An Advent Devotional by the people of First-Centenary

Sunday, November 27

By Jan McNair | Sung by Dr. James Harr 

Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus

Come, thou long expected Jesus, born to set thy people free; 
from our fears and sins release us; let us find our rest in thee. 
Israel’s strength and consolation, hope of all the earth thou art; 
dear desire of every nation, joy of every longing heart.
(Refrain) Born to save, born to heal, come, O Savior, come. 
While we wait, while we pray, come, Savior, come.
Hope of all heaven and earth, come, Jesus, come, O Jesus, come.

Born thy people to deliver, born a child and yet a king, 
born to reign in us forever, now thy gracious kingdom bring. 
By thine own eternal Spirit rule in all our hearts alone; 
by thine all-sufficient merit raise us to thy glorious throne. (Refrain)

(Words: Charles Wesley, 1744. Musical setting by Mark Miller, ©2021 Choristers Guild. 
Used by permission. CCLI #1060639.)

This hymn is one of my favorites by Charles Wesley. Set to new music by Mark Miller, these familiar words are enlivened, and speak of my own yearning for the presence of Christ. How does this prayer resonate with you as we begin the season of Advent?

Monday, November 28

By  Laura Shearer

Robert Webber writes that Advent’s theme is waiting. He says we wait for the Lord to deliver us from our troubles. The Lord will come. We live in that hope, Webber wrote. None of us likes to wait. We like to move things along and get to the “good stuff.” 
Last Advent, I was forced to do some waiting during real troubles. In that wait, God brought plenty of “good stuff.” My granddaughter was healing from severe surgery for cancer, diagnosed in September. I could do nothing, only wait. She was in the care of medical professionals.
We waited in a mixture of sadness and fear but also hope to be delivered from this terrible trouble. It was hard to pray. I begged prayers for Peyton and our family throughout the wait. The many prayers of friends and friends of friends became a container of grace to hold the sadness and anxious feelings that filled my days . The time was a deep experience of God’s gift of grace delivered through the faith of others. Thanks be to God for enabling me to see his grace.

Tuesday, November 29

By Andy Johns

The bells played in the Nave by the Chancel Ringers each have their own purpose — from the tiny tinkling teacups to the big cloppers that look big enough to bathe a baby in.

The fact that they can synchronize all of that dancing brass amazes me.

Each ringer plays only the notes they are meant to play and
counts on the others to play theirs. When their neighbor has a busy section, they help carry the burden by reaching to turn a page for them, modeling how to notice when our neighbors need a helping hand.

Notably, the same range of tones that take an entire cast of ringers can be played by one pianist. In fact, one performer and one instrument is much more efficient. 

But I believe that while one virtuoso playing all of the notes might 
wow us, sometimes the song is sweetest when it involves contributions from everyone. 

I believe our church is like that, too, and I thank all of those who offer their gifts to make First Centenary’s song a little sweeter.

As we wait for the coming Christ, may we work together to spread God’s love just like the sweet songs of a choir.

Wednesday November 30

By Mandy Coley

A small piece of paper fluttered out from one of the pages of my Bible recently.   It was a sticky note, and the “sticky” had worn off. Written on it were these words: “Is THIS the appropriate time for us to talk about the REAL meaning of Christmas?”
I had written these words more than 30 years ago quoting “Rachel”, a very special and memorable student in my class that year.  She had put her arms (both) around me and whispered this in my ear after a very unorganized yet spirited practice of our Annual Fifth Grade Holiday Performance.  Her words had a very profound effect on me – immediately causing me to question my anxiety and impatience with all things related to Christmas.  We were not allowed to call the program a Christmas Program actually, but we ALL – especially “Rachel”- knew that this was a Christmas celebration!  And we were all excited about the program, the upcoming parties, and the 2-week vacation that was coming!  
Since I am no longer teaching, I do miss the excitement and hubbub of an elementary school during the weeks before Christmas.  These days, I so enjoy the season of Advent. Advent is a time of getting ready – a time of waiting – and a time to “talk about the real meaning of Christmas”.  Just like those shepherds of old, let’s “spread the word” concerning the Christ Child.

