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Giving

Advent Devotionals


December 2

My favorite thing about Christmas is the birth of baby Jesus. Some people say it is about presents but it is not. Christmas is about how baby Jesus came to the earth. I love telling the Christmas story to people and spreading holiday cheer! Every Christmas I paint a picture of Mary, Joseph, three kings, and baby Jesus. My favorite part about the Christmas story is how Mary and Joseph were trying to find a place for Mary to birth her baby but nobody said yes, so she had her baby in a barn. Baby Jesus was wrapped up in white cloth and in a manger. My favorite Christmas song is “Away in a Manger.” I am also in choir so I love doing the Christmas program because singing Christmas songs makes me feel like I am doing something right for Jesus, and of course, I like the Christmas cookies after. Those are my favorite things about Christmas.
Martha Kate Jessop, age 10

December 3

Luke 1:29-31
She was deeply troubled by this statement and tried to discern this greeting. The angel then said, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus.”

Similar to Mary, we often let our lives be consumed by worries. We become fearful of the outcomes of tests, how well we are performing in our jobs, how to best support ourselves, families, and friends. We are fearful of diseases, wars, poverty, and death.
I have found myself to be in a season of worry. Worried that I won’t get into my dream college. Fearful of saying goodbye to friends and family. Scared of having to start over somewhere new. Fearful about my future that all seems to be starting way too soon.
The angel Gabriel recognized troubles within Mary’s heart and reminded her to not be afraid because she is favored by God.
Like Mary aren’t we all favored by God? God sent down his son to save us, He loves us unconditionally, and He grants us unwavering grace.
The season of Advent, comes with a great new hope and light through the birth of our savior, Jesus Christ.
Joshua 1:9 says “Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed for the Lord your God is with you wherever”
When we fully trust in God and in His plans for us we are able to let go of our fears and root ourselves in the light of Christ. Like Mary we will all face troubles but if we have faith “nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37).
Dear God,
You are all powerful and all knowing and I cast my fears to you. Forgive me for allowing my fears to become a driving force in my life. I pray that you will be me and continuously remind me of your faithfulness. Give me strength to not be afraid and to have a hope in the days that are before me.
Amen.
Morgan McGuffee

December 4

Isaiah 7:14
…Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.

Luke 1:35
…The angel said to Mary, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
This is one of my favorite hymns during the Advent season.
I think it became a favorite because of its minor tune—making it different from most of the Christmas hymns we sing. Emmanuel means “God is with us”.
I decided to share some of the research I found on the text that we know and love.
The text dates back to the “O Antiphons”. Fr. William P. Saunders shares “According to Professor Robert Greenberg of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, the Benedictine monks arranged these antiphons with a definite purpose. If one starts with the last title and takes the first letter of each one—Emmanuel, Rex, Oriens, Clavis, Radix, Adonai, Sapientia—the Latin words ero cras are formed, meaning, Tomorrow, I will come. Therefore, the Lord Jesus, whose coming we have prepared for in Advent and whom we have addressed in these seven Messianic titles, now speaks to us, Tomorrow, I will come. So, the O Antiphons not only bring intensity to our Advent preparation, but bring it to a joyful conclusion.”
The first version of the hymn used five of the seven O Antiphons:
“Veni, veni Emmanuel!” = “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”
“Veni, O Jesse Virgula” = “O Come, Thou Rod of Jesse”
“Veni, veni, O Oriens” = “O Come, Thou Dayspring, from on High”
“Veni, clavis Davidica” = “O come, Thou Key of David, come”
“Veni, veni, Adonai” = “O come, Adonai, Lord of might”
Each stanza adapts one of the antiphons along with a consistent two-line refrain of “Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel”.
Closing Prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank You for being with us always. Help us to be aware of Your faithfulness at all times. Speak to our hearts and help us remember You are Emmanuel. Rejoice! In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Emily Moore

December 5

To me, advent means the exciting days leading to Christmas. My family makes a chain with 1 good deed for each day of December, until Christmas. I remember being scared by lots of things, like thunderstorms. Luke 2:8-10 mentions the shepherds afraid of the angel. The angel comforted the shepherds and told them there was good news. Whenever I get scared, I remember that the Lord is always with me. While some kids think the best thing about Christmas is presents, I think it is that we can see our families and be safe doing so. Merry Christmas!
Ella Beaver, age 10

