Daily Advent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Sunday, December 12

By Tim Best, Senior Associate Pastor

Tidying Up

Read: Isaiah 54:4-10 (NRSV)

“Do not fear, for you will not be ashamed; do not be discouraged, for you will not suffer disgrace; for you will forget the shame of your youth, and the disgrace of your widowhood you will remember no more. For your Maker is your husband, the Lord of hosts is his name; the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth he is called. For the Lord has called you like a wife forsaken and grieved in spirit, like the wife of a man’s youth when she is cast off, says your God. For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with great compassion I will gather you. In overflowing wrath for a moment I hid my face from you, but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you, says the Lord, your Redeemer. This is like the days of Noah to me: Just as I swore that the waters of Noah would never again go over the earth, so I have sworn that I will not be angry with you and will not rebuke you. For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed, says the Lord, who has compassion on you.”

Every year before vacation I have as my highest goal to clean and organize the house from top to bottom. I promise myself that THIS year I will actually get it done. The idea is that anyone who has to come in and feed the dogs or the fish will see a tidy house. It never seems to happen as I hope. Each year I still try. And each year I learn something about what matters, what doesn’t, and how to slowly make progress the rest of the time. 

Advent is a season of preparation, too. When I read passages like this one from Isaiah I am reminded the preparation of Advent is far more vital than making sure the dust bunnies are swept out from behind the couch. Advent is about preparing our hearts for the promises of the incarnation. There is a very real sense in which we cannot ever be prepared for Jesus. Advent and Christmas serve as annual reminders that Jesus comes to us in whatever condition our lives or our souls may be in. Isaiah reveals that the heart of God is not vengeance, but compassion. Isaiah names God as our redeemer. I pray this will be a season where we might discover the redemptive work of God going on in our lives. May you find joy, no matter the condition of your house or lives, in the discovery that God is with us.

Prayer

Almighty God, may your spirit clean out the cobwebs of our hearts and open us to renewed joy in Christ. Amen.

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Daily Advent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Saturday, December 11

By Dona Bunch, Director of Beacon of Hope

The Christmas War

Read 1 Peter 3:3-4

“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”

My father loved Christmas. He loved the music, the decorations, the gifts under the tree (although he didn’t personally care for gifts). He loved everything about the holiday. Yet every year, a few weeks before Christmas, my parents had the worse fight of the year. 

It involved the tree. We never bought a tree; my father cut one down from somewhere on our land. It was always cedar, so it smelled wonderful, but cedar trees are rarely as symmetrical as fir or spruce trees. Each year, my mother would describe exactly what she wanted: not too tall, wide and fluffy, straight trunk, good top for holding the star, and so on. And every year, my father went out and cut the first cedar tree he saw. When he brought it in, the pandemonium began. My mother hit the roof. “It’s crooked as a dog’s leg!” my mother would say. “It’s too skinny, it’s half dead!” All of us kids, looking on big-eyed at the fracas, tended to agree with our mother. The argument was on, as mother pleaded for a different tree and my father, who usually had to go back to work, allowed that it was fine. Every year he said the same thing. “When you get all the decorations on, you won’t even notice. It will look great.” And out the door he went, leaving my mother to fume as she considered the crooked monstrosity before her. For a few days, the atmosphere was as cool as a Christmas snowfall.

But my father, who was rarely right on issues of design, turned out to be correct. Mother got out the lights and ornaments and icicles; all the kids picked out their favorites – balls with glitter, a pumpkin made in Bible school, a little stuffed cat – and we talked and laughed as we worked on turning the ugly little tree into a Christmas beauty. And it happened. Maybe it wasn’t going to be featured in Good Housekeeping, but it was beautiful to us because it signaled the start of the best season of all. The presents went under, the anticipation built, and the joy of the season was right there in our living room. 

