Advent Devotionals

The Invitation to Wait


Advent is a season of waiting and anticipating. At this point in 2020, we should be well practiced with waiting. Waiting for restrictions to be lifted. Waiting for test results. Waiting for church to resume and school to reopen. Waiting for sports to be played. Waiting and anticipating. All the while, we say to ourselves that we are waiting for “normal” to return again. Maybe that’s what uniquely equips us for this Advent season, this year. Waiting and anticipating Jesus’ birth is not waiting for normal to resume. Jesus’ incarnation as a baby, as God made flesh, Emmanuel, ushers in a whole new way of living and believing that isn’t normal at all. Maybe this year we will have eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts to love in an entirely new way, as we wait and anticipate the arrival of Christ child.

Sunday, November 29


The theme for this week is hope.
The scriptures for the week are Luke 1: 5-25.A
As we begin the Advent season, please join us at 11 am for worship online at https://memorialpcusa.org/.

Prayer of the Day from Worship

Eternal God,
through long generations you prepared a way
for the coming of your Son,
and by your Spirit
you still bring light to illumine our paths.
Renew us in faith and hope
that we may welcome Christ to rule our thoughts
and claim our love,
as Lord of lords and King of kings,
to whom be glory always. Amen.



Monday, November 30

Luke 1: 5-7

In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly order of Abijah. His wife was a descendant of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. Both of them were righteous before God, living blamelessly according to all the commandments and regulations of the Lord. But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were getting on in years.

In the days of King Herod…

Our faith story, while always growing and changing, sometime sets a fixed time in our memories. King Herod might not elicit much from us, but “In the days of Covid-19” might spark a visceral response to our lived faith. In these opening verses, we meet Zechariah and Elizabeth who were both very faithful to God, but they did not have a child. In their time and cultural, this was a problem. Even though they lived very faithful lives, not having a child was seen as God’s disfavor upon you. This was a personal hurt that was very publicly displayed within their community. Our Advent journey begins here, with Elizabeth and Zechariah… in the days of King Herod. a time long ago superimposed upon our modern lives today.

It is sometimes difficult to bring old history into a modern context. As we live and work and worship in and around St. Augustine, we know better than most how to navigate through the old and the new. St. Augustine, an old settlement and city by American standards, has several beloved landmarks that tell a story and mark a place in time from then to now.

The Castillo de San Marcos started construction in 1672 and was completed in 1695, making it 325 years old. It marks a time of Spanish rule in East Florida and continues to be a distinctive landmark today. It was never taken by force. It was ceded by treaty from one country to another over the centuries. It has withstood storms and hurricanes; political upheaval and wars; different languages, faiths, and people tending to it, guarding it, being imprisoned in it, and now visiting it. Still, it stands, even in the midst of a pandemic.

Our Advent journey begins here, in the days of King Herod, in the days of Covid, ancient and modern meet on the way to the birth of our Savior.

How is your faith holding up in “the days of Covid”? Will your faith withstand the rigors of the elements of life to remain a testament in time, from one generation to the next?



Tuesday, December 1

Luke 1: 8-17

Once when he was serving as priest before God and his section was on duty, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and offer incense. Now at the time of the incense offering, the whole assembly of the people was praying outside. Then there appeared to him an angel of the Lord, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was terrified; and fear overwhelmed him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He must never drink wine or strong drink; even before his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit. He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. With the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before him, to turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

Zechariah was doing his job, what he was trained to do. His job just happened to be a priest, a special order of men chosen by bloodline and trained from an early age. As we learned in our scripture reading from yesterday: he is righteous, blameless before God, and getting on in years. His opportunity to enter the sanctuary of the Lord was probably a once-in-a-lifetime event. Have you ever had a moment in your life that you have prepared for, trained for, hoped and wished for all rolled into one? This was Zechariah’s moment. However, this moment was about to go horribly wrong and wonderfully right all at the same time. The Angel Gabriel shows up, telling Zechariah that he and Elizabeth will have a son named John. This baby will be celebrated, bringing joy and happiness, as babies so often do. They symbolize hope for us. John, however, is more than a long expected baby for a childless couple. He is baby that will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth, and will prepare a way for the Lord. We will pick up the rest of the conversation between Zechariah and the Angel Gabriel tomorrow.

