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Monday, December 14, 2020 . . . An Advent of Joy

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”
~~~ John 14:27

(selections from Praying Through Advent
Reverends Delaney Schlake-Kruse and Kelsey Beebe)

When Jesus offers peace to his friends, he is well aware that the world they live in is anything but peaceful. Jesus is headed to his death at this point in the story, and he is offering comfort to his disciples before his arrest.

“Peace” in John 14 is all about the abiding presence of God with people in times of trouble. Jesus’ peace does not guarantee that all will be well, or even that we will not experience anxiety or chaos. Rather, Jesus is offering the assurance that God will be with us, offering the gift of God’s consistent presence and peace even in the face of great fear and upheaval.

A little something: Make a list of all the areas of chaos or anxiety that touch your life and your community today. Now, write “Peace” next to each entry, and write about what it feels like to be moored in God’s peace in the midst of the storms of life.

Prayer for Advent Joy (adapted from Joyce Rupp, O.S.M.): Gracious God, help us to be aware of how we are God-Bearers, no matter how ordinary our lives might seem! Amen.

Michael, Sally, Elise and Sean from Florissant, MO

 

Sunday, December 13, 2020 . . . An Advent of Joy

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
~~~ Matthew 5: 14-16.

This has been a challenging year. We are trying to deal with tangible problems like wildfires, evacuation, displacement and rebuilding. We are trying to deal with political unrest, and a country that is divided in many ways. And we are dealing with the virus–an invisible and ever-present threat.

As followers of Christ, we are the light of the world. When Jesus was born in Bethlehem, an angel appeared to the shepherds and the glory of the Lord shone upon them; the Magi followed the light of the star above Bethlehem all those years ago, leading them to the baby Jesus.

Jesus no longer walks on this earth. But he has called on us to be the light of the world. As Christians, we are to have an internal light that shines before others, to give glory to God. As we address contemporary challenges, let us be intentional about being the place where others find kindness, patience, acceptance, mercy, a helping hand, and a place of refuge. We can be the light in a world filled with darkness.

Prayer for Advent Joy (adapted from Joyce Rupp, O.S.M.): Gracious God, may I be inspired to ask, and follow, your guidance today! Amen.

Gina J., Boulder Creek United Methodist Church

 

Saturday, December 12, 2020 . . . An Advent of Peace

“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” ~~~John 8:12

Maybe it’s the kid in me, but I have always delighted in the many lights of Christmas. The twinkly, white lights on the tree, the warm glow of candlelight, the ambience of firelight, the sparkle of glass globe ornaments, and the glisten of dewdrops on the last of my blooming roses. How fitting that we celebrate the birth of our Lord, Jesus Christ during this, the darkest time of the year and during these very dark pandemic times.

But as we prepare our hearts for Jesus during this Advent season amidst the bright illumination of all kinds of lights, we are reminded that Jesus’ love glows brightest of all. He continues to light the difficult paths we walk and is a beacon at the end of the long, dark tunnel that has been 2020. He alone puts a happy song in our hearts and a smile of joyful anticipation on our faces! We know we will get through these tough times because He is with us. His rod and his staff, they comfort us as His light shines upon our faces. May we rejoice in the gift that is Jesus with every twinkle, glow, shimmer, and sparkle we see this Advent. And I, for one, plan on keeping my house aglow well into the New Year!

Father in heaven, what joy the lights of Christmas bring to our weary hearts, for they remind us of your promises to illuminate our paths forward until we walk towards the final glow of the crown of life! May we rejoice in the beauty of Christmas and the love that Jesus brings to our dark world! And may we share our light with those who are enveloped in the heaviness of these current trials. With radiant hearts, we say Amen!

Debra U., Morgan Hill United Methodist Church

 

Friday, December 11, 2020 . . . An Advent of Peace

“I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for”. Jeremiah 29:11

This is my family in 2018, yes, my entire immediate family.  Could have taken the exact same picture in 2019.  But this Christmas we have grown, in July my first Grandchild was born, Isabella.  Then last week my son got engaged to a beautiful woman with an equally beautiful daughter, Jasmine and Olivia.  So, I have gained a daughter-in-law and two granddaughters.

If you had told the me in the picture (center back row) that within the next two years all of this love would be added to our small little family I wouldn’t have believed you.  But that has been my journey with God.  Things seem to be falling apart, the falling apart where all you can do is fall to your knees to pray, sometimes the only prayer you can get out is “please …”.  Then when things look to be the bleakest a path out opens, or really, a step opens up.  When I look back at these times, I can see God’s hand at work, God has not abandoned me and with grandchildren, well that is the future I had hoped for.  My prayers today are also simple, ‘thank you, God, thank you.”

Prayer for Advent Peace (Joyce Rupp, O.S.M., from A Heart Prayer):  O God, we seek you with all our heart. The longing for you is planted deep within our hearts. Hear our cry for you. Help us to welcome you in all of life.  Amen.

