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Devotions

Seeking Jesus

Read Matthew 2:1-12.

While the wise men responded to the news of Jesus’ birth with joy, Herod responded with fear. While the wise men viewed Jesus as the hope of the world, Herod viewed him as a threat. While the wise men sought to worship Jesus, Herod plotted to have him killed. How do you explain the difference between the two reactions to the birth of Jesus? What do you think was so frightening to Herod? What do you think the wise men understood about Jesus’ birth that his own people didn’t?

To truly give ourselves over to Christ means that some things in our lives will be threatened – our self-dependence, our self-righteousness, or self-interest. This letting go can be painful and frightening. It involves being vulnerable enough to admit we’re not perfect, that we can’t do it on our own, and that we are not the center of the universe. But it also involves the freedom that comes with knowing that we don’t have to be perfect because we’re forgiven, loved, and inspired to become more Christ-like. It involves the freedom of knowing we don’t have to do it on our own. It involves the freedom of aligning our wants and needs with those of others.

Today, consider what it is you seek when you come to Jesus. In prayer, ask God for help in finding it or clarity if you should be seeking something else.

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Devotions

Fellow Heirs

Read Ephesians 3:1-12.

An important ministry for Paul was taking the gospel message to the Gentiles. For those who believed that Jesus had only come to bring good news to Jewish people, the notion of the salvation of Christ being available to those outside the faith was met with resistance or outright hostility. Paul, in fact, insists that Gentiles have become ‘fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.’ There may have been some who, even if they accepted Gentiles as part of the body of Christ, might still have viewed them as inferior in some way.

Be honest with yourself and with God. Are there people or groups of people you view as inferior or not quite as worthy? Do the thoughts you have or the words you speak or the messages you share on social media reflect that “better-than” attitude? Slowly reread this passage, substituting the name of the person or group you have identified for the word “Gentiles”. (“I, Paul, am a prisoner for Christ Jesus for the sake of you ___________…) How might this practice affect your perception of their worthiness as fellow heirs?

Today, pray for an open heart towards those you have a tendency to view as less-than.

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Devotions

A Righteous King

Read Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14.

While this psalm was written many centuries before Jesus’ birth, we can see how his kingship fulfilled this prayer. Jesus defended the poor and the needy. He challenged systems that oppressed and called out leaders who ignored those in need. As he healed and embraced and met people where they were, he affirmed their worth, claiming them as his beloved.

Where do we see that type of leadership in our world today? Who are the people who are embodying these values? Who are the people in this world who ‘have no  helper’? What is one small step you can take to remind someone how precious they are in God’s sight?

Today in prayer, commit yourself to taking this step.

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Devotions

Arise, Shine

Read Isaiah 60:1-6.

In this, we read a calling for all of God’s people, no matter where they are, no matter their station in life, to lift their eyes from the darkness and the chaos of the world. It is a call to turn away from the fear, anxiety, bitterness, and hatred that separate us from each other. Instead, we are gathered and drawn together in worship, offering the best of ourselves as an act of praise for the One who brings light and life.

“Arise, shine” is a call to action. From what do you need to arise? Maybe it’s from a situation that feels hopeless or from the habit of judging others or from a grudge you can’t seem to let go or from self-criticism. How can rising from or rising above help you to shine the light of God into the world?

Today, pray for those who are sitting in darkness, that they may find hope as they are lifted into the light of love.

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Devotions

Pondering

Read Luke 2:41-52.

Here, as in many of the early stories of Jesus’ life, Mary reacts by pondering or treasuring in her heart what God says or does. She does this when she is told she will be an unwed mother, when she responds to the shepherds’ visit in the stable, and here, when she deals with the frustration and fear that comes with raising a teenager.

When you have crises in your life, how do you respond? Do you panic, fall apart, spring into action, etc? Do you take time when the immediate crisis is over to reflect on what happened, how you responded, and how God might have been working through it? How might Mary’s response be an example to you? How could you respond more prayerfully and contemplatively to events in your life?

In prayer, ask God to help you ponder instead of worry, try to fix, or withdraw.

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Devotions

Clothed in Love

Read Colossians 3:12-17.

These are words we may need to hear now more than ever. God has chosen you and your response should be to clothe yourself with all the characteristics of Christ. Here, those characteristics include compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. We are to bear with one another and forgive one another in the same way we have been forgiven.

In what situations is that difficult for you? What individuals or groups are difficult for you to bear? In what ways could you better clothe your words and actions in love? Offer those people or situations to God and ask for help in loving more like Jesus.

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Devotions

Alleluia! Alleluia!

Read Psalm 148.

In this call to praise, the psalmist urges all of creation to join a universal chorus of thanksgiving. This is the psalm on which the hymn, All Creatures of Our God and King, is based and the repeated chorus is “Alleluia, Alleluia!”

Today, spend a few minutes outdoors and notice the sights, sounds, and scents around you. Close your eyes and feel the warmth of the sun on your skin. How is creation, functioning as it should in perfect balance, offering praise to the Creator?

During this Christmas week, especially when you feel stressed or pressured, find time to think of concrete ways you might praise God, even if it is just singing, “Alleluia, Alleluia!” What creative offering of praise can you make? This week, commit yourself to praise—whether it be through music, art, or acts of kindness.

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Devotions

Presence

Read 1 Samuel 2:18-20, 26.

The writer tells us that Samuel grew up in the household of God, educated and raised by the priest, Eli, but loved and not forgotten by his parents. Service to God was an everyday part of Samuel’s life from a young age and he managed to do it in ways that was both pleasing to God and to the people around him.

Can you remember the first time you became aware of God’s presence in your life? Was it during a time of distress or during a time of joy? Did God minister to you from within or through another person?

Today, make a list either on paper or in your heart of the times you are certain God had a hand in what was happening. Then offer a prayer of thanksgiving for God’s continued presence in your life and in the world.

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Events

Christmas Eve Candlelight Service

Friday, December 24th

Celebrate the birth of Jesus with a special candlelit service, full of traditional carols and readings. Worship is available at two different times to fit differing schedules. Feel free to attend at either or at both churches!

Ft. Morgan UMC at 5:00 p.m.

Brush UMC at 7:00 p.m.

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Devotions

Comfort and Joy

Read Luke 1:39-45.

Mary and Elizabeth both found themselves in unusual circumstances. Despite the difference in age and experience, they were both vessels for God’s plan to redeem the world. Elizabeth carried John, who would become the Baptist, preparing the way for the promised Messiah. Mary carried Jesus, the fulfilment of that promise. The wisdom of Elizabeth’s years allowed her to bring comfort and joy to Mary.

Who are some of the older people in your life whose wisdom have helped to guide and comfort, to encourage and challenge you? What aspects of their character made them trustworthy and helpful? In what ways do you try to embody those same aspects in your own character? Can you think of a younger person who could use an encouraging word?

Today in prayer, commit yourself to being a bearer of joy for the people you encounter.