ASBURY FIRST UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
Asbury First 2020
Come to My Heart, Lord Jesus
In many ways beyond all calculations and reflection,
our lives have been deeply touched and influenced by
the character, the teaching, and the spirit of Jesus of
Nazareth. He moves in and out upon the horizon of
our days like some fleeting ghost. At times, when
we are least aware and least prepared, some
startling clear thrust of His mind is our portion —
the normal tempo of our days is turned back upon itself
and we are reminded of what we are, and of what life is.
Sometimes His words stir to life long forgotten resolutions,
call to mind an earlier time when our feet were set in a good
path and our plan was for holy endeavor. Like a great wind
they move, fanning into flame the burning Spirit of the
Living God, and our leaden spirits are given wings that sweep
beyond all vistas and beyond all horizons. There is no way
to balance the debt we owe to the Spirit which was let loose
in the world (by the coming of Jesus Christ).
— Howard Thurman
This Advent Season, a group of parishioners and Pastors have written devotions for us as a pathway to encourage us
to think of Jesus coming again to our hearts…and maybe
in a new or renewed experience.
This liturgical season, before we celebrate Christmas,
is often overlooked as our heart and minds and busy lives
have a focus toward Christmas. Lest we forget Advent’s meaning and time of preparation and expectation, we have prepared, as in times past, these reflections, poems, prayers, artwork, and stories that speak to receiving Jesus, once again or maybe for the first time, in our hearts.
These are prayerful selections meant to enable you to be centered in a faithful time of reflection and renewed reception. You are invited to listen for God’s leading and enabling us
to separate the Light from the darkness and to know that Jesus has come and is coming to stay, to pray, in us and to come
to our hearts and lives anew. Let us be quieted in spirit that we may receive the gift we need so that we may become the gift others need.
A few years ago, I found a “snow heart” in a creek. It was approximately two-feet wide and perfectly, perfectly sculpted by the wind. It was in the middle of the creek,
on an ice flow, with water trickling beneath and around it. It was truly one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever come across.
— Amy Andrews
God of Advent,
Come and Stir Within us.
Stir up your power within us.
Years ago I was carpooling and our oldest son, Dave, who must have been about four years old, was having a delightful conversation with another nursery schooler, Jennifer. She said quite proudly, “I know what I’m going to be when I grow up! I’m going to be a mommy and have a baby in my tummy.” Without a moment’s hesitation Dave replied, “That’s nothin’, I already have Jesus in my heart.” Ahhh, out
of the mouths of babes. I write this with Advent in mind. You see Jesus had come to Dave and was alive and well for him.
Yes, Jesus has come and because of this we press on through
all of life’s circumstances and Jesus is with us/me now. Recently,
Dan and I sat vigil at the bedside of our now adult son, Dave, who was in hospice care. I remembered Dave’s nursery school comment about Jesus already in his heart and this same truth was present and palpable as he was now nearing the end of his earthly life. I was deeply saddened and at the same time, deeply comforted by Jesus with Dave in these moments—for me and his family. We knew we were not alone.
Jesus had come and Jesus was coming to us in those grieving moments—weeping as we wept and rejoicing as we rejoiced in the promise of resurrection; life eternal for Dave.
This year Jesus has come for Dave to be with him for all his tomorrows. Jesus comes now and is present for me, my family and
for all...and Jesus will come again and we will be with those who have gone on before us. Thanks be to God.
"We are better together" rings especially true for me right now.
Thank you to all who have drawn near supporting and praying
with and for us in this Advent season.
“How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given;
so God imparts to human hearts the blessings of his heaven.
No ear may hear his coming, but in this world of sin,
where meek souls will receive him, still the dear Christ enters in.”
— O Little Town of Bethlehem, v3, Phillips Brooks
Advent is the promise of something new, something better.
This year, we could use it. This year, that promise seems more necessary than ever before. After all, this year has not been what we anticipated. In the last few months everything seems to have changed—from our worship to our schools to our work to the way we gather with friends and family.
And into this moment, as it always does, advent arrives.
Some of us, of course, have been waiting for advent all year, ready to bid farewell to 2020 since March. We look back on the year and see all of the things that have been lost—the gatherings, the graduations, the goodbyes.
We forget, however, that we have also gained some things along the way.
Not all of us yearned to brush up on our virtual meeting skills, yet we discovered new ways of connecting. Not all of us were eager to let go of our routines, yet we have appreciated a different pace. Not all of us longed to slow down, yet some of us needed to.
When all we focus on is what we’ve lost, it’s hard to appreciate the hidden grace. Could it be that God has already been doing something new?
Maybe the promise of advent has already arrived.
“How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given.”
— The Rev. Dr. Stephen M. Cady II, Senior Minister
A key part of my routine, something that has been in place for many years now, is to begin each day at dawn (or before) in silence—in prayer and meditation—and to read the Bible and other spiritual and religious works. Advent represents the beginning of the liturgical year, so my silent time, reading, and reflection, is particularly meaningful.
I’m particularly drawn to the prose and music of Advent. I find that some of the most inspirational and moving music and text can be found in our hymnal. The words of “Divinum Mysterium”—Divine Mystery—touch my heart and mind.
Of the Father’s love begotten, ere the worlds began to be,
he is Alpha and Omega, he the source,
then ending he of the things that are,
that have been and that future years shall see,
evermore and evermore.
O ye heights of heaven, adore him; angel hosts, his praises sing;
powers, dominions, bow before him, and extol our God and King;
let no tongue on earth be silent, every voice in concert ring,
evermore and evermore.
