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  • Advent Devotion – Thursday December 6

    December 6, 2018 ~ Carolyn Matthews

    Thursday, December 6, 2018

    Dr. Jennifer W Davidson, Associate Professor of Theology and Worship, American Baptist Seminary of the West, Berkeley, CA



    How we long for Jesus’ coming


    Malachi 3:5-12

    Then I will draw near to you for judgment; I will be swift to bear witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired workers in their wages, the widow and the orphan, against those who thrust aside the alien, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts.

    For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, have not perished. Ever since the days of your ancestors you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts. But you say, “How shall we return?”

    Will anyone rob God? Yet you are robbing me! But you say, “How are we robbing you?” In your tithes and offerings! You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me—the whole nation of you! 10 Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in my house, and thus put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts; see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing. 11 I will rebuke the locust[a] for you, so that it will not destroy the produce of your soil; and your vine in the field shall not be barren, says the Lord of hosts. 12 Then all nations will count you happy, for you will be a land of delight, says the Lord of hosts. (New Revised Standard Version – NRSV)
    See also Luke 1:68–79


    Advent is the season when we feel how desperately we long for Jesus’ coming into our world today. It is a time of searing honesty, of vehement lament, of deep cries, and hopeful longing. In Advent, we tell God that we yearn for God to break into our world now, because we keenly need the healing presence of Christ.

    The scripture from Malachi is gritty but profoundly hopeful. Malachi speaks of God’s judgment and reminds us that God sees what is happening in this world and in this country. The season of Advent says God’s coming is sure. This good news will fill some with hope and others with dread.

    Zechariah’s tongue-tied silence is broken by the song he sings at his son’s naming ceremony. An infant now, John will become a fiery, locust-eating, wilderness-dwelling preacher calling people to repentance. We hear, though, in Zechariah’s song a countermelody that is woven into John’s name and existence: “By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” God’s judgment is also God’s tender mercy. This is the promise; this is our hope.


    God, you fill us with a vision of what you most desire for your beloved world. So fill our hearts with longing for your presence that the heavens themselves open. May your reign of love and tender mercy break through into our most desolate places. We love you. We need you. Guide our feet into the way of peace. Amen.


  • Advent Devotion – Wednesday December 5

    December 5, 2018 ~ Carolyn Matthews

    Wednesday, December 5, 2018

    The Rev. Dr. H. James Hopkins, Sr. Pastor, Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church, Oakland, CA, former chair of the Board of Trustees of American Baptist Seminary of the West, ABSW ‘83


    The prophets challenge us, even during Advent


    Luke 11:29-32

    29 When the crowds were increasing, he began to say, “This generation is an evil generation; it asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah. 30 For just as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so the Son of Man will be to this generation. 31 The queen of the South will rise at the judgment with the people of this generation and condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to listen to the wisdom of Solomon, and see, something greater than Solomon is here! 32 The people of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the proclamation of Jonah, and see, something greater than Jonah is here! (New Revised Standard Version – NRSV)
    Also see: Psalm 90; Isaiah 1:24–31


    I signed up to write today’s reflection before I read the biblical texts. Wow. They are daunting. The psalm reads, “For we are consumed by your anger; by your wrath we are overwhelmed.” In the name of God the prophet proclaims, “I will smelt away your dross as with lye and remove all your alloy.” In the gospel even Jesus’ words carry a tone of warning, “The people of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the proclamation of Jonah, and see, something greater than Jonah is here!”

    Is there any good news in these challenging words? Perhaps. In The Promise of Light, his spiritual autobiography, the late Rod Romney (ABSW 1960) wrestles with this question. “I think the Bible is trying to teach us in purely allegorical terms that God is a consuming fire, but a fire that purifies rather than destroys…a fire that always takes place in us to purify the spirit implanted within. It is that fire that purges us of our sins and restores to us our original divine image.”

    These texts tell us that God takes us seriously, holds us accountable and works to renew us from within. This message may sound a little heavy. Yet, I encourage us not to rush past these texts in search of something “more uplifting” for they do bear witness to the great truth that it God’s intent that God’s final word to us be “Yes.”


