Daily Advent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Sunday, December 3, Evening

By Rev. Andy Ferguson, Retired Senior Pastor

Christmas! Umm, No, Wait

Read: Luke 1:26-38

In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent by God… to a maiden engaged to a man whose name was Joseph. The maiden’s name was Mary.

When Celia told me, years ago, that we might be having a baby, my mind began to race. Will this be a boy or girl? What name will we give the child? Do parents have a right to impose a name on a child? (Yes, I actually wondered.)

Our two children were born before the gender was easily discovered during prenatal check-ups. The women, of course, had ways of predicting whether boy or girl; mainly their guesses were just to pass the time. We could not know until delivery. Gabriel told Mary that day that her child would be a boy – the first gender-reveal party in history. 

Gabriel further told Mary, “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High …” He assured Mary that the world will be changed by her child. But on the day Gabriel appeared to Mary with this wonderful news, all the promises of greatness were just that: promises. In the meantime … For the coming nine months …” For years and even lifetimes to come … the world will look pretty much the same. Problems, bills, pandemics and worries will roll over her (and us) until the child is born. After that, she will wait until he steps onto the world stage.

We begin Advent today. It is a season of such promise! But, umm, no, wait. Wait for Christmas Day. Wait for the Cross. Wait for Christ to return in fullness. This is the season of waiting. God’s promise has been given, and hope was conceived that day. Now, we wait for the fullness. We wait busy with hopeful patience.


Lord, your great promise has been given by the angel. Wait with us until we see the promise of Christ in all its fullness. We wait impatiently to sing with the angels, “Joy to the world; the Lord is come!”

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Daily Advent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Sunday, December 3

By Rev. Catherine Nance

Magic Word

Read: Isaiah 64:1

O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence! 

My mind goes back to early 70’s Saturday morning TV. For us pre-teens and early teens, there was a ‘real people show,’ – not a cartoon. Billy Batson was the main character, a teenager, who was granted powers from the ‘immortals.’ Whenever there was a crisis at hand or some wrong that needed to be set right, Billy would hop out of the RV that was being driven by his mentor, run to an open space, look up to the heavens, close his eyes, and yell, SHAZAM!

Claps of thunder! Lightning flash! SHAZAM! Billy was transformed into Captain Marvel! And all was right with the world. Well, at least in the community where Billy was.

It is hard to put away childhood fantasies, especially this time of year. We want flashy miracles and quick resolutions to problems. I imagine the prophet, Isaiah, looking up to the heavens with arms outstretched, fists clenched perhaps, and yelling, “Just come down here!! TEAR OPEN THE HEAVENS!”  

Isaiah accuses God of hiding from the people because of how we have sinned; God must be angry with us and is staying away. On this first day of Advent, I trust in a God who is not hiding. I trust in a God who has already forgiven and redeemed us. I trust in a God who desires to be with us. 

God did in fact tear open the heavens, but there was no lightning! Only moonlight. No sounds of thunder. Only a baby’s cry and the lowing of animals. I look forward to our Advent journey together as we stay alert and watch for how God is already at work. The word of power is Immanuel. God with us!


O God who continues to reveal yourself to us, open our eyes that we might see you ways that the world does not expect. Thank you, for always seeking us. May we be ready! In Jesus’s name, Amen!

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Daily Advent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Sunday, December 25

By Tim Best, Senior Associate Pastor

Comfort and Joy

Read: Titus 2:11-14

“For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.”

When I wake up this morning I anticipate I will make my morning coffee, get ready for worship, and at some point listen to multiple versions of the Christmas classic “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.” Most years I do all I can to avoid proper Christmas music until the Christmas Eve services. It has never truly worked, but I do what I can. There are so many good carols that I can’t explain why it is that I have settled on this particular one to help me usher in Christmas day each year. Perhaps it was listening to the version by The Barenaked Ladies (yes, it is a band, for those who don’t remember the 90’s, and I promise theirs is a particularly wonderful performance) or was it the recording from Pentatonix? Whichever it was, the song sums up the Good News of this day. 

