Advent Devotional booklet

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CHURCH OF CHRIST UNITING’S
2013
ADVENT DEVOTIONAL
Created by the Congregation of COCU and
Sponsored by the Celebration Ministry Team
FOREWARD:
BY: Carol Harring
“Be still, and know that I am God." Psalm 46:10a
My first Christmas card every year is from friends of many years who sends a letter
summing up their year. On the very top of their lengthy letter, they print how long it will take to
read their letter and the words “sit down with a cup of tea”. This is an opportunity to take a
break from whatever I was doing when the mail arrived.
I confess that I don’t always take advantage of that. I think that there are so many things
to do at Christmas time that I cannot spare the time. But I also need to confess that I need that
break. I need to slow down in the midst of this busy season to reflect, relax, to take a deep
breath, at the very least to read my friend’s letter.
Today, I challenge both of us to take that break and reflect on the season we celebrate.
Make a commitment to follow this devotional daily. Read and re-read the accounts of Jesus birth
as given to us in Holy Scripture and celebrate His coming anew -to our lives, our hearts and our
world.
A Prayer from Elizabeth (Betty) Mitchell
(Found in Chester Cathedral 1770)
Give me a healthy mind, good Lord
To keep the good and pure in sight;
Which seeing sin, is not appalled,
But finds a way to set it right.
Give me a mind that is not bored;
That does not whimper, whine, or sigh.
Don’t let me worry over much
About the fussy thing called I.
Give me a sense of humor, Lord.
Give me the grace to see a joke,
To get some happiness from life
And pass it on to other folks.
2
First Sunday in Advent
Ephesians 1:3-10 “Of the Father's Love Begotten”
BY:
Sandy Mihoch Kase
As we begin this Season of Advent, in anticipation of the celebration of the birth of the Christ
Child, we are reminded of our Heavenly Father’s great love for us. Even before the world was
created, God had chosen us to be his children, having predestinated us as adopted children
through His Son, Jesus Christ, according to His love and by His grace alone.
It is easy for us as we prepare for this Christmas Season to be caught up in the hustle and bustle
of commercialism, Santa, gift buying, baking, decorating, festive holiday parties. We enjoy the
Holiday Spirit and good wishes of family and friends. We participate in Carol singing and
observe our children’s Christmas pageants. We may reflect on the loss of our loved ones, or
celebrate the blessings of family and friends. We may be saddened by our own human
conditions or by circumstances in our nation, or in global affairs. We may be fearful of the times
to come.
Christmas Eve has finally arrived, and we come to church to hear the “Manger Story” and praise
and adore the “Babe of Bethlehem”. Let us not forget though, that this tiny babe came into this
world so that through his broken body, and his blood, we would have forgiveness of our sins and
eternal life. God’s greatest love, His grace, His spiritual blessings - and greatest sacrifice! You
have been chosen as a child of God, forgiven and saved into Eternal Life through Jesus Christ,
the “Babe of Bethlehem”, the Savior of the world.
Dear Lord, let me never loose sight of your Promise, the many blessings you have bestowed
upon me throughout my life, and the miracle of Your love, through Jesus Christ, your Son our
Lord. Amen.
3
Monday of the First Week
Matthew 25: 31-34
“From Heaven Above”
BY:
Edy Kishbaugh
I am eternally grateful for having parents who made sure my sister and I went to Sunday school
and church every week. It gave us a solid foundation for building our spiritual lives.
Christmas has always been my favorite holiday, not only for the turkey and all of the
trimmings, apple pie, etc. but because all of our family and friends were together sharing and
giving gifts in celebration of the birth of Jesus.
My Dad and I sang in the choir on Christmas Eve, a very moving service filled with our
favorite carols. We sang “Silent Night” during the lighting of the candles. Afterward, everyone
seemed to be filled with the true meaning of Christmas. After all, Christmas is about love.
Prayer: Thank you God for coming into our world as a child of Christmas, making
us all a part of your family.
4
Tuesday of the First Week
Romans 8: 18-25
“O Little Town of Bethlehem”
BY:
Joyce Shiplett
As with so many hymns, O Little Town of Bethlehem was written for a special occasion – the
Christmas program at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Philadelphia. The year was 1867.
Several years earlier, the pastor/priest of that church had spent five hours at a Christmas Eve
worship service held at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, while touring the Holy Land.
The experience moved him deeply. He recalled that “…with the whole church ringing in my
ears with hymns of praise to God, it seemed I could hear many voices telling the world of the
wondrous night of the Savior’s birth.” He had decided earlier that there should be a simple new
hymn for the Christmas service to be sung by the children of the church.
Remembering his experience in Bethlehem, he sat down and wrote the verses in one evening.
He then gave the poem to the church organist, Lewis Redner and asked him to compose a
melody to be put with his words. Over several days, Redner just couldn’t think of an
appropriate/tune. Then the night before the service, as he slept, a melody came into his mind.
He got out of bed and quickly wrote it down, then went back to sleep. The next day, the
completed song was sung at the worship service by twenty-five children and six adults and was
immediately praised and accepted.
Within a short time the carol had become popular around the world. Phillips Brooks, a large
man, at six feet six inches tall and weighing nearly 300 pounds was an extremely popular
teacher. He had a dramatic style and his subject was frequently contemporary in nature rather
than scriptural. People would travel from distant areas to hear him preach. However, the thing
he is best known for today is his compost ion of the Christmas hymn O Little Town of
Bethlehem.
The National Geographic polled a large group of people asking them to tell what they considered
the event that most changed the world. Included in the top ten vote getters were the discovery of
the Rosetta Stone, hieroglyphics, the invention of the printing press but the number one event
that changed the world was the birth of the child of a young girl named Mary in a small, obscure
town called Bethlehem.
Let us pray,
Lord, in the busy activities and projects of the Christmas season, help; us to be filled with
thanksgiving and joy for the birth of our savior, Jesus. Help us to know that we are all
your children and to show your love to all we meet. Help us to realize that we are part of
the world-wide body of Christians who call Jesus “Lord and Savior.” Be with us and guide
us to become more loving and forgiving of our sisters and brothers in God’s world. In
Jesus name we pray. Amen.
5
Wednesday of the First Week
Titus 3: 3-7
“O Holy Night”
BY:
Leslie Bullock
This beautiful and popular carol was originally commissioned by an unknown parish priest from
a wine merchant, Placido Cappeau, as a poem, “Cantique de Noel”, for Christmas Mass in 1837.
