Monday, November 28, 2011

Christmas isn’t the same without Advent journey

Some years ago a prominent megachurch pastor preached an electrifying sermon that he concluded with a memorable phrase: “Get Ready! Get Ready! Get Ready!”

Soon the phrase was heard in sermons across the nation. A gospel song was eventually written featuring the phrase and it has become popular in many Christian circles.

“Get Ready! Get Ready! Get Ready!” could very well be the heralding as Christians around the world prepare in this Advent season, to celebrate the birth of the Christ child.

Advent is marked by two markedly different responses, waiting and preparation. The former is passive, the latter active. Yet they need not be mutually exclusive; there are virtues in each.

Some waiting is passive. The Christian is not involved in any activity or any particular preparation, but simply waits. The preparation might be inward, requiring no outward routine, no visible sign of movement. It might be silent, reflective and meditative. It could be a time not of communal but solitary prayer.

Time to ponder
These special moments and times remind me of the way Scripture records that Mary’s heart pondered what she had heard. Just she and God.

Most Americans don’t like waiting! We don’t like to wait for a traffic light to change or to stand in line waiting to be served. Many expectant parents don’t like to wait nine months to learn the gender of their new infant! Waiting can be a bit of a challenge.

What I so like about Advent is its purposeful waiting. Whether positive or active, it is not stagnant. Something takes place in the period of “not yet.” We wait, but we are not idle. Or at least that is the hope of Advent.

Advent is a time of preparing the heart. It is a time of prayer and song and Word. And yes, it is a time of gift purchasing and decorating. Of heart pondering and silence.

In a few short weeks Christmas will arrive, but Advent can make all the difference in how it is received.

Missing out
I remember one year when I simply missed Advent. I was out of the country for nearly a month, and was so focused and absorbed in the assignment that took me from home and the normal activities of December that I really lost track of time. In fact, I do not recall preparing at all for the great Christian celebration.

I returned home two days before Christmas. Exhausted from the long trip back to the United States and the changing of time zones, I slept the better part of two days. Like Rip Van Winkle, I finally awoke, but when I did, it was Christmas Day.

I never quite caught the Christmas spirit that year. There was something missing. It was Advent! I vowed never to miss Advent again.

I have learned something about special trips, especially those taken with my family. The journey itself carries a special gift, with unique experiences and memories. In a real sense, the journey prepares us for the destination.

So each year I look forward to the journey of Advent. And when Christmas Day finally arrives, I am ready! I am ready! I am ready!

--by Retired Bishop White, Endorsing Agent for Chaplain Ministries and bishop-in-residence at Candler School of Theology.

God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer

Monday, November 21, 2011

A future with amahl

Amahl is the Arabic word for hope. As we look toward a Future with Hope, a remarkable pilgrimage is unfolding in the place Jesus knew and loved.

The first experiences of our 10 women bishops’ pilgrimage have been in the Galilee, the areas of Jesus’ birth, childhood and 80% of his ministry.

The pilgrimage is remarkable in several ways: the pilgrims are from the African Methodist Episcopal, Christian Methodist Episcopal, Episcopal and United Methodist churches. The pilgrimage links us with Arab Palestinian Christians, "a minority within a minority" in the country of Israel, as well as Jews and Muslims.

The pilgrimage focuses on the leadership of women in empowering women, developing economic opportunities for women, creating a compassionate and just future for children and families, and weaving peaceful communities.

We have visited with remarkable leaders, women and men, who are persistent and persevering in the way of peace. They reach from both sides of the great divide between the dominant Jewish communities and the minority Arab communities.

Palestinian and Jewish women are working together, creating economic opportunity in the production and selling of baskets, honey, olive oil and soap. They are not learning a new way of life together; rather, as Father Elias Chacour observes, they are living as they lived side by side 60 years ago.

"We want you to know that there is a community in Israel that believes in a shared future," a young woman told us. Her observation has been echoed by others in our first two days here.

In story after story, we have heard faith journeys from people working in humble places and not looking for headlines. They live a vibrant witness of faith.

A woman rabbi chooses to shop in a Palestinian village rather than drive farther as other Jews do to shop in a Jewish area.

Palestinian and Jewish women work together to open a cooperative.

Palestinian Christians educated in the United States return to Nazareth in faithful response to God's call to participate as leaders in the hope for peace.

The reality is powerful: We are among the "living stones," to use the words of Father Chacour.

Beautiful lives inspire even more than beautiful churches.

--by Wayne Rhodes, Director of Communications, General Board of Church & Society

God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer

Monday, November 14, 2011

Giving for the Glory of God

“Imagine the President of the United States and the Committee on Ways and Means sending out jugs, mugs, boxes, barrels, eggs, and buttons with their pictures on them to catch pennies to meet the fiscal needs of the great government of the United States!

Imagine the different states and counties holding fairs, festivals, concerns, and ice cream socials. With women cooking, sewing, and acting so that each community may meet its apportionment!

This would disgrace any earthly government in its own eyes and the eyes of the nations. Yet this is what Christians are doing year by year to finance the Kingdom of God!”

-from Gems of Thought on Tithing, published 1911; By George W. Brown, a Presbyterian layman


The early Hebrews mentioned only crops and herds in their base for a tithe. Later when the people settled and started raising olives and grapes, products such as oil and wine were included in the base. A generation or two ago people could not conceive of anything but cash as the base for a tithe. But with more people investing in the stock market, and in real estate, people can now consider tithing other assets as well.

For more information on giving with assets other than cash, visit our website at

--adapted from an email from the WI UMF, WI Ann Conf

God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer

Monday, November 7, 2011

It's time for a 'thank offering'

That time of the year is approaching, when we are called to reflect on our lives and recognize that we are still standing – not because of our own ingenuity, intellect, or pedigree, or even because we are entitled to stand – but because God has been good to us. Even if you feel that life has left you weary and torn, the very fact that you are still alive is testimony to God’s grace and mercy.

Psalms 107 says, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.” According to Harper’s Bible Dictionary, the ancient Israelites were instructed that it is appropriate to give a “thank offering” for occasions such as “successful passage through the desert, release from prison, recovery from a serious illness, or surviving a storm at sea.”

Few of us have suffered the desert or a storm at sea, but we’ve all thirsted through dry places, felt restricted and trapped, endured sicknesses of our own or those of loved ones, or somehow escaped the ravages of life. We’ve either been there or we’re still there.

Compton’s Interactive Bible says, “No problem is too great for God.” Psalm 107 reveals the terrible calamities experienced by the ancient Israelites: homelessness and starvation (verses 4-5), imprisonment (10-12), self-inflicted disease (17-18), and imminent shipwreck (23-27). (Since Israel was landlocked, Jews were especially fearful of turbulent seas.) In each of these cases, God was able to rescue those who called for help. The Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 8:37: “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”

When life seems to be getting the best of us, it's not always easy to stop and give thanks. But that’s just what God calls us to do. The “thank offering” was a response to coming through the tough times or because God delivered. We are called to give God thanks – not only when we are delivered – but also when all is well or when we’re weathering the storm.

Thanksgiving is almost upon us. Maybe this wasn’t your best year yet, but praise God anyway. Thanksgiving comes when we acknowledge our joy in belonging to God. Praise him that he chooses to be called our God and calls us his own.

Another interesting fact about the “thank offering”: The offering bread was made to be eaten within one day, with the understanding that thanksgiving is a daily act. We should not hold our praises, nor let the rocks cry out their thanksgiving. We are to thank God each day.

I believe we need to shout our thanksgiving so the world may know where our help comes from and so God may know we are a grateful people.

--Bishop James Swanson

God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey

Web Producer