Dunwoody United Methodist Church
Advent Devotional 2016
Celebrate Advent with Dunwoody United Methodist Church Sunday, December 4 Family Christmas Concert 4:00 p.m. in the Sanctuary Living Na vity follows on the front lawn Sunday, December 11 The Many Moods of Christmas 4:00 p.m. in the Sanctuary The Chancel Choir led by Rev. C.G. Walden, III Wednesday, December 14, and Thursday, December 15 DUMC Preschool Christmas Programs 10:30 a.m. in the Sanctuary Threes classes on Dec. 14, Fours and Kindergarten classes on Dec. 15 Friday, December 23 A Night of Christmas Worship 5:30 & 7:30 p.m. in the Fellowship Hall Contemporary‐style worship Saturday, December 24 Christmas Eve Candle Light Services 4:00 p.m. & 5:30 p.m. (nursery available) Family Service with Children’s Choirs 7:00 p.m. (nursery available) Holy Communion with Youth Choir 9:00 p.m. (nursery available) Service of Lessons and Carols with Chancel Choir 11:00 p.m. Holy Communion with Chancel Choir Sunday, December 25 Christmas Day Worship 10:30 a.m. in the Sanctuary CHRISTMAS EVE OFFSITE PARKING 100 Ashford Center North parking deck (Ashford Dunwoody Road across from Dunwoody Bap st Church) Shu le service begins at 3:00 p.m. for 4:00, 5:30 and 7:00 p.m. services
Welcome to The Season of Advent 2016 I recently had a conversa on with a man whose wife is expec ng a baby. For a few minutes we talked about such things as whether the baby was going to be a boy or a girl, a good name for the child and how excited he and his wife were about the approaching birth. At one point, the conversa on turned to the prepara ons they were making: the baby furniture that needed to be bought, the room they needed to get ready, the books on paren ng they were reading, etc. That conversa on reminded me it is always important to properly prepare for the birth of a child. That is true when it comes to the birth of the Christ child as well. In the Church we call that me of prepara on for the birth of Christ “The Season of Advent.” The Season of Advent begins four Sundays before Christmas. It comes from the La n word meaning “coming.” It is intended to be a me of spiritual prepara on as we await the Word becoming ﬂesh. One of the best ways I know to prepare for Christ’s birth is by se ng aside a por on of each day leading up to Christmas to not only read Scripture, but also pay a en on to the witness of other Chris an men and women. In this Advent Devo onal book, you will ﬁnd stories and reﬂec ons from people in this church; stories and reﬂec ons that tell of insights they have discovered; stories and reﬂec ons that can help make your experience this year a rich and fulﬁlling one. Thanks to all of those who took the me to submit the devo ons that make this book possible and to Anne West for compiling and edi ng it. Your Pastor, Dan Brown
Sunday, Nov. 27
The Tradi on By Rev. Jenna Kennedy, Associate Pastor Psalm 100:4‐5 “Enter his gates with thanks; enter his courtyards with praise! Thank him! Bless his name! Because the Lord is good, his loyal love lasts forever; his faithfulness lasts genera on a er genera on.” The season of Christmas has always been a stressful me for me. As a child of divorced parents, there is always a schedule to ﬁgure out who you will spend what part of the holidays with and a worry you will disappoint someone. The season got even more complicated when I became a minister and got married, throwing church events and in‐laws into the mix. I soon found December becoming a me of planning and stress, something I am sure we all experience no ma er what our situa on in life is. It is so easy for Advent to become something that is completely opposite of what the season is meant to be. While schedules and commitments can s ll be overwhelming at the holidays, I have started to be very inten onal about making me to be present. When Patrick and I got married, we started the tradi on of making sure we read the story of the birth of Jesus on Christmas morning before anything else happened (except making coﬀee). This has become a moment where we breathe and remember that no ma er what else has happened that month or will happen in the coming days, it will all work out if we keep focused on the reason we gather with family and friends during Christmas. This year I hope to start a new tradi on where we read parts of the story each week as a family to keep the focus on Christ throughout Advent. I pray we all are able to keep our hearts focused on the birth of our Savior this year! Prayer Dear God, May we feel the peace, calm, and joy of that ﬁrst silent night throughout this season. Amen. Today’s Thought Start a new tradi on to help you focus on the birth of Christ every day during Advent.
Monday, Nov. 28 Christmas Shoes By Amanda Hene Colossians 13:13‐14 “Be tolerant with each other and, if someone has a complaint against anyone, forgive each other. As the Lord forgave you, so also forgive each other. And over all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.” When I hear the phrase, “Christmas Shoes,” the ﬁrst thought that comes to mind is the popular contemporary Christmas song by the band NewSong. It is about a man ﬁnishing up his Christmas shopping when he encounters a boy ahead of him in line who desperately wants to buy a new pair of shoes for his terminally ill mother. The boy does not have enough money and is running short on me. In an act of kindness, the man pays for the shoes. The song concludes with the man reﬂec ng on the experience and the true meaning of Christmas. Today, I am going to reﬂect on another kind of shoes. This fall, many women in our church par cipated in a Priscilla Shirer Bible study called “The Armor of God.” The study covers the armor of God described in the book of Ephesians by Paul. A er pu ng on the belt of truth and the breastplate of righteousness, we, as believers, are instructed to put on the shoes of peace. In Ephesians 6:15, the Bible says to “shod,” or put on, your feet with the prepara on of the gospel of peace. In this verse, Paul compares a soldier’s shoes to the spiritual virtue of peace. Peace is a protector. Christmas is all about the coming of peace on earth. It is a celebra on of the birth of Jesus. Peace is a gi and blessing given to us from God. It is hard to imagine a Christmas gi greater than peace. Honor Jesus this Christmas season by being a peace maker. Is there a family member, co‐worker, neighbor or friend that you are being called to make peace with? It is not always easy to exhibit self‐control and changing your a tude is usually hard work. In Colossians 3:12‐14 we are called to show compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, pa ence and love…we are also called to forgive as we have been forgiven by our Lord. And Colossians 3:15 says, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” This season, when we are ge ng dressed up for Christmas celebra ons, spend some me carefully planning which shoes you will wear. Will we rush through the holiday in fancy footwear, or will we take the me to put on the shoes of peace and put forth the extra eﬀort to protect ourselves and those that we love?
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Receiving peace from God and giving peace that can only come from God is an amazing Christmas blessing. Calvin Coolidge summed it up well, “Christmas is not a me nor season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.” Prayer Heavenly Father, Help us have the right state of mind as we seek the true meaning of Christmas. May we give the gi of peace to those around us while we also receive the wonderful gi of peace from you. Amen. Today’s Thought What shoes will you wear this Christmas?