Christ, to thee with god the Father, and, O Holy Ghost, to thee,
hymn and chant and high thanksgiving, and unwearied praises be:
honor, glory and dominion, and eternal victory,
evermore and evermore.
— David Strong
There have been several defining moments in my life where my faith is anchored and those times have been instances where I have felt the presence of Jesus.
That presence has brought me comfort, peace, the knowledge that I am known as an individual to God and an indescribable feeling of pure love. When I am feeling uncertain and anxious about the current state of the world, I think back on those moments and the promise that we are not in this alone and I give my feelings up to God.
Advent is a time of reflection for me with much anticipation for Christmas, where I am so thankful that Jesus came to us. Advent does not just happen at Christmas for me, as Jesus comes to us as a progression—the more I pray and seek Him, the closer I become to Him and that is a continual coming of Jesus to my heart.
— Kristie Pfaff enjoys spending time with her family,
drinking coffee and soaking up sunshine.
The Nicaraguan Woman
In late January 2020, a delegation from Asbury First UMC, and two other UMCs traveled to Masaya, Nicaragua and spent a week together with the people of Project Chacocente continuing construction of the school chapel.
I had been yearning to go to Project Chacocente for over a decade and I was able to do it on what turns out to be my only trip in 2020 by airplane. We were the first delegation to return to Chacocente since the most recent political unrest in Nicaragua. It was there that Jesus came to me as a young, quiet, pregnant Nicaraguan woman named Amelia.
On the first day of work, we met all the families and had a tour of the property. The home where Amelia lived along with her husband and two sons, could hardly be called a house. It was one room, had a dirt floor, plastic tarp walls and was shared with the chickens. My heart was touched that despite the hardships, the people of Chacocente remained determined and cheerful. As the days went on, I couldn’t stop thinking about Amelia, her unborn baby and the condition of her home. It turned out others from Asbury First felt the same way and that week a plan was hatched to build Amelia a proper house in time for her baby’s arrival. Through Project Chacocente, we were able to raise the money needed to build Amelia and her family a new home. The amazing people of Chacocente completed the build in time for Amelia to bring her beautiful newborn daughter home in July, yes, she now has two sons and a daughter!
Advent is a time to reflect more deeply on how Jesus continues to come again in our individual lives and in the life of our world.
— Beth Rice enjoys reading a good book and discussing
it with her neighborhood Book Club.
During the long winter nights of Advent, I love seeing the soft glow of window candles. To me, they represent hope, faith, and Jesus’ light and love, as expressed in the hymn, “Christ is the World’s Light.”
The hymn, “I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light,” includes the phrases, “The star of my life is Jesus” and, most meaningful to me, “Shine in my heart, Lord Jesus.” I also think of those words as “Come to my heart, Lord Jesus.” Jesus has come to me most powerfully for healing from a heart attack, brain hemorrhage, and cancer. My prayers of hope and faith during those critical times were for the light of Christ to surround me and the love of Christ to enfold me. In my favorite hymn, I find great comfort in the words written by Joachim Neander:
“All my hope is firmly grounded in the great and living Lord;
who, whenever I most need him, never fails to keep his word.”
When our premature infant son died on his fifth day of life in 1988, the darkness of my grief and the pain in my heart was so intense that I thought I’d never see the light of Christ again. I cried out to God every day for a very long time. Emotional healing felt impossible. Three years later, my husband and I adopted our first daughter, and in two more years, we adopted our second daughter. In all that time, Jesus never forgot me and came to us with the most loving gifts of two beautiful lives. Thanks be to God for the love of Jesus Christ.
May your faith remain strong and may you be guided by the light and love of Christ in your heart, during Advent and throughout the year.
— Jeanne Strong loves to play piano solos composed by Beethoven, Chopin, and Schumann, as well as piano duets.
Into my heart! Into my heart! Come into my heart Lord Jesus.
Come in today. Come in to stay. Come into my heart, Lord Jesus!
These words take me back to my years directing Junior Camp at Kamp Koinonia, the camp site of the former New York Conference of the E.U.B. Church. The last night of the camp week was our Consecration Service, which began in the hill top Chapel and ended around the camp fire. Youth were encouraged to write a note to God, and, when ready, toss the note into the fire. A memorable, moving moment to end the camp week.
Throughout my life, I have often said the words of this camp chorus as I discovered my ever-changing need to have Jesus come into my heart—anew and afresh.
In those moments, I have discovered anew and afresh that there is—always is—room in my heart for Jesus.
Come into my heart, Lord Jesus, when….
….my heart is aching with grief and loss,
….my heart is hurting because of a fractured relationship,
….my heart is longing for strength and courage for the task at hand,
….my heart is overwhelmed with tasks and duties far greater than
my strength and knowledge alone,
….my heart cannot see—clearly—the way ahead and through a concern,
a problem, an issue,
….my heart is aching with pain from the separations that COVID has
brought into my life,
….my heart cries over the separation that exists in my world, in my heart,
….my heart is lonely and scared.
The words of this camp chorus motivate me to look at my life—anew and afresh—and acknowledge that my strength alone is not sufficient for the tasks at hand. May we make this camp chorus our daily prayer in the days, months and years ahead!
Into my heart! Into my heart! Come into my heart Lord Jesus.
Come in today. Come in to stay. Come into my heart, Lord Jesus!
