In Touch – Christmas Special 2023

dlieske2023, Special Edition

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Advent Reflections from the ‘EuNC Neighbourhood’

In this Advent season, our hearts resonate with the profound truth encapsulated in the words, "The Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood" (John 1:14, The Message). This expression captures the essence of God's daring venture into our human experience, a profound risk undertaken when He chose to dwell among us, taking the first step.

When we left His neighbourhood, he came to ours. The narrative of Christmas unfolds with a God who arrives, creating a new space, the space of God’s Kingdom. Immanuel — God moving to our neighbourhood — God with us, God among us.

What does moving into the neighborhood look like for EuNC? Let us think of the neighbourhood of EuNC, or rather the neighborhoods! The multiple contexts of our college  - one school in many nations. The college has moved to your neighbourhood. EuNC speaks your language, education is delivered, with our classrooms and fieldwork sites, where the churches are located. The college aligns itself closely with local churches, recognizing that theological education is most effective when it occurs within the vibrant life of the church.

So the neighbourhoods of the 17 Learning Centres come to my mind, where theological education is delivered to students from 27 countries, and our faculty and staff with the commitment to theological education unfolding where the pulse of the church beats!

The standout moments of the past year are my visits to your neighbourhood, including graduation events, theology conferences, Learning Center days, and District Assemblies. The graduation celebrations in Armenia, Germany, Portugal, Albania and Kosova, Italy, Romania, Hungary are cherished memories with gratefulness for each student. The intricate connection between theological education and the church is evident in the impactful events, witnessing our students receiving their first local or district license, our fresh graduates or alumni being ordained, and EuNC alumni receiving appointments into key church leadership positions.

God has also gifted us by enlarging our college community in a new context. The college leadership visited Jordan in January and March in preparation for the start of the EuNC Arabic Learning Centre. We equally rejoice in the restart of the EuNC Ukraine-Moldova Learning Centre, committed to adding the Ukrainian language to our instructional languages.

The faculty gathering for worship, fellowship and professional development at the January  Faculty Assembly in Florence, Italy was a great gift, and we are looking forward to meeting again in Lisbon, Portugal in January 2024. Last January the Executive Committee of the board had a strategic meeting during the Faculty Assembly, and next January the full Board of Trustees of the college will gather for their annual meeting.

The annual EuNC Leadership meetings were held in The Hague, the Netherlands in May. We enjoyed being hosted by two of our board members.

The amazing international family gathered at the EuNC Ice Cream Social in Indianapolis, USA in June during the General Assembly of the Church of the Nazarene. What a celebration we had with great excitement in the room! It felt like a family reunion: global alumni, faculty, supporters, donors and friends.

In this Advent season, we are also reminded of the neighbourhoods that we were not able to walk to in 2023. Our multinational college community has been deeply saddened by the consequences of conflicts: in the recent past still impacting people in the Middle East and West Asia, the ongoing  conflict in Ukraine, and the recent escalation of violence in Israel and Gaza. We stand with all those who suffer, all those that hurt, all those that endure war and persecution, knowing that God has come to all neighbourhoods, and no war, persecution or conflict can keep him away from our streets. As a college community, we unite our hearts in prayer.

The choice of the name Immanuel (Isa 7,14) during a time of conflict and uncertainty serves as a sign and promise. In the midst of geopolitical turmoil, God assures the wavering king Ahaz that the plans of his adversaries will fail. The sign is not just in the unique circumstances of the child's birth but in the name itself — a name that guarantees the failure of the enemy's schemes and signals both the salvation and challenges awaiting Ahaz and his people.

While the immediate context of Isaiah's prophecy may have pointed to a historical fulfillment, the New Testament writers, guided by the Holy Spirit, saw a deeper, messianic significance. The significance of this divine embrace is not limited to historical events. As we journey through Advent, we embrace the timeless truth that God, in Christ, became one of us. Matthew starts with a declaration, “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel" — the Divine chose to be intimately intertwined with the human narrative; and ends with the proclamation, "And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age", reassuring us that the promise of God with us is an enduring reality.

In the midst of our contemporary challenges, as echoes of war and uncertainty pervade, the message of Immanuel remains our anchor. Just as God took the first great risk to move into our neighbourhood, He continues to be present in the midst of our struggles. Revelation 21:3 accurately reflects the precise meaning of the name Immanuel and our anticipation when the Saviour of the world will come again: “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.” The promise of Immanuel speaks to our deepest fears, loneliness, and longing for justice. Anticipating the full reality of God Himself with us, we find assurance that God's dwelling place is now among us, a sanctuary of hope in a troubled world.

As we reflect on the profound mystery of God with us, let us approach this Advent season with hearts attuned to the reality of a present God. The name Immanuel carries the weight of divine commitment — a commitment to walk with us through every season of life. May this Advent be a season of renewed awareness of God's nearness, a time when we experience the joy of His abiding presence, and a celebration of the God who took the first great risk to be with us, among us. Let us celebrate Christ who has come to all of our neighbourhoods. Amidst the challenges of multiple wars, may the peace and hope of Christmas strengthen us in our mission and enable studies for those who will be future local church, district and field leaders.

Wishing you the comfort of faith and the presence of God in your neighbourhood during this season!

On behalf of the entire EuNC Team 

Rev. Mária Gusztinné Tulipán, Rector

A Christmas Testimony
from EuNC Croatia Learning Centre Administrator Rev. Cezarina Glendenning