Daily Devotion – December 31, 2013

Ecclesiastes 3:9-15 

The God-Given Task


9What gain have the workers from
their toil? 10I have
seen the business that God has given to everyone to be busy with. 11He has made everything
suitable for its time; moreover, he has put a sense of past and future into
their minds, yet they cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to
the end. 12I know
that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy themselves as
long as they live; 13moreover,
it is God’s gift that all should eat and drink and take pleasure in all their
toil. 14I know that
whatever God does endures for ever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything
taken from it; God has done this, so that all should stand in awe before him. 15That which is, already has
been; that which is to be, already is; and God seeks out what has gone by.*


Reflection by Geoff Heilhecker


Anything that takes effort and
determination to do has always been the most rewarding and thrilling for me.
There is nothing that we cannot rise up from; we toil at our jobs and make the
most of bad situations and revel in the friendship of friends and family. It is
what makes the daily toil worth doing; we get the opportunity of sharing those
special moments of love and happiness with those that mean so very much to us.
Toil in my eyes is what you make out of it; my toil might seem small to someone
else or impossible to others, but it is mine and mine alone to bear. This is
what makes me who I am today and tomorrow.



May your toils of the year be within your plan to make us all better Christians and
continue to rise up and do the things that we want to do, no matter how large
that toil might be.


Daily Devotion – December 30, 2013

John 13:34 


A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.


Reflection by Holly CothranDrake


Growing up in a small, rural community in northwest Georgia, I did not experience a lot of diversity.  Most residents attended local Baptist or Methodist churches, except two friends I knew who were members of the Catholic Church in town.  Most of my friends lived in similar houses and drove similar vehicles.  I did not have any close friends who looked or acted much differently from me. 

After arriving as a freshman at the University of Georgia, I realized how much diversity existed and how beautiful it was.  I discovered that diversity made me grow and become more compassionate towards others.  In summary, diversity made me a better person. 

Let us not be afraid to reach beyond our comfort zone.  Let us explore the beauty of diversity that God has created.  With the New Year approaching, make a list of actions you can do to bring diversity into your life. 


Song for Reflection:


“Jesus loves the little children

All the children of the world

Red, brown, yellow, black or white

They’re all precious in His sight

Jesus loves the little children of the world”



Daily Devotion – December 29, 2013

Matthew 2:19-23

When Herod died, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt. “Rise,” he said, “and take the little child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel.  For those who seek the little child’s life are dead.” So he rose and took the little child and his mother, and went into the land of Israel.  When he heard that Archelaus was king in Judaea instead of Herod, his father, he was afraid to go there.  So, when, he head received a message from God in a dream, he withdrew to the districts of Galilee, and he came and settled in a town called Nazareth.  This happened so that the word spoke through the prophets might be fulfilled: “He shall be called a Nazarene.” 


Reflection by Matthew Alexander


After the birth of Jesus, and more than likely years after the birth of Jesus, this young family packed up their things and settled in the town of Nazareth.  Why? One reason is because they had gotten news that Herod was dead and the other was so that prophecy might be fulfilled.  I’m always struck by the fact the prophecy needed to be fulfilled because I have yet to find any mention of Nazareth or that Jesus was to be called a Nazarene in the Old Testament.  Despite the lack of mention of Nazareth in the Old Testament, the city seems to be important to the author of the Gospel.  I was curious about this so I did some research. 

In researching, I found out that Nazareth was a valley in the hills in the south of Galilee.  I learned that a person who climbed the hills from the valleys and looked out from the top could see the world before them.  Jesus could have looked west and seen the waters of the Mediterranean.  I can only imagine the ships that must have been coming and going, and looking out at the horizon and seeing an endless world.  He would have also been able to see the road from Damascus to Egypt, the land bridge to Africa.  This was a major trade route and the people Jesus would have met and seen would have been endless.  To the east, he would have seen the Eastern bounds of the Roman Empire, which silk and spices would have been traded. On top of the vastness of the world seen from that hilltop, the region was full of rich history.  I mean can you imagine staring out into Egypt and recalling the story of Joseph being sold into slavery and how that altered an entire race of people. 

I don’t know why Matthew put Jesus and his family in Nazareth.  Was it to fulfill prophecy? Maybe.  On the other hand, maybe it was because this is where Jesus needed to be and the writer knew that this was the town that made sense for a savior to grow up in; one where he could be exposed to the world.  The stories he must have heard, the lessons he must have learned, and the vast knowledge about the world from the weary travelers that came through his town he must have gained.  He knew the stories of his faith, He knew the stories of the travelers, and I am sure that He knew that while this was a beautiful world there were things that were going to need to be changed.  Jesus would grow up in town that would give him the stories, the lessons, and the knowledge to help bring that change to the world.    


May we all have the courage to listen, to learn, and to experience this world and may we generous with our light.

Daily Devotion – December 28, 2013


Romans 15:7

Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.


