About the Authors

Many thanks to all who contributed to this year’s Advent Devotional offerings. They are:

Bill Albritton is a retired consultant who offers his gifts as a choir member and church leader at Saint John the Evangelist Episcopal Church in Duxbury, Massachusetts. He leads Coffee & Conversation, a weekly study that explores the Bible, church, prayer, and the many other aspects of faith life.

David Anderson is an Episcopal priest in the Diocese of Pennsylvania, currently working for the uplifting of those in need in the Philadelphia area. He is the author of Losing Your Faith, Finding Your Soul and Breakfast Epiphanies. He and his wife, Pam Anderson, live outside Philadelphia.

Riley Anderson was in college when she created the image for the passage about Jesse. It continues to be a wonderful part of the Advent devotional.

Ann Fowler is a spiritual director who offers her considerable and prayerful wisdom in the Plymouth, Massachusetts community.

Jill Fredrickson is a retired teacher and business leader from Canon City, Colorado. She continues to grow in love and wisdom, seeking the presence of God in the stillness of the desert and in her family life.

Debbie Hill is a musician, poet, and visual artist who offers her gifts to the Christ Church community in Plymouth, Massachusetts. With her husband, Don, she provides music for the Saturday evening service once a month – and for several other services throughout the year.

Margaret Hill is a singer and visual artist who shares her prayerful images with her Christ Church community.

Jeff Jones is a retired Baptist minister and author of several books, including Facing Decline, Finding Hope. He lives with his wife in Florida.

Robin Nielson is a retired educator and parishioner of Christ Church in Plymouth, where she serves as the head of the Altar Guild. She and her family live in Plymouth, Massachusetts.

Thom Nordquist offered his images to his Christ Church family throughout his life. He is remembered fondly by the parish community, his wife, Ellen, and his family.

Parting Words

Readings: Isaiah 62:6-12; Psalm 97; Titus 3:4-7; Luke 2:8-20

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 Savior, 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.” 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.” 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 about this child; and all who heard it were amazed what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. Luke 2:8-20, NRSV

May we never be afraid of holy messengers.

May we treasure these words in our hearts.

May we ponder their meaning in our lives.

May we return to home and work singing the praises of God.

Welcome, Jesus.

Angel by Margaret Hill

Fear Not

Readings: Isaiah 9:2-7; Psalm 96; Titus 2:11-14; Luke 2:1-14 (15-20)

by Thom Nordquist

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 Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. Luke 2:10-11

In grateful thanks for the life of Thom Nordquist, and the art he shared with his Christ Church family.

Yes

Readings: Luke 1:46b-55; Micah 4:6-8; 2 Peter 1:16-21

Ages reaching down to present.

All knowing seeking innocence.

Awaiting fulfillment of the Word,

generations to come and kingdoms

teeter on the brink of the response.

The complex mystery of the Alpha and the Omega

bending to purity and simplicity.

Combined breath of universe

and totality of holiness,

in stillness and silent reverence

listen for her answer……

and in a moment for all time,

in complete surrender to love,

She replies, “Yes……

Offered by Debbie Hill to light the path to Bethlehem

Walls

Readings: Luke 1:46b-55; Micah 4:1-5; Ephesians 2:11-22

So then, remember that at one time you Gentiles by birth, called “the uncircumcision” by those who are called “the circumcision” – a physical circumcision made in the flesh by human hands – remember the you were at one time without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, the he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it. So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; In whole you are also built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God. NRSV

For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us.
Ephesians 2:14 (NIV)

The Gentiles, who were at one time welcomed into the temple (I Kings 8: 41-43), are no longer allowed into the temple under penalty of death; the wall of hostility divides the Jews from the non-Jews. The writer of Ephesians proclaims peace and unity are now here through the broken body of Jesus.  

