December 25th Advent Devotional

Peace On Earth

Beth Gedert

Luke 2:8-20

 Nobody knows how their kids will grow up. My husband Sam and I are expecting our first child in just two weeks. We don’t even know if it will be a boy or a girl, much less anything about who s/he will become later in life. We hope s/he won’t make some of the same mistakes we have, and we plan to do our best to bring him/her up to be a compassionate and trustworthy follower of Jesus, but other than that it’s all just a big question mark.

So today I think of Mary and Joseph who heard all of these predictions about their first child from angels and relatives and shepherds. Today’s reading says that Mary treasured the words of the shepherds’ testimony, and she pondered them in her heart. Perhaps like all mothers and fathers, she was hoping that her child would indeed change the world.

As Christians we believe that Jesus shows us true humanity and true divinity, fully embodying the way of life that we will all live when God’s Kingdom comes and God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven. Through the divine power of God the Source, God the Son reached all of his human potential. Each baby has that same potential, although I don’t think any other human will ever reach it as Jesus did. But on Christmas we are filled with hope for this world that God so loves, filled with the hope that as we seek to live as Jesus did, God will reveal the Kingdom through us. And we will one day see peace on earth.

Action: Consider who you want to be this next year as a follower of Jesus. (Better yet, make it a discussion with your family or friends!) Then ask God to help you reach that potential.

 

Rev. Beth Gedert is the pastor of Zion United Church of Christ, an Open and Affirming church seeking to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God in Delaware, Ohio.

©2019 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

Birth Announcement

Jen Boyd

Luke 2:1-7

 Posted on social media, the name, date and birth weight appeared in my feed.  The beginning of this child’s life and story begun with facts and figures.

As we celebrate the gift of this new life, we begin to imagine how their story will take shape in the coming days, months and years.  Will she sleep through the night?  Who will his friends be?    Will they become a teacher like Aunt Ethel, follow in their father’s footsteps, be strong like her grandmother or funny like our cousin Pete?

Jesus’ story – begun here in Luke’s Gospel – much like our own does not really begin at birth, but enters into the story of his family.  Born to an unwed mother forced to travel in the final weeks of pregnancy, uncertain of how they’ll even be received as a family.  Born of the house of David – a great king and yet one who abused his role.  Born into the midst of the world ruled by Rome and uncertainty about the future.

We are born into the story of generations and of the world.  But even more so, we are born into God’s story.  We enter into the midst of God’s relationship with all generations.  Jesus’ birth was God entering into the ongoing story in a new way, to show us a different way to live and to love and to be part of God’s story.

God of life, you birth love into our story.  May we enflesh your story of grace in our daily lives through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

 

Jennifer Boyd is pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Brewster, New York and lives in Danbury, Connecticut with her 3 cats.

©2019 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

If We Remember

Wade Halva

Luke 1:26-38

Upon our arrival in the 1st chapter of Luke’s Gospel we are greeted by angels bringing promises of children. If we remember, this isn’t too terribly uncommon an experience in Scripture.

Gabriel appears to Zechariah, while he is serving in the temple, and gives Zechariah the news that he and Elizabeth are going to be parents. Zechariah responds with disbelief, asking how can this be, for he is old, and Elizabeth is well along in years. If we remember, that’s almost exactly what Abram and Sarai wanted to know. Zechariah struggles to believe that is could be possible with God, and must remain silent until the appointed time.

Six months later, Gabriel visits Mary. Again the message is conveyed that she will bear a child. And this child will be special, he shall be the child of the Most High. Mary responds with disbelief, asking how can this be for she is a virgin. Yet that doesn’t stop Mary, if we remember.

When God approaches us, so often we respond with disbelief. And we’re in good company. We stand with so many of the Scriptural narrative, who found it hard to believe that they were what God needed. In this season of expectant waiting, can we imagine that God is waiting for us as well? What if it isn’t just the world that awaits the birth of the child, but the child who awaits a world to welcome its entry? If we remember what God has done, how to we wait differently?

God whose birth we await, help us to remember the story that brings us to this point. May we remember that others had their doubts and fears about what you were telling them was going to happen, and that you remained with them. As heaven and earth draw near to one another, may we draw nearer to you. Amen.

Wade Halva is the pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Marion, Illinois, 350 miles south of Chicago.

©2019 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

Prepare for the Light

Andrea Allan

Luke 1:5-13, 57-80

We are just days away from Christmas and preparing is on most people’s minds. Preparing Christmas cards, preparing Christmas gifts, preparing food to share with loved ones, preparing everything and anything to make Christmas just right.

John the Baptist however did not come to prepare the world for luxury and festivity, but to break into the world to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” John came to scatter the shadows so that Jesus the light could enter in.

As Zachariah, John’s father’s beautiful psalm reminds us, “you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way.”

