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Advent Devotions 2011 St. Paul’s United Methodist Church


GETTING READY FOR CHRISTMAS! You hold in your hands a gift – this marvelous Advent Devotional Booklet filled with treasures from the heart. Through these stories shared by friends at St. Paul’s, we get to know each other in more meaningful ways as well as learning more about faith and God. May these devotional thoughts bless your journey as you move more deeply into the mystery of Christmas. Let me express a personal “Thank You” to Carolyn Trawick who extends this invitation to all who will prepare a devotional, then with Debbie Cuthbert, edits, formats, prints and distributes this booklet to each family. This is, indeed, a labor of love in the Christmas spirit. To each author of these devotionals, I express my personal “Thanks” for your willingness to so freely share with all who are getting ready for Christmas. Your experience, faith and sharing is a gift that both inspires and encourages. And to each of you who choose these devotionals to focus your thoughts, I pray this Christmas season might be most bright and joyful! Some of the very best Christmas gifts come in the smallest packages… may this be so for you! Merry Christmas, J. Roddy Taylor

THE ADVENT WREATH Long ago in northern Europe, the growing dark and winter weather in Advent forced people to remove the wheels from their carts and replace them with snow runners. The wheels were hung high in the rafters of the house, fitted out with lanterns, and wrapped tightly with evergreen. The first wreaths, smaller than the wheels used, were windows into heaven, a source of the light of Christ over our world’s dark wildernesses, its mountainous obstacles, its valleys of need. Its four candles represent the four Sundays of our journey, typically three purple and one rose. Should you chose to have an Advent Wreath in your home you can use the devotions on each of the four Sundays and share with your family around the wreath as you light the candles. My hope is that you will find something very special about this season and share yourself with someone else. Now is the perfect time to write a devotion to be used next year for the booklet in 2012. My blessings to you as we look forward to the birth of Our Lord and Savior. Carolyn Trawick


November 27, 2011

I’M EXPECTING

My use of this phrase might sound odd. Usually, it is reserved for the fairer sex to announce the anticipation of a new child. It can be made plural, as in “we are expecting” as well, with the same connotation. But for me, a male, to say “I’m Expecting”…you probably think I have lost my mind. But expectation is the best way to think about the Advent season. Expectation (in the pregnant sense) entails a season of hope, anticipation and preparation. A body of emotions is wrapped up and fulfilled in a specific event. At that point, everything will render unimportant as the birth comes. The season of hope will be fulfilled in the joy that comes. The anticipation is finished and any anxiety or nervousness has past. The preparation is finished, because it has to be. The time has now come and “all hands on deck” is the order of the day. We are ready for the coming of the Son of God. We celebrate hope and the promises of God. We anticipate the season and the change it makes in our hearts. We have also prepared ourselves for it by recognizing both our own individual sin and the sins of humanity as a whole. The ancient liturgical prayer called the Rorate Coeli (based on Isaiah 45:8) expresses the hope, anticipation and expectation of the prophets and priests of the Old Testament and becomes part of our prayers; We have gone astray; in the multitude of our sins we have been made unclean. Fallen, fallen, stricken as leaves of autumn. The storm wind carries us away, the tempest of our evil deeds. You have turned us from the face of your mercy, and our iniquity has crushed us like a potter's vessel. O Lord our God, look upon your people in their affliction; be mindful of your promises. Send us the lamb who will set up his dominion from the rock of the wilderness to Zion, enthroned on her mountain. There is no other whose power can break our chains and set us free. As somber as this might seem, as Christians we understand the hope and glory contained in the glorious thing called The Incarnation. Christ and his passion brings us to a new place. Isaiah 40:1-5 (NLT) gives words to that sense of expectation; “Comfort, comfort my people,” says your God. “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem. Tell her that her sad days are gone and her sins are pardoned. Yes, the LORD has punished her twice over for all her sins.” Listen! It’s the voice of someone shouting, “Clear the way through the wilderness for the LORD! Make a straight highway through the wasteland for our God! Fill in the valleys, and level the mountains and hills. Straighten the curves, and smooth out the rough places. Then the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all people will see it together. The LORD has spoken!” This is a highway of expectation. It is a highway that leads us home. Christ, in his life, death and resurrection leads us along the straight path into the loving arms of the Father. Advent is an active celebration of the church. Let us prayerfully go through the range of emotions which are part of expecting. On Christmas day, we can welcome our savior in the fullest way, because our hearts have hoped, anticipated and prepared for him to come! Prayer: Come, Lord Jesus. Amen Chad Brooks


November 28, 2011

WRAPPING UP

1 Samuel 16:7 “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Peter 3:4 “Your beauty should come from within you, the beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit that will never be destroyed and is precious to God.” So many choices: Gift bags or wrapping paper, ribbons or string, tape or bows, metallic or ordinary wrapping, religious themes or general holiday with snowmen or even Santa! It’s hard enough trying to decide what gifts to get for people on your list, and then you have to figure out how you are going to present the gift. Is Jesus on our gift list this year? During the holiday season, consider how we can give of ourselves to Jesus. How are we “wrapping” ourselves? Do we spend hours shopping for gifts and that special holiday outfit? Are we so busy that we have to try to find time to “squeeze in” a few verses from the Bible and a little time in prayer. Where are the daily disciplines that provided inner strength and wisdom, disciplines such as prayer, meditation, and Bible reading? We can make our gift to Jesus even more special by taking care of how we present them. When we wrap our lives in the qualities of faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, godliness, kindness, and love, we will increase the value of our lives to Jesus; we increase the value of our “gifts.” How are we presenting our self to Christ? Are we striving to wrap our life in the best possible materials, in priceless qualities, or are we content to present our life to Jesus in the spiritual equivalent of a dirty, torn grocery sack? During this holiday season, pause and take time to give daily attention to the part of us that is truly important to the world and to God, our inner self. Prayer: Forgive me, Lord, for putting the obligations of the season ahead of the real “reason for the season.” Help me to embrace the disciplines that will make me whole inside and out. Make me worthy of your love and grace. This is my prayer for the holiday season and the coming New Year. In the name of Christ. Amen (Editor’s note: I have had this devotion in my folder a while and do not know the writer. I think it is very appropriate for the early days of Advent so am using it and if the writer lets me know I will certainly give credit by way of the St. Paul’s Epistle.) November 29, 2011 OUR GIFT - JESUS John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” The November-December 2010 issue of The Upper Room had on its cover a lovely painting by Frank Hopper of Mary cradling the baby Jesus in her arms. She is smiling down on the infant, who appears to be returning her gaze. At first glance, this tender scene is all you see, but if you look more closely, you will see that there is a cross-shaped shadow falling across mother and child. For Christians, the joy of nativity is always over-shadowed by the knowledge that this innocent babe will someday face crucifixion. This same idea is depicted on the vestments that grace our sanctuary during the Advent season, a manger superimposed with a cross. The manger and the cross are inextricably entwined, inseparable in our minds. Again, though, as we look more closely, we see the resurrection. We know that the joy of the resurrection over-shadows even the grief and suffering of the crucifixion. The cycle continues year after year: Advent—preparing for the birth of the Christ child; Christmas— experiencing the joy of His coming into the world; Lent—following the last days of Jesus’ earthly mission, including the high of Palm Sunday and the low of Good Friday; Easter—exalting in the triumph of Jesus’ resurrection and victory over death. His life gives us victory over all our crosses. Let us embrace once again the baby Jesus, for we know all that His birth promises. Prayer: Father, we thank you for your Son and for the unfathomable love for us that this gift signifies. Amen Martha Jordan


