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2020 Advent Devotional – Day 16

Comfort

Somewhere a Child Is Sleeping
Words and music by Frank Mills, 1992

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing,
so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. (Romans 15:13)

Video: Somewhere a Child Is Sleeping


Reflection

There’s a risk when anything becomes too familiar, that it starts to be taken for granted; that in the repetition of a Scripture passage or teaching, we can start to lose the meaning in it.

The Christmas story is not immune to this danger, and the more we hear the angel announcing, “A savior, who is Christ the Lord,” perhaps the less we think about just what is being promised here. The astounding promise of salvation can begin to feel rather abstract and distant; a gift for the world hereafter and not the here and now.

One of the joys of Frank Mills’ soothing lyrics, then, is the way in which they expand the promise of God and remind us of the many dimensions of the good news of Jesus Christ. Listen closely to the words in the middle of the carol and we can hear the Christmas blessing that recognizes the gritty reality of our lives and confronts the coldness of the world.

For we do live in a world of trouble and sadness, and our remembering the birth of Jesus should not gloss over that. Instead, as with the weariness of Joseph and Mary travelling to Bethlehem, God embraces our weariness and offers us rest. As with the hurting and struggling people Jesus fed and taught and healed, God’s love is there to comfort us. And for all of us who don’t know what the next day will bring, God’s love promises us hope.

The good news of Jesus isn’t an esoteric promise waiting for us at the end of our lives. Rather, the good news of Jesus is that our lives right now are transformed by God’s love, witnessed in the life of Jesus, and shared with us through the Holy Spirit. Throughout every cold and dark night we face, God is with us, giving us comfort and peace.


Caring God,
You watch over me with a tender and gentle love, holding me close and offering me peace. When I am weary, your love is there to soothe and sustain me, giving me the endurance to face my sorrow and pain. Renew me with the comfort of your presence in my life. Remind me that you are with me always, walking by my side as I greet the coming day. Amen.


If you’re enjoying the carols each day, there’s now a YouTube playlist you can listen to that contains all the carols shared so far. The playlist will grow as the devotional series progresses, with each day’s carol being added. By Christmas Day, you’ll have the perfect soundtrack of worship and praise.  Click here to listen.


Thank you for joining us on this prayerful path through Advent.
Blessings and best wishes for 2021.


 

Salvation

Luke 2:21-38 – Jesus is presented in the Temple

Although Christmas is past for another year, Luke’s nativity story has a little further to go. So we invite you to take some time today and enjoy the final segment of Luke’s story (see below). This passage includes the presentation of Jesus in the Temple, and the moving fulfilment of a promise revealed to Simeon. We hope you’ll join us again for the Lent Devotion, starting Wednesday March 6, when we will pick up the Gospel of Luke once more. In the meantime, Christmas blessings from all of us at Walton and best wishes for the New Year.


Salvation - Walton United Church, Oakville, Ontario

From the outset of his life, Jesus was fulfilling God’s promises and purpose. In today’s reading we see Jesus completing the prophecy made to Simeon, and bringing Simeon peace and comfort. Even as a baby, this passage demonstrates the palpable sense of power that radiated from the majesty of God in human form. Moreover, Simeon’s immediate response was to acknowledge the saving love of God, given to us through Jesus. That love endures to this day and as we head into 2019, let us give thanks for the salvation we receive from God and his light to guide our days.


Saving God, deliver us, we pray. Save us from the troubles and worries of our days, with the comfort and inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Save us from our faults and shortcomings, through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the Messiah. Renew and strengthen our acceptance of Your love for us, so that our relationship with You grows stronger and brighter in 2019. Amen.

Luke 2:21-38 – Jesus is presented in the Temple

After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.” Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.

Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying,

“Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace,
according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel.”

And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.


Thank you for joining us on this prayerful path through Advent.
Blessings and best wishes for 2019.

 

Glory

Luke 2:20 – The shepherds praise God

The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.


Glory - Walton United Church, Oakville, Ontario

Merry Christmas! Wherever you are, may today be a joyful celebration of the birth of Jesus. Like the shepherds, we have so many reasons to glorify and praise God. Today, whether your day is hectic or quiet, take a moment to yourself and praise God. Praise God for the wonder of his love for us. Praise God for seeing the dents and smudges in our lives – all the ways we fall short – and wanting a relationship with us anyway. Praise God for his power and majesty which means that nothing is impossible with God. Hallelujah! Praise be to God.


Exalted God, we worship and praise You. On this day when we celebrate the birth of Jesus, nurture our gratitude for the depth of Your love for us. Help us to draw closer to You and reach out for Your peace in our lives. Reassure us that You are with us always. Amen.

Thank you for joining us on this prayerful path through Advent.
Blessings and best wishes for 2019.

 

Treasured

Luke 2:19 – Mary reflects on events

But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.


Peace - Walton United Church, Oakville, Ontario

Amidst the glorious voice of the angels and the joyful energy of the shepherds, we now read of a quiet, reflective Mary, storing away memories and trying to understand the events of this night. There is a sense in this short verse of how overwhelming this was for Mary – a young mother, who had just given birth to her first child, visited by shepherds sharing tales of more angels and proclaiming a saviour. And as Mary ponders these things, perhaps there is a growing awareness of all that her child is destined for. As she treasures these memories, the reading hints at both Mary’s tender love for her baby, as well as the gradual realization of the immensity of what lies ahead. Throughout all this is a persistent feeling of gratitude for God’s love for the world and the way in which God treasures each one of us.


