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Reflections

Welcome to the JCPC Daily Reflections Blog. Reflections are daily devotionals authored by JCPC pastors, staff and members and provide insight, guidance and comfort to help you make it through each day. If you’d like to receive Reflections each day via email,  provide your email address.

Thursday, December 24 2015

The nativity story indeed has a rich cast of characters and circumstances that make it a riveting drama.  We meet Mary, the fresh-faced teenager, who is visited upon by an angel with shocking news.  We encounter shepherds out in the fields doing their jobs when they are interrupted by the most amazing celestial song and dance ever.  We come upon wise men, be they sages, kings, or whomever, who travel far distances to come face to face with a lowly baby.  We also meet the conniving King Herod, who is bent on maintaining power whatever the costs. 

But what about Joseph, who is to be the earthly father of Jesus?  What was this experience like for him?  What are his hopes, his fears?  What makes him tick?  This Sunday in worship, I will present a first person monologue sermon from the perspective of Joseph as he brings Mary and baby Jesus back from Egypt to Nazareth.  Together with the earthly father of the messiah, we will wonder how salvation can come from a little baby.
 
So come today for our glorious Christmas Eve services at 3:00, 5:30, or 7:30 p.m.  Celebrate Christmas tomorrow, and then come back to church with family and friends on Sunday as we explore this truly strange way that God chooses to save the world.

And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.  -Matthew 2:6

Prayer for Today

Affirmation of Faith                          
The Confession of 1967 9.19
    
 Out of Israel God in due time raised up Jesus Christ.
 his faith and obedience were the response
 of the perfect Child of God.
 He was the fulfillment of God's promise to Israel,
the beginning of the new creation,
and the pioneer of the new humanity.
He gave history its meaning and direction
and called the church to be his servant
for the reconciliation of the world.  

Posted by: Rev. Scott Huie AT 06:28 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, December 23 2015

I'm dreaming of a wet Christmas.
It looks like El Niño will be paying us a visit this Christmas. 

By "El Niño" I am not referring to "The Baby" Jesus in Spanish. I am talking about the weather phenomena which will be dumping inches of rain upon us in the coming days. So, what's the difference between a "wet" Christmas and a "white" Christmas? About thirty degrees! (Rim shot please.) But seriously, our worship services on Christmas Eve will probably be affected.

Last Sunday we mentioned in worship that because of the beginning of construction and site preparation of our new multipurpose building, the West Entrance (ballfield side) to the Education Building will be blocked. For those parking in the West lot, we have a couple of options:
 
Our fifteen-passenger church bus will be available before and after each service for anyone who wishes to ride to and from their car. Drivers may want to drop off their passengers under the awning before parking. There will be two portable tents for you to wait for the bus.
If you prefer to walk from the West Parking Lot, parking lot greeters will point you to the lighted sidewalk which goes across the front lawn and allows you to enter through Friendship Hall. From there you can take the elevator or the steps up to the Chapel.
We hope this allows you to get to and from your car without too much trouble. Thank you in advance for your patience. We realize this is an inconvenience, however parking access will return to normal when the construction is finished in only seven months.

For those of you who want to try to pray the rain away this Christmas Eve -- feel free to intercede on our behalf. But remember the Bible says God, "sends rain on the just and on the unjust." (Matthew 5:45, ESV) That probably applies to Presbyterians and Methodists, too. Whatever happens, we will be here on Christmas Eve at 3:00 p.m., 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. - rain or (moon)shine. See you there!

Prayer for Today

Thank you, God, for sending Jesus to save us and our world. We really need it! In the strong name of Jesus we pray. Amen.

Posted by: Rev. Dr. C. Gray Norsworthy AT 08:34 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, December 22 2015

Water is found in many places in scripture, including in tears.     John 11:32-36 reminds us that Jesus experienced weeping, "When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said, "Where have you laid him?" They said to him, "Lord, come and see." Jesus began to weep. So the Jews said, "See how he loved him!"

