Sunday: Dec. 31: New Year’s Eve   

Read Ecclesiastes 3:1-15

from Dennis Landon, Douglassville, PA

Humans invented time so that we can understand our experiences between the point where we were not yet present in the world and the point where we will not be present here anymore.  Time gives our lives shape. It makes imagination, hope, and love possible.  Without a sense of time, we couldn’t dream or build.

Time is a mystery. The writer of Ecclesiastes says God has put that sense of past and future into our minds, even though time tells us nothing about what God has done. There is a time for everything, but “that which is, already has been; that which is to be already is; and God seeks out what has gone by.”

Astrophysicists tell us that the world we know—including us—is made up of leftover matter from the moment when the universe came into being.  Humans are, literally, stardust. We take form and we disintegrate; we come, and we go.

So, another year—by our arbitrary reckoning—turns into another, and we live as tiny parts of a huge reality that we can never fully comprehend or understand.  We couldn’t be blamed if we feel small and helpless.

And yet, we are stardust. We are part of an unimaginably immense whole. We live this life, and we die to this life, but we do not go away because we continue—before and after what we call life—to reside in fellowship with our creator.

God, move us to live our brief lives as part of your world—loving and being loved, doing justice, practicing kindness, walking with the humility of those who know that our time here is short, but that our time with you is forever.  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 next 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.

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Saturday: Dec. 30

Read Galatians 4:4-7

from Earl Shaw, Jr., Cameron, WV Big Run Christian Church and Regional Associate Minister of the Word (WV)

As Paul wrote “the fullness of time had come,” he was referring to the time when the world was to receive divine guidance through the birth of a savior.  As God prepared the world for the arrival of His Son, religions were in a tumultuous state. In vs. 4, Paul tells us who came, how He came, and why he came, as he carefully points out that Jesus is both God and man.  He also explains that He came to “redeem them that were under the Law.”   Paul’s use of the word redeem alludes to being set free by paying a price.  Jesus was sent to redeem us, to set us free.  In a nation captive to Jewish laws, Jews were mere children; but under God’s grace, the believer is an adopted child of God. The child, by adoption, is an heir of the Father.  According to former pastor and bible teacher, Warren Weirsbe, it breaks down this way:

The son has a father, while the servant has a master. No servant could ever call his master, Father.

The son obeys out of love, while the servant obeys out of fear.  “The Spirit works in the heart of the believer to quicken and increase his love for God.”

The son is rich, while the servant is poor.  We are both “sons and heirs.” And, since we, too, are adopted, we may begin drawing on the riches of God found in Christ, right now!

The son has a future, while the servant does not.  Some masters were good to their slaves, some were not.  The Father always provides for the Son. (2 Cor. 12:14).

And, lastly, our redemption is incomplete.  Our final adoption papers will be completed upon the return of Christ.

Gracious and redeeming God, raise our hearts to celebrate our relationship with you.  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 will provide daily devotions in your inbox from Dec. 3 through Jan. 6.  We hope you will 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: Dec. 29

Read Hebrews 1:1-12

from Jerry Griffin, Lititz, PA

This is Christmastide!  What does Christmas really mean?

The writer of Hebrews makes the meaning of Christmas very clear.  Even though the angels delivered the astounding proclamation of Christ’s birth, the message is not about the angels.  It is about the true meaning of Christmas.  This passage leaves no doubt about the difference between the power of the angels and the power of the Christ Child.

While reflecting on this passage, the term “guardian angel” flashed into my mind.  Frequently, following a “narrow escape” from harm or even death, a person will exclaim, “My guardian angel was surely with me!”  This statement returns us to the question posed in today’s lesson, “Who is the real power in my life?” To bring this into the first person, I asked, “Who really guides, protects and redeems my life?”

My answer was “Incarnation.” That’s it!  The true meaning of Christmas is “God with us.”  God in the Christ Child comes into our human existence calling us to live a Christ-like life.

Thank you, Lord, for being the true power in my life and living.  Amen.

Thursday: Dec. 28

Read Titus 3:4-7

from Charles Cochran, Charleroi, PA First Christian Church

Today, we find ourselves recovering from the festivities and preparing for what lies ahead. On Christmas Eve, we lifted high the lit candles representing the very light of Christ. On Christmas day itself, we gathered again around the table and gorged on the feast! Now – just three days later – the memories remain fresh. We find ourselves in the world, continuing the Christmas journey.

Paul wrote to his protégé Titus with a lot of good, solid, practical advice on how to carry out Titus’ work with the church in Crete. Over four short chapters (you can read the whole book while sipping a single cup of coffee), Paul lays out how a solid relationship with God changes God’s children in very real, concrete, practical ways. That relationship changes you and me, all for the better.

Yet, tucked away in the midst of all this practical advice, Paul drops a bombshell: that while it’s important that you and I live good lives day by day, living righteously is not what saves us.  The ultimate goal – the divine promise straight from God – remains eternal and divine. It is rooted in nothing less than God’s gift of grace that took shape in the form of that beautiful baby boy, born in such humble circumstances in Bethlehem.

