2020 Advent Calendar

Friday, December 25, 2020 . . . Christmas Day

“A Child is born to us . . . Wonderful Counselor…Mighty God…Eternal Creator…The Long-Expected One of Peace.”  ~~~Isaiah 9:6

“Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart.” ~~~ Luke 2:19

We have been most fortunate in this “Shelter In Place…Covid 19 Year”, to be able to walk our dogs in our neighborhood three times a day.  Each walk grants us an opportunity to experience some kind of ‘newness of life…encouragement of live with health, beauty, and grace…an opportunity of shalom’!

The ‘street art’ has been amazing; yards that have been brought back to life, bear-hugs in the window, signs that remind us to be kind, to thank one another—especially those on the front line of service, a call to respect one another in our diverse land, black lives matter, life is precious, and the amazing chalk drawings that have been created!  Hopscotch…untold animal creations…and this Christmas Tree. 

In the silence of that oh holy night so long ago … we remember the most amazing life that was born.  In the midst of a census…a couple forged untold danger and found respite in a cattle stall.  A young mother gave birth to a child who would grow up to be persecuted for his belief.  Yet his parents taught him to care for all…not just for some.  That night…in the midst of intolerance…love was truly born!

We celebrate that night in the midst of our own tragic circumstances.  May we remember that LOVE is the greatest equalizer on earth.  Without Love…life is not worth our breathing.  Remember that first breath of life that Christmas night … the pain of Mother Mary…the anxiety of Father Joseph…the warmth of the Light of God.  May we never forget.  May LOVE ALWAYS WIN.  May our fractured world find healing. 

May you be touched by the light of that Christmas night … and may you reach out to your neighbors far and wide with that warm light of love.  Give Thanks … Be Grateful … Let Love Guide Your Every Gesture.  And be the Love of Jesus God intended you to be from the very beginning.

Prayer for Christmas (Johann Rist, 1641; translated by Fred Pratt Green, 1986) :  Come, dearest child, into our hearts, and leave your crib behind you!  Let this be where the new life starts for all who seek and find you.  To you the honor, thanks, and praise, for all your gifts this time of grace; come conquer and deliver this world, and us, forever.

Jay P., United Methodist Church of Santa Cruz

Thursday, December 24, 2020 . . . An Advent of Love

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. ~~~Luke 2:6-7

The Manger Scene (pictured above) has been a part of my Christmas experience for my entire life. It was given to my mother from her boss at that time (Rear Admiral Edward Hutchinson) shortly after the birth of my older sister in 1944. An important part of ‘Decking the Halls’ each year for my family was setting up the Manger Scene. My sister and I would carefully position each of the manger pieces in what we considered the proper spots. Of course, we continued to reposition them throughout the Christmas season – sometimes using them to re- enact the various parts of the Christmas story. The figures were much loved by the we two little girls. Needless to say – all this love took a toll on the pieces which my Dad with great patience and love glued and re-glued various parts of the pieces (the lambs’ legs especially!) throughout the years. My mother gave the Manager Scene to me several years after I moved to California because she knew how much it meant to me.

Each year as I set up the Manger Scene I remember the story of the birth of Jesus, reflecting on how much God loves us, sending us Jesus to spread the message of love. A special Christmas song always comes to mind as I arrange the pieces in the stable:

Love came down at Christmas, Love all lovely, Love divine; Love was born at Christmas; star and angels gave the sign. Worship we the Godhead, Love incarnate, Love divine; Worship we our Jesus, but wherewith for sacred sign? Love shall be our token, love be yours and love be mine; Love to God and neighbors, love for plea and gift and sign.

It’s all about Love! Amen.

Trish N., United Methodist of Santa Cruz

Wednesday, December 23, 2020 . . . An Advent of Love

“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:   ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’   John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.   He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals.   I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”  ~~~Mark 1: 2-4,7-8

John the Baptist has always intrigued me.  Here’s this guy, alone in the wilderness, living off the land and connected to God in ways we can only dream of.  I connected to him immediately because, as a young man, my only two passions were God and the wilderness.  I have always felt God’s calling strongest out in the mountains.

