by Mary Spence
Isaiah-9-6 NIV For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
As I sit here basking in the glow of my Christmas tree sipping coffee with my purring cat warming my lap I find myself reflecting on how different Christmas is for me now. I have two grown children who no longer live at home. They have blessed us with four beautiful grandchildren. We celebrate Christmas on a different day than the actual day so my grandkids can enjoy the day at home. When mine were growing up we spent too many years racing here and there trying to please everyone and see each of our parents. I don't want that for them. However its different at my house on Christmas now. If you are feeling this too let me assure you that different isn't bad. I've had time to reflect on the reason for the season. I've been able to enjoy relaxed time with my church family, my child who is still at home and my husband. I've reflected on the new year approaching. I've decided to approach this new year as a fresh start. I have a new perspective this year. As I've aged I have found God becoming more and more the center of my life. I think first of Him when I wake up and last of Him before sleep. I've learned that I am His favored one. That His love for me has a depth and width that I will never understand. And as I walk through hard stuff today I know that I am not alone. God is with me in every single minute. I've been blessed in so many ways. This is a year of renewal for me.
So if you are also experiencing different this year, I encourage you to look around. Spend time with your Father. Read the word. Embrace a chancevto move closer to God. Look for the reason for the season. He is all around you.
Thank you father, For loving me deeply and unconditionally. I am so grateful for the opportunity every day to try again. That no matter what you will never stop loving me. I am thankful that you are teaching me each day to rely upon you alone, for my safety, my joy and my peace. If it comes from you nothing can shake it; not disappointment or loss or pain. Nothing. I love you Lord, with all that is within me and I am grateful. Amen
By Mary Spence
Advent is the 4 weeks leading up to Christmas in December. During this time, we celebrate the
anticipation of the birth of Jesus. Each week a candle is lit to remind us of the arrival of Christ here
on earth to walk among us.
Hope, Joy, Peace and Love are the 4 weeks
leading up to the final candle, the Christ candle. As I have been thinking about Advent this year, I am
finding that Mary comes to mind frequently. God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in
Galilee,  to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The
virgin’s name was Mary.  The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored!
The Lord is with you.”
A young woman just on the verge of beginning her life as an adult, Mary was engaged to Joseph, soon
to be married. And suddenly an angel appeared to her and revealed she would give birth to the
Messiah.  Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 
But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God.  You will
conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.  He will be great and will be called
the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David,  and he will
reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” 
My first thought, I'm embarrassed to say would have been, "what will everyone think?" Her parents, her fiancée...
her neighbors and friends. But Mary's response was  “I am the Lord’s servant, may your word to me
be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.
I Imagine the next few months for Mary are quite difficult. Reading about Joseph's response to the
news of this miracle, I again think about Mary. Watching her betrothed decide how he will
Will he cast her aside in shame? Refuse to marry her based on this claim she makes to be
carrying the Savior? In it all she relies on the word she has from God and depends on Him to make a
way. She is not struggling and striving or defending her honor, but leaning on God and letting his will be
done through it all. I am sure Mary needed no confirmation, however when she travels to visit her
cousin Elizabeth, she is greeted by Elizabeth and her baby John.
 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with
the Holy Spirit.  In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the
child you will bear! This is one of my favorite parts of the story! That John recognized Jesus in the
womb, its just amazing!
From the rest of the story that plays out in Luke she gives birth to the Messiah in a stable. What more
humble beginning could there be? Surrounded by the sounds and smells of the animals, she laid Him
in the manger. It had not been an easy journey, yet here He was, the Savior of the world, a tiny little
Do you see hope.. the ability of Mary to be in these circumstances yet fulfilled God's plan for her to carry
and birth this little one who would save us all from sin.
Can you see the joy, the joy she must have experienced after so many months of struggle to
finally hold that tiny baby with her husband who demonstrated great faith and courage in marrying
and caring for her against what common sense must
have told him..
Peace.. Imagine the muffled sounds of the stable, animals shifting, chewing. The warmth of the
bodies, gathered together. The knowledge that this tiny one was going to save the world.
Love.. . Can you see the love weaved throughout this story from the moment that angel appeared to
the special delivery that quiet night?
My prayer today for us:
Thank you for that gift. The greatest gift of all. A Savior who was delivered in a stable that would walk
among us, live as one of us and eventually die, crucified, to free us from our sin and draw us into
relationship with you. May we have the strength and faith that Mary had as she walked through the
miracle of delivering a Savior. Let us know that you have a plan. That we can rest in the knowledge that
we don't have to know or understand it all. That faith in you is enough to carry us through dark days. That
you will deliver us and through it all we are never alone.
