December 20th Advent Daily Devotional

The Promise of Peace

Chris Deacon

Isaiah 57:14-21

When I was in elementary school, my Grandma gave me my first “G.I.Joe” figure.  I loved it!  I took it to school to show all my friends.  While we were playing outside, we were throwing it in the air and catching it.  Then one toss sailed and the toy was gone forever.  That night is the first I remember not being able to sleep.  I felt so guilty that I just lay there awake.  I had lost a gift that my Grandma had given me.  The next night, I still felt guilty, so I went and crawled in bed with my parents and told them what I had done.  I’m sure they were either relieved that it wasn’t something worse or annoyed that I had waken them up.  With my conscious eased, I felt better and was able to sleep!

In this text, Isaiah promises that peace is coming for the far and near!  God will heal the people and repay them with comfort.  In Christ, we are offered forgiveness for our sin.  Even though we want to keep turning back to our own ways, God offers healing, forgiveness, and ultimately peace.  We only have to confess our sin and accept God’s forgiveness.  For those who do not seek forgiveness, they will feel as I did in elementary school, tossing like the sea that cannot keep still.  As we prepare for the coming Christ, we seek God’s forgiveness and the peace that accompanies it.

 

Holy God, as we celebrate Christ’s birth as we wait for him to come again, help us to seek our comfort in you.  Help us to seek the peace that only you can provide.  Forgive us for the ways we have wronged both you and our neighbors and enable us to live more fully into our Advent calling.  Amen. 

 

Rev. Chris Deacon is an ordained pastor in the PC (USA) and is serving the United Parish of Bowie, a union UCC/PC(USA) church in Bowie, MD.  He is also the author of “Louder Than Words”.

©2017 by individual authors and Facebook Narrative Lectionary Group. This work is published under a Creative Commons AttributionNonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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December 19th Advent Daily Devotional

The Suffering Servant

Kelley Jepsen

Isaiah 53:2-12

This is a tough passage to read the week before Christmas.  We desperately want Isaiah to be talking about Jesus as the suffering servant – so many of the analogies fit!  And while it is natural to speculate on who Isaiah is actually writing about (was it Jesus? the nation of Israel?  all of humanity?) we can focus on the message that comes through the text: a life following God will not be easy.

As servants of God, we know that the path is not simple and though we may try our hardest, there are times when we will end up suffering like the servant.  Verse ten of the text reminds us “Through [the servant] the will of the Lord shall prosper.”  God’s mission comes into the world in, with, and through this suffering.   As followers of Christ, we are called to humble ourselves and make room for God to work through us.  It is through this suffering that God is powerful.  And though we may encounter a life where we are despised, rejected, afflicted, wounded, etc., we live knowing that death will not have the final word.  Living a life of suffering is our calling, part of what it means to be a faithful follower of Christ.  Knowing how the story ends, we can live into this calling with the knowledge of the promises of God to be with us and to overcome all pain and suffering in this world and the world to come.

 Let us pray: Gracious and merciful God, remind us that suffering is a part of our call to be Christians and that our suffering is not in vain, but brings an opportunity for you to work in the world.  Amen.

 

Kelley Jepsen is a senior M.Div student at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, seeking ordination through the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).  She is currently working as a Pastoral Intern at First Presbyterian Church in Stillwater, Minnesota.

©2017 by individual authors and Facebook Narrative Lectionary Group. This work is published under a Creative Commons AttributionNonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

December 18th Advent Daily Devotional

God’s Comfort

Jennifer Boyd

Isaiah 40:1-11

It’s all about comfort.  If something is not comfortable, I want no part of it.  This is true not just for the clothes I put on, but the situations I find myself in.  When faced with a difficult situation, my innate tendency is to go the other way.

Yet these uncomfortable times in our lives are not so easily avoided as much as we may try to dwell in our own realm of denial.  They may not just be a matter of dis-ease or dis-comfort but the harsh reality of sickness, estrangement, injustice, and sorrow in our lives and world.

The people of Israel faced the ongoing and often harsh discomfort of exile and promises deferred.  Hope was waning with the withering of the grasses and flowers of the field. Their future was uncertain.

It is into the dis-ease of our lives and our world that the prophet proclaims “comfort, O comfort my people, says your God’.  This is not the comfort of “don’t worry, be happy” or a warm blanket.  This is the comfort of trusting that God has not deserted us, that all those seemingly insurmountable mountains and rough places are within God’s purview to overcome.

The power of God is revealed in an infant, in the Christ-child who is born to bring the true comfort of peace and grace into our world.  This is a comfort founded in hope and promise.  This is a comfort that reassures and strengthens us for lives lived in peace.  It is the promise of new life birthed out of the labor pains of life.

 

God of grace, we offer up the people, the places and the situations in our lives and world that are in need of your comfort.  We name before you those in our own thoughts….may your peace pervade their lives and bring them the true comfort that is found only in you.  Amen. 

Pastor Jennifer Boyd is the pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church (Brewster, NY) who recently marked 25 years of ordained ministry.

©2017 by individual authors and Facebook Narrative Lectionary Group. This work is published under a Creative Commons AttributionNonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

December 17th Advent Daily Devotional

The Coming New Life

Chris Deacon

Isaiah 55:1-11

When my wife and I began to start a family, we decided to adopt.  The adoption process was long and full of heartbreak.  It took several years, and we had several adoptions fall through.  When we finally received the news that we would be adopting our daughter, we were filled with anxiety.  Would something go wrong yet again?  What would life look like after our daughter was born?

