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2006 Advent Devotional Booklet

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2006 Advent Devotional Booklet Powered By Docstoc
					Prescott United Methodist Church
       505 West Gurley Street
    Prescott, Arizona 86301-3617
           (928) 778-1950
       Email: pumc@cableone.net
       Web page: prescottumc.com
      2006
Advent Devotional
    Booklet

Prescott United Methodist Church
                                 Introduction


      The Journey to Bethlehem follows many roads. Each is as individual as the person
who travels it. Some are filled with joy, some touched by grief; many have bittersweet
memories along the way. The constants are faith, hope and the certainty that Bethlehem
awaits all who persist in the journey.

       Our sincere and loving thanks to those who shared their journeys with all of us for
this Advent Devotional Guide. Please read their contributions in that spirit.

                                                                 --Bob and Mary Ellen Dyer




                                             -1-
                               Luke 2:1-20
   1 In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world
should be registered. 2 This was the first registration and was taken while
Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 All went to their own towns to be registered.
4 Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city
of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and
family of David. 5 He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was
engaged and who was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time
came for her to deliver her child. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and
wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no
place for them in the inn.

   8 In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over
their flock by night. 9 Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the
glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 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: 11 to you is born this day in the city of David a
Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find
a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly
there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and
saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among
those whom he favors!” 15 When the angels had left them and gone into
heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and
see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 So
they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the
manger. 17 When they saw this, they made known what had been told them
about this child; 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds
told them. 19 But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her
heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had
heard and seen, as it had been told them.

                                      -2-
                                 A Time of Hope
  Read: Jeremiah 33:14-16

          More than anything, I see Advent as a time of tremendous hope. There’s a new
  anticipation in the air for we know that Christmas is coming. Christmas, a time of
  expectancy, re-birth, re-creation—everything new!
          I remember a time when my life totally changed to something new. It was the year I
  graduated from high school. I had grown up in a small town in northwestern Pennsylvania
  and never lived anywhere else for the first 17 years of my life. Then, my family decided
  to move clear across the country to San Diego, California. At the same time, I would start
  college in that radically different city, San Diego. The small, northerly town setting I had
  known all my life would suddenly, dramatically, change to that of a big and bustling city
  on a southwestern beach! My friends of a lifetime, including my boyfriend, my church, my
  extended family, were all gone! Far removed from me, they seemed remote and
  unreachable in a day when we had no cell-phones, no computers, only expensive “snail-
  mail” and much too costly telephone calls. This small town girl was thrust into a major
  metropolis with a cosmopolitan atmosphere, like nothing I had before experienced!
          I couldn’t help wonder if Joseph and Mary, pregnant with child, had some of the
  same feelings. So young, they traveled to a different place where they knew not what to
  expect, yet they knew everything would be different than the home of their past. They,
  too, could only know that their living situation and the people they met would be very
  different than that which they had experienced at that point in their young lives.
          Too much like the people who have had to relocate because of major disasters such
  as Katrina, 9/11, catastrophic earthquakes or tsunamis, the trauma of a forced relocation
  can cause us to examine the past in a new way as we anticipate a better and hopeful
  future.
          That’s really what Christmas does for us all, isn’t it? We are “Journeying to
  Bethlehem” anew, with great hope and anticipation of what is to come, yet promised the
  future with Christ’s birth in our hearts will be more wonderful than anything we have
  experienced before. To God be the glory!

  --Pastor Carol Mumford




First Sunday of Advent
Sunday, December 3, 2006
                                             -3-
                                Unseen Angels
Sometimes unseen angels fulfill what are impossible dreams, especially if it might be the
dream of a young seven-year old girl. The ONLY thing on her Christmas list that
Depression-era year of 1937 was a Shirley Temple doll.

How could my struggling parents hope to grant that wish?

As happened every year just before Christmas, a large box arrived at our farm home
from a family in Minneapolis. My mother had worked as the Everett family maid
(complete with black outfit, white starched apron and cap) prior to my parents’ marriage.

In the still of the night, my mother stealthily unwrapped one appropriately-sized
package. Could it possibly be a Shirley Temple doll? YES! Through her tears, she thanked
God for His mysterious ways, re-wrapped the package and watched with joy as I
unwrapped the most precious Shirley Temple doll on Christmas morning!

Little did I know what had transpired until years later when my mother confessed!

Her heartfelt thank-you to the Everetts that year was a special thanks for being the
unseen Christmas angels for a little girl and her family.

How often do we have the same opportunity to make a dream come true for someone?
May we be unseen Christmas angels for someone—known or unknown. Truly, God speaks
in mysterious ways—LISTEN!

