Advent – Year A


Thursday, Jan. 5         Read Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14

from David Chafin, Deputy Regional Minister and Vice President, and Pastor of United Christian Church, California, PA:

It is amazing how desperately the people of God, once given a royal ruler, looked to see that king exalted above the other kings of earth. They would have their nation raised up as a beacon for the rest of the world to honor, even as God had promised that they would have such honors by the very nature of God being their Sovereign and Lord.  Yet the psalmist is wise to point out, for Israel and for us, that the nature of the one who rules with justice, compassion, and mercy for the most vulnerable of the land – and not with favor for the most powerful or wealthy – will be the one who brings honor.  That ruler who models himself or herself after the Sovereign Lord is the one worth watching, worth lifting up, worth honoring.  So it is with the nation.  So might it be, in these days of great change, for even us…God’s people in a strange time, in a strange land, and looking into an unknown future.  May we seek the best, lead with our best, offer our best to God and to the nations.

Be our one true Lord, O God.  Guide us, and all those around us, to follow the example of your leadership – which gently leads, which lovingly heals, which upholds the weak, which saves the suffering.  Make us your people, and our world your world. Amen.

We express our gratitude to the ministers of the regions who have offered their devotional thoughts and prayers through this project, which is sustained by your gifts to the Christmas Offering for Regional Ministry.  To contribute to the offering, please visit the following pages:  Supporting the PA Region   or    Supporting the WV Region  Gifts received by Jan. 6 will be credited to your congregation for 2016 in Yearbook Reporting.

Prayerscapes is published by the Christian Church in West Virginia and the Christian Church in Pennsylvania for the not-for-profit distribution of their members and friends in the ecumenical church.  ©2016. All Rights Reserved.

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Tuesday, Jan. 3           Read Psalm 8

from W. Darwin Collins, Christian Church Foundation, and Pastor Emeritus, Central Christian Church, Uniontown, PA:

How was 2016 for you? And what is your outlook for the New Year ahead? It’s largely a matter of perspective.  If the old year brought you an unexpected loss or a surprising disappointment, you begin this year of 2017 with a perspective directed toward personal hurts and pain. Conversely, if your old year brought a joyous surprise or a hopeful promise of personal improvement, your eyes might be directed toward opportunities and hope. I believe for most of us, it is a combination of those two opposite extremes, a mixture of good and bad, so our perspective might be directed with some skepticism mixed with hope.

 

I would offer to us, seeking to be faithful believers, another perspective: the psalmist remedy at the beginning a new day or year is to look skyward. For if we turn our perspective toward the handiwork of God and God’s constant blessings, we discover that highest on the list of God’s achievements is us! In our disappointments and joys one assurance is constant:  God has blessed us above all, and holds us the most cherished!

 

“O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” Amen.

 

Monday, Jan. 2            Read Ephesians 1:3-14

from Charles Consagra, First Christian Church, Scranton, PA:

Over the past year, I have had to console and pray with family members whose father, mother, son, or daughter is suffering from pancreatic, lung, or brain cancer.  These conditions have a poor survival rate and take a severe physical toll, both in the disease process and in the treatment regimes.  To these individuals I have often said, “Do not waste your illness.”

 

St. Paul, in writing to the Ephesian community from a Roman jail, and knowing full well that he would ultimately face his own gruesome death, never wasted time feeling that he had been abandoned by God.  Rather, he used his condition to celebrate the great blessing that we belong to Christ, and no matter what pain or hardship we suffer, we are at all times part of a Divine plan.

 

Help me to see your purpose for me in the midst of my hardships, not as a curse from you, but as the opportunity for me to grow closer to you, O God. Amen.

 

1st Sunday of Christmas, New Year’s Day, 2017         

Read Matthew 25:31-46

from Jerry Griffin, Lititz, PA:

In this text, the Gospel writer focuses on the art of being non-judgmental.  He equates Jesus with a shepherd who divides his flock based on standards and values.

 

By human nature, our temptation is to focus on the stereotypical differences regarding sheep and goats.  The advantage goes to the sheep who are deemed to be cuddly, soft and social.  The opposite is true for goats.  They are perceived as frisky scavengers who eat anything within reach, romp, climb and butt.

 

On the other hand, Matthew offers a totally different standard.  He proclaims that the act of division occurs with a focus on the commitment, trust, faith and loyalty of the followers or “missioners” in the name of the Son of Man.

