12-2 Advent Devotional

Desolate but not Hopeless

Catherine Belles

Daniel 9. 20 – 27

Psalm 80.1-3, 14-19

Daniel 9 is midway through a series of visions; ferocious battles in which the Israel is divided and the people scattered before monsters. Daniel, the righteous teacher of the Qumran community, turns to the Lord with a prayer of supplication and traditional mourning posture; fasting, sackcloth and ashes. It is a prayer of “open shame” which “…falls on us, our kings, our officials, and our ancestors, because we have sinned against you.” Daniel’s prayers are heard; Gabriel brings the gift of “wisdom and understanding” to explain the vision. However, as it is in explaining a parable, explaining the vision makes it more obscure with an unnamed prince, troops, destruction of the city and sanctuary, flood and war. This is not a word of comfort and joy. Daniel mourns the struggles of Israel’s people until God’s final judgment on the “desolator”

We wait… for God…for the Word made flesh, yet, this is The King coming in judgment of those who temporarily wield power; princes and troops. Only those in covenant with God will survive. The desolator, those who destroy, will be destroyed. We are waiting, certain the day of “the decreed end” will come.

 

Catherine Belles, a pastor of two rural north central Iowa churches, Eden Presbyterian in Rudd and First Presbyterian in Greene, Iowa. 

©2016 by individual authors and Facebook Narrative Lectionary Group.  This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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12-1 Advent Devotional

Vision of Daniel

Chris Deacon

Daniel 7:1-14

  Daniel was a prophet when Jerusalem was conquered by the Babylonian Empire.  He and many others were exiled into captivity.  In captivity, he served Nebuchadnezzar and his successors, all while remaining faithful to the one true God.

Daniel had seen his home invaded, his kingdom overthrown, and his people exiled.  He now has served several foreign kings.  Having seen kingdoms fall and kings die, he knows, all too well, about the frailty of human rulers, kingdoms, and empires.  He has a vision of one who appeared human, but answered to God.  He has a vision of one who will have dominion over all people, all nations, all the earth.  Unlike earthly kingdoms, this kingdom will not be conquered by foreign powers or even by death.  This kingdom will be eternal.

As we celebrate Advent, we wait for the time for Christ to come again.  We remember that no matter what happens in our earthly kingdom, we wait for the advent of the heavenly kingdom.  We wait for that “everlasting dominion that shall not pass away.”  We celebrate the “kingship…that will never be destroyed.”  Earthly countries and political leaders will rise and fall, we serve the one who is will not fall, will not let us down, and will not end.

 

Rev. Chris Deacon is a pastor in the PC(USA). He is currently serving the United Parish of Bowie in Bowie, Md, outside of Washington D.C.

©2016 by individual authors and Facebook Narrative Lectionary Group.  This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

11-30 Advent Devotional

Not Here

Julie Holm

Psalm 90

 I wonder as I wander out under the sky

how Jesus our Savior was born for to die

for poor ordinary people like you and like I.

 

Psalm 90 lingers and provides a meditation on the shortness of life, and on death.   Returning to dust, swept away like grass, wasting away, living at best to be 70 or 80.   A strange, strange topic for the beginning of Advent.   But Advent, and Christmas, are linked irretrievably to Good Friday, and Good Friday and Easter are linked irretrievably to Advent.

The gift of Salvation, which many Christians link to the cross, and the cross only, is given to us as much in the incarnation.  It is as much a gift of the Word who comes to dwell with us, who comes to be fully human, that we might be raised ourselves.  The One who lived life with such integrity that the Roman Empire felt they had no choice but to execute him, the One who was raised, that One was once the child in a manger, the man baptized by John, the prophet teaching on the hill, the resister shutting down the temple by upturning the tables.   It is all tied together.

Glenn Burlegh hightlighs this in his Christmas Cantata, Born to Die.  My brother Peter Hamm wrote a beautiful song at Christmas that used the words we know from the Easter story, He is not Here.  Starting with the shepheds and ending at the tomb, Peter brought together the life of Jesus, the salvation we wait for, into a whole.   So as we wait for the birth, let us feel free to still meditate on death.

