Thursday, December 31, 2020


Dear Lord,

In the aftermath of Christmas celebrations, please tender my heart to the cradle and the cross. So often in this year I have sensed a deep longing in my soul, a loud yet silent lament for all that is not right. So often I have felt stymied and stagnant, incapable of doing the next thing or even knowing what that next thing should be.

The verse I have whispered in the quiet mornings (and shouted sometimes through tears) whispers again today: “Let the morning bring me word of Your unfailing love for I have put my trust in You. Show me the way I should go for to You I lift up my soul.” (Psalm 143:8)

And so, for today, in the in between of the cradle and the cross, I close my eyes and remember the sweetness of this season even as I long for the new year to bring the end of suffering.

Show me the way to go today, Lord. Just for today. For to You I lift up my soul.


-- Elizabeth Musser, from her blog


Wednesday, December 30, 2020


"Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness." (Lamentations 3:22-23 NIV)

The word COMPASSION comes from two Greek roots: COM meaning "with" and PASSIO meaning "to suffer". To be compassionate is to enter into the suffering of another person and share in the pain -- “to suffer with.” When the burden of pain is shared, it is lightened. Each of us can point to experiences where a friend, a loved one, a nurse, a pastor, or a counselor helped us by understanding our pain and sharing it. This is what Christ does when we are hurting: Christ enters our pain and, in effect, wipes away our tears. 

-- Adapted from “Prepare Him Room” by Robert Martin Walker


Tuesday, December 29, 2020


"Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness." (Lamentations 3:22-23 NIV)

The compassion of our Lord never fails. As we live in this world we very soon discover some failed compassion. We find people who really don't stick by our side for the long haul. We realize the frailty of human beings and we may even discover that in the final analysis most people take care of themselves first and foremost. I am not a pessimist generally but experience shows us that often the compassion we receive from people, places and things offer no comparison to the compassion from God that never fails. No excuses, no external "uncontrollable" events and no made up stories to justify failed compassion. You see, God IS the story and He IS life and His promises have stood the test of time and trial from the Garden of Eden to the present. God never lies and He never fails to keep even one of His promises. 

-- Pastor Gary Stone 


Monday, December 28, 2020


"A thrill of hope, a weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn." (“O Holy Night” by Placide Cappeau)

This classic carol captures the harshness and hope that collide every Christmas, especially in 2020. The world is weary. As the nights grew longer, we were feeling our way to the end of an unprecedented year. The typical comforts and joys of the season were elusive. And the sorrows we already carried became a little harder to bear.

Yet into that darkness, a bright light has dawned: Christ has come. God breaks into our weariness and sorrow with the light of His Son, Jesus Christ.

The story of Christmas is the story of people in darkness finding light, of weary people finding hope, of grieving people finding reason to rejoice.

"The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." (John 1:5) 

-- Covenant Life Church, Gaithersburg, Maryland


Thursday, December 24, 2020


“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’”  (Galatians 4:4-6 NRSV)

Gracious God, we must acknowledge that 2020 has been a difficult year. It’s been a year of loss for all of us, whether that was a job, a loved one, a relationship, or our sense of peace and security. We thank You for this Christmas season, especially this year. We thank You for the simple beauty of Christmas decorations, for Advent worship and Christmas Carols, for family recipes and time spent with friends, whether virtually or in person. We thank You for the ways You’ve been present with us and You’ve blessed us this past year. But Lord, if we’re honest, this year has been tough.

Lord, we pray that Your Holy Spirit would be at work within us. Help us to focus on the miracle of Jesus’ birth, and remind us daily that this world is not our home. When we feel overwhelmed or worried, we pray that You would quiet our hearts, and fill us with Your peace.

Father God, the reason for our Christmas celebrations is nothing short of miraculous. Thank You for sending Your Son to give us a hope and a future! You are in control, God, Your plans are perfect, and we thank You for watching over us. We offer all of these things in Your Precious Son’s Holy Name. Amen. 

