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December 20

The Season of Light

 The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine.

Isaiah 9:2

Two times I’ve really paid attention to light versus dark. Well, maybe just one time as the other just hit me as I was writing this devotional.

The first was on a mission trip to Ojeto, Utah to help a sister church on the Navajo Reservation. We would go out on the Mesa for the evening devotions. One night as I was laying back, looking at the night sky, the stars stunned me. They were so close, so enormous and profuse. To me it seemed that they refused to be blanketed by the night sky, nothing could keep them from shining. It was like a curtain had been hung with holes in it that allowed the light to penetrate, so brightly it lit up the night.

The second was the realization that Christmas is all about lights. We put them on trees and houses and buildings. There is something so special about driving around the neighborhood, in the dark evening, looking at Christmas decorations. Lights everywhere… glowing, sparkling… they fill us with joy and wonder. We ride in the car with the kids and point, Oh, look at that one. (And wonder how in the world people got lights way up there).

Light-Jesus-Faith-Hope-Advent-FUMC.jpg[Photo by Jonathan Chng on Unsplash]

Then there is the tree in the living room. A tradition. It goes up every year even though it seems like a lot of trouble. Drag out the boxes and haul them to the living room. The strings of lights are twisted and when plugged in don’t work. Argh! And, you thought romantically, sentimentally, that it would be a family affair. Think again, you are home alone. Then the strategy of placing each ornament in the perfect place. Tedious is the word that comes to mind.

But, then comes the evening and you plug the tree in and stand back, and well, it takes your breath away as you bask in the warmth of the glow. The feeling those glowing lights bring, of peace and hope, into the heart of where you live.

Yet, in all this time, all these years, I’ve never connected those lights to the fact that Jesus is the great Light for our souls. Bringing us out of spiritual darkness so we can embrace God’s love for us. And then we, like the stars, reflect the glory of God and shine God’s love to a dark world.

And we certainly can’t forget the star over the manger sent by God… the light that guided the wise men to the Babe in the stable. The light that celebrated this amazing event, God coming to dwell among his people.

There is a song:

Walk in the light, the beautiful light.

Come where the dewdrops of mercy shine bright.

Shine all around us by day and by night.

Jesus the light of the world.

Jesus came as the Light. We as His disciples reflect His light. But mostly we thank God who sent Jesus, the Light, who takes us out of the darkness.

Linda Baker

Jesus, thank You for rescuing us from the darkness and making the way for us to come into Your Kingdom of Light. May we shine Your love and mercy like stars splashed across the night sky.

 Additional Scriptures: Genesis 1:1-4, John 1:1-5, Luke 1:76-79, John 8:12

December 17

Pregnant with the Promises of God

Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.

Luke 1:1-4 NASB

For many years, my preparation for celebrating Christmas focused on the story of Jesus’s birth. Looking into the Nativity story beyond the superficial facts into the deeper teachings of God’s Word woven into this story.

Becoming a Believer at 33 years old with three small children, five-years-old and younger, provided the perfect incentive to seek the truths found in Jesus’s story and share what I discovered with them. It was all new to me too.

The heart of my preparation for Christmas was to know more about Jesus, the One who captured my heart, and share Him with others. The continuing practice of preparing each year through reading the stories surrounding His birth led me deeper and deeper into a passion for Him, and like Luke, for others to know Him. Not just know about Him but know Him!

After many years, those moments with my children, the study and spending time with Him in His Word, became a series of twenty-five devotionals I published into a book: The Heart of Bethlehem. This was an unexpected result of pursuing Him in His Word, because I didn’t set out to write a book. I simply set out to know who He was and share Him with my children.

Mary and Elizabeth are the two mothers central to the Nativity story. They both experienced supernatural births. Elizabeth, old, barren, way past menopause, carried her firstborn son who was designated by God to prepare the way for Jesus in the world (Isaiah 40:3). Mary, a virgin, conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and carried the Son of God (Isaiah 7:14). Both believing women, both familiar with the truths planted in their hearts from the Word, both pregnant with the promises of God.

Pregnant-Promises-Fruitful-God's Glory-FUMC.jpg[Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash]

The Truth was planted in my heart, and after a very long gestation period, a devotional book was born to help others see the Extraordinary God we have: One who takes the ordinary and makes it extraordinary. All who receive the wonder of His Truth, Way, and Life enter into an extraordinary journey too.

Once we come to know Jesus, every Believer is implanted with the Truth and becomes pregnant with the promises of God. Each of us as followers of Christ carry around a promise of peace, hope, restoration, love, and grace. With time and obedience, something will be birthed through us to help others know God and His glory.

What promise has He planted in you? How are you preparing for Him to use you to fulfill His promise to a dark hurting world?

Begin asking God to prepare you to be used for the building up of His Kingdom and as a means of fulfilling His promise to all creation.

For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.

Romans 8:18 ESV

Lord, reveal the promise of the Holy Spirit You’ve implanted in me. Grow the gifts, the graces, and the power You’ve given me, to glorify You in the world. Amen.

 Additional Scriptures: Philippians 1:9-11, Colossians 1:3-6, Luke 8:9-15, John 15:5

Carol Weaver

Another Side of Sunday: Recipe for Joy

A new teaching series began this week: Christian Characteristics. Merriam-Webster’s defines characteristic as “a distinguishing trait, quality or property.” Believers have traits, qualities, and properties that set them apart, and these characteristics draw others to Jesus.

Sunday’s focus was joy.

Before we go any further take a moment to consider yourself when it comes to joy. Ask a trusted friend, “Do you consider me to be joy-full?”

I am reminded of a recipe I once heard or read. I believe it still rings true. A simple acronym provides us a recipe for joy.

Jesus… Others… You…

This is not one of those recipes where the ingredients can be thrown into a bowl and mixed. Order is of great importance. As Believers when we align our thoughts and actions in this way (Jesus, Others, You) joy becomes a part of who we are in Christ.

I see it reflected in Sunday’s Scripture.

According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

1 Peter 1:3-5 (emphasis added)

Jesus ushers us into new life the moment we decide to follow Him. As we put Him first in our daily walk, our faith continues to grow and God’s power resides in us.

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 1:6-7 (emphasis added)

Followers of Jesus aren’t guaranteed a rosy life on easy street. We face trials and heartache and pain. These are used to refine our character, create genuine faith, and connect us to others. The hard in our lives is exactly where Jesus reveals Himself to others through us.

 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

1 Peter 1:8-9 (emphasis added)

You and I are the ones who reap the benefit of this recipe. Take a look at how many times you see the word “you” in the Scripture.

YOU love Him, YOU believe in Him, obtaining the outcome of YOUR faith, the salvation of YOUR souls.

In Galatians 5:22 joy is found in the list of the fruit of the Spirit. As we put Jesus and others before ourselves, joy naturally springs forth. It’s not something we can manufacture or pretend to have. It is a gift, a supernatural working of the Spirit in us.

Are you missing joy in your life? Do you find yourself grumpy, critical, or bitter? Is it time to try a new recipe?

Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.”

Matthew 22:37-40  The Message

Father, so many times I have placed my happiness as my priority. I want life to be fun and full of joy. I’m sorry for the moments I’ve gotten mixed up in thinking something or someone will bring me joy. You and You alone are the One who can bring me joy. Guide me to put You first and to love You more and more each day. Show me how to share Your love with others. Amen.

[Feature Image Photo on blog by Aaron Burden on Unsplash]