Table of Contents


Waiting and Watching Andrea Woolley


Bless This House John Arnett


The Kingdom of Heaven…Fire Drill Brittani Bair


I Think That God Is Coming Quinn Chipley


Until You Know How to Ask… Benjamin Conver


Are You Paying Attention? Dixon Martin


A Revelation in the Window Eugina Robertson


Eternal Rest John Birkimer


The Gift of Waiting Dorothy Spurr


Nutrients Become Organs Sharleen Birkimer


Humility John Arnett


The Kingdom of Heaven…S’more Brittani Bair


Please Forgive Me Blake Ragsdale


Welcoming to Strangers Margaret Graves


Not Necessarily Passive Mera Corlett


Joseph’s Song Darrell Adams


Rescue and Safety Chuck Leach


A Light in the Dark Jason Crosby

Waiting and Watching

Andrea Woolley


Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth.

Psalm 46:10 (NRSV)


The four Sundays of Advent are too often seen as the countdown to Christmas, as the time when we get things ready for Christmas. Santa Clause has been out since well before Halloween. Shopping lists are growing and the number of shopping days is shrinking. Menus are being planned. Travel is being arranged. Families are gathering. Expectations and hopes are growing. The countdown is well underway. Trees need decorating and presents need wrapping. Somewhere in all that is the stuff of everyday life – work, school, car pool, sports, paying bills, and running errands. There is so much to do and time is running out. The temptation is to live a "hurry-up, get busy, Christmas is almost here," Advent. That is not the liturgical understanding of Advent. That kind of Advent can only lead to a "hurry-up, get to church, open the presents, take down the tree, Christmas is over," Christmas.


The four Sundays of Advent are not the time when we prepare for Christmas but the time in which we are being prepared for Christmas. Advent is a time when the Church stands up in the face of the busyness of life, shopping, parties, cooking, traveling, and decorating and asks us to slow down, be still, and be quiet. We are to keep awake, looking and listening for the God who is always coming to us. We are called to prepare the way of the Lord. We watch and reflect on who we are. We look for the Christ in all the unexpected places – in the stuff of everyday life, in the poor, the hungry, and the needy. We live with expectancy and anticipation of God’s presence in our lives. We wait for the angelic messenger that promises us that the womb of our humanity will bear a child named Jesus.


That is hard work any time but especially in one of the busiest times of the year which may just mean it is even more necessary. Advent reminds us that waiting and watching are holy work. So how do we do this? Silence is the key. Silence is a way of waiting, a way of watching, and a way of listening to what is going on within and around us. We come to self-knowledge through stillness and silence, through attentiveness and watchfulness.


So I wonder what we would discover if for the Season of Advent we took five minutes, ten minutes, thirty minutes even an hour each day to just sit in silence and stillness waiting and watching. What would the Coming One show us, say to us?


God of the Silence, Prepare us. Amen.



Bless This House

John Arnett


[Jesus] emptied himself,
    taking the form of a slave,
    being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
    he humbled himself
    and became obedient to the point of death—
    even death on a cross.

Philippians 2:7-8 (NRSV)


Advent is that time of year when we turn toward the beginnings of the life of Jesus. Granted, we can’t verify through other sources the events Luke and Matthew record, but Jesus came from some beginning, and the one we have seems to serve us well. The main fact is that God decided to invest himself in the life of a person we could hear and see. We call that incarnation. It’s a creative act of God.


The story of Jesus is much like the architect, owner, and builder of a new house or addition. God "humbled" himself, "becoming as human beings are." He watched his son grow up and, like the patient builder, saw the project through to completion. Unlike the construction of a building though, I’m not convinced that God had Jesus’ life mapped out like a blueprint. I think there was some improvising along the way, and some collateral damage as well. The angels had to intervene to save Joseph and his family, but couldn’t protect the "innocents" from Herod’s sword. A stable had to do when the inn was filled. And some thirty-three years later in the garden, Jesus was searching to know the will of the Father.


