Sunday, December 15

Sunday, December 15 – Third Sunday in Advent

 Read Isaiah 35: 1-10

 

LIGHTING OF THE ADVENT CANDLE

 

Leader 1: We continue on our Advent journey,

                walking on the road God has made before us.

Leader 2: It is God’s holy way,

                a pathway of truth and joy.

(Three Advent candles, including the pink one, are lit.)

 

 There will be a highway in the wilderness,

a holy path for the people of God.

The messenger of God prepares the way.

Let us walk in the light of the Lord.

 Sing “O Little Town of Bethlehem”

 Prayer: Holy God, your prophets have spoken of the one who would come to save us.  Now the promise is fulfilled and your kingdom draws near.  Send us out as messengers of your way, to go and tell all the world of the wonders we have seen and the good news we have heard.  Through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

Saturday, December 14

Saturday, December 14

 In Abraham Heschel’s A Passion for Truth I read today these words of the Kotzker (Rabbi Menahem Mendle of Kotzk): “He who thinks he is finished is finished.”  How true.  Those who think that they have arrived, have lost their way.  Those who think they have reached their goal, have missed it.  Those who think they are saints, are demons.  An important part of the spiritual life is to keep longing, waiting, hoping, expecting.  In the long run, some voluntary penance becomes necessary to help us remember that we are not yet fulfilled.  A good criticism, a frustrating day, an empty stomach or tired eyes might hope to reawaken our expectation and deepen our prayer: Come, Lord Jesus, come.

 

-Henri Nouwen, The Genesee Diary,  p. 133

Friday, December 13

Friday, December 13

The Journey to Bethlehem Today

Bethlehem in Jesus’ time was a small but bustling town not far from Jerusalem.  Its claim to fame came from being the home town of David, the greatest king of Israel.  Today, it is still a small but bustling city not far from Jerusalem, but its claim to fame is as the birthplace of Jesus, and as such has been a tourist destination for 1700 years.

 Until a few years ago, the approach to Bethlehem was through Palestinian olive groves until you reached the town set on a hillside.  Now the olive groves are gone.  In their place stands the Wall.  The “security wall” separates the Palestinian Territory from Israel.  In some places it is not much more than a barbed wire fence, but around Bethlehem it is a solid concrete wall 10-20 feet high topped with razor wire. 

 If you enter Bethlehem on a tourist bus, you go through a checkpoint only a little more elaborate than a turnpike toll booth, except for the intimidating walls and guard posts on either side.  If you are a Palestinian, you go through a checkpoint that looks like a cattle chute that leads into a central security area where your documents are examined, you are questioned, and you may be searched, whether you are a child on the way home from school, an old person, or a man or woman on your way home after work.

 Once you are through the Wall, there are homes along ancient, narrow streets for the people who live in the town, but there are also hotels for the thousands of people who come seeking Jesus every year.The welcome is as warm for the traveler today as it was for  weary Joseph and Mary for whom the innkeeper found space even though the inn was full, in the warm safe space of the stable.

 God of the journey, we pray for all those who travel to Bethlehem today, whether it is part of their daily journey, or a great pilgrimage, or a journey only of the spirit.  May they be blessed on the way, and find welcome as they arrive.  Amen.

–          Pam McShane

 

 

Thursday, December 12

Thursday, December 12

This must have been an EXHAUSTING journey for both Joseph and Mary!  The long dusty walk, the unknown resting destination and the unknown time of arrival for the baby….to name a few.  Personally this passage reminds me so often of the journey I continue to travel on.  All the unknowns, fueled by questions, memories, hopes and fears.  Still, I knew and know that God’s blessings and presence could see me through, if I opened the door and made room in the Inn.

  Christmas in our family life was always a time of blessing along the time of busyness.  Having a 3 month old at that time of year was beyond words of joy and excitement for the journey.  A few years later, being an expectant parent at Christmas gave very special meaning to the events told of in Luke’s passage.  Wrapping a babe in a blanket, cuddling and cooing; expecting a babe in arms in the unknown future….our hearts made room for so much love as well as so much busyness.  

 Over the years, the journey continues as I walk into more unknown territories and experiences.  Where will I go? Where will there be room for me? “As a descendant of David, Joseph had to go”.  As a believer, I have to go as well. But making room in my heart, and clearing room in my mind, for the newborn Lord is part of the journey full of the best of blessings.  It isn’t always easy, or simple, or clear, or painless.  But I do not journey alone.  I will make room and be guided by the One who does know the way. 

–          Debby Richardson

Wednesday, December 11

Wednesday, December 11

Read: Luke 2:1-5

The journey of Mary and Joseph from Nazareth, in Galilee, to Bethlehem, in Judea, was a long one. They traveled by foot and probably with a donkey, since Mary was with child, over 80 miles through both flat and hilly terrain and desert and forested areas in their week-long journey. They may have walked east along the Jordan River, or passed through Jezreel Valley to Samaria. They would have passed Mts. Tabor and Moreh, and the cities of Lebonah and Jerusalem, before finally reaching their destination. They brought with them water and bread, with herbs and oil, for their meals, and protected themselves with heavy woolen cloaks during inclement weather. They would have had to be watchful of bandits along the way who could have robbed them and may have traveled with others for protection. Another danger may have been wild animals, such as lions, bears and boars, which lived in the forested valley of the Jordan River.

