Your editors sincerely pray that these pages may be a blessing in this Holy season
for all of our readers. We continue to be encouraged by the breadth and depth of
thought as we gather and assemble the devotional submissions from our friends
around the nation. There are many familiar names and faces represented among
our writers, and we are also very pleased to include writings from several first‐time
Advent’urers for Advent 2015.
This booklet is an expression of the tradition we cherish in Congregationalism ‐
that everyone, lay or clergy, has something to contribute to the health of the Body
of Christ represented in our National Association. To our writers, thank you for
taking the time and making the investment to write for us!
Many blessings for a truly inspiring Advent and Christmas!
Lori Wiley and Terry Bobzien, co‐editors
As you enjoy this Advent Devotional, write an entry for next year! The best time to
write an entry is during its season. The theme for Advent 2016 is “From Darkness
to Light ‐ Isaiah 9:2,” and is due August 15, 2016. The theme for Lent 2017 is “What
Wondrous Love is This?” due by November 1, 2016. Watch the NACCC website,
emails, and other communications, for up‐to‐date information about the
Devotionals. You are encouraged to send entries for the Advent 2016 or Lent 2017
Devotionals to Rev. Terry Bobzien (firstname.lastname@example.org). May the Holy Spirit
inspire your writing for the glory of God and the building up of Christ’s Church.
On a personal note, many thanks to Rev. Dr. Lori Wiley for welcoming me to this
team two years ago. Due to time constraints, this is Lori’s last rotation as
Devotional Editor. Thank you, Lori, for your hard work, organization, and Spirit‐
sense! May God continue to bless your work in ministry.
First Sunday of Advent
The Great Adventure: Looking for the Lord
When the angels had le 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.’
The shepherds were terriﬁed when they ﬁrst experienced the glory of the Lord.
The glory of the Lord had angels and unknown appari ons connected with it. Yet
the shepherds changed from being fearful to being curious. Let us go to Bethlehem
and see what the Lord has revealed through the angels. Because the Lord revealed
that the Son of God was born nearby in Bethlehem, the adventure con nued from
hillside to town. This scripture describes the excitement of the shepherds as they
went to see what they had heard about ‐ the reality and truth of the Lord’s
Adventure can be a daily thing, beginning with an a tude of curiosity towards
God’s Promises. We can be afraid of what we may learn or who the Lord will make
us out to be. But if we pray for courage we may be blessed as the shepherds, were
to see the fulﬁllment of God’s promises all around us.
PRAYER: Lord, we ask that You grant us courage to look and see what You have
done, what You are doing, what You can do, and what You will do, as we claim
Your promises for ourselves. Let this Advent be a daily adventure. AMEN
Rev. Steven DeGangi
Grace Lower Stone Reformed Church
Rockwell, North Carolina
Monday, First Week of Advent
Hearts Aﬂame to Hope for Adventure
Then [God] said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and
say to it… ‘Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe into these slain,
that they may live.’” So I prophesied as commanded me, and breath entered
them; they came to life and stood up on their feet ‐ a vast army.
God brought the prophet Ezekiel to see irreversible death in a valley of bones,
probably the scene of a terrible ba le. This vision had scary sounds as bones
ra led, and came back together. You can imagine Ezekiel being creeped out
by the experience. Can you imagine him jumping a li le as the dead came
back to life, not just as zombies, but as real, living, laughing people?
Many of us enter the holiday season looking at all we have to do, and it may
seem that our lives are set, our schedules impossible, and our hopes
unreachable. Perhaps we think how red we already are. Others of us may
wish we could do more, but our bodies just can’t. And some of us are grieving
deeply over those who have passed. So we wait in darkness, promised that
the light of Jesus will come, but how can our “dry bones” ever have real life
again? Only through the Holy Spirit ﬁlling us.
PRAYER: Come, O Holy Spirit, and make us come alive again. Breathe, O Spirit,
into us so that we may have hope that Jesus is indeed coming to bring life,
eternal life. AMEN
Rev. Doug Gray
First Church of Squantum (Congrega onal)
Quincy, Massachuse s
Tuesday, First Week of Advent
Wai ng, An cipa on, and Hope, Part of the Great Adventure
A man named Simeon … eagerly an cipated the restora on of Israel…
Luke 2:25 CEB
One of the great aspects of Advent is the buildup of an cipa on as we wait for the
arrival of the birthday of Christ. Christ embodies all that we hope for, so we are willing
But think about wai ng in your own life. When I do that in terms of my family, I think
about some very close rela ves who lived all their lives wai ng and hoping for things
that never came. Life was being lived, not in joy, but almost as a misery to be endured,
in hopes that at some point, before they died, what they wanted out of life would
arrive. I watched these loved ones live and die unfulﬁlled lives.
Advent has much to teach us. Are we wai ng for and an cipa ng the right things in
life? We have to be careful. First, what we need to be hoping for is not our personal
life’s dream, but the arrival of Christ in each aspect of life’s journey. It is this very
personal step by step walk with Jesus that turns our current living into eternal life in the
Second, we have to be careful not to have an overly preconceived picture of what
Christ’s arrival in our lives will look like or result in. Take the example of Jesus’ birth. The
family of Israel had been wai ng, watching, hoping, and an cipa ng the arrival of the
Messiah for thousands of years. But no one expected that the Promised One would
arrive as he did, be as he was, or address the issues of life in the manner that he did.
They totally missed his advent. It is easy for us to miss Christ’s arrival when we are
convinced in our minds that his arrival for us will be a certain way. Wai ng, an cipa on,
and hope are best lived out with an open mind. It makes life an adventure instead of
something to be endured.
