Advent Devotional Week 3

 

This page will list each day's scripture, devotion, question(s) to ponder, and a short bio of each author for the third week of the Mountain Sky Conference Advent Devotions. Participants on the journey will receive a daily email with this same content. This third week is focused on the theme of joy. 


Advent Devotion | December 19

A daily devotion created by laity and clergy
throughout the Mountain Sky Conference


Theme: Joy


Scripture:

Exodus 14:3 (referenced in devotion). 

Pharaoh will say of the Israelites, “They are wandering aimlessly in the land; the wilderness has closed in on them.”

Psalms 100: 1-5

1 Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth.

2 Worship the Lord with gladness;

    come into his presence with singing.

3 Know that the Lord is God.

    It is he that made us, and we are his;[a]

    we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving,

    and his courts with praise.

    Give thanks to him, bless his name.

5 For the Lord is good;

    his steadfast love endures forever,

    and his faithfulness to all generations.


Listen to Graciela read her devotion in Spanish:

https://vimeo.com/490273295


Devotion (Spanish, followed by English):

En medio de la desesperación de los problemas que cada persona está batallando día a día, esto puede ser un problema en tu familia, un problema de salud, un quebranto por tus hijos, falta de trabajo, depresión, y muchas otras cosas más. Vemos y nos sentimos sin fuerzas, sin poder decidir hacía que camino empezar a caminar para poder salir de ese pesar, de esa mala situación en que estamos. Creemos que si cambiamos nuestro carácter en ser más fuerte o en pelearse con los que están alrededor de nosotros vamos a solucionar las cosas, pero no, si hacemos eso estamos muy equivocados. 

Encontramos en Éxodo 14 “El faraón va a pensar: Los Israelitas andan perdidos en estas tierras. El desierto los tiene acorralados”. Pues muchas veces el enemigo piensa eso con nuestras vidas, será que Joseph, o Mary, o puedes poner hasta tú mismo nombre en este lugar… será que Graciela se siente perdida en este problema, ¡¡la tengo acorralada!!

En la historia de la Biblia dice que el faraón tomo todo su ejército para ir atrás del pueblo de Israel… pues no importa si Satanás está corriendo detrás de ti o detrás mío con todo su ejército, ¡Los Planes de Dios son mejores!!

¡No tengan miedo! le dijo Moisés al pueblo, solo 3 palabras, con fe y seguridad, porque Moisés conocía a Su Dios, ¡un Dios vivo y real, Nuestro Dios es el mismo de ayer, hoy y siempre!! Eso nos dice Dios hoy otra vez, ¡No tengan miedo!! 

Moisés extendió su vara, así como Dios le dijo, y el mar se abrió, porque Dios demostró Su Poder en esa situación, así también Dios abrirá camino donde las cosas parecen imposibles. Y se glorificara en nuestro problema

Los israelitas pasaron por tierra seca, así mismo hará Dios con nuestros problemas, con nuestros quebrantos, con nuestra depresión, pasaremos sin mojarnos si confiamos en Dios y ponemos nuestros ojos en El. Y en medio de nuestros problemas debemos alabar a Dios, servir con alegría, y llegar a su presencia con regocijo porque nuestro Dios es quien nos hizo, y nosotros somos su pueblo. Salmos 100:1-5

Te animo a que, en este momento, donde estés, entregues lo que mas estas batallando y pongas en las manos de Dios y EL abrirá camino donde nosotros no vemos y nos regocijemos en El, porque El tiene nuestra victoria en Su Manos. Dios te bendiga.

Solo confía, demos gracias, Dios es un Dios de promesas y no nos abandona. Dios te bendiga.

We can find ourselves in the midst of the despair, problems that each person is struggling with every day. This can be a problem within your family, a health concern, the passing of a beloved child, lack of work, depression, and many other things. We see and feel without strength, without being able to decide which way to start walking in order to get out of the difficult situation we are in. We believe that if we change our character to be stronger or to fight with those around us we will solve things, but no, if we do that we are very wrong.

We find in Exodus 14, “Pharaoh will say of the Israelites, “They are wandering aimlessly in the land; the wilderness has closed in on them.” Well, many times the enemy thinks that about our lives. Whether it is Joseph, or Mary, or you; you can even put your own name in this passage, such as “Graciela is wandering aimlessly in the land; the wilderness has closed in on her!”