Thursday, December 1

By Tori Crook

  Time and time again God has shown up where I least expected. It is in moments when I forgot to scrutinize that I see God. Nature has always been a strong reminder of God’s presence to me; taking the time to sit quietly under the sun, walk through the woods as the leaves change, stare in awe of thunderstorms from my childhood front porch. The smallness and largeness of God’s creation helps me see the moments that matter, to take the time to see what is truly around me and where God is in it all.
As you look for God, find a time to focus on something small and singular. Maybe it’s a flower, or a line from a song, or a particular feeling. Meditate with it for a moment, letting go of the surrounding noise to truly observe what is in front of you. What can you see differently at this moment? Where is God?

Friday, December 2

By Bill Lockett

By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing, so on the seventh day he rested. Genesis 2:2

After thirty-three years of practicing law and thirteen years of practicing therapeutic counseling, it was time to retire. Several weeks later I awoke one morning to realize I was tired: physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. In this age of high technology, the average American works forty hours and six minutes each week. Although the average worker is entitled to thirty days of paid time off each year, six and one-half days of these are left on the table. And even worse, eighty-one percent of us admit to going to work when we are sick! And we spend seven hours eleven minutes each day in front of some type of screen. No wonder we feel tired! As this season of advent approaches perhaps it would behoove me to slow down a little and rest. But my inner voice says there are children’s events, office parties, church activities, relatives to host and visit, decorations, meals to prepare, gifts to buy.

Remember: God doesn’t appear in the whirlwind, not the fire, nor the earthquake; God appears in the gentle whisper. (1Kings 19:11-13) Be still and know that I am God. (Psalms 46:10) Jesus was born at night, warped in cloths, lying in a manger with angels singing “...and on earth peace to men...” Luke 2:14
 
Perhaps it is time for us to slow down and rest, wait and watch - and enjoy His season. 

Saturday, December 3

By Cindy Stulce

Like many children, my sister Jill and I eagerly looked forward to  Christmas. We wanted to stay awake and watch for Santa Claus, but our parents told us that Santa wouldn’t come unless we were asleep.  Sure enough, Santa always came while we weren’t watching.

Advent is a time of watching.  The Jews had been watching for the Messiah for more than 400 years, yet when he finally came, they were asleep at the switch.  Only the magi, who were watching the night sky, saw the signs; only the shepherds, keeping watch over their flocks by night, saw the angels.
Today, we too, are watching, not for the Messiah’s coming, but for his return.

In Mark 13: 32-37, Jesus tells a parable about a man who departs on a long journey.  Before he leaves, he assigns tasks to each of his servants, and instructs the doorkeeper to keep watch, for no one knows when the master of the house will return.

As we await the return of our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, are we busy doing his work?  Will we be ready to welcome him?  Or will he find us asleep at the switch?

No one knows when that appointed hour will be.  Therefore, be on guard! Stay awake! Keep watch!

INVITATION TO RECEIVE

Sunday, December 4

By Al Bowles

"Aunt Nan And A Bunch of Bananas"

Read Luke 1:26-38

From the beginning of my call into the Ordained Ministry, it was confirmed to me in a multitude of ways and times that I was being called into a “servant ministry,” which meant that I was being called to “give” of myself generously in the ministry of Christ.  Like most clergy, I have loved being a “generous giver” in all aspects of ministry and feel that my life has been blessed in doing so.
I must confess, however, that being a “gracious receiver” has been more of a struggle.  It took Aunt Nan, (her affectionate nickname in our small country community), and a bunch of bananas to bring me under conviction about being a more “gracious receiver.” Aunt Nan owned and ran a small community grocery store in the community where my first church was located.  Aunt Nan confided to me that she had extended credit to many families, credit that often went unpaid: “Preacher, I just could not let anyone in our community go hungry.”
After this outpouring of her heart and soul, I had a prayer with her and as I started to leave, Aunt Nan pushed toward me a big bunch of bananas.  Then this “Generous Giver” but “Struggler In Being A Gracious Receiver” found himself saying to her, “I will be glad to take the bananas, but I insist on paying for them.” “No,” she insisted, “I want to give my preacher a bunch of bananas.”
I thanked her for the bananas and  drove home with a heavy heart knowing that my insistence on paying for the bananas had not only insulted but embarrassed Aunt Nan, making her feel poor and needy rather than affirming the gracious and generous giver that she was.  I asked God for forgiveness and help in being a more “Gracious Receiver” that truly affirms others in their grace and generosity. Thanks be to God for this experience with Aunt Nan and a bunch of bananas ,which God uses daily to remind me that it is just as important to be a “Gracious Receiver” as it is to be a “Generous Giver.”  
During Advent, a season of preparation, is a great time to examine our own attitude toward being as gracious a receiver as we are a generous giver.  For without being gracious receivers, we are likely to miss the fullness of the greatest gift that God has given to each of us and the whole world in the Christ Child.  O, how I pray that we all will be as gracious a receiver as was the young peasant girl who said to the angel sent from God, “Here I am, the servant of the Lord: let it be with me according to your word.”

