Daily Advent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Tuesday, December 21

By Laura Still

Old Stories, New Eyes

Read Luke 2:8-20, 40

Sometimes there are stories in the Bible that are almost too familiar. When we hear these verses read, we know them so well it’s hard not to think, “Oh, yeah, I know how this goes,” and let our brain go on automatic. The Christmas story in Luke could be one of these, because we read it in full or in part several times during Advent every year. It’s sad, but the story of the coming of the Christ Child can become something we don’t listen to very closely. We let the wonder of it fade. 

I discovered a way to prevent this from happening to me about 30 years ago, when I volunteered to become part of the most important ministry at Church Street: Children’s Ministry. Readers may or may not agree with my assessment, but I challenge anyone to come up with a ministry that is more important to the future — and I don’t mean just the future of our church, but the whole church, even the planet itself. Some of the kids I first taught now have kids of their own, and are in leadership positions here at Church Street and the world outside. Being a small part of their upbringing is an honor and a responsibility I don’t take lightly. But as always, God has given me rewards beyond my imagining in return. 

There is no way to become blasé about any part of the great story of God’s gift of his Son when you tell it to a new set of kids every year, looking at it through the eyes of shepherds, the Wise Men, or angels. The awe and wonder in the faces of children when they kneel at the manger, follow the star across the desert, or sing with the angels, cures any tendency to stop paying attention. When you are sharing any story of Jesus with a child who might be hearing or understanding it for the first time, the possibility of miraculous grace is very real. 

I am blessed to have this opportunity, and I want more members of the church to have it. The Children’s ministry needs more participation by volunteers of all ages, whether they have children in the program or not. Even volunteering for one Sunday a month would be appreciated, and could be an unexpected channel of grace that recharges the soul.


Dear God, open my heart to the awe and wonder of your love, and help me find new eyes to see the old stories, hear the words with new understanding, and share them with all the world. In Christ’s name, Amen.

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Daily Advent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Monday, December 20

By Ann Reego

When Things Don’t Turn Out as Planned

Read Matthew 2:13-15a

“Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.’ Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod.”

I am looking forward to Christmas so much this year! Jim and I haven’t seen our Tampa daughter, son-in-love and two grandchildren since Christmas of 2019. It’s a long story, but the root of all the evil is Covid. And to make it even better, my Knoxville daughter, son-in-love and the four girls will be in Tampa with us. It’s the first time all of us have been in the same house since June of 2018. I can’t wait. It will be truly the best most blessed time in two long years.  

Not being with my Tampa family has been hard and frustrating for all of us. Watching Emily and Evan grow up on Zoom has broken my heart. I confess, I have whined A LOT! So, picture Joseph when he had this dream with an angel telling him to take Mary and the baby and flee to Egypt. He had dealings with angels about this baby before, so I guess it wasn’t too hard to believe. I wonder how Mary felt, when Joseph told her about his dream and his plan? I’m sure she had plans to take Jesus back to Nazareth and show him off to her family. But again, she had listened to an angel once before, so off they went to avoid Herod’s wrath and the killing of all male children under two.  

Are you waiting for me to tie this all together? Well, here goes. Mary and Jospeh listened to the angels and saved their lives and the life of their child. And by doing so, they blessed us beyond words.  

Jim and I listened to the words of the CDC and Dr. Fauci and have been without seeing part of our family for two years. We are still alive and healthy, and grateful for science, and also for a church who protects and cares for us in all ways.  

Mary and Joseph must have looked forward to going home, but they spent 3 years in Egypt waiting for Herod to die. It’s only been 2 years for us, so I guess we are lucky!


Glorious and Loving God, thank you for protecting us and telling us how to remain safe from harm. Thank you for the leaders of Church Street UMC who prioritize our health and safety.  Thank you for the birth of your Son, and in His name we pray. Amen.

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Daily Advent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Sunday, December 19

By Palmer Cantler, Associate Pastor

Remembrance and Reminder

Read Exodus 12:2(NRSV)

“This month shall mark for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you.”

