Suddenly it is December. Christmas decorations are scattered galore, stores are crammed with shoppers, and stress can be at an all-time high for some. While the holidays can be busy and stressful, the season of Advent helps Christians pause in the midst of the hurriedness. The meaning of Advent challenges us to reflect on what the Lord has done this year. It is a time to dwell on the hope, peace, joy, and love that Christ offers. It reminds us to wait with expectant hearts for the return of Jesus.
There is a unique hope that comes with each Christmas season. Our hearts should be filled with the joy of knowing that Christ fulfilled all of the Old Testament prophesies and was born to set us free from fears and sin. We now wait with eager longing for his promised return.
This year, The Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD) wanted to share what we have been praying for in this season of Advent. There are so many things that have happened this year that shows the Lord’s faithfulness to IRD and there are many things to be hopeful for in the upcoming year. Reflecting on hope and eager expectations, the staff of IRD shares some things that Christ has put on our hearts so that you can all join us in prayer for the work we are doing to love God, the Church, and His people.
Dan Moran, research assistant for United Methodist Action, is anticipating the UMC’s special General Conference in February 2019. He is hoping and praying that the decisions that come out of this global gathering will strengthen the denomination’s ability to faithfully share the Gospel around the world.
Joshua Arnold, an intern at IRD, is praying that people will be strengthened in their faith this Advent season and that hearts would be turned to the Lord.
John Lomperis, the United Methodist director, was happy to have seen his own Indiana Conference of the United Methodist Church adopt a resolution he wrote condemning racism and anti-Semitism. The UMAction program is currently involved in a lot of preparation and anticipation for the denomination’s fast-approaching February 2019 General Conference, at which he will be one of 864 voting delegates. Prayers for this potentially history-making denominational assembly would be greatly appreciated.
Jeff Walton, Anglican program director, says his hopes are that as Christianity grows in the Global South that the Holy Spirit will lead Christians from these nations to send evangelists and church planters to Europe and the Americas. After seeing the witness of Christians from Korea and China bringing the Gospel to places in Central Asia where Western Christians struggle to reach, he has great hope that God is at work in these places. He is also optimistic that his health will continue to improve after receiving cancer treatment this past year. Lastly, as a part of a launch team for an Anglican Church plant in his county, he is hopeful that that team will work alongside other Christians and introduce many unchurched neighbors to Jesus Christ.
Chelsen Vicari, Evangelical Action director, is hoping to host a second “Evangelical Women in Public Policy and Public Witness” conference in 2019 and is looking forward to highlighting the riches of historic Christian teaching on public policy issues. For her work in Evangelical Action, she is praying that Evangelical churches, leaders, and youth will be aware of distorted Christian teachings and that all are pointed towards sound, biblical direction in order to know and love Christ more.
Faith McDonnell, IRD’s International Religious Liberty Program Director, hopes to see the churches in America catch fire with passion for their persecuted brothers and sisters around the world in the coming year. As we are observing these days in anticipation of the celebration of Christ’s coming in Bethlehem, she hopes that we will think about and pray for the Christians around the world who sing to Jesus, You will conquer every evil thing/Every sorrow, pain, and wrong/They will cease with Your return, our King/How long, O Lord, how long?
Lastly, Mark Tooley, president of The Institute on Religion and Democracy, prays that United Methodists globally will continue to prepare prayerfully for the special General Conference in February 2019 with increasing resolve to reaffirm the church’s biblical teachings about marriage. He asks for prayer that John Lomperis, Dan Moran and the whole IRD team heading to St. Louis, with the global renewal coalition, will labor strategically and discerningly. IRD labors for the renewal of the nearly 13 million-member denomination.
Psalms 119: says, “my soul longs for your salvation; I hope in your word. My eyes long for your promise; I ask, ‘When will you comfort me?’ In your steadfast love give me life, that I may keep the testimonies of your mouth.” True hope and life are found in knowing Jesus. Advent is an opportune time of the year to think about what it means to long for salvation and anticipate the promises of Christ. IRD will continue to strive toward its vision of “[championing] biblical, historic Christianity and its role in democratic society.” I am encouraged by the work that IRD does for Christianity and the church. I know that our hope comes from the Word of God and is based on who Christ says he is.
In this season of Advent, pray with hope and pray with us that Christ will make himself known and that His name will be glorified above all else.