But the project was completed, and some 2014 years later we’re still here talking about the beginning. We’re also reminded that our lives are also a building project, and God and the angels stand by ready to assist us with the plans, the construction, and, yes, the improvising. Bless this house.


God, thanks for the creative energy that comes from you, and help us to act in positive ways in this world. Amen.



The Kingdom of Heaven is Like a Fire Drill

Brittani Bair


And when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me." In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me." For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

1 Corinthians 11:24-26 (NRSV)


The Kingdom of Heaven… we’re supposed to be constantly proclaiming this. We try to look like it, we try to make it real. As ministers, we strive to collect and maintain instruments of Kingdom-encounter. Our Kingdom-lore tells us the Kingdom is both a place we find at our own death and the place we try to make manifest in life.


I know a lot of people in the Kingdom, I think I always have. Maybe that’s why I never miss church. Even on vacation, I go to church somewhere. This All Saints’ Sunday, Jason’s sermon reminded me why. The divided halves of the Kingdom, the here and there, touch each other in the Holy Space that is worship. Cognitively, I had forgotten this. But the heart remembers. Church has always drawn me like a moth to a flame. The Kingdom calls, constantly, deep within. Even before so many friends joined our "second balcony", that cloud of witnesses that worships with us each Sunday, I could feel the compelling thrall of the Kingdom, the tolling of a church bell in my soul, bidding me come join the gathered Saints.


Jason’s sermon about heaven hit home with the image of a distant shore… "’til Thy harbor is our home," he reminded us. It triggers some kind of deeply fused grief echo when we talk too long about heaven and so by the end of the sermon I was crying. I had decided that was okay because I didn’t have to get up and lead anything until the Prayers of the People. I would have until the end of Communion to compose myself. Then of course… the fire alarm.


When the alarm went off, Andrea left to check on the children and the alarm system. I was needed to fill in at the communion table, the tears still wet on my cheeks and my throat still a bit tight. But at the table I went from grieving my distance from those I’ve "lost" into the Kingdom, to being in awe of my proximity to them as I stood at the table we share with the Beyond. By the time I led the prayer, I realized I hadn’t been composing myself to pray but exposing myself to the Holy.


God of Mystery, when our eyes blur with tears, may we stumble into something Holy. Through the haze of holidays, may we find our way to the manger. Amen.



I Think That God Is Coming

Quinn Chipley


O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence-- as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil-- to make your name known to your adversaries, so that the nations might tremble at your presence! When you did awesome deeds that we did not expect, you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence. From ages past no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who works for those who wait for him. You meet those who gladly do right, those who remember you in your ways. But you were angry, and we sinned; because you hid yourself we transgressed. We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. There is no one who calls on your name, or attempts to take hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us, and have delivered us into the hand of our iniquity. Yet, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. Do not be exceedingly angry, O LORD, and do not remember iniquity forever. Now consider, we are all your people.

Isaiah 64:1-9


Karen Blixen wrote of a time in Kenya:


"’Msabu,’he said again, ‘I think you had better get up. I think that God is coming.’ When I heard this I did get up, and asked him why he though so. He gravely led me into the dining-room which looked West, towards the hills. From the door-windows I now saw a strange phenomenon. There was a big grass-fire going on, out in the hills, and the grass was burning all the way from hill-top to the plains; when seen from the house it was a near vertical line. It did indeed look as if some gigantic figure was moving and coming towards us. I stood for some time and looked at it, with Kamante watching by my side, then I began to explain the thing to him. I meant to quiet him, for I thought he had been terribly frightened. But the explanation did not seem to make much impression on him one way or the other; he clearly took his mission to have been fulfilled when he called to me. ‘Well yes,’ he said, ‘It may be so. But I thought that you had better get up in case it was God coming.’ (Out of Africa, Modern Library, p. 41)


I also lived in Kenya for a few years, some sixty years after the event in Blixen’s vignette. I was sent by Baptists as a missionary, one to carry the Gospel. I taught some English, and I experienced many things I will always treasure. But I wonder now how much more I had missed by making my explanations to a people who were still shocked by several generations of a white-skinned arrogance, a brutality that had too often carefully cloaked itself in Christian religion? How often had I dismissed God’s messenger?