December 6

Christmas time at Germantown United Methodist Church is exceptionally festive and spiritually filling. Undoubtedly, though, the best part of the entire Advent/Christmas season is the Christmas Eve service, when children dress up and play out the birth of Jesus. Growing up, I always chose to be a shepherd, because I thought their hats were the coolest. All of my friends, however, wanted to be wise men or angels, because of the importance of each of those roles, and they are important. But when I think of the Christmas story, I see the church as the shepherds. We are not kings or queens, and we are certainly not angels. We are tired, smelly, but watchful shepherds waiting to feel God’s presence. And on the night of Jesus’ birth, Luke Chapter Two tells us that indeed God’s presence was felt and “the glory of the Lord appeared to the shepherds.” Jesus was born humbly; he lived and preached about humility and a servant’s heart his entire earthly life. And I think the shepherds are a good reminder that God’s glory is reserved for us, His people. All that we need to do is live humbly and watchfully.
Josh Jacobs

December 7

Psalm 91:1-2
He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.

When I think of the Christmas story and the birth of Jesus, I think about the stable and how it provided shelter. It was a safe place where Mary could give birth to the Messiah. She must have felt afraid and nervous, but the Lord provided a refuge for her. For me, the church is my refuge, because I feel safe here surrounded by many people I know and love. Find your refuge, a safe place. Spend time there praying or talking to the Lord. He is always there to comfort you just like the Lord was there for Mary so many years ago providing refuge in the stable.
Elizabeth Adams, age 10

December 8

The promise –
“For with God nothing will be impossible.” Luke 1:37
I love the story of the birth of Jesus. I’ve heard and read it over and over since I was a child, but I connected a little more with Mary once I became a mother. The story became even more real to me. I can only imagine how scared she must have been, yet she was so incredibly faithful.
I am amazed every time by the way she trusts God. Mary says “How?” but it was more out of wonder than wanting to know the details of the process, because she immediately says, “ok.” Actually, it went more like, “Let it be to me according to your word.” She and Joseph seemed to know that in spite of what appeared impossible, they were part of something much bigger and their job was to trust God and to focus on the tiny precious baby that was not necessarily in their plans.
I can visualize Mary holding her newborn baby with his perfect long eyelashes and skin, counting his toes and fingers, as we do as mothers. Of course, the Savior of the World has perfect everything. I imagine that there’s never been a baby with more beautiful features—but she does it anyway because she’s his mother. I can see her worrying about whether he is eating enough or sleeping enough or warm enough. I can see her telling Joseph what to do because maybe he’s a little worked up from trying to find a place to spend the night, and he feels like he’s found himself in a mess, but like Mary, he’s also trusting and obeying. I would guess that first Christmas night together as a family looked similar to any of us trying to figure out how to be parents for the first time.
In the last decade or so I have entered the Christmas season in so many ways—with joy, in the midst of grief, with fear that it could be my last, and certainly with hope that my own son would continue to live and thrive. Some years, looking ahead to the next has seemed completely impossible. I have often asked God, “How?” only, sometimes my how is because as a human, I really want to know the process. The mother in me wants to know what lies ahead so I can prepare my children, or myself, for what is to come. I often have to remind myself that I am part of something much bigger and to focus on what is in front of me, what I can actually see, rather than the process.
I make a point every year to look in on my children on Christmas Eve when they are asleep, to study their eyelashes, their freckles and memorize the way they look, even if it’s just for that very moment. It takes me back to the first time I counted their toes and kissed their foreheads and in them I can see the miracle of Christmas. The fact that they are a little bigger and stronger than the last year and that we are all here points back to His promise, and that God is capable of what we think is impossible.
I am called to hold and love what is in front of me. I am called to live out the process, because the promise points to a Savior. May we all see the miracles of Christmas right in front of us this season.
Kimberly Jessop

