Daily Advent Reflections from Wesley

Advent Blessings to you!  This year Wesley folks have written a reflection for each day of Advent and we’ll be posting them here.  Enjoy the stillness of the season as you make space for God to be born in your life.  (And check out Jan Richardson’s daily reflections at:  theadventdoor.com  Jan will be our guest in February 2010 — get a taste of what’s in store now.)

Friday, December 25th – Christmas!

John 1: 1-14

1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was with God in the beginning.

3Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.

6There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. 7He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. 8He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. 9The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.

10He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

14The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Merry Christmas!  Hallelujah, Christ is born!

“And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory…”(v.14).  The incarnation – God taking on human form in Jesus Christ – is what makes Christianity make sense to me.  It’s also what makes sense of our lives.  If God-in-Jesus has experienced life on earth in a human body, with all the longings, hungers, hurts, frailties, and strengths that entails, and if God even died a human death, then there is truly no place we can go that God has not already been.  No matter how bad, how good, how scary, how needy, God gets it.  What comfort!

And if human life was worthy of God, then it is worthy of us.  That means it matters what we do and don’t do with our bodies.  That means that human bodies, human life, human activity – all of these have the capacity for holiness.  We are not spiritual in spite of our bodies and their needs.  Our bodies are part of how we understand our spirituality, our faith, our connection to one another, and our relation to God.  What amazing grace!

I love the scripture verse (v. 5):  “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”  The light that was in the beginning of all beginnings with and a part of God (vv. 1-4) shone in Jesus and still shines.  Present tense.  That light which we celebrate coming into the world today is still shining strong.  Can you see it?  And the second part:  the darkness did not overcome it.  Past tense.  The darkness tried (and still tries) to overcome the light but did not (and never will).  What joy!  Joy to the world, the Lord is come!                            –Deborah Lewis

Light and Life of the World, I am thankful for today.  Though I am far from my Wesley family, I give thanks for them and for the family and friends who surround me today.  Thank you for showing us how to live and love human life in your world and for giving us people with whom to practice the art of being human.  Shine your light through me and fill me with your Holy Spirit so that everyone I meet looks like you.  As we celebrate a stable birth from long ago, be born in me today, too, I pray.  Amen.

Thursday, December 24th 26th day of Advent!  

Merry Christmas Eve!

Luke 2: 1-20

The Birth of Jesus

1In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2(This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3And everyone went to his own town to register.

4So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

The Shepherds and the Angels

8And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 12This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

15When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Sometimes, I feel like Christmas hasn’t changed a bit.  A lot of flashing lights, a whole bunch of people coming to your house that you may or may not know, and general chaos.  The birth of Christ was marked by not only great joy but terror and uncertainty.  It was the beginning of a whole new world, and nobody was really sure how it was going to turn out.  But the thing I want to emphasize about this story, here in the end of Advent, is Mary’s reaction to it all.  In the midst of all the shepherds running around praising God, the Angels singing, and probably a whole lot of sheep, Mary sat and “treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”  It is good advice, I think.  Advent is finally over — the long wait, the expectation — all is coming to a head.  And in the midst of all the glitter and noise, we should do as Mary did: pause, and treasure the blessings and miracles of Christmas in our hearts.

-Joey Portzer

Wednesday, December 23rd 25th day of Advent!  

Luke 1: 5-25

5In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. 6Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commandments and regulations blamelessly. 7But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren; and they were both well along in years.

8Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, 9he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.

11Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John. 14He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth. 16Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. 17And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

18Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”

19The angel answered, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. 20And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their proper time.”

21Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. 22When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak.

23When his time of service was completed, he returned home. 24After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. 25“The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.”

“Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard.”  God answers Zechariah’s prayers in this passage and even sends an angel to tell him about it.  Just stop and think about how awesome that is.  Even though Zechariah and his wife had not been blessed with children, they maintained their faith in the Lord and it paid off.  They had to wait most of their lives, but in the end their prayers were answered and they had a son.

Thanks to God’s love, not only did Zechariah and Elizabeth have a boy, but they had a great son who would “be great in the sight of the Lord” and bring many of the people of Israel back to the Lord their God.  God uses his gift to Zechariah for his own cause as well.  What gifts has God given you in your life that you can use to do God’s will?

Just like they had to wait most of their lives for their baby, Zechariah and Elizabeth wait in special ways right before his arrival.  Zechariah loses his ability to speak, so he must turn inward to reflect on what a great gift he is about to receive.  Elizabeth remains in seclusion for five months and then tells of God’s Love for her.   Not many of us are awaiting our own miracle baby, but in this season of Advent we all await the greatest miracle baby of all, Jesus Christ our Lord.  How can we prepare ourselves as Zechariah and Elizabeth did? -Matt Hunt

Our Heavenly Father,

Thank you so much for all the gifts you give us, the prayers you answer, and sending your son to save us.  Help us not to doubt your wondrous Love, but to have faith.  Please, let us use our gifts in your service.  Lord, be with us all as we travel or stay home in the coming days and help us to appreciate the biggest gift of all.  In your holy name we pray, Amen.

Tuesday, December 22nd 24th day of Advent!   Matthew 18: 21-35

21Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?”  22Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

23“Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. 25Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.  26“The servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.

28“But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.  29“His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’

30“But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened.   32“Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

35“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.”

As I look out at the snow, I get a little cheesy but I am also astounded at how awesome God’s creation and beauty is.  Every winter, God wipes the world clean, covers all of the dirt and imperfections with a white blanket.  It is almost like every time it snows God is purifying the world.

What is even more amazing is that it has snowed for thousands of years-and God has “purified” or forgiven us thousands of times.  There is no end to his mercy, and every time he forgives us it is beautiful and miraculous.

This Advent Season, we should remember the many times that God has forgiven us and do the same for others.  We should also look forward to when Jesus will come again to deliver us through forgiveness.

-Kim Rogers

Dear God- Thank you for this beautiful weather and the opportunity to see your hands at work in the beauty of nature. And thank you for your forgiveness, for never giving up on us, even though we do not deserve it.  Please be with us and help us to act in your ways according to your will.  Amen

Monday, December 21st 23rd day of Advent!   Genesis 25: 19-28 19 This is the account of Abraham’s son Isaac. Abraham became the father of Isaac, 20 and Isaac was forty years old when he married Rebekah daughter of Bethuel the Aramean from Paddan Aram and sister of Laban the Aramean.

21 Isaac prayed to the LORD on behalf of his wife, because she was barren. The LORD answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant. 22 The babies jostled each other within her, and she said, “Why is this happening to me?” So she went to inquire of the LORD.

23 The LORD said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.”

24 When the time came for her to give birth, there were twin boys in her womb. 25 The first to come out was red, and his whole body was like a hairy garment; so they named him Esau. 26 After this, his brother came out, with his hand grasping Esau’s heel; so he was named Jacob.  Isaac was sixty years old when Rebekah gave birth to them.

