Advent Devotion – December 14 – Robin Orewiler

And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.

Micah 5:2-5

Scripture: Micah 5:2-5

I’m a happy person. I sing in the shower, dance in the kitchen, and usually walk around with a smile on my face reflecting the joy in my heart. But the pandemic has challenged my normal, cheerful self.

I’ve found myself being discouraged, anxious, and fearful. The days are long and monotonous – nothing really to look forward to and so much to be sad about. I miss people. I miss joy. Some days I don’t want to talk to anyone. Other days I long to see, hug, and worship with my church family.

So many things are out of my control and I often become overwhelmed. I wonder when this will end and what life will be like then – will we ever return to our “normal” pre-COVID lives? All I can do is pray and have faith that things will improve. All I can do is trust God.

The Israelites suffered mightily at the hands of the Assyrians and prayed for God to help them. God promised to send “one who is to be a ruler in Israel on my behalf” (Micah 5:2). And that “He will stand and shepherd his flock….He will surely become great throughout the earth” (Micah 5:4). “He will become one of peace” (Micah 5:5). These verses show that God does not forget about God’s people. They also show that God promised a Savior: someone to lead, to comfort, and to believe in.

Advent is a time to reflect upon that savior – Jesus.

The Advent candles remind us who Jesus is: hope, peace, joy, and love. Hope like a light shining in the dark. Peace like being surrounded in a soft, warm blanket. Joy that is deep in your soul and tickles your heart. Love that is unending and everlasting.

When we find ourselves feeling despair, anxiety, and fearing the unknown – trust in the power and love of God who sent us his only son, Jesus, to bring hope and renewal to our world.

Robin Orewiler

 Core Idea: Jesus comes to bring peace to the afflicted.

Advent Devotion – December 13 – Suanne Bone

Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen, in whom my soul delights.

Isaiah 42:1-4

Scripture: Isaiah 42:1-4
For many years, my grandmother picked me up from school. I was fortunate to spend afternoons at her home before my mother arrived. Her home felt of love and warmth. My grandmother was kind and carefully chose her words. She spoke gently, but truthfully. My grandmother was patient and diligent in her faith and serving the Lord. She passed from this world leaving it better than when she arrived.

In Isaiah 42:1-4 God’s servant is described as fair, calm, patient, faithful, and true.

As Christians living in the commotion of today’s world, we must learn to find the calm and learn to serve in the midst

of chaos. To serve, one must find peace. True peace can only be found through prayer and introspection, delving into the scripture, and developing a relationship with God. A sense of calmness can be conveyed to others by speaking kind words, listening with patience, righting the wrongs or injustices, and seeking the good in others.

Small deeds attempted every day are steps we can take to serve the Lord. Jesus wants us to practice compassion and encourages unity and inclusion in our relationships. Jesus wants us to reach out to those less fortunate and help our

fellow man. We are to seek out fairness and justice for those who are wronged. We are to seek the truth and faithfully move forward in serving the Lord. We are to be God’s servants in this world.

Suanne Bone

Core Idea: Jesus comes to bring justice to the nations.

Advent Devotion – December 12 – Wayne Carter

“The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah.”

Jeremiah 31:31-34

 Scripture: Jeremiah 31:31-34

Jeremiah was called at a time when Judah was in serious trouble. The glory years of King David and King Solomon had passed. By and large, the people had disobeyed God’s law. The kingdoms were divided and the Northern Kingdom had already fallen to the Assyrians. Jeremiah was called to speak while the Babylonians were invading Judah, burning Jerusalem, and carrying away vast numbers of Jewish people into exile.

Jeremiah is one of the few who remained in Judah, living in the rubble of a fallen Jerusalem. The people who had been promised God’s prosperity were now in a place of desolation.

Jeremiah was called to lead the people through a time of sorrow. Despite Israel’s despair, Jeremiah delivers a message of hope.

So, what does the hope of a new covenant look like?

God promises to be the Israelite’s God and God names them God’s people. God also declares that the Israelites will “know [God].” The new covenant is not one of reverent distance, but of intimate closeness.

