Respond like the Shepherds

Shepherds Quake

Shepherds Quake

 

 

Silent night, holy night, shepherds quake at the sight,
Glories stream from heaven afar, heavenly hosts sing
Alleluia.
Christ the Savior is born, Christ the Savior is born!

Luke 2:8-20

When I think about Christmas’s spent in Nigeria, I remember fondly the Christmas play which was performed every year. When the angel visited the shepherds, they fell down and shook violently which put new meaning to the line from Silent Night – shepherds quake at the sight.

This year I also found myself taking a look at how the shepherds responded to the message from the angels.

First, the shepherds were in the fields, doing what they did every night; watching over their sheep. But that night they had a surprise visit from an angel. When the angel spoke, they listened to the message and identified the important aspects of it. NIV Luke 2:10-12”…I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.  This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Second, after hearing and identifying the message they chose to verify it for themselves. v 15-16 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.

Third, after verifying that the message was true, the shepherds gave their testimony to everyone they came in contact with. v 17-18 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.

Fourth, after testifying and telling others, they went back to their jobs giving the glory to God for all they had seen and heard. v 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

hqdefaultSo this year as we hear the familiar Christmas story let us think of responding like the shepherds. We can do this by: Identifying the message, Verifying the truth of the message, Testifying about the message (tell others), and Glorifying and Praising God for the message.

by Roxane Hill

Devotions (EYN Daily Link) December 20 – 26, 2015

DAILY LINK WITH GOD 2015

EYN Devotions graphicA Daily Devotional Guide from the
EYN (Church of the Brethren in Nigeria)

EYN leaders in Nigeria believe prayer is one of the most important ways to support the Nigerian people and the Church.  These daily devotions were written by EYN members and published by the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria. Reading them daily is a powerful way we can be in solidarity and connect with our brothers and sisters caught in this crisis.  EYN’s daily devotional for 2015 will be posted a week at a time on this blog, appearing mid-week for the following week. More information about the crisis can be found at www.nigeriacrisis.org.

Click on this link for Devotions December 20-26, 2015

Hey! It isn’t Christmas yet

The most counter cultural thing a Christian can do today is to refuse the drive to Christmas. If you watched the Macy’s parade on Thanksgiving, Santa came riding in at the end of the parade with the bold symbolic statement that Christmas has come. The commercialization of Christmas is obvious. “Santa has come, the Christmas season is here, so come shop with us.”
The last thing our culture wants to do in this season is wait. We don’t want to hear about voices crying out in the wilderness, of a young woman wrestling with what the child she carries means for her and the world, or even about some long off time when Christ will come again. With all the decorations and advertisements we are collectively saying “Get on it with it.” Just like a child unable to control the excitement, who treasure hunts around the house for gifts, we want the celebration now. None of this waiting business.
Yet, in truth, this is Advent. It is not Christmas. We are waiting. We are preparing.
To observe Advent is to push back on our culture of consumption and immediacy. To observe Advent is THE Christian practice for our time. For in Advent we acknowledge the delay. We recall the Hebrew people waiting for the Promised One. And we proclaim the fact that we are liminal people. We live in the now-and-not-yet-ness of our faith. Jesus has come, and we wait for him to come again.
We wait.
Waiting is so uncomfortable because we have to acknowledge both our longing and our lacking. When we confront our longing, we realize that there is something we lack. That is very definition of desire. We want what we don’t have. And when we see our longing played out each Sunday of Advent we are confronted with the very reality that we are not yet in the fullness of God’s embrace. In a culture that celebrates immediacy, consumption, and satisfaction, such a realization is nearly anathema.
In Advent we embody both our longing and come to terms with the very distance between us and God. Christians today have bought into our culture of immediacy, preaching a Gospel of God’s full presence. To even hold the season and practice of Advent counters the way we have tried to share the Good News. Advent, then, chastens us as followers of Jesus by reminding us that God is both with us and yet before us. It forces us to accept the distance between us and Christ. Christ is not “in us” but coming. Christ is not here, but is calling us into the fullness of faith.
At the close of his beautiful memoir, The Seven Story Mountain, Thomas Merton put words to this paradox.
“I no longer desire to see anything that implies a distance between You and me: and if I stand back and consider myself and You as if something had passed between us, from me to You, I will inevitably see the gap between us and remember the distance between us.
My God, it is that gap and that distance which will kill me.”
To the world around us, living in want and wait does seem like death. Why wait for anything when everything is right here? Why wallow in longing when satisfaction is so easy? And for the dominant theology of our time, preparing for the coming of Christ contradicts the very immanence we preach. Why prepare for Christ when we have Christ now, in our hearts, and will go to heaven when we die? Why all this business of rough places smoothed, valleys lifted up, mountains made low, the overthrow of the powerful, and the proud humbled?
It is Advent sisters and brothers, and there is no greater resistance than to hold this season of waiting. Advent is counter cultural.