God, keep us aware that when you come on us as Fire on the Mountain, you are always saving us from ourselves, that salvation is never safe, and You are never safely explained away. Amen.

Thoughts for the Journey

Blake Ragsdale


From the beginning, you were told that we must love each other.[A] Let us not love merely in theory or in speech but in practice and in sincerity.[B] For example, if you merely love those who love you, what quality of credit and thanks is that to you?[C] As hard as it is to practice, love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures without weakening.[D] Love forgives and disregards the offenses of others.[E] It is vitally important, that if you have anything against anyone, forgive them and let it drop (leave it, let it go), in order that your Father Who is in heaven may also forgive you your own failings and shortcomings and let them drop.[F] By extension, love your enemies and be kind, considering nothing as lost and despairing of no one; and then your reward will be intense, and abundant.[G] It follows that, the one who sows sparingly and grudgingly will also reap sparingly and grudgingly, and the one who sows generously, that blessings may come to someone, will also reap generously and with blessings.[H]

[A] 1 John 3:11 CEV; [B] 1 John 3:18 AMP;

[C] Luke 6:32 AMP; [D] 1 Corinthians 13:7 AMP;

[E] 1 Peter 4:8 AMP; [F] Mark 11:25 AMP;

[G] Luke 6:35 AMP; [H] 2 Corinthians 9:6 AMP





In this way,

If you want to be heard

truly deeply and completely,


truly deeply and completely



If you want to be understood

truly deeply and completely,

practice understanding

truly deeply and completely



If you want to be forgiven

truly deeply and completely,


truly deeply and completely



If you want to be loved

truly deeply and completely,


truly deeply and completely



If you want to be happy

truly deeply and completely,

create the conditions for other people to be

truly deeply and completely happy



Love now, forgive now,

create happiness in this moment,

there is no other time to do so;

no past, no future,

only this present moment

to love, forgive, listen, understand.


So, begin

then don't stop giving without reservation;

not the giving of miserly sacrifice

but from the abundance of one

to whom much has been given,

even if not fully realized.


This is the path to the peace

that passes understanding;

rooted in giving away what you cannot own,

sharing what you cannot possess;

spontaneously initiated

without waiting for the other person

or for the world to go first.


You are the other person,

you are the world.


Commit completely.


Commit now.


Lord, Please help me restore harmony to the world. Help me to act in accordance with my highest intentions to do the hard things and make difficult choices. Please forgive me when my unskillful actions bring suffering. Amen.

Until you know how to ask,

you can't hear your answer...

Benjamin Brackney Conver



For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

Matthew 7:8 (NIV)


Advent is a wonderful time of year. For me, it conjures up many wonderful warm memories that center around the fellowship and love of family. But not everyone can share this type of memory, and personally I'd like for my Christian family to always feel they are family to me. But how do I ask for my Advent memories to be yours? Or better yet, how can I help someone who may not feel at home, or part of the family, feel differently this Advent season? For me, this is where one of the less desirable characteristics of my personality actually comes in quite handy. It's been my experience that sometimes even a selfish prayer, if specific enough, can be a very good prayer. The best way it's been explained to me is we can't get to know someone who loves us if we can't first get to know and love ourselves. 


This month has been a heavy month for me- I've been on crutches while several broken bones mended and have been trying to keep a blood clot under control. Being constrained by my brokenness has made it difficult for me to contribute anything more than just my presence at times. But I don't get to decide the times and places that God unfolds his marvelous mystery. The best I can hope for is to be alert and listening when this happens. So I've been very selfishly praying for specific guidance and understanding of how I can better help and contribute to his plan. I'd like to think this devotional is my answer. My thought is to inspire in you what was inspired in me, thus realizing that asking a selfish prayer can in fact be good. My hope is that you invite my prayer into your heart, and let this devotional open a door to enlarge your Christian family. You never know- someone may be praying just for you...