Recognizing over the next few years that his poem had more potential, the wine merchant
approached a friend, Adolphe Charles Adams, to put it to music, and the melody we love today
was married to the poem. Popular for many years as a staple at Christmas Mass, it was suddenly
disavowed by the Church when it was learned that Adams was a devout Jew. It was immediately
banned from use in any Catholic church for the next 25 years, although its catchy tune was very
popular with the public, and it often found its way into Protestant holiday services.
A Unitarian minister and church music editor and publisher in Boston, John Sullivan Dwight,
found the carol in some old European manuscripts, and brought it to America’s attention in 1862.
An ardent abolitionist, Dwight was especially haunted by the third verse, quoted below, and the
song became a staple in the North during the Civil War:
Truly he taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His Gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His name all oppression shall cease
Already with a history of breaking new ground (requested by a forgotten parish priest, composed
by an unlikely source, given soaring music by a Jewish composer and brought to America as a
mantra of the anti-slavery movement), the carol has one more claim to fame. In 1906, Reginald
Fessenden, a professor at Carnegie-Mellon and former chief chemist for Thomas Edison spoke
into a microphone on Christmas Eve to broadcast a Christmas message for the first time. Starting
with “And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus…”
he related the gospel of Luke to stunned radio operators on ships and astonished wireless
operators at newspapers. To finish his broadcast, Fessenden picked up a violin, and played “O
Holy Night”, and the haunting melody cemented its well-deserved place in Christmas Eve
services forever.
6
Thursday of the First Week
Matthew 1: 18-25
"Oh, Come, Oh, Come, Emmanuel"
BY: Reverend Jim Baker
If you were asked to describe, in one word, the event we know as Christmas, what word would
you use? A number of words might come to mind, I would like to suggest the word-Change.
Think of Joseph-in the scripture, what a change Christmas made in his life. Think of the
change Christmas made in how people thought of God. Before the birth of Christ, people looked
upon God as distant, detached, judgmental, one to be feared. Christmas brought God closer to us
in the one called Emmanuel. God with us, loving us, and wanting to be part of our daily lives.
As Yvonne and I look back on our lives at Christmas, much has changed. Our first
Christmas together, it was only the two of us, living miles away from family. We had out first
two children, still miles away from home. The gifts were simple and inexpensive-I was in
college, and working only part time. After college, we moved nearer to family, and our parents
came to our house for Christmas.
As our children grew up, married and had children of their own, they came to out home
to celebrate the birth of Christ. Because I was serving churches, when Christmas fell on Sunday,
no presents were opened until after worship. This was a change from opening the presents early
Christmas morning.
As our grandchildren grew, they wanted to be in their own homes for Christmas morning,
so another change took place. We began to travel to their homes.
Now Yvonne and I are looking forward to the next change in our lives as we
anticipate moving to Brooke Estates in the near future.
Change has been the norm over the years for us, and probably for most of you as well.
The questions I raise are these:
Do we embrace change, welcome change as Joseph did? Can we (to paraphrase the
hymn) sing: “O Come, O Come Emmanuel, and help us make the changes that come into our
lives?
Christmas brings many changes to the lives of people who welcome the Christ Child into
their lives. We can face those changes as we affirm that God is always close to help us take each
new step.
7
Friday of the First Week
Mark 15: 46-16:6
“What Child is This”
BY:
Amy Ellsworth
When I looked up this verse I thought, “Pastor Carol has made a mistake. This is part of the
Easter story, not Christmas!” As I read it again and again, I noticed that a lot of this story
seemed familiar. Mary was there, a man named Joseph, aromatic offerings had been brought,
and an angel heralded news. It sounded much like the Christmas story we love so much. It
made me think that, much like these two stories, our own stories are the same too. We come into
this world greeted by those who will love us most, visitors eager to see a small miracle bring
gifts to celebrate the new arrival, and announcements via social media herald the good news!
As we leave this world and enter into life eternal, we hopefully are surrounded by those
who have loved us most and angels welcome us home. It is the same story, the story of God’s
love and his greatest gifts to us in our Lord Jesus. It’s easy to remember this at special times,
like Christmas and Easter, but we need to remind ourselves everyday in between…so all of our
days are reflections and celebrations of God’s great love for us and of Christ’s sacrifice for us.
Everyday is a day for sharing with ones that we hold dear, for reaching out to the world
to share our blessings, and telling Christ’s story through our own.
8
Saturday of the First Week
Jeremiah 23: 5-6 "Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming"
BY:
Donna Dickinson
Advent Devotion – The Beauty of the Rose from the carol “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming”
Jeremiah 23:5-6 “The days are coming,” declares the LORD,
“when I will raise up for David[a] a righteous Branch,
a King who will reign wisely
and do what is just and right in the land.
6 In his days Judah will be saved
and Israel will live in safety.
This is the name by which he will be called:
The LORD Our Righteous Savior.
Further Readings: Isaiah 11:1 and Micah 5:2
“Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming” is a beautiful, meditative Christmas carol that speaks to my
heart. In its original form this 1588 carol had twenty-three verses, with the Virgin Mary being
compared to a rose. During the Reformation Protestants revised the carol so that Mary was now
the rose bush which bore the one true rose who is Jesus Christ.
Jesus was the hope and light brought forth to a people who were suffering under the rule of the
Roman Empire. It was like winter; cold and dark and full of despair. Out of this darkness comes
a “rose e’er blooming from tender stem had sprung.” A rose of such breathtaking beauty and
brightness never seen before.
God’s promise was foretold by the prophets of old; Isaiah, Micah and Jeremiah. It shows how
much the Lord loved the people of Israel. I am comforted by God’s steadfast faithfulness as I
hum this carol even at times when the world seems unforgiving and cold.
The imagery of Jesus Christ as a rose that opens slowly to bring forth a sweet fragrance draws us
in to breathe deeply and drink in the hope of eternal life he offers. We do not have to be
discouraged because Jesus “dispels with glorious splendor the darkness everywhere.” He
“shares our every load.”
Thought for the day: Do not fear nor be disheartened, no matter what is happening around the
world or in your own life. Imagine the rose that is Jesus Christ who brings hope.
Prayer: Dear God, as I prepare for the birth of your son and our savior, Jesus Christ, may
I look around and offer hope to those who are still in darkness. May I share the beauty of
the rose – God’s promise come to earth.