Tuesday, Nov. 29 Beyond the Decora ons By Sco Wilkinson Ma hew 19:19 “Honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as you love yourself.” My mother loved Christmas like no one I have ever known. Star ng in November, her boxes of decora ons started to come down from the a c, because if we started any later we wouldn’t ﬁnish in me for the holidays. The tree had to be up on Thanksgiving because that was the only me we saw some of the family and because that was the start of the Christmas party season. Every inch of the house, inside and out, was decorated for the holidays, and she knew exactly where every decora on was supposed to go. All of the children had their own personalized stocking over the ﬁreplace and as the children got married and brought in grandchildren, they all got stockings, too. Well into my 40s, Santa s ll came for me and everyone else in my family at Mom’s house. It was impossible to avoid Christmas at Mom’s house. My mother passed away just a er Thanksgiving last year, but the house was already decorated because that’s what she wanted to see at the end of her journey. Family and friends all came by to have her instruct them on the correct posi oning of all of the decora ons. The house was beau ful for a me, but eventually we had to take everything down and put it back into the boxes and back into the a c. Earlier this year, as my dad moved into a smaller place, we had to decide what to do with all of those boxes of decora ons. As we asked around, we found that everyone had something special in those decora ons that meant Christmas to them. For some, it was a ﬁgurine of Santa Claus or an angel, for others it was a decora on on the tree. Slowly, the stack of boxes got smaller and smaller as friends and family came to take one small remembrance of Mom to integrate into their own Christmas celebra ons. We s ll have several boxes of decora ons in storage and the new owners of the home inherited a few boxes at the back of the a c that they weren’t expec ng, but most of Mom’s Christmas will live on in homes across the country for years to come. I am certain that would have made her very happy. Prayer Gracious God, Help us see beyond the decora ons of Christmas. May we focus on the miracle of Jesus’ birth and the gi of salva on that came on that starry night so long ago. Amen. Today’s Thought Look beyond the decora ons to see the true meaning of Christmas.
Wednesday, Nov. 30 The Year to Embrace Rest By Chris na Mimms Ma hew 11:28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” I did it to myself. In the vein of maximizing the holiday season two years ago, I crammed 14 events into a 20‐day period between Thanksgiving and Christmas. It started out as lots of fun. A musical show with my son and parents. The company holiday party. A going‐away party for a friend. Photos with Santa. I met a friend for coﬀee one evening, where she confessed to me that she felt totally overwhelmed by the holidays. She teared up talking about trying to ﬁnd the ideal gi s for her children’s teachers, babysi ers, coaches, etc. I told her that I also felt overwhelmed and that we should just put the brakes on and breathe for a moment. Instead I kept going. My son’s classmate’s birthday party. A girls’ night out. A Christmas concert. One night, as my husband and I strolled through a holiday light display at a local park, I started to feel a scratch in my throat. I ignored it. But the next day, we had to cancel out of a coworker’s holiday open house and a couples’ party. And the next day, I sat in an urgent care clinic feeling every bit of a 102‐ degree fever. I later crawled out of there with a prescrip on and went home to bed. My body was forcing me to stop and rest. I managed to rally for Christmas Day and for a casual New Year’s Eve celebra on, where I told my husband that I thought we might have taken on too much this holiday season. File that under “duh.” I’m never doing that again. I’m not going to overschedule, and I’m not going to stress about making everything “perfect.” That means having to decline some invita ons; yet, it’s more important to live up to the true meaning of the season and enjoy me at home with my family, perhaps si ng quietly in the glow of our Christmas lights or baking with my son. Or just watching a Christmas show on TV instead of feeling like I have to go to every available Christmas event. I am going to embrace the me away from work and my son’s me away from school and embrace rest. We can rest and reﬂect on the wondrous events of the year and the greatest gi of all – the gi of the baby Jesus. Prayer Loving God, Help me quiet my life and my mind to focus on you and the gi of Jesus. Help me to embrace the beauty of the Advent season and to reﬂect on the wonderful things you have given me. Amen. Today’s Thought Promise yourself right now that you won’t over commit this season! And, s ck to your promise!
Thursday, Dec. 1 Brand New World By Hal Gresham Luke 1:30‐31 “The angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Mary. God is honoring you. Look! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus.”” One of my fondest Christmas memories was in 2001, shortly a er our twins Nicole and Natalie were born. On September 4, the girls were born prematurely at 33 weeks and ended up spending 22 days in the Piedmont Hospital NICU. Nancy had to recover from preeclampsia, pneumonia and a broken rib (from coughing). Nancy’s ﬁrst day home was 9/11/01, when history was changed forever by the a acks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. It was deﬁnitely one of the most challenging, scary and daun ng mes in our lives. I vividly remember sleepless nights with the twins and how unse led our lives felt a er the terrorist a acks. In December, we were blessed to share our ﬁrst Christmas as new parents with Nancy’s sister, Sarah. She was between jobs and came home from Los Angeles for several weeks. Sarah LOVED babies and bonded quickly with her two nieces. Having her stay with us and support Nancy was one of the best Christmas gi s we had ever received. She was our angel and helped us get into the Christmas spirit, even though our world seemed so scary and had changed so dras cally. That Christmas reminds me of how God places challenges in our lives during personally wonderful (but stressful) mes. It also makes me think of how frightened Mary and Joseph must have felt as they wandered through Bethlehem, knowing they needed a safe place to give birth, and hoping the world would be a wonderful place for their child. Prayer God, Help us to look to you for help not only when we are facing challenges but also when we are celebra ng new beginnings. Guide us to live our lives so that we are worthy of your love. Amen. Today’s Thought God is with us every step of the way ‐ in good mes and during life’s challenges.
Friday, Dec. 2 The Present Moment By Chris Faklaris Psalm 23:6 “Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” Advent is a me of an cipa on; celebra ng both the ancient an cipa on of the Messiah and now his second coming. I ﬁnd today in our over‐scheduled society and busy lives that we move with lightening speed right through that desire we have been an cipa ng for so long. We move on to the next thing. As Samuel Johnson once said: “Such is the state of life, that none are happy but by the an cipa on of change; the change itself is nothing; when we have made it, the next wish is to change again.” There is a peace in knowing that God is with us and watching over us – that he is in control of our lives. As the psalmist says in Psalm 23:5 “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overﬂows.” He is not speaking of some future event or me, but rather the present moment. Let’s take me to enjoy the grace and blessings of God and not look for the next big thing. This Advent season, celebrate Jesus’s expectant arrival but also be content in the knowledge that he is already here. And as the Psalmist concludes in verse 6, “Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” Amen. Prayer God, Be with us in these days of Advent as we prepare for the coming of the Christ Child. Help us remain in the present moment so that we may grow closer to you and share your love with those around us. Amen. Today’s Thought Put aside quiet me every day to talk to God and focus on the grace and blessings He has given you.
