Tuesday, December 11, 2018

December 11

Myrna Diven

   “Surely it is God who saves us.
     We will trust in him and not be afraid.
     For the Lord is our stronghold and our sure defense
     And he will be our savior.”

This is my song of comfort and hope in these dark days of December when the images of fires, hurricanes, war, homelessness and hunger fill me with despair.  I have changed the pronouns to plural to include family, friends, our congregation, community and world.

These ancient words come from the 8th century prophet, Isaiah, 740 BCE – 686 BCE, to a people yearning for deliverance from the powers of darkness of their time.  The people of Israel, during this period of oppression and war with the Assyrians, needed reassurance that God was with them to silence their fears, bring security and serenity of mind.  Let these ancient words, sometimes called The First Song of Isaiah, warm your heart and bring joy in the darkness of these December days.

You can find this hymn in our Glory to God Hymnal.  I recommend singing along on You Tube, “Surely it is God Who Saves Me”, Jack Noble White, Grace Church, Madison, June 2, 2014.  I love the children signing the words, the bell choir and church choir.

The presence of God is coming again to the world in endless supply for our deepest needs.  So live in expectation.  Remember what God has done in your life.  Give thanks.  Share the joy!  Make the kingdom of God known here and now.


Monday, December 10, 2018

December 10

December 10
Judy Cutler

Who is Zephaniah? He is not someone I was very familiar with. A minor prophet, possibly of
royal lineage. He preached about the wrath of God coming to destroy people because of their
inability to stay true to God and follow his laws. Zephaniah was very distraught about the how
all the people, especially in Jerusalem, had turned away from God and were committing all
kinds of sins.

But then his tone changed. He says the Lord is coming and for those who are patient and seek
refuge in the Lord, they will not need to be afraid. He says to rejoice and sing aloud the Glory of
God. The Lord is coming and will be in their midst. He will be among the people who are
patient and take away their sins. There will be no need for fear. Zephaniah did not know when
the Lord would be here but he was confident that He would come.

Advent is a time of waiting and having patience. We know who is coming. Can we be patient?
Can we be like Zephaniah and wait for His coming? Can we remember why this season is
given to us? Rejoice! We know Christ came. Stay true to His teachings. Be patient and there
will be nothing to fear.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

December 9

December 9
Rev. Bill Carter

It wouldn’t be Advent without the fierce voice of John the Baptist, calling us to return to God. Here he comes again with his recurring invitation. It’s a good reminder that repentance is not something once and done. It is something we must do all the time.

A favorite hymn is “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” Every time we sing it, the last verse gives me pause:

                Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
                Prone to leave the God I love…

Yes, me too. Especially me.  Especially when I face impossible traffic snares and people who have forgotten how to park properly outside the supermarket. Especially when the lines in the mall are long, the clerks are overwhelmed, and the people ahead of me are clueless. The tug toward meanness is ever present, especially as we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus.

Wandering can become a way of life. If you have ever taken off a week from church-going, you know how easy it is for that week to become a month or a year. If once we read the Bible and savored its wisdom but now the Good Book is covered with dust, probably the disengagement happened a bit at a time. If once we opened our wallets with generosity but now we are far too fearful, it may take a Gospel jolt to trust again and give selflessly.

St. Benedict taught great wisdom when he declared, “Each day we begin again.” Indeed. The new sunrise brings a fresh invitation to come home to God. And that is John’s invitation to me and you.

Prayer: Here’s my heart, Lord, take and seal it for Thy courts above.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

December 8

December 8
John Weiss

In this passage Paul says that he prays with joy for the Philippians, because they have shared in the gospel “from the first day”. Paul appears to be writing this letter from jail (“I am in chains”) and there can be no more isolated and lonely place than a prison cell. For Paul to know that the Philippian disciples were continuing to share the gospel must be a light in the darkness to him and a consolation in his suffering.

We don’t have to be in prison to appreciate the partnership of our fellow Christians. I am very thankful for all the support and friendship of the members of this church. I appreciate the work we are doing as Christ’s disciples, whether it is sharing our music with retirement home residents, working with the food banks, or rebuilding homes after Hurricane Katrina. It is a joy to be part of a community that is deeply committed to the cause of the Gospel.

