Lift Up Your Voice- A Devotion for the Second Week of Advent based on Handel’s Messiah

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Lift Up Your Voice
Readings and Reflection for the second week of Advent

SONGS FROM HANDEL’S MESSIAH:
Behold, a Virgin Shall Conceive and O Thou That Tellest Good Tidings to Zion

SCRIPTURES to read this week:
Matthew 1:18-23
Isaiah 40:6-11
Luke 1:39-56

REFLECTION QUESTIONS for this week:

  • How are you intentionally sharing the good tidings of Christmas?
  • Make three invitations this week to worship or another Christmas gathering.

PRAYER:
Jesus, Your message is sacred
Holy, Set Apart, Treasured

Your message is eternal
Timeless, Lasting, a Firm Foundation

Your message is salvation
Deliverance, Wholeness, Grace

We bow before your commission
to receive and bear your message into the world

Show us when to speak and give us the words
Never for our agenda, for yours alone

Show us what to do and give us the strength
Never for our achievement, for yours alone

Show others we are from you by your power at work through us
Never for our glory, for yours alone
~ For Yours Alone, by Lisa Degrenia

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Lift Up Your Voice
A Devotion for the Second Week of Advent
based on Handel’s Messiah © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Prepare the Way of the Lord (Isaiah 40)

Sermon Series christmas messiah 1110 x 624

Sermon Series:
For Unto Us A Child is Born, Messages Inspired by Handel’s Messiah

Message 1 of 5: Prepare the Way of the Lord
Scripture: Isaiah 40:1-5
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 12/1/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

First three songs of Handel’s Messiah are based on Isaiah 40:1-5, KJV
Comfort Ye and Ev’ry Valley
And the Glory of the Lord

The first 39 chapters of Isaiah are heavy. God is speaking reality through Isaiah about the consequence of sin. In chapter 40, the message turns. The Prophet Isaiah looks past the situation in front of him, the people of God taken into exile and returning from exile, down the highway of time to the coming of God’s Messiah, Jesus Christ and past that to the second coming of Christ and the completed victory of God.

Isaiah 40:1-5, NRSV
1 “Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God.
2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her
that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.
3 A voice cries out:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
4 Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain.
5 Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

How are you preparing for Christmas?

Steve Garnaas-HolmesPrepare the Way
We prepare outwardly for Christmas: we hang lights and put up decorations; we bake goodies and wrap gifts. How will you prepare inwardly? The coming of Christ means that God will be incarnate: embodied, lovingly present, in the flesh in your life.

As the carol Joy to the World says, “Let every heart prepare Him room.” There was no room in the inn, but there can be room in my heart.

Following the first London performance of Messiah, Lord Kinnoul congratulated Handel on the excellent entertainment. Handel replied, “My Lord, I should be sorry if I only entertain them. I wish to make them better.”

Handel’s desire in setting the scripture to music was that it would bring a change in us, that it would bring transformation. Prepare the way of the Lord is about transformation.

Prepare the Way of the Lord = Prepare Your Way In Me
Click Here for the first week of the Advent/Christmas Devotion which accompanies this sermon series.

We prepare inwardly by setting aside time for regular, quiet reflection with God. Here are two classic reflection questions to ask yourself.

A. This past week, when did I feel closest to God?
This is a question of consolation, of comfort. It’s when we experience the presence of God, the presence of the Holy Spirit, the in-breaking of God into our life. All of a sudden we’re awake, we’re alive in Christ and we notice it.

Isaiah 40:1-2
1 Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God.
2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her

When did you experience God speaking comforting, tender words? God literally “speaking to the heart.” This is God’s voice of love and assurance breaking through the pain and confusion.

God is whispering, like the whispering of a lover into the beloved’s ears. It’s that intimate, personal, close. God isn’t whispering sweet nothings. These words are designed to remind you what is good, to strengthen you and help you and remind you how much you are loved.

B. This past week, when did I feel farthest from God? When did I blow it?
Which question is easier for you to answer?

This second question is classically a question of desolation. The sorrow, pain, guilt you are feeling is the Spirit calling you back to the path of life. Don’t let the feelings derail you, let them guide you.

Hear the good news and believe it. Isaiah 40:2 is Grace, Grace, Grace.
that she has served her term
You’ve been in prison and chains long enough

that her penalty is paid,
Jesus paid it on the cross

that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins
Yes, there are consequences for our sins. But this is not saying God is handing out a double punishment. It’s actually a reference to God’s grace. We sin, and God returns to us mercy, forgiveness, and grace. What God supplies is far more than what we deserve. It is double grace, greater than all our sin.

Isaiah 40:3-5
3 A voice cries out:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
4 Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain.
5 Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

The “all” includes you, even in the wilderness of your soul and the wilderness of this world.

Jan L. Richardson, Through the Advent Door: Entering a Contemplative Christmas
The wilderness does not merely give us a path: empties us enough so that a path is made within us. Through us. Of us. A road for the holy to enter the world. A way for the Christ who comes.

Prepare the Way of the Lord = Prepare Your Way Of Me
Our internal life leads to an external life. God’s word, “Comfort, comfort my people” does not equal us being comfortable. (no troubles, no worries, I pay no attention to the troubles of the world)

The comforting of God is the strengthening and encouraging of God. We are prepared in order to share. There is an expectation of prayer and action.

This passage is full of God’s call and command.
Verse 1, Comfort, Comfort my people! 
Make sure this happens!

Verse 2, Speak… cry out
To those in chains, to those exiled

Verse 3, Cry out in the wilderness
Those lonely places, harsh places, broken places, unjust places

Verse 5, The Mouth of the Lord has spoken 
This is not a suggestion. This is a command. God prepares us so we can be part of the way making.

Prepare the way of the Lord!
Isaiah is preparing the way. Down the road, John the Baptist uses Isaiah’s words to prepare the way for Jesus- The Way, the Truth, the Life. Down the road, it is now us.

Enjoy the season. Feel it fully. Be fully present and go deep. Spend time with God. God, prepare the way in me and through me. We are making the way and we are mending the world.

God breaks into all the systems and places and pain; breaks in to create something new. The mountains where what’s needed is too high, out of reach, brought low. The valleys where there are much darkness and pain are raised up. There is a plain, an evenness, an equity, a justice for all.

Messiah premiered in Dublin on April 13, 1742, as a charitable benefit for 3 charities- prisoners’ debt relief, the Mercer Hospital, and the Charitable Infirmary. It raised 400 pounds, split between the 3 charities, freeing 142 men from the debtor’s prison. 142 households were instantly transformed.

How will you make a difference this holy season? For making the way where there seems to be no way, for bearing God’s light into the world.

PRAYER:
The time is now, for you have called
The place is now, for you have spoken

Yes, it is a wilderness, a desert even
So dry, so rough, so uneven
Yes, the gap is so very wide between the high and the low

But, you have called, O God. You have spoken.
Not an if or when or maybe. Not even a try.

You have spoken shall

Every valley shall be lifted
Every mountain shall be made low
The uneven shall be made level
The rough shall be made smooth
It shall be done in us and through us and of us.

By the power of your Holy Spirit,
we will persevere in this wilderness of preparing
We will not forge a path or blaze a trail but make a highway
A highway for your coming
For your glory, O God shall be revealed in this place
And all shall see it
All shall see it together
Shall, by Lisa Degrenia

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Be sure to also check out Rev. Magrey deVega’s stunning reflection on this passage in his blog post, Is God on your Christmas List?

Prepare the Way of the Lord © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Prepare the Way of the Lord- A Devotion for the First Week of Advent based on Handel’s Messiah

walk path water sunPrepare the Way of the Lord
Readings and Reflection for December 1-7

SONGS FROM HANDEL’S MESSIAH:
Comfort Ye and Ev’ry Valley
And the Glory of the Lord

SCRIPTURES to read this week:
Isaiah 40:1-5
Luke 1:57-80
Matthew 3:1-12

REFLECTION QUESTIONS for this week:

  • What in you needs to be lifted up or made low?
  • How are you preparing the way for those suffering from falsehood, prejudice, and injustice? Those yet to believe?

