December 2011


Ezek. 34:11-31 

For thus says the Lord GOD:

            I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out.

             As shepherds seek out their flocks

                        when they are among their scattered sheep,

                         so I will seek out my sheep.

            I will rescue them from all the places to which they have been scattered

                        on a day of clouds and thick darkness.

             I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries,

                        and will bring them into their own land;

                        and I will feed them on the mountains of Israel,

                        by the watercourses, and in all the inhabited parts of the land.

             I will feed them with good pasture,

                        and the mountain heights of Israel shall be their pasture;

                        there they shall lie down in good grazing land,

                        and they shall feed on rich pasture on the mountains of Israel.

             I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep,

                        and I will make them lie down, says the Lord GOD.

             I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed,

                        and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak,

                                    but the fat and the strong I will destroy.

                                    I will feed them with justice.

 

As for you, my flock, thus says the Lord GOD:

            I shall judge between sheep and sheep, between rams and goats:

             Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture,

                        but you must tread down with your feet the rest of your pasture?

            When you drink of clear water,

                        must you foul the rest with your feet?

             And must my sheep eat what you have trodden with your feet,

                        and drink what you have fouled with your feet?

 

Therefore, thus says the Lord GOD to them:

            I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep.

             Because you pushed with flank and shoulder,

                        and butted at all the weak animals with your horns

                        until you scattered them far and wide,

             I will save my flock, and they shall no longer be ravaged;

                        and I will judge between sheep and sheep.

             I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David,

                        and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd.

             And I, the LORD, will be their God,

                        and my servant David shall be prince among them;

                                    I, the LORD, have spoken.

             I will make with them a covenant of peace

                        and banish wild animals from the land,

                        so that they may live in the wild and sleep in the woods securely.

             I will make them and the region around my hill a blessing;

                         and I will send down the showers in their season;

                                     they shall be showers of blessing.

             The trees of the field shall yield their fruit,

                        and the earth shall yield its increase.

            They shall be secure on their soil;

                        and they shall know that I am the LORD,

                                    when I break the bars of their yoke,

                                    and save them from the hands of those who enslaved them.

             They shall no more be plunder for the nations,

                        nor shall the animals of the land devour them;

                                    they shall live in safety,

                                    and no one shall make them afraid.

             I will provide for them a splendid vegetation

                                    so that they shall no more be consumed with hunger in the land,

                                                and no longer suffer the insults of the nations.

             They shall know that I, the LORD their God, am with them,

                        and that they, the house of Israel, are my people, says the Lord GOD.

             You are my sheep, the sheep of my pasture

                        and I am your God, says the Lord GOD.

 

            from Rev. Donald Snyder, First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Beckley

            While the flock of Israel has been scattered through exile, God decries the leadership that guided covenant people into this predicament.  To remedy this circumstance the Lord of the covenant makes a threefold declaration:  First, pride of place goes to the idea that God will look out for His sheep. The world may neglect and/or forget us, but God never does.  Second, the promise of justice carries with it two connotations:  retribution for the guilty, and vindication for their victims.  In God’s justice people will reap what they have sown.  Finally, through the realization of the covenant blessing would come proof of the bond between God and His people.  The Good Shepherd will lead God’s people to green pastures.  The Good Shepherd will anoint us in the presence of our enemies.  We will dwell in the house of the Good Shepherd forever.

 

Great Shepherd, grant us confidence

 in your care for us as your very own sheep.

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Luke 1:26-38 

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.  And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”   But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.  The angel said to her,

            “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.

             And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son,

                        and you will name him Jesus.

             He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High,

                        and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David.

             He will reign over the house of Jacob forever,

                        and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

 

Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?”   The angel said to her,

            “The Holy Spirit will come upon you,

                        and the power of the Most High will overshadow you;

            therefore the child to be born will be holy;

                        he will be called Son of God.

             And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son;

                        and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren.

                                     For nothing will be impossible with God.”

 

Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”  Then the angel departed from her.

 

            from Rev. Janice Hill, First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Parkersburg

            Have you ever received startling news?  I’m reminded of the people who receive the Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes with balloons and cameras and shouts of joy.  Mary must have been just as surprised, but there were no cameras, no joyous celebration with friends, just a mysterious visitor who gave her news that would change her life forever – and probably not for the best! 

