Sunday, December 17, 2017

Devotional 12-17-17

Rejoice

Rejoice, the Lord is King!
Your Lord and King adore:
mortals, give thanks and sing,
and triumph evermore.
Lift up your heart, lift up your voice;
rejoice; again I say, rejoice.                         (UM Hymnal – 715 - Charles Wesley, 1746)

Christmas time is indeed a time to rejoice.  As the hymn states, we are to rejoice.  We are to lift up our hearts and voices and rejoice. God provides. Jesus is here. REJOICE!

Several days a week, my husband and I pick up our grandchildren after school.  We enjoy this time together, playing and working on homework and building relationships.  Our only problem is that, on the way home from school, we have to drive by those magic golden arches, known as McDonalds.  And after a hard day at school, where the grandchildren have had to be on their best behavior and have studied their reading and math and every other subject, they surely must deserve a treat.  And to them, there is nothing better as a treat, than a “Happy Meal”.  It doesn’t matter that what would really be better, is for us to buy the food and then give them money to buy a toy later.  Only that “Happy Meal” with the surprise toy included, will cause them to rejoice!

In Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians 5:16-19, he says, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”  We are to rejoice, and pray, and give thanks.  But here is the problem for us.  We are to rejoice and pray and give thanks all of the time.  Not just when good things happen – but all of the time – even when nothing is happening or when things are bad.  How is that even possible?  But Paul says that is what God wants us to do. What a test for our faith and our relationship with God.

As we prepare ourselves for this Christmas time, I encourage you to try to do what Paul has suggested.  As you try to rejoice and pray and give thanks through each day, through every circumstance, you will begin to feel your relationship and your trust in God beginning to deepen, and realize that God is in control. We must pray for God’s will to be done.  It is not easy, especially when things are difficult and trying, but it is only through God’s love and strength and grace, that we become the person God wants us to be.

Rejoice!  Again I say, Rejoice!

Blessings,
Rev. Suzanne Ellis

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Devotional 12-16-17

1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

16. Rejoice Evermore
17. Pray without ceasing
18. In everything give thanks for this the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you
19. Quench not the spirit
20. Despise not prophesyings
21. Prove all things
22. Abstain from all appearance of evil
23. And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
24. Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.

This epistle of Paul was written about 64 A.D. and was the first of his fourteen letters to the early Christian Church.  This scripture gives advice about a Christian’s personal relationship to God and problems faced in the daily life of the Church.

Paul exhorts Christians to rejoice even when persecuted.  (In the first century, persecution included imprisonment, torture, and death!)  Paul believed his advice to pray without ceasing is the secret to continual joy.  As we approach the Christmas season at Johnson Memorial we should take Paul’s advice to the Church at Thesalonika to heart.  Rejoice, give thanks and pray without ceasing as we celebrate the joy of Advent.

Lee Oxley

Friday, December 15, 2017

Devotional 12-15-17

John 1: 6-8

God sent John the Baptist as a witness to the fact that Jesus Christ is the true Light.  John himself is not the Light; he is only the witness to identify it.  Later on, the one who is the true Light arrived to shine on everyone comin into the world.

Do you think John the Baptist felt slighted that he was not the Messiah or “Light” but just the announcer.

Do you think he thought he was being overlooked...again.

I don’t. 

Have you ever been around someone that you just knew was destined for greater things, at church, at school at work or maybe a family reunion.?

I think all of us have had someone in our life like that but I can’t imagine how John must have felt when he really came to know Jesus and realized exactly who he was and what he was going to mean to the world. He must have been bursting with joy that HE was going to announce to so many that this man, this
“Lamb of God” was here to save all of us from our sins. This “Light” would change the world forever.

In this Advent season we celebrate the birth of this “Light”. It seems that everywhere we turn there is light to help us celebrate and it is beautiful and joyful even in dark times.

We are not John but each of us in our own way has the ability to share the Joy of Jesus and the Light he brings to our lives.

During this season it’s so easy to be tired or maybe sad at a loss you’ve suffered or some part of your life that didn’t turn out as planned. Try to remember that your face reflects your feelings. Try to remember the Light and let your face shine.

We never know what the person we’re passing is going through but maybe a smile from you will give them the lift they need to deal with their problems and maybe, they will pass it to someone else.

Dear Heavenly Father
Please forgive us Father when we’re too tired to do the things we know we should.
Help us to remember that we should share the joy you have given to us in the form of your perfect son.
Help us to realize that God loves us so much that he gave his only son for us.
May we remember always and try each day to share that joy with others.
Amen

Debbie McGinnis

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Devotional 12-14-17

Father Richard Rohr, O.F.M., has always been one of my favorite authors.  His wisdom offered about who we are in Christ; stretching ourselves beyond the normal boundaries we believe will suffice in our Christian faith; and daring to become one in the purest sense of the word.  Becoming one with God, one with the Holy Spirit, one with Jesus Christ, is the only way we may truly become whole.

In his book, “Preparing for Christmas: Daily Meditations for Advent,” Fr. Rohr has given a stunningly timely and thought-provoking meditation on Isaiah 61:1.  The following I quote directly from his daily meditation entitled “Related in the Spirit.”

“The Spirit always connects, reconciles, forgives, heals and makes two into one.  It moves beyond human-made boundaries to utterly realign and renew that which is separated and alienated.  The ‘diabolical’ (from two Greek words, kia balein, that mean ‘to throw apart’), by contrast, always divides and separates that which could be united and at peace.  Just as the Spirit always makes one out of two, so the evil one invariably makes two out of one!  The evil one tears the fabric of life apart, while the Spirit comes to men, soften and heal.

