upper room daily devotions

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Advent Candle #2, 2008 - The Way

Since the Advent candles serve only to count down the weeks to Christmas, they can stand for any theme that a church would like to attribute to them. Historically, certain of the candles have been given certain names like The Prophets' Candle symbolizing hope, The Bethlehem Candle symbolizing humility, The Shepherds' Candle symbolizing joy, and the Angels' Candle symbolizing peace. However, any themes or no theme at all can be used. They can simply be lighted as part of the countdown to Christmas. After all, that was the purpose of the candles for Johann Hinrich Wichern (1808-1881)who popularized the use of them - to help young children know how close Christmas was getting! Have fun with them!

At the church I serve, we are are using these themes this year: Hope, The Way, Justice, Peace.

Here is our reading for Advent Candle #2 - The Way:

We light this candle in preparation for the coming of the Christ child. God sent the prophets to prepare the way for Jesus. John the Baptist cried out in the wilderness that a Messiah was coming. Christ is the embodiment of God's light, love, justice, and peace. We pray to walk in the way of Christ, shining with God's light, brimming with God's love, embodying God's justice, and establishing God's peace. Christ is coming. God's realm has begun. And we are God’s children who are told to prepare ourselves and who are invited to walk in the way of the Lord as we wait in hope for that glorious day.

Advent Candle #1, 2008

Last year I posted the readings that we used in worship during the lighting of the Advent candles. Many people have read those reflections, so I am posting this year's readings as well. They are very similar to last year, but with a few changes.

Here is the First Advent Candle - Hope
We light this candle in a spirit of hope. This Advent season we prepare our hearts for the coming of the Christ child and for God’s realm which he brings to us. In a world deeply divided and often arrested by fear, the promised coming of the Christ child, the breaking in of God’s realm, and the power of God to tear open the heavens to come to us bring us hope. Christ is coming. God’s realm has begun. And we are God’s children who are told to keep awake and who are invited to walk in the light of the Lord as we wait in hope for that glorious day.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Churches and the Economic Crisis

The effects of the financial crisis have begun to translate into real economic hardships for everyday folks. As the Dow slipped below 8,000 at today's close while the Senate refused to bail out the auto "Big Three," people far away from Wall Street are beginning to feel the ripple effects. Our churches are made up of the same hurting people as those that make up the rest of society. As the old song goes, "The church is not a building/The church is not a steeple/The church is not a resting place/The church is the people." People in our churches have begun to hurt. How will we respond and how will the hurt of our people affect our ability to help those beyond our church doors?

Every year the church that I serve donates animals through the Heifer Project. It's typical for us to raise 10, 11, 12 pigs (we always give pigs). I was concerned that this year we might not be able to raise quite as much as people nearing retirement feel cautious about their pensions, as people in retirement worry about rising prices, and as those in the earlier phases of life worry about job security. And yet, we raised enough for 16 pigs! I was surprised and impressed. However, that was a few months ago.

As Christmas nears and I hear more and more stories of hardship I do wonder how we will respond? How will we interpret what our baptismal vows demand of us? How are we to take care of one another? Will we allow ourselves to be vulnerable and open and accepting of care? Will we retreat and hold one another at bay?

People inside and outside of the church are feeling the hurt of our current economic crisis. I don't keep a log of the number of calls I receive for help, but I can say that I have received a marked increase in contacts from people seeking help. I hear reports of food banks are running dry. I also am aware that as the city of Seattle creates its budget for next year, it faces some difficult choices given the economic report of our area; Washington faces a $5 billion shortfall as lawmakers try to create two year budget. How do churches respond to the need of their city and also care for those in its covenant community?

Reuters has a video on how the crisis is affecting the ability of churches to maintain themselves.

These are big problems and many of us are in small churches. I am hoping that this will be a time of loaves and fishes; that God's abundance will find its way into our communities. If you have any ideas of how to offer care for one another as our neighbors lose jobs, file bankruptcy, or struggle to make ends meet, I would love to hear them. I am also interested in knowing if your communities are doing anything differently in the running of your congregations in order to stretch the dollars that you do receive for ministry.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Tracing Today's Election

Today the US hosts an historical presidential election. A filibuster-proof Senate and control of Congress also hang in the balance. State and local elections also take place. Please VOTE!

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