Saturday, Dec. 3 The Messiah By Kenneth Abele Isaiah 40:4 (KJV) “Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain.” One of my Christmas season highlights is listening to George Frideric Handel’s Messiah. Every Advent, I put one disc in my home CD player and another in my car. As a child hearing it at home, I appreciated the music, but I didn’t understand the source of the text or the genius in the music which was composed in just 21 days. My favorite line is found in the prophe c verse cited above, where the Messiah’s coming is predicted. I like the imagery of all barriers being pushed away to make way for the Messiah. Last December, I was on a business trip in London and found myself with a free night. I decided to take a walk from Westminster down the bank of the Thames in search of a place to eat. As I walked, I looked across the river and saw St Paul’s cathedral. I con nued walking and decided to cross the Millennium Bridge which allows for a beau ful view of the South face of the cathedral. I felt a pull to get closer for a be er view of this majes c church. I went up and down hills and side streets un l I was ﬁnally on St Paul’s front steps. To my astonishment, the City of London Sinfonia was performing The Messiah that night with the Cathedral Choir. I thought surely that it would be sold out. I asked the a endants by the doors if there were available ckets, and surprisingly they responded that if I was willing to stay for the en re performance they could ﬁnd me a seat. I quickly agreed and was escorted to one of the side wings, much closer than I had expected. I was in awe of the performance held under the painted dome of this magniﬁcent building. I will never forget that Advent experience of how I was drawn down foreign roads, across bridges and over hills to have this beau ful experience of hearing the good news of Christ’s coming. Prayer Father, We give thanks for your Son and through Him Salva on. Help us to listen for your Word through prayer, music, and others. Amen. Today’s Thought Let yourself be led by the Spirit.
Sunday, Dec. 4 I Shall Not Want By Teresa Dietz Romans 8:32 “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also graciously give us all things?” Psalm 23 has always been special to my family. We all learned it in Sunday School and were proud to recite it o en when we were children. It was read at my father’s funeral when he died at the early age of 57. It was read one year later when Dave and I were married in a private ceremony in Virginia. And, it was read at my brother’s memorial service just last year. The ﬁrst verse of this familiar and beloved psalm contains the words “I shall not want.” What do these words mean? Over the past several decades, Americans have turned Christmas into a season of “I shall not want” by spending hundreds of dollars on gi s for families, friends and co‐workers. Parents feel it is necessary to give their children of all ages the latest in gadgets, electronic devices, cars or other material goods so they “shall not want” for anything their friends and acquaintances might have. Friends and co‐workers feel they must buy a gi that is equal to or be er than what they might receive from the other person. And so on and so on, un l each successive year becomes a contest to outdo what was done last year. But, is that what these words truly mean? Or rather, do they mean we “shall not want” for acceptance as the person we are, for strength to face whatever life brings us, for support from friends and family and for peace that comes from uncondi onal love? God is always there, ready to rejoice with us in our joy and to give us help and support where and when we need it in me of trouble and disappointment. So, does the psalmist mean we shall not want for any material thing our heart might desire, or does it mean we shall not want for anything spiritual we might really need? Each of us must decide for ourselves and act accordingly. Prayer Heavenly Father, In this season of Advent, help us to keep our focus on the spiritual rather than on things material. Amen. Today’s Thought What is more important to me, having my spiritual needs met or receiving the materials things I think I need?
Monday, Dec. 5 Christmas Bells By Erin Jackson Luke 2:14 “Glory to God in the Highest, and on Earth peace, good will toward men.” Christmas Bells Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Then from each black, accursed mouth The cannon thundered in the South And with the sound The carols drowned Of peace on earth, good‐will to men! It was as if an earthquake rent The hearth‐stones of a con nent, And made forlorn The households born Of peace on earth, good‐will to men! And in despair I bowed my hear; “There is no peace on earth,” I said; “For hate is strong, And mocks the song Of peace on earth, good‐will to men!”
I heard the bells on Christmas Day Their old, familiar carols play, And wild and sweet The word repeat Of peace on earth, good‐will to men! And thought how, as the day had come, The belfrie of all Chritendom Had rolled along The unbroken song Of peace on earth, good‐will to men! Till ringing singing on its way, The world revolved from night to day, A voice, a chime, A chant sublime, Of peace on earth, good‐will to men!
Then peeled the bells more loud and deep “God is not dead, nor doth he sleep The Wrong shall fail, The Right prevail With peace on earth, good‐will to men!” As a singer, the Advent and Christmas season are among my favorite of the church year. I grew up with Handel’s Messiah, and it s ll isn’t Christmas without it. The event of Christ’s birth has inspired composers and musicians for nearly 2000 years, and we have beneﬁ ed from that inspira on with glorious music. But my favorite Christmas carol is not a carol in the religious sense. It doesn’t proclaim the coming of the Christ child or speak about the tenets of the church at all. Yet, more than any other hymn or carol I can think of, it moves me and deﬁnes for me our roll as Chris ans in this season. “I Heard the Bell on Christmas Day” is based on the poem “Christmas Bells” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The lyrics are enough to bring me to tears every me without considering the period in which it was wri en. But, placed in the context of the American Civil War, its lesson of unity becomes much more pronounced. Con nued on next page
As Chris ans we get just as caught up as non‐Chris ans in the trappings of the Christmas cultural season that we forget the Advent season and the season of Christmas that follows. But we forget that at its heart, the Christmas story is the story of baby sent to illustrate the love of God for his children and that ul mately it will become a story of repentance and forgiveness. In an increasingly secular world we ﬁnd it diﬃcult to relate the religious teachings to non‐Chris ans. “I heard the Bells on Christmas Day” repeats that idea over and over again that the love of God can bring peace on earth and goodwill to men regardless of their religious or poli cal views. As I write this, I have no clue how the Presiden al elec on will turn out. But I do know that this elec on promises to be one of the most divisive in American history. Outside of our borders, this world is at war with itself. As we enter the Advent season, for me I know that this carol will mean more this year than it ever has, and I will struggle to keep its message in my heart. Because without the message of the Christmas Bells, it is hard to hear the cry of the baby who will lie in the manger. Prayer Heavenly Father, Help us love all those around us, regardless of their views or beliefs. May we love others as you love us. Amen. Today’s Thought Then peeled the bells more loud and deep “God is not dead, nor doth he sleep The Wrong shall fail, The Right prevail With peace on earth, good‐will to men!”