As many of you know the holiday season is one that is filled with great joy and great sadness. Joy as we celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Joy as we share Christmas celebrations with family and friends. Joy as we see the excitement in a child's eyes on Christmas morning. This season is also one where we experience moments of sadness over those family members who are no longer with us. For many this may be the first holiday without some of them. I was reflecting with joy and sadness yesterday as I thought about my Dad, who we lost after his battle with cancer in June of this year. Yesterday marked six months. The joy that moves through me this time of year, is very closely connected with the joy that my Dad exuded each day while he was here and especially during the holiday season.

I would invite you to take a moment to identify some of the parts of your life where there are tears. Tears of joy... Tears of sadness... Listen to them and then place them before God.

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. 
-Romans 8:26

Prayer for Today

Holy Spirit, thank you for praying for us when we can't. Thank you for praying for us deeply and meaningfully. Hear our prayer... In Jesus' name. Amen.

Posted by: Allison Shearouse AT 08:33 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, December 21 2015

Some of the more beautiful prayers that I have read were written for Christmas. I'm sharing one of them with you as my Christmas card to you and yours. Merry Christmas!

Prayer for Today

A Prayer for Christmas Morning
The day of joy returns, Father in Heaven, and crowns another year with peace and good will.
Help us rightly to remember the birth of Jesus that we may share in the song of the angels, the gladness of the shepherds, and the worship of the wise men.
Close the doors of hate and open the doors of love all over the world.
Let kindness come with every gift and good desires with every greeting.
Deliver us from evil, by the blessing that Christ brings, and teach us to be merry with clean hearts.
May the Christmas morning make us happy to be thy children,
And the Christmas evening bring us to our bed with grateful thoughts, forgiving and forgiven, for Jesus sake. Amen.

-Robert Louis Stevenson

Posted by: Rev. Neal Kuhlhorst AT 08:32 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, December 18 2015

Where Peace, Hope, & Love Abide

I shared this with you all last December, and the message is worth repeating.  The prayer for peace on earth is as earnest and heartfelt today as ever.  May the peace of Christ dwell richly in our hearts, offering hope and reminding us of the everlasting love that will never forsake us.
 
Christmastide is one of the seasons of the liturgical year in the Christian church defined as the period between Christmas Eve and Epiphany.  The same period is also commonly known as The Twelve Days of Christmas, as in the popular Christmas carol, or "yuletide" as in the carol Deck the Halls.
 
The St. Olaf Chorus, the American Boychoir, and the Atlanta Sacred Chorale, among others, have all recorded a beautiful anthem titled This Christmastide.  I have the ASC Christmas CD in my office, and I listen to it in its entirety several times over when I need mental and spiritual respites from the demanding work of the Christmas season. 
 
This Christmastide is the last selection on the CD by the same name.  When it begins to play, I often stop what I am doing, close my eyes, and just listen.  This Christmastide is also known as Jessye's Carol because it was originally written for soprano Jessye Norman.  As much as I love the richness of her voice, though, I prefer the recordings that are sung in quiet unison or simple harmony.
 
The gift of music is a glorious one, and I hope you will take a few minutes out of your hectic day to listen to the voices of angels and reflect on the story born of old.
 
Christmas blessings to each and every one of you ... this Christmastide!
 
This Christmastide           
Words: Jane McCulloch   /   Music: Donald Fraser
 
Green and silver, red and gold, and a story born of old.
Truth and love and hope abide, this Christmastide, this Christmastide.
 
Holly, ivy, mistletoe, and the gently falling snow.
Truth and love and hope abide, this Christmastide, this Christmastide.
 
From a simple ox's stall came the greatest gift of all.
Truth and love and hope abide, this Christmastide, this Christmastide.
 
Children sing of hope and joy at the birth of one small boy.
Truth and love and hope abide, this Christmastide, this Christmastide.
 
Let the bells ring loud and clear, ring out now for all to hear.
Truth and love and hope abide, this Christmastide, this Christmastide.
 
Trumpets sound and voices raise in an endless stream of praise.
Truth and love and hope abide, this Christmastide, this Christmastide.
 
Green and silver, red and gold, and a story born of old.
Truth and love and hope abide, this Christmastide, this Christmastide.

