December 2014


As you have been blessed by the gift of God in the coming of Christ at Advent, please consider how your giving for the Christmas Offering to support Regional Ministry may bless the whole Church and world.  You may give through your local Disciples congregation, or at www.wvdisciples.org/support.  Congregations of the WV Region’s congregations whose members give online will still receive credit for the gift for Yearbook outreach reporting.

Read 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. Judy Bennett

Bridgeport, OH

Ho Hum – the Annunciation scripture. That time again already? Didn’t we just do this?

Wow! What’s going on here? Have I allowed this powerful passage to become as mundane and boring as the Christmas decorations in the stores long before Halloween? What’s new about this? The angel Gabriel comes to the Virgin Mary, makes the big announcement, and we begin the trek to Bethlehem.   I’d better read it again and again and again to see how this could be newly applied to me today.   And there it is! It finally jumped off the page and hit me right where I live: “…for you have found favor with God.”

Oh, how I struggle to be who God wants me to be….to find favor with God. And suddenly I know that this announcement to Mary was and is also for me. And, yes, it is exciting! Definitely not mundane nor boring. The message of the angel is a gift to me – to erase built up fears and bring with it all of the hope and peace and joy and love that the birth of the Christ child brings to the world. Have I found favor with God today?

God of love, as I join those journeying towards Bethlehem,

may I continue to try to do what is pleasing in your sight,

that I may forever be in your favor.   Amen.

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Read Romans 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. Daniel Harry

Community Christian Church, Beech Bottom

How do you read a mystery? Do you jump to the ending or do you read it trying to decipher the clues yourself? In today’s scripture, Paul talks about the good news he brings which is the answer to an age old mystery. Furthermore, he says, all the clues are present in the prophetic writings.

Can you imagine the excitement for that generation as they pour through those writings for the answer to that mystery? Today, we don’t bother. The answer to the great mystery has been so long known we don’t even see it as a mystery. Jesus is the Christ the Son of the living God – for us it is almost boring.

This season we need to approach the Scriptures with old eyes; first century eyes that see mystery and feel excitement. We can’t share excitement that we don’t feel, and people today who don’t know the answer need to know how exciting it is.

Give us eyes and spirits eager to receive

your astounding promise fulfilled in Jesus. Amen.

 

As you have been blessed by the gift of God in the coming of Christ at Advent, please consider how your giving for the Christmas Offering to support Regional Ministry may bless the whole Church and world.  You may give through your local Disciples congregation, or at www.wvdisciples.org/support.  Congregations of the WV Region’s congregations whose members give online will still receive credit for the gift for Yearbook outreach reporting.

Read Isaiah 7:10-16

Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz, saying,

Ask a sign of the LORD your God;

let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.

But Ahaz said, I will not ask, and I will not put the LORD to the test.

Then Isaiah said: “Hear then, O house of David!

Is it too little for you to weary mortals, that you weary my God also?

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign.

Look, the young woman is with child

and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.

He shall eat curds and honey

by the time he knows

how to refuse the evil and choose the good.

For before the child knows

how to refuse the evil and choose the good,

the land before whose two kings you are in dread will be deserted.

 

from Rev. Richard Howard

First Christian Church, Morgantown

There are times in our lives when we want tangible assurance about our faith. We desire some sign about the reality of God to guide us when full of doubt. King Ahaz desperately wanted assurance that the decisions he was making were right. The prophet Isaiah urged Ahaz to ask the LORD God for a sign, but Ahaz had wandered so far off from the LORD God that he was afraid to ask. God, through Isaiah, gave Ahaz one anyway.   Ahaz wanted God to smite Judah’s enemies and bless his reign and the foreign alliances he had made. Instead God, through Isaiah, told Ahaz of a child to be born soon to a young woman of the kingdom, a son who would be named “Immanuel” or “God with us.”

Isn’t this often the case? We want God to promise to go powerfully before us, to make our way in life smooth and level. Instead, God promises that whatever we encounter, he will be with us in the journey. As Christians, we have traditionally looked at this passage from Isaiah and interpreted it to be the promise of the gift of Jesus into our lives and world. While not the original interpretation, as we look at it through our Christian “lenses,” we can see the promise of God through Isaiah revealed in the gift of another child – Jesus.

We want a sense that God is with us in meaningful ways. The promise found in the journey of Jesus in our world offers us that sense. The author of the Gospel of Matthew looked at Isaiah 7 and saw the promise of God in the child named Immanuel to be fulfilled in the child Jesus. It is in Jesus that we, too, will find the fulfillment of the promise of Immanuel. In Jesus, we will find that God is indeed with us, always.

O God, help me to see your promised fulfilled

in the coming of your Holy Child. Amen.

Read Psalm 89:15-29

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.

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.

 

from Rev. William Pollack

First Christian Church, Princeton

How blessed are the people! The Psalmist relates several truths for us to consider this Advent season. How blessed are the people who hear the joyous message of grace and truth. People who walk in the very presence of the Lord. People who understand that it is the Lord who provides light along the path; strength for the journey; protection for those who trust in Him; His agape love for our day and beyond.

