Weekly Prayers for the Church Street Family

Week of December 29, 2021

Rev. Jan Buxton Wade

Holy Lord, we come to you at the midpoint of this week, still in awe of the beauty and sacredness of Christmas Eve.  What joy to raise our voices in prayer and praise of your coming among us in glory!  For all whose spirits were joined as one on that most holy night, we offer praises anew!  Even in Christmastide, however, we realize the rattle of the marketplace has heightened its whirring, and already the media is re-emphasizing gloom.  Calm both the restlessness of the world, we pray, and silence the noisy voices within us.  Grant that we might remain at the manger a little longer, spending quiet moments in your presence.  Only when we silently kneel at your modest crib will we hear what you have to say.

Emmanuel, God-With-Us, hear our prayer.  

Humble One, Yet Revealed in Glory, we thank you that Christmas isn’t one day only, nor twelve, but is a life-long season.  Your birth is the promise that brings us responsibilities, participation, and hope every day of the year. Your coming among us teaches that our lives matter to you and that our welfare is of tremendous importance. Ah, such undeserved gifts!  Just as the shepherds, we bask in your light that shines even in our darkest corners, attending us in our weakness, lifting us up when we are dismayed, ever giving us purpose and direction.  We walk in glory as we travel home to you.

Emmanuel, God-With-Us, hear our prayer.

Still, in the midst of our gratitude, Gracious Lord, we also experience dismay that we live within a conflicted realm.  We know full well the human sufferings in Afghanistan; threats of war in the Middle East and Eastern Europe; the rapid increase of a new strain of Covid throughout the world; rampant violence in our nation’s cities; starvation of precious souls amid storehouses of plenty; and the brokenness of victims of natural disasters.  Save us from despair and cynicism, we pray, as we yearn to be part of your restoration.  Refresh our spirits for service; and bless the feet and hands and hearts of those messengers you have already anointed to do your bidding across the globe.    

Emmanuel, God-With-Us, hear our prayer.

As Jesus came as one of us, he knew our infirmities and experienced our pain. Therefore, we share an intimate kinship with this Son of Grace who bids us boldly name our sorrows and lift our joys.  These we humbly offer from our hearts . . . . . . . . . . ; and we also share these prayers offered by the people of Church Street: 

  • Thankful for prayers: A door to reconciliation has been opened
  • Gratitude: deeply spiritual worship of Christmas Eve
  • Thankful for all who offered daily Advent Devotionals
  • Thanksgiving: Ill father was able to attend Christmas worship
  • Two families are grateful from ongoing support of SS classes
  • Thankful a mother survived surgery & is enduring chemo
  • Gratitude: two friends are home from the hospital
  • Thanksgiving: church couple healing steadily from Covid
  • Gratitude: Grandfather was able to visit grandsons for Christmas
  • Young friend with Covid is improving, prayers appreciated
  • Healing prayers for a son & daughter with Covid
  • Love & healing to surround family, wife/mother died December 22
  • Church family mourning the death of mother/grandmother December 23
  • Prayers for a grandson’s emotional healing, now is cloistered care
  • Friend at UT in neuro unit, restoration from a fall
  • Continued prayer for friend with cancer, recovers from oral surgery 
  • For a cherished nephew to seek help for his alcoholism
  • Prayers for recovery: Mother in ICU, broken ribs & trauma
  • Member family in NC all suffering from Covid
  • Guidance for young mother estranged from husband
  • A member seeks strength to fight cancer
  • Grace for member valiantly enduring cancer treatments
  • Reconciliation of differences within three families
  • Pray for young couple recovering at home from serious illnesses
  • God’s grace to surround a mother with cancer, for renewed hope
  • Two suffering from depression and Parkinsons-related illness
  • Faithful husband struggling with memory loss 
  • Grace to uphold dear friend soon entering hospice care
  • Strength for daughter, extreme complications from Covid
  • For doors of employment to open for gifted professional man
  • Beloved husband undergoing chemotherapy 

Faithful Emmanuel, baptize us anew as we enter this new year.  Wash us with that profound truth that we are ever dependent upon you in this life, and that, you will always be with us.  Provide us courage for every difficulty that will arise in the months to come and shower us with assurance amid all our uncertainties. Knowing our security lies in you, we offer all our prayers in the name of Christ, who taught us to pray:

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

Saturday, December 25, Evening

By Sarah Elliott

The Star Was Bright

Read Matthew 2:10

“When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.”