            Imagine a young teen receiving such news and dealing it all by herself:  no Facebook, no texting, no Twitter, just the news.  The word that comes to my mind is “loneliness,” yet she was ready to serve.  I’m not sure I’ve ever faced such a situation – alone.  We know “the rest of the story,” but Mary did not…thank God.

 

Thank you, our Holy Creator,

for those who through the ages have been ready to serve. 

 May we be as faithful. 

Rom. 16:25-27 

Now to God who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but is now disclosed, and through the prophetic writings is made known to all the Gentiles, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith–to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever! Amen.

 

            from Rev. Judith Bennett, Island Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Wheeling

            What’s the big secret?  Here the secret seems to be that there is no secret.  Paul is excitedly telling all who will listen that the mystery has been solved.  The revelation of the prophets’ foretelling is now revealed.  The Messiah has come!  What was once shrouded in holy secrecy is now evident to all. 

            We who have known the secret for a long time now once again find ourselves in this season of Advent, checking to see if there’s anything new.  Is God slowly but surely disclosing more of the mystery, bit by bit?  As we follow the light of the star that still shines brightly on the horizon, let us be excited by and take comfort in the knowledge that God continues to reveal his secrets at precisely the right moments to all of humankind.  The revelation of the mystery continues to unravel.

 

God of mystery and wisdom,

help me to experience the glow of “the light revealed” anew,

 and to share it with those who do not see.

 Ps. 89:19-26 

Then you spoke in a vision to your faithful one, and said:

            “I have set the crown on one who is mighty,

            I have exalted one chosen from the people.

             I have found my servant David;

                        with my holy oil I have anointed him;

             my hand shall always remain with him;

                        my arm also shall strengthen him.

             The enemy shall not outwit him,

                        the wicked shall not humble him.

             I will crush his foes before him

                        and strike down those who hate him.

             My faithfulness and steadfast love shall be with him;

                        and in my name his horn shall be exalted.

             I will set his hand on the sea

                        and his right hand on the rivers.

             He shall cry to me, ‘You are my Father,

                        my God, and the Rock of my salvation!’

 

            from Rev. Daniel Harry, Community Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Beech Bottom

            In this Psalm, God talks about the covenant made with David.  In verse 19, God points out that David is one of them – one of the people of Israel.  This is the key to understanding this text as an Advent meditation.             Advent is a time of preparation for the arrival of one who is with us.  When we talk about Jesus as Immanuel (God with us), we are not merely saying that Jesus lives with us but that he is also one of us.         Christmas is the birth of Jesus as a human child.  We have a Savior who understands our human nature, because he shares it, and loves us anyway.

 

O God, let me prepare for Jesus’ coming

not as a distant event but as an event that occurs

 every time the doorbell rings.

Ps. 89:1-8, 13-18  

I will sing of your steadfast love, O LORD, forever;

with my mouth I will proclaim your faithfulness to all generations.

I declare that your steadfast love is established forever;

            your faithfulness is as firm as the heavens.

You said, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one,

            I have sworn to my servant David:

             ‘I will establish your descendants forever,

            and build your throne for all generations.'”  

 

Let the heavens praise your wonders, O LORD,

            your faithfulness in the assembly of the holy ones.

For who in the skies can be compared to the LORD?

Who among the heavenly beings is like the LORD,

             a God feared in the council of the holy ones,

            great and awesome above all that are around him?

O LORD God of hosts, who is as mighty as you, O LORD?

Your faithfulness surrounds you.

 You have a mighty arm;

            strong is your hand,

                        high your right hand.

Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne;

            steadfast love and faithfulness go before you.

 

Happy are the people who know the festal shout,

            who walk, O LORD, in the light of your countenance;

            they exult in your name all day long,

                        and extol your righteousness.

             For you are the glory of their strength;

                        by your favor our horn is exalted.

             For our shield belongs to the LORD,

                        our king to the Holy One of Israel.

 

             from Rev. William Pollack, First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Princeton

            It is sometimes difficult to acknowledge Advent this time of the year.  The sights and sounds of the days all seem to dismiss the significance of the season.  We celebrate Christmas too early.  