Brent and I have a tradition around Christmas ornaments. Each year, we add a couple of new ornaments to our collection to document events of the past year. For 2019, we added an ornament decorated with a wedding cake to celebrate our wedding in September of that year. In 2020, our new ornaments commemorated adopting Waffles the dog, buying a home, and Brent’s first trip to the beach I grew up visiting. For 2021, we have already bought our new ornaments. This year, we will be adding a small church (in honor of my Ordination), an airplane (because Brent started traveling for work), and an NFL football (to mark Brent serving on the NFL Contact Tracing Team). As we decorate our family tree at the beginning of Advent each year, I love looking back on these new ornaments. They hold special memories of the life that Brent and I are making together. 

This verse from Exodus begins God’s instructions to Aaron and Moses about how they must observe the Passover. In these instructions, God tells the Israelites how they will be saved in the present and that they must remember this moment in the future. Each year, the Passover is a remembrance and a reminder. 

Advent serves as a time of remembrance and reminder during this first month of the Christian year. In our worship, we remember God’s involvement in creation since the beginning and that Christ came to fulfill God’s promises. This time also serves as a reminder that Christ came to bring reconciliation with our Creator. During this time, we both look back on all that God has done, and what God is and will continue to do in our lives. 


Sustaining God, may this season of Advent call us to a time of greater remembrance of your continued presence in this world. Let us not get stuck in remembrance, but be inspired to look ahead for the ways the Spirit is calling us to bring the grace of your son, Jesus Christ, to others. Amen.

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Daily Advent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Saturday, December 18

By Dwight R. Wade

A Prayer for the Seven Final Days of Advent

Read Matthew 1:22-23

“All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Emmanuel’ (meaning, God with us).”

On December 1, 2019, Church Street observed the first Sunday of Advent, and the congregation looked forward to remembering the Christmas tradition, Christ’s birth in Bethlehem. Our opening hymn in worship was the beloved “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” On November 29, 2020, the congregation saw virtual worship only. 

Early Christians used Advent to remember the release of the captive Jews from Babylon. In the week before Advent, Benedictine monks fast and focus on the names attributed to Jesus in this hymn during the week leading up to Christmas. They celebrate Advent with penitence and fasting. We remember this when we sing the ancient hymn “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” During the week before Christmas, Benedictine monks use the beginning of each verse to prepare their hearts and minds for the day of Jesus’ birth. They employ a different title for each daily meditation: O Wisdom, O God, O (stem) Root of Jesse, O David, O Dayspring, O King of the Gentiles, O Emmanuel (God with us.) 

I wonder if our own understanding and trust would be strengthened if, during this pandemic, we pondered the many facets of our Savior, like the Benedictine monks. And I wonder if fasting and penitence might not clear our heads and our hearts, making us more open to the everlasting hope that lies in Jesus. But, let us not fear, for Emmanuel is “our God with us.”


Holy Father, during this time of prolonged trials, we again focus on your presence each day this week. We remember your Wisdom, your undying care for your children, our human heritage through Jesse, David, the beginning of each day, the God of all people, the God who is WITH US.  Amen, and Amen.

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Daily Advent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Friday, December 17

By Judy Vest


Read John 1:1,10 and 14 (CEB)

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God; The light was in the world, and the world came into being through the light, but the world didn’t recognize the light; The Word became flesh and made his home among us. We have seen his glory, glory like that of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.”

Before anything else existed, there was Christ, with God.

Although He made the world, the world didn’t recognize Him when He came.

And Christ became a human being, lived here on earth among us, and was full of loving forgiveness and truth. And some of us have seen His glory — the glory of the only Son of the Heavenly Father.

Once a year as Advent approaches, there is hope of good tidings of great joy with peace on earth; and understanding, kindness and acceptance of others that may not be quite like ourselves, but children of God nonetheless.

As we kneel and pray, giving thanks for all our abundant blessings, we should remember that our Savior, Jesus the Christ-child born in a manger, has always been with God and will always be there for us.

