Tag Archive | Christmas

Saint Mark Daily Advent Devotional – December 28, 2014

by Jan Bethards

Scripture: “I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness.  As the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations.”  Isaiah 61:10-11

I had a rough life during my early adulthood. My mother died unexpectedly during my teens, and my family basically disintegrated afterward. I moved to Georgia and shared an apartment with my best friend, and that relationship quickly fell apart too. I was earning low wages and struggling a great deal financially.

I finished my first degree at KSU in my mid 30’s, but I still needed a better quality of life. Through God’s grace, I finally got the insight and courage to begin nursing school. I worked very hard to get through the program successfully. Nursing has changed my life considerably and I’m very grateful that I was led to this calling.

Through Saint Mark, I have had the opportunity to join two mission trips to Honduras. Although there is a big difference between the American culture and the Honduran one, I still have some understanding of what it is like to struggle on an ongoing basis. I’ve been grateful to have the opportunity to use the gift that God gave me to help those folks have better access to healthcare.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for giving me the wisdom and courage to take the necessary steps to improve my quality of life here on earth. I pray for more opportunities to use this gift to help others improve their quality of life as well. Amen.

Saint Mark United Methodist Church

 

Saint Mark Daily Advent Devotional – December 27, 2014

by Kate Morrison

Scripture:  Proverbs 8:22-30

This year our advent devotional theme is My Soul Magnifies the Lord.  As I was reading through Proverbs 8, the passage listed above, trying to find something to write about for our devotional, I was struck by the fact that often my soul magnifies the Lord after something great has happened in my life.  Perhaps God has answered a prayer of mine in a big way. Perhaps God just helped me make it through another week of my seminary classes (and actually understanding the material).  Far too often, thinking about God and specifically magnifying God in anyway comes as an afterthought to all of the other things going on in my life.

In our Proverbs 8 passage, we read of a person who, in many academic circles, is referred to as “Woman Wisdom.”  She has been with God from the beginning, walking hand in hand with God and rejoicing with God all of the time.  Oh how I wish I could be more like Woman Wisdom.  How I wish I could remember to always rejoice and give praise to God for all of the wonderful things God has done in my life.  For just as Woman Wisdom was created by God so very long ago, I truly believe that from the beginning, God has delighted in God’s handiwork, especially in humankind.

So this Advent, as we are welcoming and excited to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, let us remember to delight in the Lord. Let us remember to give thanks to God for being with us from the beginning of time.  Let our souls truly come to magnify and worship the Lord.

Prayer: Dear God, we worship and give you all praise on this wonderful day.  Thank you for being with us and loving us since the beginning of time.  You are truly awesome and great, and we love you.  Amen.

Saint Mark United Methodist Church

 

Saint Mark Daily Advent Devotional – December 26, 2014

by Giselle Lawn

Scripture:  Psalm 19

Psalm 19 reveals to us the God of Creation.  Through creation we see God as the mighty one, the God of knowledge and power, the God whose magnificent works are not just omnipresent around us but daily, directly, impacting our very lives.  I see the beauty and majesty of Creation in the abundant diversification of life from the tiniest of insects on earth to the coral we find in the shallows of our oceans.  Regardless of where I travel on the earth, I experience the power and majesty of Creation in the very gravity that holds me firmly and securely but also through our sun from which I experience light, warmth, and the order of creation and time.

This psalm also reveals to us God as the Word.  In the Word, we see the God of love and grace who we experience in the conviction of our heart, and in the hope we experience in our soul of eternal relationship with God.  In the Word I am also reminded that God’s commands give light to my eyes; the statutes of the Lord provide trustworthy direction and order to my life; and the law of the Word endures forever and refreshes my soul.  As the passage closes, we see the assurance of our relationship with God in the form of prayer petitioning God to keep me from willful sin and asking forgiveness for those times when I do not even realize I am missing the mark.

This scripture passage comes to a close praising God as Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Prayer: God of Creation and Word, I pray I will daily surrender to you as Lord in my life; that as I face choices and challenges each day,  I will remember you are my Rock, and I pray that in my life others will see you, my Redeemer. Amen.