27 The boys grew up, and Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the open country, while Jacob was a quiet man, staying among the tents. 28 Isaac, who had a taste for wild game, loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob.

The Lord answers Rebekah’s confusion with less than comforting words.  After blessing her with not one, but two children, He foretells of a future of struggle.  This verse reminds me of Luke 12:51-53 when Jesus says that he did not come to bring peace on earth but division.  It’s not the image we usually associate with children.  We know, however, that the struggle is not over and that there will be peace again.

-Nina Ruhter

Dear Lord,

Despite the struggle we face in life, please allow us to see peace in the Child you brought to us on Christmas.  In Your Son’s name, amen
Sunday, December 20th 4th Sunday of Advent!
Luke 1: 46-55 The Magnificat   46And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord 47and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, 49for the Mighty One has done great things for me— holy is his name. 50His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. 51He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.  52He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. 53He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. 54He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful 55to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as he said to our fathers.”

(further reading: Micah 5:2-5a, Hebrews 10:5-10)

Have you ever met an angel? Have you ever been an angel?

As I entered the fourth grade I discovered that one of my best friends had moved and the other had been placed in a different class. The near-fatal accident of a third friend provided a rude awakening to some of the harsher realities of life.

Mrs. Bush, who lived next door, was a young mother whose husband worked at Langley Air Force Base. If Mrs. Bush saw me sitting outside she would show an interest in the book I was reading or invite me in for milk and cookies or ask me to help her walk their dog. One time I even managed to get an invitation to help decorate cookies at their house. She showed interest in a nine-year-old girl who desperately needed a special friend. Eventually they moved back west and today I cannot even remember her first name. Like an angel, she entered my life when I most needed support, and left when I could stand on my own. Was her presence just happenstance or a part of God’s plan? Does she realize that amid the stresses on a young military family she had a profound impact on that nine-year-old girl?

As we struggle to decide what classes to take, what major to declare, and what jobs to look for it is often the little things that make a difference. Will we have a larger impact on the professor or the student sitting next to us in the class? Sometimes God announces his plan with light, golden angels, and miracles. Other times he lets his plan unfold of its own accord using imperfect human beings as his “angels”.

Do you know an angel?

-Sarah Elder

Dear God, thank you for your guidance and support. Thank you for your angels. Thank you for your greater plan. Please guide me to be your humble servant and to know your will. Amen

Saturday, December 19th
21st day of Advent!
Psalm 85
For the director of music. Of the Sons of Korah. A psalm.
1 You showed favor to your land, O LORD; you restored the fortunes of Jacob.  2 You forgave the iniquity of your people and covered all their sins. Selah
3 You set aside all your wrath and turned from your fierce anger.  4 Restore us again, O God our Savior, and put away your displeasure toward us.
5 Will you be angry with us forever? Will you prolong your anger through all generations? 6 Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?
7 Show us your unfailing love, O LORD, and grant us your salvation. 8 I will listen to what God the LORD will say; he promises peace to his people, his saints—but let them not return to folly. 9 Surely his salvation is near those who fear him, that his glory may dwell in our land. 10 Love and faithfulness meet together; righteousness and peace kiss each other. 11 Faithfulness springs forth from the earth, and righteousness looks down from heaven. 12 The LORD will indeed give what is good, and our land will yield its harvest. 13 Righteousness goes before him and prepares the way for his steps.
Psalm 85 is entitled the Restoration of God’s favor in my bible, however this prayer asks for so much more. The prayer starts out praising God for what he has already done (vs 1-3). The prayer then asks God for forgiveness from his anger, indignation and asks for his love and salvation (v s4-7). Specifically the two words restoration and revival (vs 4 and 6) stick out to me as they are both aspects that I continually need in my walk with God. The prayer has a waiting period imbedded in it (vs 8) and then the prayer concludes awaiting righteousness and goodness (vs 10-13).
This prayer models our walks with God, especially in this time of advent. As we await we should be asking for God’s forgiveness, his love, restoration and revival so that we can joyfully partake in the goodness and righteousness that is to come!
-Dionna Ali
PS If you relate to God through song like I do, sing the hymn Revive us Again. I did and it was awesome!
PPS Thanks to Matthew Henry’s commentary on Psalm 85 for helping me to understand and formulate this devotional/reflection
Dear God
We praise you for the love, mercy, compassion and grace that you have continually shown through our lives. We ask for your forgiveness for all of our sins. We ask that you restore us and revive our soul’s o lord as we await the coming of your glorious righteousness. May we await with joy and steadfastness our eternal righteousness with you!

Acts 28: 23-31

23They arranged to meet Paul on a certain day, and came in even larger numbers to the place where he was staying. From morning till evening he explained and declared to them the kingdom of God and tried to convince them about Jesus from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets. 24Some were convinced by what he said, but others would not believe. 25They disagreed among themselves and began to leave after Paul had made this final statement: “The Holy Spirit spoke the truth to your forefathers when he said through Isaiah the prophet:
26” ‘Go to this people and say,
“You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.”
27For this people’s heart has become calloused;
they hardly hear with their ears,
and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.’

28“Therefore I want you to know that God’s salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen!”

30For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. 31Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.

In this passage, we stumble upon Paul as he is called to preach about Jesus and the prophecies to the Gentiles.  Paul is confronted with one of the issues we often face as Christians during the Christmas and Advent seasons.  Even before Advent had started, commercialization had already claimed the holiday.  Some stores had their Christmas decorations out in record speed before Halloween stuff had even been put back into storage, not to mention one of my biggest pet peeves this season:  taking the “Christmas” out of the “National Christmas Tree” in D.C.  Paul attempts to preach the Word of God, but to little avail.  Paul’s words just seem to slip through the peoples’ grasp just as many miss the reason for Advent and sometimes even miss the reason for there even being a Christmas.  We know that the reason for the season is Jesus’ birth and the sharing of God’s love through this miracle, but the world has trouble accepting it.

While we weren’t forced to wait to for the commercial sector to recognize the coming of Christmas, we are made to wait for the REAL part of Christmas yet to come.  Advent helps remind us that waiting has a purpose though many chose to forego the waiting and miss the entire significance of Advent.  I think that Paul’s discontent with the people not accepting his preaching is sometimes the same discontent we begin to feel as we attempt to acknowledge the fact that not everyone has come to accept the true reason for the season.