How has God shown up in your life in unexpected ways, at unexpected times and through unexpected people? On your Advent journey, what are you doing to prepare a way for the Lord?


 

Wednesday, December 2

Luke 1: 18-23

Zechariah said to the angel, “How will I know that this is so? For I am an old man, and my wife is getting on in years.” The angel replied, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. But now, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time, you will become mute, unable to speak, until the day these things occur.”

Meanwhile the people were waiting for Zechariah, and wondered at his delay in the sanctuary. When he did come out, he could not speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. He kept motioning to them and remained unable to speak. When his time of service was ended, he went to his home.

Yesterday we left Zechariah in the sanctuary, face to face with the Angel Gabriel, as Gabriel is sharing some incredible news with Zechariah. Not only are Zechariah and Elizabeth going to have a child- something they thought was impossible- but this child is God-sent to prepare for the way of the Lord. We know that is code for Jesus is coming, but Zechariah doesn’t know any of this yet. What would your response be? Would you believe Gabriel right away or would you question him? Despite being devoutly faithful all of his life, this is, after all, his first encounter with an angel. Zechariah asked, “How will I know this is so? For I am an old man, and my wife is getting on in years.” It seems a reasonable question to ask. However, Gabriel seems piqued that Zechariah was not believing and accepting his good news right away. He makes Zechariah unable to speak until Gabriel’s words to him come true. When Zechariah emerged from the sanctuary, the people praying outside knew that something had happened. He was unable to share Gabriel’s visit or message to him. The unusual moment passes, even though he still cannot speak. We are told, “When his time of service was ended, he went to his home.” Life returned to normal, or so he thought. The changes in Zechariah’s and Elizabeth’s lives were already set in motion- they are just in the process of catching up to the Angel Gabriel’s words.

Divine encounters don’t last, and they raise a myriad of questions that tap into fear, doubt and anxiety. Have you encountered the divine in a way that seemed impossible to explain? Were you able to connect events together later in an “aha” moment?


 

Thursday, December 3

Luke 1: 24-25

After those days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she remained in seclusion. She said, “This is what the Lord has done for me when he looked favorably on me and took away the disgrace I have endured among my people.”

Zechariah returned home and Elizabeth, did indeed become pregnant. Oftentimes, women won’t share their pregnancy news until they are around 3 months pregnant. Elizabeth stayed in seclusion- a sort of self-imposed quarantine- for 5 months. People in their village certainly must have wondered what was going on with them. Zechariah was unable to speak and Elizabeth refused to be seen in public. Elizabeth speaks this one sentence that clues us in to how she may have been feeling, “This is what the Lord has done for me when he looked favorably on me and took away the disgrace I have endured among my people.” Elizabeth is surprised, excited and maybe even relieved at becoming pregnant, but her grief is also tangible. All those years she longed to be pregnant and wasn’t. In their culture, a woman not able to bear a child, especially a male child, was considered to have been cursed by God. She was a religious woman, married to a priest, both of them from priestly families. This must have weighed heavily upon her throughout her life. Did she at some point believe that she had displeased God in some way to bear such a humiliating stigma?

As we come to the end of the first week of the Advent season, we should remember that grief isn’t an “either/or” proposition. Sometimes you can be happy and still grieve what is lost. During the Christmas season, we think we must banish grief and unhappiness, or we have failed in celebrating Christmas. Instead, maybe we should invite our grief to the celebration- not to take over, but to simply recognize that our lives consist of both great joy and profound sadness. In nature, the mountains sit next to the valleys. Why do we not recognize that our lives consist of highs and lows, often side by side, as well, and that one experience does not diminish the other? They are both part of who we are.

Do you grieve for someone or something during this season? How might you “invite grief to the celebration” of Advent this year?