Merciful God, help me to see the reminders that assure me that it's ok to ask you this one request. Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, allow me the wisdom to change the things that I can, and bless me with the strength so that my channel unto you may better serve more than just me, even if just for today. Amen





Are You Paying Attention?

Dixon Martin


Go out and stand before me on the mountain," the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper.

1 Kings 19:11-12 (NLT)


How does God speak to you? Is it in the flash of lightening? The rumble of thunder? Howling wind? The reverberation of an earthquake? Or is it the gentle whisper of a loving parent? Are you listening?


God used a windstorm, an earthquake, a fire and a whisper to teach Elijah that sometimes the voice of God is found in quietness.


It is easy for us to let the frenetic pace of the holiday season drown out the voice of God. We are continually bombarded with loud messages: Buying this will mean a wonderful Christmas! Eating this will invoke the joy of Christmases past! Drinking this strengthens friendships! Doing this will bring back all of the delight of childhood Christmases! In order to celebrate Jesus and show your love, you must be merry! You must decorate more, buy better, and give more! There is so much pressure.

Take some time to listen to God’s whispers this holiday season. Get away from the hustle, bustle, noise and lights. Breathe deeply. Think about what is really important.


God, help us to not get too caught up in the noise and excitement of the Christmas season. Remind us to stop, look and listen for your still, small voice. Amen.



A Revelation in the Window

Eugina Robertson


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


During my first year at Seminary, I went home for Christmas, in Oklahoma, which would turn out to be the last time I saw my father alive. I was having a difficult time coping with the conflicting feeling of the joy of the Christmas season, and the grief I felt as I was reminded of that last Christmas I had before my father died in February.  I had been visiting Crescent Hill, and the litany for Advent for lighting the candles was, "We are reminded by the darkening of the days through winter that God has sent us a Great Light and the darkness could not overcome it." Throughout the service I was captivated by the window decorations of a lit candle, with a small dead branch and a small branch of holly at the base of the candle. This became a comforting image to me of the light in the darkness with the dead branch and the thorny leaves of the holly representing the paradox of Christ's suffering passion which gave us the joy of new life.  I later attended a bereavement service during Advent for those of us struggling with the grief of the joy of Christmas, which helped me to heal even more. I learned how to honor my feelings of  grief and loss with a richer depth of gratitude and joy. I identified with the melancholy longing and hope of the promised Messiah, along with the joyous celebration of the light that shineth in the dark Bethlehem streets.


Thank you, O God, for the everlasting light of the hopes and fears of all the years that were met in the dark streets of Bethlehem and the revelation of a new image of comfort and joy in a window in Louisville, Kentucky. Amen.




Eternal Rest

John Birkimer


For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

Romans 14:17 (NRSV)


In the summer of 1985 my 20 year-old son John Matthew was killed in a traffic accident. This followed by only a few months my own surgery for coronary heart disease. I had survived; he did not. This began a very dark time for me. A void had opened. I knew time would gradually let other activities fill the time he had spent with me; I doubted the ache in my heart would ever be soothed. Some mornings required a visit to his gravesite at Cave Hill. At Christmas, I placed a small ornament on the wreath on his grave, then recovered it as a remembrance to treasure.


Years passed. Visits to Cave Hill became less frequent but still quite painful. The feeling of loss remained. Then one beautiful October Sunday Sharleen and I were riding our bicycles in the neighborhood near the cemetery. The day was beautiful. Soft sunlight filtered through the leaves remaining on the trees. Other leaves rustled as our wheels disturbed them.


We pulled onto Grinstead Drive across from the cemetery and started coasting back toward Bardstown Road. And I realized then that this life remained good. Cave Hill was no longer so painful. My son was gone, but he was not in pain. He was at rest; as the Catholics say, "eternal rest". And my heart, too, rested.


I cannot say with certainty that God was near that day. But the peace came then. And I will be eternally grateful.