-- Loosely adapted from a prayer by Bethany Pyle


Wednesday, December 23, 2020


"The stars are brightly shining / It is the night of our dear Savior's birth /  Long lay the world in sin and error pining / Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth / The thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices / For yonder brinks a new and glorious morn / Fall on your knees / O hear the angel voices / O night divine / O night when Christ was born / O night divine / O night, O night divine."  (“O Holy Night” by Placide Cappeau)

Jesus entered into a world with political strife, economic uncertainty, chaotic rulership, oppressive government, high taxes and an environment of marginalizing the weak. In other words, Jesus entered into a very weary world. And yet, despite it all, His birth gave an opportunity for rejoicing for all who received it.

Likewise, we live in a very weary world; 2020 has been hard on almost everyone. And looking ahead to 2021 it doesn’t appear that things will get magically better! And still we have reason to rejoice because of Jesus bringing a thrill of hope to our weary world. 

-- Dave Warner, Engage Newark


Tuesday, December 22, 2020


“Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.”   (Psalm 42:11 NIV)

Optimism and hope are radically different attitudes. Optimism is the expectation that things -- the weather, human relationship, the economy, the political situation, [the pandemic], and so on -- will get better. Hope is trust that God will fulfill God’s promises to us in a way that leads us to true freedom. 

“And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His love.”  (Romans 5:5 NLT)

-- Adapted from Henri Nouwen


Monday, December 21, 2020


"For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?" (Romans 8:24)

Did you know that you need hope? We all do. Swiss theologian M.L. Bruner said, “What oxygen is to the lungs, such is hope to the meaning of human life.” Just as our physical bodies would die without oxygen, our spirit will suffocate without hope!

In our culture, we hear a lot about love. We even hear a lot about faith. But we don’t hear that much about hope. Yet from the very beginning, God provided hope. After Adam and Eve sinned and plunged the planet into pain, God gave a promise for a redeemer, a savior. That hope is Jesus Christ! "For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." (Luke 2:11)

What do you need hope for today? Physical pain? Disease? Addiction? Depression? Bad habits? A broken heart? Whatever your need, God’s plan is to give you a future and a hope. Jesus Christ was sent to conquer pain and death, and to give hope. He is your Redeemer… your hope. But just like the air you breathe, hope is an unseen promise.

Find your hope in Jesus Christ today. 

-- Dr. Jack Graham in "PowerPoint"


Friday, December 18, 2020


“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”  (Ephesians 4:32 NIV)

Forgiveness is a gift, God’s gift, first of all, to each of us. And then a gift we give to others; a gift that, in the giving, brings to the giver unexpected and undeniable blessing. 

-- Kenneth Gibble


Thursday, December 17, 2020


"Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”  (Matthew 1:23 NKJV)

God comes to the woman who feels in exile in her own marriage, for the man who grieves the loss of life dreams.  God comes to the child who lives on the street, for the parents who struggle to feed and clothe their children. God comes to the one whose loneliness or depression intensifies every Christmas, but especially this year of Covid-19. God comes to the one, the many, frontline health care workers who are physically and emotionally exhausted during this pandemic. God comes to those who have struggled to breath because of the virus and those families who have had to say goodbye to their loved ones by phone.

Immanuel -- God-with-Us -- is coming to us, to meet us wherever we are -- happy or sad, joyous or grieving, God comes to stand with us, whatever our condition.  And we thank God for that promised gift of presence. 

-- Adapted and updated from “Child of the Light: Walking through Advent and Christmas” by Beth A. Richardson


Wednesday, December 16, 2020


“Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are His dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered Himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.”  (Ephesians 5:1-2 NLT)

Two artists each were asked to make a copy of a famous painting. The one made a mathematical calculation and produced a technically correct copy. The other studied the painting, entered into the spirit of the artist, and produced not merely an imitation, but a picture which glowed with warmth and life.

We are not, as Christians, simply to copy Christ, but rather to become possessed by His Spirit and so reproduce His life in our lives. At this Christmas season let us aim to become possessed of the Spirit of Christ, and so reproduce Him with loving warmth and life. 

