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Swords into Plowshares is the blog of the Peacemaking Program and the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations of the Presbyterian Mission Agency of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

Seeking peace. Striving for justice. Together.

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Posts with tag: 2012 advent devotions

December 25, 2012

2012 Advent Devotion- Tuesday, December 25

1 John 4:16

As far back as I can remember I have always questioned the motives of why things happen in a certain way. Events in our lives are woven together to form a mysterious path that only God understands. Nativity sparks interest in our hearts because we think about what God’s plans were with the gift of an only child, given as a gift of grace.

Every time we honor Jesus’ name during this period of Advent, we honor love. In a world where materialism, consumerism, and individualism have become our focus, God’s everlasting love challenges ...

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December 24, 2012

2012 Advent Devotion- Monday, December 24

Isaiah 35:1-10

This is the season of hope and celebration! As we prepare for Christmas and are surrounded by friends and family, it is easy to be joyful and refreshed like the parched desert and the blossoming crocus. Jesus Christ is to be born tomorrow, and this will strengthen, comfort, heal, and provide for us! Praise the Lord!

As the season comes to an end, family and friends will go back to work, decorations will go back in boxes, and the pace of everyday life will return. Does this mean we have to wait until Easter or next Christmas ...

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December 23, 2012

2012 Advent Devotion- Sunday, December 23

Luke 1:57-66

This passage is about a cosmic connection in Christ in which Zechariah could not speak until his actions said, “Yes, I trust you Lord.” Elizabeth called Mary blessed because Mary said, “Yes, I trust you Lord.” Neither Elizabeth nor Zechariah fret, fuss, nor worry about the name of their son. How often do we feel that if we don’t fret, fuss, and worry, whatever we want will not work out for the best?

In this call to service we have to remember the amazing account of God’s faithfulness. Our call is simply to just say ...

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December 22, 2012

2012 Advent Devotion- Saturday, December 22

Luke 1:39-48

Responses from both Elizabeth and Mary in this passage are spontaneous outpourings of spiritual emotion. Elizabeth bestows blessing upon Mary, declaring that the child within her is the Lord. Mary responds in passionate verse, expressing her humble and profound gratitude to God. It is no wonder that Mary’s ”Magnificat” has been set to music by so many composers.

In a musical, the purpose of a song stems from the character’s inability to express their feelings in anything less than the eloquence of song. Words have more power to communicate when set to music because there ...

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December 21, 2012

2012 Advent Devotion- Friday, December 21

Psalm 130

Waiting is hard. Ask any child anxiously awaiting the arrival of Christmas morning. Consider asking Mary what her long journey of waiting was like, nestling the world’s Savior in her womb while struggling to conceal her pregnancy from the scrutiny of public eye.

Crying “out of the depths,” the psalmist here is confronted with the task of waiting. So great is the author’s trust in the steadfast love and redemptive power of God that the author is filled with hopeful waiting; trusting expectancy is paramount to the season of Advent. A sure sign of Advent’s ...

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December 20, 2012

2012 Advent Devotion- Thursday, December 20

Psalm 126

Have you ever noticed how catchy vacation Bible school songs are? You can be going about your day until suddenly a trigger gets you singing (and performing the choreographed movements)!  Psalm 126 triggered for me a song entitled “Great Things.” As music leader for the week, that song is still as fresh in my mind as it was in June, 2011!

Though the song is elementary, it pushes my theology and me. The lyrics “We come here expecting God to do amazing things, right here, right now!” A struggle ensues within me as I feel guilt from this ...

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December 19, 2012

2012 Advent Devotion- Wednesday, December 19

Isaiah 11:10-16

As we anticipate the coming of Christ, this passage reminds us of God’s promise to renew all things. Yet, the brokenness of the world cuts so deep that we are often overwhelmed. We see it on global, national, communal, and familial levels. Sometimes we can hardly see the vision of peace and justice that God promises.

Isaiah prophesies a time when God will gather up Israel and heal the pain and discord within the people of God. But I am struck by the parallel between the splintering of Israel and the brokenness we experience within ourselves ...

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December 18, 2012

2012 Advent Devotion- Tuesday, December 18

John 3:16-21

If a single verse can be said to define Christianity for millions, John 3:16 is the one. It is memorized by confirmands, painted across the cheeks of NFL players, printed on bumper stickers, and recognized by believers and nonbelievers alike. It is imbedded in the popular conscience.

