Friday, December 25, 2015

Devotional 12-25-15

There is something renewing about waking up Christmas Morning.  It is as if there is a magic in the world, a new beginning or a new creation.  For my family it means waking up in a wonderland of blankets and sheets.  Each year on Christmas Eve we throw air mattresses on the floor and hang bed sheets from the walls, ceiling, doors, and tables. We add Christmas lights and an old TV hooked to the DVD player for hours of Christmas shows.  Then my siblings and their spouses or nieces and nephews (depending on which family we are visiting) spend one final night of preparation.  Then comes the morning…

 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God…”

I love to refer to this passage from John as the third creation story.  Even though the book of John is in an apocalyptic style, I feel there is a great deal of Jewish tradition in this description of Jesus existing from the very beginning.  It seems to take the whole Old Testament and wrap it up… like a gift to receive… if you are just willing to explore it.  We start the story of Jesus by going back to creation and seeing that Christ, this Anointed One, was there when it started.  When is says in Genesis, “Let us create mankind in our own image, in our likeness…” it is not just the Queen of England talking about herself, but a Triune God at creation.  Holy Creator, Holy Messiah, Holy Spirit.  For me this is the beginning.  This is the passage that makes me want to tear into the Bible to see what cause the Anointed to come to earth, to see where Christianity comes from, so that I can become a child of God, and so that I can understand the grace and truth of the Word.

This is the gift we celebrate at Christmas. This is why we put up forts to sleep in, wreaths on the door, trees in the windows; to remind us that the Word became flesh and there is a gift for you… waiting… in the scriptures… with your families… in your church.

You are a child of God.

Tobyn Wells

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Devotional 12-24-15

Please read I Sam. 2:18-20; 26

There is a style of parenting that is popular right now called helicopter parenting.  Helicopter parents want to be a part of everything their children are doing and they are very protective of their children and willing to intervene if they think their children aren’t being treated the way they should be. To some extent those are good qualities, but the problem occurs when there is too much parental involvement. For example, a radio news story reported that many summer camps have established on line photo galleries of their daily activities. Parents love to see them. One parent, however, called the camp after they noticed a scratch on their child’s arm and wondered what had caused the scratch and did the camp staff take care of it the way the parents wanted. I was, and still am, an involved Mom, but this seems extreme, even to me.

Instead, let’s take a look at how the prophet Samuel’s parents, Hannah and Elkanah did things differently. No one can argue with the fact that they cherished this son who was born to them after many years of barrenness, times when they waited fervently and prayed without ceasing that they would have a son.  But as devoted as they were to him, they were more devoted to God. They were spiritually mature enough to know that God had plans for their son which were different than what they had hoped for their son. I’m sure it was hard for them, but they set aside their plans and submit to God’s, which was that Samuel would serve God in the most important place where people worshipped at that time, Shiloh. They did whatever they could to help Samuel in that capacity, visiting him every year and “taking him a little robe.”

Frankly, I’m not sure if I could have done what they did.  But this is exactly what we are called to do when we have our children baptized. We promise that they are God’s forever and we entrust them to God and God’s church.  Even if we understand that they are God’s, not ours, we still are responsible for them, and we will always to one degree or another, think of them as ours. A man in one of the churches I pastored, described it this way. “We’re their parents, but those kids aren’t really ours. We’re just trustees.”   He understood that our job as Christians is to center our lives, not on our children, but on God. Our job as parents is to help our children remember whose they are, and to support them as they become the people God wants them to be. Hannah and Elkanah are an example that can help us do that.

Rev. Dorcas Linger Conrad
St. Matthew United Methodist Church. Weston, WV
I relied heavily on Year C, Volume 4 of the commentary “Feasting on the Word” as I wrote this devotional.

Devotional 12-23-15

Read Luke 2: 1-20   This is Luke’s telling of the birth of Jesus and the shepherds and angels at Jesus birth.

Everyone has a birthday but not everyone celebrates their birthday.