Saint Mark United Methodist Church

 

Saint Mark Daily Advent Devotional – December 25, 2014

by Don Clarke

Scripture:  “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory…”  John 1:14a

Being a communication arts student in college meant a performance almost every day during my senior year.  For the very last presentation, I chose to do an interpretive reading of James Weldon Johnson’s poem, “Creation.”   The piece by this famous African-American poet begins with, “And God stepped out on space, And he looked around and said: ‘I’m lonely– I’ll make me a world.'”   In the poem Creator God is seen smiling, reaching out, flinging, hurling, walking around, kneeling down and bending over creation.

Out of desperation and in a bout with depression, Grammy-winning songwriter Julie Gold wrote “From A Distance.”  The song was recorded by such greats as Nanci Griffith and our beloved Bette Midler.  You’ll remember that Bette even recorded a special Christmas version of the song in 2006.  According to the lyrics, God looks at creation “from a distance” and sees harmony, hope, peace, and unity.   The chorus resounds, “God is watching us, God is watching us, God is watching us, from a distance.”

John the Gospel writer, dubbed as the disciple “whom Jesus loved,” places Jesus at the beginning of creation as one who “was the Word, was with God, and was God.”   The Creator of the Universe decides to “dwell with us.”   We have a God who chooses to be in our midst, present in the flesh, not sitting down and merely mulling over creation or remaining at a distance.  No, God moves toward us, takes on human flesh, and dwells among us!  The God of heaven becomes the Savior of the world.

On this most holy day, may we realize in a new way that God came to us with great intention to be present here on planet Earth.  It  is here that God, full of grace and truth, is seen being born in a stable, walking among us, teaching us, as well as performing signs and wonders before us.  Christ’s entire life, and even death, reveals his two natures to us – human yet divine.  He is indeed King of Heaven and Servant of All.

Prayer:   “O come to my heart, Lord Jesus, There is room in my heart for Thee.”   Amen.

Saint Mark United Methodist Church

 

Saint Mark Daily Advent Devotional – December 24, 2014

by Pam Buzbee

Scripture: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.” (Isaiah 9:2)

Darkness. Recently, I keep seeing this word. It is in one of the Lectionary readings for today. There is a book that is popular now by Barbara Brown Taylor called Learning to Walk in the Dark. We are just past the winter solstice, December 21st, the shortest day in the year, the day with the most darkness.

So what’s with all this darkness? We talk about “dark times in our lives.” People are “afraid of the dark.” There are “dark” movies. We never think of dark as being something “good” or anything that we seek. Even God decided to create light out of darkness. We leave nightlights on when we go to bed-or if not, we have so many electronic lights that our rooms give off a green glow. We’re never really and truly in the dark. We can’t even see the stars well for all of our city lights.

No one knows the actual date of Jesus’ birth. We celebrate it on December 25th, some think to counteract the pagan winter solstice celebrations. But there is a beautiful irony to this date being chosen. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness.” (John 8:12)

The traditional birthdate for John the Baptist is June 24th, which is right at the summer solstice, the day in the year with the most sunlight. Speaking of Jesus, John said, “He must increase and I must decrease.” (John 3:30). How fitting that John was born at the time when the daylight would begin to decrease and Jesus was born when, every day, there would be more light.

Maybe we need to have darkness in order to appreciate light. Maybe we need to remember that Jesus was coming into the world to give “sight to the blind . . . and bring those who live in darkness out of dungeons.” (Isaiah 42:7). Maybe tonight, Christmas Eve, will be the beginning of more light in your life.

Prayer: Lord, for those of us who walk in darkness, give us light. For those who walk in the light, show us how to guide those who are walking in darkness. Amen.

Saint Mark United Methodist Church

 

The Sad Crept In

I managed to hold it off until the day before Christmas Eve, but the sad sat down hard on my chest this morning. Driving  in to the office about 7:45, alone in my car, Paul Anka was on the radio singing “Rudolph,” all the Christmas lights were shining through the gloomy fog in Centennial Park, and the SkyView ferris wheel was lit up and spinning.

And suddenly it felt like everything joyful and festive and hopeful and good in me was sucked out and only an incredible emptiness was left. I was suddenly acutely aware of my aloneness.

What is it about Christmas that does this? I’m no more alone than I am any other time of year. And I’m not “alone.” The office is full of people today. I’ll be with my family tomorrow. (And for me, gratefully, unlike some, I love being with my family.) But when I could’ve left the office this morning after my 9:00 meeting was over, I didn’t want to. The idea seems cold and empty and dark and – alone.