Trish C., Morgan Hill United Methodist Church

 

 

Thursday, December 10, 2020 . . . An Advent of Peace

~~~ Isaiah 40:1–11; 31

As we live through this pandemic, and continue through Advent, I am reminded by the words of Isaiah that God is bigger and stronger than anything we may face in our lifetime.  Add to that the knowledge of God’s desire for us to be comforted, and we find the importance and need to look for the all-embracing love of God in new and unexpected ways.   

We’re about to complete a difficult year while facing another uncertain one.  Twelve months ago, life was what we used to call “normal.”  We moved about as we wished; we prepared for Christmas; we went to movies; attended concerts; kids went to school; we went out to restaurants; we visited friends; gathered in groups larger than 10; even went to church; to work and received paychecks; we did all these things … all without a second thought.

2020 has been a year to remember … or maybe a year to forget.  But as we draw near to Christmas and the end of the year, we know in God we find comfort and love.  Isaiah spoke to a people with little comfort also facing a bleak past and an uncertain future.  The Prophet’s same words come to us; facing a challenge in ways we did not even imagine a year ago.  Yet God is with us now; at work in our lives even in the midst of our suffering.   I find comfort in that God does not run away from us, but chooses to run to us, and more importantly stays and dwells with us, even in a pandemic.   God Bless You.

Prayer for Advent Peace (based on Joyce Rupp, O.S.M.): As I pray today, I will turn my heart toward someone who has hurt me.  Amen.

 Patrick D., Morgan Hill United Methodist Church

 

Wednesday, December 9, 2020 . . . An Advent of Peace

“Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come.” ~~~ Mark 13:33 (NRSV)

 Jesus repeatedly admonished his followers to remain alert, to stay vigilant, and to keep awake.  But we don’t need to spend our lives looking up at the sky watching for Jesus to come back.  That’s how the disciples stood after Jesus ascended to heaven, and the angels said to them, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven?  This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”  We don’t need to worry about when Jesus will come back.  No amount of watchfulness will bring him back any quicker.  What then is our watchfulness for?

Firstly we are to watch for opportunities to be a witness to the world around us. Ephesians 5:15-16 reads, “Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil.”  And Colossians 4:5-6 states, “Conduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders, making the most of the time.  Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone.”

Secondly we are to watch for opportunities to meet the needs of others.  Titus 3:1 reminds us to, “Be ready for every good work.”  And Galatians 6:10 encourages us, “So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all.”

Our watchfulness is not to be passive, but active.  We are to remain alert to how our witness appears to others.  We are to stay vigilant to meet the needs of those around us. We are to keep awake to do God’s will until the return of our Lord.

Prayer for Advent Peace (based on Joyce Rupp, O.S.M.): As I pray, I will let go of one fear or anxiety I have and place it in Emmanuel’s care.  Amen.

 Gabe H., Aptos United Methodist Church

 

Tuesday, December 8, 2020 . . . An Advent of Peace

“But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” ~~~ Isaiah 40:31

Hanging On To The Past

It is fun to reminisce about the past. We can fantasize about how things used to be (forgetting the problems) and wonder why things can’t be like that now.

This picture is a castle in Wales that belonged to one if my ancestors. It was destroyed after my ancestor killed the King (not a wise thing to do!).

I can think about what it would be like if we still owned a Welsh Castle. It’s located in a beautiful countryside and I can spend hours thinking about “what if…”. In reality those visions can interfere with the gifts of the present. God meets us in the now and invites us to live this day in God’s Presence.

The anticipation of Jesus’ birth reminds us to let go of the past, the joys and problems, and by the Grace of God grab hold of today and eagerly face the future that God is opening for us.

Prayer for Advent Peace (based on Joyce Rupp, O.S.M.): In my praying this day, I will think about the Messengers of Light in my life and write a note of gratitude to one of them. Amen.

Clyde V., Boulder Creek United Methodist Church

 

Monday, December 7, 2020 . . . An Advent of Peace

“For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, do not fear; I will help you.” ~~~ Isaiah 41:13

The most difficult thing about this pandemic is having to stay away from the people I love the most. My grandmother is and continues to be a huge part of my life even though I have not physically seen her in the past six months. I miss her hugs and kisses so much. However, with her being in the vulnerable category I cannot put her health at risk. I am thankful to God that she is healthy and that I can call her up any time I want. Hearing her loving voice makes me happy and for that moment it’s as if I can feel her embrace me. I know it’s God’s way of saying “Do not fear; I will help you.” And indeed he has.

Please stay safe. Be thankful. And don’t forget to count your blessings!

Prayer for Advent Peace (based on Joyce Rupp, O.S.M.): I pray that I will seek the consoling embrace of Christ in the difficult parts of my life. Amen.

Hilda A., Watsonville First United Methodist Church

 

Day 6, December 6, 2020 . . . An Advent of Peace

The First Christmas for Denise, age 9 months

“This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” ~~~ Luke 2:12

The message of the angels to the startled shepherds was simple enough…”you shall find a child…”
All the possibilities of our full humanity are in each newborn infant…”the hopes and fears of all our years.”
And once we have found that baby, we must never stray from protecting, loving, nurturing, following…wherever the love of that child that may lead.

Prayer for Advent Peace (Joyce Rupp, O.S.M.): I pray that I will search my heart for peace, and dislodge the inner tyrants that reside in me, opening myself up fully to you, O God! Amen.

Darrell & Karen D. and all our children.
United Methodist Church of Santa Cruz

Day 5, December 5, 2020 . . . An Advent of Hope

Christmas, 1962

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”  So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.  ~~~ Luke 2:15-16, New International Version

When I was young, we lived in several parts of the country.  Most holidays would be marked with a family gathering and shared meal.  Whatever relatives were nearby and available were part of those events, and the role of host home was rotated among all.

But Christmas was different. Christmas morning was a time for my sister and I to be with our parents.  We’d play Christmas carols on the record player, stay in our pajamas most of the morning, try out new toys, and enjoy the sparkly “icicles” and lights on the tree.  Later, dinner would be a special meal prepared by both Mom and Dad.  Regardless of where we were living at the time, the time together made it special.

As in the original Christmas story, when Mary and Joseph celebrated the birth of Jesus in their makeshift home, the specific location of the home was less important than being together.

Prayer for Advent Hope (Joyce Rupp, O.S.M.):  Help me to sit quietly in hope, and to close my eyes to create space to entrust myself to you, O God.  Amen.

Wanda G., Morgan Hill United Methodist Church