— David P. Lubba, husband, father, grand-father, and pastor
Come To My Heart Lord Jesus
I am wondering as I write this Advent reflection if the meaning of Advent has been shifted in subtle and not so subtle ways? Advent as we most often experience it these days is a fairly innocuous pathway to Christmas day with frenetic shopping, tree decorating, hot chocolate ad-nauseam (at least on TV) and many a Christmas party. However the Advent Hymn “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus” gives a much darker, even sinister tone to Advent—the period in which the coming of the Messiah is awaited. This is conveyed by these ideas from the hymn: setting people free, release from fears and sins, and deliverance. In a word the focus here is oppression and release from it.
In March of 1960, which I choose to designate as an Advent year for the Johnson family in Philadelphia, we were oppressed by homelessness, having lost our spacious three story home. Our oppression was made all the more abject given we lived in our home for two years without gas for cooking, heating oil only intermittently, and severe limitations in funds for buying groceries. On the day that our homelessness began mother had all of our furniture placed in storage, and parceled out her children to relatives. Thus began our Advent year of 9 plus months. For those months we lived in grief and hope, expectation and waiting, desiring that our deliverance would come. When it came at the end of 1960, it was when my mother and her four children eventually reunited or crowded together in a one bedroom apartment where we lived for four years. For Christmas of that year, we worshiped in the apartment around a borrowed card table. The rest of the furniture included a borrowed convertible bed, a set of bare bed springs
and a cot that mother had purchased.
Yet, what transformed the Johnson family’s 1960 Advent year into a year
of blessings instead of loss was that we each had Jesus Christ in our hearts
as well as in our home. The journey to Christmas that year, to restoration
of our kinship ties, and reclamation of our furniture was nothing less than
the Divine restoration of our very hearts and souls.
—Rev. Dr. Timothy J. Johnson, retired Baptist Minister
from "Kneeling in Bethlehem"
I wonder if God comes to the edge of heaven each Advent
and flings the Star into the December sky,
laughing with you as it lights the darkness of the earth;
and the angels, hearing the laughter of God,
begin to congregate in some celestial chamber
to practice their alleluias.
I wonder if there’s some ordering of rank among the angels
as they move into procession,
the seraphim bumping the cherubim from top spot,
the new inhabitants of heaven standing in the back
until they get the knack of it.
(After all, treading air over a stable and annunciating at the
same time can’t be all that easy!)
Or is everybody – that is, every “soul” – free to fly
wherever the spirit moves?
or do they even think about it?
Perhaps when God calls, perhaps they just come,
this multitude of heavenly hosts.
Perhaps they come,
winging through the winds of time
full of expectancy
full of hope
that this year
perhaps this year
The earth will fall to its knees
in a whisper of “Peace.”
— Ann Weems
Light, Light for my people, says the Lord
I am the Light for my people, says the Lord
Even if the sun should grow dark
Even if the moon refuses to shine
Even if the stars should fall from the sky
As we face this advent season together, one which calls us to wait and prepare; we also face circumstances in our individual and collective worlds that require us to wait some more. With all of the uncertainty surrounding us, may prayer ground us.
I offer this prayer of hope, and encourage each of you to return
to it as often as you need to.
May we at least wait, with hope.
A Prayer of Hope
Gracious God, who keeps us, sustains us, and calls us friend:
Thank you for continued reminders of your presence and your grace,
And for a love that promises to never leave us or forsake us.
For all of those moments when we feel you near, and for those
times when we seem a part; Thank you for those glimpses and signs to reassure us that you are right here with us.
As we wander into and grow to embrace this season of Advent,
Amid all of the uncertainty and uneasiness of these times;
We pray for your grace to surround us, and for your light to shine through us.
Grant us living reminders of hope, love, joy and peace;
And help us to be examples of light, to a world that really needs it.
God of compassion and care:
In times of both clarity and confusion, help us to cling to our faith.
Help us to hope in new ways, and to always return to hope despite our circumstance.
Ground us in love that never leaves us, joy that rejoices with us,
and peace that provides us with reasons to pause.
Grace us with hearts of compassion and care towards ourselves and one another;
Remind us of our neighbor;
Remind us of grace.
Refresh us with the sentiments of scripture, as we learn to both hope and wait:
“But those 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
Lord hear our prayer, and grant us your strength.
In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
— Rev. Jacqueline Nelson
My Travel Companion
This year has been like no other in our lifetime—the COVID-19 pandemic has changed our daily lives in many ways. For many of us, our activities and travel plans have been truncated, commute times have been removed due to working from home, and some furlough time away from work has also freed up time on our schedule each day. And the trip to and from church each Sunday has become much quicker too!
For me, 2020 has afforded me the opportunity to spend more time at home, enjoy daily walks with my wife, spend more time outdoors, and much more time on my bicycle.
This year, I circumvented each of the 11 Finger Lakes, rode the Erie Canal-way from Buffalo to Albany, and bisected the state of Ohio, from Cincinnati to Cleveland, all on my bicycle. More than 3,000 miles ridden to date and counting.
These rides allowed me to reflect on the beauty of God’s creation and feel the presence of Jesus, in many ways:
In the rolling hills and vistas of the Finger Lakes
In the vastness of sunflower fields and grape vineyards
In the sun-splashed woods along the bike trails
In the bright fall colors of autumn
In the people met on my journeys and the interesting
In the support and companionship of fellow riders
Sometimes we need to be reminded to slow down, be still, and know that God is present in our lives. 2020 will be a year which reminded me that Jesus is a fellow traveler in my life and has much more to show me, down the road. May it be true for you as well.