Reflection by Diane Ingram 


She came over to our table this morning sporting a green bib apron trimmed in white
rickrack.  “Merry Christmas,” she
said.  “Thank you for coming in. I hope
you have good holidays.” 


Her welcome was a smart business move, but one that works especially well for Mary
Ann because she means it.  She’s sincere,
likes her customers, comes out of the kitchen and walks among us. 


If she and I sat down to talk about religion or politics, there would be very
little common ground, but we weren’t talking about those things this
morning.  All she was doing was welcoming
us in her restaurant. All we were doing was replying in kind.


Sometimes, as the Pope has recently pointed out, we put all our concentration on those
areas where we differ.  We set out to
correct the world, to make it right, to make other people see the error of
their ways.  And, there may indeed be
error, but is that all that defines a person?


What if, instead, we at least think about setting out to welcome one another?  Might
we accomplish more?





Loving God, please help us to have patience with each other. When the urge to confront
arises, help us to question our need to be right, our method of responding.  Help us to be kind to one another.





Daily Devotion – December 27, 2013

Matthew 2:13-15 


13 When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to
Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape
to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the
child to kill him.”

14 So he got up, took the child and his mother during
the night and left for Egypt, 15 where he stayed until the death of
Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of
Egypt I called my son.”


Reflection by Don Tawney, Sr.


The divine guidance had come to the wise
men, so it came to Joseph, who was told by an angel of the Lord to take the
young child and his mother into Egypt.  There Joseph would likely come
unnoticed with his family, for there were estimated a million Jews living in
Egypt, having fled for their safety as well.  Joseph in his hour of peril
was doing what many Jews had done before. 

Matthew sees in the flight to Egypt a
fulfillment of prophecy.  The deliverance brought about by God in saving
His people from Egypt provided the Jew with a type of the redemption to come
through the Messiah.  The birth of Jesus, like that of Moses, is
associated with the murder of infants; there is a flight and return in the
story of each. 

This was not the first time Joseph
received angelic instruction.  Matthew 1:20 says an angel of the Lord
appeared to him in a dream saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid
to take Mary as your wife; for that which has been conceived in her is of the
Holy Spirit.”



Joy to the world!  The Lord is come; Let earth receive her King; Let every
heart prepare Him room, And heaven and nature sing.   Amen   

(Isaac Watts)                

Daily Devotion – December 26, 2013

Isaiah 9:6-7

6 For a child has been born for us,

   a son given to us;

authority rests upon his shoulders;

   and he is named

Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,

   Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

7 His authority shall
grow continually,

   and there shall be endless peace

for the throne of David and his kingdom.

   He will establish and uphold it

with justice and with righteousness

   from this time onwards and for evermore.

The zeal of the Lord of hosts will
do this.


Reflection by Lynne Buell


Jesus is a gift to us from God.  These verses announce the predictions of his birth, his purpose, and his immortality.  It may be the end of the year, but let’s look at it as a beginning.  Starting today, we should receive God’s gift with enthusiasm.  Let’s be unique (in our own way) and help spread the love and joy (that we share at Christmas) throughout the next year. 



Help me to learn how to counsel others from God’s perspective.  Amen.

Daily Devotion – December 25, 2013

Luke 2: 1-20


And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. 2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) 3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) 5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. 

6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. 12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. 16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. 

17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. 18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. 9 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them. 


Reflection by Ugena Whitlock


One Night in Bethlehem

Greetings to you on this Christmas Day, a day when we will enjoy family, the happiness of giving gifts to people we love, and figgy pudding! As I sit down to write, I wonder whether there is anything I can say about the birth of Jesus that hasn’t been said before. I doubt it-the images are so defined and clear to us that if I say the words Bethlehem, star, shepherds, you will likely form the nativity scene in your mind, supplying donkeys and swaddling clothes. I’m betting that wherever you grew up, whatever your background, you have heard the Christmas Story from Luke read or recounted, probably-like me-once a year on CBS since 1965. For your holiday viewing pleasure, here is Linus’ rendition of it for Charlie Brown:


Watching the clip again, I started to wonder what it is about that scene, that story that so many people are so fond of. It occurs to me that whether it’s on A Charlie Brown Christmas or performed in the church Christmas pageant or depicted on a Christmas card, Luke 2: 1-20 is a showstopper. But why? I have a few thoughts I’ll share. Part of the reason it is a Silent Night is because it is a Holy Night. The story also holds for us images of quiet aloneness. A young couple making their way through a crowded town, the quiet of a stable or cave-the only place they could find for her to have a baby and rest awhile-a field of sheep grazing. We know this setting; all is calm, all is bright.


Also, and I’ve read this before, Jesus could have come around in any form and in any way. The skies over Bethlehem-no, make it a real city, Jerusalem, Rome, Ephesus-could have opened up and the king could have come to earth on a celestial escalator. I think, though, that if you’re God, that’s a little too obvious. Jesus came to people as a baby-a fragile little human baby. His first cradle was a manger. As Linus said, “Kind of makes you think, doesn’t it, Charlie Brown?” It’s a lesson in humility to realize that our king was born to poor people and laid in a feeding trough.


