Scripture: Luke 1:78-79
“By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
Thought for the Day: From the beginning of time, God has been changing darkness into light. Where shadows shroud what God loves, the divine nature looks for ways of casting off the shadow. But once the cloud has been lifted and light shines, there remains another step. God guides our feet into a life of joy, yet we must choose to actually take the steps in the direction we are being guided. Too often we relish the new found light so much that we do not take note of God’s Spirit beckoning us in the way of joy.
Prayer: If I appear to be a little awestruck by your gift of light, O Lord, be persistent and continue to invite me into the life that exhibits your joy. Amen.
SUNDAY EVENING CONCERT
Scripture: Luke 1:41
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.
Thought for the Day: I hope this doesn’t sound too weird, but I believe babies, animals and even the child in a womb is more aware of his/her setting than we realize. Time and maturity squeeze the spiritual sensitivity out of us. God showed up in the home of Elizabeth in a way that was beyond unexpected. Mary’s vision had told her that she carried the very presence of God within her, yet such a message would have left most of us a bit skeptical. The moment the child within Elizabeth leapt, Mary had another confirmation of what she wanted to believe. Too often we look to the wrong people and voices for confirmation of God’s loving presence in our lives. Something as simple as the burpy smile of an infant might just tell us exactly what we need to know.
Prayer: Provide me good spiritual senses, O Loving God, so I can see even what is not visible to my eyes. Amen.
Third Sunday of Advent
Practice Makes Possible
SPECIAL OFERING THIS SUNDAY
TO SUPPORT THEOUR REGION
Scripture: John 1:14
The Word became flesh and made his home among us. We have seen his glory, glory like that of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.
Thought for the Day: On Sunday right before the 8:15 service, I broke a candleholder in the stairwell behind the Forum. I went in search of a broom and dustpan to clean up my mess. Later in the afternoon, I was telling my wife about my oops. She looked at me so strange, and so I told her again. This time she asked, “When was this wedding?” In my confusion, I told her a third time, and this time she broke into laughter. Instead of hearing that I broke a candleholder and had to go look for a broom and dustpan, she thought I said, “I broke a candleholder, and I was looking for the groom and bride’s hand.”
You may know the message, but if it is not understood by the listener, you might as well have not said it in the first place. As we move closer to Christmas, let us be clear about the message of God’s love entering the world anew… but let us also make sure that however we share the message, we share it in such a way that the listeners can understand what we are attempting to communicate.
Prayer: Make my life, O Incarnate Word, a clear reflection of your wonderful message. Amen.
Have your prayed
for your church today?
Scripture: Luke 1:45
And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.
Thought for the Day: Mary, the mother of Jesus, and Elizabeth, the mother of John, come together during their pregnancies. Elizabeth offers a beautiful statement about Mary that concludes with the above words. Basically Elizabeth is saying that Mary is happy because she truly believes in the promises made to her, yet these promises remain unfulfilled. I can understand someone being happy when the promises are fulfilled, but when they remains something that might happen in the future, how is someone happy and willing to consider herself blessed? I must assume it is found in the intersection of Mary’s faith and God’s trustworthiness. When these two ideas meet, a sense of joy and contentment can exist even when the present reality gives no reason for such sentiment.
Prayer: Help your church, Eternal God, to grow in its trust of you. Amen.
Behind the Scenes: The Birth of Jesus
Sunday at 1:30pm
All are invited!!
And then don’t forget…
Scripture: Zephaniah 3:19-20
Watch what I am about to do to all your oppressors at that time. I will deliver the lame; I will gather the outcast. I will change their shame into praise and fame throughout the earth. At that time, I will bring all of you back, at the time when I gather you. I will give you fame and praise among all the neighboring peoples when I restore your possessions and you can see them—says the LORD.
Thought for the Day: In the days before Christmas, a guy showed his friend a little box with a beautiful diamond ring in it. “Do you think my wife will like it?” he asked. His friend nodded, but then asked, “I thought she wanted one of those four-wheel-drive vehicles?” “She does,” he replied, “but where am I gonna find a fake Jeep?” We too often try to bring real joy into people’s lives with stuff that only appears to have worldly value, but in the end, has no ultimate or life-giving value. The real joy comes through the gifts of God, and when those gifts are experienced and embraced and then shared with others, the true joy of the season comes alive.
Prayer: Help me to be content, O Giver of Grace, with the gift you offer so generously. As we share gifts wrapped with paper and bow, may we acknowledge the gift of change that you are bringing into our lives and into the world. Amen.