Stories from Nigeria: Churches – What a difference a year makes

By Roxane Hill, co-director of Nigeria Crisis Response

Michika EYN dedication

EYN church dedication outside of Michika. Photo Credit: Carl & Roxane Hill

On a bright sunny day last February, Carl and I attended a dedication service for a new church (Local Church Branch) of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) just outside of Michika. The atmosphere was festive and the people were excited to imagine what God would do at this new church. There were so many of us at the dedication that we had to gather outside for the prayer.

Michika EYN burned 2

Photo courtesy of EYN Nigeria.

 

Fast forward to the outlook today. – The church branch has been burned, the roof caved in and the people who would have attended have been displaced. But… God is still sovereign and he knows the past, present, and what the future holds. Despite the devastation and destruction, God’s people will continue to meet where they can.

Michika EYN burned 1

Burned EYN church outside of Michika. Photo courtesy of EYN Nigeria

 

On Christmas Day 2014, in Mubi, a town 60 miles from Michika, displaced persons returned and held a service outside their burned church.

With the Nigerians, we continue to pray and we continue to put our hope in Jesus Christ.

Christmas Service outside church by Monday Ali

Christmas Service outside of a burned church in Mubi. Photo courtesy of EYN Nigeria.

Stretching Exercises

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Psalm 125


To ponder:

As I left the grocery store, a man stretched out his hand and asked me for several dollars to buy some food. Keeping his eyes on the sidewalk, he explained that his family was hungry and he didn’t have any money. Reaching into my purse, I handed him some money in response to his need, which he gratefully accepted before entering the store. Was he telling me the truth? I don’t know. What I do know is that Jesus calls us to feed the hungry and in doing so, we feed Jesus. Let us welcome those who have need into our hearts this Christmas. In doing so, we welcome Jesus.

Prayer for the day:
Stretch us, God, to see Jesus in those whom we meet along the way to Christmas. Then stretch us to respond in the spirit of Christmas with love and kindness. Amen.

 

~ Kim Ebersole, Director of Family Life and Older Adult Ministries

Congregational Life Ministries of the Church of the Brethren is offering these simple prayers and questions in connection to this year’s Advent Devotional written by Sandy Bosserman, a former district executive and ordained minister in the Church of the Brethren. (Available from Brethren Press in print and E-Book formats). Join us as we look and listen for the coming of the Word through the reading of scripture, Sandy’s reflections, times of prayer, and conversations on this blog.

Parting Words

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1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

To ponder:
Sometimes we place such high expectations on ourselves and others as Christmas approaches! We strive to decorate our homes, prepare tasty holiday treats, and finish shopping for everyone on our lists even as we carry out our everyday tasks and responsibilities. No wonder we are stressed to the max some days. As we continue to prepare for Christmas, may we take Paul’s words to heart: rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and give thanks in all circumstances. The Lord Jesus Christ is coming!

