Daily Advent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Thursday, December 15

By Steve Richardson

Timeless Joy

Read: 2 Corinthians 4:4-18

“For it is God who said, ‘Light will shine out of darkness,’ who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” (v.6)

Odd as it seems, our modest, practically-generic rancher house now has an architectural designation. It was built in 1955, so it has become classified as a “Mid-Century Modern.” Such a label puts us right up there with “Victorian,” “Cape Cod,” “Williamsburg,” “Greek Revival” and others. Frankly, these other labels reflect more impressive aesthetic qualities, compared to “Mid-Century Modern” which hovers over a mundane point on a time spectrum. Yet whatever the descriptor or identity, we happily call it “home.”

Recently we undertook some interior renovation. The project included removal of long-ago laid wall-to-wall carpet, followed by restoration of the original oak flooring that had been shielded from view for literally decades. When the floor sanding began, I was amazed to sense the scent of freshly cut oak. It was as if the timber had just been milled! After 67 years, the oak’s distinctive aromatic profile was as fresh and vibrant as ever.

For a moment, I felt joy from this unexpected waft of nature along with seeing the surface and grain of the wood freed to resume its original purpose.

Later, it caused me to wonder: During these days of Advent, what might we discover if we could strip away (or at least strive to do so) the layers of really-not-so-important trappings of the holiday season? We all know of them —those many things that tend to obscure, hide or crowd-out Christmas’s spiritual core and character. Maybe there is a timeless joy to be found and experienced —the joy of the heavenly host, the joy made known to the shepherds, the joy made known to the magi, the joy of the authentic Christmas. Such joy must surely still be fresh and vibrant if we simply can uncover it and set it free to be experienced again.


Generous God, open our hearts and minds to receive, and then to share, the spiritual life-lifting gifts you graciously offer so that we may always know your timeless joy.

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Daily Advent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Wednesday, December 14

By Linda Henderson Cox

Expectation, Excitation, Exhilaration

Read: Luke 1:31-33

“You will … give birth to a son … He will be great … 

His kingdom will have no end.”

Unlike Zechariah’s unbelief when an angel told him he and Elizabeth would have a son, Mary didn’t doubt when Gabriel gave her the news that she too would bear a son of the Holy Spirit. She trusted. When it sank in, she couldn’t wait to share with her cousin Elizabeth who was six months along with, as we’re told later, John the Baptizer. The gift for the world they each carried was reason for exhilaration. Elizabeth made a declaration and Mary sang a song.

Having five great-grandchildren in five years, I can tell you something of all three emotions. Each child expected and loved before birth; the tension of waiting and wondering ending when a new person entered our lives; the moms eager to get pictures out to the world!

“He will be great.” I’ve often wondered whether Jesus had a ‘normal’ childhood. He had siblings. Did He stand out as being great? In my mind, I see Him being treated equally, though I imagine Joseph and Mary shared a look or two when His behavior was a bit different.

“His kingdom will have no end” is the climax to the story. All made possible by God sending His Son into the world in human form. To be admitted into the kingdom that has no end, is perfection. To share eternity with the owner of this kingdom—the thought should make us drunk with exhilaration. 


All praise and thanksgiving to You, Creator God, for giving us the gift of eternal life with a home in the Kingdom that has no end. In the name of your Son, Jesus, our Redeemer. Amen.

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Daily Advent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Tuesday, December 13

By Jeffrey H. Johnson, M.D.

Welcome to the Family

Read: Colossians 3:16 NLT

“Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts.”

Earlier this year the historic Murphy Builders and Pathfinders Sunday School classes came together to form one class, Murphy Builders Pathfinders. Together, we have been studying the book of Colossians verse by verse. When we came to this passage, we noted that the heading for Chapter 3 was “Living the New Life.” Paul in this letter points us to the supremacy of Christ in creation (Chapter 1) and then goes on to tell us that as believers in Christ – new creatures (2 Corinthians 5:17) – Christ is our life (Chapters 2 and 3). Because of this, we are encouraged to set our “sights on the realities of heaven” (Chapter 3,v.1) and “think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth” (v.2). We studied that we “died to this life” and that our “real life is hidden with Christ in God” (v.3).

Sounds lofty and beautiful, right? That’s how life is for all of us, right?  

