Monday, December 31, 2012

Seventh Day of Christmas

Monday December 31 Seventh Day of Christmas

Questions/Thoughts: Who is the wisest person you can think of? What about them makes them wise? How does a person become wise?

Another year is dawning. Dear Father, let it be,
In working or in waiting, another year with thee;
Another year of progress, another year of praise,
Another year of proving thy presence all the days.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Sixth Day of Christmas

Sunday December 30 Sixth Day of Christmas

Questions/Thoughts: How is Samuel a good example for young believers? How was he similar to Jesus? What can believers of all ages learn when reading the passages from the Psalms and Colossians?

From our mother's womb you have known us, O God.
You call us to follow you through all our days
and seek us even when we wander.
As we advance in years,
clothe us with your love,
that we may grow in grace and find favor in your sight;
through Jesus Christ. Amen.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Fifth Day of Christmas

Saturday December 29 Fifth Day of Christmas

Questions/Thoughts: What does it look like to worship and serve God with both your whole heart and a willing mind? Which comes more naturally to you, to follow with your heart, or to follow with your mind? What does it mean to make Jesus the foundation of our lives? 

O Holy One,
heavenly angels spoke to earthly shepherds
and eternity entered time in the child of Bethlehem.
Through the telling of the Christmas story,
let our temporal lives be caught up in the eternal
in that same child,
that we might join shepherds and all the heavenly host
in praising the coming of Jesus Christ, our Savior. Amen.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Fourth Day of Christmas

Friday December 28 Fourth Day of Christmas

Questions/Thoughts: What does it mean to be a child of God? What does it look like? What will it look like someday?

Be near me, Lord Jesus!
I ask thee to stay
Close by me forever,
And love me, I pray.
Bless all the dear children 
In thy tender care,
And fit us for heaven,
To live with thee there.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Third Day of Christmas

Thursday December 27 Third Day of Christmas

Questions/Thoughts: What does it mean to follow Jesus? What does it look like? Invite someone (or ones) to join you for a Christmas meal sometime in the next few days. Take time to reflect and consider what God is doing in your lives (or what you are thankful for).

O Lord my God,
When I in awesome wonder consider all the worlds thy hands have made,
I see the stars, 
I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed:
Then sings my soul,
My Savior God, to thee:
How great thou art!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Second Day of Christmas

Wednesday December 26 Second Day of Christmas

Questions/Thoughts: Today is known as the Feast of St Stephen (or Boxing Day, in some circles). Stephen was the first martyr. One of his duties was to care for the poor. One tradition on Boxing Day is to “box up” charitable gifts to donate. What are some types of gifts that can’t be “boxed up?”

O holy Child of Bethlehem,
Descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin and enter in,
Be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us,
Our Lord Emmanuel!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

First Day of Christmas

Did you know that the Christmas season isn’t actually that crazy time between the day after Thanksgiving and December 25th? Maybe you’ve figured it out, after observing Advent for the past month or so. We are correct, though, in saying that Christmas is a season; it isn’t just limited to one day. The Christmas season starts on the 25th of December and last twelve days, until the day before Epiphany, which is on January 6 (The Twelve Days of Christmas isn’t just a song!).
Some folks transition from the Advent season by having a late-night Christmas Eve service. By the time the service is over, Christmas has officially started. The waiting time of Advent is over, the One we have been waiting for is here! For some it is a tradition to not sing any Christmas songs until this point (Advent songs for Advent, and Christmas songs for Christmas). For many of us who have been to any kind of store in the past month, we’ve probably heard just a few Christmas songs already. What would it be like if, instead of being tired of Christmas songs by December 25, we were finally getting to sing some? 
This is a time of year when it becomes tough to suggest new traditions, especially if there are ones that you and your family hold dear, so don’t feel like you have to completely revamp meaningful traditions (or even the practical ones, that are determined solely by when your family has time in their schedules to meet!). Nonetheless, here are some ideas, in case you feel you are in need for some holiday revitalization.
Some folks choose to open their presents over the course of the 12 days, instead of all at once (so as to better appreciate each gift, and perhaps to save and reuse wrapping paper). Or instead of 12 gifts, perhaps take some days to appreciate the gift of time spent together. Another idea is to get 12 ornaments, and assign a Scripture passage for each one. For each day of Christmas, hang an ornament, and read the Scripture together.
No matter how you celebrate, the Christmas season is meant “to be a time of joy and celebration, a time to be lingered over and delighted in.” (Ireton 37) 
If Christmas is a difficult time of year for you, you are not alone. Remember that Christ is the light in a dark world, and in dark times; He is the light that no darkness can overcome. Celebration reminds us that death and evil do not have the last word! Christ has the last word, and one day He will wipe away our every tear. 