                                                                           --Pat Unkenholz




                                                                Monday, December 4, 2006
                                            -4-
        Bethlehem- The Beginning of Redemption
          For my eyes have seen your salvation which you have prepared in the sight of all
        people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.
                                           Luke2: 30-32

 They had journeyed to Bethlehem, the three of them, Joseph, Mary, and the unborn child.
 Few knew, but some, like the three wise men, suspected that there was something very
 special about the birth of this child. When the baby was born, the Angels declared to the
 shepherds in the field “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the
 people,”

 Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem marks the beginning of God’s great plan for our
 redemption. Bethlehem, where Jesus was born, God in human form, our savior who took
 on the death penalty for our sin and triumphed over death by coming back to life, what a
 night it must have been. I am always in humble awe of what Christ has done for
 humankind. I have seen some of the most dramatic changes in people, not from
 manipulation or behavior modification methods but by accepting the fact that Christ took
 on their sins and they accepted his righteous. What child was this? It was none other than
 the savior of the world.

 I bring you good news of great joy. Isaac Watts’ great hymn “Joy to the World” says it
 all in the third and fourth verses of his hymn:
         No more let sins and sorrows grow,
         nor thorns infest the ground;
         He comes to make His blessings flow
         far as the curse is found.

       He rules the world with truth and grace,
       and makes the nations prove the
       glory of his righteous,
       and wonders of His love.

 Journeying to Bethlehem, what child is this? He is our redeemer.

   “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace
                       through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”
                                         Romans 3: 23-24

 --Buz Davies

Tuesday, December 5, 2006
                                                -5-
                                          Advent
Advent is a season four Sundays before Christmas. It is observed in preparation for the
coming of Christ.

Also at Christmastime people are thinking of what gifts to give to family members and
friends. Some kids expect to receive expensive toys, games, brand name clothes and
shoes and the list goes on. Some people are so busy that there isn't time for the true
meaning of Christmas—a time for reading the stories of Jesus birth, or teaching the values
of creativity, music, enjoying nature and families being together.

A few years back I was given a little box neatly wrapped. I opened it and inside was a
note: “Filled with Love.” I will always treasure that box of love.

We could give simple gifts of ourselves. It wouldn't hurt gladdening others with support,
kind words, smiles, encouragement, laughter, hope, our time of sharing God's love for
each other.

But, JESUS is the greatest gift of all.

                                                                          --Jo Anne Pauls




                                                         Wednesday, December 6, 2006
                                            -6-
                              Joachim’s Lament
        Anna and I worry so these days. It has been two weeks since Mary left with Joseph,
 going to Bethlehem. It is a difficult journey under the best of circumstances. However, with
 Mary so far along in her pregnancy, it seemed almost impossible. We wished that she
 would not go. She insisted that she must.
        Joseph has a small business as a carpenter, so had little money. What he had, he
 would need for food and shelter along the way. So we bought a little donkey for Mary. I
 can only imagine how rough a ride that must be, but far better than having Mary walk all
 that way.
        She is our only child—a beautiful woman/child. She is barely 16 and yet very
 certain in her ways. When she came to us and told us that she was pregnant, we did not
 wait to hear how or why. Immediately we told her of the shame she was bringing on the
 family, that Joseph was too old for her and was not worthy of her since he had taken
 advantage of her. Anna vowed that she would never leave the house again, for she could
 not face the neighbors. Finally, when we ran out of rants, Mary explained what had
 happened to her at the well--the story of the Angel and of the promise that she would
 bear the Messiah.
        It was still almost too much to believe, until Joseph came. He too had had great
 difficulty in believing the story. Every one in town knew that Mary adored him, that she
 spent her idle moments in his carpenter shop and had since childhood. When he told us of
 the dream that he had had, we too believed; however, it was hard.
        To save Mary, and also ourselves, shame, we sent Mary to visit her cousin
 Elizabeth, who was also with child. She stayed there until Joseph sent her a message that
 he had to go to Bethlehem for a census. The Romans were jerking us all around. Mary
 could not stay behind since she was carrying a baby every one believed was Joseph’s.
        The days creep by. We have little hope of hearing from them. Perhaps they will
 have met a caravan coming this way and sent a message back. That, though, is a forlorn
 hope. How is our little girl? Is she a mother yet? Have they made the trip in safety?
 Will we ever know?

 --David Polhemus




Thursday, December 7, 2006


                                              -7-
                             Following Others

The first two to make the journey we are considering were Joseph and Mary and the
unborn child, Jesus. Perhaps we could assume that the shepherds in the field were the
ones who went immediately to see this Babe who, the angel told them, was born in a
manger in Bethlehem. They hastened to see Him for themselves and left to spread the
word of his Holy Birth. The next ones of note were probably the Three Wise Men who
had seen His star in the east and bearing gifts went to see Him. These were all first-hand
encounters.

We can only guess at how many days the journey took each of them. But Advent grants
us the luxury of forty days to make our journey. Contemplating each day, as each one of
them probably did, we can sing “What Child is this, Who, laid to rest, on Mary‘s lap is
sleeping, Whom angels greet with anthems sweet, While shepherds watch are keeping?”

We can bring our own gifts to Him—praise, honor, glory, thanksgiving, faith, hope and
love, and a renewal each day of our commitment to Him who is the Way, the Truth and
the Life. Thanks be to God for the gift of His Son to us.

