December '23

December 1

“And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.”

Mark 13:37

I received an email from a theologian who decided to begin her Advent Devotional now, rather than wait until the First Sunday of Advent. She made a comment about how doing so would align her with many of the Advent sort of things that begin on December 1st and count the days to the 25th. 

On this first day of December, I want to point ahead to Advent with a few observations.

#1 - Our Trinity Council members have agreed (read: “I have coerced them”!) to provide a devotional reflection each weekday over the first two weeks of Advent this year. From what I have already received, I am looking forward to their insights helping to shape our Advent devotion. 

#2 - We will be reflecting on scripture verses that point to God’s call to us to wait. Advent is a season of waiting, and we expect a particular ONE to arrive. Jesus, whom God has sent to make us new…

#3 - I liked the observation that those whom we encounter in the Christmas story are not filled with wishes, but with hope.

Hope is trust that God will fulfill God’s promises to us and to all.

This makes our waiting open ended, we are looking ahead, not to the fruition of our plans and desires, but to God’s promise of love and redemption.

A blessed Advent to you, Pastor Phil

Almighty God,

Give us grace to cast away the works of darkness,

And put on the armor of light,

Now in the time of this mortal life

In which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility;

That in the last day, when he shall come again

In his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead,

We may rise to the life immortal…. Amen


December 2

And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake."

Mark 13:37

I am very grateful that over the next two weeks, we will “hear” from members of our Council who are preparing the Trinity Connections for us. We have been considering a book by Andy Root, who encourages us to look for God at work in our world. Part of this watchfulness requires a patient waiting. Bible verse that call us to faithful waiting will shape our reflections. 

A blessed Saturday to you, Pastor Phil

A Prayer for the First Sunday of Advent:

Almighty God,

Give us grace to cast away the works of darkness,

And put on the armor of light,

Now in the time of this mortal life

In which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility;

That in the last day, when he shall come again

In his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead,

We may rise to the life immortal…. Amen


1st Sunday of Advent

December 3

Advent begins the new Church year, and so I wish you a Happy New Year!

The service will be online.

I hope to see you in worship at 9:00

Prayer of the Day

Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come. 

By your merciful protection 

awaken us to the threatening dangers of our sins, 

and keep us blameless until the coming of your new day, 

for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, 

one God, now and forever.


These Devotions the weekdays of the first two weeks of Advent are prepared for us by our Trinity Council Members.

December 4
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

This verse was on the wall of my office across from my desk. It helped me to remember to wait on the Lord’s answer and help during the ups and downs we experience in life. 

Blessings to you this Advent. - Doug Dewald

December 5

Wait for the Lord; be strong, 

and let your heart take courage; 

wait for the Lord!

Psalm 27:14

We have all faced difficulties in our lives. Emotions such as distress, fear, grief, depression and loneliness separate us from others, making us feel alone.

I love the personal touch of this message. It seems the Psalmist is speaking directly to me. Then I realize that the Psalmist is speaking to others, also. This message is timeless in that it comforts all of us not only today but all those who came before us. This message of encouragement reminds me that I’m not isolated by sadness or fear or grief and that reminder unites me with others.

The author reminds us of the presence of God in our lives, that His love and support is constant and never-failing. We are encouraged to remember this. God’s delay is not God’s denial, as the saying goes: wait….and listen.

Blessed Advent waiting to you, Lois Bell

December 6

Lead me in your truth and teach me, 

for you are the God of my salvation; 

for you I wait all the day long.

Psalm 25:5

   If you’re like me, waiting and patience are not among my favorite things. Yet, during Advent season, our waiting anticipates the birth of Christ and the salvation born with Him, so we are anxious for those gifts on Christmas Day. 

   In joy, we can share that anticipation every day as we celebrate the coming of Christ, the gathering of our loved ones, the giving of gifts, and the spirit of the season. 

   If we turn to God to lead us and teach us how to appreciate what is promised, the waiting seems less burdensome. In fact, the waiting can be filled with great riches as we count down the days, much like our kids enjoy the sweets revealed every day of an Advent calendar.

   My Trinity family, you are all part of the joyous gifts we receive during this season. I am so happy to share them with you as we join together in waiting for God’s precious Son. 

Advent blessings to you, Susan Baker

December 7
It is good that one should wait quietly 

for the salvation of the Lord.