 

Today, we begin a new year which is often perceived as a time for personal transformation.  Our mission is to accept our inheritance in the “kingdom prepared for us.” [verse 34] The manner with which we gain this endowment is to be openly accepting, loving and indiscriminate as we carry out our mission of service.  Consequently, we have successfully served our Lord through serving “the least of these brothers [and sisters] of mine.”  [verse 40]

 

Guide me, Good Shepherd, as I commit myself to serve others without being judgmental.  Amen

We express our gratitude to the ministers of the regions who have offered their devotional thoughts and prayers through this project, which is sustained by your gifts to the Christmas Offering for Regional Ministry.  To contribute to the offering, please visit the following pages:  Supporting the PA Region   or    Supporting the WV Region  Gifts received by Jan. 6 will be credited to your congregation for 2016 in Yearbook Reporting.

Prayerscapes is published by the Christian Church in West Virginia and the Christian Church in Pennsylvania for the not-for-profit distribution of their members and friends in the ecumenical church.  ©2016. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, New Year’s Eve      Read Ecclesiastes 3:1-13

from Kevin Arensman, Sayre Christian Church, Sayre, PA:

These are wonderful words to ponder on New Year’s Eve, especially the later words, “to be happy and to do good…(to) eat and drink, and find satisfaction…this is the gift of God.”  You might be planning a little of that tonight.  Hopefully, you are planning “to be happy and to do good.”

 

Good news!   God is mighty and mysterious, and God has a plan: Birth and death, weeping and laughing, etc.   Nothing that happens falls outside of God’s divine plan to reconcile all of creation to God’s self.  But, we still have choices.  Will we join God in the fulfillment of that plan or drag our feet along the way?

 

You are invited to join God in reconciling all that you can: relationships, goals, stewardship, communities, churches.  You are also invited to enjoy life; good times and bad; to make the best of every moment, to “eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all (your) toil.”  Of course, the best way to enjoy life is to love, serve, seek justice and give mercy; to do it with others, and with God.  I hope you will enjoy New Year’s Eve.  Even more, I hope you will find joy in God, in the New Year!

 

Mighty and Blessed Creator, we thank you for your mighty purposes.  We thank you for the opportunity to join you in your purposes.  Lead the way!  Amen.

 

Thursday, Dec. 29       Read Hebrews 1:1-12

from Doug McDaniel, First Christian Church, Bluefield, WV:

In this westernized culture I have bought into and perpetuate, the driving idea is that bigger is better. I go for the biggie fry and the ultimate colossal extra ginormous burger with extra crispy bacon, and extra secret sauce, and extra jalapenos. It doesn’t matter to me that it is 10,000 calories, and that eating it will leave me with a week’s worth of heartburn and acid reflux. It’s bigger and it’s better, and I had a dollar off coupon for goodness sake, and I’ve got to have it! But, is bigger really better?

 

Our Hebrews passage speaks to the enormity and the sheer vastness and not to mention the awesomeness of our Savior, and it leaves me challenged during the Advent Season. In my own craze for bigger and better, have I, in turn, minimized the One that sits at His appointed position? Jesus is from eternity to eternity; and I have to ask myself, what could I possibly know about bigger and better? Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom.

 

Open my eyes, Father, that I may see the Son. Amen.

Wednesday, Dec. 28    Read Galatians 4:4-7

from John Crist, Pittsburgh, PA:

The Lord’s Prayer begins with the address: “Our Father.”  For those of us raised in Christian families, we learn of this introduction at an early age.  Addressing God as Father comes to us through the teachings of Jesus.  To those around Jesus who first heard of this introduction, it was shocking.  It implies an intimacy between the one praying and God.

 

The Apostle Paul elaborates on the importance of this introduction.  To those in the Galatian churches raised on the premise that one was initially treated as a slave and not fully a family member until their father, “at the appointed time,” deemed them mature enough to be accepted as a son, this was shocking indeed.  Rather, says Paul, through Christ we are brought into the family of God by our faith.  To be “a child of God” was also to be “an heir.”  In addition, as heirs, we then share with Christ in his glory.

 

This spiritual move from slave to heir was difficult for the Galatians to grasp.  How could this be?  They never heard of such a thing.  I wonder if the radical nature of this claim is the opposite of our situation: Once experiencing loving and nurturing families, and therefore accepted as heirs, do we take these words, “Our Father,” for granted?

 

Help me to know you, O God, as the one who has given yourself so that I might be known as your child and heir, through Jesus Christ.  Amen.

We express our gratitude to the ministers of the regions who have offered their devotional thoughts and prayers through this project, which is sustained by your gifts to the Christmas Offering for Regional Ministry.  To contribute to the offering, please visit the following pages:  Supporting the PA Region   or    Supporting the WV Region  Gifts received by Jan. 6 will be credited to your congregation for 2016 in Yearbook Reporting.

Prayerscapes is published by the Christian Church in West Virginia and the Christian Church in Pennsylvania for the not-for-profit distribution of their members and friends in the ecumenical church.  ©2016. All Rights Reserved.

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