PRAYER: Lord, we too are excited about Your arrival. Everything important in life
depends on Your arrival in our lives. You alone are our hope and our salva on. We
understand that Your arrival will not ﬁt our preconcep ons. Enable us to process the
thoughts we have about ourselves, life, and You, in such a way that we do not miss Your
unique arrival in our own lives today. AMEN
Douglas Kelchner, Pastor
Thomas A. Edison Congrega onal Church
Fort Myers, Florida
Wednesday, First Week of Advent
An Adventure in Prophesy
I bring you good news that will cause great joy.
Luke 2:10 NIV
Many of us who face health issues or emo onal transi ons, call these passages
journeys. I am calling my current medical interlude an adventure. The word
evokes an element of excitement, the opportunity to overcome odds, the chance
to learn new lessons and acquire new skills.
This adventure has also included the blessing of prophets; those who have said
the words I needed to hear when I needed to hear them. So many miracles are
about ming, as are the words of a prophet, who is o en disguised as a friend.
A prophet's words bring comfort in the dark of the night, when the op mism
that you use as a weapon against despair, deserts you. They bring hope as you
sit in the doctor's wai ng room. They bring joy in their fulﬁllment when good
news is received.
Rev. Terry Bobzien, on more than one occasion, has unknowingly prophesied to
me with a scripture on Facebook, that went straight to the heart of my fears, and
comforted me. I believe prayer informs us regarding when to speak and what to
say, and even what to post on Facebook!
The ﬁrst week of Advent is the me to consider fulﬁlled prophecy about Christ,
but it doesn’t end there. May our words bring peace, hope, and dings of great
joy. The gi of well spoken words, words of wisdom, words that build up, words
that encourage and comfort, is a precious gi ; a gi that we can all give and
This is the season of gi giving. What gi s of words can we give?
PRAYER: Dearest God, may our hearts be open to Your leading and may our
words always be seasoned with grace. AMEN
Third Congrega onal Church
Middletown, Connec cut
Thursday, First Week of Advent
A Spirit of Advent’ure
What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there
is nothing new under the sun.
Ecclesiastes 1:9 NRSV
As I approach the half‐century mark on planet Earth, I’m realizing that my spirit of
“Advent’ure” could use a jump‐start. Along life’s journey, the wide‐eyed awe I
once felt at this me of year gave way to moderate enthusiasm, and then to just a
vague and mild warm‐fuzziness. In recent years, even a bit of “ho‐hum, nothing
new under the sun” has crept into my Advent mindset.
Do you remember that Joni Mitchell song, “The Circle Game”? The refrain goes
And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We're cap ve on the carousel of me
We can't return we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game
With age and experience, it’s easy to lapse into this almost melancholy a tude ‐
passive, fatalis c, resigned to bland repe on. But I think it is refreshing for us to
remember that, in Jesus, God did do something truly new, something exci ng and
revolu onary! Indeed, part of what we celebrate during this season is the reality
that God can burst into human history in remarkable, surprising, transforma ve
ways. A er all, God has done it before!
And so, this Advent, let us embrace an Advent’urous spirit, knowing that God just
might do something truly new at any moment!
PRAYER: God of surprises, You unques onably have the power to amaze. You call
us to be open to holy adventures beyond our expecta on, and even beyond our
imagina ons. May we be open to being awe‐struck and wide‐eyed this Advent. In
Jesus’ name we pray. AMEN
Rev. Rob Fredrickson, Associate Minister
Ozaukee Congrega onal Church
Gra on, Wisconsin
Friday, First Week of Advent
God’s Wish List
If the willingness is there, the gi is acceptable according to what one has, not
according to what one does not have.
2 Corinthians 8:12 NIV
A li le girl was talking with her mother about what she hoped to receive at
Christmas. She stopped when her mother said: “What are you giving God for
The li le girl said she did not know what God wanted for Christmas, and she was not
certain there was anything she could give God. But it is an important ques on. What
is on God’s Wish List for Christmas? Any items that we might be able to give? The
Magi brought their gi s of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, and presented them to
Jesus. Advent is the me when we decide what we will give to Jesus.
How about mending a quarrel with someone? Encourage someone to a higher level
of living? Help someone place faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord? Forgive
someone who has wronged you? Visit a friend you have not seen in a long me?
Take me to listen to another person tell you of a painful situa on and then pray for
that person? Would those be on God’s Wish List?
As soon as Thanksgivng is over, the decora ons for Christmas start to appear. Lights
and nsel on decorated trees, and images of Santa Claus abound, along with the
music of the season. It seems as if we are trying to get ourselves into the mood. But
Christmas has less to do with us than we think.
PRAYER: Lord, remind us that Christmas is not our holiday. It was not planned by us.
It happened because that was the way God worked. You are here because God chose
to send You. It’s not about us. It’s about God at work in our
world. May our “Christmas lists” reﬂect that. AMEN
Rev. Dr. Lowell W. Linden, Minister Emeritus
First Congrega onal Church
Saturday, First Week of Advent
All I Want for Christmas
..I am come that they may have life and have it to the full.
“All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth, my two front teeth, my two
front teeth…,” remember that holiday melody? Not exactly a tune that
s mulates worship, but it does express the desire of a youngster dearly
missing two front teeth while an cipa ng the arrival of teeth that must last a
life me. Now in my seventh decade, I’m keenly aware of how precious these
life me teeth are. Accrued birthdays annoyingly reveal that this life, teeth
included, comes with an expira on date unknown to us. But we’ve been given
a promise of something abundantly wonderful and beyond our expira on
The promise of abundant life applies, not only to our present existence that is
daily being expended, but also refers to our everlas ng existence in heaven,
which was exclusively secured for us through Jesus’ sacriﬁce on the Cross. But
this is the Christmas Season. Why speak of the Cross? Ah, because all I want
for Christmas has been provided through the frailty of a li le baby of poor
standing. The Messiah, Jesus, was born into this world to bring Divine iden ty
to people who have no enduring social status of any kind. Jesus reduced his
amazing Self to a small infant whose Heavenly Father prepared a future we
never would have imagined. Through faith, Jesus transforms people of no
standing into children of the Most High God. “All I want for Christmas” is
completely sa sﬁed in my Savior! Knowing that truth makes the joy of the
season shine brighter!
