Advent Devotional, Dec. 22 by Kathy Van Arnum

Advent Devotional, Dec. 22 by Kathy Van Arnum

Luke 1:46b-55

Mary’s Song

It was 1971 and our family learned that my cousin was unmarried and pregnant. She and the child’s father would be married right away. Not only was her immediate family embarrassed by her actions but it spread to her extended family. I still remember another cousin remarking that this cousin had shamed the family. I remember feeling sorry for my cousin and her situation.

Two thousand years previously, a young virgin was engaged to be married and is visited by an angel. She is told she has been chosen by God to be the Messiah’s mother. I’m sure her family was shocked and embarrassed by the news and probably didn’t believe her story. The only person who immediately believes her is her cousin, Elizabeth, who exclaimed, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear. Blessed is she who believed that the Lord will fulfill his promises to her.

Mary is then filled with joy and God’s love and she sings “The Magnificat” or Mary’s Song. Her soul rejoices in God for choosing her to be Jesus’ mother. She praises God for all he has done and all he will do in the future.

There were probably many times when Mary recalled that song during the difficult times in her life. Perhaps when she went to the well for water and heard the snickering behind her back, or when she had to hurriedly pack and travel to Egypt to save her young son. Maybe Mary even found comfort in her song when she watched her son being tortured and crucified.

Is there a challenging task you need to undertake or is life so difficult right now you can only take one step at a time. If so, think of Mary and her trust in God and her joy in undertaking what God asked of her. Allow God to show you His love, peace and grace this Christmas.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we thank you for your love and peace. We praise you for always being with us in our journey and helping us in difficult times. Amen.

 

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Advent Devotional, Dec. 21, by Carlee Lammers

Advent Devotional, Dec. 21, by Carlee Lammers

Psalm 113

We all come to the manger this season carrying something different. We can carry the stress of the Christmas season and all of its preparations. We can carry the joy of seeing loved ones and being with family. We can carry the sadness and emptiness from a difficult time or loss. We can carry sickness, worry and doubt. Our hearts can be filled with so much joy, or so much angst from so many things that we can often lose focus. It can be difficult to keep focus when our hearts weigh heavy. It can be difficult to keep focus when our minds are on the material items this season. As we light the candle of love, we receive a powerful reminder that love is at the center of the season. This season is more than our sorrow, more than our material things and more than the weight we carry.

Psalm 113 encourages us to praise the name of the Lord always. This Advent season, we shouldn’t have to carry the weight of the world with us to the manger. We believe in a God who simply loves. He loves us in our sorrow, our joy, our weakness and our strength. This season, we should come to the manger with praise. Praise for the one who created us, praise for the one who sent us His son because of love. A love that we should carry with us, and a love that should rule our hearts. When we let love and praise fill our hearts, our journey to the manager brings us closer to the one who can fill our hearts with so much more than sorrow and angst.

Prayer: We thank you, Lord, for your love this season. We ask that you help keep us focused on you so that we may praise you for your incredible love. Help us focus on your love, and not what weighs heavy on our hearts, as we journey to the manger. Amen.

Advent Devotional, Dec. 20 by Sherie Koob

Advent Devotional, Dec. 20 by Sherie Koob

Philippians 4:4-7

Earlier this fall, I was asked to attend a “Transformational Leadership” Conference put on by the Northeastern Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church. I came away from that weekend with the word “humble.” Others may have come away with different words or phrases, like “visionary,” or “watchman,” or “be true to who you were meant to be,” but mine was “humble.” In the time since, I’ve been praying about that word, I’ve done my best to live into that word, and I’ve endeavored to see the humility in those around me. I will continue to study that word because I believe it has much to tell me.

Too often we become prideful and boast. Sometimes we do so as a defense mechanism to hide our insecurities. At other times we do so because we feel we have something more than those around us which puts us above all others – a degree, a title, the latest electronic gadget, etc. But what Paul’s message to the Philippians tells me is that none of those extras matter, nor do our insecurities, because if we humble ourselves before the Lord and let go enough to really feel God’s love for us, we will find peace and our hearts and minds will be free of all troubles.

Prayer: Gracious and Loving Lord, help us each to live into and accept those powerful words you give us to embrace and become a part of our very being. Help us to let go of the secular baggage we carry around. Help us, Lord, to become humble and love you enough to trust that you will provide what we need to give us peace. Amen.

Advent Devotional, Dec. 19, by Barry Salisbury

Advent Devotional, Dec. 19, by Barry Salisbury

Luke 13:31-32 Revised Standard Version (RSV)

At that very hour some Pharisees came, and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.”  And he said to them, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course.”  

During advent, sometimes we get so focused on Jesus coming to earth as a baby, we forget to remember “the rest of the story.”  For, as this scripture clearly states, from the moment Jesus was born, He was sent with a purpose….. of spreading light in a dark world. He was surrounded by “foxes” who chose to attack rather than believe him.  Yet he was never deterred by them; nor should we be.

God also sent each of us with a purpose…to spread His light in a dark world.  There is no better time than Advent to do just that.

