December 25th Advent Devotional

Merry Christmas!

Sandy Safford

Luke 2:8-20

The day has come, the one we have been waiting for this Advent. Mary and Joseph are in Bethlehem and the time came for the baby to be born. Mary gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger. The coming of the Messiah, the birth of the king of kings was announced to the shepherds on the hillside watching their sheep. “Do not be afraid” the angel of the Lord said. We have heard these words before in the days of Christ’s coming. But fear is a natural reaction to the unknown, to what is new, changing and especially to angels appearing. But here is reassurance and encouragement as the shepherds tremble. “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11)  This was God’s promise to the shepherds and to all people and they were told where to find the baby. But wait! The sky filled with the heavenly host, and the angel praised God saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom God’s favor rests.” The shepherds go and find the baby Jesus, just as the angels told them. Now they too share the story and spread the word of God’s promise for all people, a Savior has been born! Merry Christmas!

Father, God may we remember this day of Christmas all year long and celebrate your promise for all people. Amen.

©2018 by individual authors and Facebook Narrative Lectionary Group. This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

December 24th Advent Devotional

Silent Night

Chris Deacon

Luke 2:1-14

One of my favorite Christmas memories growing up was going to our church’s Christmas Eve service. It ended with us lighting candles, singing “Silent Night” and departing in silence at midnight. One particular year, I was driving to my parents’ after the service. It seemed the whole town was asleep. I saw very few other cars and I drove in silence the entire way. It was very peaceful and very holy.

 

Was the night that Christ was born really silent? Bethlehem was overflowing.

Every inn in the city was full. I used to live in a small, rural town of about 2000. Once a year, there was a huge arts and craft drive that would bring in 10,000 visitors. When a small town has several times it’s population visiting, it is never quiet! We can’t forget that Jesus was born in a manger. There were donkeys, sheep, goats, possibly chickens. It is hard to believe that it would have been silent.

Maybe, the whole world fell silent and entered into peace to welcome the Christ child. Jesus could calm the storms and walk on water, a little quiet would be nothing for him! Or maybe, Jesus was born into a loud, noisy world. Babies crying, animals braying, a city overflowing with people. Maybe, that is the point. This perfect child was born into a noisy, flawed, broken world. Maybe that is the point of Christmas, that God entered into a noisy, flawed, broken world to redeem it. It may not have been a silent night, but no doubt it was a holy night!

Almighty God, on this day we prepare to finally welcome the Christ child. We welcome him into a world that is dirty, broken, and loud. Just as he came to redeem this world, help us to further your kingdom here on earth until he comes again. Amen

  

Rev. Chris Deacon is the pastor of the United Parish of Bowie, a joint UCC/PC(USA) congregation in Bowie, MD. He is also the author or “Louder than Words.”

©2018 by individual authors and Facebook Narrative Lectionary Group. This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

December 23rd Advent Devotional

Belonging

Tara Wilkins

Matthew 1:18-25

The time is nearly here. Our Advent expectation will soon be fulfilled! We listen with anticipation to the angel’s words to Joseph. He wanted to do the right thing. Marrying Mary gave her a sense of belonging and the safety necessary for the birthing of a Savior. His gift to her, though, must have been isolating for him.

Mary and Joseph were bound together by their secret request from God. Their lives had a purpose, a Holy call that reminded us all that even in the most arduous times, God is with us.

The Christmas story portrays a reality that people still face today. Mary and Joseph experienced rejection and persecution. They became refugees seeking asylum. People then and now forgot that if we all belong to God, then we also belong to one another.

Sociologist Brene Brown writes, “We seem to have forgotten that…we’re connected to one another by something greater than group membership, politics, and ideology—that we’re connected by love…No matter how separated we are by what we think and believe, we are part of the same spiritual story.”

Our spiritual story is still being written. This year may we take a chance to befriend someone on the margins, someone who also belongs to God. “Do not be afraid”, the angel said. “God is with us”.

Loving God, help is to love without fear, as You have called us to do over and over. May we reflect your love in the world, Amen.

 Rev. Tara Wilkins, pastor at Bridgeport United Church of Christ in Portland, Oregon, and executive director of the Community of Welcoming Congregations.

©2018 by individual authors and Facebook Narrative Lectionary Group. This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

December 22nd Advent Devotional

Born In an Instant!

Wayne C. Drueck

Isaiah 66: 7-11

 

Before the birth of our first child, my wife was in labor for 19+ hours. Everyone was ultimately fine, but it was a long, painful wait. Can you imagine the contrast in Isaiah 66 where a mother gives birth before labor even begins? I think my wife might have traded places, given the choice.

The mother that Isaiah describes is giving birth to a nation. Mother God is creating again and that creation is nearly instantaneous. “Who ever heard of such a thing… Can a nation be born in a day…come to life in a second?”

Jerusalem had endured generations of travail and grief. Hope was a rare commodity. But God made this birth, this “new Jerusalem,” happen in a heartbeat and, along with it, gave the promise of many more “children.”