I remember one solo trip with my dog, Jazz.  We were in the Dinky Lakes Wilderness in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  We were off trail, just wandering, focused on God and His creation. There was a stretch of time that God and Jazz and myself were One in Spirit, connected like never before.  I was on top the mountain.  As I came to look around me afterward, there were crystals everywhere, hundreds of them, laying on the earth around me.  Were they there before my “One in Spirit” time?  I don’t know.  I don’t connect crystals with spirituality necessarily, except for the fact that they are an exceptional part of God’s creation, reminding us of His beauty. I didn’t take a single crystal from that mountain, considering it a sacred place.

The three years before that time were hard years.  I had been laid bare and raw.  But I feel God used those years to help me “Prepare A Way” for Him to enter into my being in a way that I could never doubt or forget.

John tells us to “Prepare A Way” – that we need to make a way for the Lord in the world, but it has to start inside ourselves first. Preparing a way for God’s peace and joy and love in our own hearts helps us to understand what we have and need to share with others to begin a “preparing of the way” in them.   We are called to set ourselves “apart” from the world.  That comes just by allowing the Holy Spirit to live in our hearts.  Imagine being “apart” from the world as much as John was.  Would you eat grasshoppers and fight the bees and bears off for the honey?  But people “flocked” to him to be baptized and to hear him speak.  He even got to baptize Jesus. Wow! That’s got to be worth a few grasshoppers.    John, what a guy!

Prayer for the Advent Day:  Help me, O God, to be prepared for your light, and to share your gifts each and every moment.  Amen.

Rick Z., United Methodist Church of Santa Cruz

Tuesday, December 22, 2020   . . .   An Advent of Love

“Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.” ~~~Matthew 1:23 NRSV


God is with us. 

Before we even knew God, God was there.

Throughout our past struggles and successes, God was there.

In our current stresses and anxieties, God is there.

As we deal with isolation and loneliness, God is there.

While we take steps forward from this place, God will be there.

Onward into life eternal in the presence of God, God will be there.

“Holy, holy, holy, the Lord God the Almighty, who was and is and is to come.”

God is with us.


Prayer for Advent (adapted from Joyce Rupp, O.S.M.): God of Loving Light, guide me into giving the gift of your light this season…and in the seasons to come!  Amen.


Gabe H., Aptos United Methodist Church


DECEMBER 21, 2020 

“Mary set out at that time and went as quickly as she could into the hill country to a town in Judah. She went into Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth. Now it happened that as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. She gave a loud cry and said, ‘Of all women you are the most blessed, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. Why should I be honoured with a visit from the mother of my Lord? Look, the moment your greeting reached my ears, the child in my womb leapt for joy. Yes, blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.” ~~~Luke 1:39-45

One of my favorite Christmas carols is the old English carol “In the Bleak Midwinter.” It is a poem by the English poet Christina Rossetti, commonly performed as a Christmas carol. The poem was published, under the title “A Christmas Carol”, in the January 1872 issue of Scribner’s Monthly. In 1906 Gustav Holst set it to music under the title “Cranham” and this remains a popular version today. However, an anthem setting by Harold Darke composed in 1909 is also widely performed by choirs, and in 2008 was named “the best Christmas carol” in a poll of some of the world’s leading choirmasters and choral experts.

I like both settings because I love the poem itself, which tells in a few short verses the whole of the Christmas story. The winter solstice is also one of my favorite times of year. While it is indeed the longest night of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, it marks the dawning of coming of Spring, and the promise of New Life. The days grow longer bit by bit. As a child I often could be found out flying a kite in the snow.

Perhaps because this has been such a dark year for most of us here in California, with the pandemic and the terrible fires this summer, I am very much looking forward to this particular annual passage through the darkness into the Light which this year falls on December 21st: also known as Midwinter.

It is also worth noting that in very early Christian tradition, March 25th is the day on which Mary received the news that she would bear a child. Nine months later is December 25th, thus giving us one reason why the year 336 is the first year in which Christmas is celebrated on that day (during the reign of Emperor Constantine, the first Christian Roman Emperor). It is with eager anticipation that we await the coming of the Light into the world “in the bleak midwinter.”

Prayer on the Solstice:  “What can I give him, poor as I am?  If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb; if I were a Wise Man, I would do my part; yet what I can I give him: give my heart.”  

Fr. Joseph Jacobs, TOCCUSA, United Methodist Church of Santa Cruz, California

Sunday, December 20, 2020 . . . An Advent of Love

[A]s it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’” Luke 3:4-6

Inner Peace. How many people think getting ready for Christmas simply means buying gifts that you may or may not be able to afford, and then going crazy running around doing a bunch of activities? Or maybe it’s preparing for the holiday by telling bad Christmas jokes. Did you hear the one about the family who owned an English pointer and an Irish setter? The dogs get together at Christmas time and have point-setters. Ha!

