Advent Devotions Archives » Page 4 of 13 | Devotions | Goshen College

December 17, 2012

By Sophia Metzger, assistant director of diverse student support
THIS WEEK’S THEME: Carried on a Flood of Reversal

When I think of floods in terms of faith images, Noah, the ark and animals marching two by two come to mind. Then I remember the promise of God to not destroy this land by floods of rain again; and yet floods still come. They come literally, like Superstorm Sandy, washing ashore and changing many lives.

Although I have witnessed the damages and assisted in rebuilding, I have never been personally impacted by the destruction of natural disaster. I am more experienced with being an emotional being with my heart consumed as I encounter the everyday trials and joys of this crazy human life.

I am a natural at problem solving. In my role at Goshen College, I get to support students through the often challenges of being students. As a friend, I help recast everyday problems as opportunities. And as a wife, I support my husband through his earnest goal of completing his dissertation. Despite my greatest efforts of looking for creative solutions to everyday problems, I have to learn again and again that not every problem can be solved. Sometimes the lack of solution is what God strives to teach me or teach through me. And the floods of emotion return. Emotional floods compounded by my own tendencies to be too hard on myself, to desire perfection when God only expects faithfulness.

As we near the end of this Advent season, how can we invite a new flood to consume us?

… A flood of Grace that heals
… A flood of Mercy that fully embraces human limitations
… A true flood of reversal

December 14, 2012

By Yohaan Varghese, a sophomore chemistry and business double major from India
SCRIPTURE: Luke 3:7-18 (NRSV)

I believe that love always wins over fear, but I wish this was how I actually lived daily. For instance, I don’t always share my food when asked, fearing that I will not have food when I am hungry tomorrow. I don’t always give my clothes to somebody who needs them, fearing that I will not have it when I need it someday. The worst is when I do not share my time helping somebody out, fearing that I will not have time for myself. So is love truly the winner over fear in my life?

In today’s Scripture, we initially see aggression in John’s words when he speaks about how we will be judged depending on the fruit we produce. In order to produce good fruit, his message was to simply love. This sounds unbelievably easy but what should we really do about our fear? Can we really simply just love and share and care for one another, even as we appropriately care for ourselves? Because of today’s culture that promotes individualism and independence, this is very difficult. But we are invited to not worry about the future, and rather to ask ourselves each moment and each day if we are doing the right thing. If this means giving roll that we were going to eat for tomorrow’s lunch to somebody who needs it, so be it.

In the end, all that truly matters is whether we loved.

SCRIPTURE: Luke 3:7-18 (NRSV)
John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our ancestor”; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the axe is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.’
And the crowds asked him, ‘What then should we do?’ In reply he said to them, ‘Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.’ Even tax-collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, ‘Teacher, what should we do?’ He said to them, ‘Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.’ Soldiers also asked him, ‘And we, what should we do?’ He said to them, ‘Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.’
As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, John answered all of them by saying, ‘I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing-fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing-floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.’
So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people.
December 13, 2012

By Annika Miller, a senior elementary education major from Broadway, Va.
SCRIPTURE: Philippians 4:4-7 (NRSV)

Being anxious is something I struggle with, especially when everything about a situation is unknown. I worry so much about how things will work out. When Philippians 4 promises the peace of God will hold my heart and mind, it sounds like the perfect release from the tightness that being anxious can bring. The catch? I need to learn to let go. I must let go of my need to focus on the end result.

Sometimes to let go, I just need time to refocus – time away, self-care time. We cannot be expected to use our gifts fully and willingly if we are not restored ourselves. As an introvert, I need time away from people and time to be quiet, reflect, relax and renew my energy. Doing what I need to take care of myself is a form of rejoicing in God, too.

As we near Christmas, I can only imagine how anxious Mary and Joseph were for the arrival of Jesus. Still, they were probably also just as excited – excited for the baby and excited for what God had in store for them. I’m sure they learned sometime during Mary’s pregnancy that they needed to let go of their anxiety and rejoice in God’s work. Part of that would have been making sure they were also taking care of themselves.

I invite you to enter this season of rejoicing with love and service, but also with self-care. So, that the peace of God may enter you and hold your heart and your mind in Jesus.

SCRIPTURE: Philippians 4:4-7 (NRSV)
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
December 12, 2012

By James Townsend, vice president for enrollment management and marketing
SCRIPTURE: Isaiah 12:2-6 (NRSV)

I grew up in the South and attended a very conservative church that can only be described as preaching a “once saved, barely saved” message. There were so many lessons that made people afraid of hell and thus pushed them to get baptized only to have a better chance to get into heaven. Yet the people who had said they were saved and had been baptized didn’t seem to have more joy than those who didn’t know Christ.

A few years later when I was attending a different church in the same denomination, the teacher asked each of us to raise our hands if we knew, without any doubt, that we were saved and were going to be in heaven one day. At that moment I realized that I needed to know God as my Father and my Forgiver and start to live with a joy that came from within me so that others would want to know about it.