Mother Teresa said it well when she said:  There is a light in this world, a healing spirit more powerful than any darkness we may encounter. We sometimes lose sight of this force when there is suffering, too much pain. Then suddenly, the spirit will emerge through the lives of ordinary people who hear a call and answer in extraordinary ways.

May we be the “ordinary people who hear a call and answer in extraordinary ways.”

Dear God,

Please help us this Advent to hear you amid all the noise.  Don’t let us get deterred by the foxes. Help us to answer your call in extraordinary ways, so we can spread your light to brighten this world. Amen.

 

Advent devotional, Dec. 18 by Howard Van Arnum

Advent devotional, Dec. 18 by Howard Van Arnum

Hebrews 10:32-39

During this season of Advent, we are preparing ourselves in both mind and spirit for the birth of the Messiah, the birth of Jesus Christ.

Hebrews 10:33 caught my attention. “In just a little while, the one who is coming will come and will not delay”. In John 14:3, Jesus tells us “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you with me that you also maybe where I am”. Are we ready for the return of Jesus? Are we living a life that is Christ-like? This is a question we should be asking ourselves!

Advent is a time of preparation for the birth of Jesus. This should also be a time to prepare, as He promised, for his return. In weeks past, we have been talking about our God stories and being disciples of Christ to all people and all nations. Advent seems to be a good time to practice discipleship, to tell our God stories.

The angels appeared to the shepherds to announce the birth of the Christ Child. We can be like those angels and tell our God stories. We can be ready for Jesus when He returns for us to take us to the room He has prepared.

Reflection: What are we doing during Advent to prepare for the birth of Jesus? What are we doing during Advent and every day to prepare for the promised return of Jesus? Will we be ready?

Prayer: God, you send us your son to teach us how to live as you want us to live. During this season of Advent and every day, continue to guide us so that we may be disciples and share our God stories with all people and all nations as you have willed us to do. May we be prepared for Jesus when He returns for us. Amen.

 

 

Advent Devotional, Dec. 17 by Susan Swann

Advent Devotional, Dec. 17 by Susan Swann

Jeremiah 31:31-3

MAJOR PRESS RELEASE: God announces New Covenant!

It’s a revolutionary new plan based on Jesus. It is not written on stone tablets but on our hearts and now we can know God personally!

Can you imagine hearing this news back in the ancient days of the Old Testament? It must have seemed so radical at the time. Jeremiah prophesied that a wonderful future was coming for God’s people by the New Covenant that would be fulfilled through the work of a Messiah. This announcement marks a pivotal point in the history of God and his relation to his people. It’s when the people first heard they could have an intimate and personal relationship with God. They would no longer need teachers, or high holy men in order for people to “know the Lord”. He said, “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God; they will be my people…and they will ALL know me from the least of them to the greatest”.

So today, our “New Covenant” generation has total access to God. How awesome is that? All we have to do is set our hearts and minds on him and He hears us. As the season of advent arrives each year, we celebrate with abundant joy as we know this great prophesy of old was indeed fulfilled through the birth of a baby named Jesus. Today we can walk in great confidence, knowing that our Lord rests in our hearts. We can pick up our very own Bibles, at anytime or any place and learn of the history of God’s people, and of Jesus and of His great works. But most importantly, we can talk to Him daily, anytime or anywhere. He declared there would be a new covenant all those years ago. And we have seen that God keeps His promises.

Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for loving us so much that you wanted a personal relationship with each one of us. Thank you for your gift of Jesus and the Holy Spirit through which you have made it possible to dwell within us. We ask for your help and encouragement this advent season as we strive to get to know you more.  Amen.

Advent Devotional, Dec. 16, by Sherie Koob

Advent Devotional, Dec. 16, by Sherie Koob

Isaiah 12:2-6

Back in the “dim, dark ages” when I was in Girl Scouts, we often went to a camp that had fresh running water – just not out of a faucet. Our water came from an artesian well. It constantly bubbled up out of the top of the pipe. It was a two person job to get water into our canteens, buckets and other containers. One person had to place their hand over the top of the pipe, forcing the water to run out of the spout where another person would be able to fill the various containers. Needless to say, going to the well was a favorite past time. We marveled at how the water would continually flow; how it tasted better than any other water we had ever encountered; how fun it was to play in; how it was always cool; and how having to carry water from the well to our camp site, for bathing, washing dishes, cooking, cleaning and other uses made us appreciate our conveniently placed water faucets at home.

I was reminded of that well when reading today’s scripture. Jesus is that constant bubbling water running up out of the top of the pipe; even if one person tries to stop his message it is still heard by another; he teaches us many lessons, and rarely loses his cool; he is a joy to be around…I am also reminded that as we prepare for the joy of the birth of Jesus, we are as thankful as the people of Zion who pledged to tell the nations of God’s great glories.

Prayer: Gracious and Loving Lord, keep us ever mindful of the joy and blessings you give us each day. Let us remember that your abundant love and joy overflows continuously, just as the water did at that artesian well. Let us not become complacent, Lord. Let us rejoice every time we see your great works and share your greatest blessing, your son, Jesus, with all whom we meet. In your name we pray. Amen