Jesus’ arrival has some similarities with our little tree. For 400 years the Israelites had been waiting for a savior. They were a ragged group of persecuted, disenfranchised people. They were waiting for a grand warrior king to defeat their persecutors. But God knew that wasn’t necessary. Jesus’ birth happened in a roughhewn manger in a humble stable. Yet when Jesus was born, the world was transformed forever. And despite the ragged surroundings, there was no more beautiful place on earth.

Prayer

Lord, thank you for sending your son to change us from ordinary people with all our flaws and imperfections to inheritors of everlasting life. We praise you for seeing past the crooked and broken places in us and giving us the blessing of your love.

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Daily Advent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Friday, December 10

By Nancy Carmon

Welcome, Jesus

Read Luke 2:15-16

“When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’ So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.” (NIV)

Do you display a nativity set in your home? It might be a simple one, a family treasure, or one purchased at the nativity shop in Bethlehem. You might even have a collection! The custom of the creche began with St. Francis in 1223 with simple, unadorned characters representing the Holy Family and the visitors and included a live ox and donkey. The largest nativity scene was in Mexico City in 2011 and contained over 5000 figures, and the smallest one can fit into the eye of a needle.  

What figures do you have in your creche? Mary, Joseph, the Baby Jesus, the Kings, shepherds, animals? In Italy and France nativity scenes include many other characters: a beggar, a blind man, a gypsy, orchestra players, women following the Magi, tarantella dancers, tartar warriors, village characters. There is even a special street in Naples where artisans sell nativity characters. The custom in France is to add new characters to the scene each year. 

Do you put everything in the scene at once? In one country the custom is to set the stage or build the background the first week of Advent, add the animals during the second week, then the shepherds come, and then Mary and Joseph appear walking toward Bethlehem. With no room in the inn, they find the stable. Jesus is placed in the manger at midnight on Christmas Eve. Finally the kings arrive with their special gifts. 

Perhaps add more characters to your manger scene, or set it up in stages this year. How can you use your creche, nativity set, or manger scene and make it a special part of your Advent celebration this year, and welcome the Christ Child into your home?

Prayer

Dear Father God, Thank you for the nativity story. Let it help us to welcome this Holy Child into our hearts and lives this year. Amen.

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Daily Advent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Thursday, December 9

By Linda Cox

Confronted by God

Read Job 38:2 (The Message)

“Why do you talk without knowing what you’re talking about?”

I love chapters 38-42 of Job. After suffering his ‘friends’ and their harangue about why he has lost everything, Job got in a few licks of his own. He became angry at God, and wanted to take Him to court to answer for the agony he was experiencing. Brought to attention with one of the first questions God asked him: “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?”, Job was subjected to a flood of questions: “What is the way to the place where the lightning is dispersed? Does the rain have a father? Can you bind the beautiful Pleiades? Can you loose the cords of Orion? Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Who has a claim against me that I must pay? Everything under heaven belongs to me.”

Who is willing to argue that statement? Job said he knew God could do anything, that His plans couldn’t be thwarted and that he had spoken of things he didn’t understand, “things too wonderful for me to know.” God asserted that Job had maintained his integrity; his health and wealth were restored; he fathered ten more children and lived another 140 years.

Our confrontation with God is more subtle, more like a whisper, sometimes a nudging. In this Advent season, we are confronted by a baby who came into the world without riches but who can now declare, “Everything under heaven belongs to me.” Praise His name!

Prayer

Lord, thank you for coming to us as you did and for all you’ve done for us since. In the name of Jesus. Amen.

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Weekly Events:
Tuesday – High School Prayer Breakfast at 7:15 AM (Chick-fil-A West Hills)
Wednesday – Youth Band at 7:00 PM (Youth Area)
Sunday – Sunday school at 9:45 AM (Youth Area), NightLife at 5:00 (Youth Area)
*We are finished with NightLife for the rest of 2021. Join us back on January 9!

