Daily Advent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Friday, December 25, Evening

By Suzanne Matheny

Epiphany… The Story is Out!

Read Matthew 2:11

“They entered the house and saw the child … they bowed down and worshiped him.” (NLT)

Christmas Day had passed. The Magi were on their way; and the six-year-old director was quietly re-imagining this seasonal drama with an odd cast of characters grossly disproportionate in size: a miniature nativity set and three mismatched, much bigger Magi figurines, two of whom were twins by virtue of a discounted ragtag end-of-season sale. Be assured, the conditions and looks of the actors were no problem in her casting, (“In theatre, you have to be ready for anything” – Willem Dafoe). The climactic scene was the Magi bearing gifts for the baby Jesus. Staged on the table was the odd assortment of Magi, lying prostrate before the tiny baby Jesus. When asked about this scene, the director simply said, “they are worshiping Jesus.” 

So much to learn from this young director… In her creation, she demonstrated the incarnation of God’s glory in human form for all, notwithstanding our differences in appearance, size, nature, ethnicity, culture, financial status or any other ascribed label. We disparate humans live together in a world darkened by our prejudices, oppression and injustices. Yet, “the story is out!” Jesus the Christ, Light of the World, has come to dispel the darkness.


God of the stars, as we seek to serve where you have placed us, may our service be the star lighting the way to Jesus Christ and love for all. Amen.

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Daily Advent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Friday, December 25, Morning

By Nancy Carmon

Three Simple Gifts

Read Matthew 2:1-12

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:

“‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
    are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
    who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

According to tradition, the Wise Men brought three gifts to the infant Jesus – gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Simple yet expensive gifts, gifts suitable for royalty. Gold is certainly a gift for a king. Frankincense is incense used in many churches during worship, and myrrh is an embalming oil, a symbol for death and suffering. All reflect the spirit, life, and death of Jesus. These three simple gifts symbolize both Jesus’ kingship and humanity. How did these men know the perfect gifts to bring? These three simple gifts might reflect gifts given to any newborn. Gold is appropriate because a child is certainly royalty to the new parents. And don’t new babies take lots of money these days! Frankincense reflects the many prayers whispered before a child’s arrival and during a child’s lifetime. Myrrh because death and suffering come to us all.

Covid-19 has certainly both simplified and complicated our lives. It may make this holiday unique in many ways. Holiday celebrations may be curtailed. Black Friday will be different as well as shopping for gifts. Family celebrations and travel might be problematic for many of us. Decorating our homes (and churches) requires energy. Traditions will be altered. This year will be a unique Christmas. It may be a simpler Christmas for many of us. 

That first Christmas was simple. A child was born among the animals of a stable. He was destined to become the Savior, the Christ. He was a king, and he was human. He was given three simple gifts. What gift can we bring to him this Christmas?


What gift can we bring, what present, what token? What words can convey it, the joy of this day? When grateful we come, remembering, rejoicing, what song can we offer in honor and praise? 

Give thanks for the Past, for those who had vision, who planted and watered so dreams could come true. Give thanks for the Now, for study, for worship, for mission that bids us turn prayer into deed. 

Give thanks for Tomorrow, full of surprises, for knowing whatever tomorrow may bring, God gives us his word that always, forever, we rest in his keeping and live in his love. 

This gift we now bring, this present, this token, these words can convey it – the joy of this day! When grateful we come, remembering, rejoicing, this song we now offer in honor and praise! (“What Gift Can We Bring?” – UM Hymnal #87)

This devotion was written in honor of the UMW Service Circle. 

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Daily Advent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Thursday, December 24, Evening

By Dave Craig

Open the Door and See

Read Luke 2:6-7

“While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger…” (NIV)

Some doors that we open are familiar and others are not. Some have surprises and others are unknown or are fearful. After many years of silence and prophesies, God opened a great door and invited us in. And this is what we saw: 

+ A great light. It was so bright that there were no shadows and no darkness. The light was Jesus, and He said, “Follow me, I am the light of the world.” 

+ True love. Jesus lived and showed us unconditional love. He wanted us to love God, love others and love ourselves. He wanted us to be love that is patient, kind, gentle; always protecting, trusting, hoping, and persevering; and never failing. 

+ The living God. Being part divine and part human, Jesus walked, ate, and slept among us. He traveled great distances, preached, taught, told stories and showed us how to pray. And He touched and healed us when we were hurting. 

