Reading: Ephesians 1: 1-14 (Click to read text)
Reflection: Our passage for today reminds us that we are heirs to God's kingdom by virtue of God's adopting us as God's children. This Christmas season, I've thought a lot about the fact that Jesus was born to earthly parents. In essence, Jesus had two dads. And he was born to a "surrogate" mother. Sometimes, as we get caught up with the Christmas story, we need to remind ourselves that this was God's child and was adopted into an earthly family.
Conversely, as we come into the world with earthly parents, we are also adopted into God's family through our baptism. Christmas is a great time for us to remember that adoption and to remember our baptism. Let us know forget that just as we are heirs to God's kingdom and share in Christ's death and resurrection, we also share in His birth. So this Christmas season, don't forget to celebrate your adoption day! --Chad Hershberger, Camp Mount Luther Director
Closing: Watch this video of the song, "Some Children See Him" and reflect on your own baptism.
Reading: Jeremiah 37: 7-14 (Click to read text)
Reflection: Singing is a big part of my Advent and Christmas celebration. I love the music this time of year. I'm always anxious when we hit November to get out my Christmas CDs and fill the iPod with my Christmas playlists. I do try to wait until after Thanksgiving to start playing them, though. I don't want to rush the season!
Christmas music is one way that I feel we can spread the good news of Jesus' birth. There are so many hymns and songs that are played on the radio that share the story with others. So many of the carols we hear this time of year are so familiar that we can sing them without words.
Jeremiah reminds us that we should sing aloud with gladness. It is this time of year that perhaps we do that the most. I know I'll be singing to the tunes of the season in my car until Epiphany is here! --Chad Hershberger, Camp Mount Luther Director
Closing: Watch this video from Handel's New Young Messiah.
Reading: John 1: 1-18 (Click to read text)
Reflection: A lot of our faith is based on incomprehensible truths. Isn't it something to think that God's Word became flesh through Jesus Christ? Isn't it something what John said when he remarked, "He comes after me, but He is greater than I am because He existed before I was born?" Through God's grace we have been blessed. God's love is unconditional; it has no strings attached. And once we are His chosen people, we will remain God's people forever. What was in the beginning is now and ever shall be! Praise be to God! --Chad Hershberger, Camp Mount Luther Director
Closing: Watch this video of a musical performance of this text.
Reading: Luke 2: 21-40 (Click to read text)
Reflection: Can you imagine Simeon's delight that day? I'm sure in his heart he was celebrating! He made quite the memory the day that he saw Jesus.
Close your eyes. Around you the smell of a freshly cut Christmas tree is only overpowered by the aroma of a turkey dinner cooking in the kitchen. This morning, the sounds of children opening gifts from Santa overpowered the beautiful strains of familiar carols playing on the radio. As you look at your surroundings, your heart is warmed by the sight of family and friends gathered to celebrate the holiday with you. It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Christmas is when we all once again learn that it is truly in the giving we receive; when the cold outdoors is forgotten as we feel the warmth of those around us who are truly in a spirit that unfortunately usually only lasts a month or so. When we meet the young Jesus!
Often, I am transported back to the days of old when I see, hear, or smell something familiar. When I see old friends, I remember the times that we spent, doing wild and crazy things, sharing our lives. When I hear a certain song on the radio, I remember those old high school days when my biggest worry was what I got on my calculus test. And, when I smell a home-cooked turkey dinner, I remember Christmases of old, sitting on dad’s lap listening to “The Night Before Christmas,” not being able to sleep early Christmas morning, and tearing open packages that were magically placed under the tree.
May you make some memories this holiday season. It truly is the most wonderful time of the year! –Chad Hershberger, Camp Mount Luther Director
Closing: Watch this video of the Andy Williams' song, "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year."
Reading: Luke 2: 1-20 (Click to read text)
Reflection: Today’s the day! Jesus Christ is born! Having experienced the birth days of my two children, I know how exciting the day a new baby is born. But unlike Mary and Joseph, I enjoyed the day in a hospital room, with nurses and doctors taking care of the little one and a hospital staff that took care of other needs for me.
I love telling the birth story of my children. And, I like to remember birthdays past of my own. On this day, as we celebrate Jesus’ birthday, perhaps you could share your most memorable birthday to date. What made that day so special?
