Last fall when United Methodist Women made the decision to open the Sharing Shop, it was to be a temporary mission project. Opening for about three months before Christmas would give those in need, the opportunity to “shop” for items that were necessities or perhaps do a little shopping for presents. Over a year later, we are still in business and I have loved getting to know the people who come through the doors: Betty and Avis and Tony and many, many others.
In the beginning, I believed that we would offer donated items, people would be grateful, and we would feel good about ourselves and our mission work. I have been deeply affected by my interactions with the people we are serving, and I am the one who is grateful for the opportunity to get to know and to serve these individuals. The blessings I have received are too many to count. I believe that God calls each one of us to walk in ministry with the poor, the marginalized, the forgotten. And sometimes we must be brave and courageous and be willing to step outside of our comfort zone when we listen to God’s call.
I believe we are called in the Sharing Shop to be the hands, the feet, the voice of Christ – and these take determination, commitment, love and a willingness to see the world through the eyes of others. I have been touched and humbled by my time in the Sharing Shop. This Advent, the belief that Jesus came for ALL of us will be more real to me than ever before.
Prayer: Father, help us to remember that we are all called to action and that no kind deed is ever too small or too insignificant. Bless all those who enter our lives. Bless our actions to reflect the love and compassion that lies in each of our hearts. Amen.
-Pat Bellingrath From the Church Street Advent Devotion Book, 2013
This summer one of my dear friends gave up her heroic battle with cancer. About five years ago she got the diagnosis - breast cancer. With her usual investigative nature, she researched all about it, questioned the doctors at length, underwent treatment and hoped for the ‘magic bullet.’ For about three years all the tests were good…then cancer returned with a vengeance, metastasizing to other parts of her body. For two years different chemotherapies, surgery, etc., were tried but nothing held the cancer at bay. Throughout all of this she kept her strong faith intact. For her Celebration of Life service, the family included one of her favorite sayings of comfort throughout this ordeal…”Little Flower, in this hour, show your power” (St.Therese of Lisieux).
In the Spring, we see the power of little bulbs. As the sun warms the soil, green shoots emerge from the tiniest of bulbs and burst into bloom. So often our busy lives prevent us from stopping to enjoy this power. Likewise, we fail to stop and appreciate God’s creation. Spending time each day reading the Bible, talking with God and being grateful for His creation will enrich one’s life. Another enriching experience is to create a ‘Gratitude Journal.’ Every day, write a word, sentence, or paragraph of what you are grateful for that particular day. It will enrich your life. And the next time you see a blossom, think about the power involved in producing that lovely item…God’s power.
Prayer: Creator God, thank you for the beautiful world you have created and that we enjoy. Help us to be mindful of your plan for our lives and the promise you have given us to be with you forever. Amen.
-Betty Craig From the Church Street Advent Devotion Book, 2013
Tonight we continued a wonderful Church Street tradition - the annual Christmas Pageant. We started the evening in Parish Hall with dinner and Christmas carols. After dinner, we made our way upstairs where everyone was able to dress up for the pageant. Some chose to be angels while others were shepherds and wise persons. We gathered in the Nave where our storyteller began the Christmas story.
He started with the shepherds, resting on a hillside.
Then he told of the angels and their good news. We had a lot of angels tonight. Definitely a multitude of the heavenly hosts! They brought news of a very special baby's birth.
Then a star was spotted and wise persons came to the stable where Jesus was born!
Thank you to everyone who participated in tonight's pageant. We appreciate those of you who helped prepare dinner and serve our guests. It was such a special night as we shared the Christmas story in a most unique way!
Every year during the second week of Advent, Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptizer, returns complete with funny clothes, weird diet, crazy hair and his loud disregard for manners. He is the member of the family who we might wish would have his own table at Christmas dinner. He is the one who makes all the kids giggle, either that or he scares them half to death. Yet, as odd as this member of the family is, John the Baptizer is ours. He’s dedicated and his message is one we need to hear. He was wild in appearance and demeanor but he prepared countless people to receive Jesus when our Savior’s ministry began. He set up shop by the Jordan River and preached and prepared people to serve Jesus by baptizing them in the river. He didn’t care about appearances. He cared about getting the message of Jesus out for all to hear.
