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2014 Advent Devotional

Our Kinsman Redeemer Advent 2014 Devotional
Our Kinsman Redeemer  Advent 2014 Devotional
Mayflower Devotions Our Kinsman Redeemer Advent 2014 A publication of the National Association of Congregational Christian Churches 8473 South Howell Avenue PO Box 288 Oak Creek WI 53154 0288 414 764 1620 1 800 262 1620 www naccc org
Mayflower Devotions Our Kinsman Redeemer Advent 2014 A publication of the National Association of Congregational Christian...

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Introduction It is a real pleasure to offer these collected thoughts from many of our friends around the country We are pleased to include new names and faces in this edition of Advent Devotions for 2014 Fellow Congregationalists are deeply appreciative of the authors willingness to take the time to bring this blessing of spiritual thought and prayer to the holy season of Advent One pastor commented recently that the Advent and Lenten Devotionals are an important ministry and a way of maintaining our connections within the Congregational Way All entries in this devotional come from both clergy and lay people in the National Association of Congregational Christian Churches We appreciate all of you writers and readers copyeditor and National office staff As you enjoy this Advent Devotional write an entry for next year The best time to write an entry is during its season Please consider writing for Advent 2015 and Lent 2016 The theme for Advent 2015 is Adventure to Christmas and is due August 15 2015 The theme for Lent 2016 is Five Lenten Tasks Pray Fast Give Alms Sacrifice Self denial and Simplicity due by July 15 2015 Watch the NACCC website emails and other communications for up to date information about the Devotionals You are encouraged to send an entry for next year s Advent Devotional to Rev Dr Lori Wiley loriwiley7 gmail com or Rev Terry Bobzien terrybob gmail com May the Holy Spirit inspire your writing for the glory of God Many blessings for a truly inspiring Advent and Christmas Terry Bobzien and Lori Wiley co editors PS Watch for the On Line edition of Lent 2015 at www naccc org
Introduction  It is a real pleasure to offer these collected thoughts from many of our friends around the country. We are ...
First Sunday of Advent 11 30 14 To Bethlehem That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby guarding their flocks of sheep Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared among them and the radiance of the Lord s glory surrounded them They were terrified but the angel reassured them Don t be afraid he said I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people Suddenly the angel was joined by a vast host of others the armies of heaven praising God When the angels had returned to heaven the shepherds said to each other Let s go to Bethlehem Let s see this thing that has happened Luke 2 8 20 In the quiet of the midnight In darkness fighting sleep Rest shepherds charged with watchful care Over flocks of valued sheep In an instant they are stricken With terror in their hearts An angel of the Lord appears From celestial heav nly parts Says the angel to the shepherds You must not be afraid For the news I have to give you Is that Christ has come to save Good news the herald shares with them Great joy for all the earth For in the town of Bethlehem The Lord Christ has had his birth And this will be the sign for you If you will go ahead You will find the babe wrapped in cloths Lying in a manger bed Glory in the highest heaven Sang the mighty angel host Good will to all for peace has come To those who do need it most So they hurried off first to see If this could be the One Promised by the prophets of old God s dearly beloved Son Great joy have we if we too go As shepherds did before To meet the Savior humbly born And bow worship and adore Rev Jack Brown Olivet Congregational Church Olivet MI pilgrim_pastor hotmail com
First Sunday of Advent  11.30.14 To Bethlehem  That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding thei...
First Monday of Advent 12 01 14 Have You Been There let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing which is come to pass which the Lord hath made known unto us and the shepherds returned praising and glorifying God Luke 2 15 20 My journey to Bethlehem began on March 30 1951 in a brightly lit room in Norwood Massachusetts as an extra small newborn with a few problems who many worried wouldn t make it home It is obvious I made it home and my journey continued for years with many ups and downs a father who was out of the family by the time I was 5 years old a few trips to the hospital and many moves from one place to another On one of those moves my journey to Bethlehem took place No we didn t move to Bethlehem we moved to Weymouth Massachusetts but a kind older lady led a five day Bible Club and it was there that I really learned what Bethlehem and Christmas were all about Bethlehem is a place where a holy righteous God came into the world not to struggle to live as I do but to die for us sinners on a cross I heard how all my problems were a result of a thing called sin and how only a perfect righteous holy sacrifice could release us from the hold sin has on us Christ the baby in Bethlehem would be my Kinsman Redeemer I looked upon that sight and wondered Why How I still wonder why but I know now it was the means of God s amazing grace Have you been to Bethlehem Have you seen beyond the stable to the Savior who came to this planet for you I hope you have had the joy of returning from Bethlehem praising and glorifying God Dear Lord May this Advent be a journey to Bethlehem to find our Kinsman Redeemer to fill our hearts Amen Rev Bill Rafuse Rapid River Congregational Church Rapid River MI wrafuse charter net
First Monday of Advent  12.01.14  Have You Been There         let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing which is come ...