In Jesus holy name.
by Jennifer Hoyt
Isaiah 26:3 You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is kept on You, because he trusts in You.
Do you feel like you're swimming in a holiday ocean of overwhelm without a life vest? Everything from navigating tricky familial relationships and perhaps juggling those triggering feelings of loss or seasonal sadness? Maybe sprinkle in the financial worries doing a merry dance in your head, and the marathon of food prep that could make Gordon Ramsay sweat. Oh, and let's not forget the extra work hours to afford all those gifts that keep the family smiling.
Welcome to the end-of-year chaos! It's the season of juggling a gazillion things while trying to remember to keep yourself focused on the reason for the season. I mean, who thought November and December could turn into a real-life action movie where you're the lead character just trying to survive the holiday hustle?
So, where do you even start when it comes to finding and resting in God’s peace in the midst of the overwhelm of real life? Sometimes peace feels elusive, like trying to figure out which strand of Christmas lights is causing the whole string to go wonky. The three words I'm about to mention might initially sound like a hard pass. They tend to raise eyebrows and go against our natural instincts. But, surprise, they're actually the secret code to discovering peace. You might want to brace yourself: Surrender, perspective, and trust.
Hang in here with me. Take a deep breath and remember what is says in Romans 8:31 if God is before us who or what can be against us? The initial baby step in surrender involves releasing our death grip on control. Proverbs 16:3-4 reminds us, “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans. The Lord works out everything to its proper end.”
Surrender can often feel daunting and challenging. How do we release our grasp on the illusion of control? It's primarily a mental shift. The simple truth is, we aren't in control, though we may believe we are. Moreover, we have a powerful enemy who is influencing us with false ideologies, compelling us to shoulder it alone. Yet by embracing a renewed perspective, (be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind), we can welcome God's plans, trusting they'll always surpass our own.
An executive friend of mine once shared an inspiring holiday testimony. Faced with an overwhelming to-do list—over six hours of work, household chores, meal preparation for her family and expected guests, gift wrapping, and an upcoming church prayer session—she felt the pressure mounting. Anticipating a late-night work session and possibly missing her prayer time, she paused in the overwhelm to pray herself. In an instant, a plan unfolded in her mind, gifted by the Holy Spirit. She swiftly attended to household tasks, fed her family, and headed for prayer. Returning home, she began her work, bracing herself for a long night. To her shock and immense relief, what would have usually consumed six hours barely took forty-five minutes. It was nothing short of a miracle—a testament to God’s grace, not just His unmerited favor, but His enabling power allowing her to achieve what He called her to."Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28–30).
My friend’s example taught me so much. When she felt overwhelmed, her first step was to shift her focus from the natural to the supernatural by praying. It’s seems easy, but often, getting out of our own head is the hardest thing to do. She didn't attempt to navigate it alone; instead, surrendering control and seeking God's guidance, she transformed her perspective. Trusting in Jesus, she relinquished her burdens and found peace and confidence through the Holy Spirit's guidance on what to accomplish and how to proceed. As she set aside her own efforts and embraced God's, she experienced His grace—His divine empowerment—in every task.
In Isaiah 26:3, God pledges perfect peace to those who anchor their minds in Him, placing their trust steadfastly. Amidst the holiday bustle, grief and stress, you're not navigating the chaos alone. The pressures, and apprehensions of this festive whirlwind are things we all face. Yet, amidst it all, here's the assurance: God's got this—and God's got you! The question is - will you let Him?
Remember: Hebrews 4:11 urges us to earnestly seek God's rest, achieved through surrender, perspective, and trust. Genuine rest emerges when we lay down our burdens and embrace His. Matthew 11:30 “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” If you’re struggling, start by seeking Him. Take a moment and commit your way to the Lord, so that He can direct your path. We can do all things through His strength - even holiday chaos.
By Rebecca Vickery
When Adam and Eve were created, he formed them out of the dust. When Ezekiel saw the valley of dry bones, God had Ezekiel cry out to the dry bones, “I will make breath enter you, and you will come alive.” And God did as He had said, and breathed life into the valley of dry bones awakening a mighty army.
Ephesians says that God can do immeasurably more than we can ask or even imagine. I know these things. I believe God can provide, transform, and bring dead things to life. Yet, I can lose perspective and look at situations or relationships as being hopeless. I have stored up a wealth of anxiety in a pit in my stomach. The pit of despair so to speak (for you Princess Bride fans). I have known
first hand the physical effects of worry.