I tried to alleviate the “alone” this year. I invited someone to come to Christmas Eve at my mom’s with me (and to various other Christmas events as well) – but… well… yeah… you know. And maybe that makes me feel more alone too, when you try to not be alone and those attempts are rejected.

I know there’s got to be more to this feeling that descends on me this time every year. And I’m so glad that it’s only happened a few days before Christmas this time. (For the last couple of years, it hit at Thanksgiving and didn’t let up until Christmas was over.) But even a couple of days of feeling like this sucks!

I read a great article yesterday that feels very true to what I’m feeling. (And I can’t remember where it was so I can link to it, dammit!) But basically it said that feeling anxious about being alone is evolutionary. As cavemen (and women), if you were alone, you weren’t safe.

That’s very much what my aloneness feels like; the emotion feels like vulnerability and insecurity and danger.

I always feel guilty when I feel like this around the holidays. I have so much and I am so blessed. I’m not a big evangelist or testifier, but I truly believe if God hadn’t interceded in my life, I could very well be homeless, whoring, or dead right now from my alcoholism. I have found an amazing church that fits my incredibly liberal beliefs socially and theologically – five blocks from my house. More importantly, that church has become a home and a family for me. I have an amazing family of birth and amazing friends. I have stumbled accidentally into a comfortable career that allows me to provide for myself. I could go on and on.

There are people who ARE homeless. Children who are hungry. I have a friend who’s sitting death watch over his mother right now. There are people who’ve been disowned by their families. There are people wrestling mightily with addictions. There are people in prison. There are people in sexual slavery. There are people in abusive relationships. I could go on and on.

I don’t feel like I deserve to feel sad, but still I do.

I guess one of the hardest things is that (at least most years) I don’t want to just wish away the holiday. When I’m sad or upset about some event at other times of the year, I just tell myself that it’ll be over soon. But I really like Christmas, particularly Christmas Eve at my mom’s where my immediate family eats ham sandwiches in front of the TV, then opens stockings, then move to the living room where we listen to Christmas music on the stereo while we exchange gifts one by one. So I guess I feel very conflicted about loving it and wanting it to be over (or maybe just wanting to not feel sad) at the same time.

I think if I could ferret out exactly why I feel like this, I could make it better. Meanwhile, I have a man pinging me on eHarmony. He sounds interesting. We have a lot in common. He has pretty eyes. But when I get ready to respond to his questions, I’m terrified and can’t bring myself to do it. So maybe I DO want to be alone.

Can you simultaneously want to be alone and want to not alone at the same time. I can’t decide which one is scarier.

I’m living in a limbo of fear and anxiety. Ho ho ho.

Saint Mark Daily Advent Devotional – December 23, 2014

by Cara Cassell

Scripture: Luke 1: 57-66

Sometimes a hard part of the Christmas season is being a gracious recipient.  Friends, family, co-workers, strangers offer gifts small and large.  The office receptionist sets out a dish of peppermint.  The workers’ lounge suddenly fills with baked goods.  Neighbors knock with a plate of treats.

Sometimes we do not feel worthy.  Sometimes we feel that we should have done more, given more, behaved more thoughtfully.  Because we do not feel that we earned these gifts, or because we feel that we cannot repay them, we believe that we should not receive them.  We are reluctant recipients.

I can only imagine that Zechariah shared this same feeling of unworthiness. When he first learned that his aged wife Elizabeth was pregnant, he denied the fact and denied anticipatory joy.  In consequence, he lost his voice for a time.  Elizabeth accepted God’s gift, and she kept her voice to claim, “He is to be called John.”  When Zechariah affirmed the baby’s name, he regained his voice.

With that name affirmation, Zechariah said yes–yes to the miracle of a child in old age, yes to bountiful blessings from God, yes to God’s miraculous power.  His and Elizabeth’s acceptance made way for the one who prepared the way for Jesus.  Elizabeth and Zechariah flouted convention when they chose to name the child without regard for the father’s or other relatives’ names.  In separating from convention, they took hold of the hand of God. This hand extended to them, and it extends to you and me without our earning it.  Zechariah did not lose his child; he lost his voice until he was able to claim the blessings of God.  We, too, must claim our power to say yes, yes, yes to the loving gifts before us.

