Posts

December 5

Be Kind

 However, as it is written: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived” —the things God has prepared for those who love him…

1Corinthians 2:9

Being very cash-strapped one Christmas season, we went to a Christmas tree farm knowing that we would be looking for the cheapest priced tree. The owner told us he thought they had sold all of the cheaper ones, but we could walk around and look. We looked hard and finally found one!

We cut the tree and went to pay. I had just enough money for the tree and tax and we were very proud of our perfectly priced find. As the girls and I were inside paying for the tree, the owner walked in and told me he had made a mistake. He took the tag and wrote something on it and handed it to his wife who was checking us out. My heart sank because I knew I didn’t have enough money for a higher priced tree. The owner’s wife turned the tag over and showed it to me. It said “FREE!” I was so overcome by the kindness of those strangers toward us. Such a simple act by them was so meaningful for us – something I will never forget!

Advent-Christmas  Tree-Be Kind.jpg

[Photo by Євгенія Височина on Unsplash]

During this season of Advent, I challenge you to commit as many Random Acts of Kindness as you can in honor of the Christ child and the God who loves us so much. You never know how your small act will warm the heart of someone who needs to be reminded that they are loved.

Jerri Lykins

Father God, help us to remember Your unforeseen, undeserved, uncommon act of kindness in sending Your Son Jesus to save us. Open our eyes and hearts to those with whom we can share Your kindness in unexpected ways.

 Additional Scriptures: Acts 9:36, Ecclesiastes 12:14, Galatians 5:13

December 4

Keeping Focused

 The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel – which means, “God with us.”

Matthew 1:23

When I was in my twenties and thirties, I dreaded Christmas because I saw it mostly as busyness and stress that I didn’t need. I had no appreciation for Jesus as the “Word made flesh” because I paid attention only to getting through the season.

After two decades, I found God again and our church family! My wife, Peetie, got me to attend Christmas Eve Communion for the first time. My attitude about Christmas was changing as I grew in my faith. Still, it seemed a challenge to not be overwhelmed by the busyness of the season.

I decided I needed to be more intentional about focusing on Christ coming down to live among us during the Christmas season. I have tried to simplify by reducing dates and commitments and to focus more on the real meaning by deflecting or ignoring a lot of the commercialization of Christmas.

I started reading Advent devotionals leading up to Christmas. I began praying for a spirit of gratitude for receiving the most wonderful gift. I have become more aware on a daily basis of what Jesus did, making himself vulnerable to our cruel world by coming to earth as a baby just to save us.

Advent-Devotional-FUMC-Fatih.jpg

[Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash]

I look forward to reading Advent books again this Christmas season. There are many good ones. I am planning to reread The Heart of Bethlehem written by our FUMC friend, Carol Weaver. I also plan to attend my 24th consecutive Christmas Eve Communion at FUMC Jacksonville.

Father God, please help us to focus this Christmas season on receiving the Greatest Gift! Amen.

 Russell Edwards

Additional Scriptures: Hebrews 10:23-25, Psalm 121:1-2, Psalm 118:26-29

December 3

Advertising Christmas

“…And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.” And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.”

Luke 1:45-49

Christmas is extremely commercialized, isn’t it?

Come on down and get a good deal on       (insert Christmas essential)       !

It’s what we now hear starting Thanksgiving Day.

Advent-Advertising-Christmas-FUMC.jpg[Photo by Heidi Sandstrom. on Unsplash]

Consequently, the coming of Jesus was, in some sense, advertised as well. You had the Old Testament prophets and scribes that foretold His coming. The birth of John the Baptist also pointed towards the birth of Christ. You had the star which led the wisemen, as well as angels who sang about His birth. News was going around and people were preparing themselves.

Why don’t we “advertise” too? As we move on in the season of Advent, let your lives and actions advertise and proclaim our foretold Messiah.

Andrew Thompson

Lord, bless us with the words and deeds to let others know You came to save us. May we be good advertisements for receiving the Greatest Gift ever given.

