For Unto Us a Child Is Born! – A Christmas Offering from Brian Hardesty-Crouch

December 25, 2017

I invite you to ponder Isaiah 9:2-7.


Any child is a mystery.

This child is a mystery.

God’s love- a mystery.


Mysterious- yes.

Good News- absolutely!


“And she gave birth… and laid him in a manger”

Luke 2:7


May your every Christmas be wonder-full and mysterious.


(c) 2017 Rev. Brian Hardesty-Crouch

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What Is It That Fills Me with Awe? – An Advent Offering from Nancy Jagmin

December 23, 2017

O Lord, you have searched me and known me.

You know when I sit down and when I rise up;

you discern my thoughts from far away.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;

it is so high that I cannot attain it. (Psalm 139: 1-2, 6)


It is said that Advent is a season of wonder.  What is it that fills me with awe?  Today (truth be told), I have one foot in the exuberant joy that is just around the corner. I struggle to avoid “skipping ahead” to lose myself in the beloved story.  But still, I know that it isn’t just contemplating God coming to earth that fills me with awe.  I drag myself back from anticipating the Incarnation to ponder the reality of God being fully present in me, not just on earth.  Now, that truly is too wonderful.


(c) 2017 Nancy Jagmin

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An Offering from Nancy J: Hear me, Lord.

December 30, 2016

Hear me, Lord, and answer me,

For I am poor and needy.

Guard my life, for I am faithful to you;

Save your servant who trusts in you.

Psalm 86:1-2

(c) Bonnie Oden

The first few days after Christmas can be a bit of a letdown. Some of us are exhausted from shopping, cooking, wrapping, and entertaining.  Some of us poured our hearts into decorating our churches or carefully preparing the worship or music.  The impact on our moods is predictable.  It’s all over.

In our heads, we know the story never ends, but we might struggle with it in our hearts.  We continue to remind ourselves throughout the church year that Jesus came, taught us, loved us, and died for us.  The story is the same.  It’s just the time of the year that changes.

This may be a good time to remind ourselves of the miracle of everyday living.  There are days of wonder, but some days are colorless.  Somedays we feel close to God; on other days, the awareness of God’s presence eludes us.  Most days we just are called to be faithful and trusting, and that is enough.
Nancy Jagmin

Spiritual Director

SMI Board of Directors

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An Offering from Elaine: A Light has shown.

December 28, 2016

Isaiah 9:1-2

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;

Upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone.

(c) Bonnie Oden


Light.  The light of Christ.  It shines.  It overpowers the gloom and darkness.  It is a sign of peace, beauty, and love.

Notice it in these days of Christmas.  Notice it.  Ponder it.  Pray about it.  What does Jesus have to offer you in the light of this Christmas season?


Elaine Weber

Spiritual Director

SMI Board of Directors

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An Offering from Diana: It had to be him

December 25, 2016


           “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people”
Luke 2:10
Today we celebrate Christmas, the birth of Jesus Christ, born so long ago, yet reborn in our hearts each Christmas. This is what makes Christmas a truly joyful and magical time.
coming to the light
Despite the tinsel, hurrying, parties and shopping and even moments of disappointment, loneliness, or sadness, there can be sweet moments this season when we can be assured that Jesus is alive today and his light is shining for each one of us.
For me this has happened in a variety of ways over the years: singing Silent Night in a New York country church while watching the first snowfall, watching the sun rise up over the mountains before anyone else was awake, spending Christmas day alone one year, but making it a day I will always fondly remember.  Every Christmas there is always something, along with an awareness that Jesus is right beside me.  All it takes are open hands and an open heart, and he will surprise us in ways that we will say, “it had to be him.”
Diana Beaudry
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An Offering from Nancy: Journey Back

December 24, 2013


“At that time Emperor Augustus ordered a census to be taken throughout the Roman Empire.”… [GNB]

“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.  And everyone went to their own town to register.” [NIV] Luke 2:1

Luke sets his account of the birth of Jesus in context of the everyone traveling back to their ancestral towns for the purpose of being registered government census taking. Caesar’s word calls people back to their roots.[1]

Ever made such a trip yourself? I did something like that once when I took my mother on a trip back to some of the places her grandfather had lived and to look a bit at the route he took to travel with 3 family members to Texas after the Civil War ended. His side had lost, and the family farm in Mississippi had been burned in the war. We wondered about what he’d have felt on that trip. Physically it might not have been much easier than the one Joseph and Mary, with her swollen belly, would have made.

Pappy (Everyone called my great-grandfather Pappy) was guiding the trip to East Texas mostly on foot since the only vehicle they had was a lopsided farm wagon pulled by a milk cow. Plenty of time to think about what it meant that they were leaving the land where he had grown up to go to a new land they’d never seen.

Over the years the story of that trip was told and retold, and the only way that trip made sense was to tell it as an adventure with promise. In the new land he found a wife, raised a family, and came to accept that some of the values of the old land needed to be surrendered. I think he died a happy man.

