Daily Advent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Saturday, December 9

By Dan Kelley

Who Are You?

Read: 1 Peter 3:3-4

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.

Julia and I often visited her parents in Lexington, Kentucky. One time when we were there, they wanted us to visit the Art Museum at the College of Fine Arts on the UK campus. It was a fine little museum with 19th century French paintings, some 16th century Italian and German engravings, and some 20th century American paintings. It also had some student drawings and Kentucky artist’s works. Excellent horses, cows, and landscapes.

What caught my attention was a large, tall painting of a woman. It was hung very high on the wall and she looked down on us with power and authority. She was posed in the full portrait style of Dutch Masters of Frans Hal, Jan Steen, or Rembrandt. She looked like the wife of a wealthy Dutch merchant except that she was dressed in early 20th century clothes. Very expensive clothes and adornments.

She wore a full length, deep blue velvet gown. At her throat was a large silver necklace set with bright, deep blue sapphires. A white sable fur stole draped her shoulders and a large wedding diamond shown from her hand.

The artist was a master. You could see the depth of the velvet, every hair of the sable, and the sparkle of the sapphires. Even the fine white lace at her wrist was perfectly painted. The painting must have cost a fortune.

She had obviously come from wealth and had married well.  She had been a pillar of society in her time and place. Unfortunately, no one knew who she was. The provenance of the painting had been lost. The museum did not know what master had painted the women, who had owned it or what collection it had been in. It was unknown. No one could identify her.

As we enter the Advent Season, let us remember who we are and whose we are. The tree, the lights, the gifts, and the music are exciting but they are adornment. The coming of the gentle and quiet spirit who is Christ, Our Lord, in the form of a baby is the reason for our celebration.


Dear Lord of Mercy Divine, help us to keep our eyes on the prize: the birth of our Savior. Help us to remember that our wealth is in who we love and who loves us. Help us to share the love you have given us with the whole world and all the people in it. Amen.

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Daily Advent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Friday, December 8

By Jim Lantrip

Behold, Your God!

Read: Zechariah 6:12-13

“The king shall come when morning dawns and light triumphant breaks,

When beauty gilds the eastern hills and life to joy awakes.

And let the endless bliss begin by weary saints foretold,

When right shall triumph over wrong and truth shall be extolled.”

This stirring hymn, formerly included in our Methodist hymnal, was translated by Scottish Presbyterian minister John Brownlee from scripture in Acts 1:11 and Matthew 24:27; to me, it expresses the essence of Advent’s meaning.

Advent is a time for drawing closer to our Christian faith. How does one do this? On a practical level the living out of Christian virtues in our personal lives can be demonstrated in many ways. We can show more loving kindness to other people. We can show more empathy and less self-centeredness. We can ask Almighty God for more understanding of His will in our lives.

The prophet Zechariah, writing hundreds of years before Jesus’s birth, was seen by many Christians to forsee the Advent season in this scripture:

“Tell him this is what the Lord Almighty says, ‘There is the man whose name is the Branch and he will branch out from his place and build the temple of the Lord. It is he who builds the temple of the Lord and he will be clothed and will sit and rule on the throne. And he will be a priest on his throne. And there will be harmony between the two.’” – Zechariah 6:12-13

One of the themes of Zechariah is that God is at work in our world and His deeds are accomplished “not by might nor power but by My spirit,” meaning the Lord’s spirit. Advent inspires a deepening of our faith through prayer and meditation. We seek God’s answers for the challenges in our lives.


Tree of life, help us feel rooted in our understanding of your will in our lives so that we may branch out into your world to spread the good news of your son Jesus Christ. Amen.

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Daily Advent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Thursday, December 7

By Jenny Cross, Director of Youth Ministries

Pleased to Dwell

Read: Colossians 1:15-20

There is a familiarity to the Christmas story that often distracts me from the magnitude of it all. The poor mother and father traveling to the small town. The farm animals surrounding the tiny baby. The heavenly host singing to the shepherds. The wise foreigners seeking something special in the stars. I know all about it. But do I know it?

We remind ourselves regularly in the youth department, “There is a difference between knowing about God and knowing God.”  And I think that must be true for the season of Advent and me. I know about Advent. But am I actually making room for it deep in my soul?  Has the miracle of the Incarnation taken root in my life?

As I read this passage from Colossians, a line stuck out to me like never before. “For in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell…” It doesn’t say he was obligated to dwell or expected to dwell or assigned to dwell. The fullness of God in Jesus was pleased to dwell. Jesus was pleased to walk on the Earth. Was pleased to be a light to the nations. Was pleased to make a way for you and for me. And that changes Advent. Because it goes from a story I know about to something I know deep down. Jesus didn’t just come because it was his job. He came because he wanted to. He wanted us to know him – as our redeemer and our friend.

Advent isn’t a season of obligation. It is a season of anticipation – holding fast to the knowledge that Jesus came for us all. And it pleased him to do it.


Holy Lord, thank you for coming to earth – for loving us enough to leave the heavens and walk among your people here.  Give us hearts that yearn to know you more fully.  Help us to experience the joy that comes from knowing that you came for us because you wanted to. We love you, Lord. Show us how to share that love with the world. Amen.

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Daily Advent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Wednesday, December 6

By Dona Bunch

The Miracle of Transformation

Read: Ezekiel 36:26 & 2 Corinthians 5:17

At this fall’s 50th anniversary meeting of the Holston Conference United Women in Faith, the newly elected General Secretary spoke of “transformation” in the Methodist Church and in the United Women in Faith organization.