On the contrary: as we studied this passage, we noted that life can be HARD. I have often said to my patients who go through difficult times this time of year that “the holidays magnify life as we know it … and sometimes that may not be so good.”  

So what are we to do? I believe that in these difficult days, we need our family … our family of God. We need to come together each week and dwell on Christ and his richness in our lives. We need to teach and counsel each other. We need to sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thanksgiving (just last week our class spent the whole hour singing some of the great old hymns we all know and love). We find then that we are strengthened as we head back out into the world and into life on earth as we know it.  

Jesus came so that we could be a part of the family … his kingdom. During this Advent season, come together with your family — the family of God — and be strengthened and encouraged, always remembering that “Christ is our life”.


Father, thank you for this time of year when we remember that you sent Jesus, so that we could be a part of your family. Amen.

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Daily Advent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Monday, December 12

By Judy Grubb

Christmas and Traditions

Read: Luke 2:10

“…but the angel said to them, ‘Don’t be afraid! I am here with good news for you, which will bring great joy to all the people’.”

Christmas 2020 may be the saddest Christmas I have ever observed. You’ll remember that we were smack in the middle of the Covid 19 Pandemic. My husband and I had chosen not to have any family get together due to the fear of transmitting the virus. I wasn’t sure that I even wanted to decorate. I did go with a downsized tree and fewer decorations than I usually display around the house. I didn’t have purple candles, so I used red ones to create the Advent wreath, and we put it out every Sunday. I also displayed one of my favorite Nativity sets. So…we were having Christmas.

When I think back on all this, I realize that I was tweaking my Traditions of Christmas. I realize that everybody has traditions, and they’re all different. Many of my Christmas treasures have very special memories: where I got them, who gave them to me, how old they are. The origin of all those memories are rooted in the story of a baby born in a stable in Bethlehem. As we know, there are different theories about this child and his birth, but for me I wouldn’t stop the celebration for anything. It is the source of my Traditions that include special times with my children and grandchildren, the joy of the preparation, and the hope that I have in life.

It was a tough time up to the few days before Christmas that year. I felt like I was just going through the motions. How could we make this a real Christmas? Then about 4:00 P.M. on Christmas Eve it began to snow. We ended up with the prettiest snowfall and white Christmas in years. It was like a gift to cheer us up. (Apologies to those who got stuck in the traffic.) We watched the most beautiful Christmas Eve service on YouTube.

On Christmas Day, we talked on FaceTime to our 3 children and our grandchildren. We didn’t have gifts to open, but we didn’t notice. One of our sons left gifts for us on the front porch a few days later. Remember the awful mail delay? We’ve laughed about the 14 day delay of gifts from our daughter.

That year we learned that Jesus really is the reason for the season. We made every effort to celebrate his birth even though we observed some traditions in a different way, and some just didn’t happen. Life was different and out of kilter, but in 2021 we got back to all the traditions, and the story of Jesus was still there, and so was the hope.


Dear God, May we remember that there are many ways to celebrate the great gift that you gave us, your Son, Jesus Christ. Thank you for loving us and bringing us hope. Amen. 

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Daily Advent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Sunday, December 11

By Rev. Palmer Cantler, Associate Pastor

Always Check the Christmas Lights

Read: Luke 11:33 CEB

“People don’t light a lamp and then put it in a closet or under a basket. Rather, they place the lamp on a lampstand so that those who enter the house can see the light.”

I love Christmas lights. When Brent and I bought our house a few years ago, I was so excited that we would be able to decorate with lights. One Advent Sunday in 2021, while I was at the church all day, Brent spent the afternoon on our roof hanging Christmas lights across the front of the house. A friend helped him string lights across bushes and around the door, with the hope of surprising me that evening. 

The only problem: they didn’t test the lights first. Upon plugging in the strand, only half of the roof lit up. 

You might be saying, “rookie mistake,” but too often we make the same misstep in our faith. We decorate our homes, address Christmas cards, and bake goodies to welcome the season. Yet, we spend little time checking if the light of our soul is working. It’s often much easier to bake another batch of cookies than spend time with God reflecting on the light of Christ. 

On the years where I’ve nurtured God’s light inside me, Advent and Christmas hold a deeper meaning. The lights on the roof don’t just seem brighter, they hold a visual reminder of the promise that Christ came to bring light even in the darkest places of our world.


