What a wonderful Advent!  What a glorious Christmas!

And many thanks to those who helped me through The Season this year. 

I have a specific problem with the Advent/Christmas season that I’ve shared with many of you in years past.  It has a lot to do with the time I spent in retail, in malls, and in the pursuit of the almighty dollar as a young man making a way for myself in the world.

Those years are well in my rearview mirror now, but the effects linger for me.

Barbara, Dorothy, Mary, Bob & Bob, Becky Jo, Jim, Kay, Ron. Cindy, Linda V, Ann, Linda R, Chad, and Luke & Charles too helped make this a season of Hope and Joy and Peace, and Love for me because I was able to include prayers you had written for me into my mornings and my morning devotion time.

Bless you all into our new year and not only do I hope this will become a Glendale Advent Tradition, but I hope I can also make a small contribution to the effort next year.

Mike Shultz

In November I watched as my brother-in-law’s sister carried her mother’s remains into the sanctuary for her funeral service.  I was overwhelmed with the way she held the urn in the same way a mother lovingly carries a baby to put her to rest at night.  With gentle love and a last chance to offer her mother such, she swaddled that urn so tenderly.  I was awed by her ability to do this one last thing for a child of God she called mother.

 

I think of that image as I think about Mary carrying the Messiah in the safety of her womb.  Had Mary known what would come of her son, I wonder if she would have wanted to keep that baby inside of her.  There in the safety of her womb no authorities could charge him with offenses, no courts could convict him of a crime whose sentence could be the cross.  If she had known, wouldn’t she have wanted to keep that baby inside of her?

But only when born did the possibilities of Messiah come to fulfillment.  Only through birth could the hope of Jesus come to be real.  Only by coming to life as a vulnerable baby could God accomplish God’s saving work in Jesus.

I wish for Mary that she could have held Jesus at the end of his life, like she did at the beginning.  I wish she could have held Jesus as my brother-in-law’s sister carried her mother’s remains at the end of life.  That moment of tenderness and love was only hers at the start of Jesus life.  But, oh the bravery in Mary being willing to birth one to whom she would far too soon give back.  I wonder if she knew.

Pastor Becky Jo Messenbrink

 

 

 

“Let us love one another, for love comes from God.” 1 John 4:7

One of my favorite Christmas hymns is “Love Came Down at Christmas.”  God’s love came to us in the form of a baby, a helpless infant completely reliant on others to survive.  I’ve always thought of the love as being contained in Jesus, in that infant.  But as I was reflecting on that hymn again today, I realized that if love were not present in Mary and Joseph, in the shepherds, even in the Wise Men, that helpless infant could not have survived.  The love present at Christmas is represented not only by the love that came down; it is also represented by the love shared. 

As we anticipate the love that comes to us at Christmas, we are reminded that many around us are unaware that the gift of Christmas is indeed love.  We are the ones to make that love available to them.  A verse in a Christmas card says it like this:  “When hands reach out in love at Christmas, the world is a little happier, a little kinder, a little more like heaven.”  May your Christmas be blessed with a touch of heaven!

Barbara Moore

Honestly, why do I do this to myself? It’s Advent and I really should be meditating and reflecting on the upcoming birth of our Lord, Jesus. Instead I feel like I’m running around, like a chicken with my head cut off. I’m thinking about all that stuff on my to-do list and feeling that inevitable dreaded realization that I’m never going to get it all done. Then, last night I had one of those “ah-ha moments”. As the chair of the Board of Directors of the Wesley Foundation one of my duties is to provide a devotion at the beginning of the meeting. I took the time to page through a book of Advent readings and came upon a story about an elderly women’s physician who showed up at her home and gave her a poinsettia as a gift. She related to a friend that he could have sent it, but instead he took the time to bring it himself and spent a few moments chatting with her. It meant the world to her. I then told the 12 people gathered around that table that they surely had other things to do during this time of the year, but they chose to show up to serve this wonderful ministry of the United Methodist Church and the group of young adults it touches.  As I was delivering this message I felt a lightening of my spirit and realized that indeed, being present to others is what God truly wants us to do rather than getting bogged down with all the “stuff” that doesn’t get done before that December 25thdeadline.  I decided right then and there that rather than dreading my to do-list I would try to be as aware as possible to keep an open heart and be present to those I come in contact with during this Advent Season….and the rest of the year.

Paula Gaboury

Magnificat of Acceptance (excerpt)

“Holy is the place within me where God lives.

God’s tender fingers reach out from age to age to touch the softened inner spaces of those who open  their souls in hope.

I have experienced the creative power of God’s embracing arms and I know the cleansing fire of

unconditional love.

I am freed from all earthly authority and know my bonding to the Author of all earthly things.”

                                                                              ~Ann Johnson in Miryam of Nazareth

I always receive Advent with great joy and anticipation.  As I ponder Mary and Joseph’s surprising experience, I wonder how we (personally and collectively) may be conceiving the unexpected…..

May our great God continue to bless the vision and ministries of our community, using our capacities for creativity, embodying, and integrating to birth holy endeavors that will bless generations to come…

~Ann Scarborough

I have always admired strong women during my life.  As a child, I appreciated Wonder Woman, the Bionic Woman, Nancy Drew and Princess Leia.  As an adult, I respected women leaders, those campaigning for women’s suffrage and equal rights, and peacekeepers.  This last Monday during the Sewing and Study group, I was reminded that I can also turn to the Bible to encounter strong women.

We are reading “The Women of Christmas”, which is a book I am enjoying and highly recommend.    Monday we discussed Elizabeth, who is described as righteous, honorable and obedient to God.  She was faithful to God even through a period of sorrow and disappointment.  In her time, children were seen as God’s reward for faithful service, but Elizabeth and her husband, Zechariah, were childless.  Furthermore, at that time fertility was viewed as the woman’s full responsibility.  In the eyes of her neighbors, Elizabeth “had failed at the most basic level” and they wondered what she had done to displease God.

Elizabeth had the strength of character and faith to keep her devotion to God, even during this time.  And she had something that many in our generation struggle with – patience.   Elizabeth’s story had a happy ending – through the grace of God, her prayers were answered and she gave birth to John the Baptist when the time was right.

We can learn a lot by Elizabeth’s enduring strength, integrity and character through good times and bad.

Romans 12:12    “Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.”

Lisa Duffy

UMC #GivingTuesday is Today-December 2nd!

Today, as a United Methodist, we can join a growing movement to begin the Advent season with a focus on giving.  It was really cool to hear the interchange this past Sunday, our 1st Sunday in Advent, between Pastor Becky Jo and Linda Vanderwerf and challenge us to give 10% of the total of what we spend on Christmas gifting back to the larger church.  Here is another opportunity. Today is the third annual #Giving Tuesday, a day when charities, churches and other not-for-profit organizations invite people to make special donations.

Please join in and celebrate today in some way as UMC #Giving Tuesday.  Several general agencies are asking support for projects and ministries and here is the place to learn more or to donate.

Find information and resources at www.givingtuesday.org

Bob Scarborough