Category Archives: Advent Devotional

12.8.09 Tuesday Insights from Pastor Molly Simpson

Hoarders, 5th Century BC Style

Have you ever thought to yourself that if you would stumble into some money/get a big bonus/inherit wealth/win the lottery then you would be able to give an amazing, generous gift to help others?  I have.  I’ve thought about the many people I could help if I had a large amount of money to give away.  But I don’t have vast resources to draw upon so… what good will my small gift really do?  In fact, don’t I need to hang on to that in case things get even tighter around our house?  Maybe I need to keep it more than I need to offer it.

If we ever thought that God calls us to give out of plenty, out of abundance, Malachi is quick to correct this line of thinking.  For those seeking to be in right relationship to God, we are called to give as an act of faith, regardless of how robust or meager the supply happens to be.  Malachi is written during a time when the people of Israel are struggling–in fact, the book begins as Israel’s charge against God for allowing things to get so bad.  So the people blame God for their circumstances and withhold their offerings, meanwhile the priests are skimming off the best of the offerings before giving them to God.  This is context for Malachi 3–perhaps we understand why the refiner’s fire is coming.  But following the words of warning, we find God’s promise to be faithful to the covenant in verses 6 and 7 and an exhortation for the people to return to faithfulness by bringing “the whole tithe into the storehouse.”

Basically, God is asking the people to be faithful to what is expected of them–to bring their offerings.  What does God ask of us?  What does it mean for us to give faithfully?

Then in the second part of verse 10 God, in the pattern of his excessive kindness, promises to “throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. ”  Sounds exciting, doesn’t it?  That’s just the upside down way it is with God… the opposite of our instinct or our expectation.  We think, “When I’m blessed, I’ll give.”  God says, “Give, do what I’ve asked, and I will bless you beyond your wildest imagination.”

This Advent, may the conspiracy be that we give to ministry and to people in need regardless of what we have, and may we all discover what happens when God throws open the floodgates of heaven.

Rev. Molly Simpson is the Campus Pastor of Resurrection’s West Campus in Olathe.  She loves being a pastor as well as a wife to Ben and mother to Joy.  She can be reached at or by tracking her down on Facebook.

12.27.08 – Part of the family – from Pastor Molly Simpson

During the holiday gatherings, without fail, I hear a new story about my parents’ childhood experiences or about something strange a distant cousin did and will always be remembered for.  I love hearing about my grandparents’ lives long before I was a part of the family and I know one day I will tell these stories to a new generation.  Our family narratives are a big part of teaching the next generation who we are and where we have come from.  Have you heard any good stories in the last few days?  

Galatians 4:3-7 tells us that the Christmas story is also our story.  Jesus born to the virgin Mary. We tell it again and again, year after year, because it defines us.  Like family stories, the story of Jesus teaches us who we are and where we have come from.  We are adopted into God’s family, incorporated into a greater family that has nothing to do with the time and place of our physical birth.  Our adoption is a gift—we are chosen and invited into God’s household—and we are heirs to the salvation and redemption made possible by the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ.

– Rev. Molly Simpson

12.26.08 – Following Christ – from Pastor Nicole Conard

Today we read the final act of the Christmas story…the story of the Magi. The Magi were a highly-educated, priestly class of Persian or Babylonian astrologers.  They were highly respected, wealthy citizens.  They traveled to Jerusalem from the East taking a two-year journey. 

Why did these strangers make such a long and perilous journey?  Something had to be so important and so powerful that drew them far from their home. They began this journey wanting to worship this new king and they went in faith. They did not know what was coming, or exactly where they are going, but they go. 

In their journey, the Magi were guided by a star and once they reached Jerusalem, they met Herod.  When the Magi said they wanted to worship the new king, the king of the Jews, Herod was threatened. Even in the midst of Herod’s ill intentions, the Magi were still guided to the right place. 

Like the Wise men on their journey, we go on a journey. It is our journey of following Christ. We navigate our lives to see, worship, and follow the Christ child. Each day may we know that we are on a journey, like the Wise Men, of following Christ.

– Rev. Nicole Conard

12.25.08 – Invitation to ponder – from Pastor Karen Lampe

What do you “ponder?”

Every Christmas Eve my grandmother read today’s text from Luke. This version of the Christmas story gives us the invitation to ponder.  Actually, it is Mary who gives us the invitation.