You might even bake a birthday cake for Jesus or sing the song, “Happy Birthday to You.” That song was written by two schoolteachers in the late 1800s. It has a copyright that isn’t set to expire until after 2030, and it brings in over two million dollars of royalties every year. Imagine how the families of those two teachers feel about their loved ones accomplishment!
As you read and reflect on the nativity story today, think about you can spread the message of Jesus to others. Just as those schoolteachers did, you can leave a legacy for others by telling them about the tiny baby born in the town of Bethlehem. Merry Christmas to you and your family! --Chad Hershberger, Camp Mount Luther Director
Closing Prayer: In the stillness of this day, Lord, help me to feel the joy of the birth of your son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Reading: Galatians 4: 4-7 (Click to read text)
Reflection: It's here. The end of our Advent journey. It's Christmas Eve. I was thinking just the other day that I think Christmas Eve is my favorite day of the year. I like Christmas Day, but the events of the day before just resonate with me. Gathering with family in anticipation, attending church, and finalizing plans for the big day give me a heart filled with hope, love, and joy.
It might seem strange to read a passage from Galatians on Christmas Eve. This is one of the texts assigned to this coming Sunday, the first Sunday of Christmas. And it reminds us that Jesus came right when God wanted him to. Our passage opens with these words: "But when the fullness of time had come, God sent His son...."
And now, it is time to celebrate that coming. As you gather with family in anticipation, attend church, and finalize plans today, may you have a heart filled with hope, love, and joy. Jesus is coming! --Chad Hershberger, Camp Mount Luther Director
Reading: Micah 5: 2-5a (Click to read text)
Reflection: It’s really close now. Tomorrow night is Christmas Eve. As we approach the next 36 hours or so, Micah calls us to humility. Micah tells a people in great distress that their “Shepherd-King” comes to them not from Jerusalem, the place of power and prestige, but Bethlehem, a little-known town in an out-of-the-way district. Or to put it in contemporary terms, we look not to Washington but to Swengel.
Salvation comes to Israel not in a warrior but a shepherd. Our salvation comes not in a warrior, or king, or president, or Wall Street, or bank-to-big-to fail, or ourselves … but in one who comes to serve-- “the one of peace.” May the humble Christ who emptied himself bless you deeply. --Jim Bricker, Chaplain to the Camp Mount Luther Summer Staff
Closing Prayer: O Lord God, you know that we cannot place our trust in our own powers. As you sent and protected the infant Jesus, so defend us and the needy from harm and adversity.
Reading: Isaiah 61:10-62:3 (Click to read text)
Reflection: Christmas is just days away. What are you dreaming about? Gathering with family and friends, gifts given and received, worship and wonder…all dreams of those who have waited through the weeks of Advent. Our minds are still a flurry with planning and preparing and we look toward the peace of the actual day of Christmas finally here – ready or not.
Yet, in the midst of the joys of this season, nightmarish things are happening in our communities, our country and our world; sometimes even in our own homes and friendships. Before we despair with, “What is our world coming to?”, let us remember Isaiah’s message which can mean as much to us today as it did to the Israelites so long ago.
Isaiah gives us a glimpse of things to come when all our best dreams will come true. Isaiah describes a new beginning, a time of final triumph and peace. In that day, there will be no need for tears. The prophet’s words are so purposeful and powerful, Old Testament Isaiah is quoted in New Testament Revelation and some phrases are used in common language still today – (“beat their swords into plowshares”).
We dream of a time of peace, without pain or fear or disease or death. Isaiah assures us that one day those dreams will come true. What would you most like to see changed about your world? May the celebration of the birth of Jesus be a beginning of your dream being fulfilled. --Ruth Gates, Camp Mount Luther Family Camper
Reading: Isaiah 61: 10- 62: 3 (Click to read text)
Reflection: This passage, for the first Sunday of Christmas, reminds us to rejoice in the Lord. To me, that means for this time of year to show joy at the birth of Christ.
How do you do that? In what ways this week will you show joy that Jesus comes to us in a manger as a baby? Perhaps it will be through your singing, or in service to another, or in giving gifts. Whatever it may be, this is the week to show joy. Joy to the World! --Chad Hershberger, Camp Mount Luther Director
In this most holy of weeks, we present an extra devotional for your Fourth Sunday in Advent
Reading: Isaiah 42: 10-18
Reflection: At this time of the Advent season many people are tired of hearing all the Christmas music, and it is not even Christmas yet. The radio stations have been playing it for so long that by the day after Christmas they stop. Don’t they realize that there are twelve days of Christmas? I am pretty sure they have that song somewhere in their collections. I think all the Christmas music helps me get in the mood and helps me celebrate. I personally could listen to Christmas music all year long. I have enough Christmas music that I never have to listen to the same CDs over and over again. In fact sometimes when I pack away my Christmas music I still have some CDs that I have not listened to.
