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Emmanuel

Emmanuel - Advent Devotional @ Walton United Church, Oakville, Ontario

A baby born in humility, given the name Jesus, but carrying also so many other titles: Christ, Messiah, Son of the Most High, Wonderful Counselor, Prince of Peace. And perhaps most importantly: Emmanuel – God is with us. As John expressively put it: the Word became flesh and lived among us. The grace and forgiveness and love of God manifest in a man who would go on to die for us. On this day of great joy, let us give thanks for the eternal love of God in our lives.


Loving God, I thank You for the greatest gift of all – Your unending love and grace – manifest in the life of Your Son, Jesus Christ. Thank You for loving me and being with me through the passage of my life. Keep me close to You to know and share Your love with those around me, today and always. Amen.

John 1: 14

And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.


Thank you for joining us on this prayerful path through Advent.
Blessings and best wishes for 2018.

Hallelujah

Hallelujah - Advent Devotional @ Walton United Church, Oakville, Ontario

One of the most dramatic images of the nativity story is that of a heavenly host of angels – and not a few but a multitude – praising God in the night sky above the shepherds. The importance and magnitude of what is happening bursts forth and for a brief moment the glory of the birth of Jesus is reflected in the spectacle of this heavenly crowd. Everything stops to revel in the praise and worship of God who has given His son to the world, and for a little while there is only dazzling joy.


Loving God, as we prepare for the excitement and celebration that tomorrow brings, lift up my heart in praise and thanksgiving to worship Your gift to each one of us, the gift of Your Son Jesus Christ. Let my soul sing out and rejoice in Your glory. Amen.

Luke 2: 13-14

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 favors!”


Thank you for joining us on this prayerful path through Advent.
Blessings and best wishes for 2018.

Treasure

Treasure - Advent Devotional @ Walton United Church, Oakville, Ontario

Mary copes admirably with the purpose God has for her life, and she seems to be taking it all in her stride, praising God and letting nothing faze her. For a young, first-time mother so much of what took place must have been daunting and frightening and there are hints in the details of her story that it wasn’t all smooth sailing. But Mary held fast to the reassurance given by the angel and stored away for herself memories of comfort and encouragement. The simplicity of Luke’s comment in verse 19 (below) hints at a woman building reserves of gratitude and appreciation.


Loving God, awaken me to the wonders and blessings You share with me each day. Strengthen me to build my reserve of gratitude and praise for all that You have done for me, to treasure the gifts You have given me and to use them to reflect Your love. Amen.

Luke 2: 19

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


Thank you for joining us on this prayerful path through Advent.
Blessings and best wishes for 2018.

Faith

Faith - Advent Devotional @ Walton United Church, Oakville, Ontario

The appearance of the angel (see below) probably reassured Joseph a great deal, but there’s no mistaking that accepting Mary’s pregnancy is a mighty leap of faith being asked of him. We can’t know how strong an impression the angel created, how certain Joseph was able to be in the months that followed, or if he had moments of doubt and anxiety when he had to remind himself of his dream and the power of what he had been told. God called Joseph to believe, just as he calls us to believe and our challenge is just as hard. It’s also however the essence of faith – the belief in something we can’t know for sure but might just have glimpsed.


Loving God, You call me to have faith in Your teaching and Your purpose for my life, and yet I can find this so hard. The world would distract and dissuade me, piling on pressure and diversions. Bring me back to Your teaching and fill me with confidence in Your unending love. Amen.

Matthew 1:19-21

Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”


Thank you for joining us on this prayerful path through Advent.
Blessings and best wishes for 2018.

Journey

Journey - Advent Devotional @ Walton United Church, Oakville, Ontario

For the wise men, paying homage to the baby Jesus was the conclusion of a lengthy journey, following a sign, on a path mapped out by faith. The obstacles they faced must have been taxing, and there must have been many moments when they considered giving up the idea and returning home, perhaps most of all when the baby wasn’t to be found at the palace. But they continued and the reward at their journey’s end was overwhelming joy. There’s much comfort and encouragement in their journey – for we too face obstacles and uncertainty on our path mapped out by faith; and following Jesus’ teaching does not lead us to the obvious places or to those that the world necessarily values. But when we continue, be assured we are journeying to overwhelming joy.


Loving God, my path through life takes me to metaphorical deserts and mountains and the going can be hard. Guide me to follow the route mapped out by faith, and bring me to the place of overwhelming joy, in this world and the next. Amen.

Matt 2: 9-10

They set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy.


Thank you for joining us on this prayerful path through Advent.
Blessings and best wishes for 2018.