December 9

If you’re like me, every Christmas season is filled with movies like Home Alone, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, and A Christmas Story. To date, my family hasn’t gone a single Christmas season without watching A Christmas Story at least four times; it’s practically become a tradition bigger than Christmas morning itself! But, if you’re also like me, you never really looked past the goofy plots to determine what these movies really mean. What most Christmas movies have in common is this: a loving, happy, and, most of the time, crazy family. While the character’s face many obstacles, (like a yard full of Christmas lights that won’t light up), the one thing these movies focus on is the time spent with families. Sure, Ralphie gets his Red Ryder BB gun in the end, but I think the main message from A Christmas Story is that the most valuable present a person could get is not presents, but presence. Being present with the ones you love is worth more than any number of tangible gifts. This Christmas season, fill your homes with laughs and make memories with your loved ones that will last a lifetime (maybe even watch a few Christmas movies together!). But, most importantly, spread love to those without families, so that they can experience God’s love through you this Christmas.
Grace McKinney

December 10

Hark! The herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King;
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!”
Joyful, all ye nations rise,
Join the triumph of the skies;
With th’angelic host proclaim,
“Christ is born in Bethlehem!”
Charles Wesley, 1739
And we sing the song even today. And we should. The great good news that the angels say to the shepherds in Bethlehem’s field that night is, literally, earth shaking and life changing. There is a newborn king. Not Herod or Caesar or some Eastern potentate, is proclaimed by the angels. God’s messengers bring the news that God enters human history as one of us. No Greek myth or Roman legend, the God of Creation is born to a woman and man in an obscure part of the Empire. In this manner, God will reconcile with sinners, restore our broken and bruised souls, and re-introduce Eden as a possibility. Even more earth shaking, God will do this for all people!
“Joyful, all ye nations rise, join the triumph of the skies”. God’s love is available for all people, you and me and the folks down the street and on the other side of the world.
At Christmas, we sing. Astoundingly, so do the very heavens. Why not? In the birth of the Christ child, God acts decisively. No longer will human kind and God be separated. The gap is closed. The chasm bridged. The brokenness healed. This Advent, let us join our voices with the angels and the faithful of all ages, “Christ is born in Bethlehem!” And we are set free by the love that prompts that birth.
Rev. Dr. Brad Gabriel

December 11

Pedigree
Matthew 1:1-15 Genealogy of Jesus
Ancestry DNA is a very popular commercial on television. It encourages people to look back into their ancestry and make a connection. “More than ten million people have uncovered something about themselves.” Many are pleased with what they discover: they are related to kings, Indian chiefs, and to some Founding Fathers of the USA. Others, however, are not so fortunate, they discover that some of their ancestors were of unsavory character and people that they would not be very proud of.
Regardless of who are in your genealogy you must love them with the love of the Lord, after all they are your family.
Re-read the Scripture, Matthew 1:1-15. “The Genealogy of Jesus.” Look carefully at the list; you will see that there are some unsavory people listed, some gentiles, and some women.
God wants us to know that He does not discriminate, neither does He condemn. All people are His children and He loves them all equally.
During this season of Advent, when family and friends come together for Christmas celebration, remember there should be no condemnation or criticism. All are one in Christ Jesus.
As you sit at the table, sit together in love and remember God sent His Son to save us while we all were still sinners.
Be Blessed.
Shirley Edwards

December 12

We live in a world of instant gratification. Most things we desire are just a click away—we can literally use our phones to buy songs and movies, televisions and toys, and even groceries, by using our fingerprints or images of our faces. Highly-sought-after items can be delivered to our doorsteps in 2 days or even overnight! These are just a couple of examples, but we are no longer comfortable with waiting.
As a child, I noticed that once Thanksgiving ended, it was time for Christmas! Though I know we celebrated Advent in worship through the lighting of the candles on the wreath, I didn’t truly understand the concept of Advent. You may have wondered the same thing I wondered: Why are we not singing Christmas songs in church yet? As I grew older and pursued a career in church music, some wonderful pastors and music leaders along the way helped me understand Advent and its importance in our faith.
Advent, from the Latin word adventus, means “coming.” During the Advent season, we commemorate the first coming of Jesus Christ into the world. It is a time of waiting, of wondering, of hoping, of reflecting, and of preparing. We also wait in expectation of Jesus coming to us again. We can’t begin singing the words, “Joy to the world, the Lord is come!” or “Glory to the newborn King!” when we are still in a period of waiting. I invite you to listen this Advent season—to the scriptures, songs, and prayers—and to be in a spirit of anticipation. “Rejoice, Rejoice!” for “Emmanuel shall come to thee.”
O God, You hear our prayers and know our hearts. Guide us this Advent season to be still, to listen, and to wait. Fill us with love and joy as we celebrate the first coming of Your Son, and grant us peace and hope as we anticipate Your Son coming to us again. We thank You for the precious gift of Jesus, the light in our darkness. Walk with us now through the waiting, until Your kingdom comes.
Natalie Duncan