Prayer for Today

Amidst the green and silver, red and gold, may we all remember the story born of old this Christmastide.  May the truth and love and hope of Christmas abide in our hearts this day and forevermore.  Amen.

Posted by: Alicia Taylor AT 08:30 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, December 17 2015

In case you are from another planet, the new Star Wars movie comes out today.  Have you gotten your tickets yet?  If not, it is way too late as every theater is sold out.  Eventually I'll likely get around to viewing the movie, but I can't say I'm a huge Star Wars fan. 

Still it is the ultimate good versus evil storyline.  Among the cast of characters is of course Luke Skywalker, who is fighting the evil Darth Vader.  In a famous scene from early in the series, Luke and Darth are battling each other with their light sabers, when Darth famously says, "Luke, I am your father," to which Luke responds by screaming a mortified, "Nooooooooooooooooooooooooo."
 
Poor Luke.  He is fighting evil but then discovers that he is connected to one of the most malevolent villains in all the galaxy.  It's the worst news that Luke could possibly hear.
 
Such words remind me of words of Psalmist:  "I will tell of the decree of the Lord: He said to me, "You are my son; today I have begotten you" (Psalm 2:7).  They are essentially the same words as spoken by Darth Vader, but here they are not bad news, but glorious good news.
 
It is the message of Christmas: God is with us.  God loved us so much that God sent the only begotten son.  Unlike
Star Wars, it is not a fictional story set in a galaxy far, far away.  It's real life here and now.  God is with us.  God has made us in God's image and claimed us has his own. 
 
Remember, my friends, God has no cousins, only children!

 
Prayer for Today

Lord, less we forget that we are made in your image, we thank you that you call us your children, for that is what we are.  We thank you that you have formed us and put us here to glorify you and enjoy you forever.  Amen.

Posted by: Rev. Scott Huie AT 06:21 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, December 16 2015

We have permission to disturb the land! Hooray! We have received official permission from the governing authorities so that we can begin site preparation on our property for the new building. This will begin taking place today! I am so grateful to the members of our New Building Committee who have spent countless hours making this happen. Now we can complete the vision so many of you have given so generously to. Sometime around next July we should be finished.

I think the phrase "Land Disturbance Permit" is kind of strange - especially the word "disturbance." In many cases to "disturb" something is usually not good. That's why they have those signs around hospitals and hanging from hotel doors that say "DO NOT DISTURB."
 
This week I am working on my message for Christmas Eve. It will be based on the story from Matthew's gospel about the birth of Jesus and the visit of the magi. It says that when King Herod finds out another king has been born who will be the king of the Jews, Herod was "disturbed." For Herod, this disturbance was not a good thing (like our Land Disturbance Permit). For him it was a bad thing. So he began making plans to take care of this "disturbance" and get rid of the new king. But even Herod's evil plans could not stop God's plan for the new king to be born. This king would usher in a new kingdom - God's kingdom - that would transform the world and all of history. Today there are more Christians in the world than any other faith. Sometimes a disturbance turns out to be a good thing.
 
I hope you are planning to come to Caroling, Cookies, and Cocoa tonight -- beginning at 5:45 p.m. for caroling and 6:45 p.m. for a free dinner, followed by cookies and cocoa. When you come, look for some signs of the land being "disturbed." It is a glimpse of things to come - maybe in the same way the birth of Christ is a glimpse of God's coming kingdom.

Prayer for Today

God of all creation, we thank you for sending your son, Jesus, in the form of a little child -- as the new king of this world. We know that many good things start small; but like a mustard seed, they grow to be great. For this we say thank you! In the strong name of Jesus the Christ we pray. Amen.

Posted by: Rev. Dr. C. Gray Norsworthy AT 06:23 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, December 15 2015

Much of our time each week is spent preparing for the hours to come. I know that each week I spend many hours in preparation for a couple of hours on Wednesdays and a few hours on Sunday. What do you spend your time each week preparing for? But even as we wait for what is going to happen, it is important to stop. To stop and simply be still. Sometimes being still is the best preparation of all.