I can tell you what we should be getting ready for around here. Believers like us are looking for a spiritual and wonderful something called inner peace, especially in this chaotic, scary year. We want to prepare the way of the Lord, that is, invite the mystery and wonder of Jesus’ birth into our lives. I believe all of us seek God’s peace. The only problem is, how do we find it?

Here’s one writer’s take on it. Advent was here, so the mom and her husband thought they’d see what their children remembered from their family devotions the year before. “Who can tell me what the four candles in the Advent wreath represent?” the mom asked. Her son jumped in with seven-year-old wisdom and exuberance. “There’s love, joy, peace, and . . . and . . .” “I know!” his six-year-old sister interrupted to finish her brother’s sentence: “Peace and quiet!”

We could use some peace and quiet this week—across our nation and the world! But perhaps peace should start right here—within each one of us. What would it take to dedicate ourselves to peace?

Prayer for Advent Love (based on Joyce Rupp, O.S.M.): I pray that I will let go of my desire to see too far beyond this season of love, so that my path of life may be filled with peace and quiet! Amen.

Robin M-J., Watsonville First United Methodist Church

Saturday, December 19, 2020 . . . An Advent of Joy 

Hannah prayed, “My heart rejoices in my Creator; my strength is exalted in God. God raises up the poor from dust; lifts the needy from the garbage pile. God sits the rejected ones of society with the elect, giving them the seat of honor!”
~~~ I Samuel 2:1, 8 

Hannah was without a child of her own. She prayed to God…and promised to give her child into God’s service. Hannah conceived and gave birth to Samuel (which means I Have Asked For Him), and brought Samuel to the Temple to be instructed by Eli. Samuel would eventually become the Spiritual Leader of Israel … the Prophet and Judge of Israel’s first two Kings, Saul and David. 

I focus on Hannah this day because she prays with her whole being…so passionate in prayer at the Temple that Eli thought she was drunk. Hannah’s prayer ends up rejoicing in God … and as we come to the end of this week of Advent Joy … we can see how the light of God glows with the promise of redemption for the world. We anticipate this gift of redeeming grace in the birth of Jesus. 

Joy truly comes with the dawn; the light of the new day that brightens the world with possibilities. The pink candle we have lit this week glows differently from the colors of purple … hope and peace are bright … but the pink of joy glows with the warmth of rich possibilities. Joy comes in the morning. Joy is our light of possibilities. Joy was Hannah’s answer to the misery that others had thrust upon her; yet she never gave up the hope…she prayed for the possibility of peace…and she was rewarded in the joy…not just of a son…but God’s Light! 

Our Shelter Guests prayed for a Christmas Tree . . . this is their tree of Great Joy! 

The Joy of this weeks brings us closer to the presence of God’s Grace made visible in our lives at Christmas. Where is you joy this week…even as we live with the new reality of the Purple Tier of Covid-19. . . . 

Prayer for Advent (adapted from Joyce Rupp, O.S.M.): As we pray in God’s Joy, help us to trust that our efforts of kindness are bringing hope…peace…joy to the world’s discouragement. Amen. 

Jay P., United Methodist Church of Santa Cruz 

Friday, December 18, 2020 . . . An Advent of Joy 

Luke 4:18 reminds us of the prophetic words of Isaiah who spoke these familiar words; words Jesus choose to speak for his first sermon in the synagogue in his hometown of Nazareth: 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; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and comfort all who mourn. ~~~Isaiah 61:1 

Isaiah spoke a word of hope; and he was calling the Hebrew people to live life in a desperate time in their history, during the 8th century BC, when facing captivity and exile by the Babylonian Empire; and in those desperate times, he called them to live by a different standard. Isaiah went on to say in Chapter 61:1-4: Provide for those who mourn give them a garland instead of ashes, give them the oil of joy instead of mourning, and they shall build up the ancient ruins, they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, from the devastations of many generations. 

To read Isaiah is like reading the front page of Newspapers today. Things are bad, yet this prophet speaks to us, even today, in our desperate times and says: I bring Good news! Good news for the oppressed, good news for the brokenhearted, good news to captives and prisoners, good news to those who mourn. And Isaiah tells us to give people garlands to decorate, oil to anoint themselves with joy, and festive clothes to dress up in. Seriously?! Decorations are nice and all, but they hardly serve to make things better. And by doing that can it be counted on to change the world? Isaiah is saying Yes!—he is saying decorate any way! 

Because when we decorate our homes and our churches, we are not saying that we are unaware of difficulties, we are not saying that we are oblivious to bad news. Rather we are saying that we choose to live; we choose to live the good news; we choose to live by HOPE and not despair; we choose to live by LOVE and not by hate; we choose to live with JOY in our hearts, and not by division, fear, and lies; and we choose to live the PEACE of Christ with ourselves and one another. The Angels said it on that first Christmas: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth Peace among those whom God favors!” ~Luke 2:14 NRSV. This is the Good News! 

Prayer for Advent (adapted from Joyce Rupp, O.S.M.): God of Emmanuel, I will risk saying a kind word or doing a good deed for the sake of your love. Amen. 

Patrick D., Morgan Hill United Methodist Church 

Thursday, December 17, 2020   . . .   An Advent of Joy

Photo of 2018 Gilroy UMC Christmas Toy Gift Project!

When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. ~~~Matthew 2:10-11 

When I was a little boy, Christmas was the day to receive gifts that I wanted. I received a lot of toys; robots, cars, Legos, etc.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, Christmas became the day to give gifts, too. As time goes on, I am able to give more gifts than the gifts I receive. Especially, it is a great joy for the church to give gifts together through the Christmas Toy Gift Project, like the wise men did at the first Christmas.

This year, I have a kind of “Christmas-ful thinking”, even if some people might regard it as a “wishful thinking”. What if we can give a gift of a day-off to all first responders on Christmas? Then, they can have a Merry Christmas with their loved ones. What if we can give the gifts of Vaccine and treatment to all who are sick because of COVID-19? What if we can give the gifts of homes and jobs for the homeless? What if we can give the gift of Peace on the divided Korean Peninsula? Then, it might be a wonderful joy to all of us!

While waiting for the Christmas of 2020, I am thinking of giving even the gifts that I cannot purchase or that I cannot give by myself. How about you?  

Prayer for Advent Joy (adapted from Joyce Rupp, O.S.M.):  God of this Advent Season, I offer thanks for my ability to be a spiritual example of faith for others.  By your grace, I pray!  Amen.

Hwapyoung K., Gilroy United Methodist Church

Wednesday, December 16, 2020   . . .   An Advent of Joy


“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, good will toward (all the earth).”

