Series: Unafraid: Living with Courage and Hope
Sermon: Friendless and Alone?
Scripture Reading: Psalm 139:1-12, John 13:31-35
Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light around me become night,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you. (Psalm 139:7-12)
Monday January 22 — Matthew 16:13-20
Too often we forget that the Church is God’s idea. Even though the Church is made up of fallible human beings, it is—in its essence—the body of Christ. Jesus is clear that, even though Peter is the rock upon which the Church will be built, the Church belongs to Jesus himself: “…and on this rock I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18, emphasis added). God called the church into being and empowers the Church to carry out God’s purposes, which include the mutual support and encouragement of God’s people. In what ways have you experienced the Church as the body of Christ? In what ways have you been the body of Christ to another member of the Church?
• Prayer: Eternal God, thank you for reminding me the Church is your Church. Thank you for including me in the body of Christ and providing love and support for my life. Amen.
Tuesday January 23 — Matthew 26:36-46
Jesus, at his darkest hour, needed the support and companionship of his disciples. Note how the Gospel emphasizes Jesus’ humanity in this passage. He was “grieved and agitated” and longed for the three disciples to stay awake with him. In our darkest hours, we find comfort in prayer, knowing that we can be completely open and honest with God. But we also need the comfort and support of others. We need people to stay with us and pray with us. Where do you find Christian community? Who might need your prayers, your support, and your presence this week?
• Prayer: God of Mercy, like Jesus’ disciples in the garden, “my spirit is willing, but my flesh is weak.” Forgive my failures. Give me courage to be present with others this week. Amen.
Wednesday January 24 — Acts 2:(1-40) 41-47
On the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descended upon the waiting disciples and gave them the ability to proclaim the Good News about Jesus. After Peter’s sermon, 3,000 people were baptized and incorporated into God’s Church. A new community was formed among the believers. They spent much time together: they worshipped, they learned from the apostles, they shared their possessions, and they broke bread with “glad and generous hearts.” These few verses help us see God’s vision for the Church. What can you do today to help God’s Church live into God’s vision?
• Prayer: God of New Life, thank you for sending Jesus to save me from the power of sin and death. Help me accept your grace and live into God’s vision for my life. Amen.
Thursday January 25 — Hebrews 10:19-25
Perseverance is needed for faithful living. It was true in the days of the 1st century Church; it is true today. The Book of Hebrews teaches us that perseverance is born out of the confidence we have in God’s grace. But we need help to keep the faith and claim God’s promises. We need others to “provoke” us to good deeds. We need to meet together and encourage one another. We need the mutual support that comes from making and maintaining connections with God’s people in Christian community. How strong are your connections with the Christian community (the Church)? What steps might you take today to strengthen your connection?
• Prayer: Loving God, help me deepen my relationships with others in your Church. Help me find mutual support and accountability so that I can persevere in my faith. Amen.
Friday January 26 — John 13:31-35, John 15:12-17
After washing the feet of his disciples and insisting that he was setting an example that they should follow (John 13:1-20), Jesus foretold his betrayal (John 13:21-30) and gave his disciples a new commandment. The new commandment is this: “that [we] love one another.” Jesus himself is the example for the sacrificial love that we offer one another. He says that we are his friends and this is what friends do: we love one another. How does it feel to know that Jesus is your friend? How might you be a friend (like Jesus) to someone else today?
• Prayer: God of Grace, I am thankful that Jesus is my Savior and my friend. Help me follow his example and offer the gift of sacrificial love to my friends and family today. Amen.
Saturday January 27 — Psalm 139:1-12
The 139th Psalm is a prayer and a promise. The Psalmist (the person who wrote the Psalm) describes the nearness and intimacy of God. The Psalm makes the promise, without reservation, that there is no place we can go to escape the presence of God. Even if we wanted to run away from God—which we don’t!—we cannot get away from the God of all creation. In our seasons of great joy. God is with us. On our darkest days, God is with us. When we are afraid, God is with us. That’s the Good News. Do you believe it?
• Prayer: God of Heaven and Earth, you know me, inside and out. You love me and care for me, despite my faults and failures. You are with me always, and I am grateful. Amen.
Series: Unafraid: Living with Courage and Hope
Sermon: Fear of the Other
Scripture Reading: 1 John 4:16b-21, Matthew 5:43-48
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. We love because he first loved us. Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also. (1 John 4:18-21)
Monday January 15 — Psalm 27:1-14
As we consider how we might live our lives with courage and hope, we rely on the Scriptures that promise God’s presence and God’s protection. Many passages of Scripture invite us to entrust our lives to God and inspire us to celebrate God’s love and God’s goodness. Psalm 27 is one of them. The Psalm reminds us that “The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalm 27:1). Are you able to claim God’s promises (in Psalm 27 and elsewhere in Scripture) for yourself? How might you increase your trust in God today?
