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Daily Devotion – December 31, 2014
12.31.14

Ecclesiastes 3:1-13

Everything Has Its Time

3For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: 2 a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; 3 a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; 4 a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; 5 a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; 6 a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away; 7 a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; 8 a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.

The God-Given Task

9 What 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.

 

Reflection by Geoff Heilhecker

 

In the first section; everything has it’s time: we have learned through our own life experiences that life is not all sunshine and roses, nor is it all doom and gloom.  We would like to think there is a balance and a greater purpose than we can sometimes comprehend.  God’s plan is not always obvious to us and we can get bogged down in the “why”.  That’s when we need to relax, let go, and trust in God’s design.   At this time of year, no matter how hard life may be, let go of the pain, and revel in God’s gift of love, of the friendships, of the beauty of life.

 

Prayer: 

May we make a greater effort to let God impact our lives now so that we can see just how loving and gracious our actions can add more meaning to others.



Daily Devotion – December 29, 2014
12.29.14

When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord.”), and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him.  It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.  Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God saying,

                “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.”

And the child’s father and mother were amazed about what was being said about him.  Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”   Luke 2:22-35

Reflection by Matthew Alexander

At Oakhurst Baptist Church in Decatur, Georgia where Sunny and I used to attend church, it is customary for all children born into the congregation to be blessed before the church and before God.  Jim Brooks has been blessing the children for years.  In a Lion King like fashion, Jim takes the child into his arms, introduces himself, and then raises the child up in front of everybody for all to see.  He praises God for the new blessing through a prayer and then brings the child back into his arms.  He then walks around the sanctuary, introducing the child to his or her new community.  In return, the community receives the child as one of them.

I remember when Hannah and Jake had this done.  It was a sacred day.  A day of joy.  A day of welcoming.  For Sunny and I, the waiting was over and our child was now in the world officially being welcomed into the community.

The scripture reveals a beautiful ritual of welcoming and blessing Jesus into our midst.  The waiting is over and Christ has come.  For Simeon this meant that salvation had come.  What a joyous time this should be.  As we prepare for the New Year may we find ways (maybe a ritual of our own) to welcome Christ among us.

Prayer:

Thank you for sending Christ into the world.  Thank you for the joy, peace, hope, and love he offers to each one of us.  Teach us to welcome your son into our lives, so that we may experience your blessing.  Amen. 



Daily Devotion – December 28, 2014
12.28.14

Isaiah 61:10 (New International Version (NIV)

10 I delight greatly in the Lord;     my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation     and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest,     and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

 

Devotion by Holly CothranDrake

 

If possible, find a spot to sit quietly with your eyes closed. Imagine the Almighty One wrapping you in a colorful, handmade shawl. The colors are so bright that they glow. Feel the warmth of the glow. Now imagine as you go about your day that you are still wearing this garment given to you through love. And no matter what you do right or wrong, and no matter what you say right or wrong, you are still clothed in warm love. How can you not rejoice? You are loved.

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, Great Creator, and God Almighty give us the words to say and actions to behave for others to learn about your love. Let us spread your love to everyone we know. In the name of your Son and our Savior, Jesus Christ, amen.

 



Daily Devotion – December 27, 2014

Psalm 96: 11-13

11 Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;    let the sea roar, and all that fills it; 12   let the field exult, and everything in it. Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy 13   before the Lord; for he is coming,    for he is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness,    and the peoples with his truth.

Devotion by Julia Shiver

Today is the 10th anniversary of the Indonesian tsunami.  I don’t know about you, but I haven’t thought about that event in a long time.  I can remember when it was so raw; lives, families, entire villages and communities, gone in a matter of moments.  People’s lives forever changed.

We were horrified by the images on our TV or computer screen.  We ached with sorrow for all that was lost.  And we gratefully went back to our regular day-to-day business.  But it is good to take a moment and remember what happened, remember the people who have been living with this for ten years. And as I did ten years ago, pray for those lost, and for those left to start over.

Loving God, I remember today those lost in the tsunami ten years ago, as well as those whose lives have been lost or changed in other catastrophic events around the world. I ask that your healing presence be with all who need your touch.  Amen.



Daily Devotion – December 26, 2014

 John 1:14

 

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

 

Devotion by Don Tawney Sr.

 

The incarnation is the fundamental part of the gospel.  Jesus Christ became true man, having a natural human body and those attributes, such as hunger, need of physical rest and sleep, etc.  Colossians 2:9 says, “For in Him, all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been made complete”.

