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Advent Devotional – Saturday, Dec 8th

IMG_2935By: Brittany Fiscus-van Rossum

I Thessalonians 3:9-13

Reflection—v. 12, ‘Abound in love for one another and for all’
Paul tells the early Christians in Thessaly to ‘abound in love for another’—oh, yes, and
abound in love for everyone else, as well. We cannot just love one another: those of our
same political parties or upbringing, those with our same skin color or religious background, those who happened to be born within the same borders as us. Yes, love those people, but also abound in love for everyone else. This is no small feat. Let us not forget that the early Christians were outsiders. They were marginalized and sometimes unwanted. Yet though they were the ones persecuted, Paul reminds them that to be Christian is to abound in love for ‘all’ anyway. We can be so good at loving our own. We gather together and talk and preach about loving everyone, but what we practice is a comfortable, complacent love for those closest to us. But part of what makes being a Christian so absurdly revolutionary is that we are also called upon to love all, even those most difficult to love. We are called to love those not born on American soil. We are called to love our political opponent. We are called to love the most vulnerable among us, the most unsettling, the most disturbing. We are called to love them with a deep and abiding love that cares for their needs even as it asks of us to share our own resources, to push our own patience, to open our own doors, and to be open to our own vulnerability.
Prayer: Open our hearts, O Lord, that we may abound in love for all those among us.

Advent Devotional – Friday, Dec 7th

IMG_2935By: Brittany Fiscus-van Rossum

I Thessalonians 3:9-13

Reflection—v. 10, ‘restore whatever is lacking in your faith’
I used to think having faith was something you could be good at. ‘She was a woman of
strong faith,’ they would say of my mother after she passed away. My uncertain teenage self would think, ‘How was she so good at possessing faith?’ I think we can miss some important aspects of faithfulness when we think of it as something at which any one of us can excel. Faithfulness is relational. Even when it feels like our faith is lacking, God remains faithful to us. It never only depends on our efforts or ability. Faith is also communal. We are a community of faith. There will be days when I cannot see the myriad of ways God is revealing Godself to us, but maybe my neighbor can. In this letter to the Christians in Thessaly, Paul writes that his prayer is to restore whatever is lacking for his neighbor. Some days my faith is lacking. I listen to the concerns of my community, and I feel overwhelmed by our lack: the lack of shelter and resources, healthcare, and safe spaces. Yet I trust that God is loyal to us. It is God and my community that restore what is lacking in my faith. Are the people of the Mercy community strong of faith? Yes. And I believe it is in part because we care for one another, carry one another when one is not strong, and have patience for one another’s bad days. There will always be lack, but by God’s grace, we can bring restoration for one another.
Prayer: By your grace, O Lord, help us to restore what is lacking for one another.

Advent Devotional – Thursday, Dec 6th

IMG_2935By: Brittany Fiscus-van Rossum

Jeremiah 33: 14-16

Reflection—v. 16, ‘Jerusalem will live in safety’
With God’s righteousness and justice, comes the promise of safety for Jerusalem. Safety
is important. We want our children to be safe when we send them off to school. We want
to feel safe in the places where we worship and live. Humans need to feel safe in order to
thrive. Yet sometimes when conversations about safety arise, I feel a sense of dread because people are often talking about feeling unsafe around our community at Mercy. There is an endless debate about where those living outside can sleep or sit or just be. You cannot look a certain way and be too close to a daycare or linger in a parking lot too long. Because let us be honest, people are afraid of those of us who happen to be living on the streets. Forgetting our humanity, we classify our brothers and sisters living on the streets as the ‘dangerous’ type and require protection from them. But who in our city is worrying about the safety of the Mercy community? When security pushes us out of every dry place in this neighborhood, and even churches don’t want to shelter us, where can we go to get a safe night’s sleep? When the Super Bowl comes to Atlanta, and we get rounded up and sent to jail for just existing, who will stand up and keep us safe? When winter comes and the cops can no longer drop us off at the warm, open doors of Peachtree and Pine, where can we go for safety from the frigid cold? Come, O Lord. Come, O Branch of David, that we may live in safety, too.

