An Advent of Giving: December 1-9

Volume 1: December 1 – 15, 2018

This devotional contains readings, reflections, and prayers for a portion of the Advent season. We ask you to read the Scripture, meditate on the message, pray the prayer – and add a non-perishable food item to a box or bag. Bring them with you to worship the next Sunday. We will deliver them to the Food Basket.

If you are using this resource in some place and time that you cannot worship at Church of the Holy Cross, please bring your food gifts to a convenient hunger ministry.

Saturday, December 1

Psalm 25:4
Make me to know your ways, O Lord;
teach me your paths.

In our life’s journey, there are many advents – new things arise more quickly than we dare to realize. There are also many Advents, as each year brings this season to prepare for celebrating the gift of Jesus.

Both advents and Advents invite us to ask whether we continue to follow the ways of God. In this Advent devotional, we will focus on one steady feature of God’s highway, the direction to give. As you prepare this season’s gifts, think back: Can you even guess at how many times God has invited you to be generous?

Prayer:

O God, with this Advent we will journey a little further along your way, the way of faith, and love, and giving. Amen.

Now pray with a gift of food.

Sunday, December 2

1 Thessalonians 3:12
And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you.

What a curious blessing. Should not the Apostle Paul have written something like this: “May the Lord increase the love of others for you, just as we (Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy) abound in love for you”?

What kind of blessing is it to invite someone to love someone else?

Love, we know, is the most demanding obligation we ever take on. Love demands our patience. Love demands our time. Love demands our thinking. Love demands our money. Love demands our labor and our tears.

Yet that was the deepest, most meaningful benediction the apostle could offer. May the Lord increase your love.

Prayer:

O God, increase our love for one another and for all. With this new item in the basket, increase our love. Amen.

Now pray with a gift of food.

Monday, December 3

Numbers 17:5, 8
[God said to Moses,] “And the staff of the man whom I choose shall sprout; thus I will put a stop to the complaints of the Israelites that they continually make against you.” When Moses went into the tent of the covenant on the next day, the staff of Aaron for the house of Levi had sprouted. It put forth buds, produced blossoms, and bore ripe almonds.

Not once, but several times, Moses had to be told to let others take on some of the work. His father-in-law told him so. His brother Aaron told him so. In this passage, God told him so.

The result, sad to say, was not that people stopped complaining. That was too much to expect.

God hinted at the result, however, with the very sign that gave Aaron and his family leadership of worship. The staff budded, blossomed, and even bore edible almonds. It was a sign that there was more to share.

Moses gave away responsibility and authority. Aaron, in turn, shared increased blessings.

Prayer:

What power can I give to someone else, O God, that will help their work bear fruit? Amen.

Now pray with a gift of food.

Tuesday, December 4

Psalm 90:1
Lord, you have been our dwelling place
in all generations.
Before the mountains were brought forth,
or ever you had formed the earth and the world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

It must be nice to be God. Wouldn’t you think? Imagine being able to somehow appreciate the entire sweep of Creation, in all its infinity and infinite wonder. Imagine being able to sense the swaying movement of trees and grasses, to follow the flight of birds, to sense the prompting of human hearts.

God did not share that power with us. God did, however, give us the capacity for awe. What an extraordinary gift. We not only have a dwelling place, but we can appreciate its beauty. We can bask in its wonder.

What can you give that will stir wonder in someone else?

Prayer:

With each deed of love, O God, may I also renew my neighbor’s capacity for wonder. Amen.

Now pray with a gift of food.

Wednesday, December 5

Psalm 90:15-16
Make us glad as many days as you have afflicted us,
and as many years as we have seen evil.
Let your work be manifest to your servants,
and your glorious power to their children.

The author of Psalm 90 clearly lived in turbulent times. The song’s lament rises to God not just for the poet, but for all the people of the nation; not just for a perilous now, but for “as many years as we have seen evil.” May the future, the psalmist begs, be better for us and for our children.

The psalmist sought out the generous heart of God. God, we know, gave generous hearts to each one of us. That means that God’s work can be manifest to people in and through us. When we give, God gives. When God gives, we can be God’s hands.

Around us there are many people who feel as the psalmist felt, that God has afflicted them. They can tell stories of years of evil.

Let God’s work be manifest to them – in us. Let’s God’s glorious power be manifest to their children – again, in us.

Prayer:

Have compassion on your servants, O God, on us and on anyone who is troubled. Have compassion on your servants, O God, in us and through us. May we make manifest your glorious power to your children. Amen.

