A PERSONAL PRAYER
I love my family. I must admit, I am a little too proud of them – all of them. Oh, we are clearly not perfect, and you know that. You know our “stuff” and the tensions and challenges that show up. But you know, too, God, that we work through them because we are “compelled by love” to do so. (2 Corinthians 5:14) And during Christmastime, I am especially thankful to you for my family. What an incredibly amazing gift.
You put us here in families. More importantly, though, you came as Jesus Christ so that we might be part of your family, giving us “power to become children of God, born not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13) And I am so grateful to be in your family, to have brothers and sisters in Christ. It isn’t always easy to be with others, to give up some autonomy and submit to others. But God, it is worth it. So thank you.
I pray today for all those who find themselves lonely this Christmas, that they might realize that you came so they would not be alone, that you are “Emmanuel,” God with us. And I pray for all those for whom family relationships are difficult, that in this season you might draw them closer together, and reinvigorate the love in them that binds us all together.
In the name of my brother Jesus, the one who came to be together with us, I pray. Amen.
SOME THOUGHTS TO SHARE
This Sunday, December 16, is St. Luke’s Christmas Festival, with marvelous music and full orchestra in our three traditional worship services, 8:30, 9:45, and 11:00. This is always the highlight of the season at St. Luke’s, so you won’t want to miss it.
One of the things I love about Christmas is seeing all the folks coming forward for communion with family and friends, reunions of folks who don’t ordinarily see one another. It is what makes this season so significant. We call it the “holiday season,” which is really short for “holy days season.” How can we create and celebrate “holy families” with the people we love? This Sunday, December 16, we continue a series of sermons looking at the values that underlie the season of Advent and Christmas. Our message is titled “Tis the Season for… Togetherness.”
On Christmas Eve, we will be contributing 100% of our offering to support the creation of a preschool on our Gethsemane campus. This is St. Luke’s Christmas offering for the Early Childhood Education Project and will help to pay to renovate a wing on that campus to bring it up to code, as well as provide some startup costs to get the program going. To find out more, or to support this effort, click here.
Check out this awesome article (here) in USA Today on the reVision soccer ministry on our Gethsemane campus. How cool is that!
Rev. Eric Huffman, lead pastor at The Story Houston, St. Luke’s congregation that focuses on inspiring non-religious Houstonians to play their part in the story of God’s love in Jesus Christ, is now a published author! Forty Days of Doubt is a series of devotionals that address those obstacles that stand in the way of belief for many people. Take a look at the book here.
This coming Wednesday, December 19, at 7:00 pm in St. Luke’s Chapel, folks will gather for a special worship service called Christmas Remembered. For many, the loss of a loved one means that the holidays are a difficult time, and this service will remember those loved ones and renew our hope in Emmanuel. If you would like to have a picture of your loved one displayed during the service, contact Rev. Thomas Harper: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you want to know more about all of St. Luke’s Advent activities, as well as the Christmas eve worship schedule, click here.
Sunday, December 16
Holy Lord, God Almighty, we thank you for the gift of peace. We thank you that no matter what happens we can trust you because you love us unconditionally, and knowing this gives us a peace that transcends all understanding. We pray, God, that you might bring that same powerful peace into the whole world. In praying for peace, we recognize that you have called us all to be your agents of peace in our own corner of the world so that a movement of transformation begins and spreads throughout the world. Give us what we need to be your peacemakers. Amen.
Monday, December 17
All-knowing God, we thank you for the gift of forgiveness. You graciously give us second and third and even more chances to get things right, but we continue to fail. Thank you for your forgiveness for the things we do that are wrong, for the words that we say that hurt others and for the times that we forsake you. Please guide us back to your paths of righteousness and help us to live a better life as a reflection of your love. Amen.
Tuesday, December 18
Holy God, thank you for the gift of transformation. Thank you that you are always working to grow us and help us figure things out. We thank you God that you do not want us to stay where we are and that you have called us to a higher purpose. Give us the courage to step out of our comfort zones into a deeper place of faith. Amen.
Wednesday, December 19
Holy Father, we confess that during the Holiday season, we struggle to find joy as we grieve the loss of those whom we love who have returned to you. We are sad and lonely. While others around us are happy, busy, and wondering why we don’t get into the Christmas spirit. Draw near to us this Christmas season, help us remember our loved ones fondly and find peace in the knowledge that they are in your great care. Come, Emmanuel, Amen. -Prayer by Rev. Thomas Harper
Thursday, December 20
Gracious God, we thank you for the gift of grace. You have forgiven our sins and given us grace upon grace. Lord, we pray that you would grow in us that same spirit of grace so that when the opportunity arises we remember to extend the grace that we have received to others who are in need of our forgiveness. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.
Friday, December 21
God, we thank you for the gift of compassion. Jesus came to earth, walked with us, wept with us, and had compassion for us. We pray, God, that you would break open our hearts from the bondage of the world and fill us with your compassionate love so that we are moved to make a difference in the world. Help us to love and live like Jesus. Amen.
Saturday, December 22
Heavenly Father, we thank you for the gift of the Sabbath. We thank you for showing us how to rest from our work and renew our spirit in you. We pray that during this busy season of life you will give us the self-discipline to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy. Amen.