Advent Photo-A-Day: Day 25, Light

Path of Light. Photo by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia

Path of Light. Photo by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia

The thought behind the photo:
Instead of doing an Advent Wreath in our home this year, we did an Advent Path. Today the journey of Advent is over and Christmas has come again. I’m so very grateful Christ came so long ago to make a way to God. Because of Him, anyone, including me, can walk as a child of the Light.

I want to walk as a child of the light;
I want to follow Jesus.
God set the stars to give light to the world;
the star of my life is Jesus.
In him there is no darkness at all;
the night and the day are both alike.
The Lamb is the light of the city of God:
Shine in my heart, Lord Jesus.

I want to see the brightness of God;
I want to look at Jesus.
Clear Sun of righteousness, shine on my path,
and show me the way to the Father.
In him there is no darkness at all;
the night and the day are both alike.
The Lamb is the light of the city of God:
Shine in my heart, Lord Jesus.

I’m looking for the coming of Christ;
I want to be with Jesus.
When we have run with patience the race,
we shall know the joy of Jesus.
In him there is no darkness at all;
the night and the day are both alike.
The Lamb is the light of the city of God:
Shine in my heart, Lord Jesus.
– Kathleen Thomerson

SCRIPTURE: Luke 1:78-79 NRSV
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.

The December 25, 2013 devotion from http://umrethinkchurch.tumblr.com 
SCRIPTURE: John 1:1-14, CEB
In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. The Word was with God in the beginning. Everything came into being through the Word, and without the Word nothing came into being. What came into being through the Word was life, and the life was the light for all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness doesn’t extinguish the light. A man named John was sent from God. He came as a witness to testify concerning the light, so that through him everyone would believe in the light. He himself wasn’t the light, but his mission was to testify concerning the light. The true light that shines on all people was coming into the world. The light was in the world, and the world came into being through the light, but the world didn’t recognize the light. The light came to his own people, and his own people didn’t welcome him. But those who did welcome him, those who believed in his name, he authorized to become God’s children, born not from blood nor from human desire or passion, but born from God. The Word became flesh and made his home among us. We have seen his glory, glory like that of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

Light is an important fixture at Christmas. We find lights on beautifully decorated tress, storefronts, churches and homes. Have you ever stopped to enjoy how just one candle—one string of lights can light up a dark room?

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness doesn’t extinguish the light.

Light is disruptive. It breaks up the darkness. It illuminates. God’s light is like that, shining a spotlight on things we sometimes choose not to see.

What parts of our lives—of our world need a bit of that light to shine? How might we be ambassadors of that light?

Like John the Baptist, how can our light point to God’s love and light in the world?

This Christmas day, embrace the light that came to us in the form of a baby born in less than perfect conditions.

Immanuel. God with us. May we go forth from this day as people who have seen and experienced that Light.

Thanks for journeying with us this Advent. A merry Christmas to you and yours.

– Your friends at Rethink Church

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Thank you Rethink Church for a great way to make preparing for Christmas more meaningful. Join me and thousands more in setting aside time to reflect, focus, and literally picture the deep themes of Jesus’ birth.

Click here for more information on Advent Photo-A-Day from Rethink Church.

Click here for a master list of links to my submissions. Lisa <><

Advent Photo-A-Day: Day 24, Joy

Mistletoes, photo by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia

Mistletoes, photo by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia

The thought behind the photo:
Last year, six three-year-olds from our church preschool came bounding into my office. They were dressed for their Christmas party and so excited to give me a gift. “Open it! Open it!” I reached into the bag to find a white shirt with green imprints of their feet hanging from painted red ribbons. At the bottom of the shirt it read, “Mistletoes.” We laughed and hugged and took some pictures. Their gift was wonderful, but their presence more than their present filled me with joy.

Joy is about presence. The presence of those we love may come and go, but the presence of the One who loves us most never ends. (Hebrews 13:5)  Joy is associated with the word enthusiasm which comes from the Greek word en theos – God within. This is the very heart of the Christmas story- God with us and for us and in us. This is what makes the arrival of the Babe in Bethlehem tidings of great joy.

