ADVENT Devotional 2021
The liturgical season of Advent is upon us.
This year our Advent brochure uses the theme LIGHT … Our COMPANION acknowledging that the “WORD”, ‘LIGHT’, became flesh and dwells among us.” These daily devotions of reflection, poetry, and story come out of the fabric of our living with the Light of Christ appearing and guiding us. It is our prayer that these devotions will enrich this Advent Season for you, that your eyes may be open to see, your heart may be expanded, and your soul nourished through a daily devotion. The Light dwells among us and companions our daily living. Thanks be to God’s gift-giving Spirit of Grace and Love.
These devotions are compiled by
Bonnie Matthaidess, Spiritual Director
Rev. Susan S. Shafer, Senior Minister, Emerita
Let There be Light
Advent has always been a season of waiting. Not just for Christmas or the birth of the Christ child (that already happened), but for the world that child grew up to promise—a world in which we all finally and fully live as Christ commanded.
Advent is the season in which we pause to see if we’ve gotten any closer to that world. And, if we haven’t, we typically we just go back to waiting.
Only some of us are tired of waiting. After all, we’ve already spent so much time waiting this year—for the pandemic to be done, for things to go back to “normal,” for the world to calm down.
Maybe our job this year is not just to wait for the world Christ promised, but to begin to build it.
The promise of our faith is that in Christ there is a new creation. And while we have acknowledged throughout this fall that a new creation often comes from the chaos, sometimes we forget that it doesn’t stay there. No! At some point, the chaos gives way to something new.
In the first story of Creation it is the light that signals the beginning—the light that shines in the darkness.
Maybe it’s time for us to let there be light! Maybe it’s time for us to look for those dark places and not be afraid to shine a light. Maybe it’s time for us to join together in building that world promised by Jesus Christ.
This advent, let there be light!
What are we waiting for?
Asbury First 2021
“There are two ways
of spreading light,
to be the candle
or the mirror
that reflects it.”
— Edith Wharton
LIGHT … our COMPANION
“Hope is being able to see there is light despite all the darkness.”
— Desmond Tutu
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that.”
— Martin Luther King Jr
Jesus, "I am the light of the world. Those who follow Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life."
In Advent we enter into a season of spiritual pondering and reflecting on God’s promised presence in the reality of our world—globally as well as our personally. For many of us our present reality includes chaos, pandemic fears, losses, a sense of isolation, social unrest, global warming plus, countless other concerns and tragedies.
Friends, our Faith calls us to never lose sight that this is also a time to intentionally and prayerfully consider the reality and everlasting promises from our loving God that anchors us no matter our circumstance. Yes, may we not lose sight that Jesus has come into the world and abides within us as our Light in the darkness and the Companion Presence who guides us in the midst of any circumstance that befalls us.
Blessed are we that each year the Advent season provides the opportunity to prayerfully consider who and what companions us in the midst of our everyday lives as we desire to walk, not in darkness of unknowing, but in the promise of the ever present Light of Christ. Let us join together each day of Advent to pray and reflect with the Light of all creation.
“I will never leave you or abandon you.”
“Be sure of this: I am with you always,
even to the end of the age.”
As you enter into the Advent season, imagine a door flung wide open inviting you to celebrate Jesus’ coming into the world and into your life. Hear the invitation extended to you and to all people... “Come on in, you are welcome here.” Picture yourself joining with others to prepare your hearts to welcome Jesus coming anew.
Be a part of the inclusive welcoming committee and invite family, children, teens, adults, grandparents to join with you in intentional, regular times of prayer, reflection and thanksgiving. Your practice might be at the family table, while riding your bike, reaching out to others, pondering/meditating in silence or by journaling, drawing or painting. You may be a morning person, or that may not be possible with your present reality—so please know any time of the day will be a blessing for you.
These spiritual disciplines cause me to remember Wesley calling us to practice methods like these that draw us near to our God and causes us to remember God’s constant presence and Light with us.
Know in your heart that this threshold is filled with the Light of Christ that is greater than any obstacles we are facing. Yes, we do not deny the hardships and chaos before us, but we know that God’s rock-solid promise is that we are never abandoned or left alone.
As we desire a deepfelt knowledge of Jesus coming into our lives,
it is critical that we spend time together with him. Consider that’s
how relationships begin and are nourished just like the those with our friends.
Come on in. Listen with an open heart. Welcome all and Give thanks for Immanuel—God with us. Let your Light shine.
In these Advent days, the story of Mary plays a
prominent role as we hear in the Biblical story
of the Holy Spirit coming upon Mary. Painters,
poets and pieces of music have all depicted
this Holy moment of LIGHT for Mary and her life’s
changing gift of God. This Annunciation story
is heard again in Ann Johnson’s poem...
“In prayer, Miryam watched; eyes of her soul
turned inward, she watched. Ears of her spirit
stretched out, she watched... The gentle shadow
of the Most High came upon her.
‘Holy is the place within where God dwells.’
And she pondered.
This is a season for pondering and opening our
souls to the Spirit within each of us. God’s tender
fingers reach out from age to age to touch the
softened inner spaces of those who open their
souls in hope. May we open our souls in hope.
May we like Mary be filled with the news of good
things; the places in our hearts that we fill with
fears, inadequacies, heartaches … need to be
emptied and our souls quieted within where God
dwells among us. Ponder anew the meaning of
God’s gift-giving Spirit. And let the LIGHT shine
upon you, anew.