— Dave Rice enjoys biking for fitness and for spending time with friends and his wife, Beth and captures photos of his journeys for others to enjoy.
The anticipation of the Christ child always fills me with awe. Growing up in a small Roman Catholic Church, my siblings and
I would rush to the large Nativity at the front of the church on Christmas Eve to finally find Jesus asleep in the hay. After weeks of waiting, all was right with the world, the promise of Jesus before us.
This Advent our oldest daughter and her husband are expecting our first grandchild. I feel that same excitement
of waiting and wondering. What will he look life? Will he have red or brown hair? Will he like to read or will he prefer to play outdoors? So many unknowns!
But, I do know that Jesus promises to protect, guide, and nurture him. Recently, our son-in-law told me that “his calling
in life is to be a good Dad.” At that moment, I felt my heart full to overflowing with the presence of Jesus. He has blessed me with a son-in-law who is committed to Christ and to his family. He is one whose faith in Jesus is growing in leaps and bounds. As we await the Baby Jesus and our new family addition, I am confident in the love of Jesus and in awe of His grace.
— Robyn Gage is a lover of her family, friends,
history, reading, sewing and chocolate
and a true devoted follower of Christ.
The mystery of Advent and inviting Jesus into our hearts, is something adults have a hard time describing. So, we asked some children, and their wisdom is beyond their years. Read their sweet and profound words to this question.
What does it feel like to have Jesus come into your heart?
Joscelyn Crawford: It feels warm inside, like love.
Gillian Allen: It feels like someone is there—like you’re not alone.
Riley Parent: It makes me feel happy or joyful.
Zachary Dennison: You always feel happy no matter what.
Jacob Parkes: You never feel alone.
Griffin Allen: You want to do something nice for someone.
Mason Claeys: Someone is always watching, keeping me safe.
Madden Parent: You think good thoughts.
These elementary aged children stripped this question down to its core, LOVE. Love is God and it came to us in human form on Christmas, as an innocent babe born for us. To show us how to Love one another.
— Paula Dugan
Moments of Inspiration and Reflection
During these depressing COVID-19 times, a book entitled “The Greatest Miracle in the World” caught my attention and I have read it and found Jesus “coming to my heart” through it. It’s about a writer (Og Mandino),
a character in the book, and the book’s author who is an over achiever.
He encounters an older man (Simon Potter) near his business and is helped by Simon. Simon is tall, strong, bearded, and wears a cross around his neck. Simon disappears and Og doesn’t see him again until late spring when Og finally thanks him.
Og asked Simon, do you have a job, and Simon responds that he is a ragpicker. Simon explains that he seeks more valuable materials than rags; he seeks human-kind, people who have been discarded by others, or even themselves, lost self-esteem and hit bottom. “When I find them, I try
to change their lives for the better, give them a new sense of hope and direction, and this helps resurrect them from their living death.”
(a miracle). Later in the book we find that God considers humans
to be the Greatest Miracle in the World.
Each needs to count his or her blessings, know each to be unique, go the extra mile, and use his or her power to choose wisely his or her path. To me, Simon represents Jesus trying to help us determine what is important in life and what is not.
My prayer is that in this Advent time, reacquainting ourselves with God’s Gift to Jesus will re-inspire us to love and serve one another and
in that may we find Jesus to come to our hearts.
— David Kay, husband of Bonnie, Optical Scientist, former Asbury Trustee and volunteer since becoming a member in 1998.
In the year I was in 7th grade, the season of Advent descended on me with a ferocity I’ve not felt since. I dedicated my break from school to an active, fervent pursuit of the “true” meaning of the season. I baked. I threaded popcorn garlands. I fashioned boughs of green I scavenged from the creek into wreathes. But, none of these devotions yielded an experience of intimacy, or mystery, for which I longed. I only found that the afternoon I spent poking about in the rubble of the old Campbell house, our suburb’s single historic homestead that had recently been razed.
I wandered with a reverence a pilgrim might bring to a temple ruins, searching for some encounter with the living, loving, praying, suffering, and believing that had transpired, once upon
a time, right here, in this place, on this ground. I beheld scraps
of linoleum, wallpaper, shards of broken glass, remnants of their hearth, the fragments of their communal experiences, scattered.
A traveler searching, I longed to feel myself woven into a larger tapestry of time, to sense a belonging to a narrative more transcendent and enduring than the one I presently inhabited.
So, I combed the shards of others’ lives, savored a melancholia
for what they had lost, and conjured romanticized images of their homemade wreathes, their cobblers, their candlelight, and their strings of popcorn on the tree. I imagined them singing together around a piano, their voices intertwined.
This year, Advent finds me once again wandering in what sometimes feels like a rubble. Brokenness abounds. I scroll my newsfeed, beholding the loss of lives and livelihoods to the pandemic, the fractured sense of our shared reality, the shattered dreams borne of a long history of racial and social injustice. I long for a fragment of something once-precious that might purchase my passage into something like peace.
But I am coming to understand this: it was always conjured, always a dream. Not the Campbells; they were real. As was the rubble. But my romanticized notions of hearth, sweets, garlands, and song were all projections of my longings.
They distracted me from contemplating, for example, the fact that the Campbell home, and the Campbell way of life, had been displaced, literally razed, to make way for the voracious needs
of our suburb, the place into which my family had immigrated,
and our conception “progress.” The comfortable, sugary, nostalgic scene I imagined in 7th grade prevented me from engaging with the grittier ways in which my family’s story and the Campbell’s story were indeed intertwined.