Joy is the serious business of Heaven. – C.S. Lewis

SCRIPTURE: Luke 2:8-11 NKJV
Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

It is joy to all nations that Christ is born, the Prince of Peace, the King who rules in righteousness…Beloved, the greatest joy is to those who know Christ as a Saviour…The further you submit yourself to Christ the Lord, the more completely you know Him, the fuller will your happiness become. Surface joy is to those who live where the Saviour is preached; but the great deeps, the great fathomless deeps of solemn joy which glisten and sparkle with delight, are for such as know the Saviour, obey the Anointed One, and have communion with the Lord Himself…you will never know the fullness of the joy which Jesus brings to the soul, unless under the power of the Holy Spirit you take the Lord your Master to be your All in all, and make Him the fountain of your intensest delight. – Charles Spurgeon

The December 24, 2013 devotion from http://umrethinkchurch.tumblr.com 
SCRIPTURE: Isaiah 9:2-7, CEB
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light.
On those living in a pitch-dark land, light has dawned.
You have made the nation great; you have increased its joy.
They rejoiced before you as with joy at the harvest, as those who divide plunder rejoice.
As on the day of Midian, you’ve shattered the yoke that burdened them,
the staff on their shoulders, and the rod of their oppressor.
Because every boot of the thundering warriors,
and every garment rolled in blood will be burned, fuel for the fire.
A child is born to us, a son is given to us, and authority will be on his shoulders.
He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
There will be vast authority and endless peace for David’s throne and for his kingdom,
establishing and sustaining it with justice and righteousness now and forever.

Against the backdrop of darkness is the dawning of a new day. New light. New life. Bonds of oppression broken. Endless peace. At the core of Isaiah’s message is rejoicing. Joy.

The Messiah is born, inaugurating God’s coming kin-dom.

When we remember those rods of oppression that seem unbreakable, what is the good news that breaks through?

As we celebrate the dawning of light through the birth of the Christ child, where in our lives are we seeing the in-breaking of God’s kingdom, and who are we sharing this good news with?

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Thank you Rethink Church for a great way to make preparing for Christmas more meaningful. Join me and thousands more in setting aside time to reflect, focus, and literally picture the deep themes of Jesus’ birth.

Click here for more information on Advent Photo-A-Day from Rethink Church.

Click here for a master list of links to my submissions. Lisa <><

Advent Photo-A-Day: Day 23, Neighbors

Back to School Fair CollageThe thought behind the photo:
Our annual back to school fair brings together congregations, businesses, schools, organizations and government to bless our neighbors with story books, a Bible, a haircut, toiletries, a backpack full of supplies, gently used clothes, and a shopping trip to pick out a brand new outfit including shoes. People stay and have great conversations while enjoying the homemade goodies. The relationship building is so beautiful we’re expanding our year-round food pantry to include more services and more opportunities for conversation, prayer and blessing.

The righteousness that we need is not obedience. It’s a loving relationship—and this is not our own doing; it is the gift of God. In repentance we pray toward both God and neighbor, “I am not on my own. I am yours.” – Steve Garnaas Holmes, Prodigal Brothers

Heavenly One,
Your reach extends to every neighbor, every nation
Offering grace, forgiveness, wholeness, and hope
A saving embrace
Drawing us to you and each other

Make us your children
Grateful for a place in your family
Humble before your love and generosity
Faithful in honoring and welcoming all
Joyful in sharing what we have found in you
Amen.
Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia, Make Us Your Children

SCRIPTURE: Galatians 5:13-14 CEB
You were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only don’t let this freedom be an opportunity to indulge your selfish impulses, but serve each other through love. All the Law has been fulfilled in a single statement: Love your neighbor as yourself.

The December 23, 2013 devotion from http://umrethinkchurch.tumblr.com 
SCRIPTURE: Psalm 80:4-7, CEB
Lord God of heavenly forces, how long will you fume against your people’s prayer?
You’ve fed them bread made of tears; you’ve given them tears to drink three times over!
You’ve put us at odds with our neighbors; our enemies make fun of us.
Restore us, God of heavenly forces!
Make your face shine so that we can be saved!

Someone’s not happy. The familiar cry, “How long?” is echoed here. And according to the psalm, it’s not the people at fault. It’s God. The people see no sign of God’s presence in the midst of the turmoil they are experiencing. They are being made to look ridiculous in front of their neighbors. They are hurt and scorned.

How long, O Lord?

When was the last time you admitted these raw feelings to God? When have you screamed, asking, “Why, God?”

This Advent season, what is it you lament? What is it you are asking God to restore?

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Thank you Rethink Church for a great way to make preparing for Christmas more meaningful. Join me and thousands more in setting aside time to reflect, focus, and literally picture the deep themes of Jesus’ birth.

Click here for more information on Advent Photo-A-Day from Rethink Church.

