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Did this pandemic serve a higher purpose from God? : I know, starting it real deep already and I’m still struggling with this one
What can we learn about humanity and ourselves dealing with quarantines, pandemic fear, and news of death not only in human life but in businesses and other economic hardships?: There’s always something to learn from any situation that life throws at you. But I think one simple answer to this question is that this time has emphasized simplicity in life and the importance of slowing down and appreciating what we are blessed with and letting go of things that weigh us down.
And finally bringing it back to this Walk: what changes have you seen in yourself or in the way you think about being more active over the past few weeks? Have you decided to commit yourself to keeping up with walking or working out more even after the Walk is officially over? If not, why not? consider making it a commitment and see what changes you can make happen. Remember all things are possible in Christ who strengthens us!
So this week’s devotion is not inspired by a devotion from the Bible app but please click on the link below for this Bethlehem Star inspired devotion. Some of you may know that I’m kind of a science nerd and get pretty jacked up and excited about space related things, so I’m really excited about this conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter occurring. I think it’s even cooler that there’s such a neat relationship with the time of Jesus’ birth! To me, seeing this bright star symbolizes hope and I feel like the hope it inspired in the Magi to travel so far away from home can be felt just as strongly today with struggles that this crazy 2020 year has put us through. We can have renewed hope with the vaccines starting to be distributed (I’m getting mine this Wednesday ah thank you) and pray that we can see a decline in the covid virus in the coming year.
It’s a little cloudy today in Va Beach but if it clears up take a look towards the SW horizon approximately 45 min after sunset even tonight to get a chance to see the Bethlehem Star! Otherwise tomorrow 12/21 is slated to be the day that the planets are the closest together. See the link below for more information if you’re interested!
Read Romans 8:32; Psalms 100: 1-5; James 1:17
God’s Track Record
Have you ever played the “what-if” game? This is how you play: you hear some potentially bad news. Then you create “what-if” scenarios based on the potential bad news: “What is potentially the worst thing that can happen? What if this is as bad as I can imagine?”
We turn from being people who follow God, into people who fear everything. Bad outcomes are our expectation. We think Murphy’s Law is a real law: “If anything can go wrong, it will go wrong.”
A single “what-if” question drives this fearful way of life. What if God isn’t good?
Our greatest fight as Jesus followers is in tightening our grip on God. Period. When all voices scream, ‘Panic!,” the fight is to remember that there is a God and He is good!
Check out this description of someone who wins this fight from Psalm 112: 7-8 (ESV): He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord. His heart is steady; he will not be afraid, until he looks in triumph on his adversaries.
One major way to strengthen our grip on God is to check His track record. Remember Israel, God’s people? God brought his people out of Egypt. God preserved them through plagues. God divided the sea.
And that’s just a start. Romans 8:32 tells us, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”
God gave us His son–the ultimate good gift. If He went as far as giving us Jesus, there is no length He won’t go to be good to us. When we feel smothered by the burden of bad news, we must remember Jesus, the ultimate display of God’s goodness.
What if we looked for what God has done, rather than what God is not doing. What if we looked for the progress we are making rather than focusing on the pandemic we are enduring? Let’s do that.
Where do you need to remind yourself of God’s goodness?
Read Luke 1: 46-50
Mary had every right to be scared.
She was young, betrothed, and now told she was pregnant. And to top it all off, the news was delivered by an angel. You know, spiritual beings that tend to terrify people.
As Mary processed the news, we can only imagine what was going through her head. Would her family disown her? Would people in town make assumptions and gossip? Would Joseph believe any of this? Would she be rejected? Disparage? Or Worse?
But the thought Mary chose to settle on wasn’t one of fear but of faith: “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true” (Luke 1:38). Later on, when Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth, the latter says of Mary: “you are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said” (v. 45)
It would be nice to say that our typica; response to fear is always Mary’s response: a song of praise and hopeful expectation. But let’s be real. Fear creeps into our minds and souls like the slow roll of a dark cloud before a storm. How do you respond? Retreat? Isolate? Hold your fear close to your chest and spiral into endless “What ifs”? (I’m guilty of that one fo sho)
Let’s look at Mary’s response. After Mary visited Elizabeth, she turned her attention to God in a song known as the Magnificat (which means “my soul glorifies the Lord”). There are a few things in this song that are helpful as you seek to ground yourself in hope when fear swirls around:
Mary began with praise. The whole song is about singing God’s glory, and though Mary probably had so many questions about what it meant to give birth to the Savior of the world, she opened with rejoicing instead of concern.