Recently I have asked the Lord to help me know what it means to give him my worries. I have identified some of the big ones and given them to His care. This is a thing that is worrying me. Please take care of this and I want to leave it with you. For the things that persist, relationships that continue to challenge, I might need to surrender again and again. This is troubling my heart again. Please take care of it. Please release its hold on my heart.
In doing this, something has become evident. My circumstances haven’t become less stressful, but I’m snapping and snipping at those closest to me much less. When I start snipping, becoming prickly, I recognize it and take it to the Lord. “Why am I feeling so anxious?” Or like David says, “why are downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me?” After which, He will sometimes show me what’s bothering me, and I’ll surrender that to Him.
The next step after processing this with God is so important. When I have been prickly with those around me because of my own stress, or fear, or worry, I need to apologize and make amends for my behavior. Sooner rather than later. My children are a typical spill zone for my anxiety, so I frequently have to apologize to them. I’m working on being present with them instead of fixing my mind on an
agenda that is seldom going to go to plan. My life is chaotic, even in the best of times, but walking and TALKING with God in the midst of it, I can have peace in spite of my circumstances.
One week while intentionally giving my worries to God, I noticed some interruptions to my normal routines. My brain has been less stuck in the ruts that have been carved by past worries. Jesse recently spoke about how our worries can block us from bearing witness to the extravagant love of God. How frequently have I allowed my prickly bits to be held onto so tight that I have been less loving. Less
patient. Less gracious. Less Him. More me. Yet. As I have surrendered, I have seen Him demonstrate His extravagant love to me. And I’ve been allowed to be used to demonstrate a part of that love to others.
The Lord loves me. He loves me with an everlasting love. I can settle into this rut. This is a carving out that I can stay in. If instead of worry, the Lord can carve out channels of love in my brain and alter the way I think about the world, he can change the way that I view others. If I stay in the channel of that love, it can change the way I view myself. What could happen if I truly learned how to see me the way that God sees me?
Lord, make me a channel for your love. Help me give up the things that I hold onto so tightly. Allow me to believe that you love me unconditionally. Help me to be rooted and established in your love. Give me power with all the Lord’s people to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that I may be filled to the measure of all the
fullness of God. Help me to be love to a people who so desperately need it. From those closest to me, to those I run into in my daily life. Help me not to be a stumbling block for others in my weakness, but to surrender my worries to you so that I don’t end up pushing people away from you in my own distress.
Dig Deeper: Hang out in Ephesians 3:14-21. Meditate on what it means to be loved by God.
By Joyce Pelletier
Acts 2:42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
Recently, I was able to reconnect with an old friend from when we started our journey with Jesus in 1975. Martha and Dan lived less that a half a mile from us. I don’t remember how we first met. I do recall that we had an instant friendship.
We attended a Marriage Encounter Weekend as did Martha and Dan. This weekend was a weekend for couples to reconnect with each other by means of letter writing to each other. Maurice and I were so blessed by this weekend’s dynamics. I had just made a commitment to follow Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior. My life started to change so fast and the benefits of living the life with God was amazing to experience what God was doing in our lives.
Martha and Dan were part of this experience. We lived in the same neighborhood, they had one daughter at the time and soon they welcomed a new son, Jimmy. They asked us to be Godparents to Jimmy. It was our first encounter for this role.
Over the years, we spent many gatherings together until in 1979, we moved to So Woodstock, VT. We soon, lost touch with them.
Years passed and Jimmy ended up in the military and I tried to reconnect with him, more to encourage him on this role in the armed forces. I never received any response back. Years later Martha and Dan had many more children and they ended up divorced and we lost total contact with them.
My last contact was about 20 years ago, when Dan called and wondered why we didn’t try to contact Jimmy. I told him I had written to him, but never received a response. He was somewhat angry because he wanted to know why we didn’t try to contact him and find out where Jimmy was. Truth be told, we didn’t know where Dan was, so we were in the same boat. Our phone call ended rather abruptly. I wasn’t angry, just disappointed and bewildered that he didn’t understand or accept my answers.
A few weeks ago, Dan found a way to contact us. He called and left a message and because it was on my land line, which I rarely used or checked messages, I came across it and returned his call. We talked for about forty-five minutes. The conversation was all different. He was no longer angry. We shared openly back and forth and started emailing, where we could share more. We found we all learned a lot in life and had similar encounters with Jesus.
Acts tells us that the new believers rallied together and became church family. Our early journey was like that. Dan and I shared what that meant to us and after recognizing the importance of having a church family. We tried for years to find that church family. The moment we walked into Daybreak in 2008 we knew we found us in the middle of ‘church’ family. It’s been a long road from Springfield, but I’m so grateful that God never gave up on us, neither will we give upon Him.