PRAYER Thank You for sa sfying my “want” with what is truly my “need;”
forgiveness and reconcilia on to You with a heavenly and everlas ng future.
Congrega onal Chris an Partnerships
First Congrega onal Church
Kingston, New Hampshire
Second Sunday of Advent
Hanukkah...and so it begins!
Then came the Feast of Dedica on at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was in the
temple area walking in Solomon's Colonnade. The Jews gathered around him,
saying, "How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us
It is a blessing for the heart when the observance of the Jewish Fes val of Hanukkah
and the beginning of the Chris an Advent Season fall very near one another! Across
the world there is a sense of awe for the Almighty, a sense of renewed expecta on,
a sense of intense gra tude for God's gi of Miracles!
What a mighty and awesome God we serve! Throughout all me and into eternity,
our God reigns, and is Sovereign over all that is! Come, let us begin our journey, let
us feel an excitement for the Miracles that have been given by our gracious
God! Let us rejoice for the freedom that returned to our Jewish ancestors, their
victory over oppressors, the puriﬁca on of their holy ground, God miraculously
delivering them from pagan persecu on.
PRAYER: We thank Thee, Lord, for this deliverance, and for the celebra on of
remembrance during Hanukkah, the Feast of Dedica on, the Fes val of Lights. We
thank Thee for the provision of the ﬂame of light, burning strong and steady,
represen ng Your presence among Your people. We thank Thee, Lord, for the
greatest Light of all, the Light of the World, Your incarnate presence, Jesus Christ,
among Your people.
We rejoice for the freedom that is given us from the oppression of our sins.
We thank Thee, Lord, for the Advent Season in which to prepare our hearts for such
great blessing. O Lord Our God, as we step forth into this sacred me of
remembrance, prepara on, and prayer, we ask that our hearts remain at all mes
focused on You. We ask that You grant us understanding of both the depth and true
meaning in the miracles You have provided. For truly, O Lord, we no longer have to
ask, "How long will you keep us in suspense?" The Word tells us plainly, The One
who has come is the Christ, the Messiah, the Savior, the Light of the World. And it is
in Jesus’ Holy Name we pray, AMEN
Rev. Lin McGee
Re red Pastor and Minister of Music
Winsted, Connec cut
Monday, Second Week of Advent
Adventure to Mars
The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.
Gala ans 5:6 NIV
Ray Bradbury wrote a story about some pioneers who were leaving from
Independence, Missouri. They were not going west, but they were going into
outer space. They were traveling by space ship, and not by covered wagon. A
young woman was about to make the trip to Mars. She was going to meet her
ﬁancé, who was already there.
Before she boarded the space ship she made a telephone call to Mars so she
could speak with her ﬁancé. She needed to be reassured she was doing the
There was a great deal of electrical interference, and the only word she heard
from him was the word ‐ LOVE. That assurance was enough for her, and she
boarded the space ship to travel to Mars.
Much the same communica on is coming from God to all of us at this me of
year...Through all of the interference, and there is much, is one word that
comes to us: LOVE. That one word from God is assurance enough for our lives
to embark on any Advent’ure.
PRAYER: Thank you, God, for persevering, in spite of much interference, in
sending us The Message of Love through Jesus Christ. Amen
Rev. Dr. Lowell W. Linden, Minister Emeritus
First Congrega onal Church
Tuesday, Second Week of Advent
A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamenta on, Rachel weeping for her
children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.
Ma hew 2:18
I had been involved in development work with partners from Nigeria since the mid‐
70’s. When I returned in 2001 to teach an MBA course, the en re class was
comprised of indigenous senior level decision‐makers. The leaders in our class
worked mostly in faith‐based, Chris an organiza ons. It was clear from the ﬁrst day
that I was the person in the room who would learn the most during this two week
intensive execu ve course.
Five of them gathered for Vespers each evening, and prayed that the Lord’s presence
would “be enough” for their people during these leaders’ me of study away. At their
invita on, I joined them one evening. The most memorable lesson was what “be
enough” meant. We were in the season of Advent, so the rota ng worship leaders
framed their devo ons around the overarching theme of the Lord’s coming. The
leader on the night of my visit was a kind but serious person, named David. A er
reading the above Scripture, David told in a ma er‐of‐fact way about the kidnapping,
rape, and murder of three girls from his agency’s boarding middle school. He then
began to weep as he recounted the mee ngs with the girls’ parents to tell each of
their daughter’s fate. Mathew 2:18 (see above) is being re‐lived in Nigeria. As to the
girls from his school who had died so violently, David had come to believe that their
stories would help inspire a movement in northern Nigeria of women whose Spirit‐
ﬁlled lives would lead to the libera on of the people who are being oppressed by the
My understanding of the meaning of the Lord’s presence with us was forever altered
and deepened by what I learned during that advent Vesper service. So was the way
that I follow Jesus.