First Tuesday of Advent 12 02 14 Coming to Bethlehem Bitter and Empty So the two women went on until they came to Bethlehem When they arrived in Bethlehem the whole town was stirred because of them and the women exclaimed Can this be Naomi Don t call me Naomi she told them Call me Mara because the Almighty has made my life very bitter I went away full but the LORD has brought me back empty Ruth 1 19 21a NIV The book of Ruth is not normally a text we would read during Advent But Bethlehem is a location mentioned in that book more than once Bethlehem can be translated as the House of Bread Ironically Naomi and her husband with their two sons had to leave the House of Bread to seek food in a foreign and despised country Moab One misfortune after another took everything from Naomi Her home her husband and her sons While still in Moab she heard that there was bread back in Bethlehem And so in a beautiful story she returns to Bethlehem with Ruth her daughter in law who insists on going with her saying Don t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you Where you go I will go and where you stay I will stay Your people will be my people and your God my God Where you die I will die and there I will be buried May the Lord deal with me be it ever so severely if anything but death separates you and me Ruth 1 16 18NIV While Advent is about the birth of Christ in Bethlehem it was also in Bethlehem that Boaz became Kinsman Redeemer for Naomi and Ruth You and I may also journey to Bethlehem to meet our Kinsman Redeemer Christ We come with our bitterness We come with our emptiness We come with our brokenness And we come with our sinfulness Our Kinsman Redeemer is waiting for us there We come to the Bethlehem of Naomi and Ruth and find their descendent Jesus who said Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness for they shall be filled Our praise is directed to you O Jesus Redeemer and Sustainer Thank you for redeeming the unredeemable We come to You in need of spiritual bread to fill us and you fill us with the Bread of Life Amen Rev Steven DeGangi First Congregational Church Peterson IA Steven DeGangi gmail com
First Tuesday of Advent  12.02.14  Coming to Bethlehem Bitter and Empty    So the two women went on until they came to Bet...
First Wednesday of Advent 12 03 14 He was poor I know what it is to be in need and I know what it is to have plenty I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation whether well fed or hungry whether living in plenty or in want I can do all this through the One who gives me strength Philippians 4 12 13 The Apostle Paul was born into a wealthy family was highly educated well respected a leader a Pharisee among his people As a young man there was no reason that Paul should have expected to have to deal with want or hunger There was every reason for him to expect to always have plenty But Paul went through many hardships in order to spread the Good News Here are some of the difficulties Paul faced as he describes them I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food I have been cold and naked I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep I have been in prison frequently been flogged severely and been exposed to death again and again Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one Three times I was beaten with rods once I was stoned three times I was shipwrecked I spent a night and a day in the open sea I have been constantly on the move I have been in danger from rivers in danger from bandits in danger in the city in danger in the country in danger at sea 2 Corinthians 11 23 28 NIV It was Paul s choice to endure these hardships for a greater good This was similar to our Savior s choice to leave the riches of heaven Jesus chose to face life on this earth as a poor peasant and homeless preacher Who being in very nature God did not consider equality with God something to be grasped but made himself nothing taking the very nature of a servant being made in human likeness And being found in appearance as a man Jesus humbled himself to be born as a human and became obedient to death even death on a cross Philippians 2 6 8 NIV We are appreciative that Jesus Paul and many others chose to give up comfort and prosperity for our sakes All gave some some gave all so that the Gospel of redemption could reach us Dear Jesus Thank you for giving up so much for our redemption How you must love us Please give us an attitude of gratitude toward You and all who sacrificed in our best interests In Jesus name Amen Pat Hysom First Congregational Church Newton Campus Kingston NH pchysom7 yahoo com
First Wednesday of Advent  12.03.14 He was poor       I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plent...
First Thursday of Advent 12 04 14 Support Along the Way And Joseph also went up from Galilee out of the city of Nazareth into Judaea unto the city of David which is called Bethlehem because he was of the house and lineage of David to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife being great with child Luke 2 4 5 Scripture does not tell us how long it took Mary and Joseph to complete their journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem It also does not mention a mode of travel although tradition provides a donkey for Mary The distance is known to be about eighty miles over some rough terrain most certainly not a pleasant experience for a woman in the last stage of pregnancy and about to give birth Perhaps danger lurked robbers and thieves It is likely that other relatives accompanied Mary and Joseph on this trek although Scripture does not give us this detail either I like to think though that there was comfort in the form of some moral support along the way I am reminded of my own faith journey long sometimes rocky sometimes smooth The enemy hides out ready to pounce when I least expect it to take advantage of a questioning heart or wandering mind The smooth road becomes a mountain This is a journey filled with peril But then God speaks and the way is clear again for a time God does not promise an effortless pilgrimage but just the opposite In the world ye shall have tribulation but be of good cheer John 16 33 My comfort my support along the way is Jesus who shares my burdens and shoulders my fears The journey of a Christian is never a solo one Jesus assures us that he is always with us and in that affirmation we are confident that our walk is secure even in the rough spots Heavenly Father this time of expectation is not merely a period of waiting but one of obedient following the road to Bethlehem My prayer my trust is that You provide constant companionship along the way through the presence of my brothers and sisters in Christ I thank you for those believers You have brought alongside me to share my joys and sorrows my travels and certainly to help me stay on track through it all In Jesus precious Name Amen Nancy LeCain First Congregational Church of Kingston Kingston NH nancy lecain net
First Thursday of Advent  12.04.14  Support Along the Way    And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Naza...
First Friday of Advent 12 05 14 Waiting Lead me in your truth and teach me for you are the God of my salvation for You I wait all the day long Psalm 25 5 I wait all the day long Could a sentence be any more countercultural in our day and age If my old computer takes more than a minute to boot up or if I have to wait a few seconds to save a document or to bring up a website I am immediately impatient And that s not anywhere near all the day long Of course there is waiting and there is waiting When we can we do other things while waiting Then it s not so hard If I order a book or a CD online and have to wait for a week or two to receive it I can be so busy that I forget I m waiting And when the merchandise finally arrives I am almost surprised But think of other kinds of waiting If I m at the dentist s where I probably don t want to be in the first place it s hard to be patient in that waiting room pun intended Maybe like me you bring something to read But what if you forget In my case I don t build up my patience by reading People magazine or an antique issue of National Geographic or by watching the Food Network or Nickelodeon on the television screen Even when we re not waiting all the day long it feels like it and it s difficult But David says in Psalm 25 that he is eager to wait all the day long David values God s leading in truth that much and longs for God to teach him This Advent season when we reenact our anticipation of the birth of the One who is the Truth is about waiting And what we are really anticipating while we are doing all those other things is the same thing David was waiting for To know God s ways to know the truth to be reminded that we are loved by our Kinsman Redeemer Father God You demonstrated Your great love for us by sending Your Son to redeem us Bless us as we wait to celebrate that great Gift once again In the power of the Holy Spirit and in the Name of Jesus our Redeemer Amen Rev Dr Robert Hellam Church of the Oaks Del Ray Oaks CA bchellam pacbell net
First Friday of Advent  12.05.14  Waiting    Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation  for ...