Prayer for the day:

God of wholeness and well-being, help us remember what is truly important this Advent season and keep us ever full of joy, prayer, and thanksgiving as we prepare for Christ’s coming. Amen.

 

~ Kim Ebersole, Director of Family Life and Older Adult Ministries

Congregational Life Ministries of the Church of the Brethren is offering these simple prayers and questions in connection to this year’s Advent Devotional written by Sandy Bosserman, a former district executive and ordained minister in the Church of the Brethren. (Available from Brethren Press in print and E-Book formats). Join us as we look and listen for the coming of the Word through the reading of scripture, Sandy’s reflections, times of prayer, and conversations on this blog.

Implications

2013 Advent good_news_hi_res   John 1:14

Prayer for the day:
God of grace and truth, thank you for coming to earth in a form that I can relate to, as a human of flesh and blood. Thank you for showing me your love in such a personal way. Help me offer that same love to others. In the name of our neighbor, Jesus the Christ, I pray. AMEN


Question for reflection:

Who around you needs to hear a hopeful word today? With whom will you share the Good News of Jesus?

~ Jonathan Shively, Executive Director, Congregational Life Ministries

Congregational Life Ministries of the Church of the Brethren is offering these simple prayers and questions in connection to this year’s Advent Devotional written by Tim Harvey, pastor of Central Church of the Brethren (Available from Brethren Press in print and E-Book formats). Join us as we look and listen for the coming of the Word through the reading of scripture, Tim’s reflections, times of prayer, and conversations on this blog.

Carry the light

2013 Advent good_news_hi_res   Matthew 2:9

Prayer for the day:
God, help me follow you today, trusting as you lead, grateful for the calling, joyful in the journey.


Question for reflection:

Where is the Christ star guiding you today, and as you enter this new year?

~ Jonathan Shively, Executive Director, Congregational Life Ministries

Congregational Life Ministries of the Church of the Brethren is offering these simple prayers and questions in connection to this year’s Advent Devotional written by Tim Harvey, pastor of Central Church of the Brethren (Available from Brethren Press in print and E-Book formats). Join us as we look and listen for the coming of the Word through the reading of scripture, Tim’s reflections, times of prayer, and conversations on this blog.

Whenever the doors are open

2013 Advent good_news_hi_res   Luke 2:22- 24, 39- 40

Prayer for the day:
God, help me with simple obedience. In the routines of following you, help me see the importance of common acts of worship, humble service, and faithful follow-through. Like Mary and Joseph, make me consistent in “regular” things, open to your wisdom, full of the grace of God.


Question for reflection:

How will/did the routines of your day today draw you closer to Jesus and honor God?

~ Jonathan Shively, Executive Director, Congregational Life Ministries

Congregational Life Ministries of the Church of the Brethren is offering these simple prayers and questions in connection to this year’s Advent Devotional written by Tim Harvey, pastor of Central Church of the Brethren (Available from Brethren Press in print and E-Book formats). Join us as we look and listen for the coming of the Word through the reading of scripture, Tim’s reflections, times of prayer, and conversations on this blog.

A waste of time?

2013 Advent good_news_hi_res  Luke 2:36- 38

Prayer for the day:
Help me keep from getting so busy, Lord, that I miss seeing you even when you’re right in front of me. Give me focus and persistence like Anna, so that I, too, might offer thanks and speak of you to others with deep love and conviction.


Question for reflection:

How do you recognize Jesus in the world today? What testimony are you prepared to give?

~ Jonathan Shively, Executive Director, Congregational Life Ministries

Congregational Life Ministries of the Church of the Brethren is offering these simple prayers and questions in connection to this year’s Advent Devotional written by Tim Harvey, pastor of Central Church of the Brethren (Available from Brethren Press in print and E-Book formats). Join us as we look and listen for the coming of the Word through the reading of scripture, Tim’s reflections, times of prayer, and conversations on this blog.