Daily Advent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Sunday, December 17, Evening

By Katie Strangis, Director of Communications

Any Day but Today

Read: Luke 2:19

But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.

Any day but today, I thought, when my water broke at 4 am. 

I knew she would arrive earlier than her due date, but I had tried to negotiate with God that it would be any day except September 11. So you can imagine my horror, surprise, and anger when my water unexpectedly broke five weeks before her due date and I had a big, beautiful baby girl during the morning rush hour, right around the time that first plane crashed into the World Trade Center 17 years earlier. 

But – as kids do – Evie has surprised me in so many ways since she was born and has made September 11 a day of hope. She knows nothing of the weight that day carries for so many, and thanks to the pure joy with which she moves through the world, she brings light and love on her birthday to everyone who knows her. September 11 has a new joyful – hopeful – feeling, and I don’t think of “where I was on September 11” in the same way anymore (my first-year college Poli Sci class in Decatur, Georgia, missing my family and scared). I think of what a difference her birth and her life are making and transforming how I view that particular day each year.

I wonder if Mary got to the stable and thought, Any day but today, or Anywhere but here. Perhaps. But – as kids do – Jesus went out and changed the world – her world – and filled it with love, joy and hope. All Mary had to do was watch with love and wonder. 

My favorite thing about Advent is this “thrill of hope” that we experience as parents of young kids, and I give thanks for the many ways our children thrill us with their hope. Kids don’t let us live in the past — they experience it all right now and cause us to hope for a better future because of their hope and wonder. Jesus’s birth should give all of us so much hope during Advent. We hope for his life, anticipate his death, and rejoice in his resurrection. And I’m grateful to feel that thrill each holiday season.


God of Hope, thank you for how you surprise us with your goodness and joy this Advent season. Let us look to our children for that thrill and the hope and love your birth ignited in the world. Amen.

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Daily Advent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Sunday, December 17, Morning

By Rev. Rick Isbell, Retired Minister of Discipleship

Expect the Unexpected this Advent

Read: Luke 1:5-55

For nearly 30 years one of my neighbors and I hardly spoke to one another. It was not because anything had happened between us. Our lives just never crossed paths, and there was a high wooden fence between our yards.

Then the recent storm and tornado caused two big limbs in my yard to come crashing down on my neighbor’s wooden fence. That’s when the unexpected happened.  We had to start talking to one another. I arranged for all tree debris to be cleaned up in his yard. He started to rebuild the fence as we talked to one another.  I learned so much about my neighbor I never knew before. His name is Wilhelm; he was born in Holland, learned and speaks three languages and has a younger brother. From an unexpected storm, a tree falling down, and the rebuilding of a fence, we became better neighbors.

As we read and think about the scripture passage from Luke, Mary never expected to become pregnant as a virgin. Elizabeth and Zechariah never expected to have a child due to their old age. And Joseph and Mary never expected for their son to be born in a place reserved for animals and to be visited by lowly shepherds as well as aristocracy from Persia.

God’s Holy Spirit has a way of changing lives through the unexpected. God did it with Elizabeth and Zechariah, Mary and Joseph, and God did it with Wilhelm and me. This Advent I hope you will be open to and see God acting through those events you did not expect.


Oh God, may I never limit the ways you can act in my life. Open my eyes and ears to the work of the Holy Spirit in ways I least expect.

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Daily Advent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Saturday, December 16

By Katie Heatherly

Fall On Your Knees

Read: 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NKJV)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

As a child, I loved Christmas. Of course I did … don’t most children love Christmas? As an adult, I love Christmas still, but for a very different reason.

In December 2013, I was spending my second childless Christmas with my husband. We had been praying desperately for a child, and we had just experienced the devastating loss with a failed round of in-vitro. I can remember vividly listening to the words of O Holy Night:

“Fall on your knees, oh hear the angel voices! Oh night divine, O night when Christ was born!”

I was already on my knees. I was so heartbroken. I didn’t want to celebrate anything! I wanted to close my eyes and ears! Lord, how can I celebrate a baby!? In my anguish, I tried to understand. Lord, please lead me. Lord, please help me to understand! 

“Long lay the world in sin and error pining, 

‘til he appeared and the soul felt its worth.

A thrill of hope, the weary soul rejoices, 

for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.”

I have since spent one Christmas with the joy of pregnancy and many, many others with the pain and sorrow of infertility. I love Christmas now because this season has taught me where to place my grief, where to leave my burden, and to whom I fall on my knees and celebrate.


