Tuesday December 31, 2013

Scripture

James 4:13-17

Key verses: 13-15:Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a town and spend a year there, doing business and making money." Yet you do not even know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wishes, we will live and do this or that."

Reflection

2013 ends today. Another year has gone by and we are perched at the beginning of new one. You may have had inquiries about your resolutions for the New Year. What do you want to be different? What do you hope to change? What do you wish had never happened? Sometimes we have answers and plans. Like the folks in the early church we might say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a town and spend a year there, doing business and making money." It is good to make plans, set goals and identify targets. It is far better to aim wondrously than to wander aimlessly.

Yet even the folks in the first century knew that, while we make plans, life happens. "Yet you do not even know what tomorrow will bring."

All of us have gone through changes this past year. Many have been good ones. Many have not. Some who read these devotions last year are no longer with us-bearing poignant witness to the reality that "(We) are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes." The fragility of life combined with our confidence in God leads us to both humility and optimism. We greet the New Year with keen awareness of limits and possibilities. Nevertheless we move forward in hope – hope that the God who bears us up in our limitations creates new things, new options, and new opportunities all the time.

So, as we enter this New Year, we are bold to say, "If the Lord wishes, we will live and do this (or that)."

Prayer

Thank you, Lord, for seeing us through the year gone by. Thank you for your sustaining grace that surrounds us in good times and bad. Thank you for the hope we have in you that dares us to begin again. For all that has been and all that may be we give you the glory and praise. In the powerful name of Jesus we pray. Amen.

Author

Von Clemans

[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission.
All rights reserved].

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Monday December 30 2013

Scripture

3 John 1-15

Key Verses 5-6:Beloved, you do faithfully whatever you do for the friends, even though they are strangers to you; they have testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on in a manner worthy of God.

Reflection

These fifteen verses comprise the shortest document in the Bible, in the form of a letter from John. The letter is addressed to a particular church leader, Gaius, who is commended for his hospitality. At this time in the life of the church, traveling missionaries or church members needed a friendly and welcoming place to stay when they came to town, as there was still plenty of suspicion about the new movement of Christ-followers. Gaius apparently provided such a welcome and John praises him for putting his love and faith into action.

How will you put your faith into action in the new year? Are there ways in which God is calling you to offer hospitality, and love, to others? Perhaps you know exactly who needs to be welcomed and shown love. Or perhaps God has yet to reveal them to you. Keep your eyes open, and your heart ready.

Prayer

Gracious God, help me to see, in everyone I meet, a brother or a sister in Christ. Teach me to open my heart and welcome others in, showing the love and grace and mercy I know in you. Through Christ the Lord I pray. Amen.

Author

Julie Hester

[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission.
All rights reserved].

Friday December 27 2013

Scripture

Psalm 121

Key Verses 1-8:I lift up my eyes to the hills- from where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.

He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade at your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and forevermore.

Reflection

The birth of Jesus Christ says that God shows up on earth. God is not removed, far into the heavens. But, there are times on earth when it doesn’t seem that God is here–the Holocaust, devastating storms, war, disease. How can an all-loving, all-knowing, all-powerful God sit back and allow such evil and devastation to happen?

The psalmist says that God is present.

My help comes from the Lord…he will not let your foot be moved…the Lord is your keeper, the Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life.

Is that wishful thinking or is it true? Jesus says that God is present in human flesh. We weren’t created and wound up like a clock and left here to run out of time. Because we don’t understand the ways of the Lord does not mean God is not present with us. We believe in a God who knows us, cares for us, who came to us in Jesus Christ for our salvation. The birth of Christ says that. The life of Christ says that. The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ says that. The gift of the Holy Spirit says that. The Church has been saying that for centuries. It’s either wishful thinking or it’s true.

Prayer

I stand before the mystery of your presence, O Lord, in awe and wonder. You are God! The earth, and all that is in it, is yours. There is nothing that doesn’t belong to you. Help me to live with the faith of the psalmist:

The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and forever more.

In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Author

Steve Eason

[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved

Thursday, December 26 2013

Scripture

Psalm 116

“I love the LORD, because he hears my voice and my supplications.” (v.1)

Reflection

A decade ago I had some health issues. Those in the circle of my family and friends prayed for my healing. I went through a year of treatment, but it didn’t work. My condition persisted in spite of prayer and medicine. To say I was discouraged was an understatement. I didn’t feel like praising God. And yet, I felt God was near. Fortunately, I had something curable, but not without surgery and the unknowns that surgery brings. As the psalmist says, “even though I was brought low, the LORD saved me” – not because I recovered and got well, but because God never left my side. God saves us from despair and doubt when we travel to the places that scare us.

As we approach the end of the year, there may be something that is creating distress in your life. You may feel God is very far away and you are alone. It is natural to want the pain and anxiety to go away. Remember how precious your life is to God and those who love you. Turn to God and remember God’s compassion for you. Turn to a supportive friend for strength and encouragement. Turn to your pastors who will walk with you and draw the loving community in to support you. In time, you will be able to give thanks again.

