Daily Advent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Thursday, December 9

By Linda Cox

Confronted by God

Read Job 38:2 (The Message)

“Why do you talk without knowing what you’re talking about?”

I love chapters 38-42 of Job. After suffering his ‘friends’ and their harangue about why he has lost everything, Job got in a few licks of his own. He became angry at God, and wanted to take Him to court to answer for the agony he was experiencing. Brought to attention with one of the first questions God asked him: “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?”, Job was subjected to a flood of questions: “What is the way to the place where the lightning is dispersed? Does the rain have a father? Can you bind the beautiful Pleiades? Can you loose the cords of Orion? Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Who has a claim against me that I must pay? Everything under heaven belongs to me.”

Who is willing to argue that statement? Job said he knew God could do anything, that His plans couldn’t be thwarted and that he had spoken of things he didn’t understand, “things too wonderful for me to know.” God asserted that Job had maintained his integrity; his health and wealth were restored; he fathered ten more children and lived another 140 years.

Our confrontation with God is more subtle, more like a whisper, sometimes a nudging. In this Advent season, we are confronted by a baby who came into the world without riches but who can now declare, “Everything under heaven belongs to me.” Praise His name!


Lord, thank you for coming to us as you did and for all you’ve done for us since. In the name of Jesus. Amen.

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Daily Advent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Wednesday, December 8

By Beth Cooper-Libby, Preschool Director

A Recipe for Morals

Read Judges 21:25

“In those days there was no king of Israel.
Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”

A boy in Sunday school had been taught by the same teacher for a number of years. She had a way of telling stories and she always ended them by saying: “And the moral of the story is …”Eventually, he was promoted in Sunday school and had a new teacher.

After a few weeks, his mother asked on the way home from church how he liked his new Sunday school teacher. He replied: “She is great; she does not have any morals.”

From the beginning of time, people have been interested in ethics, attempting to determine the basis for what is right and wrong. Although there has been abundant disagreement over what creates the standard of ethical judgments, most people believe there is some sort of objective standard to which human beings are accountable.

Where do your morals, values and ethics come from? This is an essential question, because, whether we realize it or not, each one of us has a defined moral and ethical framework, and many of our ideas come from what we choose to put into our hearts and minds.

Like ingredients in a recipe, you are responsible to pick and choose what goes into your morals.  Are you kinder to strangers than you are to your co-workers? Do you give work your best focus, time and energy, leaving the left over scraps for your family? Do you give God the opportunity to offer you the ingredients for your morals or do you select from other informational channels such as gossip, negative media and entertainment? If you reflect on the choices you make during the day, at bedtime can you honestly say, “I was kind.” “I made good choices.” “Did I do what was right in God’s eyes?” Fortunately, God has already given us what is right and wrong. We do not have to wonder or guess. The answers are found in His Word. He tells us, many times in story form, what we can and should do. What ingredients for your recipe can you find there? Parables are easy to understand and rich in guidance. Proverbs also gives us some solid food-for-thought to consider in our seeking guidance for our morals, values and ethics.


“For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. He holds success in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones.” Proverbs 2:6-8 (NIV)

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Daily Advent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Tuesday, December 7

By Steve Richardson

The Past and the Promise

Read John 3:16

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son …”

In recent weeks, Mary Ellis has led the charge in our house to comb through mountains of files, documents, photos, clippings and other mementoes accumulated over the lifespans of our two sons. The pragmatic goal was to purge and re-organize these to reduce the space they’ve claimed. But the reality turned into something quite different: An emotional series of strolls down many memory lanes. Recalling and reflecting on the happier memories brought smiles and laughter. It was outright therapeutic.

Thinking about this in the context of Christmas, I can’t help but wonder what stories Mary and Joseph must have shared with Jesus about his birth and “growing up” years. The Gospels’ writers offered us glimpses, yet I suspect there were more and richer events that we’ll never know.

How wonderful it is, though, to have the stories that do exist. These stories remind us of the humanity of our Savior – God in human form – who experienced the world as we do. They inspire and lift our spirits by demonstrating the glorious magnificence of God. They elevate the status of the more “lowly” people of those days, so even the shepherds are as highly admired as the Magi. And the stories frame the foundation of Advent’s themes of hope, peace, love and joy. 

For more than 2,000 years, believers’ traditions of re-telling the stories have helped anchor and sustain our faith that God’s ultimate will can – and will – be done. For each of us, blessed are the stories, blessed are the memories, and blessed is the promise from our Creator that the stories provide.


