January 2018


Sunday: Baptism of Jesus

Read John 1:43-51

from Shawn Van Dyke, Schuylkill Haven, PA First United Church of Christ

“Follow me.”  Jesus’ words to Philip echo in the ears of every Christian.  Jesus invites Philip to make a life-changing decision: walk in my footsteps, accept me as your teacher, and I will show you “heaven opened.”  At our baptism, we are invited to become disciples of Christ, to follow the One who can show us the fullness of life in this world and the next.  Each day we are invited to renew our commitment to Jesus who bridges heaven and earth.

Jesus’ interchange with Nathanael provides all the reason we need to follow: Jesus knows us before we know ourselves.  Jesus sees us as we are – opinionated, full of doubt, too honest – and calls us to follow anyway.  When we believe that Jesus is the Son of God and Savior of the world, our eyes are opened to see what we have not seen before:  God with us.  We experience the birth of Jesus on a daily basis in Emmanuel, the One who teaches us to see God.

Holy God, as You sent Jesus to find Philip and Nathanael, send him to find us today and every day to open heaven to us.  Amen.

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Prayerscapes for Advent is published by the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in West Virginia and Pennsylvania.  WV and PA Disciples ministers have given themselves to this wonderful project, which ends for this season today.  Lenten Prayerscapes will be coming soon, so please share the word with others who would appreciate receiving them, and direct your friends to https://prayerscapes.wordpress.com.  They also will be published daily on our Facebook pages.

All of this is made possible because of your faithful support of Disciples Mission Fund, and the Christmas Offering for Regional Ministries.  Please consider how your gifts will help us continue our work, and encourage others toward generosity in this vital mission.

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Saturday: Epiphany 

Read Matthew 2:1-12

from Janet Hellner-Burris, Pittsburgh, PA Christian Church of Wilkinsburg

The parties are over.  Many of us are trying to shed the extra pounds of the holidays.  New Year’s Day resolutions have been made – and some broken.  Epiphany comes as a relief that the strain and stress of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s is over. Life can go back to normal, but should it?

The wise men went home another way not only to avoid encountering King Herod, whom they have been warned in a dream plans to kill the baby Jesus.  They go home another way because they encountered Jesus. They encountered the Holy One in our midst.  They gazed into the face of the Prince of Peace.  They held the hand of Emmanuel.  They witnessed the Word made flesh.  They were filled with the true gifts of Christmas: hope, peace, joy, love and eternal life. Because of this holy encounter, they fall down in worship and willingly offer the true King of the world the gold of the wealth of their time and money, the frankincense of their devotion to God in prayer and worship, and the myrrh of sacrifice – the sacrifice of ego, fear, bitterness, addiction, sin, self-centeredness, and all that must be laid down to follow Jesus.  They go home another way.  Changed forever.

How has this Christmas changed me?  What offerings to Jesus do I need to give today so that I can walk into this new year another way?

Lord Jesus Christ, help me to live this new year by another way.  Your Way. Teach me the wisdom of the Wise Men’s offerings. Show me what I need to lay down to follow you. O come, O come Emmanuel.  Amen.

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Prayerscapes for Advent is published by the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in West Virginia and Pennsylvania.  WV and PA Disciples ministers have given themselves to this wonderful project, which ends for this season tomorrow.  Lenten Prayerscapes will be coming soon, so please share the word with others who would appreciate receiving them, and direct your friends to https://prayerscapes.wordpress.com.  They also will be published daily on our Facebook pages.

All of this is made possible because of your faithful support of Disciples Mission Fund, and the Christmas Offering for Regional Ministries.  Please consider how your gifts will help us continue our work, and encourage others toward generosity in this vital mission.

Friday: Jan. 5  Read Ephesians 3:1-12

from Kevin Bowers, Weirton, WV First Christian Church

Like Paul have you experienced the “mystery of Christ?”  This is not a scary mystery; it is more like the mystery of grace and love (two words – but are they really one?).  We really don’t understand it.   We really can’t explain it.   We just feel it and give thanks:

The mystery of love sent to us as a baby born in a stable.

The mystery of the child who shepherds and wise men visited.

Yes, the mystery of the child who was raised by Mary and Joseph and stayed in the temple past his parents going home.

The mystery of the man who choose people I would have never have chosen to accompany him on his ministry.

The man, who healed, fed, taught, befriended and encouraged.

The man who went to the cross and lives again.

Perhaps the greatest mystery is that 2,000 years later we still haven’t gotten much further in solving the mystery.  How do we really define grace, define love, a gift that has been given to all?  But God’s love made visible in Jesus is so much greater than any of us will ever be able to comprehend. God is greater than our minds and our imaginations.

This season, let your mind get lost in the mystery.  You will be blessed.

O God, our finite minds may not grasp the mystery, but we live in the awe and wonder that you should love us so. Thank you, gracious Lord, for life made new.  Amen.

