Advent Greetings,

Here we are, during what is characterized as the “most wonderful time of the year,” while dealing with the least wonderful matters of our times; and yet, we sing the familiar song entitled, “Joy to the World.” I have been pondering over the last few days around this word “joy.” What does it mean? So often when we hear the word “joy” it equates to a state of happiness, as if it is a feeling. However, as I was doing some research around the origins of the word “joy,” I found a simple explanation that brings this word to life. Joy means “to boast, glory, exult…” I then proceeded to reflect on the stories and witnesses of congregations through the Charge Conference season that epitomized the very essence of this definition of joy.

For example, hearing the story from Mount Lebanon UMC in Greenfield who shared the ways their congregation’s missions sparked interest in the community that brought about a significant-sized bequest from an anonymous donor, because they heard their impact and wanted to assist in furthering Mount Lebanon UMC’s mission and witness…JOY TO THE WORLD! Or how at Epworth UMC-Indianapolis, where they recently celebrated the baptism of a young man who connected with the congregation through Epworth UMC’s online worship services…JOY TO THE WORLD!

Another example would be an inspiration that emerged from a District Committee on Ministry (dCOM) meeting in the West District when lay member Mr. Nyle Riegle interviewed one of the congregational leaders serving in supply status and was prompted to do something in his local community of Linton. After a few phone calls, the Mayor of Linton signed a proclamation calling for the days between Thanksgiving and the New Year as a period of Prayer and Thanksgiving, signaled by the ringing of the church bell at First UMC-Linton…JOY TO THE WORLD! And lastly, as I was listening to the substantial missions’ impact of St. Luke’s UMC-Indianapolis, when Rev Nicole Caldwell-Gross shared that during a global pandemic, St. Luke’s UMC has invested over $178K in the lives of underserved, underestimated people within their mission field…JOY TO THE WORLD! Friends, these are only a few examples between the two districts. There are MANY other stories, for which I invite you to join the Central District or West District Facebook pages to see the video witnesses and hear the remarkable ways that our United Methodist congregations have been missional during a global pandemic.

I believe it is the collective efforts of lay and clergy serving together that bring about JOY to the world. When the Body of Christ is being Christ’s hands/feet/mouthpieces and inviting others to begin this lifelong relationship of great love – this optimizes the JOY in the world. Yes, there are many situations and circumstances that are hope-stealers, and joy-killers; not to negate the current realities. However, I just wonder what would happen if we were to re-shift our focus to live out the joy of our witness; both individually and collectively.

We have an opportunity to embody the words we sing, “Joy to the world! the Lord is come; Let earth receive her King; Let every heart prepare Him room, And heaven and nature sing, And heaven and nature sing, And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.” I believe as we, again, await the birth of the Christ-child, we wait with an eagerness in the hopes that something is going to change. We hang on to the new life, as a wonder for something better than right now. We beam with excitement in the JOY that HOPE, PEACE, and LOVE is being birthed into the world for all of us to enjoy. But more importantly, as faithful followers of Jesus Christ, those called disciples, we live each day filled with the responsibility of being the conduits of JOY to the WORLD and in the world…May we Go and Tell It on the Mountains and in the Streets!

Continued Blessings of Safety and Wellness…

Dr. Aleze M. Fulbright
Conference Superintendent serving Central and West Districts