In this story, the Bible says that Pharaoh took all his army to go after the people of Israel. It doesn't matter if Satan is running after you or behind me with all his army, God's plans are better!

Don’t be afraid! Moses said to the people, only 3 words, with faith and assurance because Moses knew His God, a living and real God. Our God is the same as yesterday, today and forever! That is what God tells us today again, do not be afraid!

Moses stretched out his rod, just as God told him, and the sea opened up, because God demonstrated God’s power in that situation, so God will also open a way where things seem impossible.

The Israelites went through dry land, so will God, with our problems, with our losses, with our pain. We will go through without getting wet if we trust God and put our eyes on Him. In addition, in the midst of our problems we must praise God, serve with joy, and come into His presence with rejoicing because our God is the one who made us, and we are His people, as noted in Psalm 100:1-5.

I encourage you, in this moment, wherever you are, to surrender what you are struggling with the most and put it in the hands of God and God will open the way. We will rejoice, because God has our victory in God’s Hands. God bless you!

Just trust, give thanks, God is a God of promises and does not abandon us. God bless you.


Question to Ponder:

Do you believe with all your heart that in the midst of the storm you can have joy?


Bio:

Graciela Recalde de Gonzalez currently serves at Iglesia Hispana Gracia Divina Iglesia Metodista Unida. She supports the Children's Ministry, sowing The Word with a team of young people. Graciela has a fervent heart for the salvation of children and believes that through these little ones, the entire family will know the love of God. She is originally from Paraguay, a Latin country, but has lived in Denver, Colorado for 4 years with her husband and two daughters.


Join the Conversation:

Join us on Mountain Sky Ministry Crossroads for a daily opportunity to interact with others as you engage with each daily devotion. Mountain Sky Ministry Crossroads is a new collaborative platform with resources for ministry and network with others for ministry support and innovation! Sign up here to become a member of Crossroads, and join the “MSC Advent Devotions” Workshop!


Advent Devotion | December 18

A daily devotion created by laity and clergy
throughout the Mountain Sky Conference


Theme: Joy


Scripture: 

Romans 15:13 

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Nehemiah 8:10

Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength”


Devotion:

Scripture encourages us to rejoice in the blessings of our life and give glory to God in all things.  “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.   Romans 15:13 

It takes an active and daily choice to put Christ first, especially in a culture that says you are too busy to focus there, or that life is too full, and there is no more room.

Joy is a good feeling in our souls produced by the Holy Spirit as He causes us to see the beauty of Jesus in His word and in His work.  The bible says, “the joy of the Lord is your strength”.  Nehemiah 8:10.

Christianity is a religion of joy.  It is truly glad tidings for humanity.  As Christmas approach we may well experience feelings of melancholy or sadness for many legitimate reasons   When I became a Christian, I noticed many positive changes in my life. I became more joyful and peaceful.  I started going to church and I enjoyed having fellowship with other believers.  I experienced joy in a special way and encouragement from Prayer Warriors.

Have you wondered why some people seem to experience deep and authentic joy in their daily lives-even in the toughest times and others cannot seem to find it no matter how hard they search?

Many of us eventually give up the pursuit assuming we were unfortunate enough to have been standing on the wrong side of the door when God was handing out joy.  That is the beauty of the joy God offers. His joy will always be available to you.


Question to Ponder:

What do you allow to hold you back from living a life of joy?


Bio:

Barbara E. Goree

Scott UMC choir member, hospitality chair, Prayer Warrior, cluster leader, Scott UMW Treasurer and Co- District Lay Leader for the Mile High Metro District.


Join the Conversation:

Join us on Mountain Sky Ministry Crossroads for a daily opportunity to interact with others as you engage with each daily devotion. Mountain Sky Ministry Crossroads is a new collaborative platform with resources for ministry and network with others for ministry support and innovation! Sign up here to become a member of Crossroads, and join the “MSC Advent Devotions” Workshop!


Advent Devotion | December 17

A daily devotion created by laity and clergy
throughout the Mountain Sky Conference


Theme: Joy


Scripture: 

Luke 1: 31 

“The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now you will conceive in your womb and bear a son and will name him Jesus” 

Luke 1: 38 - 

“Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be according to your word.” 