 Additional Scriptures: John 3:16-17, Romans 10:12-15, Colossians 3:12-15

December 2

Unto Us a Son

For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6

Each year as the Christmas season nears, I turn to a splendid celebration of His birth – Handel’s Messiah. As I read the words of the Scripture above, I always hum the song in my head from this amazing work of art.

I think about the people before Jesus’ birth, having only the words of the prophets and the hope of God’s promise that a Messiah is coming. I am blessed to be alive on the “after” side of His birth and know that He is the fulfillment of these prophecies. I marvel that a Child was born to save me, that the government is upon His shoulder and that I can call Him Wonderful, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Although Handel’s Messiah celebrates all aspects of Jesus’ life, His birth, His death and His resurrection, we’ve come to appreciate it mostly in the days leading up to our celebration of His birth. It is during this time that I long to hear it, in its entirety. Every year I faithfully pop in the DVD I have and follow along in the musical score. As is the tradition, I MUST stand during the Hallelujah chorus! As I soak in the loveliness of the music, the orchestra, the choir, the soloists, the words, I know that Jesus’ birth is a miracle. I know that He loves me. I know my life would be totally different had He not come, or hadn’t yet come.

Although we are inundated with secular songs during Christmas (many of which I adore), it is Handel’s Messiah that I wait for. I once had someone tell me that if he was allowed only one item on a desert island, it would be Handel’s Messiah. It is glorious music and the words of our Lord, all in one place. It is divine.

So as I get ready for Christmas, I will celebrate the birth of my Lord and my King by watching and listening to this marvelous oratorio, again and again!

Father, thank You for the blessing of this magnificent piece of music. Thank You for continually speaking to my heart through these words and music. And most importantly, thank You for sending Your Son; He will reign forever and ever! Hallelujah and Amen!

 Vicki Gilbreath

(Find Handel’s Messiah on youtube.com and join me this year. And don’t forget to stand up during the Hallelujah chorus!)

Additional readings: Colossians 3:16, Psalm 40:1-3

December 1: First Sunday in Advent

Advent is here and with it comes the first light of hope. Anticipation fills the air as we prepare to celebrate The Light of the World. This day is the beginning of all our watching and waiting and hoping.

What are you hoping for this year? What waiting lies deep in your heart? What keeps you watching with anticipation?

But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me.

Micah 7:7

(Light the first Advent candle.)

The first candle is called the Prophet’s Candle. Prophets in the Old Testament told the Israelites a Savior was coming. Isaiah and Micah spoke words of hope to God’s children and they waited and watched for the signs of the coming Savior.

We see signs of the day approaching to celebrate the Savior’s birth too. Stockings hang waiting to be filled, wreaths of green welcome us home, and the music of the season fills our ears. There’s just something special about this time of year. Smiles are brighter and eyes twinkle a bit more. This is Advent and with it comes the spark of hope that lights our first candle.

Yet our hope goes much deeper than presents under trees or the special foods we enjoy.

Read Luke 1:26-28

Gabriel’s greeting to Mary were words of hope, the same words of hope for us this season: You are favored by the Lord. The Lord is with you! (Luke 1:28)

The light of the first candle reminds us we are favored by God. We are chosen to watch and wait with hope for the coming of the King. The words of Micah ring true. God hears us and is with us. This is our hope. This is the hope of the world!

Sing “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”:

O come, Thou Day-Spring

Come and cheer

Our spirits by Thine advent here

Disperse the gloomy clouds of night

And death’s dark shadows put to flight

Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel

Shall come to thee, O Israel

Lord of Hope, fill us with the light of Your love this Advent. Help us to shine hope into the world. Thank You for hearing us, for being with us. Amen.

Additional Scriptures: Psalm 119:81, Isaiah 40:30-31, Jeremiah 29:11

Advent 2019-Devotional-FUMC

[Photo by Waldemar Brandt on Unsplash]

The Advent Wreath: A Brief History

Merriam-Webster’s defines advent as “the arrival or coming of something.” For Believers it is the season we prepare to remember the birth of Jesus.