Tuesday, Dec. 6 The Best is Yet to Come By Sid Linton John 14:1‐3 “Don’t be troubled. Trust in God. Trust also in me. My Father’s house has room to spare. If that weren’t the case, would I have told you that I’m going to prepare a place for you? When I go to prepare a place for you, I will return and take you to be with me so that where I am, you will be too.” There’s an old story going around again about a man who, upon learning that he was terminally ill, detailed arrangements for his last days and memorial service, including the request to be holding a fork in his hand in his casket. He explained to his minister that his grandmother always advised keeping your fork as the plates are cleared a er the main course of a meal. Because, she said, dessert always follows and is always good and the most enjoyable part of the meal. So, keep your fork because the best is yet to come. At the viewing before his memorial service, his friends and family saw the fork in his hand and knew it meant that he was conﬁdent the best was coming. The fork was a last but las ng witness of his faith to those he loved. Prayer Father, Guide us to live each day knowing that we are and will always be bathed in your everlas ng love. Amen. Today’s Thought Don’t be troubled.
Wednesday, Dec. 7 Living by Faith By Randy Pilkenton John 1:14 “The Word became ﬂesh and made his home among us. We have seen his glory, glory like that of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.” On May 21, 1738, Charles Wesley experienced a conversion while living in the then Bri sh colony of Georgia, on the east coast of North America. He wrote a erwards in his journal that the Spirit of God “chased away the darkness of my unbelief.” Charles and his brother John were, however, both already ordained Anglican ministers. They both preached, taught, wrote, composed hymns and even gave themselves to missionary work — but they felt it was mostly to no avail. They had a belief in Christ. They lived by good works. What was missing came to them in their conversion experiences (John’s was at Aldersgate in London, three days a er Charles’ in Georgia): living by faith. Many of you may know but I did not (or maybe I just forgot — ha!) that included among the many thousands (yes, thousands!) of hymns Charles Wesley wrote was “Hark The Herald Angels Sing.” The line ‘God and sinners reconciled’ makes much more sense now in light of Charles’ conversion experience. While we all try to do “good things” and to be a “good Chris an” (certainly valuable in their own right), the birth of Jesus brings with it a new covenant that redeems us as sinners simply by God’s unwarranted grace, and by our faith in God. So, enjoy more than ever hearing and singing “Hark The Herald Angels Sing” as you know be er the important, very personal message Charles Wesley was giving us through his hymn. Prayer In Jesus name we pray that we will listen with fresh ears and understand more clearly than ever the words of the Christmas hymns that we hear. Amen. Today’s Thought What does it mean to live by faith?
Thursday, Dec. 8 A Glorious Mess By Molly Bailey Luke 2:7 “She gave birth to her ﬁrstborn child, a son, wrapped him snugly, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the guestroom.” Every year my family makes it a December to remember. One of my favorite parts of everyone coming together is all the emo on it brings ‐ happiness, love, excitement, anxiety… hope, faith and so much more. Then there are the kids. They make us all young on this day. “For it’s good to be children some mes, and never be er than at Christmas, when its mighty founder was a child himself.” Everyone’s giddy about catching up on lost me, food and new things. “The most glorious mess in the world is the mess created in the living room on Christmas morning.” It’s where all the kids get to unwrap their presents and everyone gets to feel the love of giving. It’s all in the smiles and laughter. Prayer Loving God, In the middle of all the noise and mess of this holiday season, help me to stay focused on your love for me and the happiness that comes from accep ng that love. Amen. Today’s Thought Instead of cleaning up the mess, enjoy the me with those crea ng it!
Friday, Dec. 9 Looking for Love By Amber Rowe Psalm 139:7‐8 “Where could I go to get away from your spirit? Where could I go to escape your presence? If I went up to heaven, you would be there. If I went down to the grave, you would be there too!” Every December I look forward to my Christmas tradi on of gathering friends for a viewing party of one of my favorite movies, Love Actually. The ﬁlm follows loosely connected Londoners in the month leading up to Christmas. We meet a widower dealing with grief. A young boy falls in love for the ﬁrst me. A married boss struggles with tempta on. A woman decides between loyalty to her disabled brother and pursuing her dreams of romance. A Brit travels to America searching for girls who will adore his cute accent! The circumstances are diﬀerent, but the theme is the same. In the opening scene of Love Actually, we see people embracing at the arrivals gate of Heathrow airport. The narrator observes, "When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge – they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I've got a sneaky feeling you'll ﬁnd that love actually is all around." This Advent season, I pray that you will look for love all around you. Prayer God, There is nowhere we could go to escape your love. Your love truly is all around us. Help us share your love with others today. Amen. Today’s Thought Look for love in an unlikely place.
Saturday, Dec. 10 How do You Prepare for He Who is Coming? By Sean Taylor Isaiah 61:10 “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my heart is joyful because of my God; for He has clothed me with the garments of salva on.” Somewhere, even as you read this, children are preparing for their Christmas programs at church and possibly at school. I can remember preparing for my own roles within diﬀerent Christmas and seasonal programs as I was growing up. I remember the dress rehearsals, the friends in the programs, the parents and their laughter and enjoyment. I even remember wearing green ghts one year when I had the starring role as the Grinch (hard to believe they would cast me in such a sinister role as that, but I digress). Those days of prepara on and an cipa on were always so exci ng, and I can remember thinking I cannot wait un l Christmas arrives. In all the prepara ons of the season ‐ the lights, the decora ng, the meals, the par es, the programs and the presents ‐ it is easy to revel in the glow of all that excitement. In all the ac vi es, it is easy to think that we are the star of the season and the central ﬁxture of these days of an cipa on and prepara on. Even as our children have become teenagers, our family s ll possesses some of those child‐like excitement moments of “prepara on.” Much of this has transformed from the excitement of prepara on in the form of trees, lights and presents to the excitement of prepara on for the season where we recall the joyous works of our Savior. While we work so hard to make Christmas great, let’s keep in mind who we are making it great for. It is not for us, it is not for our own glory, because the star of the Christmas program isn’t us. It is the child who comes to us in the manger. May this be who we rejoice in throughout Advent ‐ the Savior that we make prepara ons for because it is He who clothes us with garments of salva on! Prayer Lord, Guard our hearts. Fill us with your love and your spirit. Clothe us in humility and make us servants of you and of one another. Give us wisdom and discernment. Help us to walk by faith in the salva on you provide. Amen. Today’s Thought Let us make prepara ons for the one who has prepared a place for us in His kingdom.
Sunday, Dec. 11 Jesus is Timeless By John Rhea John 1:1‐3 (MEV) “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were created through Him, and without Him nothing was created that was created.” Have you ever read novels in which at each change of chapter you’re either jumping ahead or ﬂashing back in me? Those are confusing to me. My mind prefers to work sequen ally – moving from past to future. The Bible is a lot like one of those bouncing‐around‐ me novels. For instance, the Prophets located in the back of the Old Testament were the thorns‐in‐sides of the rulers described in the early books of the OT. I was contempla ng this disordered arrangement this morning and it occurred to me (more likely He reminded me) that God is not conﬁned to me. He is eternal; He sees and experiences the past, present and future all together. In this Advent season we are focusing on one day in history – the day Jesus ﬁrst came to earth as a human. We usually picture Jesus during this me of year as a baby or the other 10 or so months as a 30‐something i nerant. At all mes of the year, I have to be reminded that Jesus is ageless. Jesus (The Word) was there at Crea on, and He will be there ruling us in the New Heaven and New Earth as described in John’s Revela on. And, I bet Jesus will not have aged a day during that period. Prayer Oh God, How lucky we are that your love is meless and your gi of salva on is eternal. As we focus on Jesus’ birth during Advent, remind us that there is more to come. Amen. Today’s Thought Jesus’ love for me is meless and never ending.