Advent is a season of preparation, where we celebrate the coming of Christ. In Advent, we remember the longing of Israel for a Messiah. The Israelites knew their sin had gotten them into trouble. The people longed to be forgiven, not only for their personal sins but for the sins of their nation. Forgiveness was an essential part of restoration.

Like the Ancient Israelites, we also long to be forgiven, to have our sins made right with God. What God promised through Jeremiah can be ours today. Yet at the same time, we recognize that the full impact of God’s forgiveness is yet to come. The restoration of all things has begun but is not yet completed. Even in our own lives, the impact of sin often remains even though God forgives us. So, like Israel, we desire to know the full forgiveness and restoration that comes with God’s coming reign. 

Wayne Carter

Core Idea: Jesus is a reaffirmation of the Covenant, sent to save the world from their sins.

Advent Devotion – December 11 – Bob Malsack

“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them.”

Luke 1:67-79

Scripture: Luke 1:67-79

What do you do when you hope for something? You pray for it. What do you do when you REALLY hope for something? You pray continually for it. What do you do if you hope for something beyond all else? You pray without ceasing even in spite of the circumstances.

Zechariah and Elizabeth had two primary hopes in life. They prayed continually for the Lord to bless them with a child.

They also held dear the Lord’s promise to send the Messiah who would set Israel free from all of which it was under the influence. God had been silent with no prophetic voice for three hundred years causing many to give up on the Messianic hope. But Zechariah and Elizabeth still believed the Lord would intervene on behalf of His people. They would not give up on the coming of the Messiah to save God’s people. They prayed without ceasing.

Then one day, as Zechariah was serving as high priest, the Lord spoke to him through an angel telling him his prayers have been heard and that he and Elizabeth would have a son who would become the prophetic voice that would inaugurate the fulfillment of the coming of the Messiah. Because of so many past disappointments about having a child, Zechariah guarded his heart and questioned how this could be.

As a sign of the validity of this promise, Zechariah would be mute until this comes to pass. Zechariah had nine months to be handicapped in speech to contemplate what the Lord had said. When the child was born, Zechariah now believed what was spoken to him and as instructed by the angel, he named the child John.

What happens when your greatest hope is realized? Your heart explodes with praise and affirmation of the glory of the Lord. Luke 1:67-79 is that explosion of joy from the heart of Zechariah. It is an affirmation of the faithfulness of the Lord throughout the history of Israel; it is the celebration of the Lord’s fulfilling promises made throughout time; it is a rallying call for all to remain confident in the Lord.

Luke 1:67-79, a.k.a. The Canticle of Zechariah, has historically been repeated daily as a part of morning prayer following the reading of scripture. It is an affirmation that all that has been promised by the Lord will come to pass. It proclaims the eternal hope of ‘the dawn breaking 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.” It is the affirmation of one who would not give up hope, who prayed without ceasing.

The Rev. Bob Malsack
Retired PC(USA) Minister

Bob and Marsha live in Arizona but worship with us when visiting their family in Lebanon.

Core Idea: Pray without ceasing.

Advent Devotion – December 10 – Max Carter

For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth;
the former things shall not be remembered
or come to mind.
But be glad and rejoice forever
in what I am creating;
for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy, and its people as a delight.

Isaiah 65:17-25

Scripture: Isaiah 65:17-25

In this passage; Isaiah has the task of describing the kingdom of God, which can only be perceived through the work of the Holy Spirit. To understand the impact of this prophecy, we must acknowledge the audience. The Israelite people, at this time, have just been liberated from exile. The hope for a Messiah represented, to them, a restored physical kingdom.

When God called Abram in Genesis 12, he promised that he would make Abram’s name “great.” God’s plan for the world was for this blessing to include all people. The Israelites were called to be God’s people, to love God alone and love their neighbors. The Old Testament tells us that after God leads the people through the wilderness and the nation of Israel is established in Canaan the people forget the lessons taught by Moses and the Law. Throughout the prophets God’s people violate two key commands: they worship other gods and neglect the marginalized. Because of sin God’s kingdom cannot be fulfilled.

The Advent season is a time of preparation while awaiting the promise of God’s kingdom to be realized.

Isaiah proclaims, “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth.” The concept of a restored Jerusalem, in the writings of Isaiah, is a hyperbolic metaphor to symbolize a perfect world, the kingdom of God. If we look closer at the earlier verses of chapter 65, we see God’s desire to connect to all people, not just Israel, “I said ‘Here I am, here I am,’ to a nation that was not called by my name.”