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises. Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody. With trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord. Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; the world and those who live in it. Let the floods clap their hands; let the hills sing together for joy at the presence of the Lord, for he is coming to judge the earth. 
Psalm 98:4-9

As you are spending time preparing for the birth of our Savior, take a moment to listen to the sounds of the season: Silver bells! Up on the housetop: click, click, click. Just hear those sleigh bells jingling; ring, ting, tingling too. Eleven pipers piping. The cattle are lowing. Gloria! What else would you add to the list of sounds of this season for you? 

Maybe you would add pots rattling in the kitchen as special meals are prepared...

On Sunday, we experienced the beautiful sounds of instruments and voices during our service of Lessons and Carols.The psalmist also mentions lyres, trumpets, and horns as making joyful noises to the Lord. The psalmist even goes so far as to say that the sea, floods, and hills will erupt into joyful praise as the Lord is welcomed to earth. 

What sound of celebration will you claim as the birth of Christ occurs in you?

Prayer for Today

Lord, hear our sounds of praise and receive them as celebration over your coming this Advent. 
In Christ's Name, Amen.

Posted by: Allison Shearouse AT 07:40 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, December 14 2015

I was born to compete. Perhaps it's due to the fact that I'm a third born who had to scrap with an older sister and brother; all born within a 3 and ½ year span of each other. Though my "eye of the tiger" has dimmed somewhat with age, my competitive juices still flow.

A few years back, one of the young lions in the family, my nephew Jake, challenged me to a one-on-one basketball game. He had me down by about 8 baskets and only needed 2 more to win. When we returned home, his mother asked him how the game turned out. Jake lamented about how embarrassing it was to lose to an old man. His mother responded, "You don't understand, Jake, he won't lose!" If you hadn't figured it out, I won.

Perhaps that is why as a competitor I'm drawn to Isaiah 11. The prophet proclaims that from a shoot from the stump of Jesse the Messiah will bring a time when natural competitors will tame their quest to dominate. Instead they will share in God's love together.

"The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox."  -Isaiah 11: 5-7

In my mind, there is something beautiful when dominant creatures lovingly step back to walk alongside those with whom they compete. To me, this is what it means to act Christ-like.

Take a look at this picture.

The woman with the water bottle in her hand is a world class runner who was attempting to win the contest. She is pictured slowing down to offer water to a fellow runner who was not of her caliber.

This Advent season, who will slow down to help?

Prayer for Today

Grant us the eyes to see, O Lord, the opportunities you present us with to share the love of Christ. Inspire us to reach out beyond ourselves to offer a helping hand and a cool drink of water to those in need.  Amen.

Posted by: Rev. Neal Kuhlhorst AT 07:38 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, December 11 2015

Light the Candle, Jesus Is Coming!

Ready or not, Christmas is coming!  But what if you don't have every string of tinsel hung, every candle glowing, every gift wrapped and under the tree, every card mailed, every cookie baked, and every place set at the table?
 
As I write this, there are many worship and music volunteers making preparations for Sunday's services.  The music ministry will lead the congregation in a Festival of Lessons & Carols, an annual tradition at our church.  The choir began rehearsing the music months ago, and the instrumentalists were acquired long before the pumpkins were delivered to the patch. 
 
The stage is being set (literally), the poinsettias have arrived and await placement, and the chili is in the crock pot for the worship volunteers.  The hustle and bustle of Christmas is alive and well as we ready the Chapel, singing along to our favorite carols.
 
Task lists are being checked and rechecked, added to and crossed off as accomplished.  We can only hope that we have remembered to dot every "i" and cross every "t."  Will everything be ready in time for tomorrow's rehearsal?  Lord, I pray that I really have all of my ducks in a row!  Then I pass by the nativity in the narthex, and I suddenly remember that Mary and Joseph didn't have everything together when the first Christmas came either.

When the time came for God's Son to be born they weren't in their home in Nazareth, but were far away in the little town of Bethlehem.  They weren't snuggled in a warm, comfy room, but in a shelter for animals. They couldn't lay their newborn in a nice crib, with the nursery painted the perfect hue of blue; they only had a feeding trough.  But even in the chaos of the first Christmas, God was working out God's perfect plan.
 