November 30, 2011

FINDING GOD MOMENTS WHERE EVER YOU ARE

Mark 12: 29 – 30“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” Jesús le encanta al Señor tu Dios con todo su corazón y con toda su fuerza y con toda tu mente.” This verse became very meaningful to me in September of 2010, and here is why. I have been privileged to go to Reynosa, Mexico on three missions. But my first, was in September of 2010. Immediately before this mission, J. Roddy did a wonderful four week sermon series on this scripture. It was also immediately before this Mission that the brain tumor was discovered in our beloved Katie Joyce. Yes, she became “our” Katie, didn’t she? We stormed Heaven with prayers so that God would completely heal her. A large request, we knew, but we asked nonetheless. Her surgery was the day before we were set to leave for Mexico. We all know what happened in that surgery. A miracle. The miracle we had prayed for as the doctor reported that he had gotten all the tumor. Seeing God in that day was so easy, for our prayers were answered. Now, our team was off to Reynosa. The “God Moments” were again easy to experience there as well. Whether it was a seeing God through a child's smile or hug, or a blind man’s singing, or Margo signing in Spanish to the deaf patients, or having several strangers praying for me and our team. But it wasn’t until after we returned home, that this bible verse again touched me so deeply. While in Reynosa, we had a medical clinic in the church at the immigration camp. Taking a break, Diane Martin and I were standing outside the church, looking over at American soil, over the Rio Grande. The water separating us from “the promised land” was not even the length of a football field. What we didn't notice was the painted sign above the church. But it was captured in a picture. The sign above the church said “Jesús le encanta al Señor tu Dios con todo su corazón y con toda su fuerza y con toda tu mente.” When we returned home, and pictures uploaded, Margo saw the picture, she pointed out the sign and translated it. “Jesus tells you to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your strength and with all your mind.” Wow! How amazing and wonderful that of all scriptures, that was the one they chose to put above the church at the immigration camp. The same verse preached on for the month before. Love God with everything you have! It's easy to find God moments when you are in a place like Reynosa, doing God's work. And easy to see God in the miracle of Katie Joyce. But “God Moments” happen in everyday life too. We just have to slow down and pay attention. And sometimes, your smile or encouragement can be the God moment someone else needs. Prayer: Dear Lord, Thank you for always being present. Help us to look for you always, in everything we do. Let us do everything to glorify you. Amen Ashley Burch


December 1, 2011

UNEXPECTED LIFE LESSON

One of my favorite holiday traditions is decorating our home with our collection of nativity scenes. Through the years, many of them have been purchased during our travels. Some have been received as gifts. Others just “found” in a little shop or at a garage sale. The figures range in size from heights of two feet to those small enough to fit in a match box. Each set holds a special memory of a place, a time, or a friend. When grandchildren came into our lives, I wanted to be able to share with them the beautiful scenes as a “hands-on” experience. I was delighted to find one set which had figures made of fabric and stuffed like toys. They could be handled and cuddled and rearranged by the children without any “don’t touches” coming from parents. The soft set was always placed on a shelf low enough for little hands to reach. During one particular Advent season I was looking at all of the nativities displayed when I noticed that the baby Jesus was missing from the children’s set. All the other figures were in place but the wooden manger was empty. None of the grandchildren had been to visit. The disappearance was a mystery. Then I spied the tiny figure of the babe snuggled in the dog bed beside our Westie, Chelsea. The baby was not chewed or wrinkled or harmed in any way. (A fact which in and of itself is a Christmas miracle because that dog was notorious for chewing on things.) I retrieved the figure and placed it back on the shelf where it stayed the remainder of the day. However, the next morning I again found the manger empty and the baby Jesus tucked in with the dog. This became routine during the entire Christmas season—sweet little Jesus figure caressed by the sleeping canine every night. Sometimes life lessons are taught by the most unexpected sources. That fuzzy little dog understood the true meaning of the season—actually the true meaning of a Christian life. Draw near to Jesus. Keep Him close. Love Him. Treat Him with reverence and respect and gratitude. Prayer: Dear Lord, Help us to draw close to You, especially during this Advent season. May You be our comfort and our joy as we celebrate Your birth. Accept our thanks and praise—our reverence and respect. This we humbly pray in Your holy name. Amen Claudia Merrill (Claudia, Keith and their son Brian were members of St. Paul’s in the 1980s)

December 2, 2011

THE MUSIC OF SILENT NIGHT

Psalm 81:1-2 Sing for joy to God our strength. Shout aloud to the God of Jacob. Begin the music... Several years ago, at a church we were serving and I was singing in the choir, a very special thing happened. A lovely, tiny, older lady with a very distinct German accent, named Lisa, started attending our church and joined the choir. During the Christmas Eve service, the choir was singing “Silent Night,” and Lisa sang one of the verses in German as a solo. The whole congregation became totally still and quiet. For you see, Lisa had been imprisoned during WWII in a concentration camp in Nazi Germany. As she recounted to us that night, she had also sung “Silent Night” on Christmas Even in the prison many years before. Never had the marvelous Christmas carol, “Silent Night,” been more meaningful or more profound. Prayer: Holy Father, remind us at this special season of the year how precious freedom is and that our ultimate freedom came in the birth of our Savior. Amen Peggy Burgess


