Prayer Guides for Advent
Advent is an eagerly-anticipated time of year. Well, maybe, for some of us, it is a dreaded time of year. Whatever your gut reaction to Advent may be, Advent provides us with a unique opportunity for wonder, for questions, for comfort, and for spiritual exploration. It’s also the time when it’s actually OK to hear Christmas music in stores and restaurants.
Traditionally the word advent means “coming” or “arrival.” I prefer its dynamic sense: someone is on the way; someone is moving toward us with great urgency. Someone wants passionately to be among us in the ups-and-downs of our real lives, to bring new energy to our labors, our joys, our sorrows. That someone is Christ.
There is a paradox inherent in our Advent observance. We prepare ourselves for the arrival of someone who has already come. “And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger because there was no place for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:7) That happened already. So what are we waiting for?
When we celebrate Communion, the celebrant declares, “Every time we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim the death of our Lord Jesus, until he comes again.” Jesus has been here. Jesus is coming again.
In this mysterious in-between time, we have a renewed opportunity to wake up, to pay attention, to watch for the ways Christ is moving among the realities of our world. We also hear a voice calling us to do more than watch. For each of the four weeks of Advent, our worship team is providing you with a prayer guide in the hope of providing you with a few tools to enrich your Advent experience and your Christmas celebration. We also hope these guides will deepen your awareness of God’s love for you -- and your neighbor.
Together in Christ,
We have been through one of the harshest election seasons ever. Now, regardless of whether any of us voted for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton or someone else, all of us find ourselves in the midst of very distressing circumstances.
Fears of heightened bigotry and hate crimes have turned into reality for many Americans. Swastikas, racist, anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim graffiti are appearing in cities and suburbs. There are unruly protests and vandalism. The Southern Poverty Law Center has counted more than 300 cases of hateful harassment or intimidation in the US since Election Day.
Like the smoke from the drought-fed fires that covers Georgia and the Carolinas, fear now permeates the air all around us. It is not just abstract, unrealistic fear. This is anxiety born directly from specific comments and actions that have singled out race, ethnicity, gender and gender identity. It is personal.
As Christians what do we do? What actions are we, empowered by and driven by the love of God, called to take?
Here is a story of hope that a few of you shared with me. These bigoted attacks and harassment — carried out against Americans by Americans — are much like the attacks that many British people and immigrants suffered at the hands of other Brits in the wake of the “Brexit” vote earlier this year.
During the height of these attacks, many people wanted to show solidarity, support, and offer safety to one another but didn’t know how. An American woman named Allison living in Britain at the time decided that she wanted to change that:
I'd like to come up with something that can be made by anybody anywhere to pin on their jacket or coat to signify that they are an ally.
I quite like the idea of just putting a safety pin – empty of anything else – on your coat. A literal SAFETY pin!
In a big city like London, or even in someplace smaller like a grocery store, or a coffee shop, we’re all just strangers to one another. It can be difficult for all of us to either reach out for help or to offer help. A symbol as simple as a safety pin can be an important first step in showing solidarity and support for people who are scared and upset at this time.
There’s now a growing movement in the United States for people to start wearing a safety pin in the wake of post-election attacks and harassment. In itself it is a small thing. But what it says to fellow Americans and our immigrant neighbors who are afraid or subject to abuse is hugely important: I will stand by you. I will sit next to you. I will walk with you. I will defend your rights in America.
You can be a part of this. There is a small bowl of safety pins on the table outside the office. Take one and pin it to your lapel or your collar and let people know that you are an ally to those who are troubled and that you are on the side of peace.
Together in Christ,
Rick Neale, Pastor
How much should I give to my church?
For God so loved the world that God gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him would not perish but will have eternal life. ~ John 3:16
God loves us so much that Jesus Christ came to us, full of grace and truth, and poured himself out to us so that we could be filled—filled with the gift of Life.
… describes a God who gives abundant life to all things.
… describes the way God loves each one of us.
… describes the way we can respond by our giving.
How much should I give?
Giving comes from the heart, and prayer is essential for determining what to give.
1. First of all, pray for your church (Rock Spring Church) and give thanks for the way God blesses you through this church.
2. Evaluate your current giving. Does it reflect your blessings? Is it generous? Is it time for you to increase your giving to God and the work of the church?
3. Consider proportional giving: How about 1% of your income? How about 2%, or the biblical example of the tithe, 10%? Giving is an act of faith. If you give even a fraction of a percent, your gift is an act of faith.
4. Consider, too, the ways you can give of your time, your interest, and your abilities.
[At Rock Spring Presbyterian Church Dedication Sunday is November 20th. Your Commitment Card and Time and Talent Offering are on their way to you. Please use them to make your commitment plan for the coming year. Make a note of your plan for your own records. We would like you to bring these with you to church for Dedication Sunday on November 20th. If you will not be here that day, please send them to the church office.]
Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. ~ 2 Corinthians 9:7
Together in Christ,
Rick Neale, Pastor
Pastor Rick Neale of Rock Spring Presbyterian Church in Piedmont Heights, Atlanta, offers us a reflection and study on our extravagant God. Do you look around and see only what you lack? Read on and try looking through another, more adundance-aware lens.
Fall is the season of harvest, a time to celebrate the fruits of our labor and the abundance of God’s grace.
In that spirit, this fall we will center our thoughts on the theme of Extravagant Generosity. What does that mean?
It starts with remembering how generous God is. Our very lives are a gift from God. This beautiful world in which we live is a gift from God. Our individual abilities, the things we dream about, the hopes we nurture, the people we cherish are gifts from God. This church of which we are a part is a gift from God.
God’s extravagant generosity is the foundation from which we can expand our own giving to entirely new levels. How does that happen…? Let’s start at the beginning.
Genesis, Chapter One — The Grand Pageant of Creation! Rank upon rank of uncountable and endlessly varied created things: vast oceans and massive continents; sun, moon, and legions of stars; grain filling the valleys; fruit trees covering the mountains; minnows and salmon and sharks and whales; lions and tigers, elephants and antelopes, dogs and cats; grasshoppers and worms; bees and sparrows and eagles — and people: “red and yellow, black and white, all are precious in God’s sight!”
We have an amazing encounter with a God who does more than simply create stuff. God creates with wild abandon! God is the Giver of Life, a gift that has no boundaries whatsoever. Everything we see is a gift from God. Everything we have is a gift from God. Everything we are is a gift from God.
Our loving, extravagant God, who says, “Everything that is mine is yours. Everything I have I give to you. Everything.”
Read Psalm 65
What does the Psalm say about its writer? What verses(s) describe an experience you’ve had? What does it say that might be hard to believe? What gives you a new feeling of hope? How does it speak to your church/family?
Now it is time to ask, is there anything God needs from us? Look into this by reading
Jeremiah 31:27-34. This is written to the Jewish people in Babylon. What promises is God making to them? What does it say that might be hard to believe? What do you think God is hoping for? How does is speak to your church/family?
Reflect on the following:
Can you love without giving? We are blessed with friends and family whom we love dearly. We express our love for them in many ways. We give of ourselves by investing in the lives of those we love.
Pray about these things every day.
Together in Christ,
Rick Neale, Pastor
Office hours M-Th: 9:30am - 2:30pm
Sunday Worship 11am
Rock Spring Church is handicapped accessible. To reach the church office and sanctuary enter via the driveway side Red door. To reach Fellowship Hall enter the driveway side Grey door.