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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

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 25

[Merry Christmas! Read the final devotional in The Dawning of Indestructible Joy and then our offering below.]

I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.

John 6:51

So the meaning of Christmas is this: the Son of God came into the world to bear witness to the truth in a way that it had never been witnessed to before.

– John Piper, The Dawning of Indestructible Joy, page 79*

Jesus came to show us the truth of God’s love, grace, and goodness in a way never before seen.

Remember the reason behind all the giving of gifts, the feasting and fun, the joy and singing, is the commemoration of the Divine entering the world He created. God the Father giving His only Son as a means of salvation and restoration for the world.

Have you considered the uniqueness of His coming as a Babe? His stooping low to become like one of His own creations? not to rule and reign, but to give His life as a ransom for many?

Take a moment to consider Him today.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Philippians 2:5-8 ESV

Let the revelation of Truth behind the season bring transformation to your life.

Lord Jesus, thank You for the gift of grace, truth, and life. May the heart of Christmas stay with me throughout the year. Amen.

[Feature Image Photo on blog by Annie Spratt on Unsplash]

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

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December 2

[Remember, the offering here is to be read after the December 2 devotional in The Dawning of Indestructible Joy.]

How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?

John 5:44

If there is a longing in your heart this Advent for something that the world has not been able to satisfy, might not this longing be God’s Christmas gift preparing you to see Christ as consolation and redemption and to receive him for who he really is?

–John Piper, The Dawning of Indestructible Joypage 17*

What is your heart longing for this Advent season? the things of man? or the things of God?

Consider dissatisfaction in your heart. Could it be your Christmas gift from God to turn your heart toward the one true Gift of Advent?

Father God, show me where I continue to hope in the things of the world for my own glory rather than seeking Yours. Show me how to fully open the Gift of grace and experience the indestructible joy of the freedom and forgiveness found in Him.

[Feature Image Photo seen on blog by Ben White on Unsplash]

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