Arrivals usually come with signs. Spring arrives with showers and wildflowers. Summer with red ripe tomatoes and hot days. Autumn with changing leaves that fall to the ground. Winter brings shorter days and long nights. When you enter the sanctuary tomorrow — the First Sunday of Advent — look for the signs of the season. One consistent sign of the beginning of Advent in our sanctuary is the Advent Wreath.

While the tradition of the Advent Wreath is observed in our corporate worship, it was originally created for home devotions. Originating in German and Scandinavian homes, families lit candles to observe the corresponding weeks of Advent, marking the coming of Christmas with a time of prayer, either at dinner or in the evening.

The color of the candles was insignificant, and the configuration of the candles did not matter — whether they were in a straight line or a circle. What mattered was the marking of the weeks and the increased light of each additional candle in the face of the increasing darkness accompanying the winter solstice. (www.umc.org)

Creating an Advent Wreath at home is a wonderful reminder of the reason we celebrate. A way for families to prayerfully mark the days until the time of celebrating the arrival of the Babe in the manger. Each Sunday’s devotional is designed to use as you and your family gather around your Advent wreath to celebrate the light of Jesus coming into the world.

Advent Wreath-Devotional-FUMC.jpg[Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash]

Gather your family together and create an Advent “wreath,” whether a circle or line. A quick Google search provides countless ideas to get you started. No matter how you make your wreath you will need four candles and a heart prepared to seek God: Father, Son, and Spirit.

Grow Team

 

Preparing Hearts, Minds, and Homes for the Christmas Season

Welcome!

It’s almost time for First United Methodist Church Jacksonville to celebrate Advent!

Members and friends of this church have written daily devotionals. There is a devotional for every day during the season of Advent, which runs from December 1 to December 25.

Advent is a time of preparation, a time of contemplation. Our prayer is that through the stories and Scriptures you will prepare your heart and soul to celebrate the birth of the Christ child.

I encourage you to create time within each day to sit down and read these devotionals, looking up the Scriptures in your Bible, and contemplating the miraculous event that changed the world that is known as Christmas.

Come, let us adore Him!

Rev. Doug Wintermute, Pastor of Jacksonville First United Methodist Church

December 12

[Today’s post follows the reading of December 12 in John Piper’s The Dawning of Indestructible Joy.]

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

John 1:1

So it seems to me that calling Jesus “the Word” is John’s way of emphasizing that the very existence of the Son of God is for the sake of communication. First, and foremost, he exists, and has always existed, from all eternity for the sake of communication with the Father. Secondarily, but infinitely important for us, the Son of God became divine communication to us. One might say, in summary, calling Jesus “the Word” implies that he is “God-Expressing-Himself.” To us.

–John Piper, The Dawning of Indestructible Joy, page 43*

Advent is a season of waiting. Waiting for God to enter the world and communicate Himself to us.

What is God saying to you this day through the manger? Is He calling you to something? Making Himself known in some new way? How is He telling you He loves you?

God, I can’t think of a more brilliant, beautiful way for You to tell us You love us, then to send Your Son. Your quiet entrance into the world whispers to me this season. My child, “I love you.” Thank You for Your love. Amen.

[Feature Image Photo seen on blog by Jez Timms on Unsplash]

*© 2014. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.org

December 11

[Let’s continue our journey through The Dawning of Indestructible Joy. Read the December 11 devotional and may what follows here enhance what’s there.]

God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16

Meditate on that this Advent. It was a very costly love. A very powerful love. A very rugged, painful love. The meaning of Christmas is the celebration of this love. “God so loved…”

–John Piper, The Dawing of Indestructible Joy, page 40*

All we do at Christmas, hanging happy decorations on trees, baking special once-a-year recipes, and looking for the perfect gift is a reflection of love. We forget it sometimes in the busy of the season.

What love have you forgotten this season? What did love cost God? What has it cost you?

Let’s do what the author of our devotional says. Let’s meditate on love for the remaining of this Advent season.

Lord, don’t let me forget the pain and power of your love this season. Help me to remember with every step I take, every celebration preparation I make. Show me how to be Your light of love in this world. Amen.

[Feature Image Photo seen on blog by rawpixel.com on Unsplash]

*© 2014. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.org