2021 Advent Devotional

We invite you to browse our 2021 Advent Devotion below. From reading entries submitted by congregation members, to listening to the Advent Playlist, to participating in the Advent On-The-Go Activities, there are many ways for you to engage with others in your midst this Advent season. Peace be with you on your Advent journey.


Use the QR Code or click here to access weekly (and additional!) Advent On-the-Go activities! You’re invited to participate in these activities with a friend, your family, individually, or wherever you find yourself this season.

Advent Playlist

Use the QR code or click here to go directly to the Spotify playlist. We pray that this is just one of the ways you find peace, hope, love, and joy as you listen to the words and music of a diverse group of voices and talents in the midst this Advent season.

Coming Home For Christmas

Introducation, by Rev. Dr. Cathy Johns

Dan O’Donnell shares the history of “I’ll be Home for Christmas,” a song written in the early 1940’s. Written by Kim Gannon and Walter Kent in 1943, music executives initially declined to record it. They felt it would cause sadness among families who had a family member fighting overseas, citing the lyrics “I’ll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams.” 

One man thought differently. Gannon was playing golf with Bing Crosby in 1943. Crosby asked him to sing the song. Crosby loved it, placing it on the “B” side of his enormous hit “White Christmas.” 

Oddly, instead of bringing sadness to the soldiers overseas, it brought joy and hope. Each time Crosby performed a holiday show for the troops, “I’ll be home for Christmas” was the most requested song. 

“Come Home This Christmas” is our Advent theme for 2021. After spending over a year worshipping apart and with some still unable to return to public worship, we want to celebrate a God who invites us to come home. At Christmas we remember a God who comes to us wherever we are, reaching out to embrace us at home, school, in worship, in a senior care facility, in prison, or in a rehabilitation center. Coming home means returning to the safety of our God, the One who will always have the “Welcome Home” mat out for us no matter how far we have roamed or strayed.

This year you will find there are new ways that you can celebrate this holy season. You are invited to explore a weekly Advent On-The-Go activity and playlist that can be accessed with a QR code or by visiting the website. We hope it will enhance your walk with Christ as we prepare to welcome Jesus, our Savior and the Hope of the World, to our hearts this Christmas. 

May God richly bless you on you Advent journey and fill you with abiding joy!


Pastor Cathy Johns

Read more


1st Sunday of Advent


Luke 1:69-79 |  by Dr. Leon Boothe | November 28th

From the youngest to the oldest of us, Christmas is probably the dearest holiday of the year. While it brings joy and happiness, family reunions, celebrations, and finally, true joy, it is also a time to reflect on a religious state of being. United with our families, we see the power of love and a positive focus on Christian values.

Although the Christmas story is well known to Christians and non-Christians in the western world, the scripture for this devotion focuses on a promise of mercy. With the renewal of our holy covenant reflected in the significant Holy Nativity, we are reminded to follow our Christian practice to spread the word of God and be the proverbial ‘fishers of men’ (even though I prefer the wording to be more inclusive in saying men and women), and to walk in the paths of peace.

When I view the issues of the world in terms of dangers and toils, I sometimes have to deal with the hand of despair in what is occurring. Like many other Christians, I wonder what is wrong. It does not take much wonderment to read stories about avarice, greed, brutality, and probably the worst of all, indifference, to realize the laxity in the greater Christian community in terms of practicing what we preach.

The Christmas season gives us an excellent opportunity to re-emphasize the Christian dictum of following the biblical guidance.

There are so many ways to effectively extend our Christian faith, other than the famous story of following rules and practices trying to assert that we are holier than others.

While I was raised in a lower economic household, I had parents who knew how to practice Christian love, not only to our family but also to those around us.

I remember World War II vividly. After the war, there were many men (veterans, particularly) who were adrift, trying to find themselves. Because our house was about a block from the railroad tracks, it was not uncommon for there to be a knock on the door by an individual who was ‘down and out’ economically, asking for food. Sometimes they would offer to do a job or two for the food. I remember that my mother never hesitated to fix a hot meal for those individuals, without asking for anything in return. To me as a young boy, and even more as an elderly person, my mother personified being Christ-like. Her acts of kindness influenced me to reach out to those who were less fortunate or who were undervalued due to the color of their skin or some other social, dehumanizing factors. I am not sure I ever told my mother how much her actions shaped me in such a profound, positive, Christian way. My father was exemplary, too, in that he could never turn away a small child who might be trying to earn a bit of money for his or her family.

Christmas is the time of gift giving, as well as love sharing. Let all of us try to be more Christlike as we share the joy of the birth of a Savior who died to set us free.


Light a candle and practice saying this breath prayer:

As you take a deep breath in, pray, “Ever present God,”

As you release your breath, pray, “guide my feet into the way of peace.”

When you find yourself feeling overwhelmed or tired or thankful, pray this prayer, whether verbally or silently, as a way to find God’s peace this Advent season.