• Prayer: God of Light and Salvation, today I place myself fully in your hands. I entrust my life to your care and trust you to be the stronghold of my life. Amen.
Tuesday January 16 — Romans 8:31-39
The 8th chapter of Romans is a very familiar passage for many Christians. It’s promises are powerful and meaningful, especially in times of pain, sorrow, and grief. If we believe that these words are trustworthy and true, then we have nothing to fear. Nothing in life or death; nothing past, present, or future can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus. The challenge for us is to believe that God’s love is the most powerful force in creation. In what ways have you experienced the life-changing power of God’s love today? In the past week? In the past year?
• Prayer: God of Love, pour out your Spirit in my life and give me the courage to trust in the power of your Love. Help me believe that nothing can separate me from you. Amen.
Wednesday January 17 — Matthew 5:43-48
Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew’s Gospel, chapters 5, 6, and 7) describes the nature of life in God’s Kingdom. It’s very clear that Jesus has high expectations for his disciples. He casts a vision for our future. If we will follow him and allow ourselves to be transformed by his love and grace, our lives will be very different. But his words are hard to hear and even harder to put into practice. What do you think about what Jesus says about loving our enemies? How have you put his words into practice?
• Prayer: God of High Expectations, thank you for accepting me the way I am, yet challenging me to be transformed by your grace. Lead me toward perfection today. Amen.
Thursday January 18 — Luke 9:51-56
We learn as much from Jesus’ example as we do from his teaching. As we read the Gospels, we discover that Jesus practiced what he preached. In the time of Jesus’ earthly life, Samaritans and Jews would have been considered enemies. The proposed response by James and John to the Samaritans’ rejection of Jesus is an example of the animosity between the groups of people. Jesus’ rebuke of their desire for retribution is consistent with Jesus’ teaching about love for enemies in Matthew 5 and Luke 6. How do you put your beliefs into practice? Are your actions consistent with your words and your professed values?
• Prayer: Gracious God, forgive me for desiring retribution and revenge and rejecting the teaching and example of Jesus. Give me courage to follow Jesus’ example. Amen.
Friday January 19 — John 4:7-15, 27-30
The Gospels’ accounts of Jesus’ life and ministry are filled with stories about the many ways he challenged the conventional religious and social wisdom of 1st century Israel. His encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well is one prominent example. (Jesus’ use of the Samaritan as the hero in his parable in Luke 10:29-37 about the man who fell into the hands of robbers is another example.) The astonishment of Jesus’ disciples in John 4:27 is a clue that Jesus, by engaging the woman in conversation and sharing a drink of water with her, was “breaking all the rules.” How might Jesus’ teaching and example challenge the conventional wisdom of our day?
• Prayer: Eternal God, show me the people who need your love. Remove the fear that prevents me from loving them, helping them, and serving them in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Saturday January 20 — 1 John 4:16b-21
According to John, love is the antidote to fear. He says, “Perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18). The problem is that we have not yet reached perfection in love. So, if we are to be unafraid and live with courage and hope, we will need to strengthen our ability to love. To start with, we accept that we are loved by God. Too many people do not trust or believe that God really loves them. Once we accept God’s love, we practice sharing God’s love in an ever-expanding circle: family, friends, colleagues, neighbors, strangers, even enemies. In light of today’s reading, with whom will you share God’s love today?
• Prayer: Loving God, thank you for loving the world so much that you sent Jesus to show us perfect love. Help me receive your love and then share your love with everyone. Amen.
Series: Unafraid: Living with Courage and Hope
Sermon: An Age of High Anxiety
Scripture Reading: Psalm 56:1-13, Matthew 6:25-34
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?” (Matthew 6:25-27)
Monday January 8 — Isaiah 41:8-10, 13
Isaiah’s ministry in Judah took place before and during Israel’s exile to Babylon. It was a time of great uncertainty for the Israelites and certainly would have been an age of high anxiety for God’s people. The 41st chapter of Isaiah assures Israel of God’s help. Through the prophet, God speaks a message that transcends the original context. To people in an age of high anxiety, God says, “do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God” (Isaiah 41:10). How do you experience God’s presence when you are feeling anxious? Which spiritual disciplines help you stay connected to God?
• Prayer: Ever-Present God, thank you for promising to be with me always. Grant me the courage I need to trust that you will keep your promises. Always. Amen.