~~~ Luke 2:13-14

I always loved the angels in our church tableau every Christmas Eve.  My brother was the angel Gabriel and he looked so handsome up there on the highest step, for all to see.  The angels seemed so beautiful and majestic, a precursor to the birth of the baby Jesus.  What a glorious message and witnessed by the most humble of men, so that we could believe it was for all of us.  

As a little girl, I felt this was the grandest story, a special night to hear a story of love and glory, the birth of a king, who would bring peace on earth.  We forget the message, when we have commercialized the Christmas season, but I remember the awesome feeling of magic and spirit of that night.  It is still the most beautiful message and I feel the angels around us think so, too!

Prayer for Advent Joy (adapted from Joyce Rupp, O.S.M.):  God of the season, help me to slow down enough to listen for the way Emmanuel is revealed in my life.  Amen.   

Sarah Lampland, United Methodist Church of Santa Cruz

Tuesday, December 15, 2020 . . . An Advent of Joy


O satisfy us in the morning with thy loving kindness

That we may rejoice and be glad in all our days.

Make us glad according to the days wherein we have been afflicted

And the years we have seen evil.  ~~~(a version of Psalm 93)

I read this verse daily. I learned this ritual at a friend’s memorial service and remember his practicing to be a more spiritual person. During Advent these words remind me to be hopeful and to be in service, bringing my gifts to share to offer light and hope, knowing that all of us together can change the world.

This can be a time of reflection and contemplation concerning my beliefs about service and whether or not I follow them in my daily life.

My Swedish Dala horse reminds me of the Swedish tradition of Santa Lucia Day; the bringing light to the world and remembering the Saint who shared her beliefs and her service to the Swedish people, helping to bring them food in a time of need.

I was one of the girls who performed this ritual at the Swedish Lodge. 

We wore white dresses, and the older girl wore a crown of greenery and lighted candles.

