GPS: Guide to Prayer & Study
A weekly resource with links to worship, a list of prayer requests, and daily scripture readings, reflections, prayers or spiritual practices.

"Joy Can't Wait" | Sunday, December 13
Prayers for our Community

  • Diane Hammond requests prayers for Steve’s brother in law Jerry, who remains in the vent with COVID-19; for Deb Market who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and for my dear friend Margaret who has four new bone lesions that she will need radiation on so her hip doesn’t fracture. Lastly I ask for prayers for myself. Prayers for healing of my lungs and that the scans scheduled for after Christmas do not show anything concerning.

  • Tess Young requests prayers for Jill, Al’s daughter who works at Broadlawns Medical Center; she wasn’t feeling well and tested positive for COVID. She’s now quarantining for 10 days with her 3 yr. old daughter. Prayers that their cases are mild and Jill is strong enough to take care of herself and Adrienne.

Have a prayer request?
Submit prayers to the prayer chain to Dixie Bequeaith, or private prayers to Pastor Melody.
Advent Wreath
You are invited to gather together 4 candles for each week of advent (any size or color), as well as a "Christ Candle" (typically white). You can incorporate the advent wreath rituals into a daily home worship practice, as well as to use in lighting the advent candles during online worship each Sunday. We hope this will be a meaningful way for you to mark the time as you worship at home and online. ​

We would love to see a photo of your home advent wreath! We're also collecting videos of individuals & families reading the liturgy and lighting the candles so we can share them in online worship! You can sign up and find instructions here.

Read: During this advent season, as we wait for the fullness of God to be revealed in the birth of Jesus the Christ, we light the candles of the advent wreath as a sign that God’s love and light will break through the darkness of our world. Last week, we lit the candles of Hope and Peace. This Sunday, we light the candle of Joy.

Isaiah prophesied to the people of Israel: “Once more the humble will rejoice in the Lord; the needy will rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.” Jesus himself proclaimed the words of the prophet: “He has sent me to preach good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, to liberate the oppressed, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” God turns things upside down by promising that those who are last shall be first, that the servant will become the greatest, and that the Christ-child, born in a cattle stall, would become a King. We can join the Christmas angels in proclaiming that the birth of Jesus is good news of justice and joy for all people!

We may be willing to wait for a lot of things, but we can no longer wait for joy. In a world where suffering and violence plague the news, we will choose to delight in that which is good. If we follow and live in the light of God, we will be sustained through the darkest night and the deepest sorrow and pain, and we will know that joy can defeat despair. This week, we light the candle of joy to remind us that darkness does not have the last word. May this light guide and inspire us as we work to spread God’s joy and delight through this world.
Light: Light three candles for two weeks of Advent: one for “hope," one for “peace” & one for "joy"
Pray: Loving God, when our circumstances cause us sorrow or despair, remind us of the joy of your salvation. Cast out our fear, our pride and our greed, so that we would know the joy of living fully in the light of your love. Amen.

Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11
61:1 The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners;

61:2 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn;

61:3 to provide for those who mourn in Zion-- to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit. They will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, to display his glory.

61:4 They shall build up the ancient ruins, they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.

61:8 For I the LORD love justice, I hate robbery and wrongdoing; I will faithfully give them their recompense, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.

61:9 Their descendants shall be known among the nations, and their offspring among the peoples; all who see them shall acknowledge that they are a people whom the LORD has blessed.

61:10 I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my whole being shall exult in my God; for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

61:11 For as the earth brings forth its shoots, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up, so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations.

Luke 1:46b-55
1:46b "My soul magnifies the Lord,

1:47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

1:48 for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;

1:49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.

1:50 His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.

1:51 He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.

1:52 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly;

1:53 he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.

1:54 He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy,

1:55 according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever."

1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
5:16 Rejoice always,

5:17 pray without ceasing,

5:18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

5:19 Do not quench the Spirit.

5:20 Do not despise the words of prophets,

5:21 but test everything; hold fast to what is good;

5:22 abstain from every form of evil.

5:23 May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

5:24 The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this.

John 1:6-8, 19-28
1:6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.

1:7 He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him.

1:8 He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.

1:19 This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, "Who are you?"

1:20 He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, "I am not the Messiah."

1:21 And they asked him, "What then? Are you Elijah?" He said, "I am not." "Are you the prophet?" He answered, "No."

1:22 Then they said to him, "Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?"

1:23 He said, "I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, 'Make straight the way of the Lord,'" as the prophet Isaiah said.

1:24 Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.

1:25 They asked him, "Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?"

1:26 John answered them, "I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know,

1:27 the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal."

1:28 This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing.
(commentary by Dr. Marcia Y. Riggs)

It is during a visit with her cousin Elizabeth—whose baby in her womb, John the Baptist, responds
with joy to Mary’s greeting—that Mary is moved to praise God in song. Mary’s song wells up in
her as joy because she feels deeply connected with Elizabeth—young woman to older woman
experiencing redemption in and through their bodies. On one hand, in a culture where bearing
children signified fulfilling one’s womanhood, why shouldn’t these women be overjoyed? On
another hand, bearing a child in old age and becoming pregnant before marriage were reasons to
diminish their joy. But they are faithful and believe that they have been chosen by God to bear
children who will change the course of history.

