Scriptures: Isaiah 11:1-10, Romans 13:11-14
After reading these verses from Isaiah, did you hear and see the sense of anticipation... especially in the new life that is coming? And in Romans 13 that tells us it is the moment to wake from sleep?
What is it that are we anticipating? I remember back as a child the sense of excitement as Christmas was coming. I've seen it in both my children and grandchildren. What was under the tree for me?!? At the age of seven I got my electric train, which I still have. The anticipation and wonder of putting the track together, hooking all the cars to the engine, then turning it on and watching the train round the tracks, over, and over again. What fun!
Advent is here! What kind of anticipation and enthusiasm do we experience with Advent? Do we anticipate Christmas---the birth of Jesus? Do we anticipate that Jesus is here with us each day? Do we expect real things to happen? Do we anticipate that Jesus will come again?
So, what should we do? Paul writes in Romans 13:12 that we should, "lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light." We need to turn from any of those things that would pull us away from our relationship with God and live with a genuine sense of anticipation and enthusiasm about what God will do in our lives, and through our lives to touch others.
Gracious Lord, you choose to come into our lives. Breathe into us a new sense of anticipation of what you are doing in our lives and how we can live our lives serving you with a new sense of zeal. Breathe into us with your hope. In Jesus name. Amen.
CHRIST THE KING Sunday, the last Sunday of the church year just 4 Sundays before Christmas. Hymn 855, Crown Him with Many Crowns, "Awake my soul and sing of him who died for thee and hail him as thy match-less king through all eternity." Now we turn back and the next Sunday is the First Sunday in Advent, four Sundays before Christmas, and God retells his story, Christmas, Lent, Easter, Pentecost. The Gospel of Matthew commissions us to go and tell God's story and so it seems that the church fathers created this worship guide to make sure God's story is heard every year.
So how does one prepare to listen to God's story? It is a powerful story that pulls us in, and we become part of the story. One of the texts for Christ the King Sunday is Ephesians 1:15-23, Paul's prayer for the congregation in Ephesus. For me, it's a great bridge for entering into the Advent season.
We pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of Glory, may give us a spirit of wisdom and revelation as we come to know him, so that with the eyes of our hearts enlightened, we may know what is the hope to which he has called us, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. AMEN
In my life's journey God's story has never changed, but the way we uplift and support the story with traditions, has changed. For example, worship times. Christmas Eve was always dedicated to the Sunday School, now it tends be the main worship setting replacing Christmas Day worship. For me it used to be quieter, now it's very noisy. It seems like Christmas is more about Black Fridays and sales. The world is also constantly changing, confronted with new conflicts and challenges. This year, the virus has destroyed our way of life. A new word has been added to our vocabulary, pandemic. Our politics has divided us and attacked our democracy, creating fear and distrust. Anger and fear separate us and attacks our hope.
But the advent season is here! I am glad because we can still light a candle. If you have a hymnal and turn to page 18 you can find all the texts. You will notice that a majority of the OT texts are from Isaiah which begins with a harsh word from God, about our sin, admonishing us to learn to do good, and seek justice. Perhaps we should begin Advent by acknowledging our sin. The text listed in 2:1-5 for me says God is in charge, war is not the answer, and swords should be beat into plow shares. The second week, Isaiah 11:1-10, emphasizes God's kingdom as a peaceful kingdom. The third Sunday's text is a message of hope, 35:1-10, "he will come and save you." The last Sunday before Christmas, Isaiah 7:10-16, centers our hope, telling us that a young woman shall bear a child, "and shall name him Immanuel." This was God's sign for the future that shapes his kingdom. Announced by the angels to the shepherds, a baby has been born whose name is Immanuel which means, "God is with us." God's gift of love to us and the world.
I feel the Advent season is not about our traditions, or our families. While they are important and have meaning, this time is all about reminding us Christmas is all about God and his love for us. It is his love that grabs us, creates hope and spills over into the lives of others. Yes, we are also sinners, but God never deserts us. I see it in the lives of those who care for us at Riverview, in those who risk their lives caring for us when we are ill...and the list goes on I see God's footprints when I wear my mask as a gift to those around me. Did you know that Joy to the World is listed as an Advent hymn? My prayer is just that, that joy will enter each of us. Let the earth receive her King.
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.” Luke 2:8-14
I didn’t grow up with any sort of Advent practices or traditions. Of course, we always had the day sometime after Thanksgiving where we lugged out the old toilet brush Christmas tree, that my dad so affectionately named. You know the kind, the old “fake” tree that looked ragged and had color-coded branches that you had to match to the tree to make it look at least a little like a tree. We would decorate with all my mom’s knickknacks and of course, set up the nativity.
This week we started the process of decorating for Christmas at our home. A tradition that involves lugging up all the boxes, the Christmas tree, and making space in our house to set up things near and dear to us that we have gathered and collected over the years. One of the most cherished things for me is this nativity that my mom used to set up every year. Complete with all the characters from the story, and has been my tradition to set up every Christmas. Each year, as I place the pieces in the nativity, I am reminded of the care that my mom took to set the pieces in place, to tell the story, and how often we were told not to touch it.
It seems healing this year to pull all of those items out of the boxes, and to set up our own toilet brush of a tree, though they have greatly improved since the ’80s. This year, Weston helped to set up my mom’s nativity. Watching an eight-year-old lovingly place all the pieces, making sure that they all had a birds-eye view of baby Jesus can sure tell the story again. It was an opportunity to talk about my memories of the season, and to start new memories with him.
This season, as you explore what Advent means to you, I pray that you would be reminded of the Good News that surrounds you. May you find great joy and make new memories that keep you with a birds-eye view of the manger.
Let us pray…
Loving God, we pray for this community gathered here and their journey through this Advent season. Help us create memories with all around us, memories that focus us back to the manger and to you. In your name. Amen.
Heavenly Father, help us to reflect the light of Christ now and throughout the whole year. Amen.
As a kid, Advent was always one of my favorite seasons. My family had an Advent wreath that would be placed in the middle of the table all through the season, and each night at supper we would read from an old Advent devotional book. My brother, sister, and I would get to take turns doing two big jobs: lighting the candles with the special long lighter and extinguishing them with a special little candle snuffer. There were three of us and only two prized jobs, so each night was a little bit of a fight to remember who had done what the previous night.
After the roles for the evening were established, we would light the appropriate candles for the night, read the little reading/reflection and prayer, and then there would be a song to sing. I can still feel my adolescent self-cringing as we awkwardly sang an acapella verse of whatever Christmas song was chosen for the night. Then we would eat supper and at the end of the night the candles would be extinguished.
Now I have my own three kids, but lucky for Teddy (6) and Stanley (4), their baby brother Ben isn’t old enough to fight them for the two prized roles of lighting and extinguishing candles. This season I’m excited for my family to light the candles, read the devotions and prayers, sing a verse or two of a song, share a meal together, and then extinguish the candles. I’m also excited for you to be joining us in this tradition. So welcome to Advent. Thank you for coming on this journey with us. Will you join us in singing a verse of one of my favorite Advent hymns, O Come O Come Emmanuel:
O come, O come, Emmanuel,
and ransom captive Israel,
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
shall come to you, O Israel.
Let us pray…
Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come. As we journey through this season of Advent together fill us and this whole world with your joyous light, for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
To the Writers
of this devotional: