Reflection on Advent and Christmas

A Feast Of Welcome And Inclusion

This past Wednesday, deeply troubling events in our nation called our attention away from the Feast of Epiphany. And yet, Epiphany it was. Epiphany is a feast that celebrates the light of God that shines in the deep shadows of our brokenness and our jagged ways of treating one another, illuminating a way forward. The Gospel for the day throws into sharp relief the story of a tyrannical and violent king who would hold onto power at all costs—and a poor family on the run from his political terror, a family who guarded the safety of a different, liberating kind of servant leader. It is a feast of welcome and inclusion, offering a vision of human community that comes together around the child who shall lead us—rather than pulling apart and destroying itself. In our worship service this past Wednesday, we read the psalm appointed for the day, which describes the true measure of a leader—one who ‘saves the lives of those who are in need’ and ‘redeems their lives from oppression and violence’ (Psalm 72.13,14).

“the true measure of a leader—one who ‘saves the lives of those who are in need’ and ‘redeems their lives from oppression and violence’ “

Psalm 72.13,14

Let Us Be The Ones Who Join The Work To Redeem Our World From Oppression And Violence

As we close our Advent and Christmas season, a time that we have studied and prayed together, let us not put aside the truth of Christmas like so many decorations to be un-hung or ornaments to be packed away until next year. Let us not only remember God’s call to change our hearts and our lives, as John proclaims at the beginning of Advent, but let us find the strength together to live in such a way each day. Let us not lose the eyes that have come to see that Christ comes to us not once, not twice, but every day—in the guise of the most vulnerable and marginalized among us. Let us ‘save the lives of those in need.’ Let us be the ones who join the work to redeem our world from oppression and violence. And let us never forget that this light of love and liberation still shines in a darkness that can neither overwhelm nor overcome it. 

Monday, January 4

Author: Kevin D. Dodson

Ephesians 1:3-14

Reflection: v. 3, ‘who has blessed us in Christ’

As the word of God starts out in Ephesians 1:3-14, it states that God has blessed us. Just as he blessed Jesus for the world, he has also blessed us. As I continued to read, I noticed the reminder that we are redeemed of our sins. For me, I think of the image of being covered in the blood of Jesus. I remember that I am made blameless and even holy. In this covering, the mystery of God’s will for us is unveiled. What that big unveiling shows is that we may have everything in heaven and on earth—it’s for all of us. In Christ, we have earned the inheritance! With purpose, we can live with hope and praise our God in heaven, which in turn strengthens us in faith, love, understanding, belief, trust, and salvation through the Holy Spirit. The word tells me this is our ‘pledge inheritance’—to praise our heavenly Creator in heaven and on earth.

Prayer Thank you God for blessing us—thank you for choosing us!

Sunday, January 3 – 2nd Week of Christmas

Author: Adam Bennett

Jeremiah 31:7-14

Reflection: v. 13, ‘I will turn their mourning into joy, I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow.’

How many times have we needed a reassuring and living word to move us into hope in God once more? Through the trials and tribulations in everyday life, God has promised that there is a time for sorrows and for the tough times to have an end! It is a time when God lifts us up above these circumstances and turns what may have been a long and difficult moment and gives us joy through his love for us. God tells of his promises to take off the old yolk of the world and its ways, and suddenly causes a miraculous change of circumstances to fulfill God’s plan in and for our lives. Our Lord and Savior Jesus will move heaven and earth to help us through a situation. He has given us life and through his life, death, and resurrection, the promises of God’s will is fulfilled. Reflect on that. God gives us life, joy, and peace to come.

Prayer Thank you, Father God, and thank you, Lord Jesus, for your steadfast love and care. Put in us your spirit, cleanse us so that we may receive your promises of salvation and new life by Christ Jesus!

Saturday, January 2

Author: Holly Reimer

Isaiah 61:10-62:3

Reflection: v. 1, ‘I won’t keep silent‘

These are a people who are in exile—people who feel abandoned, likely betrayed, and experiencing desolation. Although it feels as though God is absent and cares little about God’s people, particularly in their distress, this is a reminder that God is present in the darkness and pain. God will not be still. The prophet will not be still. We are not to be still. I have found for myself that it is easy to be paralyzed with inaction when the work to challenge oppression and injustice, a work of love and grace feels, overwhelming. We freeze in body and voice. I am reminded of the work of Stacey Abrams, who in the face of discouragement and loss, was determined to be anything but still and silent. She refused to allow defeat to paralyze her and, as a result, made space for a work of justice. This is the message, folks. We are not to be still. We are not to be silent. We have been called to do the tough work of moving one limb at a time when paralysis threatens to take over. If we are to be faithful, that means we will not be still, and we will not be silenced. It is not enough to say ‘black lives matter’ or ‘love is love.’ Be grassroots. Put your feet on the ground. Build relationships, and get to know one another—and not because you have something to gain, but because your stillness means there is something lost. Yes, the work is hard. No, we may not see the promises of God clearly in the moment. But that doesn’t mean God isn’t present.

Prayer Lord, I pray that we won’t keep silent anymore. May our voices be an action that leads to peace and justice for all.

Friday, January 1

Author: Herman Harris

Isaiah 61:10-62:3

Reflection: v.10, ‘he has covered me’

I believe that God definitely wants me to be healthy. I talk to God every day. I’m designed to be healthy and clean. I’ll pass by the liquor store, and there were days when I would have just went in there when I had the money, but I choose not to, because that’s where I’m at today. I take it one day at a time. I have to make the same choice tomorrow—I have to choose not to. And I thank God that he helps me to do that. God is the foundation of my trying to get clean. He connects the dots for me. Every day I try to involve myself in the Bible studies we have here at Mercy—they connect to my recovery. Studying the Bible in community helps me build a foundation and gives me a reason to stay clean and stay sober. It also makes me want to live not just for myself, but to help somebody else. It’s not only about me, but the people around me. Other people, if they see you’ve had long-term recovery, they go by what they see.

Prayer Lord, let my actions live out what I’m trying to do and what I believe in.

Wednesday, December 30

Author: Ronald Johnson

Isaiah 61:10-62:3

Reflection: v.10, ‘he has clothed me… he has covered me’

This passage makes me think of the image of being out of fellowship, but then coming back to be welcomed and clothed with the grace, mercy, and righteousness of God. This is what being in fellowship with God is like. God wants to and can provide for all of my needs. This passage says, ‘he has clothed me…and covered me.’ That verse stands out to me, because it reminds me that God cares about my needs. He is giving me my basic needs, both spiritually and physically. This gives me hope, direction, and purpose. The volunteering I do with a ministry downtown gives me an opportunity to give back and to show people who have a background just like me that God is able to and wants to care for us—if he can do it for me, he can do it for you. From crack to Christ, from weed to the Word, from a six-pack to a four-pack—that’s Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

Prayer Provide for our needs, O God, and help us to lead others to you.

Tuesday, December 29

Author: Tracey Lynn

Psalm 148

Reflection: v. 3, ‘Praise him, sun and moon, praise him, all you shining stars!’

I was walking my dog one evening. It was dark and cold outside. I had my jacket zipped up tight, hands in my pockets, shoulders pulled up towards my ears. My gaze settled downward and I remember feeling an overwhelming sense of loneliness as Thumper and I navigated our nightly route. With family far away and suddenly a single mom to two young daughters in a new city, the feeling of isolation was overpowering. Eventually, Thumper and I reached the corner and turned around to walk home. As we made the U-turn, I took a deep breath, glanced upwards and audibly gasped. My eyes locked on the biggest, brightest moon I had ever seen. My impulse was to reach out and touch it, even though I knew that would be impossible. Thumper and I stopped walking for a moment while I just stared and was overtaken by the moon’s beauty. Praising God amid loneliness, fear, rejection, and isolation is not necessarily the first thing that naturally springs forth. But God is in everything. If we take just a moment to shift our gaze towards that which is purely of our Creator God, praise can become us. We are never alone if we are willing to glance in the direction of the Creator, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Prayer May we trust that God will never leave us alone.

Monday, December 28

Author: John Morgan

Psalm 148

Reflection: v. 3, ‘praise him, all you shining stars’

My name is Johnny Morgan. I’m 65 years old, and I pray to the Lord. I pray every night. This passage reminds us to praise God. In my prayers, I like to thank the Lord. When I pray, I look at the stars at night, and I thank God. I have something to be thankful for—I might not be rich, I might not be where I want to be in life, but I know that God is with me. I thank God for the people that surround me, and I thank God for the love they show me. I thank God for the life he has given me. My Momma always said, ‘Hold onto God; keep praying and hold on.’ God meets my needs. Mercy Church has given me food and a place to stay, and I pray every night for these people. I praise God. I have had to learn a lot. God had to lead me away from certain people, places, and things, and get my life going. And I can see that, and I can show love now to everyone. I know the Holy Spirit is beginning to work through me, and I pray that I can feel good about it.

Prayer Holy Spirit, help us to feel good about the ways you are leading us!

Thursday, December 31

Author: Herman Harris

Isaiah 61:10-62:3

Reflection: v.11, ‘the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise’

Reading this passage reminds me that I can turn the corner. I used to think that I really didn’t deserve good things, because of all the stuff I’ve done in the past. I beat myself up a lot. And sometimes I will fall short. But I’m grateful today that I can turn the corner. I’ve seen so many of my friends pass away from addiction or other things. When I went to the hospital, it gave me a reality check. When they had me hooked up to all that stuff, it was a reminder that my life is important. My family was calling me, and I had people surrounding me that really cared, even when I hadn’t cared for myself. Sometimes it takes other people around you who value you to make you realize that you have value. Like my community at Mercy. I come here every day to get spiritually fed, and because it is important to have people around you who care about you.

Prayer Lord, help me to remember I am surrounded by your love.

Sunday, December 27 – 1st Week of Christmas

Author: Steve Smith

Psalm 148

Reflection: v. 1, ‘Praise the Lord!’

This psalm reminds me that we are called to praise the Lord with all our heart, mind, and soul—our everything. It is God’s kingdom that reigns forevermore. We’re reminded not to ever forsake God, because God will never forsake you. God is the all, the everything. And God cares about all people—all people. This makes me want to live my life and give all the praise and glory to God.

Prayer Give all praise and glory to our God Almighty. Amen!