Illuminating God, as we see the lights of the season around us, may we find your promise in their glow. Give us pause to evaluate our relationship with you that we might reflect the radiance of your son, Jesus Christ. Amen. 

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Daily Advent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Saturday, December 10

By John Eldridge, in honor of Blessing of the Animals

The Earth is the Lord’s

Read: Psalm 24 KJV

“The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.”

We recently did an upgrade to our backyard. We put in a “hardscape” (which is just lovely), lights on the stairs and on the columns, and increased the size of one of the decks.

It is unusual not to see wildlife in our backyard. We never do not see a deer, usually 2 or 3 going up the ravine. And birds, birds galore! Chipmunks and squirrels round out the usual measure of creatures from the animal kingdom.

So, what do these animals think when they look up and see us on the screened-in porch? Do they think we are stronger because we have clothes? Stronger because we cut our hair? Stronger because we don’t move, we just sit there? For these animals, not moving is a sure way to get gobbled up by a predator.

I don’t know the answer to these questions, but I do know in whose care they are. God cares for these animals just as much as he cares for you and me. That bears repeating: this world is God’s creation, and every living thing is a part of God’s creation, even the trees and plants.

We all come from God, and we will go back to God. And in the meantime, we are in God’s care.


Enlighten us, O Lord, to be in tune with nature. Amen.

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Daily Advent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Friday, December 9

By Dena Wise

The Morning of Forgiveness

Read: Luke 1:76-77 ESV

“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins.”

This prophecy, spoken of the infant John the Baptist by his father, Zechariah, reminds us that the central purpose of the awaited Messiah was to bring salvation through forgiveness of the sins of his people. As a people, the Israelites had repeatedly broken the Holy Covenants made by Abraham, Moses, and David. Likely, these sins of the people lay heavily on the mind of Zechariah, whom the Bible tells us was a righteous priest. Zechariah may have been unable to fathom how–given its long history of covenant-breaking–the nation of Israel could ever be restored to its God. Imagine his joy when Zechariah realized that his own son—his and Elizabeth’s “miracle” baby—would lay groundwork for the ultimate redemption of his people!

But Zechariah’s prophecy did not end there. He went on to beautifully predict the impact this forgiveness would have, not only on the Jewish nation, but on those of us to come (Verses 78-79):

“By the tender mercy of our God,

the dawn from on high will break upon us,

to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,

to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

Pastor Tim, in a sermon earlier this year, noted that seeking and receiving forgiveness through Christ can also empower us to forgive others, and in doing so we partner with God in his larger work of redemption across the ages. What a glorious thought that as God’s dawn breaks upon us, we are guided—through our small and individual acts of mercy and forgiveness—into the way of peace!


Father of Grace, may the gift of mercy that we celebrate this season illuminate the darkness of our unforgiving hearts. As we bask in the light of your Christmas dawn, may our capacity to forgive grow boundless and our steps along the path of peace grow steady and sure.

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Daily Advent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Thursday, December 8

By Caroline Lamar

The Discomfort of Waiting

Read: Isaiah 35:1-10

A few months ago, a guest from the Soup Kitchen attended the 8:30 a.m. worship service. When it came time for Holy Communion, she remained seated in her pew. The ushers indicated it was her row’s turn, but she remained seated. “What is she waiting for?” I thought to myself. “It’s clearly her turn.” I watched as she waited until every member of the congregation had been served, even the ushers, before quietly approaching the pastor. She extended her open palms, was greeted by name, and received Holy Communion before returning to her pew.

On my way home I reflected on the woman and attempted to puzzle out why her waiting made me uneasy. In a culture of instant gratification, any kind of waiting makes us uncomfortable. We receive text, emails, sports scores, and our favorite streaming shows instantly. We know what we want, and we want it now. The discomfort of waiting annoys us. And yet, I would venture to guess the woman waiting to be served at the Lord’s Table was quite adept at waiting. Waiting for her next meal. Waiting for a safe place to sleep. Waiting to be noticed and truly seen.

This is what we are called to do during Advent. We are called to sit and wait. To sit with the discomfort of the darkness and the quiet. We are called to still our busyness and simply wait. For it is in our waiting that we can more fully prepare our hearts for the coming of Christmas.


