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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Weekly Prayers for the Church Street Family

Week of December 7, 2022

Rev. Catherine Nance*

It came upon the midnight clear, that glorious song of old,  

from angels bending near the earth to touch their harps of gold:  

“Peace on the earth, good will to all, from heaven’s all gracious King.”  

The world in solemn stillness lay, to hear the angels sing. 

The night sky is rainy tonight – not exactly ‘the midnight clear,’ O God. But, you are God of all of the nights. The ones that are stormy, the ones that are clear; the sleepless ones and the late ones. O Lord, we do want to rest tonight. We want to hear angels sing and we want “peace on earth,” to be our last thoughts for this evening. However, O God who hears our sighing along with the angels singing, you know what is filling our minds with noise. Worry. Deadlines. Concerns about the world and heartache for those near and dear to us. In this time of prayer, O God, in this moment of choosing to pray, may we sit for a moment in solemn stillness …may we listen for your breath, your angels. We pray that those we love may feel your peace and stillness this very moment. 

Still through the cloven skies they come with peaceful wings unfurled, 

 and still their heavenly music floats o’er all the weary world;  

above its sad and lowly plains, they bend on hovering wing,  

and ever oe’r its Babel sounds the blessed angels sing. 

We know that as the sky moves from dusk to evening to midnight to dawn, your Breath, your Spirit, your messengers, your angels continue to be with us. Even when we turn away from you – whether by sleep or by decisive actions, you continue to come to us. Tune our ears O Composer of Life, that we might hear your singing above any other noise: the scripts we play over and over in our heads telling us who we SHOULD be, the voices who are telling us we need MORE, the culture who tells us we are not relevant, and any other babble that seeks to gain our attention. Let us hear your voice as you bend towards us. 

And ye, beneath life’s crushing load, whose forms are bending low, 

 who toil along the climbing way with painful steps and slow, 

Look now! For glad and golden hours come swiftly on the wing.  

O rest beside the weary road, and hear the angels sing! 

When we listen to your messengers and to your heart, O God, we are prompted to look towards others. Our hearts are heavy but full of prayers for those who are toiling, whose lives are so difficult. Whether they are soldiers in a far off land, EMTs on local roads, teachers doing their very best, parents struggling to ‘make Christmas,’ leaders striving to do the right thing, caregivers who feel tied to a bedside, and so many more. We pray that in the morning they may awake with renewed hope; that they hear the angels sing! 

For lo! The days are hastening on, by prophet seen of old,  

when with the ever-circling years shall come the time foretold  

when peace shall over all the earth its ancient splendors fling,  

and the whole world send back the song which now the angels sing.  

Having spent time in prayer to you and with you, O God of the nighttime, may we feel the assurance of a solemn stillness. You are with us. We are not alone. You bend towards us and hear our prayers …. 

Church friends have asked for prayers for….

  • Help for teachers with difficult classes and workloads.
  • A brother just diagnosed with colon cancer; prayers for upcoming surgery
  • Members of other United Methodist churches who are dealing with disaffiliation process
  • Families going through transition; caregivers moving away and making decisions for other family members in chronic health situations
  • Members who have been diagnosed with Covid and flu; prayers for safety and recovery
  • A daughter and son-in-law hoping for pregnancy; for all those dealing with fertility concerns during this season especially.
  • Friends and family who are dealing with chronic health concerns; the caregivers
  • Those who are waiting on tests and follow up appointments
  • That insurance company will work with a family
  • A mother who is in hospital after a fall

Our church family offers prayers of thanksgiving for….

  • A son who has worked hard and is being recognized by his industry
  • Adult children who are content
  • A wonderful Advent Craft Fair. Thankful for all of the volunteers and the families who attended!
  • Clear report on blood tests
  • A daughter-in-law who has found a job!
  • A church member’s successful back surgery
  • Members who have been able to leave hospital and rehab and go back to assisted living facilities

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.

*Tonight’s prayer inspired by Edmund H. Sears’ carol, It Came upon the Midnight Clear (1849)

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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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Daily Advent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Monday, December 5

By David Lineberger

The Blessings of Peace

Read: Isaiah 32:17 ESV

“And the effort of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever.”

What comes to your mind when you think of peace? Is it a world without war? Is it harmony at home where everyone gets along? How about being able to fall asleep at night without a single worry about what will happen tomorrow? Is peace really possible, or just an impossible dream?

Sometimes peace is a matter of perspective. Who among us hasn’t experienced something in our lives that has prevented us from enjoying a sense of peace, only to ignore so many of our other blessings? I once worked with a parish where God’s blessings were in great abundance. They had wonderful close multi-generational families, quality worship, abundance of support, and everything needed for physical comfort. But, you could never have a conversation with some without a litany of complaints. They had slipped into the habit of being negative. They seemed to never be at peace.

As Christians we share the most important peace one can have, which is the knowledge that our relationship with God is good. We know that nothing can separate us from God’s love. Peace came to us with the advent of the Christ Child which brought us into a right relationship with God. The Hebrew word for peace is shalom, which means completeness, soundness, and welfare. Saying shalom to others meant that you were wishing that “well-being be upon you.” True happiness is letting the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.