Monday, Dec. 12 The Gi of a Child By Joann Akers Psalm 127:3 “No doubt about it, children are a gi from the Lord.......:” Two weeks before Christmas 2007, my youngest son Joe and his wife Nancy received a phone call that would soon change all of our lives. It was from a social worker they had been working with during the tedious process of adop on. They were asked if they would consider adop ng a baby that was due Christmas Day. The baby was to be born in Florida, and the birth mother had to give her approval. Without hesita on, they immediately set oﬀ for Florida to meet the birth mom and her family. Not sure of the outcome, they did not tell anyone except the family where they were going or what the trip was all about. The birth mom gave her approval, but everyone knew that once the baby was born she had a period of me when she could change her mind. Joe and Nancy stayed close by and began the process of ﬁnding a place to stay as the adop on process “required” that the baby remain in the state of birth un l both the Florida and Georgia courts gave “permission” to “cross state lines.” God had His hand right in all of this process as the baby waited un l December 27 to enter this world. Joe and Nancy were allowed to see this wee one right a er delivery, but then began the seemly long process of “wai ng” to see if the birth mom would change her mind. She did not, and Gavin Michael was “discharged” from the hospital into the wai ng and welcoming arms of his mom and dad! But the story does not end there. Georgia laws surrounding adop on and crossing state lines changed on New Years’ Day. But Joe, with his background as a lawyer, became very persistent and managed to ﬁnd legal ways to work through this and ﬁnally near the end of January, 2008, Gavin came home! Gavin’s birth mom gave a tremendous gi when she “gave up” this wee one! But the story does not end here – Gavin is now 9 years old and in third grade. He struggles with behavior issues and there are constant “challenges,” but with the love of all of his “adop ve” family, he will grow up to be a strong young man ﬁlled with God’s grace. Prayer Heavenly Father, Thank you for the gi of Jesus’ birth. Fill us with your grace and love. Bless those who adopt and foster children so that they may grow to be strong in body and faith. Amen. Today’s Thought “Pa ence leads to abundant understanding.” Proverbs 14:29
Tuesday, Dec. 13 Feeling Like Mary By Cheryl Dunbar Romans 15:13 “May the God of hope ﬁll you all with Joy and peace in believing so that by the power of the Holy Spirit, you may abound in hope.” Sco and I have been blessed with seven grandsons. We don't get to see them o en as they live in Minneapolis, Cincinna and Durham. I have tried to remain connected to them by sending cards and goodie boxes at least monthly. This helps me remain close even though I am not physically present with these precious boys. Last April, we were delighted to have a granddaughter join our family. To add to the joy, this li le lady lives in Atlanta so I don't have to mail her boxes. I can personally deliver them. She has brought a wonderful new glow to our lives. At Christmas me, I am ﬁlled with the glory of God. As I prepare to celebrate the birth of the Christ child I am reminded of the eight li le people that ﬁll my heart with love and thankfulness. Mary must have had about the same feelings as she prepared for the birth of Jesus. Have you ever thought that she probably experienced some of the same joy and wonder that we receive from our grandchildren and children? It reminds me of the song "Mary did you know that someday your baby boy . . . " She had the same hopes and wants and wonder for Jesus as we have today. As we celebrate this marvelous and miraculous birth, let us be thankful for all our blessings, especially grandchildren. Make a joyful noise at this Advent and Christmas season and praise God for Jesus' birth and all our reasons to be thankful. Prayer Dear God, As we celebrate, keep us mindful of the birth of Christ in our daily living and His meaning to our life. In His name, Amen. Today’s Thought Each day remember Mary and the love in her heart that ﬁlls our hearts, too.
Wednesday, Dec. 14 Rewind the Memories By Bill Robinson Ma hew 2:10‐11 “When they saw the star, they were ﬁlled with joy. They entered the house and saw the child with Mary his mother. Falling to their knees, they honored him. Then they opened their treasure chests and presented him with gi s of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” When looking up Advent in my Bible dic onary, I was directed to “Parousia,” Greek for the coming of Christ, his arrival. Thus, the naming of the season. As a child, I remember searching our farm for the perfect cedar for our Christmas tree. I helped my father cut it down and take it home. I remember helping my mother decorate the tree using decora ons we had used over many years, but adding new, fresh nsel. The lights on the tree made it gli er, and other symbols, including a star on the top, reminded us of the season. Although there were presents under the tree, somehow they were not allowed to detract from the meaning of the season, even for a child. Was I excited about what mysteries were in the presents? Of course, but I was reminded by my parents that Christmas was about more than presents. A diﬃcult lesson at the me but cherished today. I also remember that we never – and I mean never – missed Sunday School and church despite the demands of feeding livestock daily. I am conﬁdent that those habits s ll get me up early on Sunday morning, even when a game on Saturday night runs late. In addi on to other character building examples, my parents believed that you should be suppor ve of church ac vi es and be involved. My parents are both gone now, but I s ll thank them for se ng a good example. As Christmas approaches and we prepare for the celebra on of His birth, I again will rewind these memories. I hope each of you has good memories of past Advent seasons, and can share them with your family and friends. Prayer Gracious God, As we recall memories of Christmas past, help us recognize those who have helped us grow in our faith and to share that faith with others in our ac ons and words. Amen. Today’s Thought Make a Christmas memory today for someone you love. It will last a life me!
Thursday, Dec. 15 The Pickle By Linda Hancock Ma hew 1:21 “She will give birth to a son, and you will call him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Years ago, while browsing in a Christmas shop, I saw a bright green pickle ornament. “A pickle?” I thought. Intrigued, I read the explana on: a pickle was considered a very special decora on by many German families. Tradi onally, parents decorated the tree on Christmas Eve, and the pickle was always the last ornament hung on the tree for good luck, hidden deep among the green branches. When the children saw the tree on Christmas morning, they would begin searching for the pickle ornament. Whoever found the special ornament would receive an extra gi from St. Nicholas for being the most observant child. This quickly became a tradi on in the Hancock family. Over the years, I have collected many pickle ornaments ‐ large kosher dills to ny midget gherkins. Our married daughters and their spouses had great fun ﬁnding the pickles. A er grandchildren arrived, we would all help them ﬁnd the pickles and win a prize. Since Glenn and I decorate several trees throughout the house ‐ from table top to 9 feet tall ‐ the hunt for the pickles gets more raucous and fun every year. The grandchildren now range in age from 10 to 14, and they all know the history of the pickle. I hope I have not missed a great teaching opportunity in this family tradi on. It is so easy to get caught up in holiday ac vi es and forget that everything we do should celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. I want to be observant to all opportuni es to remind my family of the true meaning of Christmas. Prayer Jesus, We celebrate your birth and we give thanks for all that you have given us. Amen. Today’s Thought Find an opportunity to share the true meaning of Christmas.