We sang a Swedish song about Santa Lucia and served cookies to the people.
Prayer for Advent Joy (adapted from Joyce Rupp, O.S.M.):  In this season, O God, help me to refill the oil in my inner lamp by seeking to trust more deeply in you.   Amen.

Diane C., United Methodist Church, Santa Cruz

Monday, December 14, 2020 . . . An Advent of Joy


“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”
~~~ John 14:27

(selections from Praying Through Advent Reverends Delaney Schlake-Kruse and Kelsey Beebe)

When Jesus offers peace to his friends, he is well aware that the world they live in is anything but peaceful. Jesus is headed to his death at this point in the story, and he is offering comfort to his disciples before his arrest.

“Peace” in John 14 is all about the abiding presence of God with people in times of trouble. Jesus’ peace does not guarantee that all will be well, or even that we will not experience anxiety or chaos. Rather, Jesus is offering the assurance that God will be with us, offering the gift of God’s consistent presence and peace even in the face of great fear and upheaval.

A little something: Make a list of all the areas of chaos or anxiety that touch your life and your community today. Now, write “Peace” next to each entry, and write about what it feels like to be moored in God’s peace in the midst of the storms of life.

Prayer for Advent Joy (adapted from Joyce Rupp, O.S.M.): Gracious God, help us to be aware of how we are God-Bearers, no matter how ordinary our lives might seem! Amen.
Michael, Sally, Elise and Sean from Florissant, MO

Sunday, December 13, 2020 . . . An Advent of Joy


“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” ~~~ Matthew 5: 14-16. 

This has been a challenging year. We are trying to deal with tangible problems like wildfires, evacuation, displacement and rebuilding. We are trying to deal with political unrest, and a country that is divided in many ways. And we are dealing with the virus–an invisible and ever-present threat. 

As followers of Christ, we are the light of the world. When Jesus was born in Bethlehem, an angel appeared to the shepherds and the glory of the Lord shone upon them; the Magi followed the light of the star above Bethlehem all those years ago, leading them to the baby Jesus. 

Jesus no longer walks on this earth. But he has called on us to be the light of the world. As Christians, we are to have an internal light that shines before others, to give glory to God. As we address contemporary challenges, let us be intentional about being the place where others find kindness, patience, acceptance, mercy, a helping hand, and a place of refuge. We can be the light in a world filled with darkness. 

Prayer for Advent Joy (adapted from Joyce Rupp, O.S.M.): Gracious God, may I be inspired to ask, and follow, your guidance today! Amen. 

Gina J., Boulder Creek United Methodist Church 

Saturday, December 12, 2020 . . . An Advent of Peace


“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” ~~~John 8:12

Maybe it’s the kid in me, but I have always delighted in the many lights of Christmas. The twinkly, white lights on the tree, the warm glow of candlelight, the ambience of firelight, the sparkle of glass globe ornaments, and the glisten of dewdrops on the last of my blooming roses. How fitting that we celebrate the birth of our Lord, Jesus Christ during this, the darkest time of the year and during these very dark pandemic times.

But as we prepare our hearts for Jesus during this Advent season amidst the bright illumination of all kinds of lights, we are reminded that Jesus’ love glows brightest of all. He continues to light the difficult paths we walk and is a beacon at the end of the long, dark tunnel that has been 2020. He alone puts a happy song in our hearts and a smile of joyful anticipation on our faces! We know we will get through these tough times because He is with us. His rod and his staff, they comfort us as His light shines upon our faces. May we rejoice in the gift that is Jesus with every twinkle, glow, shimmer, and sparkle we see this Advent. And I, for one, plan on keeping my house aglow well into the New Year!

Father in heaven, what joy the lights of Christmas bring to our weary hearts, for they remind us of your promises to illuminate our paths forward until we walk towards the final glow of the crown of life! May we rejoice in the beauty of Christmas and the love that Jesus brings to our dark world! And may we share our light with those who are enveloped in the heaviness of these current trials. With radiant hearts, we say Amen!

Debra U., Morgan Hill United Methodist Church

Friday, December 11, 2020 . . . An Advent of Peace


“I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for”. Jeremiah 29:11


This is my family in 2018, yes, my entire immediate family. Could have taken the exact same picture in 2019. But this Christmas we have grown, in July my first Grandchild was born, Isabella. Then last week my son got engaged to a beautiful woman with an equally beautiful daughter, Jasmine and Olivia. So, I have gained a daughter-in-law and two granddaughters.


If you had told the me in the picture (center back row) that within the next two years all of this love would be added to our small little family I wouldn’t have believed you. But that has been my journey with God. Things seem to be falling apart, the falling apart where all you can do is fall to your knees to pray, sometimes the only prayer you can get out is “please …”. Then when things look to be the bleakest a path out opens, or really, a step opens up. When I look back at these times, I can see God’s hand at work, God has not abandoned me and with grandchildren, well that is the future I had hoped for. My prayers today are also simple, ‘thank you, God, thank you.”


Prayer for Advent Peace (Joyce Rupp, O.S.M., from A Heart Prayer): O God, we seek you with all our heart. The longing for you is planted deep within our hearts. Hear our cry for you. Help us to welcome you in all of life. Amen.

Trish C., Morgan Hill United Methodist Church

Thursday, December 10, 2020 . . . An Advent of Peace


