Belfast United Methodist Church
Saturday, December 16, 2017
The mission of the Belfast United Methodist Church is to be a community of Disciples in service for Jesus Christ, sharing God's love with all.

05 advent devotional

  

Welcome to the Belfast United Methodist Church Advent Devotional. During the Advent Season, you will have the opportunity to read reflections from various members of our congregation. They share what a Bible passage for the day says to them as they prepare their hearts, minds, souls, and lives with remembering the birth of the Christ and anticipating the return of the Son of God.

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Sunday, December 17, 2017
ON THE ROAD TO EMMAUS
Read: Luke 24:13-35

“They stood still, their faces downcast.  One of them, named  Cleopas, asked him, “Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days. “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!  Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory!” (Luke 24:17b-18,25)
                                                                         
In my prayers I have often told God that I am so looking forward to when I can walk and talk with Jesus.  To feel His  loving and caring arms around me giving me comfort and peace.
Now I ask myself if I will recognize Him and know that my dream is being fulfilled.  Or will I be like Cleopas and his companion and question Jesus as to where He has been that He doesn’t know that people have wishes and dreams to see, walk, and talk with our Lord and Savior?
Can you just imagine how wonderful that will be to be able to look our Lord in the face and talk with Him? To walk   beside Him and feel His arm around you? What peace and joy! No more tears….No more pain!
What a wonderful, glorious day that will be! I can     hardly wait!
 
Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, thank you God for listening to our prayers and our dreams. Keep us alert so when the time comes we will most definitely recognize Jesus at first sight and be ready to go home with Him. In Jesus Holy and Precious name. Amen.
Betty York
 

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Saturday, December 16, 2017
MAN’S PLANS AND GOD’S
Read: Micah 2:2-5a
 
“They covet fields and seize the, and houses, and take them. They defraud a man of his home, a fellowman of his inheritance.  Therefore, the Lord says: “I am planning disaster against this people, from which you cannot save yourselves” (Micah 2:2-3a).

Micah, a minor prophet, was used by the Lord to warn the people of their sinful ways. After several chapters of chastisement, especially directed at the leaders, the false prophets and priests, we find a few verses of hope in Chapter 5. Hope for the future and for those who put their trust in God.
 
The Lord gives Micah the prophetic words of the Messiah's birth, “You, Bethlehem of Ephrathah, you are little among the clans of Judah, yet out of you shall One come forth for Me Who is to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth have been from of old, from ancient days”. (Micah 5:2-30)
 
God selected a town of approximately one thousand   people for the Messiah's birth; Jerusalem was forty to fifty times larger. Even His birth place reflects His humility. This babe was part of God's plan from the beginning, for He knew we needed a Savior. Micah 5:4 says, “He shall stand and feed His flock in the strength of the Lord His God; and they shall dwell secure”.
 
When I am preparing food I stand because I can walk easily about, and I see Jesus doing that. Feeding someone here, then there, according to their needs. Of course, He is 'feeding' us all day long as we draw near to Him. And as we call upon Him, the Holy Spirit protects us from evil. Now that is a birth to celebrate.
 
Prayer: Lord God, may we remember Jesus' humble birth and draw closer to You, allowing You to feed us, so we may feed others. In Your name. Amen.
Martha Klaimon

 

 

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Friday, December 15, 2017
BE NOT AFRAID
Read: Matthew 1:18-25
 
“...an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said 'Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 1:20).
 
This text tells the story from the angle of Joseph's perspective. Joseph was asked to take an action that goes beyond anything in his Jewish law and the social norms of this time. The woman he was legally engaged to was already pregnant, and he knew the child was not his. His first instinct was to end their engagement, but somehow save Mary from disgrace and possible stoning. This is a striking moment in Joseph's life, and all he knows about his ethics and his religion. Then, in his sleep, an angel invites him to forsake all that knowledge and understanding and be part of a larger story!   
I am thinking that Joseph knew the story in Isaiah telling of a child to be born from a virgin, a child who would be the son of God. His faith must have been unwavering. Don't we all have dreams that we know are just that, dreams, not true events. So, for Joseph to  accept the presence of an angel, and to believe her words and directions is miraculous!!!! “Do not be afraid”, she said, so he was not afraid. How did he explain all this to his family, her family, and all the curious, perhaps judgmental friends??? Joseph's total faith in God was where he got his strength, his words, and his actions. What a lesson for today, as well as over 2000 years ago. 
We all have our ways of dealing with personal, professional, and spiritual matters. Many of us are weak and undisciplined at times. I tend to “sweat the small stuff”, then remember that I never gave that stuff to God to handle. God gives us courage if we ask and accept His strength. He doesn't want us to be afraid. God wants us to be in conversation with Him over the small and really big issues. He will carry our loads if we give them to Him. We are expected to take one tiny step at a time, to draw nearer to things we do not yet fully understand. Like Joseph, we can live life without fear. 
 