I used to fear this verse. The first part evoked a sense of deep comfort, the second part caused discomfort and erased the previous claim. If “God so loved the world,” why were we perishing anyway? And now those who believe are saved but the rest are still condemned ...

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December 17, 2012

2012 Advent Devotion- Monday, December 17

Psalm 40

I believe that God works in mysterious ways, that God gives us lessons and talks to us through events, people, nature, the Holy Spirit, and the still, small voice inside us. It’s difficult in our worry-filled, iPhone-filled, Facebook-filled, Tweeter-filled lives to allow ourselves the space just to listen.

In my daily life, I go into “doer” mode, trying to fix, understand and seek control over what lies before me. I think, maybe God appreciates and chuckles at my concerted effort to understand, to do, and to solve. Perhaps God is telling us to wait, to have hope ...

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December 16, 2012

2012 Advent Devotion- Sunday, December 16

Hebrews 12:18-20

In this passage from Hebrews, there is a certain amount of unpredictability around what will remain after the big shake-up. Portrayed is an image of an arrival point toward promise, covenant, and the ”heavenly Jerusalem.” We are challenged in opening ourselves to God’s voice, which calls us to the path toward the peaceable kingdom.

Similar challenges and uncertainties come with a new job, living situation, or personal relationship. We struggle when the path we have worked for so long and with such certainty turns into a path that takes us in an entirely different direction, creating ...

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December 15, 2012

2012 Advent Devotion- Saturday, December 15

Luke 22:31-38

The disciples said: “Lord, look, here are two swords.” He replied: “It is enough!”
Faced with the imminent fulfillment of ancient prophecy, Jesus tries to impart to his companions the full weight of the crisis they are about to face. Perhaps the disciples sense the anguish in Jesus’ voice, but as is often the case, they miss the crux of his message. Jesus admonishes them to be strong, to be prepared, to be alert. He prays that their “faith may not fail.” But the disciples, literal and over-eager, latch on to one word. Swords, Jesus? Don’t ...

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December 14, 2012

2012 Advent Devotion- Friday, December 14

Luke 22:24-27

 As the Christmas holiday nears, one word that comes to my mind is: competition. People spend countless minutes and dollars striving to give the best gifts, donate the most money, and help the most people. We forget the real reason we celebrate this holiday.

Since childhood, we have been taught to win, to be the best. More attention is given to teaching us to compete than to cooperate. The importance of power is drilled into our heads. With such influences we forget our role of servants, as Jesus was to his disciples, and become like the disciples ...

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December 13, 2012

2012 Advent Devotion- Thursday, December 13

Psalm 147:12-20

Sometimes a “mountaintop experience” is necessary to remind us of the splendor we live within and to help us recognize God’s incredible, loving power.

This past summer, I worked at Ghost Ranch—a Presbyterian Conference Center in New Mexico. Originally from the East Coast, I had never seen anything like the red and orange mesas. For the first few days, I found myself staring in awe at everything around me, but as the weeks went by I grew accustomed to my surroundings, noticing them less and less. Then, on one of our days off, the college ...

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December 12, 2012

2012 Advent Devotion- Wednesday, December 12

Isaiah 6:1-13

In my first college class my favorite professor told me that the fundamental question about religion is, “How do we live?” We ask ourselves this question every day as we struggle to navigate our complicated and messy world. We don’t get clear answers in our lives. Yet, we are called.

There is a translation of Isaiah from Hebrew to Greek that reads, “You will be ever hearing, but never understanding; you will be ever seeing, but never perceiving.” This people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their ...

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December 11, 2012

2012 Advent Devotion- Tuesday, December 11

Psalm 146

A few years ago, for the first time in my fairly privileged life, I found myself in a foreign country with the wrong visa. During my first month abroad I visited the immigration office several times, waited in long lines, met with tired workers, and sat in a sea of unknown people. An immigration officer who coldly shouted instructions and herded us into different sections of the room, taught me what it meant to be an unwelcome stranger in a foreign land.

We remember as we wait expectantly for the light to come into the world that Jesus ...

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December 10, 2012

2012 Advent Devotion- Monday, December 10

I Thessalonians 5:1-12

Today we celebrate Human Rights Day, an opportunity to rejoice in the entirety of God’s creation and reflect on ways we can share God’s compassion and love throughout it.

