We hope you enjoy the resources below and find ways to celebrate with family and friends during the holiday season. Many friends of Montreat lent their talents to help create this year’s collection, we thank them for their time and thoughtful contributions. In addition to the names listed throughout, much appreciation to Celeste Crowe from our Marketing department and Emma Goldrick and Martha Todd Sloan from our Development office, all of whom worked behind the scenes to bring this collection to life. Finally, each and every one of us at Montreat Conference Center wishes you and yours a Blessed Christmas and a Joyous New Year! To subscribe to the weekly release of the collection, visit this link.
First Sunday of Advent
Pray For PeaceAn Advent devotion by Rev. Byron Wade, Executive Presbyter of Presbytery of Western North Carolina
The season of Advent is one of preparation and expectation. Many people are excited by the smells and tastes of sumptuous food and desserts, giving and receiving of gifts, and spending time with one another. However, many are seeking the one thing that seems so elusive in our lives. The Psalmist in Psalm 122:8 says:
“For the sake of my relatives and friends I will say, ‘Peace be within you.’”
It is commonly known that this Psalm was sung by those who were making their way to Jerusalem to worship. They also had an expectation of joy as they met one another on this pilgrimage to the holy city. It was a moment in time within their week to reflect on the goodness of God in the midst of the ups and downs they faced in everyday life.
As they “enter the house of the Lord” and their feet are “standing within your (the Lord’s) gates” (Psalm 122:1), they are assured of God’s presence and peace. They are expecting to hear the word of the Lord calling them to “give thanks to the name of the Lord” (Psalm 122:4). The people are called to give thanks not only for the establishment of God’s judgment but also for the unity of all the tribes of Israel.
Yet the central point of this psalm is the concept of God’s peace. The Psalmist calls for the people to pray for peace in four ways. The first is to “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem” (Psalm 122:6), the holy city. Secondly, the people are to pray for those who are in our cities. “Peace be within your walls” (verse 6) that they may be a shelter for those who are lost, homeless, or otherwise lacking resources, and a call for those who are leaders to rule justly. Third, “for the sake of my relatives and friends I will say “Peace be within you” (Psalm 122:8). The people of God are called to assure others that God’s peace is within them. Whenever they are going through times of anxiety and trouble, they are comforted by the fact that God’s peace is already present within them. And finally, knowing that God’s peace is present, the people are called to “seek your good” (Psalm 122:9), working for peace, justice, and the safety of others.
In this time of uncertainty and chaos, may we celebrate with joy and expectation the coming of the Prince of Peace into the world.
Glory to God 373; O Day of Peace that Dimly ShinesChosen by Dr. Mel Bringle, Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Brevard College
Activity – Mountain CookiesProvided by Sarah Peters
This week’s activity is based on our text from Isaiah, “Come let me go to the mountain of the Lord…” Bake and decorate your own mountain cookies to enjoy as you study this passage!
Second Sunday of Advent
An Advent DevotionBased on the readings from Isaiah and Matthew
Contributed by Margaret LaMotte Torrence, Swannanoa, NC
Sitting by my woodstove with a stack of books, trying to find a way into the wilderness of Advent, I was startled by a family of five bears, just outside the window. As long as they stayed, I was transfixed, my plans for the day forgotten. Though I have lived in these mountains for twenty years, I still find such encounters wondrous. I take photos, call out to anyone in the house, relive the details over supper. I also wonder how often I miss the visits these creatures make as they glean berries, rummage through the woodpile, and take shortcuts through the yard we have staked. When I am turned away, I rarely know that they have come.
The season of Advent urges us to notice where our attention lies. These holy days invite us to attend, not only to what our eyes see and our ears hear, but to God’s vision for all creation. On this second Sunday of Advent, with the words of Isaiah still sounding in the room, John the Baptist is our guide. John is singularly equipped for the task. We remember from Luke’s account that even in his mother’s womb, John was attuned to the nearness of God.
Now grown, John speaks from the precarity of the wilderness, where humanity’s vulnerable nature finds sharp relief. He wastes no words, proclaiming “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” As listeners, we hear those words and focus on our pasts, steeling our hearts against all that has gone wrong. But John’s initial focus isn’t backwards, and it isn’t on us. John first wants his listeners to notice what God is doing in the present moment. John says, in effect, “Turn and see. Be riveted by an encounter, a relationship, that will put all else into perspective. Join yourselves to this.”
John warns that this relationship is not one we can presume or inherit. We must choose this life we are being offered, knowing that it will strip us of our illusions and all that insulates us from each other. The God who meets us in the wilderness is committed to a reordering of relationships for the sake of the whole beloved creation, with all the pain and possibility that entails. During Advent and always, we are invited to keep watch and—with the Spirit’s strength—to find our place in that purpose.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13
Glory to God 77; Isaiah the Prophet Has Written of OldChosen by Dr. Mel Bringle, Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Brevard College
Activity – Lamb CraftsProvided by Mary Ellen Porter
This week’s crafts are based on our text from Isaiah 11:6: “The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them.”
Third Sunday of Advent
An Advent DevotionBased on the scripture lesson from Luke
Contributed by Rev. Lewis Galloway, Retired Senior Pastor, Second Presbyterian Church, Indianapolis, IN
When the pregnant Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth, Elizabeth recognizes that the child Mary is carrying is the fulfillment of God’s promises to deliver Israel. Mary responds with the hymn of praise we know as the Magnificat. It has often been called the most revolutionary word in the Bible. Mary praises God who acts in a broken and hurting world to reverse the order of things: the proud are brought low, the weak are lifted up, the powerful are brought down, and the hungry are fed. God acts to restore life, to bring about justice, and to save all people.
