A Sunday Prayer

Lord,

Everyone’s acting like Christmas is over.

But it’s not.

After all, how can the birth of Your Son into our midst on our behalf be contained by just a day on the calendar? It can’t. How can the hope You sent be limited to the opening of presents? It can’t. How can the work of Christmas last for just 24 hours? It can’t.

Use the coming days of this Season of Christmas to soften my heart, cultivate my curiosity and ponder the Good News of a Great Joy. Help me to be like the angels and the shepherds and the magi and seek out the newborn King. Enable what You did long ago to be so real today that it changes what I do everyday.

But more than anything else, may my Savior and the world’s Savior be born into my life every day in the coming year until once again I proclaim, “Joy to the world, the Lord is come!”

I pray this in the name of the Christ Child who has come, is present and will come again.

Amen.

The More You Believe

You can look at what Scripture says about Jesus’ birth and all the questions it raises. You can point to horrendous things the Church has done the past 2,000 years in the name of the One born in a manger. And you can see all those who claim the baby as their Savior, and use and abuse Him for their own ends. It’s almost enough to make you cancel Christmas. And maybe you have. But Christmas is not about what humans have done with what God has done. It’s always about what God has done. So when you look at the baby Jesus in the manger this holy night, may you believe in spite of all of the reasons not to believe. Because the more you believe, the more clearly you will see how God has become one of us to save us so that you can live forever in the fullness of God’s love.

Not Merely a Quaint Commemoration

Jesus wasn’t born in a Norman Rockwell Christmas painting, Hallmark Christmas movie or home beautifully decorated for Christmas. Rather, he was born in a stable filled with the muck, noises and smell of animals. To put it plainly, Jesus was not born into a pristine fantasy, but rather right smack dab in the middle of real life. This means Christmas is not merely some quaint commemoration of the birth of the Savior of the world 2,000 years later. It is a celebration of how God still comes to you in the most personal way imaginable regardless of what you have done or has been done to you to offer salvation, healing, new beginnings and hope. And that’s exactly why the angels announced Jesus’ birth to the shepherds by calling it “Good News of a Great Joy!”

The Best Christmas Present Ever

You spend hundreds of dollars, dozens of hours and untold amounts of worry trying to get Christmas gifts for others. What’s so crazy about this annual ritual is that all too often it’s an obligatory act that carries little meaning. Contrast this with what happens when you give someone a Christmas gift that expresses how you feel and that you know will be meaningful to that person. Both of you are filled with joy that enriches your life far beyond that moment of gift giving. This is why Jesus’ birth is the best Christmas present ever – because God literally is sharing himself with you!

United Methodists reach settlement in Boy Scouts’ Bankruptcy Case

United Methodist Communications
Office of Public Information

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 21, 2021

United Methodist leaders have reached a settlement in the matter of the Boy Scouts of America’s (BSA) pending bankruptcy proceedings. Upon final court approval, the settlement would absolve any claims of sexual abuse that may have occurred in congregation-sponsored Scouting programs.

Under the terms of the settlement, United Methodists would raise and give $30 million over a three-year period into a fund that will be utilized to compensate survivors, and United Methodist congregations that charter Scout troops and packs would be released from all abuse claims involving Scouting activities. A team has been formed to identify strategies and materials that may be used to raise the funds. The church would also agree to work for the healing of survivors and recommit to work toward ending sexual abuse of young people. Through the General Commission on United Methodist Men, United Methodists will work with the BSA to continue to ensure Scout safety and grow Scouting ministry as part of its mandate through The Book of Discipline.

“We are sorry for what occurred and are praying for all those who experienced harm through Scouting activities. We are committed to the protection of children and youth, and the United Methodist Council of Bishops will be working with the church, the Survivor Working Group and BSA to address policies, programs, and procedures in order to keep Scouts safe from abuse,” said Bishop John Schol, chair of the UMC leadership team created to support the United Methodist chartering organizations in the bankruptcy matter.

The settlement follows months of mediation by an Ad Hoc committee of bishops, chancellors and general agency employees that has been advocating for United Methodist interests.

“I want to thank everyone who has been working through the mediation process for the healing and just resolution of the survivors,” said Schol. “Our settlement agreement has the support of both the BSA and the Coalition of Abused Scouts for Justice.”
The United Methodist Church has long worked proactively to prevent child abuse. The percentage of claims in the last 20 years potentially related to United Methodist congregations’-sponsored scouting units is less than 1 percent of all UMC claims.

Under the terms of the agreement, denomination leaders will intensify efforts to prevent and raise awareness of child sexual abuse.

The Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church has committed to lead the church in carrying out the following:

  • Work with all United Methodists to raise funds for the Survivor Trust Fund.
  • Tell the story of harm done to survivors through a series of articles to be published by the denomination and by each U.S. annual conference to draw attention to child sexual abuse and call upon the church to be vigilant in working to prevent child sexual abuse in churches, homes and the community.
  • Carry out a denomination-wide review of all Safe Sanctuaries and other policies to safeguard young people from sexual abuse and update policies as necessary and ensure the policies are being followed.
  • Provide opportunities for sexual abuse survivors to share their experiences with United Methodist leadership if they choose to do so.
  • Work with all United Methodist ministries and with the Boy Scouts of America to continue to make programs safe for all young people.
  • Provide leadership to help all BSA chartering organizations to make a $100 million contribution to the Survivor Trust Fund.
  • Participate as a member of the Survivors Working Group

 

The Ad Hoc Committee recommends that churches who filed a proof of claim vote “yes” on the plan and for those who previously voted “no,” the Ad Hoc Committee recommends congregations change their vote to “yes.” An email from conference leadership will be sent to churches that filed a proof of claim on how to vote “yes” and how to change a vote from “no” to “yes.”

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Media contact:
Diane Degnan ddegnan@umcom.org
615.742.5406