As today’s verses remind us, it’s time to stop being afraid of God’s wrath, as we would a random lightning strike, but instead to celebrate that God is the most powerful being in the universe and that God has chosen us to be his adopted and dearly beloved children. We are also reminded to never be ashamed to share the name of Jesus Christ. When we speak, we should speak from a position of love for one another. When we sing, we should sing songs to God and about God. When we work and serve one another, we should do so with genuine joy that comes from deep inside us. We should make sure Jesus’ name is remembered more than our own, for he is the Holy One of Israel, our Redeemer, and giver of living water!

I love to sing and to be part of a church family who loves to sing well. As a prayer for the day, I invite you to listen to this Fanny Crosby hymn, “To God Be the Glory,” and to reflect upon the words.

SCRIPTURE: Isaiah 12:2-6 (NRSV)
Surely God is my salvation;
I will trust, and will not be afraid,
for the Lord God is my strength and my might;
he has become my salvation.
With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. And you will say on that day:
Give thanks to the Lord,
call on his name;
make known his deeds among the nations;
proclaim that his name is exalted.
Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously;
let this be known in all the earth.
Shout aloud and sing for joy, O royal Zion,
for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.
December 11, 2012

By Mara Weaver, a senior history major from Bloomingtown, Ill.
SCRIPTURE: Zephaniah 3:14-20 (NRSV)

When I was younger, my parents would tuck me into bed almost every night. No matter what juvenile trauma I had faced during the day or the squabbles I had had with my mom or dad, I could count on the fact that the day would end with them singing me the same lullabies, pulling the covers up to fold me tightly into bed and kissing me goodnight. The safety and love wrapped up in this routine was something that I was not necessarily able to name when I was five years old, but as the years have passed, I have come to realize how lucky I was to have that care and consistency in my life as a child.

As I transitioned out of childhood and into the mystery that is the teenage years, I left behind the ritual that had offered so much comfort. But at the same time that my parents’ gentle lullabies began to fade, a new song emerged, a simple tune carried by the words of Zephaniah 3:17: “The LORD your God is with you. God is mighty to save. God will take great joy in you. God with quiet you with God’s love. God will rejoice over you with singing.” This was — and is — a lullaby for me, a song stemming from the love of my God and heavenly parent restoring and renewing my peace when I most need it.

But it gets better than that. God is not just with us as some caretaker far away. Christ has come, Christ is risen and Christ will come again. When this passage delivers the words “the LORD your God is with you,” it does not mean that God’s presence is a thing of the past. This is a reality that we can — and must — proclaim in this season of Advent as we anticipate the coming of Immanuel, God with us.

SCRIPTURE: Zephaniah 3:14-20 (NRSV)
Sing aloud, O daughter Zion;
shout, O Israel!
Rejoice and exult with all your heart,
O daughter Jerusalem!
The Lord has taken away the judgements against you,
he has turned away your enemies.
The king of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst;
you shall fear disaster no more.
On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem:
Do not fear, O Zion;
do not let your hands grow weak.
The Lord, your God, is in your midst,
a warrior who gives victory;
he will rejoice over you with gladness,
he will renew you in his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing
as on a day of festival.
I will remove disaster from you,
so that you will not bear reproach for it.
I will deal with all your oppressors
at that time.
And I will save the lame
and gather the outcast,
and I will change their shame into praise
and renown in all the earth.
At that time I will bring you home,
at the time when I gather you;
for I will make you renowned and praised
among all the peoples of the earth,
when I restore your fortunes
before your eyes, says the Lord.
December 10, 2012

By Erica Grasse, a senior biology and environmental science double major from Chalfont, Pa.
THIS WEEK’S THEME: Repentance, Renewal, Restoration

Power stroke, J-stroke, Pry, Sweep, Draw. A successful canoeing experience relies on a combination of these maneuvers, good communication and confidence using maps. May I also suggest avoiding eddies, leaning towards oncoming rocks and ruddering for quick turns are helpful. But in all reality, skip the jargon and recognize one thing: you are at the mercy of the water.

This summer I had the privilege of co-facilitating three weeks of canoeing with about a dozen adolescent boys. Within this time not only did I quickly come to develop a tolerance for high school humor, and an appreciation for a good night’s sleep, but I came to realize the power of water.

With upwards of ten hours a day spent on the water, I came to recognize my own strength, or rather, lack thereof. No matter how hard I pulled or how fast I paddled, the current was a larger determinate of my path and arrival time than my own might. It wasn’t until I finally learned to join the current did I come to see the river as a source of strength and renewal. The water became something to rely on. Through the routine of our days we came to praise our God who carried us — the tired, the restless, the expectant and the homebound.

This week’s Scriptures call us to identify the ways God renews our being. It invites us to participate in the changing of our minds: go beyond observation, acknowledge our weakness and open ourselves to the hope of restoration.

