By Bishop L. Jonathan Holston
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.”—Isaiah 9:6-7
As we reflect on God’s promises during this Advent season, we rejoice in the hope of the Christ child and confess our need to turn our hearts to God anew.
The season is one of celebration and joy, but also one of reflection and prayer. Prayer focuses us to listen attentively for God to speak. As Mary wrestled with what it meant for her to bear the Son of God, so must we wrestle with what it means to carry the good news of God’s son into today’s world.
The Advent season calls us to prayer to prepare our hearts, minds and spirits for the work that God is doing and will do in our midst. Particularly at this time in the life of our church, we have a responsibility to earnestly seek God’s will in the midst of deep division. The interim report of the Way Forward Commission to the Council of Bishops demonstrates that the issues before us are complex and the decisions to be made will not be without pain and struggle.
As Mary and Joseph must have prayed daily with the knowledge of the identity of the child they were given, we must pray. As the shepherds fell down and worshiped at the sound of the angels’ song, let us bow our heads in worship and praise of the Word made flesh to dwell among us. As the Wise Men must have earnestly sought God for many years prior to their journey to see the Christ Child, let us earnestly seek God’s will for the people called United Methodist around the world.
Before beginning their work on the matters before them, the members of the Commission on a Way Forward developed a covenant for their work together. The very first statement in that covenant is as follows: “We covenant to pray for one another, for the Commission, for the United Methodist Church, for the mission of Christ and for a way forward together.”
In the days ahead there will be opportunity to consider the content of their interim report. Before we begin this work together, we start with prayer. To undergird the work of the commission, the Council of Bishops committed to lead the church in a season of prayer with each annual conference assigned a week. Our annual conference’s week of intentional prayer for the work of the Commission on a Way Forward begins Dec. 24, 2017.
I invite you in your setting to intentionally lift up the work of the commission in prayer the week of Christmas. Seek God’s will for The United Methodist Church. Pray, remembering that God answers prayer.
“And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord,” Luke 2:10,11.
In this Advent season, let us seek God’s will for our denomination, trusting that God is always near. May a prayerful spirit be born in us as we celebrate the birth of the Christ child, the Son of God, in our midst.
By Bishop L. Jonathan Holston