9
Second Sunday in Advent
John 1: 9-13
"Thy Little Ones, Dear Lord"
BY:
Jack Wise
We were all born of the flesh, not of our own choice, but of the choice of our parents; all
at different times, and in various locations, and to different means.
From darkness, we were brought into the brightness of life and nurtured with love, not of
our choice, but of efforts of those who have loved us.
As we developed our faith, now, we were given a choice: to live in the light and accept
light, or reject it.
It is our responsibility not only to make this choice, but to share it with others around us,
to help lead others out of the darkness and into the light.
As we journey through this Advent season, may we shine our light so that others can find
their way to the manger and let Christ back into their life.
10
Monday of the Second Week
Isaiah 60: 1-6
“We Three Kings”
BY:
June Gavenonis
We three kings of orient are;
Bearing gifts we traverse afar,
Field and fountain,
Moor and mountain,
Following yonder star.
(from We Three Kings of Orient Are)
The magi went to great lengths to find Jesus, the newborn king, traveling a great distance to find
him. Following the star, they eventually found Jesus. When they did, they worshipped Him, and
gave him the first Christmas gifts: gold, incense and myrrh.
Remember two things about this encounter.
First, the magi were astrologers, and they were moved to find the king of the Jews. When they
did, they bowed down and worshiped Jesus. It’s amazing that even at Jesus’ birth, we have an
important picture painted for us that He would be the redeemer sent to everyone, not just a select
few, and that our response to Jesus is that of worship.
Second, we see the magi presenting Jesus with precious gifts. Giving and receiving gifts are a
favorite part of our Christmas celebrations today. Yet typically, we celebrate Christmas more for
God’s gift of Jesus to us than as a time when we give gifts to Jesus. Maybe it’s time to change
our priorities. We can give gifts to Jesus through our worship and through our commitment to
follow Him.
Prayer: Dear God, as we exchange gifts this season, please help us remember your gift to
us, your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.
11
Tuesday of the Second Week
Psalm 98 “Joy to the World”
BY:
Myrna Shafer
From the time I was a little girl until now, how I recall this special hymn, as our church
organ explodes with its praise. Throughout my childhood, adolescence and adulthood, our
church service was held at 11:00 PM, candlelight, with candle holders of wood that my father
had made and carved. At the stroke of midnight, this hymn would end our service, with ultimate
joy. Jesus is born.
At COCU, when Carl plays full oboe, trumpet, diapasons and other resounding
accompaniments to this hymn, shivers of joy still radiate within me. This hymn is so special
because it heralds happiness.
Like Psalm 98, the hymn’s precursor, Joy to the World “lets” all of nature rejoice because
the Lord has been victorious and will reign. “Make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord.”
The kingly imagery sets the Lord up as the royal conqueror of sin, sorrow, and the curse. The
wonders and glory of his truth, grace, righteousness and love conquer evil. The Lord Jesus is the
means through which all this is accomplished. Both heaven and nature rejoice in song, for the
fulfillment of the promise of Psalm 98 comes wrapped in swaddling clothes.
As Psalm 98 proclaims, we sing to the Lord a new song, for through Jesus’ birth, God has
done marvelous things. God is proclaimed the victor over all the earth, which He will judge
with righteousness and the people with fairness. Justice will reign in this new kingdom. The
Psalm calls for song with music-trumpets, the lyre, horn, melody, even the roaring of the ocean,
the clapping of floods, and the singing of the hills. All nature comes together in one loud anthem
of praise.
Joy to the World removes sin sick sorrow and proclaims God’s victory through Christ as
the powerful sounds of music resonate, ricochet and radiate throughout all the earth.
12
Wednesday of the Second Week
Psalm 91: 9-16 “While Shepards Watched”
BY:
Louise M. Robinson
STAR MAGIC
Oh, give me grace to see my God
The loveliness on high
A twinkling star in a heavenly cloud
‘Neath which little men go by.
Oh, only if our thoughts were turned
As far as highest heaven,
Then all the praise we ever earned
Would be worthily given.
Louise M. Robinson
Eber and Wein Publishing
“In My Lifetime- Chronicles”
I have been a church soloist over twenty-five years. During this time, I have
developed an insight as to why I enjoy singing God’s truth. The world is filled with all kinds of
situations people must endure. These situations can be better. God’s creation of a world with
water, air, lands, skies, animals and people is a tremendous miracle! His dear son, Jesus Christ,
died for all people. Be honest, kind and courteous to stand for good-that’s righteous! By God’s
grace, Jesus’ sacrifices and your commitment, every day will be better for all mankind. Alleluia!
13
Thursday of the Second Week
Acts 10: 34-43 “Angels from the Realms of Glory”
BY:
Katharine Wiener
Angels from the Realms of Glory, this beloved anthem expresses God’s love,
compassion, and grace to a weary world by heralding God’s gift of his son, Jesus, the Christ.
Although God had chosen the Israelites to be the witnesses and messengers, it is clear in
the hymn that the Good News was meant for all people. In Acts 10: 34-43, Peter confirms that
“anyone who fears Him and does what is right is acceptable to him,” and that “everyone who
believes in Him receives forgiveness through His name.”
Thus, the message was meant for the shepherds who were the lowest, the sages from far
countries and everyone in between.
Did the Nativity really happen exactly as it was written, or was this story God’s love
story to the world, or both? In any case, it is the story of hope and reconciliation between God
and His children through His precious gift of out Lord, Jesus.
14
Friday of the Second Week
Psalm 85 “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”
BY: Carol Harring
Among the Christmas cards in my mailbox one day a few years ago was a letter telling
me that my friend Grace had died. Her son, whom I had never met, contacted me because he had
found my name in a well worn notebook on her bedside table, persons for whom she had
faithfully prayed.
Grace had been a missionary to China, a pastor's wife and a friend of mine since my
childhood. During the next few days as I reflected on the life of my friend I knew that I would
miss her smile, her letters but most of all her prayers.
During this time the tune of “Hark The Herald Angels Sing" came to my mind several times.
Finally, I went to my hymnal and read aloud the familiar carol. I was particularly struck by the
words of the third verse.
"Hail the heaven born Prince of Peace! Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and Life to all he brings, Risen with healing in his wings,
Mild he lays his glory by, Born that man no more may die,
Born to raise sons from the earth, born to give them second birth."