So, this year, as I wander in the rubble, I invite into my heart
an openness to my relationship to these fragments—to this brokenness, this history, this hurt, this inequity, this hope, and this promise. I hope for a growing ability to see how my life, and the lives of all others, past, present and future, are intertwined. And instead of looking backwards at the creations of others, I pray for a forward-looking awareness of how I might string my own resources together to fashion something new, or light a flame, or sing
in communion with others. This year, I invite a renewed sense
of wandering, and wondering, about how we all belong to a transcendent and enduring narrative, unfolding and unfurling
right now, here, in this place, on this ground.
— Amy Andrews
Inspired by “Unwrapping Advent” by Margaret Feinberg
Advent is a season of waiting, which women, in particular, understand well. Sarah prepared and waited for Isaac. Elizabeth and Mary waited for John the Baptist and Jesus. Miriam waited in the bullrushes for Pharaoh’s daughter to find Moses. Martha waited for her sister to help in the kitchen—as anyone who hosts a Thanksgiving dinner can relate to.
Women are all too familiar with the waiting rooms of life. We wait for our children’s milestones—big and small. We wait for our partner to be in harmony with us. We wait for diplomas, promotions, equal pay, and equal voice in the world. An election. A vaccine. And in the end, for validation
of a life well-lived.
As 2020 has shown us, life is filled with episodic waiting that can easily morph into fear of the unknown. The story of Mary waiting for the birth of her baby in uncertain and fraught circumstances reminds us as women of all the frenetic worry that happens at 3 am, and of the darkness which always precedes the dawn.
Our collective journey has been marked by slavery, oppression, famine, plague, war, and existential climate change. It is a small wonder that in our waiting, sometimes doubt creeps in. We stare at the ceiling shrouded in darkness, spinning tales of what perils tomorrow might bring. The good news is that in the season of advent we know what will happen—we know our savior is coming, and that God is with us while we wait.
The Hebrew word for wait, yachal, means to “wait expectantly” and to “wait in hope,” or to “long for.”
Our job is to wait. To long for what will become. Never losing hope that the best is still before us.
The wonder of Advent is that though we all wait—we do not wait alone. God is with us.
—Valerie Benjamin strives to “master the joyful chaos” involved in working, caring for her family, and being active in the community.
The Way Out
Maker of the Universe
The ancient poets paint You with the life we know—
what we sense, what we experience.
Like a bird; winging across the sea.
Like a gardner; hands digging in the dirt.
Like a sojourner, a traveling companion;
carrying on a conversation –
Like a lifelong friend; but in the deepest
purest form of the word friend:
transforming, repenting, shaping,
We wait in holy silence for those in need of
healing and wholeness.
We are in holy silence for those in need of
freedom; an Exodus, a way out toward peace,
toward grace, a way out toward forgiveness.
Where there are hearts breaking, rekindle love.
Where there is courage collapsing, ignite hope.
Where there is peace plummeting, stoke the
embers of understanding, awareness, listening,
so that Your Kingdom of Grace may be the
pathway to Life Everlasting,
even as we live this life.
This is a prayer that has meaning in these days for Lori Jeanne Peloquin who has submitted this prayer prayed in our sanctuary in years past.
—Lori Jeanne is a child psychologist and a member of Asbury First.
from "Kneeling in Bethlehem"
In each heart lies a Bethlehem,
an inn where we must ultimately answer
whether there is room or not.
When we are Bethlehem-bound
we experience our own advent in his.
When we are Bethlehem-bound
we can no longer look the other way
conveniently not seeing stars
not hearing angel voices.
We can no longer excuse ourselves by busily
Tending sheep or kingdoms.
This Advent let’s go to Bethlehem
and see this thing that the Lord has made for us.
In midst of busy preparations
Let’s ponder in our hearts the Gift of Gifts.
Through the tinsel
Let’s look for the gold of the Christmas Star.
In the excitement and confusion, in the merry chaos,
let’s listen for the brush of angel’s wings.
This Advent, let’s go to Bethlehem
and find our kneeling places.
— Ann Weems
God of Advent,
Come and Stir Within me.
Stir up your power within me.
In Search of Our Kneeling Places
Hope, Peace, Love, Joy: Come, Lord Jesus
Advent this year, brings a time, unlike many we have ever experienced. We are charged to keep Hope, strong in front of us, be there for others; steady, patient, even when we...may feel less hopeful. If time is given to share the gifts of Hope and we receive a heartwarming smile; it will be enough.
Come, Lord Jesus.
Advent is a time of seeking, waiting for the birth of Jesus. It also brings increased activity. Yet, finding inner Peace moments on this Advent journey, face the unknown; prayers for a new normal, embracing a new path, safety for all, we pause…to feel the breath of God, to breathe, listen and pray. “My Peace, I leave with you, my Peace I give to you.” — John 14:27
Come, Lord Jesus.
“Jesus loved the little children, all the children of the world.” Recently, the Asbury First young people were confirmed and charged to go, share love and do good for others. In our own personal youth confirmation, there came a charge to share, God’s never ending love. Precious memories surfaced, as I attended a virtual funeral service for a dear classmate. This Advent, I will send a letter to that former church, to thank those who shared their faith and love with me; “forever church ladies and gents.”