Monday, December 5

By Rev. Dr. Will Lauderback

Read Matthew 24:36-44

There was a Christmas growing up when I got too clever for my own good! I was probably eleven or twelve years old and it was one of those years when Mom and Dad were too generous and the presents were overflowing from the tree. I don’t remember what I was looking for (which is a lesson in and of itself) but it was probably a nerf gun or video game. I came up with a plan to open the ends of my presents to see what I was getting! One after another I saw exactly what I had asked for and so much more! When Christmas morning finally arrived, I found that the joy of opening my presents was greatly diminished. My hope and prayer for each of us this Advent season is that we would lean into the waiting and use this time of preparation to get our hearts and minds ready to be transformed by the amazing love of the gift of the Christ Child.

Tuesday, December 6

By Beth Spears

My little world changed around me when I was in fourth grade.  Dad “surrendered to preach,” meaning he finally answered the call that was tugging on his heart.  His world was no longer solely about my sister and me, but about doing all our family could for God.  When you start looking for God, that is when you see Him all around you. God is everywhere, leaving little sweet things in our path just to make us smile or huge gifts/miracles that impact our entire lives. 
However, life is not all sunshine and roses.  It’s moving at the Bishop’s direction, changing schools and leaving your friends behind.  It’s coming to understand that this world is truly full of a bunch of humans… including those that work in the church.  In life we learn not only that God forgives us for being human; we must learn to forgive those around us… and to forgive ourselves.  It might just be one of the hardest things to do, and we must do it again and again.
As a child, the happiest time of the year is Christmas morning.  But this particular Christmas my little family learned a little more about grace, mercy, and forgiveness.  You see, as little Beth was handed her perfectly wrapped present , the world shattered around me! Here I sat, with a gift labeled To: Beth, Love: Satan (a word I had never dared pronounce)! 
 After many hysterical tears, I learned to forgive… sometimes on Christmas Eve, even Santa is too tired to spell.

Wednesday, December 7

By Rachel McIntyre Smith

Read Job 12:7-10

I used to think in order to experience God I needed to have a dramatic or life-changing moment. I would see musicians thank God in their acceptance speeches for giving them a Grammy. I would see survivors credit God for allowing them to make it through a big crash. As a girl growing up in a small town tucked away in the mountains of East Tennessee, I didn’t think I would have a chance in my lifetime to be a recipient of God’s work.
Over the past few years, in times of high stress, I would walk the loop on top of Raccoon Mountain. During my walk, I would breathe in the fresh air, and marvel at the incredible mountainscape. Every time I left, I always felt refreshed with a new sense of clarity on the situation.
Looking back on my life, the times I felt closest to my creator weren’t in the loud dramatic moments, but in the pockets of peace that I found amongst the natural world that God created. I’m so thankful for this new understanding because now I know I don’t have to wait for a major milestone moment to experience God. I can look out the window or take a walk to receive the comfort that I was designed by the same God who so thoughtfully pieced together the leaves, birds, flowers, creeks and clouds. 

Wednesday, December 7

By Rachel McIntyre Smith

Read Job 12:7-10

I used to think in order to experience God I needed to have a dramatic or life-changing moment. I would see musicians thank God in their acceptance speeches for giving them a Grammy. I would see survivors credit God for allowing them to make it through a big crash. As a girl growing up in a small town tucked away in the mountains of East Tennessee, I didn’t think I would have a chance in my lifetime to be a recipient of God’s work.
Over the past few years, in times of high stress, I would walk the loop on top of Raccoon Mountain. During my walk, I would breathe in the fresh air, and marvel at the incredible mountainscape. Every time I left, I always felt refreshed with a new sense of clarity on the situation.
Looking back on my life, the times I felt closest to my creator weren’t in the loud dramatic moments, but in the pockets of peace that I found amongst the natural world that God created. I’m so thankful for this new understanding because now I know I don’t have to wait for a major milestone moment to experience God. I can look out the window or take a walk to receive the comfort that I was designed by the same God who so thoughtfully pieced together the leaves, birds, flowers, creeks and clouds. 

