Fourth Sunday in Advent
The Advent devotionals in this series were created for use by families, but they could also be adapted for use with youth or adults, in a group, or for individual reflection.
Music, art, and quotes from other materials will accompany each week’s devotional. Reflection questions will be a part of every program. You may use these questions in a discussion group, in your family (including young children), or possibly a youth group.
Each reflection time consists of the following:
- Candle Lighting and an excerpt from a hymn. It is recommended that you use a hymnal and sing the whole verse!
- Recitation, a short expression. If you are doing this as a family or in a group, it’s recommended that you split the expression into parts and have each group speak out different parts of the sentence. This is especially important for children.
- Reflection on the Scripture and/or topic for the week.
- Discussion questions to help you explore what you think and feel. No one knows the mind of God and therefore the thoughts that come to mine are worthy of entertaining. Those meeting in a group should ask questions of one another. Think about what each one says. Ask questions like, “Why do you think that?” This will help get a bigger picture of each other’s thoughts
- Prayer that can be a quiet prayer, a walking prayer, a movement prayer, an art prayer, a musical prayer.
The themes for each week are Light, Love, Joy, and Peace.
Optional: Do you have a movement (from yoga, etc.) that can help embody these “concepts” deeper into our bodies? Do that every night! (i.e., Sun Salutation for Light or Warrior for Love)
Advent Week 4: Peace
by Kathleen Stone
Sing “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” The United Methodist Hymnal #230, verse 2, as you light the fourth candle.
If you have more than one person reflecting together, read the following as a call and response. If there’s only one person, read it three or four times until it comes into your heart.
Voice 1: We want peace.
Voice 2: Real peace.
People have interpreted so much contentment and peacefulness in the Christmas story. Yet, just under the surface of the story is some scary stuff! There’s a lot of trouble going on:
- Mary was in trouble because she got pregnant without Joseph. Joseph could have abandoned her to the punishment of women who found themselves pregnant, unmarried, and without a partner. He could have said “No way!”
- Joseph was in trouble because he decided to love Mary anyway and that meant that his friends and relations would judge him and Mary unfairly.
- The baby Jesus was in trouble because Herod thought Jesus might want to be the king and felt threatened at the thought. In fact, after Jesus was born, King Herod hunted for Jesus to kill him.
- The shepherds in the fields felt troubled because they were terrified by the host of angels in the sky.
- The three kings were in trouble because they were supposed to return to Herod and report Jesus’ location to him.
Everyone was troubled! But there’s a word of peace in the middle of it all!
What do you think about that? Could the resistance and rebellion of God being born on this earth, appearing in dreams, and stars, and angels’ voices be a part of their joy and their peace? Is it that God is by our bedside anyhow?
Each of the characters in the Christmas story agreed with God, did what God asked, and decided to go ahead and make some good trouble!
What do you think of this quote?
“The opposite of war isn’t peace. It’s creation.” Jonathan Larson, Rent (La Vie Boheme)
This is a picture from the James Webb Space Telescope, which was set into orbit on Christmas Day 2021! And it is a picture of the birth of stars! Do you see trouble in the cloudy debris-filled gasses? All of that combusts into stars!!
Was the trouble of the Jesus story like this cloudy, dust-filled birth of stars? Was that trouble creating a new world? Was the trouble in the biblical characters’ lives a bit cloudy, where they had to peer through it to see the metaphorical stars and journey they needed to take? How did they all know to look for the stars in the middle of the dust? What did they need to believe? How are you at that kind of belief?
In the middle of the troubles today, can we believe that the dust is forming a new world, a new star, a new universe of love if we just ponder and peer and believe?
God of all Creation, help us to look diligently for the birth of stars, even Jesus himself, in the middle of trouble!
Kathleen Stone is former staff of United Women in Faith and a retired elder in the Greater New Jersey Annual Conference. She is lead writer for the 2023 United Women in Faith children’s curriculum, We are the Kin-dom!