Another theme we may focus upon in this passage is the perseverance Paul shows.  Even though Paul perceives his impact upon the Gentiles as minor, he continues to preach the message.  While he does not exactly seem perfectly content with the outcome of his preaching, he sticks with it, knowing that God has a purpose for him and as long as he is doing what God has told him to do, he is serving God in the best way possible.  Maybe this message of perseverance and patience is the message we need to hear when trying to find the patience we need during Advent.  God has a reason for the waiting even though we may not fully understand it now.         -Annie Bailey

Dear God, we pray that you will work in our lives this Advent season as you worked in Paul’s life.  Give us patience that we may trust in you to have purpose for our waiting and help us to find ways to spread your message to those who are hungry for the true reason for Christmas.   Amen.

Thursday, December 17th : Micah 4: 8-13

“And you, O tower of the flock, hill of daughter Zion, to you it shall come, the former dominion shall come, the sovereignty of daughter Jerusalem. Now why do you cry aloud? Is there no king in you? Has your counselor perished, that pangs have seized you like a woman in labor? Writhe and groan, O daughter Zion, like a woman in labor; for now you shall go forth from the city and camp in the open country; you shall go to Babylon. There you shall be rescued, there the Lord will redeem you from the hands of your enemies. Now many nations are assembled against you, saying, “Let her be profaned, and let our eyes gaze upon Zion” But they do not know the thoughts of the Lord; they do not understand his plan, that he has gathered them as sheaves to the threshing floor. Arise and thresh, O daughter Zion, for I will make your horn iron and your hoofs bronze; you shall beat in pieces many peoples, and shall devote their gain to the Lord, their wealth to the Lord of the whole earth.”

My mom always tells me to “just put it in perspective” anytime I’m having a bad day or when something is bothering me.  But keeping things in perspective can be one of the most difficult things to do, especially when life gets hard.  Even with the smallest hurdles, it’s hard to remember God’s promises when the world seems to be falling apart.  Micah knew all too well the difficulties of seeing the bigger picture, depicting Judah’s harsh reality in this passage, full of labor pains and persecution.  Crying out for help, it was nearly impossible for the people of Judah to see God’s greater plan for their nation in the midst of their despair.

Still, despite all life’s battles, Micah reminds us that there is always hope for the future.  He recognizes God as Judah’s deliverer from their enemies, with God’s promise to rescue and redeem them from their suffering.  Not only does God promise to be with them, he promises hope for a better future where the gathered sheaves will help feed the whole earth.  That same promise to be with us throughout all of life’s battles holds true for us today as well.  Though it can be hard to see the bigger picture, God promises that there will be a better day no matter what struggles we face.

– Jenny Burks

Dear Lord, hear my prayer in the midst of destruction.  Give me patience and hope so that under your protection and with you as my guide, I may go in peace, tranquility, and love.  Amen.

Wednesday, December 16th : Luke 7: 31-35

31″To what, then, can I compare the people of this generation? What are they like? 32They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling out to each other:

” ‘We played the flute for you,

and you did not dance;

we sang a dirge,

and you did not cry.’ 33For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ 34The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and “sinners.” ‘ 35But wisdom is proved right by all her children.”

Advent is not only a season of anticipation, but a time of preparation for the coming of Christ.  In this passage, Luke offers a complaint about the people of Jesus’ generation who could not see Jesus and John for who they really were and ungratefully dismissed them as a lunatic and drunk.  Even though they were blessed enough to live in Jesus’ time, they were not ready and able to know Him.  Unlike the people mentioned in the scripture, we must be ready and willing to accept Him when He returns.  As we prepare for the coming of Christ, we need to prepare our hearts to recognize Christ in all forms.  We must actively seek Him in the faces of those we may overlook and in places where we may not expect to find Him, perhaps in the face of a fellow student or a homeless man on the Corner.  When He comes, will you recognize him?

– Lauren Gilchrist

Lord, please change our hearts.  Open them and teach us to see You in our everyday lives.  Help us to recognize Your face and Your hands in everything and help us to remain attentive and thoughtful as we prepare ourselves for the celebration of the birth of Your Son, Jesus Christ. Let us be ready and willing to see and appreciate You always.  In your Son’s name, Amen.

Tuesday, December 15th : Numbers 16:20-35

20 The LORD said to Moses and Aaron, 21 “Separate yourselves from this assembly so I can put an end to them at once.”

22 But Moses and Aaron fell facedown and cried out, “O God, God of the spirits of all mankind, will you be angry with the entire assembly when only one man sins?”

23 Then the LORD said to Moses, 24 “Say to the assembly, ‘Move away from the tents of Korah, Dathan and Abiram.’ ”

25 Moses got up and went to Dathan and Abiram, and the elders of Israel followed him. 26 He warned the assembly, “Move back from the tents of these wicked men! Do not touch anything belonging to them, or you will be swept away because of all their sins.” 27 So they moved away from the tents of Korah, Dathan and Abiram. Dathan and Abiram had come out and were standing with their wives, children and little ones at the entrances to their tents.

28 Then Moses said, “This is how you will know that the LORD has sent me to do all these things and that it was not my idea: 29 If these men die a natural death and experience only what usually happens to men, then the LORD has not sent me. 30 But if the LORD brings about something totally new, and the earth opens its mouth and swallows them, with everything that belongs to them, and they go down alive into the grave, then you will know that these men have treated the LORD with contempt.”

31 As soon as he finished saying all this, the ground under them split apart 32 and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them, with their households and all Korah’s men and all their possessions. 33 They went down alive into the grave, with everything they owned; the earth closed over them, and they perished and were gone from the community. 34 At their cries, all the Israelites around them fled, shouting, “The earth is going to swallow us too!”

35 And fire came out from the LORD and consumed the 250 men who were offering the incense.

“But if the Lord creates something new, and the ground opens its mouth and swallows them up…” (v.30).  Is this what you think of when you reflect on God creating something new?  Sounds more like destruction than creation, doesn’t it?  Advent is a time to remember that God’s ways are not ours.  God chose to become Emmanuel – God with us – in the form of a vulnerable, naked, hungry, infant.  Not the messiah Israel was expecting at the time, not in keeping with their definition of “powerful.”  We’re told that when Christ comes again we will endure a long labor and feel the birth pangs of a new age (Mark 13:8), marked by destruction and turmoil.  Again, destruction in the midst of a new creation coming to life.

Are there times in your life when you’ve seen growth come out of a place you thought was destroyed and dead?  How has God worked in your life to create something new?  Where in your life are you praying for God to create something new?  How will you pray through the destruction that may come first?

– Deborah Lewis

Christ who came, who comes, and who will come again, I want to turn over to you my dead places.  I pray to see green shoots of new life springing from the dead stumps in my life.  Make it happen, Lord.  Make me yours, and stay with me through the times of destruction.  Emmanuel, come to me and make me new.  Amen.