Eternal rest, grant unto him O Lord and let perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace. Amen.

May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.



The Gift Of Waiting

Dorothy Spurr


Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart: wait, I say on the Lord.

Psalm 27:14


I have spent much of my life waiting. I took my first college courses after both of my children had finished graduate school. I received my Bachelor’s Degree when I was sixty-five. In my fifties my first piece of writing was published. It was entitled, "Singleness: A Widow’s Perspective," a subject I was acquainted with since I had been widowed in my late forties. A friend asked me recently why I had not remarried until I was sixty. I replied, "Because the right man didn’t come along until then; I had to wait." I believe God has given me the gift of waiting. This is so counter-cultural that frequently I have to explain to people that I don’t MIND waiting. For one thing it gives me time to reflect and anticipate.


This gift of waiting served me best five years ago when I suddenly fell seriously ill. Tests, x-rays, and scans did not lead to a diagnosis. So for two months, I was given six different antibiotics in succession, and was told of several possible causes for the weight loss, cough, and weakness I was experiencing. Finally a pulmonary specialist ordered invasive surgery for a biopsy of an enlarged lymph node in my chest. This and further testing led to a diagnosis of Tuberculosis. The TB clinic sent a nurse five days a week to administer the TB medication. My body quickly responded, and I was out of isolation in just three weeks. But the incision from the biopsy would not heal. So the surgeon ordered an additional nurse to visit every day to check on the wound and care for it. For four months we prayed and waited. I shall never forget the look on my nurse’s face the morning she removed the dressing and saw the beginning of that beautiful new skin. She didn’t have to say a word; I knew. We hugged and wept, and rejoiced! Today I bear the visible scar from that waiting with joy and thanksgiving.


Father, in the fullness of time your Beloved Son came to those who waited. Help us to wait expectantly for the coming of your grace in all of our moments. Amen





Nutrients Become Organs

Sharleen Birkimer


I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

Psalm 139:14


Nutrients are the chemical components of our food and beverages. There at least 18 essential nutrients which can be placed into six categories: protein, lipids, carbohydrate, vitamins, minerals and water. I find God in the way our body uses these nutrients to make cells, organs and organ systems. I can feel God’s presence as I think of the organs of the digestive, reproductive, neurological, cardiac, endocrine and related bodily systems.


I taught hospital patients and university students about nutrition in health and disease from 1963 to 2002. I also did some research in malnutrition, cardiac disease and breast cancer. Sometimes when I was talking to people, or doing research, I could feel God’s presence as I talked or learned about the marvelous, and somewhat mysterious, ways our body takes the chemical components of food and beverages, breaks them down or combines them, and excretes some of them in health and disease. The exact chemical processes that are used to do this are not known and will not ever be known. Through good scientific research God is slowly revealing the mysteries of our bodily processes. When I read both good theological information and scientific research I feel God is slowly being revealed to us.


I recently attended the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics convention in Atlanta. I have been a member of this Academy for 50 years. As I roamed around the exhibits and attended some research sessions along with at least 10,000 other men and women, I could feel God was pleased with what I have been able to do to help people learn about the use of the nutrients in our bodies and to feel closer to having done what God asked me to do in my professional career.


Creator God, as we eat and drink our food and beverages, help us to be thankful for the metabolic processes that occur in our bodies. Thanks be to God. Amen.




John Arnett


...He has routed the arrogant of heart…

From the Magnificat in Luke1:46-55 (New Jerusalem Bible)


When, as a physician, I miss a diagnosis, fail to order a key lab test, and commit other errors of omission or commission, I find it easy to see the arrogance flee from my heart. Accompanying such mistakes are the twin feelings of sadness for the fate of the patient and the fear of the consequences of being sued. As I graduated from medical school many years ago, I figured I’d be sued about ten times before I finished my tour of duty in this profession, and I’ve had to find a way to continue working despite whatever missteps I’ve made. One coping mechanism is to visualize the worst case scenarios and then realize, especially at this time when we celebrate the birth of a child, that we brought nothing into this world and will take nothing out.