As we ponder the Gospel writer’s claim that you loved the world and each of us so much that you gave us your son, Jesus, help us today to experience the great joy, peace and hope your act of love offers us.

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Daily Advent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Monday, December 6

By Paula Morrison

Be Faithful Through the Hard Times; Good Times Will Return

Read Philippians 4:6-7

“Do not be anxious 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.”

Sometimes the things we learn the earliest stick with us the longest. We moved to Knoxville from Atlanta in June, 1962. That year, between bedtime Christmas Eve and crack of dawn Christmas Day, it snowed! Just 0.2 inches, but that was amazing to a 3-year-old who got to wear her snowsuit for the first time. It snowed a lot before Christmas in 1963, so I got my snowsuit out on Christmas Eve to be ready for post-present-opening sledding. Jump to 1964, Christmas Eve, after dark: Daddy passed my room as I was getting out my beloved snowsuit, and asked, “Paula, whatcha doin’?” “Getting my snowsuit!” “Paula, sweetie, it’s not going to snow tonight, it’s 72°!” I burst into tears, inconsolable. I eventually stopped crying because of Daddy’s loving understanding and assurances of more snow one day. And he was right!

Isn’t that what our Almighty Father does? We must strive to be faithful, because better times will return.


Almighty Father, thank you for always sticking by us, through the good times, and the ones that aren’t so good. For the times I lapse in my faith, thank you for reminding me of how fortunate and blessed I am. I want to be grateful always, thanking you in prayer, and showing kindness to others. In your name we pray, Amen.

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Daily Advent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Sunday, December 5

By Rev. Rick Isbell, Retired Minister of Discipleship

Never Normal Again

Read Isaiah 43:18-19

“Forget the former things, do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”

During the last 18 months I have heard the phrase “when things return to normal” many times. I do not know what “normal” means to a lot of people; but I’m pretty sure that all things will not return to what they were or what people define as “normal.” Our health care system has changed and more vaccinations will be a part of our lives. The wearing of our many masks will no longer seem strange. We have gotten used to certain sections of the grocery store shelves being empty and we have changed how we greet those we meet. There is more fist and elbow bumping than ever before. The “normal” things in our lives before March 2020 will never be the same.

But as we enter this Advent season, we must remember that the birth of the Christ child in Bethlehem also changed everything.  Mary and Joseph were no longer the ordinary, normal Jewish couple. The shepherds and wisemen who came to see Jesus were not the same after their visits. Some of Jesus’ disciples never returned to their normal jobs of fishing. Jesus was not the “Messiah” that was expected. The birth of Jesus, his life, his teachings, death and resurrection changed everything that was “normal.” You and I being “born of water and the spirit” are never just normal again. The coming of the Christ into the world turned the normal into something extraordinary. The world was changed. We live our lives in different ways and we prioritize different things. As we prepare for the birth of Jesus, let us remember that nothing should ever be normal again.


God, help me not to just live my life in normal ways. Help me this Advent season to expect and do the extraordinary. Help me to see Jesus in new ways and to serve Him by serving my neighbor. AMEN.

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Daily Advent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Saturday, December 4

By Laine Thomas

Silent Night, Holy Night

Read Psalm 62:5

“My soul, wait in Silence for God only, for my hope is from Him.”

It’s hard to imagine silence in the heart of the Christmas season. There is always so much to do.  The season is filled with so many gatherings and traditions that finding quiet can be very hard.  And yet, it’s silence I often find myself craving. Silence becomes a chance to anticipate all that is to come.  

Every year, after I put up my Christmas tree, I love to turn all the lights in my house off, only having the tree lit. It’s a moment to enjoy all the anticipation of the season. To sit, in silence, and know that it will be a special year. While there will always be more to do, the start of the Christmas season is a perfect time to take a moment and breathe in the silent, holy beginning. There is no rush in those first moments.  

I think of Mary during this time, anticipating the birth of her son and all that will come. I see her enjoying her last moments of silence before the world changes forever. “Silent night, holy night.  All is calm, all is bright.”

I hope this season you can find your moments of silence. Let it be a comfort from the noise of the everyday.


Lord, as we celebrate this season, let us find moments of silence to take in the moment. Allow us to quiet our minds and hearts and see the true meaning of the season. Let the twinkle of Christmas lights be a reminder of all the special moments this season brings and let the silence be fulfilling. In your name we pray, Amen.

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Daily Advent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Friday, December 3

By Elizabeth Reagon; Reprinted from the 2018 Advent devotional in honor of Murphy Builders Class

Is Your Gift List Complete?