Now that you know I was not fully paying attention to all that was happening around me as I was lost in my thoughts, suddenly I spoke to the leader about the piece of artwork only to discover she was the artist. Her name is Joyce Martelli and she was of course pleased with my fascination and inspiration by her artwork. In the next session, another piece of artwork was on the wall and I spoke with quite deep disappointment that the other piece was not there. Oh, she said: “that piece was bought at an art show this past weekend by a lovely person.” Had I known it was for sale I might have asked about it and its price.
And then a new discovery...when the Light of Christ in another, shines forth, one’s own life can be enriched. Another in the group, a dear friend, had “heard” and “seen” my enthusiasm and went to the show and bought the artwork for me. The piece is shown here with Joyce’s permission. It was then that I learned that the piece was named “jelly fish” (???) by the artist. You see, another’s eye sees something different. I laugh and remember our son saying one day: “Mom, do you have to see God in everything?” With certainly, the LIGHT of Christ was speaking through another and my eyes saw the proclamation of that LIGHT. May we all have eyes to see and hearts to give. The LIGHT dwells among us.
This fall it was my privilege to be a part of a group study out of the Mercy Spirituality Center. This study was entitled “The Faith of a Mockingbird” and was a study connecting Christ and Culture using as its base, the book “To Kill A Mockingbird”. As the first session began (by Zoom) I could see in the background on the wall of the leader’s study, a piece of artwork that caught my eye. As we began to think and speak of the culture depicted in the book and thinking about the stunning, and for me, the heart-breaking comparisons to our culture and the call of Christ within for each of us, the artwork began
to speak to me.
Flowing down out of the background, were what became for me, “streaks” of light amidst dots of light that came out of the streaks...and my eyes were glued to the piece. For me, the Light of Christ was in the streaks coming earthward, and the dots were the manifestation of the light in each of us.
And then it struck me, how different our culture could be if we were to live knowing and believing and acting out of that LIGHT that companions us
and calls us to live a life by the LIGHT and look for that LIGHT in each other.
It could be life changing for our world.
"Jellyfish" by Joyce Martelli
Where are the daffodils?
In the unique beauty of the fall season we enjoy sunshine and cloudy days, crisp air and turning leaves that are a part of the transitions before us. As the days grow shorter and we miss the warmth and light of summer. The reality is that dormancy and darkness is falling upon us. Yes, those colorful leaves will drop leaving our trees looking naked and the flower beds looking lonely on the bare earth. “Oh my, where has the summer gone?“
This darker season happens annually, doesn’t it and we know it is necessary for our plants and animals, but are we ever ready for the change? And yet, this darkness comes with the benefits
of new life we so appreciate in the spring, but it can be challenging. This year I thought of this while planting daffodil bulbs remembering that their blooming in spring is dependent on the cold, dark wintery season. This felt personal and tugged
at my heart.
It came to me, each of us will face (have faced or are facing), times that have much darkness in them. As a matter of fact,
the pandemic itself has placed us in uncharted waters of long isolation and unsureness in our everyday routines. I don’t know about you, but I never have thought of myself as a daffodil bulb! And yet, there are lessons I’m to learn and remember.
If we consider the example of the fall season, of bulbs resting in the dark nourishing earth, our spirits might just be lifted. Our Creator is not absent from what is happening in the darkness— new life, new creations will break through as promised. God has not abandoned nature and God does not abandon us. For God is with us in the darkness as an Abiding Presence, as a source of nourishment, as strength for each day, as a constant companion, as Light in the darkness even when we are not able to see this on our own.
Life is challenging to be sure and I’ve heard from the pulpit (thanks, Stephen), “We are better together.” So, in this Advent season, let us draw near to one another as reflections,
as companions in the Light of Christ.
It has been said that: “the life of faith breathes more fully
in the language of devotion.” Experiencing this and believing
in it, there is a poem by Bishop Ralph Spaulding Cushman that serves as an Advent devotion of life. It is from a book of his poetry entitled: More Hilltop Verses and Prayers. It’s pages are “dogged eared” and speak from the depth of knowing Christ’s Light. This particular poem is entitled “Dream on, ye dreamers; Set the world to dreaming!” I have to wonder if God’s gift of Jesus could set us dreaming and living in the Light more fully.
Dream on, ye dreamers,
Set the world to dreaming!
Dream, and resolve
Christ’s will to do!
Cease not to dream
Though others are doubting,
But let thy dreams
Be borne from above;
Eternal dreams that bring
Christ’s Light with them;
Dreams of a world
Of undistorted love
Who from the beginning,
Dreamed of a world
Obedient to God,
O, make us too
As people dream-driven,
Till of this earth
Is made a holier sod.
May your prayers and dreams this Advent bring you into the LIGHT as your companion.
Hope … our COMPANION
It’s raining today, it’s dreary damp and there’s a bitter, cold chill in the air, the local news begins with reports of the multiple dark tragedies and your kitchen sink backs up! You don’t even want to consider the world news or the heavy concerns weighting down your personal life. It doesn’t seem like it’s going to be a good day? Perhaps you can identify?
You might ask, why would an Advent devotional start this way? Because it is often be our reality, isn’t it? Sometimes we avoid addressing these issues, an attempt to bury them as though they will go away.
For me, this is why “Companion” needed to be a part of the title of this Advent devotional. In my present circumstances, the companioning presence of God is my steady anchor. And, I also long for companions with skin on and God has thankfully provided such dear ones to sit with me when darkness creeps in. Often few words are needed, but their comforting presence was the assurance that they were “with” me all the way. They absolutely mirrored the Light of Christ and I am deeply thankful.