Do you remember when you were young what is was like to look forward to a birthday celebration?  Unfortunately for me, I was born on December 31 so I was a tax deduction!  However, the kid beside me was the first born of the New Year and he received a $500 Savings Bond (trust me- back then that was a lot of money), diaper service for a year and a encyclopedia set.  My Dad always claimed I cost him money from the day I was born!

When I read this passage, I always wonder what Joseph and Mary must have been feeling.  Joseph had been told in a dream what was to happen and Mary had the angel Gabriel announcing God’s plan. The trip to Bethlehem must have been a challenge physically and emotionally for both.

So it is, as we approach Christmas, I ask you what effect has the news of Christ’s birth had on you?  Is it same as last year, has it awakened a new sense of joy in your spiritual life, given you hope for the future, or caused you to thank God for his grace and forgiveness?

On our spiritual walk, we “grow” from infancy to adulthood.  I challenge you to take time from your work/play schedule this Holiday Season and spend time developing a deeper desire to know God, have a love for others, know the joy of God’s grace, his strength through tough times and true peace which this world does not offer!

My hope for each of us this Advent Season is to prepare ourselves both physically and emotionally to Know God/Know Peace

Prayer: Heavenly Father as we approch Christmas Day let us stop and remember.  Remember we are forgiven/We are loved/We are blessed/We are imperfect/Yet we are instruments here in God’s Kingdom on Earth!  May it always be so.

Marv Jones

Monday, December 21, 2015

Devotional 12-22-15


Mary was a newly engaged, young teen when the angel Gabriel appeared to her. The angel told her not to be afraid, that she had found favor with God. Then he told her that she would become pregnant and have a son, who would be the long awaited Messiah! I imagine she was feeling totally over whelmed at that point, but her only question was, “How will this be since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34 NIV) Then, after the explanation, “I am the Lords servant...may it be to me as you have said.” (Luke 1:38 NIV) Mary was filled with Joy! How long did it take for her to totally comprehend that whole experience? How long did it take for her to start thinking of the ramifications of what she had agreed to do? While the angel was there I doubt that she was giving much thought to how Joseph, her parents, or the people of Nazareth  would accept her news. She just trusted God.

How was Mary feeling by the time she and Joseph left for Bethlehem? Was she scared? How could she not be? She was almost 9 months pregnant and heading away from home, away from her mother and other female relatives who could help her with the birth of her first child. Did riding on a donkey for 70 miles bring on early labor? It doesn’t matter. She was approximately 14 years old and about to give birth in a stable.  The next hours would not have been easy. Child birth under the best of circumstances is a painful, messy, humbling, and exhausting experience. These were far from the best circumstances even in that day.

Oh, but what joy she must have felt when she finally held her baby boy! Every parent knows the awe and wonder at the miracle of birth and the over whelming sense of responsibility for the new life. How much more intense must Mary’s feelings have been knowing that she was holding the worlds savior?

Mary was so young, so inexperienced. She had been on a roller coaster of emotions and hormones for 9 months. How did she get through this difficult time? She trusted God!

Margaret Williams

Devotional 12-21-15

“Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad;
let the sea resound, and all that is in it;
let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them.
Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy;
they will sing before the lord, for he comes,
he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in his truth.  Psalm 96:11-13

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid.  I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”  Luke 2:10

Our oldest child is a Christmas baby, and our family welcomed him with gladness, joy, and hope.  He has had a tremendous impact upon our lives, and was a great joy.  Our son is not real happy about having his birthday forever in the shadow of the celebration of the Christ child’s birthday.  That first Christmas with him was the greatest joy we had known.  The first grandchild on both sides of the family, he was passed from one grandparent to another, and between his aunts and uncle.  This was just the joy of one family,

The joy of the long awaited Christ child is still celebrated by the earth, sea and heavens.  The bounty of the harvest is in, and we are preparing to celebrate our thankfulness for the Lord’s blessings.   As I am writing this we are in the midst of a glorious Indian summer.  The skies have been clear, and during the day the light of the sun causes the fall colors to glow (how else can trees sing for joy), and the river that flows by us sparkles.  On clear nights stars and distant worlds can be seen.  Each season has its own pleasures, its own way of singing of God’s glory, the joyous profusion of new life in the spring, the lush growth of summer, the bounty of and colors of fall, the peace of winter.

