Advent Devotional 2021 Cover

Excerpts from

PROPHECY AND EXPECTATION

AN ADVENT BOOKLET FOR 2021

A GUIDE FOR MEDITATION AND ACTION

SPONSORED BY THE DEPARTMENTS OF CHRISTIAN EDUCATION OF THE

AFRICAN METHODIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH

Rev. Garland F. Pierce, Executive Director

AFRICAN METHODIST EPISCOPAL ZION CHURCH

Rev. Patrick Barrett II, General Secretary-Treasurer

CHRISTIAN METHODIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH

Dr. Carmichael D. Crutchfield, General Secretary

The cover art, a part of his series Brooklyn Mythology, is a work by Tim Okamura. The cover art is not to be reproduced in any form without the expressed permission of the artist.

INTRODUCTION

The Advent season is a time for reflection on God’s great love for us in the sending of Emmanuel-God with us and on Christ’s promised return. For some time now, the Historic Black Methodist churches have used this time to share a daily devotional to serve as a resource for spiritual practice and faith formation during this blessed season. It is a joint labor of love of the Christian Education Departments of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, and the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church.

This year’s themes focus on God as the source of justice and God’s justice requirements. The scripture passages were selected from the Home Daily Bible Readings published by the Committee on Uniform Series (CUS) of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. CUS has promoted an ecumenical approach to the study and teaching of God’s word since 1872.

It has been an honor to serve as this year’s editor. Special thanks to all the meditation contributors and to my colleagues, Rev. Patrick Barrett II, General Secretary-Treasurer for the AMEZ Christian Education Department, Dr. Carmichael D. Crutchfield, General Secretary for the CME Church Christian Education Department, and Dr. Willa Ross, meditation coordinator for the CME contributions.

In Advent, we are called to reflect and wait for the coming of Christ; however, far too often, it is a time of anxiety and hurriedness due to societal demands of the season. This year we continue through the prolonged devastation of the COVID-19 global pandemic in addition. We pray that this meditation guide might be a tool to assist us to slow down and focus on our faith in Christ this Advent and Christmastide, resulting in a deepened faith that inspires us to respond faithfully to our callings to do greater works of compassion, justice, and witness, particularly now in the midst of a hurting and divided world.

Rev. Garland F. Pierce is Executive Director of the Department of Christian Education of the AME Church and serves as Chair of the Committee on the Uniform Series of the National Council of Churches, USA.

The Kindle version of the devotional is available at amazon.com. 

FREE EXCERPTS

November 28, 2021

First Sunday of Advent

Wake Up Everybody!!!

Acts 10: 34-47

Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have? – Acts 10:47

The Cornelius-Simon Peter connection was a revolutionary Kingdom of God connection. This Kingdom of God relationship is a radical 2021 Wakeup Call for each of us.

This 2021 Wakeup Call encourages, equips, and empowers each of us to understand how the kingdoms of spiritual oppression, domination, division and destruction submit and give way to the Kingdom of our God and Christ:

• Jesus is the Living Word——the Good News of Peace (Acts 10: 36). No inner peace, no justice. No Jesus, no justice.
• The Holy Spirit awakens and activates the power of God in the life of Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus is anointed with the power of God to do good and heal all that are oppressed by the devil (Acts 10:38).
• Jesus, the Living Word, gives us the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the gift of God’s presence, peace, and power that wakes us up to embody Jesus in the world and do good.

Wake up everybody and participate in this 2021 Advent Adventure!

PRAYER: God of the Advent, we confess we have slept for far too long. Awaken within us your power and promise that are ours because of the Christ whose birth we await and in whose name we pray, AMEN.

Bishop Frank Madison Reid III is the Presiding Prelate of the Eleventh Episcopal District (Florida and the Bahamas) and the Chair of the Commission on Christian Education for the AME Church.

Monday, November 29, 2021

Simple Reminders for Successful Living

Deuteronomy 5:6-21

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me. – Deuteronomy 5:6-7

Alarm clocks awaken the world every morning to begin a new day. Without the long-distorted buzz, our bodies remain captives to warm beds and comfy sheets. Many require a second reminder to acknowledge the change from rest to work; thus, reminders are essential to improve our focus and quality of life.

God provides a list of simple reminders in Deuteronomy 5:6-21 to ensure a prosperous departure for the children of Israel from Egypt. Moses sets Godly affection as the top priority. Verses 6-7 command us to honor God for his deliverance from bondage. To glorify God is the signature statement in the covenant and calls for faithfulness from God’s people. God also admonishes the children of Israel of their worship habits. Clearly, Moses warns Israel to deplore other gods and maintain the holiness of the Sabbath. Moses insists God’s jealousy is natural, punishing generations who refuse to embrace Him. At the end of the passage, Moses refreshes the memory of Israel concerning neighborly habits. Our neighbor’s achievements should be celebrated and motivate positivity rather than lead to resentment. In worship, our hearts should turn towards God and not the prosperity and talent of others.