December 3, 2011

CHRISTMAS AT ST. PAUL’S

It is the early 70’s and Joe and I are newly moved to Monroe from Tennessee. My backyard neighbor, Mona Tarver, lives across the street from St. Paul’s. We soon join. Mona has directed the St. Paul’s Nativity Scenes for years. She is a beautiful person inside and out and has an innate sense of the beauty all around her. She is in love with the Nativity Scenes and I am fascinated and trail her around learning every tiny detail of this beautiful reenactment. I am in love with them too. Except for the angel costumes, finely made and professional-looking, we do not have our own costumes. (I imagine that these angel costumes have divinely appeared for our use, so beautifully are they made and nobody seems to know where they came from!) Each year, Mona calls the Masons and we two go downtown to their ancient, dimly lit building and climb rickety, dusty stairs to the high second floor where before us hang rows and rows of gorgeous velvet robes, perfect for our kings. They also have real-looking jeweled crowns and strange looking metal incense burners and boxes that look like treasurers for our kings to carry. Each year, we come back weighed down with these lush beauties for the scenes. It is all sort-of mysterious and wonderful to me and I fall into a lifelong love of these beautiful scenes created every year. In the intervening years, precious Mona has gone to be with Jesus, along with many others who cared deeply about the tableaux. The Mason’s storehouse has disappeared and many loving hands have made us our own costumes and scenes. The script we use today for the indoor tableaux never changes and was written for us many years ago by Rita Crowell, our Director of Christian Education. Hundreds of young people and adults have participated in this glorious “happening” which appears for a brief time in December in our sanctuary and on the Orell Street side of the church. Read the whole Christmas story for yourself and to your children. THIS is what Christmas IS. Bring your children and grandchildren and tell all your friends that their children can come bring their gifts to the baby Jesus at our Indoor Tableaux on Sunday, Dec. 4 @6:00 and then enjoy birthday cake for Baby Jesus. ALSO, make the effort to come through the drive thru on the south end Mon. Dec.5 or Tues., Dec. 6, 6:007:00. It’s something to see – a real “happening” with three beautiful scenes, animals and a camel! You can even get out of your car and pet the camel! Nowhere else in Northeast Louisiana will you be able to experience Christmas in such a way. Love (Christ) came down at Christmas. This is our beautiful, imagined version of what it might have looked like that wonderful night when Jesus was born. Read Luke 1:26-38 and 2:1-19 and Matthew 2:1-12 Prayer: Heavenly Father, Thank you for the Life that changed everything. Thank you for Christmas. Amen Pat Hoover

December 4, 2011

DO YOU TWEET?

Do you Tweet? No, not like a bird. Are you on Twitter? Twitter is a free online service that challenges users to interact and communicate with messages that contain 140 characters or fewer. The brevity of the messages speaks to today’s fast-paced culture and the way most people take in information today. As I’ve read through the New Testament with St. Paul’s this year, I’ve noted the contrast between the way we receive news today (short info-bursts) and the detailed way the Gospel writers told the story of Jesus. I began wondering if it would be possible to retell the story of Advent in 140 characters or less. Start with Isaiah 7:14, telling us to watch and wait. Watch for this: A girl who is presently a virgin will get pregnant. She'll bear a son and name him Immanuel God-With-Us).


This verse, from The Message version of the Bible, doesn’t even need any editing. Isaiah told us what to look for in under 140 characters. With the removal of just one word, the angel’s words to Mary from Luke 1:35 make the cut.“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, the power of the Highest hover over you. The child you bring to birth will be called Holy, Son of God.” From Luke 2:7, the birth of Christ is condensed.“The time came for her to give birth. She gave birth to a son, her firstborn. She wrapped him in a blanket and laid him in a manger.” What would the angels say to the shepherds in 140 characters or less Luke 2:10-11? “Don't be afraid. I'm here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody: A Savior has just been born in David's town.” We’re getting the general idea of what happened, but significant pieces are missing from the whole story. These world-changing events clearly deserve more than 140 characters. As you move through this Advent season, I encourage you to sit down with the entire Gospel story as written in the New Testament – not just the snippets we get in worship, Christmas programs, carols, and cards. There’s so much more being told. Prayer: Father, thank you for the Christmas story and the many ways that we hear it this time of year. Thank you for your Word and the entire, complex, and moving picture painted by the Gospel writers to guide our hearts to you. @songsungmeg

December 5, 2011

FEAR NOT, GOD IS WITH YOU

Have you ever had on overwhelming feeling about something? To me, that is the Holy Spirit speaking to me. On Dec. 4, 2010, I was robbed at gunpoint. Strange thing is, I knew that it was about to happen! I believe that God told me! Let me explain. I have been the coordinator for the Hospitality Room for basketball tournaments at our school for ten years. For those of you that do not know what a hospitality room is, it is a place where coaches, referees, administrators, and others helping with the tournament may go to eat and visit with each other. On the evening of the last night of the tournament last year, I decided to go to this room to review my Sunday School lesson because I was scheduled to teach the next day. I knew that the room would be quiet before the games began. I went there to find that no one was there. "Great," I thought! Nice and quiet. I put my materials to study out on the table. Then, I thought, "you could be robbed out here by yourself."----Remember, at this time I had been coordinating the Hospitality Room for nine years....never had I had this thought. Of course, it was God preparing me for what was about to happen. Suddenly, two masked teenage boys burst into the room! One stood by the door while the other ran up to me and grabbed my purse. Then he held a gun to my head. Those of you who know me know that I am the mother of the world. I actually grabbed the gunman's hand and said, "That's not a real gun!" I did not want this "armed robbery" for these two teenagers. Then I thought to myself, "What are you doing?!" I let go. The two robbers ran away. I found out later that it was indead a real gun. I ran into the gym and got help. The police came though they did not catch the robbers that night. I called my husband David who was supposed to be at the hunting camp but had decided not to go that night. (Isn't that interesting--God taking care of me again.) David came to the gym to get me to take me downtown to meet with the detective who would interview me. I did not know how I would handle this trama of being robbed at gunpoint. Would you believe that I have never had the first nightmare? Only positive things happened! Our Sunday School lesson that I was preparing to teach had a memory verse....."Be not afraid." Funny, I was not afraid of the robbers that night, nor have I been afraid since.


The next day David looked for my purse in all the dumpsters around the school and in the dumpsters around the apartments where the thugs lived. Several people helped him look. Lee Webster, owner of Pop A Lock was one of these people. He sent his locksmith out the next morning to change the locks on our house since my keys were in my purse. The purse was never found. We also had my suburban reprogrammed. No biggy. And, of course, I had to have a new driver's license. I even thanked the lady there because it was so easy! Through great detective work, the robbers were caught that Thursday night. I could go on and on about different ways all of this event played out. One thing I know for certain...my mother taught me this--God will take care of you if you let Him! Listen! You can hear the Holy Spirit speaking to you. God is alive! He is real! I pray that it is not before an armed robbery that you hear Him. But, listen! In your everyday lives...listen! We are not guaranteed that we will have tomorrow or even the next hour. I could have been killed that night. And, I know that because Jesus is my Lord and Savior, that would have been alright, too. I will have an eternal home in heaven. Let's not forget about the reason we celebrate Christmas. The birth of our Savior. Is He your Savior, too? Prayer: Our Father, thank you for protecting us and giving us the reassurance that You are always with us and will speak to us if we are willing to listen. Amen Leesa McMillin

