The Angel Tells Mary She Will Conceive and Bear a Son

Text: Luke 1:26-38 Reflection and Question: Mary is so much like us in her initial response to the angel Gabriel. She is quietly perplexed and looks afraid; Gabriel must reassure her that she is not in trouble. On the contrary, though a virgin, Mary will conceive a son, and not only that; he will reestablish […]

A New Heaven and a New Earth

Text: Revelation 20:11-21:8 Reflection and Question: Now we begin the run up to Christmas, when Luke and Matthew will take center stage to tell the story of Emmanuel, God with us. But these Gospel writers are not the only tellers in Scripture of how Jesus comes. This passage in Revelation is surely the most beautiful. […]

The Judgment of the Sheep and the Goats

Text: Matthew 25:31-46 Reflection and Question: Matthew is the only Gospel writer who includes this depiction of the last judgment known as the parable of the sheep and the goats. Jesus’ message is clear and consistent with His teaching elsewhere: how we treat others, especially the lowly, is what God cares about most and will […]

Praise All Around

Text: Psalm 148 Reflection and Question: This poem of praise covers every possible aspect of creation from the angels in heaven to “sea monsters and all deeps.” It reflects the understanding of God as the almighty creator of all, from the shining stars to the movements of the weather to all human beings. Every nation […]

The Parable of the Ten Virgins

Text: Matthew 25:1-13 Reflection and Question: This story is read every Advent as the church awaits the coming of the baby Jesus. It advises being ready no matter how long the wait. The standard translation of the Greek word here is “bridesmaids” even though the literal English meaning is “virgins.” Recently a friend brought to […]

What John Sees While In the Spirit

Text: Revelation 4:1-8 Reflection and Question: This extended image of God and of worship at God’s throne has inspired Christians through the ages. From the one seated on the throne looking like jasper and carnelian, then surrounded by a rainbow and twenty-four elders with golden crowns, then lightning and torches, then fantastic creatures glorifying God, […]

God Will Again Choose Jerusalem

Text: Zechariah 2:1-13 Reflection and Question: This passage has an apocalyptic ring to it, beginning with a vision of a man measuring the wall around Jerusalem. An angel stops the measurer, saying “Jerusalem will be a city without walls” and God “will be a wall of fire around it.” Then the passage shifts to a […]

As the Lightning Flashes, So He Will Come

Text: Matthew 24:15-31 Reflection and Question: Here in Advent, the daily readings give us an opportunity to reflect upon the apocalyptic visions of what will happen before Jesus returns. Or perhaps they speak of what was happening just before Jesus came the first time, to be born in Bethlehem to the girl, Mary. Whichever coming […]

Ending on a Positive Note

Text: Amos 9:11-15 Reflection and Question: Amos was a prophet to the Northern Kingdom, known as Israel, and a rival to the house of Judah ruled by the Davidic kings whose capital was Jerusalem. Having spoken in dire and fiercely judgmental terms about the situation in Israel before it fell to Assyria, now the prophet […]

My Spirit Abides Among You; Do Not Fear

Text: Haggai 2:1-9 Reflection and Question: “Take heart!” urges Haggai to the people in ruined Jerusalem as he encourages them to take up the hard work of rebuilding the Temple. The prophet makes it sound like God will tip up the whole world so that all the silver and gold can roll down into Jerusalem, […]