There are so many preparations for Christmas- decorating, shopping, cooking, gatherings. It can feel overwhelming and stressful, even lonely. It sounds cliche, but it’s easy to miss “the reason for the season” in the rush of pressure and consumerism.
The good news is it doesn’t have to be this way. We can prepare our souls in the midst of the other preparations. You have time for this. It just takes a plan.
Below you’ll find four seasonal Bible Reading Plans to choose from plus some ideas for integrating them into your day. If you have other ideas for using them or other spiritual practices that keep you close to God during the holidays, I’d love to hear about them. Thanks for leaving a comment.
May you find yourself at the end of this season even closer to Christ. – Lisa <><
Ideas for Using the Bible Reading Plans
Take time for reading before a meal, before bed, or first thing in the morning with your coffee or tea
Gather your loved ones around your nativity or advent wreath for the reading of the day. Wouldn’t it be fun to use your nativity figures to act out the reading!
Find a quiet place, light a candle, breathe, rest in God’s Word
The Story of Christmas Reading Plan
Fifteen simple readings from Matthew, Luke, and John, will take you from the first visiting angel to the young family returning to Nazareth from being refugees in Egypt. If you would like to read about the birth of Jesus (Day 6) on Christmas Day, start this reading plan on December 20th with one scripture reading per day.
You are welcome to use any/all of these resources with proper attribution. (by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia, http://www.revlisad.com) Please leave a comment for information and permission to publish any of these resources in any form.
2011 Thanksgiving altar table display by Kim Evans for Community United Methodist Church in Debary, FL.
For centuries, Christians have been reading scripture, followed by a time of reflection and prayer. This year, I found the following scripture especially poignant for Thanksgiving Day. I pray it will draw you into a deep time with our Lord, the One who so faithful provides. Consider using this for a time of reflection at your holiday celebration. Happy Thanksgiving! – Lisa <><
Deuteronomy 8:7-10 (NRSV)
For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land with flowing streams, with springs and underground waters welling up in valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, a land where you may eat bread without scarcity, where you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron and from whose hills you may mine copper. You shall eat your fill and bless the Lord your God for the good land that he has given you.
Take a moment to name God’s blessing and provision in your life.
Deuteronomy 8:11-14, 17-18a (NRSV)
Take care that you do not forget the Lord your God, by failing to keep his commandments, his ordinances, and his statutes, which I am commanding you today. When you have eaten your fill and have built fine houses and live in them, and when your herds and flocks have multiplied, and your silver and gold is multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied, then do not exalt yourself, forgetting the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery… Do not say to yourself, “My power and the might of my own hand have gotten me this wealth.” But remember the Lord your God…
How have you neglected to thank God or give God credit?
What steps will you take to correct this?
Close with a prayer of confession and thanksgiving, trusting in God’s grace for forgiveness and new life.
For more thoughts on gratitude, click here
You are welcome to use this in your ministry setting or home with proper attribution. (by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia, http://www.revlisad.com) Please leave a comment for information on publishing this resource in any form.
Based on Genesis 13
Abraham and Lot end their conflict peaceably
God’s generous promise to Abraham of land and children
You are the God of Abundance, Provision, and Plenty
Generous Creator and Sustainer
So many do not have enough
So many are burdened by too much
So many squander what they have
So many do evil to get more
Corruption, Injustice, Oppression, Greed, Graft, Violence…
Lord, have mercy
Help me choose You and your ways
Help me approach every need and conflict
with fairness, generosity, openness
Help me see all you are providing
Help me hear and listen to all you are saying
Your ways, always
Fill me with gratitude for all you entrust to me
Collaboration over competition
True love for those I work with
Eyes to see all people as you see them… beloved
Forgive and heal my fears when there doesn’t seem to be enough
You know my worry and lack of faith
God of Abundance, Provision, and Plenty
I trust you to provide everything I need
and everything others need
Increase my faith and trust
What can you do with a rubber band?
Rubber bands are elastic. So are Jesus’ parables- stories with a deeper spiritual meaning. They both stretch in many directions.
You can read a parable one day and hear from God. You can read them a month later or even years later and receive another important truth from God.
It reminds us the scriptures are living and active. God meets us exactly where we are in the Word of God.