December 6, 2011

A CLEAN SLATE

Psalm 51:10 & 12 “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put me a new and right spirit within me….Restore to me the joy of Thy salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.” Recently I lost a document. A very important document: my novel manuscript; countless hours of work. A labor of love. I wanted to scream, cry, hit someone (Mike had to hide). My USB memory stick became corrupted. The hard drive copy on my laptop was corrupted. Not even our computer guru could save it. My only saving grace is the fact that I do not (and never have) totally trusted my computers, so whenever I complete a chapter, I print off a hard copy. I have a “physical” copy of the manuscript. It’s just a matter now of re-typing the entire novel: all 400+ pages…and quickly. Sometimes this happens in our personal lives. We sail along day by day, doing whatever we do in our jobs, our play, our home lives…but sometimes we get a “bug,” a “virus” (and I don’t mean colds, or flu, or strep throat). A little “bug” called sin, attacks our better senses, we give in to it, and our lives become corrupted – just as a USB stick becomes corrupted. With computers, we need a computer guru to solve our problem (or attempt to solve our problem): unscramble the errors and make the document readable again. Sometimes they can; sometimes they can’t. In our personal lives, we need God. Only God can wipe our slates clean, reprogram us, and make our lives ungarbled and free of sin again. Prayer: Heavenly Father, when we give in to one or more of the many temptations of everyday living, our hearts, our minds, and our souls become corrupted, just as computer programs or memory sticks become corrupted. Keep us focused, Lord, and when we give in to sin, give us the good sense to call upon You: to wipe our slates clean, to make sense of our lives again, and make us wholly acceptable unto You. Dianne Gibbens


December 7, 2011

CHRISTMAS IS COMING !

John 1:14 “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.” We see it in the stores before Halloween. The tempo grows through November and by Thanksgiving is chief on everyone's mind. What am I going to give? What do I want to get? How will I decorate my home? When and where will the family gather? What about Christmas cards and letters? The first cards arrive with a November postmark! Have we forgotten the reason for the season? The birth of Jesus is the reason for the season. St. Paul's church offers many opportunities to celebrate that and to show our Christian love to others. Our ministers prepare special messages during this period, and they and the staff work to coordinate the holiday events. This book of Advent devotionals has been lovingly compiled by Carolyn Trawick for nine years. The youth have provided the indoor tableau and outdoor living nativity scenes for over half a century! The choir works hard to present a meaningful musical program. The Altar Guild decorates the majestic Chrismon tree and arranges the poinsettias in the altar area. The UMW prepare baskets for our shut-ins. The UMM ring bells for the Salvation Army. Members bring gifts for the children whose names they have drawn from the Angel Tree. Sunday School classes have special projects and parties. Just as God gave His son to us at Christmas, as we prepare to commemorate this event may we also give of our time, talents, and resources to show our Christian love to others, not only during this period but throughout the year ahead. May this bring us the true blessing of the birth of our Savior. Prayer: Lord, help us to relax from the busyness of the season and enjoy and participate with our fellow Christians in its true meaning. Carol Caraway

December 8, 2011

LONGING FOR THIN PLACES

Psalm 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God.” Ancient Celts and some modern ones as well believe in what are called “thin places.” The term refers to a place where the veil between this world and the next seem very thin. It is a place where the distance between heaven and earth seems to disappear: a place where God seems very near indeed. I have been granted the opportunity to experience several thin places. On our visit to Jerusalem with four friends, we spent time, still and quiet, in prayer at the Wailing Wall. As soon as we were all able to compare notes on our day, everyone agreed we felt God’s presence most strongly at the Wailing Wall. We seemed to be surrounded by the Holy Spirit on that day. While in Ireland (which is famous for thin places) Jim, Johnny and Betty Jean James, and I walked down a long country road out into the middle of a field. There was a man-made rock formation called a Dohman in the center of the field. As we walked around it, we felt as if we were standing on holy ground. Johnny took a picture of us standing by the rock. When we looked at it, there seemed to be a halo around the rock, intensifying the holy feel of the place. But to me, the thinnest place of all is right here at home. It is Christmas Eve at St. Paul’s. Whether one attends Traditional Worship or Contemporary Service, once the service begins, the very air chances. It becomes electric; charged with excitement and expectation. We begin to sing and the joy spreads from face to face. We read the Christmas Story and just like in days of old, we feel it, the Presence of the Lord, come down just as he did as a babe all those years ago.


We light candles and sing Silent Night and there it is, the thin place we have all been longing for. It is a moment when there is a little bit of heaven right here on earth. There is joy and peace and love and hope. And there is the promise of the Christ Child fulfilled in some way that we cannot truly understand. It is God with us in a very real way. As we leave the Sanctuary, we are changed, having been touched by the Holy once again. Whether we know it or not, it is something that we long for all year long. Prayer: Holy One, we long to feel Your presence. Fill us and make us whole. Amen Debbie Cuthbert

December 9. 2011

YOUR PERSONAL GPS

Psalm 119:105 “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” You may find it useful to have one of today’s modern marvels, the Global Positioning System (GPS), in your car. A satellite-based navigational device, GPS constantly send exact location and direction information, guiding you to specific destinations. It even corrects your mistakes, in an instructive, non-judgmental voice: ”You have gone too far. Turn around.” Whether you own such a device or not, you do have a personal GPS available to you-a spiritual guide, if you will. And, while not satellite-based, this guidance also comes from “on high.” It has been around for thousands of years, handed down to us from God. We look to God for guidance and direction in our lives in many ways, including GRACE, PRAYER, and SCRIPTURE. GRACE—Revell’s Bible Dictionary tells us, “Grace is God’s free and spontaneous gift taken to meet human need, and man’s response of gratitude to God’s gracious acts.” We read in Eph. 2:8 “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God.” It is freely given to us; we don’t have to earn it. Yet, when we’re lost, we can count on God’s grace to set us on the right course. And when we receive the grace of God, we are thankful. One verse of the hymn, “Amazing Grace hath brought me safe thus far and grace will lead me home.” PRAYER—We believe that prayer is communication with God. According to The Westminster Dictionary of the Bible, it has been engaged in by God’s people from the beginning and consists of adoration, thanksgiving, and confession. When we need direction in our lives or comfort in difficult situations, we turn to God in prayer for help and we believe that He answers our prayers. We are grateful for God’s presence in our lives. You’ll find in Romans 12:12 “Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.” In the beautiful song, “The Prayer,” we find these words:“Let this be our prayer, When shadows fill our day. Lead us to a place. Guide us with your grace. Give us faith so we’ll be safe.” SCRIPTURE—We read Scriptures, which we know as the “Word of God”, so that we would understand God’s will and His truths, and to give us wisdom about His teachings. Many verses in The Bible reveal that God is a compassionate God willing to forgive our sins. By studying the scriptures, we would hope to be more obedient to God and go in the paths that He would have us travel. Psalm 119: 35 says: “Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it.” Trust Your Personal GPS to keep you on the right path. Prayer: Lord, we thank you that through grace you forgive our faults, through prayer you offer comfort, and hope, and through your Scriptures you give direction and meaning to our lives. In Jesus name we pray. Amen Bob Langhart