Thursday: Jan. 4  

Read Psalm 8

from X. Rae Browning, Cumberland, MD First Christian Church

I love to read. Sometimes I get so involved in reading that I feel I am right there in the middle of it. Well, I’ve been reading this book entitled, “Great People of the Bible and How They Lived,” a Readers Digest book that was given to the Cumberland First Christian Church. It begins stating that the story of how life began as we know it was passed down by word of mouth. And as time came communication developed into writings. Then, being more interested, people wanted proof of the past and truth in the writings. So, genealogy evolved. God is an awesome God all the time. Through His Word, the Bible, God fills us with life as it was and how it is to be today. From the very beginning of time, in the garden of Eden, there has been inquisitiveness and that has created consequences for actions, as well as help for human growth in truth.

As I keep reading, I find that life today seems to be as it has always been. Through all ages, God has been and is in control. I never thought of the time Jesus was born as anything but a beautiful time, and I still do. But to think that Jesus and his family had to live through times of hard work, oppression, wars, and painful times just doesn’t seem to fit the Christmas spirit as we want it to be. But knowing, then and now, that God is in it with us, provides life for all who believe.

Our God is an awesome God! As in the song by Sandi Patti, “let us magnify the Lord, let us praise His Name.”

How majestic is Your Name, O Lord! Amen

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Prayerscapes for Advent is published by the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in West Virginia and Pennsylvania.  WV and PA Disciples ministers have given themselves to this wonderful project, which ends for this season on Sunday.  Lenten Prayerscapes will be coming soon, so please share the word with others who would appreciate receiving them, and direct your friends to https://prayerscapes.wordpress.com.  They also will be published daily on our Facebook pages.

All of this is made possible because of your faithful support of Disciples Mission Fund, and the Christmas Offering for Regional Ministries.  Please consider how your gifts will help us continue our work, and encourage others toward generosity in this vital mission.

Wednesday: Jan. 3

Read Revelation 21:1-6a

from Charles Consagra, Scranton, PA First Christian Church

Most of us are familiar with the story of John Newton, author of the hymn “Amazing Grace”.  Newton was a former captain of a slave ship, but later became an inspirational pastor of a London congregation. He came to the realization that his former sinfulness was an act of neglecting the gracious love of God.  It was through Newton’s influence and example that the English politician, William Wilberforce, worked for over twenty years to abolish slave trading and slavery itself in the West Indies thirty years before the Emancipation Proclamation.

Most of us struggle to conform our behavior to our beliefs. As we recognize the gracious gift of God made flesh, we must work to live not for our ambitions, but for God. Today we are called to respond to God made flesh by opposing the slaveries of self-promotion, prejudice, and materialism. We must pray that we overcome the minimalism in our hearts that holds back our talents and abilities.

As a prayerful and active people, we believe that God became man so that we might be saved, redeemed, and made whole.  Let us always live in that Amazing Grace.

Set us free, O Lord, from all that would hold us back from living freely and fully in you.  Amen.

Tuesday: Jan. 2  

Read Matthew 25:31-46

from Douglas McDaniel, Bluefield, WV First Christian Church

I stepped into a maximum-security prison for the very first time in 2008. It was while I was delivering a message on the “Purpose – Promise – Plan of God” that I came face-to-face for the very first time with a reality that somehow had always escaped me until that time. The reality happened to be twofold: 1) I was living in my own prison that I desperately needed to be delivered from and 2) I too was “one of the least of these” that Matthew spoke of. It was when Brother Dan (a lifer) told me that the he would begin to pray for me because of all the obstacles that were ahead of me on the outside.

I must admit, I wasn’t expecting to be encouraged by an inmate like I was that night, but iron really does sharpen iron! My friend Dan will likely never step foot outside the prison walls, and he may be known as a D.O.C. number the remainder of his natural life, but understand this; that night Brother Dan introduced me to freedom in the most unlikely place of all – a prison. What a mighty God we serve! I credit the Lord for His sovereignty and His purpose, promise and plan for my life. Little did I know that I, too, was “one of the least of these.”

To the only wise God our Savior, be glory and majesty,

dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen

Monday: New Year’s Day, 2018    

Read Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13

from Mark Mayer, Wheeling, WV Island Christian Church

The party’s over…the guests have all gone…and a new year is upon us.  If you are like me, the new year always brings many questions…about family…health…wealth…well-being…

But, this year…instead of asking about the everyday…maybe, we should be inquiring a little deeper.  Maybe, we should be asking…where does mercy and truth…love and faithfulness…righteousness and peace embrace?  Where do we…as people of faith…find balance?  Where can we find our sense of purpose?  The only answer is at the cross of Jesus Christ…where our faithfulness is rewarded with the promise of eternal life.

God’s glory is stretched out before us…like a field of new fallen snow…untouched…pure…fresh.  In the silence of that perfect landscape…God calls to us…summoning us to listen…to hear His word…to follow His lead through the snow and cold of winter…to keep the faith…that the spring…like that glorious promise…soon, will come.

It’s a new day…a new year…full of new possibilities.  Only God knows our future…but, maybe…just, maybe…we can use this opportunity to get it right.  Maybe, we can become the people who God intended us to be…loving…tolerant…forgiving…thoughtful…peaceful…faithful people.

It’s a new day…a new year…and with grace from above…all things are possible.  Believe…have faith…be at peace…hold fast to the promise of a new life.

O God of our todays and our tomorrows, make us more aware of the potential laid before us in this new day and new year, all because of your grace.  Amen.