Youth Christmas Party

This Sunday, we will have our annual Youth Christmas Party in the youth area from noon-2:30. After second service, everyone can return downstairs for a pasta lunch and a white elephant gift exchange!
The cost of lunch is covered and the gift limit is $5-$10. It can be something silly or a gift you’d actually like to take home. Just don’t spend more than $10!  Christmas outfits are highly encouraged but not required!
Parents, we can use some extra help to make the magic happen on Sunday! If you are attending first service and are willing to help with set up and lunch prep during second service, please let Jenny know at (423) 747-8774.

Christmas Eve Services

Christmas Eve is one of the most special and sacred nights of the year. There are so many opportunities to worship at Church Street on December 24!
12:00 PM – Traditional Service
3:00 PM – Family Service
5:30 PM – Traditional Service
7:00 PM – Online Worship on YouTube
10:30 PM – Traditional Service
(Nursery available at 5:30 service only)
We also need help welcoming and greeting those who are attending our services! If you or your family willing to help serve, sign up below!

Confirmation Parents’ Meeting

All Confirmation parents are asked to attend this Sunday’s meeting, 9:45 am in room 18 in the youth area. Rev. Isbell will share information about what we have been doing in class and what we’ll be doing in December and January.  He will also share information about the February 19-20 student/parent retreat at Lake Junaluska. If you have questions please contact Rev. Isbell.

Weekly Prayers for the Church Street Family

Week of December 8, 2021

Rev. Jan Buxton Wade

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.

I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled,

and do not let them be afraid. 

(John 14:27)

We await your coming, O Promised One, for you arrive with the spirit of wisdom and understanding, extending your counsel and peace.  We, your wandering children, long for these qualities; yet today we especially seek your holy peace, O God of Calm.  Despite your gracious bounty and mercy, our hearts remain restless this time of year.  Those ancient threats of wars and rumors of war still color our era.  The destitute, who have long waited for reprieve, remain in want. Evil and anger walk our streets, ready to pounce upon innocents who dare to voice differing views. Our youth are too often estranged from family, church, and community, living in danger within the boundaries of their neighborhoods and schools.  We travel an uneasy road, O Lord; therefore, we still rely on the word of the prophet who shares the good news that, even today, every mountain and hill will be made low and the rough places will become a plain. 

O God of Promise, come to us with your peace.

In our yearning, we indeed realize many of our present troubles are of our own making. As we linger here for you, could it be that you are also waiting — waiting for us to set things right? Surely you long for us to repent of our selfish ways, and to earnestly become part of that transformation we so desire.  We confess that we have been reticent to become involved when our efforts could make a real difference.  There are persons we have refused to love, harmful habits we have not bothered to alter, and doorways we have neglected to open.  Courage lies at the heart of peace-keeping, so give us resolve and boldness through the power of your Spirit, we pray, to will and to work for the good of your kingdom. Forgive our reticence, Good Lord, and fortify our efforts that they may be those that prepare the way of the Lord!

O God of Promise, may we strive for your peace.

We remember, Abiding One, when Jesus offered his words of solace to his disciples, it was in a time of tremendous turmoil.  Though he knew his own death was imminent, he spoke of that lasting peace that he himself embodied. Help us to know that the charge before us is to work in our temporal realm; yet may we also take hold of that most sacred gift of a lifetime: that unflappable peace of Christ. Set us on that path this season, we pray.  

O God of Promise, we yearn for your abiding peace.

The storms of life have overwhelmed so many, O Lord, and raging winds have broken even the strongest among us.  May the words of Christ the Comforter resound in the spirits of those who are lonely, confused, ill, grieving, and dying:  “Peace be still!” Soothe the souls of those who are frightened in every corner, we pray, and bring your light of hope to each darkened corner.  And receive also these earnest prayers of petition and praise brought to you by your people at Church Street:   

  • Gratitude for prayers: Sister’s cancer scans negative
  • Thankful that a mother’s dangerous infection has cleared
  • Joy shared during the Advent Crafts Festival
  • Grateful for generosity – many gifts delivered to Beacon of Hope families
  • Thanksgiving: Ongoing mission work of the UMW
  • All who are contributing to the Stewardship Campaign
  • Gratitude: Meaningful Spiritual Life Advance Retreat for 70 youth
  • Thankful: A stroke victim is much improved
  • Prayers for safe delivery of first grandchild today
  • Prayers for church couple recovering from Covid
  • Young man suffering from PTSD, healing prayers please
  • Solace for members grieving recent death of a brother
  • God’s healing presence with members ill at home
  • Relieving anxiety of daughter, estranged from her ill mother
  • For doors of employment to open for a talented professional man
  • Patience and healing for mother following colon surgery
  • Beloved husband undergoing chemotherapy
  • Church families grieving during the holidays
  • Member enduring physical and emotional trials
  • Healing of a family’s broken relationship
  • Wisdom and strength for young mother enduring a painful separation 
  • Solace and strength for one – end of long-term relationship
  • God’s guidance and healing for a mother with cancer diagnosis 
  • Continued strength for four members in cancer treatment 
  • Four members struggling with harsh effects of Parkinson’s
  • Healing prayers for adult daughter suffering dire illness

How blessed we are by the Prince of Peace! In the midst of our flaws, our misunderstandings, and our distress, he offers us that unshakable promise that we are never alone.  His hand is outstretched, as it was for his disciples so long ago, and he shares that peace that will never let us go.  In the name of the One Who Was, Who Is, and Who Is To Come, we make our 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 8

By Beth Cooper-Libby, Preschool Director

A Recipe for Morals

Read Judges 21:25

“In those days there was no king of Israel.
Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”

A boy in Sunday school had been taught by the same teacher for a number of years. She had a way of telling stories and she always ended them by saying: “And the moral of the story is …”Eventually, he was promoted in Sunday school and had a new teacher.

After a few weeks, his mother asked on the way home from church how he liked his new Sunday school teacher. He replied: “She is great; she does not have any morals.”

From the beginning of time, people have been interested in ethics, attempting to determine the basis for what is right and wrong. Although there has been abundant disagreement over what creates the standard of ethical judgments, most people believe there is some sort of objective standard to which human beings are accountable.

Where do your morals, values and ethics come from? This is an essential question, because, whether we realize it or not, each one of us has a defined moral and ethical framework, and many of our ideas come from what we choose to put into our hearts and minds.

Like ingredients in a recipe, you are responsible to pick and choose what goes into your morals.  Are you kinder to strangers than you are to your co-workers? Do you give work your best focus, time and energy, leaving the left over scraps for your family? Do you give God the opportunity to offer you the ingredients for your morals or do you select from other informational channels such as gossip, negative media and entertainment? If you reflect on the choices you make during the day, at bedtime can you honestly say, “I was kind.” “I made good choices.” “Did I do what was right in God’s eyes?” Fortunately, God has already given us what is right and wrong. We do not have to wonder or guess. The answers are found in His Word. He tells us, many times in story form, what we can and should do. What ingredients for your recipe can you find there? Parables are easy to understand and rich in guidance. Proverbs also gives us some solid food-for-thought to consider in our seeking guidance for our morals, values and ethics.

Prayer

“For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. He holds success in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones.” Proverbs 2:6-8 (NIV)

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Daily Advent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Tuesday, December 7

By Steve Richardson

The Past and the Promise

Read John 3:16

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son …”

In recent weeks, Mary Ellis has led the charge in our house to comb through mountains of files, documents, photos, clippings and other mementoes accumulated over the lifespans of our two sons. The pragmatic goal was to purge and re-organize these to reduce the space they’ve claimed. But the reality turned into something quite different: An emotional series of strolls down many memory lanes. Recalling and reflecting on the happier memories brought smiles and laughter. It was outright therapeutic.

Thinking about this in the context of Christmas, I can’t help but wonder what stories Mary and Joseph must have shared with Jesus about his birth and “growing up” years. The Gospels’ writers offered us glimpses, yet I suspect there were more and richer events that we’ll never know.

How wonderful it is, though, to have the stories that do exist. These stories remind us of the humanity of our Savior – God in human form – who experienced the world as we do. They inspire and lift our spirits by demonstrating the glorious magnificence of God. They elevate the status of the more “lowly” people of those days, so even the shepherds are as highly admired as the Magi. And the stories frame the foundation of Advent’s themes of hope, peace, love and joy. 

For more than 2,000 years, believers’ traditions of re-telling the stories have helped anchor and sustain our faith that God’s ultimate will can – and will – be done. For each of us, blessed are the stories, blessed are the memories, and blessed is the promise from our Creator that the stories provide.

Prayer

As we ponder the Gospel writer’s claim that you loved the world and each of us so much that you gave us your son, Jesus, help us today to experience the great joy, peace and hope your act of love offers us.

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Daily Advent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Monday, December 6

By Paula Morrison

Be Faithful Through the Hard Times; Good Times Will Return

Read Philippians 4:6-7

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Sometimes the things we learn the earliest stick with us the longest. We moved to Knoxville from Atlanta in June, 1962. That year, between bedtime Christmas Eve and crack of dawn Christmas Day, it snowed! Just 0.2 inches, but that was amazing to a 3-year-old who got to wear her snowsuit for the first time. It snowed a lot before Christmas in 1963, so I got my snowsuit out on Christmas Eve to be ready for post-present-opening sledding. Jump to 1964, Christmas Eve, after dark: Daddy passed my room as I was getting out my beloved snowsuit, and asked, “Paula, whatcha doin’?” “Getting my snowsuit!” “Paula, sweetie, it’s not going to snow tonight, it’s 72°!” I burst into tears, inconsolable. I eventually stopped crying because of Daddy’s loving understanding and assurances of more snow one day. And he was right!

Isn’t that what our Almighty Father does? We must strive to be faithful, because better times will return.

Prayer

Almighty Father, thank you for always sticking by us, through the good times, and the ones that aren’t so good. For the times I lapse in my faith, thank you for reminding me of how fortunate and blessed I am. I want to be grateful always, thanking you in prayer, and showing kindness to others. In your name we pray, Amen.

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Daily Advent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Sunday, December 5

By Rev. Rick Isbell, Retired Minister of Discipleship

Never Normal Again

Read Isaiah 43:18-19

“Forget the former things, do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”

During the last 18 months I have heard the phrase “when things return to normal” many times. I do not know what “normal” means to a lot of people; but I’m pretty sure that all things will not return to what they were or what people define as “normal.” Our health care system has changed and more vaccinations will be a part of our lives. The wearing of our many masks will no longer seem strange. We have gotten used to certain sections of the grocery store shelves being empty and we have changed how we greet those we meet. There is more fist and elbow bumping than ever before. The “normal” things in our lives before March 2020 will never be the same.

But as we enter this Advent season, we must remember that the birth of the Christ child in Bethlehem also changed everything.  Mary and Joseph were no longer the ordinary, normal Jewish couple. The shepherds and wisemen who came to see Jesus were not the same after their visits. Some of Jesus’ disciples never returned to their normal jobs of fishing. Jesus was not the “Messiah” that was expected. The birth of Jesus, his life, his teachings, death and resurrection changed everything that was “normal.” You and I being “born of water and the spirit” are never just normal again. The coming of the Christ into the world turned the normal into something extraordinary. The world was changed. We live our lives in different ways and we prioritize different things. As we prepare for the birth of Jesus, let us remember that nothing should ever be normal again.

Prayer

God, help me not to just live my life in normal ways. Help me this Advent season to expect and do the extraordinary. Help me to see Jesus in new ways and to serve Him by serving my neighbor. AMEN.

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