Follow along each day as we virtually go through the Trinity United Methodist Church members writings of Advent.
We invite you to join us on Sundays in December at Trinity United Methodist Church in Paducah, Kentucky as we light the Advent candles in each service and join together to worship.
Sunday, December 2, 2018
I Thessalonians 3:9-13
“For what thanksgiving can we return to God for you, for all the joy that we feel for your sake before our God…”. The Christmas season is upon on us and what should be filling our hearts with joy is those we hold near and dear, and who have gifted us with precious memories through the years. Only, somehow Christmas can become a checklist of who we still need gifts for, and what on earth can we buy. It’s not always joy, it’s obligation that we focus on at this point in the year. How on earth did Christmas change from the celebration of a gift that transformed lives, hopes, and our eternity security to become a long list of parties, presents, and programs to check off our list?
Take a moment today, at the very start of Advent, to be grateful for all the joy that those people on your Christmas list have given you through the years. Yet, the season we are in often leads us to dwell on all the negatives. But there are many positives too, such as the funny things you shared. And sweet memories that mean little to anyone else but make you feel loved, valued, important. Take a moment right now and move beyond all the noise, irritations, schedule demands, and pressures of the day to day and remember, give thanks to God for all of the many blessings they are to us.
Now think about that checklist. Does it feel any different when you look over your list with love instead of obligation? What if today begins a season where you look for joy in every day, where you find one thing to remember with gratitude, and where you offer a gift that is more from the heart? Try it and I believe your holiday season will be one of real joy and celebration.
This year for Christmas I want to give everyone a gift that I think will better represent the appreciation I have for each, but that’s not possible. However, I certainly can give thanks to God for each one, and remember with joy all of the precious memories we share.
Perhaps that is what John Wesley was talking about when he described his heart as strangely warmed. It certainly warms mine!
Pastor Sue Engle
Trinity UMC, Paducah KY
Monday, December 3
“Fill us each morning with your constant love, so that we may sing and be glad all our life”
During Sunday morning worship, don’t you find it easy to be filled with God’s love, to sing, and be glad? But when our weekend ends and Monday morning comes with all its woes–work responsibilities, the stress of the coming week’s activities and life’s unexpected problems–where has that gladness and the feeling of God’s constant love gone? It can seem pretty elusive. We may start our day in prayer and have a happy heart and positive attitude. After we get to work or we deal with a difficult person or situation our happy heart and positive attitude have disappeared and been replaced with bitterness and complaining.
Moses was commanded by God to obtain from the Israelites twelve walking sticks; one for Aaron and one for the other leaders from each tribe. The Lord told Moses to take the sticks to the “Tent Of My Presence” and put them in front of the Covenant Box where the stick of each man would sprout. In that way God would put an end to the constant complaining of the Israelites against Moses. This was done and Aaron’s stick not only sprouted, budded, and blossomed, but produced ripe almonds! After all of the sticks were returned to the other leaders, Aaron’s was kept in place in front of the Covenant Box as a warning to the rebellious Israelites that they would die unless their complaining ceased.
Now, we don’t have anything today quite as dramatic as the threat of physical death to stop our complaining. But indulging in it chronically can result in negativity that can cause our health to suffer and even our spiritual life to wither. Life is hard and wounds will come. That is inevitable, and no one can be the “Life Of The Party” all of the time, but we can begin our day with counting our many blessings. When the temptation arises throughout our day to complain or indulge in negativity, we can be reminded of those blessings, and chief among them the blessing of our salvation through Jesus Christ. If we project the gladness in our heart that comes from the knowledge of the constant love of our Lord, we never know whose path we might cross and who might be affected by it.
As this Advent season dawns, spend time each morning praying and reflecting on God’s promises to us. No, not a promise that all of our steps in this life will be easy ones, but the promise of a new Heaven and a new Earth where righteousness will be at home, and that until that time his constant love will sustain us and strengthen us to face our challenges. What could give us more gladness than that? Diane Jones
Tuesday, December 4
I wake up in the morning asking for help through the day to be kind, compassionate, and forgiving. Many times, I ask for the same things at night. I am far from perfect and know I must ask forgiveness. I want to be ready for Christ’s second coming. I always try to listen when Jesus lays something on my heart.
There is always a reason something is put on your heart. You pray about it and sometimes it takes a while to see the outcome. I feel sometimes these things are put on my heart to see if I am listening and to see how I react.
I had one such incident when my daughter was in elementary school. When she was in the fourth grade there was a new girl we did not know in her class. She was a loner and did not seem very happy. I could feel God urging me to keep trying to reach out to her. It was a slow process and not an easy one. Finally, she started coming around and little by little her story emerged.
She lived with her Grandmother. Her Mother lived in another state and did not have much contact with her. She began to talk with me; I met her Grandmother and we became friends – mission accomplished. Now, fast forward 3 years. The girls were in seventh grade and still friends. The girl was beginning to have a relationship with her Mother who still lived in another state. It was fall and the nights were cold. I got up one morning, turned on the coffee pot and opened the front door to get the newspaper. There was someone sitting on my front porch. It startled me! I kept looking and realized it was this young girl who God had laid on my heart.
I asked her how long she had been out there. She said she had left her Grandmother’s house after they had a fight and walked to my house sometime after 10:30 pm. I brought her into the house. I called her Grandmother who was very glad to hear from her, and then I fixed her some breakfast. Afterward I took my daughter and her to school.