                                                                        --Margaret Hawley
                                                                          November 2006




                                                                 Friday, December 8, 2006


                                            -8-
                             Advent’s Travel
                        J OIN THE THRONG
                        O UR BATTLE SONG
                        U NNERVED WE GO
                        R IDING HIGH NOT LOW
                        N EAR A BROTHER
                        E QUAL- EACH OTHER
                        Y OU THEY AND ME
                        I NSTEP AS WE
                        N OTING THE NEEDS
                        G IVING THE SEEDS

                        T EMPLE TO FIND
                        O RACLE IN MIND

                        B IRTHDAY TO SEEK
                        E XPECTATIONS TO PEAK
                        T EMPER TO SKIP
                        H EAVEN TO SIP
                        L OVE TO THE END
                        E VILS TO MEND
                        H ALOS TO GROW
                        E NERGY TO SHOW
                        M IRACLES TO KNOW
 --Addison Hawley
 November 2006


Saturday, December 9, 2006
                                      -9-
                             Our Christmas Angel

        On October 19, 1989, our daughter gave birth to a baby boy named Ben. The
family was gathered for the joyous event. There was no reason to believe there would be
any problem with the baby or the birth.
        Much to our surprise, Ben was born with a rare genetic disorder. He was blind,
deaf, and had a heart defect. His hands and feet were deformed and he was unable to
suckle. It was a shock. It shook our faith and saddened us deeply.
        The doctors were certain Ben wouldn’t live very long, but the weeks went by and
Brenda took him home. She learned to feed him with a feeding tube, and she wore him in
a carrier around her body so he would have the comfort of her touch. Wayne and I
helped her as often as we could.
        The holiday season was fast approaching, and life was difficult, as Wayne and I
owned a retail gift shop and, of course, it was our busiest time of year. We just couldn’t
spend the time we should at the store, because we knew how much Brenda and her family
needed our support.
        Just when we were most frustrated, our prayers were answered. Our employees
volunteered extra hours, friends volunteered to work whenever needed, and even
customers offered their help in every way possible. We were able to spend time with Ben
and the rest of our family, knowing the business was being taken care of.
        On December 18, Ben left us to be with God. He died quietly at home in our living
room, with all of us around him.
        Later, after the funeral, when things calmed down, I realized what a very special
Christmas this had been. Material gifts were forgotten, work was unimportant, and the
true gifts of the season were presented to us. We experienced the true friendship, love
and caring of the people around us. We all became closer as we experienced Ben’s short
life. The true meaning of Christmas came to us through God’s gift to us – our Christmas
Angel, Ben.

                                                               --Sally and Wayne Valerius




                                                               Second Sunday of Advent
                                                             Sunday, December 10, 2006
                                           -10-
                                    BLESSED
 As we look over the past several months we reflect on how God has truly B-L-E-S-S-E-D
 our family.

 B – Behavioral problem in the family has ended.
 L – Love is given and received within home and church family.
 E – Eagerness to forgive and be forgiven for long ago incidents has been satisfied.
 S – Serious health matter resolved.
 S – Spiritual living in family is blossoming.
 E – Education participation and leadership is ongoing.
 D – Dedication to more study of the Word is bringing more knowledge of the Lord’s
     desires for our family.

 --Lyn & John Oldenkamp




Monday, December 11, 2006
                                                 -11-
                           The Time Has Come
 “When the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the
              law, to redeem those under the law . . .” Galatians 4:4

        The Apostle Paul said that! Paul, who persecuted Christians, was a party to murder,
overflowed with pride about his education and his position in the world. Paul said it,
because for him “the time had fully come” to be redeemed.
         Advent is a good time to ask again, what time is it?
         What time was it for Joseph? It was time to retreat from the humility of disgrace;
time to believe God, who said to him, “Do not be afraid, Joseph, it is time to renew your
dignity, time to forgive the one you suspect has betrayed you. It is time, Joseph, to take
hold of your life and be a blessing to your family, to your wife and her child. The time
has come, Joseph.”
         What time was it for Mary? It was time for Mary to grow up, to give up her
adolescent daydreams, to accept reality, to believe God when he said to her, “Do not be
afraid of the future, Mary. You will be blessed, and you will be a blessing.” The time had
come for Mary to believe her life was in God's care. No matter how bleak or fearful her
situation seemed to be, God had a plan for her and for His world. “Do not be afraid,
Mary…”
               What time was it for Zechariah and Elizabeth? The time had come to renew
their lives. They were good people, the Bible says, but their hopes and dreams were
unfulfilled. Life was slipping through their aging fingers, and they had not achieved their
goals. Then God came to Zechariah while he prayed in the Temple, and he was
overwhelmed. It was time for God to come into the lives of common people, and God
said, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer is heard.” The time had fully come for
them to play their part for God's plan in this world. They would become the parents of
John the Baptizer, the forerunner of Jesus, the promised return of Elijah. The time had
come for Elizabeth and Zechariah to find new purpose, new joy, and new hope for a
world that waited to hear Good News for a change.
        What time was it for the innkeeper? It was time for him to find compassion welling
up and overcoming the hassle of business. The time had come for the innkeeper to feel no
longer the burden of making a living, time to pause and ponder, time to find a new birth
of charity in his soul and give his warm stable to a needy family.