Tuesday January 9 — Matthew 6:25-34
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaches his disciples (and would-be disciples) about the foolishness of worry. Jesus’ words are directed to people who worry about having enough money to feed their family and provide clothing and basic necessities. But his message is for anyone who worries about anything: trust God, “do not worry about your life” (Matthew 6:25). Take time to make a list today: what are your greatest worries? What causes you to be anxious? How might Jesus respond to the items on your list? Read today’s passage one more time. Let Jesus speak directly to you.
• Prayer: Gracious God, forgive me for allowing worry and anxiety prevent me from trusting you and experiencing the abundant life you offer. Increase my faith today. Amen.
Wednesday January 10 — Philippians 4:4-7
In his letter to the Philippians, the apostle Paul reminds us that the best antidote to anxiety is a healthy relationship with God. He says that we have much for which we can be thankful, so we should “rejoice.” And he says that instead of worrying, we should take everything to God in prayer. As a result, God’s peace will guard our hearts and minds. In other words, when we are spiritually strong (through disciplines like worship, prayer, study, service, … etc.) we are better able to deal with stressful, worrisome, and anxious situations. Which spiritual disciplines do you need to practice today?
• Prayer: God of Peace, guard my anxious heart and mind today. Give me strength. Lead me to the spiritual practices that will allow the Holy Spirit to work in my life. Amen.
Thursday January 11 — John 14:25-27
Jesus’ promise to his disciples in John’s Gospel is very similar to Paul’s message to the Philippians (4:4-7). The Holy Spirit is our Advocate; God’s peace is not like human peace. It’s a gift; it’s beyond our understanding (see Philippians 4:7). That’s how we can obey Jesus’ instructions: “do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid” (John 14:27). Do you believe that the Holy Spirit really is your Advocate? Do you allow your Advocate to have access to your life?
• Prayer: Loving God, today I am thankful for the Holy Spirit. I am thankful that the Holy Spirit is my Advocate and my teacher. Help me trust and obey Jesus’ teaching. Amen.
Friday January 12 — 1 Peter 5:6-10
Like Jesus and Paul, Peter also calls us, as Jesus’ followers, to trust God and, “cast all your anxiety on him” (1 Peter 5:7). The Scriptures do not promise that we will not go through anxious times, have difficult days (or weeks, or months, or years), or experience pain and suffering. What the Scriptures make clear is that God is with us and that we can trust God. What needs to happen in your life today so that you will “cast all your anxiety on [God]”? What are you holding back? What do you need to let go?
• Prayer: Eternal God, thank you for the examples of the saints, in Scripture and in the Church, who have cast their cares on you. Help me follow their example today. Amen.
Saturday January 13 — Psalm 56:1-13
The Psalms are the Bible’s prayer-book and the Bible’s song-book. Generation upon generation of God’s people have prayed and recited and sung these words. In the Psalms, we discover the goodness and mercy of God in the midst of a world broken by the power of sin and death. Read and pray Psalm 56 today. (Read it slowly and prayerfully, more than once if you have the time.) Let these words be your refrain, whenever you experience worry and anxiety: “O most High, when I am afraid, I put my trust in you … in God I trust; I am not afraid” (Psalm 56:2b-3).
• Prayer: Almighty God, when I am anxious and worried, when I am afraid, help me follow the example of the Psalmist and put my trust in you and you alone. Amen.
Sermon: A Star is Born
Scripture Reading: Isaiah 60:1-6, Matthew 2:1-12
When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. (Matthew 2:9-11)
Monday January 1 — Isaiah 60:1-6, 19-22
Happy New Year! The Old Testament prophets looked forward to the day when God would redeem Israel and New Testament writers saw the birth of Jesus as the first steps of the ultimate fulfillment of these promises. They interpreted Jesus’ life through the lens of Scripture and believed that when Jesus was born, God’s eternal light would dispel the darkness of evil, sin, and death, and draw the world into the realm of God’s Kingdom. This week, pay attention to the impact of light and darkness on your life. How do light and darkness affect your life? How important is light to you?
• Prayer: Promise-keeping God, give me wisdom to understand your will for my life and confidence to trust that you keep all of your promises. Amen.
Tuesday January 2 — John 1:1-9
Light is one of the central themes of John’s Gospel. In the prologue (John 1:1-18), Jesus is introduced as the “light of all people” (John 1:4). John connects light and life. His readers knew, like we know today, that life is impossible without light. Just as the world cannot exist without the light of the sun, we cannot exist as children of God without the light of the Son of God that shines in the darkness. In what ways have you experienced the darkness of our broken world in the past year? In which parts of your life do you need Christ’s light to shine in 2018?
• Prayer: God of Light, thank you for sending Jesus to be the light of my life. Thank you for dispelling the darkness of sin and death through him. Amen.
Wednesday January 3 — John 8:12, John 12:35-36, 44-50
On more than one occasion, Jesus described himself as the light of the world. In the darkness, we need light to see where we are going and to arrive safely at our destination. Following Jesus as his disciple and believing in him and his teaching are the way to walk in light and avoid the dangers of darkness. Read Psalm 119:105. How do Jesus’ teaching and the example of his life provide light for your life? Do you look to him to guide and direct your life? What will do you to allow the light of Christ to shine in your life in the year ahead?
• Prayer: Merciful God, too often I prefer to stumble in the darkness rather than trusting the light of Jesus Christ. Please forgive me. Help me to follow Jesus this year. Amen.
Thursday January 4 — Ephesians 5:6-12
The letter to the Ephesians teaches us that when we live as “children of light” our lives will bear the fruit of “all that is good and right and true” (see Ephesians 5:8-9). In other words, when we follow Jesus, we are guided to live lives that are obedient to God’s will and are ultimately pleasing to God. Following Jesus is a wise decision, but it changes our lives. How has your decision to follow Jesus changed your life? Has Jesus led you to a place that you would not have gone otherwise? In what ways is your relationship with Jesus bearing fruit in your life?
• Prayer: Heavenly Father, grant me the wisdom and courage I need to obey your will. Bring forth in me all that is good and right and true. Amen.
Friday January 5 — 1 John 2:7-11
The light of Christ is inseparable from the love of God that is revealed in the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. The light of Christ helps us see how we can love God and love our neighbors the way Jesus taught us (Matthew 22:37-40). John says: we cannot walk in the light of Christ, while “hating a brother or sister” (1 John 2:9). In fact, a sign that we are walking in the light is that we love our brothers and our sisters. Where does the light of Christ need to shine in your life today so that you can love your brothers and sisters and your neighbors more fully? What can you do today to allow the light of Christ to shine in you?
• Prayer: Loving God, shine your light in my life and dispel the darkness. Show me how to love you with my entire being and love my sisters and brothers more fully. Amen.
Saturday January 6 — Matthew 2:1-12
Keep Isaiah 60:1-6 in mind as you read Matthew’s description of the wise men’s visit to the holy family. The wise men (magi) are foreigners who follow the star and arrive in Israel to worship the newborn King. The light of the star attracted and guided them to Bethlehem where they presented their gifts. In the same way, God’s light shines in the darkness today, attracting and guiding us to the place where we can worship Jesus and offer him the ultimate gift — our lives. What attracts you to worship Jesus? How is God guiding you to the place where you can offer Jesus your life?
• Prayer: Eternal God, open my eyes to the presence of your light. Lead me to your Son. Grant me courage to give him my life today—and every day. Amen.
Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.”
Matthew 1: 18-23
Monday December 25 – Isaiah 9:2-7
The prophet Isaiah spoke these words to a people walking in darkness. He assured them that those who lived in deep darkness, that on them, light will shine. The holiday season can be a difficult one for many, it can bring up painful memories and difficult loss. In the midst of that darkness, these words remind us that Christ came specifically to those who are walking in darkness. Jesus was a promise fulfilled to those who were hurting, broken, and suffering. We remember this promise this Christmas day.
Prayer: You are Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace. Praise be to God!
Tuesday December 26 – Luke 1: 46-55
Christmas is a season of songs of praise. Mary’s magnificat is one of the most powerful Christmas songs, as Mary magnifies the Lord and celebrates that God’s promises are not just for the rich and powerful, but extends to the poor and needy. What Christmas songs do you sing each year? How do we celebrate through song God’s promises?
Prayer: My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.
Wednesday December 27 – Luke 2: 1-20
The scene of Jesus’ birth was an unusual and unexpected one. Jesus was born in a stable, far from home, to parents who were not yet married. Angels revealed the news to lowly shepherds who came to find Jesus lying in a manger. God came to be with us not at our best, but in our imperfect, broken and unexpected realities. God comes to us today, not at our best, but meets us just as we are. Glory be to God.
Prayer: We thank you God that you meet us just as we are.
Thursday December 28- Matthew 1: 18-25
Mary and Joseph were two ordinary people that were made extraordinary through God’s call. They had to step up in courage and faith because God called them to be parents to God’s own. This Christmas, we too are challenged to step up in courage and faith to how God is calling us to participate in God’s vision for our world. How can we follow the example of Mary and Joseph, to listen obediently, live righteously, and act courageously?
Prayer: God, let us live with righteousness and act with courage.
Friday December 29 –Titus 2: 11-14
In Jesus Christ, we are filled with God’s grace which equips us to live lives that are “self-controlled, upright, and godly” (v12). This means the birth of Jesus Christ has a direct impact on the way we lead our lives. This week, we are challenged to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly. What behaviors need to change to live into this life of grace? How does that affect our relationships with one another?
Prayer: God of grace, let us live worthy lives.