In its call for respect of the inherent dignity and worth of every person, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights echoes God’s message. Each individual has a right to be respected as a part of God’s creation, and we have a responsibility as Christians to share God’s love with everyone. We show God’s love through our respect. Yet our respect requires ...

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December 9, 2012

2012 Advent Devotion- Sunday, December 9

Isaiah 5:1-7

With Christmas quickly approaching, it seems like more people go out of their way to do nice things for each other. Children are on their best behavior, more people go to church, and people in the holiday spirit donate more money to charities. The Christmas spirit spreads like wildfire, and December seems to be one of the happiest months of the year. My question is: Why can’t the Christmas spirit last all year long? Shouldn’t it?

In Isaiah’s song, God did everything he could to prepare the vineyard for a good harvest, yet it ...

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December 8, 2012

2012 Advent Devotion- Saturday, December 8

Luke 21:10-11

“Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven” (Luke 21:10-11).

In many ways this verse predicts the present. Our world is as engulfed in conflict, sorrow, and disaster as ever, and we deal with the very real threat of persecution. But we do not face persecution simply because we carry the name of Jesus Christ. In fact that simple deed will often have the opposite effect in today’s world: People who ...

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December 7, 2012

2012 Advent Devotion- Friday, December 7

1 Thessalonians 4:1-12

While I was reading this passage, Lady Gaga’s song, “Bad Romance” happened to come on my Pandora radio. Naturally, the first question that came to mind was, “What does a bad romance look like in the eyes of God?” At first glance this song seems totally irrelevant to the passage, but if you were one of the half billion people to view this music video on YouTube, you would understand that this song and video is about human and sex trafficking. The pinnacle moment of the video is when Lady Gaga, donning Swarovski Crystal underwear ...

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December 6, 2012

2012 Advent Devotion- Thursday, December 6

Psalm 18

Psalm 18 is filled with violent images—portraying God as a strong man. The imagery is far from my experience as a peace-seeking feminist, and I struggle to focus on God as a source of strength. I used to see my reliance on God’s strength as a sinful refusal to work for justice, and I felt wasn’t worthy.

Then I had an experience where I felt isolated, hurt by so-called friends, trapped in a career that conflicted with my calling. My passion felt zapped from my soul. Feeling lost, I turned to God. Through daily prayer ...

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December 5, 2012

2012 Advent Devotion- Wednesday, December 5

Isaiah 2:1-4

While growing up I understood why we learned history in school, though I could never remember the dates of battles or who fought which war. I’d like to think that in elementary school I was keen enough to see that war was against God’s call to love, but to my mind history seemed half like statistics and half like keeping track of who was “right.” Now, with news of violence here in my own city, I feel like I’m a witness to history.

“Neither shall they learn war anymore.” It can be difficult to ...

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December 4, 2012

2012 Advent Devotion- Tuesday, December 4

Luke 20:9-18

Today’s text brings a dark note to the Advent season. Here we see Jesus as an adult, using story to reflect on some harsh realities. This adult Jesus tells us a parable, a story that is meant to be unpacked. The landowner represents God, the one who created the vineyard and entrusted the care of it to the tenants. When “the season came,” the landowner sent three different servants (prophets) to collect his share of the produce, but the tenants beat them and sent them away empty-handed. Then finally the landowner sent his beloved son hoping ...

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December 3, 2012

2012 Advent Devotion- Monday, December 3

Isaiah 1:10-20

Probably like most peacemakers, I love this passage from Isaiah. How many times have we been at a General Assembly or another solemn meeting and simply “couldn’t endure” it? For those interested in working for justice and peace, these commands are our baseline for living: “seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.” Many of us prefer this kind of “active” justice making to enduring “solemn assemblies” and “appointed festivals” anyway.

Isaiah calls out for us to understand something deeper. In Hebrew, the word for “worship” can also be translated as “work ...

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December 2, 2012

2012 Advent Devotion- Sunday, December 2

Psalm 24

God created heaven and earth, brought light out of darkness, built land over the waters, made plants and animals to populate the planet, and God created humans last of all. We are individually shaped, uniquely sculpted, and wholly formed in God’s image. The question is: How do we fit into this beautifully varied world that God has formed? How should we live? What should we protect? What is the balance between pursuing our own happiness and living in God’s light?

 “Who shall ascend to the hill of the Lord?” The psalmist says those with “clean hands ...

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