Psalm 148:7-8 NRSV
Praise the Lord from the earth, you sea monsters and all deeps, fire and hail, snow and frost, stormy wind fulfilling his command!
One winter, while we were living in North Carolina, it snowed. I sat for a long time in silence at our bedroom window watching the soft flakes float to the ground. It was fascinating to me. I grew up in Florida and had only seen snow a couple of times in my life. The perfect peace of that experience birthed the snow verse of this hymn. As I began to think about other natural experiences, the other verses came to be. – Lisa <><
God Who Brings the Cleansing Rain
by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Suggested tune: THE CALL (United Methodist Hymnal #164)
God who brings the cleansing rain
saturate our thirsty bones
with the milk of mercy sweet
with the blood that brings us home
God who rules the fiery sun
kindle now our brittle hearts
set ablaze our tender lives
forge our ways till sin departs
God who rides the winds of change
anchor us against its wrath
set our face toward holy ends
fix our walk upon your path
God who sends the silent snows
quiet us against your breast
cover us with hope-filled wings
whisper soft your word of rest
God who steps into our time
Take away this needless fear
Turn our lives to songs of praise
Play us for your world to hear
In John 20:19-29, Jesus appears to the disciples twice following his resurrection from the dead. The first time, Thomas isn’t there. Maybe he’s out getting supplies. Maybe he’s seeing other disciples who are hiding in another location. Maybe he’s gathering information or caring for someone or the only one brave enough to head out into the streets knowing the danger. We simply don’t know Thomas’ reasons or motivation.
When he returns, there’s great excitement about Jesus’ appearance. That’s understandable. Thomas’ response is also understandable. He wants what the other disciples now have. He wants to see Jesus, too.
Imagine what Thomas is thinking that long week between appearances. I imagine Thomas doubting himself far more than Jesus.
Why didn’t Jesus wait till we were all here?
Is Jesus mad at me or disappointed in me?
Did he abandon me as I abandoned him?
Was I not worthy of seeing him?
Will he come again?
Jesus does come again and gives Thomas what he needs. Jesus does the same for us as well. – Lisa <><
Jesus, you give me what I need
What I need to believe
What I need to live
Like my brother Thomas,
I lay the doubting down
You come for me
You want me as well
You want us all
The gift of your presence is for me
The gift of your peace is for me
So too the power of your Spirit
The very Breath of Life
Abundant Life in your name
Jesus, you give me what I need
Oh My Jesus
My Lord and My God
What’s a great way to get over something when you’re scared?
The older I get the scarier the world gets. I’m more aware of things. When you’re little you’re sheltered and that’s a good thing.
So how do you get over things? Some folks would say, “Just do it! Put on your big girl pants!” I’m not always that strong.
In order to get over things I’m scared of I need help. I need great friends to stand beside me, speak truth to me, pray for me, help me take the next step. I need to take a step back sometimes and get some perspective.
There is something about taking a step forward and facing our fears. There’s something about the practice of doing that. It’s a practice. It’s like a little kid learning how to walk. First, they’re stumbly bumbly, then they get a little better at it, and a little better at it, and then they’re zooming around the house.
Part of the practice is remembering how alike we are. This is the beautiful message of this book. The realization that these spooky green pants are actually scaredy pants. They are just as scared as the little bear.
Each one finds the other strange. The little bear doesn’t wear clothes, has no experience with pants. The pants have no experience with bears.
They realize they’re both looking for the same thing.
So when I’m scared, especially when it feels like I’m scared of someone, someone because they’re different from me, they’re probably just as scared of me. Deep down inside we have the same longings. We have the same needs.
Deesis Mosaic of Christ, Hagia Sophia in Turkey
Christ with Hand in Benediction/Blessing
God’s Gang Sign- Three fingers representing the Trinity, two representing the dual nature of Christ (fully human, fully divine), the palm open in blessing, reaching for us.
Association of this hand symbol with the core longings we all have. When we realize we all have them it breaks down the fear and it breaks down the dividing walls between us. People are no longer strange or weird, they have the same needs we do. We begin to see them as human.
The Palm is Belonging. How many of you are longing to belong? Do I belong here? Yes! You are wanted. You are welcome.
The Thumb is Unconditional Love. Life is so different because we have thumbs.
The Pointer Finger is Security. For some of us its the #1 thing we’re longing for. We tend to point at things and people and say, “You’re not safe.” Instead of saying, “Come closer. Let’s talk.”