Advent Devotional – Wednesday, Dec 5th

IMG_2935By: Freddie Heath & Brittany Fiscus-van Rossum

Psalm 25: 1-10

Reflection—v. 7, ‘Do not remember the sins of my youth’
Freddie is a faithful member of the Mercy community. He’s a lover of the Old Testament,
a gracious and forgiving soul, and can make beautiful harmony like you wouldn’t believe. I asked Freddie if he would be willing to impart some his wisdom of the Scriptures for these devotionals and he decided he would like to share his thoughts on Psalm 25. Freddie and I got together and buried our heads in the text, reading the psalm aloud, slowly, and intentionally. ‘That is beautiful,’ Freddie sighed, as we finished reading. ‘Basically, what I get out of it…’ he said and then paused. ‘Is this David talking to God? Oh yes, it says a Psalm of David,’ he answered himself, as he pictured what David must be feeling as he asks for God’s steadfast love and forgiveness. ‘David is asking the Lord to continue guiding him in God’s holy path. He is asking for God to forgive him of his past sins. He’s asking for God to allow him to keep his faithfulness.’ Freddie decided that this psalm was about our relationship with God, about how we ‘stay close to God.’ We all have things in our lives we’d rather have God ‘not remember’ about us. Yet God never leaves. God is always faithful and always present on our ‘daily walks.’ ‘God wants us to walk with him,’ Freddie insisted. ‘God forgives us of our pasts. What goes for David, goes for all of us. We will be delivered unto God.’
Prayer: Help us on our daily walks to be faithful to you, and to trust in your faithfulness to us.

Advent Devotional – Tuesday, Dec 4th

IMG_2935By: Brittany Fiscus-van Rossum

Luke 21:25-36

Reflection—v. 34, ‘the worries of this life’
How often is my heart weighed down by the worries of this life? I measure myself by the
standards of our society. I fret about how unsuccessful I am and how I do not make as much money as my peers. I worry that I do not measure up, and that I have let people down. I preach in a basement, and I am terrible at fundraising. I worry that by the standards of how our society measures success, I have failed. We are told to be on guard for such disparaging thinking—for letting such comparisons weigh us down. For while we are fighting to climb another rung of the social ladder, Christ sets a table to which everyone is invited. It is a table at which there is enough for all, everyone can look one another in the eye, and even our most honorable host will get down on his hands and knees to wash dirty feet. So, when I feel weighed down by the worries of this life and all the ways that so many of us are not equipped to excel by the standards of our society, I guard my heart, and remember that God has equipped us in other ways. I remind myself that God has made each and every one of us valuable. We can stand before the Son of Man, because we are chosen, loved, and valuable, and whatever worries of this life may make us doubt, we are all equipped to be God’s people.
Prayer: Equip us, O God, not by the standards of society, but by your standards for love and mercy.

Advent Devotional – Monday, Dec 3rd

IMG_2935By: Brittany Fiscus-van Rossum

Luke 21:25-36

Reflection—v. 26, ‘apprehensive of what is coming on the world’
Why would the coming of our redemption make us apprehensive? Do we not want the
redemption of the whole world? If God’s kingdom is one in which all humans are honored for their God-given value and inherent human dignity, don’t we want that? If redemption looks like relationships being made right and human interactions founded in love instead of fear and misunderstanding, don’t we want that? We want to desire these things, and yet, those of us with power and privilege are not willing to step down from the social ladder and draw near to the vulnerable among us. Sure, we’ll share a Facebook post or engage in a lively argument or two, maybe light a candle, but are we willing to make an actual sacrifice, or to give up our own power and privilege for the sake of our neighbor? If that is what is required, then of course God’s kingdom makes us apprehensive. It’s a paradigm-shattering, system-crumbling, societal-standards-be-damned, seas-roaring, heavens-shaking kind of revolution. It can be difficult for those benefiting from the way things are to join a revolution—it causes apprehension. But when the Son of Man comes he asks everything of us, so if your heavens and earth aren’t shook, they should be. But fear not. All this revolution, the signs in the stars and the sun, do not point to our demise—no, but to our redemption.
Prayer: May your redemption draw near, God, and may we desire your goodness for all.

Advent Devotional – Sunday, Dec 2nd

IMG_2935By: Brittany Fiscus-van Rossum

Luke 21: 25-36

Reflection—v. 25-26, ‘anguish…perplexity…terror…’
Sometimes on my drive into Mercy in the mornings, I turn the radio off because I feel so
overwhelmed by what I hear on the news. I will soon pull up to our familiar little patio and see the faces of my community members still chilled from the night before. Within the hour, we will gather for prayer to listen to one another as we mourn and lament, sharing always in joys, but often in concerns. Thinking about the overwhelming needs in our community, the lack of resources, the cold nights, the abuse from authorities, the closing of another shelter, the fear of being pushed out by the city for the Super Bowl—it can be too much. And so, sometimes I must turn off the news for a moment and sit in the silence as I drive, asking God to draw near. Terror. Apprehension. Anguish and perplexity. These are the words used to describe the nations’ response to what is coming on the world. When I am surrounded by our world’s own stories of terror and anguish, they leave me with feelings of apprehension and perplexity. Yet, even in such times as these, I am reminded to stand up and lift my head, for what draws near is not doom and destruction, but our redemption. Terror and hatred shall not have the final word, for the one who is coming to glory and power comes not by violence or fear-mongering, but with a message of hope: your redemption is drawing near.
Prayer: When we are filled with anguish, Great Redeemer, draw near to us.