Mary’s song shows us that sowing joy emerges as we surrender to God’s vision. Confirmed by
Elizabeth’s affirmation, Mary must praise God as she anticipates the fulfillment of God’s
promise to her ancestors and generations to come. God’s realm may seem incomprehensible:
those in power are brought down, those who are lowly are lifted, the hungry are filled with good
things, and the rich are divested of their riches. This is a vision of a world turned upside down.
But, hasn’t God already turned things inside out when he chooses Mary to be the mother of
Jesus? Joy, anticipatory joy, is the only response of the faithful.

  • As you revisit Mary’s Magnificat, recall the sequence of events that lead up to her proclamation of praise (next Sunday’s lection moves us backward in the narrative). How do these prior events impact and shape Mary’s song?

  • Dr. Riggs refers to Mary’s expression as “anticipatory joy.” How would you define anticipatory joy? What does it look like to live with anticipatory joy?

  • Sowing seeds is always an act of faith. Some of the seeds won’t germinate at all, remaining buried in the soil. And if they do, some of the weak sprouts must be weeded out in order for their stronger neighbors to thrive. Seeds must be kept moist at all times or else they won’t survive. A hard rain or rough winds can easily pummel them, pests can devour them before they have a chance to develop. And yet, our entire food system depends on seeds. All plants begin and end with seed. Often we think of joy as a big, full emotion. But what if joy, like seeds, starts small? What are small actions that help us cultivate joy?

  • Civil rights activist, Ruby Sales writes, “What’s up with Mary? What does she, a poor adolescent unwed mother, whom the Roman Empire and her community press down to the lowest rung on the social ladder, have to sing about? Why would she thank God and celebrate the coming of a new child in a colonized world, where the Roman Empire, the most brutal and egregious of Empires, will close doors in an attempt to reduce her child’s life to the barest bones of possibilities and options? . . . We expect Mary to sing a blues song with all of this happening.” Why does Mary say yes—yes to carrying and birthing God’s dream?

“Joy Like Water” | based on Luke 1:46-55
poem by Sarah Are
Mary went to
Elizabeth’s house,
Because that’s what we do
when the world falls apart.
That’s what we do when the
script is flipped,
When the rug is pulled,
When it rains inside.
We go home.
We find friends.
We find love.
So Mary went to
Elizabeth’s house,
Harboring good news that
must have felt like water—
Something capable of
helping her float or pulling
her under.
And only then,
Only there,
In the presence of a face
that looked like love,
Does the word “joy” appear.
Mary said, “How can this be?”
The angel said,
“Do not be afraid.”
Mary said, “May it be so.”
But when Mary went to
Elizabeth’s house
And Elizabeth opened
the door,
Joy—like a tipped cup
of water—
Spilled out everywhere.
I imagine that
Elizabeth laughed.
I imagine that Mary framed
her growing belly.
I imagine that both women
pressed palms to stomach
When that baby began to kick,
A holy ritual as old as time.
I imagine that God smiled.
And I imagine, that for
the first time,
Mary could float.
Isn’t it always that way?
I could harbor joy to myself.
I could tuck joyful moments
deep into pockets,
Saving memories of better
days for long nights.
But when I share my joy
with you,
When you open the door,
Joy spills out everywhere,
And it is love that
helps me float.
“For Unto Us – Joy”
spoken word poetry by Lo The Poet

from Worship at Home: Advent & Christmas 2020 by Mary Scifres and B. J. Beau

  • How do you sense God's joy in Jesus's birth stories and in Jesus's entry into the world?

  • Where have you seen signs of God's joy in recent weeks or in this past year?

  • When have you felt that sorrow might swallow up the whole story?

  • Where have you heard joy wrapped in song during Advent?

  • Where or how are you discovering truth wrapped in mystery as you seek to embrace Christ's presence during this holiday season?
Choose an activity or come up with your own way to share God’s joy in the week ahead

  • Make Christmas cookies with frosting and sprinkles. As you decorate each cookie, think of one thing that brings you joy, then pray for this source of joy. If you do this activity with children or other family members, take turns talking about the things that bring you joy as you decorate.

  • Deliver a poinsettia, potted plant, or a simple holiday gift anonymously to a neighbor’s or friend’s front porch. Include a card that says, “Joy to the world and joy to you!” or “Thank you for bringing joy to the world!” Alternately, send cards or emails with a message of joy.

  • If you have the ability or technology to do so, surprise your neighbors by performing or *playing Christmas music outdoors. Invite them to enjoy the driveway holiday concert and encourage them to hum or sing along (safely distanced) as you all enjoy the gift of joy that comes through music.

*Here is a downloadable set of accompaniment tracks for a “Sidewalk Caroling Sing-along” as well as a printable packet of sheet music:
Polk City United Methodist Church | Website