We celebrate the coming of Jesus, and feel unworthy of such a gift of grace, but because he loves us, and forgives us, we live in the comfort of his blessings and need not fear.

April Sutton

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Devotional 12-20-15

Luke 1:26-35, 38.

Timing is everything.
In the right time,
In God’s time,
In the sixth month,
Gabriel came to visit a young girl.

To say the visit was unexpected
would be underestimation of the truth.
Who expects a visit from an angel?
Mary was just beginning her life.
Engaged to Joseph,
her expectations were marriage, children,
Nurturing her family,
Scraping out a living,
Growing old.
Cared for by her family,
she would die.
Instead, an angel visited.

Her plans were interrupted.
Her life was transformed
by an angel’s visit.

He told her startling news.
She had found favor with God.
Who expects that kind of news?
She would bear a son, named Jesus.
He would be Great,
Descendant of David, king like David.
King unlike David.
Reigning forever.
Of his kingdom there would be no end.

The news was impossible.
And yet Gabriel was not done.

She would be visited by the Holy Spirit.
God would overshadow her.
Her child would be holy.
Son of God.
She was told of her cousin,
Who was expecting the impossible.
Planning for the unexpected.
Nothing is impossible with God.
A child born to a virgin.
A child born to a barren woman.

And then, what might be the most surprising of all.
I would never expect it from myself.
Mary says, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord.
Let it be with me according to your word.”

Here am I.
Let it be as you say.
Not as I expected.
Not as I planned.
Not the way that is safe and easy.
Let it be as you say.
Here am I.
Send me.

Kim Matthews

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Devotional 12-19-15

Humble Things
Micah 5:2-5a, Luke 1:39-55

One of my all-time favorite Christmas ornaments is really rather shoddily made. Very simple, humble even. My son, who is now 33, made it when he was a toddler. It’s an imprint of his palm in a rough disc of plaster of Paris, painted gold with a little loop of green yarn embedded at the top so you can hang it on the tree. Of course I love it, despite its unpretentiousness. Because to me, in its simplicity and humility, it reflects the glory of life given by God.

In this week’s Scripture readings, we can see this same phenomenon of humility revealing glory. In Micah 5, the prophet shares God’s word to Bethlehem, “one of the little clans of Judah”—unpretentious, simple, humble. And yet, God says, “from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel, whose origin is from old, from ancient days…. And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth; and he shall be the one of peace.”

From a little clan comes a mighty ruler. Humility reveals glory!

And then in the exquisite song of Mary, the “Magnificat,” we see God using a young woman who could serve as the very definition of humble. Something astonishing is happening to her—mind-boggling and faith-stretching. Can you even imagine what she must have thought about all this? Why has God chosen her?

Yet when God had called her, her immediate response to God was one of humble acceptance and determined obedience. And now, with her cousin Elizabeth, who blesses Mary and the fruit of her womb, Mary bursts into praise to God.

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant….”

Lowliness magnifies the Lord. Humility reveals glory!

This is a reality we all must wrestle with as we live in the reign of God. We may see our gifts as pitiful, our lives as little, our calling as lowly. But in God’s eyes, nothing could be further from the truth.

As we prepare to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, spend some time this week considering what “little things” you might give, what simple gifts you might present, what humble service you might offer to God. And thereby magnify the Lord.

Humility reveals glory. Glory to God in the highest!

Lord of glory, open my eyes and my heart to the gifts and calling you’ve given me that I might share them eagerly, lovingly, and humbly with others--for your glory. Amen.