ANOTHER EXCITING CONCERT
This Coming Sunday
Scripture: Luke 2:13-14
Suddenly a great assembly of the heavenly forces was with the angel praising God. They said, “Glory to God in heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors.”
Thought for the Day: A few translations say the angels sang, and though that’s the way I imagine it to be, the word praise is a bit more generic. Yet for most of us, we think of angelic voices speaking in song – in perfect harmony – with harps softly playing under the voices. The word we translate as angel is actually the word for envoy, or one who brings a message. Last night, I heard angels singing. You may have heard the same messengers offering a good word in song. Last night was an amazing concert presented by our Traditional Choir along with incredible musicians and dancers. We are two weeks into Advent, but last night brought me to where I need to be at this time. Last night, I heard angels announcing Good News – announcing the message of Emmanuel, God with us.
Prayer: Give me ears to hear the messenger you send, O Lord. Allow me to hear your Good News no matter how large or small the choir might be. Amen.
Scripture: Luke 1:28-30
When the angel came to Mary, he said, “Rejoice, favored one! The Lord is with you!” She was confused by these words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Mary. God is honoring you.”
Thought for the Day: Today in worship, you will hear these words spoken. The angel’s response to Mary’s confusion was to encourage her not to fear, for God was honoring her. Other translations say that God was favoring her. The word in Greek is Charis, the word we often translate as Grace. I have often thought of it in terms of God showing Mary how grace was already there, for grace is God’s unmerited love and kindness. For a young girl who felt unnoticed and without value, a message arrived at her doorstep; a message that communicated her importance in the eyes of God. The Good News for us all is that Mary’s realization is our realization – showing us all that God’s grace was there before we knew it – that God’s grace will remain no matter what occurs. That’s grace!
Prayer: Lord, you show us favor even when we do not know it. At this amazing time of the year, let us embrace the Good News of your grace that will forever be there for us. Amen.
SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT
Scripture: John 1:5
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness doesn’t extinguish the light.
Thought for the Day: I referenced this passage in last Sunday’s sermon. I tend to have a favorite passage of the month, but this one makes an appearance in that top spot on a regular basis. There are probably many reasons for why that occurs, but I believe it happens so often because I see the darkness. Whether it is a difficulty in my own life or being with an individual in a time of great sadness, I have witnessed the power of darkness to sweep over a person and suck life and light out of the moment. At times, we may not be able to perceive the light because of the heaviness of the shadows. This is when reading these words from John can be helpful. We may not see the light, but declaring these words by faith, we can believe what is not yet visible to us. It is only then that I see the Light of the world, Jesus, who was always there in the darkness.
Prayer: Be my light when my eyes have yet to adjust to the darkness. Be my light, O Lord, even when the darkness seems to be winning the moment. Amen.
Don’t Forget That It’s Advent
Don’t Forget Your NAM Christmas Bags
Don’t Forget The Christmas Concert at 7PM
Scripture: John 1:1
In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.
Thought for the Day: Too often we speak of the Bible as the Word of God, but at no point does the Bible ever say that. The Word was with God and was God. John will go on to explain how the Word was the creative power of God through which all things came into being. And of course, the Word took on flesh and dwelt among us. We know the Word because of the incarnation, because God made the decision to dwell among us. Jesus was and is the Word, and the scriptures are an amazing place where we meet this Jesus. Yet let us remember that the Bible is not the same as the Word. During this Advent season, use the Bible (along with prayer, worship, meditation) to reintroduce yourself to the Word that took on flesh – Jesus.
Prayer: I love the words of scripture, O Creative God, and I give you thanks for the way they introduce me to the Living Word, Jesus Christ. Amen.
DON’T MISS THE CONCERT
THIS SUDNAY AT 7:00pm
Scripture: Matthew 3:3
John the Baptist was the one of whom Isaiah the prophet spoke when he said: The voice of one shouting in the wilderness, “Prepare the way for the Lord; make his paths straight.”
Thought for the Day: I know we started Advent last Sunday, but there is something about seeing a December date that makes this season feel even more real to me. This is, in my opinion, a time of the year that should be very real. Too often we speak of it as a magical time or a time for children’s imaginations to dance. I understand why we might say that, but Advent is a time when God took the mystical, misunderstood and intangible, and chose to make it real. As our imaginations are delighted by the beauty of this season, let us not keep the beauty within the imagination. Let us join God in preparing a way for the Lord’s loving presence to enter the world.
Prayer: As you have made your love for me so real, O Lord of Light, may I help to bring your gifts alive for others to experience. Amen.
SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT