Advent Begins

Opening Prayer
Lord, it seems hard to quiet my heart and mind. So much is swirling around and within me. In these moments, please quiet me within. I need your peace of heart and mind to have strength for the day. Hear me Oh Lord, I pray.

Invitation
Pause for a moment or two to quiet your mind, heart, and body. Take in a few deep breaths. Inhale God’s peace and release any tension. Do this a few times. Breathe in deeply God’s peace for you.

Reflection
As we begin Advent, so many troubles and heartaches in the world clamor for our attention. Climate Change has reached a state of emergency. Children continue to be separated from their parents at the border. Power and privilege continue as weapons to hurt others. Too many people are still without their basic needs. Racism still oppresses. LGBTQ lives are still not honored with value. If ever we longed to connect to the hope of Advent it is now.
Read the poem below through a few times. Pause and reflect on a word or phrase on where you are drawn.

Advent Begins
Longing and yearning
Stretching and straining
Desiring with all my being
Your light in the midst of the encompassing darkness
Heartaches cover my vision
And dim the light within
I cling to Hope to wrap myself in
like a soft warm blanket
Lift my eyes above and beyond
All that aches without and within
May the light of hope kindle a fire
Bright to warm the hearts of all who gather
Radiant to fill our eyes with your vision
Ablaze with your hope and your life
We gather you within and around
Just as you gather us in
And embrace us with yourself.
Amen.

(Rev. Eva Sullivan-Knoff, copyright 2019)

New Year Blessing

New Year Blessing
As we enter a New Year,
May you find
Peace in the midst of discord
Comfort in the midst of loss
Hope in the midst of despair
Healing- body, mind, and spirit
Deeper awareness of how greatly you are loved
Acceptance of the gift that you are
Safe places to be yourself
Refuge when you are weary
Renewed purpose in living
Greater cognizance of God’s presence with you in every moment of your day
Rekindled desire to be a reflection of God’s love and creative energy in the world, that loves, accepts, heals, restores, and makes new.
Amen.

God’s Reign

Saturday, December 29- PSALM 96

“Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it; let the field exult, and everything in it” (vv 11-12)

This psalm uplifts the spirits. It calls us to sing a new song, to bless and praise God, for all that God is, all that God does, for how God reigns.

This week we celebrate Christ’s birth, our Emmanuel, God with us, who shows us exactly what God is like. He shows us the heart of God and what the reign of God looks like.

Jesus extends mercy and forgiveness. He issues peace deeper than all of life’s troubles. Jesus heals, restores, and makes whole. He loves us unconditionally, beyond our imaginings. He comforts the brokenhearted and lifts up the oppressed. He brings the marginalized into the center. No one is unseen. Each person is of immeasurable worth. Grace abounds.

Looking at who our God is, how can we not sing? How can we not praise our God? This is the reign we are a part of, the reign we are to participate in and reflect.

May we be reflections of you and your reign, Lord Jesus. Amen.

(The devotions for Christmas week were originally written by Rev. Eva Sullivan-Knoff for the Covenant Home Altar. They are used with permission here)

Enfleshed

Friday, December 28- JOHN 1:15-18

God’s desire to be connected to us was so expansive that God does this amazing thing. God showed us the full expression of who he is, the fullest expression of his love and grace, by sending Jesus from God’s heart to our heart, from God’s side to our side.

Look how much we are loved. We are given grace upon grace, gift upon gift, love upon love. God holds nothing back from us. God gives all that God has to give. God, wanting us to really know Godself chose to have Jesus come, someone with skin on. Someone who could be touched, seen, and heard. Wow.

Jesus knows. Jesus knows the messiness of our lives, our struggles, our ups and downs. Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us, because he knows.

If you ever wonder if you matter, if you ever wonder if you are seen at all, if you ever wonder if you are alone, know that you are of inestimable worth, and Jesus walks beside you.

Thank you, Lord. May your love permeate our lives. Amen.


(The devotions for Christmas week were originally written by Rev. Eva Sullivan-Knoff for the Covenant Home Altar. They are used with permission here)

 

Love Song

Thursday, December 27- JOHN 1:1-14

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (v.1).

John 1, beautifully poetic, draws us into the tender lyrics of God’s love song to us. Since the beginning of time, God has envisioned, desired, and loved us. Jesus the Word and God conceived humankind in God’s own image, thereby imprinting Jesus’s fingerprints on each of us. Think on it. We bear God’s DNA.

Jesus embodies his love for us by being enfleshed as one of us to live and walk among us. Jesus does so because we are God’s own. So he sings over us like a parent sings over their beloved child. His melody brings light into our darkness, peace into our chaos, breathing life into our lives. His is an ongoing, everflowing melody that touches all of humanity and all of our lives. Never have we been so loved.

May his love song bring abiding peace into our lives this day. May its rhythm ring out in our lives.

Thank you, gracious God, for singing your love song over us. Help us to always hear and join in the refrain, Amen.


(The devotions for Christmas week were originally written by Rev. Eva Sullivan-Knoff for the Covenant Home Altar. They are used with permission here)

Attentiveness

Wednesday, December 26 – LUKE 2:15-20

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” (v. 14).

The shepherds believed the angel’s words to them. They believed that God had done this awesome thing. They listened. They paid attention. They responded. It changed their lives and they bore witness to what God had told them.

What a good word for us. Jesus is present in our lives and in the rhythm of our days. He speaks to us and is active in our lives. We are invited to listen, to pay attention, to respond, and to bear witness. It will change our lives and the lives of those around us.