Jesus represented (and represents!) nothing less than the divine kindness and love of God in human form. He embodies the free gift of grace whereby you and I become heirs to the promise of eternal life in the New Jerusalem.

So, the story arc that begins on Christmas morning continues. In time, it triumphantly concludes on Easter Sunday morning – the day when Christ our Savior is risen, and those divine, eternal promises become realized.  You are assured a resurrection like his. And that, as Paul Harvey used to say, is the rest of the story!

Sweet Lord, thank you for your promises rooted in the gift of grace, and for the fact that the Christmas story is only beginning. Amen.

Thursday: Dec. 28

Read Titus 3:4-7

from Charles Cochran, Charleroi, PA First Christian Church

Today, we find ourselves recovering from the festivities and preparing for what lies ahead. On Christmas Eve, we lifted high the lit candles representing the very light of Christ. On Christmas day itself, we gathered again around the table and gorged on the feast! Now – just three days later – the memories remain fresh. We find ourselves in the world, continuing the Christmas journey.

Paul wrote to his protégé Titus with a lot of good, solid, practical advice on how to carry out Titus’ work with the church in Crete. Over four short chapters (you can read the whole book while sipping a single cup of coffee), Paul lays out how a solid relationship with God changes God’s children in very real, concrete, practical ways. That relationship changes you and me, all for the better.

Yet, tucked away in the midst of all this practical advice, Paul drops a bombshell: that while it’s important that you and I live good lives day by day, living righteously is not what saves us.  The ultimate goal – the divine promise straight from God – remains eternal and divine. It is rooted in nothing less than God’s gift of grace that took shape in the form of that beautiful baby boy, born in such humble circumstances in Bethlehem.

Jesus represented (and represents!) nothing less than the divine kindness and love of God in human form. He embodies the free gift of grace whereby you and I become heirs to the promise of eternal life in the New Jerusalem.

So, the story arc that begins on Christmas morning continues. In time, it triumphantly concludes on Easter Sunday morning – the day when Christ our Savior is risen, and those divine, eternal promises become realized.  You are assured a resurrection like his. And that, as Paul Harvey used to say, is the rest of the story!

Sweet Lord, thank you for your promises rooted in the gift of grace, and for the fact that the Christmas story is only beginning. Amen.

Wednesday: Dec. 27

Read Titus 2:11-14

from Jeff Hanlin, Clarksburg/Grafton, WV, Clarksburg-Grafton Parish

This passage begins with a glorious statement referencing the incarnation (God made flesh). “For the grace of God has appeared…”  Grace is an action.  Because Christ came in the form of a man He took our sorrows, sufferings and temptations, became our substitute, and rescued us from judgement.  That is grace!

Because of the incarnation we are invited to experience His grace which brings us into the joy of God’s love and fellowship. There is power in grace!  This grace teaches us to live differently in this world, eager to do good things as godly people because we belong to Him and He gives us life.

Because of the incarnation, because of grace, we also have the promise of the “blessed hope.” The word “blessed” means joyful or happy.  It is interesting that here the word “hope” is not used to convey uncertainty. In this passage the word “hope” means assurance.  In other words, we have the “joyful assurance” that, because of grace, Jesus Christ will come again.

One more thing–this passage tells us that the grace of God brings salvation to all. Even to someone like Paul, the writer of this letter, who was at one time a persecutor of the church. He referred to himself as “Chief of Sinners.: No matter who we are or what is in our past, grace has brought salvation to everyone!

Even though Christmas is past, we still have reason to celebrate…all because of God’s grace!

Dear Lord, as I walk through each day, remind me that I am never far from the reach of your grace.  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 will provide daily devotions in your inbox from Dec. 3 through Jan. 6.  We hope you will 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.

Tuesday: Dec. 26

Read Isaiah 62:6-12

from John Crist, Pittsburgh, PA

Isaiah was a visionary living in tumultuous times.  He consulted with kings and was keenly aware of the social and political dynamics of his time.  Yet, he kept clear focus upon God’s relation with Israel, singing and writing poetry to lift up the most important relationship for his people.

Several years ago, I was invited to address a group of industrial students at the Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC) campus on Neville Island.  Large windows at the back of the classroom offered a view of the I-79 Bridge over the Ohio River.  A discussion arose about working on bridges.  After discussing some of the dynamics of building bridges over rivers, one student said that steel workers working on bridges were at the top of the steel worker pyramid.  Other class members quickly echoed that sentiment.  I asked why?  Their answer was a real eye-opener for me.

They said when a steel worker is walking on a beam high above the roadway below, there are many forces working against him.  First, there is the wind that could be blowing 20 or more miles an hour.  Then, there are the clouds above drifting in another direction.  Down below is the river flowing in another direction.  And if the roadway below is open to traffic, you have traffic flowing in yet another direction.  All of these forces make building bridges extremely dangerous.  A steel worker momentarily losing focus with any step he takes on a beam could easily fall off that beam.

We are living in turbulent times today.  Many forces are seeking to blow us off course.  We need focus regarding what is truly important in our lives.  Our Savior’s birth reminds us of the hope Isaiah placed in God’s faithfulness to his people.

Raise our eyes to new hope, O God, in the best and the worst of times.  Amen.