God has a plan for worship this Sunday, as well.  We all have done our very best to prepare.  After the last sharpened pencil has been placed this evening and we gather in the house kitchen to share a meal, our traditional chili supper, the foundation has been laid for God's plan for Sunday.

As we come together on Sunday to hear once again the story of Christmas, singing familiar carols and remembering why Jesus came into our world, we will know in our hearts that we are truly ready for Christmas.  All the preparations are complete.  God has done it all through Jesus, the Babe of Bethlehem.

Prayer for Today

Lord, help us all to relax and rejoice this Christmas!  Fill us with your Holy Spirit as we join the chorus of angels, singing our way to Bethlehem.  Amen.

Posted by: Alicia Taylor AT 04:39 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, December 09 2015

WOW! What a day we had at Johns Creek Presbyterian church this past Sunday. The Groundbreaking Service was the culmination of years of preparation and hard work. Beginning with our Long-range Plan four years ago, we created a vision of what believed God was calling us to do. Our New Building Committee spent months taking that vision and shaping it into a design. Our Capital campaign Committee inspired us to reach down deep and make financial commitments to make this design happen. On Sunday we ceremonially broke ground where the new building will go up. In the coming weeks, our contractor will start site preparation so that we can be ready when the steel arrives in January. These are exciting times at JCPC!

I loved the whole day Sunday, beginning at 9:00 a.m. with the Children's Program in worship and continuing through the celebration of Communion around the table. Then at 11:00 a.m. we elected a wonderful new class of elders to serve on the Session and lead us in the coming years. Once again I saw the inspiring Children's Program followed by Communion. Then we followed the bagpipes and drummer out of the Chapel to the very place where the new building would be constructed. After welcoming our guests, praying together, and turning over some dirt, we sang Amazing Grace as the bagpipes and drummer made a joyful noise that I am sure woke up some of our neighbors. (I wonder if they thought, "Those crazy Presbyterians!") We even had donut holes and hot chocolate as folks stayed around to fellowship and enjoy the perfect weather outside.
 
During the service, we read together these words from 
1 Corinthians 3:9-11:
 
For we are co-workers in God's service; you are God's field, God's building. By the grace Gad has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.
 
May this new multipurpose building be built on the ultimate foundation - Jesus the Christ!

Prayer for Today

Gracious God, help us to "build with care." May this building be a place where others will connect with Jesus for the first time and find their faith deepened. Thank you for bringing us this far. Give us the faith to keep on trusting and following you. We pray this in the strong name of Jesus the Christ. Amen.

Posted by: Rev. Dr. C. Gray Norsworthy AT 04:36 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, December 08 2015

When you picture the story of Jesus' birth, how do you imagine it? If you were there as a character in the story, what do you think you would see? What would you smell? What would you hear? What would it be like for Mary to give birth in that place? What do you suppose Joseph is thinking/doing? What is the baby feeling or doing?

Read Luke 2:1-20

In his song "This Baby," Steven Curtis Chapman (a father of several children) paints a more realistic view of the baby Jesus than we usually see in paintings or in manger scenes. Here are some of the lyrics: 

Click here to view a video with music and lyrics to this song  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FTzbcwsHGZU 

Well, He cried when He was hungry,
Did all the things that babies do;
He rocked and He napped on His mother's lap,
And He wiggled and giggled and cooed.
There were the cheers when He took His first step, 
And the tears when He got His first teeth; 
Almost everything about this little baby
Seemed as natural as it could be.

CHORUS
But this baby made the angels sing, 
And this baby made a new star shine in the sky.
This baby had come to change the world.
This baby was God's own son, 
this baby was like no other one.
This baby was God with us, 
this baby was Jesus.

Notice the ways the child Jesus in the song is like any other child. After hearing the song, what are your first reactions? What caught your attention in the lyrics? How do the lyrics of the song compare with the traditional artistic depictions of the nativity story?