In these last few days of advent while we are busy preparing our homes, our churches, and our lives for the celebration of Christmas, like John the Baptist, let us also help prepare the world to hear Jesus’ message of hope for the downtrodden, justice for the oppressed, healing for the sick. We are surrounded by the beautiful Christmas music and decorations around us, but let us remember that Jesus came to break through the noise, to speak up for those who are persecuted because of the colour of their skin, for those who are victimized because they do not have money, for people who are caught in a system that is designed to hold them down.

Help to prepare the world for Jesus the light by writing to your government asking for justice for those who are held down by unfair systems. Send letters or emails to your leaders asking for justice for those who are forgotten about and pushed aside by the powerful in our world.

 

.Rev. Andrea Allan (she/her) serves in a United Church congregation that is part of a multi-faith centre called The Cedars in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. She lives with her family in Stratford Ontario.

©2019 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

Waiting

Chris Deacon

Isaiah 65:17-25

As a child, it felt like the period from December first to December twenty-fifth was the loooongest period of the year.  You could fit three summer breaks in those twenty-five days.  When my daughter started asking how many days until Christmas about November 10th, I realized some things never change!  If Advent is all about waiting, then kids understand Advent on a level that adults often miss!

Isaiah promises a future that sounds too good to be true!  A new heaven and a new earth where there is no more weeping, no more distress, no more homelessness or hunger.  A new Jerusalem that is created as a joy!  Where there is peace and the even natural enemies will be at peace.  It is a future that God’s people have waited over 2500 years for.  Like a Christmas to a child, it seems like it will never get here.  So, we wait.

However, we do not wait idly.  Instead, as we wait for a new Heaven and a new Earth, we try to make this Earth better.  We pray each week, “they kingdom come, they will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven.”  Then we go out and try to make this world as close to the one that God promised through Isaiah.

 Holy God, as we wait for the new Heaven and Earth, as we wait for the day when pain and suffering will cease to be, help us to continue the work of furthering your Kingdom here on Earth as it is in Heaven.  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 of “Louder than Words.”

©2019 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

Be Our Light

Anne Knighten

Isaiah 60:1-9

 The days are growing darker in the Northern Hemisphere as we approach the winter solstice. As the days shorten, we becoming increasingly aware of the need for light. When light is abundant, we tend to take it for granted. It is only when we lack something that our need for it comes to the forefront of our thoughts. In this passage from Isaiah, written during a time of captivity, the prophet tells of a time when the light will return. Though darkness covers the earth and its people, God’s light will come and overcome that darkness. Those who have been dispersed will be gathered home, the people who have been exiled will be redeemed, and all nations will flock toward the light. As we wait for the great feast of Christmas, we look at the darkness of sin that plagues our world: at gun violence, addiction, intolerance, and hatred that destroy lives and the relationships people should have with one another. In such dark days, we know our need for the light of Christ to pierce and overcome the darkness.  May the light of Christ shine within us so that those of us who bear witness to it can bring that light into our families, communities, and nations. Arise, shine, for your light has come!

 Sing Christ Be Our Light by Bernadette Farrell, which can be found in many hymnals and on YouTube.

Anne Knighten is a senior MDiv student at Luther Seminary. She and her husband live in Southern California.

©2019 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 Advent Devotional

Good Morning

Robb McCoy

Isaiah 60:1-9

 “Good morning, Good morning! Get up, get out of bed, good morning, good morning, to you!” This is my version of the famous show tune from Singing in the Rain. I know it’s not the right words, but it is what I sing to my two daughters when I wake them for school. If you asked them, I’m sure they would tell you that I am terribly annoying in the morning, pestering them to wake up, eat breakfast, and comb their hair. Every morning I sing because I want them to embrace the day and see the glorious light of God that is all around.

This passage comes at the end of a long, dark night. Israel has been in the darkness and despair of exile. God is rousing the people with a chorus of light, encouragement, and hope. “Arise! Shine! Your light has come!” This is a text we often use for Epiphany. It goes well for the day that we remember the guests from far-off lands that came to bring gifts to the Holy Family.

What does it tell us at Advent? It is funny; I don’t have to sing to my girls on Christmas morning. They have a way of bounding up without much prodding on that day. God is rousing the people to a new day, and to see the glorious light that is all around. We don’t have to wait until Christmas morning to be roused. Good morning, Good morning, to you!

Instead of bowing to close your eyes to pray, follow the words of Isaiah, lift your eyes and look all around. See the radiant light of God. Bask in the beauty that surrounds you right here and now. Take deep, cleansing breaths, and reflect on the riches and abundance that are all around.

Robb McCoy is the pastor of Two Rivers United Methodist Church in Rock Island, Illinois; and the co-producer of the Pulpit Fiction Podcasts and Pulpit Fiction Narrative Cast: two lectionary Bible studies for preachers, seekers, and Bible geeks.

