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Advent Devotionals on Joy, by Rev. Angela Kaufman and Rev. Allison Lanza

Advent Blessings to you.

This week we celebrate joy.  The joy that comes from awe! Because when you really stop to think about it, this whole Christmas thing is really incredible.  God came to live among us, born as a baby in a feeding trough.  God came into our chaotic, frightening world to show us a better way, to convince us that we are loved, and mostly to remind us that we are not alone…ever….God is with us no matter what.  If that is not a cause for great joy I don’t know what is!

Today’s devotional is written by Rev. Angela Kaufman.  Rev. Kaufman is TCU’s Minister to the University.  A graduate of TCU, Angela went on to receive her Masters of Divinity at the University of Chicago Divinity School and was then ordained in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).  She has served at TCU for the last ten years. She works diligently to create sacred places and experiences for all people at TCU. Her vision and work has helped to make TCU a place where everyone, no matter their theological views, can seek, explore, practice, and grow in their faith.  She is also the mother to two precious young boys.  Today she reminds us of the wonder of Christmas as seen through the eyes of a child. I pray you hear God whispering joy into your life through her words.

God’s joy to you,

Rev. Allison Lanza

advent 3

An Advent Devotional, by Rev. Angela Kaufman

 Matthew 2:9-10

“When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy.”

With the birth of our first son, we participated in that ritual act well known by many of putting everything breakable out of reach. Hence, when Advent seasons comes these days my treasured nativity scene with patchwork porcelain and tiny pieces did not come out of the box. Instead we found a Fisher-Price plastic one that our two boys, now five and three, have come to love as it sits on our coffee table this time each year.  So the other week while we were in our very own hustle and bustle of  “unpacking Christmas” (an odd term worthy of discussion another time), we enlisted the boys with the task of putting out the nativity set. Admittedly, I didn’t pay much attention as they chatted back and forth about what piece went where, what had fallen down and what was missing.  That was until my oldest, Connor, shared with me that it was in fact baby Jesus that was missing. Uh-oh. So hence began the search -under tables, in boxes, beneath the sofa, and every crack and corner. I thought to myself, “I can replace a wise man with the Lego mini figure, but how do I replace baby Jesus?”

All of a sudden, three-year-old Owen crawled out of a tiny crevice between the sofa and end table, jumping up with the unbridled passion that those who have been around young children will recognize screaming, “I found him, I found him….I found baby Jesus!”  (This is usually the kind of passion and volume he uses for dinosaurs, cars and trains so the whole house, maybe even the neighbors, heard him).  There he was holding the tiny little plastic Fisher-Price baby Jesus in his hands and with a joyful look no words can describe.

Admitting my own biases, I usually don’t think of wise men as filled with the same kind of wild abandonment and excitement that Owen had, and yet I’m hoping that was the case on that night long ago. They had discovered a small baby in an unassuming manager after a long journey, following a star and listening to angels. It was the birth of salvation and the promise of hope. A birth that would transform the world, and transform each of us…how could anyone contain their excitement and joy in light of that?

And so as we prepare for the sacred and even secular experiences of Christmas – as we wrap presents, run errands, welcome family, and make our travels; as we rush around in the next week or perhaps intentionally not rush around at all, how can we be filled with the joy of a young child in our discovery and re-discovering of a baby in a manger? How can we, even in times of trial and struggle, make space in our hearts for the kind of amazement the wise men may have had on that night?  How can we bring unabashed joy to the audacious, mysterious and reality affirming assertion that God took on eyes and ears, hands and feet, hunger and tears, joy and pain to make the world anew? These are my questions today and these are my prayers. Most of all, I hope each of us finds our own way to make space for that kind of joy in the weeks ahead.

Let us pray,

God, instill and encourage within us the amazement of wise men and the joy of children as we celebrate that you came into this world to live among us. Journey with us in this year ahead as we celebrate your birth, not simply on one day in December, but every day in how we live, how we love, and how we serve both stranger and friend.  Amen.

Advent Blessings to you.