The song says Jesus was unique but it also describes him as a regular kid. Often we think of Jesus as this perfect guy, with a halo around his head, walking on water. Why do you think it might be helpful for us to remember that he was a person just like us as well -- that he cried when he got his baby teeth, that he got hungry, that he played as a child, that he had to go through all the growing pains of the teenage years? What other regular human challenges do you think Jesus faced as he grew up? How might his life as a teenager have been similar to yours?

Jesus changed the world. What do you think about that? How is a baby born as a peasant into a violent culture able to change the world? In what ways do you think the world is different because Jesus was born? In what ways is your life different? What do the lyrics "He showed us heaven with his hands and his heart" mean to you?

Take a moment today to name and pray for "children" of all ages both near and far in need of the good news of God's love that Jesus shared with his life and ministry.

Prayer for Today

Lord, whose light shines in the darkness, have mercy upon us. Christ, whose birth gives hope to all creation, have mercy upon us. Lord, whose advent brings us joy and love, grant us peace. Amen.

Posted by: Allison Shearouse AT 04:34 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, December 07 2015

A few years back there was a popular movement entitled Random Acts of Kindness. The premise was that the world would become a better place and our lives would dramatically improve if we randomly showed acts of kindness to strangers. Perhaps you performed a random act and noticed how your shared kindness with a stranger improved your mood, outlook and overall attitude.

Take a moment to look at this picture and notice what happens within you.

Now that we have entered the season of Advent, we begin to practice random acts of kindness anew. Many of you have randomly selected angels to provide Christmas gifts to families in need of Christmas kindness. Perhaps you have placed money in the Salvation Army kettle as you are greeted by the smile of a stranger who is ringing a bell and wishing you a Merry Christmas. This random act of kindness goes both ways.

The paradox of Advent; however is that God's loving kindness entered the world intentionally rather than randomly.
The prophet Isaiah foretold of God's great act of loving kindness that was to enter the world through God's intentional salvation.

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death, a light has dawned...for to use a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. -Isaiah 9: 1-2; 6-7

The good news of Christ's birth is that God intentionally shines his light in a darkened world so that all can see and receive the love of Christ.  Look at this picture again.
 
How will you share the good news this advent season? 

Prayer for Today

Shine your light, O Lord, into the darkness of our world. Inspire us during this Advent season to share the good news of Christ's birth through acts of loving kindness that we share with family, friends and most of all, with strangers. Amen.

Posted by: Rev. Neal Kuhlhorst AT 04:33 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, December 04 2015

Prepare the Way of the Lord

Now in those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."  For this is the one referred to by Isaiah the prophet when he said, "The voice of one crying in the wilderness, make ready the way of the Lord, make his paths straight!"  
-Matthew 3:3 (NASB)
 
As we begin the Christian liturgical year anew, we celebrate the season known as Advent, during which we prepare for the coming of Christ.  Throughout Advent, we remember the words of the prophets foretelling Christ's coming.  We have many customs and symbols in observing Advent - Latin for "the Coming." 
 
Last Sunday in worship, at both services, we observed a traditional Hanging of the Greens service.  In the hanging of the greens, we decorated our church with the symbols of hope, peace, joy, and love.  As we decorated the Chapel, we explained the significance of the symbols of this very special season of Advent.
 
Throughout the centuries, Christians have observed a time of waiting and expectation before celebrating the birth of our Savior at Christmas.  The prophet Isaiah writes:  Here is my herald whom I send and he will prepare your way.  Let us prepare our hearts for the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, the Son of God. 
 
The Advent season is a time for personal reflection and preparation.  Advent proclaims the revelation of God's love as expressed in Christ's birth in a humble stable, his sacrificial death on the cross, and his victorious resurrection!  Advent points to the hope of Christ's coming again as the King of kings and Lord of lords.
 
Our Chrismon tree stands tall, and its lights shine for all to see!  As we made ready for the birth of Jesus by preparing our Chapel, we also make ready ourselves in the sanctuary of our own hearts.
 
We are mindful that although it is not yet Christmas, soon and very soon, we are going to see the King!  Hallelujah, we're going to see the King!  Come, let us begin our expectant waiting, for Christ, the Messiah.

Prayer for Today

Creator of the stars of night, your people's everlasting light, O Christ, redeemer of us all, we pray you, hear us when we call.  Amen.

