PROPHECY AND EXPECTATION
AN ADVENT BOOKLET FOR 2023
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, Black Madonna and Child, is a work by Katherine Skaggs, Copyright 2022. The cover art is not to be reproduced in any form without the expressed permission of the artist.
Micheal Russell, AME Church Publishing House
Scripture quotations not otherwise identified are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible © 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.
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 the various dimensions of faith and those biblical personalities exhibiting them. 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 Christian Education Department, Rev. Gwendolyn Peters and Dr. Willa Ross, meditation coordinators for the AMEZ and CME contributions, respectively.
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 the societal demands of the season. This season this year is marked by war and violence in the very land where many of our scriptural passages tell of ancient life and promises. 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 discipleship that inspires us to respond faithfully to our callings to do greater works of compassion, justice, peace, and witness, particularly now in the midst of a hurting and divided world.
December 3, 2023
First Sunday of Advent
A Determined Sojourner
Ruth 1:6-18, 22
But Ruth said, “Do not press me to leave you or to turn back from following you!
Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God.
If you want to go fast, walk alone. If you want to go far, walk together.
Life is a journey. Likewise, so is faith! Neither life nor faith are journeys meant to be taken alone in complete isolation. The African proverb is correct; we go so much farther with companions in life and faith. Our cultures will sell us a false bill of goods that we must be self-made, self-starters that must tackle the world and all its challenges and unknowns alone, conquering them by our sheer strength, courage, and determination.
This band of widows in today’s text knew all too well that they could not make it on their own. Naomi’s hope was in getting to Judah. Orpah’s hope was to return to her mother’s house. Ruth had a determination that her hope and destiny were tied to Naomi’s hope and destiny and that their journeys of faith were tied inextricably together.
Ruth and Naomi journeyed together. “They came to Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest.” Ruth took care of Naomi; and, Naomi took care of Ruth. Because of her determination and faithfulness to journey with Naomi, Ruth would go on to find her place in the genealogy of Jesus Christ—“and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David.” (Matthew 1:5b-6)
This Advent, let us covenant to make this faith journey to Bethlehem and the manger with others, praying with and for others, serving others, and witnessing to others that none of us are called to make this journey alone.
PRAYER: God of the Journey, please never let us forget that you have given to us for our salvation and liberation, Immanuel—God with us! In his name, with thankful hearts, we pray, AMEN
Bishop Frank Madison Reid III is the Presiding Prelate of the Eleventh Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church (Florida and the Bahamas). He also serves as Chair of the Commission on Christian Education.
Monday, December 4, 2023
A Faith That is Strong and a Heart that is courageous
I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
Joshua 1:1-9 tells how God is encouraging his people. The same way that God encouraged Moses, he is encouraging Joshua. The same way God encouraged Joshua, God is encouraging us to be courageous on this journey. Why do we need to be courageous? We need to be courageous simply because God will be with us today as God has been with us all through our lives. God is a God of our past, our present, and our future. Not only does God ask us to be courageous, God asks us to be strong. We need to have faith and the assurance that God will not forsake or leave us. When we have that blessed assurance that God is right there with us, we can rise up with the strength of an eagle, we will run and not be tired, we will walk and not get weary. We must meditate on God’s word daily so that it marinates our souls and enables us to withstand the wiles of the devil. God’s word must be embedded within our hearts, so that those around us can benefit from the examples we exemplify through our faith in God.
PRAYER: Dear God, give me the strength and courage to live by your word that has been our foundation for years past and our strong tower for years to come. Build our faith so that others will be made better by the life we live. AMEN
Dr. Cordella Shegog-Smith is a member of Pope Chapel AME Zion Church in the West TN & MS Annual Conference.
Tuesday, December 5, 2023
But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you, but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave, just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give his life a ransom for many.”
In this past Sunday’s Church School lesson, we studied the story of Ruth. In this narrative of faithfulness and service, we learn that if we have faith in God and God’s promises, we will be victorious in the end. Many occurrences in our lives are not coincidental, but divinely orchestrated by God. Because Ruth had such devotion and obedience, God was able to bring his plan for the savior of the world through the devotion and faith of Ruth. This lesson teaches us that obedience is better than sacrifice.
Likewise in today’s passage from Matthew, our Savior reminds us that we are all called to serve. The world defines greatness as something or someone that rules over; but, in God’s kingdom lexicon, greatness is equated with service. Soon after he declares it, Jesus demonstrates it when he encounters men who are blind who cry out to him because they desire to see. Jesus hears and sees them and answers their prayer.
From Ruth’s humble beginnings came the Savior of the world. What greatness may rise from your acts of service. How will we respond in faith?
PRAYER: God, I am available and willing to serve you. Speak, Lord. In Jesus’ name, I pray, AMEN’
Dr. Bernice King-Strong is a counselor, educator, and minister in the C. M. E. denomination. She is the author of Afterlife for the Living: Make Every Moment Matter and In Times Like These. She also has a podcast on Spotify, Understanding Grief.
Wednesday, December 6, 2023
99 ½ is Not Acceptable
In the morning, when he returned to the city, he was hungry. And seeing a fig tree by the side of the road, he went to it and found nothing at all on it but leaves.