Monday, December 14th:   Numbers 16:1-19

1 Korah son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, and certain Reubenites—Dathan and Abiram, sons of Eliab, and On son of Peleth—became insolent 2 and rose up against Moses. With them were 250 Israelite men, well-known community leaders who had been appointed members of the council. 3 They came as a group to oppose Moses and Aaron and said to them, “You have gone too far! The whole community is holy, every one of them, and the LORD is with them. Why then do you set yourselves above the LORD’s assembly?”

4 When Moses heard this, he fell facedown. 5 Then he said to Korah and all his followers: “In the morning the LORD will show who belongs to him and who is holy, and he will have that person come near him. The man he chooses he will cause to come near him. 6 You, Korah, and all your followers are to do this: Take censers 7 and tomorrow put fire and incense in them before the LORD. The man the LORD chooses will be the one who is holy. You Levites have gone too far!”

8 Moses also said to Korah, “Now listen, you Levites! 9 Isn’t it enough for you that the God of Israel has separated you from the rest of the Israelite community and brought you near himself to do the work at the LORD’s tabernacle and to stand before the community and minister to them? 10 He has brought you and all your fellow Levites near himself, but now you are trying to get the priesthood too. 11 It is against the LORD that you and all your followers have banded together. Who is Aaron that you should grumble against him?”

12 Then Moses summoned Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab. But they said, “We will not come! 13 Isn’t it enough that you have brought us up out of a land flowing with milk and honey to kill us in the desert? And now you also want to lord it over us? 14 Moreover, you haven’t brought us into a land flowing with milk and honey or given us an inheritance of fields and vineyards. Will you gouge out the eyes of these men? No, we will not come!”

15 Then Moses became very angry and said to the LORD, “Do not accept their offering. I have not taken so much as a donkey from them, nor have I wronged any of them.”

16 Moses said to Korah, “You and all your followers are to appear before the LORD tomorrow—you and they and Aaron. 17 Each man is to take his censer and put incense in it—250 censers in all—and present it before the LORD. You and Aaron are to present your censers also.” 18 So each man took his censer, put fire and incense in it, and stood with Moses and Aaron at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. 19 When Korah had gathered all his followers in opposition to them at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting, the glory of the LORD appeared to the entire assembly.

In this scripture, a man named Korah leads a revolt against Moses and Aaron while the Isrealites are in the Wilderness. Korah and the others are jealous of the leadership position which Moses gave Aaron. Moses responds to them by asking God to draw near to God’s self the one whom God chooses.

This passage is the basis for Psalm 65: 4 “Blessed is the man whom Thou choosest, and causest to approach unto Thee.” In a devotional by F B Meyer on Numbers 16: 5, Meyer states that we should believe in God’s promise: “Draw nigh to God, and God will draw nigh to you.” This to me sums up the essence of Advent. We are called to draw closer to God in anticipation of God drawing closer to us through Emmanuel (God With Us).

– Alex Chapin

Dear God, please take away our foolish pride and jealousy of others. Remind us of what is truly important in our lives. May we all draw near to you in this season of Advent, in order to anticipate Your presence among us and with us through Your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

December 13 – 3rd Sunday of Advent

Philippians 4: 4-7

4Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

The last two verses, Philippians 4:6-7, are one of my all time favorite verses.  I have always been one to stress and worry so these verses have always comforted me and reminded me how awesome prayer can be.  Before writing this reflection it had been a while since I looked at the preceding verses.  Looking at it all together I can see they are more than just about prayer but also contain advent themes.

Joy! Be happy! The Lord is near! Some translations read the Lord is coming soon! Advent is a time to remember the birth of Jesus as we await his second coming.  Waiting is one of my least favorite things to do, as rings true for many, but enjoy this waiting period-enjoy the peace of God.  This holds true for many more things beyond the coming of Christ.  God doesn’t always answer our requests immediately-some answers take days, weeks, months, maybe years.  He makes us wait sometimes.  Instead of always rushing through life going from one commitment to the next, especially during this busy holiday season, or trying to have all the answers to everything instantly, try slowing things down this Advent season.  Is there something you have been waiting for? Instead of worrying about when it will come, lift it up to God-trade your worry or stress for peace.

– Melissa Holmes

Heavenly Father, Thank you for this season of Advent to help us prepare for the remembrance  of your Son Jesus Christ and what His life means to us.  Help us to be ever mindful of what is still to come and enjoy our time of waiting.  Grant us patience in all of the waiting in our lives and bless us with your peace.  Help us to use this time of waiting actively so that we will be prepared for what is to come. Amen

December 12th :  Psalm 126

1 When the LORD brought back the captives to Zion, we were like men who dreamed.

2 Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, “The LORD has done great things for them.”

3 The LORD has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.

4 Restore our fortunes, O LORD, like streams in the Negev.

5 Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy.

6 He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him.

God sent them into captivity, not as dross is put into the fire to be consumed, but as gold to be refined.

Being set free is too good to be true, (Our reaction to God working in our lives can sometimes be overwhelming) as if in a dream.

  1. Reflect on what Christ has already done

Captivity as our slavery to sin, liberation is salvation from sin through Christ

Verse 2 speaking as news, verse 3 speaking as a part of the affected group

  1. God to complete the work begun (verse 1 and 4), restoration not only for us but for the church,

Now the Negeb (or Negev) is the southern desert of Israel. It’s bone-dry, except in the winter. The winter rains actually create streams in the desert. And when water flows through a desert, it literally springs to life.

  1. (already/ not yet) Waiting to deliver the fullness of God’s promise, the 2nd coming

We experience grace, but we do not yet experience glory

The beginnings of mercy are encouragements to us to pray for the completing of it.

Weeping must not hinder sowing; when we suffer ill we must be doing well. Nay, as the ground is by the rain prepared for the seed, so we must improve times of affliction, as disposing us to repentance, and prayer, and humiliation. Nay, there are tears which are themselves the seed that we must sow, tears of sorrow for sin, our own and others, tears of sympathy with the afflicted church, and the tears of tenderness in prayer

Reaping the benefits of what they sow, our life is sowing tears

– Stephen Sholden

Dear God,

We ask that you give us the insight to remind us what your son has already done for us.  We ask to be restored and refined by the fire of the Holy Spirit.  We also pray for patience this advent for Christ’s return and when we not only experience your grace but also your glory.  Whether it be tomorrow or years from now, prepare our hearts to be ready for your son’s return.  Amen.

Friday, December 11th 13th day of Advent

2 Peter 1:2-15

2Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. 3His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. 5For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. 8For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. 10Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, 11and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 12So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. 13I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, 14because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. 15And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things.”

