December 5, 2018

Romans 15:4-13

“For whatsoever was written aforetime was written for our learning that we, by patience and comfort of the scriptures, might have hope.” – Romans 15:4

Memorizing this verse was an assignment my father, the minister, gave to a class of 7-9 year olds at Piney River Church of Christ near Dickson, TN. The language of the King James version made the message was largely unaccessible to me. I understood the general gist of the verse – that scripture was written to teach us about God’s love – but not its connection to the rest of this passage.

Paul is writing to Christians in Rome encouraging unity and willingness to love and serve one another. He refers to the Old Testament which was more familiar to early Christians than it is to many of us. He wanted his audience to understand that Jesus, the root of Jesse, is the hope of all the world. God’s incredible power came into the world through Jesus and the salvation and forgiveness he offers. The joy and peace of trusting in God is available to all believers. God sends his Spirit among us to transform our lives and empower each of us to do what we can to be the change God dreams for the world.

- Linda Brandau

December 4, 2018

Isaiah 11:1-10

This seems too much to hope for. A world of peace. A gentle, just world filled with the knowledge of God "as the waters cover the sea". After all has been razed by ambition, hatred, greed - the countless things that can destroy life, a tiny green shoot appears. Though there is desolation to the horizon, hope is not lost. The root still lives. Life starts again.

Although this is a Christmas reading, this really seems more like a resurrection story. If you back up and read 10:27b-34, that makes sense. This promise grows out of desolation. We celebrate the birth at this time of year, but there is really no way to separate the joy of the birth from the agony of Good Friday and the triumph of Easter. The story that begins each Christmas is a story of hope born, hope lost, and hope triumphant. Life that springs forth from death and destruction. From defeat. From hopelessness.

Amid the busy-ness of the season, over all the noise, through the pain of another holiday without a loved one, in spite of cynicism and fatigue, spring forth again from the root, Holy One. Against all odds. Be born in us anew.

- Jim Zamata

December 3, 2018

Matthew 24:36-44

According to the three year Lectionary reading cycle, the first Sunday of advent is devoted to passages dealing with the second coming of Christ and a study of “last things.” This section of the chapter deals with responding to the disciples questioning Jesus concerning “the sign of his coming and the end of the age.” We are reminded of those even in Noah’s days and the flood not living faithful lives.

We are reminded, in anticipation of His return, that imposters claiming to be the Messiah would tempt followers to stray....that they (and we) must remain focused on living faithful lives not knowing the day or the hour of Christ’s return.

Apocalyptic passages (study of last things) sometimes frightens people, but as religious writer Arlen Hultgren points out in his comments concerning this passage, the message of Jesus’ return is not meant to frighten, but to give us hope!

This same hope is true of that first coming too is it not? There was anticipation…they didn’t know when the Messiah would come, but they longed for the coming of the Savior! This passage reminds us that throughout history, folks go about living their daily lives, some anticipating and some not in preparation for the blessings of the coming of God’s begotten. Blessings which are surely ours as followers if we focus to live out our baptism in being the people we want and Jesus wants us to be.

- Lester McNatt

December 2, 2018

Romans 13: 11-14

Paul writes his letter to the Christians in Rome in advance of his upcoming visit.  He prefaces this passage proclaiming that love is all we need – very Beatlesesque.  When we love our neighbor as our self and love God with our whole being, we are fulfilling Jesus’ message.  Why is this so difficult?  Well, our neighbor means everyone and that right there creates a problem for us sinful humans.  Love everyone the way we love ourselves?  Yikes!  In verse 13, Paul proceeds to list several behaviors that have shown up in political headlines over the past several years (Look those up on your own).  Our leaders aren’t setting a good example either.  It’s time for us to be leaders in this Love Movement Jesus talks about.

We are told to put on the armor of light and clothe ourselves with Jesus.  Life appears to be pulling us in different directions – many of those away from God’s purpose.  As we prepare for Jesus during this Advent season, may you wrap His love around you and share it with your neighbors.  All of them.

- Jeff Miller

December 1, 2018

Isaiah 2:1-5

There is too much noise, too many voices, too much news, too many political ads, and uncharacteristically too many books I am trying to read at the same time.  This is not how one should be living.

Being given an opportunity to read, re-read, and let the words of Isaiah resonate with me is what my soul needed this Autumn week.  I have tried living with these words for about a week to see how I was understanding them.  The last line in this scripture is “O, house of Jacob come, let us walk in the light of the Lord.”   This statement has my attention, and I think about the idea of deep, slow breathing to allow myself to focus. I turn off the radio, close the book, and walk outside breathing deeply.

To “walk in the light of the Lord” I realize helps prepare me for opportunities to worship God.  Focus on God and all of God’s creation while slowly reading scripture and getting closer to others in worship. Worship ends with moments of song and a lifting of the burdens of noise, news, to-do lists and fears.

Let us worship together during Advent and join one another “walking in the light of the Lord”.

- Carol Doidge