The day’s reading from Titus could be the direct inspiration for this favored carol of mine. God’s grace has appeared today, bringing salvation to all. If you have the time today, take the ten minutes and listen to this and other Christmas hymns and offer them as prayers. Receive the gift of God’s comforting grace and rejoice in the love that you have not earned but have been given. Remember, Christ our savior was born on Christmas Day!


Gracious Lord, Fill our hearts with joy as we celebrate that you have drawn close to us in Christ Jesus. Grant that, even as we receive the joy of your presence with us, we would proclaim with our lives the joy you offer to all the world this and every day. Amen.

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Daily Advent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Saturday, December 24, Evening

By Jenny Cross, Director of Youth Ministry

Good News and Great Joy

Read: Luke 2:8-11 ESV

“And in the same region, there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone all around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

Each year, our youth attend a retreat called SLA (Spiritual Life Advance).  Typically, it takes place in the fall and is full of flannels, changing leaves, and campfires. Last year, it had to be scheduled a little later than usual, so we traveled to the Smoky Mountains the first weekend of December. It was quickly dubbed “Christmas SLA,” and our students embraced it, trading flannels for Christmas pajamas and decorating a tree in our worship space.

SLA is always one of my favorite weekends of the year. It’s a time for spiritual renewal and abundant joy — a time where the space between heaven and earth thins for a bit, and we glimpse the promise of glory to come. Last year, as we meditated on Advent and spent time preparing the way for Jesus, I was overcome with the goodness of God over and over again.

We have a tradition at SLA on Saturday night. After our session and small group time, students bundle up in their warmest clothes and spread out around the camp for a time of silent prayer and reflection. When they feel ready, they walk quietly to a campfire where we pray and worship together, with music lead by our youth band. It is one of the sweetest moments of my year. Last year, we gathered under the stars on a clear winter night and read Luke 2 in a field, like shepherds. We looked out at creation and around at each other and felt the weight of what that passage meant in a new and different way. The angels came to share the good news on a night a lot like that, halfway around the world and a couple of millennia ago. But because of Jesus, the words still matter. They are worth remembering. I’m not sure I’ll ever read that familiar Luke passage the same way. Like the shepherds, I was changed in a field in the bleak midwinter.

Glory to God in the highest.


Holy God, In this time of Advent, make us aware of your Presence. Help us to see your goodness and mercy in our ordinary days. Make us like shepherds, who go to look for the Christ-child. Help us to prepare the way of the Lord in our hearts and our lives. Amen.

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Daily Advent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Saturday, December 24, Morning

By Fran Wheeler

The Blessing of Christmas

Read: Psalm 23:1-3a ESV

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.”

It’s no accident that shepherds and sheep were included in the glorious birth of Jesus. In scripture, God’s people are often compared to wandering sheep, needing shepherds. And Jesus often referred to himself as our shepherd. But before that, Jesus was born the Lamb of God. 

Imagine the night on the hills around Bethlehem. 

In the sky was an unfamiliar star, casting bright light over the countryside. No one, especially not shepherds who spent their nights outside, could have missed that phenomenal star. Its light filled the whole sky! As the shepherds gazed upward, an Angel suddenly appeared, terrifying them! The Angel said, “Don’t be afraid. I bring you joyful news. A savior has been born to you in Bethlehem. Go, find the baby who is lying in a manger.”

Dumbfounded, they were mesmerized as a great company of the Heavenly Host appeared, praising God: “Glory to God in the Highest, and on Earth, peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

They ran down the hill to Bethlehem and found the baby, the newborn Lamb of God, lying in a manger just as they had been told. This baby would grow up to become the Good Shepherd, watching over his sheep. And that’s us. We are his sheep.

Jesus our Shepherd, leads us into green pastures and beside still waters. He protects us from the evil one. When we find ourselves in dark places, he restores our souls. And when we go astray, he searches for us and brings us back home. Surely goodness and mercy will follow us all the days of our lives, and we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. 

That’s the blessing of Christmas.


Oh Lord, we need your tender care, and knowing you watch over us comforts us. Thank you for never leaving us alone and unguarded. Amen.