Read James 1:17 and 1 Thessalonians 5:8-20

By now most of us are well along with our plans for Christmas—cards, decorations, gift list. But is your gift list complete? Is God on your list? James tells us that every good gift and every perfect gift is from above. What can we give God? God desires and expects our love and obedience.

Some of the ways we show our love are the time we spend in prayer, meditating on God’s word, worshiping, giving, sharing, especially with the sick and needy. We show our obedience by living according to God’s word. A good review of many rules for Christian living is found in Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonian Christians in chapter 5. Paul tells these early Christians they must have hope, and so must we—a firm hope in God’s promises. This leads us into a brief discussion of Advent.

We are in our church season of Advent (arrival, specifically the arrival of God’s son). During December we recall the faith stories from the Old and New Testament scriptures and prepare our hearts for Christmas. A beautiful tradition is the use of the Advent wreath, which comprises three purple candles, one pink candle and a white Christ candle in the center. Each of the four candles is named to emphasize an important aspect of the obedient Christian life: Hope, Peace, Joy and Love. Beginning four Sundays before Christmas, the Hope candle is lighted. Each following week another candle is lighted in the order of Peace, Joy and then the pink candle of Love. The Christ candle is lighted on Christmas Eve.

And now we return briefly to some of Paul’s instructions: “Be at peace among yourselves,” “Rejoice evermore,” and “In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” Many of us fall far short of what God desires, but thanks be to God, He is ready to forgive as we ask. And as we study His word, these traits become a natural part of our lives.


Holy God, forgive us when we fall short of your expectations. May hope, peace, joy, love and thanksgiving be manifested so vividly in our lives that the world may recognize us as Christians. In Christ Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

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Daily Advent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Thursday, December 2

By Fran Wheeler, Stephen Ministry

Shadows Under the Star

Read Luke 2:35b

“And a sword will pierce your own soul, too.” 

Christmas—a fantasy, all gold and red—excitement and joy! But personal sadness and loss may overshadow Christmas, leaving some adrift and alone, and perhaps feeling guilty for not sharing the joy. Scripture, however, reveals a deeper story, filled with glory, yet also tempered by loss and fear. The story includes circumstances as difficult and heartbreaking as our own might be. Is there a blessing included for those who suffer?

We usually ignore the shadows within the Christmas story, looking only at the glory. Angel appearances mask the fears of a young girl and a man with shattered dreams. Living the hard reality overshadows the joy Mary experienced with Elizabeth. The star, angel choir, and adoring shepherds make us forget that the baby was born far from the comforts of home and family. Even when the child is presented to the Lord, a prophet speaks frightening words: “And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” And soon, as they planned to go home, Herod sent other baby boys to their deaths, forcing Mary and Joseph to flee to Egypt. In spite of exciting moments, Mary indeed had much to ponder in her heart.

What is the lesson for us? Whether we grieve losses or are caught up in the beauty of Christmas, we should remember the sacrifices made: Mary’s fear, the couple’s life forever changed, a difficult journey, a lonely birth, and the prescient words of the pain to come when the baby becomes the rejected Messiah and is crucified. But Christ arose, and his words still ring out: “The light has come into the world and it will never be overcome by darkness.” Whatever our circumstances, Christmas brings to all of us the eternal message of hope.

So for everyone, Hope is the blessing of Christmas.


Lord, as we celebrate Advent and Christmas, help us to recognize and give thanks for the sacrifices made, and walk in the Lord’s everlasting light. Amen.

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Weekly Prayers for the Church Street Family

Week of December 1, 2021

Rev. Jan Buxton Wade

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?

Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. 

(Ps 42:5)

O Root of Jesse and Hope of our World, upon you we depend, for it was you who sent the Promised One to be born and live among us. The love of Christ has grounded us in the hope that whatever is disquieting us at the given moment does not have the final word; for you make room in all our tomorrows for your own surprises. Even in our darkest hours, we are shored up by that stirring deep within us, that root of hope that you planted there so long ago. Fortify that root, we pray, that we might become living examples, moving in your world with that sense of confident expectation.

Forgive us, O God Ever New, that in our search for newness, we often overlook the sacred gifts you have placed on our doorsteps already.  Help us to ponder your sacred messages written upon the morning, afternoon, and evening skies; turn our gaze to behold your love inscribed upon the radiant hills and mountaintops, painted in vibrant colors across the valleys that surround us. Grant, that with every refreshing raindrop, we may hear you speaking our name.  

