It is what we yearn for. This Christmas, as talk of “peace on earth” is in the air, remember some basic things about your peace journey:
• To have times in your life where you do not have peace is normal. All human beings experience this from time to time.
• Peace is within our grasp. We have to do right, be fair to others, help others and give of ourselves, if we expect to have peace within.
Let us all acknowledge our weaknesses, accept our mistakes, ask for forgiveness, and also give forgiveness to others.
Let us acknowledge the pains and hurts in our lives and seek to address them. Talk about them with someone we trust. Get counseling – as we go to the nurse or doctor with physical issues, so we need to seek help for wounds that are emotional, psychological, and mental, or wounds of the memory.
We need to take spiritual counsel from clergy and other key spiritual persons in our lives.
Take care of yourself. Be good to yourself. It all helps to make a difference.
• Peace must be pursued. We will not find peace, or begin to address our circumstances, if we simply sit and do nothing. Take responsibility for yourself. Take steps to advance on your peace journey.
• Create peace for others. Make a difference for others by being interested, through warmth, friendship, listening and encouraging, through sincerity, kindness, and helping people to better their circumstances. This lightens their load.
• Remember to find peace in God. God is the source of true peace, the peace on earth that creates the goodwill that the angel talked about. We are the catalyst for the peace that we want to see in the world. Jesus is the flame which burns within us, and the warmth of that flame radiates from us into the world to make the gospel real and meaningful.
May God’s peace be yours somehow this Christmas. Let us all try to bring that peace into being for others.
The Anglican Diocese of The Bahamas and The Turks and Caicos Islands joins me in wishing you all a peaceful Christmas and a happy 2022. Yours in Christ.
– The Rt. Rev’d Laish Z. Boyd
Bishop of the Diocese of The Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands
Stepfather Joseph and his Bahamian brothers
The God man
The birth of Christ is for millions the most historic event of all times. The God man Jesus Christ is the human face of the sovereign God who created all things. This God man has punctuated the atmosphere with his divine presence and made possible our eternal personal elevation and spiritual redemption. The vexing trials through which man has had to go, demand we look more deeply at the birth of the Christ child. I wish to point out its relevance to Bahamian men.
God is in our midst
The synoptic Gospels – Matthew, Mark and Luke tell of the event. John, the scholar among them, all theologizes that the incarnate Christ pre-existed with God the father before there was creation. Above the secular, even pagan influence which has colored the birth of the Christ child, none of them has diminished the biblical truth that this planet has been visited by a divine presence, indeed Immanuel, God is with us.
God is looking for us
All of the 14 major religions teach their followers “this is what to do to find God”. Christian faith is unique in its proclamation that by the birth of Christ, the sovereign God “has found us”. All of the characters in this cosmic, human drama are worthy of note.
Joseph the stepfather
The ongoing crisis we now face with some Bahamian men, warrants our elevating Joseph the stepfather of the Christ child to a level he deserves, and we all can be inspired by his role in this narrative.
The Roman Catholic Church has deified Mother Mary and see her as a conduit for blessings and intercessions. Protestants do not lift Mary to that high standard of veneration, but she is obviously worthy of adoration and devotion.
But what about the stepfather Joseph? Church traditions have unwittingly pushed him to the very back of the stage. He is a side show to the preeminence of Mother Mary. Current two negative events in the male-female relations in The Bahamas demand that we bring Joseph to the fore as a modern example. The scripture speaks of him as a carpenter, and he was a righteous man. A descendant of David who, even while on the construction field maintained an upright standing with God. Mary had an open pre-disposition to listen and obey God, and Joseph was also willing to put aside his male pride, face the negative rumors and protect Mary at all costs. As a descendant of David, he would have learnt the stories of the promised Messiah but was, at first reluctant to have such a personal role in this faith changing world drama.
Joseph protected Mary
Personal right standing which reaches its highest levels when thrown into the very “dayness” of human life. God’s incarnational presence was promised to Joseph’s ancestors but remained at a distance until an angelic intruder appeared to him in a dream. Joseph’s male pride was injured. He had respected her virginity, yet, he must have been wounded when he was a gentleman, and she mysteriously came up “heavy with child,”
Your call precedes your pride
Imagine what the men down at the barber shop opined about Mary and Joseph. In Bahamian language this is “a pig in the bag”. But it is the call of God that must transcend our masculinity. If Joseph had pursued his plans, he would have missed God’s bigger plans and purposes. His plans called for marriage and a honeymoon, while God’s ultimate plans called for some pain, embarrassment and sacrifice. Then history-making sainthood.
Praise above pain
God’s purpose must always precede our personal plans. God lifted Joseph from an ordinary status to a significant role in human redemption. Joseph protected Mary from public shame and dishonor. A man who was so God-connected he was willing to obey God and postpone his personal plans and male desires to listen and obey God’s voice. That’s a good and righteous man – indeed an example for us to emulate. It goes even further; Joseph was denied any sexual relations with his wife Mary until two months after the Christ child was born. Perhaps a lot to ask of a man – any man, yet he obeyed because he heard God’s voice.
God reduced himself
Mary conceived the Christ child without male copulation. She was overshadowed by God’s Spirit and became pregnant. God reduced himself to a male X-chromosome and created the child Jesus. The God who created the first man from dust created the God man out of a mystery, without a male. God is calling men – all men to be priest provider and protector to the woman he gave us.
The walk to Africa
When the wicked fox Herod tried to kill Jesus and the children in Herod’s city, Joseph further protected Mary and the child from a murdering despot. Joseph walked from Bethlehem into Africa to protect his pregnant wife. For God to transform our broken community, Joseph’s Bahamian brothers must emulate and strive for his masculine standard. It is never too late to learn that the divine call of God on us as men far outweighs our masculine drive.
Your plans and God’s purpose
Pursue your personal plans but be opened to God’s highest purposes. A small act of obedience can lift you to God’s highest place and purpose for you being here. Joseph bore the ridicule, the mean criticisms, and the nasty rumors. But eventually all history books would write about the birth of his stepson Jesus. God gives His justifiable notoriety. God’s permissive will of shame, confusion and pain will never eclipse His ultimate purpose. I call on each Bahamian male to let us listen to God’s voice and heed his call. Where you are now is not where God’s highest calling will land you. God uses confused and imperfect brothers to achieve his highest purpose. This Christmas, make a new resolution that in response to God’s grace and mercy you will respond to God’s highest calling. Recommit yourself to be the priest, provider and protector to that woman he has placed in your life. As God called and used Joseph as the stepfather to Jesus, he calls each and every Bahamian man to deepen our duties and our commitment to God’s highest calling. Your faithful response to God will allow you to change history and lift yourselves from manual labor to a life ordained and blessed by God.
– Bishop Simeon Hall