God sent his Son to live among the people of the world, all of them, regardless of gender, station in life or any of the other lifestyles we view as wrong because it differs from what we call normal.


Lord, please give us an understanding and loving heart for one another, always. Keep us mindful that we only pass through this world for a short time. You have been and always will be with God. Amen.

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Daily Advent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Thursday, December 16

In Honor of Our Stephen Ministers

An UnMerry Christmas

Read Philippians 4:4

“The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ.”

Advent and Christmas are upon us — usually a time of excitement and celebration! But what if you aren’t feeling that way this year? The pandemic has affected all our lives. You may have lost a loved one; you may have had Covid yourself. Almost certainly, you have been separated from the people you love most. This year many of us are lonely and wondering how we can celebrate.

Even in December, everyone is vulnerable to all kinds of ordinary losses, and now we have added the danger and loneliness of Covid. These situations and feelings can’t help but spill over into the holidays. It’s unavoidable. For many people, this may be a sad Christmas. If you’re feeling blue instead of festive this year, what can you do?

  • Remember you are not the only one feeling this way.
  • If you are grieving, don’t hide or be ashamed. 
  • Treat yourself with kindness. Remember that you are okay.
  • Consider the reasons for your feelings; acknowledge them; accept them. 
  • Call upon the Lord in prayer; perhaps write down your feelings and your prayers.
  • If you are alone, observe the season in any way that feels right to you. 
  • If you will be separated from family members, think about how you might safely celebrate with them.
  • Ask for help. A Pastor or Stephen Minister will gladly listen and pray with you.
  • If you need to cut back on activities or presents or customs, do so.
  • Attend the Service of Healing and Hope at Church Street on Sunday, December 19 at 4 p.m. in the nave, for meaningful worship with people who share your feelings.

Whatever you are going through, always remember that Advent and Christmas reminds us of God’s love. Rest in that love, and trust the Lord to carry you through.


Dear Lord, Please draw near, and calm the hurt and sorrow I am feeling. Please envelop me with your love and peace that is beyond all understanding. Thank you for the miracle of Christmas and help me to embrace its meaning during this difficult time. Amen.

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Weekly Prayers for the Church Street Family

Week of December 15, 2021

Rev. Jan Buxton Wade

Let evening come, O God Who Calls Us to Rest.  Spread your quiet shadows over your tired people who have allowed themselves to be pulled in too many directions this day.  You give us permission to turn off the music of productivity and constant availability. Someone else pulls the strings and we dance; but we, having fallen in love with movement, continue to forge ahead on our own, even when the strings are loosened.  Slow our minds and our steps, we pray, as we wait upon your most gracious eventide. Soothe our bodies and minds, Wise Creator, that we might find the renewal you have planned for us.  We need it, we desire it, we wait for it!

May it be so, Lord, may it be so.

As we reflect upon this day just passed, may we bring to mind those instances which were bursting with rich blessing.  And though, perhaps unrecognized in the moment, we now remember the kindness behind each occurrence, especially  . . . . . . . . . . Ah, how mysteriously, stitch by stitch, you knit your grace into our lives! Our gratitude may come as only a whisper, but we pray you will hear every prayer of adoration, and sew those, too, into your blanket of love.

May it be so, Lord, may it be so.

In one of the bleakest eras, an angel brought greetings of great joy to lonely ones in the field watching their flocks. Your tidings, O Holy One, are as meaningful to us today as they were to the shepherds under that chilly Middle Eastern sky. We also know many who are lost and lonely, those who feel overlooked and forgotten.  We confess that we can casually erase them from our minds, so forgive our arrogance, we pray.  But you have not forgotten them — you know each feeble and frail one by name; they are those who hunger most keenly for your hope. Have mercy, O Lord, and give us that same gnawing hunger. 

May it be so, Lord, may it be so.