December 7, 2012

By Jan Emswiler, assistant professor of nursing
SCRIPTURE: Luke 3:1-6 (NRSV)

Growing up and hearing this part of Luke, I always envisioned a hairy, smelly guy who had not showered in a while, coming up out of the dessert after eating strange things to survive there. I remember thinking, “did people really take this guy seriously?” Did they think he was a “madman”? He quotes from Isaiah, so although he may have looked quite scruffy, he proves to have studied the Scripture and to be knowledgeable in that realm. Does that make him more credible? He proclaims: “and all people will see God’s salvation” (v. 6). He was calling everyone, all people, universally, everyone without distinction, and declaring they would ALL see the salvation of God. How radical was that? John stood at the door of a new age of grace, welcoming all. I’m wondering, do I do the same?


God, give me the grace and courage to be bold and radical like John. Open my heart and mind to realize the universality of your grace, your open door extended to all as John proclaimed so many years ago.

SCRIPTURE: Luke 3:1-6 (NRSV)
In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah,
‘The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.
Every valley shall be filled,
and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth;
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” ’
December 6, 2012

By Emily Trapp, a senior music and communication double major from Canby, Ore.
SCRIPTURE: Philippians 1:3-11 (NRSV)

Paul wrote the book of Philippians during his second journey to Philippi, where he found an invaluable environment of love and support in comparison to the other places he is known to travel to within Scripture. Unlike many of Paul’s letters, his address to the church of Philippi is full of thanksgiving and gratitude. For him, Philippi was clearly a place of comfort, joy and stability, similar to how I feel about the greater community of Goshen.

When I first read this verse, it reminded me of the many things I wish I could publicly announce in indebtedness to this place and these people who have impacted me in powerful ways as well. But most importantly, Paul’s emphasis on the importance of loving one another with more depth and understanding than that of yesterday is something we should convict ourselves to in the same sort of acknowledgment. When I reflect on the love I have experienced while being a student at Goshen College, I am overwhelmed, yet heartbroken for those who have not been shown a similar model of Christ’s love all over the globe. I cannot help but question if I, as a global citizen and passionate learner, am helping spread the equal, unconditional love that Paul encouraged of the church of Philippi in this letter. If not, how can I use my gifts to do so? If yes, how can I do more of it?

I would encourage each of you to go out on a limb today and remind somebody that you support them in a way that you have neglected to communicate to them lately. As Paul promises, you will be “filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ.” Amen.

SCRIPTURE: Philippians 1:3-11 (NRSV)
I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because you hold me in your heart, for all of you share in God’s grace with me, both in my imprisonment and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best, so that on the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.
December 5, 2012

By Luke Gascho, director of Merry Lea Environmental Learning Center of Goshen College
SCRIPTURE: Luke 1:68-79 (NRSV)

My garden has grown silent. The approach of winter leaves little evidence of what had once been a flourishing array of vegetable plants. The shortened days – with the sun hanging low in the sky – do not supply the energy needed for gardening. As I walk around the garden, there are not clear indicators to tell me that there will be a new season. Instead the hope is within me. It is the remembrance of the consistent cycling of the four seasons. Spring will come!

In today’s passage, Zechariah speaks to us out of his period of silence. As a priest, he hoped for a Redeemer. He, along with his community members, longed for a new day – a day that would turn the tables of the empire upside down. But there was little evidence that liberation from the dark night would occur. He and his wife, Elizabeth, weren’t sure that there would even be a next generation in their family lines. Even with a visionary promise from the angel Gabriel, Zechariah did not believe that change would come to their plight. Spring was not in sight.

I imagine the many questions, doubts and hopes that ran through Zechariah’s mind during the nine months of waiting that followed the visionary experience. The silence must have consumed his whole being. But it is clear that hope was an emergent factor during this time of waiting. By the time his son was born, he was ready to act on what had been percolating in his soul. He boldly stepped out and called his son, “John.” Then he spoke the prophetic words that we read today. The new season filled with salvation, forgiveness, dawn, light and peace has come!

SCRIPTURE: Luke 1:68-79 (NRSV)
‘Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for he has looked favourably on his people and redeemed them.
He has raised up a mighty saviour for us
in the house of his servant David,
as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us.
Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors,
and has remembered his holy covenant,
the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham,
to grant us that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies,
might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness
before him all our days.
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.
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.’
December 4, 2012

By Brook Hostetter, a senior music major from Harrisonburg, Va.
SCRIPTURE: Malachi 3:1-4 (NRSV)

Back in the day, the job of the metal refiner was an incredibly meticulous and important task. A refiner was to make a metal the best that it could be. In order to do this, the refiner would take their precious metal and hold it over an extremely hot flame. The refiner’s task was to sit, wait and hold the metal carefully, rotating it within the fire. It was incredibly important for the refiner to hold the metal steadily and never look away because as soon as the refiner saw her/his reflection in the metal, he/she must immediately pull the metal out of the flame. If the refiner held the metal in the fire too long, the metal would be ruined.

When I think of myself as metal and God as refiner, I am comforted. The fire hurts. The burn of the fire is miserable, but if God is the Refiner, I know that God is holding me steadily and watching carefully, never looking away. God is holding me in the fire to perfect me and make me the best that I can be. I will be held in the fire until God’s reflection is seen in me, but will not sit in the fire longer than I can bear. I am being refined to my highest potential.

SCRIPTURE: Malachi 3:1-4 (NRSV)
See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?
For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the Lord in righteousness. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.
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