Tuesday
December 8, 2020
THE GAZE OF THE HEART
Psalm 121:1-2

1 I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from? 2 My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.

As each Christmas season arrives, Allen and I so fondly recall the days when our son, Matt, as a young boy, enjoyed lying on his back under our Christmas tree and gazing up into the intricate pattern of branches, shiny tinsel, ornaments, twinkling lights (since we always had an artificial tree, the dripping of sap was not an issue). In the midst of playing and learning, Matt would simply “pause”, position himself under the tree, and take time to “look up”; this became a boyhood Christmas tradition for him, lasting several years. I like to think it was his way of meditating and reflecting, as much as a child can do. His little well-worn, six-inch-tall brown teddy bear was always nestled next to his face. I have no need of photos to remind me of Matt’s “time under the tree” --- it’s one of the precious visuals that’s foremost in my mind.

Gazing upward is a good thing, I think --- we should definitely do it more often! It’s exactly the position we should take during Advent to keep us lovingly absorbed with Christ. When we’re looking outward, and especially when we’re looking inward at our own selfish interests, distractions and stumbling can result. Right now, we’re in a season of distraction and “pause” --- a pause from just about everything that once seemed normal to us. We may obsess and feel anxious about our rising Covid numbers, mask-wearing, sanitizing, social distancing, and the cancellation of treasured family get-togethers. And, while awareness and safe practices are important, our minds and our hearts also need a break from the continuous stream of sensational items recorded in the news that “blur” our true focus --- a blur that keeps us from seeking and focusing on God. God gives us the ability to choose where we put our focus and energy, but do we consciously make that choice? He is our unchanging God and our only real certainty in this life of uncertainties, so the choice is clear. In Him, we find peace amid the chaos. God never changes. He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. He’s steadfast, reliable, and always with us . . . unlike the world!

By looking upward, we’re saying, in effect, that we refuse to be ensnared by the world. Let the distractions of the world fade away! By remembering where God is, we grow in trust and confidence in Him. Rev. Charles Spurgeon writes, “the uplifted eyes naturally and instinctively represent the state of the heart which fixes on desire, hope, confidence, and expectation upon the Lord.” Likewise, James Montgomery Boise writes, “do we look up to God reverently, obediently, continuously, expectantly, singly, submissively, imploringly? Probably not, but we should.”

As I see it, what is all-important is the gaze of the heart at Him who is ruling this world and working out His eternal purpose for each of us. What if this became our focal point this Christmas season and into the new year? I need no further assurance . . . how about you?

Spiritual practice:
So, if you tend to get “all wrapped up” this Christmas season, in the problems of the pandemic, it might be the perfect time to stop, take a few minutes each day to simply look upward, and meditate on the shining glory of God. While you’re at it, send up a grateful prayer --- it just may help sharpen your focus. And, if you just happen to have a fuzzy little teddy bear nestled beside you, may it remind you of the comforting hand of our Lord and Savior.

-- Mary Beth Spletzer
Natalie Bonelli - “What Child is This”
During Advent you are invited to participate in personal Advent Evening Prayer and Worship in the comfort of your home at the close of each day. Download this guide HERE.
#adventaltarspace
Decorating the Christmas trees in the sanctuary with Beth & Anita :).
-- Shea
#ADVENTALTARSPACE
Let’s share the spirit of Advent and Christmas by sharing photos of our at-home altar spaces, the lighting of Advent candles, and our holiday decorations! Please also consider sharing a favorite Advent & Christmas activity or memory! Email your photos and a description to Shea at communicate@stjohns-abq.org.
The list of Advent and Christmas events has been updated! Click the image above to see what is new.
A CALL FOR DAILY DEVOTIONALS
Would you be interested in submitting a daily devotional for the Newsletter? If so, send an email to Pastor Pam at prowley@stjohns-abq.org! Please include the following items when writing a devotion:
  • A Focus Word or Phrase
  • A Scripture (it can simply be referenced)
  • One page of a Devotion
  • A Prayer or a Spiritual Practice
Sundays | 9:30 & 11:00 am
St. John’s will live-stream a worship service on Sunday morning at 9:30 am (Contemporary) on the Abide Facebook page and 11:00 am (Traditional) on our Youtube Channel. We hope you’ll worship with us! (Pastors Pam and Kelly will lead, along with Shea Perry, Jim Ahrend, and Matt Greer). We hope that you’ll participate by singing and praying at home! Any questions? Email Matt at mgreer@stjohns-abq.org.

Sunday Community Activities: Click HERE to view all Sunday School Classes & groups! Join us in the virtual Sonshine Coffee Zoom immediately following the 11:00 am Worship with church Leadership Team members hosting. Zoom registration is HERE.
Prayer Requests:
The Gruen family in the passing into glory of Marge

Ann Boland and family in the passing into glory of Bob

Roger and Donna Eaton in the passing of sister Virginia Davis

Donna Bruce in the passing of her brother

Karen and Hal Tidler in the passing of their brother-in-law
VIRTUAL PRAYER QUILT
Kelly Giese is the recipient for the prayer quilt on display for December 7 - December 20.

In lieu of tying knots, please pray this prayer (or your own prayer) for Kelly: “Loving Lord, we ask that as Kelly moves forward to a new location and a new ministry, may your Holy Spirit lead and guide her and keep her steadfast, always abounding in your work and in your love. Amen."
 DECEMBER SPECIAL OFFERING: Two Ministries for Children
This month, we have the opportunity to support two wonderful ministries dealing with children. The Methodist Children’s Home in Waco, Texas, has helped troubled children (ages 12-18) find a place to heal and grow in a loving Christian environment for over 125 years. Younger children thrive in homes of loving foster parents. “They (MCH) are here for me when no one else is.” “They never give up on us.” “I now know that God’s going to be there for me.
      A second Methodist-supported haven for children is Providence Place in San Antonio, Texas. Its motto says it all: “Giving God’s Children a Faith, a Family, a Future.” “Providence Place loved me and helped me make the best decision for my child without any pressure,” said one birth mother in the open adoption program. And, as an adoptive couple puts it, “It is indescribable the joy that Abby has brought into our lives.” Providence Place also helps young adults with physical and/or cognitive disabilities develop their full potential and learn to live on their own with minimal assistance.  Both of these fine ministries rely on our generous donations.
Contact Us
www.stjohns-abq.org
(505) 883-9717
2626 Arizona St NE | Albuquerque, NM 87110
Office Hours (call only): Monday - Friday, 9:00 am - 2:00 pm
Questions? Contact Shea Perry at communicate@stjohns-abq.org