~~~ Isaiah 40:1–11; 31

As we live through this pandemic, and continue through Advent, I am reminded by the words of Isaiah that God is bigger and stronger than anything we may face in our lifetime. Add to that the knowledge of God’s desire for us to be comforted, and we find the importance and need to look for the all-embracing love of God in new and unexpected ways.

We’re about to complete a difficult year while facing another uncertain one. Twelve months ago, life was what we used to call “normal.” We moved about as we wished; we prepared for Christmas; we went to movies; attended concerts; kids went to school; we went out to restaurants; we visited friends; gathered in groups larger than 10; even went to church; to work and received paychecks; we did all these things … all without a second thought.

2020 has been a year to remember … or maybe a year to forget. But as we draw near to Christmas and the end of the year, we know in God we find comfort and love. Isaiah spoke to a people with little comfort also facing a bleak past and an uncertain future. The Prophet’s same words come to us; facing a challenge in ways we did not even imagine a year ago. Yet God is with us now; at work in our lives even in the midst of our suffering. I find comfort in that God does not run away from us, but chooses to run to us, and more importantly stays and dwells with us, even in a pandemic. God Bless You.

Prayer for Advent Peace (based on Joyce Rupp, O.S.M.): As I pray today, I will turn my heart toward someone who has hurt me. Amen.

Patrick D., Morgan Hill United Methodist Church

Wednesday, December 9, 2020 . . . An Advent of Peace


“Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come.” ~~~ Mark 13:33 (NRSV)

Jesus repeatedly admonished his followers to remain alert, to stay vigilant, and to keep awake. But we don’t need to spend our lives looking up at the sky watching for Jesus to come back. That’s how the disciples stood after Jesus ascended to heaven, and the angels said to them, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” We don’t need to worry about when Jesus will come back.

No amount of watchfulness will bring him back any quicker. What then is our watchfulness for?

Firstly we are to watch for opportunities to be a witness to the world around us. Ephesians 5:15-16 reads, “Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil.” And Colossians 4:5-6 states, “Conduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders, making the most of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone.”

Secondly we are to watch for opportunities to meet the needs of others. Titus 3:1 reminds us to, “Be ready for every good work.” And Galatians 6:10 encourages us, “So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all.”

Our watchfulness is not to be passive, but active. We are to remain alert to how our witness appears to others. We are to stay vigilant to meet the needs of those around us. We are to keep awake to do God’s will until the return of our Lord.

Prayer for Advent Peace (based on Joyce Rupp, O.S.M.): As I pray, I will let go of one fear or anxiety I have and place it in Emmanuel’s care. Amen.

Gabe H., Aptos United Methodist Church

Tuesday, December 8, 2020 . . . An Advent of Peace 


“But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” ~~~ Isaiah 40:31 

Hanging On To The Past 

It is fun to reminisce about the past. We can fantasize about how things used to be (forgetting the problems) and wonder why things can’t be like that now. 

This picture is a castle in Wales that belonged to one if my ancestors. It was destroyed after my ancestor killed the King (not a wise thing to do!). 

I can think about what it would be like if we still owned a Welsh Castle. It’s located in a beautiful countryside and I can spend hours thinking about “what if…”. In reality those visions can interfere with the gifts of the present. God meets us in the now and invites us to live this day in God’s Presence. 

The anticipation of Jesus’ birth reminds us to let go of the past, the joys and problems, and by the Grace of God grab hold of today and eagerly face the future that God is opening for us. 