Jesus teaches in the Gospel of Luke that “The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed.” We can conclude that God’s kingdom is not confined to a specific time, place, or people. In chapter 66, Isaiah says God is looking for those who are “humble and contrite in spirit.”

What does it mean to be humble and contrite? To be humble is to hold oneself in lower regard in relation to others. This characterization can refer to the relationship of oneself to God and to others. A contrite spirit is one of remorse and repentance. To be repentant is to understand that “I” have caused others harm and “I” will change the behavior that created injustice amongst my neighbors.

Jesus teaches us that placing others above self is the path to the kingdom of God. During this Advent season let us prepare ourselves to be found humble and contrite in spirit, holding to the gospel of Jesus Christ, Emmanuel.

James “Max” Carter

Core Idea: Prepare yourself for the coming kingdom of God. Be humble and contrite, ready to admit where you have done harm.

Advent Devotion – December 9 – Mickey Stueck

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wastelands.”

Isaiah 43:14-21

Scripture: Isaiah 43:14-21

As I sit in the hospital room with Jim where he has been for a week with pneumonia and sepsis, origins unknown, I find myself dwelling on our many years together. It’s lonely in this room. We are cut off from the outside world by four walls. There is medical equipment attached to his body trying to relieve him of the infection that courses through his body.

Perhaps, like the Israelites, we are so focused on the “desert” in which we reside in that we have forgotten that our God is always working. Perhaps, we have forgotten that God is going before us and is making a way through the wilderness of stress.

There is hope in that knowledge.

I am sure that if we think about the past chaos and tumult in our individual lives as well as our world and reflect on the good that has come out of those past trials, we can know that there is hope and grace even now. God has promised that God is doing a “new thing”. We just need to have faith that God always keeps God’s promise. After all, God’s ultimate promise was salvation. And God kept that promise by sending his only Son to die on the cross for us.

In this time of Advent as we anticipate the birth of our Savior, let us remember Jesus is “our way in the wilderness” Let that always be our hope and salvation.

 Mickey Stueck

Core Idea: In the midst of tumult, God creates new opportunities to experience hope and salvation.

Advent Devotion – December 8 – Quinn Welser & Noah Carter

 “I will sing to the Lord for an overflowing victory. Horse and rider God threw into the sea” 

Exodus 15

 

Scripture: Exodus 15

After Pharoah frees the Israelites from captivity, Pharaoh changes his mind. He rallies his army and tries to re-capture the Israelites. Pharaoh’s army has the Israelites cornered. The Red Sea is behind them and Pharaoh’s army is in front of them. The Israelites are stuck, but God intervenes. Exodus 15 is Moses’ song of praise for God’s intervention. I am so excited for you to read our young people’s reflections on this story below.

-Michael Schulte

 

What do we learn about God? What does God do for God’s people?

God is a mighty warrior. God protects us by standing up to evil. In the scriptures, the Egyptians want the Israelites to be their slaves. They want the Israelites to do all the work that the powerful people do not want to do. But God says that is not right. Instead, God wants peace. God wants people to live together in harmony.

What do we learn about humanity? Why do the people praise God?

In the song, Moses is thankful that God gives the people a peaceful life and freedom from their enemies. The people praise God because God did not let something horrible happen to the people, like becoming slaves again. God parted the Red Sea for the Israelites. Like the Israelites, humans should be happy that God saves them and that God gives them life and time for family.

 God gives me hope when…

God gives me hope when my parents do not react angrily, but when they forgive me even when I do something wrong

God gives me hope when I get to see my family and especially when I get to visit my Mom in Cleveland.

This story taught us that God destroys evil and God gives us life. This life should give us hope.

 

Noah Carter

Quinn Welser

Food for Thought: When does God give you hope? When does God protect you from evil in our world?

Advent Devotion – December 7 – Adrienne Johnson

Comfort, O comfort my people,  says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,  and cry to her
that she has served her term,  that her penalty is paid,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand  double for all her sins.

