Stillspeaking Advent Devotional Assignment - Bill by bwf25360


									A Stillspeaking Advent Devotional


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November 23

Expecting the Unexpected

William Green

My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. Isaiah

What do you expect? More of the same? Do you worry about the worst—or anticipate
the best? Or do you just quit thinking about it? Advent is about getting ready for good
news. This means repentance: turning from our ways to God‘s ways, giving up reliance
on ourselves alone. This is an act of hope. It‘s a joy not a job because it involves
something to look forward to! It‘s anticipation: expecting that goodness and mercy far
greater than our own are waiting to be born anew for us and in the world. This ―good
news‖ seems unrealistic. But God‘s ways are not our ways. And God‘s love is stronger
than the toughest trouble, surpassing what we can figure out. When we demand that life
fit our rational expectations we put ourselves in charge: instead of trusting God, we play
God. Whether what we face is beautiful or ugly, tragic or fortunate—or anywhere in
between—all this is the grist of grace, the cradle of Christ…the means whereby love
again becomes real for us. We can expect to be surprised.

Prayer: ―Come, O long expected Jesus, born to set all people free; from our fears and sins
release us; grant us your true liberty.‖ Amen.

November 24

Too Good to be True?

William Green

Fear not, for behold I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people. Luke

Seventy-six times from the beginning to the end of the Bible we find the words, ―Fear
not!‖ Almost always this accompanies great blessing, as at the birth of Christ and on

Easter morning. Along with so many others in Scripture, the shepherds and those first at
the empty tomb come upon something wonderful—and are told not to be afraid.
How often fear and joy work together in our lives. Something especially good happens to
us—and we wonder when the other shoe will drop. Someone says the ―yes‖ we‘ve
wanted to hear, and we wonder whether we can really believe it.

Perhaps it‘s like the story of the boy who loved Mister Rogers and Captain Kangaroo.
He was thrilled when Mister Rogers announced that the two would finally meet. But
when that day finally came, after a minute of watching his two heroes together, he quietly
left the room. Puzzled, his father followed him and asked why. ―What is it? Is
something wrong?‖ The boy looked up and said, ―It‘s too good. It‘s just too good.‖
Are we prepared to believe there‘s such a thing as something too good not to be true? In
the spirit of Advent, let‘s get ready!

Prayer: ―Born all people to deliver, born a child, you came to reign! Born to rule on earth
forever, come, be known to us again.‖ Amen.

November 25

Lost and Found

William Green

Your troubles will not overwhelm you…the hard trials that come will not hurt you. Isaiah

The church is always tempted to give easy answers to hard questions. Jesus did not say
he was the answer. He said he was the way (John 14:6). As Maya Angelou put it in one
of her poems, ―When I say ‗I am a Christian‘/ I‘m not shouting ‗I am saved.‘/ I‘m
whispering ‗I get lost‘/ That is why I chose this way….‖ Faith is not the absence of
doubt—or of heartache—but the willingness to be honest about it. A good way to
prepare for the coming of Christ is to acknowledge heartache and doubt. In a Christmas
card, stables glow, the cows don‘t smell, and it always looks soft for the baby Jesus. But
Jesus was born in a real stable. There was no room in a more pleasant place. And so with
us. Jesus becomes real, not simply amid warmth and happiness, but during hard times.
And what turns out to matter more than answers is the assurance that we‘re not alone,
there‘s nothing so strange about us—and we‘re on the right way.

Prayer: ―Redeemer come! I open wide my heart to you; here, Christ abide! Let me your
inner presence feel; your grace and love in me reveal.‖ Amen.

November 26

What‘s Realistic?

William Green

There was no room for him in the inn. Luke 2:7

T.S. Eliot claimed, ―We cannot bear much reality.‖ We snuggle, therefore, within the
familiar reality. But Christmas calls us to a larger world. During Advent we get ready.
We get ready by remembering that so often what we consider ―realistic‖ is simply what‘s
familiar, what we‘re used to. King Herod got used to cunning and cruelty. For him that
was political reality. The innkeeper got used to making a profit. For him that was
commercial necessity. The wise men were taken by the splendor of their gifts. For them
that was impressive benevolence.

And what of us and all we want to accomplish? Consider our work and personal
relationships; the way we look at money and our own generosity; how we respond to
broader issues of justice and peace. Christmas breaks open our sense of what‘s realistic.
God comes into our lives from the outside, not from the inn! We look in vain for
salvation within our own points of view. Are we ready to learn from an outsider and
reconsider our own realism? What if that outsider turns out to be Jesus?

Prayer: ―There‘s a voice in the wilderness crying, a call from the ways untrod: Prepare in
the desert a highway, a highway for our God.‖ Amen.

November 27

The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together. Isaiah 40:5
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, good will toward all. Luke 2:14

Honoring Relationships

William Green

All flesh. What part of ―all‖ don‘t we get? God‘s embrace isn‘t for some flesh, but all
flesh. We‘ll never meet a person whom God doesn‘t love. And yet we continue to
construct walls that divide us—walls built on gender, race, class, religion, sexual
orientation, and whatever else that distinguishes us from one another. Advent is a good
time to look again at the ―walls‖ that divide us. We can‘t celebrate the coming of Jesus
without letting them crumble. What are these walls for you? Consider some ―walls‖ that,
at first, may not be obvious. Isn‘t tolerance a wall when it‘s a substitute for respect?
Isn‘t being nice a wall when it‘s avoidance of difference? Isn‘t good will a wall when it‘s
limited to conviviality and agreement?

Glory to God is peace on earth, good will toward all—and the angels are not going to
take care of it for us. This is not a matter of following rules but of honoring
relationships—with strangers as well as kin, with enemies as well as allies. When we
honor others as ourselves, then, and only then, can we celebrate Christmas, finding in
Jesus the love that welcomes us all, and brings us to our best.

Prayer: ―Born all people to deliver, born a child, you came to reign! Born to rule on earth
forever, come, be known to us again.‖ Amen.