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Daily Advent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Friday, December 23

By Barry Christmas

In Anticipation of Our Blessed Hope

Read: Titus 2:13 NKJV

“Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.”

I liken the season of Advent to waiting with childlike anticipation for the arrival of Christmas morning. We can hardly wait to see what gifts have been left under the tree! Prior to this day, there is excitement in the air and everyone is busy making preparations. It’s a time to tidy up the house and spend all day preparing a delicious feast for our guests.

But Advent is the season of preparing for the coming of Christ, not for that fictional jolly character from the North Pole. We need to be busy preparing ourselves for His arrival and for the unique spiritual gifts He has for each of us. It’s a time to “tidy up” by seeking forgiveness and preparing our hearts to be receptive to Jesus’ visit and to His message. He spreads out the feast before us and invites us to partake of His goodness and mercy. May we feast daily with the Savior and anticipate His presence during our time of studying His Word and praying for His guidance.

During the season of Advent, we not only look back and celebrate the birth of Jesus, we also look forward in anticipation of the second coming of Christ to establish His kingdom on Earth. Oh what a time of peace, love and joy that will be for all of His children! He truly is our Blessed Hope.


Dear Lord Jesus, please come to us this Advent season and fill our hearts to overflowing with hope, peace, joy, and love. Amen.

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Daily Advent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Thursday, December 22

By Katie (and Evie) Strangis

The Power of Three

Read: Romans 15:14

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in your faith, so that you overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Chats with Evie are often spiritual. This kid has a lot of questions about God and Jesus and especially Heaven. A (small) sampling of questions have included:

“What do you think heaven is like?”

“How will I know who I was in heaven before Jesus put me on earth?”

“Do you think God is in this cheeseburger?”

 Some of the hardest ones are about the Holy Spirit, and, because she often sees me editing our online worship service at home, she has asked me, “What does Pastor Catherine mean when she says the ‘fewowship of the Howy Spirit’?”

When Evie and I talk about the Holy Spirit, I’m usually just winging it, unsure what to tell her because, to me, the Holy Spirit really is a great mystery. But framing it as the fellowship of the Holy Spirit has made it easier to understand. We talk about it as the community to which we belong; or as I describe it to Evie, the fellowship of the Holy Spirit is sort of like the family and friendship of the Holy Spirit. It gives us something really special to connect to. Fellowship makes us stronger because it means we are not alone. I thought for a long time that I could believe in God and Jesus without church … and I still get bogged down sometimes by flawed people running religious institutions (I am a very flawed person who works at a religious institution after all!). But ever since I started attending church again, I have felt the hope and promise and fellowship that comes from being in a spiritual community again. We may enjoy very individual and complex relationships with God and Jesus, but for me, the fellowship of the Holy Spirit is what keeps me going when I feel alone or like I cannot grapple with the magnitude of the mystery of faith.

I hope my kids will lean into and grow with the Holy Spirit as they get older and deepen their understanding of the Trinity. I’ll be relying on that hope and fellowship — and a lot of mystery — as I walk through Advent this year.


Triune God, you have given us so many ways to understand you, and yet you are still a powerful mystery. Thank you for our children, who both complicate and demystify you, distilling the hope, joy, peace and love you have shared with us through the trinity. Amen.

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Daily Advent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Wednesday, December 21

By Beth Cooper-Libby, Preschool Director

A Blip in the Screen

Read: Hebrews 6:10 NIV

“God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.”

It happens at Walmart; it happens at McKay’s; it happens a lot at the grocery store. I hear a voice “Hey, look Tommy, look! It’s Miss Beth! Don’t you remember Miss Beth?” Next I will smile and greet a child that has no clue who I am. Poor Tommy will scan my face, having no idea who I am or why his mom is excited to see me. The parent does of course remember me, but rarely do they understand that the child does not. I don’t take it personally. It’s called “childhood amnesia” and just part of the natural order of life. Most adults do not have memories of their lives for the first 3 to 3 1/2 years, and although many adults may have some, chances are a woman you knew in preschool and have not seen since isn’t one of them. 