December 13

Luke 1:26-38 The Promise
In this chapter of the Christmas story, we learn that God can make anything happen, if you believe in him with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength. God’s promise to Mary that she would have a baby before she was married was scary. But because she trusted God, she made it through the tough time. She even found out her cousin who was too old to have a baby was pregnant too. This made her believe. Sometimes it is hard to trust God in a tough situation, but He will always help you find the right path. And if you mess up, He will forgive you.
No one is promised a great or easy life. But, we do have a promise—even if we sin, we will always be forgiven. Jesus will always be there for us. God will always help you through dark times. God is always with you, and He will listen to your prayers whenever and where ever.
Many times in the Bible, the people that God trusted didn’t believe in him, but they had to put their faith in him to make it through. After Mary trusted God, she received a gift—the king of all times, Jesus. We all received the greatest gift at Christmas when Christ came to the earth.
Davis Younker, 11 years old

December 14

Christmas Presence
(after reading Luke 2:8-20)
I know what Christmas means to me. It means to celebrate God and celebrate Jesus. I know how Joseph traveled so hard to prepare for the baby that Mary had. The baby’s name is Jesus. Jesus teaches us to love everybody. To love everybody, I give gifts. And God gives gifts. His gift to us is He created us. The best gift that God gave us is Jesus.
Eryn Beaver, age 6

December 15

Scripture: Luke 2:8-16
There was a light dusting of snow. I was five years old, standing outside the church sanctuary on Christmas Eve with 35 other children in our children’s choir, dressed in a short, white robe with a big, black bow tied at the neck. We were huddled together in the cold and dark waiting to enter the Sanctuary. The minister, organist, and ushers where waiting inside the sanctuary while the adult choir, church members, family, and friends lined up behind us. The sanctuary doors opened, the organist began to play and my choir led the entire congregation into the sanctuary singing “O Come Little Children”. I remember feeling so excited and proud that I, a young child, was leading (along with the other children) the grown-ups into the worship service. I also remember the feeling of going from the dark, cold December evening into the warmth and light of the sanctuary to celebrate with awe and wonder the birth of a baby named Jesus. On that Christmas Eve night as I entered the candlelit sanctuary, the presence of God filled the space.
I was an adult before I realized that “O Come Little Children” is not just calling children to the manger, but all God’s children of any age. So, while this Christmas carol is precious to me because of the beautiful memories it evokes, it is also a reminder that we are all welcome at the manger. God is calling us to “come and see”, to approach him as a child with excitement, expectation, and awe, to come from the dark and cold into the warmth and light of his presence. God is also calling his children to be his choir, to lead the procession, to light the path so that other children can find their way to the manger and experience the wonder of God’s love.
COME, LITTLE CHILDREN
O come, little children, O come, one and all,
O come to the manger in Bethlehem’s stall,
Come see the Lord Jesus asleep in the hay,
The Little Lord Jesus was born Christmas Day.
O kneel with the shepherds and worship the King;
Give thanks to our God for the love that He brings.
In joy, all ye people, your glad voices raise,
And join with the angels in jubilant praise.
Prayer
Dear God, you are our Father and we are your children. We are so thankful that you have made room for us around the manger. As we prepare to celebrate Jesus’ birth help us to share our excitement and expectation with other so that they might experience the warmth, light, and presence of your love. Amen
Mary Groh