Rev. Peter M. Wallace

Friday, December 18, 2015

Devotional 12-18-15

Be the Change

Hebrews 10:8-10 “Sacrifice and offering, burnt offerings, and offerings for sin You did not desire, nor had pleasure in them.” Then He said, “Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God.” He takes away the first that He may establish the second. By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

“That’s not how I’ve always done it,” I catch myself saying often these days. “I don’t think that will work. We’ve already tried that, and it bombed the last time. Why reinvent the wheel?” What are these sentences really saying?  Quit trying to make me______ a different way. The blank may be filled in with read, write, speak, think, learn, behave, or worship. No matter what one puts in the blank, it denotes a resistance to change.

I was never going to be that person. When I listened to oldsters talk like that when I was young, I swore, like many of you, that I would never close my mind to new ideas. I guess that is the catch. Have I convinced myself that there are no new ideas? There is scripture to back up my point of view. Just look at Ecclesiastes 1:9 It says that there is nothing new under the sun. Am I taking that verse out of context? Does it matter? According to many, (not my clergy) whatever is written in the Bible needs no context. I’m not so sure.

You see, that’s what the Jewish priests thought, too. Before Jesus came along, they were the experts, and they knew what God expected His children to do.They knew all about making sacrifices to God - literally. They knew Jewish law and were convinced that God wanted things done a specific way, at a given time, by chosen people. They weren’t evil, but they eventually committed evil acts to keep the status quo. They did not embrace change. Of course, we know the rest of the story; we know that  Jesus was all about change.

Right about now you’re wondering what this has to do with Advent. The word advent means the beginning. Christ’s birth began the Christian religion. Christ’s crucifixion began our salvation. Christ’s resurrection began life everlasting. Christ’s teachings tell me that I need to change my attitude, and I need to begin today.

What about you? Do you need to change your attitude? Offer it up to God. Replace it with love for others. Remember why Jesus was born.

Heavenly Father, our world is in turmoil, and Your people are struggling to hear Your voice. Help us to remember why Your son was born. Now, more than ever, we need to love one another. Surely that will be a change we all can embrace.

Becky Warren

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Devotional 12-17-15

Last week the President visited Charleston to be part of a group to discuss the terrible drug problems in our state with all of the ramifications connected to the problems. One woman from Huntington gave an emotional presentation on how drugs affect families and children.  The president mentioned that having a child was to “have your heart go walking outside your body.”  This reminded me of a devotional that my son-in-law wrote for September 11th.  He used Elizabeth Stone’s quote, “Making the decision to have a child is momentous.  It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking outside your body.”

I know that he was referring to his sons, my grandsons.  It touched my heart to read what he and my daughter had done to prepare them for the future.  Now they were grown men who would make their own decisions. He had hope for their futures.

But what if he knew their future from birth to the death?  This was what God knew about his son from the time the angel appeared to Mary. I would give my life  and I am sure that my son-in-law would to prevent either one of them to face what Jesus would face.  And Jesus knew that his body was a gift from his Father so that he would be the human sacrifice for us. (Hebrews 10:5-10)

In Micah we learn that Bethlehem will be the place of the birth of the Son of God and that Mary will be the mother.  In Luke we learn that Mary has gone to visit Elizabeth who is soon to be the mother of John the Baptist.  Mary tells Elizabeth about the angel appearing to her and that she will be the mother of the son of God.  Mary is visited by the  spirit and understands her role in the relationship with God.  She feels blessed to be chosen.  This is known as Mary’s Song.  We learn that Mary knows the future of her Son.  Can you imagine how she would feel when she watches her son be sacrificed on a cross?

In Psalms 80 we learn that the world is overcome by chaos and that people were created and sustained by God.  But Covenant God remains firm.  This is called “Lilies of the Covenant.” It is the prayer for the Restoration of Israel.  All of this looks toward the future of the son of God.

Today we have our “Hearts a Walking” hoping that we have done our best as parents, not knowing the future.  There is so much chaos out there but we can never know the future. God knew his “Heart a Walking would die for all of us from the time Mary gave birth.  That would bring unimaginable pain for any parent!!

Let us pray:  Dear Heavenly Father, we thank you for your sacrifice that none of us would be Prepared to do.  Yet, You did this for us because if your love.

Carolee Brown


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