“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

 
“Praise is due to you, O God in Zion.”      Psalm 65:1

 

Ancients had no trouble attributing thanks to gods whom they believed were responsible for life experiences like bountiful harvests. The writer of the 65th Psalm, and his people he Jews, took great joy in thanking the One, True God for the good things of life.

On Thursday this week we will all gather to consume a feast with family and friends. I wonder who we will really thank for the bounty of this meal…Ourselves or God?

Ron Nicholas

Advent; God in a Season in Search of, and for, Us

My memories of the Advent season are from the distant, and not-so-distant past.

 As a child, I remember being immersed in the season, not just from the ‘Christmas is almost here and I’m soooo excited’ standpoint, but also because our family was imbedded in the traditions of the church as well.  Advent season on the streets of Freeport Illinois and in the sanctuary and hallways of St. Thomas Aquinas church were heady places for a third grader.

 More recently I have been able to be guided through this wonderful season by pastors and you awesome people here at Glendalewho bring on a whole new sense of anticipation in me.  Gone are the days of working 70 hours a week in shopping malls just because ‘it’s Christmas’; now I have the chance to enjoy, even savor, every coming day.

Advent had always been a season in search for me.  It has become a season in search of me.  God has found me this Advent season right here, right where I belong.

Mike Shultz

From Whom all Blessings Flow
One of my favorite traditional songs is the Doxology, “Praise God, from Whom All Blessings Flow.”

As we approach Thanksgiving time which is my favorite Holiday, I want to reflect on our blessings. This past Sunday afternoon I was reminded of all the blessings we have in our lives given to us by God.  I attended a fund raiser for a co-worker who about 4 weeks ago was diagnosed with stage 4 melanoma cancer of the brain. I have worked with and known this person for 17 years.

The outpouring of her friends, family and co-workers was indeed a sight to behold. What an uplifting sign of support and blessing she received. I wrote in her guest book telling her how God loved her and that prayer is a powerful thing.

May each of us take time not only during the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday but every day to remember how much we have been blessed.  For it is from God that all our blessings flow.

Our God is an Awesome God!

Shelley Shultz

 

Brevity is a quality not known to apply to many preachers, and I include myself.  But I admire it in others, particularly in matters of religious faith.  At the top of my list is the brief summary of the Christian faith by the American poet, Edwin Markham.  A work altogether true, easily memorized and carried perpetually in the heart.  I pray it guides and inspires you as it has me.

Here is the truth in a little creed.
Enough for all the roads we go.
In love is all the law we need.
In Christ is all the God we know.
          Edwin Markham 1852-1940

Rev. Jim Ross

What do we need?

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 9:8, 9

Since we have just begun our stewardship series for this year I would like for you to take a moment to read and look at the scripture above. We just heard last Sunday a lesson in Contentment. What do we need?

God gives us all we need, plus extra and generously. We may not see that at times in our lives but God is with us always even in the midst of the bad times.

I have a book written by Dave Sutherland and Kirk Nowery called The 33 Laws of Stewardship.  I think these two quotes from that book is a great reminder for each of us.

“We are stewards of God’s abundant blessings, guardians of all that he has done and is doing in our lives. Our priority is to manage these unique resources with thankfulness and thoughtfulness.”

“No one else can give a first –person account of what God is doing to guide you, provide for you, empower you and bless you as you serve him. Be a faithful witness.”

My prayer is that each of you will use and manage your abundant blessings and be that faithful witness.

Shelley Shultz