It is made clear in this scripture that we are provided with the knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ and that we must use that knowledge to “participate in the divine nature.” In order to participate in God’s nature, we must try not to be influenced by the corruption in the world. In doing this, we are acting on God’s promises, and will continue to remember God’s love for us. It is important to remember that at the root of all things to add to your faith is love. While the long list of things to add to your faith in order to live a more Christian life is intimidating, it’s comforting to know that at the center of it all is love. We have the knowledge of God’s love for us and of the coming of our Savior. We are constantly reminded of this love, especially during Advent, when we await God’s ultimate gift to us. We now need to use that knowledge to spread God’s love to others.

-Becca Worley

Dear Lord,

It is hard sometimes to remember how to act on your promises and to live consistently with your disciplines. Help us to remember that the first step to maturing in our faith in you is to add love to our relationships. During this season of waiting, help us to spread your love to others, so that they may also have the knowledge of your love for them. In Christ’s holy name, Amen.

Thursday, December 10th 12th day of Advent

Numbers 3:3-15

3 Those were the names of Aaron’s sons, the anointed priests, who were ordained to serve as priests. 4 Nadab and Abihu, however, fell dead before the LORD when they made an offering with unauthorized fire before him in the Desert of Sinai. They had no sons; so only Eleazar and Ithamar served as priests during the lifetime of their father Aaron.

5 The LORD said to Moses, 6 “Bring the tribe of Levi and present them to Aaron the priest to assist him. 7 They are to perform duties for him and for the whole community at the Tent of Meeting by doing the work of the tabernacle. 8 They are to take care of all the furnishings of the Tent of Meeting, fulfilling the obligations of the Israelites by doing the work of the tabernacle. 9 Give the Levites to Aaron and his sons; they are the Israelites who are to be given wholly to him. 10 Appoint Aaron and his sons to serve as priests; anyone else who approaches the sanctuary must be put to death.”

11 The LORD also said to Moses, 12 “I have taken the Levites from among the Israelites in place of the first male offspring of every Israelite woman. The Levites are mine, 13 for all the firstborn are mine. When I struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, I set apart for myself every firstborn in Israel, whether man or animal. They are to be mine. I am the LORD.”

14 The LORD said to Moses in the Desert of Sinai, 15 “Count the Levites by their families and clans. Count every male a month old or more.” 16 So Moses counted them, as he was commanded by the word of the LORD.

This passage reminds us that God will always provide us with help for the tasks that he hands us. In all of our service endeavors, we are given the capability to do the work needed. Those who went to Shalom Farms might recall some difficulties with/lack of equipment, but we were all able to get the job done. In many ways, we may have been like the Levites, with Shalom being the greater body that we help. We ourselves are the tools of service. I hope that those who plan on going on the Spring Break Mission Trip will keep this passage in their hearts.

This passage also has a great connection to Advent. Giving an entire tribe the task of serving the temple ensured that the duties would be regularly performed. Basically, things might not be done properly if left to the people at large. The care that is needed calls for a specific appointment. In fact, “the unauthorized person who comes near must be put to death” (verse 10). This shows that a certain amount of reverence needs to be observed. The job is to prepare things for God, and the task is of great importance and is to be expected. Similarly, we are called during Advent to prepare for Christ. Have things been made ready? Have we taken the care that is needed?

-Matt Henderson

Dear God thank you so much for the aid that you provide us in our endeavors. Thank you for our abilities, and use us to carry out your will. Thank you for Christ, whose life and death remind us of how we are to live. Help us to prepare for his coming. In your name we pray. Amen.

Wednesday, December 9th 11th day of Advent!

Luke 7: 18-30

18John’s disciples told him about all these things. Calling two of them, 19he sent them to the Lord to ask, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?”

20When the men came to Jesus, they said, “John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?’ ”

21At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind. 22So he replied to the messengers, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. 23Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.”

24After John’s messengers left, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: “What did you go out into the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind? 25If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear expensive clothes and indulge in luxury are in palaces. 26But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 27This is the one about whom it is written:
” ‘I will send my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way before you.’ 28I tell you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John; yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.”

29(All the people, even the tax collectors, when they heard Jesus’ words, acknowledged that God’s way was right, because they had been baptized by John. 30But the Pharisees and experts in the law rejected God’s purpose for themselves, because they had not been baptized by John.)

And he answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard; the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have good news brought to them” (v.22).  John’s been out in the wilderness, baptizing and preaching about the One who’s coming, the One greater than he.  Even out in the wilderness he hears news of miracles – healings, people raised from the dead – and he sends some folks to town to ask Jesus if he is the One for whom they have all been waiting.  And this is how Jesus answers, with a list of healings and transformations and resurrection and good news to the poor.  Imagine that, bringing good news to the poor is listed right alongside raising the dead.  It’s that important.  It’s that clear a sign of the kingdom of God coming near.

As you pause for prayer on this reading day, reflect on the kind of God we worship, the kind of God who is as interested in bringing good news to the poor as in healing lepers or raising the dead.  What does this mean for how we live out our days in the communities where we find ourselves?  What news do the poor in spirit await?  What would be good news for the poor, underfed, unemployed, sick?

Jesus tells John’s disciples to tell what they’ve seen.  What have you seen that proclaims the extravagant love and boundary-breaking righteousness of God?  Who will you tell?

-Deborah Lewis

God of the great good news, keep me mindful of you in these Advent days.  As this reading day is a pause in the class and exam schedule, breathe into each of my days a pause for you between the other things that compete for my attention.  Help me to find the quiet center of my life in you, even as I push beyond my own comfort zone and routines to jump and shout and exclaim the good news and the great signs I’ve seen.  In the name of your blessed babe, Jesus, I pray.  Amen.

Tuesday,  December 8th

10th Day of Advent

Isaiah 19: 18-25

18 In that day five cities in Egypt will speak the language of Canaan and swear allegiance to the LORD Almighty. One of them will be called the City of Destruction. [b]

19 In that day there will be an altar to the LORD in the heart of Egypt, and a monument to the LORD at its border. 20 It will be a sign and witness to the LORD Almighty in the land of Egypt. When they cry out to the LORD because of their oppressors, he will send them a savior and defender, and he will rescue them. 21 So the LORD will make himself known to the Egyptians, and in that day they will acknowledge the LORD. They will worship with sacrifices and grain offerings; they will make vows to the LORD and keep them. 22 The LORD will strike Egypt with a plague; he will strike them and heal them. They will turn to the LORD, and he will respond to their pleas and heal them.

23 In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria. The Assyrians will go to Egypt and the Egyptians to Assyria. The Egyptians and Assyrians will worship together. 24 In that day Israel will be the third, along with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing on the earth. 25 The LORD Almighty will bless them, saying, “Blessed be Egypt my people, Assyria my handiwork, and Israel my inheritance.”

During Advent we, as Christians, are anticipating the coming of Christ.  This passage in Isaiah helps us remember that Jesus come not only to us, but to all of God’s children around the world.  In this passage God has a specific role for each nation; similarly God has a place for each of us in his kingdom.  As we prepare ourselves for the coming of Christ throughout this season, it is important that we remember Jesus comes for everyone and that we treat all of our neighbors as brothers and sisters in Christ.