Prayer: Thank You for Mary and Joseph. Thank You for this story that is new and exciting with every retelling. Thank You for Jesus, our constant friend and confidant. Amen.
Jeanne Merrill
 

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Thursday, December 14, 2017
STAND FIRM
Read: Isaiah 7: 10-16
 
"Ask the Lord your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights" (Isaiah 7:11).
 
As Ahaz of the house of David was told that Aram has allied itself with Ephraim, this brought fear and tested the faith of Ahaz and his people, making them think that all was lost and that they would be laid to ruin. The Lord then spoke to Ahaz and told him if you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all! Isaiah said to Ahaz, Ask the Lord your God for a sign.”  Ahaz said, “I will not ask.  I will not put the Lord to the test.” Isaiah hearing this said, “If you will not then the Lord himself will give you a sign. The virgin will be with child and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” It was also said before this boy knows enough to reject wrong from right, the land of the two Kings that you dread will be laid waste. Therefor even though the messiah is too young to help your people, God is with you and your people and will protect you!
How many times have we lost faith in trusting God and asking for His help in tough times, I know that I have, but God is always there to help, all we need to do is ask!
 
Prayer: God please help us keep true to our faith and trust in you for your protection and help in times of need for your children. Thank you also God for the gift of your son Jesus to the world, so that those who accept him and come to believe in him will not perish but have everlasting life through him in Heaven. Amen.
 
Stan Sarnacki
 

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Tuesday, December 12, 2017
SABBATH and ADVENT
Read: Isaiah 53:1-10
 
"Those the Lord has rescued will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away." (Isiah 53:10)
 
When my husband, Ron, and I moved to Winthrop, Maine 4 1/2 years ago, we joined the church family at Winthrop United Methodist Church. I began to attend an early morning  Bible study (6:00 AM!) called Dawn Patrol. Last year we studied a book called "Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal and Delight  in Our Busy Lives" by Wayne Muller. I will share what we learned about applying the concept of Sabbath to the season of Advent.
 
Sabbath was God's idea. During Advent how do we "remember the Sabbath and keep it holy" as God asked us to do? We can start by realizing that we are not made for Sabbath…..   Sabbath was made for us. God knew we could become overloaded with what the world expects of us during December: buying, wrapping, decorating, cooking. Sabbath tells us to slow down.
 
Sabbath can include time for inspirational reading: this Advent booklet is a good place to start. Check out your church   library, study the Gospels for details about Jesus' birth that you may have overlooked. You can start an Advent journal where you express your thoughts about savoring this special time of year. Turn off the news and listen to Christmas music.
 
Sabbath is a time to renew your spirit and marvel at God's handiwork, so why not bundle up and take a walk? Listen to the crunch of snow under your boots, see your warm breath in the cold air, study the snowflakes on your mittens, feel your cheeks flush with the cold. When you get home, why not climb into bed for a
winter nap?
 
Advent is not a time for "doing" as much as it is a time for "being". Jesus said ""Peace I leave with you; my peace I leave with you'. If you find yourself without peace this season, see if you can add some Sabbath to your Advent.
 
Prayer: Creator of Sabbath...thank you for this Advent season where we celebrate the birth of Your Son, Jesus. Help us to slow down, breathe, listen, and gratefully rejoice as we experience the "gladness and joy"  spoken of by Your prophet Isaiah. Amen and Amen.                                                                                                                   
Jan Leighton
 

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Monday, December 11, 2017
GOD’S PEACE BE WITH YOU
Read: Philippians 4:4-9
 
“The peace of God will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).