 

Friday, December 4

Enjoy music from the Memorial Presbyterian Church choir, originally sung on December 22, 2019. It is from the Magnificat by Michael John Trotta (a preview for the scripture reading for next week!)

Ave Rosa Sine Spinis (Rose Without Thorns)

Ave rosa sine spinis, stella maris,
Tu illustraris luce clara deitatis, praefulges cunctis datis.
Vas divinae bonitatis et totius pietatis.
Verbo in te carne facto, o dulce vas amoris.

Rose without thorns, without blemish, star of the ocean.
Brightly you shine forth clear and radiant, divine essence, shining on all things.
Vessel of divine grace, goodness and mercy, and all compassion and all kindness.
Vessel of the sweetest love, the word made flesh within you.


 

Saturday, December 5

How will you Sabbath with Hope today?

In the busy-ness of the season, take today to rest and reflect on hope. Use the artwork to guide your meditation or simply allow yourself to be drawn into the story through Ms. Irigoyen’s artwork.

Original artwork by Sofia Margaret Irigoyen, a Sophomore at Flagler College. Sofia is a Fine Arts major with a double minor in psychology and youth ministry. She is part of the collegiate ministry at MPC. You may follow Sofia’s art on Instagram @sofia.myworld.



Sunday, December 6

The theme for this week is faith.
The scriptures this week are Luke 1: 26-45.
As we continue in the Advent season, please join us in worship online at memorialpcusa.org on Sunday, December 6th at 11 a.m.

Prayer of the Day

God of all peoples,
your servant John came baptizing
and calling for repentance.
Help us to hear his voice of judgment,
that we may also rejoice in his word of promise,
and be found pure and blameless in that glorious Day
when Christ comes to rule the earth as Prince of Peace. Amen.


Monday, December 7

Luke 1: 26-34

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?”

God and Gabriel are busy. This time, God sends the angel Gabriel to Mary, who is engaged to Joseph (from the house of David), in the town of Nazareth in the region of Galilee. Despite the mention of Joseph’s blood lines, the town and the region remind us that he’s really a regular Joe, looking to start a life with Mary, one of the local girls. Gabriel interrupts those plans, telling Mary that she will become pregnant with a son, whom they will name Jesus. Just as Mary is God-chosen, Jesus is God’s very own son, whose kingdom will not end like earthly kings, but go on forever. Mary, like Zechariah before her, asked Gabriel, “How can this be?”

This is where our Christmas story begins. So often, we jump to Jesus being born that we forget the faith of Mary and Joseph that allowed his birth to happen. Everything is stacked against them- women who became pregnant before their marriage brought immense shame on their families, hers and his. Often, the punishment was death. Before we jump to Jesus in the manger, let us remember the courageous faith Mary and Joseph lived to believe the words of an angel.

The photograph today is of one of the lions at the Bridge of Lions, connecting St. Augustine to Anastasia Island. The lions are named “Fiel y Firme”- Faithful and Firm. They were commissioned by Dr. Andrew Anderson, a former mayor of St. Augustine, and donated to the city in 1927. They are St. Augustine landmarks, and their names connect them to our faith in a new way.

Do you remember a time in your life when your faith took courage, when you needed to be faithful and firm? How was your faith changed as a result?



Tuesday, December 8

Luke 1: 35-38

The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

Our scripture passage yesterday left us hanging with Mary asking Gabriel how she was going to become pregnant with a son named Jesus, whose kingdom would have no end. If you remember last week, when Zechariah asked a similar question, he was struck mute. Will Gabriel do the same to Mary? Gabriel does not. He actually answers her question. Then he tells her that her relative Elizabeth, who was too old to have children, is 6 months pregnant. Gabriel ends the conversation with, “For nothing will be impossible with God.” Gabriel upends Mary’s life with God’s plans for her. Plans that change everything- for her, for Joseph, and for the world. Mary affirms Gods call on her life with this statement, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”

The photograph today comes from the World War I monument across from the Bridge of Lions - something you have probably walked past before and never “seen.” Dr. Andrews, the former mayor who commissioned the lions, also commissioned this monument. The inscription reads: The City of St. Augustine Fiel-Y-Firme. Dedicated to victory, to peace and to the youth of this city who served their country in the World War. The monument is a humbling reminder that being faithful and firm exists for every generation in a unique way through the challenges that define their time.

