An Advent of Giving: December 10 – 16

Volume 2: December 10 – 16, 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.

Monday, December 10

Isaiah 40:10-11a
See, the Lord God comes with might,
and his arm rules for him;
his reward is with him,
and his recompense before him.
He will feed his flock like a shepherd;
he will gather the lambs in his arms.

“Oh, oh. Be careful around Mom. She’s really mad. At you.”

Is there any child who hasn’t heard this warning – if not about Mom, then about some parental figure in their life – at least once? The terrors of parental/grandparental/avuncular wrath usually become the kernel of nostalgic stories, repeated over and over again with longing and affection.

They’re repeated with affection because the surprising (and unsurprising) end of these stories is usually loving and gracious. The wrath of Mother/Father/Grandfather/Aunt turns to warmth and forgiveness. The thunder gives way to sunlight. The child learns something. The child may learn with tears of relief, or of regret, or of apology, but not with tears of suffering.

It’s so common that when it doesn’t happen, we call it child abuse and neglect.

Why can’t we do this in other spheres of life? Why can’t we bring, not our anger, but our affection? Why can’t we feed our flocks like shepherds, and gather lambs in our arms?

Because we can. We can do it. Let’s do it.

Prayer:

Let our gift today be our affection, O God, a love that can dampen our anger, and turn our power to peace. Amen.

Now pray with a gift of food.

Tuesday, December 11

Isaiah 19:24-25
On that day Israel will be the third with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth, whom the LORD of hosts has blessed, saying, “Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel my heritage.”

Isaiah must have been shocked. “Egypt my people”? “Assyria the work of my hands”? “Israel my heritage”?

During Isaiah’s lifetime, all those nations were, at one time or another, enemies of his own country, Judah. Neighboring Israel invaded Judah, and so did the mighty Assyrian Empire – after conquering Israel completely. Egypt was at times a hovering threat and at others an uncertain ally.

Yet here, God declares that all four nations – Egypt, Assyria, Israel, and Isaiah’s own Judah – live in God’s love and blessing. Enmity overthrown. Hatred discarded. Peace declared.

God’s gift to the Chosen People was to choose other people, too.

Prayer:

O God, expand our chosen people. May we see in each stranger your people, your heritage, the work of your hands. Let not our shock impair our love. Amen.

Now pray with a gift of food.

Wednesday, December 12

Luke 7:28
[Jesus said,] “I tell you, among those born of women no one is greater than John; yet the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.”

What is the true worth of any person?

If you go by the resale value of the human body’s component elements, it’s just a dollar – truly the whole is far greater than the sum of its parts. Jesus, however, looked straight at the value of the human soul, and whether one soul was worth more than another.

Yes, indeed, he said, John the Baptist is greater than anyone – except that everyone is greater than he.

In the paradox is the truth: every human being is worth so much to Jesus, and to God, as to make comparison impossible. Which means the greatest gift you can give today is to tell someone just how much they are loved.

Let that join the noodles in your giving bag.

Prayer:

Thank you, God, for loving us so greatly. Thank you for telling us so. May we love so well as you. May we start by telling someone else how much they are worth. Amen.

Now pray with a gift of food.

Thursday, December 13

2 Corinthians 8:3-4
For, as I can testify, [the church of Macedonia] voluntarily gave according to their means, and even beyond their means, begging us earnestly for the privilege of sharing in this ministry to the saints.

Begging to give? When was the last time you begged someone to let you give?

It was at a restaurant, wasn’t it? When the bill arrived? Did you offer to give according to your means (and your share) or did you urge the others to let you pay the entire tab?

So yes, we know what it is to beg to give.

Today, there’s no need to beg. You can do it. The grocery bag awaits.

You privilege of sharing in this ministry is yours.

Prayer:

Let us share in your ministries, O God, with all the saints. Let us have the means, and let us have the drive. We would excel in generous undertakings. Amen.

Now pray with a gift of food.

Friday, December 14

2 Corinthians 9:7
Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

Wait, what? Not only do I have to give (I’m taking those words about compulsion with a grain of salt), I have to do it cheerfully?

Right. Like that’s going to happen.

Well, it might.

Paul’s point was not to put some kind of control on your emotions, which rarely works, but to test your feelings as you make decisions about your giving. We usually manage to avoid gifts that are too great, gifts that will strain our ability to survive. Paul urged his readers in Corinth to avoid a gift that was too small, a gift that would make them feel like they had done less than they could, a gift that left them feeling selfish, a gift that told them they did not love.

Give, he told them, until the gift it large enough that it cheers your spirit.

That’s what God loves: a cheerful soul.

Prayer:

What will be enough, O God, to brighten my spirit? What shall I share to widen my smile? Amen.

Now pray with a gift of food.

Saturday, December 15

Isaiah 12:3
With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.

Human living is filled with tiny moments of salvation. Every time we satisfy our hunger pangs with a meal: that is a moment of salvation. Every time we catch our toe but catch ourselves before we fall: that is a moment of salvation. Every time we refresh ourselves with water from the tap: that is a moment of salvation.

There are so many that our brains could not embrace them all.

That gives us the opportunity to be wells of salvation for others. Not the Great Salvation – we can leave that to God – but one or more of those tiny moments of salvation. We can provide the ingredients for that meal. We can clear away the obstacle and prevent the stumble. We can help dig the well that fills the tap.

When we do, there is joy.

Prayer:

May we be sources of tiny salvations, O God, in this bag we fill today, and in the ways we share tomorrow. Bless us that our wells never run dry. Amen.

Now pray with a gift of food.

Sunday, December 16

Philippians 4:5
Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near.

Strength is a handy thing. It works well in bridges, for example. A roadbed set upon weak supports doesn’t do anybody any good.

Strength has its place as well in our life and work. When something has to be done quickly and well, a person of strong will and firm mind (and the proper skill) is the one to call. Hesitation or uncertainty in an emergency can spell disaster.

Truly, though, those needs are rare. Far more often, people crave a light touch, a gentle word, a tender smile. They’ll respond to those urgent commands, those strong directions, for certain. Yet we use them far more often than we need to. We use them far more often than we should.

Some people may never show their gentleness at all.

Let no one be in doubt of yours.

Prayer:

Gentle me, O God. Let me be tender with your children. Let me be light, gentle, and kind. Let me be loving as you are loving. Amen.

Now pray with a gift of food.

Categories Events | Tags: , | Posted on December 6, 2018

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