In my faith journey, God’s presence as my constant companion slowly emerged and continues to deepen and grow. This Light is sometimes as small as a soft candle’s glow or as bright as an expansive flood light. It can be like the eternal flame in the sanctuary of my younger years or the beacon in the night that would guide Dan’s and my boat to its dock. God’s presence is “with” me. I am not alone.
The Incarnation, God’s taking on human flesh to assure each of us that we are never alone, is the assurance needed for us
to meet every day—including those that seem dark, perhaps particularly those. I invite you to look for the Light; the Light
of Christ and give thanks.
Light & Darkness:
Books are my companions. I especially love the Scriptures and have several translations.
At the church of my adolescence, memorization of the scriptures was strongly encouraged as well as, in Sunday School class, being the first one able to find a specific scripture at break neck speed was how we began our weekly time together. I loved excelling in this and proudly wore the lapel pins I earned. My first Bible was a gift from mom and dad. It was the Bible I had to have. You see it had to have a zipper on all sides and what Jesus said was in red print and it was! That Bible was a true treasure for me, but years later upon reflection, I realize the scriptures lived mostly in my head...left me longing for more.
That Bible and several other translations are still treasures and have companioned me through thick and thin. The favorite zippered Bible (now with frayed stitching) was carried to several summer camps. These were truly memorable, inspiring experiences because it was the beginning of those scriptures taking on new meaning and moving from my head to my heart. That empty space, the void, was surely being filled with knowing God loved me and all people unconditionally.
Another favorite Bible, The Message, is this year’s Advent companion along with my journal. It seems the ink is flowing easily as I pour out my heart for the comfort and companioning of God’s presence. Remembering significant experiences and people of the past fill me with Hope and my spirits are lifted with the love and Light of Christ.
I encourage you to do some looking back, remembering
and giving thanks for how God has been present and is present throughout your history. Give thanks and bask in the Light of Christ.
Books as Companions
“Clear Son of righteousness, shine on my path.”
— Howard Thurman
One of my favorite spiritual guides is Howard Thurman. You have heard Stephen speak of him many times from the pulpit and if you were to read his PhD thesis you would know his influence on Stephen and, perhaps, the world. I turn, once again, to his book The Mood of Christmas for devotional inspiration and share with you one of his writings which I have adapted to ADVENT. We will need hope and light in these days and perhaps this might inspire us all.
I WILL LIGHT CANDLES THIS [ADVENT]
Candles of joy, despite all sadness,
Candles of hope where despair keeps watch,
Candles of courage for fears ever present,
Candles of peace for tempest-tossed days,
Candles of grace to ease heavy burdens.
Candles of love to inspire all my living,
Candles that will burn all the yearlong.
At this writing, and thinking about what candles I want to light each day during Advent, all of a sudden, I am reminded that in the darkness of winter, my mother would light a candle in the window just before my father would come home from work. She, too, must have known that a lighted candle is a welcoming sign of love in the darkness. What a welcoming sign was God’s gift of Jesus, in the darkness, was the light of his life that companions each of us. What candles will you light of joy, hope, courage, peace, grace and love (and?) this Advent. Perhaps, just perhaps, the LIGHT will pierce the darkness!
Several years ago, while on a training retreat with the Haden Institute, we were introduced to their resident poet, Cathy Smith Bowers, a vibrant, talented, hospitable woman with a deliciously strong, southern drawl. She promised that by the end of the retreat each of us would create our own poetry. Please know that it was with doubt and trepidation that I, we, embarked on this endeavor.
But before putting words on paper, Cathy called us to pause, to prayerfully explore our awareness of the “A-bi-ding Pres-en-ce of God” within. I can hear Cathy now as these words slowly and sweetly rolled off her tongue. But more than that, her invitation caused me to pause and my heart was deeply moved, matter fact, to tears by my “A-bi-ding Pres-en-ce of God.”
What surfaced was my deep longing for the unshakable assuredness of Immanuel, God with me; and it seems the Spirit used this word, Abiding, to stir within me. There was a heart-felt knowing of not being alone and that God’s Abiding Presence companioned me with the deepest understanding of my yearnings and my desire to be a reflection of God’s Presence and Light.
Deep within, I know this Abiding God Presence is my constant companion and is made known to me through a variety of means. This year has had its dark times and in my time of grief and sorrow because of the death of my eldest son, Dave, and my husband, Dan, I know that I am not alone as God is present in the gifts of compassion, companioning and comfort. God’s Abiding Presence weeps with me and is joyful with me in fond memories of both Dave and Dan and the promise of their eternal life.
Please take some quiet to consider how God’s Abiding Presence within you is made known. Advent, lovely Advent, calls us to savor that Jesus is with us...lovingly Abiding with us as Light and Love. May we mirror this in thought word and deed.
Jesus Companions as
“With God, anything is possible.”