Jesus saw a fig tree with leaves and no fruit (Matthew 21:18). He commands the tree to never produce fruit; and, immediately, the fig tree withers (Matthew 21:19). This appears to be an extreme response to the absence of fruit. However, there are two points in this scripture that describe the Christian walk. The first point is recognizing the season. The tree should have been barren because it was not the season for figs. The tree had leaves. In other words, it did a 99 ½ job. Sometimes our work for the Kingdom is a 99 ½ job. There is a season for rest and work. Unfortunately, some of us believe a 99 ½ job is better than no job. We show up for meetings, but do not participate. We make pledges, but do not honor them. We commit to some action or service, but show up late and leave early. Our tree is beautiful; but, our work is barren. So, how do we remain beautiful and fruitful? The answer is the second point which is faith. Jesus tells the disciples that if they pray in faith, they can move mountains (Matthew 21:21-22). Faith keeps us from doing a 99 ½ job. Faith confirms the season for work and the season for rest. Faith helps us recognize the season. Faith keeps us fruitful and productive.
Prayer: Father, thank you for creating me and blessing me to recognize the seasons. Teach me to rest so that I can serve you. Show me how to serve others and spread your message. Help me to grow in faith. Bless my tree so that it produces leaves and fruit. In the name of Jesus, the Savior, Amen.
Sister Robin Porter Smith serves the AME Church as the Chair of the Fellowship of Church Educators for the Christian Education Department and the liaison for Climate Justice.
Thursday, December 7, 2023
Faith For The Journey
The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?
Psalm 27, written by King David, is a powerful song of faith and a deep desire to be with God. Written before Advent, it shares themes of faith and anticipation with the Advent season. David’s faith in God’s promise of forgiveness is evident in the first line, “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?”, which aligns with Christian faith in the Lord’s promise. David desires to live in the house of the Lord and seek His presence, aligning with the spirit of Advent, where Christians seek closeness to God through prayer and waiting for Christ’s return. The psalm emphasizes the importance of trusting in God’s time and plan. Both Psalm 27 and Advent serve as reminders of prayer and meditation, guiding Christians in their spiritual journey.
As we journey through the season of Advent, remember it’s about faith and waiting. Take time today to reflect on the fact that God’s timing is quite different from ours. So let’s not be impatient but always remembering life on this earth is insignificantly smaller than a second in the light of true eternity. Like David, let us wait, and be of good cheer, not anxiously, because we know our next chapter in the journey of life has been written by the author and creator of our faith.
Prayer: Father, we are thankful for everything. Let out faith be strong enough to protect us from false fears and worries with this world. May the shadows of life’s journey never cover up the light of your eternal love, which you showed us in your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen
Brother Anfernee Benson is the director of the Boyz 2 Men ministry and serves as a local minister of Pope Chapel AME Zion; Pope, MS.
Friday, December 8, 2023
Gifts Worth Sharing
2 Timothy 1:3-14
For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands.
2 Timothy 1:6
God sent a gift into this world. Jesus, God’s only begotten Son whose light gives life to all who put their faith in Him. Our Christmas tradition honors this momentous intervention by God to save a world ever pining in sin. We give gifts to others as a sign of love and in celebration of the One who gave us the greatest gift of all.
The passage above calls us to consider that Christ is not the only gift God has given. The Apostle Paul tells his spiritual son, Timothy, to rekindle the gift of God that is within you. In addition to giving us Jesus, God has also given us spiritual gifts, the Holy Spirit, and each other. We are called to flame the fire of these gifts, so they do not lose their potency and our service becomes lukewarm. Fear is always our enemy; but, faith is always our victory.
This Advent season as you drive down streets glowing with the artificial lights of bulbs hanging from houses and trees, remember that God has already given you gifts worth sharing. Gifts that are found neither in stores nor online. Like Ruth, in her great love for Naomi, let the fullness of all the wonderful gifts God has given you, be the greatest gift you give to others.
PRAYER: Father, thank you for Jesus and all the gifts you have given me. Help me to let my light shine bright in honor and glory of all that you are and all that you have done for me. In Jesus’ name, AMEN
Reverend Valerie D. Conley has been pastoring in the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church for the past 16 years. She is a native Wisconsinite who now resides in Jackson, TN.
Saturday, December 9, 2023
A Shepherd’s Faith In The Great Shepherd
1 Samuel 17:1, 3-4, 8, 20-30
Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved.
Today’s passage is a peculiar one for Advent. Young David finds himself face to face with an evil opponent, Goliath. David is faithful to God, vowing to defend God’s honor and his own faith in that God to protect and deliver. The would be shepherd king depends totally on the Great Shepherd. David is victorious.
Psalm 80 opens with the recognition of the Lord as a shepherd, denoting the royal title of God as king, underscoring that the present calamity doesn’t prevent the people from affirming God’s sovereignty. This recognition coupled with the acknowledgment that the presence of the Lord appears with the oppressed becomes the center of the Lord’s power to make whole. What a complex situation the people must have been in. Needing a new manifestation of God’s person to reaffirm something that they have always known. The Lord hears, sees, leads, and saves.
The third stanza, which offers the prayer for blessing and divine power, is our cry and search during this season of Advent, helping us to recall what we have always known, the accompaniment of the divine one to shine the light and reveal to us that we have been heard.
PRAYER: Great Shepherd, shine forth before as we seek that which brings wholeness, union with you and others. Bless us with your presence. Journey with us and keep us in your care that we can see clear and know your grace, love, and mercy. AMEN
Reverend Jerome Stembridge, DMin. is an Itinerant Elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church and the Pastor of the St. Paul AME Church located in East Orange, New Jersey.