Luke 18:1-8. The Parable of the Widow and the Unjust Judge
From the point of view of followers of Jesus as the widow 1 Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. 2 Jesus said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. 3 In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my opponent.’ 4 For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.’” 6 And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7 And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? 8 I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
Jesus sets up a contrast between God and the unjust judge.
The judge is powerful, probably the most powerful person in his community. He’s worldly, corrupt, slow to respond, indifferent, disrespectful, unbelieving.
God is more powerful, attentive to injustice, quick to respond, faith-full, compassionate.
Even the ungodly relent in the face of persevering. How much more will God answer you when you pray!
Followers of Jesus are to be like the widow, the person with the least amount of power in the community. Folks would have laughed at the powerless widow getting the judge to do what she wanted him to do.
1 Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray alwaysandnot to lose heart. 8 when the Son of Man comes, will he find faithon earth?
The widow had faith that her persevering would bring a result. Faith looks like praying always and not losing heart. Does God find you resilient and full of faith? Actively trusting in God and persevering in prayer?
How’s your prayer life?
Using prayer as a rubber stamp as you make plans to fix whatever needs fixing in your own strength?
Using prayer as a last resort when everything else you tried didn’t work?
Have you just given up on prayer? You’ve been praying about the same situation for a long time with no change. It’s easy to get discouraged and lose heart.
Luke 11:9-13 Luke 11:9 Jesus said, “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.”
A Translation Closer to the Original Intention- Present Progressive Tense Jesus said, “Keep on asking, and it will be given you, Keep on seeking and you will find, keep on knocking and it will be opened unto you. For everyone who continues to ask, receives, and the one who continues to seek, finds, and for the one who continues to knock, it will be opened. What father among you, if your son asks for a fish will instead of a fish give him a serpent? Or if he asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”
Example of Persevering Prayers Being Answered
Name your persevering prayer. Keep praying, do not lose heart.
Reconciliation of relationship
The salvation of a loved one
An answer to a question
Deliverance from an addiction
The end of corruption, evil, injustice, oppression
Peace and plenty for all
Trust God is good. Trust God is near and attentive to your needs. Trust God will make the wrongs right. It may not be in this life, it may be in heaven. But it may be now.
Luke 18:1-8. The Parable of the Widow and the Unjust Judge
Stretch the parable in a different direction, from the point of view of God as the widow and we as the judge. 2 Jesus said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. 3 In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my opponent.’ 4 For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.’”
Pleading Widow by Steve Garnaas Holmes
Our gender and power stereotypes told us to assume
the judge is God, which would make us the poor widow.
But wait. Who judges? Who cares neither for God or people?
That would be us. And who continually demands
that we do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God?
Sorry, we don’t get the high ground here, denying our privilege,
pretending we’re faithfully imploring God
with our persistent quest for justice.
We’re the ones deaf to the cries of the poor.
God comes in the voice of the vulnerable, the easily ignored
while we in our arrogance easily ignore.
How disconcerting that in this story
the ball is in our court, not God’s!
The demand has been made, over and over.
Jesus warns us: God can outlast us.
But when God comes, will God find us listening?
Prayer and Action
Prayer is coupled with action. If we are praying for that relationship to be reconciled, what are we doing for that relationship to be reconciled? If we are praying for our loved ones to come to faith, what are we doing to create an environment where they could hear the Gospel? If we’re praying for an end to evil, injustice, and oppression, what are we doing to end evil, injustice, and oppression?
The dual truths of persevering in prayer and prayer in action stretch me. I need to pray before I act so I don’t use it as a weapon. I need to persevere in prayer because God is the one who makes things new. I need both.
And I need the Holy Spirit filling me so I don’t lose heart when it seems like nothing’s changing. Persevere in prayer. Prayer and action.
Heavenly Father, we thank you that you hear us. That you want to have a relationship with us. You want to bless us, empower us, encourage us, forgive us.
Help us to talk to you. To talk to you honestly, openly, and often. Help us to persevere in prayer. Help us to not lose heart. Help us to trust you.
Help to know the path we’re on with you is the path of goodness and glory. Help us to know it’s the path of truth and humility, the path of light and life. We need that assurance so we can persevere.
In our praying, help us to hear if there’s an action we are to take. Grant us the courage, grace, and wisdom to act.
You are making us new. You are making this world new. Thank you for the gift of prayer. Amen.