Trying to write a devotional in a chaotic household like mine can be. I find difficult to concentrate. “Lord I need peace!”  I tell Him, “How do I get it?”  Phil 4:6 tells me through prayer, and so I pray, “Lord give me peace.” He answers, “I already have.”
“Then God,” I whine, “Why don’t I feel it?”  “You’re forgetting to rejoice and give thanks.  You’re concentrating on problems instead of solutions, lies instead of truth, ugliness instead if beauty. Think about things that are lovely, excellent and praiseworthy. Then put your thoughts into action.” The peace of God will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus, and you will be able to do this.                                                                
I am determined, as this Advent Season progresses, to tap into the peace of God.  It is available to me when I give my daily life over to Him with thanksgiving for the love He has given me. He sent His only Son, Jesus, to give me eternal life.  Now THAT’S something lovely to think of!

Prayer: Lord, help us remember amidst all the chaos of our lives, to concentrate on what really matters: Your love for us, and our love for You.  May we spread joy and peace wherever we go!  Thank You, Lord. Amen.
Jan Whiting
 

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Sunday, December 10, 2017
ISRAEL’S REDEMPTION
Read: Zephaniah 3:14-20
“The Lord has taken away your punishment, He has turned back your enemy. The Lord, the King of Israel is with you; never again will you fear any harm” (Zephaniah 3:15).
 
The nations around Jerusalem had been powerful against them. Now comes God to redeem and take care of all His people by destroying those who are against them.  This act of Love comes at a time that is critical to their well being as a city and country. 
The Lord Himself now will show them that He is with them by restoring the Holy place on the hill called Jerusalem and also taking away their punishment for turning their backs to the Lord. He promises He will take great delight in them and rejoice over them with singing and all sorrows will be removed from them.
Now, let’s put this in prospective of our lives.  As a Christian, I had to make a decision to put away my sinful ways and turn back to God by my request of a righteous life under God.  Each of us will come to the same thing if we want God’s forgiveness and form a life under the direction of God’s Holy ways.  Those who choose not to come to the Lord will be barred from the Love of God at the end of their life and God is the only one who can truly show them that life on Earth has meaning and God will show you what Love is all about if you just ask Him.
What kind of Christmas gift do “YOU” want this year!! How about “LIFE WITH GOD AS YOUR LEADER AND GUIDE” Make the decision, you won’t regret it, I assure you.
 
Prayer for today: Rest in the Lord comes easy once you make the decision. Amen.

Gary Snowden
 

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Saturday, December 9, 2017
LIFTED UP
Read: Isaiah 61: 1-4, 8-11
“The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners” (Isaiah 61: 1).
 
As a child I attended church on a regular basis, was an alter girl, attended Sunday School and was a member of the Youth Group.  Although I didn’t understand it then, God was being instilled in my heart and soul and would always be with me. There were several times in my adult life when I felt that the struggle was more than I could handle.  During one very dark time, I didn’t believe that God existed.  If He did, why was he letting this happen to me?  It was many years later, as I watched my son go through that same struggle, that I understood God had always been with me and was preparing me to help my son. With God’s spirit and love within me, I know that I can make a difference in the lives of strangers, and friends alike – we all can.  President George H. W. Bush said in 1991, “We have within our reach the promise of a renewed America. We can find meaning and reward by serving some higher purpose than ourselves, a shining purpose, the illumination of a Thousand Points of Light. And it is expressed by all who know the irresistible force of a child's hand, of a friend who stands by you and stays there, a volunteer's generous gesture, an idea that is simply right.” All around us people are going through their own personal struggles.  We, young and old, can help lift others up – to feel God’s spirit.  A smile can brighten the day of the son watching his parent fading, a kind word can let a young mother know she is doing a good job, a meal can help a family that just received a diagnosis of cancer worry about one less thing that day. For many years during the holiday season, my family has participated with packing and delivering food baskets to families within Waldo County.  I am reminded of one young family that we delivered a basket to.  They were struggling to make ends meet and needed a little help.  Several years later, this family started participating in the holiday food basket project, wanting to give back and help others.  
 