Regret can lead to depression, and years ago I learned to interpret the frequent references to "enemies" in the Psalms as being code words for depression. Thus in Psalm 23, we’re told "he prepares for us a table in the presence of our enemies." In the Benedictus, Zechariah holds forth the promise:

"The Lord God…would grant us, free from fear,

To be delivered from the hands of our enemies,

To serve him…..all our days."


The task before us every day, then is to continue trying to do "what needs to be done" despite our failures. Just as Advent comes around each year, even so, every day offers us a new beginning, and God offers us the gift of forgiveness.


God, thanks for the opportunities each day provides, and help us to remain your humble servants. Amen.





The Kingdom of Heaven is Like a S’more

Brittani Bair


Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our "God is a consuming fire."

Hebrews 12:28-29


Kingdom recipes… that’s how I’ve decided to interpret Advent this year, as a recipe-share. Perhaps this devotion booklet should be seen as a cookbook, a collection of the times we’ve gotten the conditions and ingredients close enough that the Kingdom of God has emerged warmly and deliciously from the cookie sheets and casserole dishes of our souls.


Food is just one potential ingredient in a Kingdom-recipe. It’s a good start, but it’s not mandatory. One recipe I’ve already written about was the "heaven sermon, communion table, fire alarm" recipe. Now I would like to write about the "sleeping bag, campfire, guitar" recipe. (This one has optional food ingredients: marshmallow, Hershey bar, graham cracker, FYI.)


This year I decided the youth needed to try this recipe out together in the middle of nowhere. While they found my actual food planning lack-luster, the Youth Retreat recipe still produced edible Kingdom-moments. Most of these happened around the campfire… which must be something that resonates with humanity on a primitive level. Gathered around campfires for two nights, we sang songs, shared stories, made memories and communed with God.

On the first night, we had Darrell Adams with us. Darrell + guitar + campfire is one of the simplest and best-tasting Kingdom recipes I know. Like a no-bake cookie, when the ingredients get warm, they just stick together Holy.


On the second night, the youth just started telling stories about their grandparents, which for our American youth were love stories and for our Karen youth were ghost stories. Looking into the campfire flames they journeyed across time and space to bring forth these echoes of love, and of loss, mostly for the joy of screaming at the end and scaring each other. Silly as it may have been intended, there’s something Holy about sitting in a circle with friends around a fire. Whether we sing our praises up at the stars, scream our fears out into the darkness, of just howl joyfully at the moon, dancing by the flames of Heaven.


God, grant us a Holy fire, burning deep inside, that never burns out and smells faintly of marshmallow. Amen.



Please Forgive Me

Blake Ragsdale


It is vitally important, that if you have anything against anyone, forgive them and let it drop (leave it, let it go), in order that your Father Who is in heaven may also forgive you your own failings and shortcomings and let them drop.

Mark 11:25 (AMP)


How many times have you called and I did not answer,

did not hear you because I was not listening?

I am so sorry.

Please forgive my deafness.

May the quality of my listening increase.


How many times did I not speak a word of comfort or

reach out to connect with you because I was preoccupied or,

in my anger, withheld a healing word?

I am so sorry.

Please forgive my muteness.

May the quality of my speech increase.


How many times did I see you struggle and suffer and

did not act to ameliorate your pain when I could have done something as simple as look you in the eyes to say, I see you,

I see your pain and you are not alone?

I am so sorry.

Please forgive my blindness.

May the quality of my sight increase.


How many times did my actions or inactions hurt you

and whether knowing or not knowing

I did not stop hurting you?

I am so sorry.

Please forgive my actions.

May the quality of my actions increase.


And in all these things,

May I forgive you as well

a thousand times over.


Lord, Please help us grow as your agents in this world; taking action to create positive change, rather than spending our time sleeping or striving after the wind. May we wake up to our true selves -- daughters and sons of the Most High, in whom fear has no place to abide when all things are possible through you, including the power to forgive and the humility to be forgiven. Amen.