Saturday December 30 – John 1:1-14
Jesus is the true light that shines in the darkness. When Jesus came into our world, he shone a light into the places of darkness in our own lives and in our world. Because he was the true light, there was nothing that could overcome it. This week, we receive God’s light that shines through our darkest and deepest valleys, illumining all with God’s glory and truth.
Prayer: Let us receive your true light that enlightens everyone.
Series: God With Us
Sermon: Bringing Good News
Scripture Reading: Isaiah 35:1-10, Matthew 11:2-11
When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.” (Matthew 11:2-6)
Monday December 18 — Isaiah 35:1-10
During the season of Advent (the four weeks leading up to Christmas), we anticipate the coming of Jesus into the world and into our lives. We also anticipate the new world that Jesus brings. This is the heart of the Gospel story. Jesus’ message is this: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” (Matthew 4:17). The truth is that this new world has been anticipated for a long time. Isaiah, along with the other Old Testament prophets, described a new world that is good news for people who need God’s help. Which aspect of God’s new world do you anticipate most?
• Prayer: Eternal God, thank you for sending Jesus to be our Savior. Thank you also for establishing your Kingdom in our world. Give me courage to trust your promises. Amen.
Tuesday December 19 — Isaiah 42:1-9
The Book of Isaiah contains four passages that are called, “Servant Songs.” In the time of Isaiah, the nation of Israel was the servant, but by the first century (A.D.), New Testament writers interpreted Isaiah’s words through the lens of Jesus’ life, believing that Jesus was – and continues to be – God’s chosen servant: a “light to the nations” (Isaiah 42:6); the one who brings forth “new things” (Isaiah 42:9). Which of God’s “new things” (the ones described in Isaiah 42) have you experienced in your life?
• Prayer: Creator God, let the light of Christ shine in my life and in the world at Christmas this year. Send your Spirit to fill your people with justice and righteousness. Amen.
Wednesday December 20 — Isaiah 52:7-12
We often think that the good news of God’s salvation is primarily (or solely) a New Testament message, yet Isaiah described the beauty of God’s messenger who brings good news and announces salvation (Isaiah 52:7). There are two aspects of this message to consider: one is that the message of salvation is good news; the other is that God needs sentinels who will “lift up their voices” (Isaiah 52:8). The world today needs to hear some good news. Are you willing to be one of God’s messengers?
• Prayer: Merciful God, thank you for the gift of salvation. Open my ears so that I will hear the Good News. Open my heart and mind so that I will believe the Good News. Amen.
Thursday December 21 — Matthew 8:1-13
When Jesus began his ministry (see Matthew 4:12-17), he proclaimed the good news of God’s Kingdom in words and in actions. His actions began to bring about the new world that Isaiah (and other prophets) had promised. According to Isaiah 35:10, “the lame shall leap like a deer.” In Matthew 8:5-13, Jesus healed, at a distance, the Centurion’s servant who was paralyzed. This was one of many signs that God was doing something new. Where have you seen signs of God doing something new in your life or in the world around you?
• Prayer: God of Grace, forgive me for doubting that you are continually making all things new through Jesus. Open my eyes to see the signs of your presence in my life. Amen.
Friday December 22 — Matthew 9:2-8, 27-34
In both the Old and New Testaments, the message of salvation is more than just going to heaven when you die or some kind of spiritual renewal. The Biblical message of salvation includes physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual healing and wholeness. The healing stories of the Gospels not only demonstrate the ways God’s power was at work in Jesus’ life and ministry, they also show us that salvation is something we experience in the world today, not just in heaven when we die. In what ways have you experienced God’s power working in your life during the weeks leading up to Christmas?
• Prayer: Almighty God, as I prepare to celebrate Jesus’ birth at Christmas, help me experience the life-changing power of your love and grace in real, tangible ways. Amen.
Saturday December 23 — Matthew 11:2-11
We know that John the Baptist was sent to prepare the way for Jesus, God’s Messiah. But we also know that Jesus was not the kind of Messiah that everyone was expecting. When John’s followers asked Jesus if he was the one, Jesus told them to tell John (who was in prison at the time) what they witnessed. Jesus was doing what the Messiah had come to do: heal the blind, deaf, and lame; cleanse the lepers; and announce good news to the poor (Matthew 11:4-5). This is the message of Christmas: Jesus is God with us; he has come to bring us Good News. All he asks is that we believe it. Do you?
• Prayer: God of Love, thank you for loving me so much that you sent your Son to bring Good News. Help me experience the true meaning of Christmas. Amen.
Music Sunday: “The Mystery and the Majesty” / Advent Lessons and Carols
Scripture Reading: Isaiah 40:1-5
Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.