During the season of Advent, it’s good to remember the message of Jesus’ cousin. We are preparing to remember the birth of our Savior and what that means for the world. As we prepare, it is appropriate to remember that we are baptized by the One who baptizes with the Holy Spirit and fire. John didn’t take his ministry lightly. He went into the world and told any who would listen that the world was about to change forever because of the one who was coming. We are baptized into that same ministry. We may not wear camel’s hair, eat bugs, and we might take the time to fix our hair. Yet, in our baptisms we are given the power of the Holy Spirit, and we should feel the power of God’s fire within us to tell the world that one is born among us who changed the world for the better forever. We should feel the power of God to live a better life and to tell any who will hear that one more powerful than we are is coming.
Prayer: Dear Lord, during the is busy season, remind us to stop and give thanks for our awkward cousin. Help us not to worry so much about appearances and parties. Help us instead to worry about how well we are witnessing to the fact that the baby we are about to celebrate changed the world for the better. Thank God for our awkward cousin and his willingness to speak up for the Good News that Christ is among us! This Advent may we be more like Cousin John. Amen.
Gabriel’s message to Mary was truly amazing! “Peace be with you. God loves you and has a special purpose for you. Do not be afraid, and do not doubt. With God, all things are possible.” These were simple, but very powerful words. Mary’s response was equally amazing. This young woman, confronted with God’s call to sacrifice her life and reputation, says simply: “I am God’s servant. Let His will be done.”
Some of us might wonder, “How would I have responded if I were Mary?” But the question ought to be more personal than that. You see, God has the same message for us today:
You are favored by God. So, do not be afraid of anything. God wants to use you in His mission to effect the salvation of mankind. You will be the point through which God’s light will enter into the darkness of this world. Don’t ask how you can do this thing. Just know that with God, anything and everything is possible.
Can you hear God’s whisper in your heart? Are you ready this Christmas to surrender yourself to God’s will even though it may require great risk? Are we ready to be the point through which God enters this world?
Prayer: Lord, you call to us to lay down our lives. Teach us to say: “I am your servant, may Your will be done.” Give us faith to know that with you, anything is possible. And then, prove our faith by giving us something impossible to do. Amen.
-Monty Walton From the Church Street Advent Devotion Book, 2013
This year’s Christmas Pageant will be held on Sunday, December 8, from 5:30-7 p.m. We will begin in Parish Hall with a light meal and then progress to the Nave for a unique Christmas Pageant where everyone can participate. We hope you'll join us for this event as we celebrate the Christmas story in a very special way.
Being Christians, it would be safe to say that our lives would be very different if the birth of Jesus had not occurred. There would be no stories of shepherds in the fields, angels singing, or Wise Men. There would be no characters named Mary, Joseph, and Jesus. Even though the events related in Scripture had been prophesied and there shouldn’t have been any big surprises, people’s lives were radically changed forever.
So, we celebrate the birth of Christ in our modern traditions. Perhaps some of us expect the same events, ceremonies, and traditions every year, and are upset when things don’t go as they always have. What happens when our lives radically change and suddenly our plans are turned upside down? Do we get angry because family groups make other plans, dinner is scheduled for a different time, somebody brings up the idea to just draw names? Those are times when perhaps we should recall this beautiful story of celebrating because a little baby was born who would save us all. And really, how much planning is needed for a celebration like that?
Prayer: Dear God, thank you for your Son, Jesus. Celebrating his birth takes many forms, but we pray that we can remember to focus on what a gift he is to the world. We love You and Jesus. Amen. -Judy Grubb From the Church Street Advent Devotion Book, 2013