Have you ever felt so certain about something that you were ready to go forward even though it seemed impossible or crazy to everyone else? How did you know that was the right path for you? What role did your faith make in your decision?



Wednesday, December 9

The Memorial Presbyterian Choir sang this on December 22, 2019.

Ecce Ancilla (I Am the Servant)

Ecce ancilla Domini,
fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum.

Behold, I am the servant of the Lord,
May it be done to me, according to your word.



Thursday, December 10

Luke 1: 39-45

In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”

Mary sets off immediately for Elizabeth’s house. This is not a walk across town. Mary treks approximately 100 miles to see Elizabeth. If she joined a caravan, she could have been there in two days. If she walked, covering around 20 miles a day, she could have reached Elizabeth’s house in 4-5 days. Even though she professed her belief and agreement to God’s plans, she probably wanted to verify that Elizabeth was, indeed, pregnant. Which would then confirm that she, too, was pregnant, as Gabriel foretold. Elizabeth confirmed all that the angel Gabriel said, rejoicing at Mary’s visit, her pregnancy, and her faith.

The Bridge of Lions has been a St. Augustine landmark since 1927. The bridge itself spans about 1 mile across the Matanzas River. The journey is significantly shorter than Mary’s journey to visit Elizabeth. If the weather is good, consider walking from one side to the other. Reflect on what’s been going on in your life. How has God been present? Or, if you prefer, sit and watch the lions, Firm and Faithful, who stand sentry over the entrance to the bridge. How is your faith standing watch over your life?



Friday, December 11

Ave Maria performed by Keri Lee Pierson and Christopher Schoelen at Memorial Presbyterian Church on Sunday 11/29.


Saturday, December 12

How will you sabbath with faith today?

You can follow Sofia Irigoyen's artwork on Instagram @Sofia.myworld



Sunday, December 13

Please join us for online worship at 11 am on Sundays at memorialpcusa.org.

Prayer of the Day

Almighty God,
you have made us and all things to serve you,
now prepare the world for your rule.
Come quickly to save us,
so that wars and violence shall end,
and your children may live in peace,
honoring one another with justice and love;
through Jesus Christ,
who lives in power with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever. Amen.


Monday, December 14

Luke 1:46-56 The Magnificat

We left off in our Advent journey last week with Mary going to visit Elizabeth. When Mary greeted Elizabeth, we are told that Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. She concluded her praise of God and Mary and the baby Mary will have with this statement, “And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.” Today, we come to Mary’s response, also known as the Magnificat. The title, Magnificat, refers to the Latin words used in the first verse, “My soul magnifies the Lord.” This passage of scripture is also referred to as Mary’s Song. If you imagined this Bible story as a musical, this would be when the heroine emerges from the shadows and embraces who she is. Mary is no longer the village girl whose life was on track to be predictable. God, through the angel Gabriel, has shown up in her life in a very unexpected way. Instead of running from the daunting call to be the Mother of God, she embraces the call. Her song lets us hear her voice- strong, courageous, and faithful. Too often, Mary fades from our memories in the gospel stories. We think of her as a prop, as a means to an end. Or we think she is weak, merely submitting to the events happening in her life. In this passage, we remember that she is none of those. This young woman understands God’s call, and she answers it in a proclamation of faith. Listen to her voice as we come to today’s scripture passage from Luke 1: 46-56.

And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
And Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.

Our reflection questions for today are:
If you were to proclaim your faith in God, would you write or sing a song? Paint or draw a picture? Dance? What gift do you share with the world that reveals your faith? How are you proclaiming your faith in God?

Tuesday, December 15

Luke 1: 57-66 The Birth of John the Baptist

Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her.