Prayer:  Great and Loving God, in this season of giving, please help us to give.  Help us also to receive the gifts you have for us.  Help us to receive your love and to respond to that love so that we may be blessed and be a blessing to others.  Amen.

Saint Mark United Methodist Church

 

Saint Mark Daily Advent Devotional – December 22, 2014

by Anne McQuade

Scripture: Titus 2:11-3:8

A recent decrease of my eyesight has caused me to become angry and frustrated. We all know the stages of grief. Well, I seem to be intimately acquainted with the Anger stage.

These pent up feelings have driven me to activity, a real firestorm of activity. I volunteer here, there, everywhere. I help this (previous) work acquaintance prepare her first resume, then I volunteer with a non-profit organization by lending some organizational skills, then I sign up for way too many college courses, all the while juggling complex health and family issues. Meanwhile, I am snapping at family, dear friends AND, of course, rebuking myself for the slightest offense-or nothing at all.

I had never studied the book of Titus until I gathered up my courage and volunteered to write this devotion. The entirety of this passage brought it all home to me! (What an amazing coincidence that this happened to be one of the passages assigned to me. “The Lord moves in mysterious ways!” as my Mom would say.) First, it reminds me of the need to “speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men.”  Titus 3:2. Second, the lesson that struck me most, is that perhaps I need to add some prayer and gratitude in with all my frantic activity in order to regain peace in this life and in the next.

Prayer: Father, help me remember to treat others kindly, peaceably, and with humility. Please also remind me to give thanks for the blessings I will enjoy for all eternity, thanks to your grace, Lord. Amen

Saint Mark United Methodist Church

 

Saint Mark Daily Advent Devotional – December 21, 2014

by Steve Fazenbaker

Scripture: Luke 1:26-38, 46-55

In the book of Romans, Paul wrote that “we do not know how to pray as we ought.”  Paul was right!  Too often our prayers are governed by our moods and our energy levels.  Furthermore, there are many people and situations that would benefit from our prayers, except that we are unaware of their need for our prayers.  When we don’t necessarily feel like praying or if we are unsure of what to pray, it is helpful to turn to prayer books.  We can often find a prayer that expresses what we are feeling, and pray the words given to us.  Of course, the best prayers can be found in the Holy Scriptures.  The book of Psalms alone contains 150 prayers – a prayer for any occasion, any mood, any situation.

But if we think of prayer as a conversation with God, or a conversation with Christ, then pretty much any conversation in the Bible can serve as a prayer.  In my personal prayer life, I have discovered that Mary’s words to Gabriel in Luke 1:38 is one of the most powerful, meaningful, and life-changing prayers in the Bible:  “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”  Praying this prayer throughout the day helps me to find my place in whatever situation I find myself, and it helps me find the wisdom and courage to do what God would have me do, in whatever situation I find myself.

Prayer:  Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.  Amen.

Saint Mark United Methodist Church

 

Saint Mark Daily Advent Devotional – December 20, 2014

by Mary Abbott Waite

Scripture: “And the King will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.'”  (Matthew 25:40)

Today is the day before the longest night of the year.  So we find ourselves waiting for the light. We long not to get up in the dark or not to start for school or work in the dark. We long for more light in the late afternoon. Even though nighttime photographs from space show North and South America spangled with the lights from thousands of towns and cities, we long for more daylight.  It seems appropriate that one lectionary reading for today is Revelation 6 that tells of the arrival of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and the Lord’s Day of Wrath–war, pestilence, famine and tyranny do seem to hold sway in the world.

But I didn’t choose that reading. Why? Because we are waiting for the Light. No matter how dark the days, no matter how much power personal pain and sorrow and the trials of the world seem to hold, we are waiting for the Light of Love, as shown in Jesus the Christ. “Love came down at Christmas,” we sing. And in today’s scripture, Jesus tells his followers how to experience life-giving love and its blessings–share it with others. We are all members of Christ’s family and all stand in need. By doing all we can to share the light of love with others, we move from waiting for the Light to living in the Light.

Prayer: Loving God, help us to share the light of your love with others and so let your Love and Light rule in our lives.  Amen.

Saint Mark United Methodist Church