BY JOYCE PELLETIER
"I waited patiently for the Lord; He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire. He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord."
In a few short days, a new year begins. It happens every year. It seems odd that the year ends right after Christmas. With the birth of a Baby as important as Jesus, you’d think it would be the start of the year. I suppose that it’s a worldly stance. A new year is a chance to start anew.
Some of us make resolutions, many do not. It’s a time to reflect on what has taken place the last year of our lives. Some have been good, some not so much. Whether we like it or not, we are still wandering through this valley of the Pandemic. Most of us are saying in our hearts, “I’m so ready for this to be over.” I relate to this. I’m sick of masks, Covid tests, but it has not ended.
Only God knows how long we will have to endure this tragic time of shortages, illness, to vaccinate or not vaccinate. So many questions, yet there are not any concrete answers. What is truth is that our God is with us!
We fall prey to daily challenges of still wearing masks. Yet at the same time so many of our last three years has brought about so many new beginnings. Psalm 40 says it clearly – “I wait patiently” so often I have not waited patiently. Now I find myself with the onslaught of a new year, new experiences, rekindling old friendships, getting acquainted with the new friends, learning new things about myself that I’m not sure I like, but I can’t get away from the Pandemic Challenge! But I can control how I respond!
God promises us new mercies every morning. I am more aware that in each new moment, we get to move on one step at a time. Waiting isn’t easy, but if we trust God, we will get through this time. I find that I am more patient than a year ago, yet I still haven’t arrived. I know that in my heart, the past few years have come to mean so much more than I ever imagined.
I’ve made many new friends this year. And even though there were many moments of anxiety and fear to not move forward, God doesn’t leave me in the swamp. He carries me, He walks with me, He comforts me; and most importantly, He never gives up on me. His hand is always there reaching out. One of the important lessons is that we are all on the same playing field. Jesus, our Coach, is watching His team very carefully and for the needs of His Kids.
Ps 40:4 “Blessed is the one who makes the Lord his trust.” I’m reaching out to grasp His hand. Will you join me?
BY JEFF DAUGHERTY
As I sit down to write the devotional for this week, I keep drawing a blank. So, I am just writing with the hope that God will direct my path. Like the shepherds that were told of the new King by the Angel in Luke 2:8-13. Or the wise men who followed a star to the new King (Matthew 1:9-12). I continue to pray that God will direct my path. I admit that a heavenly host of Angels telling me which way to head would be helpful. Truth be told I know what I need to do. I have been called to Jesus, I just need to take that first step and go. But if I were there at that moment in Bethlehem, would He call me to go and follow the star? Would I be compelled to go and see the newborn King? As I listen to the Little Drummer Boy and start to think that I also have no gift to bring. I wonder if I am worthy of the great gift that He has given me.
That is when it hits me. The shepherds were not asked to bring gifts. They were simply told to go. We too have been called. But I was always taught that it was rude to show up without a gift. So now I am back to gifts again. So, what gift do I have that is worthy of a king? To the king who was born in a manger so many years ago, I bring a gift. I bring the greatest gift I possess. I give myself. Everything that I am, everything that I have, and everything that I ever will be, I give.
I do not have much. But what I do have, I give. You see, Christmas is not about gifts and decorations. It is about our receiving the greatest gift we could ever receive. He loved us and sent us His son. Christmas is about sharing that gift with those we love. And I share it with you.
BY JORDAN MAYER
"In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins."
1 John 4:9-10
There are so many amazing things about the birth of Christ, but this passage from 1 John reminded me of another. God's love was manifested in a real, physical way. Just as Jesus is the Word Made Flesh, He is also Love Made Flesh. He is the physical manifestation of God's love. He shows us what real love is, the lengths it will go, the depths it will reach, and the sacrifices it will make.
We all claim to love a great many things. In fact, we say it all the time. "I love my job". "I love my family". "I love to read". "I love you". It's easy to say, isn't it? But what we say in love pales in comparison to what we do in love. As John reminds us, love is not simply in word or talk but in deed and truth (1 John 3:18). So when we read "for God so loved the world that", we see God's love in action. The eternal, all-knowing, all-powerful Creator of the Universe willingly took on human flesh to make His love known. He who was infinite and limitless became finite and limited for us.
But the thing is, it's easy to love the loveable, to do good for good people. But what about those who don't deserve it? What about those who are clearly not good? What about us? It's in the midst of these questions that we uncover the true wonder of God's love. God sent us His Son, not because we are so good but because He is. In fact, it was while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8), enemies of God (Romans 5:10), children of wrath (Ephesians 2:3), that Christ came to die for us.
Think of that Holy Infant, so tender and mild. God, himself, made manifest to dwell among us. Think of what awaited that baby, of all that He would have to endure. And yet, realize that before the world began, He made the choice to come.
He took on human flesh...because He loves you.
He walked that weary road...because He loves you.
He bore that awful cross...because He loves you.
As I write this post, I am reminded of the verse from the hymn, "And Can It Be That I Should Gain":
He left His Father’s throne above
So free, so infinite His grace
Emptied Himself of all but love
And bled for Adam’s helpless race
‘Tis mercy all, immense and free
For O my God, it found out me!
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
BY JORDAN MAYER
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
Do you need some peace this Christmas season?
I find myself craving peace, perhaps more than usual. We are now two years into this global pandemic. Our country seems more divided than ever before. Right seems wrong and wrong seems right. Winter has arrived and with it comes colder weather, shorter days, and darker nights. For many people, the Christmas season is a mad dash to the finish line: decorating, buying, wrapping, traveling…surviving.