Thursday, December 8

By Erin Wallin

“What do you have that you did not receive?” -1 Corinthians 4:7(b)

Long before Bart was a school administrator and long before I was an attorney, we were a married couple with three tinies at home—and we were absolutely broke. We slept very little and woke up each morning to the sound of either a baby screaming or to the chokehold of financial panic and shame. Still, no one knew we were struggling, even when our bank account dwindled to a mere $12.
One day, a man from the church where we were members pulled Bart aside and said to him, “Bart, I was in prayer this morning and the Lord told me to give you this.” The man handed Bart a check for $1,500.00. Instinctually, Bart shook his downturned head and stated that we could not accept. The man turned and walked five steps away. In that moment, Bart knew he had made a mistake but could not bring himself to speak. Thankfully, the wise older man turned back around and as he placed the check in Bart’s hand, he said:
“Let me teach you something here—just say thank you.”
A wave of love washed over us as we understood that God saw our need and that we were surrounded by people who cared about us enough to push through our pride and ease our anxiety. We’ve never forgotten the lesson of gracious receiving. It is a holy thing to humbly concede your need and to thankfully accept from the hand of a loving God. 
In this Advent season of hopeful waiting, take some time to ponder the ways that God has met your needs in the past. Concede the needs you now have before him and ask for His help. Then, pray for the Lord to show you how you can become his hands of love and relief to others. In this way, the hands that give and receive touch in a link that reaches all the way to heaven. And we all say, “Thank You” to the God who sees.

Friday, December 9

By Emily Harbold

To All People

They pushed me out of the way.
No, that would have taken more effort than ignorance.
Your food’s over there, they smirked. Away from us. 
Separate.
I stumbled, as usual. Bad leg. Crappy crutch. In the dark.

The rocky field was magic though.
No, at first it was almost desert, backdrop for a rambunctious herd.
When the light exploded, we shaded our eyes and covered our heads. 
What were these wailing, soaring voices proclaiming to us, a handful of 
stricken shepherds? The dice and the drink and the stinking flock,
surely nothing worthy of ancient prophecy about to come alive.

And then I think I just flew to that collapsing shed. Wouldn’t you?
I stopped, taking in two smeared, sweaty faces lit up from the inside out.
I saw the baby’s spikey crown of dark damp hair. They wrapped him up like a doll and handed me a clean strip for my wound. 
The others crowded in to kneel, dirty and shining too. 
We who knew nothing did know something. At last.

Friday, December 9

By Emily Harbold

To All People

They pushed me out of the way.
No, that would have taken more effort than ignorance.
Your food’s over there, they smirked. Away from us. 
Separate.
I stumbled, as usual. Bad leg. Crappy crutch. In the dark.

The rocky field was magic though.
No, at first it was almost desert, backdrop for a rambunctious herd.
When the light exploded, we shaded our eyes and covered our heads. 
What were these wailing, soaring voices proclaiming to us, a handful of 
stricken shepherds? The dice and the drink and the stinking flock,
surely nothing worthy of ancient prophecy about to come alive.

And then I think I just flew to that collapsing shed. Wouldn’t you?
I stopped, taking in two smeared, sweaty faces lit up from the inside out.
I saw the baby’s spikey crown of dark damp hair. They wrapped him up like a doll and handed me a clean strip for my wound. 
The others crowded in to kneel, dirty and shining too. 
We who knew nothing did know something. At last.

Saturday, December 10

By Cindy Stulce

I love candles at Christmastime, not just for their warm glow but also for what they symbolize.

For many centuries, candles were the only means of keeping the darkness at bay.  A candle in a window meant welcome to a weary traveler; it meant sanctuary at a time when Christians were persecuted.

Each Sunday in Advent we light another candle on the Advent wreath.  The light glows brighter and brighter each week until at last, on Christmas Eve, we light the Christ candle to symbolize that Jesus, the Light of the World, has come.

In what ways can we shed Christ’s light in this darkened world?  How can we reach out to the hungry, the needy, the lonely, the forgotten?   How can we be the light of hope to the hopeless, of release to the
oppressed, of salvation to the lost?