Welcoming to Strangers

Margaret Graves


I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was homeless and you gave me a room.

Matthew 25:35


During our son Tom’s freshman year in college he and his friend John, who’s family had moved to Texas, decided they would spend a week of their Christmas break together. The plan was to bicycle from Waco, TX to Big Bend where they planned to camp. That is not what actually happened. They quickly realized that Texas is a very big state and what looked so close on a map would actually take ten hours to drive if they were in a car. That was also the year that Texas was hit with a very bad ice storm. What ended up happening is that they stayed fairly close to the Waco area bicycling during the day and sleeping where they could find shelter at night (empty churches seemed to work well).


With the passing of the days that week the idea of a shared Christmas adventure had become less and less exciting. On Christmas Eve they were feeling pretty lonely, cold and hungry. They stopped at a small store owned by an older couple that was selling antiques and flea market items. Tom and John offered to help move and arrange furniture and store merchandise in exchange for a warm place to sleep. They were surprised by how welcoming this couple was to them. The guys did quite a bit of work and then were invited to sit down for a simple Christmas Eve supper. They were given a dry and warm place to sleep. When they got up to leave the next morning they were surprised that their hosts had prepared a good lunch for them to take with them.


Tom and John were so grateful for the food, heated place to sleep and new friends to visit with over a shared meal. The couple shared how special it was for them to have Tom and John in their home for Christmas. They had lost their own son in Vietnam and felt comforted by having shared this special day with these young men. God was surely present in the hospitality offered to the strangers and in the gift of presence to the lonely.


Dear God: Thank you for persons welcoming of the hungry, thirsty and lonely. May we be so ourselves. Amen.




Not Necessarily Passive

Mera Corlett


So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only our parent God. Beware. Keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come.

Mark 13:29-33


"My class wants to support the Humane Society instead of supporting Wayside Mission because the kitties and puppies are ‘so cute.’ Because it’s fun to buy little collars and doggie treats." Each year, the classes at The dePaul School sponsored a local non-profit. Mera Kathryn had voted to provide hats, gloves and canned goods for a homeless shelter. Having grown up with a chaplain mother, she knew the stories of those "on the street" so she was passionate about this project. "So I told them it wasn’t a good reason! And I said, ‘I guess there’s just nothing cute about a homeless family.’" I admired my visionary daughter but knew she wouldn’t make many friends.


Reading Mark 13: 24-37, I was reminded of how unnerving Advent is. Just when everyone else is untangling Christmas lights and downloading cookie recipes, we Christians are reading about apocalyptic disasters and preparing for a new world order. Jesus says, "Don’t take your reindeer sweater out of mothballs yet!" If you think about it, the essence of Advent is rather alarming. It happens during the deepest, darkest time of the year. But rather than cursing the shadows, we find ourselves lighting candles. We have learned the puniest of flames can sometimes be seen from a far distance.


Father Joe Vest believed in lighting tiny candles. In 1992, the Fairness Campaign that called for equal rights for gay and lesbian persons was in its infancy. When Archbishop Kelley decried the movement before the city council and the press, Fr. Vest stepped forward, announcing he was a gay celibate priest. He didn’t make many friends either; he suffered verbal abuse, received hate mail and lost his parish assignment. Fr. Vest knew watching and waiting were not necessarily passive. "I saw the signs," he said, "It was the very least I could do."


Keep us, O God, in a state of expectation and hope. Remind us waiting and watching are often paired with walking in faith. Make us witnesses of Your presence. It is the very least we can do. Amen.



Joseph's Song

Darrell Adams


In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.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. 10 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

Luke 2:1-10 (NRSV)



Hands so soft within my own

Roughened by the wood and stone

Now to be my flesh and bone

Ain't this tiny baby boy a wonder!


Mine to see his living's made

Mine to teach a peasant's trade

God's to show the path He's laid

Ain't this boy a wonder!


Angels, dreams and shepherd's stories

Who's to say what's real?

Strangers come with gifts of glory

What am I to feel?