Listen to He Is Not Here at:

Rev. Julie Holm pastors the Brush Valley Fusion of Faith in Rebersburg and Madisonburg, PA:  St. Peter’s United Church of Christ, St. Peter’s Lutheran (ELCA) and Christ United Church of Christ. She also edited this booklet.

©2016 by individual authors and Facebook Narrative Lectionary Group.  This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

11-29 Advent Devotional

Hope

Tara Wilkins

Daniel 3:19-28a

 Advent is an invitation to focus our attention on the expectation of God’s entry into our lives.  We begin with Hope.  The late Henri Nouwen said, “Hope is trust that God will fulfil God’s promises to us in a way that leads us to true freedom”.  Hope is often born in the midst of dark times.  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego experienced the despair of seeming powerlessness.  Instead of letting fear immobilize them, they stood in their faith in God and God’s ways, and the fire did not overcome them.  In fact, their act of truth-telling bore witness to the living God such that it changed the heart of an angry king.

Advent waiting is time to focus on the truth of whose we are, to wait for God’s presence to lead us through our fear and despair, and to proclaim that the God of all creation calls us to divine love, hope, joy and peace.  Advent waiting is not passive, it’s active.  Our waiting is with the confidence that what is going to happen is going to change and transform things in unexpected ways.  Advent practice is to wait, eager and alert, to be a part of God’s transformation.

This season in the midst of angry kings and uncertain times, we bear witness to God’s invitation to care for one another, to not lose sight of the invitation to open our hearts to peace, and not let our fear overcome us for God’s reign is at hand.

 

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

©2016 by individual authors and Facebook Narrative Lectionary Group.  This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

11-28 Advent Devotional

Longing for God

Tracy Spencer-Brown

Daniel 2:31-45

Psalm 25:1-10

 

“I need thee every hour, most gracious Lord…….”

Today was a difficult day, and in the midst of it, I kept hearing this hymn.  I was reminded that we are not alone in this.  We do not have to face life on our own.  As Christian people, we know this; yet how easy it is to forget sometimes.

The psalmist reminds us, offering her soul to God, and proclaiming her trust, all the while asking for God’s help in being faithful.  She desires forgiveness and mercy, and longs for God’s presence.

Annie Hawks began writing poetry and hymns when she was fourteen years old.  The most familiar of those is “I Need Thee Every Hour.”  She describes the occasion of penning the hymn:

“I remember well the circumstances under which I wrote the hymn. It was a bright June day, and I became so filled with the sense of the nearness of my Master that I began to wonder how anyone could live without Him, in either joy or pain. Suddenly, the words I need Thee every hour, flashed into my mind, and very quickly the thought had full possession of me.”

We seek God’s nearness.  We desire God’s grace and love.  In Advent, that longing and desire become even more intense as we await the coming of Christ again.   The trick is to lean into it the longing, knowing that God is right there with us all along.

Musical meditation:  “I Need Thee Every Hour” as performed by Jars of Clay.     https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2w3y3iT3NlU

 

Rev. Tracy Spencer-Brown is the pastor of Andrews Presbyterian Church in Andrews, Texas.

©2016 by individual authors and Facebook Narrative Lectionary Group.  This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

November 3rd E-votional

Just before the third presidential debate began, my friend said to me “let’s get this over with”.  I responded that I felt that could be the theme of the election this year.  Let’s just get it over with.  It feels like it has been going on forever.  To make things worse, this is the most vitriolic, hateful, divisive campaign I can remember.  While, there may be more divisive campaign, the general consensus is that we have hit a new low in politics.  The good news is, barring something extraordinary, it should be over next week.

I have wondered if this shift in politics is strategic by the candidates.  After all both major party candidates now have historic unfavorable ratings.  There have always been attack ads, because politically, they are effective.  This year, these attacks have been amplified, but when you boil them down, both candidates are saying the same thing.  The world is broken.  It is the fault of my opponent and people like my opponent.  Only I, and people like me,  can fix it.  It is a story of demonizing others to make ourselves look good.  It is a story of divide and conquer.  It is a story, ultimately, of creating teams and pitting us against each other.  Last month, theologian and ethics professor,  warned that when we give into these divisions, we trade our neighbors “for the sake of donkeys and elephants that will never love us back.”