Just as Paul expresses his confidence that Christ will continue to inspire the Philippians’ good work, I pray that God will work powerfully in our lives to change and transform us. Paul prays that they might be wise and judicious in their actions. May we too be able to discern what is best, and continue to work together to share our love and work for justice.

Friday, December 7, 2018

December 7

December 7
Tabbi Miller-Scandle

We know the story of the author well. Zechariah is now a father; his wife, once thought to be barren, is now a mother. They are the parents of a baby boy known as John, the future baptizer of Jesus and preparer of the world for the Son of God. Luke reports in the previous chapter, "Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied." He sang of the fulfillment of God’s promise in the coming Messiah.

Zechariah sure changed his tune from the time of his visit by the angel! The pre-birth-of-John Zechariah had no faith that God would make him a father. The Zechariah who wrote this song of praise had renewed faith.

Where do we find ourselves on the Zechariah spectrum? Zechariah reached this point of believing even before Jesus was born. Why then, even after experiencing the salvation delivered to us by Jesus, do we still live in fear?

Every day we witness the devastating effects of fear on humans. The kind of fear that drives people to commit inhuman crimes against those they deem to be their enemies, some even in the name of the Christ who could only be horrified by their actions. Do we then respond in fear, arming ourselves, locking ourselves in, shutting out those who need the Church the most? Zechariah answers this question, “…to grant us that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies, might serve Him without fear.”

Shouldn’t that give us some comfort?

Thursday, December 6, 2018

December 6

December 6
Rev. Bill Carter

If all we want is Christmas, let’s put up some lights, plug in the tree, and spend a lot of money. If it’s Christmas that we want, let’s address all the cards, sing at all the concerts, and run ourselves crazy from party to party. If that’s what we want, if that’s all we want, it would be no wonder if we become tired, impatient, rude, or insisting on our own way. But I think we want something more than Christmas; we want Christ.

Advent is the time to make room for him. Advent is more than the season to pull out the boxes of decorations, or to find the milk-stained 3 by 5 card of Grandma’s eggnog recipe. We prepare for the coming of God. And that’s a different kind of preparation. If only it were as simple as putting out the milk and cookies at midnight! But God does not come on schedule or demand. If anything, God comes – and makes demands of us.

Today the odd prophet Malachi warns us that a real Advent will be hard work – soul-scrubbing work. He says God comes as a purifying fire. God scrubs us like soap. None of us will remain untouched. As the prophet asks, “Who can endure? Who can stand when it happens?”  While the surrounding culture eats cookies, overspends its budgets, and generally indulges itself, we hear this strange prophecy of how God will come to cleanse us.

The prophet perceives that God will not leave us alone. God is like a refiner’s fire, says Malachi. God comes to us as a fuller would clean the wool from ancient sheep – it would be scrubbed in scalding water with a caustic kind of soap until it was completely clean. This is God’s intention with us – scrubbing, scouring, purging us of every dirty thing.

And God does this precisely because we are held in an eternal love – and God wants us to be ready to embrace that love when it comes close.

Prayer: Lord, let the disruptions of my life become preparations to receive you. Amen.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

December 5

December 5
Olympia Cianfichi  

For generations, his family owned olive and fig orchards nourished by the Adriatic Sea.  When my grandfather came to this country in the late 1920’s from Bari, Italy, found he missed fresh fish and figs the most. After meeting my grandfather, an “old Italian man” grafted his fig own tree (brought to this country from Italy) and gave him a seedling. Due to the cold climate in PA, the fig tree needed to be cared for in a particular way to survive winter. Each year men would go from home to home and bury the fig trees in the ground. They made a day of it, with good food and homemade wine. Once the trees were buried, they did not need to be cared for until the following spring. The men waited for specific signs presented by the sun, moon and stars. Everything was to be completely aligned for the fig trees’ unearthing. Patience, hope, water, sun and warmth nurture the promise of leaves on the fig tree indicating there will be blossoms, ripening and then sweet fruit… something to be savored and enjoyed.

So it is in our own preparation for the Son of Man’s arrival, for his nearness to us. We prepare ourselves by observing the signs and keeping ourselves aligned in the Word of God. Stay in constant communion with God and Christ as we wait for His coming . . . something to be savored and enjoyed forever.

May Advent bless us all with the nearness of Christ.