November 28

All Things are Possible

Quinn G. Caldwell

“Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will
bear you a son, and you will name him John. You will have joy and gladness, and many
will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord….he will be filled
with the Holy Spirit.” Luke 1:13-15

An angel comes to Zechariah and announces an unexpected thing: he and Elizabeth, here
in their old age—what some might call their declining years—are to have a son, a miracle
of a boy, filled with the Holy Spirit, born for the rejoicing of the people and the purposes
of God. Understandably, he responds with disbelief. But what is unexpected for
Zechariah is nothing new for the God that caused creation to spring into being at a word,
who birthed the whole people of Israel from barren Abraham and Sarah. Much has been
made of ―the decline of the mainline churches‖ in recent years. The membership
numbers do point in an unhappy direction, and many have come to expect an equally
unhappy future. But our God is the God of unexpected things in surprising places, the
one who makes new life to spring unexpectedly from old bodies. And we are a people
learning to expect the unexpected.

Prayer: Come, God, come. Open me to your Spirit moving in me and in my church.
Teach me to expect the new life—the miracles—you are nurturing even now in the deep
places of my life. Amen.

November 29

Odd Things

Quinn G. Caldwell

John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for
the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people
of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan,
confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel‟s hair, with a leather belt
around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. Mark 1:4-8

Camel hair, locusts, the desert: make no mistake, John the Baptist was a distinctly odd
man. Then again, prophets tend to be at least a little bit odd, for the God for whom they
speak tends to do some pretty odd things—like entering history as a human being. So we
Christians do a lot of odd things of our own. We sprinkle water on ourselves and call it
salvation, we share meals and believe that God sits at table with us, we proclaim that the
poorest and most broken are dearest of all, we seek to create peace amid war, we
proclaim that our flawed and broken churches are the very body of God in the world.
Make no mistake: these are not things that the world considers normal. And yet they are
the stuff we are made of, the signs we‘re known by. They are the way God continues to
speak to God‘s odd people.

Prayer: O loving creator of all things, help me to live as St. Paul urged: help me to be in
this world but not of it. By the grace of my baptism, make me odd to every way of the
world that is not yours. Give me the strength to live less as a product of this world, more
as a citizen of your coming realm, and so let me participate in your turning the one into
the other. Amen.

November 30

Of Windows and Doors

Quinn G. Caldwell

As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts
concerning John, whether he might be the messiah, John answered all of them by saying,
“I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not
worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and
fire.” Luke 3:15-16

When we were young, if I walked through the living room and accidentally blocked her
view while my sister was watching TV, she would snarl from the couch, ―You‘d make a
better door than a window.‖ Not so with John the Baptist. Of course, it could have gone
differently than it did: John had had a miraculous birth, was full of the Holy Spirit, had
the respect of the people and the fear of their leaders. He could have proclaimed himself
history‘s goal, and the people would have followed him. Instead, he made of his words,
his actions, and his life windows through which the people could see the Realm of God
and the coming Messiah. Are there ways in which you—or your church—have been
acting as if you, and not Jesus, are the end toward which history is tending? As Advent
nears, how might you be more like a window through which the world can see the
coming Christ?

Prayer: O God, in you I have become great indeed. Help me to remember that the
greatness with which you have gifted me is for your service alone. Make me transparent
for the Gospel, a window through which all who meet me glimpse your goodness. Amen.

December 1

Quinn G. Caldwell

In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming,
“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is the one of whom the prophet
Isaiah spoke when he said,
        “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
        „Prepare the way of the Lord,
               make his paths straight.‟” Matthew 3:1-3

What if John was laughing when he said, ―the kingdom of heaven has come near‖? What
if what he meant by that wasn‟t that the end of time, with fire and judgment and your
ultimate doom, was at hand? What if what he meant was that God‘s realm, God‘s biggest
dream, God‘s fondest hope for us and all that we might become was drawing so close that
it was about to break through into this time and place? Would it sound different to you?
Would you live differently because of it? Would you understand why the people went to
the desert to be dunked underwater by a wild man? What if ―Repent, for the kingdom of
heaven has come near‖ isn‘t so much a threat as an invitation worth accepting?

Prayer: Come, God, come. Break into our world. Transform it. Transform me, that I
might be the way of the Lord, and that through my life, your creation might come a step
closer to the completion you dream of for it and for me. Amen.

December 2

A Promise Already Fulfilled
Martin B. Copenhaver

Arise, shine for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. Isaiah

Here, as the prophet Isaiah anticipates the coming of God‘s anointed one, the Messiah, he
speaks in the present tense, as if the promise has been fulfilled already. It is a remarkable
statement of trust. The prophet is affirming that when we wait for one of God‘s promises
to be fulfilled we can speak of it as if it is already accomplished. This confidence is
based on two things we know about God: God cannot lie and God has the power to make
good on God‘s promises. So when God has promised something, it is as good as done.
The coming of God‘s anointed one first was a promise fulfilled in the heart of the
prophet, awaiting fulfillment in history. When we await the coming of Jesus in Advent

the order is reversed: the promise of the coming of God‘s anointed one has already been
fulfilled in history and awaits fulfillment in our hearts.

Prayer: O promise-making, promise-keeping God, help me in this season to rest in your
promises with the confidence of one who sees them as promises already fulfilled in the
birth we anticipate. Amen.

December 3

Different Kinds of Waiting
Martin B. Copenhaver

For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will
arise upon you, and the glory will appear over you. Isaiah 60:2

We often associate waiting with passivity and, indeed, some waiting is passive. But also
there is active waiting, expectant waiting. A girl who stands on a street corner waiting
for the bus to arrive will experience one kind of waiting, a passive waiting. That same
girl on the same corner hearing the sound of a parade that is just out of sight will also
wait, but it will be a different kind of waiting, full of expectation, a waiting on tiptoe. A
fisherman may find it burdensome to wait for spring to arrive and fishing season to begin,
but once he is fishing, he does not find it a burden to wait for the trout to rise to his fly,
and in some ways the waiting itself is delicious. The difference is that one kind of
waiting is passive and the other is active. In the dead of winter the fisherman can do
nothing but passively wait for time to pass. At the pool of his favorite trout stream,
however, a fisherman‘s waiting is filled with accomplishing all the many things he must
do, all injected with a sense of anticipation. Obviously, our Advent waiting is to be more
like this, full of expectation, a waiting on tiptoe.

