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Sunday, First Week of Advent; Isaiah 2: 1-5. The Mountain of the Lord

1 This is what Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem:

2 In the last days the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established as chief among the mountains;
it will be raised above the hills, and all nations will stream to it.

3 Many peoples will come and say,
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob.
He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.”
The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

4 He will judge between the nations
and will settle disputes for many peoples.
They will beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
nor will they train for war anymore.

5 Come, O house of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the LORD.

Monday, First Week of Advent; Isaiah 4:2-6… the Branch of the Lord

2 In that day the Branch of the LORD will be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land will be the pride and glory of the survivors in Israel.

3 Those who are left in Zion, who remain in Jerusalem, will be called holy, all who are recorded among the living in Jerusalem.

4 The Lord will wash away the filth of the women of Zion; he will cleanse the bloodstains from Jerusalem by a spirit of judgment and a spirit
of fire.

5 Then the LORD will create over all of Mount Zion and over those who assemble there a cloud of smoke by day and a glow of flaming fire by night; over all the glory will be a canopy.

6 It will be a shelter and shade from the heat of the day, and a refuge and hiding place from the storm and rain.

Tuesday, First Week of Advent; Isaiah 11:1-10… The Branch from Jesse

1 A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.

2 The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him—
the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and of power,
the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD –

3 and he will delight in the fear of the LORD.
He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears;

4 but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.
He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.

5 Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist.

6 The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.

7 The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox.

8 The infant will play near the hole of the cobra,
and the young child put his hand into the viper’s nest.

9 They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain,
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.

10 In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his place of rest will be glorious.

Wednesday, First Week of Advent; Isaiah 25:6-10a… the Lord Almighty

6 On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare
a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine—
the best of meats and the finest of wines.

7 On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples,
the sheet that covers all nations;

8 he will swallow up death forever.
The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces;
he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth.
The LORD has spoken.

9 In that day they will say,
“Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us.
This is the LORD, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.”

10 The hand of the LORD will rest on this mountain; but Moab will be trampled under him
as straw is trampled down in the manure.

Thursday, First Week of Advent; Isaiah 26:1-6… A Song of Praise

1 In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah:
We have a strong city; God makes salvation
its walls and ramparts.

2 Open the gates that the righteous nation may enter,
the nation that keeps faith.

3 You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast,
because he trusts in you.

4 Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the LORD, is the Rock eternal.

5 He humbles those who dwell on high, he lays the lofty city low;
he levels it to the ground and casts it down to the dust.

6 Feet trample it down—
the feet of the oppressed, the footsteps of the poor.

Friday, First Week of Advent; Isaiah 29:17-24… the Humble Rejoice

17 In a very short time, will not Lebanon be turned into a fertile field
and the fertile field seem like a forest?

18 In that day the deaf will hear the words of the scroll,
and out of gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind will see.

19 Once more the humble will rejoice in the LORD;
the needy will rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.

20 The ruthless will vanish, the mockers will disappear,
and all who have an eye for evil will be cut down-

21 those who with a word make a man out to be guilty, who ensnare the defender in court and with false testimony deprive the innocent of justice.

22 Therefore this is what the LORD, who redeemed Abraham, says to the house of Jacob:
“No longer will Jacob be ashamed; no longer will their faces grow pale.

23 When they see among them their children,
the work of my hands, they will keep my name holy;
they will acknowledge the holiness of the Holy One of Jacob,
and will stand in awe of the God of Israel.

24 Those who are wayward in spirit will gain understanding;
those who complain will accept instruction.”

Saturday, First Week of Advent; Luke 1:26-38… The Birth of Jesus Foretold

26In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

29Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. 31You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. 32He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”

34“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

35The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. 37For nothing is impossible with God.”

38“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her.

(Scriptures taken from the New International Version)

If we could all
just stop throwing stones,

and stoop, knees bent
and write in the dust,

we’d see that the dust
was once stone –
grand, and hard, and proud, and tough –
now ground and dissolved
in grace and tears.

So… how much better
to be a grain of dirt

on that kind prophet’s hands
than a stone
in the cold, accusing Temple
of the pure.

(from The Open Office: a tool for groups exploring a rhythm of life that has a liturgical edge to share resources.)

How often are we like the stone… cold, hard-hearted, distant and judgmental to those we love and to those around us. May the Spirit of Christ break up the hardness of our hearts, grind us into bits of dust through his grace, love and mercy. May we have a heart of tenderness, kindness, compassion for others.

Beannacht (“Blessing”)

On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.

And when your eyes
freeze behind
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets in to you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green,
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.

(Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom, by John Donahue)

The Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome
but kindly to everyone,
an apt teacher,
patient,
correcting opponents with gentleness.
2 Timothy 2:24-25 (NRSV)

God’s servant must not be argumentative,
but a gentle listener
and a teacher
who keeps cool,
working firmly but patiently
with those who refuse to obey.

2 Timothy 2:24-25 (The Message)

Today we consider gentleness as a fruit of the Spirit.