December 10, 2011

I HAD TO ASK

Matt 2:1-12 “When King Herod heard this he was disturbed…” Our second son loved sports. If he could kick, catch, throw or bounce it he was happy. Not so with reading and writing. We had been trying to teach him to use references to answer his study questions. One evening he asked his Dad how to spell a word. Bill relied “look in the dictionary.” With a hugh sigh, Mark pushed back from the table and muttered, “I had to ask.” This is just like Herod who had to call the wise men to him to ask where the babe was to be born. Unlike them, he had not studied and learned all that he could before seeking help. Because he had not prepared himself, he did not understand what he was told and acted impulsively and irrationally. How often are we guilty of hearing something, then going off half-cocked often leaving grief and destruction in our wake. There does come a time to ask. Prayer: Father, help us to wait in patience to learn the rest of the story before rushing in. Help us to listen for your voice telling us to go another way. Amen Wilma Funderburk

December 11, 2011

GOD IS WITH US

Psalm 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God.” While visiting in Pennsylvania one October, we attended a church service there. The following is a story that the pastor told that really touched me. “It was Christmas Eve and the snow had been falling all day. It was a beautiful winter wonderland. Soon it would be time for the Christmas Eve service. As the pastor looked out toward the church, he wondered it anyone would brave the cold and waist deep snow to attend the service. He had gone to the sanctuary to make sure it was warm, and everything was ready. It was approaching 7:00 p.m. and time for the service to begin. The sanctuary was empty. At 7:10 p.m. the door opened and an old farmer dressed in his overalls came in. As farmers often do, he took his red handkerchief, wiped the snow from his brow, and took his place in the pew. No one else had braved the cold weather. The pastor went through the entire Christmas Eve service as if the sanctuary was full. After the singing of “Silent Night, Holy Night,” the farmer extinguished his candle and met the pastor at the door to wish him a Blessed Christmas and left in the cold of the night.” Since our Christmas Eve Service is one of the largest attended services of the year, I could not imagine having a complete service with only one in attendance. But was he really alone? God was beside him that night just as he is beside us every moment of each day. Prayer: Dear God, as we celebrate your birth, help us to remember the lonely and brokenhearted and to know that we are never alone, for You are with us. Amen Barbara Potts


December 12, 2011

FORGIVENESS

The meaning of Christmas for us as Christians of course is that we recognize and celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. We know that he was sent by our Heavenly Father to pay our sin debt so that we could have eternal life through grace. When I think of the birth of Jesus on December 25, I think that date is just the beginning of the story of Jesus. One has to think about the complete picture of Jesus’ birth, life on earth, death and resurrection. While on earth, He taught us many lessons that are revealed in the New Testament. To me, one of the most significant and one of the most difficult for me personally to follow is the lesson of forgiveness. There are many, many examples where he taught us by word and deed about this lesson. I will share just a few with you. For example, the Lord’s prayer that He taught us to pray Matthew 6:12 where we ask our heavenly Father to forgive our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. I recall a commentary in a sermon on forgiveness by Chris Hodges, pastor at the Church of the Highlands, B’ham, Alabama. He pointed out that forgiveness is needed by us for ourselves to keep the flow of forgiveness moving. Matthew 6:14-15 if we want God to forgive our sins, we have to forgive our enemies’ sins against us. I had never thought about this example of keeping the flow going, but it surely makes sense to me. Another is the parable of the brother who sins against you Matthew 18:22 and how many times should we forgive him? Jesus said not seven (7) but seventy-seven (77) times. In Romans 12: 17-19, we are told that it is not for us to take revenge, but that God will avenge and repay. My wife, Claudia, has had a favorite Bible quotation Ephesians 4:26 which refers to anger and how we are told not to let the sun go down while we are still angry. And finally, I think the greatest act of forgiveness is revealed in Luke 23:34 at the crucifixion of Jesus when He said, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” He of course was referring to the soldiers and guards that were about to take his life. Therefore, without the birth on December 25, the beginning of Jesus’ life there would not be any of the other parts of his life, lessons, and teachings. At this Christmas season, what better reason to celebrate his birth, and to renew and refresh our Christian faith by applying the lesson of forgiveness that Jesus taught us? Prayer: Our Father, thank you for forgiving us and help us to keep the flow going and pass it on. Amen Jimmy Woods December 13, 2011

HELP WAS NEEDED

Matthew 7:7 “Ask and it will be given you, seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” The phone is ringing; it’s 3:00 AM. It’s always scary when we get those late night calls. Our daughter, Lauren lives in Hawaii on the Island of Oahu. She is our only child. We have a son-in-law and two darling grandsons, Bartley, my husband’s namesake and Cannon, which is my mother’s maiden name. It is Lauren crying, only a cry a mother can’t mistake - fear and terror. “Mom, we are on a mountain. It’s so dark.” I immediately hit the floor, I have to pace and find my glasses. She tells me the entire island has been evacuated. The Island of Kauai has been hit and it’s headed their way. A Tsunami: I said, “Grab the boys, and hold them tight, lets pray. Pray with me Lauren, pray.” Then I asked, “Are people in their vehicles near you,” she said, “Yes.” Lauren’s husband was training a group of Marines in California who were about to be deployed to Afghanistan so he was not there to help her. I said, “Lauren, God sent angels and they are encamped all around you.” Lauren and I have a saying if it’s above our heads; it’s under God’s feet.


I prayed Lauren would trust the spirit God has put within her. I prayed and Lauren prayed. It says in God’s word, Matt. 18:19 “Again I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” We ask these things in Jesus’ name. Then I shifted into mommy mode. How many diapers do you have? How much formula? The powdered kind? What does Bart have to eat? How much water do you have? Is Bart’s life jacket in the car? Is yours? Bart and I had made a first aid kit on my last visit. We put it under the front seat in an old sewing box. I talked to Bart and asked him if it was there? His answer was “Right Go-Go,” and my answer is, “Good job, Bart.” He said I have my binoculars, and swim goggles. The ones you sent me Go-Go. All Wal-mart plastic. “Oh then you are all ready for anything.” I told him not to be afraid, Jesus was right there on that mountain and would never, never leave him. I reminded him that Jesus could walk on water! I thought a good thing to remind him since he was on an Island. Bart also had his trusty flashlight, which came in handy when Lauren was trying to prepare a bottle with a shaky hand and finely powdered formula. They are my family, my heart, but even 5,000 miles away, we could pray together. We did our checklist for disaster supplies. By that time Poppa had the television on and was keeping us posted. The Tsunami devastated Japan, hit the Island of Kauai very badly but Kailua which is the windward side of the Island where my children live was spared. No power outage, no water problems, it was secure. When they came down from the mountain, all three of them piled in Lauren’s bed to watch Walt Disney’s Bambi and Go-Go sank into her pink chair near her big window and thought about how good our God is. He has been with me through my bout with cancer, has saved my children and his unshakable conviction, that those things you have desired and asked for have been provided. Prayer: Thank you God for your protection of those we love. Keep us ever mindful that we need to ask, seek and knock, because you are there for us. Amen Jo Margaret Rose December 14, 2011