Friday, Dec. 16 A Christmas Furlough By Suzanne Decker Psalm 92:1‐2 “It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to your name, Most High; to proclaim your loyal love in the morning, your faithfulness at nigh me” Picture it. 1945. Upper Darby, PA. My brother, Doug, turned 18 in May and graduated from high school in June. In August, he was dra ed into the Army just a few days a er WWII ended. Mom and I rode the “el” with Doug into the city of Philadelphia where, in an armory, 200 boys were inducted. First, there was boot camp in Indiantown Gap, PA. Then Camp Wheeler, GA. In the middle of December, the phone rang about 6 a.m. (We had only had a phone for about a year and, of course, it was a “party line.”) Mom ﬂew down the stairs to answer it. Doug was calling from the 80th Street train sta on in Philadelphia. He would catch the “el,” then a bus and be home as soon as possible. A er a very long wait, a soldier came up the front steps carrying a duﬄe bag and wearing a uniform which, at the me, included an Eisenhower Jacket and a very shiny combat boots! I wanted everyone to see my handsome brother, including our church friends. Mom and Dad were very proud, too. We made an especially happy Christmas, as we knew that Doug would soon be on a troop ship going to Germany, and we didn’t know when we would be together again. On that Christmas of 1945, the handsome soldier was s ll just a boy 18 years old, and I was the awestruck li le sister, just age 10. However, it s ll gives me much pleasure in remembering that long‐ ago Christmas. Prayer Gracious God, Be with those who are serving in the military and away from their families this Advent season. Help them ﬁnd your peace and presence as they protect our freedom. Amen. Today’s Thought Reach out to someone who won’t be able to “be home” this Christmas.
Saturday, Dec. 17 Give me Christmas By Gayle Baxter Mitrano Luke 2:7 “And she brought forth her ﬁrstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.” Oh, we need a li le Christmas. My head is spinning a er this year we’ve had – the real storms, poli cal ﬁrestorms, global terrorism, needless deaths and demonstra ons. There is no escaping the visions presented in every media outlet – relentlessly – making it more personal and part of my everyday thoughts. It takes a toll. Please give me Christmas. Not just the sweet children’s carols, and the live na vity – I will take it all – even the mall traﬃc, the shopping stress and the list of too many places to be at one me. This year, more than ever, I look forward to those rou nes and the embedded stress of the season – because I think it will actually help heal my hur ng head. When I prayed about wri ng this, the image that came to my mind was – swaddling clothes. Hum, okay so I looked it up and learned they were long strips of fabric wrapped around the child and used by rich and poor to provide comfort to the child – and likely, control to the mother. The image grew on me and it felt so good to imagine wrapping myself in the swaddling clothes of our God – receiving his love, comfort and security. It will be okay. So come on Christmas, come into our hearts and work your magic. Help us exhale, pray and remember what is important so we may take in the healing power and manage what life brings our way. We all may need the swaddling security of our God. It is there for us. Prayer Father God, Swaddle us with your love and your light. Come into our hearts this day. Amen. Today’s Thought Imagine God wrapping you in swaddling clothes. Feels good, doesn’t it?
Sunday, Dec. 18 The Journey Back By Ned Kuntz Psalm 23:1‐3 “The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the s ll waters. He restoreth my soul; he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” I grew up in the small village of South Salem, New York, which is about 50 miles from New York City. In fact, South Salem is so small that, aside from private residences, there are only about a dozen signiﬁcant structures which are nicely illustrated on a framed print my mother gave me years ago and that I hold near and dear. Two of those structures are especially important to this devo on. The ﬁrst is St. John’s Episcopal Church, and the second is Echo Farm which is almost directly across the street. My parents were not especially religious, but they did send me and my siblings to St. John’s where we a ended Sunday School and were ul mately conﬁrmed. I was also required to serve as an acolyte during my early teen years which I went along with begrudgingly. When I was allowed to quit around age 14, I rarely went back (except perhaps for Christmas and Easter) and, in fact, I was essen ally away from organized religion for around 25 years. My mother’s real passion was Echo Farm. About the same me I was doing my acolyte duty at St. John’s, she persuaded the old dairy farmer who owned the farm to take in her nag of a horse as a boarder. Thus began the transforma on of Echo Farm from a dairy farm to a horse farm. My mother loved the horses and the farm and spent many of her waking hours there. My younger siblings, Sam and Callie, were basically raised on the farm. The old farmer, who was a lifelong bachelor, grew especially close to Callie and when he died, without an heir, he le Echo Farm to Callie. She owns and operates Echo Farm to this day. I, in the mean me, had grown up and moved to Atlanta (my mother’s home town) and eventually met Kathy, my wife of nearly 30 years. Kathy was raised in the Methodist church and carried a strong faith into adulthood. We ﬁrst came to DUMC through the pre‐school, and she eventually dragged me to the Family Focus Sunday School class. There, due to the loving inﬂuence and shining examples of our classmates and Kathy, I became a believer and began my faith journey.
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In 1993, a few years a er we joined DUMC, my father died and I was called back to South Salem. His memorial service was at St. John’s. I read the 23rd Psalm at the service and felt that it was ﬁ ng and right. Several years a er that I was called back to St. John’s, this me to walk Callie down the aisle at her wedding. A few years later, my mother moved into a small co age on the farm property where she lived happily for the ﬁnal eight years of her life. She died peacefully last year at the age of 87. Of course, the memorial service was at St John’s with her many friends and family in a endance. I recently returned to South Salem for a high school reunion. I spent the night at Echo Farm and the next morning walked across the street to St John’s. There is a small columbarium outside the church covered in lush greenery where the ashes of both my parents reside. I prayed for both of them and shed a few tears and felt the warm glow of the Holy Spirit. I couldn’t help but think what a long journey it has been since my days as a reluctant acolyte. Prayer Lord, Con nue to lead me in my faith journey along the path of righteousness and when I deviate from the path help me remember all that has come before in this long journey and all that awaits in the Kingdom of Heaven. Amen. Today’s Thought God welcomes each of us with open arms, no ma er where we are in our faith journey.
