News and Views

An Advent Message: 'In Christ's name all oppression shall cease'

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From Bishop LaTrelle Easterling

"Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is Love and His gospel is Peace;
Chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother,
And in his name all oppression shall cease,
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful Chorus raise we;
Let all within us praise his Holy name!"

 The beautiful melody of this hymn reverberates throughout sanctuaries all over the world in every language and tongue during this season. In this sacred season of anticipation and preparation, we call on the name of the Lord, evoking God’s law of love and God’s gospel of peace to end all oppression.

 Advent is a time to ponder the deepest things we know. In this time in our culture, creating Beloved Community is a theme that profoundly resonates throughout the Body of Christ. Our observance of Advent uniquely provokes a Spirit-filled perspective on addressing hatred and supremacy and creating a world where all people are embraced as God’s children. Advent calls on us to consider that in our hearts, Jesus was once, millennia ago, born in a manger, is present with us today, and will come again in majesty to fulfill God’s promise.

 We understand that these are three distinct perspectives of the presence of Christ, and we unite them in a holy understanding of the divine. It’s part of the Advent mystery. We stand firmly in this moment and invite our past into the future. Our longings and memories merge.

 The same might be said of our perceptions of racism. In our hearts we hold the horrors of the Middle Passage, the cries and moans of the enslaved, and the hatred inflicted upon generations of God’s children all because they were deemed other. Today, those cries echo in strategic threats to voting rights, a judicial system that is not blind, and demonstrated inequality in healthcare. And yet, we also celebrate the glimmers of hope around us as our society begins to call for and work toward equity.

 We embrace these three perspectives, just as we proclaim, “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.” But to fully recognize the intention born in that stable in Bethlehem, we must commit ourselves to pray, ponder, and perform acts that glorify God and build Beloved Community. This Advent, as we light the candles in our sanctuaries, we’re called to take the light out into the world. Each of us is called to watch and wait, to prepare and bear witness, to act and encourage, and to rejoice and celebrate. That requires honesty, courage and humility.

 While the promise of an end to racism and all forms of oppression may seem like a hoped-for but not-yet-reality (like an embryo in the womb, waiting to be born), we rejoice in the promises of God whose heart for the marginalized, excluded, violated and forgotten instructs us in the ways of justice and peace. These are the themes, the signposts on our Advent journey. But they also carry us beyond Bethlehem, to a world where all of God’s children live in hope, peace, joy and love.

 May this be our common prayer:
God who incarnates, we your people stand in anticipation of your arrival amongst us in this Advent season. In the birth of your son Jesus, we are reminded of the power of the Word made flesh to bring peace, love and justice to all creation. Make your word come alive in us, Holy God. Prepare our hearts to see all of humanity as you do. Open our minds to listen and learn from one another. Convict our spirits to do the work needed to tear down all systems of fear, prejudice, exclusion and oppression. We pray for the vulnerable, the hurting and the marginalized, that they experience peace, safety, belonging and justice, and we pray that you will use us to make these virtues real upon the earth. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.

 Blessings and Peace,
 Bishop LaTrelle Easterling
Peninsula-Delaware and Baltimore-Washington Conferences
The United Methodist Church