November 2009

Isaiah 40:1-8

            Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God.  Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.  A voice cries out:
            “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD,
                        make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
            Every valley shall be lifted up,
                        and every mountain and hill be made low;
            the uneven ground shall become level,
                        and the rough places a plain.
             Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed,
                        and all people shall see it together,
                        for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”
            A voice says, “Cry out!” And I said, “What shall I cry?”
            All people are grass,
                        their constancy is like the flower of the field.
             The grass withers, the flower fades,
                        when the breath of the LORD blows upon it;
                        surely the people are grass.
             The grass withers, the flower fades;
                        but the word of our God will stand forever.

 “A voice cries out: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord.’”

             John the Baptist is said to have uttered these words from the prophet Isaiah.  In fact, it was John the Baptist whose job was to prepare the people of the Israel for the arrival of Jesus and his public ministry.

            But who prepares the way of the Lord today?  Who is charged with helping people receive Christ’s message of grace, compassion, and justice?

            We may be tempted to think that this type of job is only for prophets like John the Baptist or for parish ministers.  However the fact is that all of us that seek to follow the path of Jesus have been commissioned to work on his behalf.

            We are a prophetic people and as such we are called to prepare our own hearts and minds, as well as those of others, to hear the message that Christ brings to his people.

God who speaks to us still,
help us to hear the voice of the prophet
and prepare ourselves to meet and receive the Christ. 
Dr. Kimberly Bentrott, M. D.
Global Ministries Partner
Port-au-Prince, Haiti

Isaiah 11:1-9

             A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
             The spirit of the LORD shall rest on him,
                        the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
                        the spirit of counsel and might,
                        the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.
             His delight shall be in the fear of the LORD.
             He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear;
                         but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
                        and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
                        he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
                        and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
             Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist,
                        and faithfulness the belt around his loins.
            The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
                        the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them.
             The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together;
                        and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
             The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
                        and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.
            They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain;
            for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.  (NRSV)

             The wolf and the lamb, the calf and the lion, all lying down together in peace?  Some fantasy!  We cannot even have peace in this country, much less peace in the world. 

            So why would Isaiah provide his people with this vision when it seems so unrealistic?  The word that comes to my mind here is “hope.”  In spite of what seems to be an impossibility, Isaiah is challenging us to hope for peace.  Hope is defined as: “desire accompanied by expectation of fulfillment.” 

            This Advent, I plan to pray a lot for peace in my heart and peace in the world.

Lord, fill our hearts with hope that is based on our experience

of your love, for with you all things are possible.

 Rev. Del Parris

Retired Minister

Clarksburg – Central Christian Church

Luke 21:25-36:  

    “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves.  People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.  Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory.  Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

             Then he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near.  So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near.  Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place.  Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

             “Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth.  Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.” (NRSV)

             Happy New Year!  No, I haven’t lost my calendar.  I realize that it’s only November 29, not January 1, but followers of Jesus the world over know that the church marks the beginning of the Christian year on this day, the first Sunday of Advent.  I rather like that.  I like being part of an alternative rhythm that sees New Year’s Day as a time of watching for signs of Christ’s in-breaking reign, not just as an excuse for throwing yet one more party. 

            Today’s lectionary Gospel passage from Luke reminds Christians that Advent is a time, not just to remember the first coming of Jesus, but to look forward to the second coming of the Savior.  Now that is something to celebrate!

O God, we look for signs that your realm is near,

that your Word rules the world. 

Join us together in a spirit of thanksgiving and earnest prayer.

 Rev. Scott Thayer, Bethany Memorial Church

The second annual publication of Prayerscapes for Advent, the daily devotions prepared by our region’s ministers (and mission partners) is ready for downloading on our Publications page.  Daily publication of the devotions will still be available on this site (you can subscribe for email delivery in the box at right).

Individuals and congregations wanting to use a convenient full-season booklet which may be freely distributed, will find instructions there (booklet prints on 4 sheets of letter-size paper, 2-sided).  A weekly version is available, as well, for those who wish to feature each week’s collection on 1 sheet of letter-size paper (2-sided) as a bulletin insert, or to print for personal reading.  Visit the site for full details and download links.

If we can be of any help in this process of sharing this gift with your congregation (including printing assistance for congregations who may not be well-equipped for that), please do not hesitate to contact us.