Tuesday December 31 2019

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Scripture: John 5:1-15

Reflection: Jesus has come up from the city of Cana to the city of Jerusalem where he found himself beside the pool of Bethesda. Lying around the pool are those who are sick and paralyzed. They have come to this spot because there was a legend that an angel would come and stir up the waters of the pool and the first one to get into the water would be healed.

Jesus was drawn to one particular man who had been coming to the pool for many years, being sick for 38 years. Jesus asks him a very strange question.

Do you want to get well?

I don’t know what you think about New Year’s resolutions, but what if this was the question for today?  Do you want to get well? Have you considered that God might have something new for you as we move into 2020?

Maybe a New Year’s resolution is not enough.

New Year’s resolutions help us look into the future to see who we want to become. The resolutions create a plan of action.  However, resolutions are often future-focused. It takes us out of the moment and focuses on what we do not have in our lives.

What if we instead set a daily intention for 2020. A daily intention helps us focus on where you are in this moment so that we can live out our values. They provide a map for how to live each day with purpose.  We choose how we INTEND to live instead of WISHING life would be different. A daily intention could be one WORD to live throughout this year or even for this first month of 2020. It means getting up from whatever pool we find ourselves at every day, waiting for something new. It is finding hope that Jesus offers this man beside the pool in Bethesda.

Take a few minutes before your feet hit the floor every day to reflect on your daily intention. This faith practice is about joining God in the world with intention. Let’s follow Jesus into 2020. One step at a time.

Prayer: God, empower us to live into 2020 with intentionality and faithfulness. 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].

Monday December 30 2019

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Scripture: 3 John 1-15

Key verse: (4)  “I have no greater joy than this, to hear that my children are walking in the truth.”

Reflection: Today’s epistle lesson offers you the opportunity to read an entire book of the Bible for your devotional!  When’s the last time you read a book of the Bible in one day?  Granted, it’s the shortest book in the New Testament, fewer words than any other book. So today, in honor of 3 John, I offer a brief devotional.  Love one another.  That’s it.  That’s what John writes in 1 John, 2 John, and in 3 John, that’s what it means to walk in truth.

Prayer: Thank you for your love, O God.  Help us live out your love in our lives.  Amen.

Author: Joe Clifford

[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 2019

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Scripture: 2 John 1-13

Key verse: (5) “I ask you, not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but one we have had from the beginning, let us love one another.”

Reflection: When I was in college, there was a really popular professor who taught religion courses, Dr. Na. He could do anything, he knew seven languages, rode a motorcycle, played violin, could take apart his computer and then put it back together, he was impressive. In his classes students often tried to impress our professor with lofty complex answers to his questions. I remember one day when Dr. Na asked a question, all of us students gave our best shot at long convoluted answers with complex theological arguments. To this day I don’t remember what the question was, but I just remember that we were all wrong. Dr. Na finally said, “The answer is ‘Jesus loves you’, so you must love one another.” That was it, the answer was that simple, something we had been taught a long, long time ago but often didn’t live by.

In our passage for today the author is writing to a church that he identifies as “the elect lady”. John is reminding the congregation of something they already knew, that they are to love one another because Jesus loves them. They may have known Jesus’ love, but they weren’t living by it. Jesus’ love for us and our call to love others is not new information, but it gets lost as we often engage in heated debate, personal arguments, and issues we hold closely to heart. It is good to faithfully move into complex issues, but may we never lose sight of love. May we never lose sight of Jesus’ love for us and our call to love one another. Take time over this Christmas season to sit in Jesus’ love for you, examine where you may have moved away from that simple yet profound message for the sake of complex arguments, or the desire to be right. May you hold fast to Jesus’ love for you and share that love with one another.

Prayer: Holy God, we give you thanks for your love for us. Soften our hearts that we may receive your love and embolden us that we may share that love with others. Amen.

Author: John Magnuson

[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 2019

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Scripture: Matthew 18:1-14

Key verses: (4-5) Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.

Reflection: Children in first-century Palestine had no status, no rights, no voice. So, the answer Jesus gives to the disciples’ question, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” is a surprising one. The question comes filtered through earthy understandings of power and status; are the greatest not those who have titles, those who have wealth, those who command large armies, or those who sit on thrones of gold? Perhaps they expect an answer that lifts up the most pious follower or one of the wise religious leaders, or even they expect the answer to be one of the prophets of old. Jesus calls a little child over to them, pointing out that those who are like children are the greatest.