It had been a dreary day in Jerusalem, dreary both in the skies as well as in the interviews with the Mayor of Jerusalem and the Mayor of Bethlehem. There is no easy avenue to the resolution of conflict. Anticipated arrival at the stable “cave” where it is said the baby Jesus was born in the crowded city, gave us pause. It is dark in this place with red lanterns lighted to guide one and the feeling of holiness is quite deep; yet,
it is nothing like one’s imagination from years of the story
We quickly journeyed on and found ourselves in a boat
on the Sea of Galilee and the dreariness of weather mixed with thoughts of all the Biblical stories of Jesus and the Sea
of Galilee stirred within. The group was gathered in the front
of the boat and I now needed solitude and prayer. As I looked out from the stern of the boat, the hillside was in full view
and I began to “see” Jesus sitting on the hillside sharing the Beatitudes. Blessed are those…the historical biblical stories were alive in me and suddenly an opening in the sky gave
a stream of LIGHT…for some moments, the impossible appeared possible.
The memory stirs in me again as I think of Jesus as companion that dark day bringing light…alone and inspired
for moments I began to sing ‘Spirit of the living God fall afresh on me.” May we all be guided by the LIGHT as our companion.
“Open mine eyes that I may see…
Open my ears that I may hear…
Open my heart that I may love more deeply”
Today I saw a blind man being led along:
My heart went out in pity, deep and strong;
He was so young! The years would seem so wrong!
But when he came beside me, I did surely hear
Tis blind man humming, and with ne’er a fear,
He hummed some cheery song—a gladsome song!
My open lips did whisper, Can it be
He really sees some things I do not see?
Or that he surely hears
Some voice not heard by me?
And is it so that by his side
There walk a Mystic One to me denied?
So present is this world,
Dear God, so loud its din,
We seldom hear the voice
That speaks within!”
Take some moments to see the LIGHT and listen for the voice within that speaks of love and light come down to be within to guide us.
The Blind Shall See and the Deaf Hear
Have you ever wondered what another’s devotional-life is or might be? Have you ever wondered what it’s like to have a devotional-life that compels another closer to God? Have you ever shared your own spiritual and prayer-life and practices
These days as we have prepared these devotionals for ADVENT, our prayer-life has brought forth these reflections and come out of some of our personal practices. One practice that I have had for some years, is the reading of particular authors who have penned prayers from their own life and experience of Christ within it. Amazingly, and strange, somehow it seems that any particular prayer seems to draw me and envelop me into Christ’s Presence and Light.
The other day, it happened with a prayer out of the published prayers of a Professor, author, biblical scholar, and a masterful prayer(-er) who speaks to me each time I take the time to sit with a prayer of his. His name and personhood have touched my life and brought me closer in prayer to God in Christ. As I pray his prayers, and the prayers of others, I feel the presence and am drawn into the LIGHT! and lifted up The wondrous gift of LIGHT as companion. This author, among others whose prayers enlighten me, soothe me and invite me to new ways of seeing, experiencing, and sharing the LIGHT. This particular author is Dr. Walter Brueggman. He reminds me that God comes again and again when people permit the Light to be recognized within, something extraordinary comes out of the ordinary. God’s news made known again and again! Just perhaps these prayers and Advent devotionals will draw you deeper into the LIGHT in these ADVENT days. It is our prayer that God’s gift-giving presence will come again and again to bring LIGHT to your living and your loving. Pray with me, Brueggemann’s In Human Form found on the next page.
What a privilege to pray with Brueggmann and to have broken bread and laughed with him...a human form of LIGHT within.
“Oh God, could it be that each of us might trust enough that our prayers draw us closer to You and into the LIGHT!?”
Light … In Human Form
In Human Form
You are God, high, lifted up, majestic.
As we say, “Yours is the kingdom, the
power, and the glory … forever.
You are high and lifted up;
it dazzles us that You work Your will
through human agents—
those whom you call and choose and empower,
even the weak, the lowly, the ‘nobodies’.
You are high and lifted up;
it stuns us that You have worked Your will
through such agents as David,
the runt of his family
almost left behind and forgotten,
and You called him to power and
obedience and success.
You are high and lifted up;
It staggers us that You have worked Your will
through this Jesus of Nazareth,
he of no pedigree,
he of no form or comeliness,
he who emptied Himself in obedience;
and you have raised him to new life.
You are high and lifted up;
it astonishes us that You work Your will
through human agents like us,
people of little consequence and
You call us beyond ourselves;
You send us beyond our imagination;
You empower us beyond our capacity;
And we become Your agents in the world,
day by day doing justice and mercy and compassion.
At the end of the day we still say in astonishment,
that You are high and lifted up and majestic.
We are your creatures,
and we give our life back to You,
filled with gratitude,
eager for the rest that only You can give.
For some years I have been reading various writings from J. Philip Newell. There is a particular devotional book that I use often. Newell’s Celtic Treasure is indeed a treasure. I invite you
to devote with me through his Advent devotion.
Ready yourself with a candle to light...
Find yourself comfortably situated...
Breathe several deep breaths.
As you light your candle...say:
“We/I light a light...in the name of God who creates life,
in the name of the Saviour who loves life, in the name of the Spirit who is the fire of life.”
(Be still now and aware of God’s presence within
and all around).
Prayer: “In the silence of our, my heart(s), O God, or in spoken words, let us/me give thanks for the gift of this day and pray for the life of the world...”
(Take a moment to include your personal prayers).
You have taught us, O Christ, to love the World. You have shown us the LIGHT that is within us and within all things. May we learn to love more and in loving You more learn to love the earth and all its people more, for you are the light of all life.”
Read (out loud) John 1:1-14
Closing Words: (after which the candle is extinguished).
“The blessings of heaven, the blessings of earth, the blessings of sea and of sky. On those we love this day and on every human family the gifts of heaven, the gifts of earth, the gifts of sea and of sky.”
