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

Sunday, December 6, 2020 … An Advent of Peace

“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

Saturday, December 5, 2020 … An Advent of Hope

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 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

Friday, December 4, 2020 … An Advent of Hope

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

Thursday, 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

~ 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

Advent 2020

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).

Thanksgiving 2020

“I will praise God’s name in song and glorify God with thanksgiving.” ~~~Psalm 69:30

I give thanks in this 2020 pandemic season of life. I remain prayerful for those who are suffering loss and grieving, as we find this year to be hugely stressful in so many ways. Still, I am grateful for my health, for the congregation with whom I serve, for the ability to continue to work and serve, for savory and soothing homecooked meals, and for the safety of living in a comfortable parsonage with my family.

With everything that has made this such a chaotic year, I am thankful that we can begin to address the larger issues in our world that cause racial strife, inequality, poverty and homelessness, and other injustices that keep us from living in peace. As I find places of gratitude in this year, I am reminded to thank God who offers us everything that is needed.

I am fortunate to have a place I can call home, and a simple family lifestyle that provides a loving and calm spirit of generosity. We have been blessed in the last week to expand our welcoming home to Lily, a 7-year-old Rat Terrier whom we adopted from the SPCA of Santa Cruz. Lily has some hearing loss and barks at inanimate objects, but she has been embraced into our household by another adoptee, 10½-year-old Benji, a loving Bichon Frise-Poodle. We are blessed indeed, even in times such as these! We are a family, privileged to live in a neighborhood with a park where walking (even with busy traffic patterns!) gives us a greenbelt for outings as we shelter-in-place (see the accompanying picture).

This year, even with all that pains in our community, state, nation, and world, I can join the Psalmist to sing and glorify God with thanksgiving…even as I continue the strenuous work of helping to create an environment where justice, peace, and kindness thrive! How might you be able to share glory to God, even in a time such as this?!

~~~pastor jay