As we read Isaiah 42:10-18 we hear about singing to the Lord a new song. We are to praise him to the ends of the earth. As the verses continue on there is a lot of praising, singing, and joy! We are to give glory to God. Christmas is a great time to sing out. Even if you are tired of hearing Christmas music I say let it ring out! Music is a way that can truly give you the feeling of the season. It is a way the whole world can celebrate Jesus’ coming. As I just heard in a child’s Christmas song by David Huntsinger; “All of the earth and all of heaven rejoice, sing and rejoice! Shout for joy, heaven and earth. Celebrate the Savior’s birth. All of the earth and all of heaven rejoice, sing and rejoice!” The angels are going to sing out their Glorias to the Lord. Let us join them in lifting our voices. Let us sing and rejoice! --Charlene Rineer, Camp Mount Luther Assistant Director
Reading: Acts 28: 23-31
Reflection: The Book of Acts ends with these words: “(Paul) lived (in Rome) two whole years at his own expense and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.”
We are just six days from the Christmas. Many folks can’t wait for the big day to come. The children were nestled all snug in their beds, While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads. Sugar-plums, I’m sure, have been replaced with far more expensive visions. Parents are ready to relax from all the shopping, decorating, wrapping … Merchants who have been hawking their holiday wares since before Halloween are looking forward to watching more stuff move out of their stores. Clergy…well let’s just say that December 26 is really a great day!
It still amazes me that so many people who are not practicing Christians get swept up in this Christmas thing and celebrate the day along with more devout persons. Some even go to church on Christmas Eve, others celebrate Christmas without worshipping. It is so easy for some to celebrate Christmas without celebrating the Nativity of Our Lord. It is really about Emmanuel—God with us. It saddens me that so many people miss that.
I encourage you in the week that is left before we begin our Christmas celebration to do two things. First, praise God for choosing to live among us. Secondly, join with St. Paul in, “proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness.” And it really isn’t all that difficult. Instead of saying “good-bye” or “see ya’” use “The Lord be with you.” That’s not too tough, is it? Maybe your friends, family or even the stranger will respond. “And also with you.” “Yea, you, too.” And even if they are dumbfounded and silent, they will be alerted that you want them to have the best Christmas ever. --Jim Bricker, Chaplain to Camp Mount Luther's Summer Staff
Reading: Luke 1: 39-56 (Click to read text)
Reflection: This is an alternative text for this Sunday. You probably have heard the song that Mary sings set to music. In fact, the hymn, "Canticle of the Turning" is based on this passage. Mary goes to Elizabeth and the baby in her womb leaps for joy because of Mary. And Mary responds with gratitude toward God.
This story also tells us that Mary spent a whole trimester with Elizabeth. In today's world, having a relative stay with you for three months sounds unusual. But I bet in those times, it was not unusual. And, I bet Elizabeth enjoyed having Mary with her for that time. Can you imagine two pregnant women, staying up late at night, sharing stories and getting ready for babies? Although I'm sure Elizabeth never made Mary paint the nursery.
For me, this story does paint a picture of what it is like to wait for Jesus. As we wait, show gratitude. Spent time with loved ones. Share stories of Christmases past. Be filled with the Holy Spirit. --Chad Hershberger, Camp Mount Luther Director
Reading: Romans 16: 25-27 (Click to read text)
Reflection: Shortly after Thanksgiving, my daughter and I went and bought a few Christmas gifts for her to give to her mom and brother. She is excited to give these gifts to her family and almost daily, this almost-five-year-old comes up to me and whispers in my ear, "I didn't tell mom about the presents." She has been keeping this secret for over two weeks now, and I bet she'll make it the last 10 days until she can reveal what she picked out to put under the tree for them.
Advent, in addition to being a season of hope, is also a season of secrets. We buy gifts for loved ones and keep it quiet until Christmas Day. And, in this appointed text for today, we are reminded that the arrival of Jesus is a secret. There was a period of darkness in history. And then, on a quiet night in Bethlehem, the mystery of God's plan was revealed as a little baby was born. He was the one that would save the world.
