Amy Jones,
Agape Coordinator
Dear God, we come to worship you today. 
We come to pray, and listen.
You always hear us. 
Help us to hear you. Amen
Scripture
Luke 1:26-38

26In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary. 28And he came to her and said, "Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you." 29But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30The angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end." 34Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I am a virgin?" 35The angel said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. 36And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. 37For nothing will be impossible with God." 38Then Mary said, "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word." Then the angel departed from her.
Devotional
There are certain events in our lives that change the pace of time. When I received the phone call that my dad’s condition was not likely to improve and that he only had a few days or maybe a week of life left, I had just landed in Nashville for a conference. I had been looking forward to a week at the United Methodist conference center, and taking in the sights and sounds of Nashville. But when I got to the hotel, I asked the concierge to help me book a flight to Rochester, NY. I got back in the shuttle that had brought me to the hotel not an hour earlier and went back to the airport without even checking into the hotel. Suddenly a week of plans narrowed to what must be done in the next hour.

The pregnancy of an unwed teen will change timelines, goals, and plans, to say nothing of her aged counterpart who almost certainly imagined her remaining years without diapers and midnight feedings. Whatever they had imagined for themselves in the next five years narrowed to planning for just the next three-six months. Pregnancy and babies change our sense of time and priorities.

Most years four days before Christmas I would be hustling to the post office or making last-minute runs to Target or I’d be stressed to pick up the last gift card before a holiday party, but this year time is different. I didn’t go to any stores this year; everything was shipped. Weeks ago, I mailed things to relatives I would have seen this holiday. I don’t have any holiday parties to attend - I didn’t even bake any cookies. The last four days before Christmas have different priorities than other years. My only desire this year is for my friends and family to be safe and healthy, even if that means I can’t have dinner with them.

Our brains are not wired to experience time, but rather we are coded to remember experiences and feelings. This is why your birthday seems to come around more quickly as you age than it did when you were very young: birthdays were new and novel experiences when you were young. You generally know what to expect from a birthday as you age, so time seems to move more quickly with fewer new things for your brain to decode and embed in memory.

For many of us, this will be a Christmas to remember. For some, the loss of a loved one will make this Christmas momentous. For others, this might be the first Christmas they have been alone, or unable to travel. Some may be sick or at the hospital. There are others who will be bored or sad. We will remember this year, for all of its new and novel feelings and experiences, whether they be good or bad.

What our culture tells us we should want from Christmas is often the final frame of a Hallmark movie: a crackling fire, the joy of a big family and delicious meal, and a neatly resolved conflict. In reality, the first Christmas was probably a bit more like Christmas 2020: a mixed bag of new feelings and experiences. You are a complicated person with a lot of complicated emotions, and so was Mary. So was Elizabeth. You’re in good company among the saints.
Prayer
God of all time, flood us with the abundance of your Spirit. Fill our memories with the knowledge that we are never alone, even when we are lonely. Permeate our consciousness with permission to be fully human, with all the messiness that comes with it. Amen.

Amy Jones
Amy Jones, Agape Coordinator
Amy Jones our Agape Coordinator is an ordained deacon in the United Methodist Church. In this tradition, deacons are ordained clergy who bridge the ministry of the church with the needs of the world, and vice versa. In more than 15 years of ministry, she has worked in churches, in children and family ministry, higher education, and nonprofits. In each setting, her focus has been on matching the resources of the church with the needs of the world. Agape Community Kitchen is exactly the type of work she was called to do. 

Amy can be reached by email at: agape@westfieldpc.org.
The Presbyterian Church in Westfield continues to burn as a light in the darkness as our community weathers this fearsome storm of illness. Our reach of care continues to extend far beyond our immediate borders. You can help us make a real impact in the lives of others by joining in our work through your time, your talents, and also in the fruits of your labors.
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