Advent Season Devotional: November 30, 2014

Holy Covenant members and friends, 

We’re going to be trying something new this Advent Season here at Holy Covenant.  Each Sunday a member from staff will send out an email devotional that will contain daily meditations to offer an invitation for prayer, meditation and stillness in this busiest of seasons.  Our hope is that we might join our efforts in spirit and body and faithfully prepare for the coming of Christ on Christmas morning!  Each week will have a theme that will follow along with the Advent Study and also the Sunday sermons.  Join us in this journey to the manger.  Keep this email and read the daily meditation; share with a friend, start a conversation, pray and seek God’s meaning for each meditation.  

Hope in our neighborhood!
Advent is a time time for anticipation of God’s love being born.  As we read the familiar story again, we decorate our homes, and we fill our schedules with parties and celebrations.  As a church, we have a number of ministries that bring hope to the families in our neighborhood. One major focus for our church in 2015 is going to be creating and maintaining relationships with those closest neighbors of our church.  One of the things that strikes me as we begin this journey is, what does a family who lives in poverty experience here in North Carrollton?  What are the hopes and dreams of such a family?  We can pour over statistical data about the amount of money that qualifies a family to be in poverty or the percentage of families here in Carrollton living in poverty.  For instances, in Carrollton the poverty rate is 7.18%, yet if we examine the area just west of our church the poverty rate is 19.03%.  Or did you know that the poverty line for a family of 4 is $23,850?!  As helpful as this data can be, there are two things this data cannot teach us:  
1. What it actually feels like to live in poverty.  
2. How to identify our neighbors’ hopes and dreams.  
I think this is a serendipitous detail God has designed to be expressed through conversation, incarnation, and relationship.  We must seek to look at the world through their eyes, and make their reality a part of our reality.  In the coming months there will be ample opportunity to not just meet the needs of our neighbors, but to begin creating and maintaining relationships.  Through these relationships we aim for the hopes and dreams of our neighbors to become our own.  Not so that we can simply create another ministry, but so that we can be mutually transformed and experience God’s unconditional love and grace together.  As we remember the story of Mary and Joseph, we would be wise to remember that their life was much more humble than we often cite.  After all, Jesus was born in a manger, right?  

On this World AIDS day, let us remember all of those who suffer from HIV/AIDS and all other deadly diseases and sicknesses.  Might we consider what a life-changing diagnosis can mean to a family living in poverty right in our neighborhood.  May we pray for patients and healthcare providers, that they may all know God loves and cares for them.  

For a person who receives food assistance from the government (SNAP), they are given $1.50 per day per person in their family.  Have you eaten on $1.50 for an entire day??  Try it out! (It doesn’t have to be today, just pick any day in the next week)  As you prepare, remember this is a daily struggle for millions in our nation and thousands in our area.  May we pray for affordable and nutritious options for our neighbors.    

For many who live in the shadows of our neighborhood, the United States is a land they have migrated to.  Immigrants hold a special place in the Christian witness.  Time after time, Scripture reminds us to love the foreigner as a native.  What are the obstacles we, as a Church, face in loving our immigrant brothers and sisters?  What are the obstacles you face in loving them as well?  May we pray for refugees and immigrants alike, for we know God’s love travels with them.    

Education is a key factor in eliminating poverty.  Kids who receive a good education through high school and are prepared for college and/or trade school help to break down generational barriers of poverty.  For many parents, the everyday stress of making ends meet can shift focus away from supporting their children in their education.  Remember your education and support, let your thankfulness show in word AND action.  May we pray for the teachers and students in our neighborhood who are working to change the world.       

Labor and work matter to God, and so does a decent living wage.  The words “working poor” are common place when talking about poverty.  What does that say about our society?  Are we, as Christians, called to stand with the “working poor” and find ways to create change so that God’s liberating love can become incarnate among us?  May we pray for the end of the term “working poor” in our country. 

By this point, I think it’s fair to say that poverty might best be described as the lack of a person to reach their full potential as a child of God.  Whether it’s earning a living wage, receiving a transformational education, access to nutritional food and adequate healthcare; the question is simple- How can love be born into this neighborhood?!  May we pray for ALL of the hopes and dreams of our neighbors; rich or poor, young or old, gay or straight, black or white, yellow or brown, citizen or immigrant.  

Jason Redick
Holy Covenant UMC
Youth Minister