Click here for the complete 2020 Advent Reflections online booklet Sunday, December 13th Scriptures: Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11; Luke 1:46b-55; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24; John 1:6-8, 19-28 Pastor Heather Kirk-Davidoff “The Road Is Long to Bethlehem” This Sunday our reflections will focus on Mary who declares, “My soul magnifies the Lord!” What a beautiful image—our souls have the ability to make even the smallest activity of God visible to the world, so that everyone can celebrate Advent! Let these questions guide your reflections before or after worship today: Mary says that God turns things upside down–lifting the lowly and bringing down the powerful. What might that mean for your own life? For the world? What kind of person do you think Mary was? What enabled her to be open to the Advent of God in her life? What has God done in your life that you would like to “magnify”, or praise? Monday, December 14, 2020 Psalm 19 Tim Dodman Reflection of the day: This Psalm prompts me to be aware and appreciative of both the physical and divine environment in which I live. In doing so, I am also reminded of how fortunate and blessed I am. That brings me joy. In my house is a large picture window, providing a panorama to an undeveloped and wooded area not far from a winding, flowing stream. The house is on a hill, elevated and a few yards back from the road. Through this portal we see the magnificent beauty of nature unfold daily, hourly, even every minute, openly displaying an array of fauna, flora, and, of course delightful seasonal changes. Deep green shows in the summer, then comes the magnificent colors in the fall, changing to winter’s snowy white coats on the limbs of the trees, and then to the fresh rainbow of sprouts and sprigs in the spring. All right there. God’s glory and wonder brings me joy every day and all I need to do is look out my window. As this Psalm reminds us, God has many laws, rules, directives, precepts, commandments, etc.. I see this as help, not a hindrance. I’ve been called “a rules kinda guy,” which is understandable since for 30 years I had one employer, Uncle Sam, and, trust me, he has lots of rules. But I chose to see these myriad regulations as instruction and supervision taking me through the processes of making decisions, working out problems, anticipating issues, then preparing for necessary action, accomplishing tasks, and achieving goals. For me the joy was that because of these laws my path was often clearly visible and many obstacles, barriers, and, yes even temptations, were identified, thereby giving me insights to overcome and sometimes avoid complications I might face. Many people had established those edicts and many who worked with me helped me understand them. I knew I wasn’t doing it all alone. Such is God’s word and law. I find joy because His law leads me and helps me do right, reminding me, while I follow I am not alone, because He is always there, just ahead. Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for each day is a blessing from you and each blessing a reminder of the joy I can find in the world around me and in your word and law, which guide me and illuminate the everlasting grace you grant. Tuesday, December 15, 2020 Psalm 30 Sue Barwig Reflection of the day: In 1951, I joined Westminster’s Junior Choir at the tender age of five. I was just learning to read and, while I was starting to learn some arithmetic, I wasn’t yet skilled at finding the hymns posted on the board – especially those on high-numbered pages in the hymnal. “Joy to the World,” for example, was on page 444! My big brother or another “old” kid would help me. What a great start choir gave me for learning and loving hymns and other liturgical music for the rest of my life! What Joy I’ve had in knowing and singing hymns! There are other hymns of Joy, but I chose the example above for two reasons. First, “Joy to the World” was and still is one of my favorite Christmas hymns. Second, this is Advent season when Joy descends upon Christians around the world in anticipation of the birth of Christ – an eager anticipation such as what the shepherds experienced as they hurried to see Jesus in Bethlehem. The Joy candle during this third week of Advent offers a bright light in a time when people are worried for their own and their loved ones’ health, when people are depressed, when people are at risk of losing jobs, when the political atmosphere in our country is contentious, and when some people have lost hope. Despite such circumstances, I know that Joy is possible and Joy is necessary. I must know Joy through God, and only God. This is not the kind of joy I see a child experiencing while opening a Christmas present; this is a Joy that comes from God, and that Joy is my choice. I want to know Joy through Jesus’ arrival, and through the salvation he has given me. Prayer: God, I will praise you forever; bless my heart with sustaining Joy in this Christmas season and always. Amen. Wednesday, December 16, 2020 Psalm 51 Lisa Petter Reflection of the day: “The joy of thy salvation; the comfortable sense of thy saving grace and help, promised and vouchsafed to me, both for my present and everlasting salvation.” – Commentary by Matthew Poole When I think of “comfort and joy” at Christmas, I don’t often think of God’s comforting me as I repent deeply of sin and restoring me to a joyful, “comfortable” sense of being right with God. And yet many Christian traditions observe Advent as a time of fasting and reflection, similar to Lent. We are encouraged to examine our hearts and our lives and turn from anything that might hinder us