Contained in those words was the Christmas message and the purpose of Christ's coming.
He came into a world which needed salvation from sin and death and provided eternal life for we
his children. Just as he had provided so wonderfully for my friend Grace, he will also do for
each of us.
15
Saturday of the Second Week
Revelation 15: 1-4
“It Came upon the Midnight Clear”
BY:
Cindy Kazinski
GOD’S MESSENGERS
Angels played an important part in announcing the birth of baby Jesus to the shepherds. In the
book of Revelation, Chapter 15, we find seven angels with seven plagues. John writes, “I saw in
heaven another great and marvelous sign, seven angels with the seven last plagues.” Last
because God’s wrath was complete. They held harps given to them by God and sang the song of
Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the lamb. This song titled “It Came Upon a Midnight
Clear” is a beautiful Christmas carol we sing in our churches during Advent written by Edmund
H. Sears in 1849.
The hymn proclaims the wonderful presence the angles accomplished with their harps and voices
announcing the Messiah’s birth. Through the word of God, we hear, over and over again, how
instrumental the angels were as they demonstrated their adoration and grace portraying the
gracious life of Jesus.
Today we can also be God’s messengers to share with others about the birth of Jesus and why he
came.
16
Third Sunday in Advent
Isaiah 9: 2-7
“Adeste Fideles”
BY:
Beverly Gingell
Adeste Fidelis was an original Latin text initially penned by John Frances Wade in 1743 when he
wrote the tune of the same name. He wrote originally four verses. Other writers then added and
the total verses became eight translated into many languages besides Latin. However, none of
this mattered to a painfully shy, 9th grade Forty Fort High School student entering Latin class for
the first time. Back in those days, you had no choice. Ninth grade brought your first challenge
with the subjects of Latin and algebra. So I struggled along with most of the other students …
tener, tenera, tenerumamos, amos, amot, amuck, etc., and 4x + 5t + 2u squared = 5abctux.
Yikes. During those first few weeks, I was scared, horrible and hopeless at both. Then the
Christmas season rolled around and I discovered that I not only had to attempt to speak Latin …
I also had to sing it. Could it possibly get worse?
But, I discovered, singing helped us see Latin in a whole new way and our teacher knew this. I
loved to sing anyway and it was fun to sing in a foreign language … “O Come All Ye Faithful”
in Latin. We began one line at a time and throughout the weeks before Christmas, we
memorized “Adeste Fidelis” with the help of our cleverly talented young Latin teacher. Latin
was still a challenge but maybe not so bad after all. I was becoming a little more comfortable
with those first and fourth declensions. My teacher was pretty smart and because of her, I was
actually becoming at ease with my first attempt at a foreign language. Latin was coming along
much better now with the help and understanding of our brilliant Latin teacher, Lydia Jones (now
Lydia Hirner), one of the great ladies of COCU. Thank you, Ms. Jones. You’re one of those
teachers I will never forget but I’m still glad I only had one year of Latin!
17
Monday of the Third Week
1 Peter 2: 21-25 “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”
BY:
Leslie Bullock
Some Christmas carols are somber (The First Noel), some triumphant (Joy To The World) and
some seemingly frivolous (Deck the Halls). God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen has always been
relegated to this last category, but in fact is far from what English peasants meant when they first
sang this song over 500 years ago. In fact, it is because he felt it most accurately and profoundly
told the Christmas story that Charles Dickens gave it a prominent spot in his classic novel A
Christmas Carol.
The Christmas music of the fifteenth-century church was somber and usually written in Latin,
offering little joy or musicality. While people continued to sing these somber hymns in church
services, they created own folk songs which were sung in their homes, and many of these are
what we sing today as popular Christmas carols. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen was one such
tune, sung and danced to by the peasant class. It was so popular that it was finally published in
the nineteenth century, and thanks to Queen Victoria, was added to the official Anglican hymnal
during her reign.
Of all the Christmas carols, this song tells the story of the miracle of Christ’s birth more fully
than any other (many of which, like O Little Town of Bethlehem, The First Noel, or It Came
Upon a Midnight Clear only relate to specific events). Consider the verses: verse 1 establishes
the reason for the miracle; verse 2 relates how the angel appeared to the shepherds; verse 3
relates the angels message; verse 4 talks of the shepherds journey to Bethlehem; verse 5
describes the tableau at the manger, and the last verse sums up why we should all be thankful for
The Gift.
Why then do most people dismiss this carol as frivolous? Probably because the words “God Rest
Ye Merry gentlemen” do not seem the least bit sacred, especially when combined with the catchy
folk tune that is its rhythm. However, 500 years ago, the word “merry” actually translated in Old
English to “mighty” and the word “rest” meant “keep or make”. So in modern English, the title
should actually read “God make you mighty, gentlemen”, and the narrative of the miracle of
Christ’s birth explains how and why. When the angel told the shepherd “I bring you good news
of great joy” or, as the song says “tidings of comfort and joy”, you can fully understand the
regardless of its melody, this folksy Christmas “carol” rivals the most devout of hymns for its
spirituality.
18
Tuesday of the Third Week
Psalm 92: 1-4, 12-15 “O Tannenbaum”
BY:
Karen Whipple
“O Tannenbaum” began as a German folk song, with lyrics added in the 1800’s.The
lyrics do not actually refer to Christmas or a decorated tree, but to a fir’s (evergreen) qualities as
a symbol of constancy and faithfulness. In ancient times, plants that remained green all year had
special meaning for people in winter. They celebrated the winter solstice by placing evergreen
boughs over doors and windows to remind them that green plants would grow again.
It’s believed that Martin Luther first added lighted candles to a tree after walking home
one winter evening and being awed by the stars sparkling among the evergreens. The tradition of
taking a tree inside and decorating it with candy, baubles, and bells didn’t start until the 19th
century.
While growing up, we always took an excursion to cut our own tree and that tradition
continued with my family. One year in particular, on a bitterly cold morning when the children
were quite small, the four of us found a tree in record time. That didn’t stop us. We’ve always
enjoyed traipsing through the fields of trees, smelling the fresh-cut wood, and searching for the
“perfect” tree. While there is no such perfection, one of the lines of “O Tannenbaum”, “with
faithful leaves unchanging”, reminds us that no matter what occurs in our lives, faith will carry
us through.
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
How lovely are your branches
In beauty green will always show,
Through summer sun and winter snow.