Breathtaking God, on the eve of our celebration of the birth of Your son, Jesus, quiet our lives for a moment that we might treasure and give thanks for Your love for us. You tenderly embrace us, watching over us each day, and keeping us as close to Your loving kindness as we will let You. Open our hearts to accept You more fully, with joy and gratitude. Amen.


Thank you for joining us on this prayerful path through Advent.
Blessings and best wishes for 2019.

 

Amazed

Luke 2:15-18 – The shepherds visit Mary, Joseph and Jesus

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them.


amazed - Advent Devotion - Walton United Church

In this passage we read of the first evangelists! The shepherds, making known what they had been told, sharing the wondrous promises made by the angel. We don’t have a lot of detail about their visit, but it is clear that the events of that night had a deep impact on the shepherds which was shared with everyone they spoke to – “all who heard it were amazed.” ‘Amazed’ is something of an understatement in many regards – for the shepherds and those they spoke to, as well as for us. How do we fully grasp the magnitude of what God has done for us through the birth of Jesus? The immensity of another person dying for us should stun and overwhelm us! So as we approach the celebration and exuberance of Christmas Day, perhaps pause for a moment today to reflect on the amazing meaning of Jesus’ birth. All this is for you!


Awe-inspiring God, we cannot fully comprehend the depth of Your love for us. Help us give thanks and praise to You anyway. For all our efforts, we cannot fully reflect Your love for us either. Help us try anyway. Inspire us to recognize the magnitude of Your care and compassion, of Your overwhelming desire to know and love us. Amen.

Thank you for joining us on this prayerful path through Advent.
Blessings and best wishes for 2019.

 

Peace

Luke 2:13-14 – The angels praise and glorify God

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favours!”


Peace - Walton United Church, Oakville, Ontario

This Christmas, the angels’ promise of peace is one of the most appealing and elusive being made. We desperately need and crave peace. And not just peace for our world, but also peace for our lives. Our need for peace is firstly, and most obviously, the desire to see an end to conflict and violence, rage and aggression. But this need is also a need for reassurance that all is well, and our lives, and the world, are in balance. This second form of peace comes when we are at ease with our circumstances. This doesn’t however mean peace will only be achieved when we have solved every issue we face. Rather, we reach this peace when we (to borrow an old phrase), ‘let go and let God.’ We can have peace, even just for a few moments in a day, when we give our problems and worries over to God and rest in the assurance that his vision is bigger than ours, his power rises above ours, and that nothing is impossible with God.


Sovereign God, our lives and our world both crave peace. Help us, we pray. Be with those who work towards an end to conflict and a reconciling of all Your children. Strengthen and guide them in their efforts for peace. Guide us also each day to recognise the conflict in our lives and to let go of the expectations and wants that feed our discontent. Help us release our worries to Your loving concern and rest in the assurance of Your love. Amen.

Thank you for joining us on this prayerful path through Advent.
Blessings and best wishes for 2019.

 

Joy

Luke 2:8-12 – The angels announce Jesus’ birth to the shepherds

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.”


Joy - Walton United Church, Oakville, Ontario

This passage is full of contrasting images – the squalid earthiness of the shepherds stands out against the dazzling “glory of the Lord” illuminating the angels; the sense of immediate terror and fear emphasizes the reassuring promise of “good news of great joy.” These contrasts affirm the magnificence and magnitude of God’s gift to the world: “a Saviour, who is the Messiah the Lord.” This is cause for exuberant joy, lifting our hearts up to the heavens, singing perhaps till our lungs ache. The contrasts also highlight the gracious nature of our faith – dazzling glory is offered to all of us, no matter our circumstances; and the joy of God’s love can permeate every life – alongside, and supporting us through, fearful and despairing times. This joy is not dependent on transient bursts of happiness or even a steady beat of contentment. This joy – that we are loved and blessed and forgiven – can persist through our toughest days, whenever we remember to accept it.


Wondrous God, You love us fully and completely, and that is cause for great rejoicing. Let us praise and worship You with unencumbered hearts. Help us to throw off the bands of inadequacy this world would have us wear. Wash away our uncertainty and despair, and renew in us a spirit of joyful gratitude. Amen.

Thank you for joining us on this prayerful path through Advent.
Blessings and best wishes for 2019.

 

Comfort

Luke 2:1-7 – The birth of Jesus

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David.

He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.


Comfort - Walton United Church, Oakville, Ontario

The Bible passages are now taking us into very familiar territory, as we read the beginning of the second chapter of Luke, well-loved and much-used at Christmas Eve services. Rather than taking this familiarity for granted (which is so easy to do), let it bring you comfort. Sit with the passage and enjoy the well-known phrases. This is a story that was, is and will be read across the ages; our faith connected into a legacy of interwoven threads of all those who have lived before us. Take comfort also in the humility and simplicity of the narrative. This most momentous event expressed in two short sentences. And let that simplicity reassure you over these last few days of Advent. Wherever you are, it is enough. In God’s eyes and through God’s love, you are enough.


Soothing God, slow our rushing and our worries, that in a quiet moment we can feel Your peace. Bring us the comfort of knowing Your love endures across the years, is there for us now, and will cherish us always. Help us to see ourselves as you see us: tenderly loved and treasured children of God. Amen..

Thank you for joining us on this prayerful path through Advent.
Blessings and best wishes for 2019.