Prayer: O God, who waits for us ever more faithfully than we wait for you, may our
waiting for you in this season be full of a sense of eager anticipation. May we wait
actively, on tiptoe, for the fulfillment of your promises. Amen.

December 4

Christmas as a Surprise Party
Martin B. Copenhaver

Violence shall no more be heard in your land, devastation or destruction within your
borders; you shall call your walls Salvation and your gates Praise. Isaiah 60:18

In a way it is unfortunate that we always celebrate Christmas on the same day of the year,
because that makes the coming of Christ seem almost predictable. But Christmas is more
like a surprise party. For centuries God‘s people awaited the coming of the promised
one. Then, when it happened, most people missed it. They were watching the

ceremonial gates and he snuck in the servants‘ entrance. God is always sneaking into our
lives when we least expect it, and where we least expect as well, even at the darkest time
of year, in a forgotten corner, as a baby with milk on his breath. We never know when
the Spirit of Christ will appear and so we never know when the party is about to begin. A
bumper sticker warns, ―Jesus is coming, so look busy.‖ As we await the coming of Jesus,
however, we are not to look busy, we are to be busy with the Lord‘s work. Even though
Christmas is a surprise party, we are still expected to prepare for it.

Prayer: O God of surprises, may I have an eye for the unexpected places you may turn
up in this season, in places as unlikely as a baby born in a forgotten corner of the world.
And since you always seem to appear when and where we least expect it, may I be ready
to see you and celebrate your presence at any moment. Amen.

December 5

The Challenges of Waiting
Martin B. Copenhaver

The sun shall no longer be your light by day, nor for brightness shall the moon give light
to you by night; but the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your
glory. Your sun shall no more go down, or your moon withdraw itself; for the Lord will
be your everlasting light, and your days or mourning shall be ended. Isaiah 60:19-20

Advent is a season devoted to waiting. It is a time when we celebrate waiting, honor
those who waited for the coming of the Messiah, and seek to learn something about how
we might join them in waiting for the Spirit of Christ to be born again in our midst. But
waiting is difficult for most of us. In this era of instant gratification, as the world is put in
fast forward, even our limited capacity to wait has diminished still further. It seems as if,
among all the things we no longer have time for, we no longer have time to wait. As
challenging as it can be to wait, however, certainly it is preferable to the alternative.
Those who have ceased to wait generally are those who live without hope. When all that
you see around you is all there is to be, then there is no need to wait. But there is also no
hope of progress, movement, revelation or transformation. To wait is to be open to the
future. To wait is to be open to God.

Prayer: God, you know that I can find it challenging to wait. So teach my heart to wait.
Or, to put it another way, please give me the gift of hope. Amen.

December 6

We Will Be Changed
Martin B. Copenhaver

Your people shall all be righteous; they shall possess the land forever. They are the
shoot that I planted, the work of my hands, so that I might be glorified. Isaiah 60:21

The prophet declares that when the Messiah comes all of God‘s people will be changed
That is the promise. It is also the challenge. Most of us resist change. A woman gave
her mother a sampler with the inscription, ―Prayer changes things.‖ When she asked her
mother why she never hung it up, her mother confessed, ―I don‘t really want things to
change.‖ We may want things better, but not really different. We want a fresh start, but
without having to give up old ways. We want to be free from anxiety, but without giving
up our need to control things. We want the world to be at peace, but we don‘t want to
change our old way of acting in the world to achieve peace. We want to help those in
need, but without having to give anything up. Who really wants to change? Only those
who recognize that the one we await, Jesus Christ, brings change and that we not only
have to undergo change to receive his promises, change is itself the promise. We will be
new people. And that is not bad news. Actually, it is the Good News.

Prayer: God of transformation, help me to embrace the change you bring in my life.
Help me to await change, not as the disrupter of peace, but as the bearer of peace, not as a
source of discomfort but as the way to surer comfort. Amen.

December 7

The Baby Grew Up
Martin B. Copenhaver

The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me
to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to
the captives, and release to the prisoners. Isaiah 61:1

This passage is a reminder of who it is we await in this season. During Advent we tend
to focus our anticipation on the sweet baby Jesus because, as every parent knows, we can
see in an infant almost anything we want to see. And, besides, everyone loves a baby.
This passage, however, reminds us of the mission of God‘s anointed one, the Messiah.
When we read this passage during Advent it is a reminder that the baby grew up. He
taught, he challenged, he provoked, he healed, he liberated. We are never very good at
letting babies grow up to the point that they have their own ideas and confront us with
their own lives. A baby tends to turn things upside down and can be a bit of a challenge
to have around. In the case of the baby Jesus, that is nothing compared to the ways in
which the adult Jesus can disrupt and challenge us. Is it any wonder, then, that when
Jesus read this passage at his home synagogue in Nazareth and said that the prophet was
talking about him, the people who had known him since he was a baby chased him out of

Prayer: O God, as I anticipate the birth of the babe in Bethlehem never let me forget that
he grew up. In this season may I be better prepared to follow him as teacher, Savior and
Lord. Amen.

December 8

Donna Schaper

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God... For God did not give us a
spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline. II Timothy 1:6-7

The word ―flame‖ has a bad rap. Many relate it to people who either dress or behave
ostentatiously. Humility might be its opposite: here we dress and behave invisibly,
without calling attention to ourselves. Oddly, this text advises a combination. It calls us
to flame humbly. The admonition for a spirit of power, of love and self-discipline, is a
delightful combination of quiet and noise. As we await Advent, we might try dancing this
fire dance. We might find a way to speak powerfully and quietly at the same time. We
might practice ―infant‖ behaviors.

Prayer: Fan into flame the smoldering ashes of our spirits and let us be a vigorous flame,
not just in short Advent but in long time. Amen.

