Savior of the Nations, Come: Acknowledgments

Savior of the Nations, Come: The Advent 2021 Devotional Book for St. Paul's Episcopal Church

Putting a devotional book is not something one does alone, so I owe my thanks to the following people:

The photo on the front page was taken by Naassom Azevedo and sourced from Unsplash.Com. It depicts a group of college students in Brazil.

Our writers are Marilyn Allen, Fr. Keith Axberg, Cathey Frederick, Jen McCabe, Fr. Paul Moore, Ashley Sweeney, Mary Ann Taylor, Carol Treston, and Tom Worrell.

Blessings to you this Advent, Christmas, and in 2022!
-Jen McCabe

Savior of the Nations, Come: December 25, 2021 (Christmas Day)

Savior of the Nations, Come: The Advent 2021 Devotional Book for St. Paul's Episcopal Church

“Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.” -Isaiah 45:22 (NRSV)

Three days ago, the sun turned from its march south toward longer light and warmer days. Summer is still many months away, but we have begun the journey. On this day we celebrate the Incarnation when God showed up as one of us. The human illusion of alienation of imagining that God was Other is transcended by the realization that in this little child, God and humanity reveal a radical union of great mystery.

We worship Jesus as God because he is God, but at the same time, we remember that he is also fully, completely human. As we watch him grow and launch into his ministry the idea is inescapable that here we see what full humanity really is, what we were always meant to be; perhaps something we already are and don’t know it. If that is the case, then the incarnation doesn’t begin and end with Jesus. As the Gospel of John says, “No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.” (John 1:18.) In this human, God is revealed. Better yet, in this human, we come to know that God is manifest in humanity. Where we differ from Christ is not our humanity but our inhumanity, our loss of humanity, our falling beneath our calling. In Jesus we see that the fabric of existence, including our own existence, is the warp and woof of divinity beneath our inhumanity, calling us to our true selves. I write these words and I know them to be true, but I also know that I do not fully grasp their meaning. I’m overcome with awe. As Peter Mayer sings in the song, Holy Now, “…say it’s not a sacrament; I tell you that it can’t be done.”

What is saving me now is knowing that in Christ I can learn to see God everywhere, if I will but set aside for a moment who I think I am and open my eyes.

God of all peoples and all things, open our eyes to see your image in ourselves, in those around us, and that which surrounds us, that we might rightly worship your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God who enfolds us all. Amen.
-Fr. Paul Moore

Savior of the Nations, Come: December 24, 2021

Savior of the Nations, Come: The Advent 2021 Devotional Book for St. Paul's Episcopal Church

“The righteousness of the upright saves them, but the treacherous are taken captive by their schemes.” -Proverbs 11:6 (NRSV)

Just before Christmas in 1986, my twin brother and I were invited over to the house of our neighbor Lou Ellyn Griffin to bake Christmas cookies. When we were done, she read us the Christmas story and kept reading from her Bible storybook all the way through the life of Jesus. Sean and I grew up having story time every night with our mom, so sitting and listening to stories wasn’t out of the ordinary for us. It was, however, when the seed of faith was planted in me. Lou Ellyn was never pushy about her faith, but she made sure I knew that God loved me and that I could come to her if I had any questions on the subject. We took care of her pets and I was her teaching her assistant with her exchange students from the age of 10 onward, so I had many chances to see her living out her faith. I took her up on discussing things as an angsty 13 year old, and I credit her as the reason for the faith I have today.

I don’t claim righteousness or uprightness for myself because those are not the things that save me. I believe that I am saved by grace through my faith in Jesus Christ and that God loved me so incredibly much that He sent Jesus to die on the Cross for me. That love, termed agape in Greek, is a divine and soul-changing love that is deeper and broader than I will ever be able to understand. All I know is that the world changed forever 2000 years ago when Christ came to earth as a baby in a manger in Bethlehem.

This amazing love saves me every day, and it has changed me for the better.

Dear Lord, thank you for sending your Son to earth because You loved us so incredibly much that You did not want us to be separated from You at death. This love is incomprehensible, and I will never be able to understand it, but I thank You for it nevertheless. Amen.
-Jen McCabe

Savior of the Nations, Come: December 23, 2021

Savior of the Nations, Come: The Advent 2021 Devotional Book for St. Paul's Episcopal Church

“He fulfills the desire of all who fear him; he also hears their cry, and saves them.” -Psalm 145:19 (NRSV)

I challenge you to a crying contest. If I were the betting sort, I’d bet I’d win. A baby, a sunset, the end of a poignant movie. A song from 1968, a letter from a long-lost love, the way trees sway in the breeze—sultry, bending to music too faint for our ears—their palms, fluttering, uplifted to the sky. A memory, a hug, this all-too-pervasive rain. And always, books.