How can we be living candles this Advent?

INVITATION TO BE STILL

Sunday, December 11

By Caroline Archer 

Being still is difficult for me. I have an anxious mind and an internal critical voice that rarely, if ever, takes a day off. For most of my life, I’ve turned to keeping my hands busy to calm my racing mind when I needed to be physically still. I carried knitting with me for any event with a speaker, and all of my school notes are covered in doodles.  Once I became a mother, my favorite way to stay still was when “trapped” beneath a sleeping child. In those early days, there’s no good way to keep your hands busy without fear of waking up the baby. My firstborn was premature, and in the NICU we learned all about the benefits of Kanga-care (skin-to-skin contact) for babies. It wasn’t until we were home, away from isolettes, feeding tubes, and beeping sensors, that I realized how much it also benefited me. I cherish those precious few moments of sharing stillness, feeling the rise and fall of each others’ chest. Christmas is my favorite holiday, because it brings me such delight to imagine Christ having that same kind of connection with Mary. 

Monday, December 12

By Rev. Michelle Hunter 

Our true nature is stillness,the source from which we come.  
From Thomas Keating’s poem, “Stillness”

Stillness is, ironically, an invitation to adventure.  Real stillness is hard work, like exploring uncharted territory - the territory of our inner lives and connection to God.  The work of stillness is to listen within, to quiet all the noises of the day and the week and the years, and practice just being.  In ‘being’, we come face to face with who we are and, because God’s love is in each one of us, we see more clearly whose we are.  It can be terrifying and liberating at the same time.  We are human beings, not human doings, so the work of “being” is truly the work of our deepest core, our soul.
Imagine the surface of a pool of fresh water.  Only when it is settled and still can it accurately reflect the landscape, the sky, the sun.  Yet when the surface is still, the life within the pool continues to move and express itself.  It is the same with us.  As we practice being still, deepening our relationship with ourselves and with God, we continue to explore and engage new life. 
How can you carve out a pocket of time this week to be still, to rest deeply in the Spirit?

Tuesday, December 13

By Jeff Blake

Over the years, I have proven to be quite proficient at learning things the hard way.  Even my spiritual 
disciplines, which are always so enriching, seem to find consistency only after suffering the consequences of 
trying things “my way” for a while.  For me, this is particularly true of stillness.
 Stress, anxiety, and depression sneak up on all of us at times with varying degrees of intensity and longevity.  One of the few consistencies I experience with these symptoms is that they often appear after  abandoning stillness for far too long.
Recently, I began plugging quiet time into my calendar as if it were any other item on my to-do list.  After starting with five measly minutes, I can proudly say I have expanded to 20 minutes a day.  With relaxing music in the background, I refrain from all other activities and simply allow a spirit of peace and tranquility to wash over me. 
 If your own calendar lacks a bit of stillness, I encourage you to begin a new daily habit this advent ‘season.  May the song below inspire you in your journey.  Be blessed, and be still!

Wednesday, December 14

By Clint Cooper

On a recent trip to Florida, I found even my wedding ring physically loosening. I was heading to a place where I could rest and relax, have no schedule and drink in the beauty of God’s sea and sand and shells. It is often in nature I encounter God, and the beach is a wonderful place to do so. Daily walks provide the stillness to see how God is as consistent as the ocean waves, as omnipresent as the sand and provides beauty seen in shells in a variety of shape, color and brokenness. While beaches are
divine, it is up to us to find that place of rest, stillness, and ability to see and feel God in our everyday busyness. May the God of Advent call us in this season to slow down, listen for a song in the air and see a star in the sky, and know with confidence who we are and whose we are.

Thursday, December 15

By Margaret Nelson

Isaiah 41:10  So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Every three weeks I drive to Raleigh, North Carolina to see my 91 year-old mother who lives in a nursing home.  This vibrant, funny, faithful lady had a stroke in October of 2020 and is not able to speak or move without assistance.  When I am with her, we drive around town and listen to hymns.  We drive by her old home, her church and the  cemetery where my father is buried. She smiles and laughs and grabs my hand to show that she is happy that I am there.  When she was able to read and write, my mother spent much time writing prayer journals and reading scripture.  I believe that her time in solitude deepening her faith is carrying her through life now that it is a struggle.  From her I have learned the importance of slowing down, internalizing scripture and developing a close relationship with God.   The song, “You are Mine”  by David Haas is comforting to me when I pray for my mother.  “Do not be afraid, I am with you.  I have called you each by name.  Come and follow me, I will bring you home. 

