Look Back—Remember…Look Forward—Envision

Tuesday, December 31

12-31By John Bonney of Springfield, Oregon, USA

Lift up your eyes and fix them on the place beyond the horizon to which you are sent. Journey in trust, assured that the great and marvelous work is for this time and for all time.

—Doctrine and Covenants161:1a

I just won a game of solitaire and I’m happy. Oh, you think I should get a life? Now don’t feel sorry for me just because I like to sit alone in front of my computer and play solitaire. Winning only happens 11% of the time, according to the program’s records. Yes, my solitaire game is leading up to my message.

Do you know the feeling “I’ve been here and done this before?” I don’t mean déjà vu. I mean “I’ve gone this way so often I can almost see myself returning.” I’d be on the road, heading somewhere. I’d have an agenda, see the same highway, meet the same people, drive thousands of miles, and I imagined I could see myself returning! I would leave in the morning for my destination and I would think, “There I am coming back later today or tomorrow.” I don’t know if others feel this way.

I am not comfortable in the present. I don’t do now. I spend much time in the past because I thrive on nostalgia. I like to look back and remember. But I also look forward and envision. Entering the new year is a good time for this.

I live in a world of creativity and imagination. I like people, but prefer to be alone. I enjoy music, poetry, and the visual arts. These venues may be common ground for you and me, but in other ways I feel I have a different personality than most. Unity in Diversity—one of the Community of Christ Enduring Principles, allows me to fit into my community. I am happier than winning a game of solitaire knowing I am accepted and loved the way I am—by God and you.

Prayer for Peace
We thank you, God, for the familiarity of the past and the mystery of the future. Walk with us into the new year.

Spiritual Practice: Ongoing Revelation
One enduring principle of Community of Christ is Continuing Revelation. We are a people always in process, becoming shaped by God’s interaction with us. In prayer, listen deeply to the name, “Community of Christ.” Write or say a prayer asking God to continue to form us through our name. Listen deeply to what it would mean to live in community, following and sharing the way of Christ.

Peace Covenant
I commit myself anew to sharing Christ’s peace in the fresh, new year.

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♫ Year End Hymn: “Here from This Place”

Monday, December 30

12-30By Lu Mountenay of Independence, Missouri, USA

…Open your ears to hear the pleading of mothers and fathers in all nations who desperately seek a future of hope for their children. Do not turn away from them. For in their welfare resides your welfare.

—Doctrine and Covenants 163:4a

I have always enjoyed Marty Haugen’s hymn, “Gather Us In.” I wanted to write a hymn with matching gusto to send us out after gaining strength at the center. To me, these two hymns represent the journey inward and the journey outward. I combined these thoughts with language from Doctrine and Covenants 163. We are transformed from the lost and forsaken in “Gather Us In” to the found and forgiven in the new hymn. With hope, a hymn to journey into a new year.

1) Here from this place, a journey beginning,
Here from the center, outward we go.
Divinely inspired by breath of the spirit,
To share Christ’s Shalom by the love that we sow.

Refrain:
Send us now forth the found and forgiven,
Seek those in need and burdens they bear.
Aware of our calling, our mission, our purpose,
Send us now forth as disciples to share.

2) As we now leave this space that is sacred,
Make of us sanctuaries, we pray.
Turn not away from fathers and mothers,
Who plead for the lives of their children each day.

3) From silence of prayer and deep meditation,
Carry the awe and wonder abroad.
As the Divine has graced us with presence,
We will be present to others for God.

Prayer for Peace
God of beginnings and endings, let us gather in our worship community and journey out into the new year as one, to share the peace of Christ.

Spiritual Practice
Contemplate this hymn as a poem (or sing to the tune of Gather Us In).

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will seek to share the peace of Christ as you send me from my place of comfort.

Listen to the Voice

Sunday, December 29

12-29By David Brock, presiding evangelist

…an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.”…A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.” When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel…”Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel… And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee.

—Matthew 2:13, 18–21

There are two important voices to listen to in this well-known passage. The first is the voice of the angel of the Lord that speaks to Joseph in dreams: “Get up, take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt.” “Get up . . . and go to the land of Israel.” Get up . . . and go to Galilee.”  [Note throughout the scriptures the multitude of times dreams are the means God uses to reveal truth to humankind!]