Hope itself was born in the God-birthing of that nation. Those who once lived in sorrow could now be glad. They will be nursed and comforted as they were by their own mother, until they are safe and satisfied. They will enjoy Mother God’s wonderful glory fully and abundantly.

In the birth of the Bethlehem child, we too can find comfort even after a long, painful journey. This Advent we too can live in expectation and hope and enjoy God’s glory fully and abundantly.

God of birth and nurture, reveal to us your glory and hold us closely in Your arms.

 

Wayne C. Drueck is a retired United Church of Christ pastor living in Rothschild, WI.

©2018 by individual authors and Facebook Narrative Lectionary Group. This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

December 21st Advent Devotional

After Darkness, Light

Sergio Gonzalez

Isaiah 60:1-5

With Christmas around the corner, it’s good to remember what this holiday is about. Thankfully, today’s text is a good reminder of the “reason for the season” so to speak: that Christ is the light of the world. Having said that, if Christ is the light of the world, it assumes that the world has darkness.

Yahweh acknowledges this in the first two verses of our passage. He tells the Israelites that light has come, even though there is darkness around them. They would have understood this darkness as the fact that they were in exile. They were away from their homes, their land, and their history: slaves in a strange place. We experience exile every day. We desire life, but death occurs. We desire food, but there is starvation. We desire light, but there is darkness.

Praise God that we serve a God that acknowledges our exile! Look at the promise given to the Israelites in verses 3-5. Yahweh will gather all of Israel together to be with Him, out of the darkness of exile. This is what Christmas is about. God in Christ sees that we are in exile, far from Him, and takes on flesh so that we would be brought back to Him. And notice, the use of “we” here. Verses 5-6 implies our salvation and celebration is corporate: we celebrate with our sons and daughters, with our neighbours, with the world. Have hope, because Christ is the light of the world.

Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. (“The Book of Common Prayer. (1979). New York: Church Publishing Incorporated, p.236.”).

  

Sergio Gonzalez is finishing his MA in Biblical and Theological Studies at Knox Seminary and currently attends St. Aidan’s Anglican Church (ACNA) in Kansas City, MO.

©2018 by individual authors and Facebook Narrative Lectionary Group. This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

December 20th Advent Devotional

House of Prayer

Daphne Grant Urban

Isaiah 56:3-8a

The eunuchs and the foreigners were outsiders in the midst of Israel.

Eunuchs were shown that the law against them was given in love. The foreigners were treated according to their attitude, not their birth. Both of these, for the eunuchs and the foreigners, show God’s love. And as long as they observe God’s Sabbath as the foundation of his covenant, they will all be allowed to join Israel and be accepted into God’s kingdom.

Lord, the truth is yours to give and ours to receive. Open our minds and our hearts to find and accept it, especially during this time of advent, as we prepare to celebrate God’s only son’s birth. Amen.

 

Daphne Urban is a student at Luther Seminary and an ELCA Supply Pastor in Bemidji, Minnesota

©2018 by individual authors and Facebook Narrative Lectionary Group. This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

December 19th News and Notes

Stockings for Seniors

Thank you for everyone who contributed to the senior stockings!  17 were delivered to the food pantry this morning!

Christmas Eve Service

We will celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ on Christmas Eve at 7:00 with a Candlelight Nativity service.  A nursery will be available and we will have glow sticks for children and those uncomfortable with candles.

Adult Sunday School

We are gauging interest in an adult Sunday School.  If you are interested in participating and/or leading, please sign the sheet in the Narthex or sign up here.

Sermons Online

Did you know that our sermons are posted on our website, usually a week after worship?  You can find them here.

De-Greening the Church

Please plan on staying after church on January 6th to remove the decorations from the sanctuary.

Annual Meeting and Chili/Dessert Cook-Off

Mark your calendars.  On January 28th, we will have our Annual Meeting and our Dessert and Chili cook-off to benefit the Mars Hill mission trip!

Two Week Outlook

Thursday, December 19th

  • Mens Night Out, 6:30 PM, Red Robin

Sunday, December 23rd

  • Worship, 10:00

Monday, December 24th

  • Candlelight Nativity Service, 7:00

Sunday, December 30th

  • Worship, 10:00, Le Quan Turner filling the pulpit

Looking Ahead

  • December 24th, Christmas Eve
  • December 25th, Christmas
  • January 6th, De-greening the Church
  • January 27th, Annual Meeting
  • April 27th, Christmas in April
  • July 7th-13th 2019, Mars Hill Mission trip
  • July 22nd-26th, Art & Music Camp

December 19th Advent Devotional

That’s good!

Catherine Diane King

Isaiah 55:1-7

 “Attend to Me and eat what is good;

enjoy the richest, most delectable of things.” – Isaiah 55:2b (The Voice)

This was the first Thanksgiving our daughter was away from home. She’s a conservation biologist working with sea turtles in Costa Rica. This year, her team of eight, her “family” in Costa Rica made their own tradition and cooked a thanksgiving dinner together. Each took a part of the meal and using local foods, incorporated family traditions with a Costa Rican twist: chicken, empanadas, pineapple stuffing, beans, peppers, potatoes and banana pie.