Prayer:  Dear Lord, thank you for always being with me. Help me show others that Your spirit and love lives within them, through the good and the tough times.
Sandi Sanderson

 

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Friday, December 8, 2017
SHAKE UP THE ORANGE JUICE AND ENJOY THE FRUIT
Read: Malachi 4:1-6
“Remember to obey the Law of Moses, my servant-all the decrees and regulations that I gave him on Mount Sinai for all Israel.  Look, I am sending you the prophet Elijah before the great and dreadful day of the Lord arrives. His preaching will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers. Otherwise I will come and strike the land with a curse.”                                (Malachi 4: 4-6)
 
When I was very young, my mother, who was the spiritual leader of our family, started taking us to Sunday school every week. It was in a stone church that actually had a wood stove in the classroom. The teachers were very nice, older ladies, but also quite strict. Our lessons were of Bible stories mostly of the Old Testament, memorizing the books of the Bible, many of the Psalms, and the Beatitudes. At the time I didn’t understand a lot of what I was learning, but did it anyway because mom said it was important.
As I was entering my teen years, I left that church and started attend one that many of my friends were going to. They had music, a choir, youth group, and even church sponsored dances. It was very exciting and I thought “this is more like it”.  There was also something else happening.  The sermons were bringing me back, shaking-up, what I had learned about the Word of God and His love for us by putting Jesus in our lives.
My mom started me on this journey by sending me to Sunday school. My dad, although not much of a church person, revealed to me through his actions and how he lived his life that God was also working through and within him.
I was with both of my parents when it was their time to return home. When I was young, they loved me, protected me, guided me and revealed to me the ingredients contained in the Word of God. Quite often in life events shake-up those ingredients and we realize how complete the fruit of God’s Love is for us. When my mom was struggling, I took her hand, told her everything was ok and she didn’t have to fight any more. The 23RD Psalm came immediately into my head, and I recited “The Lord is your Shepard”.
Prayer: Lord, please help us to shake-up what You have taught us so that we may enjoy the fruits of Your Love.
Peter Sanderson

 

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Thursday, December 7, 2017
 JESUS AND JOHN THE BAPTIST
Read: Matthew 11:2-15
Jesus was praising John the Baptist.  He said "What did you go out into the desert to  see?"                                (Matthew 11:7a)

Now when Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and proclaim his message in their cities.
When we look at our surroundings, can we see beauty beyond the destruction? Can we observe what has been created by God to give us the opportunity to care for this beauty? When we see people what are we thinking?  Are they attractive?  walk upright? well attired? or slouched and ill kept? 
Outward appearances influence us.  Can we see Jesus in all people? Can we remember that we need to look for inner beauty that each of us is given?
" ...and he is Elijah who is to come,  Let anyone with ears listen."
This is the ideal time to observe our surroundings with a renewed positive feeling and listen to our neighbor with LOVE, knowing that we are all GOD'S CHILDREN.
 
Prayer: Dear Lord, We are entering a very stressful and   hectic season, Advent. Please help us to remember what this   special time of year is truly about. Help us also, Lord, to focus our attention on You, our Lord and Savior, so that we can see You in everyone we come in contact with and listen with open hearts, minds, understanding, and Love. Amen.
 
Mary Jane and Greg Coleman
 

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Wednesday, December 6, 2017
PATIENCE AND SUFFERING

Read: James 5: 7 - 10

 “ Do not grumble against one another…..”  (James 5:9a)NKJV  


I sometimes ask myself at the end of a day, “How many times have I complained today?” What I typically find, sadly, is I judge them on the little things, ALL the time, and my method of choice is grumbling.

Why do they drive like that?; Why do they believe like they do?; Why does she get to do that?; Why is she telling me to do that?; Why not someone else?; Can’t she see that I am busy?;  What is taking him so long?

Sadly, the list goes on and on.  I used to think that it was my way of venting and letting out my frustrations so that they didn’t bottle up inside of me, but does that make it right?  Aren’t I putting out into the universe a world of complaints?

My parents taught me long ago, to treat others like you want to be treated.  Instead of grumbling about a person, shouldn’t I question them?  Shouldn’t I get their perspective and refrain from complaining and judging?

These are the things that God asks us to do.  To talk to each other, listen sincerely, and to treat each other with love.  If every complaint that I have against another person, could come back to a simple statement of: “I must not understand, so let me ask them about it….. “ wouldn’t our world be a kinder place?
 
I have been very concerned about the direction our world has been going, and my prayers lately have been, “How can I change this direction, Lord, in Belmont, Maine?  Do you think if we work together, that if we gather whole truths before judging or complaining against someone, that eventually that kindness and understanding would seep out into the world?  I pray that it does.