Ponder these possibilities:  The world was in a state of chaos with everyone scurrying in response to the census.  Here was Mary, a young teenager, pregnant and probably scared beyond words.  Suddenly she is facing the major life changes of birth, marriage and moving—and not in the proper order!  And here she was, due to give birth any day and being dragged on a donkey to Bethlehem.  Exhausting! Ponder how that must have felt.  Does it make your back hurt or cause you some anxiety?

Yet the song of the angels and their message breaks into the starry night.  We see the cold, yet poor and peaceful shepherds tending their flocks. The scriptures conveniently skip over the birth to let us peek in on the tiny baby, mother and father.  The stillness of the scene is powerful.

Ponder: This child, who came to save us all, had this common yet so uncommon beginning.  These scriptures invite us to stillness, peace, simplicity, wonder and awe.  I would invite you to read this scripture to your family today.

Invite them to ponder.

– Rev. Karen Lampe

12.24.08 – Joseph’s disturbing dreams – from Pastor Jeff Kirby

The gospels of Matthew and Luke tell the birth story of Jesus from two different vantage points. Luke’s narrative is written from Mary’s perspective, Matthew from Joseph’s.  Joseph is one of the underrated characters in the Jesus story. In the history of the church Mary receives much adulation, prayers, petitions and even worship. Joseph gets the occasional hospital and some children’s aspirin named after him!

We read that Joseph was “pledged to Mary,” a Jewish rite of pre-marriage which was far more binding than our concept of engagement. Upon learning of young Mary’s pregnancy, Joseph seeks to protect her while making plans to “divorce her quietly.”  Joseph’s compassion and integrity shine through the text. One can only imagine his internal strife and heartache. (Joseph was a righteous dude)  Into his grief comes the angel of the Lord with the disquieting words: “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.”

The birth narratives of Jesus push our credulity to the limits. Nothing in these stories is familiar to the characters nor to us, because nothing like this had ever happened before or since. These events are unique in the history of mankind.  We sometimes chide the Bible characters for what appears to be their slowness to believe.  When witnessing events without precedence, one should be offered a boatload of grace.  Joseph offered his hopes, his reputation and dreams to God in quiet confidence that his life was ultimately not his own. Should we be disturbed in the night by visions costing us our peace? May we be found like Joseph, trusting.

– Rev. Jeff Kirby

12.23.08 – It’s about time – from Pastor Dagney Pullin

For years, Zechariah plugs away, serving God faithfully, dutifully and uneventfully. Life had not turned out the way he and his wife had expected or desired, but they make the most of it, leading blameless, upstanding lives. It wasn’t until he is an older man that God breaks into his life dramatically, sharing an unbelievable vision of the future. Reacting with incredulity, God’s angel strikes Zechariah mute for the better part of a year.
When Elizabeth gives birth to John, Zechariah finally gets it. He not only believes in God’s action, but is so excited that he breaks into an amazing, prophetic song. After decades of serving God, he finally sees the work of God’s hand, sees that God is present on earth like never before and the salvation they have hoped for is finally at hand.
Sometimes, even though we serve faithfully, spend time in prayer, scripture study and works of compassion, we still feel like there’s something missing – a spark, something that excites us, a glimpse of God. One of the hardest qualities of faithfulness is patience, performing our duty even without immediate satisfaction. Are you willing to work for a long time, maybe even decades like Zechariah, while still expecting God’s intervention at any moment?

– Rev. Dagney Pullin

12.22.08 – Mary did – from Pastor Clayton Smith

It is almost Christmas. This powerful and poetic passage offers prophetic praise.  Christmas joy began with Mary as she proclaimed: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God, my Savior.”

Mary continues in her Song, also known as the Magnificat, as she praises God for the faithfulness in the past, present and future salvation story.   E. Stanley Jones said that the Magnificat is the most revolutionary document in the world.

This Christmas we might thank God for the ways in which God can use us to be a blessing to others.  Like Mary, can we accept the favor that God offers us so that we can love others?  God can use us to change our world!

Can you by faith accept that God is blessing you so you can be a blessing to others? Mary did.  Can you by faith accept that God could use you just as you are to offer hope to others?  Mary did.  Can you by faith accept your humble role to be used for great things which result in God’s glory?   Mary did.  Can you by faith live a faithful life?  Mary did.