A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
Monday December 11 — Jeremiah 23:1-8
Advent is a season of anticipation and preparation. During the weeks leading up to Christmas we read promises made by Old Testament prophets, trusting that God is a promise-keeper and that Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment of our deepest desires. At Christmas, we affirm that the child born in Bethlehem is not only our Lord and Savior, he is also God’s righteous King. We trust that he will “deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land” (Jeremiah 23:5). How does Jesus fulfill your deepest desires? How is Jesus executing justice and righteousness in your life?
• Prayer: God of Heaven and Earth, thank you for filling me with hope. Help me look forward to all that you have promised to do in my life and in the world around me. Amen.
Tuesday December 12 — Zechariah 9:9-17
Writers of the New Testament’s Gospels believed that the promises of Zechariah were fulfilled in Jesus. Both Matthew and John refer to Zechariah 9:9 in their description of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem on the day we call Palm Sunday. Zechariah promises that God’s King will be both triumphant and humble. What does it mean to you that God’s King will be humble? Why is it important to have a humble King? How do reconcile the contrast between royal power and Christ-like humility?
• Prayer: Loving God, teach me your ways. Help me understand the importance of humility in my relationships with you and with others. Help me follow Jesus’ example. Amen.
Wednesday December 13 — Haggai 2:1-9
The Book of Haggai covers three months in Israel’s history during the time when the temple in Jerusalem was being rebuilt after the Babylonian exile. It was a time of great hope for God’s people. Reading Haggai reminds us that Advent is a season of great hope. Even though we know that God is in our midst today, we also look forward to all that God has planned for the future. For what are you most hopeful today? What helps you trust in God’s faithfulness as you wait for the future to unfold?
• Prayer: God of Hope, give me confidence and faith to trust in your promises. Remind me that the future rests securely in your hands so that I can serve you fully today. Amen.
Thursday December 14 — Isaiah 35:1-6
Fear is a natural, human response in uncertain times. Sometimes, our experiences of fear help us stay out of harm’s way. But at other times, fear prevents us from fully experiencing the abundant life that God offers. That’s why the Bible says things like, “Be strong, do not fear!” (Isaiah 35:4). We need to be reminded that we can trust God’s promises. When you experience fear and doubt about your life and the world around you, remember the words of Isaiah. Trust that God is God: “Be strong, do not fear!”
• Prayer: Merciful God, forgive me for letting fear and doubt keep me from experiencing the fullness of abundant life with you. Help me be strong and trust in you. Amen.
Friday December 15 — Luke 1:26-38
As we get closer to Christmas, our sense of anticipation builds. Like Mary, we have questions about God’s plan and wonder how a tiny baby born to a poor young woman more than two thousand years ago can make any difference in the world. Just as God asked Mary to trust God’s plan for her life, God asks us to trust God’s plan for our lives and for the world in which we live. God longs to hear us say these powerful words, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). Can you pray those words today?
• Prayer: Eternal God, here I am. I am your servant. I surrender myself completely to you today. Show me your will for my life. Let it be with me according to your word. Amen.
Saturday December 16 — Mark 1:1-15
Just as the Holy Spirit was active in Mary’s life (Luke 1:35), it was also active in Jesus’ life (Mark 1:10, 12), and we believe that the very same Spirit is active in our lives (see Acts 2). As we prepare to celebrate Jesus’ birth, we can trust that God’s Spirit will continue to guide us and transform our lives. We too can have the assurance that we are children of God. We too can bear the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) and experience the hope, peace, joy, and love of God during the Advent and Christmas season. In what ways will you allow the Holy Spirit to work in your life in the week ahead?
• Prayer: God of Grace, have mercy on me today. Fill me with the Holy Spirit so that I will experience the hope, peace, joy, and love of Christmas once again. Amen.
Series: God With Us
Sermon: Changing the World
Scripture Reading: Isaiah 11:1-10, Matthew 3:1-12
His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear; but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist, and faithfulness the belt around his loins. (Isaiah 11:3-5)
Monday December 4 — Isaiah 1:10-20
Through the ministry of Isaiah, God had a word of judgment for the Israelites. They were observing the rituals of religious life, but their lives were missing the justice and righteousness that God demanded. Too often, we have the same mindset when it comes to God. We think that if we pray and attend worship services and discipleship classes and have enough “head-knowledge,” then all will be well. But God demands so much more. God expects us to “learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow” (Isaiah 1:17). Advent is a season for reflection. What might God be saying to you today through the words of Isaiah?
• Prayer: God of High Expectations, thank you for the words of the prophets who challenge us to live lives of justice and righteousness. Help me live more faithfully today. Amen.