As with Joseph, God can also speak in our dreams; through the unconscious. In our hectic, waking life, we often miss the Voice that speaks deepest truths, that provides guidance beyond the wisdom of our own intellect . . . as essential as human reasoning is. As the Voice of God guided Joseph in dreams for Jesus’ well-being, so we as Body of Christ are called also. We read in the Doctrine and Covenants, to “Listen to the Voice that echoes across the eons of time and yet speaks anew in this moment.”

The other voice to hear in this passage is the voice of loud weeping; the anguished voice of Rachel mourning the death of her children. We too must hear the God weeping in Rachel and weeping “for the poor, displaced, mistreated, and diseased of the world” who suffer unnecessarily. We must open our ears to hear the Rachel of old as well as “the pleading of mothers and fathers in all nations who desperately seek a future of hope for their children.”

Rachel’s voice is the Voice of God. The angel speaking to Joseph in the dream is the Voice of God. “Listen to the Voice, for it cannot be stilled, and it calls you once again to the great and marvelous work of building the peaceable kingdom, even Zion….”

Prayer for Peace
Holy Voice, we listen to you through the voices of the mistreated of the world. We listen to those in need of justice and the peace of Christ. We will respond by hearing and sharing.

Spiritual Practice: Voices of God
What is the voice of God saying to us? Do we hear the whispers of God’s longing for shalom; God’s dream of justice and wholeness for all creation? Do we hear the “voice” of God calling to us in faces and eyes, in the sounds of suffering and joy, in scripture and sacred word? Reflect on when and how God’s voice has spoken to you. When did you first feel called to join God in the pursuit of peace and justice? How does that call to shalom come to you?

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will listen for your voice. I will hear. I will consider. I will respond.

Follow a Worthy Example, Be a Worthy Example

Saturday, December 28

12-28By Paul McCain of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA

The Spirit of the One you follow is the spirit of love and peace. That Spirit seeks to abide in the hearts of those would embrace its call and live its message…

—Doctrine and Covenants 161:7

I have a co-worker who I try to emulate. Many times she has left a coupon, a piece of chocolate, or some other item on a colleague’s desk; perhaps something found at a garage sale that uniquely fits a co-worker’s need or fancy. That she has lived her life thinking of others shows in her selfless sharing.

In a Disciples Generous Response moment I shared about her life, encouraging those present to set good examples like hers, or at least, find one to follow. My co-worker is one who teaches me about sharing, grace, and caring. She sets an example to follow.

Recently I saw her at a community garage sale at the fairgrounds and she had a bag of goodies. Suspecting the reason for the bulging bag, I asked her about the contents. One item was for a woman she had befriended—one who, like the woman who Christ spoke with at the well, had a bad reputation. Her list of gifts went on to include one who many had scratched off their list of friends, one who struggles with a mental illness, one who continues to need friends.

I told this thoughtful friend about a gift I wanted to get for her. Being Canadian, I thought she might like it because it had a red maple leaf design. However, a child picked it up before I could get to it. She appreciated the thought. The spirit of love abides in her heart and she lives its message. May we find a good example to follow and then set an example of life-affirming generosity.

Prayer for Peace
Generous God, help us take our minds off ourselves, at times, and think of others. Our everyday acquaintances may need a life-affirming gift, word, or gesture to show we are aware of their needs. May we also be aware of our brothers and sisters around the world, who need life-sustaining gifts—who need the peace and justice of Christ.

Spiritual Practice: Teacher- learner
The first disciples of Jesus followed to hear his words, to be taught, to learn a new way of living, to practice what they learned in daily life. Prayerfully consider your role as a teacher-learner, disciple-apprentice; a people cultivator in Community of Christ. In your journal write the names of several persons you discern as teachers or mentors and several you feel called to nurture and encourage in specific ways. Ask God’s blessing on you and your congregation as a community of learners.

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will think of a person, and a gift that might give them a lift.

The Need to Be Heard

Friday, December 27

12-27By Sara Parkin of Midlands, Michigan, USA

Finally, brothers and sisters, farewell. Put things in order, listen to my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.

—2 Corinthians 13:11

(Part 10 of my journey with Alzheimer’s Disease) I was at a walk in Saginaw, Michigan. It was a gathering of people who care. They care enough to share their lives, give support, and listen to those who need hearing … those with Alzheimer’s Disease.