The Middle Finger is Understanding. Does anybody get me?
You put all these fingers up and the other two down and you get the ancient sign of blessing. This is what we need. This is what Jesus offers. Jesus offers them all to all of us.
Ephesians 2:11-19, NRSV 11 So then, remember that at one time you Gentiles by birth, called “the uncircumcision” by those who are called “the circumcision”—a physical circumcision made in the flesh by human hands— 12 remember that you were at that time without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.
At one time you had the insiders and the outsiders- the Jews and the Gentiles, the circumcised and the uncircumcised. It was like this but now it’s different. You’re not a stranger, an alien, an outsider. You’re not far from God. Because of Jesus, everyone can be brought near.
13 But now in Christ Jesus, you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
This was so important and so needed Jesus died for it. He bled for it.
14 For he is our peace; in his flesh, he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.
Christ is our peace. The peace between us and God and the peace between one another.
So important it took body and blood, Jesus’ flesh.
15 He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, 16 and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it.
Jesus took on the humiliation, the violence, the hostility so that there would not be hostility between us.
17 So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; 18 for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God.
There are times when our church family are more of a family to us than our biological family. It must be that way in God’s house.
VIDEO: Father Gregory Boyles of Homeboy Industries in California
Worship Resources For God’s Gifts, United Methodist Hymnal #489
O Holy God, open unto me light for my darkness,
courage for my fear, hope for my despair.
O loving God, open unto me wisdom for my confusion,
forgiveness for my sins, love for my hate.
O God of peace, open unto me peace for my turmoil,
joy for my sorrow, strength for my weakness.
O generous God, open my heart to receive all your gifts.
Do You Hear What I Hear? The Songs of Christmas
November 27: Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus by Charles Wesley (1707-1788)
Scripture References: Psalm 34:4; Galatians 5:1; Haggai 2:7
Theme: Longing for Deliverance
Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus by Charles Wesley
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 every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.
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.
Jesus, we long for you
Watching, waiting, expecting
Jesus, we long for you
You, the hope of all the earth
You, the desire of every nation
You, the key to every prison
You do not merely release the captives
You shatter the bonds of fear and sin
Come Mighty Savior!
We long for your deliverance
Take our strongholds and give us freedom
Take our numbers and give us names
Take our sentences and give us life
Psalm 34:4 (NKJV) I sought the Lord, and He heard me and delivered me from all my fears.
Galatians 5:1 (NKJV)Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.
Haggai 2:7(NKJV) “And I will shake all nations, and they shall come to the Desire of All Nations, and I will fill this temple with glory,” says the Lord of hosts.
In 1744, Charles Wesley considered Haggai 2:7 and looked at the situation of orphans in the areas around him. He also looked at the class divide in Great Britain. Through this train of thought, he wrote “Come, Thou long expected Jesus” based upon Haggai 2:7 and a published prayer at the time which had the words:
“Born Your people to deliver, born a child and yet a King, born to reign in us forever, now Your gracious kingdom bring. By Your own eternal Spirit, rule in all our hearts alone; by Your all sufficient merit, raise us to Your glorious throne. Amen.”
*********** CLICK HERE for a pdf of the Christmas Song Devotional Readings.
The Christmas Story is full of singing. Mary sings. Zechariah sings. Simeon sings. The angels sing. Over the centuries we’ve continued to celebrate with songs of our own, songs born from the joy of Christ’s coming.
This holy season, to prepare our hearts again for the coming of Christ, we’ll reflect on the poetry of these meaningful songs. Some will be old friends. Others will be new. My prayer is that their beauty and power draw us closer to Jesus, the babe of Bethlehem, the Risen King. And that the grace of drawing near fulfills in us Christ’s power of new life.
Suggestions for Reflection on Each Song Lyric in the Christmas Devotion:
Find a quiet place to sit. Take a couple of deep breaths.
Read the song lyrics several times slowly, savoring the words.
What is the big idea?
Why is it important?
How does this truth connect with my life?
Have a conversation with God about this truth.
Invite God to use this truth to birth something new in you this holy season.
Journal your reflections
Draw, paint, or create some other kind of art based on your reflections
Find a scripture or two which inspired the song or where brought to mind by the lyrics
Sing or listen to the song
Share the song or just the lyrics on social media or face to face
I look forward to hearing your comments. – Lisa <><