I wonder, are we a blessed people? Is our reliance upon the One who breathes Himself into us? Have we placed our trust fully in His hands? Are we resting in His promise to come again? Will I, will we, be ready when He does return? May our Advent experience find us preparing to be blessed.

Heavenly Father, help us to be blessed

as we put our entire lives into Your loving care.

In the name of your Coming One, Jesus. Amen.

 

As you have been blessed by the gift of God in the coming of Christ at Advent, please consider how your giving for the Christmas Offering to support Regional Ministry may bless the whole Church and world.  You may give through your local Disciples congregation, or at www.wvdisciples.org/support.  Congregations of the WV Region’s congregations whose members give online will still receive credit for the gift for Yearbook outreach reporting.

Read Isaiah 9:2-7

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;

those who lived in a land of deep darkness—

on them light has shined.

You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy;

they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest,

as people exult when dividing plunder.

For the yoke of their burden,

and the bar across their shoulders,

the rod of their oppressor,

you have broken as on the day of Midian.

For all the boots of the tramping warriors

and all the garments rolled in blood

shall be burned as fuel for the fire.

For a child has been born for us,

a son given to us;

authority rests upon his shoulders;

and he is named Wonderful Counselor,

Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

His authority shall grow continually,

and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom.

He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness

from this time onward and forevermore.

The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.

 

from Pastor H. Thomas Chafin

First Christian Church, St. Albans

In the Hebrew tradition, a person’s name was designed to set that person apart from any other person. But before the four names Isaiah gave the King who was to come, we first hear the words: “Unto us a Child is born, a Son is given.” A Child destined for suffering, abuse and misunderstanding. A Child whose life was in danger shortly after His birth. It is a story of a God who gave until it hurt….who gave until He had nothing left to give.

It wasn’t easy to be the Savior of a world that didn’t want to be saved, and for the most part, still doesn’t. The world’s response is: “give us the Child, it’s a wonderful story. Give us a beautiful holiday, but don’t give us a Savior – especially, one wanting to save us from our real problem, sin.”

What did God see in Christmas? He had a plan in mind, and it was not a last minute plan which He hurriedly put in place because it looked as though things were going badly. From the beginning, He knew what He was doing. The entire Old Testament rings with excitement of the coming Messiah and God’s ultimate plan for the world.

That Child, that Son would be a Wonderful Counselor, describing not only what He does, but also who He is. God’s Christmas greeting includes: “I’ve come so you might have life and that life will be the fullest life possible for any human being to experience,” not just in the future, but right now!

As we give thanks for your Gift to us, O God,

help us to know the great salvation he brings. Amen.

Read 2 Samuel 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. Kenneth Hardway

Assoc. Regional Minister for Youth & Young Adults and Pastor, First Christian Church, Wheeling

How is your house? Is it warm and safe? Strong and sturdy? There are many around the world this Advent season who cannot answer so surely.

When King David takes a look at his house, he thinks the LORD should have such a splendid structure. But that is not what God desires.   The gospel writers in Matthew and Luke say of Jesus, “the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” And the hope of Revelation says, “Look! God’s dwelling is here among humankind. He will dwell with them, and they will be his peoples.” (Rev. 21:3) The One who has come, and the One who is coming, is not settled in one place but desires to move about among all people!

Until that day comes, perhaps we should be thankful for the houses in which we live. God doesn’t desire a house for God’s self, so what does God desire for your house? To be a place of warm hospitality? To be a place where faithful are raised to know and serve the living God? Perhaps God desires a house for all those this Advent season who cannot speak so surely about their own.

When you come to dwell among your people, O God,

may you come finding that all people have a warm, safe, and holy place to receive you. Amen.

Read Psalm 89:1-8

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.'” Selah

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.

 

from Rev. Andrew Wade

First Christian Church, Logan

Pinky promise. Cross my heart and hope to die. I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth. I take thee for better, for worse. If elected, I promise… These promises, oaths, vows are grounded in the ability and faithfulness of the person who made them. Promises made by liars, the disloyal, the unfaithful don’t hold much water. What inspires hope of fulfillment is the faithfulness of the one who makes the promise.

Psalm 89 speaks of God’s faithfulness to his covenant, his promise that David’s throne would be established forever. We can count on it because God is faithful. There is nothing even in the heavenly realm that measures close to God’s faithfulness. His faithfulness is grounded in his character. 2 Timothy 2:13 states: “If we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself.” Thankfully it is not based on our failing character.

The hope of Advent emerges in the Messianic promise of this Psalm. This covenant, this promise is fulfilled in the incarnation of Jesus. Paul captures this in 2 Cor. 1:20 when he writes, “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ.” Praise God for his faithfulness to his covenant and the promises that brought us salvation.

Great and faithful God,

we who may fail in our obedience

claim your promise and wait in faith. Amen.

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