Tuesday December 5 — Isaiah 11:1-10
The message of Old Testament prophets like Isaiah included both judgment and hope. Through the prophets, God’s people were warned about the consequences of their behaviors, while at the same time being reminded that they were loved by God and that God intended good for them. In Isaiah 11, God promised an ideal King and a Kingdom of justice, righteousness, and peace. As Christians we believe that Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment of these promises and will bring about the “peaceable Kingdom.” Do you believe this? What helps you trust that God will keep God’s promises?
• Prayer: Righteous God, thank you for keeping your promises. Help me trust you more fully and look for signs of your peaceable Kingdom in my life and in the world today. Amen.
Wednesday December 6 — Isaiah 40:1-11
The familiar words of Isaiah 40 remind us that God will comfort us and make a way of salvation for us through the wilderness experiences of our lives. Through the prophet, God reassures us that God is faithful and will keep God’s promises. Where do you find comfort when you are suffering or when you are in the midst of the wilderness? What helps you remember God’s promises of salvation? Are you ready for God to prepare a way for you to experience the glory of God? How might your preparations for Christmas open your eyes to what God is doing in your life right now?
• Prayer: Comforting God, thank you for the words of Isaiah 40. Thank you for hearing my cry. Thank you for promising that your Word “will stand forever.” Amen.
Thursday December 7 — Isaiah 58:1-14
Advent and Christmas are seasons for worship and celebration. We gather as families, small groups, and as a congregation to hear the Good News, sing the familiar carols, and experience hope, joy, peace, and love. But as we celebrate Jesus’ birth, we should remember the warnings of the prophets who clearly define the differences between righteous and unrighteous worship. Isaiah 58:7-8 describes the worship God desires: Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin? Then your light shall break forth like the dawn.” How will you heed these words this year?
• Prayer: God of Grace, forgive me for the shallowness and selfishness of my worship. Grant me the courage I need to worship in way that pleases you. Amen.
Friday December 8 — Matthew 3:1-12
In each of the four New Testament Gospels, we meet John the Baptist before we meet Jesus. Matthew, along with Mark and Luke, insist that John’s ministry fulfills the promise made in Isaiah 40:3. John comes to prepare the way for the coming Messiah—Jesus—by calling his hearers to repent and allow God to change their lives. We read these passages in the weeks leading up to Christmas, so that we too can repent and be prepared to have our lives changed by Jesus. What are you doing this year to prepare for Jesus to change your life?
• Prayer: Almighty God, open my eyes and ears to the message of Christmas. Prepare my heart and mind to receive the Good News and experience the power of your grace. Amen.
Saturday December 9 — Matthew 4:12-25
Matthew 4:17 summarizes the message of Jesus’ teaching and preaching: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” We will have to read the rest of the Gospel to fully understand what he means, but we know, from the beginning, that when God’s Kingdom comes near to us, we experience an extraordinarily different world. Our lives are turned upside-down, just like the first disciples. We experience the healing and wholeness that God desires for us. When God’s Kingdom comes near, we discover the new world that God dreams for all creation. This is the Good News of Christmas. Do you believe it?
• Prayer: God of Salvation, Thank you for sending Jesus to be my Lord and my Savior. Help me to experience the fullness and the nearness of your Kingdom at Christmas. Amen.
“But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.
Matthew 24: 36-44
Monday November 27 – Psalm 122: 1-9
“Peace be with you.” (v8) As we look forward to the season of Advent, this is the greeting we share with each other. We wish each other peace within their homes, within their families, and within their lives. In a season that can get so chaotic, how can we seek God’s peace? What do we need to give up? What do we need to embrace?
Prayer: God, let us seek your peace in the middle of our chaos.
Tuesday November 28 – Romans 13: 11-14
Do you know what time it is? This isn’t just a question about the time on the clock, but meant to alert us to what is to come. Because when Jesus became incarnate here on earth, he was a turning point in time. Jesus set a new beginning and invites us to dream of a new heaven and a new earth. Do you know what time it is?
Prayer: Instead of rushing, help us to be present to your time.
Wednesday November 29 – Jeremiah 33: 14-16
What promises do you have in your life? How have you honored or fulfilled them? This passage from Jeremiah reminds us that we are in a season of anticipating a promise that will be fulfilled, one that will bring justice and righteousness to all the land. Today, you are challenged to remember the promises you’ve made to God, to your spouse, to your family.
Prayer: Guide us to fulfill the promises in our lives.
Thursday November 30 – Luke 21: 25-36
“Be alert at all times!” (v6) This is the command that Jesus gives us to us as we anticipate what is to come. While this can seem like an ominous warning, it is also an invitation for us to pay attention to what is really important in this season. What are you paying attention to? How can you be alert to the blessings God has placed in our lives?