December 9

Christmas People
Donna Schaper

Go forth and set the world on fire. St. Ignatius of Loyola

There is an eternal rift between the Christmas ―quick‖ people and the Christmas ―slow‖
people. The quick people put up their tree the day after Thanksgiving, mail their cards,
and savor an entire month of the holiday, prepared and pretty. The Christmas slow
people are more classical in their approach: they celebrate Advent. They are not upset
that we don‘t sing Christmas carols until Christmas. The tree goes up close to the actual
day; the cards may not get out until February. These are the crock pot Christmas keepers;
the others are the frying pan type. Some of us are bi—we like Christmas so much that we
do a both/and. We fill up the whole month with slow preparations. We keep the fire
going all night long. We take the long way home.

Prayer: Help us, O God, to set the world on fire, one stick at a time. Amen.

December 10

Light One Candle
Donna Schaper

. . . and the life was the light of all people. John 1:4

There is a beautiful story recounted every Christmas in the forests of Provence in
southern France. It‘s about the four shepherds who came to Bethlehem to see the child.
One brought eggs, another bread and cheese, the third brought wine. And the fourth
brought nothing at all. People called him L‘Enchante. The first three shepherds chatted
with Mary and Joseph, commenting on how well Mary looked, how cozy was the cave
and how handsome Joseph was in it. What a beautiful starlit night! Finally someone
asked, ―Where is L‘Enchante?‖ They searched high and low, up and down, inside and
out. Finally, someone peeked through the blanket hung up against the crib into the
crèche. And there kneeling at the crib was L‘Enchante. He stayed the entire night in
adoration. Another response, beyond silence and action, to the call from the wild is
enchantment. Simple enchantment. It is what we can see in just one candle.

Prayer: Let us find a little enchantment in one candle. Amen.

December 11

The Fire in Our Bones
Donna Schaper

. ..there is something like a burning fire shut up in my bones: I am weary with holding it
in, and I cannot. Jeremiah 20:9

Someone I‘d never met said, ―Well, you always used to bring the portable microphone to
the rally.‖ Part of me was offended. Another part of me was honored: My church
always used to give more than it could afford. What a bargain: To be able to give more
than you can afford. It releases the fire shut in our bones. In many third world countries,
people offer you a piece of jewelry for a price that is a third of the price you would pay in
the United States. First they gave us a ridiculously low price. Then we (sometimes)
bargain them down. Sometimes I like to pay the U.S. price. It releases the fire shut in my

Prayer: Let us show that another economy is possible. Amen.

December 12, 2007

Be a Star
Donna Schaper

The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:5

She didn‘t get to be an angel in the pageant, she had to be a star. Her mother talked her
into the role she had to play. Her mother was also overjoyed that, when the play was
over, she had loved being a star. How had the turn happened? ―The angels had to sing. I
just had to stand there and shine.‖

Sometimes fire is more light than heat. Sometimes it just shines, and in its shine, we find
our unexpected joy. Often when we do get what we thought we wanted, we don‘t like it.
Often, also, when we don‘t get what we wanted, we find that what we get is great.
Serendipity abounds and so does the shining.

Light 12, Darkness 11, and the game continues.

Prayer: O God, let us be a part of the shining light. Amen.

December 13

The Prophets of Advent - Jeremiah
Kenneth L. Samuel

But if I say, “I will not mention him or speak any more in his name,” his word is in my
heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed I cannot.
Jeremiah 20:9 (NIV)

Seventh-century prophet Jeremiah heralded news from God that the people of his day did
not want to hear. The Word of the Lord is like surgery: before it can cure us, it must first
cut us. Jeremiah‘s contemporaries had grown so complacent and cocky in their spiritual
iniquities and social injustices that they refused to deal soberly with the advent of God‘s
judgment. They thought that if they denied it, it would not come to pass.

Advent gives each of us a chance to prepare for new seasons in God‘s reign. But our
resistance to change can force us into dangerous denial and retreat. Deeply afflicted by
the intransigence of his culture, Jeremiah retreated into his own denial. He thought that
by denying his vocation to speak in the name of the Lord, he could absolve himself of all
responsibility and live a carefree life. He did not realize that the price we pay for denying
the calling of God upon our lives is our own health and wholeness. It was the ―fire in his
bones‖ that burned him back into his prophetic role as herald of God‘s new season.

The seasons of God cannot be averted and the calling of God cannot be ignored. The
only questions are: Are we prepared for the changes? Are we willing to act as the change
agents of the stillspeaking God?

Prayer: Lord, in this season of Advent, prepare us for the seasons ahead; and make us
faithful heralds of your unfolding Grace, through your Son, who was, is, and is yet to
come. Amen.

December 14
The Prophets of Advent - Isaiah
Kenneth L. Samuel

A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In
faithfulness he will bring forth justice. Isaiah 42:3

We often think that radical change cannot occur without great upheaval. In the minds of
sixth and seventh-century Hebrews, the paradigm for social change was the violence and
subjugation imposed on them by their belligerent neighbors, the Assyrians and the
Babylonians. But the prophet Isaiah was sent to speak to the people about the advent of
another kind of radical social change. Isaiah‘s vision of revolution would not be marked
by aggression, dislocation or intimidation. The tone of this revolution would be set by
the ―Anointed One‖—the one sent by God to usher in the radical revelation of God‘s new

What would this revolutionist emissary need to stop the old order and begin the new? A
mighty army? Military prowess? A commanding presence? Jesus, the greatest
revolutionary humanity has ever known, had none of these. In fact, his spirit was so
humble and his manner so meek that ―he would not break a bruised reed nor extinguish a
smoldering wick.‖ Still, the revolution he inspired refuses to die and will never be
defeated. It is a revolution that grows by the forces of faith and conquers through the
supremacy of selfless love.

Prayer: God grant us the power of faith, so that we may accomplish radical changes in
your Name. Amen.

December 15

The Prophets of Advent – Daniel‘s Three Friends
Kenneth L. Samuel

And the princes, governors, and captains, and the king‟s counselors, being gathered
together, saw these men, upon whose bodies the fire had no power, nor was an hair of
their head singed, neither were their coats changed, nor the smell of fire had passed on
them. Daniel 3:27 (KJV)

Make no mistake about it: those who would herald the new order of God‘s reign of
salvation and justice will face many trials by fire. The intent of incineration is not just to
kill, but to annihilate any semblance of life. King Nebuchadnezzar, the ruthless ruler of

Babylon, had intensified the fire in the furnace seven times to ensure this result. He then
proceeded to cast into the flames the Hebrew boys, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.