Jesus of Nazareth was and is true God having a divine nature.  “For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross: Col. 1:19-20.  Jesus Christ is the eternal Word.  He became flesh and dwelt among us.  When He was on the earth as true man, people touched His garment and were healed, poured precious ointment on His head.  His words were the very words the Father in heaven spoke.  He is stated to be man in all ways except that He did not sin–Hebrews 4:15.  Jesus is the grace of God which saves us through faith.  He is full of truth which gives the gift of everlasting Life.

Prayer: 

Father in heaven, in Your Son, Jesus, is everlasting Life and peace.  May all our loved ones have your peace and true Life.  May the world know your true peace.

Amen



Daily Devotion – December 25, 2014
12.25.14

Luke 2: 19-20

 

19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

 

Reflection by Ugena Whitlock

 

Heart Treasures

 

I have never been to Christmas Eve services at Pilgrimage until last night. As a matter of fact, I have never been to a Christmas Eve service since it is not a practice of my faith tradition. It is kind of funny in one of those odd ways that in my desire to be of service, I volunteered to be chair of the Worship Committee just as Advent—Football Season of the church calendar—was beginning. I found myself learning about the mechanics of Advent worship services before I knew much about the meaning of Advent. So, this Christmas, I thought I would share with you some of things I learned about and from my very first Christmas Eve services.

  • The baby Jesus makes his appearance in the crèche on Christmas Eve.
  • Crèche is what we call the Nativity Set. It’s French.
  • The entire congregation is part of the Christmas Pageant Miss Janet directs.
  • Everybody gets a candle to sing Silent Night, and sometimes the wax spills onto the chair.
  • Many people dress up for the late service. It is very reverent. And dark.
  • There are a lot of second cousins, grandmas, and friends and loved ones at the early service. Extended family matters here.
  • People come alone to both services. Every soul matters here.
  • Folks pitch in for these services, whether it’s being an usher, passing out candles, or handing out Pageant headgear.
  • The second service is quieter and more somber—Kim preaches it differently. But even if you don’t know everything that is going on or all the words to the old carols, hang with it anyway. It’s worth it.
  • By going to both services, I saw all the people I love in my church family gathered together in one place. That’s a lot of love, and I’ll probably go to both of them again just for that.

 

So, these are the things I will ponder in my heart. If you are new to Christmas worship like I am, maybe you noticed these things too. If you are a “veteran,” then maybe it helped you remember some things again for the first time.  Whoever you are, wherever you are on life’s journey, you are most especially welcome to celebrate the birth of Jesus in a faith community of love. Merry Christmas, friends. May the upcoming year bring you peace and joy.



Daily Devotion – December 24, 2014

Luke 2:8-18

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 them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them.

Reflection by Duke Yaguchi

It is one thing to recognize Jesus when He is making miracles – turning water into wine, walking on water, calming storms, healing lepers, reviving the dead and so on. But to recognize Jesus in a baby? And to do so when that baby is born into such humble beginnings no less! That must have been very difficult!

How do we choose to believe what we believe? Is it because our parents believed, so we too believe? That doesn’t really work for me, because I was raised Buddhist. Is it because the Bible tells me so? But if you read my Daily Devotion last month, you know that I don’t take the Bible literally. Is it because science has proven it so? I don’t think science has proven the miracles performed by Jesus or that Jesus ascended into heaven, or that there is a heaven. And yet, I do believe. I do believe that baby born inside that manger was Jesus and that he ascended to heaven to be next to God.

I can’t explain it. I simply take a leap of faith in the existence of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. And I know they all exist for me. They have been as real as a bee sting or a sunset. Like the wind, I cannot see it, but I can feel its existence and I know that it is there. Likewise, I can feel the existence of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit and I know that they are there.

Prayer:

Dear Lord. Blessed are those who believe. May blessings come to those who don’t yet believe. For those who think the baby Jesus is just an ordinary baby in an extraordinary place, may you ponder this: Jesus was an extraordinary baby in an ordinary place. May you come to feel His presence this Christmas. Maybe a new recognition of His presence can be His present to you! Amen.

 



Daily Devotion – December 21, 2014
12.21.14

Isaiah 9:2

2 The people who walked in darkness    

have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness—    

on them light has shined.