Loving God, meet us in our stillness. Help us wait with open hearts so that we, like the crocus, will burst into bloom and shout for joy. Amen.

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Daily Advent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Wednesday, December 7

By Rev. Jan Buxton Wade

Time to Awaken

Read: Ephesians 5:14-16 NIV

“Sleeper, awake! Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you. Be careful, then, how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil.”

During my 18 months of chaplaincy training at the old Baptist Hospital here in Knoxville, my early shifts generally began at six, meaning I had to bolt out of bed by five a.m. Though often a bit groggy, I would check the ER situation first, then begin my round of regular visitations before group sessions. I became especially close to Mrs. Long in my tenure, a very dignified and soft-spoken lady in her seventies, in and out of the facility for pulmonary treatments. I had met her family members when they were visiting. In one of our last conversations before she entered hospice care, I asked her, if she had the chance, might she go back in time and change anything in her life. Readily, yet wistfully, she replied “Oh, yes!”

“I was always so preoccupied with keeping the house spotless, you see, with making certain our meals were well-balanced, our clothes pressed to perfection… I wish I had gone with my girls and their dad to their ball games and school plays when they wanted me to. It was as if I was in a stupor, never finding the time. And now I see that the home chores could have waited. My daughters are fine women, but I missed out on so many things that mattered to them. And they never knew how proud I was of them along the way.”

Advent is a season of patient waiting. But it should also be a time to wake up. “Keep awake!” says the apostle, quoting the prophet Isaiah. We respond fairly quickly to those morning alarms on our bedside table that signal us to begin our day; but let us also be open to those alarms the Holy One offers us throughout the hours that follow, pointing us toward the better way, awakening us to those actions that really matter.  

Someone said he placed a sticker with a clock face on his dressing room mirror, another on his telephone, and another on his dashboard. It’s his way of asking himself crucial questions: “What really matters in the time I have left? Who needs my attention today?”  


Good Lord, give us wisdom to open ourselves to your wake-up calls throughout the days we are given, as you direct us to serve others in the name of Christ. Amen.

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Daily Advent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Tuesday, December 6

By Dona Bunch

What Was Mary Thinking?

Read: Luke 2:19 KJV

“But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.”

As a teenager, Mary experienced an event not experienced by any other mortal. Told by Gabriel that God had chosen her to be the mother of the Messiah, Mary joined a singular club. Little has been recorded to give us insight into Mary’s thoughts and feelings at this transcendent moment. We know only that she was “greatly troubled.”

What must her first thoughts have been? Shock, disbelief, fear? Why her? Why now? What about Joseph, her betrothed? Yet despite the incredible circumstances, Mary answered simply, “Let it be done to me according to your word.” 

I have to wonder what happened after Gabriel’s visit. Did Mary run to tell her mother? Or was she afraid that no one would believe her? By accepting the angel’s gift, had she risked her future with Joseph, and even the safety of herself and her family? And a baby! She was little more than a child herself.

Since I first read the story of the angelic visit I’ve been drawn to the brief, understated explanation of Mary’s reaction to an event unparalleled in human history. Mary took in the amazing events happening in her transformed life and “pondered them in her heart”. Throughout her pregnancy and Jesus’ birth, whether riding a donkey on the bumpy road to Bethlehem, having the Holy baby in a stable, or fleeing from Herod’s gaze, Mary persevered in her sacred assignment. 

Her heart must have been full of thoughts and feelings, doubts and joys. Perhaps she felt welcome reassurance when someone immediately recognized the “changed” Mary. (“Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb.”) Perhaps she also felt icy fear when Simeon warned her that her baby would cause a sword to “pierce her own soul.”

Wrapping herself in silence may have been Mary’s best response. It must have been hard to imagine a Messiah, but easier to imagine a tiny baby. Far too young and modest to be a saint, she could settle herself by being a mother. And at that time, at the very beginning of Jesus’ life, that was what he needed most. 

Somehow, as Mary held a whirlwind of events close to her heart, the young mother quietly managed to raise a savior who would transform the world. May Mary’s gentle strength be a model for us as we enter this Holy season.


Lord, as Advent approaches, may we ponder the gift of the Christ child. Thank you for transforming our lives through your gift of salvation and forgiveness. Help us to accept the greatest gift as Mary did, with humility and grace. Amen.

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