Just as God gave us hints through the prophets, you may give hints about the gifts you give this year. And, all will be revealed on Christmas Day. As you keep secrets this season, take time to remember the secret that God revealed in a manger so long ago. --Chad Hershberger, Camp Mount Luther Director
Reading: 2 Samuel 7: 1-11, 16 (Click to read text)
Reflection: David, lowly shepherd turned king, is realizing while he is living in a palace of cedar, the ark of God was still in a tent. Something must be done about this! So he tells Nathan his plan. David's plan, you see. Commendable but not what God had in mind as it often is with our grandiose ideas compared to God's whose ways are higher than ours no matter how hard we try.
So God, through Nathan, gives David this gentle reminder, "Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in? I have not dwelt in a house to the day I brought the Israelites up out of Egypt to this day." Final answer on the matter, Nathan explains, "The LORD declares to you that the LORD himself will establish a house for you."
I have listened to the pipe organ in Notre Dame cathedral in Paris on Holy Thursday. I have worshiped in the woods of Camp Mount Luther on a midsummer evening. One took centuries to build. One was an apple orchard less than a hundred years ago. God is there; God is here. Emmanuel: God with us. Thanks be to God. Amen. --Ruth Gates, Camp Mount Luther Family Camper
Occasionally, we will reprint prior devotions that now reflect on the coming lectionary texts. This is a reprint from a devotion originally published on December 1, 2013.
Reading: Luke 1: 26-38 (Click to read text)
Reflection: As we prepare for another Christmas season, I am reminded of angels. It was the angel Gabriel who told Mary that she would bear Christ. Angels later proclaimed His birth to shepherds abiding in the fields by night. We are told of angels in many of the carols we sing this time of year: Angels we have heard on high, sweetly singing over the plains by signing, “Gloria in excelisis deo;” the first Noel, the angel did say “Born is the king of Israel;” angels from the realms of glory telling us to come and worship the newborn king.
I’m sure Mary and the shepherds were quite surprised and afraid when the angel came into their life. We would be, too, if that happened to us today. But as have seen, angels tell good news from God that lasts for generations. –-Chad Hershberger, Camp Mount Luther Director
Prayer: Dear God, help us to dream and to live in hope in you as we think of all the possibilities in our lives. Like Joseph, help us to see more clearly the plan you have for our lives. Amen.
Reading: Psalm 126 (Click to read text)
Stop and GROW: After reading the text, discuss/ponder the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's Book of Faith questions, which are part of Camp Mount Luther's GROW Time with campers.
QUESTION 1: What scares, confuses, challenges, or doesn’t make sense to me in this text?
QUESTION 2: What delights me in this text or is my favorite part of the story?
QUESTION 3: What stories or memories does this text stir in me?
QUESTION 4: What is God up to in this text?
Reflection: This text seems out of place for Advent to me. Granted, it is reminding us to go forth with shouts of joy, and the Advent/Christmas/Epiphany seasons are all about that. I was reminded of that recently when I read another devotional writing about the hymn, “Good Christian Men Rejoice.”
The first verse of this passage struck me. It says, “When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream.” That reminded me of some weird dreams I’ve had lately. It seems it has been old home week in my dreams. I dreamed that we had a “redo” of my high school graduation, nearly 25 years later; that we were trying to persuade a high school classmate to move back to the state to run for political office; and I ran into an old friend in another dream, who was visiting from England, and we ran into a bear.
When we dream, both in our sleep and when we are awake, the possibilities are endless. And the hope of those possibilities is a perfect message for Advent. When the angel came to Joseph, he was presented with new possibilities, which changed his life (and ours) forever.
So, dream away! As we close out another year and look forward to the next, the world is your oyster. And God will have a hand in those possibilities. --Chad Hershberger, Camp Mount Luther Director
Reading: Isaiah 64:1 (Click to read text)
Reflection: What do oak leaves have to do with Advent? Absolutely nothing . . . and everything . . . depending on your perspective. As I was reading the scriptures for this Sunday, this verse from Isaiah 64:1 struck me: “O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence . . .” As Christians, we often look for “signs” - and sometimes we expect God to hit us over the head with them! But our heavenly Father does not always come to us in the ways we expect. And sometimes, we simply do not see what is right in front of us.
In I Kings, Elijah is facing some seemingly insurmountable challenges and is about to give up. But the Lord told him to stand on the mountain, and that He would pass by: “Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart . . . but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper . . .” (I Kings 19:11b-12)
This reminds me of my own recent experience. My husband, Jamie, and I had planned to purchase grave plots soon so that our children would not have to worry about it. But with his untimely passing, the task fell to me. My son, Elliot, offered to go with me to find a final resting place for Jamie. But when we went to choose grave plots, nothing seemed right to us. Then I remembered that the woman in the office had mentioned there were a few plots available by the Civil War circle. Remembering that Jamie had always loved history, we decided to look at those, and after a few minutes standing there, they just "felt" right.
A week or two after Jamie was buried, I visited the grave site and sat and talked with him. It felt so very peaceful there, almost uncannily so. A few days later, I returned and sat and talked with him some more. But this day it was quite windy and the leaves had begun to fall from the trees. I noticed for the first time that oak leaves were scattered around and on his grave, and entwined in the flowers that lay there. I smiled as I thought how the oak leaf is a symbol of strength and perseverance. Have you ever noticed that an oak leaf will cling to the branches long after all the other trees have shed their leaves? Sometimes an oak leaf will even remain on the tree until the following spring.
I felt the ring that hung around my neck and looked down at the ring that I wore on my own finger. About a year and a half ago, we had decided to splurge and buy each other matching oak leaf rings. Jamie had lost his wedding band years before and this always bothered him. We were coming up on 20 years of marriage and had come through so much together that it only seemed fitting that we commemorate it with these rings as a symbol of our own strength and perseverance – and as a symbol of God’s unfailing presence and love. Jamie especially loved the rings because he himself had been the last person left at the Reed Hann Litho plant before the business closed its doors for good - just like that oak leaf in the spring. And just as spring is a symbol of new birth, he walked out of that job and into a new beginning at Ralph Alberts Company.
It was then that God opened my eyes and I saw that He had led us to that very spot. The Lord did not come to me in a dramatic way, but in the still, soft whisper of the falling leaves. He was speaking to me on that day through that oak tree, reminding me that He is with us to give us strength, and just as our family had come through so much together, He would see us through this, too.
As I thought about this, I remembered how Jamie had always picked up pretty leaves in the fall and tenderly handed them to me as "gifts" and I imagined that he had collected all the leaves on his grave especially for me. I scooped up a handful of them and took them home to remind me of his love for me, and to remind me that life is filled with blessings if only we will allow ourselves to see the signs. We don't always see the blessings clearly, but God opens our eyes to them when the time is right.
Where are the oak leaves in your life this Advent? As we enter the season of Hope, let us remember that the King of Kings did not come with great fanfare but rather as a humble child born in a stable. And as we set about the busyness of the season, may we seek some quiet time to allow the Lord to open our hearts and our minds to receive the simple blessings that come to us in the stillness as signs of His unfailing love - and look forward with joy to the precious gift of His Son to our waiting world. (Oh, by the way . . . most of the trees in the cemetery are maples.) --Kathy Wither, Messiah Lutheran Church, South Williamsport
Reading: I Thessalonians 5: 16-24 (Click to read text)
Reflection: The summer before my daughter was born, I became interested in learning more about the Watergate era. Through watching movies like Frost/Nixon and All the President’s Men, and through reading more about this era in American history, I grew a fascination with President Gerald Ford. I’ve done a lot more reading about Ford then and have visited his presidential museum in Michigan twice.
To me, Ford epitomizes what can be good about politics. He had his views, but was willing to put aside personal gain for the betterment of the country. He was willing to work with both political parties to try to achieve stability and wholeness after the brokenness created during the Nixon Administration.
When Ford took office after Richard Nixon’s resignation, he told the country that “Our long national nightmare is over.” For some reason that statement came to mind as I was pondering Advent. The season of Pentecost is long and I think that we can become complacent during Ordinary Time. Please don’t mistake my line of thinking, though. Pentecost is not a nightmare, but can be long (and maybe somewhat boring) for church folks at time.
Then, bam!, it’s time for Advent. Advent brings with it new beginnings of a church year and the anticipation and hope of the Christ child. Who doesn’t like getting ready for a little baby? The years that my wife was pregnant during the Advent season always gave me a little appreciation for the roles of Mary and Joseph and gave me a greater feeling of anticipation. It’s actually why I think I got interested in the early 1970s when we were expecting child #1. That was the time when I was born and I think I wanted to get reconnected and acquainted to what was happening when I was coming into this world and shortly after.
Our reading for today also reminds me that it is good to have new beginnings. We can do that at any time, to re-ground ourselves in God. We are reminded of the important things to being faithful in this passage:
· Rejoice always
· Pray without ceasing
· Give thanks in all circumstances
· Do not quench the Spirit.
· Do not despise the words of prophets, but test everything
· Hold fast to what is good
· Abstain from every form of evil.
And those important things are followed by a reminder that God is faithful, too. “May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this.”
Any season is a good time to be reminded of these words, not just at Advent! --Chad Hershberger, Camp Mount Luther Director
Reading: Isaiah 61: 1-4, 8-11 (Click to read text)
They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated… (v. 4a)
Reflection: This past summer, the X-Teen senior high campers spent a couple days cleaning up an area of camp that was damaged by heavy rains and strong winds a few years back. The Blacksnake worship site had become unusable with storm debris everywhere as well as inaccessible because of a large tree that took out the bridge crossing the creek. Small branches and brush were moved into piles. Trunks were cut, hauled and set up to become new benches facing the cross and stone altar. A fire ring area was cleared and more tree trunk benches rolled into place around it. Large limbs were cut, split and stacked for future campfires. A new bridge was constructed and the path will become cleared again as campers return there for worship!
…so the Sovereign LORD will make righteousness and praise spring up before the nations. (v. 11b)
Prayer: Dear God, in all we do, may we be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of (your) splendor. (v. 3b)
--Ruth Gates, Camp Mount Luther Family Camper
Reading: John 1: 6-8, 19-28 (Click to read text)
Reflection: Anna sings to the children in the musical The King and I: “Getting to know you, getting know all about you.” It’s a tender song, which we’ll talk about later, and you can watch it here:
Last Monday we dealt with John the Baptist’s ministry in the Gospel of Mark. Today, we hear part of St. John’s treatment of the Baptist’s ministry. In both accounts John points away from himself to Jesus. He calls folks to pay attention to Jesus. In today’s reading we hear the Baptists describe Jesus as “one whom you do not know.” Let’s think about that for a moment.
Reading: Micah 4: 8-13
Reflection: Watch any cheesy Christmas movie, and you’ll be reminded that Christmas is the season of hope. Movie characters are able to overcome obstacles, receive needed help, and watch their dreams come true (cue the fake snowfall). What those movies either ignore or what viewers ignore is the waiting that can be involved with the hoping and praying process. Micah speaks of hope for the Israelites “…you will go to Babylon and there you will be rescued. The Lord will redeem you out of the hands of your enemies…” Yay!!! Finally the Jews who have been oppressed and enslaved much throughout history will get some relief! One little problem, a few verses later in our passage, Micah says “…But they do not know the thoughts of the Lord; they do not understand his plan…” The Israelites had to wait for a LONG time. They were given hope, but also told they had to keep waiting. In Spanish the words “to wait” and “to hope” have the same root, esperar, with only context determining the difference. The words “hoping” and “waiting” are so intertwined that many times even in English they can be substituted for each other. Throughout the Old Testament the Israelites faced problem after problem and prayed for guidance or rescue. While they sometimes received speedy answers, frequently they had to wait and hope for their prayers to be answered.
This Christmas season as we remember the hope that birth of the Jesus brought to many people; consider how long before the birth that people were hoping and waiting. As you are frustrated when prayers seem to go unanswered, remember that God's plans are sometimes different from your plans and that many times messages of hope require some waiting. --Maria Kuba, Camp Mount Luther Summer Staff
Reading: 2 Peter 3: 1-18 (Click to read text)
Reflection: Christmas is coming, and everyone is busy with preparations. Some days we need more time, and we stress over all that we have to do. We think that we will never get everything done that we “need” to accomplish. Then on the other hand we are anxious for Christmas to come, and are hoping for it to get here soon.
As we look at 2 Peter 3:1-18 they are sort of in the same dilemma. They are anxious for the Lord to return, but they have a whole lot of ministry that they need to do before that can happen. The writer of the letter tells us that God’s time is different than our time. “One day is like a thousand years.” Therefore we need to be patient and be at peace. We should just take it one day at a time and do our best with the time we have. We are to continue to grow in our faith through grace. Jesus is coming and we can never be totally prepared, but we can strive to do our best and be our best.
