Monthly Archives: December 2011


God is With Us – Advent Devotionals Week 4

Week 4 Sunday December 18 – Saturday December 24

2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16

In this passage, a conversation between God and David ensues. David is decided on building YHWH a temple, a place where God can dwell and the people can worship. YHWH is quick to turn this proposal on its head, though. YHWH says, it is I who will build for you a house, a long lineage of sons and daughters who will follow in my teachings. This passage is important for Advent in its display of God’s commitment to God’s people. There are a number of covenants made throughout the Hebrew Bible; covenants with Noah, Abraham, Moses, and David. In the Christian tradition, we understand Jesus as being another covenant of God with God’s people, a revealing of God’s grace and redemption in our lives and our world. In this season of Advent, how does this passage inform your understanding of God’s promise to our world? If we follow the lineage all the way back to the time of Noah, what does this say about the length of God’s commitment to our world?

Luke 1:47-55

This passage is one of the most famous in the New Testament. Often referred to as the Magnificat, this song of Mary is a lesson in the nature of God and God’s work in our world. An angel visits Mary and tells her that she will bear the Son of God and he will rule over the house of David. She rushes off to visit Elizabeth her cousin, who was pregnant with John the Baptist. Mary responds by giving praise to God for selecting her as the mother of Jesus. In the passage, Mary speaks of the nature of God, and God’s favor placed on those that fear God, those that humble themselves in front of God, those who are not proud, the hungry, and the people of Israel. Mary is not just thanking God, but reminding the reader of God’s call for justice in the world, that it is not the rich and the proud who will receive blessings, but those who follow in the line of God. When we think about the birth of Jesus, to a woman with so little power, how does this transform your view of God’s presence in the world? In what new ways do you see God’s work when God is often portrayed as a mighty ruler?

Psalm 89:1-4,19-26

We revisit the story of God’s covenant with David in the psalm for this week. The psalmist is focused on making it known to the world that God is faithful and recalls David’s story as evidence. Often times, this psalm is used in Christian teaching as a reference to the coming of Jesus. If we expand this to a wider historical view, we can see that this psalm is making speaking of the long-standing covenant of God with God’s people, stretching from David through Jesus to today. In what ways do we make it known to the world that God is faithful to us? How do we sing of God’s great love in this season of Advent?

Romans 16:25-27

In the conclusion of his letter to the church in Rome, Paul gives blessings to God for God’s faithfulness and steadfast love. The church in Rome during this time was in major conflict, mainly about the relationships between Jews and Gentiles and their respective experiences with the grace of God. Paul is reassuring the people in his letter, telling them that it is God who establishes the gospel in all our hearts, and that the faith of those who follow Christ is available to all. In this season of waiting, how are you prepared to allow God to work in grace and love in your life? Often times, we may assume that our relationship with God is a one-way street, with us always seeking God. How is this counter-productive? How can we instead wait for God to move in our lives and our world?

 

 

 

 

Advent Devotions Week 3 “Hope Restored”

Week 3 Sunday December 11 – Saturday December 17

Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11

This passage from Isaiah is a conversation of three speeches, from a priest, a government official, and God. Each of the speeches addresses the return of God to Israel and the role each plays in this return. The priest will preach good news to the poor, the Persian government will rebuild and work the fields, and God will reward the people and renew the covenant. This passage highlights the work that is involved in the coming of God’s reign. It is not something we simply wait for but a task before us. We must work with others, those of our own faith and nation and those of others, to realize God’s dream. In the last year, how have you worked with others for love and justice? In what ways to you witness people of different faiths and cultures working together in your city, country, and around the world?

 

Psalm 126

This psalm uses the power of memory to sends its message of hope and renewal to the people. It speaks of a time when Israel rich and full, with laughter, joy, and dreams. The psalmist asks for God to return Israel to this time; to bring back the fortune and joy. Use this time of Advent to remember a specific time of joy and love in your life. How was God present in all of this? Where did you see God working in your life at this time? Was God’s work obvious? Or subtle?