Wednesday, Dec 6th

By: Maggie Leonard

Isaiah 64.1-9

Refecton—v. 5, ‘because you hid yourself, we transgressed’

Have you ever said something like, ‘You made me do it’ to another person? I have. But really? When I yell, did someone else fill my lungs with air, constrict my throat, and choose the words I said? Of course not. I did that. I chose my response. Sure, it has been infuenced by the behaviors I witnessed growing up and what has worked for me in the past. But my response was fueled by my own energy and directed under my self-control (or lack thereof). Nobody can make me yell. Another person might choose a diferent response to provocaton, and on a diferent day, I might choose a diferent response myself. What gall the prophet has in blaming God for the bad behavior of the people. But honestly, we engage in those kinds of ridiculous moral gymnastics all the time, shirking our responsibility. If we are not able to see our own agency in our mistakes, how will the cycle ever stop? In this season of waitng for God to be born into the world, we must not fnd ourselves passing the blame for the woes of our world. Instead we have the opportunity to partcipate in preparing for Jesus. Rather than seeming to stand around incriminatng one another, we should look and see where love is lacking. It is our work to create a world of peace, dignity, and respect. After all, into what type of world do we want to welcome our God?

Prayer Incarnate God, may we be truthful with you and ourselves about our world so that we might create a more hospitable home for you.

Tuesday, Dec 5th

By: Maggie Leonard

Mark 13.24-37

Refection—v. 24, ‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light’

My brother lives in the 2017 eclipse path of totality. That made it very easy for my entre immediate family to gather and watch the once-in-a-lifetme phenomenon together. In this Markan prophecy, the turning of the sky sounds very dramatc. So was the eclipse. But what struck me most was the length of the process. To the discerning (and protected!) eye, watching the waxing and waning of the eclipse took hours. Signs were all around us of what was to come, if we knew what to look for. For example, the crescent shadows of leaves were a tell-tale sign of the looming eclipse—though honestly, I was so busy looking up, that I forgot to look down. And really, that’s all prophecy is—an interpretaton of what is already around us, if we are looking in the right directon. The signs are there, for sure. But usually the process is longer than we hope. This passage speaks about God gathering together God’s people—not dividing us. In this Advent season, do we notce the ways in which God is gathering us together? Let us stop pointng fngers and begin to look for the ways that God gathers us as one people into God’s kingdom—where everybody is loved and valued.
Prayer God of all seasons, may we see the signs of your love and transformation.

Monday, Dec 4th

By: Maggie Leonatd

Mark 13.24-37

Refecton—v. 28, ‘from the fig tree…branch becomes tender’
When I walked the Camino de Santago in September, I was struck by the abundance of food. Every field and yard was dripping with food from plants, vines, and trees. There were grapes, tomatoes, lemons, oranges, corn, cabbage, and figs. Oh, the figs! Their sweet branches blocked the sun from our backs and offered us sustenance with their fruit. But this passage doesn’t talk about fruit. It talks about tender shoots growing leaves. There aren’t even fowers on these trees, much less fruit. That’s true of this season, too. The season of Advent is a season of darkness and preparaton. It’s a time when we survey ourselves and the world and consider what needs to be done to be ready to welcome the Son of God. The fruits of our labors are not yet seen, but we act with hopeful antcipaton nevertheless. Now is the time to do the unpopular work of confessing our shortcomings with our whole hearts. Growth is a slow process that makes us vulnerable. We become tender, more susceptble to hurt, but its in that place of vulnerability that we can know that good things are near. Every failure is an opportunity for learning. Every injustce is a chance for justce to prevail. Every division creates space for reconciliaton. I hope that during this season, we can keep those growth moments tender—not distractng with humor or ratonalizatons, but truly feeling what is being done and to let that be okay.

Prayer God of tenderness, may we see the signs of your love and transformaton.