O Christmas tree, O Christmas
How lovely are your branches!
19
Wednesday of the Third Week
Isaiah 11: 1-10
"Good Christian Friends, Rejoice"
BY:
Reverend Carol Fleming
When you picture heaven- that is, life in God’s kingdom- what does it look like? Is it angels
with harps sitting on clouds, or streets paved with gold? Endless worship services? (would that
be heaven or hell?) Isaiah had quite a different message for a people who were living in exile.
Israel had been violently overtaken by their warring neighbor Babylon. We get the image of
cities destroyed, homes and the glorious temple King Solomon built lying in ruins, it’s people
killed or dispersed as slaves to another nation, their freedom to worship God cut off by a pagan
king. It reminds us of images of Damascus, the capital in Syria today- which is that former
glorious civilization of Babylon. Our human structures are never permanent. The shrines to
human accomplishment, greed, and violence will all fade away.
Out of that death and destruction, Isaiah prophesied a new shoot would come; a branch from the
line of King David, who would restore a people- not in cities of gold- but in God’s peaceable
kingdom. Many wonderful works of art have been created to depict the image of miraculous
reversals; when the wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid (goat),
the calf and the lion and the fatling together- and a little child shall lead them. No conquering
hero here, no mighty sword, no invading armies to bring ‘peace’ to troubled nations. Simply a
child, the least of all, human and vulnerable to hurt, pain, love, and joy. They will not hurt or
destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the lord, as the
waters cover the sea. There will be no dividing line between nations, the haves and the havenots. That’s what God’s kingdom will look like; that is heaven but it is not something waiting
for us when we die. It is something we are meant to create here and now. That is why Jesus
came to earth; not as a warrior, a king, or someone of wealth and privilege. He came to show us
the way to build God’s peaceable kingdom on earth through self- giving sacrificial love.
Good Christian Friends REJOICE- with heart and soul and voice. That’s right- with everything
we have and are, we are to re-joice; bring back the joy God had at that first creation when all was
called GOOD. Now ye hear of endless bliss; news, news! Jesus Christ was born for this! He
hath opened heaven’s door, and ye are blest for ever more. Christ was born for this! Christ was
born for this! Remember, you can never put Christmas in a box under a tree. The joy of God
coming to earth in this child is something we must always invite to live within our hearts. Then,
and only then, will we be willing and able, by God’s grace and gifts of Holy Spirit,to be
empowered to re-create the world as God’s peaceable kingdom.
O Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Let me know the joy of Christ being born in
my heart today. Amen
20
Thursday of the Third Week
Psalm 117 “Angels We Have Heard on High”
BY:
Jill Carrick
“All you nations, praise the Lord.
All you people on earth, praise him.
Great is his love for us.
The Lord is faithful forever.”
Praising the Lord, giving him glory, worshiping him; easy to do when something as exciting as
the birth of Christ happens! In fact, it is easy to do whenever we feel blessed by God.
But how do we praise the Lord when we do not feel so blessed, when we are suffering? I like the
answer in the last phrase of Angels We Have Heard on High. Do you know it as well as the first
phrase without looking it up? I didn’t. The last phrase is, “while our hearts in love we raise.”
Raising our hearts in love to God is praise. Whether our hearts are filled with joy or sorrow,
when they are also filled with loved and raised to God, we are worship him and acknowledge his
great enduring love for us.
Raising our hearts in love – how do we do that? Be eager to give love lavishly, broadly, and
sincerely. Smile. Listen. Hug. Help in ways big and small to those in need near and far. For in
giving love, we praise God and become more receptive to his healing presence. The irony is that
the same happens to those whom we help, those who might at first see no reason to praise God in
the midst of their suffering. We unite in one glorious song of praise to God. With each loving act
this Advent season, can’t you hear the angels “sweetly singing”? Can you hear them year
‘round?
Dear Father, We know that helping others spreads your love in the world and brings
healing to others as well as ourselves, bringing us one step closer to Heaven on earth. May
such loving actions help us to better prepare our song of praise for the birth of Christ, and
may we more deeply commit to these actions so that we “prolong joyous strains” year
‘round. Thank you, Lord, for everything. Amen
21
Friday of the Third Week
Revelation 19: 4-6
“I Heard the Bells”
BY:
Sharon Harry
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth
The Kingdom of this world
Is become the Kingdom of our Lord
And of His Christ and of His Christ
King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
And He shall reign forever and ever.
What would Advent be without the singing, hearing or humming of the Hallelujah Chorus?
Actually Messiah, the oratorio, which includes the Hallelujah Chorus, was originally considered
an Easter composition. Handel, recovering from a stroke at age 56, created this 1741 masterpiece
in 24 days. He wrote the music narrative focused on the “feelings of mortals and their responses
to the Divine”. The text of this piece is a series of sung Bible verses that includes three sections:
God’s plan for salvation, the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for man’s redemption and a thanksgiving
for Christ’s triumph over death.
The scripture of Revelation 19:1-6 has been called the New Testament Hallelujah Chorus and
the word Hallelujah is used in the New Testament exclusively in this text. It reads in part:
“Hallelujah! (Praise ye the Lord) Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for true and
just are his judgments”.
This is the proclamation that John hears as he describes what sounded like the roar of a great
multitude in heaven shouting.
There’s a party going on in heaven! It is ushering in the second coming of Christ. The gory days
of the tribulation are over and the Glory days of the millennial Kingdom are coming. Jesus Christ
is coming back! Hallelujah-Alleluia-Praise ye the Lord!
These verses tell us that God is praised because He has provided our redemption. He has saved
every person who believed. The world’s corruption has been eliminated; God’s judgments have
been made.
I am very grateful to know a Savior who I can praise, worship, speak with, eventually kneel
before and live with forever. I look forward to being present at the celebration of Christ’s second
coming. John’s revelation notes the sights and sounds are truly AWESOME!
One of Handel’s servants is said to have come upon him directly after he had composed the
Hallelujah Chorus and heard Handel say, “I did think I did see all of Heaven before me and the
Great God Himself!”
After you sing, hear and/or hum the Hallelujah Chorus this Advent season prepare your heart to
see the Great God Himself in your celebration of His birth.
22
Saturday of the Third Week
Matthew 6: 19-21 “Deck the Halls”
BY:
Helene Flower Reed
Someone I love and respect once said to me as we discussed the idea of “Downing sizing
Christmas” that “Helene, remember, you don’t just bring back the Christmas tree, you bring back
the memories that come with it.”