-- Adapted from “One Hundred Best Sermons for Special Occasions and Days,” compiled by Rev. G. B. F. Hallock


Tuesday, December 15, 2020


“Behold, an angel of the LORD appeared to [Joseph] in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.’”  (Matthew 1:20-21 NKJV)

Jesus’ name comes from the word Joshua -- “He shall save”-- a common name in those days. Its very ordinariness, not unlike “Bob” or “Joe” today, must have grated on Jewish ears in the first century as they listened to Jesus’ words. Jews did not pronounce the Honorable Name of GOD, save for the high priest one day a year, and even today Orthodox Jews carefully spell out G_D. For people raised in such a tradition, the idea that an ordinary person with a name like Jesus could be the Son of God and Savior of the world seemed utterly scandalous. Jesus was a man, for goodness’ sake, Mary’s boy. 

-- Phillip Yancey in “The Jesus I Never Knew”


Monday, December 14, 2020


“Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is the Messiah, the Lord.”  (Luke 2:11 NIV)

In 1925, the New York World celebrated the birthday of Abraham Lincoln with a cartoon which has become something of a classic. Two Kentucky farmers are pictured, talking over a picket fence. One asks, “Anything new happen lately?” The other responds, “Nothing much. A new baby was born over at Tom Lincoln’s place, but nothing much ever happens around here.”

I’m sure there were folks who said the same thing in Bethlehem that night. I can picture them, can’t you? Standing on the corner, just outside the inn. “Anything new happen around here?” “Naw, just a baby born down in the stable. Nothing much ever happens around here.” 

-- Victor A. Harnish 


Friday, December 11, 2020


“Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from Him.”  (Psalm 127:3 NLT)

Don’t be led by the myth of “quality time” -- it is an admirable goal, but it should not be used as an excuse for missing “quantity time” with your child. Quality moments usually can’t be scheduled. They happen spontaneously, without warning, in circumstances you don’t anticipate. Those precious, teachable moments will be initiated by your child, while you’re playing in the backyard, driving in the car, or staring at a worm in the dirt. For your children, all the time you spend together can be “quality time” because it is then that they have what’s most important to them -- your attention.

This is a gift which does not come cheaply. It will cost you. You may have to forgo other activities. You will have to say “no” to other people. You may have to set aside a few personal goals or hobbies for a few years. But don’t worry. Those other things and folks will be around later, but childhood years are soon gone forever. They are irretrievable.

Give your child the gift of your time. Sure, there is a limited supply, but we’ve never seen a tombstone which read: “I wish I hadn’t spent so much time with my kids.” 

-- Bruce Bickel and Stan Jantz in “God Is in the Small Stuff: And It All Matters”


Thursday, December 10, 2020


“Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from Him.”  (Psalm 127:3 NLT)

There is no shortage of gift ideas for your young child. Millions of advertising dollars are devoted to directing your attention to the “perfect” gift. You feel guilty if you can’t find something that will educate, stimulate, and build self-esteem all at once (and it’s got to be politically correct, biodegradable, and bilingual, too). The marketers know that price is no object because this is your child, and you won’t settle for anything less than the best.

Well, we have a suggestion for the perfect gift. It is not easy to find, and it is terribly expensive, but we guarantee that it will last a lifetime and it will be your child’s favorite. We’re talking about your time.

Your child’s greatest need is the security of knowing that you care. There is no better way to convey your love than to spend time with your child. Hours invested in your child will produce dividends now and in the future. You will be building a relationship, moment by moment, that will be the basis for a lifelong friendship between the two of you. 

-- Bruce Bickel and Stan Jantz in “God Is in the Small Stuff: And It All Matters”


Wednesday, December 9, 2020


“I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ.”  (1 Corinthians 1:4)

Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn, or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude. 

-- Denis Waitley, as quoted in the “The Little Book of Grace”


Tuesday, December 8, 2020


“When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with His mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped Him. Then they opened their treasures and presented Him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh." (Matthew 2:10-11 NIV)

This Advent we look to the Wise Men to teach us where to focus our attention. We set our sights on things above, where God is. We draw closer to Jesus… When our Advent journey ends, and we reach the place where Jesus resides in Bethlehem, may we, like the Wise Men, fall on our knees and adore Him as our true and only King. 