In more ways than one, our world is the very opposite of peace. It’s chaos and confusion. It’s pain and suffering. It’s darkness and despair. In a world such as ours, where is peace to be had and where is it to be found?
So many thousands of years ago, the prophet Isaiah foretold of the birth of a child. One with many names, but one in particular that sparks hope: Prince of Peace.
The world’s idea of peace is a calm and quiet home, work-life balance, good health, positive relationships, or enough money in the bank. And yet, five minutes in this world reveals just how fragile that kind of peace is. A loved one passes away, a routine visit to the doctor reveals a life-threatening illness, your kids won’t talk to you, or you lose your job. A moment’s peace is about all that can be had, but even that is fleeting.
Jesus offers a better way. A peace that surpasses understanding (Philippians 4:7). A peace that allows us to lie down and sleep (Psalm 4:8). A peace in the midst of tribulation (John 16:33). A peace at all times and in every way (2 Thessalonians 3:16). A perfect peace (Isaiah 26:3).
Before we can experience this peace of God, we must first experience peace with God. Remember that the birth of Jesus was the birth of a Savior. The angel told Joseph, “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). It is our sin that separates us from God, and yet it was God who came down to provide the Way for peace. Christ has done the work; we simply need to accept it by faith. Then we may join with Paul in declaring, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).
Peace with God ushers in the peace of God. The kind of peace that is in Jesus, himself (Ephesians 2:14). One that is not rooted in circumstances, but firmly fixed in spite of them. It’s found in the assurance that “neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38).
This Christmas season, don’t settle for the peace that the world offers. Find it in the Prince of Peace. Find it in Jesus.
BY DONNA CHURCHILL
I had never celebrated Advent until several years ago – well into adulthood! It was never a tradition that we celebrated when I was growing up. Now that I know more about it and what it means, I look forward to it every year.
The time before Christmas is called Advent, a season of preparation for Christmas. Christians prepare for celebrating the birth of Jesus by remembering the longing of the Jews for a Messiah. During Advent, we’re reminded of how much we ourselves also need a Savior, and we look forward to our Savor’s second coming even as we prepare to celebrate His first coming at Christmas.
One definition of Advent is “the arrival of a notable person, thing, or event. The word Advent literally means “coming” or “arrival.” Advent is all about a season of preparation. A time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the coming Christ.
At this time of year, we often hear someone ask, “So, are you ready?” Usually that means – do you have everything done that you need to do – fix up and clean the house, decorate the house, buy the tree, decorate the tree, endless shopping to buy the presents, wrap the presents, do the baking, writing out and sending the Christmas cards, etc, etc.
But this question now reminds me of getting ready – not for the Christmas holiday – but getting reading to receive Him, born afresh and anew in my heart. That’s what Advent is really all about – the preparation of the heart to receive Emmanuel. Even though, as Christians, we’ve already received Him, our hearts can become complacent in appreciating the gift of His coming. That’s what I love about Advent. It reminds me again that the greatest gift, the greatest treasure I could ever receive, is indeed already mine!
Celebrating Advent causes me to slow down and focus on the Messiah and His presence in my life – at all times – but especially during this season which can rob our attention from Him and onto all the trappings the world deems so important this time of year. It causes me to quiet my spirit and sit before Him. It causes me to ponder His ways and search my heart. It causes me to reflect on how I’m celebrating the season and preparing for Him or it causes me to see where I fall short of that.
I have celebrated Advent using several different devotionals over the years. I love the daily readings that help me to “zoom in” on the Lord. Each day I stop, slow down and focus on some part of the Advent story. My heart is quieted and turned toward Him, which helps my focus for the day.
The first Sunday in Advent, (which was celebrated this past Sunday) we light the candle of Hope. And as we do, we’re reminded that our hope is in the person of Jesus Christ. We wait with hearts full of expectant hope for the one who has/will save us.
“And now, Lord, what wait I for? my hope is in thee.”
The second Sunday in Advent, we light the candle of Love.
“For God so loved…..that He gave….”
God so loved you…God so loved me. He gave…His only Son became God incarnate. He became man and experienced all that man can experience as man…because of love. He came and dwelt among us…as one of us. Emmanuel – God with us! And this is the love that 33 years later would go to the cross in my place, in your place, to reconcile us to the Father. This is the love that not only was born in a lowly stable, but is also born in our sin-stained, foul hearts when invited!
The third Sunday in Advent, we light the candle of Joy. Joy is not happiness and happiness is not joy. Joy originates from faith, for joy is the very essence of faith. Joy is lasting; happiness is temporal. Joy is rooted in our faith; happiness is rooted in the moment, a fleeting moment. Joy, true joy, focuses on Jesus and who He is; happiness focuses on self. Joy causes our attention to be captured by the Giver more than the benefit or gift received.
“That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that you also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.”
1 John 1:4
The fourth Sunday in Advent, we light the candle of Peace. Our world is not a very peaceful place right at the moment. With all that is happening, it would certainly seem peace is impossible to find. But into all this darkness and hopelessness comes one who offers us hope and says to us peace can be ours! True peace is only found in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus – the Prince of Peace!
“And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
I love the readings of Advent and the anticipation created in my heart. I love the opportunity to turn my heart toward Him during this season. I feel a greater excitement of His presence in my day during this season. It’s like the excitement and anticipation a child feels waiting for Christmas.
But how much greater the “Gift” of Jesus than the temporal gifts we give each other??
Are you ready?
Are you ready……….to receive Him?
Are you ready………….…….to celebrate Him?
Are you ready to embrace His presence this Christmas season?