Oh Night Divine, we come to you and lay our burdens down, offering thanksgiving for the mercy and comfort you offer us at all times. Amen.

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Daily Advent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Friday, December 15

By Dr. Dwight Wade

Precious Gifts Often Overlooked

Read: Galatians 5:22-23

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. (NRSV)

Absorbing the evening TV news is particularly wrenching in our era, as much of what is reported rarely reflects goodness. The focus, rather, is on behaviors that are ruthless, accusatory, and even vicious. And yet, there it is before our eyes. For three yuletides we were prisoners of the Coronavirus that stormed our planet. Yes, the virus still shows its grimacing face in one form or another, but let us remember how far we’ve come because of the largesse of our Master. And wouldn’t it be wondrous if we reminded ourselves every day that the immense bequest humanity has received is the birth of our Savior?

One afternoon I paused before the largest window in the chancel. I beheld the astonishing rainbow colors of the massive “Beauty of Holiness,” and the window seemed to dance all around our altar – so brightly that I was transfixed. It struck me then that the primary message of this “Fruit of the Spirit” is a gift to be taken to heart, to be developed with the help of the Spirit working within us. In this window, each of nine “gifts” is depicted within a scene under the curve of the canopy in the three center columns. They are:

LOVE – Jesus welcomes little ones. Let the children come to me … for heaven belongs to such as these.

JOY – Angels announce Jesus’ birth to lowly shepherds: Fear not; for I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

PEACE – Jesus calms the storm on the sea, asking: Why are you fearful?

LONG-SUFFERING – Jesus mourns over the city he loves: O Jerusalem killing the prophets … how often would I have gathered thy children together …

GENTLENESS – Jesus takes the hand of Jarius’ daughter, raising her from the dead by saying: Maid arise.

GOODNESS – Seeing Nathanael beneath the fig tree, Jesus said: Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile.

FAITH – Jesus calls Peter and Andrew: Come ye after me and I will make you to become fishers of men …

MEEKNESS – Jesus came from Nazareth and was baptized of John in the Jordan.

TEMPERANCE – The Baptist is described: John had his camel’s hair, leather girdle, and his meat was locusts and honey.

According to the Apostle Paul, the Holy Spirit has presented us with a basket of blessings, “gifts” if you will – portrayed in sparkling hues, ours to be practiced and modeled. Are we brave enough to partake of these blessings, and be nourished in heart, mind, and soul this Advent season?


Holy God, let us remember this season the basket of blessings you share with us, most all the gift and blessing of your son Jesus Christ. Amen.

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Daily Advent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Thursday, December 14

By Barry Christmas, in honor of Congregational Care

The Best Christmas Gift Ever!

Read: James 1:17 NKJV

Every good gift, and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.

It will soon be that much-anticipated time of the year when we celebrate Christmas with family and friends. Can you sense the excitement already in the air? People are busy as can be, scurrying around, shopping until they “drop,” all in preparation for the “Big Day”. We are tasked with finding the perfect gift for that someone special in our lives and fulfilling the wishes of all our little ones. It’s a tall order, but we absolutely must be up to the task, or Christmas this year will be a bust!

Even under all of this pressure, some people miraculously transform into “nicer than usual” individuals! You might even overhear someone say … “Oh, excuse me, I did not mean to jump in line ahead of you … I suppose it’s a force of habit on my part … please, go ahead of me.” A lot of us tend to make a special effort this time of year to be more kind, polite, and forgiving.  If only we could behave this way all of the time! Actually, we can … IF we have Jesus in our hearts.

At some point in our lives, we all need to look honestly at ourselves and ask, “What can I do to be a better, more loving and accepting person? How can I transform my attitudes and prejudices against certain people, and instead, look at them through the eyes of Jesus?” It’s so easy. Just ask Jesus to come into your heart and transform you into a loving, kind, and accepting human being. If you do, this could be the very best Christmas gift you’ll ever receive, for it’s a gift that keeps on giving for the rest of your life … and for all eternity! This year I hope you invite Jesus into your heart and have your very best Christmas ever.