PRAYER: O Holy Parent, David reminded us of the innocent children and Your
innocent Son, called to suﬀer a martyrs’ death, as the means of libera ng the world
from sin and sin’s unjust consequences. May those martyred for their faith always
bear witness to the spiritual powers of darkness and to us as well, of that sacred
libera on through Christ. AMEN
David Black, President Emeritus
Thomas A. Edison Congrega onal Church
Fort Myers, Florida
Wednesday, Second Week of Advent
A Curious Guest List
“... you will ﬁnd a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.”
Luke 2:12 NRSV
Suppose you received an invita on to a end the Angelic Chorus the night Jesus was
born. If you were invited, who else might be on the guest list? Religious oﬃcials?
Poli cal leaders or Presiden al candidates? Hollywood stars? Certainly the rich and
For such an occasion you would have put on your best suit. Maybe you would have
splashed on some cologne, run a comb through your hair, and polished your boots.
But when you got to the place, it was a ﬁeld. No one there but a few scraggly
shepherds, who sent you to a stable in town.
The stable was a place ﬁlled with cob webs, dust, animal ﬁlth, and smelly air. A
stable in an unremarkable li le town was just not a ﬁ ng place for a king to enter
this world. There was a manger, but no proper royal bassinet. It was a dumpy old
barn, and not a sterile hospital suite. The audience was a bunch of mu on punchers
fresh from the pasture’s campﬁre ‐ not royalty, rabbis, and priests. There were no
trumpets announcing a Savior’s birth. The only sound was the rhythmic grinding of
a cow’s molars as she lazily chewed her cud. The whole evening turned out to be
not at all what you had expected.
This most unusual scene is exactly what God had in mind. The plan was a people’s
Savior. It was the beginning of the life on this earth of One who would say,
“whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers or sisters of mine, you did
for me.” (Ma hew 25:40) From the very beginning, it was clear this child was surely
going to know the meaning of “the least of these.”
PRAYER: Help me to see Christ in the less than obvious places. May I ﬁnd him in the
faces of the poor, the disenfranchised, the marginalized, and the voiceless. May I be
so moved that I cannot ignore their suﬀering. AMEN
Rev. Dr. Jerrold Jones, Re red Pastor
First Congrega onal Church
Thursday, Second Week of Advent
The God Who Risks
The Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall
bear a son, and shall name the child Immanuel.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained. That's how one old saying puts it. Ya go a give,
before ya get. You can't get something for nothing. Life can be a risky business.
In this passage from Isaiah, King Ahaz was under a great deal of stress. His nearest
poli cal neighbors, the King of Israel and the King of Aram, had joined forces to
a ack him. Ahaz was not an especially religious man, so he was somewhat
surprised to receive a visit from the prophet. It isn't that he didn't know Isaiah. He
and the young preacher were cousins. It's just that he didn't take religion very
seriously. Two enemy armies at your doorstep, now that's serious.
The prophet then delivered a challenge from the Lord. "Ask God for a sign," he said,
"high as the heaven or as deep as the grave." The King said No. He had enough
trouble with his neighbors. He didn't want to risk making trouble with God, too.
But God gave the sign anyhow, and in doing so, God took a great risk. In becoming
Immanuel, the God‐Who‐Is‐With‐Us, the Lord risked it all to obtain the greatest
victory of all. The Creator entered crea on to demonstrate what love really is. Jesus
is the demonstra on of God's love toward us, and in that, he showed us that loving
others, however risky it may seem, is deﬁnitely worth it.
This Advent season, as we look forward to the coming of the Savior, let us commit
ourselves to demonstra ng Divine love by becoming involved in some way with the
lives of others who are in need. It may be risky, but, as Jesus demonstrated, it will
be worth it.
PRAYER: O Immanuel, thank You for risking the best heaven had to oﬀer. You
chose to love us before we loved You. Now, because we have received Your love,
we can dare to love others, not with our own love, but with the love of God shed
abroad in our hearts. We love, because You ﬁrst loved us. AMEN
Pastor Garry Fisher
Community Congrega onal Church
South Bend, Indiana
Friday, Second Week of Advent
“HITCH YOUR WAGON…”
“…Where is the One Who has born King of the Jews? We saw his star in the east
and have come to worship him…..”
Ma hew 2: 1,2
The expression of “hitch your wagon to a star” comes from Ralph Waldo
Emerson’s essay wri en in 1862, and refers to pulling from the universe the
energy and wherewithal to accomplish great tasks. The Magi, reputed to be
magicians and astrologers, had followed a moving star that they had seen arise
in the East. Scripture is unclear about the me frames, the place of origin, the
route and the manner of transport. Suﬃce it to say that they had hitched their
wagon to a star to go on an Advent’ure. It is the account of the magi that adds
royal credence, of a sort, to this birth.
This Advent’ure of the Magi provides a lesson for each of us. With the God of
the universe, and the power of the Holy Spirit, we can accomplish what would
seem to be not only improbable but impossible things. How many have
accomplished more than a dream, less than a century ago, or even a few years
ago? Appliances, space travel, medical procedures, hand‐held computers…
The lesson of the Magi is for us not to let our dreams fade away, but to hitch
our wagon to a star, draw inspira on, energy, and stamina from the Lord, and
go and do the improbable and the impossible. It was Jesus who said that if we
believe, we would do even greater things than he had done. What is keeping us
from our Advent’ure of following the Star?
PRAYER: O Lord, please grant me the wisdom to trust You to do that which we
can only dream. Help us “hitch our wagon” to Your Bright and Morning Star.
Rev. Bobbie Chapman
Founders Congrega onal Church
Harwinton, Connec cut
Saturday, Second Week of Advent
The Meaning behind the Season
For God so loved the world that God gave his one and only Son, that whoever
believes in the Son shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send
his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through
John 3:16‐17 NIV
Christmas has no signiﬁcant meaning for many in the rural areas of Nigeria. To
them it is just another day; another day to farm, to go to the market, and to
do their normal daily rou nes. I am always looking for new ways to make
Christmas meaningful to people in rural villages.