Prayer: Let us be alert to your great blessings in our lives.
Friday December 1 – I Corinthians 1: 3-9
What are you thankful for? This past week, we celebrated Thanksgiving, a day set apart to give gratitude for God’s many blessings. This week, we continue to give thanks, and to remember the source of all good and perfect gifts: God our Father.
Prayer: Father of Lights, we delight in your gifts.
Saturday December 2 – Psalm 80:1-7
As we anticipate a new heaven and a new earth, it is appropriate for us to mourn the tears that exist in our current nations. We mourn the loss of life we’ve seen across the country, we grieve at violence and oppression, we pray for those who live in fear of safety. Most of all, we pray for salvation and redemption through Jesus Christ, the prince of peace.
Prayer: Restore us, O God of hosts, let your face shine, that we may be saved.
Series: How Will You Measure Your Life?
Sermon: By The Risks You Take
Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. (Genesis 12:1-4)
Monday November 20 — Genesis 12:1-9
The account of God’s covenant with Abram in Genesis 12 is the first of many descriptions of God’s intended relationship with all humanity. God promised to bless Abram (and Sarai) so that “all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:3). Likewise, God promises to bless our lives so that we will be a blessing to others. These are the terms of God’s covenant with us. We know that God keeps God’s promises. The question is: will we keep ours? Genesis 12:4 says that, “Abram went, as the Lord had told him.” What about you? Will you do what God asks of you?
Prayer: Covenant-Making God, thank you for the many blessings you have given me. With your help, I will go where you send me and do what you ask of me. Amen.
Tuesday November 21 — Luke 5:1-11, 27-32
All four of the New Testament Gospels include accounts of Jesus calling his disciples. The two call stories in today’s reading (Simon, James, and John; and Levi) end with the same striking phrase. It says that they “left everything and followed him” (Luke 5:11, 28). It’s possible that Luke is exaggerating to make a point, but the message is clear: Jesus asks us to go “all in.” All other priorities fall away. Everything else gets left behind. What is holding you back? What’s keeping you from going “all in” with Jesus?
Prayer: Merciful, God, I know that, like Simon, I am a sinner who needs your grace. Forgive me for my reticence. Help me let go of everything that is holding me back. Amen.
Wednesday November 22 — Luke 10:1-9, 17
As we read the Gospels, we discover that Jesus not only called people to be his disciples, he also sent them into the world to share his mission and his ministry of announcing the Good News of God’s Kingdom. (Compare Luke 4:43 and Luke 10:9.) It is noteworthy that the seventy disciples that Jesus sends out are completely anonymous. We know nothing about them other than that when Jesus told them to go, they went where he sent them and then rejoiced at the success of their mission. Jesus is still sending people to share the Good News? Will you go?
Prayer: Heavenly Father, let your Kingdom come and your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. This is my prayer today. Use me to accomplish your purposes in the world. Amen.
Thursday November 23 — Luke 17:11-19
Happy Thanksgiving. The story of Jesus’ healing of the ten lepers is often read on Thanksgiving Day. It makes a connection between and thanksgiving and salvation. (It is important to know that the Greek phrase in Luke 17:19 could also be translated, “your faith has saved you.”) The Gospels connect healing and salvation. And in this passage, healing and salvation and thanks-giving are inseparable. In other words, when we give thanks to God, our relationship with God is transformed. For what are you most thankful today?
Prayer: Eternal God, I am thankful for the bountiful blessings you have given me. For the food I eat, the air I breathe, and the gift of life itself, I give you thanks and praise. Amen.
Friday November 24 — Luke 22:39-46
On the Mount of Olives Jesus prays with anguish for God to remove the cup (his coming death). In this brief passage, we experience the fullness Jesus’ humanity as he asks God if there is another way. We also experience the fullness of Jesus’ obedience to God: “not my will but yours be done” (Luke 22:42). Even though most of us will not be asked to sacrifice our lives for the sake of others, what God asks of us is often difficult. We will be tempted to look for other options. It is hard to pray, “not my will but yours be done.” To the best of your ability, surrender your life to God today.
Prayer: God of Grace, forgive me for resisting your will for my life. Give me the courage I need to follow the example of Jesus: “not my will but yours be done.” Amen.
Saturday November 25 — Acts 9:10-19
After Saul’s encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus, God sent Ananias to minister to him. Ananias was reluctant because of all that Saul had done before his conversion. But he went anyway. He did what God asked of him, despite his fear and his doubt. Have you ever let fear or doubt prevent you from doing something that God asked you to do? What helps you trust God in these circumstances? What is asking God of you today?
Prayer: God of Love, thank you for using me to help advance your purposes in the world. Help me overcome the fear and doubt that paralyze me. Help me trust you fully. Amen.