faith in action

Hope, peace, love and joy: An Advent message from the general secretary

In the darkness of Advent, the light of hope, peace, joy and love breaks in.

Advent wreath one candle lit

2019 has been a long year. The year began with a monthlong shutdown of the U.S. federal government, causing millions of Americans to miss paychecks.

In February, the special session of the General Conference brought uncertainty to United Methodists, failing to respond to God’s call to welcome all persons.

Throughout 2019, stories of pain, suffering, and injustice filled the news cycles. The Trump administration’s cruel “zero tolerance” immigration policy separated 6,500 children from their families.

Gun violence continues to plague the United States, with more mass shootings this year than total days in 2019. Our Jewish and Muslim brothers and sisters continue to be the targets of white supremacists. Venezuela’s economic crisis has prompted more than 4 million people to flee, sparking a new wave of global migration and refugees.

And yet, during the Advent season we pause to look for the light in the darkness. These gifts of hope, faith, joy, and love nourish and sustain us in our work and in our lives as disciples.


The Social Principles revision is a bold declaration of our shared hope — for our church and our world. The new, global document expresses our lived belief in God’s promises of justice and peace for all in our human family.


Our world aches for the arrival of the Prince of Peace. Throughout the year, United Methodists responded to the call be peacemakers. Peace with Justice coordinators from Annual Conferences across the Connection met in New York. Mark Harrison represented Church and Society in an interfaith delegation with the Iranian foreign minister to emphasize our commitment to a peaceful, diplomatic solution with Iran.


Accompaniment is an express of love. I give thanks to God for the Called Seminar to El Salvador, and the participants’ journey of accompaniment with the Salvadoran people helped us learn the root causes of global migration. The over 400 Ministries With the Poor we have listened to during the past quadrennium reminds us that ministry is about companionship and relationship. May we continue to be the light of God’s love and justice, bringing building one another up.


Even in the struggle for justice, there is joy found in community. Voices of grassroots climate activists, the speaking tour of undocumented students, and new films and concerts telling the stories of immigrants and refugees are sources of joy that sustain us. May we continue to search out and celebrate the joys we find along the way, be they big or small, always to the glory of God.  

In the darkness of Advent, the light of hope, peace, joy and love breaks in. As Denise Levertov’s poem “Primary Wonder” reminds us, this is the mystery of the Advent season:

“Primary Wonder”

Days pass when I forget the mystery.
Problems insoluble and problems offering
their own ignored solutions
jostle for my attention, they crowd its antechamber
along with a host of diversions, my courtiers, wearing
their colored clothes; cap and bells.
And then
more the quiet mystery
is present to me, the throng’s clamor
recedes: the mystery
that there is anything, anything at all,
let alone cosmos, joy, memory, everything,
rather void: and that, O Lord,
Creator, Hallowed One, You still
Hour by hour sustain it.

In this Advent season that we remember and reflect, wait and ponder, and look to the future with hope.