Click here for a master list of links to my submissions. Lisa <><

Advent Photo-A-Day: Day 22, Sign

Signs collageThe thought behind the photo:
God gives the grace and free will to stop, turn, and walk in a new direction.
Are our choices:
bringing us closer to God or leading us further away
bringing healing or continuing cycles of destruction
bringing death or bringing life or bringing both

SCRIPTURE: Ezekiel 33:13-16, The Message
It’s true that I tell good people, “Live! Be alive!” But if they trust in their good deeds and turn to evil, that good life won’t amount to a hill of beans. They’ll die for their evil life. On the other hand, if I tell a wicked person, “You’ll die for your wicked life,” and he repents of his sin and starts living a righteous and just life – being generous to the down-and-out, restoring what he had stolen, cultivating life-nourishing ways that don’t hurt others – he’ll live. He won’t die. None of his sins will be kept on the books. He’s doing what’s right, living a good life. He’ll live.

SCRIPTURE: Romans 6:1-4 NRSV
What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.

The December 22, 2013 devotion from http://umrethinkchurch.tumblr.com 
SCRIPTURE: Isaiah 7:10-16, The Message
Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz: “Ask a sign from the Lord your God. Make it as deep as the grave or as high as heaven.” But Ahaz said, “I won’t ask; I won’t test the Lord.” Then Isaiah said, “Listen, house of David! Isn’t it enough for you to be tiresome for people that you are also tiresome before my God? Therefore, the Lord will give you a sign. The young woman is pregnant and is about to give birth to a son, and she will name him Immanuel. He will eat butter and honey, and learn to reject evil and choose good. Before the boy learns to reject evil and choose good, the land of the two kings you dread will be abandoned.”

Signs. Do you believe in them? Would we recognize a sign from God if we saw it? If God offered one to us as God did with King Ahaz?

Can you think of a time when you encountered the living God?

What are those signs of God’s faithfulness that we can point to in our lives? In our churches? In our neighborhoods?

Where is God breaking into the world?

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Thank you Rethink Church for a great way to make preparing for Christmas more meaningful. Join me and thousands more in setting aside time to reflect, focus, and literally picture the deep themes of Jesus’ birth.

Click here for more information on Advent Photo-A-Day from Rethink Church.

Click here for a master list of links to my submissions. Lisa <><

Advent Photo-A-Day: Day 21, Prophet

Ten 20th Century Martyrs remembered over a door to Westminster Abbey, London. Photo by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia

Ten 20th Century Martyrs remembered over the great west door of Westminster Abbey, London. Photo by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia

The thought behind the photo:
Prophets speak God’s truth to power, giving voice to people and situations without a voice. Their sacrificing perseverance makes way for awareness, compassion, justice and peace.

Pictured from left to right:
Maximilian Kolbe
Manche Masemola
Janani Luwum
Elizabeth of Russia
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Oscar Romero
Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Esther John
Lucian Tapiedi
Wang Zhiming

These representative ten are drawn from every continent and many Christian denominations. They stand for all who have died and continue to die suffering from and/or working to end oppression and persecution. Unveiled July 9, 1998.

SCRIPTURE: Matthew 23:29-37 NRSV
Jesus said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous, and you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ Thus you testify against yourselves that you are descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your ancestors. You snakes, you brood of vipers! How can you escape being sentenced to hell? Therefore I send you prophets, sages, and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town, so that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. Truly I tell you, all this will come upon this generation. Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!”

The December 21, 2013 devotion from http://umrethinkchurch.tumblr.com 
SCRIPTURE: Matthew 11:7-11, The Message
When John’s disciples left to report, Jesus started talking to the crowd about John. “What did you expect when you went out to see him in the wild? A weekend camper? Hardly. What then? A sheik in silk pajamas? Not in the wilderness, not by a long shot. What then? A prophet? That’s right, a prophet! Probably the best prophet you’ll ever hear. He is the prophet that Malachi announced when he wrote, ‘I’m sending my prophet ahead of you, to make the road smooth for you.’ Let me tell you what’s going on here: No one in history surpasses John the Baptizer; but in the kingdom he prepared you for, the lowliest person is ahead of him.”

Earlier in this chapter, we read that John the Baptist, upon hearing what Jesus had been doing [The blind see, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised,] sent his own disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the One we’ve been expecting, or are we still waiting?”

Whatever this Jesus had been doing didn’t quite match up in John’s mind to what he had envisioned the messiah would do. Jesus, this man of God and prophet mighty in deed and word left John scratching his head, wondering if Jesus was the real deal.