Shine

Shine - Advent Devotional @ Walton United Church, Oakville, Ontario

From the very beginning of His life, Jesus welcomed the outsiders, and so the official birth announcement is made, not via royal proclamation or from the steps of the temple, but to shepherds, living in fields. Like all before them, their first reaction to meeting an angel of the Lord is great fear. Such a dazzling presence evoked terror and panic, until the angel’s words brought reassurance. Our lives can be beset with fears and uncertainties, and there are times when we might feel like the shepherds – overwhelmed, anxious, even terrified. We can take heart though from the change invoked by the angel, whose words moved them from terror to amazement to praise.


Loving God, comfort me when I fear, when life appears too hard, and my nights feel cold and dark. Remind me of the good news sung out from the heavens, and shine Your love into my heart, that I can know Your presence and be enfolded in Your peace. Amen.

Luke 2: 8-9

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.


Thank you for joining us on this prayerful path through Advent.
Blessings and best wishes for 2018.

Peace

Peace - Advent Devotional @ Walton United Church, Oakville, Ontario

Simeon, like Anna (see yesterday), is another character whose life is altered by the presence of the baby Jesus. For Simeon, holding Jesus is the fulfilment of God’s particular promise to him, and it creates in him a sense of peace. Simeon has allowed himself to be guided by the Holy Spirit and his journey has been completed. His praise to God is deeply content and calm, thanking God for what he has witnessed. God’s gift to us all through Jesus is ultimately that same sense of contentment. We too are given God’s salvation through the birth of Jesus; we too can live in peace.


Loving God, in the excitement and chaos of Advent and Christmas, I can lose sight of the peace and assurance that You have given me through Jesus. Give me pause to reconnect with Your peace and calm, to rest contentedly in the knowledge of Your salvation, given for me this Christmas and always. Amen.

Luke 2: 29-32

“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.”


Thank you for joining us on this prayerful path through Advent.
Blessings and best wishes for 2018.

Share

Share - Advent Devotional @ Walton United Church, Oakville, Ontario

The prophet Anna provides a clear contrast to both the inn-keeper and King Herod. She was a widow, living in the temple where she worshipped and prayed, but she is drawn into the nativity story when she meets Jesus, and this encounter transforms her life. Once she had seen Jesus, she could speak of nothing else, and her worship from that day forward took the form of praising God and proclaiming Jesus as the redeemer of humankind. The mere presence of Jesus then, was too powerful, too compelling, to keep quiet about; it was news that had to be shared.


Loving God, forgive me when I take Your love and Your transforming grace for granted. Remind me of the excitement and joy that was first felt at the birth of Jesus and inspire me to live out the joy of Jesus’ birth, sharing the good news in how I feel and speak and act. Amen.

Luke 2: 38

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 2018.

Priorities

Priorities - Advent Devotional @ Walton United Church, Oakville, Ontario

King Herod is typically cast as the evil villain of the nativity and the death sentence he later issues is ruthless and brutal, but his first reaction – in common with many others in the nativity story – is fear. Upon hearing the news of the birth of Jesus, Herod fears losing everything he values – his status, power and authority. He wholeheartedly fixates on these worldly priorities and will stop at nothing to protect them. The inducements the world offers can be tantalising and compelling, and it is understandable to desire them and then to fear losing them, but they are also superficial and fickle, and pale into insignificance compared to the enduring abundance of the love of God.


Loving God, even as I live and work in our materialistic society, help me to see through it and to recognise it for what it is. Bring me to a deeper understanding and appreciation of Your love for each one of us, and to respect Your teaching and values. Amen.

Matt 2: 1-3a, 7-8

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was frightened.

Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.”


Thank you for joining us on this prayerful path through Advent.
Blessings and best wishes for 2018.

Everyone

Everyone - Advent Devotional @ Walton United Church, Oakville, Ontario

It is perhaps surprising to discover that the Innkeeper, a much loved character in nativity plays, does not actually appear in the bible. He is implied of course – at the very least someone had to tell Mary and Joseph that the inn was full – but he has no further part to play. He, and no doubt his family, were busy; caught up in the rush of doing their job, looking after their customers, and either making the most of, or struggling to cope with, this busy time for their business. And while he rushed around, fetching and carrying, the Messiah was born, just steps away if only he had known to look. He is an “everyone” character and if we are not careful, his story will be our story too; busy, rushing, missing the presence of the Messiah in our world.


Loving God, slow me down at this hectic time of year, that I may be a witness to the miracle of Jesus’ birth. Turn my eyes towards You, that I can know Your love and see Your promises fulfilled in the world. Amen.

Luke 2: 7

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.


Thank you for joining us on this prayerful path through Advent.
Blessings and best wishes for 2018.