Friday, December 16

By Brittany Eastridge

Growing up I would anticipate the Advent season in August. In August? Yes, that may make me sound a little Christmas crazy, but it’s in August that Nutcracker auditions would occur. I loved dancing in the Nutcracker, but before the performances ever started, the auditions and countless hours of learning the variations and practice would take place.
After all this hustle and bustle, would everything go according to plan? Of course not! One of my good friends fell during a performance. Some kids screamed during the school performance the year I was a mouse. The symphony would never seem to be the exact tempo of Tchaikovsky’s music we practiced with. Blisters would happen. Plan, prepare, and expect the unexpected.
Did Mary throw a tantrum that she had to travel while carrying God’s son? Did Mary feel slighted that her in-laws and parents all seemed to have rooms to stay in while she gave birth in a stable? Was Mary tidying the stable during the unexpected visits from the shepherds and later the kings?
Maybe this 2022 Advent season we can rest in God’s Word and expect unexpected blessings by slowing down and being in the moment. We can remember Mary’s willingness to serve even in the uncomfortable moments.

Saturday, December 17

In the Bleak Mid-Winter
Words by Christina Rossetti
Music by Harold Darke
Sung by the First-Centenary Chancel Choir;
Bobbie Howell and Mike Davenport, soloists

  
In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.
 
Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.
 
Enough for Him, whom cherubim, worship night and day,
A heart full of mirth, and a manger full of hay.
Enough for Him, whom angels fall down before,
The ox and ass and camel which adore.
 
What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.

INVITATION TO LOVE

Sunday, December 18

By David Harr

Christmas Caroling in the Neighborhood
Our family sang Christmas Carols in our neighborhood last year.  Having James Harr in the happy group was definitely to our advantage. Our nine year old Grandson Oliver was also part of the holiday music making.  We made all of our stops in the immediate neighborhood.  We sang to a husband and wife making a “dementia journey”. We shared carols with a widow and her son.  One of our stops was next door to our house to sing to Sarah and Larry. We will return this year because Sarah has recently fallen and injured her arm.  Many of our neighbors were still reluctant to leave their homes because of Covid 19, so we became the
embodiment and even the sound of God in love with His creation. A great gift to offer out of love this Advent is to offer your undivided attention to someone.  Cookies and carols are secondary. Your presence is the gift.    

Tuesday, December 20

By Mary Grey Moses and The Centenary

Have you ever watched the excitement and joy in the face of a young child playing peek-a-boo with someone they love? We delight when the unexpected reveals love. I have learned much about watching from children. Their eyes are quick to find wonder and are open to the unexpected. I asked Centenary students to share a time God surprised them. C.explained, “God is like a spirit in the air. One time God surprised me was when I was scared about rock climbing at Camp Lookout. I didn’t know if I had the courage to do it but God gave me confidence and I did it!” J. said, “We can feel God. We just can’t see God.” He excitedly told me, “I couldn’t swim but God helped me be calm and I just peddled my feet and I was able to get around this big rock and back to shore.”

Can you see the love, confidence, and calm God is offering you today?  

Monday, December 19

By Rev. Dr. Mark Gooden

Over the next few minutes, I invite you to think about the Love that came down to us at Christmas and continues to permeate our lives daily. Jesus came down to reveal the true character and nature of God. Jesus came to show us that God is love and God loves us long before we think of loving God. Hopefully, as we move closer to God this season of Advent we will accept Jesus’ invitation to become more loving. If we do not accept the invitation then we are not moving toward God who is moving toward us. The opposite is true: we are moving away from God. If we are moving away from God then we are also moving away from each other. How can you allow God’s love to settle upon you this day? 

Sit in silence and reflect on God’s love for you. 

Surround yourself with hymns and carols. 

Seek out someone to help each day this season.

Wednesday, December 21

By Richard Looney 

Advent reminds us vividly of God’s love and our call to love as we have been loved.  John 1:14 tells us that the Word became flesh and lived among us offering  light and life.  God entered our world as a “little bitty baby”; lived our life as a boy and young man; carried our sins to the cross in the Savior, Jesus; freed us from the fear of death through the resurrected Jesus; and is with us through the living Jesus.
Who can fathom such love?  On a recent trip for a medical appointment I gained a new insight into the meaning of that love. While it seems foolish to travel for an appointment when there are exceptional specialists in Chattanooga, the reception I experience with each visit speaks volumes.  The good results are explained; warning signs to anticipate are given and genuine concern is exhibited.  And God is infinitely more concerned and welcoming.  How can we not sing, “Joy to the world,  the Lord has come”?