                                                                      (Continued on p. 13)


                                                               Tuesday, December 12, 2006


                                            -12-
       The Time Has Come (continued from p. 12)
        What time was it for the Shepherds? The time had fully come for them to discover
 they were somebody important to God, shepherds who were the lowest class in their
 society, ridiculed, impoverished, condemned to boring, and fruitless routines. It was time
 to discover how the Almighty God of the stars knows each sheep by name, each shepherd
 intimately. It was time to glorify the God who had ordained them to protect these weak
 creatures given into their care. It was time to know that God was with them 24/7, in their
 labor, in their homes, in their sorrows and losses, in their humble celebrations. The time
 had come for humble people to return to their old jobs like new persons, “glorifying &
 praising God for all they had heard and seen…”
         What time was it for Anna and Simeon, in their very old age? The time had come
 for them to believe God was answering their prayers for the redemption of the world. It
 was time to give up the fear and cynicism that had crept into their lives. The time had
 come that they could depart in peace, according to God's word: for their eyes had seen
 the salvation which God had prepared for all peoples.
        What time was it for Wise Men? They had served the Empire of Persia, advising
 governors, yet where was it leading? The old answers were not working. The astrologers
 scanned the sky, hoping for hope in the heavenly signs. And then it was there! The time
 had fully come for Wise Men to search for a new king, a new loyalty, for new answers to
 old questions, and new purpose for living.
        What time was it for Herod? He did not know how to read the times, but the time
 had fully come. The time had come for him to be responsible for his deeds of inhumanity.
 He didn’t know it, but he was defeated. Murder, greed, violence and selfish lust still
 dominated his life, he still schemed to oppose God, but the time had come. Change had
 begun. Herod's day was winding down.
         And what time is it for you and me? When is the time fully come for us? Has it
 come; will it come?

                                                                              --Stan Brown
                               Wednesday, December 6, 2006




Tuesday, December 12, 2006

                                            -13-
                     Journeying to Bethlehem

     My memory of the quiet of a starlit night in a field near Bethlehem many years
ago brings back the true meaning of Christmas.

       In 1952, I joined my parents for a journey by car from Amman, Jordan to
Bethlehem at Christmas time. We joined the parade of other pilgrims in the crowded
streets. No room in the Inn then. We toured the Church of the Nativity and marveled at
the sight of a humble stable, now made so ornate and listened to the chants of the
Orthodox priests. Following a group, we walked to the “Shepherds Field,” a nearby field
which could have been where the shepherds were tending their flocks. It was simple, quiet
and meaningful.

      Such a place, this Bethlehem, where a child was born whose life changed the world
as we know it.


--Lois Gunther




                                                          Wednesday, December 13, 2006


                                           -14-
                                     The Dash
        Journeying to Bethlehem is our theme for this year.
        We all take journeys in our life, we have many milestones we pass and many lives
 we affected.
        When a loved one passes to the great beyond, the notice is always inscribed on
 the headstone: 1941 – 2006—important dates but the most important is the dash
 between the years.
        What did we accomplish between these years? We were educated, fell in love,
 raised a family and became Christians. We thank God for the many blessings of our life
 and the opportunities to serve our fellow man.
        Jesus only had 33 years on this earth. What he accomplished in those years with his
 dash and journey is beyond our comprehension. His dash is the hallmark of humanity and
 the beacon of our lives. It shines brightly, lighting our path to righteousness and
 redemption.
        Those of us reading this are in our own dash period and should contemplate our
 lives and what we have accomplished and what more can we accomplish in service to
 God and others.
        We are in our own journey—make the best of it. Leave your footprints on the
 sands of time and when your journey is done and the hour of death is upon you, Jesus will
 say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

                                                                      --Gene Shaffer, Ph.D.




Thursday December 14, 2006

                                            -15-
                          Good Samaritan Paul

      We all know about Paul the evangelist. There is also Paul the Good Samaritan.
       My wife Pat and I were making the 235 mile trip from Bismarck, North Dakota to
Sidney, Montana on a Christmas Eve with the temperature minus 20-something. At the
half-way point, the alternator on the car went into cardiac arrest! We were able to limp
into Belfield around 10:30 a.m.
       We found the NAPA auto parts store open and Paul was on duty, but planned to
close at noon. He tried to repair the offending part but was unsuccessful. Not to be
stymied in his efforts, he called a friend in Dickinson 20 miles away. The friend had the
part and agreed to be available until Paul could get there. Paul drove and we waited.
Part in hand, our friend began the reconstruction and had us on the way by 2:00 p.m.
       We thanked Paul profusely for his beyond-the-call-of-duty service (and gave him
a bit of an extra Christmas present). He said that he just couldn’t refuse to help a couple
of grandparents with a car full of Christmas presents!
      The rejuvenated automobile pulled into Sidney just in time for us to unload the
handbells onto the tables our daughter Jeanne had set up at the church and Pat was able
to play the scheduled solo for the Christmas Eve Service.
        There are many joyless endings that we can think of that might have occurred had
it not been for Paul the Good Samaritan!
--Dick Unkenholz