Devotion:

Advent: meaning it’s finally here. I marvel every time I read the conversation between Mary and the Angel, as if I had never read it before. And I have a confession that is convicting and shows my limitations.

Given such a great assignment and tasked with finding someone who would fulfill it, the last person I would have thought about was Mary. This is prime time, and so someone used to the spotlight would be my best bet. Also, when I would see Mary, here was a young person whose life and destiny was set in place.

By this I mean she was engaged to Joseph and as we move through the story, we realize what a good guy he was. For Mary, everything was set --and then the amazing conversation. Listen as if you have not read it before:  “The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now you will conceive in your womb and bear a son and will name him Jesus” (St. Luke 1: 31).

Mary addresses what will be the physical part of her assignment. But, Mary also knows her history to the point that she knew what the angel was describing, in terms of what was to come or what was finally here. It was just the idea that she would take part in this great story. So much was on the line at this very moment, too, for Joseph was within his rights to have her killed.

And yet she says, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be according to your word.” (St. Luke 1: 38). Such a great call was extended to Mary -- and it is not overstating the case to say that her response was felt in heaven and on earth.


Question to Ponder:

 It’s a good question to ask at this moment, “how ready are we?” Mary was at the right place to hear and respond. Are we in the right place and what is our answer at this very moment? The question is, can we dare to be instruments of hope during what so many have concluded are hopeless times?            


Bio:

Aaron M. Gray (he/him), Pastor, Christ UMC, Fort Collins, Colorado. Aaron is committed to making things better for church and community. He has been a local church pastor for thirty-five years.


Join the Conversation:

Join us on Mountain Sky Ministry Crossroads for a daily opportunity to interact with others as you engage with each daily devotion. Mountain Sky Ministry Crossroads is a new collaborative platform with resources for ministry and network with others for ministry support and innovation! Sign up here to become a member of Crossroads, and join the “MSC Advent Devotions” Workshop!


Advent Devotion | December 16

A daily devotion created by laity and clergy
throughout the Mountain Sky Conference


Theme: Joy    


Scripture:

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

16 Rejoice always. 17 Pray continually. 18 Give thanks in every situation because this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.


Devotion:

Easy to remember, hard to follow. That’s how I interpret these words from Paul in his letter to the Thessalonians.

Before COVID19 changed the landscape of our lives, each morning as we got in the car to leave for school, I would ask my children the same set of questions: 

Do you have your lunch?

Do you have your books?

Do you have your water bottle…jacket…snow boots…gloves…fill in the blank. 

They have learned to anticipate and predict my questions, and so their answers have become rote and mechanical…yes, they have everything, but every now and then someone has forgotten to actually bring their necessary items. It is easy for them (and us) to remember what we can do, but difficult sometimes to actually do what is possible.

Now, whenever we go anywhere, I have added to my list of questions:

Do you have your mask?

2020 has been a year of challenges (an understatement, for sure). The imperative statements Paul offers in these verses remind us that the good news of God’s presence through the birth of Christ can be our foundation for joy and thanksgiving, even in the midst of challenges.

When we celebrate the birth of Christ, we celebrate the fact that God invites us to a life where challenges and hard things don’t win. That is God’s will for us: to live our lives with new ways of being…even while we remind our families to pack their hand sanitizer and masks every time they leave the house. God’s incarnation through the birth of Christ invites us to consider the ways in which we can flip the script on the challenges we face and consider what is possible.

It is easy to anticipate and remember that we can rejoice, pray, and practice gratitude in many circumstances. It is hard to actually rejoice, pray, and practice gratitude when challenges (or pandemics or grief) come our way. 

During this Advent season, my prayer is that we all have the energy to hope for and believe that there is a way, a truth, and a life where joy and thanksgiving are possible…even when everything feels hard.


Questions to Ponder:

How can the story of a child who is born in a stable invite you into joy and gratitude this season? Where is it possible for you to flip the script on the challenges you face?


Bio:

Stephanie lives with her family in Boulder, CO and currently works with students at the Wesley Foundation at CU of Boulder. She also works with the congregation at First Church of Boulder as the Pastor of Spiritual Imagineering. 


Join the Conversation:

Join us on Mountain Sky Ministry Crossroads for a daily opportunity to interact with others as you engage with each daily devotion. Mountain Sky Ministry Crossroads is a new collaborative platform with resources for ministry and network with others for ministry support and innovation! Sign up here to become a member of Crossroads, and join the “MSC Advent Devotions” Workshop!