King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished to discover, however, that even his intensified fire
had no power over the Hebrews. Their witness would not wither, their courage remained
unscathed, and their faith refused to disintegrate in the heat of their fiery trial. Faith that
is made in the fire of virulent opposition cannot be destroyed by the fire of virulent
opposition. What God does in us and through us in the midst of our trials is what
prepares us for the fire next time.

Prayer: Lord we pray that your Presence with us in the ferociousness of our present trials
will prepare us for the advent of what is yet to come. Amen.

December 16

The Prophets of Advent – Learning the Truth
Kenneth L. Samuel

They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us
on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” Luke 24:32 (NIV)

Great things don‘t just happen, they develop. God‘s revelations don‘t just occur
haphazardly, they carefully unfold in the hearts and minds of those who are in touch and
in tune with the Stillspeaking God. To know that something is about to change is one
thing. To understand the change and embrace the change is quite another.

Peter and the disciples knew that their lives had been transformed by the advent of God in
Christ Jesus. They did not, however, comprehend the radical ramifications and amazing
consequences which that Advent would bring to their personal and corporate lives. The
key to understanding their present and future was in the understanding of their religious

As they walked along the Emmaus Road, Jesus unfolded to them the message of all the
Prophets, beginning with Moses. In so doing, Jesus revealed himself not only as the Lord
who is and who is to come, but as the Lord who has always been. As they were enabled
to make the vital connections between their history, their present and their destiny in
Christ Jesus, their ―hearts burned within.‖

How often do we question the advent of the new because we fail to see its connection to
what God has already hallowed in our hearts? Maybe our greatest revelations are not in
our discoveries of the new, but in our comprehension of the old.

Prayer: Lord, give us eyes to see and hearts to understand your unfolding Grace more
fully in our past, present and future. Amen.

December 17

The Prophets of Advent – Who to Believe
Kenneth L. Samuel

He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went
into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. The scroll of the
prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the
poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the
blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord‟s favor.”
Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of
everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them,
“Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”Luke 4: 16-21 (NIV)

The community of faith has historically had one basic test to determine if a prophecy was
truly of God. The test was simply whether or not the prophecy actually came to pass.
Prophets who announce the advent of God‘s salvation and deliverance do not do so from
a platform of stoic indifference. They are deeply invested, as active agents, in bringing
God‘s prophetic pronouncements to pass in the contexts of their own realities.

Prophecies which are not fulfilled in the consciousness, conduct and commitment of the
persons who proclaim them are worthy of suspicion. How disingenuous is it for a person
to proclaim a prophecy to which he or she has no commitment and for which he or she
will make no sacrifice? Jesus‘ reading of Isaiah‘s prophecy would have been just another
religious ritual if Jesus had not offered himself as a vessel for its fulfillment.

Prayer: Lord, give us the commitment and the courage to allow your prophecies to be
fulfilled in us. Amen.

December 18

The Prophets of Advent – Cost and Joy
Kenneth L. Samuel

Who hath believed our report? And to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? For he
shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no
form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire
him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief:
and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem stricken,
smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was
bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his
stripes we are healed. Isaiah 53: 1-5 (KJV)

We should never assume that our celebrations of the advent of God in Christ Jesus will
attract and appeal to everyone. Isaiah‘s prophesy concerning the life and sufferings of
Jesus are enough to prompt the question: ‖Who hath believed our report?‖ Is anybody
really willing to celebrate and to follow a messiah of sorrows, who was acquainted with

The advent of Jesus is not just about his manger; it is also about his mission. A mission
that would render him stricken, smitten of God and rejected by men and women. Where
is the merriment in that? Those of us who celebrate not just the manger but the mission
of Jesus are aware of this poignant paradox.

Yet, still we joyfully celebrate the coming of our Christ, for we understand what Isaiah
understood: suffering for the cause of God‘s realm is redemptive in every sphere of life.
In fact, the suffering of Jesus is not ancillary but integral to our celebration of Advent.
For it is only with his stripes that we are healed.

Prayer: Lord, during this Advent Season, let our celebrations and actions reveal to us
afresh the redemptive power that only comes through our sacrifices for others. Amen.

December 19

Generation to Generation . . . Sort Of
Anthony B. Robinson

So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David
to deportation to Babylon, fourteen generations; and from the deportation to Babylon to
the Messiah, fourteen generations. Matthew 1:17

It all sounds quite neat and tidy. Forty-two generations in a patriarchal line, from father
Abraham to Messiah Jesus. It looks so orderly. . . until you look a little closer. Look back
to verses three, four and five. You‘ll find three of only four women mentioned in the
forty-two generation genealogy. Why does Matthew mention these four and no others?
Each one of the four has a story, and all the stories are, let‘s say, interesting. There‘s
Tamar who does a sting operation on her father-in-law, Judah; Rahab the harlot who
makes it possible for Joshua to take Jericho; and the wife of Uriah, a.k.a. Bathsheba. The
fourth and last woman sprinkled amidst all these patriarchs is an unwed mother, Mary.
Suffice it to say that with the addition of these three, the genealogy is no longer, if it ever
was, neat and tidy. It‘s not the family tree that assures us of our greatness or stature. This
family tree tells us of God‘s greatness. In particular these four colorful, resourceful and
unorthodox women remind us of God‘s capacity to work God‘s purposes through
unexpected people and in unexpected ways.

Prayer: This Advent, Lord, help me to read between the lines, to hear the song beneath
the words, and to trust your capacity to do a new thing in the usual completely
unexpected and totally impossible way. Amen.

