Dear Members and Friends of the West Virginia Conference,
Advent is upon us. Advent is a time of waiting and preparation…and it is an opportunity for planting seeds. Traditionally, Advent is a time to remember the seeds of faith: Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love. However, let’s not just remember these seeds this year, let’s replant them in ourselves, in our families, in our homes, and in our communities. These seeds of faith are meant to continually grow, to burst forth, to bear fruit, and to multiply. These are seeds not just meant for dry storage, they are meant to be hydrated and nurtured to bring new life.
So, what are you doing to hydrate, to nurture your relationship and commitment to Christ and walking as a child of the light? What fruit is Christ preparing you to bring forth, calling you to bear, in this coming year? How will the seeds of hope, peace, joy, and love be multiplied through you so that Christ’s Great Commandment and Great Commission can be fulfilled in even greater ways through you and your congregation this year? Advent, the season of preparation, is a time to ponder these questions anew. For you see, Advent is not a time to prepare to remember the first birth of Christ. Advent is a time to prepare for Christ to be born again in you.
As you prepare for Christ to be born again in you, I also invite you to think about how you can be seed planters in this season and prepare the way for others in our community and world to receive the birth of Christ in their lives and hearts for the very first time. The scriptures remind us that we prepare the way when we see and respond to people’s needs.
Feeding hungry people is one action of seed planting that prepares the way. Feeding ministries and enabling feeding ministries, local and global, gives hope to families who struggle every month to make their paycheck stretch. Hunger ministries sow seeds of hope and new life throughout the West Virginia Conference and beyond.
Have you put your mission passport to work yet? Supporting Conference Mission Projects plants not only seeds of hope, but also seeds of peace, joy and love. Many people find their way to one of our Mission Projects around the Conference for help with food, coats, hats, gloves, connection to community services and other necessities. Our mission projects help to communicate to persons that feel last, least, and lost that someone, somewhere really does care about them. Supporting our Mission Projects indeed prepares the way, and plants seed that bears much disciple-making fruit.
There are many avenues available this Advent season for both preparing for the rebirth of Christ in your life and preparing the way for others to know and receive Christ for the very first time. Just raise the window blinds of your life and look around you to discover those people you may not normally see. There are youth and students who need support, encouragement, models for principled, Christ-like, leadership and love. There are persons and families who are caught in the throes of addiction and need to be transformed; need the support, encouragement, and love that leads to recovery and new life. There are life-giving pathways to be prepared, seeds to be planted, actions that our congregations and faith communities can take.
Re-entry programs are being formed for people who have recently been released from the penal system. These persons need loving people and congregations that will accept them and welcome them into the faith community and new life. The families of persons who are incarcerated also need the love and support of a caring community, and the church can provide that for them.
Advent is a time of waiting and a time of preparation. Opportunities abound for planting, growing, and multiplying new life. Church, we have a present and a future in preparing the way for Christ, planting seeds of hope and love, sharing the Gospel, and caring for our neighbors. Yes, this is an anxious time in The United Methodist Church, however, we who are in the Church can face the future with the confidence that Christ will abide with us and God will provide for us. When Mary and Joseph made the journey to Bethlehem, they did not know what the future held, they were anxious, but they made the journey, trusting in God and indeed God gave them and the world new life. God’s promise and presence with us continues today.
May your Advent be filled with Hope, Peace, Joy and Love. May your Advent be a time of preparing, sowing, and planting. May your Christmas be an experience of new birth!
Sandra Steiner Ball
Resident and Presiding Bishop
The West Virginia Conference of
The United Methodist Church
P.S. This year, you will find Advent resources on our conference website at wvumc.org. You can also find Advent devotionals written by WVUMC laity at this link.