 

Devotion by Anne Mooney

We all know about darkness. We have all experienced times of great sadness and fear. Perhaps we were small children afraid of the dark. Maybe we were adults and we lost someone we loved. We have lost jobs and struggled to pay our bills. We have watched and cared for sick loved ones. We have suffered over another’s alcoholism or drug abuse, or struggled with addictions ourselves. Sometimes, just handling the constant daily stressors life throws at us feels like darkness. Darkness is something we all know.

Advent is a time when we look forward to a light in the darkness. The coming of Jesus is our light. God wants us to know that darkness is not all there is. So a light was sent to show us the way, to show us how to live. The way of Jesus is the way of love. When we follow Jesus’ path and live our lives with open hearts of love, wonder, and forgiveness, we can help spread Jesus’ light to the world. Jesus came to bring us light. Jesus came to bring us love. Are we sharing and living Jesus’ way?

 

Prayer

Dear God, Thank you for sending your son, Jesus, to show us the light of your love. We don’t have to stay blind in the darkness of our worldly troubles anymore. We have the comfort and knowledge of your love and guidance. Help us to share your light and love with the rest of the world.   Amen

 



Daily Devotion – December 20, 2014
12.20.14

 Luke 1: 39-45  

Mary Visits Elizabeth  

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 leapt 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 leapt for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.’  

 

Reflection by Monty Wyne  

So Elizabeth, wife of Zechariah, was older than Mary and had been unable to give birth to a child, but now she’s suddenly pregnant with John. He was not only going to become a great prophet but he would prepare the way for the coming of the Lord. And Mary, whose pregnancy had just begun, is told by the angel Gabriel that she will be giving birth to the Son of the most High and that she shall call his name, Jesus. This incredible event has been called the “Blessed Visitation.”   If you think about it, both of these women’s lives have been changed forever. One is carrying the Son of God. The other is carrying the great prophet who will prepare the way for Jesus after he is born into the world. This meeting of the moms is a meeting of two great women of faith. One of the great things that comes from this event is that we have the same good news and Holy Spirit at work in our hearts today.   As we prepare for Christmas and its true meaning, beyond all the hype, the countless trips to the mall, the lines, the giving and receiving of presents, think about the gift we were all given on that night in Bethlehem. It took place in a humble stable. There was no crib. Jesus was laid in a manger, where animals were fed. Mary and Joseph by his side. His first visitors were shepherds from the nearby fields. An angel had appeared to them saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” Then look for that star in the northern sky that signaled His birth. And you might say a prayer that goes something like this…    

 

Prayer:   Heavenly Father,   How often we forget the true meaning, the true spirit of Christmas. Help us to recall the birth of our savior, your only begotten Son. Let us feel the love he brought into the world wash over us. Let us remember his humble beginning and his great works, healing the sick, helping the poor and downtrodden. Amidst our modern day world of abundance and wealth, which is not enjoyed by all, let us remember He reached out to all of us. His message was for each and every one of us. Let us share His words and the generosity of His heart. Let us feel His spirit within us as we celebrate His birth.   Amen



Daily Devotion – December 19, 2014
12.19.14

Luke 1:46-55

And Mary said,

My soul magnifies the Lord,

and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,

for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant.

Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;

for the Mighty One has done great things for me,

and holy is his name.

His mercy is for those who fear him

from generation to generation.

He has shown strength with his arm;

he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.

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.

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.

 

Devotion by Jim Kennedy

This was the gospel of Luke before the birth of Jesus. Mary was a proud mother and anticipated her wonderful child. She was thinking of all the wonderful things he (or possibly she; did Mary have a sonogram and know the baby was a boy?) would do. She anticipated her child to bring down the powerful from their thrones and lift up the lowly, to fill the hungry with good things and send the rich away empty, and to help the Servant Israel.

One can say that she thought a bit of herself with the child. Saying that all generations will call her blessed and that the Mighty One has done great things for her. She anticipated her child being feared and showing strength with his arm. But then that’s the way society expected that expectant mothers were to think about their child.

But was Mary talking about her child or was she talking about God? Is the “His” and “He” in the verse the God that Mary is praising or her coming child? The verse it titled “Mary’s Song of Praise” but was she praising God or her child, or both?

The verse shows how the writers of the Christian scripture knew the Hebrew scripture. Mary knew of the promise made to their ancestors and to Abraham and his descendents, and was rejoiced that she got to full fill it.

Thanks goodness Mary was right in her joy.

 

Prayer:

Dear Lord I am thankful that Mary sung the right praises, whether it was about her son Jesus or about you.