December 20

The Safe Way and God‘s Way
Anthony B. Robinson

Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public
disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. Matthew 1:19

A quiet cover-up it would have to be. A discreet termination of the betrothal. After all,
Joseph was a righteous man, in the best sense of the word ―righteous.‖ He kept the law
and the ways of God. He didn‘t want to shame Mary and certainly didn‘t wish for her to
be stoned (though the law did allow such a punishment). But clearly he couldn‘t stay with
a woman who got pregnant before they were married. Joseph was prepared, albeit sadly,
to do the right, the lawful, and the safe thing when something strange happened. God
asked Joseph to do the ―wrong‖ thing. God asked Joseph to violate the written law to
fulfill the highest law, the law of love. Later, Jesus would call his disciples to a ―new
righteousness,‖ a righteousness that exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees. The law of
love, this higher righteousness, is not the safe path. The way of Christ is not safe, but it is
life and it is truth. It is the way.

Prayer: God grant me the grace and wisdom to discern when you are calling me to the
dangerous path of love and a higher righteousness, and grant me the courage to walk that
way. Amen.

December 21

The Wonderful Name of Jesus
Anthony B. Robinson

She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their
sins. Matthew 1:21

Well, at least Joseph got the naming rights. Sort of. God told him what to name the child,
and the name was Jesus, or in Hebrew, Joshua. Either way it means ―he saves.‖ And to
put a finer point on it: ―he will save his people from their sins.‖ There are two
implications of the wonderful name of Jesus that may prove stumbling blocks to us.
Implication # 1: We are sinners. I am a sinner. By my own (false) choices, time and
again, I have separated myself from God and from other people. Implication # 2: We
need help. We can‘t fix this all by ourselves. But God has sent Jesus to put things to
rights, to give me and you and all creation, a new possibility, another way and another
choice. God in Jesus, who saves, has done for me what I could not do for myself. God has
redeemed me, cancelled my debt, and set me free to love as I am loved, to forgive as I
have been forgiven, and to serve as I have been served. It is the only Christmas gift that

Prayer: I am so glad, Jesus lifted me, I‘m so glad, Jesus lifted me, I‘m so glad, Jesus
lifted me, singing glory, hallelujah, Jesus lifted me. Amen.

December 22

Emmanuel Which Means ―God is with Us.‖
Anthony B. Robinson

All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
“Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,”
which means, “God is with us.” Matthew 1:22-23

Jesus was not his only name. In fact he had a bunch of names, of which Emmanuel was
one. Matthew cites the origin of this name from the early chapters of the prophet Isaiah.
A citation like this is not just a footnote. It is an encouragement to read the whole story in
Isaiah 7. When you do you‘ll see that this birth is a sign to a very frightened guy, Ahaz,
king of Israel. Prophet Isaiah says to Ahaz, ―I‘m telling you, God‘s telling you, you‘re
going to be all right. Listen, God will even give you a sign. A young woman will
conceive and bear a child and call him Emmanuel. Get it? That means ‗God is with you.‘
You‘ll be all right.‖ But Ahaz doesn‘t want to get it. He prefers to trust in his own power
and schemes, and not in God‘s promise or God‘s plan. Leading to the obvious question:
do we get it? Emmanuel: God is with us, with you, with me, today.

Prayer: It‘s true, Lord, there are times I would find it easier if you would stay in the
manger or at church, because if you are here now, with me, that changes everything.
Change things, Lord, change me. Amen.

December 23

Anthony B. Robinson

When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took
her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he
named him Jesus. Matthew 1:24-25

Like his namesake in the Book of Genesis, this Joseph, too, is known for his dreams. God
spoke to him in the early chapters of Matthew, at every crucial moment, through dreams.
Is God still speaking to us, today, through dreams? Every now and then I‘ve run into
people who find the idea that God speaks to anyone, let alone them, quite impossible.
―That‘s Bible stuff, not today.‖ But maybe God hasn‘t stopped speaking. Maybe we‘ve
stopped listening. For sure, we modern and rational types aren‘t much given to paying
attention to our dreams. Perhaps we should. Often in the Scriptures, God speaks to people
at night and in dreams. Why? Seems simple enough. Our normal daytimer selves manage

to keep our defenses high and fortifications in place. At night, in dreams, our defenses are
down, God has a chance to get at us. Listen up. God really is still speaking.

Prayer: Speak to me, Lord, that I may speak. Help me to discern your word among the
many words I hear, your message amid the hundreds of messages in my inbox. Amen.

December 24

A Star
Anthony B. Robinson

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from
the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who is born king of the Jews?
For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” Matthew 2:1-

It‘s a star in the night sky, not a grand sunrise filling the heavens with light and beauty.
There are, to be sure, sunrise times. But there are star-in-the-night-sky times, too.
Recently I read, ―Spirituality is celebrating the dawn. Discipleship sings in the dark.
Spirituality is finding inner peace. Discipleship is making peace.‖ I don‘t mean to rain on
the spirituality parade, but discipleship, following this star, following this Jesus, does
mean more and go deeper. It means that in a world of King Herods and all the others who
have a vested interest in the ways things are and in current arrangements, we join the
wise men (who seem pretty darn foolish, if you ask me) in seeking the true King and a
new creation. He will be found where the star shines amid the dark night. Faith sings in
the dark.

Prayer: It is very dark now, Lord. The night is deep. Touch my heart and grant me the
wonder that watches for the rising star, the courage to sing in the dark. Amen.

December 25

Tiny Bethlehem
Anthony B. Robinson

They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: 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 2:5-6

There‘s something in us that loves little things, tiny things. We say, ―How cute,‖ or
―That‘s so sweet,‖ as we look at the little animal or ornament or tree. So ―tiny‖
Bethlehem, ―little‖ town of Bethlehem. But there‘s more than cute going on here. There‘s
a not-so-subtle criticism of big Jerusalem. Big, important, center-of-things, where-the-
action-is Jerusalem. But Jerusalem is not--surprise--where the action really is. God‘s
action is in an old, small, off-the-beaten path sort of place, Bethlehem. The prophet Isaiah
told us long ago that God‘s ways are not our ways; God‘s thoughts are not our thoughts.