+ An example of forgiveness. Jesus showed and taught us how to deal with all human shortcomings and the evil of the world. As we kneel in faith and in prayer He will forgive all of our sins. 

+ Peace. When we feel stressed, rushed and worn out, Jesus invites us to come to Him for rest and relief. He assures us that He will be with us always.

There is Jesus at the door, extending His hand and welcoming us into His presence. He wants to establish a close relationship with us during every day of our lives. May we live out this relational experience in all of its reality, grandeur, excitement and blessing this Christmas …


Thank you for sending Jesus to show us how to lead productive lives. May we walk with Jesus through the door into the new year. Amen.

In loving memory of Dave, and as a tribute to his many years of faithful service to Church Street UMC, we have reprinted his devotion from our 2017 Advent devotional. Jesus opened the door to heaven and invited Dave in on March 9, 2020. May we honor Dave’s prayer and walk with Jesus into the new year. 

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Daily Advent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Thursday, December 24, Morning

By Rev. William Fowler

The Little Engine That Could

Read Mark 1:1-7

The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God,  as it is written in Isaiah the prophet:

“I will send my messenger ahead of you,
    who will prepare your way”
“a voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
    make straight paths for him.’”

And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. And this was his message: “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.

When I was a little boy, I remember mom reading us Fowler children a wonderful book. In 1930, Watty Piper transcribed a late nineteenth century fable of a train laden with all good things for children living on the other side of a tall mountain.

This trainload of toys suffered a major crisis when its engine broke down. Everyone debarked from the train and began soliciting help from locomotives passing close to the stalled entourage. A Shiny New Engine, a Big Strong Engine, and a Rusty Old Engine simply would or could not attempt the task of bringing joy to a village filled with children.

Finally, a Little Blue Engine arrived at the scene. Even though never having pulled a train over the mountain, it responded positively to the toys’ pleadings. They climbed back aboard the train. Off they went with the Little Blue Engine saying, “I think I can…I think I can…I think I can!”

This Advent we prepare for the Coming of Christ. John the Baptizer exhorted his listeners to “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” (Mark 1:3b) In our preparation for Advent, we have all kinds of mountains that keep us from receiving or delivering the Blessings of Divine Joy: Covid-19, Fear, Anger, Disappointment, Abandonment, Division, Illness, Bereavement, and many other issues may stand in our way.

Perhaps, with the Help of the Lord, we can borrow the Little Blue Engine’s way of thinking: “I think I can…I think I can…I think I can!” When descending the mountain with the village clearly in view, the Little Blue Engine recited another litany: “I thought I could…I thought I could…I thought I could!” Attitude is crucial in Preparing the way of the Lord.


May the Lord bless us and keep us as we prepare for the coming of the Lord. Amen.

Rev. William Fowler served as Church Street Senior Pastor from 1994-2008. 

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Daily Advent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Wednesday, December 23, Morning

By Dr. Charles Wender

The Greatness of God’s Love

Read Luke 2:8-20

“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An Angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” When the angel 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. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.”

If pushed to respond, what would you say is the striking feature of this story? For me it is the tremendous excitement that jumps from the page as Luke tells us of the Nativity. It is much more than a simple narrative telling of the birth of the Christ Child. Shepherds are drawn into the story as well as an angel who is a member along with the heavenly host that praises God. This is no routine birth or birth announcement. 

Why is this so special? This story involves us all and its application is universal. It does not deal with one person only, but deals with us all. How can this be? All of humanity traces its origin back to Adam and Eve at the beginning of human history. The Genesis account exposes their reliance on the word of Satan over that of God. As a result, they lost the Image of God on their souls. This image contained love, light, and life. Unless this image is restored, no one can go into God’s presence in eternity. Critical is the restoration of this image on the soul of the lost (everyone); otherwise we are separated from God for eternity. 

Jesus, in a nighttime discussion with Nicodemus, informed him that a new birth of soul was necessary to be acceptable for admission into God’s presence in eternity. Nicodemus was the best of Hebrew society. A fundamental change of soul was necessary for him and all the rest of us. This change is only possible through faith in Jesus as God’s Son and the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world. Only a loving God could cause such to happen. We all need The Savior. There is only one. His name is Jesus. The most significant question for each one is, “Is He your Savior?”


“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

This devotion was written in honor of the Murphy Builders class.