-- Mark Zimmermann in “Our Advent Journey”


Monday, December 7, 2020


“Unto us a Son is given;

And the government will be upon His shoulder.

"And His name will be called

Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,

Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

 Of the increase of His government and peace

There will be no end,

Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,

To order it and establish it with judgment and justice

From that time forward, even forever.

The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this." (Isaiah 9:6-7 NKJV)

Most of us are familiar with these memorable words. They are the best promise of security in a world of tension and turmoil. If you want to have peace with God and find security for these times of trouble, you must answer one important question: Who Is the Ruler of Your Life?

Are you trying to be the master of your own fate? Are you trying to be the captain of your own soul? Do you believe that you can navigate life's storms without the Master at the helm?

Or is the Kingdom of God within you? The King of kings is the hope of every man, woman and child of every nation, and His Kingdom is forever. 

-- Adapted from Billy Graham


Friday, December 4, 2020


 "We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote -- Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph."  (John 1:45 NIV)

Here’s an Advent illustration for kids -- and those of us who used to be kids and remember what it was like. Suppose you and your mom get separated in the grocery store, and you start to get scared and panic and don’t know which way to go, and you run to the end of an aisle, and just before you start to cry, you see a shadow on the floor at the end of the aisle that looks just like your mom. It makes you really happy and you feel hope. But which is better? The happiness of seeing the shadow, or having your mom step around the corner and it’s really her?

That’s the way it is when Jesus comes to be our High Priest. That’s what Christmas is. Christmas is the replacement of shadows with the real thing. 

-- John Piper


Thursday, December 3, 2020


EDITOR’S NOTE: Fr. Alfred Delp, S.J., was a heroic German Jesuit priest who was imprisoned and martyred by the Nazis in a Nazi death camp in 1945. While in prison, Fr. Delp was able to write a few meditations including his powerful reflections from prison during the Advent season about the profound spiritual meaning and lessons of Advent. They seem to be equally relevant to Advent 2020.


Advent is the time of promise; it is not yet the time of fulfillment. We are still in the midst of everything and in the logical inexorability and relentlessness of destiny… Space is still filled with the noise of destruction and annihilation, the shouts of self-assurance and arrogance, the weeping of despair and helplessness. But round about the horizon the eternal realities stand silent in their age-old longing. There shines on them already the first mild light of the radiant fulfillment to come. From afar sound the first notes as of pipes and voices, not yet discernable as a song or melody. It is all far off still, and only just announced and foretold. But it is happening, today. 

-- Alfred Delp in “Advent of the Heart: Seasonal Sermons And Prison Writings 1941-1944”


Wednesday, December 2, 2020


I believe deeply that God does His best work in our lives during times of great heartbreak and loss, and I believe that much of that rich work is done by the hands of people who love us, who dive into the wreckage with us and show us who God is, over and over and over. There are years when the Christmas spirit is hard to come by, and it’s in those seasons when I’m so thankful for Advent. Consider it a less flashy but still very beautiful way of being present to this season. Give up for a while your false and failing attempts at merriment, and thank God for thin places, and for Advent, for a season that understands longing and loneliness and long nights. Let yourself fall open to Advent, to anticipation, to the belief that what is empty will be filled, what is broken will be repaired, and what is lost can always be found, no matter how many times it’s been lost. 

-- Shauna Niequist in “Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way”


Tuesday, December 1, 2020


“In Him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”  (John 1:4-5 NRSV)

This Advent will undoubtedly prove to be an unusual one. In the midst of a global pandemic, following a contentious presidential election in the U.S., and in the swirl of racial unrest, we long for a vision of the Holy One.

The Gospel of John reminds us, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” In this season that feels dark to many, as people of faith we have the promise of enduring light. But we’ll need to look for it! What difficulty will the season of Advent hold for you this year? Separation from family? Financial distress? Isolation? The distress of living with the deep unknown? In the midst of the darkness, there is light! 

-- From the online introduction to “This Blue Christmas” with Todd Outcult,