On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him Zechariah after his father. But his mother said, “No; he is to be called John.” They said to her, “None of your relatives has this name.” Then they began motioning to his father to find out what name he wanted to give him. He asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And all of them were amazed. Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue freed, and he began to speak, praising God. Fear came over all their neighbors, and all these things were talked about throughout the entire hill country of Judea. All who heard them pondered them and said, “What then will this child become?” For, indeed, the hand of the Lord was with him.

Mary stayed with Elizabeth around three months, but went home before it was time for John to be born. Our passage today returns us to Elizabeth, Zechariah, and their baby, John. Again, they are the talk of the neighborhood. On the day of John’s circumcision, the religious ritual that names him and marks him as an Isrealite, the gathered religious assembly was going through the motions, ready to declare their son Zechariah. Elizabeth spoke up, saying no, he was to be named John. Since women were not part of the religious ceremony, they looked to Zechariah, who motioned for something to write with. He concurred, “His name is John.” At this, Zechariah is able to speak again, and he begins to praise God. The passage tells us that the neighbors were afraid and talked about all that had happened, asking “What then will become of this child?” We are told that they knew that the hand of God was on John from the very beginning.

In the Presbyterian tradition, we have a sacrament called baptism. In the waters of baptism, God claims us as God’s own, extending God’s grace to us and inviting us to become a member of the body of Christ. It is important in our tradition that baptism occurs as part of worship, because the people of the church are asked to be active participants in the faith life of the child. The pastor asks the congregation before the baptism occurs if they will “promise to guide and nurture, by word and deed, with love and prayer, encouraging them to know and follow Christ and be faithful members of his church.” We should look at every child as if we’ve known the hand of God has been on them from the very beginning. God’s hand is on every child, whether we’ve seen it, like Zechariah’s neighbors with John or whether we were in church that Sunday for a child’s baptism.

Our reflection questions for today are:
How will you live into your baptismal vows with the children in your life? What does it look like to be a faithful member of the church today, when it is so very different than what we have been used to?

Wednesday, December 16

Luke 1:67-80 Zechariah’s Song

Then his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke this prophecy:

“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them.
He has raised up a mighty savior for us
in the house of his servant David,
as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us.
Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors,
and has remembered his holy covenant,
the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham,
to grant us that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies,
might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness
before him all our days.
And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
to give knowledge of salvation to his people
by the forgiveness of their sins.
By the tender mercy of our God,
the dawn from on high will break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day he appeared publicly to Israel.

Just as Mary’s song is called the Magnificat, this passage of scripture is referred to as the Benedictus, Zechariah’s blessing. You will hear the echo of some of the same language, some of the same sentiment coming from Zechariah as you heard from Mary- praising God, delivering God’s people from enemies, seeking God’s favor. We could pray these prayers today with some adjustments to names and places and they would reflect our hearts as we cried out to God, too. Then Zechariah acknowledges that his son will “go before the Lord to prepare his ways.” The divine encounter with Gabriel comes true. All of it. He concludes the blessing of John this way, “By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high has broken upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” Our theme for this week is joy, and the birth of John is a joyous event for Elizabeth and Zechariah as well as the world. A new normal is upon us as John is tasked with preparing us for Jesus. Next week, the theme is peace. Let us not forget the prayer of a father to his son, to guide our feet in the way of peace as we finish the third week of our Advent journey.

Our reflection questions for today are:
Have you ever given your blessing to someone? Did you write a letter or was it a face-to-face moment? Blessings are powerful. Consider giving your blessing to someone, whether it is a family member, a friend, or even someone you might need to reconcile with, as you continue to journey through Advent.

Thursday, December 17

Feliz Navidad

Friday, December 18

We offer another original piece of artwork by Sofia Irigoyen for our reflection question today:
On the weekend before Christmas, how will you Sabbath with joy?

Saturday, December 19

Please join us for online worship at 11 a.m. on Sunday 12/20 at memorialpcusa.org.