Newell has given us an Advent exercise in devotion that may enrich this Season. May it be so for you!
A Devotion on Light
"Leave the Light On"
Perhaps, it is the same for you. When my sister and I were young and sharing a bedroom, each night after our prayers and being tucked in either my voice or my sister’s voice would ask with a pleading: “please leave the light on”… For children,
I believe, that is not an unusual request. I see various nightlights offered in catalogues and in stores. I cannot remember when I or my sister “outgrew” our need for the
light to be left on. I do know, it was never on in the morning?!
For most of us, if not all of us, our lives have had or do have some sadness and grief in them...personally, nationally and globally. And by chance, if we have not personally, it certainly is in the world about us and we all grieve for what
is and what might be. It is difficult business being human!
However, I am convinced, young or old, however you define being young or old, (I find my definition changes year by year)…we each need light in our lives to guide us. And I believe with all my heart…and all my experiences in my individual life and through the lives of others’ sacred sharing …none of us needs or should lead lives without the LIGHT being our companion…We all need a “night and a day LIGHT!”
God must have “known” that and perceived humanity’s need to be guided down life’s path and so LIGHT was given
to us out of God’s vision and generosity and maybe even hope. If we “knew” and lived with the promised LIGHT beside us, all would be well. And all would be well. May the Light so guide you that all is well and will be well. Thanks Be To God!
“Blessed are you who bear the Light in unbearable times,
who testify to its endurance amid the unendurable,
who bear witness to its persistence when everything seems
in shadow and grief.
Blessed are you in whom the light lives,
in whom the brightness blazes—
your heart a chapel, an altar
where in the deepest night can be seen
the fire that shines forth in you
in unaccountable faith, in stubborn hope,
in love that illumines
every broken thing it finds.”
Jan Richardson writes this blessing in The Circle of Grace, a Book of Blessings for the Seasons in the chapter named ‘Where the Light Begins.’ Her first stanza seems to pour out here sorrow of living in unbearable times at the loss of husband who died shortly after they were married. And yet—because she grieves “not as those who do not have hope”—she is aware that by God’s Grace there are Light Bearers surrounding her. Jesus’ Light abides in those who stand
by her and help sustain her in this time of grief. Thanks be to God.
As you reflect, you might take some quiet time and thank God for those who have been Light Bears for you. You might even let them know of your appreciation.
You might also give thanks for the LIGHT of Christ within you
and how God shines through you as you mirror this light for others. May it be so!
“Hope is the simple trust that God has
not forgotten the recipe for manna.”
— W. Paul Jones in “Trumpet at Full Moon”
“A seed in the ground. A flame in the darkness.
A child in the womb. One “yes” to an angel and Mary becomes revolutionary,” writes Jan Richardson in Night Visions: Searching the Shadows of Advent and Christmas. She continues, “Hope often starts small and overtakes us, stretching the borders
of what we have known.” This speaks to me...
Hope is at the heart of Advent—in our preparing, anticipating, longing for Jesus’ coming anew. Hope is critical
as a life-giving element to out spirit and in our lives that we desperately long for. Hope is filled with the Light that Jesus
in the flesh brought to earth. My, how we need Hope “that
does not fail” in the reality of our present-day world.
In Advent, as we think of Mary, she literally and spiritually embodies Hope as she radically believes that God will fulfill
the promise made by Gabriel. Richardson writes, “Mary knows
in her soul, in her womb, that radical hope is found at the boundary where the outrageous gives way to the possible.
A child given to her aged kinswoman, Elizabeth? The courage
to say yes to Gabriel’s invitation to her, an unwed woman?
Well, then God might as well have turned the world into one where all things are possible! Even justice. Even freedom!”
May your heart be filled with hope as you read these words from Richardson.
“Mary knows that some things are so outrageous that sometimes we have to talk about them as if they have already happened in order to believe they could ever come about.
And so, if we believe that God has brought justice to the world,
we live that justice, and we share in making the world more just. If we believe that God has brought healing to the world,
we live that healing, and we share in making the world more whole.” May it be so!
“How shall we live?” In GRATITUDE
In her book Traveling Mercies, the author Anne Lamott speaks to the question “How shall we live?”. She believes we should live in gratitude...thank you, thank you, thank you! It strikes me that preparing to celebrate “the coming” of Jesus again, is exactly how we might live in these days...
The secret of quiet confidence in our world, furnishing us with the sight of so many sad experiences and things does not lie in shutting our eyes. It lies in looking at things as they are and letting the sad vision force us back upon the mercy and power
of God in God’s Vision. Ponder for a moment, isn’t it amazing
that God’s vision for our lives was made known through the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus. One whose enacted vision shines a light on us and gives us a promise God is with us. IMMANUEL...How shall we live? In gratitude for God’s gift-giving Spirit in Jesus.
“The greatest thing is to give thanks...
one who has learned this knows what it means to live...
one has permeated the whole mystery of life.”
— Albert Schweitzer
In this Season, might we all live in GRATITUDE???!!!!
Light of Christ, Come In
To be grateful for what is, instead of underscoring what is not.
Light of Christ, Come In
To find good amid the unwanted aspects of life,
without denying the presence of the unwanted.
Light of Christ, Come In
To focus on beauty in the little things of life,
as well as being deliberate about the great beauties
of art, literature, music, and nature.
Light of Christ, Come In
To be present to one’s own small space of life,
while stretching to the wide world beyond it.