First Saturday of Advent 12 06 14 Watchful Waiting Be careful not to let yourselves become occupied with feasting and drinking and with the worries of this life or that Day may suddenly catch you Luke 21 34 TEV Speaking of the Day of the coming of the Kingdom of God Jesus cautions his disciples to be watchful to avoid distractions of daily life This is the same watchfulness with which we are to wait for the birthday of our Redeemer during this Advent season Feasting and drinking ah the parties of the season Our socializing involves festivities with our co workers favorites clubs and neighbors And the worries of this life nag at us Are we going to spend too much Can we juggle all the activities and still have time for the children s holiday concerts and rehearsals for the Christmas pageant And Christmas shopping Let s vow to listen to our Savior our Redeemer the first born of our family of faith Let s put aside the superficial and focus on watchful waiting Let s meditate on the words of this advent hymn Clean up your hearts lay down the way For God approaches day by day Prepare for such a worthy heir For such a Guest your homes prepare Gracious God enter our hearts and guide our thoughts as we watch and wait for the birthday of our Redeemer Help us to cast aside all that is unclean impure or unworthy Help us to delight in the coming of our Savior In Jesus name we pray Amen Janet E Keyes Robbins Memorial Congregational Church Greenfield MA janet e keyes gmail com
First Saturday of Advent  12.06.14  Watchful Waiting    Be careful not to let yourselves become occupied with feasting and...
Second Sunday of Advent 12 07 14 Wise Ones Seek Him After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea during the time of King Herod Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared sent them to Bethlehem and said Go and make a careful search for the child Then they went on their way and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was When they saw the star they were overjoyed On coming to the house they saw the child with his mother Mary and they bowed down and worshiped him Then they opened their treasures and presented the child with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh Matthew 2 1 12 NIV To the tune Good King Wenceslas Wise ones on a journey far Travel from the Orient Following a bright new star On a mission reverent Jerusalem is where they rest From their earnest seeking Asking where would be the best Place to find the new King Herod hears and is appalled I am king he rages While advisors priests and scribes Counsel with the sages In a village south of here Is the place that s mentioned See our prophet Micah writes Bethlehem is des tined Knowing this the star they seek Heav nly guidance telling Till it halts o er Bethlehem Where the Child is dwelling There they meet the Son of God Prophecy fulfilling Bowing down they worship there Sharing their rich off ring If we re wise we ll seek Him too On our pilgrim journey He s our Star our Guide our King For our souls He s yearning Gold our gifts of tithe and time Incense prayers and fasting Myrrh our death to sin which brings New life ever last ing Jack Brown and Kerry Price Olivet Congregational Church Olivet MI pilgrim_pastor hotmail com
Second Sunday of Advent  12.07.14 Wise Ones Seek Him     After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of Ki...
Second Monday of Advent 12 08 14 The Family Then they scoffed Jesus is just a carpenter the son of Mary and the brother of James Joseph Judas and Simon And his sisters live right here among us They were deeply offended and refused to believe in him Mark 6 3 NLT During a recent Bible study on the Gospel of Mark we encountered the first time Mark references Mary as in the mother of and Jesus named brothers and unnamed sisters What was striking in our reading was that there was no mention about Mary s husband Joseph Instead the text refers to Jesus as the carpenter not the carpenter s son What we came to recognize is just how much our understanding and faith come from a blending of different parts of Scripture We felt that when other parts of Scripture are used to fill in gaps we might be missing the writer s original intended point Blending Scriptures in order to make our reading more complete may result in missing the opportunity to allow the text to stand on its own Each writer may give a particular insight in this case on Jesus life that is lost when blended Advent is a time to review and ponder the historic event of Jesus life It is a time to reexamine familiar Scriptures for new insights Paul in Philippians 2 6 provides a beautiful hymn where the text reads Jesus being found in human form humbled himself by becoming obedient A childhood with at least six siblings becoming a carpenter and dealing with father absence that was his life on earth the situation where he was humble and obedient Christmas is certainly a season to celebrate and remember the great gift freely given to all so long ago but Advent is also about looking at past history as the key to understanding God s call to our lives Let us do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit but in humility count others more significant than ourselves Let us look not only to our own interests but first to the interests of others Let us have this mind among ourselves which is Yours Christ Jesus Philippians 2 3 Lord Jesus as we examine Your life on earth Your family and Your occupation we want to pattern our own lives after Yours in humility and obedience Amen Rev Robert A Higle Plymouth Congregational Christian Church Lansing MI pastor plymouthlansing org
Second Monday of Advent  12.08.14 The Family     Then they scoffed,    Jesus is just a carpenter, the son of Mary and the ...