In today’s reading from Isaiah, the prophet describes the coming Servant of Yahweh.  It is precisely this quote that Jesus first uses to announce the exact nature of his own ministry (Luke 4:18-19).  In each case Jesus describes his work as moving outside of polite and proper limits and boundaries to reunite things that have been marginalized or excluded by society: the poor, the imprisoned, the blind, the downtrodden.  His ministry is not to gather the so-called good into a private country club but to reach out to those on the edge and on the bottom, those who are ‘last’ to tell them they are, in fact, first!  That is almost the very job description of the Holy Spirit, and therefore of Jesus.

The more that we can put together, the more that we can ‘forgive’ and allow, the more we can include and enjoy, the more we tend to be living in the Spirit.  The more we need to reject, oppose, deny, exclude and eliminate, the more open we are to negative and destructive voices and to our own worst instincts.  As always, Jesus is our model of healing, outreach and reconciliation, the ultimate man of the Spirit.”

Fr. Rohr ends his meditation with these questions for reflection:   “What divisions exist in your life?  How can you let the Spirit mend those divisions?”

Gracious, loving Father, especially during this time of Advent, open our hearts to anticipate and embrace the beautiful longing we feel for an end to our brokenness, knowing our beloved Savior, Jesus, came in human form to demonstrate the healing wholeness offered to us all.  Give us the wisdom and courage to step out in faith to risk being one willing to reunite, to honor, and to love all Your children, all Your creation.  Amen

Linda Summers

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Devotional 12-13-17

A Tale for Christmas Evening  
 by Lucy Carruth

Now that you’re tired of your toys, Sonny Boy,
And you’re cocking a sleepy eye,
Climb into my lap and I’ll tell you a tale
Of a time that is long gone by.

Over the sea, in a little old town---
No, your daddy was never there---
A Baby was born on the first Christmas Day,
In a place that was chill and bare.

He had no fire like the one we have here,
Where His mother would warm His toes,
Not even a roof covered over his head,
But the stars saw His eyelids close.

Yes, He was poor, but withal was a King,
As the Wise Men afar had been told;
And they came on their camels
    to bring Him rare gifts
Of frankincense, myrrh, and gold.

Where is He now? Why He’s here in our home,
But don’t look for Him with your eyes;
For He is the Spirit of Love, Sonny Boy,
And ev’rything good and wise.
 
Published by Ideals Publications
A Guideposts Company
Nashville, Tennessee
2011
Submitted by Kay Lewis

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Devotional 12-12-17

Star of Wonder
Read Matthew 2:1-12

Thanks to nasa.gov, I get alerts when the International Space Station will be visible over Huntington. Thankfully, the directions are very specific: what time it will appear on the horizon, from which direction, how many minutes it will be visible, and in what direction it will disappear. I can’t explain why, but I love spotting the Space Station. I know the astronauts can’t see me waving and wishing them well, but it makes me feel good anyway.

Thinking about the Space Station got me to thinking about the Star of Bethlehem. It is mentioned only in Matthew. Most translations say “wise men” from the east came to honor the baby Jesus. Some say “magi” or “scholars” or “astrologers.” These were educated men of science! Their studies found a new star in the East signaling the birth of a new king.  I was interested to find a scientific explanation for the Star of Bethlehem.

Fred Grosse, a professor of physics and astronomy at Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove, Pa.,says the favorite hypothesis for the star of Bethlehem is a planetary conjunction.

A conjunction happens when two celestial objects appear to pass very near to each other from our perspective on Earth. Often, these conjunctions look like one large object rather than separate ones.

“In 6 BCE, Jupiter and Saturn passed each other three times, in May, September, and December – a triple conjunction,” Grosse says. Since the actual year of Jesus’ birth is tough to pin down, an event in 6 BCE remains a good candidate to explain what the Magi saw.

“Because this conjunction only happens once every 140 years, it would have been a significant event to astrologers from Babylon.

“A conjecture is that they saw the first passing from their homes, left for Jerusalem, and got there in time for the second or third passing to guide them to Bethlehem.”

Though this is the dominant explanation for the star in the east, it’s not the only one.

“Nova and Supernova are new objects which appear in the sky and then dim to oblivion,” Grosse explains. And they can put on the kind of show that first century astrologers would have noticed.

According to Chinese records, there were supernova that appeared in the sky right around the time when Jesus may have been born, in 4 and 5 BCE.
But the fact that there’s a possible scientific explanation to what the Magi saw, doesn’t mean to Grosse that the event loses its transcendence.

“The symbolism is apparent. A small clear light, on a cold dark night, in a sometimes cold and dark world, leads the wise to the message of Jesus. The message tells us to love each passenger who journeys with us on this small, fragile, planet Earth.”

Anita Gardner Farrell

Monday, December 11, 2017

Devotional 12-11-17

Thessalonians 5:16-24
Rejoice always,pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus...

Paul has some very strange commands for us in this scripture. Rejoice always- if he had to live through my trials and tribulations, he wouldn’t expect me to live up to be ever rejoicing. Give thanks in all things? I just hit my thumb with a hammer, not something I am especially  thankful for. Pray continually? When would I ever get any work done or get to have fun? Way too much to expect, I’m only human you know.

 As I wrote the above words, it started me thinking. Every concern mentioned was centered on me. As Christians, we are supposed to think of others more and ourselves less.

My trials and tribulations , in fact , are child’s play compared to the things Paul suffered. Paul’s sufferings were child play compared to the sacrifice Jesus Christ suffered for my sake.

 Everyone goes through life, sometimes on the mountain top, sometimes in the valley. No one is immune from these ups and downs. If I followed Paul’s commands, I’d live a better life, not constantly focusing on self.

I’m not there, but am working on it.

Blessings in this Advent season.

Scott Ramsey
 

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