PRAYER:
The time is now, for you have called
The place is now, for you have spoken

Yes, it is a wilderness, a desert even
So dry, so rough, so uneven
Yes, the gap is so very wide between the high and the low

But, you have called, O God. You have spoken.
Not an if or when or maybe. Not even a try.

You have spoken shall

Every valley shall be lifted
Every mountain shall be made low
The uneven shall be made level
The rough shall be made smooth

So we will persevere in this wilderness of preparing
We will not forge a path or blaze a trail but make a highway
A highway for your coming
For your glory, O God shall be revealed in this place
And all shall see it
All shall see it together
~ Shall, by Lisa Degrenia

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Prepare the Way of the Lord
A Devotion for the First Week of Advent
based on Handel’s Messiah © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Sermon Recording: Shall, Making the Path (Isaiah 40)

sermon series resilience 1110 x 624
Message 4 of 5
Scripture: Isaiah 40:3-5
These are the notes from a message offered 11/4/18 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. I’ll be posting the series on Fridays in the coming weeks. I pray they are an encouragement to you.

Romans 5:1-5, The Path to Hope
Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

Isaiah 40:3-5, The Way to Make the Path
A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill shall be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

Shall, by Lisa Degrenia
The time is now, for you have called, O God
The place is now, for you have spoken

Yes, it is a wilderness, a desert even
So dry, so rough, so uneven
Yes, the gap is so very wide between the high and the low

But, you have called
You have spoken
Not an if or when or maybe
Not even a try

You have spoken shall

Every valley shall be lifted
Every mountain shall be made low
The uneven shall be made level
The rough shall be made smooth

So we will persevere in this wilderness of preparing
We will not forge a path or blaze a trail but make a highway
A highway for your coming
For your glory, O God shall be revealed in this place
And all shall see it
All shall see it together

Book Recommendation: Canoeing The Mountains: Christian Leadership in Uncharted Territory by Tod Bolsinger

LEWIS AND CLARK AND THE MEN OF THE CORPS OF DISCOVERY

  • Commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson in 1804 to find the Northwest Passage
  • Purpose: Commerce
    • Finding the route believed to connect the Missouri River with the Pacific would make commerce possible across the continent and the riches of Asia that lay beyond.
  • Purpose: Control
    • Whichever nation found the Norwest Passage first, and then controlled it, would control the destiny of the continent.

What they thought would happen:

  • Travel the Missouri River to its source
  • Over the next hill, they would find another river. They could then calmly coast to the Pacific Ocean because that’s the way the river would be flowing
  • What they found was the Rocky Mountains, mountains like they’d never seen. So high, so long, so steep. They were unprepared. Everything they had been told was absolutely wrong.

Lewis and Clark List of Hardships 

  • ANIMALS: Plagued by Mosquitoes and Small Pesky Flies. Encounters with Grizzly Bears
  • MISSOURI RIVER: Fighting against strong currents and shifting sandbars. Dangerous hazards caused by navigating rapids and obstacles in the water
    • Exhaustion from the daily grind of moving the heavy keelboat up the Missouri River that involved arduous rowing, pulling the keelboat through shallows using a rope from onshore (called cordelling) or pushing the heavy boat with long poles (poling)
      • The boats were not canoes but a keelboat (55 feet long, 22 oars at its sides, and a cannon mounted in the bow)
    • The Great Falls proved to be a difficult challenge. The men had to bypass the falls which involved carrying their canoes, supplies, and equipment all by hand for over 1 month
  • THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS: Later in the journey it was necessary to abandon travel by water and physically carry the boats. This process called portaging, proved to be very draining and extremely time
    • Traveling over harsh, tough terrain
    • The harrowing journey on the rough Lolo trail through the Bitterroot Mountains
  • WEATHER: Enduring extreme weather conditions such as intense, blistering heat, the bitter cold, blizzards, hailstorms, snow, and continuous rain
    • In the winter months, it was often difficult to find food
  • NATIVES: Confrontations with hostile Natives and Natives who were invaluable to their survival and success. (Sacagawea)
  • LENGTH OF THE TRIP: The outward journey and the return journey home covered over 7000 miles. May 14, 1804, to September 23, 1806 – two years, four months and ten days
    • As the journey progressed illnesses became an increasing problem
    • Hard to find supplies along the way

Their journey was nothing like what they expected. Everything they had been told was wrong. They were unprepared.