Tuesday December 25 First Day of Christmas

Questions/Thoughts: For what or who are you thankful?

Tender and precious God,
from ancient times
the promise of your salvation
has sustained your people. With Mary and Joseph,
teach us to treasure in our hearts the birth of Jesus,
and with shepherds and angels,
lead us to praise his holy name. Amen. 

Questions/Thoughts: Why is God sending His Son to the world Good News?

you spoke and your Word became flesh,
breathing a new song of joy and praise
into the world.
Grant that we may bear the good news of your salvation,
proclaiming your promise of peace
to the ends of the earth. Amen.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Advent Project Day 26

Monday December 24 Christmas Eve

Questions/Thoughts: What does the Lord require of us? What has He done for us?

Creation stands alert and tense
To see your sov’reign pow’r.
You choose to come a tiny child
Revealed this day and hour.
O grant us patience to receive
Without pretense or pride
The gift of God’s redeeming grace:
A Savior by our side.

Questions/Thoughts: Take the time to read each of these passages out loud.

God of all ages,
in the birth of Christ
your boundless love for your people
shattered the power of darkness.
Be born in us with that same love and light,
that our song may blend with all the choirs of heaven and earth
to the glory of your holy name. Amen.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Advent Project Day 25

Sunday December 23 Fourth Sunday of Advent

Questions/Thoughts: How is God’s plan of salvation present in each of today’s passages?

O God of Elizabeth and Mary,
you visited your servants with news of the world's redemption
in the coming of the Savior.
Make our hearts leap with joy,
and fill our mouths with songs of praise,
that we may announce glad tidings of peace,
and welcome the Christ in our midst. Amen.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Advent Project Day 24

Saturday December 22

Questions/Thoughts: What sticks out most to you in the Micah reading? What does it mean to be united with Christ? Is there anyone with whom you need to make peace in this Advent season?

Tell of your works, your mighty acts of grace;
From each page show your face.
As you have loved us, sent your Son,
And our salvation now is won,
O let our hearts with love be stirred.
Help us, Lord, know your Word!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Advent Project Day 23

Friday December 21

Questions/Thoughts: Reflect on any suffering or ridicule that you may have experienced as a result of your faith. Pray for those around the world who are being persecuted, that they might have patient endurance as they serve the Lord.

In silent suff’ring some await
Your reign of justice here,
While others dulled by wealth and ease, 
Cannot explain their fear.
When prophets spoke and Mary sang
Of tables overturned,
Dare we admit, in trembling awe,
Our hearts within us burned?

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Advent Project Day 22

Thursday December 20

Questions/Thoughts: Take some time to pray for friends and family, both those who “know the Lord,” and those who don’t.

O promised one of Israel
By prophets long foretold,
We wait in urgency and hope
To see God’s will unfold.
The dark of night and cold predawn
Arouse our anxious fears.
Help us to see the light ahead
Through trials, doubts, and tears.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Advent Project Day 21

Wednesday December 19

Questions/Thoughts: What do the words “restore,” “rescue,” and “redeem” mean? What images come to your mind when you hear these words? How does/will Jesus restore His creation? How does/will He rescue His creation? How does/will He redeem His creation?

O God of the exiles and the lost,
you promise restoration and wholeness
through the power of Jesus Christ.
Give us faith to live joyfully,
sustained by your promises
as we eagerly await the day when they will be fulfilled
for all the world to see,
through the coming of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Advent Project Day 20

Tuesday December 18

Questions/Thoughts: How does the reading from Acts help us to think about the account in Numbers? Paul continues preaching the Good News, even after getting mixed responses from the people. Is this encouraging to you? Why or why not?