Many still seek that infant born of Mary.  Mark the way for those wounded ones everywhere: the starving in Madagascar and Afghanistan; the tornado-ravaged territories of our own country; those who have lost not only their homes and belongings, but their family members and neighbors. We lift prayers for those everywhere who are shaken by tragedy, victims of injustice, and those who are pummeled by the deadly virus.  And again we ask for healing of the deep political divisions within our nation that are unraveling the fabric of community;  we speak of peace, but our actions are not aligned with those of the Prince of Peace.  Come, Lord Jesus, and set our feet back on that solid road to Bethlehem.

May it be so, Lord, may it be so.

To these petitions, we add these personal ones on the hearts of our church family, who bring their hurts, hopes, and praises this week:

  • Prayers appreciated: Family celebrates birth of heathy baby boy
  • Thankful husband now living in safety in rehab
  • Thanksgiving for helpful friends during a family illness
  • Family celebrates happy wedding of granddaughter
  • Thankful UMCOR already at recovery work in disaster areas
  • Member celebrates: Scans reveal no sign of cancer cells
  • Family grateful for a daughter’s wedding on December 18
  • Family offers thanks for safe travel to a family event
  • Pray for mother recovering from lung surgery, began chemotherapy today
  • Continued prayers: Mother hospitalized, recovering from fall & her ill husband recovering from Covid at home
  • Healing for daughter, very ill with painful, infectious colitis
  • Upholding all church families in mourning during the holidays
  • God’s grace to surround a mother suffering with cancer, for renewed hope; and her worried family standing by
  • Beloved friend in Nashville undergoing chemo to salvage transplant and her husband who is hospitalized with an illness
  • Healing for young man suffering from PTSD
  • Faithful husband struggling with memory loss
  • Solace for ill brother, that he might accept a move to a safer environment
  • Dear friend no longer able to tolerate cancer meds
  • Healing of wife’s injuries sustained in a fall
  • Strength for daughter, extreme complications from Covid
  • Relieving anxiety of daughter, estranged from her ill mother
  • For doors of employment to open for a talented professional man
  • Patience & healing for mother following colon surgery
  • Beloved husband undergoing chemotherapy
  • A father longs for reconciliation with his children
  • Wisdom & strength: Young mother enduring a painful separation
  • Mother seeking healing of relationship with her daughters
  • God’s guidance and healing for a mother with cancer diagnosis

You are our Safe Haven, our harbor amid the upheavals of our days, the Keeper of every moment of our lives. Scripture says that weeping may spend the night, but joy comes in the morning; therefore, help us release to your care all those who are weighed down with burdens and all who are closest to our hearts. We commend each one to you, knowing that, in due time, their joy will be made complete through the coming of that Blessed Babe, your Beloved, who draws near each time we offer his most complete prayer:

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.

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Daily Advent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Wednesday, December 15

By Suzanne Matheny

A Gift of the Spirit

Read Luke 4:40 (NLT)

“As the sun went down that evening, people throughout the village brought sick family members to Jesus. No matter what their diseases were, the touch of his hand healed every one.”

Maurice (not his real name) is an elderly man I’ve recently met. He is bright and a proud U.S. Navy veteran, having faithfully and willingly served sixteen years defending our democracy, even when the color of his skin prohibited the full exercise of his rights. Now confined to assisted living and suffering from an illness manifested in part by a shuffling gait, aphasia and jumbled speech, conversing with him can be challenging. Yet his warm smile, gentle, forgiving nature and grateful appreciation for the smallest of gifts far outweigh any fear or hesitancy of conversing with him. 

Our brief conversations consist of a lot of smiles and nodding of heads; but one evening at dinner something miraculous happened. When I arrived at the dinner table it was evident he was waiting to ask – albeit in his labored style – if he could say grace. From his tongue and voice came a most beautiful, poetic and clearly enunciated Spirit-led prayer. I understood every word; but more than that, I recognized this was sacred ground and the Kingdom of Heaven was near.

I don’t recall his words, but the spirit of the moment is unforgettable; and wrapped up in all of this was the mysteriously healing power and presence of the Spirit. For that moment, Maurice and I experienced healing, both in his ability to speak and my ability to understand his words, and also spiritually; and that, dear friends, is a gift to be celebrated this Christmas.