Last Sunday we lit the 4th candle, the candle symbolizing peace—the culmination of our journey to Bethlehem. Peace on earth, goodwill to all. And yet there remains so many walls of hostility.  The Body of Christ introduces a fundamental perspective of community as organic, not structural, organizational or doctrinal—forms of community against which Jesus struggled. These artificial communities, with their rigid systems, were exactly what Jesus sought to replace. He welcomed people into  relationships that allowed for differences, tolerated uncertainties, and respected the dignity of every human being. May we do the same as we pray a prayer for unity from the Book of Common Prayer:

O God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, our only Savior, the Prince of Peace: Give us grace seriously to lay to heart the great dangers we are in by our unhappy divisions; take away all hatred and prejudice, and whatever else may hinder us from godly union and concord; that, as there is but one Body and one Spirit, one hope of our calling, one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of us all, so we may be all of one heart and of one soul, united in one holy bond of truth and peace, of faith and charity, and may with one mind and one mouth glorify thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Offered by Bill Albritton, a light on our path to Bethlehem.

As We Ought

Readings: Psalm 113; Genesis 30:1-24; Romans 8:18-30

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. Romans 8:26-27, NRSV

Lord, it’s just a few days until I arrive at the manger, and I’m lost. I can’t find the words to pray, and I’m losing my way in the darkness of night. It’s all I can do to put one foot in front of the other. All I can do is trust the you will be with me, guiding my feet, guarding my spirit, giving me words.

Until I kneel beside you in Bethlehem, I will say Amen and Amen.

All Things Hold Together

Readings: Psalm 113; Genesis 30:1-24; Colossians 1:39-45

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers – all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross. Colossians 1:39-45, NRSV

It’s tempting to divide up the various parts of reality, but it’s a false division; the God of Abraham and Sarah created the world and called people to act with justice and compassion. God is intimately concerned with all of creation, and God-with-us isn’t limited to the years Jesus walked on the earth. There isn’t a single atom that exists in separation from God, nor a single person.

When my own limitations and lack of love move me to place anything outside God’s loving reach, I am reminded of the truth: all things hold together, not just some.

When I feel outside God’s loving reach, I’ll remember it as well.

Why Me?

Readings: Micah 5:2-5a; Luke 1:46b-55; Hebrews 10:5-10; Luke 1:39-45

In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.” Luke 1:39-45, NRSV

“Why has this happened to me?” It’s a rare thing when these words are said with joy. Even rarer the recognition of God’s chosen in the form of a young woman. But Elizabeth was a rare one.

Perhaps being pregnant in her later years brought together two spiritual gifts: wisdom’s clarity of vision and a youthful trust in the newness of life.

Children

Readings: Psalm 80:1-7; Isaiah 66:7-11; Luke 13:31-35

At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” He said to them, “Go and tell that fox for me, ‘Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.’ Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.'” Luke 13:31-35, NRSV

When power and wealth become ends to achieve rather than means to love God and neighbor as well as self, spiritual blindness sets in and prophets arise with the corrective lenses that no one wants. And so the blind, lost in the dark, strike them down. The blind retain their possessions and their blindness.

Jesus doesn’t come to punish the blind, but to gather them together in love. He knows they won’t be gathered, and he knows his life is forfeit because of it. So why not walk away?

Because no good mother (hen) walks away from a child in need.

Questions

Readings: Psalm 80:1-7; Isaiah 42:10-18; Hebrews 10:32-39

But recall those earlier days when, after you had been enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to abuse and persecution, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion for those who were in prison, and you cheerfully accepted the plundering of your possessions, knowing that you yourselves possessed something better and more lasting. Do not, therefore, abandon that confidence of yours; it brings a reward. For you need endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised. For yet “in a very little while, the one who is coming will come and will not delay; but my righteous one will live by faith. My soul takes no pleasure in anyone who shrinks back.” But we are not among those who string back and so are lost, but among those who have faith and so are saved. Hebrews 10:32-39, NRSV

Many years back, I lost out on a job because of my faith. It’s the only time it ever happened, and it didn’t cause me more than a momentary monetary setback. I’d hardly call that persecution or abuse. Unfair, yes, but that’s not the same thing. These words don’t apply to my circumstance, and I’d be telling tales if I said otherwise. But this passage does bring up questions:

For whose benefit would I cheerfully lose my possessions?

Do I value the blessings of faith more than what I earn or own?

In times of trouble, will I be among those who shrink back rather than endure?

Perhaps such questions are the reason for this part of the Lord’s Prayer:

Save us from the time of trial.