Companion Most Compassionate, go before us as we travel these days of Advent, showering us with your prevenient grace. May our footsteps take us to the forgotten byways, the roads less traveled, where the dispossessed are huddled. May our hands be the ones that touch the shoulders of the friendless and forgotten, imparting courage.  May ours be the voices that speak kindness to those who have known only harshness and derision.  And may our spirits be those that offer hope in those places where all seems to be lost.  As you have called us, empower us through your grace, we pray, to serve at your command.   

Truly there is much to torment us in our present world: from automatic weapons being wielded by young and old to the continuing fears of the dreaded virus; from the widening gap between the “have” and “have nots” to the rancorous disputes within our nation’s legislative bodies; from the growing aggressiveness of our country’s enemies to the rage carried out in our own neighborhoods. May we, as the Psalmist, turn to God for solace and strength, believing that any work to bring about change is indeed the Lord’s work and is for his glory.

As you are our Eternal Hope, we place our personal concerns before you in this hour, naming in the silence of our hearts, those persons and situations that are closest to us . . . . . . . . . .  And also we share both the praises and worries expressed by your people at Church Street:   

  • Gratitude for all responding to our church’s stewardship effort
  • Son is thankful for his mother’s successful surgery this week
  • Member offers thanks for a new work position
  • Young mother offers gratitude for baby’s health and family happiness
  • Family thankful – paralyzed grandson continued improvement
  • Member thankful her cancer remains at bay
  • Couple offer thanks for a safe trip out of the country
  • One grateful for promising grades in her difficult coursework
  • Gratitude for a peaceful and pain-free death of suffering friend
  • Solace and healing for members grieving recent death of a brother
  • God’s healing presence with couple who remain secluded due to illness
  • Traveling mercies for a son frequently on the road for work
  • Healing for pastor in another church – suffering a broken arm
  • Church families grieving during the holidays
  • Grace to surround two families whose mothers died this week
  • Continued guidance – one enduring physical & emotional trials
  • Healing of a family’s broken relationship
  • Sister facing cancer scans December 3
  • Cherished father in rehab, in failing health 
  • God’s guidance healing for a mother with cancer diagnosis 
  • Continued strength for member in cancer treatment 
  • Four family friends mourning deaths of loved ones
  • Prayers for mother enduring debilitating infection
  • Exhausted daughter caring for mother with dementia

As evening closes in around us, Lord, may we set aside our work, knowing it is enough. And as we rest, may the efforts we have made this day somehow reveal the love you harbor for your people. It is in this assurance that we offer this prayer in the name of your Son, who came to redeem us and who taught us to pray:

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.

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Daily Advent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Wednesday, December 1

By Judy Grubb

We Will Be Found

Read Isaiah 11:2-4

“And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord. He will not judge people by what he can see on the outside, but he will judge people with righteousness, knowing what is in their hearts.”

I remember the Christmas when our daughter was three years old. Because our extended family lived in Indiana, we had always gone home for the Christmas holidays to visit our relatives. We were loading up the car with our luggage and gifts preparing for the 6 hour trek. Just before we were ready to leave, Jennie said, “Mommy, will Santa Claus know where I am so he can bring my gifts?” My heart just dropped, and I could have cried. Of course I assured her that she didn’t need to worry, and that Santa would know where to bring her gifts. In her mind she was probably thinking, “I went to see him and told him what I wanted for Christmas, but now we’re leaving.” From that year on, we stayed at our home for Christmas.

Four weeks before Christmas, we Christians begin to prepare for the arrival of Jesus. We plan and prepare and worship and sing and rejoice each year. The prophets told us about a Savior and teacher that would come. Isaiah said that He would “preach good tidings unto the meek, bind up the brokenhearted, and proclaim liberty to the captives.” The beautiful scriptures in the New Testament tell the story from the Immaculate Conception to the lowly birthplace where Jesus was visited by the shepherds and the Wise Men. 

Fortunately, we don’t have to worry about Jesus finding us. If we have studied and followed his parables and teachings, he will know where to find us. What will we be doing when he finds us? Will he see us sharing his gifts with his people? Will we be busy helping to right food inequity, correcting racial inequality, ministering to the homeless, protecting defenseless women and children, and welcoming the immigrant? He will always be looking for us, and finding us. What a comfort to know that Jesus will always come, and that we will always be able to celebrate his birth.


Dear God, We thank you for the opportunity to share the teachings of your son, Jesus Christ. We pray that we will please you with our efforts to share your ministry with your people. Amen.

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