                                                                   Friday, December 15, 2006



                                            -16-
                                     The Flame

 “Someday, after harnessing space, the winds, the tides, and gravity, we shall harness for
 God the energies of love. And then for the second time in the history of the world, we will
 have discovered fire.”
                                                                    Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
 Teilhard de Chardin, Pierre, in “The Evolution of Chastity” in Toward the Future, Peking,
 February, 1934, London: Collins, 1975, 86-87.


 We search, we seek, we long to possess,
      Thinking that what we seek, what we find will satisfy.
 When our seeking is outside ourselves, we quickly become dissatisfied.
 When our longing is for others and things, we quickly loose our way.

 When we abandon the desire to be satisfied, we are satisfied.
 When we abandon the longing for what is outside ourselves, we find that all is inside.
 When we abandon the ego, we are more ourselves than we ever imagined we could be;

 And the flame grows stronger and brighter and all encompassing;
       And we find love.


                                                                       --Joseph Piccari, Ph.D.




Saturday, December 16, 2006

                                             -17-
                      Silent Night – Holy Night

It was Sunday morning, and my birthday. We had planned to attend church, and then
take a dear friend with us out for breakfast to celebrate my special day. The alarm rang
but my husband didn’t shut it quickly, as he usually did. I ran over to his side of the bed
and to my horror realized Jim was not breathing. I screamed at our daughter to call 911
and then help me with CPR. The ambulance arrived within minutes, and as they wheeled
the stretcher out, I saw Jim’s arm fall down. Then I knew he was gone.

How could God take my husband from me on my birthday? Who could celebrate
Christmas in five days with the death of a loved one? I prayed to God to give me the
strength to endure the next few days and to make necessary decisions.

We buried Jim on Christmas Eve day in our hometown. It had always been are tradition
to attend Christmas Eve service in the church we were married in, if we were home for the
holidays. I felt it was where I belonged this night.

Friends waved at me as we sat in the church, and I looked at my family sitting beside me.
I knew I had all the love and support one could ask for. God had answered my prayers,
this was my strength. I felt God had put his arm around me to comfort me. A silent but
holy night gave me peace in my sadness.

--Mary Jan Sprain




                                                                    Third Sunday of Advent
                                                                Sunday, December 17, 2006
                                            -18-
                             Maundy Thursday
       Back around the age of 7 or 8, I attended a Maundy Thursday (Holy Thursday)
service at my church in Sugar Land, Texas. Since I was very young, it was not my personal
choice to go. Instead, it was because of my mother that I attended.

       I was a good little boy, so I was quiet throughout the service and paid attention for
the most part. In the service, there were twelve candles, each one representing a disciple
of Jesus. As the story was told of Jesus’ arrest and persecution, the candles were
extinguished one by one, as each of His disciples deserted Him. Finally, the last candle
was extinguished as Jesus was completely abandoned. I remember that I began to tear
up and then began to cry, as I discovered that the good man Jesus that I had heard so
much about in Sunday School had been left alone with the evil people.

       It was at this moment that I realized exactly what my Lord had done for me. I
realized that He had sent His Son to suffer torture and humiliation on the cross so that I
could have another chance to enter into eternal life with Him instead of eternal suffering
for my sins.

      As we begin our Journey to Bethlehem, know that approximately 2000 years ago
God was at the very beginning of His Journey to the Cross. He had one goal and one
goal only in mind: He was going to save His children no matter what. There was no cost
that He wouldn’t pay so we could be His family with Him for all eternity in heaven.

       God has given us the greatest gift ever, and we are called to be Christ’s hands
and feet in the world for Him. Let us never forget that God sacrificed all for us, and so
we are in turn called to make our own sacrifices for others when they need our help. God
loves every soul that has ever been created and gave His Gift to each and everyone
freely. Let us do the same this Advent season and for all the seasons.