Reflectiton Questitons

Q. Who has shown Christlike love to you in your life?

Q. How has their example of Christlike love changed the way you love others?



2nd Sunday of Advent


Luke 21:25-36 |  by Rachael Colaw | December 5th

Look out your window. How would you describe what you observe? Is it dark outside? Is it cold? Do you see death in the trees or plants and decay on the ground? Do you see muddy snow? Is it gloomy? Possibly, depending on the day, right? I know for some it can be sad to look out your window and see these things, and you may ask yourself, “Where did my sunshine and warm weather go?” Often in our lives, we can relate to the winter season. In this, we internally feel how these months outwardly appear: cold, gloomy, and dark. I know that for some people, myself included at times, this is a reality that I experience during this season.

At the same time, I always look forward to the time of year when decorations and lights are put up. The time when Christmas trees light the windows and cookies are baking. The time when winter jackets, hats, and gloves are brought out of the closet. The time when Christmas music is socially acceptable. (Although, if you are at all like me, you secretly started listening in the beginning of November.)

Today, in the midst of gloomy days, is the day I need to make a choice. I can choose to see only what is directly in front of me: the death and gloom, or I can see these realities of the season as a reminder to hope for what is to come. For example, I physically see the trees that look dead with no leaves and the plants that are all trimmed back, but I choose to see much more. I choose to see these realities as a reminder of the season of spring that is to come. When we are focused on the gloom, all we will see is gloom. When we focus on looking for hope, we are reminded of spring. This reframing allows us to know that this winter season is a reminder of the hope of rebirth that is to come.

In this mindset and in this choice, I choose to see icy roads as I choose to see the loss of leaves- as my reminder that it is okay to say, “No,” to things and focus some energy in keeping myself healthy. I choose to see snow as my reminder that Jesus has washed my sins clean. We can all hope for a time when these things shall pass and hope for a future out of this mess. However, there is no need for hope if there is no darkness.

Friends, Advent brings the Christian hope – hope that Christ will come again in glory; hope that everything that’s wrong in our world will be done away with; hope that the word and promise of our God stand forever. I invite you to embrace your choice of hope along with me this season, because hope is an optimistic state of mind.


This month, we are collecting for the Center for Respite Care! Choose an item to donate:

  • Male/Female Jogging Suits (medium to 2XL)
  • Shower Shoes (not flip flops)
  • Reusable Water Bottles 
  • Small Size Hygiene Products

Bring this item with you on Sunday morning or anytime during the week as a way to express hope into the world and into our community this season.

Reflectiton Questitons

Q.  When have you felt gloom and darkness in your life, job, relationships, etc.?

Q. What gives you hope?


3rd Sunday of Advent


Luke 1:46-55 |  by Neal Hamlin | December 12th

In December of 1971, my wife and I were scheduled to meet in Hawaii for “R&R“ at the halfway point in my deployment to Vietnam when we received word that officers with sufficient accrued leave were allowed to travel home for the break, if they so wished. Instead of the tropical paradise of Hawaii we opted for the snowbound streets of Buffalo, New York, where we would be together at home with our fifteen-month-old daughter Darcy on Christmas day. Fifty years of Christmas homecomings have since brought generations to our piano and our table.

As the fall of 2021 began turning the leaves to shades of gold and red, I wrestled with disappointing thoughts emanating from the pandemic that has twisted our lives, and my thoughts of the coming season became nostalgic. Is it realistic to think that the presence of seasonal decorations and over-commercialized music can somehow soften predictions of a diminished holiday experience in this first year of our retirement? Or, is it time to remember what we have always known: “Love came down at Christmas…Love was born at Christmas.”

Again, it is time to come home. For Christmas.

Through the eyes of our grandchildren, we are reconnected with the joys of decorating the house while repeating stories of family traditions and of loved ones who preceded us. Their anticipation of Christmas Day is so strong it displaces negative thoughts and propels us into a bright imagination of a new tomorrow. The children play and sing carols, and as adults we hear familiar music and words that realign our perspective: “Know that the Lord is God; it is God that made us, and not we ourselves.” And, in an instant, we find ourselves reminded and reassured that we are children of God, loved by God and led by God. Faith and Love are born again at Christmas. Come home.

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace, good will to all.”


This week, do something that you love to do! This can be anything from getting a cup of coffee, to calling a friend, to donating to an organization that reflects what it means to love in this season and every season. Remember: You are so loved.

Reflectiton Questitons

Q.  What childhood Christmas memories do you cherish?

Q. How do you celebrate a Christmas homecoming today?


4th Sunday of Advent


Zephaniah 3:14-20 |  by Paul Rich | December 19th

It is known that Black people have experienced many hardships throughout American history. Still today, we see Black trauma, suffering, oppression, and pain daily in the media. As a Black and gay man, I have not been immune to those painful experiences. There have been many times where I felt unsafe, like an outsider, have been followed around in a store, and sadly the list goes on. Even within our historical and current experiences of suffering and oppression, Black people still find joy within difficult times. Through pain and hardship, Black people have always had the strength, courage, and audacity to find joy. Many Black people know this as “Black joy”. I first began to understand Black joy through my upbringing in a primarily Black church.