–Helen Ross

Dear God,

Thank you for giving us the gift of Your Son, Jesus Christ.  As we prepare our hearts for his coming, help us to be mindful of all of our brothers and sisters around the world who are awaiting his arrival as well.  Help us to reach out to all of your children at all times, but especially during this season of Advent.

In your name, Amen.

Monday, December 7th
9th day of Advent
Isaiah 40: 1-11

1 Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. 2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed,
that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins.
3 A voice of one calling: “In the desert prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God. 4 Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. 5 And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it.
For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”
6 A voice says, “Cry out.” And I said, “What shall I cry?” “All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field. 7 The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the LORD blows on them. Surely the people are grass. 8 The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever.” 9 You who bring good tidings to Zion, go up on a high mountain. You who bring good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, “Here is your God!” 10 See, the Sovereign LORD comes with power, and his arm rules for him. See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him. 11 He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.

This scripture includes both words of comfort and a call for action. The most obvious advent theme that I noticed is that of preparing for the arrival of the Lord. Advent is a season of waiting, but the scripture calls us to make our waiting constructive by preparing ourselves and the world for the Lord’s coming. I liked the image of making a highway for God through the wilderness. I took this to mean that we need to clear a path through all of the distractions and “wilderness” in our lives, so that when God comes he has a way in. I think this is one of the key objectives of Advent – to make sure that when God comes we have given him a way into ourselves and our lives.

I got from verses 6-8 that everything worldly will no longer matter when the Lord comes, and will wither and die, and that only God’s word will remain, so we need to concentrate on maintaining our faith because it will be all that we have left. I also noticed that verses 9-11 emphasize that we are supposed to be joyful during Advent because we are bringing “good tidings,” and when the Lord comes he will gather us up and carry us close to his heart like lambs. I particularly liked that this section of scripture ended with that comfort, just as the season of Advent ends with joy and comfort when we receive the gift of God.

-Emily Gorman

Dear God,

Thank you so much for your words of comfort during a long season of waiting. Help me to prepare a way for you through the wilderness in my life so that I can fully receive the gift of you. Please also help me to concentrate on you and not get distracted by everything else that is going on right now and in the coming weeks. Thank you for your many blessings. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Malachi 3:1-4

3 “See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. 2But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?

For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; 3he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the Lord in righteousness.* 4Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.”

The messenger is coming soon, but how do we prepare for him?  As the scripture asks, “who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?” we feel there is a need to make haste in order to make appropriate preparations for this anxiously-awaited message.  But what happens between now and then?  Simply put, we wait with purpose.  Advent is a season of waiting where our time should be spent appreciating this holy time in the Christian year.

There are many things we wait anxiously for including college acceptance letters, test grades, summer, and of course Christmas.  But are we really waiting for all the right reasons?  There is a tendency that we get too ahead of ourselves on our spiritual journey through the season of Advent.  We start singing “Joy to the World” and “Away in a Manger” when we haven’t even experienced the birth of Jesus yet!  People begin decorating their homes for Christmas before we even have a chance to make it through Thanksgiving!  I ask myself even from time to time why I am in such a rush to get there when I should be enjoying Advent for what it truly is.  Last weekend on our Advent Retreat, Deborah and I were talking about music that makes sense during this time of year, and one song in particular we shared discussion over was Jackson Browne’s “Don’t You Want to be There”.  Although the song is not meant to serve as an Advent song, it reminds us that we always want to fly to the moment where all the time has gone by and “Don’t you want to see where the angels appear”, but there will always be things in time that we put on the backburner that are also meaningful in the season of Advent before we reach that ultimate message.

In reflection, we have the faith and wisdom to endure the coming of our gift from God.  Our purpose during this Advent season is to actively wait with a purposeful heart.  Take time and think to yourself about the importance and reverence of this season that so often is considered another Christmas.  Ask yourself what you can do to prepare for a meaningful Advent.   There is a long path ahead of us that we choose to stay on just as Mary and Joseph did, towards the moments where we make peace with time.  Let’s make ready our hearts and homes the right way for the coming of the message from God who is the true and only giver at Christmas.

-Ryan LaRock

Gracious and loving Lord, fill our hearts with the patience and purpose that will guide us in preparation for the coming of your beloved Son.  Walk with us on the spiritual journey you have laid out before us so that we may pay attention to what awaits us in the distance.  We are always anticipating, but allow us to anticipate in a different way.  Anticipate in a way in which we aren’t rushing to hear the message that you are to bring us, but in a way in which we can slowly absorb and relive the season of Advent with a fresh idea of what we are truly waiting for.

Peace and the Blessings of Advent

Saturday, December 5th
7th day of Advent
Psalm 90
1 Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. 2 Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. 3 You turn men back to dust, saying, “Return to dust, O sons of men.” 4 For a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night. 5 You sweep men away in the sleep of death; they are like the new grass of the morning- 6 though in the morning it springs up new, by evening it is dry and withered. 7 We are consumed by your anger and terrified by your indignation. 8 You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence. 9 All our days pass away under your wrath; we finish our years with a moan. 10 The length of our days is seventy years— or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away. 11 Who knows the power of your anger? For your wrath is as great as the fear that is due you. 12 Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. 13 Relent, O LORD! How long will it be? Have compassion on your servants. 14 Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. 15 Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, for as many years as we have seen trouble. 16 May your deeds be shown to your servants, your splendor to their children. 17 May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us; establish the work of our hands for us—yes, establish the work of our hands.

I think I speak for most of us when I say that there are times when we are fully aware of how small and insignificant we are.

Maybe during beautiful, joyful moments – Standing on top of a mountain, looking out for miles. Staring up at the stars on a clear night.

Maybe during the most hideous, horrifying moments – Seeing a home destroyed by flames so hot they penetrate your windshield a block away. Watching someone die.

But for all of those extraordinary moments, there are hundreds of thousands of ordinary ones. Regretfully, it’s easy for me to forget about God’s power in these moments. This psalm is an excellent reminder to me of how small I am, and how important it is that I be aware of Jesus living in me all of the time. He makes me a somebody – without him I am no one.

Just one of the thoughts I had while reading:

More than anything else, this Psalm opens my eyes to fact that we cannot even begin to fathom time in the same way that God does. Our lives, to Him, are fleeting moments (v.4, v.6, v.10) and still he is capable of recalling events that happened centuries ago faster and more accurately than we can recall what we ate for breakfast this morning. Does time pass faster for him? Maybe slower? I imagine he sits outside of time altogether, if he so desires. Does that mean there is no wait for him between the first coming and the second; between the beginning of the world and the end? Whatever the case, it is apparent that it is God in control, not us. We must wait inside of time for Jesus’ return before we will know the answers to these questions.