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Daily Advent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Tuesday, December 22, Morning

By Elaine Doss

Yearning for Heavenly Peace

Read Isaiah 9, Hebrews 12

Isaiah prophesied the birth of Jesus, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness, a light has dawned … For to us a Child is born, to us a Son is given; and the government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of His government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over His kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.” Advent is a time of expectant waiting when we are asked to pause and focus on the birth and life of our Prince of Peace. Do you yearn for heavenly peace?

Scripture teaches us there will always be peace-disrupting trouble in this world and instructs us to keep our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith. When we devote our lives to Christ, we are blessed with His presence walking with us. With every troublesome trial we face we can choose to be guided through it by our Wonderful Counselor, embarking on a journey to discovering His heavenly peace. Peace from the one who loved us so much he endured the agony of the cross to atone for our sins. We are to “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Walking with Jesus, we are never alone in the journey.


Loving God, I yearn for peace and purpose in the depths of my soul. Holy Spirit, teach me your ways for living and praying as I read and apply scripture in my daily walk with you. Help me to take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ’s example. Fill me with the power of the Holy Spirit so that I am shining with the Light of Christ and radiating your love, joy, and peace toward others. Let your power energize and strengthen me to join your spiritual army and stand against the schemes of the Evil One so that I will not stumble and fall. I humbly pray this in the name of my Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.

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Daily Advent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Monday, December 21, Evening

By Barry Christmas

Fear Not, I Bring Good Tidings

Read Luke 2:10

“And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.”

One of my favorite hymns that our choir sings, and one that brings me great comfort, is “Do Not Be Afraid,” words by Gerard Markland and based on Isaiah 43; there is a recording of it on YouTube under Church Street UMC. When I think of all the challenges we have been faced with this year, (floods, hurricanes, wildfires, torching of buildings and vehicles, isolation, loneliness, the exile of a pandemic), I’m reminded of how relevant these words are for our current situation: 

“When you walk through the waters I’ll be with you, 

You will never have to sink beneath the waves. When the fire is burning all around you, You will never be consumed by the flames. When the fear of loneliness is looming, Then remember I am at your side. When you dwell in the exile of a stranger Remember you are precious in my eyes. You are mine, O my child; I am your father, And I love you with a perfect love. 

Chorus: Do not be afraid, For I have redeemed you. 

I have called you by your name; You are mine.”

I do not fear, for God loves me; so much that he offers me a gift of redemption through a little baby named Jesus, his son and my Saviour. I am secure in knowing I am his child and I am precious in his sight. So when I wonder why these things are happening, I remind myself God is still in control and all of this is part of His plan. He is allowing these things to happen for His purpose. It’s challenging to understand this, and it takes a lot of trust in God to accept it, but he promises to never forsake us, and I take comfort in that promise. We would never grow in our faith if we were not challenged from time to time. Trust your Father, and do not be afraid.


Dear Father, when great challenges occur in my life, give me the strength to focus on you and not all the chaos surrounding me. Reassure me of your promises and your love for me. Remind me of the angel’s “good tidings of great joy”, and that I have nothing to fear because your son is my Lord and Saviour. Amen.

This devotion was written in honor of the Parish Adult Choir. 

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Daily Advent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Monday, December 21, Morning

By Virginia A. White


Read Philippians 1:3-4

“I Thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy.” (NIV) 

One of my favorite memories is encased in a cold, mid-December when my son, Duncan, who has Down’s Syndrome, was about four years old. All the glitter and glitz of the season adorned our Christmas tree with purchased presents, each one wrapped and beginning to accumulate under our tinsel adorned tree the weeks prior to Christmas. Duncan’s job every morning was to turn on the tree lights in our living room. He loved Christmas! Not one to wait for things, he wanted to open presents as soon as they touched the tree skirt underneath. Every December morning, he would run first to the Christmas tree in hopeful expectation, pick out a present, hold it in curious admiration until one of us walked by and reminded him, “not yet Duncan.”

About four days before Christmas, sleepy eyed, we approached the living room in the early morning hours of darkness to find the light on. Duncan, sitting under the glowing tree, was surrounded by multiple opened presents on all sides. The pure joy on his face was contagious as he raised a recently opened kitchen item not meant for him. Forgiveness swept over us, and our family of four began to laugh and share in his joy, It was decided that Christmas had just come early that year!

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we all lived with that unbridled joy and anticipation of our Lord and what He has in store for us EACH day! How FULLY we could live in the space that He has created for us! Our LORD has given us the gift of reconciliation despite our sins, past, present and future. His greatest gift of Love by Jesus’ living with us briefly, and then His ultimate sacrifice for us so that we can be seen by our Father as Righteous, is amazing! What forgiveness we should have in our hearts for each other! What joy!