The Joy of Advent is a gift simply given, with an unexpected phone call,
a card, a photo on the Church page, a message to a neighbor, donations
that help others; all from home. The joy of lighting an Advent wreath
or even a single candle each week, as we worship in our virtual service, re-affirm togetherness. Place a word of joy, daily, on a calendar. Share memories with others.
Come, Lord Jesus.
— Lorraine Fusare, forever a “church lady,” “pie lady,” mother of four children and spouses, grandmother to six grands;
all of whom faithfully keep me young at heart.
When I sat down to write a reflection on the theme, Come To My Heart, I found myself a little stuck as to how to convey to you what is in my heart: God. Joy. Love. So, I sat and thought. And then I saw my heart as a house with many rooms.
One room holds memories. There are pictures on the walls of all whom I have known and will always love: those who have died and those who walk the earth.
One room holds thoughts. There is a big desk scattered with notebooks filled with ideas of how to share the love I feel with the whole world!
One room holds stories. There are bookcases packed full of novels, biographies, and photo albums.
Each room has windows to let in the Light! Each room has comfortable chairs, footrests, and a fireplace. Each room has a pot of tea that is always exactly the right temperature for sipping. Each room has the most delicious food ever tasted, perfectly seasoned and ready to feed whomever drops by for a visit. The walls are painted a peaceful teal color. The floor feels good on bare feet.
Every time I settle into my heart I am reminded that this is where God lives. There is no room for doubt; there is no room
for fear. When I am finished with the nap in the comfortable chair by the fire, I awaken refreshed, filled again with the joy and love
— Rev. Kathy Thiel
Finding God in the Dark
As we journey through Advent, I have come to a new understanding of God’s presence in my life that has changed the way I celebrate the coming of Jesus in new and revealing ways.
I grew up in a conservative, evangelical household where God and Jesus were always understood to be in the light. If you did something wrong or had something bad happen to you, you were “out of the light of God” and likely deserved whatever happened as punishment for being in darkness or “living in sin.” I have heard it referred to as “solar spirituality”—focusing on staying in the light of God at all times, constantly absorbing and reflecting the sunny side of faith.
This type of church, as does the church I attended during childhood, emphasizes the certainty of belief, God’s very real intervention and plan, and tangible answers to prayers (as long as you pray hard enough). At least, that is what I learned from them.
Now, after having been through some great personal losses, I know that God is also in the darkness. I have had to re-frame how I think
of my connection with God and un-learn that solar spirituality, as my experiences were enough to shake my faith.
I was in the deep darkness of grief and though it took much work to get out of that dark cavern, I was never alone. I cried and shouted my anger and grief at God, but still, God met me there and helped me to heal. What happened to me was not my fault and was not punishment for wrongdoing.
God is the light, but God is also in the darkness.
In this season of Advent and expectation, I hope you can find that God’s connection and love will never leave you, even when you are surrounded by hardships and tragedy. God will always come to your heart, wherever you may be.
— Sarah Brubaker loves spreading God’s joy
and kindness through creativity and art.
COME TO MY HEART, LORD JESUS
Many years ago, we had the privilege of traveling to Europe and visiting the Montmarte region of Paris with the expressed purpose of being in the Sacre Coer Cathedral. There is no way I could ever have anticipated what happened that day. As we made our way up the steep steps into the Cathedral, I was struck speechless as we entered the nave. There before us was an amazing painting of Jesus with open arms filling the apse. It has stayed with me ever since. It’s dramatic! And a beautiful and invitational depiction of Jesus’ welcoming presence and it has stayed with me ever since. It speaks deeply to me of what it is to be invited into the ever-present presence and love of Christ.
In these days of anticipation and expectation known as Advent, my heart is strangely warmed and inspired by this beautiful depiction that almost feels real. Jesus, God’s gift-giving Spirit in our lives—a Spirit upon which we may call anytime, anywhere. It is a spirit not only of welcoming arms and embracing Love, it is a spirit of Strength, Promise, and Hope...a Light for us when weary, a Hope when disappointed, a Peace when anxious, an Invitation to be renewed in the ways of God made know in the life of Jesus and His invitation to living the ways of God in Christ. In this Season of Advent, I would invite us in heart and mind to be centered in this WORD that became flesh
and dwells among us.
May we pray:
“Come to My Heart, Lord Jesus” and there abide.
Be the inspiration we need...the Love expressed that never leaves...the Hope that urges us ever-onward and the Invitation to draw ever closer
to the ways of Faith made manifest by God’s gift-giving Spirit that came
as a “BABE” in a manger.”
"It’s never a question of whether or not God will bless us—
It’s a matter of having our faith stretched out enough
to receive the incredible measure of goodness God
wants to pour into our life!”
— Rev. Susan S. Shafer, Senior Minister Emerita,
Asbury First United Methodist Church
I learned the theme of this year’s Advent Devotional while we were visiting with and helping my daughter, her husband, and their two-year-old welcome her baby sister into the family. It made me think about Jesus’ coming and what it must have been like for God—the Father/Mother figure.
I’m sure most parents have experienced the mixed emotions that come with a new baby—excitement, of course, but also fears. Will the baby be healthy? Will I be able to handle whatever comes as a parent? How can I keep my child safe?
As our children grow, we must learn to let them go—first to school and eventually to their own lives as adults. When they are no longer with us,
we still worry, but we have to learn to trust that they can make their own decisions. When you truly love someone, you only want what is best for them.
What then, I wondered, must it have been like for God to send his/her only child—knowing the trials and the end Jesus would face? I think most parents would do everything they could to make the road easy for their child. But God did not. Although he knew the ending, he still gave us his son.