One of the blessings of the pandemic has been the chance to slow down and reassess what it is that sustains us. No, it’s not a full calendar with a dizzying array of social occasions and obligations endemic to this time of year. It’s been the chance to slow down, really look around, savor the smallest moments, and be thankful.
Not that this world—even in this blessed Christmas week—is all lambs and snow and angels. It’s not. Turn on the news and immediately you feel the weight of the world crushing you. Desperate immigrants at borders across the globe, climate disasters, ruthless politicians. Accidents and atrocities, enough to make even the hardest-hearted human cry.

This is why faith-based peoples cry out, in pain and suffering, for themselves and others, to a God who is listening.

This baby, who is to be born yet again in two days’ time into our hearts; this baby, who grew and gave His life for us; this baby, swaddled in filth and love, dichotomies of all of our lives.
And we cry again, Lord, save us.

Dear Lord, as we enter into Holy Christmas, hear our cries for ourselves and for all who stand in need. Amen.
-Ashley Sweeney

Savior of the Nations, Come: December 22, 2021

Savior of the Nations, Come: The Advent 2021 Devotional Book for St. Paul's Episcopal Church

“I cry to you; save me, that I may observe your decrees.” -Psalm 119:146 (NRSV)

Our verses from yesterday and today come from Psalm 119, the longest chapter of any book in the Bible. It is an acrostic poem with each set of eight verses beginning with a different letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Depending on the version of the Bible you have at home, you might have each letter of the Hebrew alphabet placed on top of each section. (The picture below is from a Bible belonging to my great-grandfather Arthur Allen.)

Psalm 119 from my great-grandfather Arthur Allen's Bible.

The psalmist speaks of their love for God’s word and statutes, something that resonates strongly with me. We tend not to be so law-focused as Episcopalians, but I do very much love God’s Law. No… not the hateful version that is used by some Christians to condemn groups of people that they themselves despise, but the Law that was set forth in the Torah that speaks of helping foreigners and the poor, letting the land have a Sabbath every so many years, and which was intended to be life-giving to the people. I love the Law that shows the love of the Lord for the people of Israel.

Amy Grant wrote a song years ago that I love. It’s called “Thy Word” that incorporates verse 105 of this psalm: “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” While I am horrible these days at actually getting personal Bible reading done on a daily basis, I can absolutely say that Scripture guides my path, especially the Gospels. Knowing that I’m called to “seek first the kingdom of God” and told “do not worry about tomorrow” (Matthew 6:33-34) is useful, as is the wisdom that “where [my] treasure is, [my] heart will be also” (Luke 12:34). Micah’s admonition “to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God” (Micah 6:8) guides my decision-making, and the entire chapter of 1 Corinthians 13 is my standard for love. God’s Word holds me together when I need it most

Thank you, Lord, for Your Word which enlightens and guides me. Amen.
-Jen McCabe

Savior of the Nations, Come: December 21, 2021

Savior of the Nations, Come: The Advent 2021 Devotional Book for St. Paul's Episcopal Church

“My soul languishes for your salvation; I hope in your word.” -Psalm 119:81 (NRSV)

On March 9th, the staff of Skagit Valley College received word that the campus was being closed for a week of deep cleaning after some CNA students were doing rounds at a nursing home with positive COVID patients and also on-campus the same week. This was a shock, but my boss and her counterpart had come up with a contingency plan. We all got a quick tutorial on Zoom and were then expected to jump in and work with our students online. I had used Zoom twice before, so I was having to figure out what I was doing on the fly. I also had no idea if I would have a job a few weeks later when Spring Break ended and Spring Quarter began.

I soon found that I had nothing to fear because my boss decided to assign me to students who suddenly needed to increase their basic computer skills or needed help getting themselves organized. I ended up working with students in classes that I would have loved to take if I had any spare time as a student, and I had to learn ways of working with students that did not involve me being there in person. I developed worksheets for practicing things in Word, corrected papers for people, learned how to explain things verbally (a challenge because I am a visual person), and learned how to ask open-ended questions. I pored over instructors’ shells on Canvas and had to overcome my shyness to contact instructors and ask to be added as an observer to know what was coming up in those classes ahead of time. Quarters passed, I got a new boss, and I started feeling hopeful again because I had something to do for work that was life-giving for me. I became the person who would take the unusual classes for my boss and found ways to work with students to meet their needs and help them develop that same hope.

A job that I got as a student and held after graduation for flexibility reasons ended up saving my sanity and probably saving my life as well as I had something to motivate me to get up in the morning.

Lord, thank you for fulfilling work and things that fill our time while feeding our souls. Amen.
-Jen McCabe