The truth is that Christmas can be meaningful to them if and only if Christ is
meaningful to them. Unless they realize who Christ is, what he has done for
them, and unless they have a personal encounter with him, Christmas remains
just another day to them.
We always need to remind ourselves that Jesus is the reason for the season. In
the Western world, it is easy to be caught up in the fes vi es and splendor of
Christmas to the extent that Christmas becomes just a season or a holiday.
We must therefore be careful to make sure that Christ is at the center of our
Christmas. Otherwise we, like many in rural areas of Nigeria, have missed the
true meaning of the Season.
Christmas is all about the uncondi onal love of God revealed in Jesus, the
Savior of the world. Is Christ the center of your Christmas? Let us ﬁnd new
ways to make Christ the focus of Christmas this season.
PRAYER: Dear Jesus, please show me new and exci ng ways to make You the
focus of my Christmas. AMEN
Ma hew Oladele, Director
Christ to the Villages Mission
Shao, Kwara State, Nigeria
Third Sunday of Advent
Your Love Stands Firm Forever
I will sing of the LORD's great love forever; with my mouth I will make Your
faithfulness known through all genera ons. I will declare that Your love stands ﬁrm
forever, that You established Your faithfulness in heaven itself. You said, "I have
made a covenant with my chosen one, I have sworn to David my servant, 'I will
establish your line forever and make your throne ﬁrm through all
We are about to get busy!! Busy, busy ‐ that seems to be the theme of the
Season. Yet Advent should be a me to slow our pace, and ﬁnd peace in spiritually
focusing our thoughts on our rela onship with God.
The world will draw us away; it will ﬁnd many things for us to do. How many things
will we try to accomplish, and how many deadlines will we try to meet before we
fall in a heap and are forced to say 'No'? We must not let Christmas be a busy,
commercial me of rushing, racing, and exhaus on. Struggling to get the cards
out, arrive at the get‐togethers, and endure endless shopping and wrapping, will
never bring us to the point where we are able to sing of the Lord's great love, or to
make God’s faithfulness known to all genera ons. We live not only busy mes, but
also in perilous mes.
We must become inten onal in our pledge to God to focus on the true ma ers of
faith as we prepare our hearts, lives, and homes for the glorious day of the
Christmas celebra on.
In Christmas we celebrate The Greatest Gi On Earth, the birth of our Lord and
Savior. Focus on what really ma ers for this Season and Forever!
PRAYER: Gracious Lord, we thank you for the wondrous gi of Your Holy Word,
the strength and faithfulness of Your love, and the Salva on given through Jesus
Christ. We ask that You strengthen us during this me when there seems so much
to do, and help us to focus on the things that ma er to Your heart. Help us ﬁnd
peace, Lord, as we seek to draw ourselves and others closer to You. In Jesus Name
we pray, AMEN
Rev. Lin McGee
Re red Pastor and Minister of Music
Winsted, Connec cut
Monday, Third Week of Advent
On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed
down and worshiped the child. They opened their treasures and presented the child
with gi s of gold and of incense and of myrrh.
Ma hew 2:11
Two years ago, at the end of the school year, I received a present from one of my
students who was rather diﬃcult to deal with, not only for me but also for some of
the other boys in my class. There would be the usual parent‐teacher conference
when an incident happened, and there were many such mee ngs.
I opened the present and was shocked to see a pair of headphones like the ones he
had brought in for show‐and‐tell the month before. He had received them for his
birthday. I knew that they were quite expensive, and had men oned to him that
they would be perfect for taking on a plane.
“I used up all my birthday money and allowance, so that I could buy them for you,
Mrs. Hellam. I knew that you always love me and want me to be good.”
Even though I felt as if I should not accept such an expensive gi from a nine‐year‐
old boy, his mother said that I would break his heart if I didn’t take them.
More than two thousand years ago, the magi saw the star showing the way to the
King of Kings, and brought him gi s of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Their gi s
paled in comparison to the gi from God of his only Son, sent to die on the cross for
our sins. I can only imagine how it breaks God’s heart to see the number of his
children who do not accept the gi of eternal life bought by Jesus’ sacriﬁced life,
because God loves us.
PRAYER: Heavenly Father, this Advent season, may we be always mindful of the
most priceless and precious gi of Your Son, Jesus, whose sacriﬁce on the cross was
the gi that breaks Your heart when we refuse to accept him. Help us to graciously
accept him more fully this Advent. AMEN
Church of the Oaks
Del Rey Oaks, California
Tuesday, Third Week of Advent
While they were there, the me came for the baby to be born.
Luke 2: 6
When a woman is pregnant, doctors warn against travelling any distance
especially in the last month or so before the expected delivery date, so as to
avoid jostling or anything else that might result in a premature delivery.
Turn the clock back more than two thousand years and consider a young girl,
perhaps no older than twelve, pregnant with her ﬁrst child, due for imminent
delivery, traveling about ninety miles, either walking or riding a donkey. There
were rough roads, exposure to the elements, probably infrequent stops and
none of the “comforts” of home or the companionship of female family.
Mary was on quite an Advent’ure and had been for nearly nine months. Visited
by an angel, impregnated by the Holy Spirit (a nice story?), trauma zed in
telling Joseph and the anguish over his reac on, then a long physical journey
(Mary may not have known of the prophecy of Bethlehem), and then a “messy”
delivery without beneﬁt of medical assistance or even a decent place to go
through labor and delivery.