He wouldn’t have made the trip except that things beyond himself had forced the issue. On that later trip with my mom, we talked about how Pappy’s adventurous voyage had impacted our lives, how glad we were he made the journey.

The adventure of that trip for Joseph and Mary must have been retold a lot of times too. Each time, what a wonder that it really changed the world, not just their world, but ours. A difficult journey for them, a miracle for everyone!

[1] Allan White O.P. 25 December 2000, Christmas

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An Offering from Eunice: Anticipating Light

December 13, 2013


“I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.”  John 8:12

Advent and the scripture readings that accompany it present us with many images but none more predominant than the image of light.  I think it is difficult to absorb the depth of the meaning of Jesus as our Light in this day and time without imagining earlier times when there was no light at the flip of a switch and the darkness of the short days of autumn made difficult or impossible the daily business of both households and communities. It has been easiest to know Jesus as my Light when in the hours before sunrise far from the light of large cities, I’ve found myself in total darkness – a truly awesome and potentially frightening encounter.  And how welcome and beautiful has been the first break of daylight – the “light that dispels the darkness.”


Courtesy of Martha Jecobson

In celebrating the coming of the light of Christ this Advent, I celebrate the birth of Jesus two thousand years ago, the light Jesus’ life and Good News gives my life and the lives of others today, and the vision I hold for the fulfillment of Christ’s Kingdom to come.  I anticipate and celebrate love, hope and faith not just because of what Jesus did but also because of who Jesus is for me and for the world this moment – a Light in the darkness of disappointment, hurt, humiliation and loss and a Light of Anticipation for the time when “all things will be made new.”

Eunice Cheshire

President, Spiritual Ministries Institute

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An Offering from Evelyn: Anticipation

December 11, 2013

Isaiah 9:6 “For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Tears unexpectedly came to my eyes as I read these words aloud for a Christmas celebration at my church more than 20 years ago.  I had read this passage many times realizing it was predicting Jesus’ birth,but I had not experienced the power of its reality for me.  The names for Jesus have stayed with me.  I used the names for Jesus as I journal-ed my prayers during a summer of being flat on back in bed with foot surgery.

Through the Holy Spirit Jesus became my Wonderful Counselor.  Listening for God while reflecting on scripture, I was comforted.  I discovered when circumstances turn out differently than expected, God is still present.  God became powerful and everlasting for me.  I experienced a sense of God parenting me not only in providing security as a father, but also with nurture and gentleness as a mother.  Peace with endurance and joy was the result.  During my summer recuperation my trust in God grew.

As I anticipate Christmas, celebrating Christ’s birth, the words “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace: form a foundation to begin waiting with excitement and eagerness.


Is there a scripture that sets the tone for your preparation for celebrating Christ’s birth?

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An Offering from Donnie: Reflections on Luke 1

December 9, 2013

Luke 1:26-38—Second Monday of Advent

The Angel Gabriel was sent from God…May it be done to me according to your word.

A year ago or so I read a book by Shawn Small, The Via Advent.  These are my memories of that engaging book.

Have you ever wondered what Mary was doing when the Angel Gabriel visited her?  We know she was betrothed to Joseph and like any young woman, she may have been daydreaming about her wedding day.  How many guests would attend and what gifts would they bring; would the wedding feast last for days?

She may of thought about Joseph, wondering what he was doing and was he thinking about her.  As she entertained these thoughts, she suddenly felt herself engulfed in a great light as if the fire in the fireplace had transformed the entire room.  Then a figure materialized before her, so brilliantly bright as to be blinding yet she couldn’t look away.  Finally, the figure spoke and it sounded like a mountain breeze carrying a beautiful song to her ears.  “Hail, O favored one…”

Gabriel must have been startled when Mary didn’t seem to be taken aback by his imposing appearance, as so many others he had visited had done.  Gabriel must have thought to himself, ‘Who is this woman?”  As he continued with his pronouncement …”He will be called the Son of the Most High”…  Mary began to glow but it was not the word that the long awaited Messiah was coming that confounded her but the fact that Yahweh had chosen her, she was the favored one.

Mary was sure she was still in her daydream, how could she be standing before the Lord’s messenger?  She wondered how she could do any of what Gabriel was saying—she was a virgin, in fact, she had never been alone with a man.  Gabriel looked into the innocent eyes of the girl and said, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you…the child to be born will be called Holy, the Son of God.”  Mary was somehow able to simply receive the Gabriel’s words as truth.

Finally he said to her, “Did you know that your cousin Elizabeth…is now six months pregnant with child?  Nothing is impossible with God.”  At this announcement, Mary was astonished and Gabriel waited for her response.  Speaking slowly in a whisper of humility and surrender, Mary said, “I understand the will of the Father.  I am his servant…let it be with me according to all you have spoken and revealed.”  Gabriel then slowly left her.

Mary found herself at home again and wondered if she had actually been gone or was it part of her daydream.  As she sat there she looked down at her belly knowing Life was within her womb.

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