The word caught my attention and stuck with me in the weeks following. While watching an interview with Jeff Bezos, I recalled that word as the billionaire creator of Amazon talked about his travel to the edge of space on his own rocket. Likewise, Elon Musk dreamed of space travel and formed his company, SpaceX, for that purpose. He orchestrated his own trip into space and offered the experience to others for  $55 million dollars per person.  

The recent tragic loss of several people in a small diving craft was another example, sadly tragic, of the willingness to take huge risks for a transformational experience in the unexplored depths of the sea.

Extraordinary experiences are the new “thing.” I suppose you could argue that an experience that amazing is well worth the extravagant price. Everyone who has participated in space travel has returned to describe it as “once-in-a-lifetime,” life altering, in other words, transformational. 

Yet when Christians think of the most transformational experience in history, we think, not of a gleaming rocket trembling on a launch pad, but a tired man and women with a donkey, traveling across the dusty rocky roads toward the town of Bethlehem. 

Mary and Joseph’s “voyage” to Bethlehem was more transformational than any in history. At the time, though, as they headed toward a run-down stable on a dark night,  chances are they could hardly grasp the magnitude of their “trip of a lifetime.” 

Yet they knew they were on a special mission, even if they couldn’t imagine how it would all turn out. A young girl and her husband, a long journey, a baby in a manger, hardly seemed miraculous on the surface. But it would later become obvious that nothing could compare to the transforming power of Jesus’ birth. 

As we enter the Advent season, we celebrate the miracle that Jesus brought, the salvation he offered, and the triumph over death itself  that he delivered to the world. And it was free of charge to us all.


Heavenly Father, may we be transformed by your greatest gift to us, the miracle of Jesus on earth and the salvation his life and death gave to all of us. Amen.

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Daily Advent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Tuesday, December 5

By Rev. Jim Bailes, Retired Associate Pastor

Behold, Our God!

Read: Isaiah 40:9

“The way we conceive of the future sculpts the present, gives contour and tone to nearly every action and through the day. If our sense of future is weak, we live listlessly. Much emotional and mental illness and most suicides occur among men and women who feel that they have no future.” – Eugene Peterson, The Message, Introduction to 1 and 2 Thessalonians

We just may know the profound truth of Eugene Peterson’s life observation. From scripture, reason, tradition, and especially our personal life experience, we just may know the connection between despair of the future and pain in the present. Looking ahead and anticipating conflicts, sufferings, injustice, death, whatever, may stifle if not thwart any possibility of present peace and joy. Moreover, at times it may seem near impossible to anticipate the future with anything but fear, anxiety, and despair. Personal, family, societal, political, global, and environmental fears seem to be racing into our present.

The Biblical people consistently had life reasons to have a weak sense of a positive future, obviously so in the prophetic book of Isaiah. Isaiah, Jeremiah, and other prophetic books are written in the context of exile. God’s covenant people have again been invaded, defeated, with many of them taken into exile by the Babylonians. Historian John Bright says, “At this point darkness descended upon the people of Israel.”  

Then God speaks through the prophet Isaiah in chapter 40. “Comfort, comfort, my people, says your God!  Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.” (40:1-2). God later says, “get up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good tidings; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings, lift it up, do not fear; say to the cities of Judah, BEHOLD YOUR GOD!” (40:9).

God invites God’s people to look out into the future, to view what lies before them.  God proclaims they will behold, they will experience God!   

Advent means coming, specifically God’s coming. Something is about to happen!  Someone is about to come!  God!  Ours is an Adventist faith. That is, we not only remember God’s activity in the past, we not only experience God in the present, we also faithfully anticipate God’s coming in the future! In the Christ-child! In the Kingdom of God!  In each and every future moment through God’s Holy Spirit!

Eugene Peterson continues his introduction, “The Christian faith has always been characterized by a strong and focused sense of future.” Indeed! May God in Christ grant us “a strong and focused sense of future.” May we go forth in Advent expectation, anticipation, and hope. May we look into our future and proclaim, “Behold! God!”


Gracious God, grant us the faith to accept, to believe, and to live in Your promises of Your Advent. Enable us to anticipate joyfully your Advent in the Christ child, in the Kingdom of God, in the very next months.  In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

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Daily Advent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Monday, December 4

By Steve Richardson

What Are We Waiting For?

Read: Mark 1:1-4

… As it is written in the prophet Isaiah … “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.”

Waiting. It’s one of those things encountered by every human being. Waiting is not only frequent and unavoidable throughout our lives, sometimes it’s not desirable. Maybe one of the things in heaven that will be different than Earth will be the nonexistence of waiting. Even better: Because heaven is an eternal realm, waiting won’t really matter!

Some waits can be expected. Those can be easier to deal with, compared to waits that are unforeseen or seemingly unnecessary. When waits are expected or predictable, we can plan for them. We arrange other things on the schedule around the waiting, and we line up other things to make good use of the time while waiting. (A good example: When waiting to see a doctor, I worked on this devotion). For such times, you might say we actively wait.

There’s also the notion of expectant waiting. After all, waiting implies that something else is going to come or happen. Like a shadow, the future attaches itself to waiting. Waiting and a future expectation are inseparable.

The season of Advent can be energized and enriched when we make it a time of active and expectant waiting, especially when our activities and expectations are keyed to the blessing of God coming to dwell among us. As Mother Teresa advised: “At this Christmas when Christ comes, will He find a warm heart? Mark the season of Advent by loving and serving others with God’s own love and concern.”

There’s no shortage of ways to love and serve others. Even prayer and/or meditation can be active and productive. There’s no need to wait to get started. May our days of Advent be blessed by acts to further build God’s kingdom on Earth as it is in heaven.


God of grace, even during our idle times, lead our minds and hearts to ways of glorifying you through prayers, presence, service, gifts and witness to others. Amen.

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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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