Jesus, on the other hand, told the crowds that John was “Probably the best prophet you’ll ever hear.”

What would you expect from a prophet?

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Thank you Rethink Church for a great way to make preparing for Christmas more meaningful. Join me and thousands more in setting aside time to reflect, focus, and literally picture the deep themes of Jesus’ birth.

Click here for more information on Advent Photo-A-Day from Rethink Church.

Click here for a master list of links to my submissions. Lisa <><

Advent Photo-A-Day: Day 20, Good News

beautiful feetThe thought behind the photo:
A few years ago, a friend gave me this fabulous Christmas tree ornament. I’m not a “shoe person”, but I am a pastor, so it came with a different meaning. Every year as I hang it on the tree, I smile thinking about my friend’s blessing and encouragement. Following Jesus and the call he’s placed on my life brought an unexpected change. I expected to be made new, but couldn’t imagine the great grace of “beautiful feet” from bringing good news.

SCRIPTURE: Romans 10:11-15 NRSV
The scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

The December 20, 2013 devotion from http://umrethinkchurch.tumblr.com 
SCRIPTURE: Matthew 11:4-6, CEB
Jesus replied, “Go, report to John what you hear and see. Those who were blind are able to see. Those who were crippled are walking. People with skin diseases are cleansed. Those who were deaf now hear. Those who were dead are raised up. The poor have good news proclaimed to them. Happy are those who don’t stumble and fall because of me.”

John is in prison wondering, “Jesus, are you really the one we’ve been waiting for?” While there, he gets reports of all these great things happening; of prophesies coming true: blind seeing, crippled walking, sick being healed.

Wonder how John is feeling right about now. Is he able to rejoice in the fact that Jesus is doing what was foretold, while he’s suffering in prison?

In this season of merriment, how are we bringing good news to those who aren’t joyful? To those who are bound by things beyond their control or grief too great to bear?

Singing “Joy to the World” or “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” may not be well received by those experiencing pain or loss this season, but perhaps you’re able to bring comfort.

What might that look like?

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Thank you Rethink Church for a great way to make preparing for Christmas more meaningful. Join me and thousands more in setting aside time to reflect, focus, and literally picture the deep themes of Jesus’ birth.

Click here for more information on Advent Photo-A-Day from Rethink Church.

Click here for a master list of links to my submissions. Lisa <><

Advent Photo-A-Day: Day 19, Patience

bread-dough-risingThe thought behind the photo:
Instant is an illusion
A false preference of progress

Growth takes time
Always has
Always will

Seed to harvest
Mistrust to trust
Conception to birth

The best bread rises
Alive in the leavening
The proof of patience
– Growth Takes Time by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia

SCRIPTURE: 2 Peter 3:9 NRSV
The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance.

SCRIPTURE: Ephesians 4:1-3 NRSV
I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

The December 19, 2013 devotion from http://umrethinkchurch.tumblr.com 
SCRIPTURE: James 5:7-10, The Message
Meanwhile, friends, wait patiently for the Master’s Arrival. You see farmers do this all the time, waiting for their valuable crops to mature, patiently letting the rain do its slow but sure work. Be patient like that. Stay steady and strong. The Master could arrive at any time. Friends, don’t complain about each other. A far greater complaint could be lodged against you, you know. The Judge is standing just around the corner. Take the old prophets as your mentors. They put up with anything, went through everything, and never once quit, all the time honoring God. What a gift life is to those who stay the course!

Patience is a virtue, the phrase goes. Patience is bitter, but the fruit is sweet, said Aristotle. When is patience a virtue and under what circumstances is it appropriate to advise patience over action? When does patience become oppressive?

In this passage, the author is adamant about being patient, like the farmer, who trusts the rain to do its “slow but sure work.”

We are nearing the end of Advent, but the beginning of so much more. It’s hard to wait, especially when the world isn’t as God intended it to be. When nations continue to war, people continue to oppress, hunger and poverty continue to find victims.

This season of Advent, practice an active patience, keeping alive the hope that God is not finished with us yet. The God of creation continues to work in the hearts and minds of God’s people, renewing and restoring hope, love, joy and peace.

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Growth Takes Time © 2013 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia

You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.

Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Thank you Rethink Church for a great way to make preparing for Christmas more meaningful. Join me and thousands more in setting aside time to reflect, focus, and literally picture the deep themes of Jesus’ birth.

Click here for more information on Advent Photo-A-Day from Rethink Church.

Click here for a master list of links to my submissions. Lisa <><