Through my friendships I established at church, I learned that we were not the only family experiencing discrimination, financial challenges and other difficulties often experienced by people of color. One thing that I wondered as a child was how can all these people that are struggling to get by exude so much joy when singing about God? Where did they find the strength to smile and embrace each other despite what was happening in their lives? Through my own journey with God and through reflection of this scripture from Zephaniah, I have come to understand that joy and safety is found in God’s presence even when our current circumstances seem hopeless.

The people Zephaniah addressed were experiencing division, disappointment, hostility and probably even despair, just as we often see in our world today. When we experience those things personally, it can be hard to find a reason to rejoice about anything. We as children of God all rejoice not because of the oppression we experience, but because of God’s promises to us in dark and seemingly hopeless times.

Advent is a season of joy and celebration. Zephaniah told the people of Zion to shout, and rejoice because God is restoring his presence to us through the birth of Jesus. The reason we sing carols and praises to God is because His presence has been restored to us through Jesus Christ. When we remember that God is present, we should also remember that there is nothing to fear. He is our strength and our protector. This is why my mom, my childhood congregation, my ancestors and Black people do not and did not let their circumstances stop them from experiencing joy. This is why I do not either. Black people deserve to experience safety and joy even when the world tells us otherwise. In this season of Advent, may you find safety and joy in the restoration of the presence of God that was restored to us through the birth of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.


Learn about Las Posadas, the Latin American tradition that celebrates the journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem. Click here to watch a video. Think about what it means to make room for all people, and the joy it brings to the whole community when everyone is invited “inn”.

Reflectiton Questitons

Q.  How have you experienced joy in the midst of a difficult time in your life?

Q. Who has served as your “joy” role model(s) throughout your life?


December 24th


Luke 2:1-7 |  by Rev. Kate Smith | December 24th

In Scripture, we read that Mary and Joseph traveled from their current home in Nazareth to Joseph’s ancestral home of Bethlehem in order to be counted in the census. They found themselves thrown out of their routines, what they knew, and their comfort because of what was going on in the world, and they were forced to adapt, get creative, and be resourceful because this Christ-child was coming. In the midst of chaos, uncertainty, and the unknown – Mary and Joseph were the first to experience God breaking through to humanity through the birth of Jesus – meeting them right where they were, amidst the most unexpected circumstances – born in a manager because all their original plans were thrown out the window.

To bring extraordinary transformation to humanity, God had to enter the world in a new way. The cries of baby Jesus that night broke the silence as God was breaking through to us. The Word became flesh and made his home among us. We have seen his glory. Glory like that of a newborn baby, filling our homes and lives with wonder and life. God is not some far away being, but the force that spoke everything into existence is right here, in the middle of our lives with us. Right at home in our homes. God’s home has always been here in our midst, on earth, and the coming of Christ into our flesh, just helped bring that understanding closer to our hearts and minds.

May you find the glory of Christ in your home this Christmas. May Jesus be born anew to us this night, in our hearts, our minds, and in our lives. And may our lives and our whole world be disrupted and transformed by this holy Love in our midst. May God lead us towards the path of extraordinary transformation knowing we can find courage and strength of God with us, God for us, God in us.


In the stillness, in the silence, we attend to your presence God. We feel you filling us from within illuminating our minds, warming our hearts, stirring our spirits, and transforming our lives. God, we thank you for breaking through to us through Jesus – whose name is love, whose presence is light, whose heart is justice, whose gift is grace, and whose life is hope. Amen.


December 25th


Luke 2:8-20 |  by Rev. Doug Johns | December 25th

This Advent we journeyed to the manger under the banner of “Come Home This Christmas.” Along the way God has called us to come home and experience God’s Joy, Peace, Hope, and Love. On this Christmas day, the first day of the twelve days of Christmas (yes that is a real thing, December 25 to January 5) I offer the following prayer attributed to Robert Louis Stevens:

Loving God,

help us remember the birth of Jesus,

that we may share in the song of the angels,

the gladness of the shepherds,

and worship of the wise men.

Close the door of hate

and open the door of love all over the world.

Let kindness come with every gift

and good desires with every greeting.

Deliver us from evil by the blessing which Christ brings,

and teach us to be merry with clear hearts.

May the Christmas morning make us happy to be thy children,

and Christmas evening bring us to our beds with grateful thoughts,

forgiving and forgiven, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

May the blessings of Christmas abound today, and in the days ahead, as God leads you into a new year. May the Gifts of Christmas: Joy, Peace, Hope, and Love be yours! I look forward to seeing you in Church.

Christmas Blessings,

Pastor Doug


© All rights reserved - Hyde Park Community UMC