Love that great is hard to fathom. Thinking about God as a parent not unlike ourselves helped me to better understand the power of the gift of Jesus
for all of us.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish, but may have eternal life.” — John 3:16
“Love Came Down at Christmas” — Christina Georgina Rossetti
Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, Love divine;
Love was born at Christmas;
Stars and angels gave their sign
— Bonnie Kay joined Asbury with her husband, David, in 1998. She is the proud mother of two daughters and five granddaughters. She enjoys volunteering in the church library and the Storehouse.
We are anticipating Jesus coming to our hearts for all time. Advent is the time we look forward to the birth of Jesus. That is just the beginning. His birth is where others began
to see him and watched Jesus grow up to be an adult.
We celebrate that growth.
After the birth we do not know much about the first 30 years of His life. Isn’t that like our own lives. Jesus grew up with his family, the people in his neighborhood and community, and with people who did not yet know him. He became familiar with the people around him and they got to know him. That is also how we grow up. Our schools, our churches, our friends, and the world around us help us grow into adults. Just like Jesus, that is how we changed from infants to adults.
After 30 years he was at the place in his life where we could communicate with all about his God and the love
of God for all. He explained and showed all how we should live in love. He displayed what it meant to care for the less fortunate and show justice for all.
Every day is the time for us to reach out into the world and show that we follow Jesus. We show that faith in God is central in our lives. We become involved in caring for all we know and those we do not know. We help the needy, share our love and work to make the world better every day.
— Dick and Sandy Moncrief
Artwork by Sarah Brubaker
Open your Heart
For most of my life and in most situations, the thought
of a coming event or an anticipated happening has been exciting. It’s been something to look forward to; something
on which to focus. But, 2020 has changed that. This year has seen the advent of COVID-19 and the arrival of a new election season. It’s been something to avoid and fear. Something
we must endure.
Now our thoughts as Christians turn to the coming
of Jesus. The time to celebrate Jesus’ birth as a tiny baby in a stable has arrived. We focus on God’s gift to us. But, this year the celebration may be different, unfamiliar and unwanted. Normally, we might celebrate with those we love and we feel the warmth of family and friends. This year, we may celebrate alone or with a much smaller group.
But the gift will still be given and God’s love will still be present! “See, I am making all things new,” the author of Revelation writes in Chapter 21. We have endured 2020 and a new season of Advent awaits us. With Charles Wesley, we sing “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus. Born To Set Thy people Free.” We anticipate with hope God’s gift to us. And, maybe because of 2020, we can realize what a wonderful and unique gift if is.
— Andy Dutcher
“You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” — Jeremiah 29:13
The old song of my spirit has wearied itself out.
It has long ago been learned by heart;
It repeats itself over and over,
Bringing no added joy to my days or life to my spirit.
I will sing a new song.
I must learn the new song for the new needs.
I must fashion new words born of all the new growth
of my life—of my mind—of my spirit.
I must prepare for new melodies that have never
Never been mine before,
That all that is within me may lift my voice unto God.
Therefore, I shall rejoice with each new day
And delight my spirit in each fresh unfolding.
I will sing, this day, a new song the Lord.
— Howard Thurman
I WILL SING A NEW SONG
We Have Jesus
The Light of the world
To shine brightly in our hearts,
Shining light on our ways.
I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life,
This child would say one day not long before his death.
Watch me. Walk beside me. Learn from me.
Don’t just think, read, write, sing speak and argue about me. I am not
a philosophy, principle, creed, thesis, song speech, sermon, agenda or bone of contention.
Don’t merely listen for truths. You will hear and promptly forget them.
Just follow me,
then you will be able to distinguish Truth from falsehood.
Start where you stand, right now.
Be still, take it in...the blessed silence (except for the mouse scurrying under the straw), the faint glow of the little fire, the comfortable earthen fragrance of smoke and hay and manure, the animals tenderly breathing their warming mists into the close air. They are still, their gazes fixed upon Him...They know.
Stand. Listen. See. Smell. Breathe.
A little closer, now.
Touch the top of the manger, gnawed and splintery.
Touch the swaddling clothes, and yes—why not?—the velvet
cheek of the King of Kings!
There is nothing more to know.
Truth is alive. Follow him.
— Larry Gage, retired doctor, proud father and husband, lover of Jesus.
One Love, One Heart
In his sermon “Catholic Spirit,” John Wesley implores, “though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike? May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion?” Unfortunately, 2020 has made many of us question Wesley’s conclusion, “without all doubt, we may.”
Instead of one unified love, we have witnessed family and friends use a façade of love to propagate hate and instill harm. In the midst
of this potentially overwhelming despair, how can we possibly look forward to the promise of Christmas?
In advent, we wait for a Christmas that has already happened; and we wait for a Christmas that has yet to come. We celebrate a love that has been received, and a greater love that remains on the horizon.
This dual-meaning of advent reminds us that we exist in the tension of the in-between. And perhaps this tension is precisely the message of love that we need to hear this season.
We do not all love alike: this can cause tension; this can test our trust; this can cause relationships to be relinquished; this can cause our faith to falter.
And yet, these differences can also bring us together. Our love is not a monolith; it is complex; it is a miry multiplicity. If we can allow our expressions of unconditional love to coexist rather than force them to coalesce, then we will move closer to the Christmas that is yet to come. And maybe then, united in our differences, we can finally get together and feel alright.