Second Tuesday of Advent 12 09 14 Our Next Of Kin But now thus says the Lord the One who created you O Jacob the One who formed you O Israel Do not fear for I have redeemed you I have called you by name you are mine Isaiah 43 1 Whenever there is a situation resulting in a death or disability one of the questions that emergency workers have to ask is this Who is the next of kin Everybody needs somebody who will be responsible for decisions that must be made on behalf of the victims whether they are dead or so disabled that they cannot make their own decisions Often people prepare advance directives giving others the power of attorney to act on their behalf In many cases however such decisions fall to the nearest relative People should really plan ahead for such situations and discuss in advance what their wishes might be in such an eventuality In this passage from the prophet Isaiah we read that in a sense God is our Next Of Kin our Kinsman Redeemer so to speak It is God who after we die will be taking care of us God will make sure that neither Death nor Hades will take charge of us Death may escort us from this life but it is our Redeemer Jesus Christ who will immediately take charge We need have no fear about what will happen to us when we die because our heavenly Next Of Kin has already made all the arrangements needed for our eternal health and happiness Of course just as we should with our earthly next of kin we should discuss our desires with our eternal Next Of Kin also The Lord should know what our desires are concerning the eternal disposition of our souls We do that by putting our trust in the Lord while we are here on earth This season of Advent would be a good time to get out our eternal advanced directive and make sure everything is in order Is it well with our souls Are we in communication with our Next Of Kin Prayer Thanks to You O God our eternal and almighty Next Of Kin we can face the end of our earthly life with confidence no matter when or how it comes Help us live this life as people who are prepared for the next one Through Christ our Lord Amen Pastor Garry Fisher Community Church of South Bend South Bend IN gfish52 gmail com
Second Tuesday of Advent  12.09.14 Our Next Of Kin   But now thus says the Lord, the One who created you, O Jacob, the One...
Second Wednesday of Advent 12 10 14 Manger in the Shadow of the Cross Being made in human likeness and being found in appearance as a human Jesus humbled himself and became obedient even to death on a cross May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ Philippians 2 6 8 Galatians 6 14 The largest attendance came at our Christmas Eve Service at a former church I pastored We even had people sitting in the balcony The decorations were lit in the church as well as throughout our town There was great expectancy and anticipation The music was beautiful and many were blessed It was an encouraging service but then it happened at a Deacons meeting one of our deaconesses said to me You ruined Christmas for me I was taken aback Ruined Christmas I have been accused of a lot of things but this was the first time I was accused of ruining Christmas Did she think I was the Grinch or Scrooge in some way No she said You ruined Christmas because you talked about Jesus being born in the shadow of the cross A little baby is precious indeed Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year I don t think I ruined her Christmas when I reminded her of the great cost for Jesus to come to this earth for the very purpose of dying on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins We couldn t be given a greater gift than this The Greatest Giver gave us the Greatest Gift His life Thank you Jesus for coming to both manger and cross For what is one without the other Amen Rev Brad Heiple Horton Congregational Church Horton MI bkheiple juno com
Second Wednesday of Advent  12.10.14  Manger in the Shadow of the Cross    Being made in human likeness and being found in...
Second Thursday of Advent 12 11 14 Making Wine This miraculous sign at Cana in Galilee was the first time Jesus revealed his glory And Jesus disciples believed in him John2 11 The episode aired before I was born however my earliest encounter with wine making was as a child watching television reruns In the well watched classic episode of I Love Lucy the scene of Lucy stomping grapes at an Italian vineyard and the ensuing wrestling match still makes me laugh For your enjoyment watch Lucy Stomping Grapes As a child I thought that wine making was a simple process plant grapes watch them grow pick them stomp them and voila Now you have wine As an adult I have enjoyed touring vineyards and have learned that wine making is much more complex Earlier this year I met a woman with a college degree in Oenology Who knew one could go to school to learn how to make wine There is so much that goes into growing the proper grapes in the correct climate combining grapes with other fruits and flavors aging the wine in the right barrels and constantly testing and adapting to new methods It s not an easy task The Apostle John records in his gospel the account of Jesus attending a wedding celebration in the village of Cana where Jesus performs a miracle and about 150 gallons of water is turned into wine This is not the simple stomp em and drink it wine It is the best wine The holy magnificence of Jesus is revealed and his disciples believe in him Often this Wedding at Cana event is referred to as the first miracle of Jesus But the first miracle was witnessed by a different select few A humble carpenter and his faith filled wife lowly shepherds and gift bearing foreigners all saw the first miracle the birth of God s Son the Savior of the World These were the first to believe in Jesus On Christmas Eve may we not simply recall and celebrate the birth of Jesus but may we witness and experience anew the miracle of God s saving grace and proclaim our own belief in Jesus Holy God thank you for sending your Son to earth as a baby so many years ago Thank you for the faithful witness of so many who have gone before us Help me to know and share the miracle of your love Amen Lynn Merkel Faith Community Church Franklin WI lynnievon comcast net
Second Thursday of Advent  12.11.14  Making Wine    This miraculous sign at Cana in Galilee was the first time Jesus revea...
Second Friday of Advent 12 12 14 Point of Access And the Word became flesh and lived among us We have seen his glory the glory of the One and Only who came from the Father full of grace and truth No one has ever seen God It is God the only Son who is close to the Father s heart who has made God known John 1 14 18 It is hard to go through even a single day in modern life without encountering an icon for something On the computer on the tablet on the phone there they are and opening these little symbols grants access to all kinds of programs and possibilities One of Webster s definitions of the word icon is a sign where the form suggests its meaning The Orthodox churches have long used icons specially painted images of people and Biblical stories as important points of access into God s truth and God s time In Advent we look to the coming of Jesus Emmanuel God with us He is our icon our point of access into the reality of God When we choose Jesus we discover all kinds of possibilities God s grace and truth a redeeming love that shows us a whole new way to live in the world and relate to one another That icon can sit idle on the screen of your life or you can open it up and open yourself to the fullness of new life in Christ O Little Town of Bethlehem verse 4 O holy Child of Bethlehem Descend to us we pray Cast out our sin and enter in Be born in us today We hear the Christmas angels The great glad tidings tell O come to us abide with us Our Lord Emmanuel Amen Rev Mary E Biedron North Congregational Church Farmington Hills MI mary biedron gmail com
Second Friday of Advent  12.12.14 Point of Access     And the Word became flesh and lived among us, We have seen his glory...