©2019 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 News and Notes

Movie Night

The CYF committee will be hosting a movie night at UPB on Friday, December 20th.  We will have hot dogs and popcorn and watch the movie, Klaus.  We will meet at 6:00 and ask all children be picked up by 8:15.  We welcome and adult helpers who are interested!

Christmas Eve

Join us as we worship Christ, the newborn King, on Christmas Eve at 6:00!

Reading the Bible in 2020

Last week, pastor Chris invited the congregation to join him in reading through the Bible in 2020 using the NIV One Year Congregational Bible.  It is available through Amazon here.  If you would like to receive reflection questions the end of most weeks, please email UPBannounce@gmail.com

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

Wednesday, December 18th

  • Choir Rehearsal, 7:30

Thursday, December 19th

  • Men’s Night Out, 6:30pm, location TBD

Friday, December 20th

  • Movie Night, 6:00-8:15

Sunday, December 22nd

  • Fourth Sunday of Advent
  • Worship, 10:00

Tuesday, December 24th

  • Candlelight Christmas Eve service, 6:00  PM

Sunday, January 5th

  • LeQuan Turner filling the pulpit
  • Worship, 10:00

 

Looking Ahead

  • December 25th, Christmas
  • February 26th, 2020, Ash Wednesday
  • April 12th, 2020, Easter
  • April 25th, Christmas in April
  • July 12-18th, 2020, Mars Hill

December 18th Advent Devotional

Circle of Love

Daphne Urban

Isaiah 56: 1-8

This scripture begins with a statement of principles representing the Lord’s expectations.  Justice and righteousness are the basis for biblical law and Jewish tradition.  The Sabbath is another part of Jewish tradition, which is known as the Lord’s day of rest, that began with the beginning of creation.  When God made the world, the seventh day he rested.  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.

Have you ever felt like a foreigner, like someone that doesn’t belong or fit in?  I have on several occasions because I’ve moved across the country three times.  An example is when I was twelve, my family moved from California to Colorado.  Everything in Colorado is different than California.  Snow is on your doorstep, instead of having to drive to it.  All schools are completely indoors, instead of separate buildings.  The people have accents and use words and phrases I had never heard of before.  Schools actually have hockey teams!  Tennis is only played when it isn’t snowing, instead of all year.  Luckily, through God’s love, I formed friendships with others who were willing to let an outsider into their midst.  And I am forever grateful!

Lord, You open Your arms up to all who call Your name, all who acknowledge You, and all who look to You in faith.  Everyone is included in Your circle of love and truth.  Lord open our minds and our hearts to find and accept You, especially during this time of advent, as we prepare to celebrate Your son, Jesus’ birth.  Amen.

Vicar Daphne Urban is the pastor intern at Calvary Lutheran Church, ELCA, in Bemidji, MN and MDIV DL student at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, MN

©2019 by individual authors and Facebook Narrative Lectionary Group.  This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

December 14th News and Notes

Children’s Christmas Program

The children of UPB have been hard at work preparing this year’s Christmas program.  Come and support them as they tell the Christmas story during worship on December 15th.

Christmas Open House

Pastor Chris, Heather, and Hannah would like to invite you to their Christmas Open House, this Sunday between 3 and 6.  Come celebrate Christmas with good food and good fellowship.  Drop in or stay as long as you like!  They live at 12500 Rockledge in Bowie.

Movie Night

The CYF committee will be hosting a movie night at UPB on Friday, December 20th.  We will have hot dogs and popcorn and watch the movie, Klaus.  We will meet at 6:00 and ask all children be picked up by 8:15.  We welcome and adult helpers who are interested!

Christmas Eve

Join us as we worship Christ, the newborn King, on Christmas Eve at 6:00!

Reading the Bible in 2020

Last week, pastor Chris invited the congregation to join him in reading through the Bible in 2020 using the NIV One Year Congregational Bible.  It is available through Amazon here.  If you would like to receive reflection questions the end of most weeks, please email UPBannounce@gmail.com

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 14th

  • Christmas Play practice, 9:30

Sunday, December 15th

  • Third Sunday of Advent
  • Worship, 10:00
  • Children’s’ Christmas program

Tuesday, December 17th

  • Board Meeting, 6:30

Wednesday, December 18th

  • Choir Rehearsal, 7:30

Thursday, December 19th

  • Men’s Night Out, 6:30pm, location TBD

Friday, December 20th

  • Movie Night, 6:00-8:15

Sunday, December 22nd

  • Fourth Sunday of Advent
  • Worship, 10:00

Tuesday, December 24th

  • Candlelight Christmas Eve service, 6:00  PM

 

Looking Ahead

  • December 15th, Children’s Christmas Program
  • December 25th, Christmas
  • February 26th, 2020, Ash Wednesday
  • April 12th, 2020, Easter
  • April 25th, Christmas in April
  • July 12-18th, 2020, Mars Hill