November 25, 2009
|The Rev. Charlie West (center), pastor of Grace
United Methodist Church in Marquette, Mich., collects electronic
discards during the 2006 Earth Keeper Clean Sweep. In 2006, more than
300 tons of electronic waste were collected at 27 sites in the Upper
Peninsula area of Michigan. A UMNS photo by Greg Peterson
Normally when we think of a green Christmas, we think of a holiday
without snow. What if we thought about it in terms of celebrating Jesus’
birth by renewing God’s creation?
At our meeting this fall, the Council of Bishops unanimously passed a
foundation document and pastoral letter titled “God’s Renewal of
Creation: Call to Hope and Action.” We are asking all United Methodist
churches to read or publish the pastoral letter during Advent. One
version of the pastoral letter includes a liturgy of lamentation and
confession that is suitable for worship or small groups. Visit www.minnesotaumc.org/bishop for links to the documents.
Some may wonder why they are being asked to do lamentation and
confession during Advent. We often forget that Advent is a mini-Lent—a
time of waiting, watching, and preparing ourselves to receive Christ,
who is born in our hearts and world again. ’Tis the season of renewal,
for us and for God’s creation.
During Advent we prepare ourselves for the coming of the Prince of
Peace, who promises to bring peace on Earth. Peace and the care of
creation are integrally tied together. Many people wondered how an
environmental activist like Al Gore could receive a Nobel Peace Prize.
What does environmentalism have to do with peace? When natural
resources, including clean water and food—not to mention fossil
fuels—are limited, weapons stockpiling, conflict, and violence
What makes for peace
Often at Christmas we receive cards with pictures of the peaceable
kingdom, the lion and the lamb resting together. This is an image of
God’s creatures living together in harmony, as described in Isaiah 11:6
|The wolf shall live with the lamb,
the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them . . .
They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain,
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.
Imagine all the plant and animal species, especially those on the
endangered list, living in harmony with each other along with humanity
in such a way that they are supportive and sustainable. I believe that’s
what the Prince of Peace calls us to imagine so that in our living,
even in our celebrating of Jesus’ birth, we can live into its promise.
We believe Jesus is the hope of the world. But what hope does a
future generation have if we have wasted and consumed all the natural
resources of this Earth? Did you know that one of our children or
grandchildren has the carbon footprint of up to 13 children in
developing countries? What hope do our children and grandchildren have,
along with the children in developing countries, if the Earth’s
resources are so depleted and limited that they go hungry, live in
poverty, suffer from poverty-related illnesses, and violence marks their
We believe that Jesus brings joy to the world. Notice that the carol
“Joy to the World” suggests that Jesus’ coming and the Earth’s wellbeing
are intricately tied. “Heaven and nature sing” when Jesus comes. But
how can nature sing if it’s suffering, sick, and dying? Consider the
|No more let sins and sorrows grow,
nor thorns infest the ground;
he comes to make his blessings flow
far as the curse is found . . .
The carol reminds us that the Hebrew scriptures are filled with
images of joy when people are faithful and the Earth blossoms, produces
fruit, and rejoices. Truly, let heaven and nature sing!
We believe that Jesus is God’s love made flesh. We display manger
scenes every year to recall that Jesus was born into a humble, poor
family and that this Savior is born for the poorest, most vulnerable of
If Jesus were born today, I wonder if he might be born in one of the
garbage-dump communities that exist around the world, such as that
depicted in the movie Slumdog Millionaire. Would Jesus be a
child who pokes around a smoking garbage dump, looking for food and
clothing and a few articles to sell for some money? If that shocks us,
why doesn’t it shock us that children live in such environments today?
Many of the poor, violent, hungry, diseased conditions of children today
are the result of our misuse of God’s creation.
If we believe Jesus is the Prince of Peace, the hope and joy of the
world, and the embodiment of God’s love, to follow Jesus means to seek
renewal for God’s creation and God’s people, including ourselves, our
children, and our grandchildren.
What one aspect of your celebration this year of Jesus’ birth would
renew God’s creation? How can you reuse and recycle gifts or materials
for gifts, and use less wrapping paper? Remember Grandma saving, and
even ironing, every piece of tissue paper? Can you use LED
(light-emitting diode) decorative lights that use far less energy? To be
intentional about protecting the environment does not take all the fun
and light out of the holiday! Web sites like www.eartheasy.com/give_sustainchristmas.htm provide ideas. I encourage you to visit my blog
this season and share with others your struggles, experiences, and
hopes for renewing God’s creation, starting this Advent season.
’Tis the season (every season) to work to renew God’s creation!
Bishop Sally Dyck