Advent Devotion - LOVE

The 4th Sunday of Advent

 

“God is love.” 1 John 4:16

God’s love gift comes as grace. Tangible evidence comes as “moments closest to Christ” when the “thin veil” between heaven and earth is lifted and I feel God’s Presence most intensely. Most often this happens as I sit alone in the dark silence before dawn with God, just God and me together in my favorite chair. When I struggle to quiet myself in silence, to peel away the layers of distractions, and to clear the clutter competing for my attention and listen to God, I often light my prayer candle and turn on soothing music.

In community I also experience this connectedness during worship, not all the time, but often when I have been touched by Communion, a sermon, a hymn, or seeing a person I’ve been upholding in prayer. Often, I have these “moments” when a relative or friend reaches out in any form such as a telephone call from my long-lost cousin or an unexpected card from a dear friend.

God’s Presence will happen again this week during our Christmas Eve service as my precious family sits together in the candlelight singing “Silent Night.” We are all together in worship with all the Saints who continue to be present with us on the other side of that “thin veil,” with the “dawn of redeeming grace,” love is born again in our hearts.

Praying with you for your holy “moments closest to Christ…”

                                                                        Cher Larson

 

Advent Devotion: PEACE

The second week of Advent brings us on a journey from HOPE to PEACE.

Quiet, silent, calm, restful, tranquil, order, harmony, independence from fear of violence or intimidation… these are just a few of the words that may describe what we think of with the word PEACE. Close your eyes, take a few moments to ponder what PEACE looks, sounds, and feels like.

Do you see people holding a candle and Coca-Cola singing together in perfect harmony? Do you envision a world coming together, committed to humankind and justice, putting aside war and rumors of war? Do you think of being in your “happy place” doing what you love and loving what you do? Do you hear “when peace like a river” humming in the background? Do you find yourself offering and accepting forgiveness? Do you imagine letting go of things you cannot control and trusting that everything is going to be OK?

The PEACE Christ offers takes PURPOSEFUL PRACTICE. It is not something the world conditions us to possess. PRACTICE EXPECTING Christ’s PEACE GIFT… year by year, day by day, moment by moment… that PEACE WILL PERSIST even in the presence of chaos and strife. The PEACE that Christ instills alongside HOPE in the journey settles deep, deep within us… that drives the doubt and fear far, far away. Christ ACCEPTS each of us where we are in the journey to join in ACCEPTING the gift, maybe even to receive PEACE when and where we least EXPECT it.

We don’t have to understand it. The PEACE that goes beyond our human mindfulness… not as the world would give to us, but that which comes from higher and deeper love… a true gift from Jesus who knows firsthand our individual and corporate human-ness, our struggles, our angst and aches, our failures and fears, our depression and oppression, AND YES still turns ALL of THAT to soul-filled CELEBRATING.

This amazing gift is abundant and more than ENOUGH… even ENOUGH to share!

Share Christ’s PEACE! Amen!!

PEACE = Practice Expecting, Accepting and Celebrating Enough

Rhonda Hawley

Advent Devotion - JOY

Joy to the World!

 

For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands, I sing for joy. Psalm 92:4

 

Several years ago, my husband retired from farming and we moved from a small community to the city. It was our intention to enter a pre-retirement stage of life by cutting back on leadership and participation in community and church obligations. We couldn’t wait to experience the JOYS of being free of time-consuming commitments and obligations. It was going to be so nice to sleep-in late on Sunday mornings!. Little did we realize that God had an ultimate plan for us. Boy, did he ever!

 

It would be an understatement to say we were excited to move to the city! The JOY of all the stores, entertainment choices, eating establishments, arts, music, and social opportunities! What we had not anticipated was that all the things we thought would bring us so much JOY, did not come close to measuring up to what the Holy Spirit would lead us to experience.

 

A new energetic minister, filled with a passion for ministry outreach, quickly recruited us through baby-step “asks". The small “asks" would be …..would you be available to bring your (red) pickup to help deliver furniture to families in need…..be available to help hand out church welcome cards in a parade……… be available to be a greeter on Sunday morning? “God does not begin by asking us about our ability, but only about our availability, and if we then prove our dependability, he will increase our capability.” ― Neal A. Maxwell

 

It wasn’t long before we were fully engrained in a church family that was filled with so much love and JOY. All because of a simple "Ask”. The Holy Spirit would slowly lead this congregation on a journey of becoming a family of believers that openly shared God Moments and Prayers of the People with each other, participated in worship leadership, and performed Random Acts of Kindness in the community. I once read that, "God brings joy through unexpected blessings, that life almost never turns out the way we imagine, and we must always be on the lookout for hidden blessings. This may come in a surprise gift, connection experience, or simply by recognizing that God is in all that surrounds us.” In our case, our hidden blessing was in an innocent “Ask”. Over the years, my husband and I have developed a treasured fellowship with our church family. We have experienced immense joy working together to do God Work (with) Our Hands.

 

This Christmas, as we experience the Joy of God sending Jesus to be our Savior, what “Ask” or Random Act of Kindness can you extend to spread the Good News and share Jesus’ love? How can you be a hidden blessing to someone searching for the Joy of knowing Jesus?

 

Prayer: God of Joy, we realize life is a journey! Teach us to take joy in the journey of sharing your love with others, knowing that wherever we go, you will be with us.

 

Frances Lindseth

Advent Devotion: HOPE

 

Hope is both a noun and a verb. Hope, as a noun, can mean a state of expectation of something good in the future that God gives. Hope, as a verb, can mean living like we mean it or believe it to the best of our abilities. Another way to understand hope is to hear, and put into practice, the phrase “waiting for”.

 

Which begs a question: “In a world that has a tough time waiting for anything, is it really a surprise that, for some people, the world might seem hopeless?

 

Hope seems to be more of an art, than something one acquires.

 

Hope can’t really be made by our own hands, but it can be received by them.

 

Thankfully, God is about the work of giving us hope. God gives us the practice, the spiritual discipline, if we may, of “waiting for”: waiting for Jesus, again whose birth we celebrate in a few short weeks’ time. And that is good.

 

I’m not sure one can diagram hope or build a replica of hope. It might be tempting to define hope so religiously, that hope loses it’s religious (by which I mean “the good connection made between two or more separate realities”) meaning. Yes, please, to that which will join us to God.

 

If we want to see hope, watch the face of a child as ice cream is spoken of, when it is purchased, and when it is served, to them.

Again, this year, we will hear the story St. Luke wrote two thousand years ago. Pay attention when you hear the words the angel of the Lord spoke to the shepherds: ”…to you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.” Let us realize again, or for the first time, the word “you” really means “you.” Then we’ll begin to know what hope can be. Thanks be to God.
 

Pastor Rich Kramer