Advent letter asks New York’s congregations to ‘proclaim the fullness of our faith’
A central focus in many worship services during the Advent season is the Advent Wreath. The outer ring of the wreath holds four simple candles that represent so much: Hope, peace, joy, and love.
The world in which we live is crying out for what we claim in our liturgy of Advent. The candle in the center of the wreath represents the promise and reality of a Savior in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus, the One who will turn despair into hope, violence into peace, grief into joy, and injustice into love.
As followers of Jesus Christ, we – the United Methodist Bishops serving this great state of New York – call upon all of our congregations to claim and proclaim the fullness of our faith. Let us not live with an attitude of fear, but rather of assurance. Let us not contribute to ways of division and prejudice, but seek to live in harmony with one another. While we must pray, let us not just pray for an end to violence and disregard for human life, but boldly allow God to use our lives in action and word to seek solutions that offer peace and recognize the intrinsic value of every person. Let us show the world how God’s amazing love transforms.
We must stand against acts of terror and those who choose these acts. We understand the need for our government to provide and ensure safety to its citizens, and we pray for God’s wisdom upon our political leaders as they develop ways to more effectively and compassionately provide screening to those seeking to enter the United States. Closing our doors and demonizing whole categories of people becomes justification for the acts of violence by those who would harm us. We adamantly oppose any screening process that discriminates solely on one’s religious faith.
In the midst of security, we also recognize the need for radical hospitality to find a way. Those who are fleeing the very acts of terror we are attempting to protect ourselves from, must be given refuge. Syrian women, men, and children are fleeing war and the rise of ISIS, and we must find a way to offer the promise of Advent.
We call upon United Methodists in New York to welcome those seeking refuge, to advocate for systems that will deal with this international crisis, and to offer hope, peace, joy, and love to all, in the name and person of Jesus the Christ.
May God give us courage for these days. As we trust the promises of God, may we share those promises with the world around us.
Through the grace of God,
Bishop Mark J. Webb Bishop Jane Allen Middleton
Upper New York Conference New York Conference