Prayer:  Father, let my complaints against someone turn into prayers of love and support, even if I don’t really care for the person. Through Your great love, help us to remember, that each person in this world, is a person YOU created, and You don’t make mistakes.  Amen.                                                                                 

Pam Lynam
  

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Tuesday, December 5, 2017
THE BRANCH FROM JESSE
Read: Isaiah 11: 1-9
“A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;…”  (Isaiah 11:1)
 
 Today’s reading provides for us a clear foretelling of the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. While there appears to be no future for Assyria, out of the dead stump of Jesse (David’s father) one tiny twig shoots forth. This shoot is one tiny sign of life! The lineage of the Messiah is still very much alive.
Just as the branch of Jesse humbly begins, so too, does the birth of Jesus. And from this miracle birth, in a lowly manger stall, the Prince of Peace emerges.
As I read through these words in Isaiah, the word peace lingers in my mind. I imagine the unfathomable peace of the future, when our Christ comes again and all creatures on this earth live in harmony, side by side. But, I also think about the present and the gift of peace our savior longs for us to enjoy. Instead of peace, discrimination and hatred seem to be taking hold. As I pray for peace on earth, I also find myself looking inward at the peace within me. Often times, instead of peace, my heart is filled with worry about my children, tiredness over managing all that is on my plate, or impatience with others. I am reminded that this is not the spirit of peace in which my savior wants me to abide. I also know this is not the spirit that will contribute peace to our world.
As we prepare our hearts and minds this advent season, I pray that we will take time to seek peace within. Peace that is unrelated to our circumstances and not just about the absence of trials. Peace that comes from trusting Jesus…no matter what.

Prayer: God of all peace, fill us this advent season with Your love and holy peace. May we be contributors to peace on earth. Amen.
Kara Wisniewski
 

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Monday, December 4, 2017
PREPARE THE WAY
Read: Luke 3:1-6
“...the Word of God came to John...preparing the way for the Lord...that all will see the salvation of God” (Luke 3:2,4,6).
 
God’s word is alive and so sharp that it divides every motive, every desire, every attitude in our soul. Our soul is where God’s Eternal Spirit connects with us. Our body is of this fallen fading earth, yet houses our soul.
In patience we possess our soul; however we cannot  comprehend why it was constructed. We are spirit-beings cradled now in souls. Why did not God design our souls to cradle us without the soul being tricked, being tormented, being disrupted and deceived?
So many souls are dead even while they live biologically, dead toward God.  Lost souls cry our for their maker.  The world has no eternal frame of reference to value our soul.  This is why God’s Word comes quite specifically and deliberately. Intentional is how Christ comes, how His way is prepared. Angels will never know the maker as salvation redemption.
No one falls to sin arbitrarily. Sin may limit only our   futile control mechanisms. God’s final design was never Eden, but God REDEEMING His elect from bondage. Daily and eternally we see and rely on God’s Blood.
Prayer: Lord, we are spirit. Our body and soul only cradle us for a short time of deception and decay. In our deepest, most   difficult place we perceive Thy Salvation. Spirit is not flattered nor  intellect, but alive by The Way.

Robert Charles
 

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Sunday, December 3, 2017
GOD ISN’T FINISHED WITH ME/US YET
Read: Malachi 3:1-4
“He will purify the descendants of Levi, and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the Lord in righteousness” (Malachi 3:3b).
 
Do you cook, garden, teach, create products, create art or clothes, or build things? Then you know how your work can transform materials or people. God made us like him in that respect.
Let’s go through these verses together. In verse one, God is sending a messenger (Malachi is Old Testament. We know he SENT us Jesus), so we aren’t kept in the dark about what is coming. Our covenant with God is being honored.
In verses two and three we are asked if we can stand up for or will we be overwhelmed by the Messenger who will purify us like gold, sugar, petroleum, diamonds are by heat, pressure, separation, or distilling. That process will make us pure, useable, malleable. We will become changed, straightened out, spiritually educated. Our best qualities will come to the surface. Impurities will be cleaned out. Or if we rebel???
In verse four this refining continues until we are a pure offering to the Lord, pleasing to God. SO, God isn’t finished with me/us yet. We can continue to grow, to learn, to understand and live out our lives in God’s Way. We can try to and hope to encourage others around us, but our first responsibility is to become closer to God ourselves. 
 
Prayer: God, mold me and make of me what you will. I can’t imagine the perfect creation you can perform in me/us if I/we   surrender. May your kingdom come on earth in me/in us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Pat Burt