CHRISTMAS SPIRIT ALL YEAR LONG

1 Peter 3:8 “Finally, all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind.” At Christmas time, we all feel blessed and grateful for another year past. There are good friends, great food, presents, and family all around. But why does that feeling have to be so short lived. We should not limit this emotion to the Christmas season. I am going to make a concerted effort to carry that feeling throughout next year. Simply noticing the little things that make my day, or a special comment from a friend that makes me smile. People like to be remembered in so many ways. Often times, carrying a small gift to someone just because you thought about them when you saw it in a store, can mean more than you might even know. I will make an effort to contact friends and relatives we only see once a year, or send a greeting card at Christmas. This will brighten their day and will certainly lift my spirits. They don’t expect to hear from us. When I catch myself thinking about someone, I will send a “thinking about you” note for absolutely no reason at all. Too often we lose track of friends, or read that they passed away during the year. Then the feelings of guilt for not staying in touch, not offering a gentle hand or comment, not being a closer friend when they needed us, settle in our minds. I love the Christmas spirit, but I want it to last throughout the year. It will take a concerted effort on my part to make this happen, and I’m willing to make the effort to keep the Christmas spirit in my heart. Prayer: Lord, grant us the Christmas spirit throughout the year with our family, friends, business associates, and even those we do not love. For therein lies the gift of the Christ-Child. Amen Mike Gibbens


December 15, 2011

SING PRAISES TO GOD

Quite a few years ago I was accompanying a lovely soprano singing the Christmas favorite, “Gesu Bambino.” She took a deep breath to sing the final phrase and began coughing uncontrollably. She coughed for at least ten to fifteen seconds, briefly regained control, and sang the climactic phrase on a beautiful high B flat. She then ran, coughing, from the Sanctuary. I followed her to the Choir Room and discovered that on the preparation for the final phrase, she had inhaled a fruit fly. The fit of coughing certainly drew the congregation’s attention to the phrase, “Let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.” So often we are so caught up in the details of preparing to celebrate Christmas that we forget the reason for the celebration. All musicians are busy at Christmas, but as a full time university professor and part time church musician, I feel especially overwhelmed during the Christmas season. Often I am so concerned with finding rehearsal times, venues, preparing scores, securing orchestral players, rehearsing for proper tone quality articulation, precision, ad infinitum, that I forget that our goal is simply to praise and glorify our Lord through music. We are exhorted throughout the Bible to praise God with our music. We are to put on the “garment of praise.” “Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands! Serve the Lord with gladness; Come before His presence with singing.” Psalm 147: 1-2 “Sing to the Lord with the harp and the sound of a psalm, with trumpets and the sound of a horn; Shout joyfully before the Lord, the King.” Psalm 98:5-6 “Praise the Lord! For it is good to sing praises to our God; For it is pleasant and praise is beautiful.” Psalm 147:1-2 Paul praised the Lord in the direst of circumstances. Many of his epistles were written from prison. In Acts we learn that after being whipped and shackled Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God. We may find it hard to utter words of praise in adverse circumstances. Sometimes the words just won’t come. I really believe that if we can have a heart of praise, especially in hard times, or even just the busy, stressful times, the Lord will bless us richly. Prayer: Lord, help us remember that the purpose of our Christmas music is to glorify your name. Help us to remember to praise you in times of adversity and stress. Laura Mobley Thompson

December 16, 2011

THE MAGIC ERASER

Ecclesiastes 4:9–10 Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Who would have thought that an eraser could have such meaning…I have a large (3x5) flat eraser decorated with “teacher stuff” that a student gave to me as a gift many years ago. It acquired the name, the “Magic Eraser,” quite by accident. Several years ago my husband was in bed, not feeling well, and I took him a hot cup of coffee. When approaching the bedside I could see that he was sleeping so I placed the cup on the night table. Needing a coaster under the steaming hot cup, I pulled the flat eraser from where it was stored in the nightstand. Later, he told me how much he appreciated the coffee appearing “like magic” next to the bed, letting him know that he was cared for. Hence, the name “the magic eraser.” It was our habit that, when one of us was not feeling well or had a bad day, to serve the other a cup of coffee or hot tea using the magic eraser as a coaster. It was an unexpected act of kindness that came at the right time to lift our spirits or to share a moment of loving comfort. Just as the Magic Eraser brought comfort to each of us, God has a way of lifting our spirits and sharing His loving comfort, not with a magic eraser, but by placing just the right person in our path at just the right time. When I reflect on the major events in my life I am so very grateful for those “right” persons that God sent to me. Throughout the tragedies of losing parents, husband, and health the right persons have been there to


comfort and to relieve fears. In everyday life there are instances when the right person offers an encouraging word, a smile, a listening ear, or some other act that makes a difference in your day or in your life. What joy it is to know that God is able to use us to be the “right “person for others. It might be that you have encouraged, shown a kindness, provided comfort, or shared a joy with someone when they needed it the most. You were that “right” person. You never know when the opportunity might arise for God to use you as the “Magic Eraser.” Prayer: Dear Lord, open my eyes to see opportunities to help or comfort others. Thank you for the “right” people you have sent into my life when they were needed the most. Amen Kathy Wells

December 17, 2011

A LESSON LEARNED

2 Corinthians 9:12-13 “This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for you generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. On a sunny, cool day my six year old grandson Will and I were passing a large vacant parking lot when I saw a small woman pushing a grocery cart with all her possessions inside. She had the typical look of a homeless person. I thought to myself that I might teach Will that not everyone had a comfortable home and nourishing food available. So I said, “Will, that woman pushing the grocery cart is a homeless person and everything she owns is in that cart. She has nowhere to call home.” He looked at her as we past by and said with the simplicity of a child, “Grammy, you could ask her to come live with you.” I was speechless, and to this day cannot remember what lame excuse I gave him that day. Later in the year, I encountered her again. I had come out of a building headed for my car in a sudden strong wind and rain. As I reached my car, struggling in vain to keep the umbrella over my head, I saw her scurrying along the side of a building, once again pushing her cart. This time, I thought, I’m going to make some kind of contact with her---offer assistance of some sort. I hurriedly got in the car, drove to the building and rounded the corner. She was nowhere to be found. The next Sunday our Youth Group was collecting donations for the homeless that enabled me to ease my conscience to a small degree. Many times I’ve thought about that “small woman” and included her in my prayers. I’m so grateful for hard working parents who provided a secure Christian home so that I would never know what its like to be homeless. Prayer: Lord, remember all the homeless people and give them comfort from the wind and rain and help me to find a need and help in some way. Amen Libby Anders


