Welcome to Advent as we journey together in anticipation of the arrival of Emmanuel, God-with-us!
Advent is a time in the Christian calendar when we join together in anticipation of the birth of Jesus. It is a time to wonder and hope, to expect and to long for the coming of God’s love and justice into the world. During this time we both look back to the first coming of Jesus, while our hearts are kindled in hope for the final appearing of God’s faithfulness.
This Advent we have chosen to focus on four key characters from the Christmas story: Elizabeth, Joseph, Mary, and Jesus. As you read the different reflections you are invited to find your place in the story. By so doing, it is our hope and prayer that not only will you find your place in God’s good story, but that you will also enter into what the story might have meant for someone like Mary, and in so doing, will be led to reflect on what the story might mean for your neighbors.
Our Advent Devotional offers a daily reflection to enrich your journey as we move through the season together and as we consider the invitation to live into God’s great story, where we learn to love God and our neighbor as ourselves. Each week focuses on one of the key characters, with devotionals written by members of our community from the perspective of the key character for that week, followed by a question for consideration, and ending with a short prayer.
The devotionals reflect the unique ways in which we encounter the promise of the Christmas story, pondering what it means for each of us, for our community, and for our world.
We invite you to join us in re-encountering the great love of God which not only gives joy and peace, but also energizes us to look beyond ourselves to those around us who are also objects of God’s love. Let us continue to become a people of God’s good story, learning from and loving our neighbors together this Advent!
In expectant hope with you,
Rev. Dr. Christian Collins Winn, Teaching Minister
… as you begin this week with Elizabeth
Oh God, in this season of anticipating your arrival, open my heart to hear from you, to encounter your story, to be found by you, that I might be led to love you and my neighbor more deeply. AMEN.
Scripture. Luke 1:5-25, 39-45, and 57-66 (NRSV)
In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly order of Abijah. His wife was a descendant of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. Both of them were righteous before God, living blamelessly according to all the commandments and regulations of the Lord. But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were getting on in years.
Once when he was serving as priest before God and his section was on duty, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and offer incense. Now at the time of the incense offering, the whole assembly of the people was praying outside. Then there appeared to him an angel of the Lord, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was terrified; and fear overwhelmed him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He must never drink wine or strong drink; even before his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit. He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. With the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before him, to turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” Zechariah said to the angel, “How will I know that this is so? For I am an old man, and my wife is getting on in years.” The angel replied, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. But now, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time, you will become mute, unable to speak, until the day these things occur.”
Meanwhile the people were waiting for Zechariah, and wondered at his delay in the sanctuary. When he did come out, he could not speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. He kept motioning to them and remained unable to speak. When his time of service was ended, he went to his home.
After those days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she remained in seclusion. She said, “This is what the Lord has done for me when he looked favorably on me and took away the disgrace I have endured among my people.”
In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”
Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her.
On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him Zechariah after his father. But his mother said, “No; he is to be called John.” They said to her, “None of your relatives has this name.” Then they began motioning to his father to find out what name he wanted to give him. He asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And all of them were amazed. Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue freed, and he began to speak, praising God. Fear came over all their neighbors, and all these things were talked about throughout the entire hill country of Judea. All who heard them pondered them and said, “What then will this child become?” For, indeed, the hand of the Lord was with him.