from experiencing divine joy as we receive God’s greatest gift to us, Jesus, “God with us.” Although there are things we can and should do to repent or “change our minds,” in this Psalm David makes it clear that it is God who brings us to an awareness of our sin, who cleanses us, and who restores our peace. David describes his experiences in terms of the senses. We know that for David, “hearing joy and gladness” at festivals would have meant singing, dancing, eating, and drinking; the aromas of roast meat and incense; and the sights and sounds of throngs of people and animals. This year our joyful celebrations of Christmas may lack many of the sensory experiences we love. Although we’ll be able to see the candles in our beautiful sanctuary and hear the traditional music and singing via Zoom, I’ll miss the warm hugs and greetings, and the sense of being together with the “throngs” of God’s people. But I hope that through our Advent observance, God is leading me to that “comfortable sense of God’s saving grace and help” that is the joy of God’s salvation. Prayer: Dear God, you are already willing and working your good pleasure in us. Help us to turn from anything that hinders our relationship with you or others and renew a joyous spirit within us. Amen. Thursday, December 17, 2020 Psalm 65 Ann Treadway Reflection of the day: My first Advent season at Westminster was not a joyful one. My mother was dying and I was trying to support my father during those sad days for our family. He was a very devout man and the least I could do was come to church with him. These days are sad, too, for everyone, as the Covid-19 pandemic spreads throughout the world and our country. How to find any joy in our lives today? The familiar Christmas hymns can help, I’ve found. The notes and words of “O, Holy Night” and “Joy to the World” are inspiring reminders of Christ’s birth and what that means for Christians all over the world, now and forever. Prayer: Help me, God, to find joy in remembering the birth of that baby in the manger, and what that can mean for me today. Friday, December 18, 2020 Psalm 96 Darhon Rees-Rohrbacher Reflection of the day: When I think of the word “joy,” some of the words of Psalm 96 immediately come to mind: Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it; Let the field exult, and everything in it! Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy before the Lord (NRSV, 1989). We live in a joyous creation, filled with awe and wonder. Astronauts observing the earth from outer space report how our planet “teems with life” when compared with the bleakness of the moon. Earth is filled with countless varieties of plants and animals, as well as vast oceans, painted deserts, sparkling glaciers, breathtaking canyons, and “purple mountain majesties” (Bates, 1911). All of God’s creation vibrates with joy. For me, “joy” is intertwined with “gratitude.” Each day, I am both joyous and grateful that I have a roof over my head, central heating, running water, plenty of food in the house, and clothes in the closet. Even in the midst of the pandemic, I still find joy in these amenities, especially considering how many persons in our world are currently lacking. I frequently remind people how blessed we are in 2020 to have the advantage of technology that allows us to stay connected with others – both at church and within our circle of family and friends – and how we can find joy in that. During the 1918 pandemic, people would have felt far more isolated and joyless; many people did not even have telephones by which they could communicate. A visiting Pastor once began her sermon with the question, “How many of you here consider yourselves to be rich?” My hand shot up immediately, and I said, “I am rich beyond belief!” – and proceeded to list the many ways in which I am wealthy, that have nothing to do with money. The gifts that have been showered upon me in my life have made me very “joyous,” in addition to increasing my quality of life. One of the gifts that has contributed to my greatest joy is that of music. I have been involved in music, in some form, for as long as I can remember. Either listening to or performing beautiful music makes my heart leap for joy. I give thanks to you, Creator God, for your marvelous works and for enriching this planet and our lives with joyous music. Amen. Saturday, December 19, 2020 Psalm 126 Paul Randall Reflection of the day: In my experience joy is a rare gift. Pleasure, satisfaction, even happiness: you can plan for them, create them, anticipate them – marriage, the birth of a child, job satisfaction, a great meal. But joy is a fleeting, ephemeral thing. It comes from beyond, as a moment of grace. One such moment happened for me at our fall vesper service: sitting, at last, in that sacred space; bathed in the sounds of the Skinner organ (Alain, Langlais, Fedak); hearing words of scripture and poetry (Psalms, Ecclesiastes, Rilke). Suddenly, it was a moment of transcendence. It was a moment of joy. But it was not just my joy that night. It was our joy. We were together. Joy is deepened in community. And it was God’s joy. Prayer: Psalm 126 says it perfectly (Glory to God, hymn 74): “When God restored our common life, our hope, our liberty; at first it seemed a passing dream, a waking fantasy; a shock of joy swept over us, for we had wept so long; the seeds we watered once with tears sprang up into a song. … “Great liberating God, we pray for all who are oppressed. May those who long for what is right with justice now be blest. We pray for those who mourn this day, and all who suffer wrong; may seeds they water now with tears spring up into a song.” Amen.