1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

Paul ends his letter to the church in Thessalonica with some final instructions for living a life in the imitation of Christ. Rejoice, give thanks, and pray are easily understood as guidelines for new Christians. But Paul also teaches the people to keep a sharp mind. He tells them to test all the teachings and prophecies they hear and to always be open to the life of the Spirit. This is not an easy task today, in a world where messages are coming at us from all directions. How do we “hold fast to what is good” when so many people say their message is the truth? In this time of Advent, let us focus on keeping a discerning mind, one that can identify the teachings of truth, love, and justice in our world and the courage to speak out against those messages that do not.

John 1:6-8, 19-28

Like Mark’s Gospel, John begins with the story of John the Baptist and his role in preparing the way for Jesus. John the character is shrouded in mystery in this passage. He is not the Messiah. He is not Elijah, who Malachi foretold would come in preparation for the Day of the Lord, nor the Prophet foretold in Deuteronomy. Yet John is important enough to be questioned by the Jewish leaders about his baptizing. In answering their questions, John remains ambiguous, speaking not of himself, but of “the one who comes after me.” What message was the author of John trying to send with all these vague answers from John the Baptist? Many times the answers we seek about faith and God are just as ambiguous. In what ways do you work in discerning God’s message? What do you do when the answers aren’t so clear?

Advent Devotions Week 2

Week 2 Sunday December 4 – Saturday December 10

Isaiah 40:1-11

This passage from Isaiah marks a break in the message of the book, where the focus is less on the iniquities of Israel and the subsequent punishment and more on the comfort that God brings to the people. In this passage God speaks to the people, telling them their “penalty is paid” and redemption is near. For a number of years, while the Israelites lived in exile after their Temple was destroyed, many believed God had left them and fled to the wilderness. This passages calls for a return of God to land of Israel as their redemption is near. In this time, God will make all things new and right. In this time of Advent, how do we see God absent in our world? In what ways is God returning? How can we work to “prepare the way” of God back into our lives and our world?

 

Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13

The theme of assurance is a popular and important one for the season of Advent. Though we wait for God to arrive in our world, our waiting is not in vain. We do this with the assurance that salvation is coming. In this psalm Israel is assured shalom (peace) and hesed (steadfast love and loyalty) for God’s people when they trust and fear God. A Christian view of this psalm would be to read the promise of God’s peace and love in the incarnation of Jesus Christ. In what ways does the advent of the Christ child speak to your hope for peace and love on earth? What is it about the Christmas story that sends this hope to the world?

 

 

2 Peter 3:8-15a

The second epistle of Peter ends with another reference to the coming reign of God, something for which the early Christians must keep a look out. Again, it instructs the people to follow in the footsteps of Christ, so that when the day comes, their hearts will be ready. By the time of 2 Peter’s writing sometime in the early second century, the early Christians had lived a number of generations since the death of Jesus and we still waiting his return. The author provides some comfort for the people, possibly very frustrated with the delay, that gives the reader insight into the nature of God. As we wait for Christmas, what does it mean for our world if, for God, “a day is like a thousand years?” What does God’s message of hope and justice mean if God’s sense of time is so expansive and transcendent? How do we live in light of this?

 

 

Mark 1:1-8

John the Baptist plays a central role in the early portion of Mark’s Gospel. John is portrayed as a prophet, quoting Isaiah and living an eccentric lifestyle with his clothes and diet. In his role as prophet, he calls the people to “prepare the way” for Jesus who will bring God back out of the wilderness and baptize with the Holy Spirit. With such an introduction to Mark’s Gospel, the author is letting the reader know that things are about to change! Exciting things are coming as the reign of God takes over the land! Last week we talked about God working in quiet, uneventful ways. What are some larger, more exciting ways that God is moving in your life? How do you see God’s reign making noise around the world? What major shifts must we see to realize God’s reign?