Monday, Dec. 19 Light of the World By Casey "Hunter" Pierce John 8:12 “Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” I feel truly blessed to have clear memories of Christmas with my father. My mom and dad, two older sisters and I have always been pre y close. Similar interests and senses of humor...we got our humor and love/talent for sports from our dad. As a family, we always went to church on Christmas Eve. It was usually midnight mass because who really cares how late it was? The level of excitement we had for the day to come could've kept us up for days! When we ﬁnally came home, we would all pile into my bed (I am the youngest of 3 girls) to read ’Twas the Night Before Christmas. I have very detailed memories of the moments a er the story, when everyone cleared the room. My lights were oﬀ except for the candle in my window. The "candles" were a part of the Christmas decora ons and came out the Friday a er Thanksgiving. Most had been broken and repaired with duct tape and barely stood up straight, but each window in the front of the house had a candle light placed with love. The candle lit my en re room. Strange shadows were formed but I was never afraid. They were shadows that didn't look like monsters or scary animals. They were shadows cast by my special light. They were "Christmas shadows" that represented family, laughter, silly jokes told by my dad, the smell of his coﬀee in the morning, his tacky robe, our dogs that just loved having us home from school and togetherness. As a young child, Christmas was my world and this li le candle was my light that represented my world. Today, as a 42‐year‐old mom and wife, I keep that light close to my heart. As I'm singing and dancing to the song from Godspell "Light of the World," I see so many opportuni es to ﬁnd the light in myself, in others and in the world. My dad died when I was 16 of a very sudden heart a ack. At that moment, so did his jokes and so did my light. But when I am on the stage singing and teaching about how to be er love, accept, and forgive, I feel him more than ever. His jokes are back and so is my light.
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As another holiday approaches, I will drag out my own house decora ons and ﬁnd my light (I use a lit Christmas tree in my bedroom now). I will welcome the shadows, the feelings and the memories, and celebrate my "light of the world." I will put aside poli cs and intolerance, and I will love everyone no ma er what! I will let my light show through my heart and share my joy and laughter. Just as my dad always did. Christmas can be hard without my dad but with every breath I feel him close to me. And then I remember that I can live double for everyone who is not living on this earth with me. I can ﬁnish what they started, love more, give more, feed more and con nue to open my heart to all of the great lights of this world. Prayer Loving God, You are my light and my lamp. You help me see in the darkness. Help me to burn brightly to share your love with others. Amen. Today’s Thought We all have God’s light in us. How do we let it shine?
Tuesday, Dec. 20 Open My Heart, Oh God By Helen Rice 1 Corinthians: 16:13 “Stay awake, stand ﬁrm in your faith, be brave, be strong.” “I’ll go where you want me to go, dear Lord. I’ll do want you want me to do. I’ll be what you want me to be.” Do you remember that old hymn? I do, and I thought I was living a life obedient to that promise. My husband’s work called us to move o en. We are currently living in our 13th home, and I was recently asked which loca on I liked the most. I men oned that the Philadelphia area was close to our childhood homes and was s ll very dear to our hearts as we lived in four of our homes there at diﬀerent mes during my husband’s career. We had a special church and developed life me friendships. Our families were nearby, and we had a wonderful life there. Therefore when the call came to pack and move to Ohio I went on the house hunt reluctantly. I adjusted slowly and stubbornly, sure that this was not God’s plan for us, and certainly not my plan for our lives. I cried every day. My moods aﬀected my husband and my children. They tried hard to make me happy and to understand this new diﬀerent person they were dealing with. The joy had leaked out of our home. I clung to my sadness from August through Christmas, going through the mo ons that a new home requires – introducing ourselves to new neighbors, a new church, new schools, new ac vi es, new playmates for our two girls, new doctors, new den st, grocery store and on and on. Then one morning a er Christmas as guests drove away, I was upstairs preparing to shower and dress. I walked toward the large and blatantly honest mirrors lining the path to the shower, and I paused to take a good look at myself. It was as if I suddenly woke up, and I was shocked at what I had allowed to happen to me. In my heart I cried, “Helen, you have lost control of yourself!” Immediately a er dressing I called Weight Watchers and went to a mee ng that a ernoon. I called the church and asked what Bible study or woman’s group was mee ng at the me and subsequently joined a prayer study which led to a daily me of prayer and medita on which I, of course, had sorely neglected. I asked when the choir met and walked into the rehearsal that night. Music and praise have always been my straight and immediate path to the presence of God ‐ and He was pa ently wai ng for me there.
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My a tude was changed, therefore my life was changed and restored. The joy returned to me and to my family. I had closed my eyes to the opportuni es that awaited me in Ohio. I had closed my heart to God and to His direc on for me. How subtle and devious is the enemy and I allowed him to take months away from my family. The eternal God, and Jesus His beloved son, and the Holy Spirit who provides the power to live life in a godly way were quietly wai ng for my epiphany – my homecoming. They never deserted me or failed me. I moved to Ohio and moved away from the Trinity at the same me. I didn’t plan it. I didn’t mean to, but I did. I chose a pity party rather than seeking restora on, guidance, peace, joy, understanding, truth. How sad to choose bondage over the presence of the Holy Spirit for each day. Prayer Thank you Lord, for your magniﬁcent plan for our restora on to You when we blindly turn away. Thank you for Jesus, and for the Holy Spirit – the inseparable Trinity. Thank you for crea ng me and knowing me and loving me. Amen. Today’s Thought Open your eyes to the possibili es God places before you every day.
Wednesday, Dec. 21 Spiritual Lesson from Life By Rev. W. Melton McNeill Romans 15:13 “May the God of hope ﬁll you with all joy and peace in faith so that you overﬂow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Christmas is more than Toys Tinsels Trinkets Triviality Christmas is the history of God. Without the cradle in Bethlehem The cross at Calvary Loses its meaning! Christmas is celebra on! The celebra on of God’s birth! The celebra on of God’s entrance Into our human situa on. Christmas is meant to be experienced In its reality Meaningfully Celebrate Christmas 2016 with Christ. Prayer Loving God, Fill us with your spirit during this holy season. Amen. Today’s Thought Make this Christmas the most meaningful yet.
Thursday, Dec. 22 That’s What Christmas is All About By Emmie House Luke 2:8‐14 “And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the ﬁeld, keeping watch over their ﬂock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, " Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good dings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall ﬁnd the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger." And suddenly there was with the angel a mul tude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men."” Thanks to Charles Schulz and his wonderful character Linus this scripture may be the ﬁrst many children have ever heard, as Linus answers Charlie Brown's ques on “Doesn't anyone know what Christmas is all about?” The now beloved ""A Charlie Brown Christmas" was created in the 1960's and Schultz was met with much opposi on when he told the producer that he wanted to have that verse in the program. The producer told him “It's very dangerous for us to start talking about religion now.” And Schulz replied, “If we don't, who will?” And the program now 50 years later con nues to be one of the most loved Christmas specials. When I was a child watching “A Charlie Brown Christmas” the one special night that it came on TV was a highlight of the season! Many years later I was so grateful to share it with my children and thanks to tapes and DVD's, watch it as many mes as we wanted! We con nue to watch it together every Christmas Eve. So thank you so much Charles Schulz for sharing what Christmas is all about with many genera ons of children and adults through your Peanuts characters. And for giving us the best version of Hark the Herald Angels Sing ever! Prayer God, In today’s busy world, it is so easy to forget what Christmas is all about. It’s so easy to get caught up in the trappings and trimmings of a commercial Christmas. Open our eyes to the real meaning of Christmas. Amen. Today’s Thought Keep “Christ” in Christmas!