Posted by: Alicia Taylor AT 05:57 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, December 03 2015

You might say he was a bit odd-even if he was Jesus' cousin.  In fact, to tell the truth, he was an embarrassment to the religious folks of his day.  He was downright weird.  The wilderness was indeed an appropriate place for this wild man with wild hair, strange clothes, a peculiar diet, and a message that just seemed to come from another planet. John the Baptist just made people uncomfortable-including us today.  But in all the liturgical calendars, his message is one that gets traction every year during the second week of Advent.   And his message is not, "Shop."  Rather it is the counter-cultural message, "Repent."

When the church stops repenting and preaching repentance, the meaning of Advent is lost.  So get ready.  Don't be complacent.  Turn from that which is not of God, and turn to the One who is the source of life.  Hear the voice of the one crying out in the wilderness: "Prepare the way of the Lord...Make his paths straight...Bear fruit worthy of repentance...Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none...And whoever has food must do likewise...Collect no more than the amounted prescribed for you...Do not extort money from anyone...Be satisfied..."  (Luke 3:4-14 abridged)  Get ready.  Jesus is coming!

Prayer for Today

O Holy One, we pray this day that we would remember that we have been baptized not only with water, but with the Holy Spirit and with fire.  Therefore as we approach Christmas, may we bear fruit worthy of repentance.  Amen.

Posted by: Rev. Scott Huie AT 05:57 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, December 02 2015

From time to time, someone will ask me what is my favorite book of the Bible. While there are many that I like, I think one of my favorites is the little book of Peter. Years ago I attended a weekly Bible study in which the leader spent a whole year on the five short chapters of this book! These are some of my favorite words from it:

As you come to him, the living Stone -- rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him -- you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.  For in Scripture it says:
See, I lay a stone in Zion,
    a chosen and precious cornerstone,
and the one who trusts in him
    will never be put to shame.
-1 Peter 2:4-6, NIV
 
These words describe Jesus, "The Living Stone" whom God has chosen to be the "precious cornerstone" on which the whole church is built. In that day and time, the cornerstone was the first stone of the foundation. Once it was put in place, all of the other stones were lined up according to it. In the same way, Jesus is the cornerstone of the church's foundation. 1 Peter even describes all of us who make up the church as "living stones" whom God is building "into a spiritual house." Together, as followers of Christ, we are the living, breathing, spiritual house of God.
 
This Sunday we will be breaking ground on our new multipurpose building. For a number of years, we have envisioned what God is calling us to build. Through your generous pledges we should have sufficient financial resources to complete this new structure. This Sunday we will break ground. Next summer we will finish the building. My hope is that this new building will be a place where people can come to find a spiritual home.
 
I hope you will make plans to join us this Sunday following the 11:00 a.m. worship service!

Prayer for Today

Gracious God, we thank you for Jesus -- the Rock on whom our faith is built. Help us to be the living stones that point others to the cornerstone of our faith -Jesus the Christ. Amen.

Posted by: Rev. Dr. C. Gray Norsworthy AT 05:55 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, December 01 2015

Read Luke 2:8-14. "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!'"

I have read this passage of scripture many times during the Advent season in years past. This time, the word peace stuck with me as I read this passage. What words come to mind when you hear the word peace? What would it take, do you think, for us to have peace on earth? Where are the places that really need peace right now? What relationships are required? How might God be a part of bringing that peace through us?

Perhaps peace in our world begins with peace in our own lives. We each have places of unrest, and perhaps if we work for peace here, inside our lives, we might be able to know more of God's peace in the world.

Do you think all of the noise and busyness in our lives makes it difficult to find peace? Do our schedules, our time, our lives look like that of person who wants to experience God's peace? Is it possible that sometimes we search for God in the winds, earthquakes and fires, but God is waiting to speak to us in the silence and peace?

Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God's peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
-Philippians 4:6-7

Prayer for Today

God, Help me to see the needs of others around us. Help us to know those needs which we can fulfill. Help us to fulfill them and make your peace known. Amen.

Posted by: Allison Shearouse AT 05:54 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
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