Prayer for Advent Peace (based on Joyce Rupp, O.S.M.): In my praying this day, I will think about the Messengers of Light in my life and write a note of gratitude to one of them. Amen. 

Clyde V., Boulder Creek United Methodist Church 

Monday, December 7, 2020 . . . An Advent of Peace


“For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, do not fear; I will help you.” ~~~ Isaiah 41:13

The most difficult thing about this pandemic is having to stay away from the people I love the most. My grandmother is and continues to be a huge part of my life even though I have not physically seen her in the past six months. I miss her hugs and kisses so much. However, with her being in the vulnerable category I cannot put her health at risk. I am thankful to God that she is healthy and that I can call her up any time I want. Hearing her loving voice makes me happy and for that moment it’s as if I can feel her embrace me. I know it’s God’s way of saying “Do not fear; I will help you.” And indeed he has.

Please stay safe. Be thankful. And don’t forget to count your blessings!

Prayer for Advent Peace (based on Joyce Rupp, O.S.M.): I pray that I will seek the consoling embrace of Christ in the difficult parts of my life. Amen.

Hilda A., Watsonville First United Methodist Church

Day 6, December 6, 2020 . . . An Advent of Peace


The First Christmas for Denise, age 9 months

“This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” ~~~ Luke 2:12

The message of the angels to the startled shepherds was simple enough…”you shall find a child…”
All the possibilities of our full humanity are in each newborn infant…” the hopes and fears of all our years.”
And once we have found that baby, we must never stray from protecting, loving, nurturing, following…wherever the love of that child that may lead.

Prayer for Advent Peace (Joyce Rupp, O.S.M.): I pray that I will search my heart for peace, and dislodge the inner tyrants that reside in me, opening myself up fully to you, O God! Amen.

Darrell & Karen D. and all our children. United Methodist Church of Santa Cruz

Day 5, December 5, 2020 . . . An Advent of Hope


Christmas, 1962

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. ~~~ Luke 2:15-16, New International Version

When I was young, we lived in several parts of the country. Most holidays would be marked with a family gathering and shared meal. Whatever relatives were nearby and available were part of those events, and the role of host home was rotated among all.

But Christmas was different. Christmas morning was a time for my sister and I to be with our parents. We’d play Christmas carols on the record player, stay in our pajamas most of the morning, try out new toys, and enjoy the sparkly “icicles” and lights on the tree. Later, dinner would be a special meal prepared by both Mom and Dad. Regardless of where we were living at the time, the time together made it special.

As in the original Christmas story, when Mary and Joseph celebrated the birth of Jesus in their makeshift home, the specific location of the home was less important than being together.
Prayer for Advent Hope (Joyce Rupp, O.S.M.): Help me to sit quietly in hope, and to close my eyes to create space to entrust myself to you, O God. Amen.
Wanda G., Morgan Hill United Methodist Church

Day 4, December 4, 2020 . . . An Advent of Hope


Inside Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born King of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising and have come to pay him homage.” ~~~ Matthew 2:1-2

Have you driven through a long and dark tunnel? I do not like tunnels, because the darkness makes me scared. I often hold hands with others in the darkness. When I visited the Zion National Park, I needed to drive through the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel. There is no light in the tunnel, like the above photo. I could not take the photo very well. You might feel how scared I was via this unfocused photo. All I could rely on was holding my wife’s hands and the front car lights that my vehicle projected. It felt like more than a half hour to drive, but there was an end of the tunnel.

This reminds me of the journey of the wise men from the East. They moved at night, because they followed the star. To see the star well, ironically, they needed the darkness. We cannot see the stars during the day, as it is so bright. They might be afraid of the moving at night, or the journey of the foreign country. However, three wise men moved bravely together for this journey of uncertainty. They followed the star with a hope to see the child, even though they had a lot of unknowns. As we all know, at the end, the wise men celebrated the birth of Jesus.

We do not know exactly when this pandemic will end. However, for this journey of the unknown, we can be together bravely like the wise men. We can be together even more smartly via smart devices, unlike the wise men. They were wise, and we are smart as well as wise! Furthermore, we can still follow the star, the light of Christ, which gives us hope and love. At the end of this darkness, we will celebrate together with joy when we meet each other face-to-face!

Prayer for Advent Hope (Joyce Rupp, O.S.M.): I will bring into my prayer and my heart, hope, for someone who is hurting right now. Amen.