— Mike Mullin
— Emily Cady is a wife, mother to three wonderful children (Ellie, Charlie, and Hannah), school counselor & educator, who loves to run, laugh, and sing!
The Gift of Pausing
For the past several months, normal routines paused in dramatic ways. Circumstances beyond our control forced us to pause…
Changes forced travel to halt, teaching to switch to off-campus virtual instruction, swimming at the YMCA to discontinue, and the Canadian border
to close. I have watched more TV than ever before. My dog walks with me daily. I have been home.
My car sits idly in my driveway…
Yet despite these dramatic changes, I am slowly finding peace
A few years ago, one of my mentors told me to “work hard, play hard, and rest hard.” Yet, I continued to drive myself to work hard. I allowed myself to “play hard”a few times—especially in the summers near water. Sunshine, laughing, and smiling felt good—in the short term.
Overall, it was hard to jump off the “work hard” treadmill.
I realized I had to “work hard” to “rest hard” and that felt awkward. I had to give myself permission to be still, quiet and to rest. That was tough for me to do. I kept pushing myself to do more; to keep “doing.”
In March 2020, an ‘unexpected gift’ forced me to pause. In many ways, I am “resting hard” while I am pausing. My “work hard” drive is shifting slowly.
I focus on what I can control. I focus on my immediate family. I focus on being still. I focus on being and on becoming…
“Resting hard” is getting easier and somewhat enjoyable; therapeutic actually. I am learning that I am the one who will determine my “new normal” in the future. There is time. For now, I continue to pause and to “rest hard”…
— Dr. Jennifer Green Wilson
Advent is a season of anticipation.
Advent is a season of hope.
Advent is a season of wonder.
Our family has eaten almost every dinner together for the past eight months. Every. Single. Dinner…for almost eight months.
This has been quite a shift for us. You see, prior to the pandemic, we were averaging about one “family” meal a week. We certainly longed for more— but between Stephen’s busy schedule, my overloaded commitments, and our three children’s activities, we often had two dinner seatings at the Cady household: one for the three kids and one for the two adults. One early and one late. One fresh out of the oven and the other needing to be microwaved. Two dinner times, one family.
The reality was our family was on the go between the hours of 3 pm– 8 pm. We were racing to church meetings, school events, piano lessons, dance rehearsals, swim meets, basketball games, girl-scouts, boy-scouts, tae kwon do, horseback riding, and the list goes on…
And then, everything came to
When COVID began, all five of us found ourselves home for dinner…every…single…night.
At first, it was exciting.
Quite a novelty!
The kids started to keep a tally of how many dinners we ate together. 3…8…14…23…36…
Every night questions were asked around the table, from child to parent: How long is COVID going to last? Do you think we’ll be back at school next week? What if we get Corona? Do I get to see my classroom again? When can we play with our friends? When can
we see Glama and Glampa or Nana
Responses were given, from parent to child: We don’t know. We’re not sure. We just can’t say.
As the months have gone on, our dinners have too. Our little kitchen table can barely hold all five of us—and yet, there we sit. Every dinner is different in its mood. Some nights are silly—with jokes, riddles, and even a dance performance or two. Some nights are serious—with worries, fears, and frustrations aired for all to hear. Some nights are joyful—with laughter galore. Some nights are emotional— with tears and hugs.
But all dinners are filled with anticipation, wonder, and hope of what is yet to be….
Advent is a season of anticipation.
Advent is a season of wonder.
Advent is a season of hope.
May you discover the blessings
of this 2020 advent season—even if you’ve been sitting at the same table for the past 8 months.
If you look for Me at Christmas
you won’t need a special star
I’m no longer in Bethlehem
I’m right there where you are.
You may not be aware of Me
amid the celebrations
You’ll have to look beyond the stores
and all the decorations.
But if you take a moment
From your list of things to do
And listen to your heart, you’ll find
I’m waiting there for you.
You’re the one I want to be with,
You’re the reason that I came,
And you’ll find Me in the stillness
as I’m whispering your name.
I found this poem during Christmas of 2018 and it spoke to me. We need to find some stillness to let Jesus into our hearts so that busyness of Christmas, COVID-19 and the many other problems of this world, don’t keep us from hearing his message of hope and love.
— David Kay joinded Asbury with his wife, Bonnie, in 1998. He is the
proud father of two daughters and five granddaughters. He is a former
Asbury First Trustee, volunteer, and a retired Optical Scientist.
Long ago in the deep, long,
dark of night,
A star, its light so bright
embraced a shepherd’s sight.
Peasants, shepherds, and kings alike
gazed upon the wondrous light.
Hope had stirred within their hearts,
with expectation of a King.
Hope was found in a little babe,
cradled in His mother’s arms.
Perhaps now, at last,
Hope renewed as in the past.
Hope renewed as in the past.
Hope renewed for peace the world around.
Hope renewed to turn
misunderstanding to understanding,
Hope renewed to turn unrest to peace,
Hope renewed for arms linked;
man to man,
woman to woman,
child to child.
As Jesus’ mother cradled Hope in her arms,
Our hope renewed for reassurance of a star
to lead the way.
Hope renewed for a guiding light,
day by day and night by night.
— Nancy Davidow
If you look for me at christmas
1050 EAST AVENUE, ROCHESTER, NY
(585) 271-1050 • email@example.com • www.asburyfirst.org
The Work of Christmas
When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and the princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among brothers,
To make music in the heart.
— Howard Thurman