Welcome to the Sunday Devotion. I expect there are still leftovers in the fridge from your Thanksgiving meal. And, I pray, you have some meaningful and special memories of time spent either in person with family or friends, or via phone, texts, or social media. This is a wonderful time of year when we get to transition from a swelling of thankfulness to the special meaning of Christmas.
This is the first Sunday of Advent and as we progress through the weeks leading to Christmas, we often assign Peace, Hope, Joy or Love to one of the four candles of the Advent Wreath. This week we assign Peace to candle #1.
If you are feeling euphoric from your season of thankfulness, it might feel natural to move into the sense of peace emitted from the flicker of the Advent candle. God gave us His son, Jesus, to further His love and peace into the world. However, there is not peace in the world today. There are warring nations, heartbreaking acts of violence, and politically-divided people. As we face unrest, frustration and brokenness, this is a perfect time to gaze into the flame of the Advent candle and remember the immense love and grace of God as we reflect on the birth of His son, Jesus.
One of my favorite scriptures foretelling of a peoples’ move toward peace is in Isaiah 2:1-5 where “[people] will beat their swords into iron plows, and their spears into pruning tools. Nation will not take up sword against nation; they will no longer learn how to make war.” In Isaiah, the people of Judah were being invited to take the first steps toward creating Zion and the reign of God: “Let us walk in the light of the Lord” (v. 5). We must also walk in that light and we keep alive the hope of peace to come. But how can we do that?
Remember in your preparation for Christmas to mindfully move through each step, allowing God and God’s call for peace, to be part of it. What gestures or generous acts, big or small, can melt the weapons and words of war into a spirit of love, compassion and oneness?
Let’s begin our Advent season with peace. May God’s spirit fill you and give you inspiration and resolve to be an ambassador for peace and justice as you walk your journey in this world. Amen.
(author: Bonnie Barber)
"Witness the Suffering Servant" Christian liturgy on this day calls for us to remember the suffering Jesus went through on the last day of His life. Why is it important to remember His suffering? Perhaps it’s to realize in times of need our solace is in our relationship with the Divine.
When the time came for Jesus to embark on his final journey, he asked for time alone to talk to God. His disciples waited under the olive trees while Jesus walked ahead and prayed. He lay his burdens at his Father’s feet for he was troubled, however he wasn’t afraid of death or pain. His very heart was heavy-laden with the weight of the sin of the world on it. Like Jesus, we need to surrender our fears and turn to Him in meaningful prayer and discernment.
Why is it important to remember His suffering? Perhaps it’s to recognize that as Jesus walked that lonesome Calgary Road, so must we. In the lyrics of hymn “Jesus Walked this Lonesome Valley, Community of Christ hymnal #452, it reads: “You must go and stand your trial, you have to stand it by yourself. Oh, nobody else can stand it for you. You must stand it by yourself.” Yes, there will be difficult times, but we must have faith and be comforted by the knowledge that we don’t walk the valley alone. God is with us. There was only one path for Jesus and that was to the cross. So must we too carry our cross in the same manner and surrender wholly and fully to God’s will.
Why is it important to remember His suffering? Perhaps it is to remember that hard times don’t last forever. For three days after Jesus’ death, darkness descended over the world. Many might have thought it was the end of days, not fully understanding it wasn’t the end, but the beginning of true salvation for everyone. We are all worthy of His compassion and His forgiveness – be assured. That assurance is dawn in the distance, light on the horizon. It is HOPE for all mankind.
The world reawakened with Jesus’ resurrection and so, too, on this day, we must remember Jesus’ suffering not as a reminder that His life ended, but the new beginning his sacrifice gave us all.
What possibilities do you see for the compassion of Christ to be transformational in today’s world? And how can you be part of that transformation?
(author: Deb VanHeest)
Welcome to the Sunday Devotion. Happy World Kindness Day! And it couldn’t have come at a better time, right? World Kindness Day is an international holiday that was formed in 1998 to promote kindness throughout the world. As part of the World Kindness Movement, it is observed annually in many countries including the United States, Canada, Japan, Australia and the U.A.E. Beautifully stated, the theme of World Kindness Day this year is “Be Kind Whenever Possible,” which was taken from a Dalai Lama quote: “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.”
As I look at my statement earlier when I said World Kindness Day couldn’t have come at a better time, I realize that I need to retract that statement. It infers that we need World Kindness Day to make us kind. But it is not a day delegated to kindness that will make a difference. We need to make a difference. And we shouldn’t need one day of the year to remind us. But, unfortunately, perhaps we do.
Kindness must go beyond a fleeting trend or a singular act. Kindness needs to be a lifestyle and mindset that implores us to live our lives with greater empathy and justice. Kindness asks us to go beyond niceties and good manners. Kindness must be a transformative action that offers compassion, inclusion and love.
Did you know that there are scientific facts about being kind? Experiencing acts of kindness makes kindness contagious. We experience kindness and we react by offering acts of kindness, as well.
I googled for inspirational quotes and found these:
“You cannot do kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead
“Because that’s what kindness it. It’s not doing something for someone else because they can’t, but because you can.” Andrew Iskanders
Yes, we can go to modern quotes and inspirational phrases about kindness, but the best words of kindness are rooted in scripture.
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7 ESV) “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32 ESV)
We must celebrate and live kindness every day. “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great.” (Luke 6:35 ESV) In offering kindness, we can be like patient zero – we can start an epidemic of kindness.
Be well, my friends. And be kind.
Welcome to the Sunday morning devotion. Our theme today is “Have Courage” and our scripture reference is from Haggi. This reference is basically the story of the Jews who were banished to Babylon returning to Judea. They want to restore the temple that was trashed by the Babylonians, but resources were scarce, and the people put off restoring the temple. Eventually God lets the people know that it is time to stop procrastinating and get on with rebuilding the temple. However, the people are still reluctant to do the renovations. Their hearts were not in it and resources remained scarce.
Have you ever put off doing something which you knew needed done because you were uncomfortable and didn’t think you had the resources to do it. I have. There was a time not too long ago that I knew it was time to relocate, sell my house and begin a whole new chapter in my life. I kept putting it off. I felt that my life was over and not worth moving on. Eventually, with the help of my family and my church family I began to move forward. God paved the way for me to sell my home and find a new place to live. It’s not the same but it is fine for my needs.
I found the courage to move forward as did the people of Israel. The temple that they built was not as glamorous as Solomon’s temple, but it was good in God’s eyes. They knew that God had not deserted them and loved them for their efforts.
There are going to be many times in life when we have to do that which is scary and uncomfortable, and it will take courage - the courage that comes from a close relationship with God. God can do marvelous things and he wants to walk with each of us as we move into new territory.
As we go into this next week with a national election, may we use the courage that God shares with us to vote with confidence and courage.
Author: Kathy Wolfe
Various authors throughout the Chesapeake Bay Mission Center and beyond provide these thought-provoking weekly devotions.