God of joy and exultation,
you strengthen what is weak;
you enrich the poor
and give hope to those who live in fear.
Look upon our needs this day.
Make us grateful for the good news of salvation
and keep us faithful in your service
until the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who lives for ever and ever. Amen.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Advent Project Day 19

Monday December 17 

Questions/Thoughts: What is the role of the Spirit in the Isaiah passage? What are some of the actions of Jesus in the Isaiah passage? What sort of sacrifices are pleasing to God?

God of hope,
you call us home from the exile of selfish oppression
to the freedom of justice,
the balm of healing,
and the joy of sharing.
Make us strong to join you in your holy work,
as friends of strangers and victims,
companions of those whom others shun,
and as the happiness of those whose hearts are broken.
We make our prayer through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Advent Project Day 18

Sunday December 16 Third Sunday of Advent

Questions/Thoughts: Where does joy come from? What feelings arise when you think about Christmas? What feelings arise when you think about the return of Jesus?

So come, my Sov’reign, enter in!
Let new and nobler life begin!
Your Holy Spirit guide us on,
Until the glorious crown be won.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Advent Project Day 17

Saturday December 15

Questions/Thoughts: Take time to reflect on ways the Lord has brought joy and restoration to your life. Thank Him for all He has done. Ask Him to provide joy and restoration if you need it.

I open wide my heart to you: 
Here, Lord, abide! 
Let me your inner presence feel:
Your grace and love in me reveal.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Advent Project Day 16

Friday December 14

Questions/Thoughts: How do the Amos passage and the 2 Corinthians passage compliment each other? For what are you thankful to God for?

All nations long to see you, my hope, my heart’s delight!
O kindle, Lord most holy, your lamp within my breast,
To do in spirit lowly all that may please you best.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Advent Project Day 15

Thursday December 13

Questions/Thoughts: What are the differences between the believer in the Isaiah passage and the believer in Amos? How can you be generous in this Advent season?

Hear our humble prayer
that we may serve you in holiness and faith
and give voice to your presence among us
until the day of the coming of your Son, Jesus Christ,
who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Advent Project Day 14

Wednesday December 12

Questions/Thoughts: How can we be an encouragement to others for whom this time of year is not a time of joy? How did Jesus answer when people wanted to know if He was indeed the Messiah they were waiting for? In what ways will Jesus’ return heal and strengthen believers?

Out of the embrace of mercy and righteousness,
you have brought forth joy and dignity for your people,
O Holy One of Israel.
Remember now your ancient promise:
make straight the paths that lead to you,
and smooth the rough ways,
that in our day
we might bring forth your compassion
for all humanity. Amen.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Advent Project Day 13

Tuesday December 11

Questions/Thoughts: How does growing in faith help you to prepare for Christmas? For the Lord’s coming? How does preparing for Christmas/the Lord’s return help you to grow in your faith?

God of timeless grace,
you fill us with joyful expectation.
Make us ready for the message that prepares the way,
that with uprightness of heart and holy joy
we may eagerly await the kingdom of your Son, Jesus Christ,
who reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever. Amen.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Advent Project Day 12

Monday December 10 

Questions/Thoughts: How has God brought joy to the world? How has He brought comfort? How has He brought redemption?

Arise, O Sun so longed for, above this darkened sphere!
With hearts and hands uplifted, we plead, O Lord, to see
The day of earth’s redemption that sets your people free.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Advent Project Day 11

Sunday December 9 Second Sunday of Advent

Questions/Thoughts: In general, how does it look to prepare for something? In what ways did John the Baptist prepare the way for Jesus’ coming? In what ways are you preparing for Christmas? In what ways are you prepared for Jesus’ return?

God of hope,
you raised up John the baptizer
as a herald who calls us to conversion.
As we joyfully await the glorious coming of Christ,
we pray to you for the needs of the church and the world.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Advent Project Day 10

Saturday December 8

Questions/Thoughts: What are some things that stuck out to you this week in the Luke 1 passage? What is new? What is consistent? How is the day of the Lord’s return both great and dreadful?

Born thy people to deliver,
Born a child, and yet a king,
Born to reign in us forever -- 
Now thy gracious kingdom bring.
By thine own eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By thine all sufficient merit
Raise us to thy glorious throne.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Advent Project Day 9

Friday December 7

Questions/Thoughts: What does Jesus save (or free, or deliver) us from? What is the difference between someone who serves God, and someone who doesn’t? How is Christ working through you?