As I thought about it, I knew that to be so very true. Most of my special ornaments are
gifts from even more special family members and friends-- many no longer with us. Other
adornments are mementos of travel—special times and places shared with Bill. Each one brings
its own individual beauty to our tree, warmth to our home, a smile to my lips and a sense of
contentment to my heart.
Our nativity, so lovingly and personally painted by me oh so many years ago, reminds me
of the Christmas pageants I participated in at the former Kingston Methodist Church –long
before COCU was even a thought. The memories of my MYF friends and fellow pageant
participants resurface in my mind and heart as I carefully place each figurine in its place. Once
again we are Mary, Joseph, shepherds, kings and angles. We are teenagers again with all the
confusion, angst, and expectations of life that brings. Many of the friends have been claimed by
death far too soon and others have been lost to life, but as I gaze upon my Nativity, we are all
young, filled with life and ready for our pageant to begin.
As much as I love decorating, the memories it evokes are only part of the reward.
Decorating my house prepares my house and my heart for the coming of Christ, the baby Jesus,
the true gift of Christmas. The many lights in an otherwise dark and cold winter environment
remind me that soon we will be celebrating the source of all light, beauty and love with the birth
of Jesus.
Yes, “decking the halls” does call up cherished memories but more importantly, it provides a
pathway way in a spiritual journey to Christmas morning. I know that the time will come when I
will downsize and my holiday adornments will be packed away for the last time. Rest assured,
their memories and the love they represent will always be held in my heart as my journey to the
light and love of Christmas will faithfully continue.
23
Fourth Sunday in Advent
Matthew 2: 1-10 “The Little Drummer Boy”
BY:
Todd Swanson
It was 1958, and this seven year old boy was once again on his way to Rhode Island for
the annual family Christmas with my grandparents, aunts and uncles. Making the 300+ miles,
eight hour trip in a 1951 Chevy was always a great adventure. This trip would be different and
very memorable for me. You see, on the way to Rhode Island, I heard for the first time “The
Little Drummer Boy” and I loved it! On Christmas Eve, my two brothers and I were in bed by
7:30 p.m. ready for Christmas morning. I was almost asleep
when my mother called me down stairs, and I wondered
what that could be all about. To my surprise and great joy,
“The Little Drummer Boy” was being sung live on the Ed
Sullivan Show. That was so special to me, for my Mom to
call me out of bed on Christmas Eve for that song. I went
back to bed so happy I didn’t even care if I got a present for
Christmas. Maybe a little drummer boy did play for Jesus
that night just as the three Wise Men came to praise Him.
24
Monday of the Fourth Week
Luke 2: 1-7
“Once in Royal David's City”
BY: Michelle Giza
While doing research for a hymn sing, I came across the biography of Mrs. Cecil Frances
Alexander, writer of this hymn. She is regarded as one of the finest English women hymn
writers. She was active in the Sunday school movement and established a school for the deaf,
although she had no children of her own. Mrs. Alexander wrote over four hundred poems and
hymns. Using easily understood language, she wrote touching and meaningful stories and
hymns for children so that they could better understand the subjects of the church, such as
Baptism, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Ten Commandments.
Mrs. Alexander wrote “Once in Royal David’s City” as part of a series of hymns to better
teach children the Apostles’ Creed. This hymn was written to teach children the meaning of
“born of the virgin Mary.”
This story made me think of all of the “Mrs. Alexander’s” from my Sunday school years:
Dorothy Turner, Libby Hirner, Gladys MacIntyre, Nancy Dietterick, Donna Dickinson, Sue Stine
and the countless others who guided me, and others, during our school years here at COCU.
Without you and your willingness to give of your time, gifts and talents, we would not have
better understood the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments, or the Apostles’ Creed.
As God shared His gift, Jesus, with us, let us share our gifts with others.
The Apostles’ Creed
Once in Royal David’s City (vs1)
I believe in God, the Father Almighty
Creator of heaven and earth
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son
Our Lord, who was conceived of the
Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius
Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried;
He descended to the dead. On the third day
He rose again; he ascended into heaven,
Is seated on the right hand of the Father,
And will come again to judge the
Living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit
The holy catholic church, the communion
Of Saints, the forgiveness of sins,
The resurrection of the body,
and life everlasting. Amen.
Once in royal David’s city stood a
lowly cattle shed, where a mother
laid her baby in a manger for his bed;
Mary, loving mother mild, Jesus
Christ, her little child.
(vs4)
And our eyes at last shall see him,
through his own redeeming love;
for that child so dear and gentle
is our Lord in heaven above, and he
Leads his children on to the place
where he is gone.
25
Tuesday of the Fourth Week
Luke 2: 8-14
“Silent Night”
BY:
Cathy Baumann-Hecht
Silent Night is probably the world's most loved and popular Christmas carol. This simple and
beautiful lullaby speaks of the birth of the baby Jesus and was written because the organ in the
church of St. Nicholas in Oberndorf, Austria was not working and would not be repaired before
Christmas. The assistant pastor, Josef Mohr, remembered a poem he had written a few years
before and thought it would make a good carol for his church. In desperation, Mohr visited
Franz Gruber, the church organist. Gruber had only a short time to compose a simple tune that
would be suitable for the poem and could be played on a guitar. That Christmas Eve service was
very quiet without the rich tones of the organ but the congregation marveled at the beautiful,
serene, new carol that captured the miracle of the birth of the Savior.
On that first Christmas night all was not calm, it began quite chaotic. Joseph and Mary were
forced to travel to Bethlehem. A quiet, suitable place was not available for the delivery of a
child; instead a noisy stable was substituted. Shepherds in the fields were frightened when an
angel of the Lord appeared to them telling of the birth and then a multitude of angels instructed
them where to find the baby. However, when the shepherds arrived, they viewed a miracle.
There in the stable was a baby serenely sleeping as Mary and Joseph were lovingly admiring
him. Even the animals were quietly lowing, as if worshiping. They also, in awe, quietly
worshiped the newborn who was sent to save all.
As the lullaby, Silent Night reminds us, God sent his Son to us as an innocent baby, who took the
noisy, chaotic world and changed it forever.