December 18, 2011

THANK YOU NOTE TO GOD

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Dear God, Just a short note to thank you for something that you have given to me for a long time. There are many things to thank you for daily and I try to do that but I decided I needed to put on paper my thanks to You for St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Monroe, Louisiana. We’ve been though a lot together, some good and some not so good but You and St. Paul’s have always been there for me. As a young person, some of your faithful servants, my Sunday School teachers and youth counselors taught me so many life lessons and what it means to be a working Christian. As I matured, I also taught children and youth and perhaps I did them some good too. Your family at St. Paul’s is such a caring, giving group of people who love your Son and show it daily. In my adult Sunday School Class I found so many good friends who have prayed and cared for me for many years. There were ministers at St. Paul’s to help me bury my grandmother, mother, husband and to many good friends to count. People to bring food in time of death or illness. Thanks you for guiding these people to St. Paul’s. During the happy times, St. Paul’s has been there too. At the time of my wedding, the birth of my children and their baptism, their successes in life along with some short fallings too. Scouting for my son, youth trips for both of them and their weddings too. Each Sunday as I attend worship, and weekdays when I am there for a meeting or just a visit, I see so much good happening. What would our community and church do without the men of United Methodist Men, the women in United Methodist Women, Sunday School teachers, youth counselors, day school workers, Mother’s Day Out and After School leaders, committees running the affairs of the church and the wonderful church staff and volunteers. Thank you God for all of these people working now and that have served in the past. Thank you for encouraging church members to share devotions for this Advent Booklet each year. You know who this note is from but I suspect there are many people in St. Paul’s that with just a few substitutions could send this note to You also, so just know that we love You and thank you for all the things that St. Paul’s means to us and how you have blessed us with each other. Thank you for sending Jesus to us as a baby so He could save us from our sins. Prayer: Remind us, dear LORD, to always be grateful. Sincerely, A faithful follower and member of St. Paul’s

December 19, 2011

GREAT UNEXPECTATIONS

Matthew 27:57 “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” We had looked forward to this trip for so long, and were so excited when we boarded the plane for our first trip overseas – to Italy and Switzerland. We landed in Rome, exhausted after an overnight flight, but we had come a day early so we could rest up before the tour began the next day. It was hard to believe that we were actually standing on the same ground that the explorers, emperors, and famous artists had stood on and were walking on the same cobble stoned streets. A “must-see” on our trip, of course, was the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel. I don’t care how many pictures you see of the Vatican, it’s just not the same as being there. The Vatican is actually almost round, signifying that Christ encompasses the world. When you first enter, there is a reception area, which then leads into the Vatican galleries. I had fully expected to be amazed by the artwork, statues, and relics and was certainly not disappointed. Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel is breathtaking! Nothing compares to it! Again, it was so humbling to stand and view the REAL thing!


I was not prepared, however, to see the magnificent tapestries. For some reason I had not thought about tapestries being in the Vatican galleries. These tapestries were designed by the masters, and then the sketches sent to the weavers to be constructed. As I approached one tapestry in particular, I slowed down. The tapestry, designed by Rafael, covered the wall from ceiling to floor. It depicted Jesus walking out of the tomb. His hands opened; palms up. He was standing on a step, walking toward me. The step was facing me. HE was facing me. His eyes were looking directly at me. It seemed as if I was alone in the gallery, just Jesus and me. As I continued to look at Him, He turned and followed me – the step, too, turned. His eyes followed me every step of the way. He walked with me all the way to the other side of the tapestry. I was extremely awed and so humbled. Truly standing on holy ground. I stood perfectly still, not wanting to leave Him, and yet the others in the tour were moving on, and I had to go. The tour guide explained that this was the way the tapestry was constructed, so that it seemed that Jesus was following you. I’m sure the others may have experienced some of the same feelings that I did, but somehow, that doesn’t matter. What matters to me and what I will never forget is that Jesus looked directly at me, and walked with me, and gave this sinner the knowledge that he always will be with me. Even though I thoroughly enjoyed the spectacles of ancient Italy, I will never forget that day. For this sinner, saved by grace, was allowed to walk with Jesus. Prayer: Thank you, O Lord, for being with us every day, everywhere that we go. Let us always be aware of your presence and appreciate the unexpected blessings you have for us. In Jesus’ Name. Amen Nancy Hemrick

December 20, 2011

PAY IT FORWARD

Matthew 25:40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” Several years ago, Haley Joel Osment starred in the movie “Pay It Forward.” His teacher challenged the entire class to think of something to change the world and then put it into action. He comes up with the plan to repay good deeds, not to the person that helped you, but to the next person along the line, in fact the next THREE people. Even though he had made the assignment, his teacher laughed at him and said that would really never happen. We all feel compelled to keep score in our heads of what people have done for us and how we can make it up to them or pay them back. It’s just human nature. However, this can be an overwhelming task and list to keep up with! Take for example, a few weeks ago I had a tire blow out. This was quite a frightening experience and I had someone else’s child in the car with me which added to the scare. In a matter of a few hours, no less than twenty (20) people from St. Paul’s had come to my rescue, from helping with getting my car towed, trying to fix a way to get to the spare tire, and even making sure I had dinner. Some, I am pretty sure, did not know who I was, but just that someone needed help. My task now is to remember what those individuals did for me and when opportunity presents to help the next person. I will. Isn’t that the whole point to Jesus? Isn’t that what He spent his time here to teach us? Prayer: Thank you, Lord for your paying if forward for me. Open my eyes, ears and heart for the opportunities to grow to be more like you and pay it forward for others. Amen Nann McMullen


December 21, 2011

A REAL TREE

Luke 2:10 “And the angel said to them, ’Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.’” My Christmas tree is important to me. As a child in Georgia, I loved our little fir tree with the colored lights and shiny balls. In Arkansas, I helped my three young children decorate the tree with ‘dime store’ ornaments they had chosen, and with original ornaments they had made. We moved to Pennsylvania with grade-schoolers, a box labeled “Precious Ornaments” and a couple of bags of colored lights. The ceilings were higher – the trees became taller. By the time we moved to Louisiana, we brought not only teenagers, but boxes and boxes of “Precious Ornaments” and a couple of bags of colored lights. About that time, I compromised with the children and added the ‘little white lights’ to my treasured big colored lights. The ceilings were now even higher- the trees became bigger and taller. Once, we cut a tree so big we had to place it in the middle of the room. The collection of ornaments grew just like our family grew. Every other Christmas, they all come back home to spend the holidays. They would rush in to see how big the tree was, and to locate their favorite ornaments. Two years ago, they came home to a tired father and a sick mother. Instead of the big live tree with its colored lights and little white lights, they found a smaller tree with no colored lights, but hundreds of perfectly spaced little white lights. They understood. Then, one of them felt the needles and said “It feels real!” I knew that moment, any Christmas tree is real to anyone who beholds it and feels it in their heart. This year, our family gathers again for the holidays. The tree, with its little white lights, will illuminate the room just as the stars lit the hills of the shepherds. The treasured ornaments will sparkle just as the treasures of the wise men did. The tree will be bright, shiny, and “real.” Our grandchildren, donned in towels, robes and shawls, will re-create the old, familiar story of the birth of Christ. Our first Great-grandchild will lie in the manger as the baby, Jesus. The Nativity will be in the center of the room – where it belongs. It will be live- and will live in my heart this Christmas and always. Prayer: Lord Jesus, help each of us to know that You make our Christmas real. Help each of us to keep You in the center of our hearts at Christmas and always. Amen Carmen Jackson