                                                                        --Robert Law Wiser




                               Monday, December 18, 2006


                                            -19-
                       The Christmas Field Trip
        The children at church had spent a lot of time carefully constructing Christmas cards
for the visit to a care center. They cut pictures from old cards, glued them onto pages of
construction paper, and folded them in half, so they could stand up. Multi-colored stars,
snowflakes and glitter enhanced the projects and the children signed their names with
felt-tipped pens.
        A few years earlier, my mother spent the last year of her life in a nursing home. It
had taken a long time to sort through and part with her possessions. My parents were
survivors of the Depression of 1929 and had experienced shortages and rationing during
WW2. Our family kept everything and anything that wasn’t hopelessly broken. The stars,
snowflakes and glitter that decorated the children’s cards had been found in my parents
old desk among dried-out rubber bands and half-used pencils. The felt-tipped pens and
glue were the only association with the last quarter century.
        Shortly before the field trip I sorted the last shoe box of my mother’s collection. It
contained lengths of smudged ribbons from my “pigtailed” years and metal hair curlers
with bits of rubber on the ends. My heart was surprised by finding a chalky-blue
Christmas light bulb that had become badly scratched. I began remembering the
Christmas tree of my childhood in the 1950s. The lead tinsel icicles were saved yearly by
hanging them on wire clothes hangers for storage. The silvery tinsel created a lovely
mirrored reflection for the lights. The strands of old lights were bandaged with black
tape to patch exposed wiring. Some of the original bubble lamps sputtered and gurgled,
and others lit up but produced no bubbles. Green, red, white, blue and gold bulbs shone
both brightly and dimly, only replaced if they were beyond reviving. My eyes would be
drawn to the chalky-blue scratched one as it glared too harshly through its unpainted
splotches. It seemed ugly among its fellow light bulbs. One Christmas it must have been
removed from its strand and saved to buy an exact-sized replacement.
        The night of the field trip arrived and the children gathered for preparation. They
watched as I plugged in a bright pretty bulb. I told them that some of the residents in the
care center would be like that bulb. I warned them that they would be seeing people who
would look very old to them, but their eyes might still be bright. The children showed
great interest as I showed them the old scratched blue bulb from my childhood. I told
them that some of the residents may be covered with blotches and wrinkles and some
may be too tired to smile at all. The children yelled with delight when I turned the old
bulb on. They were astonished that it could still light up. I reminded them that no matter
how scratched and dull the residents might appear, that they still had life and that their
lights still shone.
                                                                      (Continued on page 21)


                                                               Tuesday, December 19, 2006

                                             -20-
           The Christmas Field Trip (continued)

        The children sang at the care center and randomly handed out their sparkling
 cards. Most of the residents sat up in wheelchairs and responded to the children. Four-
 year-old Joseph had not found a suitable recipient for his card. In room after room
 Joseph carefully considered each resident. The light was off and a privacy curtain was
 partially closed at the far end of a two-bed room. Joseph bravely walked past the
 curtain to check out the person lying in bed. An ancient woman lay motionless and half
 comatose. Joseph never hesitated, but gently, tried to give his beautiful card to her. The
 Ancient One did not seem to hear or to see the child at all. The old fingers did not moved
 and the card slipped to the floor. Joseph retrieved it and set the card up on the bed
 table softly said, “I’ll just put this here for when you wake up. Then you can read it.” His
 clear youthful eyes were bright with satisfaction as he turned to me to leave the room.
        The town of Bethlehem came into my thoughts. God’s Son was born in a cave or
 stable. The Ancient One’s corner of the room looked cave like in the dimmed light and
 partly drawn curtain. The Holy Infant was in a strange place, far from home. The Ancient
 One was in a strange room, far from the home of her memories.
        The Newborn Baby lay in an unknown bed. The Ancient One lay in an unfamiliar
 bed. Baby Jesus’ tiny nose was filled with pungencies of the barn animals. The Ancient
 One’s sense of smell had at times reeled from her surroundings.
        Had the Wise Men found the young toddler Jesus very responsive? Could he have
 been napping or busy in play? The Wise Men were led to give their gifts to the Right
 Recipient. Little Joseph searched and searched for the Right Recipient for his gift. May I
 be willing to be led to the Right Recipient to help deliver gifts of love and Grace that
 come from Our Saviour.

                                                                          -- Marianna Waak




Tuesday, December 19, 2006
                                             -21-
                     Journeying to Bethlehem

      It certainly helps to have a compass while on a journey; a guide to lead us in the
right direction. During the Advent season, we make the journey once again to
Bethlehem.
      In Stephen Ministry, we use the Caregivers Compass. The Greek symbol for Christ
is at the center, with four points surrounding it, describing the characteristics of a
caregiver: Compassionate (notice the word “compass” in the word compassionate), Full
of Faith; Skilled and Trustworthy.
      I visit a lady regularly who touches my heart. She and her husband were married
for many years and he died rather suddenly. She looks at me with tears in her eyes
and says, “I just feel so lost.” She is in the middle of her grief. I can lovingly offer her
my care giving AND we know that God is her one true guide…her compass.
      “You may tell the next generation that this is God, Our God forever and ever. He
will be our guide forever.” (Psalm 48:13-13).
      God’s guidance is our spiritual compass. Our lives are full of possibilities and
experiences at every turn. When we come to a turning point, we look to God for the
direction we are to take. We pray, we watch, we listen, knowing that God’s guidance
is always with us.
      “You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me with honor.”
(Psalm 73:24).
      Thank you, dear God, for being our constant guide and compass as we make the
journey to Bethlehem.