Prayer of the Day for Sunday 12/20

God of grace,
your eternal Word took flesh among us
when Mary placed her life
at the service of your will.
Prepare our hearts for his coming again;
keep us steadfast in hope
and faithful in service,
that we may receive the coming of his kingdom,
for the sake of Jesus Christ the ruler of all,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever. Amen.


Sunday, December 20

Luke 2: 1-7

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.

We conclude our Advent journey almost the same way we began it, with the phrase, “In those days…” In this passage, though, the events, names and timing confuse historians because they do not align. As much as we might like to definitively say, Jesus was born here, we are probably left to accept that Jesus’ birth story might be more akin to a beloved family story that has been handed down from one generation to the next. It’s true, but in the telling and retelling of the story, some of the details may have gotten lost.

As we reflect on our Advent journey this year, when we can say “In the days of Covid,” how has the “waiting” and the “new normal” affected your faith? Every year, we are asked to wait patiently for Jesus’ birth through the Advent season and previously, we filled our schedules to bursting and called it celebrating the child Savior. His birth is nearly upon us again. Our reflection question today is, did you wait differently this year?

Monday, December 21

(Yes, we are re-reading about the birth of Jesus, with a different perspective on the devotion today.)
Luke 2: 1-7

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.

7 verses and $1.002 trillion dollars. The birth of Jesus, the world changing event, happens in a mere 7 verses in both Luke 2: 1-7 and Matthew 1: 18-25. Last year, holiday retail sales surpassed $1 trillion dollars.

[1] By the time this devotional is finished and being read, we will have an idea of how we have quite literally spent our Christmas this year. We have learned how to adapt to a “new normal” through Covid, with people quipping that the “old normal” was broken and we shouldn’t return to it. The birth of Jesus every year reminds us that the world is broken and in need of reconciliation. God gives us the gift of a new normal through Jesus Christ, if only we will receive it.


[1] https://fortunly.com/statistics/christmas-spending-statistics/#gref



Tuesday, December 22

Luke 2: 8-20

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. 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: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

The Christ child has been born but his birth announcement to the world still needs to be made! Our scripture today tells us that once again an angel is the messenger of God’s good news for all of humanity. The recipients of the heavenly birth announcement are shepherds in the field. While our imagination often goes to children’s Christmas pageants with cute and cuddly shepherds and sheep, these shepherds were on the margins of their society. They were considered to be of questionable character in general. Specifically, one their problems was they could not keep any of the religious rituals of their faith because of their jobs. Yet, it was these shepherds with whom angels shared the good news of great joy about Jesus’ birth. They wanted to see for themselves if what the angel told them was true. Notice how every angel encounter in Luke’s birth story is met with varying degrees of skepticism before people embrace the news told to them! Indeed, the shepherds found the baby, shared the angelic encounter with Mary and Joseph, and left praising God. Like all of the other divine encounters in this story, no matter how life-changing the moment is, they then return to their regular lives.

This week, Jupiter and Saturn align in such a way as to look like a very bright star. Could it look like the “glory of the Lord that shone around them”? When you see extraordinary natural events, how does it affect you when you return to your “regular life”?

Our reflection question for today is: How will you carry the good news of great joy throughout your everyday life?


Wednesday, December 23

Please join us for worship online on Christmas Eve at 5 p.m. at memorialpcusa.org.

Christmas Eve Prayer

Good and gracious God,
on this holy night you gave us your Son,
the Lord of the universe, wrapped in swaddling clothes,
the Savior of all, lying in a manger.
On this holy night
draw us into the mystery of your love.
Join our voices with the heavenly host
that we may sing your glory on high.
Give us a place among the shepherds
that we may find the one for whom we have waited,
Jesus Christ, the Messiah and Lord,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever. Amen.


Friday, December 25

Merry Christmas!
Enjoy the MPC Children's Choir singing (and dancing!) Go Tell It on the Mountain!

Become a part of our community of faith – joining us in worship, witness, fellowship, and service. We would love for you to make us your cherished place of worship.

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