The Israelites must have been filled with similar thoughts.  They have been in captivity in Babylon for 70 years and now they are on the cusp of being able to return to their homeland.  The fact that many of them had never been there only increased their anxiety!

Isaiah brings them words of comfort from God.  Isaiah promises that God is creating a new life for the Israelites.  God is promising to be with them through the journey as they return to their ancestral home.  God is promising a new covenant and a new life.  God is promising mercy and forgiveness.  Above all God is promising presence.

As we travel towards the conclusion of Advent, we remember that these are God’s promises to us too.  God is bringing new life.  God is offering mercy and forgiveness.  Above all we remember God’s presence throughout the journey of our lives as we prepare to the birth of Emmanuel, “God with us.”

 

Alpha and Omega, we do not know what life will bring us. During our journey, there will be transitions, changes, and anxiety.  There will be joys and sorrows.  Throughout it all, we give thanks that you are present with us. Continue to walk beside us and guide us.  We pray this in the name of the coming Christ, who will fulfill the new covenant.  Amen. 

 

Rev. Chris Deacon is an ordained pastor in the PC (USA) and is serving the United Parish of Bowie, a union UCC/PC(USA) church in Bowie, MD.  He is also the author of “Louder Than Words”.

©2017 by individual authors and Facebook Narrative Lectionary Group. This work is published under a Creative Commons AttributionNonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

December 16th Advent Daily Devotional

Godly Measures

Katy Stenta

Ezekiel 40:38-47

Here heaven is given to Ezekiel a vision of the new Temple that will be built and claimed by God. This temple will be tended to by a priest of Levi, which Hebrews does a very good job of explaining Jesus to be. Before Jesus, though, this temple is being measured. Measurement was a sign of the claiming of land and building in ancient times. God is doing this through God’s prophet Ezekiel in this text.

What do we measure at Christmas? How do we lay claim to things through measuring them? One of our understandings of God is that God knows the number of hairs on our head, God knows each star by name. Yet God claims us, because God can keep track without counting. How do we keep track of one another and God during this advent season? When do we transcend the measuring, and reach the more nebulous act of claiming God, each other and the season?

 

God of the heavens, we are a people who likes to count, even space and time, so you give us an image of heaven that makes sense to our human brains. But we are aware that this vision is but a moment, but a flash of heaven, and that you have a claim that is beyond counting. Teach us we pray.  Amen.

 

Katy Stenta is a Solo Presbyterian Pastor at a Church that is Bigger on the Inside in Albany, NY.

©2017 by individual authors and Facebook Narrative Lectionary Group. This work is published under a Creative Commons AttributionNonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

December 15th Advent Daily Devotional

Don’t get too comfortable

Ann Bassett

Ezekiel 40:20-37

Ezekiel chapter 40 begins by telling us that the Israelites had been in Exile for 25 years.  That’s time enough to figure out how to make the best of a bad situation.  Plenty long enough to learn the language, the customs of this foreign land they’ve been carted off to.  They’ve figured out by now that helping their captives succeed, improves their lives.  The real feelings of anger, resentment and grief have dissipated as they watch their children grow up is this strange culture, have families and even do well.  Israel and the temple are distant fuzzy memories.  Life was really hard when they were first exiled, but now they know not only how to make lemonade from lemons, but their lemon orchards are flourishing.

Ezekiel has a vision that is mind numbing with details that only an architect could love.  These design plans for the new temple is off the charts huge.  Its scope is way beyond Solomon’s temple.

Basically, Ezekiel is saying, “Just because you’re figured out how to have not only a decent, but a meaningful life while in exile, don’t get too comfortable.  The next life God has planned for you is amazing in ways you can’t wrap you’re brain around.”  Often life as we know it comes to an end.  Because God keeps God’s promises eventually we find ourselves in a new place that exceeds our expectations.  Whenever we are struggling with letting go of what used to be, remember God has something we could never imagine in store for us.

Ann Bassett is the Pastor of Peace Lutheran Church in Spring Hill, TN

©2017 by individual authors and Facebook Narrative Lectionary Group. This work is published under a Creative Commons AttributionNonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

December 14th Advent Daily Devotional

Waiting Plans

Sandra Alexis

Ezekiel 40:1-19

There’s a difference between waiting for something you know and waiting for something unknown.  We all know Christmas will come on December 25 and each day moves us closer.  It is much harder to wait for something we do not usually know like the birth of a child.  When awaiting the birth of my first child, I tried to get ready but there was so much I could not prepare for; it was out of my hands.

The people at the time of Ezekiel had been waiting in exile.  They did not know how long they would wait.  Eventually it had been 25 years away from home.  Ezekiel’s vision revealed that a new space for the people was coming – the time of waiting would be ending but they still didn’t know when.

In Ezekiel’s vision – the fourth in this book — we hear about specific cubits and hand-widths for the new building.  The actual temple was still about 50 years off and would be different than the vision but it would be a new place for God’s people.  Hope was coming.

How many people in our communities feel exiled from where they thought they would be?  How long must they wait for a space that can include them?  The words of the prophets call us to action now.  The time of waiting is over.   God has a plan; as followers we can look for ways to fulfill that plan by seeking to create spaces of inclusion and welcome.

 Holy God, divine architect, use us to build up communities and show us how to use our gifts and talents to reach out to those who live away from their homes.  Amen.

 

Sandra Carlson Alexis is the pastor at First English Evangelical Lutheran Church in Baltimore, Maryland.

©2017 by individual authors and Facebook Narrative Lectionary Group. This work is published under a Creative Commons AttributionNonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.