From birth onward, we seem to know instinctively how to be harsh and even cruel, particularly to those with whom we disagree. Most of us have mastered well the skills of sarcasm and superiority. Gentleness, on the other hand, seems to be something we have to learn, particularly when dealing with those who strongly oppose us.

Yet who among us would not prefer that we ourselves be corrected by a gentle person rather than by someone whose manner is rude and caustic? Paul asks the Corinthians a question whose answer is a foregone conclusion: “What would you prefer? Am I to come to you with a stick, or with love in a spirit of gentleness?”

In our interactions at home, at church, in the workplace, in the world at large, the gentle manner of a Christian believer is a powerful testimony to the alluring gentleness of the Christ to whom we are to bear witness.

Prayer

Give grace, O Lord Jesus, as I seek your way,
that I may grow more and more into your likeness
and that I may bear your ensign
as a banner of hope and direction
before all who are distraught or confused.
Through this time of daily devotion
instill in me your own gentleness,
quiet my over-wrought alarms,
and enable me to rest confidently in your wisdom.
These things grant by the power of your Holy Spirit. Amen.

(excerpts from This Day: A Wesleyan Way of Prayer. Laurence Hull Stookey)

Meditation for the day.

Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus;
And what you have heard of me through many witnesses
Entrust to faithful people
Who will be able to teach others as well.
2 Timothy 2:1-2

Today, let’s consider faithfulness as the fruit of the Spirit

Faithfulness begins with God. Why would we want to commit ourselves to an untrustworthy deity? It is the reliability of God that is the basis for our faithfulness to God. The Scriptures place great stress on the dependability of God, precisely so that we can join confidently in the covenant God opens to us. Once we have done this, we are called to be a faithful people.

But yet there is one more step in this process. The faithful people of God are to “teach others as well.” That is, we are to be witnesses to the reliability of God so that those who have not committed themselves to covenant faithfulness may come to believe. If we are not faithful, we place in their way a stumbling block over which they may fall.

On this day, then, we pray for grace to trust in God’s goodness, to keep our vows with fidelity, and to be those who instruct others in the way.

Verses from Psalm 31 (The Message)

What a stack of blessing you have piled up
for those who worship you.
Ready and waiting for all who run to you
to escape an unkind world.
You hide them safely away from the opposition.
As you slam the door on those oily, mocking faces,
You silence the poisonous gossip.
Blessed God! His love is the wonder of the world!
Trapped by a siege, I panicked,
“Out of sight, out of mind,” I said.
But you heard me say it, you heart and listened.
Love God, all you saints,
God takes care of all who stay close to him.
But he pays back in full those arrogant
enough to go it alone.
Be brave. Be strong. Don’t give up.
Expect God to get here soon.

Prayer:

God of all ages,
In every time and place you have been steadfast.
Your faithfulness endures without fail from generation to generation.
So bind to yourself the hearts of your covenant people
that all who have promised fidelity to the gospel may fulfill their vows.
Preserve your church
not only from renunciation or neglect of faith,
but also from a tepid faith that calls forth from others
contempt rather than conversation.
Make your church to be a city set upon a hill,
that our witness may be seen.
And that others may be drawn to you.
for the sake of Jesus Christ, who is faithful in all things. Amen.

(Some excerpts from: This Day, a Wesleyan Way of Prayer; Lawrence Hull Stookey)

I cannot say our if religion has no room for others and their needs.

I cannot say Father if I do not demonstrate this relationship in my daily living.

I cannot say who art in heaven if all my interests and pursuits are on earthly things.

I cannot say hallowed be thy name if I, who am called by his name, am not holy.

I cannot say thy kingdom come if I am unwilling to give up my own sovereignty and accept the righteous reign of God.

I cannot say thy will be done if I am unwilling or resentful of having it in my life.

I cannot say in earth as it is in heaven unless I am truly ready to give myself to his service here and now.

I cannot say give us this day our daily bread without expending honest effort for it or by ignoring the genuine needs of my fellowmen.

I cannot say forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us if I continue to harbor a grudge against anyone.

I cannot say lead us not into temptation if I deliberately choose to remain in a situation where I am likely to be tempted.

I cannot say deliver us from evil if I am not prepared to fight in the spiritual realm with the weapon of prayer.

I cannot say thine is the kingdom if I do not give the King the disciplined obedience of a loyal subject.

I cannot say thine is the power if I fear what my neighbors may say or do.

I cannot say thine is the glory if I am seeking my own glory first.

I cannot say forever if I am too anxious about each day’s affairs.

I cannot say amen unless I honestly say, “Cost what it may, this is my prayer.

________________

Jesus taught his disciples to pray in a certain way by giving them an example through the “Lord’s Prayer“.

  • Jesus taught us to praise God first, for who He is and how He has called us to be His children.
  • He taught us to not only ask God for our needs each day but to thank him for everything we receive from Him.
  • He also taught us to confess our sins and to forgive others as God has forgiven us.
  • He taught us to petition God for protection, for the needs of others and for our friends and family that may not yet know Jesus as Lord and Savior.

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