Second Saturday of Advent 12 13 14 Are you blessed too Bless the Lord O my soul and all that is within me bless God s holy name Bless the Lord O my soul and forget not all God s benefits Psalm 103 1 2 RSV I am not a wealthy person by this world s standards I do have a home to live in a car to drive a computer with a word processing program on which to write these thoughts I am most grateful for my church family They have provided me with support spiritually and emotionally and have provided for some of my physical needs as well All of these things and many more are provided to me by my Lord I am so blessed God provides my every need here and made a way available for me to spend eternity with God Are you blessed too While we are constantly surrounded by benefits God has given us this Scripture is about our blessing God and blessing God s holy name How can we possibly bless God who has it all It s like trying to find a present for someone who has everything If we asked God what he wants from us for Christmas this year what would it be Do we even have God on our Christmas list During this season of preparation for Christmas let us think of ways to bless God our Creator Sustainer Redeemer and Friend Dear Heavenly Father Blessed is the Lord who is King over all the universe Thank you for every benefit You provide to each of us We seek to never forget Your many benefits to us and we want to bless you every day of this Advent season In Jesus loving name Amen Pat Hysom First Congregational Church Newton campus Kingston NH pchysom7 yahoo com
Second Saturday of Advent  12.13.14  Are you blessed too     Bless the Lord, O my soul  and all that is within me, bless G...
Third Sunday of Advent 12 14 14 The Savior Unknown and Unwelcomed He was in the world and though the world was made through him the world did not recognize him He came to those who were his own but his own did not receive him Yet to all who received him to those who believed in his name he gave the right to become children of God John 1 10 12 The birth story of Jesus gets read from the Gospel of Luke on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning Saint Luke tells us there was no room for Joseph and Mary in the inn so Mary laid the baby in a swaddling cloth and placed him in a manger Saint Luke reveals the irony that the inn had no room for the Savior of the world And we may even muse that we would not allow such a thing to happen if we were the innkeeper Saint John expands on the account by Saint Luke by describing in greater detail the reality of Jesus reception The Creator of the world was unknown and unwelcomed by his own family the Jews and by the whole world This is our indictment as well It wasn t just the innkeeper or the Jews in Jesus day but the whole world that did not recognize or receive him While we celebrate Christmas we too may harbor attitudes that keep Christ from really being welcomed in our hearts and lives A sobering thought Let us recognize and welcome Christ throughout this Advent season because the reward is our being recognized and welcomed as God s children The promise to those who receive and believe is greater than any other gift we might receive A place at the table a right to belong a child of God The One who was not accepted accepts us O Lord Jesus You are welcome into my heart and home my life and world I want to give you more room this Advent season Amen Reverend Steven DeGangi First Congregational Church Peterson IA Steven DeGangi gmail com
Third Sunday of Advent  12.14.14  The Savior Unknown and Unwelcomed    He was in the world, and though the world was made ...
Third Monday of Advent 12 15 14 Trust in God Truly O God of Israel our Savior You work in mysterious ways Isaiah 45 15 NLT Sometimes God works in mysterious ways Like Mary the young woman spoken to by an angel we wonder what s happening in our lives Only when we look back on the circumstances can we realize how that experience helped us be ready for our future Case in point A friend heard that I was going to Richmond VA She wrote and said that she would love to join me and travel around the area I didn t want to refuse her but there were others that I usually traveled with after our reunion and I didn t want to let them down I didn t want to hurt anyone s feelings What to do To make a long story short my usual group was able to find someone to take my place and consequently I could honor the request of the friend who asked to travel with me around Richmond As a result I was able to see places that I wanted to see which my usual group had decided not to include So it all turned out well for everyone If we just trust God when making our decisions being careful not to hurt anyone s feelings we will be surprised at the outcome It s amazing that many times it works out for our benefit too It doesn t always happen in the short term as it did in this story Sometimes we have to wait years for the happy ending Sometimes there are things that we must experience that are not at all pleasant when we are going through them But they make us better people We must have trust Trust the Process We can t see the outcome from our vantage point but God can God knows what is best for us Lord help me to trust that You have a plan for my life in both the big things and the little things Let me remember to turn to You when making decisions and to ask for Your guidance trusting that in the end all will be well Amen Phyllis Agers First Congregational Church Salida CA p agers juno com
Third Monday of Advent  12.15.14 Trust in God     Truly, O God of Israel, our Savior, You work in mysterious ways.    Isai...
Third Tuesday of Advent 12 16 14 A Little Dab Do not despise the day of small things for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin unto us a Child is born unto us a Son is given Zechariah 4 10 Isaiah 9 6 Back in the day it was the custom for boys to use various forms of grease to slick back their hair One of the more popular hair treatments was Brylcream with its slogan A little dab ll do ya From the very beginning God tried to get the attention of God s people with the big production Adam and Eve were disobedient and rather than give them a time out followed by a second chance God threw them out of the Garden of Eden and required that they earn their way in more ways than one Despite warnings and disapproval humans continued their disobedient ways and there was the flood the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and the plagues on Egypt To prove who was God there was Elijah s water soaked bonfire Prophets were sent to preach gloom and doom with little or nothing to show for it There were many big productions Then there was a baby born of a peasant girl in a non descript stable in less than ideal political circumstances with a production witnessed by a few shepherds and magi This simple event which could have easily escaped the notice of many was to change the world More than two thousand years later the birth of our Savior reminds us that the meaning of life is not in the grandiose but in the simple expression of love God s love to a lost world O Lord let me remember always to express my love for You and others even in small ways A little dab ll do Amen Rev Bobbie Chapman Founders Congregational Church Harwinton CT revbac aol com
Third Tuesday of Advent  12.16.14 A Little Dab   .     Do not despise the day of small things, for the Lord rejoices to se...