Now pray with a gift of food.

Thursday, December 6

Malachi 3:5
Then I will draw near to you for judgment; I will be swift to bear witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired workers in their wages, the widow and the orphan, against those who thrust aside the alien, and do not fear me, says the LORD of hosts.

God was not in a good mood while speaking to Malachi, no, not at all. God looked about the nation, and saw it filled with people selling magic (and defrauding them), people breaking their promises, people making promises they didn’t intend to keep, people underpaying their workers, and people ignoring the most vulnerable people in the society: widows, orphans, and residents from another land. And God saw that it was not very good.

The prophet became “my messenger” (that’s what “malachi” means in Hebrew) to summon the people to do better: speak truth, pay a living wage, care for the poor, and give justice to the stranger. God and Malachi alike intended to give a great gift to the people of Israel: a just, righteous, and joyful community.

How can we give that gift in our own place and time?

Prayer:

O God, as I give this item which will nourish a person, help me to know: What can I give that will nourish a community, a nation, a world? How may I be your messenger? Amen.

Now pray with a gift of food.

Friday, December 7

Malachi 3:14-15
[God said,] “You have said, ‘It is vain to serve God. What do we profit by keeping his command or by going about as mourners before the LORD of hosts? Now we count the arrogant happy; evildoers not only prosper, but when they put God to the test they escape.’”

Yes, here’s the question, isn’t it, as relevant to us as it was to those in Malachi’s day: When arrogance and evil bring success, why follow the ways of generosity and service? Why be openhearted when selfishness brings so much more?

Malachi’s answer – that God will (someday) reward the righteous and punish the unrighteous – both satisfies and disappoints. It’s pleasant to think that some day justice will come, but frustrating not to know when that will be. For that matter, it’s depressing that it’s not right now.

Yet it can be right now. We can choose to affirm those who give and critique those who take. We can cease to celebrate power for power’s sake, and honor goodness for goodness’ sake. That’s another gift we can give the world. Wouldn’t it be amazing if more and more of us gave it?

Prayer:

Help us give righteousness to the world, O God, by honoring those who follow your ways. Let us celebrate the givers, and emulate the givers, and increase the number of the givers. May it bring your day of righteousness soon! Amen.

Now pray with a gift of food.

Saturday, December 8

Luke 9:3-4
[Jesus] said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money – not even an extra tunic. Whatever house you enter, stay there, and leave from there.”

It sounds like an irresponsible way to do ministry, doesn’t it? It seems like the unwitting hosts were asked to bear the burden of the apostles’ visits. The first missionaries to Hawai’i blithely ignored Jesus’ directions, to the extent of packing an entire printing press into the hold of the Thaddeus in preparation for the 1820 arrival in the Hawaiian Islands. They also brought bags, money, and plenty of extra tunics.

Jesus knew, however, that with this instruction he gave his disciples the ability to offer two gifts. First, and most obviously, they brought with them the good news of God’s grace, and with it the healing power so desperately needed in the villages of Galilee.

And in accepting the hospitality of their hosts, they presented the second offering. “In accepting the gift, you honor the giver,” says writer Stephen R. Donaldson. We know the feeling of pleasure that rises from giving. When we let others give to us, the satisfaction goes to them.

Prayer:

O God, let me be as generous in accepting the gifts of others as I am in offering my own to them. Amen.

Now pray with a gift of food.

Sunday, December 9

Luke 1:78-79
By the tender mercy of our God,
the dawn from on high will break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.

Each morning, the dawn from on high breaks upon us. It’s a daily miracle comprised of more miracles than one can count: miracles of celestial mechanics, and of the interaction between light and water; miracles of retinal cells sending signals, and of brain cells assembling a picture; miracles of human understand and, for that matter of human life itself.

My Lord, what a morning.

Zechariah, however, dared to hope for a miracle beyond that of dawn itself. He dared to hope for a dawn that would guide fractured, fractious human beings into the ways of peace. He dared to hope for a dawn which would dispel the clouds of fear, domination, and violence.

My Lord, what a morning that would be.

He set his son John, to be known years later as “the Baptist,” on the road to proclaim that message of hope and peace. How can we proclaim and amplify that message in our day?

Prayer:

Send us the dawn, O God. Send us the dawn of peace. Send us as your messengers to proclaim peace. Send us as your laborers to build peace. Amen.

Now pray with a gift of food.

Categories Events | Tags: , , , | Posted on November 30, 2018

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