The Spirit Calendar
A Weekly Devotional from the Connecticut Conference United Church of Christ
December 19, 2016
This week's author is Emily McKenna, Office Manager for the Connecticut Conference, UCC.
Scripture: Luke 2:7 (NRSV)
And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
Perhaps you've experienced what I have in this convoluted year, and the Christmas season has snuck up on you like a sibling playing a prank. After I had consumed the last of the stuffing and sweet potato leftovers from Thanksgiving, I asked myself, "Where am I even going to put Christmas?!" Our apartment was a mess, and even more clutter was strewn in our heads as we continued to process the news from November. It just didn't feel like Christmas yet, it simply seemed too far away.
I remembered a text from my mom that she had sent me a few weeks earlier, just after the election. "Put your tree up, honey. It'll make you feel better."
She was probably right, but I had been waiting to retrieve our 20+ year old, 7-foot green creature from the attic until I had cleared enough space to put it. (If you'd ever like to hear my rant about why I prefer an artificial tree, let me know!)
So, inspired by my Mom (who typically catches the Christmas spirit somewhere around October 1st ), I cleaned our apartment, I ventured into the attic, and I put up the tree.
I was surprised though, because while the finished tree does bring me joy, what truly made me feel better and more ready for Christmas was the process of clearing space for it. My cluttered head had led to a cluttered home, and I didn't realize how much that was cluttering my heart. I needed to make space.
It's possible that you're like my mom, who is singing carols and dusting off the Advent wreath before its Halloween. I admire that kind of joyous anticipation. If this year you're like me, and you need a nudge to get you in the spirit of Christmas, let this be your nudge! We still have a few days before Christmas officially arrives. I invite you to find your clutter, whether it resides in your head, on your desk, in your home or in your heart, and move it. Mary made space for Jesus in the manger, she found a way. You can find a way to make your own clear path too, and maybe just in time, Christmas will fill your heart.
Free us from the things that keep us distracted, foggy, worried, and worn. Help us to renew our hearts and minds to make space for the Christ child who was born in your love. Let us celebrate not only your grace but also the moments in which we allow ourselves to see you. Be with us as we rejoice this Christmas, and let the spaces we've cleared for you grow stronger as this year ends.
Special Prayer Requests:
- the Rev. Da Vita McCallister, Associate Conference Minister for Leadership & Vitality, who is recovering from surgery on Dec. 16, and her family, as her father enters hospice care; and
- those who experience pain and despair rather than joy at the coming of Christmas.
- those grieving or suffering after a bombing in Cairo, Egypt killed 24 Christians who were attending Mass on December 11;
- those grieving or suffering after a fire destroyed a warehouse in Oakland, CA, killing more than 30 people who were attending a party inside the building;
- the family and friends of Rev. Robert Fichtner, retired UCC pastor, who died on November 25;
- hose suffering or grieving after an attack at Ohio State University left 1 dead and several injured on November 28;
- those grieving or suffering after a bus caring 37 children crashed in Tennessee leaving 6 children dead and many others injured on November 21;
- those grieving or injured after a shooting in New Orleans left 1 dead and 9 injured on November 27;
- those in law enforcement after 4 separate shootings on November 20 left 3 officers injured and 1 dead;
- those grieving in India after a train derailment left more than 140 dead on November 20;
- the people of Iraq impacted by the renewed fighting in and around the city of Mosul where Iraqi forces are trying to retake control of the city from ISIS;
- Rev. M. John Arens, Pastor of the New Preston Congregational Church, who had surgery on June 28;
- The Rev. Sara Smith, pastor of United Congregational Church of Bridgeport, and her sister Ellen, who is recovering from a stroke;
- Rev. Kelly Hough Rogers, Associate Pastor of the Norfield Congregational Church in Weston, whose parents were involved in a tragic car accident. Kelly’s father, Wallace, has died and her mother, Janet, is hospitalized;
- Michael White, former Operations Manager at Silver Lake Conference Center, who was diagnosed with colon cancer;
- Juliane Silver, the daughter of the Rev. Jim Silver of Middletown, who is in dire need of a liver transplant. We pray that a donor will come forward giving the gift of life and a portion of their liver to Juliane;
- Chacy Eveland, husband of the Rev. Marcia Eveland, pastor of the First Congregational Church UCC of Ansonia, who has been moved to a full-time facility for care of dementia;
- the Rev. Mary Nelson, South Central Regional Minister of the Connecticut Conference, whose brother is recovering from surgery;
- Alisia Selders, daughter of Bishop John Selders, pastor of Amistad UCC in Hartford, in a new round of treatment for cancer;
- the thousands of migrants worldwide who flee from violence and persecution in search of safety;
- our ecumenical partners in the Kyung-Ki Presbytery in South Korea;
- the Conference's partners working for peace in Colombia amidst violence;
- the leaders of this nation, that they may meet the challenges of the day with insight, wisdom, and compassion;
- this nation, that it may continue its difficult work to end the practices of racism;
- those suffering due to the ongoing financial woes of the nation, be they struggling to meet an unaffordable mortgage, seeking employment, or working to find just resolutions; and
- those serving or living in war or conflict zones around the world, or where terrorists have struck.
To be added to the prayer list, please send an email to Drew Page at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please Remember These Connecticut Conference Churches
In Your Prayers:
Saugatuck Congregational UCC
Alison Buttrick Patton - P
The Congregational Church of Green's Farms, UCC
Jeffrey P. Rider - SP
Megan Cullip - AP
David Stambaugh - CE
The First Congregational Church of Willimantic
Richard B. Haverly Jr - P
The Federated Church of Willington UCC
Thomas Nathan Oliver
Wilton Congregational Church, UCC
Anne Wright Coffman - P
Kenneth L. McGarry - Y
Candice Dolberry - CE
The Spirit Calendar:
December 19, 2016