We tend to read the Advent Scriptures and be sa sﬁed that Mary did as the
Lord asked, without really considering what that involved and what it says to
us. Following The Lord can be trauma c, “messy,” hard, and seemingly
impossible. It is never as simple or as gra fying as we might wish, but to do less
is to cheat ourselves out of the greatest Advent’ure. When we think of Mary,
let us remember her Advent’ure and not get bogged down by our own
temporary inconveniences in doing as the Lord asks.
PRAYER: O Lord, let it be with me as You have said, not just in the abstract but
in the ni y‐gri y of life. AMEN
Rev. Bobbie Chapman
Founders Congrega onal Church
Harwinton, Connec cut
Wednesday, Third Week of Advent
Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of
David called Bethlehem, because Joseph was descended from the house and
family of David. Joseph went to be registered with Mary to whom he was
engaged and who was expec ng a child. While they were there, the me came
for Mary to deliver her child.
Luke 1 4:6 NIV
In November 2014 I returned from an eight day tour of Israel just a couple of
weeks before the beginning of Advent. I was s ll trying to wrap my mind around
all that I had seen and done in Israel. I thought about our group riding in a
comfortable air‐condi oned bus as we traveled around Israel.
Then I thought of the pilgrimage Joseph and Mary had as they traveled from
Nazareth to Bethlehem. We could travel it in a couple of hours with the bus, but
they walked. That would be a trip of several days. Bethlehem is in the
mountains, so toward the end of their travel, it was a steep climb up the
We o en get caught up in the birth story and miss the signiﬁcance of Joseph
and Mary as they made their pilgrimage to Bethlehem. God got them to where
they needed to be when they needed to be there. God will do the same for us
today, if we ask for guidance and listen to hear God’s direc ons.
PRAYER: Our heavenly Father, during this season we celebrate the birth of your
Son. Lord, help us also to remember the earthly parents, Joseph and Mary, who
listened and followed Your direc ons. Help us to be diligent followers as well.
Rev. Jerry Turner
Arbor Grove Congrega onal Church
Thursday, Third Week of Advent
Christmas in Nigeria
Mary 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.
Christmas has always been a me of reunion with friends and family members
who might have been away for some me. There is something signiﬁcant and
magical about coming together to celebrate the birth of the Savior, Jesus
Christ. When we gather under the umbrella of Christmas joy, we ﬁnd that
peace, love, hope, and unity are nurtured in our lives.
During my early years as a young boy in Nigeria, I remember looking forward to
Christmas. It was a me when many friends and rela ves would travel home. I
knew that old faces would be seen, pleasantries would be exchanged, and all
would be welcomed and loved.
Joseph and Mary travelled to Bethlehem of Judea just before the birth of Jesus.
Joseph was returning home, but there was no place for them to stay. We
wonder about Joseph’s parents and grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins.
None of them had room? The inn was jam‐packed because other travelers
came to par cipate in the census decreed by Quirinius, the governor of Syria.
But what about family? Was it because they were shunning Mary?
So Jesus was born in a manger. The King of kings and the Lord of lords was
born in a lowly state. How ironic! The King of glory was born in a stable,
surrounded by animals.
The ﬁrst Advent’ure of Christmas was one of humility. Let us remember that
humility is a key component to the celebra on of our Lord’s birth. This
Christmas season let us ﬁnd new ways to prac ce humility.
PRAYER: Lord Jesus, let my life emanate Your
love, seasoned in true humility. AMEN
Ma hew Oladele, Director
Christ to the Villages Mission
Shao, Kwara State, Nigeria
Friday, Third Week of Advent
Charity or Change?
God has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and li ed up the lowly.
In 2011, my ﬁrst year serving Plymouth Church, I introduced two new programs
during the Advent season. One was an Angel Tree in our Fellowship Hall, where
members could pick up tags, and purchase Christmas gi s, mostly necessi es, for
needy families in the area.
The other was a ﬁve‐week food collec on for Interfaith Ministries’ Opera on Holiday,
a program that distributes nonperishable food, fresh food vouchers, winter wear, and
blankets to low‐income families and individuals.
Both the Angel Tree and Opera on Holiday collec on have been extremely popular
with the congrega on. Last year we collected double the food items we had our ﬁrst
It does my heart good to see members bringing in sacks of grocery items and
pondering over what type of tennis shoes a 14 year‐old boy might prefer.
But lately I have been thinking about the diﬀerence between charity and change. In
2013, Opera on Holiday served 11,706 individuals. In 2014, that number jumped to
12,341. This is not good news! Charity may get a person through today, but
tomorrow they are going to be hungry again. Charity maintains the status quo and
assures that the “least of these” will come back for a handout again next me.
Change, on the other hand, can li up the lowly so that they no longer need the
handout. What if the church’s focus over the next year were to work to change the
social structures that keep people in poverty. What would that look like and where
would we begin?*
PRAYER: Loving God, let us ponder these things in our hearts and may our souls
magnify You in all our ac ons. AMEN.
Rev. Karen Robu, Associate Minister
Plymouth Congrega onal Church
* Recommended reading: When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbe & Brian Fikkert.
Saturday, Third Week of Advent
Christmas in July
Be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.
1 Timothy 6:18 NIV
Advent is a good
me to think about Christmas in July. Sound strange?
Well, it isn’t at the Congrega onal Church of the Chimes in Sherman Oaks,
California. Each year the church puts up a Christmas tree in the narthex of the
sanctuary, and for a month members bring new unwrapped toys and games to
the Worship Service.
We adopt families which are chosen by the Los Angeles Children’s Bureau. The
en re family submits some of their needs and wishes for presents, and
churches like ours provide these families with a Christmas they would not
otherwise enjoy. At the end of the month the Los Angeles Children’s Bureau
picks up the boxes of gi s and distributes them to families in need and/or crisis.