I heard and saw laughter, joy, happiness, dancing, sharing, tears, helping, and walking. It was an amazing day. People were there to show many kinds of support: Some to remind us that we are still alive, some to help with fundraising, and some to share their stories. When I arrived I saw a lot of volunteers— setting things up for the walk, care givers, family and friends, and those with forms of Alzheimer’s Disease. God bless them all!

After that walk, I was a speaker at the Alzheimer’s Walk in Midland, Michigan. You can speak too. If you have a form of Alzheimer’s Disease and are still lucid, please know that God is with you and will walk with you every day. Share your stories. Caregivers: You can speak for them also. Everyone is a child of God, and if you are afraid to speak God will help you. God gives me the words that I need when I falter.

After reading my blog, someone asked me to interview with the Daily News. I was scared, but I remembered God would let it happen or not. I said yes. Once I found out that I have a form of dementia, I could start to find what I can do. It has been a challenge. Not easy! I learned that if I am stressed my brain slows me down. When I start to think that I failed the challenge, I remember my brain is still working. I am tired, but I say, the end of Alzheimer’s starts with me and you! Thank you for being part of my journey. Go in peace.

Prayer for Peace
God of love and peace, help us remember you are with us every step of our journey. Help us understand how frustrating it is for those who suffer loss of memory, speech, and recognition. Help us encourage them and let them know we will be with them also. We will help them share Christ’s peace.

Spiritual Practice
Pray with a partner if possible, or image Christ sitting with you. The heart is a center of compassion and spiritual connection. Stand or sit across from your partner with hands open and palms up. Invite your partner to place their hands, palms down, on your hands. Close your eyes and be aware of the connection between your heart and your partner’s heart. What needs, feelings, or longings do you sense? Invite God’s presence to flow into you and move from your heart to the heart of your partner. Feel or see God’s healing light and love flowing between your hearts.  (You also may pray this prayer by envisioning a particular person across from you.)

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will be present with someone, who may not know who I am, or even that I am there.

Terrible and Wonderful

Thursday, December 26

12-26By Michelle McGrath of Mission Viejo, California, USA

A voice cries out: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.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.

—Isaiah 40:3–4

It was both terrible and wonderful. They had to leave at night. In the utter darkness rough terrain becomes rougher. Unseen contours and loose rocks cause sudden trips and falls. The sharp desert vegetation snags and rips clothing and pierces sturdy footwear. Venomous creatures creep and run across the desert floor. The way is easy to lose, yet life depends on finding the way.  Especially the life they are seeking, despite this grueling start.

There was no guiding star left in the utter darkness of this cold desert night. One can navigate by the other stars, if one knows how, and if they are visible. For a family seeking to avoid discovery, night is the only time to travel. The cold is a relief to the brutal heat of the day. It was both terrible and wonderful.

“The desert is no place for a baby!” is what people would say. But of course, life depended on not drawing attention. Not yet, anyway. Not here. They followed the voice that said if you want to live you have to go. Away from the oppression and violence behind them, and toward a new life, the life God promises all God’s beloved children. It was both terrible and wonderful.

I wonder if this holy immigrant family hummed the promise of Isaiah 40 as it undertook this risky journey. Did they dream of a straight pathway through the desert, where the uneven places are level, and the rough places are like a plain—a direct route to the kingdom of God? Did they dream of a welcoming home? I wonder, does every holy immigrant family dream of this? Do we?

Prayer for Peace
God of the desert and highway, God of the mountain and border, help us cross to a new life in you. Thank you for Emmanuel, our bridge, our peace, our hope for the world.

Spiritual Practice: Honoring the Worth of All Persons
Read Psalm 139:13–18. After each reading sit quietly and let the words sink deeply into your mind, heart, and body. Imagine God watching you grow in your mother’s womb. What thoughts and feelings do you have about being “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14)?

Sense the intimate knowledge and love God has of you and every child. Be aware of the sacred worth of each person. Weep with God over the soul-wounding forces and events that rob people of dignity and worth. How are you invited to notice, protect, heal, and affirm the spiritual identity of all God’s beloved people today? Pray for God’s compassion.

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will see the immigrant family and see the holy family in them.

(What Child is This?)