When we become despondent over things which bring us down, let us remember to celebrate what is most important, the peace that Christ Jesus brings during this Advent season.


Heavenly Father, thank you for the love and peace we know because of the gift of your Son, Jesus the Christ. Amen.

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Daily Advent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Sunday, December 4, Second Sunday of Advent

By Rev. Catherine Nance, Senior Pastor

Seeing God at Night

Read: Psalm 92:2 KJV

“To shew forth thy loving kindness in the morning, and thy faithfulness  every night …”

It is good to give thanks to the Lord … to declare your steadfast love in the morning and your faithfulness by night!

There are startling moments for us when we stretch, yawn, look out the window and say, “Whew! I’m ready for bed! What time is it?” The dark sky and the cooler temperature coax us into thinking it is time to get under the covers.

Yawn. Look at the clock. Oh my goodness! It’s just … too-early-for-bed o’clock!

We want to sleep; we thought we were tired. But we have two or three more hours until our regular bedtime! What to do with all this extra time?

Instead of cursing the darkness, we can see it as a gift. Instead of scrolling through social media or flipping through channels, put on a coat and go outside. Turn off the outside lights. Look up at the sky. Remember what you learned in school about the stars always being ‘out,’ just not always visible. Think about the phases of the moon, say the names of the planets aloud. Perhaps breathe in a little deeper and do your stretching outside. As you wait for bedtime, be thankful for the darkness. Creation began in darkness for the first words of Creation were, “Let there be light.” What was Mother God imagining and thinking before birthing creation? What was Father God hoping and dreaming before speaking light? Give thanks for the darkness and take the extra time to draw near to the One who is Drawing Near to us!

Come, Lord Jesus!


O God of the Darkness, may our imaginations and hearts think of your presence even when we cannot see. Thank you for nighttime rest and for nighttime meditations. Amen.

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Daily Advent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Saturday, December 3

By Fran Wheeler

Shadow and Starlight

Read: Isaiah 60:1-2 NIV

“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you.”

Christmas sometimes feels unreal. Around us we see people who are excited, laughing, and celebrating. Mall music proclaims, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” And we play along, often with tired smiles and over-crowded calendars. But sometimes we wonder how we can even survive a joyful holiday in all the darkness surrounding us.

But a close look at scripture reveals a story filled with light and glory, but also tempered by fear and loss. Amid miraculous moments lie circumstances as difficult and heartbreaking as we can imagine. What do we do with this paradox? 

To preserve the miraculous, we tend to ignore the shadows within the Christmas story. Bright angels mask the fears of a young girl and man whose dreams are shattered. The heavenly joy Mary shared with Elizabeth makes it easy to forget the new somber reality of her life. The great star, singing angels, adoring shepherds, and amazing Magi help us forget that the baby was born far from home and family. Even when he is presented to the Lord, the prophet speaks frightening words: “And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” As the story winds down, King Herod sends other baby boys to their deaths, so Mary and Joseph can’t even go back home, but must flee to Egypt. 

In spite of the exciting and beautiful moments, Mary indeed had much to ponder in her heart.

What is the lesson for us? Even as darkness overshadows the miraculous story with sadness, we can focus our gaze upon the light that shines through. Because Jesus arose, his words ring loud and clear, bringing the desperately needed message of hope. Because of his words, we know that even in our darkness, the light is coming.

“I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.” John 12:46 NIV


Father, as we celebrate, help us to recognize and give thanks for the sacrifices made on our behalf and walk in the everlasting light brought to us by Christ.

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Daily Advent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Friday, December 2

By Laura Still

Feeling Stumpy?

​​Read: Isaiah 11:1-2

“A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse, from his roots a branch will bear fruit.”

The word stump can be jarring—it has a quality of sounding short and hard, something cut off and useless. Describing anything as stumpy is not usually meant to be flattering. But stumps are considered tough, and anyone who has ever had to dig up even a small one will agree. They might look dried out and dead, but the attached roots often go deep and spread out wider than the canopy of the tree before it was cut. Maybe those stumps aren’t quite extinct after all. 

As a kid I only thought of stumps as a handy place to sit and rest when playing outside, or use as a table for an imaginary meal. If you had asked me, I would have said they were dead, and couldn’t grow again. In the last four years I’ve learned a lot more about trees however, both from reading and working with plants. I’ve seen the stump of a pine tree cut to the ground send out a fountain of delicate green fronds trying to regrow. Trees don’t give up easily and stumps aren’t as dead as I thought. 

So this image of the stump of Jesse is clearer to me now. It reminds me there is always more to learn, more to be, more to hope. Maybe I feel small, old, and cut off some days—kind of stumpy. It’s easy to get lonely and feel unneeded as we get older. Isaiah’s words call out to me to remind me I have roots, reaching deep and wide to find nourishment and connection that lead us to the regenerative power of God. Jesus came to challenge us to see ourselves differently, not as cut down or used-up, but capable of new growth, even transformation. 

“The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him,

 the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,

 the Spirit of counsel and of might,

 the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord.” 


Creator God, help us see ourselves as people of hope, capable of learning and growing closer to you at every age. In the season of hope, may we be open and ready to let your power change us and make us new. Amen.

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