The season of Advent is here! Usually a joyful, expectant time for the Christian family, this year, Advent comes amid the “darkness” of a time of challenge and separation due to the COVID-19 pandemic. More than ever before, we need to hear the Advent messages of hope, peace, joy and love, preparing us for the celebration of the birth of Jesus. More than ever before, Jesus’ love must be the center of our life as Christ-followers.
Recently, the Western Jurisdiction launched its media campaign, Where Love Lives, to share the good news of the foundations of our faithfulness to God’s call to be disciples of Jesus Christ, following in the path of our Wesleyan heritage and claiming the spirit of United Methodism. The familiar approach to learning about God: Scripture, tradition, reason and experience are building blocks of our foundation as are the 3 Simple Rules from Bishop Ruben Job: do no harm, do good, stay in love with God. But it is not only about the building blocks that brought us to this point in our history as a church. Where Love Lives is our aspirational opportunity to proclaim a deep hope that courses through our being in the west: to be a place where love lives within the diversity that God created in the human family. We may not be there yet, but it is what we hope to become, what we are actively striving to, and what we reach toward.
I learned the foundational building blocks as I grew up in The United Methodist Church. From moments of learning about Jesus in Sunday School and youth group, to giving through service and tithing, to expressions in worship, prayer, fellowship, and Bible study, to the breaking of bread together in communion and in pot lucks; I came to understand that The United Methodist Church was a place where love lives and where love was to be offered to everyone, because all are welcome in God’s home.
Our United Methodist Church, especially in the west, strives to be a home for all God’s people: an aspiration to live with one another, even with our differences of opinion. During this season of Advent, God calls us to goals of living in hope, abiding in peace, rejoicing in faith, and loving all persons. We seek to live into the vision where “the wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them… They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” (Isaiah 11:6 and 9)
And who is the little child? None other than the Christ child whose birth we will soon celebrate. As God’s love became Emmanuel, God with us, may our labors lead us into becoming a place Where Love Lives.