Wednesday, December 25

12-25By Karen Moreland of Independence, Missouri, USA

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises. Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody. With trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord…

—Psalm 98:4–7

Christmas is a time for caroling. I always looked forward to going on my congregation’s annual caroling tour. Some years ago, shortly after the birth of one of my sons, I decided to take him with me. One of the places we planned to sing was the Washington State School for the Blind.

The children gathered in the hallway as we joyfully sang many familiar Christmas carols. After the singing, some of the children were huddling close and whispering. The supervisor approached me and said, “Some of the children can see a little and told the others that you are holding a baby. Many of the children have been blind since birth and have never seen a real baby. They only have dolls to play with.” They wanted to know if I would let them come and “see” my child. I looked at their hopeful faces and quickly said it was all right.

I knelt as the woman and several small children gathered around me. The woman guided them as they reached out and touched the tiny hands and feet of my squirming baby. Then they brushed their hands across the soft hair on my son’s head. They were in awe at the tiny, cooing baby I held in my arms. They smiled and giggled at this opportunity to see with their gentle touching hands.

My thoughts wandered to what Mary must have felt when the throng of visitors came to see her infant son, Jesus. My heart pounded with joy as I saw the smiles and joyful faces of those children gathered around me. The words from “Silent Night” ran through my head, “…mother and child, holy infant so tender and mild.” The Christmas story became real to them and me as we shared the joy and peace of this holy night. I will never forget that Christmas.

Prayer for Peace
Creator God, thank you for the many ways we can share the story of the Christ child with others. Thank you for silent nights, gentle infants, and hopeful children. Thank you for your Son and his peace that we can share.

Spiritual Practice for Advent: Joy
Prepare room in your heart for the Christ child. Prepare room in your heart for joy. Think of the many ways you experience joy in the Advent season: bells, candles, lights, carols, special food, gift giving, time with family and friends, celebrations of the birth of Christ. Reflect on the many ways you can share joy in the Advent season: giving to those in need, making a place for everyone at the table, greeting strangers, helping others, being a presence. Continue your own list. Thank God for the joy you experience and the opportunities to share it.

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will help someone “see” Christ by my actions.

Cold Feet on Christmas Eve

Tuesday, December 24

12-24By Chris Lasley of Vancouver, Washington, USA

Praise the Lord, all you nations! Extol him, all you peoples! For great is his steadfast love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord!

—Psalm 117

When I was little, the worst gifts I got for Christmas were socks and underwear. Underwear was embarrassing and socks, well, just plain boring. Try getting excited over a pair of socks. Not something I looked forward to with great expectation.

A woman in our congregation works with hard-living students who are homeless or in foster care. Their goal is to graduate but they struggle because of their living conditions. Each year Vanessa makes a “Giving Tree” at church. She lists each student’s first name and a gift they need and a gift they want. Some gifts are cool like skateboards and others are just downright necessary, like bath towels or… socks!

The girl and boy we drew from the tree chose socks as their necessary item. My husband said, “If you ask for socks for Christmas, you must need socks.” I had to agree, though it would never have been on my list as a child.

As I wrapped the socks I thought, “This is a boring gift.” However, Vanessa shared with me that the girl student was really looking forward to getting socks. Vanessa explained that these two teens were couch surfers, meaning they were homeless. They slept on friend’s couches from house to house. The girl and her friend shared one pair of socks between them.

Some days when I’m sitting at my desk and my feet are cold, I put on as many as three pairs of socks. What if I only had one pair of socks and had to share them—sometimes going a day with bare feet? Now, when I open my over-stuffed sock drawer, I think about how those in need might look forward to Christmas. I realize how blessed I am to have so much joy to look forward to—how I am blessed to have in my heart the expectation of the Christ child. A needed AND wanted gift.

Prayer for Peace
Generous God, may we always have the joy and peace of Christ in our heart to share with others.

Spiritual Practice for Advent: Joy
Prepare room in your heart for the Christ child. Prepare room in your heart for joy. Think of the many ways you experience joy in the Advent season: bells, candles, lights, carols, special food, gift giving, time with family and friends, celebrations of the birth of Christ. Reflect on the many ways you can share joy in the Advent season: giving to those in need, making a place for everyone at the table, greeting strangers, helping others, being a presence. Continue your own list. Thank God for the joy you experience and the opportunities to share it.

