2012 Archives | Devotions | Goshen College

December 25, 2012

By Gwen Gustafson-Zook, minister of worship
SCRIPTURE: Luke 2:1-20 (NRSV)

Having grown up in the Pacific Northwest, I have stored up wonder-filled memories standing over tide pools watching the tide come in. The wonder of this cyclical renewal is heightened by the manner in which the water rushes powerfully into every nook and cranny, filling the pools, reviving the sea urchins, anemones, mussels, sea cucumbers and the star fish that have been exposed to the salty sea air while the tide has been out. In very short order, that which has been exposed to the harsh elements is flooded with life-giving water and nutrients from the sea. Day in and day out, year after year, the powerful, yet merciful, tidal flood restores and revives the life of the tide pools. It is a pure, glorious gift, built into the ebb and flow of tidal life.

On this day, December 25, as we welcome the coming of Christ to our world once again, we are invited to pause and pay attention. We stand before the tide pools of our lives, aware of the places that are exposed to harsh elements; mindful of the beauty that makes up the complex habitat of our beings and of our communities; conscious of the struggles inherent in our world – struggles to survive and thrive and live in symbiotic relationship with all around us. And in one glorious, strong current, we receive the refreshing, reviving, life-giving flood of God’s mercy flooding every nook and cranny of our lives, gracing us with hope that we are still loved by God, sustained by God and made whole by God. And we join with the heavenly hosts and shout: Glory to God in the highest. And on earth — in every tide pool, in every nook and cranny — peace. Amen.


Thank you for joining us through this season of Advent. We are honored that you have taken the time to hear our stories and share in our reflections. Unless you unsubscribe, Goshen College’s Lenten devotions — beginning on Ash Wednesday, February 13, 2013 — will automatically come to you. Until then, may the merciful presence of Christ fill every nook and cranny of your life!

SCRIPTURE: Luke 2:1-20 (NRSV)
In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,
‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favours!’
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.’ So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
December 24, 2012

By Richard Aguirre, director of public relations

December 24 was not just Christmas Eve for my family. It also was (and still is) my mother’s birthday. So our growing excitement that day about the birth of Christ was magnified by our gratitude for Mom, who loved Dad and her seven rowdy children.

Mom grew up poor and as a child never got birthday gifts on December 24, so we made the day special for her. Before we opened our presents, she opened hers. We learned it was sweeter to give than to receive and the early celebration enhanced our Christmas.

Psalm 148 calls on us to offer God abundant praise. The Psalmist summons praise from all Creation – from the heavens to the depths of the earth, and from all living things, including sea monsters, birds, trees and even creeping things.

Since psalms were written as prayers and songs, hymns are an appropriate way to praise God. Psalm 148 reminds me of the beloved hymn, For the Beauty of the Earth, with its joyful praise to God. Canticle of the Sun by Saint Francis of Assisi also praises God for all creation, including Brother Sun and Sister Moon.

Christmas carols also help us worship and praise God. And for me, there is no more glorious song of the season than the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah. Hallelujah means, “Praise the Lord!” On this day, may your heart and soul be filled with joy and praise for God: “And He shall reign forever and ever! King of kings! And Lord of lords! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!”

Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord from the heavens;
praise him in the heights!
Praise him, all his angels;
praise him, all his host!
Praise him, sun and moon;
praise him, all you shining stars!
Praise him, you highest heavens,
and you waters above the heavens!
Let them praise the name of the Lord,
for he commanded and they were created.
He established them for ever and ever;
he fixed their bounds, which cannot be passed.
Praise the Lord from the earth,
you sea monsters and all deeps,
fire and hail, snow and frost,
stormy wind fulfilling his command!
Mountains and all hills,
fruit trees and all cedars!
Wild animals and all cattle,
creeping things and flying birds!
Kings of the earth and all peoples,
princes and all rulers of the earth!
Young men and women alike,
old and young together!
Let them praise the name of the Lord,
for his name alone is exalted;
his glory is above earth and heaven.
He has raised up a horn for his people,
praise for all his faithful,
for the people of Israel who are close to him.
Praise the Lord!
December 21, 2012

By Lynelle Yoder, a senior elementary education major from Goshen, Ind.
SCRIPTURE: Luke 1:39-45, (46-55) (NRSV)

And with that, Mary’s world turned.

No, I’m not talking about some cute little 10-degree rotation. I’m talking about a full whopping 180-degree turn around.

With a single divine visit, Mary was no longer “simply” a young teenager, engaged to be married and great with child. Suddenly, she was the sole woman chosen to mother the only son of GOD. Yes, that’s right, GOD. Imagine the awestruck wonder that Mary must have felt at receiving a visit from an angel, and then at being informed that great miracles were to be worked in her life and that of her cousin. Not only was her barren cousin to have a child, but she, Mary, a virgin, was to give birth to God’s Son. Incredible! It’s no wonder that Mary went sprinting with joy to bear the news to her cousin, and then prayed the Magnificat, a prayer of utter reverence and astonishment. What a blessing.

My prayer for you in this Christmas season, whatever might be happening in your life, is that you will find cause to rejoice as Mary rejoiced. I pray that you will rest and soak in God’s blessing. I pray that you will experience God’s peace. I pray that God’s peace will rise to its feet within you to sing a song of reverence and astonishment, a song of awe and wonder. And I pray that you might step into the stream, however much you’re able, and allow yourself to be swept along in God’s remarkable flood of reversal.

