Dear RENEW Network,
It is December and literally everywhere we go are reminders that “Tis the Season.” For Christians, it is the season of Advent, the coming of the Christ Child, the Emmanuel, the arrival of God with us, God Incarnate.
The incarnation of God is a great mystery. Jesus leaves heaven and allows Himself to be born a baby, a fully human baby. The birth of a baby is generally a happy thing, a blessed event. But in the case of the birth of Jesus, it is a miracle, and one which cannot happen in the normal course of life. But it did happen! And with it came the long-awaited Messiah, who brings salvation to all who will accept Him.
Think about it. He comes. He comes to earth where He too is subject to time and space and all the realities and temptations of a fallen world. He is still fully God, but He comes as we all come into the world – in the human flesh of a baby. Jesus, the Son of God, leaves eternity; and in doing so, He manifests God among us. And what He leaves, we gain.
No one puts it more beautifully than John in the first verses of his Gospel:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God. All things were made through Him,
and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him
was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light
shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
Why would He leave Heaven and come? In a word – Love. Something has happened to His beautiful light-filled creation. That something is sin. But just as the love of God created the world and all that we can know or imagine, His love was sent to right every wrong, destroy the works of evil, offer us all salvation and eternal life. How? – through the birth and death of the Only Begotten Son of God. The ‘Good News’ is, God’s love is more powerful than the power of sin and death. That is a point that we should not gloss over or take for granted.
We know the story well. Birth is celebrated at Christmas. Christ, the incarnate, came that first Christmas. And each year we acknowledge it yet again. Each year we are offered the opportunity to experience this mystery, the mystery of God’s deep love. For Jesus came; He comes; and He will come again.
In most churches, we celebrate the Advent Wreath; the first candle we light is the candle of ‘hope.’ If ever we needed hope, we need it this Christmas and in the months to come. We all come to impasses in our lives where we need the hope only the Savior can give. But this year the hope we need is more than just personal; it is corporate. We are at an impasse in the United Methodist Church. We have been approaching this impasse for some time and many of us have been afraid to meet it head on.
Our Church has sought unity in every possible way, trying to reconcile the irreconcilable. Our leaders have studied the issue from every angle. Some of us have ignored the issue; we haven’t talked about it. We have just kept on being the church and making disciples. Others have been on a crusade to change the church into a shape of their own, one that accommodates the current sexually permissive culture. Still others have been like the ‘watchmen’ of Ezekiel 33 warning the church it is going astray.
So what does the incarnate Jesus have to say to us?
Perhaps His answer is found in His birth. For God sent His Son into a family; He sent Jesus to Mary and Joseph, the holy family. By the very birth of Jesus, we are reminded that the original family was holy, being made in the image of God, male and female, and told to be fruitful and multiply. And in a real sense, when we strive to reject or redefine God’s original plan for humankind, we reject God’s incarnate Son sent to save us. John in the fourth chapter of his first letter tells us as much.
The answer also lies in Jesus’ words to Nicodemus in John Chapter 3. He points us to birth, or to be more exact – rebirth. We must be born again. For by Christ’s incarnation comes the promise of complete human redemption and perfection and the restoration of ‘the body’ to be the organ of the Holy Spirit. Each of us is meant to be a temple of the Holy Spirit. There are also profound implications for the church – the ‘body’ corporate.
Maybe we won’t fully understand what God is doing until after the special General Conference in February of next year. Maybe what happens at that conference won’t play out as painfully and destructively as it has in other denominations. Then again, birth can be painful; it is associated with travail. But when the process is over, we rejoice that new life has come!
As we prepare to celebrate Christ’s coming and the New Year, let us remember the promise of new life that Jesus offers each of us and to our church. Let us keep the promise of birth and rebirth before us and not lose heart.
For, whatever happens, God is with us.
For us at Renew, we will be celebrating you – our faithful network, who prays for our work and whose contributions make it happen. It has been an outstanding year. We have helped churches refocus their women’s ministries to be more gospel centered. Our analysis has helped women’s groups discern various teachings that offer more of the world than of the Word. Your faithful support enabled Renew to give their first scholarship to an outstanding young evangelical woman, who is making a difference in the United Methodist Church. (More about her later.) And let us not forget our new website. Your faithfulness has made this and more happen.
Please be in prayer for our church. Your end of the year gifts will make it possible for Renew to be present at the Special General Conference in February 2019.
Stand with us by going on the Renew Website and printing the Donations Form. Or you may designate a check to Renew Network and send to:
P.O. Box 132076
The Woodlands, TX 77393-2076
In His Service,
Renew Team Leader
Katy teaches in her local church and serves on several committees. She served for seven years on the Good News board of directors. Along with writing for Renew, Katy is a freelance writer, and co-author with Faye Short of Reclaiming the Wesleyan Social Witness – Offering Christ.