And here it is again. Jesus is not born in a palace, but a shed. Jesus is not born in the big,
powerful place, but in the little, out of the way place. If we‘re going to receive him,
maybe we too have to get little, become small, like children again, and climb down from
our pedestals to kneel at his tiny, cute feet.

Prayer: O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie; above thy deep and
dreamless sleep the silent stars go by; Yet in thy dark street shineth the everlasting light;
the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight. Amen.

December 26

In the Beginning
Lillian Daniel

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
John 1:1

Christmas day has passed, and now we are left with the wrapping paper, the empty boxes
and perhaps a few empty hearts. For some people, yesterday may have been a delightful
feast of love and giving. Others may look back on the day we are all supposed to look
forward to with a little relief that it‘s over. Are we allowed to say that? Can we be honest
and admit that sometimes the big day is not as joyful in real life as we want it to be?

This first verse from the gospel of John reminds us that our big days and calendars are
really of little importance to the God who created us. God existed before time itself. So
while we human beings may lift up one day over another, God is consistently present in
every day. God was even there before we were here to count our days.

Prayer: Dear God, help me to understand that no single day gets to have the last word. At
the end of a good day, or at the end of a bad day, you are with me, as you always have
been and always will be. Amen.

December 27
We Don‘t Make It All Happen
Lillian Daniel

He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without
him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life
was the light of all people. John 1:2-4

All things do not come into being through you. They come into being through God. Now
that we have cleared up our various job descriptions, can you relax a little more in this
precious day?

Sometimes life gets so busy, and our ―to do‖ list gets so long, that we get ourselves all
mixed up. We worry that if we don‘t do something, the results will be disastrous. We
worry that if we do something wrong, the results will be even worse. In other words, we
give ourselves way too much power all around.

This scripture reminds us that all things came into being through Christ. Now that he has
done his job, we are free to consider our own callings. But trust me; running the universe
is not an option. God has it covered.

Prayer: Dear Savior, please let me stop trying to do your job for you, so that instead, I can
appreciate what you have done. Amen.

December 28
When You Can‘t Snap Out of It
Lillian Daniel

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. John 1:5

When times are hard, it can be hard to imagine a better time. When we are sad about one
thing, we can find that sadness oozing into all areas of our life. We might begin by
saying, ―A terrible thing has happened to me,‖ but then we slide into saying, ―Terrible
things always happen to me.‖ When a dark mood hits, it can knock out all the light in the

That is when we need a trusted person to step in. A friend might say, ―Stop
universalizing. It‘s not that bad.‖ A family member might say, ―Snap out of it.‖ And
sometimes that works.

But when the lights won‘t come back on that easily, this scripture reminds me that just
because I can‘t see the light, it is still there. I may be sitting in a dark room, with no
sunshine at all. But God has turned the lights on, and when I am ready, I will see that

Prayer: Dear God, work with my faulty vision. Help me to see later what I cannot see
now: that our darkness cannot overcome your light. Amen.

December 29
God is Still Speaking. Are You?
Lillian Daniel

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify
to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he
came to testify to the light. John 1:6-8

Thank goodness John the Baptist was there to testify to the light. Thank goodness he was
willing to go out on a limb and tell people what he believed. Thank goodness he spoke
up, so that thousands of years later we know that life is about more than death and taxes.

Will people ever say that about you? Will they talk about how you testified to the light?

Sometimes, we are so worried about offending people with our religious beliefs that we
don‘t say anything at all. But surely we have the smarts and the sensitivity to testify to
our own faith without insulting others. And if we don‘t tell them, who will?

There are plenty of people out there testifying to a lot of things in the name of their faith.
Much of it may be very different from what you believe. But how will the unchurched
person know about the options, if you don‘t testify, too?

Prayer: Reveal to me, God of the word, what I need to say. Show me who needs to hear
from me, about you, so that your light will shine. Amen.

December 30
Family Feud
Lillian Daniel

 He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not
know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. The
true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. John 1:10-11

Sometimes, I hear my church unfairly described. I have even had people tell me that we
in the United Church of Christ are not really Christian. Usually this is based upon a stand
we have taken for social justice, or because we are unwilling to condemn people of other
faiths. Some people take issue with the fact that we trust that God is still speaking, and
we believe that the last word has yet to be spoken.

Jesus came into the world as the true light, but it was such a high wattage that we human
beings couldn‘t see it. Some people, like the disciples, were drawn to the light. Others
wanted to snuff it out, and tried to do that by killing the man who brought it. But none of
us can really grasp that light. For that, we must wait for eternity, and a moment that no
human eye can envision.

In the meantime, when other Christians criticize my church, I remember that it has
always been this way. The family feud began a long time ago. Even Jesus was not
accepted by his own.

Prayer: Dear God, keep me enlightened by your love, and humbled by your mystery, as
we wait for the day when we may all be one.

December 31
Be It Resolved…
Lillian Daniel

But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children
of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of
God. John 1:12-13

It‘s almost midnight on New Year‘s Eve. Do you know where your resolutions are? You
know the ones. You made them this time last year, and then, somehow, must have
misplaced them. But most of us find those lost resolutions again the same time next year.

Funny how consistent they are. Basically, we know what we need to do to fix ourselves
up. It‘s just doing it that is hard. My own self-improvement plans may not produce much
change, but at least they are consistent.

At times like this, I remember that according to the Bible, I am a child of God. I am
bigger than my bad habits, my poor decisions and even my family lineage. According to
this gospel, even without following through on my resolutions from last year, I have the
power to be a child of God. I just have to receive Christ.

Even so, I do plan to get more exercise. Starting January 1.

Prayer: Bless my plans, God. But only if they are your plans. Amen.

January 1

Something New Under the Sun?
David Powers

I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? Isaiah 43:19

A brand-new year begins today. Or any day you want it to! The promise is that God is
actually ―about to do a new thing,‖ which is already just barely visible, and that promise
is a stirring reminder that God sets new life before us at any moment, every day.

The ―new thing‖ about to happen in your life may be a new road before you. It may be a
new depth in your relationships with God and other people. But it will surely be a
wonderful gift from the God who bursts into the world to be with us in Jesus. Welcome
the ―new thing‖ God wants for you.