Growing up, my mother taught me to appreciate the stars. Some of my favorite constellations are the big dipper, the little dipper, and Orion. Easily identifiable, Orion is most vibrantly seen in the winter months. A reminder that with winter we get to enjoy Christmas, and the celebration of the greatest gift given to us by God when he sent his son into the world. 

I remember in 1986, my mom woke me up to see Halley’s Comet. Seeing something in the sky and knowing it wasn’t going to be seen by anyone else for another 76 years seemed really special to me. How special would it have been for the Magi to see the Star of Bethlehem? I can only imagine it! They saw a star and they followed it. Knowing it was special, they followed it to find the king of the Jews. When they arrived, they bowed down and worshiped him. They followed a star and met a King! 

Weather lore says, “Cold is the night, when the stars shine bright.” On a crisp, clear night look at the stars and consider what it would have been like to see the Star of Bethlehem.  How exceedingly great would it feel to be one of the first to know the King of Kings had arrived?

Prayer

Dear God, Thank you for sending the star that led the Magi to you. Their presentation of fine gifts to your son is a reminder of just how powerful your gift to us truly is. Lead us to him this season, so we are reminded each day of how special your gift of Jesus’ birth is.

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Daily Advent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Saturday, December 25, Morning

By Dena Wise

Don’t Be Afraid

Read Luke 2:8-12 (God’s Word Translation)

“Shepherds were in the fields near Bethlehem. They were taking turns watching their flock during the night. An angel from the Lord suddenly appeared to them. The glory of the Lord filled the area with light, and they were terrified. The angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid! I have good news for you, a message that will fill everyone with joy. Today your Savior, Christ the Lord, was born in David’s city. This is how you will recognize him: You will find an infant wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in a manger…”

Jesus was born to a people who, over the years that the Old Testament spans, had associated Godly leadership with power rather than humility, authority rather than service, commanding presence rather than gentle guidance. They had lived under the rule of the often violent and idolatrous kings of Israel and Judah, under Nebuchchadnezzar of Babylon during the exile, and had been subject to the whims of the Persian, Greek, and Roman leaders whose rule often upended their lives. Even their God, they knew as stern, unapproachable, and often terrifying. They likely expected a deliverer with those same characteristics, but the angels brought an entirely different message:

“Not to the important people in the capitol, but to you — regular people working and sleeping in the fields with your flocks — we bring this news. Instead of being afraid of the light of the Lord that you see around you, as you might have been in the past, be joyful! This is how you will recognize the Savior of your people: God is coming to you now, not through a mighty and powerful ruler, but rather as a newborn baby. He will not be clothed in splendor or royal robes, but instead wrapped in torn strips of cloth. You will not find him inhabiting the unapproachable inner sanctions of a temple or even a palace. You will find him in an animal’s stall lying in the feed trough. Tonight you can visit him in person without fear, and see for yourselves”. 

Prayer

Thank you, Lord, that the joyful news of peace that came to the shepherds 2000 years ago is with us to this day. We are ashamed that we often still struggle to recognize our salvation in humility and love, rather than in control and fear. May the humble essence of the infant in the manger permeate our individual and collective being until the glorious light that illumined the shepherds on that hill in Galilee fills the earth, and no one is afraid.

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Daily Advent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Friday, December 24

By Barry Christmas, Congregational Care Committee

Behold the Lamb of God

Read Luke: 2:6-20; Micah 4:8 (NIV)

Where exactly in Bethlehem was the Christ child born, wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger? There was no room in the inn, and it is thought that the innkeeper most likely directed them to a cave where the animals were being lodged for the night. Where else might you find a manger, which is a feeding trough for animals? Let’s explore an interesting possibility …

After an arduous journey of about 70 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem, Mary would have been very tired and uncomfortable. She would most likely be having twinges of labor pain by the time they reached their destination. Surely Joseph would have been looking for a quiet, private location for Mary to rest for the night, and possibly give birth. If such a place could be found, why resort to lodging in a crowded stable?

At this time, there existed a watchtower just outside of Bethlehem called Migdal Eder, known as the “Tower of the Flock.” Animals subject to be chosen by the temple priests for sacrifice were kept and tended in the fields surrounding this location, and if found spotless and without blemish (a strict requirement), were eventually taken to the temple in Jerusalem. The tower was a stone structure where the Levitical shepherds brought the ewes to deliver their lambs, and was well known for housing newborn lambs and protecting them from predators. Each newborn lamb was placed in a stone manger, inspected for any blemishes, and if found to be spotless, was wrapped in strips of swaddling cloth to keep the lamb clean and protect it from harm. 