Third Wednesday of Advent 12 17 14 Remembering Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you 1 Corinthians 11 2 He wakes up and puts on dark dress pants and his nicest button down shirt He pulls on his sport coat something he doesn t seem to wear much anymore He shuffles down the hall to breakfast The nice lady is there the one who always helps What cha got there she asks about the wrinkled news clipping in his hand He replies She died I m going to the funeral today He found the obituary in the paper and when he saw her picture the waves of memory crashed through the walls of his dementia His beloved had died And since then he has woken up and gotten dressed for her funeral every day As has become the way of many of these things the memorial isn t for weeks so there are many schedules to coordinate But we can t make him wait weeks to say good bye There is still a part of him which needs this ancient ritual of grieving And so he and his kids are coming to the church on Sunday afternoon I will read about the mansions in heaven and give thanks that for his beloved all sickness and sorrow are ended and death itself is past she has been welcomed into God s eternal embrace I trust that he will meet his KinsmanRedeemer there the one in whom he has a friend the one through whom we all have new life and the life everlasting And hopefully the next morning he will put on his khaki pants and a polo shirt leave the suit coat on its hanger and the obituary by his bedside and shuffle down to breakfast with the peace that passes understanding in his heart Dear God Thank you for sending your Son our Kinsman Redeemer to meet us in our times of waiting grief and sadness We are grateful that Jesus is with us always even to the end of the age Amen Rev Robin Long Sutton s Bay Congregational Church Sutton s Bay MI rdrllong gmail com
Third Wednesday of Advent  12.17.14 Remembering   Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the...
Third Thursday of Advent 12 18 14 Potter and Clay Let the redeemed of the Lord say so whom the Lord has redeemed from the hand of the enemy Can I not do with you Israel as this potter does declares the LORD Like clay in the hand of the potter so are you in my hand Psalm 107 2 Jeremiah 16 8 Each year on the short term service trips to Mission Mazahua Mexico I acquire a new ceramic mug beautifully crafted and decorated Sometimes I know the potter personally I quote the following to my congregation at least once each year It speaks to me of what redemption looks like as God redemptively transforms us from mud into a beautiful ceramic cup to be filled and poured out in God s name I will do more than belong I will participate I will do more than care I will help I will do more than believe I will practice I will do more than be fair I will be kind I will do more than forgive I will be gracious I will do more than earn I will enrich I will do more than teach I will inspire I will do more than give I will serve I will do more than live I will grow I will do more than be friendly I will be a friend I will do more than belong I will participate I will do more than care I will help William Arthur Ward American editor scholar author pastor and teacher We can speak of our redemption by the way we live living as the redeemed men and women of God Author of abundant living bless us to be helpful hopeful useful careful faithful thoughtful graceful merciful peaceful and prayerful so that our lives will be meaningful plentiful beautiful and manifesting a fuller redemption Amen Rev Jack Brown Olivet Congregational Church Olivet MI Pilgrim_pastor hotmail com
Third Thursday of Advent  12.18.14 Potter and Clay     Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom the Lord has redeemed fro...
Third Friday of Advent 12 19 14 Kinsman Redeemer Who are you Boaz asked I am your servant Ruth she said Spread the corner of your garment over me since you are a kinsman redeemer Ruth 3 9 A kinsman redeemer is a close relative who would buy the dead man s property and take his widow into his home to care for her How interesting that as Boaz accepted the kinsman redeemer responsibility he eagerly did so because he loved Ruth No one had to force him or guilt him into it He was already smitten with her When the original kinsman redeemer opted out Boaz was only too happy to step in Jesus is our Kinsman Redeemer He all too willingly gave his life because he was smitten with love for all of us He became our protector and with witnesses instead of offering his sandal as promise of sealing the deal Jesus laid down his life and covered us with the corner of his garment Do you suppose that is why the sky was overcast as he hung on the cross Was that Jesus way of covering us with the corner of his garment The swaddling cloth for the newborn in the manger would become the covering for each of us How amazing it is that we have a Kinsman Redeemer who will never leave or forsake us and is more in love with us than Boaz ever could be with Ruth Gracious God thank You for our Kinsman Redeemer Jesus who is willing to share the harvest cover us with his protection and love us before we even love him May we fall in love with the One who loves us so that all that we are and all that we have belongs to him even as he belongs to us We are no longer just workers in the field but united as one Amen Rev Marilyn Danielson First Congregational Church of Portland Portland MI portlandpastor yahoo com
Third Friday of Advent  12.19.14 Kinsman-Redeemer   Who are you   Boaz asked.    I am your servant Ruth,    she said.    S...