-Joanne Iantorno

Tuesday, December 10

Tuesday, December 10

 

In Search of Our Kneeling Places

 

In each heart lies a Bethlehem,

   an inn where we must ultimately answer

        whether there is room or not.

When we are Bethlehem-bound,

    we experience our own advent in his.

When we are Bethlehem-bound

     we can no longer look the other way

         conveniently not seeing stars

            not hearing angel voices.

We can no longer excuse ourselves by busily

    tending our sheep or our kingdoms.

 

This Advent, let’s go to Bethlehem

   and see this thing that the Lord has made known to us.

In the midst of shopping sprees

   let’s ponder in our hearts the Gift of Gifts.

Through the tinsel,

    let’s look for the gold of the Christmas Star.

In the excitement and confusion, in the merry chaos,

     let’s listen for the brush of angels’ wings.

This Advent, let’s go to Bethlehem

     and find our kneeling places.

 

–          Ann Weems,

Kneeling in Bethlehem

Monday, December 9

Monday, December 9

This holiday season, I’m not going on any physical journeys. Instead I’m on an emotional and soul-seeking journey, trying to understand what God wants me to do with my life after recent lay-offs. Does He want me to work a part-time job in order to have more time to volunteer and help the church in other work? Does He prefer that I find a full-time job in order to better contribute to the finances of my home, charities, and my church? Am I meant to stay in sometimes unstable nonprofit work in order to help those who need it? Is there work He thinks is best for me, work that I have not yet found – or even thought of?

It is difficult for me to be in a position where I do not feel in control of my future. However, this holiday season, I vow to focus on my blessings – which are many – and trust that God will help me find the way through my own anxieties and insecurities to become the person I am meant to be. This will indeed be a difficult and ongoing journey, but a rewarding one.

I pray that those of you who are suffering through tough times this holiday season, unsure of your own future paths, may also find peace and security by trusting that God will lead you in the right direction.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:6-7

–          Mindy Bogue

Sunday, December 8 – Second Sunday in Advent

Sunday, December 8 – Second Sunday in Advent

LIGHTING OF THE ADVENT CANDLE

 Read Isaiah 11:1-10

 Leader 1: Today we continue our Advent journey.

              But who will lead us as we go?  Is there a

            divine GPS that will point us in the right

            direction?

            The prophet Isaiah tells of a different kind of

            guide,  one who comes with “the spirit of

            wisdom and understanding,

             the spirit of counsel and might,

             the spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord.”

Leader 2: Today we light the second candle on the Advent wreath,

                the candle of peace,

               and we pray that we and the whole world

               may learn to follow God’s guidance

                and learn to walk in the pathways of peace.

(The first two Advent candles are lit.)

    

A new branch will grow from the root of Jesse.

 The Spirit of the Lord will rest upon him.

 We will live in peace, and a child will lead us.

Let us walk in the light of the Lord.

 Sing “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus” v. 1

Saturday, December 7

Saturday, December 7

 

Hail Mary, woman of Nazareth,

home maker, cleaner, preparer of food, fetcher of water,

God is with you

in your everyday excursions in this ordinary town.

Blessed are you among women

and blessed indeed are women

in their everyday lives,

in the confines of family life,

in the ambivalence of decision making,

in the silences

and blessed are the fruits of all our labors.

 

–          Janet Lees

Shine On, Star of Bethlehem

 

Friday, December 6 – Read Luke 1:39-45

Friday, December 6

Read Luke 1:39-45

When Mary was told by the angel, Gabriel, that she would conceive a son and that the child would be called holy, the Son of God, she began a very special journey.  I am sure that she had concerns about how people would view her pregnancy since she had no husband.  This announcement was just the beginning of a very emotional journey.

 To find a place of acceptance and comfort and to share Elizabeth’s joy, Mary set out to visit her kinswoman, Elizabeth, who had been barren, but who was now in her sixth month of pregnancy.  I see Mary on this journey as full of mixed emotions of joy, fear and expectations for the future.  When Mary greeted Elizabeth the baby leaped in Elizabeth’s womb, and Elizabeth poured out her feelings of joy and blessing to Mary.

 I think that Mary needed to hear these affirmations from Elizabeth to help her cope with the difficult physical and emotional journey she would be taking in giving birth to God’s son.  Going to visit Elizabeth enabled Mary to share intimately with someone she loved and respected.  This wasn’t just a journey to visit a relative; it was a moment when the Holy Spirit used Elizabeth to encourage and reassure Mary that the birth of the Lord Jesus would be a blessing! 

 Elizabeth’s son, John, was to be used by God to prepare the way for the Lord, and Mary’s son, Jesus, was the Lord and Savior sent by God to save all people.  It is important for us in our own journey during Advent and Christmas to remember that we are celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior and to share that good news with all we meet!

–          Debbie Walsh