Finals are over!  Graduation is tomorrow.  Christmas is almost here.  God is with us.  Joy is creeping in.

Thank you all for sharing in these devotionals with us.  Thank you to all the writers who have shared their thoughts and prayers and given each of us a moment to pause and listen for God’s still small voice.  We will continue the devotionals next week, so make sure to check your email to hear the good words from next week’s writers.

God’s joy to you,

Rev. Allison Lanza

advent 3

An Advent Devotional, by Rev. Allison Lanza

At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God’s praises:

“Glory to God in the heavenly heights. Peace to all men and women.”

-Luke 2:13-14a MSG

There is something about singing.

There the shepherds were, settling in for another long night of work, when much to their surprise, a messenger of God appeared before them.  They were terrified!  But the angel said, “Do not be afraid.  I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people.  Today in the town of David a Savior will be born to you.  He is Christ the Lord.”

Here is what I like to imagine happened next.  There were a group of angels watching this scene and they just couldn’t contain themselves anymore. God was being born on Earth!  Good news was coming to the poor, healing to the sick, and love to all people!  And they finally got to tell someone! They were giggling and laughing and crying joyful tears and they couldn’t help but sing!  Together they burst onto the scene and burst out in song.

I imagine it was like that moment in the hospital when the baby finally arrives after a difficult pregnancy and long labor.  There are hugs and tears and laughter.  Someone pulls out a cell phone to call grandparents and friends and share the good news. Someone takes a picture to post on facebook.  Everyone is laughing and smiling and crying and singing!

There are times we are so full we have to sing.

When I served a church, I went to the hospital late one night to sit with a church member who was living her final hours on earth with us.  Life had not been easy for her.  She spent much of life in housing projects and wheelchairs, struggling with poverty and struggling with her health.  When I sat by her bed, she took my hand and began to sing. It started quietly.  After a while I joined in with her.  We both became overwhelmed by the palpable reality of God’s presence with us and God’s promise of life and life everlasting. It was something words can’t describe.  Together for hours we sang the old gospel hymns off-key, quietly and then loudly, with tears in our eyes and with great joy.  People kept walking by in the hallway giving us strange looks.  But we kept right on singing. We were so full we couldn’t help ourselves.

One Christmas I went with a group of women to go caroling at an assisted living center where some of our friends lived.  We arrived to find a crowd.  They were gathered on chairs and couches and walkers and wheel chairs, waiting expectantly to hear the songs of Christmas.  Now, a few women in our group had some actual musical talent.  However most of us could, at best, make a joyful noise.  We passed out bells, hoping they would drown out our off key sounds.  Then we began to sing.  We sang apprehensively at first.  I was worried that the folks gathered would be annoyed that they had gotten dressed and come down from their rooms for just this. But then I began to look out at their faces.

There was the man in the front row laughing, singing along, and clapping wildly after every song in encouragement.

There was the woman a couple rows back who mouthed the words to every verse of every song with a look in her eyes like she was remembering a life time of singing these carols.

There was the man in the back who smiled while his hands directed us in every song.

There was the woman, right in the center, who I couldn’t take my eyes off of. In the first songs, tears began to fill her eyes.  After a few songs, she was openly weeping and singing along with a smile on her face.  The music caused something deep inside of her to well up.  I think it might have been joy.

You see, joy and happiness are different.  Happiness comes in times of light and ease.  God’s joy breaks forth in the hard times.  That is the good news of Christmas, into our broken world, in the most unexpected way, God is born.  God’s joy is like streams of living water breaking forth in the desert.  God’s joy is like a baby born in a barn in Bethlehem who is God with us, then, now and forevermore.  It is so unexpected and unimaginable, that it fills us, wells up inside us and overflows into singing.

Let us pray,

Holy one,

You have burst onto the scene when we need you most.  We didn’t expect to see you here, and yet here you are. We are so full and so grateful for your presence that we can’t help but join the angels in singing, “Glory to you, God in the highest, and on earth peace among all people”  Amen


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