Hwapyoung K., Gilroy United Methodist Church

Wednesday, December 3, 2020 . . . An Advent of Hope


“Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock.” – Luke 2:8


In 2020 it’s helpful for me to remember that all of us human beings have been living with our pandemic, COVID-19. For this I am truly grateful. It is a great leveling. In every land on this earth, the reality of our mortality has taken center stage. For me this has been a very humbling experience.

In March 2020 when it became clear to me that our viral reality wasn’t “going away” anytime soon, I decided to read one of the gigantic novels by Charles Dickens that have been languishing on my bookshelf: “Great Expectations.” Happily, I was completely unfamiliar with the story. Unhappily I wrestled for months with the trials and tribulations of “Pip” until at last I finished page 500 of the book and… the pandemic was still here. And so was I.

Turning my heart and mind toward Advent now is a great relief. We enjoy keeping watch over our little flock of two dogs (Lily is new to us, Benji is the “old guard”); as they keep watch over us. We await the coming of Christ the King with joyful anticipation. “Let every heart prepare Him room.”

Prayer for Advent Hope (Joyce Rupp, O.S.M.): Gracious God, help us to look with the hopeful eyes of Christ on one person or situation that causes us distress. Amen.

Fr. Joseph J., TOCCUSA, UMC Santa Cruz, California

Wednesday, December 2, 2020 . . . An Advent of Hope

~Psalm 100~

As we sit here in our apartment under the Covid quarantine, and unable to leave the room to visit family and friends, we find comfort in God’s love and listen to his council. We have time to spend resting, listening, and reading about the prophecy of the birth of Jesus and teachings. This is the season we call Advent. He taught us through psalms and parables. His teachings have been carried on until the present day and will continue forever. Jesus tells us not to be afraid, that he will be with us always. Love and mercy will be with us always. Love and help your neighbor, not only those that live next door, but those whom you don’t know. Rejoice and be glad.

Prayer for Advent Hope (Joyce Rupp, O.S.M.): Gracious God, we pray for the part of us that needs God’s light of hope to shine more fully within it. Amen.

Donn and Ruth W., United Methodist Church of Santa Cruz

Tuesday, December 1, 2020 . . . An Advent of Hope


“Let all that you do be done in love.” ~~~1 Corinthians 16:14

The gathering of family and friends at any time gives you the feeling of belonging and feeling loved.

When growing up, my family and friends visited during Thanksgiving and the Christmas season.

We always went to church on Christmas Day or Christmas Eve to celebrate the birth of baby Jesus.

These seasons, especially, give us hope, peace, joy and love to help us know we have support throughout the coming year from family, friends and the love of God.

Prayer for Advent Hope (Joyce Rupp, O.S.M.): Gracious God, help us to look for hopeful ways the Divine Light is evident in our lives. Amen.

Pauline T., United Methodist Church of Santa Cruz

Preparing The Way for Christmas with Advent Calendar 2020

Thanksgiving Weekend as we start to “Get Ready”

“. . . What does our Creator God require of you . . . to do justice, embrace faithful love, and walk humbly with your God.” ~~~ Micah 6:8

  We are excited to announce that in this Pandemic Year, as we ready ourselves for Christmas, we will join with the United Methodist Churches in our area to walk with Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem. Just as Joseph and Mary needed to travel for the Census in that year, so we have completed our census, and now in this unusual year, we look once again with hope, peace, joy and love to the birth of the Light of the World, Jesus! We are so in need of healing … from the pandemic, from racial strife, and from all the forms of injustice that continue to plague our communities, our nation, and our world.

  We invite you to journey with us, beginning on December 1st through Christmas, as we share an Advent Calendar from our hearts. Each day there will be a meditation that will speak to our journey toward new life.
  Join us, won’t you, as we prepare room in our hearts, our lives, and our world, for the one who taught us to do justice, embrace faithful love, and walk humbly with God. Each congregation will share this Advent Calendar; please check with the United Methodist Church in your community.

  Gracious God … we pray for your light to shine in and through our lives. Empower us to make room for the gift of life in Jesus and empower us to open our hearts to love our neighbors as we love you. Amen!

Pastor Jay, Santa Cruz, on behalf of Pastors Clyde (Boulder Creek), Gabe (Aptos), Hwapyoung (Gilroy), Karla (Hollister), Patrick (Morgan Hill), and Robin (Watsonville).