Advent is about anticipating the many ways in which God continues to act in our lives and in our world to fulfill the promises of the Bible. It is easy to see only the brokenness in our lives, our relationships, our communities, and our world. When that is all we see, we despair. In Advent, we not only anticipate that final day when Christ shall return and make all things new, but we also look around us and see the Holy Spirit at work fulfilling the words of Mary. When we perceive the Spirit at work we can trust the words of the prophet Isaiah, “Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who are of a fearful heart, ‘Be strong, do not fear! Here is your God’” (Isaiah 35: 3-4). When we perceive the movement of the Holy Spirit we are lifted from fear to faith.
Glory to God 100; My Soul Cries Out with a Joyful ShoutChosen by Dr. Mel Bringle, Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Brevard College
Activity – Lantern CraftProvided by Sarah Peters
This week’s crafts are based on our text from Isaiah 2:5: “Come, descendants of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the Lord.”
Fourth Sunday of Advent
An Advent DevotionBased on the scripture lesson from Matthew
Contributed by Dr. John Kuykendall, President Emeritus of Davidson College
Joseph had nothing to go by save the word of God and he accepted it. A godless man would have said it was just a dream, but Joseph believed the word of God and took unto him his wife.
In many ways, the story of Joseph’s dream is just a side-show in Matthew’s account of the birth of Jesus. Indeed, you might say that Joseph was no more than an “innocent bystander” to the main event. You might even say that his participation doesn’t seem to add a great deal to the Christmas story. However, this righteous bystander had more than a little say-so in the way things were to turn out. By Jewish law, he literally held the power of life and death over the young woman to whom he had become engaged. At the very least he had every right to walk away from a bad situation and never look back. Otherwise, he might have become the object of rumor or ridicule, you know how people can talk.
So, Righteous Joseph held a key to the future in his hands. Not to say that God’s will could have been thwarted by Joseph’s choice, but as Martin Luther said, “A godless man would have said it was just a dream,” and chosen self-preservation over providence.
Joseph might well have pondered the alternatives – What’s the easiest thing to do? What’s the most convenient thing to do? What’s the legal thing to do? And, oh yes, what’s the thing to do that will make me look the best… the most righteous, if you know what I mean?
And yet sometimes the voice of God has an awful clarity to it. Sometimes the imperative is unavoidable. Joseph, you certainly don’t have to do God’s will, but whose side do you want to be on anyway? Why else should we call you righteous?
“He was a righteous man chosen by God to raise His only Son, when an angel appeared to him in a dream.
And his journey had just begun…”
Martin Topham, Joseph, a Righteous Man
Glory to God 811; Make Your Face to Shine Upon Your ServantChosen by Dr. Mel Bringle, Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Brevard College
Activity – Cookies for Santa ClausProvided by Anne Stone
This week’s activity comes to us from Anne Stone and is her world-famous chocolate chip cookie recipe. Bake a big batch of these to share with Santa this Saturday night!
An Advent DevotionBased on the included scripture lesson from Matthew
Contributed by Rev. Amantha Barbee, Senior Pastor, Quail Hollow Presbyterian Church
Matthew starts by telling us that no one knows the day or the hour that Jesus will come. What do we really know? We are living in a time of uncertainty and always have. Of course, the pandemic and the racial unrest propelled by our political climate have heightened this awareness, but we must look deeply at ourselves and ask, “have we ever known?” I compare our current reality to the flood. We have unwillingly and unexpectedly taken a journey into troubled waters, and it’s still raining. Yet, even in our personal and communal flood waters of life, have we taken the time to find opportunities to grind meal with our neighbors?
In order to grind meal together, the women sat across from one another, taking turns replenishing the grain they were grinding, and both turned the millstone. They had one goal in mind. They needed to survive. As we journey through this Advent season, where are those places where we can metaphorically grind meal with our neighbor with one goal, one common goal? Can we sit across from another parent at a soccer game and share the love of our children as our goal? Can we sit across from our physical neighbor over a meal and share our common purpose as a peaceful and loving neighborhood in which to live? Can we sit across from our fellow human who does not have the same ethnicity at the local pub with the common goal of peace? Can we do all these things with the goal of survival in the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ?
This is our opportunity for an awakening right here, right now. Our readiness is not dependent on Jesus. Our readiness depends on us! Jesus is coming. We are in the season of Advent, meaning – the arrival. We do not have to choose whether or not Jesus is coming or arriving. That is a given. We only have to choose how we will prepare for his coming, his arrival. We must move from point A to point B and not allow ourselves to be held prisoner to the multiple societal ills we face. Instead, embrace the challenges, lean into the change, and know that when Jesus arrives, it will be the perfect time.
Glory to God 86; The People Who Walked in DarknessChosen by Dr. Mel Bringle, Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Brevard College
Activity – The Huck’s Holiday Special – Peppermint Chocolate EggnogProvided by Mallory Smith, Huckleberry Manager
This week’s activity comes to us from The Huckleberry’s Manager, Mallory Smith. Use the recipe below to make the Huck’s signature holiday drink – a Peppermint Chocolate Eggnog – right in your own home! And from Tuesday December 27 through Saturday December 31 grab one in person and use the coupon below for 10% off – Montreat’s Christmas gift to you!