Third Saturday of Advent 12 20 14 Perfect Who Me Be ye perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brother and sister Matthew 5 48 Hebrews 2 11 NIV Jesus said for us to be perfect This has been a stumbling block for many including me I ve had it explained to me in many ways such as Maybe we are perfectly human But this is not an ideal world We humans know we are not perfect Like the apple on the tree that goes through a process of bud to blossom to tiny apple to ripe fruit perfection is a process We seem to be here to learn Even Jesus learned Although Jesus was a Son he learned obedience from what he suffered and once made perfect he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him Hebrews 5 8 10 NIV Eventually we get it right I was complaining about and criticizing some acquaintances I finally realized that they were good people I was the one lacking So what s new I m not perfect yet Part of my problem is that I am a perfectionist I want everything to be perfect and I want all others to be perfect too It causes all kinds of friction I can tell what should be done how it should be done and give the reasons why but sometimes I myself do not follow through on my own expectations If nothing else it teaches me humility I m not perfect yet It gives me something to strive for Sometimes it s more important to love ourselves and others as we are We are all children of God created in God s image but thankfully each unique Jesus came to show us the way Jesus came not to condemn but to rescue John 3 17 He went about his own business sharing the Good News with those who wanted to hear healing those who wanted to be healed We need to follow his example concentrating on the loving not the judging Look for the good in others Look for the Christ in others Then we see the perfection And it s in us too God doesn t make junk We must bring out the best in ourselves and each other Dear Lord help me to love myself and others just as we are Let me look on this life and its challenges as opportunities to follow in the footsteps of Jesus Amen Phyllis Agers First Congregational Church Salida CA p agers juno com
Third Saturday of Advent  12.20.14  Perfect  Who Me     Be ye perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect   Both the one wh...
Fourth Sunday of Advent 12 21 14 Humpty Dumpty In the fullness of time God sent his Son to redeem us Galatians 4 4 5 I don t know the source of the following but it speaks to me about redemption and our role in it and I hope and pray it will to you too as you read it and reflect on it Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall Humpty Dumpty indeed had a fall When all the king s horses and all the king s men came to put Humpty together again they realized their limits and called in the king whose love and grace changed everything Maybe not all at once or in a way they could see but they knew first hand grace s mystery They remembered their fall and the king s intervention So thankful they were of his gracious intention He saved them for sure forgave their sins too and accepted each one just as they were They stayed there with Humpty and helped with his needs tended his cracks with love and good deeds They spoke such kind words and encouraged his heart extending God s grace from the very start Because they too had fallen and needed the king they now had extra love to bring They saw past the pieces strewn about where he lay and loved him and held him while the king worked his way Sharing the hope and good news they d been given they encouraged each other in a new way of living So the next time that Humpty should sit on a wall if the wind blows just right and threatens a fall then all the king s horses and all the king s men will all stand together protecting their friend Dear Lord thank you so much for the gift of redeeming grace It s hard to comprehend all that such grace does Help us to be agents of redeeming grace looking for ways to extend help and mercy to others Amen Rev Jack Brown Olivet Congregational Church Olivet MI Pilgrim_pastor hotmail com
Fourth Sunday of Advent  12.21.14 Humpty Dumpty     In the fullness of time God sent his Son to redeem us.    Galatians 4 ...
Fourth Monday of Advent 12 22 14 Storms of Life When Jesus spoke again to the people he said I am the light of the world whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life John 8 12 I have always been amazed by and attracted to lighthouses I enjoy reading stories of ships and people who were saved because of the light on a lighthouse I have a mental picture of a ship being tossed back and forth by giant waves in a cold black sea They are helplessly and hopelessly turned around in the stormy sea Then someone spots a glimmer of light in the distance That glimmer of light turns into a glimmer of hope as the battered ship limps toward the light Sometimes the waves get so high the ship loses sight of the light However they know the light is still there so they keep looking until they spot it once again In our modern day we face many storms There are financial problems relationship problems unemployment and health concerns Sometimes it seems that we are going to drown in a cold dark stormy sea of problems We can be overcome with fear and have no hope However Jesus our Redeemer came as a Light to a dark world If we look toward the Light we will eventually find that glimmer of hope Even if we lose sight of it for a while we must keep looking because the Light does not go out it is always shining so we can find our way safely home I was sinking deep in sin far from the peaceful shore Very deeply stained within sinking to rise no more But the Master of the sea heard my despairing cry From the waters lifted me now safe am I Souls in danger look above Jesus completely saves He will lift you by his love out of the angry waves He s the Master of the sea billows his will obey He your Savior wants to be be saved today Love lifted me When nothing else could help Love lifted me James Rowe Heavenly Father help us to keep our eyes fixed on the Light of your Son Jesus Christ When storms hit in our lives help us to focus on the Light that will guide us safely home Amen Rev Eric Hickman Tipton Community Church Tipton MI tiptoncommunitychurch gmail com
Fourth Monday of Advent  12.22.14 Storms of Life     When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said,    I am the light of t...
Fourth Tuesday of Advent 12 23 14 Chopped Surprise Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brother and sister Hebrews 2 11 NIV I watch the Food Network program Chopped regularly For those not familiar with the program there are four chefs competing against one another as they prepare a three course meal from mystery ingredients given them for each course At the end of each course the dishes are presented to a panel of judges and one chef is chopped from the competition The winner receives the title of Chopped Champion and a prize of 10 000 On one particular show the four chefs that had been chopped from previous shows were given another chance to redeem themselves in the Chopped kitchen and win the title as well as the 10 000 prize The two finalists in this show were a young man that on the previous show was rather arrogant and obnoxious and the other contestant was a woman who was trying to win the money so she could travel to see her elderly mother in her home country in Europe The young man won and as the woman was leaving he told her to wait He indicated he never expected to win and was not expecting the money He gave the money to the other chef so she could visit her mother As this young chef redeemed himself by winning the cooking competition he also was the kinsman redeemer for his competitor The redemption was more than just proving he could win the title of Chopped Champion he won much more on that day He demonstrated what Jesus taught and demonstrated Love one another as yourself Gracious Lord enable me to have the vision to see where I may be a kinsmanredeemer for my brothers and sisters Allow that vision to be present not only during this Advent season but always Amen Jerry Turner Arbor Grove Congregational Church Jackson Mi jerryturner4705 gmail com
Fourth Tuesday of Advent  12.23.14 Chopped Surprise     ...Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy ...