Think of the impact in a child’s life. Christmas in July? How unexpected! How
diﬀerent! What a blessing!
There is so much giving that is done around Advent and Christmas me. This
Advent be Advent’urous. Plan now to be Christ’s blessing to children next
PRAYER: Thank you, God, for the opportunity to bring the message of Chris an
love to children, when they least expect it. Show us how to be more
Rev. Dr. Thomas Richard, Interim Minister
Church of the Chimes
Sherman Oaks, California
Fourth Sunday of Advent
Let Your Love Grow
How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the
presence of our God because of you?
1 Thessalonians 3:9‐13 NIV
As we live through the season of Advent, we prac ce a counter‐culture ideal: that
wai ng is an integral part of preparing for the arrival of Christ. Not Christmas, mind
We live as Advent People when we realize our faith is God‐dependent. God clears
the way for fellowship, both with God and with each other. Walking in the faith
God gives us, we lean on God and are freed from the pressure to have to perform
or produce. We rely on God because we really have no other op on. How can we
thank God enough?
We live as Advent People when we realize our faith is inter‐connected. How can we
thank God enough, not just for God’s generic blessings, but for each other? No ce
that phrase “because of you”. It reminds us that we prompt each other to thank
God! We are reminders of God's presence for one another.
We live as Advent People when we realize our faith is inter‐dependent. What is
lacking in our faith? When we live as Congrega onalists, we cover each other's
blind spots. We all are dependent on others to help us shore up the weak areas in
our faith. We are suppliers of perspec ve on what God is doing among us.
We live as Advent People when we realize our love is to be Abundant. There is a
wonderful phrase in verse 12: “increase and overﬂow”. May our love for God
increase, and spill over into our love for one another. In “May the Lord make your
love…”, we see that God's is working for us.
PRAYER: Lord, as we enter into this last week of Advent, we are called to wait and
prepare for Your coming. We ask that You make us Your Advent People. Help us live
out love that is abundant, and faith that is dependent on You. We ask that You link
us together in Christ as we move into Christmas. AMEN.
Rev. Ed Backell
Warden Community Church
Monday, Fourth Week of Advent
Let Your Love Know
And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and
depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and
blameless un l the day of Christ, ﬁlled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through
Jesus Christ — to the glory and praise of God.
Philippians 1:9‐11 NIV
As we get closer and closer to Christmas, a ques on arises: How do you select gi s for
those you love? We try to take into account their needs and desires and hope to ﬁnd the
“perfect” gi . With that in mind, if you were to give a gi to Jesus this Christmas, how
would you choose it?
One thought is to give Jesus something he is already invested in, something in his area of
interest. Paul, in his le er to the church at Philippi, describes the rela onship Paul has
with his fellow disciples as a partnership. He reminds his readers (and us) that together
we par cipate in the Gospel. God's work among us is not occasional, sca ered, or
singular. Rather, God works among us as a people, God’s people. So, one of the gi s we
give Jesus is our coopera on with fellow believers, serving as the Body of Christ.
A second thought about giving a gi to Jesus this Christmas is to look for the best gi you
can give. This might seem obvious – of course you're going to give a King the best gi you
can – but let's be honest, many of us take God's constant presence in our lives for
granted. This some mes means that we don't truly contemplate giving anything
Love's purpose is to discover the best in the Other. What would be the best gi we could
give to Jesus? Ourselves, being ﬁlled with Christ's righteousness, to give glory back to
What does Jesus want for Christmas? YOU! All of you, working with him – to be
presented to the Father as a precious gi . We are to be re‐gi ed to God!
PRAYER: Lord, as we prepare to welcome You on Christmas Eve, we are caught between
the happiness that we are called Your Advent People and the expecta on that You will
come to us. This middle ground, this having‐and‐s ll‐wai ng, calls us to live our lives with
both expecta on and trust. May Your grace, love, and power be known in us as we
wait… and live. AMEN
Rev. Ed Backell
Warden Community Church
Tuesday, Fourth Week of Advent
Let Your Love Flow
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! The Lord is near. Do not be
anxious about anything, with thanksgiving... and the peace of God, which
transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
In my mind, it wouldn't be Christmas me without the Charlie Brown Christmas
Special. There is a line from the soundtrack: “Christmas me is here; We'll be
drawing near...” That music runs through my head when Advent starts. We are, in a
very real sense, “drawing near” to God, even as God incarnate draws near to us.
As we prepare for Christmas, there are many details to care for, such as travel
arrangements of loved ones, meal planning; decora ng the house, even last‐minute
shopping in some cases! The prophet Zephaniah (3:17) talks about how God takes
care of details in our lives. God is with us, sings over us, and gathers us home. It is
almost a descrip on of the Christmas holidays. With this in mind, is it any wonder
that we pass on Christmas cheer? We are told to rejoice, 'to be full of cheer'. This
fullness of joy is the very heart of the Advent message: Jesus is coming!
As my children were growing up, there were a few mes when gi s would require
assembly, and that meant reading the instruc ons (eventually). Paul's words in
Philippians read like assembly instruc ons: use all the parts, contact customer
support and ask ques ons, use thankfulness to assemble your requests to God.
I'm reminded of the par ng words of the narrator from A Christmas Carol: “And it
was always said of [Scrooge] that he knew how to keep Christmas well if any man
alive possessed the knowledge.” We can experience the same kind of change that
Scrooge did and we too, can keep Christmas well.