Isaiah 40:1-5

 

Scripture: Isaiah 40:1-5

Back in March, my niece planned to travel from the south of England with her husband and two children for an 8-day visit to Florida. They were excited about taking the kids to Disney World. We, as well as our son and his family who live not far from Disney World, were all set to meet up with them. I was of course excited about seeing them but also eager to know how the kids would like Disney World.

Years earlier, when I first came to this country, I arrived in California. My new husband took me to Disneyland and I was mesmerized. I had never seen anything like it. The song It’s a Small, Small World stayed with me over the years.

Then the pandemic hit; our trips and our get-togethers were cancelled. Disney World closed down. Since then so much more has wrecked our lives. We have stood by helplessly while friends and family members have suffered isolation combined with sickness and even death. Our enforced separation and distancing has given us a smaller and smaller world.

As we read Isaiah’s words, “Comfort, comfort my people,” we remember that God has come to his people again and again with hope and solace. Isaiah, in spite of years and generations of exile and oppression suffered by his people, communicates these words of hope from God. He goes on to tell us In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord” portending John the Baptist’s cry in announcing the coming of the Messiah in the Gospels.

In this Advent season, we also have the wonderful opportunity to hear anew the story of the coming of the baby Jesus and to anticipate once again the miracle of Christ. In hearing this story anew, our world may be small but our hearts are filled with joy. In so many ways we are able to reach out to others to tell the news that God comforts us, that God sent his only son to us and that God abides in us.

Adrienne Johnson

 

Core Idea: Through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, we receive comfort and consolation from God.

Advent Devotion – December 6 – Catherine Hanson

My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.

Luke 1:46-55

Scripture: Luke 1:46-55 

Today our lives are filled with uncertainty. Will I be infected by this worldwide virus? Will my family, my friends, my co-workers be infected? Will I lose my job, my house? Will my children, my grandchildren fall behind in their education? In what ways will America, and the rest of the world, change as a result of today’s turmoil, today’s anger in the streets, today’s divisiveness?

As we struggle with this chaos and uncertainty, we need to remember that past generations also experienced chaos and uncertainty. From our vantage point, the times in which they lived is history. We know what happened. We know the end of their story. We know when it all worked out and, when it didn’t, we know what they should have done for a better result. But to them, the times were confusing and fraught with peril. We need to remember that just as God was with our ancestors, God is with us now.

God provided comfort to the Israelites during their exodus to the Promised Land. God provided manna when they were wandering in the desert. God provided a cloud during the day and a fire at night to lead the way. I doubt we would call it being comforted to be left to wander in the desert for forty years, but God gave His people this time so they could develop into a nation, into a cohesive group that could self-govern once they arrived in the promised land.

Just as the Israelites doubted God’s presence during their exile and exodus, we may not see God now or understand how God is with us, but we need to remember God does not fail us. Luke 1:46-55 describes ways in which God provides hope and salvation to all, especially the lowly.

 

Catherine Hanson

 

Core Idea: During this Advent season, let’s remember to look to God for our hope and comfort as God promises to be with us always.

Advent Devotion – December 5 – Scott Williams

He said to me, “Human one, these bones are the entire house of Israel.”

Ezekiel 37:11-14

Scripture: Ezekiel 37:11-14

In 2020, we have faced many struggles and hard times with COVID -19 and civil unrest in our nation. Yet God tells us not to let our hearts be troubled.

Many have been unable to worship together during this difficult time. Perhaps, some feel distant from our church family or from God. However, during this difficult year, I am still joyful that we can worship the loving Lord together, be it virtual, just as the struggling Israelites during exile.

Let us be thankful that no matter the hard times we have faced in 2020, the Lord loves us so much that God sent God’s Son so that Christ could raise us up to live and worship God through all our struggles.

May each of you receive the Holy Spirit and the love of Jesus Christ, so you may live through your struggles in 2020 and beyond.

Peace of Christ always be with you.

Prayer: God of renewal and growth, you spoke through Ezekiel to the Israelites saying “I will put my Spirit in you and you will live. ” In this time and place, wherever we are, we worship you. We ask you again to breathe into us your Holy Spirit. Open our hearts and minds to receive what you lovingly offer – your own self to make us whole. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Scott Williams

 

Core Idea: God responds to despair with the hope of new life.