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will prepare for the Christ child by giving a generous gift.

The Blessing of Size 12 Slippers

Monday, December 23

12-23By Cindy L. Korf of North Platte, Nebraska, USA

You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity, which will produce thanksgiving to God through us; for the rendering of this ministry not only supplies the needs of the saints but also overflows with many thanksgivings to God. Through the testing of this ministry you glorify God by your obedience to the confession of the gospel of Christ and by the generosity of your sharing with them and with all others, while they long for you and pray for you because of the surpassing grace of God that he has given you. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!

—2 Corinthians 9:11–15

At the nursing home’s annual Christmas party, each resident received a package especially for them. One resident, Mark, a middle-aged man staying there while recovering from an accident, showed elation at his package which contained a box of chocolate candy, a blanket, and a pair of size 12 slippers.

When I wheeled Mark and his “bounty” of food, cookies, hot chocolate, and presents back to his room, I asked him if he enjoyed the party.

“Oh, yes,” he responded. “It was an answer to my prayer.”

“Oh?”

“I have wanted badly to give Brian a gift, but I had nothing to give him or any way to buy something…until today. I wear a size 7 shoe. Brain wears a size 12, and he had no slippers.” He looked up at me and smiled. “I gave him my slippers!”

I don’t know who received more of a blessing, Mark for giving the gift, Brian for receiving, or I for witnessing the true joy in giving and receiving.

Prayer for Peace
Thank you, God, for the joy we receive when we give. Thank you for the peace we receive when we share Christ’s peace.

Spiritual Practice for Advent: Joy
Prepare room in your heart for the gift of the Christ child. Prepare room in your heart for joy. Think of the many ways you experience joy in the Advent season: bells, candles, lights, carols, special food, gift giving, time with family and friends, celebrations of the birth of Christ. Reflect on the many ways you can share joy in the Advent season: giving to those in need, making a place for everyone at the table, greeting strangers, helping others, being a presence. Continue your own list. Thank God for the joy you experience and the opportunities to share it.

Peace Covenant
Today, God, and all through Advent, I will express my joy in your gift of the Christ child.

Jesus Is Born

Sunday, December 22

12-22By Kris Judd of Kansas City, Missouri, USA

Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly… 20 an angel of the Lord appeared to him… “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

—Matthew 1:18–21

I have many children, all of whom belong to other mothers. I never had the privilege of giving birth, but have been blessed to love and care for children from my family, friends, and church. A few years ago I had the opportunity to witness the birth of a special baby, Jasmine, the daughter of two good friends.

Jasmine was not an expected pregnancy. Mother nor father were ready to welcome her into the world. Her father was not sure she was even his, but vowed to raise her and treat her as his own regardless. I was in the hospital room with Jasmine’s mother, father and grandmother the morning she arrived. It had been a long night, filled with discomfort, anxiety and fear.

On her arrival the world seemed different, more alive, more real. God opened my eyes with a sense of wonder and possibility that I had not experienced in the same way before. I fell in love with the world and with a baby whose life changed forever the lives of two unprepared but willing parents.

Perhaps that is how Joseph and Mary were feeling when their son arrived. They did not plan, nor were they ready for this baby. But the baby that arrived changed not only their lives but millions of lives around the world. His birth continues to change lives every moment. Two thousand years ago, the birth of Jesus Christ ushered in a new possibility of a kingdom for which the faithful had been waiting for way too long. The world is still waiting to see it in its fullness. It is here and it is coming. Hallelujah! Jesus is born!

Prayer for Peace
Generous God, let us be the ones who bring good news to the poor, joy to the broken hearted, hope to those who wait. Let us share the news of the Christ child and his peace.

Spiritual Practice: Joy
Prepare room in your heart for the Christ child. Prepare room in your heart for joy. Think of the many ways you experience joy in the Advent season: bells, candles, lights, carols, special food, gift giving, time with family and friends, celebrations of the birth of Christ. Reflect on the many ways you can share joy in the Advent season: giving to those in need, making a place for everyone at the table, greeting strangers, helping others, being a presence. Continue your own list. Thank God for the joy you experience and the opportunities to share it.

Peace Covenant
On this joyous day, God, I will share the joy of the coming of the Christ Child.