What could be a more fitting location for the birth and lodging of the “Lamb of God”?  He who would one day become God’s perfect, without blemish, Sacrificial Lamb and shed his blood for the redemption of our sins? Even the announcement of his birth by the angel is already foreshadowing his sacrifice: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you, ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” And consider the words spoken by John the Baptist when he first beheld his cousin, Jesus: “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”

The shepherds in the fields, tending their flocks that night, would have been very familiar with Migdal Eder, and quite possibly were the special Levitical shepherds to the unblemished lambs of the temple. After being visited by the angel who announced Jesus’ birth, they would have known exactly where to find the Tower of the Flock to behold the newborn Lamb of God, wrapped in swaddling cloth and lying in a manger.

Prayer

Dear Heavenly Father, This Christmas we pray that we might have eyes to see your perfect Lamb and ears to hear “Good Tidings of Great Joy” upon His arrival. Amen.

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Daily Advent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Thursday, December 23

By Nancy Christmas

Musical Traditions of Christmas

Read Psalm 150:1,3-4

“Praise the Lord! Praise Him with the trumpet and with lute and harp. Praise Him with the tambourines and processional. Praise Him with stringed instruments and horns. Hallelujah!”

One of the highlights of Christmas growing up was going with my family to visit relatives in middle TN. We had a favorite tradition of gathering around the piano after eating our meal and singing Christmas carols. I was really impressed with how well our voices blended so harmoniously. Having our family’s antique upright piano at home sparked my interest to take piano lessons at an early age and continue throughout high school. 

A few years ago, my piano became unplayable and could not be repaired. I located a skilled and creative woodworker who repurposed it for me by making multiple music boxes from the piano’s beautiful wood. In addition, he used the ivory and ebony keys from the keyboard to decorate the boxes. Six boxes were designed and five were given to my family members (nieces, nephews and my brother) for Christmas 2019. The legacy of our family piano lives on. 

And speaking of music, I always look forward to the many wonderful performances each Sunday, during the holidays and throughout the year. These musical moments provided by the choirs, our organist, UT music students, pianists, the handbells, our harpist, and other invited guests who possess unique musical talents, are truly a source of enjoyment and inspiration.

On Christmas Eve, as we gather together to anticipate the arrival of Baby Jesus, may our hearts be filled with joy, love and peace as we light a candle and listen to our beautiful music at Church Street. May these melodies remain in our hearts as we celebrate His birth on Christmas Day and the love He shares with us every day of the year.

Prayer

Dear Lord, Let us all be joyous as we celebrate the birth of Jesus at Christmas with the warmth of a candle, the praises we sing and the many gifts of love. May we always hold near to our hearts the true meaning of this special day. For this Christmas, and each Christmas that follows, shall we be endowed with the divine spirit and love of Jesus Christ. Amen.

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Daily Advent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Wednesday, December 22

By Jane Gulley

The Virgin Mary, First Disciple

Read Luke 1:26-2:56

Many of us spend a lot of time on screens, especially since the onset of the pandemic. In the internet’s “attention economy” we are exposed to thousands of advertisements. We interact online with caution, afraid of being scammed, verbally abused, or otherwise digitally harmed.

In this context, can you imagine seeing a pop-up ad and responding with this?  “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38).

That’s what Mary did. The Angel Gabriel popped up in her life and said, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you: blessed are you among women!” (Luke 1:28). The next verse says, “But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was.” In other words, Mary was tempted to close the browser and report Gabriel as a phishing scam. Instead, the Galilean girl listened. She believed Gabriel’s message that she had “found favor with God” and would bear a son, Jesus. And she wholeheartedly committed to her task. She became a disciple.

We Protestants do not emphasize Mary’s story as much as our Catholic and Orthodox friends. But in her role as an exemplary mother, Mary has much to teach us. She was obedient to God’s will, and even happy about it. She trusted that God’s plan would come to fruition through her and other people. (Joseph receives his own angelic encouragement in Matthew, Chapter 1). She demonstrated remarkable grit, giving birth in a barn and traveling to Egypt shortly afterward. She was joyful about her role: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.”

And most of all, Mary stayed with her Son all the way to the end of his earthly life, when other friends ran away. What a mom. As we cope with lives of uncertainty, let us see Mary as a model for responding to the unexpected in tremendous ways.

Prayer

Lord, help me to recognize the “pop up messages” that are opportunities to answer your call upon my life. Help me to trust in others and to see God’s plan in the ordinary days. And give me strength to meet today’s challenges, today.  

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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.

Prayer

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

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. 

Prayer

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.”

Prayer

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

Always

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.

Prayer

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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