Friday, Dec. 23 The Image of Jesus By Rev. Kathy Brockman, Associate Pastor Genesis 1.27 “So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” I have always loved Christmas decora ons. I have wonderful childhood memories of my family decora ng our house and our tree each December. I even remember a few years when we had more than one tree in our house and that was such a treat. When my husband and I married, he began a tradi on of giving me a new ornament each year as a gi . In more recent years, he has searched to ﬁnd crèches from around the world to give me each Christmas. I have a wonderful collec on of diﬀerent interpreta ons of the na vity, handmade in other countries. As I set them out each year, I am reminded that we all picture or imagine the baby Jesus to look like we look. My crèches from Central and South America are completely diﬀerent from the one from Germany or the one from the Congo. And, why shouldn’t we view baby Jesus as looking just like us? A er all, the crea on story tells us we are created in God’s image. ALL of us are created in God’s image. While our physical features may diﬀer, not one of us is less of an image of our God than the next person. As I unwrap each na vity and ﬁnd a place at home to display it, I pray that God will allow me to be more tolerant of those who are diﬀerent from me. I pray that God will enable me to have a glimpse of what the Good News of the birth of Christ meant and s ll means for all the people of this world. I am thankful for these reminders of crea on and of a God who loves us so much that he would send his Son to walk among us. May we never re of celebra ng that gi . Prayer Loving God, Help me to remember this Advent season that you created ALL of us in your image. Open my heart to be more tolerant of those who look diﬀerently, those who think diﬀerently, those who believe diﬀerently, and those who live diﬀerently. In the name of your son, Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen. Today’s Thought Just as God loves me, I need to love those around me regardless of our diﬀerences.
Saturday, Dec. 24 The Infant Child By Ruth Brown Luke 2:12‐14 “This is a sign for you: you will ﬁnd a newborn baby wrapped snugly and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great assembly of the heavenly forces was with the angel praising God. They said, “Glory to God in heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors.”” I ﬁrst read this poem in the program of the Atlanta Master Chorale last December. It has been set to music by Dr. Eric Nelson, the director of the Chorale. The poem by Kathryn McCain Lee spoke to me in a most personal way: The Infant Child Somewhere in me, we hear the cry and sense the mystery Christmas Birth, The Life, The Death and then Eternity. For in the Winter of our lives the infant Child draws near And bids us come into His Arms to seek our shelter there. Broken, Blessed, He touches us with Grace, And through our Faith we realize our own birth is taking place. Family gathers and returns to the stable bare, To celebrate the Lord of Life who waits to meet us there. Somewhere in me we hear the cry, He waits to meet us there. Prayer Heavenly Father, We wait for the birth of Jesus. We look for the star. We celebrate with the shepherds. We experience life anew through your Son, Jesus. In his name we pray, Amen. Today’s Thought God is wai ng for you.
Sunday, Dec. 25 Merry & Bright By Catherine Greene John 1:5 “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it!” The great Irvin Berlin penned the words "may your days be merry and bright" when he wrote the most popular Christmas Carol ever. White Christmas was ﬁrst heard on Christmas Day 1941, just 18 days a er the a ack on Pearl Harbor. The world needed to experience merry and bright in its purest form, and the soldiers longed for hope. This song helped soldiers prepare for a more joyous me when they would be reunited with loved ones at home. Likewise, the season of Advent helps us prepare for the coming of the Lord into today's tumultuous mes. I absolutely adore Christmas and the Advent season, and I especially like decora ng for this holiday! Recently, I’ve been drawn to all holiday décor that says “Merry & Bright”! I love the simplicity and eﬀec veness of the message. It seems to accurately capture what this season is truly all about. It’s very easy to get caught up in the spirit of decora ng and lose sight of what is most important during the season of Advent. As I begin to collect more decora ons, this message has been my focal point to serve as a daily reminder to focus on the joy and light of Christ in the busyness of the holiday. As I concentrate on the word “merry” I reﬂect on the excitement and an cipa on we experience during Advent as we wait for the coming of Christ! I also think about the joyous atmosphere experienced by those gathered around the manager in that ny stable in Bethlehem. Advent helps us prepare our hearts for Christ and allows us to experience the joy that comes with the season. For me, I see joy the most when experiencing Christmas through the eyes of children! I think it is mostly because of the tradi on started in my home church of throwing a party for Jesus. It is a big deal to see faces that are merry and bright. Similarly, I experience this joy because of a family tradi on started by my cousin. Each year, he asks my aunt to help him bake a birthday cake for Jesus, and we sing happy birthday and make a wish for others. This is the a tude we should adopt each Advent season. It should be an exci ng and joyous me as we an cipate our savior's birth. As I turn my focus to the word “bright,” I immediately think about the Light of Christ and how He should be reﬂected in all we do, especially during Advent. It is our job to be the light of Christ and share His love with all those we encounter.
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During this Season of Advent, the Advent wreath has reminded us of a me Christ's kingdom will illuminate the world and no darkness can dim his light. The circular garland of evergreen branches represents eternity. As we lit a new candle each week, we built up to Christmas Eve and the ligh ng of the Christ Candle, the ul mate symbol that Jesus is the light of the world! I love the verse from John 1:5 which speaks in present tense, reaﬃrming our belief that Christ is s ll walking with us each step of the way in our journey. It states, “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness DID NOT overcome it!” How reassuring is this for us in our lives? The good news is through our brokenness, Jesus is s ll there, shining ever so brightly in our lives, providing us with strength to see the joy that comes from Him. Prayer Dear God, The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. Living in a land of deep darkness, on us light has shined. We have wandered through this desert for weeks ‐ ostracized, abandoned, no room in the inn. But the Star shines in the night sky as the baby cries out. The light shines in the darkness. And the darkness did not overcome it. The word has become ﬂesh. The word has come to live among us. We have seen his glory. The glory of God’s only son. O God, you have opened our eyes. May we now open our hands to hold the homeless child in our arms, to welcome the poor as we welcome you. May your light shine through our hearts as we celebrate your arrival! Amen. (Prayer adapted from DevoZine 2016)
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