    O Mighty God, you know us from beginning to end; while still in our mothers’ womb. You know our struggles with the great gift of free will with which you have embed us. Walking in your way is not always easy for us. We humbly come before you asking your forgiveness. May the awareness of your presence overwhelm us that we might walk with you in these days of uncertainty. Amen.

  • Advent Devotion – Tuesday December 4

    December 4, 2018 ~ Carolyn Matthews

    Tuesday, December 4, 2018

    The Rev. Mylinda Baits, Global Consultant for Training using the Restorative Arts, International Ministries ABCUSA.
    ABSW ‘85


    We’re invited to the home we long for


    Psalm 90:1,12-14

    1 Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations.

    12 Teach us to number our days,
    that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

    13 Relent, Lord! How long will it be?
    Have compassion on your servants.

    14 Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,
    that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.” (New Revised Standard Version – NRSV)


    Imagining the Lord as our dwelling place, our longed for home, gives us the sense that we are invited this Advent to receive and offer radical hospitality. Recognizing that we are welcomed, received and protected by the God of the universe who encompasses all time, allows us to offer welcome and receive the gifts of all who come to us. The visitor, the stranger, the other, like the Christ child has gifts to offer us if we can open our hearts to see them.

    John O’Donohue wrote this intriguing line in his Blessing for a New Home:

    “May you have the eyes to see
    That no visitor arrives without a gift
    And no guest leaves without a blessing.”

    As we number our days, conscious of the frailty of life and the gift that each day, each minute, each breath is, let us offer blessings of joy and gratitude to each one we encounter this week. Be it in our homes, offices, neighborhoods or global communities, may our song, smile, gratitude and blessing be evident so that our friends feel like family and our families feel like friends.


    Gracious God, we give thanks for the grace you extend to us. Your acceptance of us as individuals created in your image is too marvelous for us to behold. Forgive us for sullying your image. May your Spirit enable us to be part of creating a new community of faith in these days. Amen.


  • Advent Devotion – Monday December 3

    December 3, 2018 ~ Carolyn Matthews

    Monday, December 3, 2018 

     The Rev. Carolyn Matthews, Executive Assistant to the President



    Fully Known


    Psalm 90:8-17 

    8 You have set our iniquities before you,
    our secret sins in the light of your countenance.

    9 For all our days pass away under your wrath;
    our years come to an end like a sigh.

    10 The days of our life are seventy years,
    or perhaps eighty, if we are strong;
    even then their span is only toil and trouble;
    they are soon gone, and we fly away.

    11 Who considers the power of your anger?
    Your wrath is as great as the fear that is due you.

    12 So teach us to count our days
    that we may gain a wise heart.

    13 Turn, O Lord! How long?
    Have compassion on your servants!

    14 Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
    so that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.

    15 Make us glad as many days as you have afflicted us,
    and as many years as we have seen evil.

    16 Let your work be manifest to your servants,
    and your glorious power to their children.

    17 Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us,
    and prosper for us the work of our hands—
    O prosper the work of our hands! (New Revised Standard Version – NRSV)


    There is no hiding of who we are before God. It is at the same time scary, sobering, comforting, and perhaps most important of all – freeing. Some of us have learned the fine art of “shifting.” It is a means of not only surviving but attaining and maintaining credibility at work, church, and sometimes at play.

    God sees the real us, who we truly are, and by His love continues to say as at the sixth day of creation, “it is (we are) very good.” God’s love for us never wavers and this time of anticipation of the celebration of the birth of Jesus, reminds us that God makes the impossible, possible, on our behalf. We are reminded, no matter what mold the world wishes to squeeze us into, God frees us to be who He has created and gifted us to be. God’s consistent love, His desire and willingness to make it possible for all to live in relationship with Him, and we each with one another, brings us to this holy time – the time of anticipation and expectation – full of hope and possibility.  “Satisfy us each morning with your unfailing love, so we may sing for joy to the end of our lives.” (Psalm 90:14, NLT)


    Lord, give us a mind and heart to appreciate the life you have given us. We thank you that you free us to be who we are created to be in You. Help us to utilize our gifts and talents that others may know of your unwavering love, grace, and mercy. Amen.