This Christmas and every season, let’s work daily to conduct each of our lives with such joy and love for one another, so all the world can see His Hope in our lives, and perhaps others will want to be a part of His eternal plan of joy too.


Dear Heavenly Father, from the words of your prophet Isaiah, “may gladness and joy overtake us, and our sorrow and sighing flee away.” Amen.

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Daily Advent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Sunday, December 20, Evening

By Rev. Jan Buxton Wade

Breath of Heaven

Read John 14:27

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.”

At age 22 I graduated college, stuffed my belongings into one large suitcase and headed to England for a teaching post at the American School at Lakenheath Air Force Base. A contract awaited, I was assured, but nothing had been signed. Thrilled to have landed a job in the land of Jane Austin, Thomas Hardy, and the Brontë sisters, whose works I had studied, I felt I was the luckiest person alive. 

When my jet lag had passed, I met the Headmaster, who sadly informed me my position had been given to a teacher with a master’s degree. I was greatly disheartened, but signed on as a substitute teacher for three days weekly at a skimpy salary. My discouragement brought a bonus, however, as I had many free days to explore throughout a breathtakingly beautiful autumn and a nippy, but enchanting, winter.

One frigid December morning, I found myself alone in the quiet ruins of St. Edmunds Abbey near River Lark. Patches of snow & heavy frost coated the dark earth and grassy stubbles peeped through here and there. A low fog enshrouded the structure’s jagged arches, through which the sun cast a pink shimmering glow. I recall standing at the gate, absorbing the mystical scene for a long time. Eventually I crossed over the ancient low stone walls & moved reverently through the timeworn transept. I left with a peace that remains indescribable. 

During winter’s chill, this treasured memory resurfaces, and I imagine myself once again stepping along the frozen ground where 11th – 16th century worshipers met to pray. I replay the scene in my head, breathing in the peace it gave me then. 2020 has brought much anxiety and discouragement, but the Holy One has never stopped inviting us to breathe in the peace he freely offers…


Breath of Heaven, bring me life; Breath of Heaven, bring me courage; Breath of Heaven, bring me peace. Amen.

Rev. Jan Buxton Wade is the Minister of Spiritual Enrichment at Church Street United Methodist Church. 

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Daily Advent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Saturday, December 19, Evening

By Ann Reego

Feeling It

Read Psalm 43:3-4

“Send your light and your truth; let them lead me. Let them bring me to your holy mountain, to your dwelling place. Then I will come to the altar of God, to God, my greatest joy. I will praise you with the lyre, God, my God.”

As I sit writing this in mid-October, I’m just not feeling very Christmasy. Too many issues to think about the birth of Christ and what it should mean to me. The election is a couple of weeks off; way too long in my opinion. Will it be safe to go to Florida to our daughter’s house for Thanksgiving? I’m scared to travel, but it’s been January since we last saw them. I love to cook, but right now I’d LOVE to go into a restaurant, sit down, and eat. I’m tired of ordering online and having to send it back because it doesn’t fit or isn’t how it looked in the catalog.

However, I’ll bet that things in 6 B.C. weren’t any better. Rome was in charge and many of the Jewish leaders were bending to their harsh treatment of the Hebrew people. Nobody liked the Romans being in charge … but what could they do? And that stupid census …! Mary had to be terrified about traveling while pregnant … most likely ON A DONKEY!!! Was it safe? Would she go into labor on the way? Would she live through delivery in a strange place? And, I’m sure Mary and Joseph were tired of the food that they had brought with them on the trip. The bread was probably stale, and the fruit and vegetables gone. Mary most likely longed for her home town and walking freely to the market, seeing friends and family along the way.

Have things changed much in over 2020 years? Are frustrations, desires, fears, and needs another gift of 2020, or are they a permanent part of the human condition?

All I know is that none of their fears, frustrations and desires stopped Mary and Joseph. She got on that donkey, Joseph walked beside her carrying their few belongings, and they started off. And what a trip they had! The baby was born, she survived, and she held in her arms the Son of God. What if they had given in to “not feeling Christmasy”?

So, I’m shaking off my doldrums, baking some cookies, putting on some carols, and thanking God for this season. Christmas comes whether you are ready or not. So you might as well feel Christmasy!


Gracious God, lead us to clear our troubled minds and weary bodies for the coming of the Christ child. May we see the world in less anxious eyes, and truth in your love and care. Amen.

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