Friday, December 25, 2020

Devotional 12-25-20

 Please read John 1:1-14


In the beginning was the Word
    and the Word was with God
    and the Word was God.
The Word was with God in the beginning.
Everything came into being through the Word,
    and without the Word
    nothing came into being.
What came into being
    through the Word was life, 
    and the life was the light for all people.
The light shines in the darkness,
    and the darkness doesn’t extinguish the light.
A man named John was sent from God. He came as a witness to testify concerning the light, so that through him everyone would believe in the light. He himself wasn’t the light, but his mission was to testify concerning the light.
The true light that shines on all people
    was coming into the world.
The light was in the world,
    and the world came into being through the light,
        but the world didn’t recognize the light.
The light came to his own people,
    and his own people didn’t welcome him.
But those who did welcome him,
        those who believed in his name,
    he authorized to become God’s children,
        born not from blood,
        nor from human desire or passion,
        but born from God.
The Word became flesh
    and made his home among us.
We have seen his glory,
    glory like that of a father’s only son,
        full of grace and truth.

John begins his version of the Gospel with a hope-giving message of a light that cannot be overcome. He wrote during the time of a despot ruler. His message surely resonated with his original audience who would have recognized his references to the story of Creation when God spoke light and life into being. And John goes on to make the bold claim that the Word became flesh and made his home among us. I like the image from Eugene Peterson’s The Message that God “moved into the neighborhood.” 

But make no mistake—the Baby Jesus whose birth we celebrate today, who moved into the neighborhood, holds the same power as the God of Creation. This Christmas morning, we might prefer to focus on the meek and mild baby in a manger. But John presents us with the bold claim that this baby was with God before creation. His claim is only audacious if it is not true. Early Christians argued about whether Jesus was the same as God or merely similar to God. Believing, trinitarian Christians bet our eternal lives on the truth of John’s claim. 

John’s message resonates with us in 2020. We long to hear a hope-filled message. This time will be remembered in history for political disunity, discord, racial tension, and a pandemic that has killed over 1.4 million persons worldwide. 2020—the year we couldn’t even gather together in church. Wouldn’t a shining light be welcomed in these days? Honestly, I’d like to see God-in-flesh come in this Christmas and shine a light that would unite our nation and church, bring about justice for all, and wipe out COVID 19 and all disease. Quickly.

I would be in good company. The original disciples who followed Jesus were frustrated that he did not act to overthrow the Roman empire to bring about their image of the Kingdom of God. John says the people did not welcome the light.

Perhaps Jesus has shown us the way as a light shining in the wilderness through the troubles of this life but we choose not to be enlightened, preferring our own tried and failed methods. A good question for us to ponder this Christmas is how we will welcome the light of Christ this year and in the future.

Rev. Jeff Taylor

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Devotional 12-24-20

 Ah, Christmas Eve!   We’ve hurried & planned. We’ve decorated & baked.  We’ve whispered about gifts which are now in their lovely wrappings beneath the shining Christmas tree.  The day we’ve imagined & looked forward to has arrived.     This year it’s different.  No parties or company from far away. Perhaps then next year gatherings will be all the sweeter.   But all anticipation & celebration this year & every other year has a sound track running under it.  Christmas is never the same without the carols.  Quickly, let’s sing!


Good Christian friends, rejoice,   Rejoice! Emanuel shall come, O   O come, all ye faithful, joyful,   Joy to the world!  the world in solemn stillness lay     lay down his sweet head. The stars in the sky looked down where he lay,   how still we see thee lie, above thy deep & dreamless sleep the silent     Silent night, Holy night, wondrous star lend thy light.  With the angels let us sing Alleluia to our King.  Christ the Savior is born, Christ the Savior is born!

May your Christmas of 2020 be blessed, calm & bright.

Jill Henton

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Devotional 12-23-20

 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 Garbriel 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 approach 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

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Devotional 12-22-20

 Psalm 72:3

“The mountains shall bring peace to the people, and the little hills, by righteousness.”

I have always loved this verse because it applies directly to me and the peace that I feel when I’m in the mountains. We’re blessed to have a second home in Canaan Valley, WV, and every time we drive up the mountain from Elkins, WV, toward Canaan, I look ahead at the mountainous landscape…which Bill calls my “view”…and I feel a sense of peace come over me. 

We have been going to Canaan since the mid-80’s mainly to ski. I imagine that I didn’t feel much “peace” there at that point because we had three children, lots of clothes and skis to haul, food to pack, and much more. However, several years ago I had a different experience.