She sent us photos of the table and the joy on every face. And it was good! It was tov.

We first meet this Hebrew word tov in Genesis. At the end of each day’s work, with each new part of creation, God said good! Light, water, vegetation, sea creatures, birds, animals, humans – all tov –all endowed with purpose, sufficient, sustainable, just, complete, beautiful… whole.

Isaiah calls us to return to an ethic of tov: committing ourselves and our decisions to what is useful, beneficial and supportable for common well being… mindful of the impact of our choices on the whole… incorporating what everyone brings to the table… humans partnering with nature.

Our daughter’s team ate a delicious meal, and even more importantly, they are attending to the goodness of the earth as God created it to be.

Loving God of all that is good and right and true, this Advent season, may we consider what it means for each of us to be stewards of tov, living simply, purposefully, relationally and hospitably that all may be well. Amen.

 Rev. Cathi King is a pastor of the Presbyterian Church (USA) and serves First Presbyterian Church Tecumseh, Michigan.

©2018 by individual authors and Facebook Narrative Lectionary Group. This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

December 18th Advent Devotional

“We Are Healed”

Carrie Benton

Isaiah 53:1-6

 This passage in Isaiah opens in curiosity and wonder – a fitting attitude for the season of Advent. We look around at our world, at our country, at our lives and we wonder – what on earth is God up to? Isaiah gives us some clues. God is up to something unexpected, for sure; something we’ll probably not notice, not at first; something we might initially react with disgust at, or try to avoid or hide from.

It has to do with wounds – yours, mine, the world’s, God’s. “By his wounds we are healed.” God’s intention toward all of us, this whole created world, is goodness, healing and restoration. Wounds are meant to be healed. This is what God does through Jesus Christ.

Isaiah reveals that God has always been this way. In our pain and struggle, we often do not expect kindness, mercy or healing love. Yet, the holy nudge to anticipate healing in these moments comes from One who, through woundedness, through suffering, heals with great love.

In this season, Christ invites us to let our wounds co-mingle with Divine wounds. Can we trust that Christ will return to us with the gift of our wounds healed? Will we recognize our connection to so much beyond ourselves? What might it look like to participate in Christ’s incarnate healing encounters with the wounded realities of the world?

God of healing, help us to release our pain into your loving arms. We want to be part of what you are doing to heal the world through the wounds of Christ.

 

Carrie Benton is the pastor of the Mountain Lakes Presbyterian Church in the mountains of western Montana.

©2018 by individual authors and Facebook Narrative Lectionary Group. This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

December 12th News and Notes

Children’s Christmas Program

Our children’s Christmas program will be this Sunday during worship!  The children (and many adults) have been working hard to present the birth of Christ in a new way!  Come and witness the wonder from a new point of view!

Stockings for Seniors

The Mission and Service committee has decided to provide stockings for Seniors, sponsored by the Bowie food pantry.
Your donations can be from a family or completed individually. Simply buy one stocking and fill it with your choice of items, ie, candy, toiletries, Pen and pad, word searches, etc.
Please leave them in the Narthex. They’ll be delivered on Wednesday December 19th.

Christmas Eve Service

We will celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ on Christmas Eve at 7:00 with a Candlelight Nativity service.  A nursery will be available and we will have glow sticks for children and those uncomfortable with candles.

Christmas Eve Readers

We are looking for people to read in our Christmas Eve service.  If you are available and interested, please email ckdeacon@yahoo.com

Adult Sunday School

We are gauging interest in an adult Sunday School.  If you are interested in participating and/or leading, please sign the sheet in the Narthex or sign up here.

Christmas Eve Readers

We are looking for people to read in our Christmas Eve service.  If you are available and interested, please email ckdeacon@yahoo.com

Christmas Open House

The Deacon family is hosting a Christmas Open House at their home (12500 Rockledge Dr) on December 16th from 3:00-6:00.   We would love to celebrate the holidays with you. No need to bring anything, just come and celebrate with us!

Sermons Online

Did you know that our sermons are posted on our website, usually a week after worship?  You can find them here.

Two Week Outlook

Saturday, December 15th

  • Christmas play practice, 9:30-12:30

Sunday, December 16th

  • Worship, 10:00
  • Childrens’ Christmas Program

Wenesday, December 19th

  • Choir Practice, 7:30

Sunday, December 23rd

  • Worship, 10:00

Monday, December 24th

  • Candlelight Nativity Service, 7:00

Looking Ahead

  • December 16th, Kids Christmas program
  • December 25th, Christmas
  • January 6th, De-greening the Church
  • January 27th, Annual Meeting
  • April 27th, Christmas in April
  • July 7th-13th 2019, Mars Hill Mission trip
  • July 22nd-26th, Art & Music Camp