Light of Christ, Come In
To be thankful for each loving deed done by another,
no matter how insignificant it might appear.
Light of Christ, Come In
To find ways to reach out and help the disenfranchised,
while also preserving their dignity and self-worth.
Light of Christ, Come In
To be as loving and caring as possible,
in a culture that consistently challenges these virtues.
Light of Christ, Come In
To taste life to the fullest, and not take any part of it for granted.
Light of Christ, Come In
— Joyce Rupp
Advent — We’re all on the same boat.
We pray…O God, there is a quiet darkness in this season
of Advent and we find ourselves searching for the sacred Light that is always shining on in the Kingdom of God. We pray that
by your grace, we may find this everlasting Light in you, O God. Help us to understand that deep in the recesses of our souls, light shines, no matter our life circumstance. Be a lantern
for us, O God, that we may be lanterns for others. Amen
In Advent we pray to be mindful of the Coming of Jesus
as Light in times of darkness and that this Light is not limited
to when our earthly journey is complete, but is now! Right now, today! “Jesus is the neighborhood” is how Leonard Sweet, founder of SpiritVenture ministries and graduate of Colgate Rochester Divinity School and the University of Rochester, describes the Kingdom of God. I like this as often as the scriptures speaks of the Kingdom of God and sometimes, we are left wondering what this means.
Martin Luther King, Jr, named the Kingdom of God as the “Beloved Community.” This community is where everyone shares in the Earth’s bounty, a society in which all are embraced and none are discriminated against.” Oh, how we long for this now.
Patrick Saint-Jean, S.J. writes, the definition of the Latin word, pleroma is “All humanity shares in the Body of Christ. Another translation of this Latin word has to do with being in the same boat. In reality, all humanity is in the boat called Planet Earth.” What an image for us!
Kingdom of God, Jesus in the neighborhood, we’re all in the same boat, (on the same inclusive cruise) are all fine examples
of the Incarnation, God in the flesh through Jesus. Perhaps these are new images of Advent for us. They surely expand my vision. Let us pray together for our eyes, ears, mind and heart be opened for the Kingdom of God is at hand. Thanks be to God.
“I want to walk as a Child of the Light”
For years, now, I have loved the hymn “I want to walk as a child of the Light.” It is more of a prayer for me than a hymn.
In the hymnal it finds itself in the Advent and Christmas section and I have often wondered why.
As I sing and pray it no matter the liturgical season, it seems more like what it means to walk with Jesus as a companion, perhaps even an invitation this Advent season…What if we were to all walk as a child of the Light ?
It is a nagging question for me. Would it make a difference
to live and see others as children of the Light? Would everyone’s life be treated as Jesus treated each person? Listening to another’s story…walking the roads of life seeing in another each struggle…knowing that each is a sacred gift of God. If I walk
as a child of the LIGHT, I have no other choice but to be a part
of making the world a safer place to celebrate life…one interaction at a time.
This Advent maybe we all could think of ourselves as children of the LIGHT that came to be our constant companion. How would the world about us be changed? How might you be inspired
by this concept?
“In him there is no darkness at all…the Lamb is the Light
of the city of God…”
“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
A dear friend of mine, Judy Joy, has been blind since birth.
She lives independently in a two-story house cooking and baking delicious food all on her own. She navigates this space without hesitation from her prayer room on the second floor to the basement where she rides her exercise bike. She is one of my heroes whom I admire and respect.
One warm sunny day we were sitting outside enjoying a gentle breeze and the birds singing nearby. Suddenly the sun broke through and Judy Joy remarked about the warmth on her face. She then asked me what does that warmth from the sun, that light people talk about, look like? Whoa, that question made me to take a deep breath and ask myself how do I describe light to someone whose eyes have never experienced sight? Please know, I tried my best and I could see her relax in her chair and seem more at peace as she imagined the gift
of sight and light. In this precious time together, I remember her face breaking into a smile without a word of complaint. It was so evident that her loss of vision as an infant did not define Judy Joy! She finds her joy and her identity is being a Child of God with an inner light.
As we continued enjoying the fresh air and sunshine, Judy Joy began describing the presence of God within her. For her God’s abiding presence gives her clarity when she is questioning, consoling warmth when she is weary and the strength for each day. This must be like sunlight? she said.
Friends, Jesus has come as Light for the world to dwell within each of us no matter our physical eyesight. This lady, Judy Joy, full of the love of God, radiates the Light of Christ in her thoughts and actions and I give thanks for her in my life. I pray that each of us welcomes the Light of Christ this Advent and may we radiate this Light in our thoughts, words and deeds.
LIGHT … A Companioning Presence
There is a piece of writing from Howard Thurman that nurtures my heart and prayerfully and hopefully yours as well in this Holy Season. We all are invited to know that each is a child of God and that the God of life in all its part and the God of the human heart are one
and the same.
DEEP IS THE HUNGER
“Faith teaches [one] that God is. The human spirit has two fundamental demands that must be met relative to God. First, God must be vast, limitless, transcendent, all-comprehensive, so that there is no thing that is the wide reaches of God’s apprehension. The stars, the universe, the great galaxies of spatial groupings moving in endless rhythmic patterns in the trackless skies, as well as the tiny blade of grass by the roadside, are all within God’s grasp.