Prayer

Gracious God, life surprises us with things we don’t want. There are times when we feel lost and afraid. Remind us you are near. Help us to pray for one another. And, if there is someone we need to reach out to today, guide us to make that phone call or send that e-mail. May we strengthen each other on this journey that your love might be visible to all. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Author

Deborah Conner

[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission.
All rights reserved].

Wednesday December 25 2013

Scripture

Luke 2:1-20

Luke 2:7

Merry Christmas! Today we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Perhaps your children woke up early and squeals filled your home with excitement. Perhaps you slept in late and have enjoyed a leisurely day. Perhaps your day is stressful, coping with family tension or juggling travel plans. Perhaps your day is a difficult one because you are dealing with grief or loneliness. What does it mean for us to celebrate the birth of Jesus in any circumstance?

Reflection

We believe that Jesus is the incarnation of God. "In-carnation" literally means "in the flesh." Jesus is the embodiment of God’s love and grace, in human flesh, living among us. We celebrate today that God is not distant and detached from creation. God chose to come and live among us. We worship a God who wants to be known, who chooses to reveal God’s self to us. Whether our days are full of joy or full of grief, whether we are at peace or in turmoil, whether we have all that we want or we ache for what we lack, God chooses to be present with us. In Jesus, we see God’s promised presence that will never abandon or forsake us.

As you celebrate Christmas in whatever way today, pause to remember the story of Christ’s birth and give thanks to God for the wondrous gift of incarnation.

Prayer

Great God of power, we praise you for Jesus Christ. In the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ we see your glory and we know your gift of salvation. Let our lives be gifts of praise to you. "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!" Amen.

Author

Millie Snyder

[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission.
All rights reserved].

During this Advent season, daily devotions will be based on images taken from the Nativity Window located in the balcony of the sanctuary. When you are at the church take a moment to find the images in the window and enjoy the Advent and Christmas story told in the glory of stained glass.

Tuesday December 24 2013

Scripture

Matthew 1:18-2:12

Tonight is the night and we know this story. We may not know every word to the hymns but we know the tune and we can tell you the characters that will appear in the story. Barbara Brown Taylor says that "Everything that happened yesterday is before Christ and everything that happens tomorrow is after him. Tonight we are living in the eternal NOW of God’s coming among us." Tonight the wait is over

Reflection

In a mystery that will forever transcend both human imagination and our understanding, at Christmas we witness the incarnation of God– the life lived out among us, so that we might come to experience God with us. In this moment, however, we are still waiting.

Tonight, by the light of candles, let us consider once again what the coming of Christ means. Tonight, let us bring the sum of our advent expectations wherever we find ourselves in worship. And as the darkness of the night closes over us, remember that "….The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."

Prayer

Gracious God, you sent your star to guide wise men to the child of Bethlehem. Guide us by your light once again, so that we may remember your promises hidden in a mother’s hope. May the joy of your birth remind us that love is stronger than fear, peace more enduring than injustice and that darkness will not have the final word. God, dwell among us. Amen.

Author

Michelle Thomas-Bush

[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved

During this Advent season, daily devotions will be based on images taken from the Nativity Window located in the balcony of the sanctuary. When you are at the church take a moment to find the images in the window and enjoy the Advent and Christmas story told in the glory of stained glass.

Monday December 23 2013

Scripture

Romans 15:13

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Reflection

It’s not long until the birth of Jesus. Everyone is gathered around. It has taken much effort to get here. Logistics have been put into place, schedules adjusted, songs practiced, gifts procured, and housing arranged. Soon the baby will come and the long awaited hopes will be fulfilled.

The prophets of old hoped for a messiah that would bring in God’s promised kingdom. Mary and Joseph hoped their baby would be born safely. Shepherds hoped for a savior. Wise men hoped to meet the new-born king. Animals hoped that people would leave them alone.

So many dreams came to the manger in pregnant anticipation, nervously awaiting the birth of joy and peace and belief and hope.

What do you hope for as you wait these last days? Do you hope for the return of joy in your life? Do you hope for peace in the midst of struggle and chaos? Do you hope for God’s power to supplement your own? Do you hope that you won’t lose hope?

Together with people ancient and contemporary, we wait for Emmanuel – God to be with us! We wait in hope.

Prayer

God of hope, fill us with joy, help us to believe, and strengthen us by your Spirit that we may abound in hope, longing for and welcoming the Christ child into our heart and lives. But please hurry! In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Author

Von Clemans

[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved

During this Advent season, daily devotions will be based on images taken from the Nativity Window located in the balcony of the sanctuary. When you are at the church take a moment to find the images in the window and enjoy the Advent and Christmas story told in the glory of stained glass.