Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.
Friends in Christ,
A few weeks ago, just prior to a meeting with some of our pastors, one of our clergy, a grandmother, came to me and shared that the school where her grandchild attended was “locked down” because a student threatened to shoot other students. Fortunately, they found the student, and no one was harmed.
Beverly shared with me recently that our granddaughter told her about code yellow drills at her school. Code yellow is the name for locking down a school. Our granddaughter practices code yellow drills regularly so that students know where to go and what to do in case of an active shooter. Code yellow drills are now normal for school children.
Yesterday a code yellow was called for the entire school district in Jersey City when two people gunned down a police officer and three citizens. It was a horrific scene for more than four hours. Fortunately, the school children are all safe, but today a police officer’s five children lost their father, and three other families lost their loved ones. We grieve for all the families and pray for their peace and healing in the days ahead.
We also grieve with our Jewish friends who lost three people from their community. While there is a continuing investigation, it was a Jewish deli where the two gunmen went with the intent to kill people.
In this Advent Season, I am reminded of the darkness in our world. The mornings are darker, and the evenings come sooner, all waiting and in preparation for God’s light to shine.
Friends, today anti-Semitism continues in the darkness. We the faithful can bring light by putting an end to prejudice and racism regardless of a person’s faith, race and ethnicity. We have enough light to step out of the darkness and challenge those who harbor prejudice and racism.
Friends, today we continue the darkness. Gun violence is in part perpetrated when there are not appropriate laws in place with tougher restrictions. Children use guns in our schools and our streets, and adults use guns on one another and on those we love. We have the light to step out of the darkness and bear witness to the Prince of Peace and work on responsible laws.
Friends, today we are blessed that there are those who have stepped out of the darkness and serve in our cities. In Jersey City, Newark, Paterson, Trenton, Camden, Millville, Atlantic City, Long Branch and so many other cities across GNJ, we have pastors who have chosen to be light in the midst of great challenges our cities face. Our laity in our city churches are faithful and continue to bear the light of Christ.
Yesterday our United Methodist children, including the child of one of our pastoral families, were under a code yellow lock down for more than four hours in Jersey City. Today, I invite you to step into the light by increasing your present connection with an urban congregation or developing a connection with a church in one of our cities. Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you. (Isaiah 60:1) You are the light of God! Arise and shine on school children, on urban churches, on the grieving, on your legislator, on your pastor, on your neighbor. The light of God in you is what makes the difference.
Keep the faith!
Bishop John Schol
United Methodists of Greater New Jersey