The second demand is that God be personal, and intimate. [One] must have a sense of being cared for, of not being alone and stranded in the universe. All of us want the assurance of not being deserted by life nor deserted in life. Faith teaches us that God is-that God is the face of life from which all things take their meaning and reality. When Jesus prayed, he was conscious that, in his prayer, he met the Presence, and this consciousness was far more important and significant than the answering of his prayer. It is for this reason primarily that God was for Jesus the answer to all the issues and
the problems of life.
‘When I, with all my heart, truly seek God and give myself in prayer, I too, meet God’s Presence and then I know for myself that Jesus was right. What we most want to know about God is whether God is present in the commonplace experiences of ordinary living, available to ordinary people under the most garden-variety circumstances.’ The gift of Jesus is the gift of knowing that God, PRESENCE is not far from anyone of us and this is the essence of the Gospel which Jesus proclaimed.” IMMANUEL God with us!
“Closer is God than breathing nearer than hands or feet.”
— Howard Thurman
Out of the Mouth of Babes
It’s been several years ago during an Asbury First’s Christmas eve service that a young, restless child was seated behind us. From the rustling and shushing, it was obvious that he was on the pew, under the pew, on mom’s lap, dad’s lap, up and down. We heard continued shushing from the family as they tried to quiet this little guy. We chuckled remembering the days of sitting with our squirming little ones during Christmas eve services.
Then while he was now standing in the pew, in what the little boy thought was a shushed voice, we clearly heard, “Is he (pointing to the pulpit) talking about Jesus being born?” All of us within ear shot were smiling and surprisingly, it hit me that is exactly why we were gathered because for us, too, this was all about Jesus being born.
“Out of the mouth of babes” we often say, don’t we? That night this child spoke to me with such refreshing simplicity about Jesus’ birth and this prompted me to pause and consider how complex life is these days.
“No room in the inn.” Even though Mary is late in her pregnancy, she and Joseph had no option but to travel to noisy, crowded Bethlehem because of a mandatory census. After their long journey, they were in desperate need of lodging and rest, but there was no room—no room in the inn. But this doesn’t stop God’s plan for the Incarnation. This was not a No.
This actually takes them out of the complexity of all that was going on in the city and moves them to a humble, quiet place where there were animals and a manger and Jesus is born. From complexity to the humility of a stable.
My prayer then and now is that my response to Joseph and Mary’s request would not be—There’s no room here for Jesus to be born. Yes, in our reality of the world in which we live clutter, complexity, responsibilities and stuff crowds in on us all. But maybe Advent is the time to consider how privileged we are and that we have options, that we can make priority choices that makes room for the everyday birthing of Christ in us.
Poetry — Advent Companions
Immanuel, the Light of Christ is here, now! I am most thankful for the season of Advent that causes me to pause and to be open to the Light. Thankfully, I’ve discovered there are many lenses that allow the Light in especially when my heart is open and expectant.
Poetry, music, art are creative lenses for me, as well as and walking through a canopy of trees and watching Creator God’s Light shine through.
Recently, I read Mary Oliver’s When I Am Among the Trees before spending some leisurely time in nearby Corbett’s Glen.
Friends, come walk with me, absorb Oliver’s invitation…“to be filled with light, and to shine.”
“When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
especially the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.
I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.
Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out,” Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.
And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you, too, have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”
Consider what word or phrase in Oliver’s writing resonates within you. Slowly read it again and let the Light of Christ stir…
Psalm of an Advent Ear
“With prayerful pleas
and Advent song of longing,
I await the birth of God’s Anointed One.
Come, O Gift of Heaven’s harmony,
and attune my ear,
the ear of my heart,
so that I may hear,
just as Mary heard.
O God, the time is short,
these days are too few
as I prepare for the birth of Mary’s son.
Busy days, crowded to the brim,
with long lists of gifts to buy
and things that must be done.
Show to me, your highly favored child,
how to guard my heart from noise and hurry’s whirl,
so that I might hear your voice
calling my heart to create an empty space
that might be pregnant with heaven’s fire.
Quiet me within,
clothe my body in peacefulness,
that your Word
once again may take flesh—
this time, within me—
as once it did long Advent days ago.”
— Edward Hays
By the LIGHT of Jesus … A Guiding LIGHT
Some years ago, now, there was an afternoon soap opera entitled “Guiding Light”. I never watched it but the title still intrigues me and as we were preparing for this Advent Devotional suddenly that title popped from the recesses of my mind...Guiding Light…hmmm…Is that not what God’s gift of Jesus and his life is meant to be?
The soap opera mirrored, I am sure, an exaggerated telling of life in relationships, where there is little peace and episode after episode has disturbing interactions as a part of it. People have dreams and then are hurt, a foundational love is absent, people are not treated with kindness and respect, and faithfulness is not honored in relationships. People speak
in words that are hurtful and life is drama after drama.
Our lives have an opportunity to live very differently…
to be embraced by the loving mysterious reign of God that
is full of surprises, none greater than the gift of a “Guiding LIGHT.” If Jesus were to be fully our “Guiding LIGHT” what might that mean for our lives? To ponder, to wonder, to care for all the “Sheep” of God’s world guided by the LIGHT could be transforming. No one would be excluded! What could be transformed in our lives if intentions and interactions were fully guided by the LIGHT?
Former Beatle John Lennon once said: “life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans!” Maybe this ADVENT, our busyness might be interrupted by intentional living by the LIGHT! I wonder, how might our lives have added meaning and sustenance?
It only takes a spark to get a fire going,
And soon all those around can warm up in its glowing
That’s how it is with God’s Love, once you’ve experienced it,
You spread the love to everyone, you want to pass it on.
