Dear Sisters and Brothers,

We live in a deeply divided world. Sadly, our beloved United Methodist Church reflects this same reality as well. It’s heartbreaking. No wonder there is so much anger, anxiety and grief as we look toward an uncertain future.

Christmas empowers us to experience that this division which seems so real is not actually reality. Christmas is real. The incarnation is real. God being so passionately in love with us that He plunged into the mess and muckiness of life as a baby to give us what we absolutely need is real. Salvation. Healing. Reconciliation. New Life. A turning from our self-centeredness to others. And hope. Always hope. More hope than we can ever imagine is real.

This is not just churchy-sounding talk from a bishop. It is personal – deeply personal – because my soul knows this is exactly the kind of love I need in my own life. Not just when I feel spiritual. But all the time. Even in the midst of our deeply divided church.

As we celebrate Jesus’ birth, I pray that he will be born in you in a way that changes you so that you can discover those with whom you disagree about the future of our church are not your enemies but are acting from a place of deep integrity; that allows you to find a new way of relating to them through your life-transforming relationship with Jesus Christ; and that God surprises you with what God can do in ways you never saw coming.

We don’t celebrate Jesus’ birth because it’s a nice story that happened long ago. We celebrate it because we know that what happened long ago is still the most powerful reality there is in the entire universe.

May it be so for you, for me, for our world and for our church!

Merry Christmas!

Gary E. Mueller 
Bishop of the Arkansas Conference