Lamentations 3:26

God’s plans for us are known to God, and not to us. So, we are called to patience in our waiting. While waiting might be frustrating, confidence in God’s desires for our salvation will bring the best result for us. 

Advent Peace to you, Ann Reed

December 8

From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, 

no eye has seen a God besides you, 

who acts for those who wait for him.

Isaiah 64:4

An Advent Prayer:

From ancient time you are the one true God.

You work miracles for your followers who put their hope in you.

You act on behalf of those who wait for you.


A blessed Advent to you, Jim and Kay Tyra

December 9

"The people who walked in darkness 

have seen a great light;

those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, 

on them has light shone."

Isaiah 9: 2

“Waiting is essential to the spiritual life. But waiting as a disciple of Jesus is not an empty waiting. It is a waiting with a promise in our hearts that makes already present what we are waiting for. We are always waiting, but it is a waiting in the conviction that we have already seen God’s footsteps. As we wait we remember him for whom we are waiting, and as we remember him we create a community ready to welcome him when he comes.”

– Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey

Dear God,

I am full of wishes, full of desires, full of expectations. 

Some of them may be realized, many may not,

but in the midst of all my satisfactions and

disappointments, I hope in you.

I know that you will never leave me alone

and will fulfill your divine promises.

O Lord, strengthen my hope,

especially when my many wishes are not fulfilled.

Let me never forget that your name is Love.


(Prayer from With Open Hands by Henri Nouwen)

2nd Sunday of Advent

December 10

Children’s Christmas Program today!

Hope to see you here.

The Prayer of the Day

Stir up our hearts, Lord God, 

to prepare the way of your only Son.  

By his coming strengthen us to serve you with purified lives; 

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, 

who lives and reigns with you 

and the Holy Spirit, 

one God, 

now and forever. 


December 11

I wait for the Lord, 

my soul waits, 

and in his word I hope.

Psalm 130:5

We don't like to wait, not at a stoplight, in a grocery line, at an airport, for an online order, for a doctor's report, or for summer. But wait, (ha) what does it mean that in his word I hope? It's not the hope that, maybe if I'm good, I'll get the Christmas present that I want. No, when we hope in his word, we lean on the promises of God with certainty! 

God always keeps his promises, so we wait with excited anticipation. 

May God bless you as you wait brothers and sisters,  Nancy Wilson

December 12

It will be said on that day, 

“Behold, this is our God; 

we have waited for him, 

that he might save us. 

This is the Lord; 

we have waited for him; 

let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”

Isaiah 25:9

WAITING . . . . . . . WAITING . . . . . . . WAITING . . . . . . 

Have you ever waited for a long time for a wish to come true? I have, and I'm certain that most of you have, too. I lived in a town that received very little snow at winter time, especially at Christmas. I wished and wished for snowflakes on Christmas Eve and/or Christmas Day. One very dry Christmas Eve, we spent the evening at our grandparents house opening presents and enjoying an old fashioned German Christmas. When it was time to go home, we packed up our opened gifts, put on our fall coats, and headed to the car. Much to my joy and excitement, it had been snowing during our Christmas Eve celebration inside. I walked out the door and marveled at those huge, beautiful, fluffy snowflakes, covering the ground and flying in the air. I still remember that today many decades later. My dream came true!

So it is waiting for our God to come the second time. Our hearts are full of anticipation, excitement, and wonder as we wait for His coming. Can you imagine what that day will be like? "Anticipation," the act of waiting for something. "Advent," the act of waiting for someone. As we wait for the celebration of the birth of Jesus this Advent season, we imagine the joy, excitement, and wonder that day will bring. But when the actual day of Jesus' second coming arrives, I can't begin to imagine the incredible feeling of love, joy, excitement, and wonder that each of us will experience. I have to, but I just can't wait!! 

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we are full of anticipation of the second coming of your Son. We wait with joy and wonder! Amen

Donna VanLuchene

December 13

For through the Spirit, 

by faith, 

we ourselves eagerly wait 

for the hope of righteousness.

Galatians 5:5


Paul taught the Galatians about Christ. He taught salvation by grace through faith, and that salvation comes by the work of Christ and not by our works. Having accomplished his mission in Galatia, Paul continued his missionary journey to establish other churches. Soon he received news that deceivers were polluting the Gospel in Galatia.