-Kaitlyn Bixel


You are so powerful that you make time itself meaningless. Please do not let us forget that. Give us patience, make us humble, may we always love and fear you in our hearts.

Thank you for sending your son to us, and help us to wait prepared for his coming this advent, and anticipating his return, in your time.


Friday, December 4th 6th day of Advent

2 Peter 3:1-18

1Dear friends, this is now my second letter to you. I have written both of them as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking. 2I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles.

3First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. 4They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” 5But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. 6By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. 7By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.

8But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 9The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

10But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.

11Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. 13But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.

14So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. 15Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. 16He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.

17Therefore, dear friends, since you already know this, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position. 18But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.

“The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you,* not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)

“Therefore, beloved, while you are waiting for these things, strive to be found by him at peace, without spot or blemish; and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation.” (2 Peter 3: 14-15)

The average person will spend over 7 years of his/her life waiting in some form or another.  But in our fast-paced world, with all of our postmodern conveniences, no one wants to wait.  Think about the impatient person in a grocery store lane.  Or those nasty interjections we’re prone to shout when we get caught by red light at the most inconvenient time.

The advent season brings divine purpose to all of our waiting.  We know all the wonderful things the Lord has promised us, including those that have already been fulfilled through His Son, Jesus Christ.  As we wait for the coming of the Christmas season (and symbolically wait for the First Coming), remember those before who us waited and prayed fervently for the coming of the Messiah.  As we await the Second Coming, remember we, again, are not the only ones waiting.  Our Lord is waiting patiently, also.  God’s timing is perfect, and no matter how close we may think we are to the “end times,” Yahweh would rather wait another century than let His people perish needlessly.  So as you wait, seek peace from God.  Repent, ask forgiveness from the God who gives it, and for those of us blessed enough to know Jesus, seek the salvation for those around, those on whom God awaits.

-Amber Warren

Lord, bless me with divine patience.  Thank you for Jesus, who already came to pay the price for all my sins, and made it possible for me to be clean again.  Lord I repent now of all those sins.  God, I thank you that you waited for me, and as I wait for the season in which we celebrate your Son, I pray that you remind me of all those others that are still lost whom we are still waiting for. In Jesus’ precious name, AMEN.

Thursday, December 3rd

5th day of Advent

Isaiah 1: 21-31

21 See how the faithful city has become a harlot! She once was full of justice; righteousness used to dwell in her— but now murderers!
22 Your silver has become dross, your choice wine is diluted with water.
23 Your rulers are rebels, companions of thieves; they all love bribes and chase after gifts.
They do not defend the cause of the fatherless; the widow’s case does not come before them.
24 Therefore the Lord, the LORD Almighty, the Mighty One of Israel, declares:
“Ah, I will get relief from my foes and avenge myself on my enemies.
25 I will turn my hand against you; I will thoroughly purge away your dross
and remove all your impurities.
26 I will restore your judges as in days of old, your counselors as at the beginning.
Afterward you will be called the City of Righteousness, the Faithful City.”
27 Zion will be redeemed with justice, her penitent ones with righteousness.
28 But rebels and sinners will both be broken, and those who forsake the LORD will perish.
29 “You will be ashamed because of the sacred oaks in which you have delighted;
you will be disgraced because of the gardens that you have chosen.
30 You will be like an oak with fading leaves, like a garden without water.
31 The mighty man will become tinder and his work a spark; both will burn together,
with no one to quench the fire.”

At the very beginning of time, God’s people were a “faithful city,” well all two of them. Then there was a seductive fruit tree, and things changed a little. Our “silver became tarnished,” our “wine was mixed with water.” These two perfect lives were introduced to sin, and they became “human.”

Isaiah bluntly says that God is going to pour out his wrath on the sinful. They are going to be “like a garden without water.”  Yet as always, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. After all the wrath and punishment, after he “smelts away our  tarnish,” we “shall be called a city of righteousness!!”

Advent is a time of waiting and anticipation. We sit and wait for the one who will smelt away our tarnish, who will make us pure.

The savior is coming.

-Maggie Graham

Lord we thank you the anticipation of the good things to come in our lives. Give us peace as we get caught up in the anticipation of things that are not so good – exams, essays, long drives home. May we calm our worries with the coming of our savior, and the joy of the season to come.

Wednesday, December 2nd 4th day of Advent

Luke 11: 29-32 As the crowds were increasing, He began to say, “This generation is a wicked generation; it seeks for a sign, and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah. For just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. The Queen of the South will rise up with the men of this generation at the judgment and condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, something greater than Solomon is here. The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.”

Sensationalism is huge in today’s culture.  Though we often don’t realize it, we are constantly searching for the next best thing, wanting something new and more exciting.  We often pay attention only when something flashy, radical, or traumatic happens, and we’re always working towards something better than what we already have.  While there’s nothing wrong with looking forward to something or being excited, it becomes a problem when we forget the exciting things we’ve already been given.  The crowd in this passage gathered to see Jesus on this particular day, probably with similar expectations.  They expected sensationalism and a radical reaction from him as a sign from God.

To the crowd’s disappointment, Jesus was not at all what they expected.  Instead of giving them a flashy new sign from God, he tells them to look to story they already know.  The story of Jonah was familiar and old-news to the crowd, and to us now, it’s only simple children’s story.  But looking closer, Jonah’s story actually shares many similarities to Jesus’, spending three days inside a whale just as it took Jesus three days to rise from the dead.  Even though Jonah helped change the Ninevites’ wicked culture, their repentance was not lasting, and the crowd had forgotten all about God’s previous signs and promises to them.  Their search for sensationalism prevented them from seeing the true signs of God’s grace and from recognizing the true significance of Jesus, the man speaking to them.

Though Jesus condems the crowd for forgetting their previous blessings, he also assures them that “something greater than Jonah is here.”  Unlike Jonah, who was forgotten and whose change was not lasting, Jesus’s sign is much greater.  Jesus, God’s true sign, will have a much greater impact.  Our challenge now, is remember the signs that we’ve already been given and to see all the blessings that surround us.            -Jenny Burks

Read Jonah’s prayer from inside the whale.  (Jonah 2: 8-9 “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.  But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you.  What I have vowed I will make good.  Salvation comes from the Lord.”)  Just as Jonah prayed to give up worthless idols, help us, Lord, to give up our human expectations and to see your true salvation.  Amen.

Tuesday, December 1st 3rd day of Advent   2 Samuel 7: 19-28

18 Then King David went in and sat before the LORD, and he said:
“Who am I, O Sovereign LORD, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? 19 And as if this were not enough in your sight, O Sovereign LORD, you have also spoken about the future of the house of your servant. Is this your usual way of dealing with man, O Sovereign LORD ?

