Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
let the field exult, and everything in it.
Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy
before the Lord; for he is coming,
for he is coming to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness,
and the peoples with his truth.
Psalm 96:11-13 (read Psalm 96)
“Joy to the world! The Lord is come, let earth receive her King! Let every heart prepare him room and heaven and nature sing.” My siblings in Christ, what are you doing this year to “prepare him room”? I cannot reflect on the call to prepare room for Jesus without reflecting on those whom feel there is no room for them in our church. If we will not make room for those whom Jesus loves, we do not make room for Jesus.
Being a Bishop is a humbling experience. We are treated with great honor and respect, but we also encounter much unhappiness, challenge, and anger. We are in a very fragile and hurtful phase in the life of our church. This focuses on who we should have in our churches. Do we want paroled criminals in our churches? Do we want the poor, especially when they are unwashed, pungent, and sometimes disruptive? Do we want those with mental, emotional, and physical challenges? We are already struggling with our lesbian, gay, trans, bi, queer, intersex, asexual/ally siblings. We still wrestle with powerful and repeated vestiges of racism and sexism. There are many people whom Jesus loves that we are not comfortable with.
Many people resonate with the concept that “love came down at Christmas.” If God is love, then God’s Son is love as well, it is in his DNA. The very concept that we have the right to deny God’s love to anyone is anathema to the gospel and indicates that we are in need of God’s grace and transforming Spirit as well. We do not judge; we love. We do not destroy; we love. We do not gossip and disparage; we love. We do not accuse and condemn; we love. We do not spew hate and insult and disrespect; we love. This is not a hard concept to grasp.
In this Advent and Christmas season we have the opportunity to receive the greatest gift in history. Not a gift we earned. Not a gift we deserve. Not a gift we fully appreciate. But a gift that will not be taken away, and a gift that is intended by the giver that we share with others. Our call, our purpose, our mission, and our reason for being is to receive the love God has given us and to share it with every other person we meet. Don’t judge. Don’t condemn. Don’t insult. Don’t injure. Love.
We are living is a broken world of violence, hostility, division, and contempt. This is not the will of God. This is not the kingdom of God. God’s people offer something else, something more, something better. Come to us and you will receive acceptance and welcome. Come to us and you will experience kindness and joy. Come to us and you will find generosity, compassion, peace, and grace. Come to us to find your place in the body of Christ.
It is almost Christmas. It is almost the time for total transformation. It is time to shed the former skin of selfishness, judgment, and anxiety, to be clothed with the light of Christ to share God’s glory with everyone we meet. Let us not just observe Christmas this year, but instead let us become Christmas for a hurting and broken world. Let us bring Joy to the World in real and tangible ways.
Grace and Peace,
Bishop Hee-Soo Jung
Bishop Hee-Soo Jung has served as resident bishop of the Wisconsin Annual Conference since September of 2012. Prior to leading the Wisconsin Conference UMC, Bishop Jung served eight years as bishop of the Northern Illinois Conference (Chicago area).