Advent Devotion | December 15

A daily devotion created by laity and clergy
throughout the Mountain Sky Conference


Theme: Joy


Scripture: 

Psalm 90:14 (NASB) 

Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. 


Devotion: 

“Joy to the World” is a hymn we all know and love to sing at Christmas Eve service. We always blow out our candles, the lights come back on, and we burst into this powerful hymn. For me, this hymn felt heavy in my life for quite some time. My mother in law loved the Christmas season, it was her favorite time of year. When she passed away unexpectedly in 2017, we sang this song at her celebration of life as it was one of her favorites. I stopped feeling the joy in this song, and in a lot of other things. Through my grieving process, I realized I needed to find small places I could find joy again. I decided to take up painting again. I painted everyday a simple background and would find a scripture, poem, or quote, that would help me get through the day. The first day I started this, I knew I wanted to feel joy again, and I stumbled upon Psalm 90:14. This verse has helped me to understand joy is a choice, and even in my grief, I can find something to be joyful for everyday. Even when I am not finding joy, God’s unfailing love will be there. In our darkest moments, there is a light of joy we can find along the way, we just have to be intentional in finding it. When Christmas Eve came that year, I felt a trembling in my body as “Silent Night” was ending. “Joy to the World” began to play, and I began to cry. However, they were not tears of sorrow, they were tears of joy. The joy that came over me was overwhelming because this song had a new and very special meaning to me. As you sing “Joy to the world” this year, even if it is virtually, remember God can bring you joy even in the difficult moments. 


Question to Ponder:

What can you do to start your day that will rekindle your joy? 


Bio:

Hello! My name is Alison Skillman and my pronouns are she/her. I live in Bozeman, Montana and serve the wonderful people at Living Waters UMC in Belgrade. Also, I am finishing my MDiv at Iliff School of Theology and will graduate this spring! 


Join the Conversation:

Join us on Mountain Sky Ministry Crossroads for a daily opportunity to interact with others as you engage with each daily devotion. Mountain Sky Ministry Crossroads is a new collaborative platform with resources for ministry and network with others for ministry support and innovation! Sign up here to become a member of Crossroads, and join the “MSC Advent Devotions” Workshop!


Advent Devotion | December 14

A daily devotion created by laity and clergy
throughout the Mountain Sky Conference


Theme: Joy  


Scripture:

John 15:11 ESV

“These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” 


Devotion:

It was Christmas morning and the whole family gathered around as Janie pushed through her tears and began opening her present. The card read, “Each of us pitched in to bring you Christmas this year, I hope you love it… Dad.” Janie fought back the tears as her family began to wiggle. On the back of the card a recipe… Mom’s Cinnamon rolls – the recipe went on, it was signed, with love, Chris.

Janie tore into the box to find another box, from Tim, with love. Inside she found eggs, a half-gallon of milk, butter, and sugar. “No wonder it was so heavy!” Janie cried out and they all laughed. Next another box, From Eric with love. Brown sugar, pecans, and the rest of the fixins… “Oh, you all shouldn’t have, there’s enough here to feed the whole dorm!” Janie exclaimed with glee! 

At the bottom of the box Janie pulled out a spatula and oven mitts, “So you can get every warm bite… Dad” Janie’s eyes swelled with new tears as she reached to pull out a box from the bottom. A new pan to bake in. But as Janie pulled the pan from the box it felt heavy. She opened the box and pulled out the pan filled with cinnamon, rolls from the box, with the note – “Couldn’t have you baking on Christmas while we all ate our rolls. Love, Mom” 

Janie looked up at her computer screen, everyone’s face was filled with love as they all yelled “Merry Christmas!” Each in their own corner of the world, safe and sound. Never had home been so close. Never had Christmas meant so much.


Prayer for the season…

Heavenly Creator, though we may be scattered to the wind, keep our hearts bound in love so we may feel close and experience the joy of your love between us. Today and always. Amen


Bio:

Patrick (he, him, his) lives in Billings, MT with his wife Kim and dog Gracie. He grew up in Wyoming, served in Colorado, Utah and now Montana as Senior Pastor at Billings First UMC. Patrick believes each of us are of God and hopes to nurture the Holy Spirit within each of us to become all God inspires us to be.