I was an itinerate teacher in Cabell County at the time and had been assigned a new school in addition to my home school. While I was teaching the same three grades in both schools, I quickly realized that the same lesson plans weren’t going to work. The students were poles apart in their knowledge and educational backgrounds. Plus the fact that they had had a substitute teacher for two years didn’t help.  They had been running the show! This was going to have to take some serious planning. It was at that point on the next Friday afternoon that I packed up every resource I had and headed to the mountains!! 

During the drive I kept trying to figure out just how I was going to get the students in that new school to where I knew that they needed to be. While I’ve never thought of myself as an anxious person, I think my anxiety had kicked in. As I crossed the first mountain out of Elkins that day, I looked out and noticed the magnitude and beauty in front of me, and a “peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7) came over me. I knew that everything would be all right; I’d figure it out. 

During this Advent season, we focus on Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem and the birth of Jesus. I can’t help but wonder what was going through Mary’s mind as she rode on the back of that donkey, nine months pregnant.  I doubt that she was at peace!! Then she had to spend the night in a stable. How could it get any worse????  However, after Jesus was born and she held that precious baby in her arms, I’m sure that she felt a peace much greater than I felt, and still feel, every time I head up the mountain out of Elkins and look at my “view.”

Several years ago, our daughter surprised us with a plaque that has the words of Psalm 72:3 on it. It’s a constant reminder of how blessed I am to experience the peace that the mountains bring to me. My prayer is that you, too, will somehow find peace during this crazy, COVID-filled, busy Holiday season.

Please pray with me…
Dear Lord, as we go through this troubled time and busy season, help us to find peace in our busiest of days. Amen.

Marilyn Murdock

Monday, December 21, 2020

Devotional 12-21-20

 If Only in My Dreams


“I’ll Be Home for Christmas” was written by the Lyricist Kim Gannon and composer Walter Kent and was first recorded in 1943 by Bing Crosby. The song is sung from the point of view of a soldier stationed overseas during World War II, writing a letter to his family. – Wikipedia

Long before I started writing this devotional, that song kept creeping into my thoughts. It’s one of my favorites although it is quite short and somewhat melancholy. The words are simple, to the point, and heart wrenching.
I’ll be home for Christmas.
You can plan on me.
Please have snow and mistletoe
And presents on the tree.

Christmas Eve will find me
Where the lovelight gleams.
I’ll be home for Christmas
If only in my dreams.
Like many of you, I grew up in the church and learned so many beautiful Christmas hymns from an early age, but my love of more secular Christmas songs came from listening to the Firestone Christmas Albums of the 1960s. As we trimmed the tree, we sipped hot chocolate and sang along to Bing, Perry Como, and Julie Andrews. That’s probably when I first heard the song and my parents’ explanation about its significance to those who lived through WWII. I think it made my parents sad because it reminded them of those they had lost in the war, but they also remembered the hope it had given them that loved ones would soon be home.

In 2020 we have a different foe. Covid 19 has turned our world upside down. We now wear masks as part of our attire, and some of us have stayed away from family get-togethers and celebrations. By now, most of us know someone who has contracted this terrible disease, and some have even lost friends and family members. You can see why the line “I’ll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams,” might be appropriate for a time when patients who go into the hospital may not come back out right away! 

Why would I write about something so sad during this joyous holiday? I guess I just want us to remember that some of us are not joyous. Some of us don’t have enough to eat. Some of us haven’t had a decent paycheck since March. Some of us have lost everything. And too many will only be home for Christmas in our dreams. 

Prayer
Heavenly Father, thank you for your blessings. Please be with your children who feel so alone and forgotten during this holiday season. I especially ask you to be those who are suffering from illnesses that do not allow a human touch. Let them feel your loving arms around them. And be with those earthly angels we call doctors, nurses, and first responders. They definitely need a heavenly hug. In Your name we pray.

Amen
Becky Warren

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Devotional 12-20-20

 PROMISES, PROMISES …..


As I write this Advent Devotion, the Pandemic is raging in our country and all over the world. It is difficult to think about Christmas when people are so sick and dying.  It is especially important to remember the true meaning of Christmas and not the parties, gifting and such aspects of the season. My sister and I were talking about my writing a devotion and the topics.  We also mentioned that so many people were asking us for prayers for specific people who were ill. SO MANY!  We say that we will but do we keep all those promises??  Is it possible?
    