We pray for … 

  • A couple as they begin second trimester of pregnancy and for the wife as she looks for new employment
  • All of the Angel Tree families and children all across Knoxville who are struggling with so much (we gave gifts to 48 children!)
  • Success for friends who have endured infertility and finally have placement for their one viable embryo scheduled in the next couple of weeks. Thank you!
  • A friend, already disabled as a result of a plethora of medical and financial challenges, now suffers from gastroparesis and is unable to digest solid foods. Pray that his dietary changes can provide needed nutrients and strength.
  • A friend who was just diagnosed with Lymphoma
  • A dear son-in-law in the healing of his cancer
  • One who is depressed this season
  • One who is dealing with feelings of bitterness as Alzheimer’s takes its toll on parents; one who has the disease and one who is caregiver. Feelings of sadness that grandchild will not know his grandfather.
  • A mother who has started dialysis; prayers for daughter who is primary caregiver
  • A husband who has lung cancer
  • For caregivers who are watching their spouse or parent or loved one struggle with dementia, Parkinsons, or other chronic illnesses
  • Friends who are going through difficult times
  • For those who are struggling as the holidays approach
  • For a beloved aunt who is nearing her final days; and for the cousin who has cared so lovingly for her
  • A brother who has pneumonia and elevated liver enzymes
  • A daughter in the death of her father; prayers of thanksgiving for peace of mind and spirit
  • Peace throughout the world … safety in every school. Prayers for every teacher, student, and support staff. Praying for competent young people to take on leadership roles.

We offer prayers of thanksgiving for …

  • A member’s brother who is doing so much better and is home from hospital!
  • Those who are recovering after surgery
  • The students who are learning music, art, and dance, here at the Community School of the Arts

Dear Jesus, please come into my heart and transform my behavior and ways of thinking to be a reflection of you. Help me to pour out your love onto all those I meet, so they too may know of  your everlasting love for them. Amen.

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Daily Advent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Wednesday, December 13

By Ann Reego

In the Bleak Midwinter

Read: Luke 2:1-20

This is my favorite Christmas carol. It moves me more than Silent Night, Hark the Herald, Joy to the World, or O Come, All Ye Faithful. It’s the last verse that gets me.

The carol is very English with Christina Rossetti, a literary great, as the lyricist and Gustav Holst, the composer, a musical great. The first verse is almost ludicrous describing the bleak midwinter as freezing and snowbound—not very credible since Jesus was born in the Middle East where it was warm, and most likely not in December, but April. The second and third verses describe the majesty of Christ in a stable, with angels hovering above. Shepherds and wise men arrive to adore him. His mother delivers a worshipful kiss … as only a mother can do.  

It’s the last verse that brings me to tears … the words that touch my heart.  

“What can I give him, poor as I am?

If I were a shepherd, I would give a lamb.

If I were a wise man, I would do my part. 

What I can I give Him

Give my heart.”

This stanza humbles me. I don’t need to search the mall for gifts for my family. I don’t have to have the best dressed house for the season. I don’t need to bake and clean and prepare food for those dear to me. All I really need to give them is my love.  

And that is what I need to give to the Christ child also — my heart. All year long.


Baby Jesus, thank you for your humble beginning. Help us to join you in becoming humble during the Christmas season. Amen.

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Daily Advent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Tuesday, December 12

By Verna Mclain

What Gifts Can We Bring?

Read: 1 Corinthians 13:13

So now faith, hope and love abide, but the greatest of these is love.

Christmas is a time of gift giving. We spend time, energy and money to buy that special gift for special people. Since Christmas is Jesus’s birthday, what gifts can we bring to celebrate the birthday of the Christ child?

  1. LOVE: The first commandment is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength. And the second is to love our neighbor as yourself. This is the greatest gift we have been given and can give to others.
  2. GRATITUDE: Thanksgiving for life itself, for family and friends, for all the good things that God has given us. A grateful heart comes rejoicing and remembering. 
  3. JOY: We come singing, ”Joy to the World the Lord has come. Let every heart prepare him room.”
  4. AN OPEN HEART: With this gift comes an openness to life; a willingness to love and serve others; to learn and grow; to go from where we are to where there is a need.
  5. KINDNESS: “If you cannot be anything else, you can be kind.” This gift could change someone’s life.
  6. PEACE: Calm within and with others and the world.
  7. HOPE: Absence of fear and the reassurance that we will never be forsaken.

This Advent can be a new beginning for each of us. As we leave our gifts for Christ, we can turn down new paths. We can greet all of our fellow travelers who are celebrating the birthday of the Christ child with Love, Gratitude, Joy, an Open Heart, Kindness, Peace and Hope.


May the love of Christ be with you now and forever more. Amen.