Mary remembered her part in God’s story. In verse 48, Mary said: “For he took notice of his lowly servant girl, and from now on all generations will call me blessed.” Mary knew that God was in control; He was the one who created and empowered her. She was His creation, and that reminder allowed Mary to focus on the truth of who she was and who He is. She was reminded that her part of the story was not the end of the story.
Mary Remembered God;s goodness and justice. Mary didn’t just reflect on the blessings God bestowed or the promises He made to Israel; she reflected on how God would also set wrong things back to right (vv. 51-53)
Mary dispelled fear with praise. She put aside insecurity with the truth of who God was, remembering her role in His story. And she looked past concerns of rejection or Gossip, recalling that she served a God of justice.
And because of that, Mary could hope. And so can you.
Thoughts from Heidi:
So in this time of Covid and the continued unsureness and fears of how long will this craziness last, will the vaccine work and how long will it take to distribute, and when will things “get back to normal”; we can look to Mary and how she responded to fear. We can use her response of praise and hope to help calm our fears and worry. Use her reflections of being a blessing to help us discern what blessings have been bestowed on us during this pandemic and how we can use ourselves to be a blessing to others who may need help to see and feel the blessings that God still provides during these trying times. We can continue to have hope that God will set things in this world right and that whatever lessons and outcomes from this global pandemic can be used as a blessing and forever change this world ultimately for the better.
When have you felt overwhelmed by far? How did you respond?
What emotions do you think Mary felt when the angel delivered the news?
How can Mary’s response to God’s news encourage you this Christmas?
Read John 1: 10-14
A Strange Season
A famous Christmas carol, “Oh Holy Night” (and one of my personal favorites), has a lyric that might resonate with you this year: “A thrill of hope! The weary world rejoices.”
As we enter the Advent season, do you feel weary? Don’t worry, you are not alone.
You could even say that being weary and worn out is an acceptable place to approach this Advent season. Advent exists to remind us that, while darkness surrounds us and troubles exist, the hope of Christmas isn’t far away.
It may seem distant. It may even seem impossible this year for you to feel hopeful. You might have lost your job or been furloughed. Or maybe you’re feeling isolated from those you love, especially with holidays that often find us able to be in big family gatherings. You may have even grieved the loss of a family member or friend.
Looking around, all you might be able to see right now is darkness (and I’m not talking about it just getting darker earlier in the evening). It can feel as if you try to adjust your eyes, blinking into the night and there seems to be no light. No stars in the sky to brighten the night sky. The weight of sickness, death, injustice, and pain seems too heavy.
Or maybe you’re just tired. Numb. Ready to pull the covers over your head and try this whole Christmas cheer thing again next year. I literally just made the comment the other day that I just wasn’t feeling it this year, didn’t even want to put up my Christmas tree (I know…blasphemy). Don’t feel guilty. Instead, acknowledged the very real darkness of this world and you’ll have eyes to see Advent through the same lens as the people waiting for a Messiah thousands of years ago,
For 500 years from their last prophet, Malachi, the people of Israel hadn’t heard anything from God about their redeemer. God’s chosen people must have cried out to Him, asking how long it would be before their hope, their salvation, would arrive. It was too dark, and God seemed to be silent. Has He felt that way to you this year?
Though He may have felt far away to them, God was so much closer than His people knew–gently planning Jesus’ entrance into the world in the most unexpected way.
How does this Advent season look different than years past?
Do you find it hard to be patient when waiting on God’s promises? Why or why not?
If you are feeling the weight of the darkness of this world, what’s one small step you can take to start lighting up the night sky with hope this Advent Season?
Many of us wonder why faith matters. In his book, Creed, Adam Hamilton breaks down the Apostles’ Creed into six parts, explaining the fundamentals of faith and why it matters. By exploring the basics of Christian faith together, we hope to grow in our individual and corporate understanding of why what we believe makes a difference in daily living.
We are encouraging everyone who is connected to Thalia UMC to join us in exploring Creed through individual and corporate study. There are a variety of ways to study with a group. Several adult Sunday School classes, in addition to Children’s Sunday School, will be utilizing this resource in conjunction with the worship series. Additionally, Pastor Joe will be teaching the confirmation class with this book for 6 weeks from September 10 – October 15.
The Creed study guide is $13.50 each and can be paid for through the donation link on our website. Books will be ordered by the Church office and made available starting September 3rd.
If you would like to order a book and/or join a Sunday School class, please fill out the registration form below: