Christmas Day

Nativity Reading: Isaiah 9:1-7 and Isaiah 53
Share these readings with the family and friends you are gathered with today. Consider the great gift Jesus brought us on His birth day.

What can you give Him?

The Gift of Prayer: Intercession

“Your kingdom come, your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.”
Matthew 6:10
Intercession, the act of coming before God on behalf of another or even for ourselves.
Jesus is our great Intercessor. He came to earth to intercede. Mediate forgiveness, healing, and peace between humanity and Father God. Scripture says He always lives to intercede (Hebrews 7:25), standing at the right hand of His Father (Romans 8:34).
As His disciples, His followers, we too have the privilege of interceding on behalf of ourselves, our loved ones, our community, the whole world. Jesus made the Way, by the power of the Holy Spirit, for us to intercede. We can be a part of making the way for His Kingdom to come now, His will to be done now, in the lives of those for whom we intercede.

Today, recognize your Intercessor, by praying for those who need His power, peace, healing and forgiveness in their lives. His Kingdom come, His will be done…

The Joy of the Plan

We both had decided that being single was just fine. We had our families, work, and our ministries. I told God that if it was His plan for me to marry, he would have to put that certain someone directly in my face.
And so, it happened at a ministry event. I patted a chair for him to sit down and enjoy the program and he took it as an invitation to come sit by me. 
We dated and spent time together, got engaged, and then found out he was sick. I’m pretty sure God knew all along and put us together just in time for the love and support to be there to carry us through the hard time to come. Chemo treatments, nausea, and fatigue, to name a few of the challenges.
But JOY… love that conquers all.
Love that makes life complete. Love that brings meaning to the journey of life. Joy that comes from following God’s plan. No matter the circumstances, we can choose daily to expose the joy or suppress it.
God had a plan for David and me but, more than that, God had a plan for all of us in this Babe in a manger. The Son who would come, in flesh, to show God’s love and redeem His people. JOY is in God’s love for us. JOY is in God’s plan that saves us.
Thank you, God, for the plan you had all along and for allowing me to see the truth, the goodness, and the wisdom of the plan. As James said, I count it all JOY!
Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way,
consider it an opportunity for great joy.
James 1:2 
I will shout for joy and sing your praises, for you have ransomed me.
Psalm 71:23

Linda Powell

Joyful News

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; I bring you Good News of great joy
that will be for all the people.”
Luke 2:10
Have you ever noticed the different responses you see in faces when you comment: Christmas is just around the corner? Some faces frown and respond: So much to do, in too little time. Too many requests from charities. Too many gifts to buy. So little resources! What do all these faces lack? The remembrance that this is Advent, a time which should be filled with joyful expectancy as we await the celebration of the birth of the Christ Child. The One who has brought joy into my life and all who know Him.
On a night, long ago, the angels sang: I bring you Good News of great joy! A song sung to all people. Let’s lay down our negatives, our joy-less faces, our prejudices. Let your heart be filled with joy… not materialistic fleeting joy, but the true joy that comes through Jesus Christ. The angel’s message brings abiding joy… the Messiah has been born. When Jesus was born, He brought to earth everlasting salvation and love. The angel’s song, the joyous words, I bring you God News of great joy which shall be to all people.
My life has been so filled with His love, guidance, protection, and faithfulness. What is my gift to the newborn King? Mary the mother of Jesus said Yes to the angel without hesitation when told it was God’s plan for her to be chosen as mother of the Christ Child. She gave herself! My prayer is that I may be selfless as the mother of Jesus and be willing to follow His leadership, serve as He leads, and say Yes without hesitation to His bidding.
Choose this Advent Season to have the face of joy, joy that lasts. Be filled with joyful expectancy of the gift of the Christ Child. Hallelujah! What a Savior!
Our Father, may the everlasting love and joy brought to his earth
at Jesus’s birth be ours throughout this Holy Season. Amen.
Thought for the day: Jesus is everlasting joy!
Helen Drummond

Gifts of the Nativity: The Holy Spirit

Where did Joseph and Mary take Jesus? Why?
Who in these verses had the Holy Spirit on him?
Where did the Spirit lead him this day?
What did the Holy Spirit reveal to him?
Simeon, another individual unseen in most Nativity scenes. The Holy Spirit was upon Simeon and led him to the temple this day to fulfill a promise: He would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.
The Holy Spirit led and revealed. When Simeon praised God at the revelation and fulfillment of the promise, Mary and Joseph marveled and received a blessing, too.
As a result of Jesus’s crucifixion, death, and resurrection, we Believers have the Holy Spirit in us, not on us. We can nurture His presence in our lives (2Timothy 1:6-7) or we can quench it (1Thessalonians 5:19), depending on how we respond to His leading and revealing.
What has the gift of the Holy Spirit revealed in your life?
Has He led you to be a blessing to others by His power?

The Gift of Joy Received with Love

Oh, Lord Jesus, You bring me joy and happiness every day. Just knowing You are walking with me inspires me to be all I can. 
Remember that day so many years ago when You reached me and I listened? I opened the Bible given to me by a friend. You were there with me, as I began reading. I needed change in my life. I didn’t know where to begin, You inspired my heart to JUST READ. So I did. It was so confusing, what did it all mean? You said JUST READ. So I did. Several days I sat and read and I began seeing change in me, my heart, my thoughts, my actions. Thank You.
You have brought so much joy. More than I could imagine. Amazingly, one day You brought me an infant. Her birth was beautiful, she was precious. Her biological mother was my angel and I hers. We all know the hand You played in this journey and are forever grateful. My daughter truly is a gift from You.
This year for Your birthday I give You love. Words are easy to say. Some days go by and I just barely speak to You. As I stand here today I give to You all my love. I will show my love to You in prayer, through my heart and with action. I vow not to miss a day. I see You every day in my life. Some days I just keep walking and doing my own thing. That, my Lord, will change.
The loss of a dear one this year created distance in my walk with You. I’m sorry for that. My pity trip is over. I am Yours Lord, heal me.
I will obey your decrees.
   Please don’t give up on me!
Psalm 119:8
Renita Pontenberg

The Gift of More

In recent years, I have managed to focus more and more on the true meaning of Christmas and to ignore the world’s hoopla in celebrating the Season. Advent studies and devotionals have helped me to concentrate on Jesus coming down as a vulnerable child to live amongst us, rather than how we can all do more and spend more.
Thankfully, I am past the point in my life where I am concerned with receiving gifts and am more able to focus on the joy of the world receiving the Christ-child. I experience joy by realizing what Jesus did and who he is. He died on the cross by his choice because I mattered to him and he loves me. He serves as my Lord, Savior, Good Shepherd, Teacher, and loving Elder Brother. Jesus is the Word Made Flesh.
I really do appreciate that He saved me, gave me His Word, His Spirit, and His Church. I pray often and try to make each day some sort of worship experience. But, is that all I should be giving Jesus? I need to be more intentional in my relationship with Christ. I need to be more ready to act, to help or witness to those whom God sends my way.
Christ can heal our hearts and bring comfort and mercy like nothing or no one else. But He needs us to invite Him in. He does not force His way in.
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock.”
Revelation 3:20 NKJV
We need to invite Him in to every “place” in our lives in order to experience the healing from our brokenness, even after or initial acceptance, called salvation. We need to encourage others to do this also. I am thankful I have friends that encourage me to move toward Jesus and to not forget or ignore Him. The more Jesus, the better, especially at Christmas-time!
Dear Father, please help me to love you more
and to move toward a Christ-centered life!

Russell Edwards

Advent: Fourth Sunday

Nativity Reading: Luke 2:22-40

Consider what He’s saying and how you will respond.

Record your thoughts, insights, questions, and inspirations regarding Jesus’s birth day using words and/or drawings. Use a journal and pen or paper and colored pencils.

Let His Word have its effect on you.

The Gift of Prayer: Thanksgiving

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”
Matthew 26:-29

One of the most meaningful moments on Christmas Eve is the celebration of the Eucharist. The Greek word Eucharist literally means thanksgiving. During the Advent season, we prepare for the birth of the Savior. It is a time of joy we only find in the shadow of the cross.

Jesus met with the disciples to celebrate. He took the bread, the wine… symbols of His broken body and blood poured out… and gave thanks. He sacrificed Himself for us. Let us in turn make a sacrifice of thanksgiving to Him this day.

Pray a prayer of thanksgiving.

The Gift of a New Day

The candidate I voted for didn’t win the election. I wonder what is going to happen in this country over the next 4 years. 
One side of my family does not speak to the other side because of something that happened a few years ago. It makes holidays difficult — trying to plan on how to visit everyone. Why can’t everyone just ‘forgive and forget’ and move past this divide? 
My money does not go as far as I need want it to. I’m getting closer to retirement, and I’m not sure there will be enough to pay all my expenses when I’m no longer working. Why didn’t we save more through the years?
My children don’t attend church. I raised them in this church and hoped they would find their own faith as adults. They don’t think there is much relevance in organized religion. Did I fail them? Did the church?
What brings me joy? 
The sun comes up every morning with the promise of a new day.
Too often, I let the problems and worries of the world take over. I have to remind myself that worrying does not solve anything or add a day to my life (Matthew 6:25-34). No matter what problems the day may bring, each new day can be filled with the peace and grace that God showers on each of us. With Advent and Christmas, we remember the miracle of Emmanuel —God is with us always, as close as our heartbeat. 
My problems will always be there, and new ones will always be waiting in line to break my heart and bring me to my knees. But the joy of the sun coming up every morning fills my heart with hope. Every day, I want to give God my worries and fears.   
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.  I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.
John 14:27

Ann Culotta