Prayer: Lord, as we go about our daily lives help us to remember the miracle of the birth
of your Son and to find the peace and hope He brought to the world. Amen
26
Wednesday of the Fourth Week
Luke 2: 15-20
“Away in a Manger”
BY: Janice Oriel
“When this great army of angels had returned again to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Come on! Let’s
go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this wonderful thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about”.
They ran to the village and found their way to Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. The
Shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the
shepherds’ story expressed astonishment, but Mary quietly treasured these things in her heart and often thought
about them. Then the shepherds went back again to their fields and flocks, praising God for the visit of the angels,
and because they had seen the child, just as the angel had told them.
One of the traditions of Christmas our family has always enjoyed was unwrapping the Nativity
scene and carefully placing each piece in the SAME place as the years before. Our children
always took great care in unwrapping each piece- all 20 of them-since this Nativity has a story
(as I am sure most do). Many years ago, 38 to be exact, my father had a very serious heart attack,
which would require open heart surgery. Unfortunately, he had to wait through the summer, for
his heart to repair itself before having the bypass surgery. My father was a very talented person
who enjoyed woodworking, remodeling, etc. All of those things were placed on hold at that point
in time, since he was a “walking time bomb” as the doctors had told us. Filling the time for the
entire summer was somewhat of a daunting task. Rae Ann and I had just begun attending a
ceramic class not long before this. My goal was to complete the small items, not really requiring
much talent but then I saw it. It was a beautiful, large, Nativity scene. I purchased it, thinking
that it would take forever but eventually I would complete it. After the firing was completed, I
took it home in a large box to show my parents. My dad took particular interest in the intricacies
of the pieces. I could see his mind already designing what they would look like when completed.
That summer, while waiting for the surgery, my dad completed the entire 20 pieces, each an
individual creation of how he thought they would have looked. After his surgery, he completed
the crèche which would house the pieces for years to come. Even when building the structure, he
envisioned what it would have looked like, hay on the roof, stalls on both sides, and a ladder in
the back to get into the loft. I am sure at the time that he was painting and constructing the
Nativity, he had no idea what a tradition he was creating for his grandchildren. Unfortunately, it
was one he was never able to enjoy. My dad passed away before Amanda and Tim were born. If
you would talk to either of them about their grandfather, they would most likely tell you a story,
not theirs, but one they had heard from one of our relatives. Their only real, concrete image of
their grandfather is the Christmas Nativity. It speaks volumes about their grandfather- His talent,
his patience, his attention to detail and his faith. He had a clear vision of the birth of Jesus, even
if he never lectured about it, he knew, in his mind, he knew. Each year, when the pieces are
carefully unwrapped, inevitably there are stories of Pop (something they never got to call him),
some happy, some downright comical and some serious. But the memories live on through this
tradition. Thirty-eight years ago, I thought I was buying some clay figures that I may or may not
have painted, in reality I was giving my children a legacy to their grandfather, who knew!
During this Advent season, let us remember the Story and what it means to us, both individually
and as a community of Christians and “Let us Rejoice”!
27
Thursday of the Fourth Week
Acts 6: 1-8 “Good King Wenceslas”
BY:
Evelyn (Manowiecki) Kersey
A Polish Christmas
I grew up in a Polish household, and Christmas Eve was the most anticipated night of the entire
year. It was a time when our extended family came together for the Wigilia (vigil) dinner at our
house. All that day, my mother would prepare the various dishes that are part of this very
traditional meatless meal. No meat is consumed that day in remembrance of the animals who
shared their stable with the baby Jesus, keeping him warm on that winter night. But it was a
feast nevertheless. Tradition holds that dinner begins when the youngest child spies the first star
that night, though we were often too excited to wait for that stellar appearance. The senior
member of the family then shares the opłatek (Christmas wafer) with each person in attendance,
extending to each good wishes for health and happiness in the new year. The most eagerly
awaited dish was my mom’s homemade pierogi, of which vast quantities were consumed that
night. I particularly looked forward to mom’s scrumptious mushroom soup. Varied fish,
vegetables, bread, cookies and cake rounded out the meal, and no one left the table hungry. To
this day, though my parents have died, and my Polish family has dwindled to a few far-flung
members, I still observe the dinner tradition to the extent possible. Although Jim had no such
traditions in his English/Scottish background, he has become a great proponent of this meal,
eagerly looking forward to my mom’s mushroom soup (with my own emendations) and the
pierogi, which I still lovingly make in my own kitchen.
Following dinner, in the years after my brother and I relegated Santa to the realm of fiction, the
entire family would retire to the Christmas tree in the living room to exchange gifts. (Yes, on the
night before Christmas.) And, finally, after an evening of food and festivity, we would proceed
to Pasterka (midnight Mass) at church. In those “olden” days, midnight Mass actually began at
12:00am and didn’t conclude until well after 1am. But not even the children were too tired for
this beautiful recreation of the first Christmas. As a young girl I, and many of the other girls of
the church, dressed up in long white gowns and beautiful angel wings fashioned by my
grandfather. We processed to the crèche, set up in one of the side altars, and greeted the baby
Jesus with the songs of the Angels. The young boys dressed up and sang the songs of the
Shepherds and the Magi. (It was a much earlier, more innocent, and of course, more sexist era
than our own.) And we sang kolędy (Christmas carols) in Polish. It was the way things were
done back in the 50s and early 60s in our Polish National Catholic Church, and we all loved it.
To this day, I miss hearing those carols, and am brought back to that time when I play my Polish
Christmas CDs at home. One of my favorite and one of the oldest of Polish carols is W
Żłobie Leży, translated as In A Manager. But we recognize that tune today as Infant Holy, Infant
Lowly, which is found in our own Protestant hymnals. Here, in translation, is the text that I sang
as a little girl.
In a manger sleeps the infant, Hasten all to find him there.
Little Jesus, to us heav’n sent, Blessings with us all to share.
Hurry, shepherds, kneel before him, Play sweet music like Seraphim
Worship him as Lord and King.
May the words and melody of that old carol resound in your own celebrations. May your
Christmas memories be fond ones. And to you and yours, Wesołych Swiąt.
28
Friday of the Fourth Week
Isaiah 2: 2-4
“Go Tell It on the Mountain”
BY:
Barb Swason
Art was a very important part of my catholic grade school education. At
least that was how I experienced my eight years of “sister school,”
taught primarily by nuns. While I learned the basic skills of reading,
writing and arithmetic, I was very often pulled to the world of creation. I
enjoyed drawing celebrity faces from teen magazines, creating 3D
projects which I drew from scratch on graph paper,
and sketching various scenes from greeting cards.
