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November 27, 2012

SCRIPTURE: Jeremiah 33:14-16 (NRSV)

In the dead of winter, Violet Cemetery, near Goshen College, is one of the more beautiful places to go for a walk. All is quiet, so quiet, you can hear the icicles creak, glassy pins dropping to the snow-white comforter below. The billowy quilt spreads out across the ground, around every trunk, flung carelessly over gray tombstones as if to warm every grave. Only one color imposes itself against the backdrop of this study in contrasts. Small fir trees dot green across the white quilted ground like so many comforter knots, reminders that Mother root is still very much alive, gently tossing and turning beneath her frozen covers.

Should it be any wonder that imaginative human beings for thousands of years have seen something profoundly meaningful in trees that can stay green in the dead of winter and be chopped down and grow new shoots?

Jeremiah uses the lesson of a tree branch to teach an early Advent lesson. He tells of a future time when the stump of Judah, cut down and carted into Exile, would sprout again as a “righteous branch.” The New Testament writers saw this promised branch to be none other than Jesus Christ, Tree of Life, cut down, buried in a wintery grave, aborning life three days later.

When we enter the bleak mid-winters of our lives, let us look to the Tannenbaum, the fir tree, gracing the snow-covered gravestone and know that resurrection life is near at hand. In this season of Advent, at the height of the winter solstice, even as the days are shorter and the nights are colder, may we behold in every evergreen tree, a Christmas tree, our advent sign of hope.

SCRIPTURE: Jeremiah 33:14-16 (NRSV)
The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfil the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’
November 26, 2012

By Bob Yoder, campus pastor

Welcome to Goshen College’s on-line devotionals for the 2012 Advent season! Our theme this year, taken from the Mennonite Church USA worship resources found in Leader magazine, is “Flood of Mercy.” Every Monday an author will introduce the sub-theme, whereas the following weekdays authors will reflect on a specific Scripture passage. The theme for this week, Advent 1, is “Wading in Faithfulness.”


In its life-giving power and in its sometimes frightening clean sweep, the image of a flood fits well with this season, which at the same time calls us to repentance and invites us into new life. If we’re honest, we have to admit that we sometimes hang on to things that don’t matter or last, things that may even get in the way of what God wants to do in us, in our communities and in our world — things we may need to let go. Yet God’s work is not about wiping things out simply to wipe them out. Even painful and difficult clearing away is for the sake of something bigger and truer, and it is always grounded in God’s overwhelming mercy, in God’s care and concern for all that God has made.

The Scriptures for this Advent season include many water images. In the Bible, water usually means two opposite things: destruction and life. Desert-dwellers realized how crucial water was for survival. No doubt that the “righteous branch” announced by the prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 33:15) won’t live long without regular watering. Yet while water is absolutely necessary for life, it can also be scary. The panic is there where “the roaring of the sea and the waves” causes people to “faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world” (Luke 21:25-26). We can imagine the scene; we’ve seen videos of floods and tsunamis carrying away everything in their wake — or we’ve lived through this kind of destruction ourselves.

Sometimes I struggle to keep my head above waters in the “flood of life.” I wish I could be merely wading in knee-deep stuff, but instead, it feels as if the only visible part of me is the brown hair on top of my head. Where is the snorkel?!?! Oxygen tank anyone?!? But then I hear a voice saying, “Bob, put your feet down and stand up. Take my yoke/lifesaver…”


O God, help me wade in your faithfulness to me. Allow me to consider how you both comfort and disturb so that I may be more faithful to you.

November 5, 2012

As churches prepare for the celebration of Christ’s birth, Goshen College offers an online spiritual resource to help believers make time and space in their hearts and minds to welcome Advent, even in the midst of busy schedules and hectic lives.

Beginning Nov. 26 (the Monday prior to the first Sunday in Advent) and culminating on Christmas Day, Goshen College students, faculty and staff will provide weekday reflections based on lectionary Scripture passages. Many writers will reflect on the Advent theme: “Flood of Mercy,” taken from Mennonite Church USA worship resources.

The devotions will reflect honestly on the Scriptures and offer words of assurances of faith. The spiritual offerings will include poetry, personal stories, reflections and prayers, all intended to more closely examine the call to change and follow Christ.

Since 2001, Goshen College annually celebrates special seasons of the church calendar, particularly Advent and Lent, with online devotions.

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