Colossians 1:17 tells us that in Christ all things are held together.  We have to remember that we have brothers and sisters in Christ on both sides of the political divide.  We need to remember that it isn’t either political candidate that holds us together, but Emmanuel, God with us, Jesus Christ.  Colossians 3:13-14  reminds us, “bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.  Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”

I am in no way saying that this election is not important or that you shouldn’t vote.  I am saying that we should not let the outcome divide us.  Next Wednesday, one of the candidates will be the president-elect and the other will go back to what they did before the election, relatively unaffected by the division they have wrought.  We will still be here, needing to move forward.  The way forward begins with remembering what unites us, the love of God as shown in Jesus Christ.

John Wesley, who is considered the father of the Methodist tradition gave advise about division caused by elections in 1774.  He advised, “1. To vote, without fee or reward, for the person they judged most worthy. 2. To speak no evil of the person they voted against, and 3. To take care their spirits were not sharpened against those that voted on the other side.”

The divide and conquer approach will be a winning strategy for one of the candidates, but it is a losing strategy for both the church and for society.  Society is better than that.  The Church is better than that We can disagree with one another and continue to love one another.  We can remember that our salvation does not come from a politician, a political party, or anything else created by human hands.  Yes, we do live in a broken world, but it can only be healed through that which unites us, the love of God in Christ.

Galatians 3:28  “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”

November 12th News and Notes

Time Change

Don’t forget to set your clocks back this Sunday for Daylight Savings time!

Committee chair meeting

The committee chair meeting is this Sunday following Sunday School.

Hanging of the Greens

Mark your calendars!  This year, we will have the hanging of the greens after service on November 20th.  We will also have a soup supper accompanying it.

Pre-K Sunday School

The Pre-K Sunday School class will begin this Sunday, meeting in the daycare room.  The lesson will be “The Beginning: A Perfect Home”   from The Jesus Storybook Bible to learn about the Creation Story form Genesis 1-2.

Crisis Center meal

The family Crisis Center dinner is November 20th.  There are still several openings, you can sign up here.

Young Adult’s Night Out

On Friday, November 18th, the Children, Youth, and Family committee is encouraging a “Young Adult Night Out”.  Baby sitting will be provided at the church from 6:00-9:30, giving the young adults time to get together and do something.  If you plan on participating in the night out, please email ckdeacon@yahoo.com.  If you would like to help out with the babysitting, please email Suepiano49@aol.com.

Congregational Meeting

There will be a brief congregational meeting following worship on December 11th to elect officers for the coming year.

Newsletter Submissions

Newsletter Submissiosn are due November 21st.  Please have anything for the winter newsletter into Dina Bickel by that date.

Two Week Outlook

Wednesday, November 2nd

  • Christmas Play Rehersal, 5:45 PM
  • Choir Practice, 7:30 PM

Sunday, November 6th

  • Worship, including celebration of the Lord’s Supper, 10:00 AM
  • Sunday School following worship
  • Committee Chair meeting, following Sunday School

Monday, November 7th

  • Worship Team Meeting, 4:00 PM

Wednesday, November 9th

  • Christmas Play Rehersal, 5:45 PM
  • Choir Practice, 7:30 PM

Thursday, November 10th

  • Men’s Breakfast, 7:45 AM, Nautilus Diner

Friday, November 11th

  • Ladies Luncheon, 11:30 AM
  • Book Club, 7:00 PM

Sunday, November 13th

  • Worship
  • Chat & Chew, following worship
  • Sunday School, following worship

Wednesday, November 16th

  • Christmas Play Rehersal, 5:45 PM
  • Choir Practice, 7:30 PM

Wednesday, November 2nd

  • Christmas Play Practive, 5:45 PM
  • Choir Practice, 7:30 PM

Looking Ahead

  • November 20th: Greening of the Church
  • December 18th:  Christmas program
  • June 25th: Church in the Park
  • July 9th-15th, 2016: Mars Hill Mission Trip
  • July 24th-28th, 2016: Art & Music Camp