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Daily Advent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Monday, December 11

By David Lineberger

The Only True Way

Read: Psalm 25:8-10

Living in the 21st century is tough. It seems that many things we considered rock steady in life are falling apart. People are attacking other people just because they perceive them to be inadequate role models. Some want to ignore whole groups of people that they consider undesirable in hopes that they will all disappear. You can’t listen to the news on TV without first determining if the network agrees with your political views. National and state leaders can’t seem to agree on anything! Even neighbors treat each other with suspicion. Sometimes it seems just staying at home is the only safe option. Even church attendance is falling, and some bodies are splitting up because even they can’t agree on doctrine and theology. 

In the midst of all this, God’s word speaks clearly through the quagmire. In Psalm 25, He speaks to people of every era and age saying, “Good and upright is the Lord; therefore He instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble His way. All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep His covenant and His testimonies.” 

Here’s a radical thought: what would happen if we lived life solely through the lens of God’s teaching and His example of the way, His Way? As we prepare to once again celebrate the birth of our Savior, God made flesh, can we also start living our lives focused on the One who’s truth, real truth, is the only genuine path to help us wade through anything the world can try to do to lead us astray. This is the “reason for the season” after all. Let’s make that the central truth in our daily life. 


Gracious Father, to whom all glory and honor are due, help us focus on You and Your ways during our daily walk, and help our faithfulness never stray from what is right according to Your Word. Amen.  

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Daily Advent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Sunday, December 10, Evening

By Dr. Edie Johnson, Organist and Music Associate

People, Look East

Read: Isaiah 40:4

Eleanor Farjeon (1881-1965), daughter of a British novelist and granddaughter of an American actor, penned this Advent hymn replete with vivid seasonal imagery. Though a shy girl who grew up in London with three brothers (one of whom became a composer), Farjeon became a well-known writer of children’s books, nursery rhymes, and another very popular poem/hymn, Morning Has Broken. At only 16 years old, she wrote the libretto for an opera which her composer brother later set to music!

This beautiful hymn text begins with an exhortation for all of us to “look East,” the direction of the rising sun. She continues with the metaphor of preparing one’s home and hearth for how we might prepare our hearts for “Love, the Guest.” Next, we are reminded of the parable of the sower — earth is bare and seeds are planted. How will this flower flourish in our hearts as we prepare for “Love, the Rose?” In stanza 3, “Stars, keep the watch,” referencing the guiding star over the stable in Bethlehem that the wise men followed. The light from this star brings brightness even when we are experiencing darkness and difficult times in our own lives. It shines brighter than “sun and moon together” as we prepare for “Love, the Star.” Finally, Angels announce with great joy the birth of the Messiah that brings new life to us all. Farjeon refers to Isaiah 40:4: 

Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain.

“People, look east and sing today: Love, the Lord, is on the way.”


Dear God, we pray for your presence in our lives as we prepare for the coming of your Son this Advent season. Please let your Word take root and blossom in our hearts so that we may show the light and love of your Son Jesus Christ to the world. Amen.

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Daily Advent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Sunday, December 10, Morning

Rev. Tim Best, Senior Associate Pastor


Read: Psalm 98

I am not particularly musical. I played in the band in middle school but quit to pursue other interests. I always liked the idea of singing, but I didn’t take voice lessons nor did my church have children’s or youth choirs. Yet, I cannot imagine Christmas Eve without music. One of my best memories is driving home from church at midnight loudly playing hymns like “Joy to the World” and “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”. Psalm 98 bursts with the same energy and joy as those hymns. The Psalm invites us to join in praise and jubilation along with all of creation. 

“O Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things” Our praise and singing is for what God has done. In Jesus God has done wonderful things. Our hearts burst with joy as we consider all the things God has done for us. Today we are filled with joy because we know that even in the midst of the cold and dark moments of our lives, God is with us. We sing out in praise because all the rest has been handled. 

As you prepare to worship or rest this evening, may you allow your heart to sing out in praise. Perhaps you can blast your favorite Christmas Carol as you drive home from church or from gathering with family or friends. Maybe you can play a piece on a piano, or clap out the beat to a favorite song. God’s love has drawn close to us at Christmas. To quote a well-known poem, which has been turned into a hymn, “Love Came Down at Christmas,” ‘When the love of God draws so close to us, what else can we do but burst into songs of praise?’” May you sleep this night comforted by the peace and joy of God’s love. 


Almighty God, fill our hearts with praise and help us to always sing of your mercies and grace. As we prepare to rest this evening help each of us to always know that we can find our fullest rest in you. Amen.

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