Yes, it is almost Christmas. God blessed Mary with the gift of Jesus, the greatest gift ever given to humankind.  God blesses each of us at The Church of the Resurrection to reach out to others in mission.

Our God is a giving God.  Our God is a generous God.  As we accept the gift of Christ at Christmas, let us, like Mary, be generous with our faith and love as we worship and magnify the Lord.  Amen.

– Rev. Dr. Clayton Smith

12.21.08 – To be faithful – from Pastor Molly Simpson

Think of someone you know that you would describe as a servant.  How do they do to bless others and what is their motivation? 

I think about a couple that spend most of their free hours caring for others—they support their adult children through difficult times, they collect and deliver donated goods to nonprofit organizations all over the city, they volunteer in missions, student ministry, and on our setup crew and they give both time and financial resources to make a difference in our community.  They find joy in following Christ and serving as he did.      

There are several passages in Isaiah known as servant songs—and they extol the faithful action of a servant, either a particular person or the personification of the nation of Israel.  Reading these passages, we also hear the story of Jesus Christ, the ultimate servant.  He was entirely faithful in his words and actions.       

Notice the way that the servant in Isaiah 50 continually invokes “the Sovereign Lord.”  The servant is able to learn, listen, obey, endure and ultimately triumph not because of his own desires, but because he is faithful to God and he calls upon the Sovereign Lord for help. 

To be a servant, you have to reorient your life—God becomes the center.  This is difficult stuff.  It doesn’t happen instantaneously upon becoming a follower of Jesus but through the ongoing transformation that God works in us.  Let’s pray together that God would help us to be faithful. 

– Rev. Molly Simpson

12.20.08 – Astonished… – from Pastor Bill Stephens

Astonished is a word used often in the Old and New Testaments. It often refers to a sense of wonder and surprise, of being met by the unexpected. In Luke 2: 48 Mary and Joseph are astonished to find Jesus in the Temple with the Elders. The family had come to Jerusalem for the annual Passover feast. Thinking Jesus was with other members and friends of the family, they traveled a day’s journey before they missed him. Returning quickly (I’m sure) to Jerusalem they looked for him three days before finding him in the Temple. There he was having conversation with the learned men of Judaism. Apparently he was holding his own in the discussions since they had been talking for three days.

It is in this Advent Season that we are astonished, surprised, and feel a sense of wonder at being met by the unexpected. We marvel that God would send his Son into the world. It is even more astonishing that Jesus came and the world has not been the same since. Have you wondered what kind of world we would have today had Jesus not come?    Think for a moment what December would mean to us if those angels had not sung that night outside of Bethlehem.

In Bethlehem I have visited the birth place of Jesus many times. It is always a moving moment to read the scriptures, light the candles, sing the carols and pray in that spot.

Tears are shed, people hug one another and joy is evident. Truly it is astonishing to make such a visit. You can expect the unexpected as you stand in that holy place.

As we prepare for Christmas, my prayer is that we are astonished, surprised, a sense of wonder and being met by the unexpected.

– Rev. Bill Stephens

12.19.08 – God is with you – from Pastor Karla Woodward

In this passage, Jesus was 12 years old, finally old enough to go to Jerusalem with his parents for the Feast of the Passover.  He was transitioning from boyhood to manhood, and this was his first opportunity to go to the festival, to experience the excitement and sacredness of the holy city and the Temple and join in the ritual of the Passover.

When the Feast of the Passover was over, Mary and the other women would have left early in a caravan that traveled slowly and Joseph would have left later, catching up with them that evening.  Can you imagine when they met and Mary looked at Joseph, saying, “Where’s Jesus, I thought he was with you!” and Joseph responding “I thought he was with you!”  They would have been frantic, their feeling of panic rising when they could not find him.

Back to Jerusalem they went. Once there, they probably rushed from place to place, calling “Have you seen my son, Jesus?” searching each face, praying to see their son’s.  Three days later, Mary and Joseph finally found Jesus, sitting among the religious teachers in the Temple court paying rapt attention on their words, hearing and asking questions.  Here Jesus was transitioning again, growing into a great spiritual leader.

This fall has brought us a sense of fear and anxiety with the changes in the economic and political climate.  Trust in the words of Psalm 121: 7-8, that surely comforted Mary and Joseph in their trying times, “The LORD will keep you from all harm, he will watch over your life.  The LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.”

– Rev. Karla Woodward