December 22, 2011

MY FATHER

2 Corinthians 6:18 “I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” My mother and father were divorced when I was around 3 years old. My father did not support me and my brother financially or emotionally while we were growing up. He was not in our lives at all. I yearned for a father figure in my life. When I was 21 years of age, I went to visit my father and quickly realized that we had no connection because he was not in my life while I was growing up. One day in college, I found myself praying for the father I never had and God spoke to me. He said "I am your Father." Ever since that day, I have known, God is my father, so I stopped yearning for a father on earth, because I have God as my father. Prayer: God my Father, thank you for loving me as your child and for showing me the way a father should comfort his children. God Bless. Linda Pruett Liew


December 23, 2011

A NEW CHRISTMAS TRADITION

Galatians 4:4a “In the fullness of time, God sent His Son…” Peggy and I were blessed to be appointed to the Monroe District of the United Methodist Church in 2005. As we approached our first Advent back in Monroe, with our children and grandchildren within an hour’s drive, we were inspired to celebrate Christmas in a new and different way. On Christmas night 2005 our two daughters and their families, which included our four grandchildren, came to the district parsonage where we had our first “Birthday Celebration for Jesus”, cake and all! Rather than the focus being on our and their receiving gifts we read together the Christmas story, being reminded as to whose birthday it is and that our gifts to the birthday baby, Jesus, would be to purchase an animal through the ministry of Heifer International. The grandchildren had been asked early in Advent to save their “coins” to help buy the animal as their gift to Baby Jesus. It was and is an opportunity for our grandchildren to learn that Christmas really is not about them nor is it their birthday but it is about God’s love for them and for all human kind through the birth of God’s own son, Jesus. Through their gift to Heifer Project International they have also learned that their gifts just keep on giving all year round. Our grandchildren now look forward each year with great anticipation to learn which animal they are helping to purchase, providing food and sustenance for children and families in third world countries. Our hope is that our grandchildren will keep this tradition as they grow up and have families of their own. The real truth is that this new Christmas tradition meant for our grandchildren is as much for Peggy, me and our two adult daughters as for Drew, Caroline, Walker and Sarah Blake. So, once again this year it is with great anticipation and excitement that we await Christmas now with our St. Paul’s family and with our children and grandchildren! Prayer: Lord, focus our hearts, minds and gifts on Jesus, whose birth we celebrate on Christmas. Amen Bob Burgess DECEMBER 24, 2011

HOW ARE WE DEFINING OURSELVES?

Matthew 20:28 “Your attitude must be like my own, for I, the Messiah, did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give my life.” This year, both of my children have weekly assignments called Worldly Wise and it is really fun to see them learn new words and definitions. Ronda and I spend time trying to use these words frequently to put them into practice. We have learned that just learning and taking the test on these words are simply not enough. Just like it, service is not something to be tacked onto our schedules when we can spare the time. Jesus came “to serve” and “to give” — and those two verbs should define our life on earth, too. Jesus taught that spiritual maturity is never an end in itself. It is not enough to keep learning more and more. We must act on what we know and practice what we claim to believe. Study without service leads to spiritual stagnation. Serving is not natural and most of the time we’re more interested in “serve us” than service. We say, “I’m looking for a church that meets my needs and blesses me,” not, “I’m looking for a place to serve and be a blessing.” But as we mature in Christ, the focus of our lives should increasingly shift to living a life of service. The mature follower of Jesus stops asking, “Who’s going to meet my needs?” and starts asking, “Whose needs can I meet?” Doing for others and refocusing our efforts away from ourselves helps trade pain and disappointment for happiness and satisfaction. This Christmas season start actively looking around at who you can serve. Taking the focus off of ourselves and seeking out service to others will completely change our perspective and more importantly, define us as being more like Jesus Christ! Prayer: Heavenly Father, what a gift that you sent your Son, Jesus Christ, to this earth to become flesh. You have given us a perfect example of service. Through serving others, we are serving you! In celebrating your birth this season, put people in our path that need to be served and teach us to be responsive to the needs of others! Amen Steen Trawick


December 25, 2011

CHRISTMAS IS HERE!

John 1:1-5“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 came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” Today is Christmas Day, the celebration of the nativity of Jesus! Unlike Easter, which is always celebrated on Sunday, Christmas is always December 25th, regardless of the day on which it falls. Christmas was last celebrated on Sunday in 2005 and will next be celebrated on Sunday in 2016. But today is Sunday, Christmas Day. Our winter solstice, December 21st, is the longest night of the year. Just four days later, December 25th, the light of day increases ever so slightly, reminding us of John’s witness in his Gospel: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” Christmas does not proclaim the absence of darkness, but rather the presence of light. In the midst of all the contradictions, there is a light that helps us find our way. And this year we celebrate this assurance on Sunday, the Lord’s Day. For me personally, Christmas will never be a generic American holiday… it remains a profound spiritual event. John begins his witness, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with us.” One may simply receive all a home offers while giving nothing in return. Parents work and sacrifice to provide every opportunity while this child takes without making even an effort to express gratitude or even grow into the unique possibility and potential that exists deep within the soul. Home and family are taken for granted; there simply when needed. Yet another child realizes everything that is done and takes every opportunity to express gratitude. As the years go by, this relationship deepens in fellowship and friendship, conscious of a debt that can never be repaid. Every human is a child of God… yet only some become children in the depth and intimacy of relationship. In the early days of the Methodist movement, Charles Wesley wrote a hymn for Christmas entitled Hark! The Herald Angels Sing. While multitudes sing his words from the first verse, fewer know his words from the third verse: Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace! Hail the Sun of Righteousness! Light and life to all he brings, Risen with healing in his wings. Mild he lays his glory by, Born that we no more may die, Born to raise us from the earth, Born to give us second birth… Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus! When this becomes the celebration God intends, Christmas also celebrates the birth of the light of Jesus within us! May this Sunday be such a celebration for you and yours… Merry Christmas J. Roddy Taylor


Alphabetical Listing by Last Name

Anders, Libby Anonymous Author Unknown Brooks, Chad Burch, Ashley Burgess, Bob Burgess, Peggy Caraway, Carol Cuthbert, Debbie Funderburk, Wilma Gibbens, Dianne Gibbens, Mike Hemrick, Nancy Hoover, Pat Jackson, Carmen Jordan, Martha Langhart, Bob Leiw, Linda McMillin, Leesa McMullen, Nann Merrill, Claudia Moore, Meg Potts, Barbara Rose, Jo Margaret Taylor, J. Roddy Thompson, Laura Trawick, Steen Wells, Kathy Woods, Jimmy

November 27-December 25

December 17 December 18 November 28 November 27 November 30 December 23 December 02 December 07 December 08 December 10 December 06 December 14 December 19 December 03 December 21 November 29 December 09 December 22 December 05 December 20 December 01 December 04 December 11 December 13 December 25 December 15 December 24 December 16 December 12

St. Paul's Advent Devotional 2011  

St. Paul's puts together a wonderful Advent devotional guide written by members every year. This is our 2011 version

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