Hold him to me when he sleeps

Rock him gently when he weeps

Sing him secrets heaven keeps

Ain't this boy a wonder!

Ain't this boy a wonder!


Words by Richard Vinson



Lord of Holy nights open our eyes, our hearts, our minds to the wonder of these tiny hands. How did you imagine such a beginning for each of us, born in obscure places with futures unknown? Thank you for all the times your Grace held us, sung to us, pushed us to hold others and discover wonder every time, "Do not be afraid. Look. I bring news of great joy, a joy to be shared with all people." Amen.




Rescue and Safety

Chuck Leach


What do you think? If a man has 100 sheep and one of them strays, he leaves the 99 in the hills and goes to look for the one that has strayed, doesn't he? 

Matthew18:12 (ISV)


When I was a kid, since my father was the pastor, if the doors of the church were open we were there. Sunday evening services were a bit less formal than the morning services. Since Mother was an artist, every so often she would do a "Chalk Talk." With a large blank sheet of paper on her easel she would stand with her tray of many colors of chalks and begin rapid strokes, filling in large white spaces with dark blacks at bottom, lighter greys at top, then fill in large spaces with greens and purples and orange, then with a few more deft strokes would add a sharp detail here, another one there, and suddenly out of the nondescript background appeared the Good Shepherd tenderly rescuing his lamb. All the while the piano softly played Ira Sankey’s melody of the hymn "There were ninety and nine/that safely lay in the shelter of the fold/but one was out on the hills away/far off from the gates of gold…" Mother practiced this at home, to keep fresh her skills at building the obscure background and then bringing it all into focus in a few strokes. Even though I watched her do it many times, it caught me by surprise with each repetition.


I find myself still in a bit of awe how someone with the keen eye can take a muddled scene and bring out of it a sharply focused scene of rescue and safety. It seems that our church may be in the process of doing just that in a myriad of ways.


In winter’s cold, may we be warmth for all who seek shelter.




A Light in the Dark

Jason Crosby


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


The contradiction could not have been more evident. Beneath large, red-lit letters spanning the width of the street that read, "Seasons Greetings," police wearing full body armor carrying guns loaded with rubber pellets and tear gas stood in formation as cars burned out of control. That was the scene outside a courthouse in Missouri late Monday evening following a grand jury's decision not to indict Darren Wilson on any criminal charges after he shot Michael Brown in August.


The scene playing itself out beneath that sign wasn't the only contradiction I saw last night. It was all happening just days before we Christians enter into the season of Advent. This time invites us to acknowledge the darkness around us. It invites us to take a good hard look at the darkness that is racism, heavy-handed police tactics, and unjust systems. However, this season also calls upon us to pierce this darkness with the light radiating from candles lit by the flame that is Christ's hope, peace, joy, and love. 


I understand why people who have been oppressed by the dark forces at work in our world, whose voices have been silenced, would see no other way to push back against the darkness of that night by setting cars and buildings ablaze. I imagine that for many of them, their candles of hope, peace, joy, and love have long been extinguished.  Yet, that sight, along with so many other images I saw coming out of Ferguson last night, like the pictures of tear gas bringing people to their knees, made pause and wonder if lighting candles during Advent makes much of a difference in a world where the darkness is so thick and in a world where the light flickering from candles pales in comparison to a burning city.


But then, just as I was about to turn off the television last night, another image was shown. Outside a locally owned business clergy, community leaders, and police officers, black and white, young and old stood side by side trying to protect the store. One person standing in that line held a lit candle in hand. No one was disturbing what stood behind them.


Advent calls us to deal with the darkness that is racism, heavy-handed policing, and unjust systems. Advent also calls us to push back against that darkness the light radiating from candles lit by the flame that is Christ's hope, peace, joy, and love. The events of last night demonstrate that sharing this message of this season these days is as important and as powerful as ever before. 


O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer/Our spirits by Thine advent here/Disperse the gloomy clouds of night

And death's dark shadows put to flight.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel/Shall come to thee, O