--Leigh Downing




                                                          Wednesday, December 20, 2006
                                            -22-
                           Journey to Bethlehem
        Some years ago, I was responsible for creating the document that would serve as
 guide for the mission of the school district that I served. In the course of considering what
 should be included, I remembered having encountered a question posed by one of my
 educator-heroes. The question was posed in the form of a statement: “Not only what
 they should learn, but what persons should they be.”
        My journey to Bethlehem has been long—I can’t say it has been arduous. But
 many aspects of the journey are common to all of us. I went to Sunday School and the
 church. I memorized the books of the Bible in order; I’ve always loved music and I still
 remember the words to some hymns that became favorites: I leaned the Nicene Creed
 (today, I prefer the Korean Creed); and I memorized verses from the Bible that children
 and young people learn to this day.
        But I’m not sure how much these learnings shaped the person I should be. Thank
 goodness the journey is always available to us regardless of age. I’m also grateful for
 the fact that Prescott United Methodist Church continues to offer opportunities for us to
 continue the journey. My experience has been that these pieces of the journey have
 allowed me to question and grow in my understanding of the person God would have
 me be.
        Presently I am studying the Minor Prophets with Kay Price. My having learned the
 books of the Bible in order still comes in handy. But the messages of God through His
 prophets—Hosea, Joel, Amos—are what have become important. In the social-political-
 economic context of those days, God was concerned about the oppression of the poor
 that was prevalent even in good times; concerned about righteousness, about mercy,
 about justice. Too, he calls us to walk with God without arrogance and feelings of self-
 righteousness.
        What can these wonderful commandments mean today? What are our
 responsibilities as individuals and as members of our community, nation and state to put
 our faith into practice? How can we focus on being those people God would have us be?
        I’ll probably never make it all the way to Bethlehem, but the journey is turning out
 to be a good one.

                                                                                --Ben Furlong




Thursday, December 21, 2006


                                              -23-
                            Advent with Shep
       My teen years were filled with music…high school band and glee club, plus
singing in my church choir. Advent season was a busy time for the church choir as we
prepared the Christmas music plus rehearsals for the Christmas Eve pageant.
       The Pageant was the highlight of the year in our lovely old granite-stone church in
my New England hometown. Among the local people who portrayed the individuals in
the play were our mailman and his faithful shepherd dog.
       In the darkened church, lighted only by candles, the shepherds, Wise Men, Mary
and Joseph proceeded one by one down the aisle to the beautiful manger in front of the
altar, with the choir singing the lovely Christmas hymns.
       And there was Shep, year after year, quietly following his master to view the
Christ Child. From my choir seat I observed him sitting and watching over the live baby in
the crib during the service.
       Was it love, loyalty or perhaps the joy of serving, as he quietly kept his watch on
Christmas Eve?
       I graduated from high school in that New England town, Bennington, Vermont, and
left my home and my church for higher education and marriage, never to return to that
beloved Christmas pageant. Shep was my “Journey to Bethlehem” in those WWII was
years. He conveyed to me the way to a blessed Christmas year after year.

--Audrey Covello




                                                               Friday, December 22, 2006

                                            -24-
                                 The Invitation
 Any journey is more pleasant
 If good company we would seek.
 Whether star-led to His Manger
 Or prayer-led to His Cross
 Special needs are waiting
 As we quest to serve the Lord.

 Whether we travel the Bethlehem path
 Or the long Jerusalem road
 Thirty and three times farther,
 It’s a long way alone to go.
 So will you not come a-journeying
 To serve the many in need
 Along together with me?

 This journey is so very special –
 That of a lifetime we would keep.
 It may be to the lonely, the frail, the ill,
 The young who have lost their way,
 The discouraged, imprisoned, downtrodden,
 The persecuted unable to pray . . .

 On this mission of love to share
 To some we have never known
 There will no doubt be much sadness
 But God has assured much gladness too.
 It’s a long way alone to go
 --So please come and take my hand
 And let’s journey together,
 You and I.

                                                   --Virginia Williams




Saturday, December 23, 2006



                                            -25-
                        A Sentimental Journey
      What does it mean for us in this 21st century to journey to Bethlehem?

       For some people it has meant, quite literally, to take a “sentimental journey” to the
Holy Land as tourists and to visit that place where supposedly Jesus was born. It has
meant to follow in the footsteps of shepherds and wise men of old whom, we assume, also
quite literally journeyed to Bethlehem to visit the baby Jesus who later grew up to
become the one we know as Christ.