I am so glad I listened to God. I pray things would have worked out anyway, but I was especially happy that she felt comfortable coming to my house. We talked things out and she knew I was there for her, but I told her she could not scare her Grandmother like that ever again. Thank you, God, for keeping her safe and thank you for keeping that need on my heart. Amen!
Wednesday, December 5
“As the crowds increased, Jesus said, “This is a wicked generation. It asks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.”
At some point in your life, you have probably experienced the exasperation of explaining what seems to be a simple concept over and over. Perhaps it was to your child, or maybe to a coworker who just does not seem to get it. Jesus was becoming frustrated with his children. They were demanding a sign. What more could he show them than himself?
Some of us go to church, and want to believe, but are at times skeptical. Jesus’ followers were often in this position. So he patiently explained to them, referencing scripture already written and told for generations. He was assuaging their desire for proof. Continuing to seek signs in our daily lives is a natural human trait. Do you pray and doubt at the same time, asking for miracles to pop up on your Facebook page? Right now, you might be thinking, “Ah, but I get it – I see the sign! Jesus is Lord.” But wait – there is more to Jesus’ words.
Have you considered the backstory to the sign of Jonah? What would you say if your mother told you to invite the neighborhood bully to your birthday party? The Ninevites were not the Israelites’ friends. Yet, God told Jonah to do just that – invite them to the party. After a few days in the belly of a whale, Jonah agreed, and the result was that the Ninevites accepted God’s grace.
Jonah was upset. He was afraid that if this powerful force was backed by God, there would be no protection left for his own people. He did not want to share. Isn’t God’s grace limitless?
In this modern time, we are not separate from the Israelites – we are also the chosen ones, the popular kids, carrying the invitation of God’s grace. Do you see “us” and “them”? What can you do to share God’s grace? Jesus made it clear he was the Son of Man, the Living Word. He made it clear that his message was for all. How can we share it? How can we invite everyone to the party?
Thursday, December 6
When I was young. Bill was four years older than I and lived three houses up the street. Today, Bill would be labeled a bully; back then he was just a kid going through a “Phase.”
I spent a lot of time trying to impress Bill, to make him like me. However, his mercurial personality, super-inflated ego, and self-esteem lower than a whale’s belly made it virtually impossible for me to connect with him. It didn’t take long before I learned to avoid him, rather than wasting my time and energy encouraging a tangled relationship.
Looking back, in 20:20 hindsight, I see how hindsight is always perfect, and, I’ve learned a lot about making an impact on people. One way to break through a person’s protective walls is to help them get in touch with their relationship with God.
When was the last time you discussed God with a stranger. It isn’t easy, is it? I mean, that little devil that sits on your shoulder and second guesses everything you do, or even think about doing, goes nuts! “Are you crazy?” will likely be the most mild comment you will hear from him all day.
OK, here’s your homework for today. When you go into a C-store for a diet coke, instead of the old cliché, “How are you doing today?”, try asking “How has God blessed you today?” Then, watch as their “little devil” goes nuts! That should lead to any number of interesting conversations.
All Mighty Lord, co-author of all our stories, be with us as we seek the Divine truths in life. Be with us as we traverse this Advent season, and help us discern your will for us. In Jesus name we pray, Amen
Friday, December 7
Philippians 1:21 “For to me, to live is Christ”.
This may seem like an odd verse to choose for the Advent season. But, every Christian should aim at being able to truthfully say, “For me, to live is Christ”. We should exalt Christ through everything we do, everything we say, everything we watch and everything we read.
While looking at this passage of Scripture, I found myself revisiting what my answer would be to the question, “Am I living in Christ?” First of all, if I am not denying myself in order to serve Christ, then I am not “living in Christ.”
During this season, we concentrate on the arrival of the Savior as a baby, a newborn wrapped in swaddling clothes, adored by shepherds, worshiped by wise men and serenaded by angels. It is so easy to lose sight of the reason for the season, but we must never lose sight of why that precious baby came. The Baby Jesus came to be the living Christ.
Second, I am venturing into retirement and I am prayerfully seeking a word from God to see how He can use me in this new season. I am praying that my time will be well spent in His Word and in His service.
I hope to “live Christ” in union with Him, proclaim Him as my all in all, honor Him in all I do and die to self to serve Him.
Yes, I am so thankful that we have this time to prepare our hearts for the blessed Baby Jesus. I pray it will also be a time to find a way to serve our Savior as we “live Christ”.
Saturday, December 8
Malachi 4:1-6, Luke 9:1-6
Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and that day that is coming will set them on fire, says the Lord Almighty. Not a root or a branch will be left to them. But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings.
When Jesus had called the twelve together, he gave them the power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. He told them: Take nothing for the journey—no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra tunic. Whatever house you enter stay there until you leave that town. If people do not welcome you, shake the dust off your feet as you leave their town, as a testimony against them. So they set out and went from village to village, preaching the gospel and healing people everywhere.
Yesterday, December 7, was the 77th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor; an event that then-President FDR said was a “Day which will live in infamy.”
I can’t claim any special knowledge about infamy since any infamous acts on my part were still 40 months away. I do claim, however, a smidgen of the military mind, and I have a strong sense of the loneliness and abandonment which our leaders in the Pacific must have felt.
For many years that’s how my relationship with my father was– somewhat strained. Then, I woke up. While attending a “Me Generation” seminar I came to realize that Dad loved me unconditionally. Shaking my hand as I was leaving for Vietnam was the highest form of love he was able to muster at that time. All the feelings of abandonment and loneliness were mine, not his! Now, all I had to do was communicate that to Dad.