There is a spiritual practice called practicing the presence of God. It is about attuning to God in everyday moments. It is conversing with God in an ongoing conversation, paying attention to what God is doing in the moment, and seeking to respond to and with God in the world around us. This is possible because Jesus is our Emmanuel, God with us. Thanks be to God.

Thank you, Lord Jesus. Help us to be attentive to you. Amen.


(The devotions for Christmas week were originally written by Rev. Eva Sullivan-Knoff for the Covenant Home Altar. They are used with permission here)

An Upside-Down Kingdom

Tuesday, December 25- LUKE 2:1-14

Look at the circumstances of Jesus’ birth. Under another government’s rule, pregnant Mary, Joseph, and God’s chosen people are forced to register for a census. It is not the best time to be traveling, but this is the backdrop of Jesus’ birth.

Always an upside-down kingdom: Jesus chose to be born into the messiness of our world and lives. Always an upside-down kingdom: Jesus chose to enter our world not as a rightful king, but as an infant, vulnerable, poor, and reliant on our hospitality and care. Always an upside-down kingdom: who was chosen to hear about the birth first? Shepherds on the margins. The angels announced Christ’s birth by giving them a personal concert.

The Adoration of the Shepherds
Artist: Girolamo da Carpi (Girolamo Sellari) (Italian, Ferrara 1501–1556 Ferrara)
Date: ca. 1535–40
[Public Domain]

God’s expansive love reaches far and wide into the messiness of our lives, including all to give life to all-God’s upside-down kingdom. What a gift! Look at how much we are loved.

Lord, our gratitude is beyond words.  Thank you for loving us so much. Help us to love you well. Amen.

(The devotions for Christmas week were originally written by Rev. Eva Sullivan-Knoff for the Covenant Home Altar. They are used with permission here)

Christ Enters In

Monday, December 24 – ISAIAH 52:7-10

“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns’” (vs 7).

The Adoration of the Magi
Artist: Giotto di Bondone (Italian, Florentine, 1266/76–1337)
Date: possibly ca. 1320
[Public Domain]

The Israelites are living in exile. Jerusalem and the temple are lying in ruins. They were awaiting news from the battlefield that victory was theirs. They are far from home and enslaved when the good news finally comes. God enters in and brings victory and relief. The response is one of joy and singing praises for what God has done.

This evening we celebrate Christ’s birth, who enters history during a time of oppression, when God’s people are awaiting good news once again. Only this time, the good news was greater than anything they could have imagined. God enters into the very fabric of our lives as one of us. He knew and experienced the oppression found in this world and overcame it. We continue to experience it but we are not alone. Christ is in the midst of our lives, and his presence brings life and peace. So we lift our hearts and voices in praise. Thank you, our Emmanuel, God with us, Amen.

Given to Each Other

Sunday, December 23 (Fourth of Advent) – Luke 1:39-55

“When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit” (v. 41).

In the midst of God’s story, God uses two women, Mary and Elizabeth. Each living out their special role in challenging circumstances-one pregnant outside of marriage, the other an old woman about to give birth-God gives them to each other. Just as one baby bears witness to the other by leaping, Mary and Elizabeth bear witness to each other’s stories and lives, connected to one another. They live out their part in God’s story in community. Just as Jesus becomes embodied in human flesh, God gives these significant women someone with skin on for the journey.

Mariotto Albertinelli [Public domain]

I love Mariotto Albertinelli’s artistic masterpiece, The Visitation, which I was privileged to see last summer in Florence. He beautifully depicts the encouragement that Mary and Elizabeth are to one another. It is palpable.

God doesn’t leave us alone. God gives us community, someone with skin on, to embody that God is indeed Emmanuel, God with us.

Emmanuel, thank you for the gift that you give us in one another as we live out our stories with you. Amen.

(The devotions for Christmas week were originally written by Rev. Eva Sullivan-Knoff for the Covenant Home Altar. They are used with permission here)

Third Week of Advent

Opening
Lord, as I sit here with you, quiet the flurry of my thoughts. Help me to breathe in deeply the peace of your presence. As I slowly exhale, please release all worry and tension. Prepare me to hear you as I desire to be present with you and to you.

Invitation
Pause for a moment or two and breathe in the words “Be Still and Know” (that I am God) from Psalm 46:10 It is shortened here in order to pray these words as a breath prayer. Inhale “Be still.” Exhale “and know.” Do this for a moment or two.

Reflection
Just when the darkness seems to envelop us, we are reminded that God meets us there. God meets us in the midst of the darkness and the messiness of our lives. So as we enter the third week of Advent, hope begins to stir within us. The flame of the flickering candle serves as a reminder that hope becomes embodied in Emmanuel, God with us. No one is unseen. No one is alone in the darkness. God’s light illuminates even the shadows. (even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. Psalm 139:12)

Advent stirs hope within us because God chooses to come and stand among us, with us, beside us. Thanks be to God.

Read the poem through a few times. Pause and reflect on a word or phrase on where you are drawn.

Advent Hope
IIluminates, Radiates, Warms
Hope
Fills, Uplifts, Encourages
Hope
Inspires, Transcends, Transforms
Hope
Heals, Resurrects, Enlivens
Hope
Becomes, Enfleshed, Embodied
Hope
In us, through us, around us
Hope
Emmanuel, God with us.
Hope
Thanks be to God.

(Poem written by Rev. Eva Sullivan-Knoff, copyright 2018)

Prayer:
Lord, thank you for hope that allows us to see beyond what is right in front of us. Thank you for hope which enlivens and transforms us as we trust in you. Thank you for being our hope embodied and lived out within and among us. May you live ever in and through us that others may find hope embodied too. Amen.