Simple reminders act as guiding posts to ground our faith in God’s commands. Successful living becomes the byproduct of honoring God’s loving-kindness, obedience through worship, and living peaceably among humans.

Prayer: Dear God, let your daily reminders saturate my heart to help me become more committed and enjoy all your benefits. AMEN

Rev. Dr. David A. Williams is the senior servant leader of Greater Gethsemane AME Zion Church, Charlotte, NC, the Western North Carolina Annual Conference Christian Education Director, and the principal personality of Dagrip Podcast.

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Be Careful to Obey the Lord’s Commands

Deuteronomy 5:23-33

Robert was a man who took pride in learning about the great thoughts and ideas men and women had written about in the great books that lined the walls and shelves in libraries of large institutions. Robert was in his mid-thirties when he started on this journey. But now that he had reached his early seventies, his thoughts of correctness and idealism had faded. Now, he had arrived at the firm position that in all of life the most important thing to do was to be careful to obey the Lord’s commands. His commands are true and wholesome and able to feed the soul so to experience eternal life each day.

Moses writes in Deuteronomy 5:24, “Today we have seen that God may speak to someone and the person may still live.” God has a love for humankind that renders loving kindness and gentle compassion on our souls. His plan is for us to live and enjoy the goodness of God. Moses says in Deuteronomy 5:29, “If only they had such a mind as this, to fear me and to keep all my commandments always, so that it might go well with them and with their children, forever!”

The world is brimming over with hundreds and thousands of ideas each day. We are flooded with all kinds of notions on how to live a fulfilling and purposeful life.  But Moses captures what makes for a life filled with meaning and purpose in Deuteronomy 5:32, “You must therefore be careful to do as the Lord your God has commanded you.”

 

PRAYER:  Loving God, teach us your commands and give us minds to keep them daily.  AMEN

Rev. Ronald Powe, EdD is a Presiding Elder in the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church.

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

World AIDS Day

Just Christian

Romans 12:1-2, 9-21

 I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God… Romans 12:1-2

“If you love the Lord, then raise your hands!” Sound familiar? Raising our hands is easy; but, being a Christian is a lifestyle, not a gesture. Usually, praising is easy; however, the challenges to Christianity rest in our treating each other with love after “praise and worship” ends. Christianity and justice go together. How do Christians respond to cries for justice? In order to “do justice” Christians should begin by remembering God’s mercy toward us. Those memories should propel us to do what is right for others. Christians’ responses to justice must be wrapped in genuine love, devotion, respect, and honor. Christians cannot ignore others’ needs and hurts. Every moment of every day, God loves us. Each Christian’s task is to share God’s love with people. This includes people with which we share similar views as well as those with whom we disagree, don’t understand, and don’t like. We must conform to what is right, not to please the masses, but to please God. Justice demands our accepting our imperfections and living in peace with all of humanity. By following God’s lead and strengthening our resolve with prayer, justice will spring forth every time. Christianity and justice…we can’t have one without the other.

PRAYER:  Lord, justice is a major part of my Christian responsibility. Although I am not saved by works, please help me to do my part to bring justice in our world. AMEN

Rev. Sherita Moon Seawright is a wife, mother, grandmother, sister, and friend who serves as Supervisor of the AME Church’s Ninth Episcopal District.

Thursday, December 2, 2021

A God of Second Chances

Deuteronomy 10:1-11

 The Lord said to me, “Get up, go on your journey at the head of the people, that they may go in and occupy the land that I swore to their ancestors to give them.  – Deuteronomy 10:11

Recently, I engaged in an enlightening conversation with my three-year-old niece about her trips to “time out”.  To my surprise, she had required discipline for disobeying her teacher and parents.  However, after a few minutes of punishment, she recognized the error of her ways, apologized, and was given another chance to play with family and friends.

In scripture, we find different accounts where people defy God’s instructions yet are granted another opportunity to follow His Word.  For instance, the Israelites disobeyed the Lord after God gave them the law. They violated two of the commandments soon after by forging and worshiping another god.  The Israelites could have been disqualified from inheriting the abundant land God promised to their ancestors and suffered destruction.  However, after their repentance, God gave them another chance.

When I asked my niece why she was sent to time out, she simply replied, “Because I do not listen.”  How many of us have that same confession?  God gives us instructions and we are disobedient; proceeding with our own plans.  Yes, we “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).  However, if we have accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior and have a repentant heart, the Lord bestows upon us grace and mercy.  Despite our mess ups or mishaps, we are given another chance.

In the beginning of creation, God dwelt among humankind.  Yet, humanity separated from God due to disobedience. It is the hope of Jesus’ birth that reminds us that we are given another opportunity to be reconciled to God.

Today, place yourself in time out and reflect on your own disobedience to God’s instruction.  Repent and praise God for the special gift of another chance through Jesus Christ.

PRAYER:  God, please forgive me for the times I disobeyed you.  Thank you for the special gift of another chance through Jesus Christ my Lord.  AMEN

Mrs. Ravelle L. King is the Director of Christian Education for the Philadelphia District A.M.E. Zion Church.