Thursday, December 22

By Vallerie Greer

As children of God we are urged to take love seriously, loving God with heart, mind, and soul and loving our neighbor as ourselves (Matt 22: 37-40). This is a task most humans have not even come close to mastering. The culprit for our inability to love as we should may be blamed on what some consider the opposites of love: fear and indifference.  I know these two defense mechanisms often prevent me from performing acts of love and service.  To overcome our fears and indifference, we need to listen for God’s prompts and nudges and be alert to recognize circumstances and situations that provide opportunities for loving in a way that honors and pleases God.

The French poet-philosopher Guillaume Apollinaire wrote:
“Come to the edge.”
“We can’t.  We are afraid.”
“Come to the edge.”
“We can’t.  We will fall.”
“Come to the edge.”
      And they came.
  And he pushed them.
      And they flew.

Friday, December 23

By Donna Palmer

I saw Jesus downtown one October Sunday afternoon. He was at The Chattanooga Pride Parade, and that day he looked a lot like Rev. David Harr. David was offering God’s blessing and a glittery mark of the Cross to all who stopped by our Haven Reconciling Sunday School tent. He also offered them the simple but moving words “You are a loved child of God, and you are meant to be loved.”
I saw Jesus’ love and grace received in tear-filled eyes of LGBT people as David spoke those words. I don’t know their stories, but I like to think they saw a little bit of Jesus through David, too, in someone who was welcoming, accepting and freely offering them love.  
In this Advent Season, and every day, I pray to see all persons through Christ’s eyes. 

Saturday, December 24

By Pamela Riggs-Gelasco

Christmas celebrates God coming to Earth in the most simple and humble way, in the form of a helpless baby born to immigrant parents. With that arrival, God became tangible, God with us, Emmanuel — a purposeful infiltration into our messy world with one purpose: to show the power of love.

The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Emmanuel” (which means “God with us”) - Matthew 1:23

For several years, my former church organized an Angel Tree ministry at Christmas. Congregants select a tag hanging from a tree that contains specific instructions on how to provide an outfit and toy for a child in need from the local community. Guest families are invited to come eat a meal in the church. Afterwards the children are entertained in a room with crafts and games while parents are led to another room to wrap the gifts.  
Some of the families we assisted were immigrants from Latin America.While the children are often bilingual, many of the parents only speak Spanish. One year, I was assisting one such couple who spoke no English. Since I do not speak Spanish, we worked silently to prepare the gifts. I watched as they took everything out of the bag for inspection before wrapping. I sensed that they were pleased as they spoke to one another in Spanish, holding up each item and nodding. I helped them rummage through the pile of boxes and bags to find the right sizes for the gifts, put my finger on the ribbon so the mother could tie it, and held out pieces of tape to them when they needed more. I didn’t feel particularly useful, to be honest, and the awkward silence was broken only by the parents occasionally speaking to one another. 
When the gifts were wrapped, the parents turned to me and started speaking to me in Spanish, holding up a gift tag and gesturing towards it. I had no idea what they wanted. I sent my daughter to find the interpreter, and, in the meanwhile, we waited.  The parents and I both smiled at each other nervously. It felt like an eternity before the interpreter arrived. The couple spoke briefly to the interpreter who translated, “They would like you to write the tag. They are asking that the tag say that the gift is from God.” The request was so simple and humble that it caught me off guard after the considerable effort it took to communicate. In our culture, we often sign gifts from Santa, but this request cut to the heart of it. Someone at the church had purchased the gifts, but in doing so had brought the love of God to this family.  
Christmas celebrates God coming to earth in the most simple and humble way, in the form of a helpless child born to immigrant parents. With that arrival, God became tangible, God with us, Emmanuel — a purposeful infiltration into our messy world with one purpose: to show the power of love.  The label I wrote said, “Love, God”.  That gift was from God, because God is in those moments when we show love to others. The family had recognized this and wanted to give God all the credit.  It was as powerful as a baby in a manger.