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.

Second Week of Advent

Advent Reflection

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
Advent touches our deepest longings, our unfulfilled dreams, our pervading losses. It illuminates the empty spaces within and without. It reminds us of what we lack. It intensifies the ache within, that place within us that longs to belong. While the darkness of Advent intensifies, we walk towards the light of Christmas. Even though not yet seeing it, we walk trusting its promise.

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

Permeating
As the darkness permeates
It seeps into our bones
Casting a chill
It touches the deep places within
Intensifying our losses
Laying claim over
The ache of our longings,
Seemingly laying us bare
And yet we walk on
Present to what seems unbearableFor in the distance,
There shines the light
of a flickering candle
In whose glow
We find hope
And the promise
“That the light shines in the darkness
And the darkness cannot put it out.” (John 1:5)

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

Prayer:
Lord, remind us in the darkness, that it is to you that we belong. We do not walk alone. You are walk with us and are as close as our own breath. Wrap your presence around us like a blanket. May the warmth of your love embrace and comfort us for the journey. Amen.

First Week of Advent

First Week of Advent Reflection

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
As we begin Advent, the days grow darker. As we watch the news the darkness seems to permeate. Refugees are forced away. Racism still ravages in the streets. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. LGBTQ persons are mistreated hatefully. And yet, we know the way to the light of Christmas is through this season of Advent, and so we enter.

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

Advent Unfolding
Waiting, watching, longing,
As the darkness seeps in,
we enter Advent once again
Daring to hope
as we walk step by step
that the light of Christmas
Will shine
Permeating our lives
reflected in and through
Anticipating we await.
Waiting, watching, longing,
We examine our lives
Preparing our hearts
Making room once again.
We confess our sins,
Decluttering the clutter.
Naming our doubts and our fears,
Seeking to be a dwelling
Where the Christ is at Home
Living and loving
In and through
Permeating all around us.
Waiting, watching, longing
We Hope.
(Rev. Eva Sullivan-Knoff, copyright 2018)

Prayer:
Our gracious Lord and Light, prepare us as we await your birth once again. Help us as we examine our hearts. Show us what you desire us to see. Increase our vision that we may see through your eyes. Reach out through our hands to those around us. Assist us in fighting for justice. Love all through us that there may be healing and peace in this world. We wait, watch and long for you our God of hope. Amen.