SCRIPTURE: Luke 1:39-45, (46-55) (NRSV)
In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leapt for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.’
And Mary said,
‘My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’
December 20, 2012

By Saralyn Murray, a senior American Sign Language major from Orrville, Ohio.
SCRIPTURE: Hebrews 10:5-10 (NRSV)

Have you ever been in one of those frustrating or disastrous situations when you are certain that nothing good can come of it?

I had such an experience as a junior in high school after playing my viola with a string quartet at an an outdoor wedding. While playing, I had noticed something was wrong with my instrument. Afterwards I asked my orchestra director about it and she told me my viola was ruined. The direct sunlight had melted the glue in the viola and it had developed a “rattle.” As you can imagine, I was crushed.

A short time later, a girl who had played viola next to me in the orchestra moved to another state. Thanks to a generous aunt, she had two extra violas and so as she left, though she did not know of my ruined viola, she gave me one of them and donated the other to the school. And she included the receipt from the original purchase in case I ever wanted to sell it, which revealed that it was worth five times as much as my ruined one. I was shocked and overjoyed by the unexpected — but needed — gift. I am still playing that viola today.

Carried on a “flood of reversal,” our lives are filled with reversals. Have fun looking for such moments and experiences in your own life.

SCRIPTURE: Hebrews 10:5-10 (NRSV)
Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,
‘Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,
but a body you have prepared for me;
in burnt-offerings and sin-offerings
you have taken no pleasure.
Then I said, “See, God, I have come to do your will, O God”
(in the scroll of the book it is written of me).’
When he said above, ‘You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt-offerings and sin-offerings’ (these are offered according to the law), then he added, ‘See, I have come to do your will.’ He abolishes the first in order to establish the second. And it is by God’s will that we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
December 19, 2012

SCRIPTURE: Psalm 80:1-7 (NRSV)

“Restore us, O God!” a chorus of ancient voices cries in this song of lament. They address their tears to God the Shepherd and in verses following our selection, they compare themselves to a battered vine on an abandoned farm.

This fall, I visited a farm that not only produced food; it also trained pastors in the meaning of restoration. The owner, Jeff Hawkins, is a Lutheran pastor who offers monthly retreats for church leaders. Pastors come to HOPE CSA for a day each month to become better shepherds of human flocks by tending flocks of farm animals.

Jeff’s word for restoration is “holy health.” He believes that Creation is an ideal place to learn about God’s intentions for human communities. On the day I visited with the students participating in Merry Lea’s Sustainability Semester in Residence, we spent time with a flock of chickens and the ducks that were charged with weeding the grapevines.

We also helped out in the tomato patch. The vines had already frozen and were hanging limp and dejected. Our job was to disentangle them from their stakes so that the stakes could be reused and the field could lie fallow for a year.

As we worked, I was struck by how much care the plants needed in order to be fruitful. Even though this year’s vines were dead, they still needed tending, and that care would result in vigorous new vines and juicy tomatoes in another season. The dead vines were depressing to look at, but they were just one part of a larger system that was healthy and brimming with life.

SCRIPTURE: Psalm 80:1-7 (NRSV)
To the leader: on Lilies, a Covenant. Of Asaph. A Psalm.
Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel,
you who lead Joseph like a flock!
You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth
before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh.
Stir up your might,
and come to save us!
Restore us, O God;
let your face shine, that we may be saved.
O Lord God of hosts,
how long will you be angry with your people’s prayers?
You have fed them with the bread of tears,
and given them tears to drink in full measure.
You make us the scorn of our neighbours;
our enemies laugh among themselves.
Restore us, O God of hosts;
let your face shine, that we may be saved.
December 18, 2012

By Quinn Brenneke, a junior business and public relations double major from Fort Wayne, Ind.
SCRIPTURE: Micah 5:2-5a (NRSV)

December 25 stands out like a red nose in my calendar, so I know that it is only a few days away. When I was a youngster, calendars and dates didn’t tell me much about the coming holiday. Instead, my Christmas intuition was triggered by falling temperatures, snow and my grandparents’ home.

Colored light bulbs lined the rain gutters and garland wove around the porch railing of my grandparents’ home every winter. Inside, a set of remote-controlled carousel horses twinkled, danced and sang Christmas carols every time my cousins and I clicked the on-button of the controller (which would mysteriously go missing about once per year after we used it too many times). These traditions reminded me to go into waiting mode; they were hints telling me that wrapped presents were imminent!

Prophecies told the Israelites that they, too, were in waiting mode. In today’s Scripture passage, Micah tells the Israelites that a person is coming to be their peace; a person who would be their Shepherd. Now we know that the Israelites were waiting for Jesus, whose arrival we still celebrate every year.

Advent is a time to celebrate the Israelites’ waiting and a time to remember our own wait. Just as Israel waited for Jesus, we also wait for his second coming. Until that time when humanity is reconciled with God and Creation is made perfect, we cling to Jesus who has already come to show us how to live justly in the tension of an imperfect world.

In this season of Advent, pay attention to Jesus, who brings hints of a coming new world.

SCRIPTURE: Micah 5:2-5a (NRSV)
But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah,
who are one of the little clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to rule in Israel,
whose origin is from of old,
from ancient days.
Therefore he shall give them up until the time
when she who is in labour has brought forth;
then the rest of his kindred shall return
to the people of Israel.
And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the Lord,
in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great
to the ends of the earth;
and he shall be the one of peace.
If the Assyrians come into our land
and tread upon our soil,
we will raise against them seven shepherds
and eight installed as rulers.
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.
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