Omniscient God, for the gift of the baby boy, Jesus, who grew to heal the sick and empower his disciples to heal; and for today’s miraculous moments of healing – some mysteriously through your Spirit, some through the gifts of ministers, caregivers, and loving family and friends, we are indeed grateful. And when healing as we understand or hope it to be is not evident, we humbly ask for strength and peace, and the assurance of your love and presence. In the name of Jesus, the healer, Amen.

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Daily Advent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Tuesday, December 14

By Dan Kelley

Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord

Read 1 Corinthians 12:12-20

In 1967 I was a freshman at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. I had several classes in Swain Hall East in the southwest corner of the campus. I lived in Teter Quad in the northwest corner of the campus. As I would walk home after class I would take a shortcut through, rather than around, the Music Arts Center. The MAC was a huge building that took up two blocks and was home to a quarter of the IU undergrads who were Music majors.

The MAC had large and small auditoriums for concerts, recitals, and performances. It had scenery and costume shops for opera. It had a longer season, with more operas performed, than the MET in New York. And it had classrooms to teach music.

My favorite rooms were the individual practice rooms. There seemed to be hundreds of them in a long hallway. They were soundproofed, but if you listened closely you could hear music coming out of them. If the musicians were playing a lead instrument – like a violin, piano, organ, or trumpet – you could pick up the melody and identify the piece. 

Many times you would hear the instruments like the viola, the double bass, the oboe, the flute, the bassoon, or the French horn playing the bassline, the harmonies, the descants, or the counterpoints; the parts that the baroque musicians called the continuo. You could not easily identify the piece. But these musicians practiced their instruments daily and perfected their parts diligently.

It is only when the orchestra comes together, under the baton of the maestro, that all the parts blend together. Without the continuo parts the piece of music does not have the fullness, the richness, and the complexity that the composer intended. 

The Bible has many unknown and unnamed people who played important parts in Jesus’s ministry, such as the woman who washed his feet and the one who anointed his head with nard. Unknown but important.

The church is much like an orchestra. There are lead parts like clergy, staff, and committee chairs. And there are continuo parts like the rest of us that work in the church. We must practice, perfect, and perform our parts, so that under the baton of Jesus, the church may have the fullness, the richness, and the complexity he intends for us. We must prepare to play our part.


Dear Lord of Mercy Divine, Help us to identify, learn, and practice to perfection our part in the building of Your Kingdom. Help us to be in tune with others in your church. Help us follow your direction and live our lives in the fullness and richness that you intend for us.

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Daily Advent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Monday, December 13

By Doug Mason

What If?

Read John 13:34

“A new command I give you; Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

Agreed. I, too, cannot recall associating this scripture with Advent; but, what if…? What if this year we approach Advent more like we approach Lent, as a season of reflection and sacrifice? What if during Advent we spend less time anguishing over the hustle and bustle of holiday schedules, tree trimmings, mindless shopping, gift exchanges, and the pure lack of enough hours in a day, and instead we focus on just one thing? What if we begin each day of Advent reminding ourselves of God’s love for the world and Christ’s command to love one another, and then focus our every thought and deed in the hours dawning before us on doing just that?

The pandemic has frayed everyone’s sense of well-being and negatively impacted everyone’s daily life in one way or another. We all are battle worn and exhausted. Tempers flare and tongues scorch. Life is hard. The future and better times seem forever away. If ever there was a time to love one another, surely this is such a time.

What if, after a season of focusing on how to better love one another, we rediscover on that glorious Christmas morning that we ourselves have been gifted with God’s love? Might our souls be revived? Might our hearts be warmed with the fellowship of family and friends? Might we then once again experience joy in the world? Like the shepherds, might we hear the angel with the multitudes proclaiming “peace on earth and good will towards men”?


O Lord, in the birth of the Christ child you gifted the world with your love. Calm my angst, steady my soul, and open my heart so that I may love others just as you have loved me. Amen.

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