NAMD Season's Greetings 2020
Very Rev. Prof. Emmanuel Y. Lartey
I bring you greetings at this time of perhaps the most unusual Christmas we have ever experienced. The year 2020 is drawing slowly to an end and we stand at the threshold of 2021. The year 2020 has been described as one like no other.
The world as we have known it has been literally turned upside down by the novel coronavirus Covid-19. Every area of our lives has been affected and those of us who remain alive have been stunned by the sheer scale of death, devastation, and destruction that an invisible virus has been able to inflict upon the entire world. Here in North America we have suffered perhaps the worst effects of the virus with over 333,000 deaths from it in the USA alone so far. We live amidst the health disparities that have been revealed starkly as Black and brown people.
We, who happen also to be the largest number of frontline and healthcare workers, are disproportionately affected by this devastating virus. We have lost jobs, livelihoods, and lives far more than any other group of people. We have also borne the brunt of the brutality of law enforcement with anti-black racism resulting in very many killings of Black people in state sanctioned violence. This year has been full of grief, loss, pain, distress, and anguish.
Nevertheless we, the people called Methodists, have found in our faith the resources to cope with the onslaught. We have been granted the ability to transform our worship services onto online, virtual platforms. We have increased our usage of phone lines for prayer and fellowship meetings. We have utilized online financial technology to maintain our financial responsibilities. Through it all, we have been sustained and supported by God’s own grace and mercy. God’s presence has never failed to be with us.
God has truly been our strength and shield. We have found that the name “EMMANUEL” (Isaiah 7: 14; Matt. 1:23) given to the Christ born as a child to us in Bethlehem two thousand years ago, is truly the sign that “God is with us”. For Jesus Christ has been our hope, our joy, our light and our love through all the painful and stressful times we have been through. The Holy Spirit has been our comforter, counselor and encouragement through it all. This, this is the God we adore, Our faithful, unchangeable Friend, Whose love is as great as His power, and neither knows measure nor end. (MHB 69).
We have experienced the storms of life. But we can truthfully sing: We have an anchor that keeps the soul, Steadfast and sure while the billows roll; Fastened to the Rock which cannot move, Grounded firm and deep in the Saviour’s love. (MHB 634)
The presence of “God with us” in Christ summons us to embrace the New Year with resolve and grace. The great African American Christian pastor and theologian, Howard Thurman, wrote: “When the song of the angels is stilled, When the star in the sky is gone, When the kings and princes are home, When the shepherds are back with their flock, THE WORK OF CHRISTMAS BEGINS: To find the lost, to heal the broken, to feed the hungry, to release the prisoner, to rebuild the nations, to bring peace among people, to make music in the heart.” (Howard Thurman, The Mood of Christmas).
The Jewish people who survived the Exile in Nehemiah’s day along with those who traveled back to Jerusalem with him from Persia, when they heard his accounts of God’s favour as well as the trouble and disgrace of their city, responded with the words that inspire my message to us all today: LET US RISE UP AND BUILD! (Neh. 2:18).
Fellow Wesleyans, let the work of Christmas begin. Let us find the lost in our communities, let us heal the broken, let us feed the hungry, let us release the prisoners, let us REBUILD our nation. Let us rise up and build our societies, our circuits and our diocese. Spare no effort, no energy, no attention to do the work of building and rebuilding our church.
In the face of the pandemic, let us dig deep into our Methodist faith for the resources of faith, hope and love with which we shall be overcomers.
In these trying times let us all pay attention to the 3 W’s of our public health scientists: Wear your mask, wash your hands, watch your distance.
Our Methodist faith is faith in action. It is practical. Show your faith in deeds of kindness and love. Be gracious, thoughtful and caring for each other.
May our lives in these difficult times demonstrate that we have truly trusted Christ for our salvation.
May the power of God unleashed through faith in Christ protect and also inspire us to be living witnesses bearing eloquent testimony to the grace of God in our lives every day.
Very Rev. Prof. Emmanuel Y. Lartey,