“Judaizers” were teaching that salvation was possible only for those who were circumcised and who kept the Old Testament laws and ceremonial Jewish laws and customs. Their argument was that a Jew (most of the early Christians) must keep such laws in order to be a “real” Christian. The doctrine of salvation by faith and not by works, that Paul had taught them was being challenged. They just didn’t get it. Out of concern for the doctrinal integrity of the Galatian believers, Paul wrote them a sharp-edged letter.

CONTEXT - Galatians 5:4-6


You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.


But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope.


For in Christ neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. 

“Judaizers” wanted the Christ story to be an add-on to the Jewish way of doing things. I wonder what Paul would write to us here in America? What are we adding to or taking away from the Christ story?

Waiting through the Spirit is a relationship, NOT a set of rules to follow. Faith is an inside job. Paul made it clear that “We can not be slaves to a set of laws and free to love God and others.”

My prayer is to take this season to work on my heart and not add to or take away from the message that, “it is through the Spirit, by faith that we wait for the hope of righteousness.” “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” 

Peace, joy and love as we wait, Joyce Lofgren

December 14

The Lord is good to those who wait for him, 

to the soul who seeks him.

Lamentations 3:25

The Advent Season is all about the waiting, waiting for presents, waiting for Christmas programs, waiting for family gatherings, but most importantly, waiting for the celebration of birth of Christ on Christmas.  

Some of us may be waiting for relief from the pain of illness or grief, which doesn’t seem to come as quickly as we might like, but we should never give up hope. 

Waiting without hope would be very disheartening for me, because that hope is sustained by my faith that God will always provide what I need, to get through the impatience found in the waiting. My hope is that you will know that the Spirit of God is always near and fills us with the special hope only He can give.

Merry Christmas to all! Kathi Swank

December 15

But as for me, 

I will look to the Lord;

I will wait for the God of my salvation; 

my God will hear me.

Micah 7:7

Micah gives us a message of hope that our trust in God, even in difficult times will involve waiting. I know that when I am struggling with trying life circumstances that I must be patient. I know that God is working on my behalf even if I have to wait. 

The Advent season can bring extreme grief for those that we have lost, financial stresses that we find ourselves drowning in, and exhaustion from holiday obligations. 

I find that when I simply trust in God and let go of these burdens it gives me peace and hope. And if I just wait, God will, in fact, hear my prayers for comfort and relief.

My hope for you is that you also can trust in our God to bring your heart joy and calm this Advent season. 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all of you! Angela Zugel

December 16

As we venture toward Christmas, many people send cards and well wishes. Here is a message from our ELCA Presiding Bishop, Elizabeth Eaton

Let us join together in praying for peace here in Sheridan, in all of our communities, and in this world God loves.

Peace to you, Pastor Phil

4th Sunday in Advent

December 17

I hope to see you in worship today. 

The Choir will be presenting the Christmas Cantata today.

The service will be posted online.

The Prayer of the Day

Stir up the wills of your faithful people, Lord God, 

and open our ears to the words of your prophets, 

that, anointed by your Spirit, we may testify to your light; 

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, 

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, 

one God, now and forever. 


December 18

[John] 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 1:7-8

As we tend to our call to wait for God, we tune our ears for the Good News of Christ’s appearing. In this day and age, we might well start by simply reminding one another that, as those baptized into Christ, we believe that God will enter our world and be with us.

Here is a nice reflection by Dr. Will Willimon. This is from a sermon for the 2nd Sunday of Advent, the appearance of John the Baptist in Mark chapter one.

The best Christmas sermon I ever heard

was from the preacher who stood up on Christmas Eve

and simply said to his congregation.

“Tonight, I have some breaking news.”

Then he leaned into the microphone for good effect and said,

“Good news. Tonight, the invasion has begun.

We’re about to be liberated. God’s come for us.” 

He sat down and we sang Christmas carols like our lives depended upon it, which of course, they do.

Sorry if you thought God was a projection

of your fondest wishes and deepest desires,

a technique for getting peace or justice or happiness or joy

or whatever it is you think you just must have more than God. 

One comes to us; one whom we did not expect. 

Your world is about to be rocked.

Don’t be surprised that you are surprised.

May the surprise of God’s surpassing love for you be with you!

Pastor Phil

December 19

Wait for the Lord; be strong, 

and let your heart take courage; 

wait for the Lord!