Finally, back to the angels and heavenly chorus that appeared out in the middle of nowhere to sheepherders. All the fanfare to announce the royal birth took place where there was next to nobody to see it. Think of what Cecil B. DeMille could have done with this-or Stephen Spielberg! Also, it is important to note what those herald angels were singing. Glory to God in the highest. Sometimes, I forget to connect the baby in the manger to God. Sometimes I forget to remember that it is that baby that connects me to God. The birth of Jesus is the divine plan in action, and it is a divine plan of which we are a part. A savior, who is Christ the Lord-deliverer, master, anointed one. God still has a plan. On this day-one of peace on earth and good will toward one another-we are humbled and awed once more by the arrival the Christ child, a child who from the manger to the cross showed us how we are part of the plan. That’s what Christmas is about, Charlie Brown.


**I have used the King James Version because it’s the version Linus recites, and I think it reads especially well in Shakespeare’s language.


Daily Devotion – December 24, 2013

Luke 1:54-55


He has helped his servant Israel,

   in remembrance of his mercy,

according to the promise he made to our ancestors,

   to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’


Reflection by Duke Yaguchi

When things happen to us and around
us, we really don’t fully understand their meaning until much later. In Luke 1,
the writings tell the story of the coming births of John the Baptist and of
Jesus. Everyone knew that they would be filled with the Holy Spirit and brings
great things to the world, but the people really didn’t understand. They
thought these two men would change the world for them. But really, what John
and Jesus were here for, was to change people, and changed people could then
change the world.

When there’s an almost magical
moment, I recognize that there is an opportunity for change. But too often, I’m
thinking, okay, what will change and how will it change? But the Holy Spirit
doesn’t float around in a cloud and change things. I don’t think it does
anyway. The Holy Spirit resides in people, and people must make an effort to
change things. John and Jesus were people. Special people for sure. But they
were people. They weren’t inanimate objects or animals or storms. They were
people making a conscious effort to change things.

I think that’s part of the disappointment
in human nature. We wait, expecting things to change for us. We wait for the
birth of baby Jesus thinking that event alone will change the world. But no,
bringing baby Jesus only helps us to change. We have to do the work. We have to
believe. We have to pray and listen to God’s response. And we have to celebrate
His birth by helping to change the world to become a more peaceful, Christ-like


I thank you Lord for bringing Jesus into the world. Thank
you for having Him walk and talk amongst us. Thank you for having Him show us a
better way to think and live. Help me honor our baby Jesus by allowing the Holy
Spirit to guide me in my continuing journey. May God bless you and keep you and
shine His face upon you, just as He did with baby Jesus over 2000 years ago. In
His name I pray. Amen.


Daily Devotion – December 23, 2013

Luke 1:52-53


He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,

   and lifted up the lowly; 

he has filled the hungry with good things,

   and sent the rich away empty.



Reflection by Rochelle Lofstrand


Mary is pregnant and decided to visit her relative Elizabeth.  Like Mary, Elizabeth also experienced a miracle in her pregnancy when God graced her with child in her old age.  Upon greeting Elizabeth, the child in Elizabeth’s womb leapt.  The next verses in Luke describe Mary praising her God for the miracle of her being pregnant with Jesus.  Today’s verses, 52-53, describe some of the amazing works that God has done – lifted the lowly and fed the hungry.  As Christmas and the birth of Christ approach, let us all try to emulate the Glory of God by lifting the lowly and feeding the hungry.  We are all capable of doing God’s work here on Earth.  Are you willing?



God, as Advent draws to an end and the anticipation of Jesus’ birth continues to grow please remind us about how we can honor you and your works here on Earth.  Thank you for today’s reminder to lift the lowly and feed the hungry and to keep these good works going throughout the year!  AMEN.

Daily Devotion – December 22, 2013

Isaiah 9:2 


2. The people walking in darkness have seen a great light;

on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.


Reflection by Darlene Wagner


The restorative power of Divine Spirit is often likened unto light. The decreasing day length of Advent season implies longer shadows, longer nights, and for some people, myself included, a trigger for depression. Yet I’ve learned that the darkness of early winter need not bring melancholy or anxiety. I could never have learned to cherish the light without having spent extended periods in the scarcity or absence of light. It seems to be no coincidence that, Christmas, the celebration of Divine Light’s advent on earth, is observed only four days after winter solstice. In midst of frenetic gift-buying, letter-writing, baking, and travel, I strive to set aside time for wonderment at lessons of a Divine Reality shining from both natural and artificial light. At the same time, my procurement or preparation of gifts, my commitment of time to friends, family, and outreach to complete strangers, all enhance the Divine Light for others.




Dearest Loving Mother,

Shall I call you Gentleness? Shall I call you Loving kindness?

May I venture to see in all good things

reminders of your indescribable grandeur?

If you are warmth and light, then make me one with you!

May all the adoration in my heart shine as a lamp,

of gentle, kind, goodwill to everyone around!