December 16

When I was a young girl, my siblings and I anxiously awaited Christmas. We knew that once Advent started, we were coming down the home stretch. Of course, during the Advent season, we had a wreath with purple and white candles that we lit each Sunday. Christmas decorations also began to spring up during Advent.
My mother often thought “outside the box”. One year, rather than a traditional fir tree, she decided to make an artistic statement. She went to the wooded lot near our house and cut down a 4-foot sapling and stripped it of its leaves (think Charlie Brown here). She took it a step further, and spray painted it white, and decorated it with all blue ornaments. The five children in the family were appalled, but my diplomatic father humored her artistic bent, and said nothing. Mysteriously, a few nights after the tree went up, it came crashing down! It seems my father “accidentally” knocked it over during the middle of the night. All but my mother breathed a sigh of relief at the fate of the tree. She sadly relinquished her non-traditional idea, and up went a lovely fir tree for our family Christmas celebration.
No one really remembers what the Christmas tree looked like that year or any years since. However, we all remember that white twig of a tree!
In thinking of Advent and the upcoming Christmas celebration, this story reminds me that God is in our lives in all sorts of shapes and forms. All we need to do to feel his “presence” is to look for it in both traditional and non-traditional ways. If we look for Him and feel His presence, we will receive the best present of all at the end of the Advent season.
Pat Smith

December 17

Luke 1:46-47
“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.”

Just as Mary praised God for what He was going to do for the world through her, we too have so many reasons to glorify our God, for He is good and faithful. Let us especially exalt Him during this time of Advent as we anticipate, wait, listen and ponder the awesome wonder of Jesus.
For me the Advent season of 1995 gave new meaning in regard to the sense of anticipation that Mary must have felt as she awaited the birth of Jesus. Like Mary, I was awaiting an unexpected blessing, the arrival of my first child. On December 5, 1995, I experienced the joy and anticipation of Christmas like I had never experienced it before. It was the beginning of Advent, and Tim and I received word that we had been selected as the adoptive parents of a baby boy, and that we should anticipate the arrival of our son in time for Christmas.
There was so much to do in preparation for our baby and excitement was whelming up inside of us. Not only were Tim and I overjoyed about our son, the church was also abuzz with talk about the baby.
It was a special Advent season as it was the first time that I truly thought about Mary and the coming of Jesus. I was both scared and excited about becoming a mother, and like never before I thought about Mary and what she must have been feeling. I also pondered how the Lord chose her and prepared her for her new role. Like Mary, I felt chosen to be Jordan’s mom, and I also knew that the Lord would equip me regarding the many challenges that lay ahead.
With each passing day of the 1995 Advent season, Christmas approached and so did the arrival of Jordan. He officially joined our family on December 21, 1995, and on Christmas Eve we presented him to the glory of the Lord by having him baptized at First United Methodist Church in Jackson, TN. It was truly a special Christmas, and each year at Christmas I can’t help but think about the wonders of that year and the many blessings of the Lord. With this miracle of Christmas I truly had a glimpse of so many more wonders of the season.
Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you so much for the many joys of Christmas, but especially the greatest gift ever, Jesus Christ.
Dawn Carpenter

December 18

Sign of the Simple

Luke 2:12
“And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”

The angel announced to shepherds that what they would find would be a sign to them: a baby wrapped in cloths lying in a manger. When God leaves a sign, God leaves a simple sign. A sign for the simple that is simple.
The great thing God had done was simple, and had already been done right under everyone’s nose. The angel told the simple people to go find a simple sign: a child in a manger.
The manger was a sign of obedience for Israel. In Isaiah 1:3 it says, “The ox knows its master, the donkey its owner’s manger, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand.” Certain domesticated animals will go to the same trough every day. Isaiah was saying to Israel that even the ox and donkey know how to go to the same master and the same manger. Animals know how to trust and to be obedient, but Israel does not.
For Jesus to be wrapped in swaddling cloths (strips of rags used by the poor to wrap their children tightly) and to be found in a manger, was a sign. The shepherds would have understood that this savior would be in complete obedience to God the Father and would know the impoverished. This was a simple sign to the simple people of a Messiah who would live simply. God is found in the simple, everyday events of the world.
When Jesus performed his first sign, it was at a wedding. He provided wine. When Jesus ordained the sacraments, he pointed us to baptism, or water, and to communion, of bread and wine.
Seeking God in faith enables one to see the simple signs. “Seek,” Jesus said, “and you shall find.”
Is it not just as true today that the things of God are known in the simple: a family meal, the embrace of a loved one, the smile of a child, the welcome of a friend, the singing of a carol, the remembering of a story?
When the angels came, they pointed the shepherds to go find the simple sign of a simple child in a simple manger.
This Advent, may we not overlook the simple signs of God’s presence.
Rev. Tim Carpenter

December 19

How big is the manger?

Luke 2:1-7
In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

I’ve begun to think that in one sense, the manger is a very small place. There is no room in there for the baggage we carry around with us.
There’s no room in the manger for our pious pride and self-righteousness.
There’s no room in the manger for our human power and prestige.
There’s no room in the manger for our baggage of past failure and unforgiven sin.
There’s no room in the manger for our prejudice, bigotry and jingoistic national pride.
There’s no room for bitterness and greed.
There is no room in the manger for anything other than the absolute reality of who and what we really are: very human, very real, very fragile, very vulnerable human beings who desperately need the gift of love and grace which God so powerfully desires to give.
Prayer: Almighty and loving God, during this season, when our joy is full and your resourceful action on our behalf is self-evident, we give thanks for your incarnation at Bethlehem. You did not remain aloof or uncaring in your creation. You came to us as Jesus in a crowded manger. Thank you for making room for us, unworthy as we are. In the name of Jesus, Amen.
Leanne Bailey

December 20

Luke 2:8-20
We love this passage in the Bible because it encapsulates the wonder and joy of Christmas. There are so many moving parts: the shepherds, the angel, the heavenly host, Mary, Joseph, and of course the “child.” They all respond in different ways to this grand event that was taking place!
Isn’t that what we see happening during the days leading to Christmas? Well before Christmas, we observe merchants filling the shelves with Christmas decorations and wares. Closer to the day, folks start to stress about their readiness for the celebration. Our mailboxes fill with pleas for giving to worthy causes. There are wonderful Christmas programs, carol festivals, and parties to attend. There is a whir of excitement in our children who have very long lists of Christmas wants!
In all of this, we need to focus on the “Good news of great joy for all the people.” The shepherds heard the message; acted on it, and praised God for all they had heard and seen and shared the message with all.
Let us remember in this holy season to cherish those quiet, candlelit moments, and those opportunities to do loving acts of charity, while we experience the magic and mystery of Christmas, and like Mary did so long ago, treasure these words of scripture in our hearts.
Conrad and Barbara Schanson

December 21

“Christmas Presence”
Christmas means to me that it is a time where my family and me are together. We are present and paying attention to each other and talking to each other. I read the story of the magi, the wise men. They went to see baby Jesus and brought him gifts. So when we give each other gifts, we do that because they gave gifts to baby Jesus. Advent is a time when we prepare for Christmas. Some things I do to prepare for Christmas is putting up decorations, thinking about different presents to give, and having a great time. The most important thing for me to remember during Christmas is that it is the day baby Jesus was born and he gives us light.
Elise Beaver, 4th grade

December 22

Psalm 34:4-18
I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears… The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Last month, on All Saints Day, we remembered our dear loved ones who entered life eternal this year. As I sat in worship that morning, I thought about our families who would be spending this Christmas without their loved ones for the first time. Christmas is a joyous occasion for many but can be a time of grief for others. This season, we tend to remember the ways in which God has blessed us but there are those who can’t help but remember what they’ve lost. If you know someone who has experienced loss this year, I encourage you to make yourself present in their lives this season. Arrange a meeting with God to discern how you can make that happen.
If you’re reading this and you’ve experienced loss this year, I want you to know that God is walking alongside you. Your Lord and Savior feels your pain and understands your grief. I encourage you to be patient with yourself. Allow yourself to feel whatever you need to feel in this moment and remember that troubles may endure for a night but joy comes in the morning. You can have joy in knowing that death never has the final say. We are no longer bound to death because of our Savior, Jesus Christ, who was brought into this world as one of us. The apostle Paul reminds us that we are more than conquerors and that nothing in this world, not even death, can separate us from the love and power of Jesus Christ. Have comfort in knowing that your dear loved one is now resting safely in God’s hands eternally. That’s something to celebrate.
Rev. Erin Beasley

December 23

Matthew 16:27
For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory and his Angels, and then He will reward each person according to what he has done.