Have you ever found yourself in a similar situation? Somewhere you never expected? How does it feel to be that out of your element? That unprepared?

At that point, you have a decision to make. Lewis and Clark had a decision to make. You can turn around and go back. (Sometimes you can’t go back.) Or you can just stay where you are. Pitch a tent. Build a city. Or we can try to move forward. Off the map. Into the unknown.

Lewis and Clark decided to move forward. They adapted. They abandoned the boats, their safety net because they were no longer helpful. They were known for their skill on the water and now they would need to become hikers.

They moved forward. This is resilience, perseverance, endurance. Moving forward in the face of adversity. Moving forward in the face of the unknown. Moving forward in the face of suffering. Moving forward.

So many of us find ourselves in these positions. I did not expect to be here- divorced, fired, widowed, my family in multiple states, financial crisis…

So many of us did not expect to find ourselves in the face of the unknown but because of the grace of God, the power of God, the presence of God, we can move forward.

Lewis and Clark were able to move forward because

  • they made the decision to move forward
  • people came alongside them to move forward

We too can move forward. We can make the decision, we have people who will come alongside us, and we have God in Jesus Christ, the pioneer, and perfecter of our faith who is already out there ahead of us. For us, with us, behind us, before us, above us moving us forward.

I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back. Christianity is a movement. A movement forward. We are a pilgrim people.

Isaiah 40:3-5, The Way to Make the Path
A voice cries out: The voice is God shouting “Come on!”

“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill shall be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain.

This is what our God does. Our God moves that mountain so we can keep moving forward. Our God raises us up out of that valley so we can keep moving forward. Our God fills in the potholes so the rough places are made smooth. Our God takes those winding, curvy, rollercoaster-y ways and makes them smooth so we can move forward

It may not feel that way when we’re walking it. It may feel like a mountain high or a valley low or rough and twisty. But God is making a way where there seems to be no way.

This is resilience. Do you trust God to make a way where there seems to be no way? Trust God.

God is not only going to make a way for you, but God is also going to help you make a way for others. All of a sudden you’re going to find yourself a Sacagawea helping someone make their way.

It’s all grace. It’s all goodness. That’s the God we serve, we know, we love. That’s the God who saves us.

Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

2 Corinthians 4:8-9
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”

In Christ we are resilient!

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I’m excited to now offer mp3’s of my Sunday messages. A huge thank you to Mark and my brothers and sisters at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota for all their help in making this possible. If you’re ever in Sarasota, please drop by for worship Sundays at 9:00 am or 10:30 am, or join us live on our Facebook page at 9:00 am Sundays or drop by during the week for a chat or small group. You and those you love are always welcome.

sermon © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Contact Lisa for posting and publication considerations.

Growing in Resilience: Shall, based on Isaiah 40.3-5

Sermon Series resilience plant 1110 x 624Growing in Resilience
Day 1, Read Isaiah 40
Reflection: Shall, based on Isaiah 40:3-5

A voice cries out:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

The time is now, for you have called
The place is now, for you have spoken

Yes, it is a wilderness, a desert even
So dry, so rough
So uneven
Yes, the gap is so very wide between the high and the low

But, you have called
You have spoken
Not an if or when or maybe
Not even a try

You have spoken shall

Every valley shall be lifted
Every mountain shall be made low
The uneven shall be made level
The rough shall be made smooth

So we will persevere in this wilderness of preparing
We will not forge a path or blaze a trail but make a highway
A highway for your coming
For your glory, O God shall be revealed in this place
And all shall see it
All shall see it together

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Click Here for more on the Growing in Resilience Reading Plan sponsored by Bishop Ken Carter and the Cabinet of the Florida Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. 

Shall © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.