       For poet T.S. Eliot, however, going to Bethlehem was, is and ever will be anything
but a “sentimental journey.” In his poem, “The Journey of the Magi,” written about three
quarters of a century ago, he sees going to Bethlehem through the lens of the crucifixion
and as a metaphor of our journey and destiny as human beings in the presence of that
mystery we call God. The journey is seldom “nice” as we are wont to have it, but is
always a difficult challenge as we face an unknown, uncertain and insecure future. Eliot
begins with having the Magi report:

             “A cold coming we had of it,
             Just the worst time of the year
             For a journey and such a long journey,
             The ways deep and the weather sharp,
             The very dead of winter…”

       Then, after having arrived in Bethlehem, which turns out to be a not altogether
pleasant or satisfying experience, the Magi express their real concern regarding that
which they have witnessed in the birth of Jesus: “…were we led all that way for

             Birth or Death? There was a birth, certainly,
             We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
             But had thought they were different; this Birth was
             Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our Death.
             We returned to our places, these Kingdoms.
             But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
             With an alien people clutching their gods.
             I should be glad of another death.”


                                                                   (Continued on page 27)

                                                                    Fourth Sunday of Advent
                                                                 Sunday, December 24, 2006


                                            -26-
             A Sentimental Journey (Continued)

        In these words I believe Eliot is reminding us that in our journey to Bethlehem to
 witness the birth of Jesus, whom we call the “Christ” or “Messiah,” and through the
 transparency of whom the only God is revealed, we are not given the promise of a life of
 ease and plenty, but a challenge to our very existence as human beings. We can no
 longer live as though the world has been made for us and only us, but as followers of the
 one who gave himself for others, we too are to die in the giving of our lives for the sake
 of others in order to give glory to God “in whom we live and move and have our being.”

        Our journey to Bethlehem, therefore, cannot be seen as simply a “sentimental
 journey” to the place of a past event, but must be seen as an always contemporary and
 timeless witness to that reality which transforms us from being mere creatures to becoming
 “children of God.” This is what it CAN mean for us, even today, to journey to Bethlehem.
 Shall WE go?

                                                                        Grace and Peace,

                                                                               -- Bob Fiske




Fourth Sunday of Advent
Sunday, December 24, 2006

                                            -27-
                         Journey to Bethlehem
        One of my professors said, “Christianity begins with Jesus’ question to Peter,
“Who do you say I am?” We hear Peter say, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living
God” (Matthew 16:13-20).
        I suspect that we all took this journey to Bethlehem, for we have already
answered the question with the same answer of Peter. We came for we knew that we
would find the presence of the Son of the living God in our midst.
        As we have listened to the sermon series, as we have read the many inspirational
reflections in this Advent Booklet, we see that there have been many different journeys
to the manger. There have been different routes taken for different reasons, but all with
the same hope and promise in mind. If we stay the course, God will break into our lives
and make God’s presence known in the life and person of Jesus the Messiah. We have
also seen that often it is God who takes the initiative to make all of this happen, just as
God took the initiative in Jesus’ first coming. So now that we are here, now that God has
reaffirmed God’s presence in our lives, what happens next?
        For me, it is the call to now begin a journey of grace. Saying yes to Jesus is
acknowledging who He is; it is even giving thanks to God for “so loving the world that
He sent His Son so the world may be saved through Him” (John 3:16-17). To be saved is
to be healed, to be made whole or, to continue to journey with Jesus to happiness,
holiness, and love.
        I wish you a Merry Christmas, for you have come to the manger, you have come
into the presence of the Messiah, and what joy we find in knowing God is with us. I also
wish you a Happy and Blessed New Year, for together we will walk with the Messiah
through the coming months as He seeks to bring salvation to our lives, holiness to our
spirits and peace to our world.
        Blessings to you all.

--Pastor George Cushman




                                                                            Christmas Day
                                                                Monday, December 25, 2006

                                            -28-
                    The Month before Christmas
‘Twas the month before Christmas at our church down on Gurley.
Things were hopping like crazy, it was all hurly-burly.
At the forefront, of course, were Nancy and George,
Prepping for Yuletide, now looming large.

There was plenty to do, not the least the greens hanging,
Plus choir practice, carols, and bells that were clanging.
We’re certainly blessed, folks, because of a tankful
Of outstanding people for whom to be thankful.

Examples? Let’s see, there’s Carole and Marty,
She directs choirs; he enlivens a party.
We have some fine people with the surnamc of Price,
Bill, Mildred, Jim, Kay, Paul, Lynne – supernice.

A couple of mainstays are Doug and Diane,
They reign supreme as the Iverson clan.
Doing their bit are Sam and Leigh Downing,
Eternally upbeat . . . you won’t see them frowning.

And then there’s Kay Finley, whom we all can thank
For trying to throttle that mischievous Frank.
Last, there’s my good friend, one Mary-Margaret,
Who’s up on Cloud Nine – her Dems hit the “targaret”*

I could ramble on with lots more good people
Who are doing great things ‘neath PUMC’s steeple?
But I must hurry on and head for the isthmus**
While wishing you all a quite merry Christmas!

                                                                               --Jerry Jackson
* “Targaret?” Blame it on poetic license.

** Let’s face it. This reference makes absolutely no sense, but nothing else rhymes with
Christmas, so please be gentle and try to understand.




                                             -29-

				
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