Come, thou long-expected Jesus,
Born to set thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us, 
Let us find our rest in thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation, 
Hope of all the earth thou art:
Dear desire of ev’ry nation,
Joy of ev’ry longing heart.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Advent Project Day 8

Thursday December 6

Questions/Thoughts: What are some ways that we have “cheated” or “robbed” God? What is the Good News? Why is this news good? List some ways that God has blessed you.

That you would save us from our foes and all who bear us ill.
On Sinai you gave to us your covenant of love:
So with us now you keep your Word in love that knows no end.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Advent Project Day 7

Wednesday December 5

Questions/Thoughts: In what ways did Jesus compare himself to Jonah? What does it mean to repent? What are the results of repentance? What are the results of refusing to repent?

In all the past through all our hopes and fears, thy hand we see.
With each new day, when morning lifts the veil,
We own thy mercies, Lord, which never fail.
God of the coming years, through paths unknown we follow thee;
When we are strong, Lord, leave us not alone; our refuge be.
Be thou for us in life our daily bread, 
Our heart’s true home when all our years have sped.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Advent Project Day 6

Tuesday December 4

Questions/Thoughts: For each of the Scripture readings, list the things that God has done. What are some ways you have seen God at work in your own life?

Give us ears to hear, O God,
and eyes to watch,
that we may know your presence in our midst
during this holy season of joy
as we anticipate the coming of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Advent Project Day 5

Monday December 3

Questions/Thoughts: How is the Lord’s way of viewing time different than our way of viewing time? What are signs of life and growth, in general? Spiritually? How was Moses’ waiting for Christ similar or different to our waiting for Christ?

O God of all the prophets,
you herald the coming of the Son of Man
by wondrous signs in the heavens and on the earth.
Guard our hearts from despair so that we,
in the company of the faithful
and by the power of your Holy Spirit,
may be found ready to raise our heads
at the coming near of our redemption,
the day of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Advent Project Day 4

The season of Advent marks the beginning of the Christian year. In the Western church, it begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas. The word Advent is from the Latin adventus, which means “coming.” It is a time of waiting and preparation, both for the celebration of Christ’s birth, and for Christ’s second coming at the end of time.
Historically, Advent, like Lent, has been a time of fasting and penitence as we wait and prepare. We in our consumer society have gotten away from this, with our need to shop and spend and indulge as we prepare for Christmas. How would fasting during this time help you to “feel” the wait before the feast that is Christmas? What is something that you would consider fasting from this season?
Take some time this Advent season to prepare for Christmas by thinking and reflecting on the coming of Christ into our world, and how that plays out in our lives.
Other Advent ideas: 
Utilize Advent candles as a reminder that Jesus is the light of our dark world. Start by lighting one candle each night for the first week, then two the second week, three the third, etc, progressively making more and more light as Christmas approaches.
Decorate for Christmas progressively and slowly. Don’t do every decoration all at once in one day, but carefully add a piece here and there so that your home is decorated by Christmas. One idea is to not place the baby Jesus in your nativity scene until Christmas. Some patient folks wait until Christmas eve to do any decorating at all.
What are some other ways that you can think of to help make this season a time of slowing down, actively waiting, and preparing?

Sunday December 2 First Sunday of Advent

Questions/Thoughts: How was waiting for the birth of Jesus similar to waiting for His return? How is it different? What are different ways that we wait for things/people/events? What are different ways that waiting can look like? What do you think active waiting looks like?

God of justice and peace,
from the heavens you rain down mercy and kindness,
that all on earth may stand in awe and wonder
before your marvelous deeds.
Raise our heads in expectation,
that we may yearn for the coming day of the Lord
and stand without blame before your Son, Jesus Christ,
who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Advent Project Day 3

Saturday December 1

Questions/Thoughts: What are some ways you’ve seen God’s hand/direction in your life? Was there ever a time where you feel that God rescued you? List the attributes of God seen in these Scripture passages.

God, my God, in heav’n above, 
How abundant is your love,
For your goodness full and free reaches me!
Your compassion and your grace,
Greater than my thought can trace,
Over all the earth extend to the end.
Even when I cannot see
What your purpose is for me,
I my trust can always place in your grace.
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