Christmas Eve 12 24 14 Easter thoughts at Christmastime A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world In a little while you will see me no more you will weep and mourn and then after a little while you will see me and your grief will turn to joy and no one will take away your joy John 16 16 23 Last Christmas when I was making preparations for celebrations with family and friends I felt very overwhelmed I did not even have that large a shopping list but still it was a lot to do in a short time frame and by Christmas Eve I was exhausted Most people find Christmas a joyous time as we prepare to celebrate the birth of the baby in the manger and many of us enjoy the bows wrappings decorations and the entire mood of the Christmas season I enjoy these things too but sometimes it is just too much There is so much commercialism beginning as early as September we almost want Christmas to be over before it begins tonight I find it ironic that so many of us get sidetracked by the numerous things we feel we are supposed to do during the Christmas season when all we should be doing is thinking of the beautiful baby sent from God It is time to actually think about Jesus and let go of the things we didn t get done like all kinds of last minute shopping decorating wrapping cooking and so on As our Kinsman Redeemer Christ offers us personal salvation from this world of doing the many things not even related to the real reason for the Christmas celebration Last year I found myself wishing I was preparing for an Easter celebration instead of Christmas because Easter celebrations are so much simpler and the focus is more on Christ his death burial and resurrection It was not simple for Jesus but is easy for us to accept that Great Gift of New Life Let us take some time today to think about not only the baby Jesus in the manger but also Jesus rising from the grave alive forevermore Dear Lord help me put aside the rushing and busy ness and spend the next twelve days of Christmas worshipping our Kinsman Redeemer who brought a simple message and sweeping solution for our world I want to tie Christmas and Easter together Amen Dr Lisa Bircher Grace Church Columbiana OH Lisa Bircher epschools k12 oh us
Christmas Eve  12.24.14  Easter thoughts at Christmastime   A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has ...
Christmas Day 12 25 14 I am God s Favorite Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel praising God and saying Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests Luke 2 13 14 One February afternoon in 2002 my five brothers two sisters and I had come together at the house we grew up to discuss what we should do about Mom She lived alone and had fallen badly enough to send her to the hospital All of us wanted the best for her but what was the best In the midst of all this discussion about taking care of Mom of hospitals rest homes of somebody moving in with her a discussion that was in effect about taking over her life the conversation turned somehow to how she had taken care of us when we were children We remembered all the many accidents we had the broken bones the nights that she stayed up with us We remembered how she stayed up waiting for us when we were older and how she ran interference with Dad for us Naturally our talk turned into kidding I don t know who started it but someone said I know I was Mom s favorite Joe thought he was the favorite because he was sickly as a child Bob knew he was the favorite because he was the oldest then Viv countered that she was the favorite because she was the youngest And so it went on until each of us had come up with a reason to prove that we were special to Mom above all others I was struck with the realization that while most parents try not to show favoritism Mom had made all her children believe that each one of us was her favorite In the family of God it is undeniably true that we are all God s favorite If God knows the number of hairs we have on our heads we are special in God s sight If God sent his only begotten Son as a gift to us to be born for us at Christmas and to die for us at Easter we are loved in a mighty way That is why I know that I am God s favorite Heavenly Father on this blessed Christmas Day we remember Your gracious gift to us that came in the form of a baby We remember Mary the one you handpicked to give birth to him and watch over him as our mothers did in the past We ask Your special blessings of strength and discernment to all women in the special role of mother as we celebrate the first day of Christmas today Amen Connie Hellam Church of the Oaks Del Ray Oaks CA bchellam pacbell net
Christmas Day  12.25.14 I am God   s Favorite      Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, ...
Devotional Entry Format TITLE SCRIPTURE REFERENCE Book chapter verse s translation TOPIC SENTENCE What is the essence of your entry What is the Big Idea What words should the reader carry in mind and heart throughout the day Does your Big Idea relate to the theme of the season for which it is being written Lent or Advent Does your Big Idea relate to the chosen title for that year MESSAGE Story or illustration followed by an original idea relating to the Scripture chosen PRAYER Write a short prayer related to the Topic sentence Name of writer _____________________________________ Title Pastor Rev Dr etc ___________________________ Address of writer ____________________________________ Telephone s ______________ Email address _______________________________________ Biographical Information about yourself for on line edition _________________ The Chicago Manual of Style will be used by the copyeditor who reserves the right to correct grammar and spelling Send your entry to Lori Wiley loriwiley7 gmail com 599 New Boston Road Bedford NH 03110 603 494 7020 or Terry Bobzien terrybob gmail com 9510 E Market Rd Pittsford MI 49271 517 499 5470 If you do not receive a reply via e mail call to ensure that your entry was received Advent 2015 Deadline August 15 2015 THEME Adventure to Christmas Lent 2016 Deadline July 15 2015 THEME Five Lenten Tasks Pray Fast Give alms Sacrifice or Self denial Practice simplicity Each devotional entry is scrutinized by a team of copyeditors Main issues to consider 1 Each entry needs one big idea or topic and everything in the entry should be about that topic including the Scripture and Prayer 2 Biblical accuracy You may choose your own English translation if you wish 3 We adhere to gender accuracy in translation Inclusive language is part of Standard English 4 If your entry is too long it will be cut Please stay around 320 words 5 The facilitating team reserves the right to re shape your entry as needed to clarify what you have written or make your entry fit the theme or to make the entries cohesive 6 E mail addresses of authors are included to enhance communication with brothers and sisters in Christ If you do not want your e mail address included please include a statement to that effect 7 Pictures of authors optional are an extra blessing
Devotional Entry Format  TITLE  SCRIPTURE REFERENCE  Book, chapter, verse s , translation TOPIC SENTENCE  What is the esse...
Reflections
Reflections