PRAYER: Lord, in this Advent season, we look for You, wai ng for Your arrival, at the
same me aware of Your presence among us. Thank you for this “both‐and” state;
that we can see You at work in our lives, and also recognize that You are coming
again for Your Church. May our me of watching and wai ng for You refresh our
ability to see Your Spirit at work in the world… and in our lives
as well. AMEN
Rev. Ed Backell
Warden Community Church
Wednesday, Fourth Week of Advent
Let His Love Bestow
Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: "Sacriﬁce and oﬀering you did
not desire, but a body you prepared for me; Then I said, 'Here I am, I have come to
do your will, O God.” And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacriﬁce
of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
Hebrews 10:5‐10 NIV
One of the truisms of the holiday season is travel. People going back home from far
away, or people leaving their home to celebrate in some new loca on. It seems
that this me of year, people spend a lot of me, money, and eﬀort to be
SOMEWHERE. It begs the ques on of why we travel so much at Christmas. One of
the main things to keep in mind is the reason for your journey.
Jesus came to us for a reason. Jesus knew his journey into the world had a speciﬁc
purpose. “Look, I have come to do Your will.” (v. 9) Our High Priest (Jesus) oﬀered
himself to God as one sacriﬁce for sins, good for all me.” (v.12) Jesus came with a
purpose. God sent Jesus on his journey to Earth to open lines of communica on
about God’s purpose.
Jesus’ example shows us this his sacriﬁce had a purpose, built on God’s love for us
(John 3:16), and the sacriﬁce was made willingly (Jesus oﬀered himself). Jesus’
sacriﬁce was a pre y expensive gi . So was Jesus’ coming to this earth worth it to
him? To God? To Us? Yes, it was love bestowed, blessing both the Giver and
receiver. The trip was worth it.
PRAYER: Lord Jesus, as this Advent season draws to a close, we remember Your
promise that You will come again, that You will return to our world. Help us live
expectant of Your arrival. We pray this in Jesus' name. AMEN
Rev. Ed Backell
Warden Community Church
A person's wisdom gives pa ence.
As a child, some of my most fond memories are of Christmas Eve. My mother
would invite our extended family over for Christmas Eve dinner and cook all
day. She pulled out the ﬁne china and prepared beau ful tables for our family
to sit at, to enjoy the meal. It was our tradi on to open presents on Christmas
Eve. A er the meal, we would go in the living room and open our gi s. I was so
excited I could hardly eat my meal, because I knew presents were coming. I had
visions of what my gi s would be and I couldn’t wait to open them. Some mes,
I was disappointed because the wrapped package didn’t look like what I had
asked for. Most mes I discovered that it was what I wanted, but my parents
would make it look diﬀerent in order to surprise me.
Thousands of years ago, God promised the Messiah. His coming would change
the world. Religious leaders con nually reminded society that the Messiah was
coming. They eagerly waited! They impa ently waited! When the Messiah did
come, people didn’t recognize him because he was not what they expected. He
was “packaged diﬀerently” and a surprise.
Today I look at Christmas from a diﬀerent perspec ve. My wife and I gather
with our grandchildren and watch the an cipa on on their li le faces, as they
know the gi s are coming. I now know that the best thing about Christmas is
not the gi s, it is the Gi that God gave us all those years ago. I now impa ently
await his coming!
PRAYER: Father, help us to put in perspec ve the tremendous gi that you gave
us so many years ago. Help us to keep priori es straight, and wait pa ently with
for our Lord’s coming. AMEN!
Rev. Eric Hickman
Tipton Community Church
Christmas as Adventure
This is the covenant I will make with them a er that me, says the Lord. I will put my
laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.
Hebrews 10:16 NIV
Every Christmas morning when I was growing up was always the same. Being the
youngest of three children it was either my brother or me that woke up ﬁrst, The
rule was that we were not permi ed to wake up our older sister if she was s ll
sleeping. This was pure agony, knowing that downstairs under the tree was ﬁlled
with gi s that Santa had brought. We just knew that we had been good all year!
Keeping as s ll as we could so as not break the rule, we sat on the ﬂoor by our
sister’s bed and just stared at her un l she opened one eye and looked back at us.
Finally we could get on with the morning! Now the next step was yelling down the
stairs to our parents to let them know that we were all awake. It seemed like another
eternity un l our father got up and got ready. Not wan ng to admit that our parents
were actually Santa, and that they had been up un l the wee hours of the morning
pu ng together our bikes, toys, and train sta on, we sat at the top of the steps
peeking down for a quick look. We were never disappointed!
A er all the gi s were opened Mom would made breakfast while we played with our
new toys and never, ever did oﬀer to help her in the kitchen. She took care of us with
love and joy.
Our parents were always easy going, loving and forgiving, generous to a fault, and
always had your back. They taught us right from wrong, and as long as I can
remember, it was always “Jesus loves you and there are Ten Rules to follow”. I have
fallen oﬀ God’s path quite a few mes, but God is always there with his compass, the
Bible, to get me back on track. God’s arms are always wide open to hold me when I
return to him. God’s Words are always true, comfor ng, and wise. God never
cri cizes, but gives words of strength and encouragement. Knowing Jesus is just like
Christmas morning every day: Never disappoin ng, worth wai ng for, and
remembering to just follow the rules.
PRAYER: Lord, You said, “I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will
write them.” Show us how to keep the “Christmas morning
rules” and give us the insight to know that all Your laws are for
the same reason, that we may receive Your wonderful gi s and
Your Wonderful Gi . AMEN
Beverley Gill, Treasurer & Trustee
Ventnor Community Church
Ventnor, New Jersey
Devotional Entry Format
SCRIPTURE REFERENCE: Book, chapter, verse(s), translation
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Advent 2016: Deadline August 15, 2016. THEME: From Darkness to Light ‐ Isaiah 9:2.
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