Using children as models for who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, Jesus reverses expectations about who is valued and accepted. The social and economic understanding of children in Palestine during the first century is evidence to the radical message of Jesus and provides a deeper meaning to those who belong in God’s kingdom. Children do not claim anything for themselves. They are utterly dependent on others for survival. Jesus uses a child to model the life of faithful discipleship, a life that is completely and utterly dependent on God.

We have waited, watched, and prepared in Advent. We have celebrated the birth of Christ; our long expected Jesus has come. Now it is time to live in the knowledge of God’s indwelling on earth. The ministry that was birthed at Christmas is a ministry of reversal: from last to first, from lowly to lifted high, from weary to rested, from child to King.

When you think about children, what comes to mind? Pure joy and unabashed laughter; deep and expanded imagination, stretching reality beyond perception; humility and acceptance and love? I wonder what life would look like if we became like children. I wonder how the world would look through the humble eyes of a child. I wonder how we could partner with Christ in ministry with the expansive imagination of a child.

God calls us beloved children and that is what we are.

Prayer: As a child you came to dwell with us, O God, your Word made flesh. In the Christ-child your kingdom is revealed. Humble us so that we may become like children, utterly dependent on you. May we join in Christ’s mission with imagination, joy, and love. Amen.

Author: Ben Brannan

[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 2019

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Scripture: 1 John 5:1-12

Key verses: (11-12a) “And this is the testimony:  God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.  He who has the Son has life; . . .”

Reflection: Today is the day in the Christian calendar when we remember and celebrate the birth of Jesus.  Yesterday, on Christmas Eve, we listened to the story again as we lit candles and remembered that Jesus is the light of the world; the source of love and hope.  Jesus was born like every other human being on earth.  He was not born into wealth or privilege, but rather he was born into an everyday family.  He continues to be born into the hearts of all those who receive the gift of faith.

May you and your family have a very Merry Christmas!

Prayer: Loving God, light of the world, hope of the nations, be with us now and always as we seek to live out the love and justice of the baby of Bethlehem, Jesus, in our daily lives.  In his 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].

Tuesday December 24 2019

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Scripture: Psalm 27

Key verse: (1) The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

Reflection: It’s Christmas Eve. In worship today we will light our candles to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the light of the world. As the room darkens, the candlelight will shine across all of those faces.

One Christmas when I was growing up, my mother received a Clairol makeup mirror as a gift. Maybe it was from my dad?! The makeup mirror had two rows of lightbulbs on either side of a center mirror. At the bottom was a dial to turn to choose a filter for the lightbulbs. There were four settings for the light – daylight, office, home and candlelight. The candlelight setting softened the bulbs with a warm hue. The mirror was still illuminated but the little wrinkles and defects were no longer obvious. Every face seems more beautiful in candlelight!

How perfect that we light candles today! The beauty of God shines in the baby Jesus born long ago in Bethlehem. God’s beauty also shines through each of us with our unique gifts, experiences and quirks. God’s beauty shines through the gathered community as we lift our voices together to sing praises to God. For a moment our defects aren’t quite as obvious. God chose to become flesh and live among us. Our faces glow with the good news that we are loved by God. I bet, when God looks at us, the dial is always set on candlelight!

Prayer: Love has come and never will leave us!

Love is life everlasting and free.

Love is Jesus within and among us.

Love is the peace our hearts are seeking.

Love! Love! Love is the gift of Christmas.

Love! Love! Praise to you, God on high. Amen.

(prayer is verse three of hymn #110 Love Has Come, in Glory to God: The Presbyterian Hymnal)

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].

Monday December 23 2019

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Scripture: 1 John 4:7-16

Key verses: (7-8) Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.

Reflection: A lot things drown out this message of love in these days before Christmas. Remembering where we hid all the gifts. Wondering if we got something for everyone! The stories we tell ourselves about what we think is happening. Our expectations about how things should happen this week and how people should love us. Those are just a few things that drown out this good news.

Dear friends. Let’s love each other, because love is from God.

We don’t have to buy it, make it or create it. Love comes from God for each of us and the good news is that love is going to show up this week.

The God who created the heavens and earth, the sky and the earth below, the God who knows us and still loves us is coming again to live among us.  Even though we know the story, it is always a love that takes our breath away. It is an unexpected love.  Love shows up, for you and me and this crazy world.

Love shows up when no one else will … and when it is needed most. I know you have a story about how love has shown up for you this Christmas.

Dear friends, let’s love each other. Let’s be the love that shows up for each other as we wait and watch for a deep abiding love that WILL show up again.

Prayer: Holy God, this is breathtaking space in-between what has been, what is and what is to come. With each breath, I know your love for me and my capacity to love. May I live into that love every minute of today. 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].