While thinking about what to write for this Advent
project, I realized my interest in art began in grade
school and it was mainly centered around Christmas. I
loved drawing candles, pine and holly and winter scenes and making all kinds
of Christmas decorations for our home. I am very grateful for my early
childhood Catholic education where I learned about Baby Jesus and Christmas
and words like veneration, adoration and what it meant to be holy. So during
this Advent season of waiting, I am very thankful for the many ways I can
express my love and joy….. Pray, create, adore and sing in honor of our
newborn King!
29
Saturday of the Fourth Week
Romans 15: 5-13 “The First Noel”
BY:
Reverend Carol Fleming
Paul’s letter to the Romans isn’t a book you’ll ever hear read during Advent and Christmas
services. There is no baby in the manger, no shepherds on the hillside, no wise ones bearing
gifts as we hear sung in The First Noel. This book of the Bible wasn’t even written until 57AD,
long after Jesus’ life and death. The focus of this letter is God’s grace; that the righteous shall
live by faith and not by works of the law or to be ‘saved’ by an accident of birth by being born a
Jew instead of a Gentile. Paul is writing to the church in Rome, embroiled in controversy over
who was included in God’s grace, was to describe years later, what difference the birth, life,
death, and resurrection of Jesus meant to the world. God’s Word made flesh, Jesus our Christ,
came for everyone- Jews and Gentiles, slave or free, male or female, black or white, gay or
straight, Republican and Democrat, able bodied or handicapped- EVERYONE. This is the real
meaning of that first noel when the angels sang. This is why Jesus birth was good news- and
why Jesus IS our gospel more than two thousand years after he walked on this earth.
And so we continue today to sing in our hymns and to dramatize in our pageants, that first Noel.
Why did God come as a baby in a manger? Angels sang To certain poor shepherds in fields as
they lay… shepherds were considered the lowest strata of society. Those who dealt with
animal’s birth and death were ritually unclean by dealing with blood. They were excluded from
temple worship by that contact and were also separated from families by keeping watch over
flocks at all hours in all seasons; rain, cold, heat, protecting against threat of human or animal
predators. It was a dirty, lonely job. Those were the first to hear the good news. Jesus came for
the least and the lost. The angels told them to hasten to Bethlehem, inviting them to come and
see the good news, which was for all people. They found Jesus, worshiped and returned to their
pastures rejoicing and renewed, comforted and included by God’s love.
And by the light of that same star, three wise men came from country far…. We really don’t
know how many wise ones came to Bethlehem; we only mention three for the gifts they brought
of gold and myrrh and frankincense. They certainly had to be wealthy to bring such rare,
expensive, offerings. We are told they are wise and educated- the opposite end of society from
the lowly shepherds in the field. They had the resources and time to come from ‘a country far’probably Egypt and Mesopotamia, centers of culture and learning, most likely scientists or
astronomers who charted their course in the desert by reading the stars. They must have been
people of faith to spend years seeking this King- though not Jewish- and there were no
Christians, of course. They were part of the Gentiles Paul wrote to include. Even though this
child was not the king they expected or sought, when they found Jesus in a stable manger that
animals would have eaten from, they fell reverently upon the knee, and worshiped him.
And so we sing, and pray, worship and act. Jesus came for the lowly and the lofty; the lost and
the found, those rejected or sidelined and those on the front line of wealth and privilege; for you
and me. Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel, born is the King of Israel.
O Lord, help me to see the world and its people as you do with an open mind and prayerful
heart. And when I see you in unexpected places among ‘the least of these’, to fall down and
worship. Help me to lay the gifts you have given me at your feet so that they, and I, may be
used in your service. Amen
30
Reflections:
BY: Carol Harring
"The people who have walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of
deep darkness, on them has light shined." Is. 9:2.
It was very late, very dark and as we traveled over the deserted country road, no one had
to tell me - I could feel it in the pit of my stomach, we were lost. In the days before cell phone or
GPS, we had no recourse but to travel on. Even the one gas station we passed was now closed.
As I watched my friend by the light of the dashboard, I could see the tension building in his face.
We had been following a map which was obviously flawed because we were not where
we had planned to be. Or was it that we had not followed the directions correctly?
We
traveled for several miles in silence until right in front of us was a well lighted sign with the
name of a familiar town, "That way!" I fairly shouted into the silence. “We have to go that way".
We turned off the road we had been traveling on and headed in the opposite direction and soon,
we were seeing familiar sights again.
This reminded me of the world that Christ entered that first Christmas. In spite of the
testimony of the prophets, who were sent to draw people back to God, they were still traveling
on a dark road, traveling in the wrong direction. It was, as we are, in need of a Savior. Christ
entered our world to show us a different way and set us on a new course. He invites us to walk
in His light. It often means that we need to travel in the opposite direction and trust His leading.
For our Savior has come. His light has shined in our lives. Thanks be to God!!
Christmas at Church of Christ Uniting
A Pastel by Helene Flower Reed, 2007
31
HOW FAR TO BETHLEHEM
“How far is it to Bethlehem town?’
Just over Jerusalem hills adown,
Past lovely Rachel’s white-domed tombSweet shrine of motherhood’s young doom.
It isn’t far to Bethlehem townJust over the dusty roads adown,
Past Wise Men’s well, still offering
Cool droughts from welcome wayside spring;
Past shepherds with their flutes of reed
That charm the wooly sheep they lead;
Past boys with kites on hilltops flying,
And soon you’re there where Bethlehem’s lying.
Sunned white and sweet in olived slopes,
Gold lighted still with Judah’s hopes.
And so we find that Shepherd’s field
And plain that gave rich Boaz yield;
And look where Herod’s villa stood
We thrill that earthly parenthood
Could foster Christ who was all-good;
And thrill that Bethlehem town today
Looks down on Christian homes that pray.
It isn’t far to Bethlehem town!
It’s anywhere that Christ comes down
And finds in people’s friendly face
A welcome and abiding place.
The road to Bethlehem runs right through
The homes of folks like me and you.
Madeleine Sweeny Miller
THANK YOU TO ALL WHO CONTRIBUTED STORIES, POEMS, AND
PRAYERS TO MAKE THIS DEVOTIONAL POSSIBLE.
THE CELEBRATION MINISTRY TEAM
32
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