Join the Conversation:

Join us on Mountain Sky Ministry Crossroads for a daily opportunity to interact with others as you engage with each daily devotion. Mountain Sky Ministry Crossroads is a new collaborative platform with resources for ministry and network with others for ministry support and innovation! Sign up here to become a member of Crossroads, and join the “MSC Advent Devotions” Workshop!


Advent Devotion | December 13

A daily devotion created by laity and clergy
throughout the Mountain Sky Conference


Theme: Joy


Scripture:

Psalm 126
126:1 When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream.

126:2 Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then it was said among the nations, "The LORD has done great things for them."

126:3 The LORD has done great things for us, and we rejoiced.

126:4 Restore our fortunes, O LORD, like the watercourses in the Negeb.

126:5 May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy.

126:6 Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves.


Devotion: 

Wholly Joy

Jesus invites us to a joy like none other, inextricably linked to one another, known as love thy neighbor.

        Neighbor, a question, the question and understanding that has  plagued us for an eternity. 

        Eternally, see, we have gotten it wrong, it is not me or you, the obvious, the known, it is the unseen, the forgotten, those not            like us  and those we exclude. 

        Exclude -- why do we create boundaries, borders, and categories that divide, hurt, and harm? 

        Harm is power, belief or ideas of supremacy and hierarchy - we must interrogate that tendency, fight that urge and                              intentionally,  consciously, answer Jesus’ call of equity, justice, and inclusion. 

        Inclusion is key to Jesus and joy everybody: loving, caring, giving, connecting and having compassion, yes, this is what we                  must embody.  

Ode to COVID-19 and the year 2020, a year of unpredictability, uncertainty, and unfamiliarity.

         Descriptors such as these, we have heard repeatedly. Other words, initially sounded so strange, now roll off the tongue                   with ease and intimacy. 

         Shelter in place, quarantine, masks and six-feet of space. Social distance, we all know and understand this case. Somewhat             a tragedy for a people who already saw themselves as individuals traveling towards their goals and their reality unaware of           our shared connectivity. 

         Face-to-face gatherings, meetings, trips, vacations, arrangements, celebrations, parades, graduations, memorials and                         funerals delayed or cancelled. For most, producing a sense of havoc. Too many have lost their jobs and gone without. Our                 norms have been challenged, off-balanced and filled with doubt. Except for those few, who go about life, not much                               interrupted or changed, Corona has not caused much strife. 

         Spikes and waves continue to fluctuate. While anxiety and fear rise, as COVID-19 leaves its trail of demise.

         The earth is moving and shifting. Heaven, animals, rivers, mountains, and oceans are rejoicing. Singing and giving praise to               God for cleaner air and less pollution. For us humans, the shift is uncomfortable, feels harsh and kind of odd. This switch is             laborious, painful, hard, exhausting, and necessary.  Yet, if we use this time for deep contemplation and deliberate                                 reflection, the shared sacrifice of a global pandemic, may teach us what truly matters even though the stretch is scary. 

         Some long for days past, but please do not be mistaken our Creator has a task. Urging us to sacredly dream, wholly imagine,          and dare to live into a new way of being, if we are courageous and fathom. 

         Advent is finally here. There is no better time for us to adhere. 

Yearn for the will of God in all that we do. 

        God who creates, restores, renews and does wondrous things for me and you; Begin now, continuing everyday, internal                    work, external deeds, sing with joy, give thanks, and a time to pray. Hallelujah, a joyous refrain; Through Christ something                new is possible. We proclaim! We proclaim!


Question to ponder:

Using wholly imagination, what is required of you to increase your joy, the joy of your family, joy in your community, and joy to the world?


Bio:

 

Akilah Bixler (she, her), is a Provisional Elder in the United Methodist Church whose ministry includes building bridges, truth telling and unconditional love. She is a daughter, spouse and mother of two compassionate, wise, beyond their years, beings. A lover of nature, a seeker of truths and enjoys the life-giving experience of different cultures. 


Join the Conversation:

Join us on Mountain Sky Ministry Crossroads for a daily opportunity to interact with others as you engage with each daily devotion. Mountain Sky Ministry Crossroads is a new collaborative platform with resources for ministry and network with others for ministry support and innovation! Sign up here to become a member of Crossroads, and join the “MSC Advent Devotions” Workshop!