Luckily for us we know the true meaning of Christmas, and that the Lord is coming back so we can celebrate Christmas in a huge way. That huge way does not need all the trappings of the season. That huge way can be in our hearts and with worship. As we move towards Christmas maybe we can share our time with others since we know the truth. Have patience and be at peace! --Charlene Rineer, Camp Mount Luther Summer Assistant Director
Reading: Psalm 85: 1-2, 8-13 (Click to read text)
Reflection: The Psalmist prays: Let me hear what God the Lord will speak.” When I read that I immediately recalled the congregational response to Sunday intercessions at my home church: When you speak, O God, Help us to listen. As we speak in prayer we ask that we will hear God speaking. In prayer, we speak trusting that God is listening. In prayer, we need also to expect that God answers. So, the response that Pastor Bovendam wrote for Trinity Church is really helpful: "As we speak our prayer to you, O God, help us to listen to what you have to say to us."
Hear some of what God has to say to the Psalmist and us:
For he will speak peace to his people.
Surely his salvation is at hand.
Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet;
Righteousness and peace will kiss each other.
Are you glad to hear God speak those words and bestow those gifts? What other graces does God speak? Do we hear God speak those gifts? It is good that we are helped to hear and receive those gifts.
Let’s use the prayer response as our mantra for today that we may hear all that God speaks.
When you speak, O God,
Help us to listen.
--Jim Bricker, Chaplain to Camp Mount Luther’s Summer Staff
Reading: Isaiah 40:1-11 (Click to read text)
Reflection: Who can read this passage without singing the opening to Godspell? Maybe you can even hear the blowing of the ram’s horn. What in heaven’s name is that sound and why is it starting a musical? Read the passage again with other tunes in mind and you realize how much of Handel’s Messiah comes straight from the first eleven verses Isaiah chapter 40. From classic to contemporary and perhaps a few hymns or camp songs in between, these verses have comforted many through the ages.
Oh, but let us not forget the original audience of this prophecy, God’s Chosen People. The Jews were surviving tough times and needed the prophet’s message of hope. The first word: Comfort. The comfort will come through God’s arrival and the people are to prepare the way of the LORD. Cue the ram’s horn and start singing again. This is what comfort sounded like a couple thousand years ago.
What does comfort sound like now? This passage hits home today as a family and our community are surviving tough times as a young person was lost. There were words of hope in Facebook posts, Twitter messages, video clips and even a song on YouTube. How hard we prayed he would find his way back. How much we believed he would be fed, gathered, carried and gently led home. Somehow though, there is comfort in knowing there was, is and always will be Love for him, his family and all who are in sorrow.
--Ruth Gates, Camp Mount Luther Family Camper
Prayer: Comfort, O comfort all your people. Amen
Reading: Mark 1:1-8 (Click to read text)
Reflection: This dates me a little, but in my opinion no one is better at the late-night TV thing than Johnny Carson was. Every once in a while I catch some reruns of Carson’s clips on TV or just go on line to watch some. I always laugh--even at routines I remember. Ed McMann, the co-host had a marvelous way of introducing Carson: Heeeeeeeeeeeeeere’s Johnny!
Mark begins his gospel rather bluntly, The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. And then he immediately turns to John the Baptist: Heeeeeere’s Johnny. Lots of folks were attracted to John. They confessed their sins and were baptized by him. But here is the really important thing. John immediately points to Jesus. Dare I do it? Heeeeeere’s Jesus! Actually John doesn’t name Jesus. He describes him: “more powerful than I,” “he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
Ed McMann was a great announcer. He introduced Carson every night with an excitement that set up the whole show. John the Baptist was a great announcer, too. He introduced Jesus to people so that they would pay attention and see what this person was all about.
What do you think about your role as an announcer? As one who points away from yourself to Jesus? One who tells folks how important Jesus is. One who can describe the relationship Jesus has with you. And does it in such a way that people want to stick around and experience more. Perhaps today we can be a little more aware that through our lives and words we are introducing Jesus to the folks around us. And when we get the opportunity, let’s not be afraid to name Jesus. --Jim Bricker, Chaplain to Camp Mount Luther’s Summer Staff
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