Words to Ponder


The Spirit Calendar

A Weekly Devotional from the Connecticut Conference United Church of Christ


December 18, 2017


This week's author is Debby Kirk, Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministries for the Connecticut Conference, UCC.
 

Scripture: Luke 1:26-38 (NRSV)

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.’ But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’ Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I am a virgin?’ The angel said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.’ Then Mary said, ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’ Then the angel departed from her.
 

Reflection:

“Greetings favored one! The Lord is with you.”
 
Scripture says that Mary was ‘perplexed’ to hear these words from the angel Gabriel. She didn’t understand herself to be worthy of being noticed by God. After all, she was just a humble young maiden from Galilee.
 
But isn’t this how God greets each of us? We are claimed as beloved children or, as The Message translation of this passage observes, ‘beautiful inside and out.’ The Lord is with us and within each of us.
 
Too often we listen to the negative voices that tell us we that we don’t matter, that we are insignificant, or that we are not good enough.
 
And worse, we are surrounded by the vitriolic public discourse that dehumanizes entire groups of people. Instead of seeing the divine spark that glows in all of humanity, we are told to look at strangers with suspicion.
 
In this season of Advent, let us listen as attentively as Mary and receive the affirmation that we are favored ones. Let us ponder the possibility, frightening though it may be, that God sees us and that we are precious in God’s sight.
 
AND, let us take the role of messenger and name the gifts that we see in others.  We can hold up a mirror and reflect back the beauty, courage, and compassion that we observe in others.  By naming the divine potential we see in others, we can help bring it to life. When we speak words of encouragement, we can help others to understand that they can serve as a vessel for God’s love.
 
By honoring the reality that all people are created in the image of God, we can help transform a world of violence and despair into a realm of peace and justice.

Prayer:

Loving God, we give thanks that you dwell within each of us and that you look upon us with favor. Rather than fearing the responsibility, let us embrace the possibility of that promise. Let it be according to your word.
 
Special Prayer Requests:
  • Those grieving or suffering after a train derailed in Washington state, killing several and injuring dozens more on Dec. 18;
  • the family and friends of Rev. Hebert Kelsey, retired UCC pastor, who died Dec. 10;
  • the family and friends of Marion Zappula, mother of Rev. Jack Zappula, and mother-in-law of Rev. Dave Peters. Marion died on Dec. 11; and
  • all who enter this final week of Advent and the Christmas Holiday bearing the loss of a loved one in their heart.
Continuing Requests:
  • Those affected by wildfires in the Santa Barbara County are of California;
  • those grieving after a school shooting in New Mexico left 3 dead on Dec. 7;
  • those grieving or suffering after an attack on U.N. peacekeeping forces in eastern Congo left 15 dead and over 50 wounded on Dec. 7;
  • the family and friends of Rev. Betsy Bloomfield, retired pastor and long-time active member of the CT Conference, who died Nov. 13;
  • the friends and family of Rev. Hugh Penney, paster Emeritus at South Church in New Britain, who died on Nov. 12;
  • the people of Puerto Rico, after Hurricane Maria caused massive devastation on Sept. 20;
  • the millions of people currently worried about losing health insurance as the White House and Congress consider and enact changes to the current health care system;
  • the thousands of child immigrants protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program as their future becomes unclear after the President's announcement that the program will end in the near future;
  • Mark Engstrom, member of the CT Conference Board of Directors, and his wife Nina, who are facing health issues;
  • the community of Conway, MA, and the United Congregational Church, UCC, Conway after a tornado touched down on Feb. 25 causing significant structural damage;
  • the members and staff of Thompson Congregational Church after a fire severely damage the building on Dec. 29;
  • 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 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; 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: drewp@ctucc.org.

Please Remember These Connecticut Conference Churches
In Your Prayers:

Branford
First Congregational Church, Branford

Theresa Borchetta - AP
Susan Trucksess - AP
 
Bridgeport
Olivet Congregational Church UCC

Cynthia A. Stasko - P
 
Bridgeport
United Congregational Church Bridgeport

Sara D. Smith - P
John T. Michniewicz - MM
 
Bridgewater
Bridgewater Congregational Church UCC

Peter M. Hammond - P
Christopher Shay - MM
 
Bristol
First Congregational Church, UC
C
Kristen J. Kleiman - SP
Earl W. Keirstead - PE
 

The Spirit Calendar: December 18, 2017 , by Debby Kirk.