Prayer: O God, keep my eyes open, and my heart ready, for the new thing you are doing
in this New Year – and even right now. Amen.

January 2

God‘s ―Yes!‖
David Powers

Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all
peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel. Luke

Right after the Child Jesus was born, on the first outing with his parents to the Temple, he
met Simeon there. From the old man‘s prayer at that moment, it‘s clear Simeon realized
that Jesus‘ birth launched something astonishing into the world. What our biggest words
try to name—words like ―salvation,‖ ―revelation,‖ ―glory,‖ ―peace‖—was actually
happening for Simeon because of the baby he held in his arms. Holding that child, he
could envision a grand future.

Jesus is our still-speaking God‘s ―Yes!‖ to life the way life was created to be. The very
fact of Jesus‘ being born, being on earth, being with us, is cause for excitement. Think
about the huge possibilities when God‘s own love, embodied in a baby, inaugurates a
brand new day!

Prayer: Amaze us, amazing God, with the wonderful awareness that you are speaking the
biggest words of all even to us, as you invite us to salvation, glory, peace. Amen.

January 3

Beginning Again… and Again… and Again
David Powers

When people fall, do they not get up again? If they go astray, do they not turn back?
Jeremiah 8:4

How many New Year‘s resolutions have already been broken at this point? It seems our
annual ritual of making oversized promises to ourselves practically guarantees failure.

But don‘t give up yet! The good news is, the God who comes into the world in Christ is
about fresh starts, any time, anywhere. In fact, even God makes a fresh start with the
birth of Jesus—a new kind of connection with you and me and the creation. Beyond the
age-old Scriptures, God graces us now with a new love alive in Christ.

Don‘t give up! Reframe your goals and begin again. The God of second chances gives
us a new day, and speaks a new word to our hearts, and that word is… hope.

Prayer: Free us, O God, to get up again when we fall, turn back when we go astray, begin
again when we face dead ends, knowing that you call us still, encourage us still, love us
still. Amen.

January 4

Accepting God‘s Gift of Possibility
Ron Buford
When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its
rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they
were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt
down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold,
frankincense, and myrrh. Matthew 2: 9-11

Epiphany celebrates the exploration of three wise leaders, or Magi, from the East and is
the model for our gift-giving at Christmastime. For them, this exploration was probably
what modern space exploration is for us. Having seen a strange new star in the East, they
believed it signaled the birth of the King, the beginning of a new realm, the start of a new
era of spirituality.

Using the new star as a guide, they must have expected to find opulence. Instead, they
found a poor baby, born in a manger, wrapped in strips of shredded fabric, lying in a
feeding trough for animals. Why did they continue believing this was the right address?
Christian tradition tells us the Magi disregarded the external circumstances, praised God,
and left their extravagant gifts anyway. I wonder what I would have done.

Prayer: Gracious God of the guiding star, help us to remain open to receive God‘s gift of
―possibility,‖ even when it‘s not the ―in‖ gift of the moment or if it comes in a package
that doesn‘t meet our expectations. Amen.

January 5

―Everybody talkin‘ ‗bout Heaven ain‘t goin‘ there‖
Ron Buford

And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by
another road. Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and
said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for

Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his
mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to
fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.”
Matthew 2:12-15

These title words from a favorite Negro spiritual conveyed a double meaning. Its secret
meaning taught about Underground Railroad dangers for a network of locations and allies
hiding slaves escaping north to Canada. This song warned would-be runners about the
necessity of focus, determination, and shrewdness on a treacherous journey.

Some escaping via the Underground Railroad would not have ―what it takes;‖ others who
sounded like allies would intentionally or unintentionally compromise the network.
Harriet Tubman, its focused conductor, used her shotgun to encourage and strengthen
wavering runners, saying, ―Run or die.‖

Herod pretended to befriend this new king while he secretly planned to assassinate him.
Warned in a dream of Herod‘s true intentions, the courageous Magi broke traditional
alliances between kings to hear God‘s voice so that a new order for justice and peace
could emerge.

Prayer: ―God of our weary years, God of our silent tears, God who has brought us thus
far on the way; God, who by your might, led us into the light, keep us forever in the path
we pray.‖ Amen.

January 6

I‘ve Known Rivers . . .
Ron Buford

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he
was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on
him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” And the
Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. Mark 1:9-12

I've known rivers:
I've know rivers ancient as the world and
older than the flow of human blood in
human veins.
My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

Advent anticipation, Christmas exhilaration, and holiday stress lead us to the edge of
another river. Will I return to the old grind or cross over to a new journey, beginning, and
freedom? Caught between memory and hope . . . we are afraid.

The early church celebrated baptism during Epiphany. Caught between memory and
hope, we are not alone. We have a conductor on life‘s Underground Railroad. The Holy

Spirit descends upon us, giving us power to, in the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, ―do the
things we think we cannot do;‖ Jesus, our advocate, sits at the right hand of God; Creator
God affirms our journey: ―Keep listening, creating, struggling moving. Know this river,
know freedom, know me. I am still speaking,‖


Ron Buford is the former Director of The Stillspeaking Initiative.

Quinn G. Caldwell is Associate Pastor, Old South Church, Boston, Massachusetts.

Martin Copenhaver is Senior Pastor, Wellesley Congregational Church, United Church of
Christ, Wellesley, Massachusetts.

Lillian F. Daniel is Senior Minister, First Congregational Church, UCC, Glen Ellyn,

William Green is Executive for Faith and Giving, Local Church Ministries, United
Church of Christ, Cleveland, Ohio.

David Powers is Interim Minister, Plymouth Church, UCC, Shaker Heights, Ohio.

Anthony B. Robinson is a speaker, teacher, author,UCC pastor, and president of the
Columbia Leadership Network, Seattle, Washington.

Kenneth Samuel is Pastor of Victory for the World Church, UCC, Stone Mountain,

Donna Schaper is Pastor of Judson Memorial Church, New York, New York.

Produced by the Congregational Vitality Initiative, United Church of Christ, 700 Prospect
Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44115.


Editor: Tina Villa
Design: Ted Dawson Studio,

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