Psalm 27:14

I have a suspicion that I have had this quote set aside for decades.

It is by great 20th Century preacher Harry Emerson Fosdick. 

I do not recall where I first encountered it, but here goes:

“The great believers 

have been the unwearied waiters.”

I have to wonder why I ever set this aside. Like many of you, I find waiting can be quite frustrating. I also have to admit that I never really have aspired to get good at waiting. 

My mom liked the silly line; “don’t pray for patience, you might get it!” 

Here in this last week of Advent, I wonder if it might serve us well to remember that there is a great deal of waiting in the life of faith. We are called to wait, and it might be wise to remind one another that God is faithful, and we can trust that God will act.

We can also trust that God will invite us to join God in love for the world, and so, our waiting faithfully will give birth to serving faithfully.

Peace to you, Pastor Phil

December 20

He was despised, and rejected of men; 

a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: 

and as one from whom men hide their face 

he was despised; and we esteemed him not.

Isaiah 53:3 - ASV

Tonight we have our Longest Night Service at the United Methodist Church.

There are a number of us who have found this to be a very important service as we enter the final days of Advent. 

The Longest Night service is also referred to as a “Blue Christmas” service. This is a time to take note of sorrows we bear in this season of happiness and celebration. 

This is, indeed, a season of joy. Yet, we are also a people who are “acquainted with grief.” It can be easy for those who are sorrowful to suspect that they are out of step with the season. However, if the world is not broken, then God does not need to send us a savior. 

If we do not need redeeming, then God’s chosen one would not have entered into the suffering he endured to make us whole.

May you know the presence of Christ today and always.

Advent blessings to you, Pastor Phil 

December 21

And this will be a sign for you; 

You shall find a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, 

lying in a manger.

Luke 2:12

As we wait for the appearing of the Christ Child at Christmas, it matters a great deal who it is we anticipate meeting. 

There are many who focus on Christ’s return, and they are sure that next time, he will wreak havoc on the evils of our world. 

I have a suspicion that they might be off by a bit. 

The humble birth in Bethlehem tells us a great deal about God and about the Messiah.

Blessings, Pastor Phil

December 22

Praise the LORD!

Praise, O servants of the LORD;

praise the name of the LORD.

Blessed be the name of the LORD

from this time on and forevermore.

From the rising of the sun to its setting

the name of the LORD is to be praised.

Psalm 113:1-3

On Sunday morning we will have our 4th Sunday of Advent Service, with the Winds of the Bighorns providing special music. I hope you can be here for that service, as well as one of the Christmas Eve services Sunday evening.

Here’s a great thought: from here on out (for the next 6 months at least) the days get longer! 

I liked this prayer at the winter solstice:  

Creator of the stars of night, 

bless the long hours of this night with the warmth of your presence.

Come to all who suffer in any way. 

Grant rest to the weary, 

freedom to those who are burdened, 

and bright hope to those who despair. 

Strengthen us as we await your coming once again, 

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. 


(Blue Christmas: A Service of Night Prayer for the Winter Solstice)

December 23

The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, 

the Son of God

Mark 1:1

A blessed Advent Saturday to you. I trust you are, like me, expectantly waiting for Christmas. In our household we will be having our Christmas feast today, since our daughter is here and she’s leaving early Christmas morning.

Blessings and safe travels for all those who are gathering with family. 

I like this Advent prayer from a wonderful book of prayers titled: “Guerrillas of Grace” by Ted Loder.

I Am Silent. . . and Expectant

How silently,

how silently,

the wondrous gift is given.

I would be silent now,


and expectant. . . 

   that I may receive 

    the gift I need,

     so I may become

          the gifts others need.

“Guerrillas of Grace: Prayers for the battle.” 

Augsburg Fortress. 1981 pg. 138

May you rejoice in the abundance of gifts we celebrate this weekend! Pastor Phil

4th Sunday of Advent

(also Christmas Eve!!)

December 24

We have our 4th Sunday of Advent service at 9:00 a.m. this morning, and Christmas Eve Services will be at 4:00 and 7:00.

I hope to see you here. Winds of the Bighorns will play at the morning service. Carols and Candlelight with Holy Communion this evening.

This morning’s service will be posted online.

Merry Christmas blessings to you, Pastor Phil

The Prayer of the Day for this morning:

Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come. 