In  2 Samuel God makes a promise to David. The promise is called a Covenant. David is promised that his House will bear the birth of the Messiah. It will be an ever lasting Dynasty. God kept his promise.  We as Christians should be able to keep our promises but we are human and forget. But is it that simple?  I do not think so .There are so many promises that being a Christian entails.  We are supposed to love our neighbor, care for the poor, and so much more.  I usually say that I am a “Work in Progress” but is that a “cop out”? Perhaps we as Christians should exchange our thoughts of the commercial trimmings for keeping our promises to others and to God. We can make this a better world through love and understanding. That will be especially difficult for me because of our current political and historical situation.  But I can at least make a PROMISE to try! Perhaps when we pray for the sick we should set a specific time in the day just for them. Count to ten before judging others. Make a conscious effort to help heal this world and ourselves.

So on this day let us remember that God’s promise to give us a Savior who will die for our sins that we may have everlasting life and be able to see our loved ones who have gone before us. Let us celebrate His birthday as we imagine the light at the end of this tunnel that is attempting to overpower our thoughts.

Let us pray:
Our heavenly Father, give us the motivation and the determination to fulfill our promises to you and others and to have faith that we can “cast our anxieties on you because you care for us.” (1 Peter 5:7)

Carol Brown

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Devotional 12-19-20

 


The Kingdom is Coming

Lectionary Readings:  2 Samuel 7: 1-11, 16; Luke 1: 46b-55; Romans 16: 25-27; Luke 1: 26-28

The word of God came to Nathan, the prophet: “Your house (David’s) and your kingdom will endure forever before me.  Your throne will be established forever.” 2 Samuel 7: 16

The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.  Luke 1:32b-33 

Elizabeth (Mary’s cousin) says: “Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished.” Luke 1: 45

The angel Gabriel visited Mary to give her the news that she would bear a son who would be great and be called the son of the Most High.  Gabriel further explains that the ancestors of this special child include Abraham, Jacob, Jesse and David.  Abraham was promised by other angels hundreds of years before, that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars.  David was promised by God through the prophet Nathan that his kingdom would endure, and his throne would be established forever.  Mary’s acceptance of God’s plan for her as outlined through Gabriel fulfilled the promises God gave to the Old Testament patriarchs.  Jesus birth, life and death fulfilled God’s mysterious majestic plan for our salvation.

God’s plans are revealed in a time and manner that are not always expected or easily understood. I marvel at Mary’s acceptance of the plan with only the brief glimpses of the plan given her by Gabriel.  She was brave enough to ask: “How can this happen?’ But there were many more details of her future that remained hidden and details of her actual relationship with Jesus, her son, are not described in the Gospels. Yet she stepped forward to accept God’s plan.  She was willing to let the plan unfold in God’s time. Her eventual acceptance was a miracle in itself.

Gabriel also told Mary that her cousin, Elizabeth was pregnant.  Elizabeth had been barren, but Gabriel tells Mary that all things are possible with God. A key piece of these events occurs when Mary visits Elizabeth.  (This part of the story is not included in the lectionary readings for this week, but it is in Luke-Chapter 1.) Elizabeth seems to know what Mary will reveal just by hearing her greeting as she enters. Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaims: “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the child you will bear!...Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!”  After receiving Elizabeth’s affirmation, Mary is able to sing the wonderful words that we have come to call “The Magnificat”.

We find that Mary was still a little tentative about everything the angel had revealed, even though she had told him that she “was the Lord’s servant”, until Elizabeth fulfilled a part of God’s plan by encouraging Mary.  Sometimes we are called to step forward ourselves—we are called to say yes to God’s plan. But other times, we are called to encourage others in their quest to follow God’s plan for them.  Our calling may be to be an encourager or a safe place for others to express doubts and concerns. Elizabeth provided the encouragement Mary required to fully accept God’s plan.

This Advent season will certainly be unique.  We are more separated by physical distance and will find it a little more difficult to complete our usual preparation routines.  Are we complaining about our “lot in life” or are we listening for the voice of God and His guidance toward different or unexpected ways to serve?? And are we following God’s leading to offer encouragement, affirmation, or positive feedback to others who seek answers and direction??? How can we put into practice the role modeling of Mary and Elizabeth who were called and answered “Yes”?? We cannot know the future any better than Mary and Elizabeth could understand their future.  However, we can rest assured that God is with us in the present and will continue into whatever the future holds. “Ready or not”, the King is coming, and His kingdom will be revealed!!!

Oh God of our past, present and future, we thank you for your unfailing love and guidance.  Grant us your mercy in our failings and missteps. Help us to pay attention to your voice as you patiently reveal your plan for our lives. Lead us to understand and follow your guidance to love others and serve you as we are called. AMEN

Chyrl Budd