When did you learn this song? Was it in Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, or summer camp as a young person listening to a guitar singing around a campfire? Well, it matters not where we first heard the message of this song or whether it’s hearing it for the first time, it is very much an Advent theme.
My father loved fishing and he could spend hours on end with his fishing rod and line at water’s edge. Often at the end of a busy day even through fatigued, we would drive to the river bank where dad would prop up our fishing poles. It was just the two of us and
we would wait patiently for the fish to take the bait. He liked the silence, the quiet, and I liked being with him whether the fish were biting or not.
A fond memory from one of those cherished times happened
as the sun faded, the sky darkened and a few stars appeared in the night sky. Dad liked to lean back resting his folded hands behind his head. Of course, I did, too. We would quietly lay back on the river bank looking up at the sky and dad said we could stay awhile waiting and watching for the stars to appear. Sure enough, the stars began
to pop through and grew in numbers exponentially and almost magically, it seemed dad and I were softly blanketed with twinkling star light. I don’t remember his exact words, but he told me that having to wait in the dark for the stars to come out is sometimes how it is with God. Waiting can be hard, he said, but God is with
us as sure as the stars come out every night.
That’s how it is with God’s Love, once you’ve experienced it,
You spread the love to everyone, you want to pass it on.
I wonder if dad knew this song? He surely passed God’s love
on to me. My prayer is that this song’s message companions you this Advent season.
It is Christmas! Let us celebrate this Christmas remembering a New Creation, the Creation of all Creations, the Incarnation of God, coming forth in and through Jesus of Nazareth. A birthing has taken place—a holy birth and we are filled with joy as our God of Grace takes on human flesh, all of our humanity, to be at one with us!
Let us give thanks!
“You are a new creation” is a theme that we at Asbury intentionally prayed upon, heard from the pulpit and pondered
as this fall, we finally had the opportunity to return to the sanctuary for worship. We who attend worship in the sanctuary were lovingly cared for and our wellbeing and safety was thoroughly considered during this time of COVID. The worship service continued being streamed and broadcasted in kind consideration for whom this
was the best option. Thank you for the teams, the hands-on people and staff for all this preparation; you are most appreciated.
An interesting concept to ponder this Christmas comes from
a German mystic, Meister Eckhart, who in the Middle Ages wrote,
“we are like mothers of God, for God is always needing to be born.”
He and others use this metaphor as a way of speaking how we co-create with God, by giving birth, too. As Jan Richardson writes, “We give birth to God’s love when we create with our hands, offer hospitality, work for justice, or teach a child. We share in giving birth whenever we freely offer ourselves for healing, for delight,
for transformation, for peace.”
Remembering that “We are better together,” we as sisters and brothers are called to companion one another as encouragers as we co-labor in bringing the Jesus’ Light and Love to the world. In so doing, we not only give birth, but are ourselves born anew!
May this Christmas include remembering the birth of Jesus
and his presence in and with us and that we now as new creations
in Christ, bring life to him in our thoughts, words and actions.
The LIGHT has come!
Christmas Blessings to one and all!
“We pass by familiar things and familiar faces every day
of our lives. They may become so familiar that we do not see them—really see them—anymore. It can take a shift of perspective to see them in a different light. It can be the most ordinary
thing or the most taken-for-granted person,
but with a bit of reflection beauty can emerge.
The sources for inspiration are many, and they are readily available. All it takes is a bit of time to open our eyes to what
is beneath our feet, through a window, or in the life of someone whose tender heart contains a story waiting to be told.
Jesus saw remarkable things all around him. Seeds, the wind, the poor, the rich, fig trees and the sea—he used these to explain the wonders of God. We journey through treasures every day
of our lives. They are not ours to possess; they are on loan
so that we might learn to trust and love the Lender.”
— Portraits of Grace, by James Stephen Behrens
Blessing from Jan Richardson
With every step you take, this blessing rises up to meet you.
It has been waiting long ages for you.
Look closely and you can see the layers of it,
how it has been fashioned by those
who walked this road before you,
how it has been created of nothing
but their determination and their dreaming.
How it has taken its form from an ancient hope that drew
them forward and made a way for them
when no way could be seen.
Look closer and you will see this blessing is not finished,
That you are part of the path it is preparing,
that you are now this blessing means to be a voice in the wilderness and a welcome for the way.
My friends tell me that as they enter our great room, that their eyes are immediately drawn to this stunning John August Swanson serigraph that rests on our mantel (see next page).
So are my eyes and each time amidst the vivid colors, I see something new in the midst of the procession of these beautiful, children with almond shaped eyes. This humble man and talented artist envisioned for this piece of art (using 46 colors), a representation of children of the world as bearers of the light and peace. Swanson’s hope was that the children’s combined growing candle light—note there are literally thousands of lights coming from near and far away hills—transform the darkness with light.
“The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness doesn’t extinguish the light.”
I just learned that Swanson has died and am saddened but his reflection of the Light has not been dimmed. It lives on through his “doing good.” Friends, in God’s plan each of us too, carries this Light, the Light of Christ within, and as we see these children collectively expanding the reach and brilliance of their light, may it inspire us. As a community we’ve experienced the darkness of the pandemic and other hard experiences, but “not as those without hope.” Let us, as do Swanson’s children, stand together and let our Light of Christ shine forth.
"Festival of Lights" by John August Swanson
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