With your abundant grace and might, 

free us from the sin that would obstruct your mercy, 

that willingly we may bear your redeeming love 

to all the world, 

for you live and reign with the Father 

and the Holy Spirit, 

one God, 

now and forever.


Christmas Eve

December 24

Christmas Eve Worship Services

with Carols, Candlelight and Communion

will be at 4:00 and 7:00.

We hope to see you here.

The service will be posted online.

Merry Christmas blessings to you, Pastor Phil

The Prayer of the Day:

God of time and eternity, 

you have given your only Son, born of Mary, 

to save and redeem us.

Bless us with all good things,

that the works of our hands 

through all the years of our lives

may proclaim the news of your redeeming love

in Jesus Christ our Lord.


Christmas Day 

December 25

The Prayer of the Day today:

All-powerful and unseen God,

the coming of your light into our world

has brightened weary hearts with peace.

Call us out of darkness,

and empower us to proclaim

the birth of your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God,

now and forever.


Christmas Blessings to you, Pastor Phil

December 26

We love because God first loved us.

I John 4:19

Preparing for Christmas I get to read many meaningful reflections on the wonder and impact of the Incarnation. This “Prayer for Christmas” by poet and novelist Robert Louis Stevenson, invites us into the story, so that we might be transformed by the gift of the Christ Child. I shared it a couple of years ago, and thought I would put it before you today.

Blessings to you this 2nd Day of Christmas! Pastor Phil

Prayer for Christmas

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.

~ adapted from Robert Louis Stevenson

December 27

And it came to pass…

Luke 2:1 (KJV)

I shared this last year, and as I read it today, I find I still like how these words might shape our prayers today. This is a nice “Prayer for the Days after Christmas.” Of course, if you think about it, that means it is a prayer for every day of the year.

Blessings to you this 3rd Day of Christmas! Pastor Phil

Almighty God, 

you enlighten the darkness 

with the true Light.

In the days ahead, 

help us walk in Christ's light,

and on the last day 

awaken us to the brightness 

of his glory. 


December 28

The Fourth Day of Christmas 

I like this Christmas Prayer, asking that we might bear Christ’s peace to God’s world in need.

Blessings to you this 4th Day of Christmas! Pastor Phil


you spoke 

and your Word became flesh,

breathing a new song 

of joy and praise

into the world.

Grant that we may bear 

the good news of your salvation,

proclaiming your promise of peace

to the ends of the earth. 


Reproduced from Revised Common Lectionary Prayers copyright © 2002 Consultation on Common Texts admin. Augsburg Fortress. 

December 29

The Fifth Day of Christmas 

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven,

the shepherds said to one another,

“Let us go now to Bethlehem

and see this thing that has taken place,

which the Lord has made known to us.”

Luke 2:15

One of the things I love about Christmas Eve is seeing so many of us gathered together at worship that evening. This year, a few turkeys showed up here at Trinity, but they were a bit early, and decided not to stay.

The first Christmas, the shepherds went to see. One might suggest that each day, you and I can make the same journey. We are called to go and see where God is at work transforming the world with the love of Christ. As people of God, baptized into Christ, we are gifted with the chance to embody God's love in our own selves as we join in God's work of loving the world.

A blessed 5th Day of Christmas to you, Pastor Phil

December 30

At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking 

for the redemption of Jerusalem.

Luke 2:38

Our Gospel text for Sunday is from the story of Simeon and Anna meeting the baby Jesus. As we look back on 2023, and look ahead to the year to come, may we keep our hearts and minds ever hopeful for God’s loving presence. 

This prayer speaks of their faithful waiting and hoping…

God of glory,
you have given us a new name 

and robed us in salvation.
May we like Anna find our home in your presence,
and like Simeon recognize Jesus as the Christ,
so that, in joy and thanksgiving 

at becoming your children,
we may join with all creation 

to sing your praise. 


The First Sunday of Christmas 

December 31

Merry Christmas. I hope to see you at worship this morning at 9:00

The service will be posted online click here.

The Prayer of the Day today 

Almighty God, 

you wonderfully created the dignity of human nature 

and yet more wonderfully restored it. 

In your mercy, 

let us share the divine life of the one 

who came to share our humanity, 

Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, 

who lives and reigns with you 

and the Holy Spirit, 

one God, 

now and forever. 


A blessed New Year's Eve to you all! Pastor Phil