20 “What more can David say to you? For you know your servant, O Sovereign LORD. 21 For the sake of your word and according to your will, you have done this great thing and made it known to your servant.

22 “How great you are, O Sovereign LORD! There is no one like you, and there is no God but you, as we have heard with our own ears. 23 And who is like your people Israel—the one nation on earth that God went out to redeem as a people for himself, and to make a name for himself, and to perform great and awesome wonders by driving out nations and their gods from before your people, whom you redeemed from Egypt? [c] 24 You have established your people Israel as your very own forever, and you, O LORD, have become their God.

25 “And now, LORD God, keep forever the promise you have made concerning your servant and his house. Do as you promised, 26 so that your name will be great forever. Then men will say, ‘The LORD Almighty is God over Israel!’ And the house of your servant David will be established before you.

27 “O LORD Almighty, God of Israel, you have revealed this to your servant, saying, ‘I will build a house for you.’ So your servant has found courage to offer you this prayer. 28 O Sovereign LORD, you are God! Your words are trustworthy, and you have promised these good things to your servant. 29 Now be pleased to bless the house of your servant, that it may continue forever in your sight; for you, O Sovereign LORD, have spoken, and with your blessing the house of your servant will be blessed forever.”

Advent is so often seen as a time to look forward as we anticipate celebrating the birth of Christ.  I think it’s also a time to look back and see how long we have been waiting for Christmas.  These four weeks are so short compared to many generations mankind has waited since Eve took the first bite of that apple.

Today’s scripture brings King David into the long history leading up to Christmas.  David is lifting up a prayer of praise and thanksgiving for all that God has done for him.  In the prayer, David asks God to bless his house.  He is not just referring to his house as the structure, but his house in a metaphorical sense representing his descendents.  These descendents include Jesus.  David had no idea that in his prayer, he was blessing the Son of Man.

I often like to look back on my life and see how certain decisions and events have led to make me who I am today.  Sometimes it’s easier to see God’s plan for the future by looking back on what he’s done in the past.  This is exactly what we do when we study scripture well before Jesus’ life, like with King David, and see God’s role in the birth of Jesus.

Nina Ruhter

Patient God,

You have done so much in my life to make me who I am today.  It goes as far back as to the birth of your son and it will go fall forward beyond my time to his return.  Help me to follow your plan in my life.  Please bless my house, my family and the family I will have years and generations from now.  In your Son’s name, Amen.

Monday, November 30th

Numbers 17:1-11   1 The LORD said to Moses, 2 “Speak to the Israelites and get twelve staffs from them, one from the leader of each of their ancestral tribes. Write the name of each man on his staff. 3 On the staff of Levi write Aaron’s name, for there must be one staff for the head of each ancestral tribe. 4 Place them in the Tent of Meeting in front of the Testimony, where I meet with you. 5 The staff belonging to the man I choose will sprout, and I will rid myself of this constant grumbling against you by the Israelites.”  6 So Moses spoke to the Israelites, and their leaders gave him twelve staffs, one for the leader of each of their ancestral tribes, and Aaron’s staff was among them. 7 Moses placed the staffs before the LORD in the Tent of the Testimony.  8 The next day Moses entered the Tent of the Testimony and saw that Aaron’s staff, which represented the house of Levi, had not only sprouted but had budded, blossomed and produced almonds. 9 Then Moses brought out all the staffs from the LORD’s presence to all the Israelites. They looked at them, and each man took his own staff.  10 The LORD said to Moses, “Put back Aaron’s staff in front of the Testimony, to be kept as a sign to the rebellious. This will put an end to their grumbling against me, so that they will not die.” 11 Moses did just as the LORD commanded him.

The season of advent is one in which we celebrate the coming of our Lord, Jesus Christ.  We find ourselves in this period of waiting for something so wonderful and miraculous that we alone cannot always wrap our minds around.  As we wait to celebrate the life of Jesus, we often find ourselves also waiting for the second coming and hoping that it will be as wonderful as the first.  But will we be ready?                 Numbers, chapter 17 tells us the story of how God indicated that he had chosen Aaron to be the next priest.  At first glance, this scripture might not strike you as a way to prepare yourself for the birth of Jesus, but in delving deeper into the details of the scripture, I found that it was, in fact, very applicable to the season.   As we struggle to make ourselves fit for beholding the miracle of Jesus’ birth, there’s also a feeling of fear that we might not be good enough for all of this.  Looking at Aaron’s staff in the scripture, it’s described as a “dry stick,” –basically a piece of wood, long ago carved to serve a purpose, regarded as an ordinary object.   I feel like this staff represents us in this time of advent when we’re in awe of the Lord and feel as if we’re waiting for something, yet aren’t sure if we’re going to be able to handle the situation when the time comes.

But then, as the story progresses, we find that the ordinary staff blossoms into a living branch, rejuvenated into a fruitful and worthy object.  This is the moment that we all should seek to find in advent.  The moment when we come to the realization that we all have something to offer in God’s eyes and that we are, in fact, meant to experience the wonder of the miracle of the birth of Jesus as well as the second coming of the Lord.  Instead of focusing on how we fall short in our own minds, we should focus on that inner “living branch” which God has given each of us.                                 -Annie Bailey

Dear God, Though we may wander about it this time of Advent, trying to prepare ourselves for the celebration of your Son’s birth, help us to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Help us to see the blossoming living branch you will make us into as opposed to the dry stick we may often see ourselves as.  We ask that you help us to see that you have fully equipped us for the second coming and help us to find that life waiting to be born in each of us.  In your Son’s precious and Holy name, Amen.

Sunday, November 29th
First Sunday of Advent

Jeremiah 33: 14-16 “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring forth for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’”

The season of Advent is a season of anticipation. As Christians, the greatest anticipation comes as we await the coming of Jesus Christ into our lives. However, so often in this hectic season, we set our sights short of this life-changing event. Instead, we focus our attention on final exams, giving and receiving gifts and holiday parties. Although these things are important, we cannot lose sight of the true meaning of the season. Jeremiah 33: 14 -16 includes a promise from God to the Israelites of the coming of a leader. This is a righteous leader who will bring safety and justice to the people of Israel. It is imperative that we, as Christians, be focused on the promises made by God, for if we are alert to these promises, we will be truly blessed when Christ enters our lives once again.           -Kemper Steffe

Heavenly Father, We thank you for all of the blessings you have bestowed upon us during this Advent season. We ask that you walk along side us as we prepare for the coming of your son into our lives. Help us to see and understand the promises that you have made in our lives, not only in this time of preparation, but at all times. Father, we ask that you strengthen our minds and hearts during this season as we anticipate the coming of your son, the greatest gift of all. In your name, Amen