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Prayer

Luke 1:13-17 – The angel Gabriel foretells the birth of John 

But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He must never drink wine or strong drink; even before his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit. He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. With the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before him, to turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”


Silhouette of a man praying @ Walton United Church, Oakville, Ontario

The simplicity of Gabriel’s words to Zechariah – “your prayer has been heard” – is a refreshing reminder for us in a world where prayer is arguably underrated and overcomplicated. Prayer doesn’t need to be special or fancy, offered at particular times or only for particular things. Prayer is living deliberately with God. It can be a minute of silence, a hasty thanks, an inarticulate “help”. Most importantly though, prayer is a conversation; a two-way exchange with God. For all our words, perhaps the most important thing is to include plenty of time to listen.


Omniscient God, hear our prayer. Be with us today and inspire our souls to live more closely with You. Encourage us to call on you. Nurture us to find You in our quiet moments, to recognise Your word for us. Thank you God for hearing our prayer. Amen.

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

Fear

Luke 1:8-12 – The angel Gabriel appears to Zechariah 

Once when he was serving as priest before God and his section was on duty, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and offer incense. Now at the time of the incense offering, the whole assembly of the people was praying outside. Then there appeared to him an angel of the Lord, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was terrified; and fear overwhelmed him.


Leafless tree in the desert @ Walton United Church, Oakville, Ontario

This has been a deeply fearful year: international tensions have risen on a number of fronts, while domestic terrorism has surged, hurting Toronto communities as well as others in the US and Europe. Depressingly, many politicians around the world seem comfortable with this state of affairs, even inflaming fears to suit their own ends. Yet God sees our fear, and throughout the Bible sends us a consistent message of reassurance: “do not be afraid.” God is with us – may be not physically, as for Zechariah – but God stands by our side each day, as we tackle the challenges in our lives that may make us fearful. God strengthens us and supports us, in our hearts and through those who walk beside us; while the teaching of Jesus encourages us to live positively and confront fear in this life, rather than to be fearful as we approach the next.


All-powerful God, be with us in these confronting times. Sustain us as we face each day and the challenges it can bring. Strengthen us to see the world through your eyes, and to recognize where we can make a difference in our communities. Give us the courage to step forward in faith, seeking to do Your will. Amen.

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

Barren

Introducing Zechariah and Elizabeth – Luke 1:5-7 

In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly order of Abijah. His wife was a descendant of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. Both of them were righteous before God, living blamelessly according to all the commandments and regulations of the Lord. But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were getting on in years.

Leafless tree in the desert @ Walton United Church, Oakville, Ontario

Elizabeth and Zechariah are remarkable for their commitment: living faithfully in the face of despair; never giving up their faith, even when they have given up their dreams. Their story encourages us to consider how we can adopt their quiet acceptance of challenges and frustrations in our lives; how we might let go of a situation that is causing pain and stress. Not to give up, but to hand the problem over to God. To spend less energy on circumstances outside our control and to lessen a problem’s grip on our lives. And to remember it is when we are at our most powerless, when our ideas and plans are barren, that God is most apparent.


Faithful God, be with us when we can see no way forward, no solution at hand. Ease our minds with the assurance of Your love and compassion. Sustain us each day, through the ups and downs of life, and grant us Your peace. Amen.

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

Truth

Smartphone plugged into a Bible @ Walton United Church, Oakville, Ontario

Welcome to the 2018 Daily Advent Devotional from Walton United Church. Each day throughout Advent, you’ll receive a short email with a short reading, a reflection and a prayer, aiming to encourage you throughout Advent and help you draw closer to God. This year, we’re exploring the Advent and Nativity story as told in the Gospel of Luke, starting with Luke 1:1-4 – Luke’s introduction to his Gospel.


Luke 1: 1-4

Since many have undertaken to set down an orderly account of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed on to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, I too decided, after investigating everything carefully from the very first, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the truth concerning the things about which you have been instructed.


In this arguably post-truth world that we live in, Luke’s careful preparation and diligent efforts act as both reminder and encouragement of the value and power of truth. Moreover, as Luke indicates, God’s truth – embodied in the life and love of Jesus Christ – is not only to be preserved but also treasured and shared. As we progress through Advent, we are challenged to remember that this is not just a time of expectation, but also of affirmation. So as we wait for the birth of our Lord, Jesus, we affirm his saving grace and eternal love – and we accept the challenge of trying to live as a “servant of the word.”


Almighty God, remind us this Advent of the truth of Your love for us, a love so great that You gave Your only son to redeem each one of us. Grow in us an awareness of this love in all we do and everyone we meet. Encourage us to live out Your truth and be a faithful servant of Your word. Amen.

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

Truth

Truth - Advent Devotional @ Walton United Church, Oakville, Ontario
Photo credit: Marg Meharg

The wondrous story of Christmas is incomplete without the impending shadow of Easter. Jesus’ birth is remarkable in that he will go on to die, to take away our sins. He is not majestic and worthy of worship because he is a king, not in this world, but rather because he testifies to the truth of God’s love and our absolution.


Dear Lord, righteous God,
As we celebrate your birth, let us also remain mindful of the truth that you lived out: that God loved us so entirely that he sent us his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him shall not perish but instead have eternal life. 
Amen.

John 18:37

37 Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”