I know that I am just a blip on the screen; most families forget about me within a year of leaving and nearly all of the children will. I like to think that deep down inside they remember someone being the hands and feet of Christ by acting kind to them in their early years. I consider my job mission work. It’s how I serve others and what I feel called to do. Is it glamorous? Nope, not really. Prestigious? Not exactly that either.  

During Jesus’ mortal life, He served the poor. He taught the gospel. He fed crowds of hungry people. He washed His disciples’ feet. He ate with thieves and touched lepers. He healed the sick and even raised the dead. Thankfully, none of that is in my job description, because if you know me at all, you know my feelings about feet.

You can serve the Lord by serving those around you. You do not have to do something big to serve others. For me, it’s helping a child learn to share, tying a shoe, making parting from a parent more comfortable, teaching the prayer we use before we eat — all small ways that I serve. They might not be big, but those are things that I’m good at doing. When we willingly serve, with the talents we are given, we become more like Christ and our faith grows.


Blessed Jesus, because of your finished work on the cross, our labors have become labors of love; our works are works of faith. May we love and serve those around us who need our services and offerings of love. Amen.

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Daily Advent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Monday, December 19

By Jane Gulley

My New Meditation App: The Gospel of Matthew

Read: Matthew 11:28-29 NKJV

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Christmas is coming. Are you excited? Or anxious? I admit the season can make me nuts. Ask me about my spreadsheets.

Christmas is literally EXTRA. Our faith tells us to give to the needy, comfort the lonely, and repair family bonds. Our culture tells us to decorate competitively, entertain lavishly, and document the whole thing on social media. Not calming. 

To fix my bad attitude, I re-read the Christmas story in all four Gospels. Shocker: it’s not in Mark or John. In those gospels, the adult Jesus is baptized by John and jumps right into ministry. (I’m calling these the “hustle and grind” Gospels). Luke is the one you know best. It’s got those tent pole moments: Angels! Shepherds! Kings!

But for life wisdom, I like the Gospel of Matthew. The birth of Jesus is low on razzle-dazzle and moves quickly to the Holy Family’s persecution by Herod. But stay tuned! The rest of Matthew includes the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus healing the sick, and many teachings I found newly relevant. Health, relationships, finances—Our Lord covers it all. One of my favorite soothers for a worried mind is the above scripture reference of Matthew 11:28-29.

In the hustle of December, consider putting a Bible in your car or adding an app such as Bible Gateway* to your phone. And in the spirit of the season, I wish you … Peace. 


Dear Lord, give me strength and wisdom for living my days, with appreciation for the gift of Jesus in showing us how to live. Amen.

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*Bible Gateway, a free app, was recommended to me by Church Streeter Thomas Stubbs, now a UMC clergy member serving a church in CT.

Daily Advent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Sunday, December 18, Fourth Sunday of Advent

By Tim Best, Senior Associate Pastor

Salvation at Christmas

Read: Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19 NIV

“Restore us, O God; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved.” (v.3)

What does it mean to be saved? This seems like more of an Easter question, but it is exactly what comes to mind when I read the above Psalm lesson. The questions that typically come to mind one week before Christmas tend to be: “Have I sent all my cards? When do I need to go to the store to get the last items for Christmas dinner? Will there be a fight between those two relatives on Christmas Eve?” The Psalm forces us to consider salvation. The Psalm makes us consider salvation from the perspective of Advent. 

The Psalmist refers to the Lord as a shepherd, an image common throughout Psalms and other Old Testament passages. Jesus later refers to himself as the Good Shepherd. Shepherds, and certainly good ones, are present with the sheep. Not showing up or not providing care, comfort, and food would be neglect. Over the next week I invite you to ask yourself each day “how is Jesus showing up in my life today? How is Jesus at work saving and leading me?” I pray that you will feel God’s loving presence and be able to see all the ways God is at work in your life. God’s salvation is for now as much as it is for after we die. In Jesus our lives are saved from old patterns and damaging behaviors. Let us prepare to welcome our good shepherd, the one who saves us, into our lives. 


Almighty God, In Christ you offer salvation to the whole world. Open our hearts that we may see the ways your salvation is now at work in us. Prepare us for the gift of your salvation by helping us to see your presence in our lives. Amen.

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