            Though the Gift of Jesus has already come to Bethlehem, may we offer ourselves to the truth that there are still reasons for rejoicing today.  The Psalmist says, “How blessed are the people who know the joyful sound!”  He has already expressed his thankful spirit.  Words like “covenant”, “faithfulness”, “righteousness” and “justice” are mentioned as reasons for his confidence and hope.       How blessed we are when we read these words and understand that, in this Advent season, the “joyful sound” of His second appearing can be heard even as we celebrate the gift of God’s love today.

 

Heavenly Father, help us to hear and rejoice

in the good news of Your great love in our Advent longing.  

May we be found in You when our Lord returns,

as we are faithful to the end. 

Luke 1:46-55 

And Mary said,

             “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.

            Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;

                         for the Mighty One has done great things for me,

                                    and holy is his name.

             His mercy is for those who fear him

                                    from generation to generation.

             He has shown strength with his arm;

                        he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.

             He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,

                        and lifted up the lowly;

             he has filled the hungry with good things,

                         and sent the rich away empty.

             He has helped his servant Israel,

                        in remembrance of his mercy,

                         according to the promise he made to our ancestors,

                                    to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

 

            from Wesley Howsare, Big Run Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Cameron, and Fork Ridge Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Glen Easton

            God confounds us with the way in which He accomplishes His will.  Rather than using a queen or princess, He uses an ordinary Jewish girl to give birth to His only son—the King of Kings, the Savior of all humanity.  And rather than have His son enter the world in a palace of gold and marble surrounded by royalty, Jesus enters it in a lowly, borrowed manger. 

            God shows us that it isn’t the rich and powerful that He calls for duty, but those of His children who accept His son Jesus into their lives, and who have His love and forgiving grace in their hearts. Like Mary, we praise God for His plan of salvation that brought Jesus to Bethlehem!  And we give thanks to God for using us, as ordinary and unworthy as we are, to serve others as part of that plan.

 

Heavenly Father, may we always be mindful

that you have chosen us to serve others

as partners in your plan of salvation for the world.

2 Sam. 7:1-11, 16 

            Now when the king was settled in his house, and the LORD had given him rest from all his enemies around him, the king said to the prophet Nathan, “See now, I am living in a house of cedar, but the ark of God stays in a tent.”  Nathan said to the king, “Go, do all that you have in mind; for the LORD is with you.”  But that same night the word of the LORD came to Nathan:

             Go and tell my servant David: Thus says the LORD:

                        Are you the one to build me a house to live in?

                         I have not lived in a house since the day

                                    I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day,

                        but I have been moving about in a tent and a tabernacle.

                         Wherever I have moved about among all the people of Israel,

                                    did I ever speak a word with any of the tribal leaders of Israel,

                                    whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying,

                                    “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”

                         Now therefore thus you shall say to my servant David:

                                    Thus says the LORD of hosts:

                                                I took you from the pasture,

                                                from following the sheep

                                                to be prince over my people Israel;

                                                 and I have been with you wherever you went,

                                                and have cut off all your enemies from before you;

                                                and I will make for you a great name,

                                                like the name of the great ones of the earth.

                                     And I will appoint a place for my people Israel

                                                and will plant them,

                                                so that they may live in their own place,

                                                and be disturbed no more;

                                                and evildoers shall afflict them no more, as formerly,

                                                 from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel;

                                                and I will give you rest from all your enemies.

                                    Moreover the LORD declares to you

                                                that the LORD will make you a house.

                                                Your house and your kingdom

                                                            shall be made sure forever before me;

                                                your throne shall be established forever.

 

            from Rev. Dawna Watkins, Bluefield, WV

            As I am preparing this devotional, I cannot help but take a moment to follow its example. I ask my spiritual advisor for guidance.  I pray for divine guidance and God’s will for the “what nexts” in my ministry and service to God.

            God of many houses, what is it that I can do to honor Your glory in the midst of all that I have? Am I a Solomon or a David; am I being asked to wait for Your time, or are You giving me the green light for a new direction of service to You and Your kingdom?

            Advent and Lent have become dedicated times of waiting in Godly time. Be a David:  turn to your spiritual advisor, or your pastor or an elder with your calling, to better God’s House and await your answer in God’s time. Then get ready to go to work for God.

 

You know me, and you know the right time, O God. 

 Prepare me to follow your guiding hand.

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