Friday, December 3, 2021

The Law in Contemporary Times

Matthew 5:17-20

My father grew up at a time where certain things were taboo on Sunday. I venture to say most of those prohibitions were based on keeping Sunday holy and set apart for God. When my father married and had children those restrictions became a thing of history. This was not out of disrespect to earlier generations, but a result of gradually learning that Jesus’ emphasis on the law was about doing good. When we pay attention to Matthew 5-7, known as the sermon on the mount, we see Jesus exploring the meaning of the law for his contemporary reality, not desiring for its discontinuation (cf. 5:17).

To “abolish” something is usually to tear it apart, to loosen it; it is the opposite of “building up.” In Matthew’s Gospel, the verb is commonly used in reference to the temple (cf. Matthew 24:2; 26:61; 27:40). Unlike the Law, Jesus exclaims about the temple, “Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down” (24:2). The Common English Bible is even more descriptive, “Everything will be demolished.” Jesus claims that this was not his intention with respect to the Law.

Jesus does not say that he has come to “build up” the law but rather to “fulfill” it.  “To fulfill”  is frequently understood as “bringing something to an end” or “to complete (something)” but that does not quite fit the immediate context.  Jesus, especially Matthew’s Jesus, was a law-abiding Jew.  But he chooses to “fulfill” the law in the sense of interpreting their meaning for contemporary practice.

PRAYER:  Lord, thank you for being a God who speaks to our every need in every season of life.  AMEN

Captain Chris Crutchfield is an ordained elder in the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church and a chaplain in the US Air Force.

Saturday, December 4, 2021

Deuteronomy 27:14-26

 Cursed is anyone who does not uphold the words of this law by carrying them out.” Then all the people shall say, “Amen! – Deuteronomy 27:26

During the Advent season, we reflect and get ready to experience the miracle birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  It is also a time to reflect on the potential idols in our lives and remove them. When Jesus was born, many were expecting a different type of King to come into the world. That’s why Herod, afraid of a warrior king rising up to overturn the Roman government, had a decree to have all male babies killed.

We often miss the plan God has for us because we are worshiping things instead of the God of our salvation. When the Hebrews escaped from Egypt as soon as they felt alone and abandoned, they built gods of stone and gold and forgot how God miraculously split the Red Sea for them to be free. When we are free, we have to be extremely careful and intentional about developing and guarding our devotional lives. When we let our quiet time with God go, we slip into apostasy and idolism.

Having a devotional life places God at the top of our priority list. When we don’t make time to personally worship God, study the word and pray, we set ourselves up to make decisions and life choices without God. This Advent Season let’s guard our devotional lives and spend time with God. In Deuteronomy, Moses is speaking to the Hebrews and telling them all God has done for the Hebrew people.

Moses tells us that the Levites are to tell the people of Israel the consequences (being cursed) of not following the laws of God.  Moses is reminding us that we must put God first in all areas of our lives. When we don’t put God first, we unknowingly curse our lives. While Jesus replaced the Law, the Law because of Jesus should be tattooed in our hearts. Let’s strive to live holy lives, simply and daily.

PRAYER:  God, I will make you first and follow you.  I pray in Jesus’ name.  AMEN

Rev. Carey A. Grady is the Pastor of Reid Chapel AME Church, Columbia SC. He writes frequently for several publications and blogs at www.careyagrady.com

December 5, 2021

Second Sunday of Advent

The Command of Right Living

Deuteronomy 5:1-3, 10:12-13, 28:1-2

So now, O Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you? Only to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of the Lord your God and his decrees that I am commanding you today, for your own well-being. 

Deuteronomy 10:12-13

As the children of Israel prepared for their entry into the Promised Land, Moses delivers five speeches, based on the Torah, that establish the proper social, political, and religious guidelines that should be followed in the land. Righteousness, often interchanged with justice, is steeped in the love of God and neighbor and requires care for the oppressed among us. The Israelites were preparing to inhabit the land they had journeyed forty years to obtain. Forty years of being a people with no place to call home. Forty years of developing an identity oriented around the God that heard their moans and groans in Egypt and played an active role in their release. This God was now fulfilling the promise made with their ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The proper response to the workings of YHWH is to fear the Lord, walk in the ways of God, and keep God’s commandments. This is what God required of Israel and what God requires of us. God does not passively address justice and righteousness. God mandates it. It is this mandate of right living that should be the foundation of our daily lives and the catalyst to our anticipation of the Christ child. In the same way that the Israelites were preparing to enter a new land, we are entering a new season of life as we welcome the gift that God Incarnate offers us- a chance at new life.

PRAYER:  God of Justice and Righteousness, as we eagerly anticipate the Christ child, we pray that we set our hearts and minds on honoring your commandments. We believe that our preparation will allow us to be good stewards over that which we receive.  In your name, we pray. AMEN

Ms. Justala F. Simpson, the International President of the Varick International Christian Youth Council of the AME Zion Church, is a second-year Master of Divinity student at Candler School of Theology.