We pray. We study the Bible. We make friends. We tell our stories. We give ourselves away in generosity and service.
A PERSONAL PRAYER
Some people are easy to love. I feel love for them in my heart, and genuinely want them to know how much I love them. These are my wife, my parents and in-laws, my children and grandchildren, my friends and colleagues and partners in ministry. I feel so blessed to have these people in my life. Still, I don’t let them know how much I love them, at least not enough. I confess that I don’t say I love you often enough. I don’t show my affection. I don’t do things for them happily and gladly with the right spirit. I confess to you I get distracted and focused on accomplishing the tasks for the day, and expect that “they should just know” I love them. God, remind me that love not demonstrated isn’t love at all, but simply the potential for love. A tree that bears no fruit is not a fruit tree, no matter what is its nature. A river that doesn’t flow isn’t a river at all. You showed me how to love in your son Jesus, who gave of himself fully, without holding anything back, all out of love. Let me do that to the people for whom I feel such love.
Other people are not as easy to love. I am sorry, God, but I don’t feel affection toward these people. Some of them don’t seem to love me, and even hate me without knowing me, so that makes it so much harder. Some of them stand for things that are in direct opposition to what I stand for. What amazes me is that you love them in exactly the same way as you love me—no more, no less. You gave your son for them, just like you gave your son for me. And you have said that the love you gave me—I am supposed to share it with them. God, I want the overwhelming warmth of your love to thaw my heart and motivate my actions, so that I might love them as you love them, and love them in the same manner you love me – unconditionally, without reservation.
Overwhelm me with your love, that I might be compelled by that love to love others.
In the name of the one whose very name is love, Jesus the Christ,
QUESTIONS FOR CONVERSATION
Who has delivered a gift of love to you, and how did they do it? What might you do to pass on a gift of sacrificial love to someone this year?
SOME THOUGHTS TO SHARE
Put on your calendar our Christmas eve services, all of which you can find here. Also, note that on Christmas day and New Year’s day, St. Luke’s will have no Encounter service, and only one traditional service at 11:00 a.m. in the Sanctuary. The Story Houston will have only one service at 11:05 a.m. There is no Sunday School these days.
This Sunday morning, December 18, we continue our Advent series on Re–gifting Christmas. We will talk about regifting love, in a message entitled The Wedding Ring.
I hope you are following our Advent devotional prayers and activities. Don’t miss our Christmas Festival and worship with Orchestra in all three of our morning worship services this Sunday, December 18.
The financial generosity of St. Luke’s family is essential, and your generosity does two things. First, it helps make ministry actually happen. God is doing amazing things at St. Luke’s because you give. Second, it makes a difference in the life of the giver. We become more closely connected to God’s work as we give and grow in our faith as we trust God more. Thank you for your generous spirit and for playing a significant role in the ministries of St. Luke’s. Please consider making a generous gift to our Christmas Offering benefiting the initiative, Zero to Five Learning, or a year–end gift to St. Luke’s by December 31. We are always counting on our wonderfully generous congregation to give at year end to meet our obligations, and this year is no different.
Sunday, December 18
“New every morning is your love, Great God of light, and all day long you are working for good in the world. Stir up in us desire to serve you, to live peacefully with our neighbors, and to devote each day to your Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ the Lord. Amen.”
Monday, December 19
Dear gracious God, Thank you for loving us so much, that you gave your only son to come and die for our salvation. Please help us believe and help others that struggle to find you. Let us be able to follow you through the hardships so that we may spread your word of eternal life. Bring to us the joy of knowing your loving embrace. In your son’s holy name, Amen.
—Prayer by Eleanor Kershner, 7th Grade
Write a love letter to God, thanking God for the gifts you received throughout the year. Fold the letter and put in your Bible.
Tuesday, December 20
Dear God, For us to love one another, we need you. Thank you for sending your son Jesus to help us love. Since you loved us first, we can now treat others better. Knowing this helps me when there are challenges against my heart. Your love makes me stronger and happier. Hope you have a great birthday, Jesus! We love you back. Amen.
—Charlee McEvoy (Age 6)
Regift Love by doing something nice for one of your neighbors. Offer to pick up groceries, bring in their trash cans, or take over a plate of cookies.
Wednesday, December 21
Loving God, you have given us unconditional love, and you have never forsaken us. We are grateful for your unending love and patience, and we confess that although we freely receive your love, we sometimes judge others without love and forgiveness. Open our hearts this Christmas sea- son, and let us overflow with your great love for one another. Help us to be patient and forgiving with a love like yours so that others may see your presence in our lives. Amen.
At some point today you will be in traffic or hunting for a parking spot in a busy parking lot. Graciously let a car in front of you with a friendly wave, or give the prime parking spot away with a smile.
Thursday, December 22
Dear Heavenly Father,
At this busy time of year, give us quiet moments to know the blessing of your steadfast love. You loved us so much that you would send your only Son to bring your love into this world to save us from our sins. As we await the celebration of his coming, let us find your love growing in our hearts and let us share that love with one another. As we rejoice in the gift of your Son, in faith and gratitude we thank you for your constant, unfailing love. Amen. —Prayer by Sandra Hendon
Have everyone in the household write a list of his or her hopes and dreams for 2017. When finished, pray for each other. Set the lists aside, and then tuck those hopes and dreams into their author’s stocking on Christmas after presents have been opened. Look for them next year when decorating to see answered hopes and prayers! These can be “nor- mal” things (school, work, finances, etc.), or more serious, faith-inspired or personal growth things—whatever is on your heart!
Friday, December 23
Dear Lord, Sometimes I am overwhelmed by the obstacles in life. At these times, I often fail to turn toward you and then tend to feel alone. When that happens, Lord, I pray that I can remember your promise to always be with me, no matter what. You demonstrate over and over that nothing can separate me from your love. Thank you, Lord, for loving me so deeply that I am never alone, regardless of how I feel in the moment. Thank you for writing this promise on my heart. Amen. —Prayer by Kymn Harrison
Read aloud the Christmas story from Luke 2:1–2
Saturday, December 24
Lord, thank you for the miracle of your incarnation. Help me to receive the gift of your presence this Christmas season. To whom might you be leading me to regift your love in the coming days? Amen.
Attend a Christmas Eve service, or join in on Livestream (Make sure you have a candle ready!)