Today we find ourselves in the very special season of Advent, a period of waiting, anticipation, and preparation. Each Sunday morning a family lights an Advent candle and offers a message and prayer of hope, joy, love, and preparation as we wait and prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus. This is what we typically think of as Advent. But Advent anticipates the coming of Christ from two different perspectives. It also presents a time for preparation, anticipation, and waiting for Christ’s second coming. As we prepare for and anticipate the celebration of the birth of Jesus, let us also anticipate the coming of Christ from this second perspective. In 2nd Peter, Chapter 3, we learn that the Lord is patient, not wanting any of us to perish, but each of us to repent. But He will come unannounced and on His schedule. As we wait, we should be leading Godly and Holy lives. So what should we be doing to lead lives of Holiness and Godliness as we wait for, and anticipate Jesus’ return? We have learned that God uses ordinary people to do his work. We have also learned that we must be very attentive for the needs and opportunities that God puts in our path, as we most likely will not have any “burning bush” experiences. So our challenge as we wait and prepare, is to do good, working hard to be more Christ like, demonstrating our love of God and our fellowman in all that we do. So whether it is hosting the homeless at the Cottage on a cold, Friday night; giving a warm smile and greeting to the cashier waiting on us; tutoring a child at Caldwell Guthrie; letting someone in front of us in busy traffic; or helping build a Habitat house; we must find the opportunity to show God’s love. Mother Teresa said, “Not all of us can do great things, but we all can do small things with great love”. And we will know that we are making progress in becoming more Christ like, by that warm feeling that comes from acts of kindness. So as we wait and prepare for celebrating the birth of Jesus, let us also work hard in preparing and being ready for His second coming!
Let us pray:
Help us Dear Lord to see the needs and opportunities that you put in our path today, and every day; and please Lord give us the wisdom and the courage to respond to each in a way that reflects your love. Amen.
John Gregory

December 24

James 2:14-17
My friends, what good is it to say you have faith, when you don’t do anything to show that you really do have faith? Can that kind of faith save you? If you know someone who doesn’t have any clothes or food, you shouldn’t just say, “I hope all goes well for you. I hope you will be warm and have plenty to eat.” What good is it to say this, unless you do something to help? Faith that doesn’t lead us to do good deeds is all alone and dead!

As our family gathered each year to celebrate Christmas someone usually remembered and quoted a comment that I made as a child of 5 or 6 years of age. I was telling my aunt about helping my mother prepare Christmas baskets and sorting clothes for those in need. In our conversation, my aunt asked me what I thought these people did for food and clothes the rest of the year? I supposedly said, “I guess they just shiver and shake until next Christmas.” It usually got a laugh. As I think about that comment now, I realize there is some truth in it. We do tend to go all out to help people at Christmas time. We usually feel very good about what we have done for others during the holiday season. If we really believe the Christmas story, we must also believe that Christmas is not a once a year event. It is a way of life.
Prayer:
Our Father, We thank you for the blessings of life that you have given to us. May we always remember that as Christians we are called to share what we have with others.
Harriet Greenwood

December 25

Two years ago, I was volunteering at Room in the Inn during the winter season. This ministry provides shelter, meals, and fellowship to our neighbors struggling in homelessness during some of the coldest times of the year. It was the time of the night after dinner where our guests began to finish up showers and head to bed, but I joined in a conversation with a group of my friends that were there as well.
The woman we were talking to was beautiful. She was skinny and young and wore what she had been through on her face with worry. She was shaking and crying, taking us back through her addictions and lost family through the process. Our new friend, Ebony, wanted to know God, wanted to feel loved, and that she couldn’t mess up such a love. Questioning the darkness of her past, she had fallen in and out of believing but confided that she was tired of waiting. We prayed and held hands and cried because we yearn for Him.
And Jesus was born, not clothed in bright robes of heavenly glory but in swaddling clothes from an earthly loom. Mary held in her arms that for which the world had always yearned: Emmanuel. God with us. In a dark, dirty stable, he was God, and He was light, somehow more brilliant than the host of angels that announced his birth. “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:4-5).
In a dark, dirty stable, He was God, and He was light.
In Ebony’s fears of being left behind, He is God, and He is a light.
In a season that seems welcoming to most but lonely to some, He is God, and He is a light.
Without the events of your life, whether your happiest days or your lowest like Ebony, your relationship and very knowing of God would be so different. And sometimes, we have to get through the moments where all we see is a dark, dirty stable because He is there. When we get to Jesus, we celebrate and rejoice, and we see the light. But I know that my God is there in the darkness too and so I will wait when I cannot see.
Sally Gairhan

 

 

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