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December 24

Advent Excitement

When I was a young child growing up in Cooper, Texas, my family attended church that had a children’s choir. I remember one fall the children’s choir was going to have a singing performance as part of the church’s Advent celebration.

I am one of six children, so our family made up the bulk of the children’s choir. We practiced for weeks and weeks until the night of the performance came. I remember putting on our costumes. I was a shepherd, my youngest brother was a sheep, and my younger sister was an angel, complete with wings and even a wire halo.

Advent-Holy Spirit-Faith-Light-FUMC.jpg[Photo by Chris Sowder on Unsplash]

The performance was held at night and the last song was to feature each of us children holding a candle while singing. The plan was then for one member of the children’s choir to light the candle of a congregation member, and then the light would be passed around from member to member until the small sanctuary was beautifully illuminated by candlelight.

I remember being excited, even though my costume was itchy. As we stood in the choir loft looking out at the congregation, I remember looking forward to holding a lit candle.

When the time came, us children started lighting our candles. Everyone got their candle lit and we started singing our final song (I don’t even remember what it was). All went well… for a while. Then my younger brother, who was standing in the row behind my sister, somehow got his candle too close to the back of my sister’s head and set her hair on fire. My sister, unaware of the growing inferno behind her, continued singing while holding her candle in front of her. As the flames grew higher one of my older sisters, also standing behind, saw the growing fire and quickly slapped her hands together on the flaming hair, putting it out. The smell of burnt hair began to fill the sanctuary, but my younger sister, unaware that anything had happened, kept on singing.

Each Advent season I am reminded of that event. In remembering it I also learn from it. John Wesley purportedly once said, “Light yourself on fire with passion and people will come from miles to watch you burn.” I don’t advocate setting one’s hair on fire, but I do believe it is good advice to metaphorically set ourselves on fire with the Holy Spirit. When Christians are filled with the Holy Spirit amazing things happen, and people, especially the unchurched, take notice.

Another thing this memory reminds me of is to keep singing. No matter what happens in our lives, do like my sister did with her hair on fire and keep singing. Don’t let the things of this world keep us from singing our praises to God. Keep on singing.

God came to earth in human form at Christmas. The Savior is born not with great earthly acclaim, but in a small, humble way. And yet this Baby, the Savior of the world, changes everything. And that is worth singing about.

“I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. …”

Matthew 3:11

Doug Wintermute, Pastor

Father God, fill our mouths with songs of praise for all You’ve done, are doing, and have planned for us as Your people. May we see the work of Your hand and glorify You in all we do. Amen.

 Additional readings: 1Thessalonians 5:19, Romans 15:13, Psalm 40:16

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 18

The Light of the World

We have observed His star at its rising and have come to pay Him homage.

Matthew 2:1

During this season of Advent, we are preparing our hearts and minds for the celebration of the birth of our Savior: The Light of the World. We are remembering the beautiful stories of the announcement by the angel to Mary; the shepherds leaving their flocks to find this One being heralded by heavenly hosts and brightness all around; the journey of the Wise Men following the bright star. Seems all have been guided by a great light.

Light-Follow-Advent-Faith-FUMC.jpg[Photo by Jonathan Meyer on Unsplash]

It is not surprising that the arrival of Jesus is heralded by light as He is often referred to in Scripture as “the light of the world.” At Christmastime the oft told story of the Wise Men following a bright light in the sky should lead each of us to reflect upon the question: What light is leading me?

We must remember the light of Christ is the internal light of the Holy Spirit and is discernable to a dark lost world only when we allow the love of Christ to shine through us in word and deed.

Do I respond when God calls me? Oh, not through an angel who comes in the night to speak to me, but perhaps through the appearance of someone in a needy situation, someone suffering through grief in the loss of a loved one, the call to mend a friendship or enmity with a family member. When God calls to you do you wonder how to respond? Does God’s purpose flicker like a flame in a sudden breeze and go out by no response? Or does your flame (light) burn even brighter and strong, “Here I am, Lord.”?

Let each of us focus on the light of Christ within and keep it burning brightly, so that it can shine brightly through us to transform the world as we prepare for the celebration of Christ’s birth. Advent is a time of preparation of our hearts to remember:

  • He has given us eternal life.
  • He has given us His Holy Word.
  • He has given us His Son – His choicest gift.
  • He has given us the Holy Spirit.

 Therefore, we have abundant reason for joy and thanksgiving as we prepare our hearts and lives for the celebration of Jesus’s birth!

Dear Lord, allow me to focus on Your Light, stand in Your Light, and allow You to project Your Light through me. May I stay focused on YOU during this Season of Advent. Amen.

 Helen Drummond

Additional readings: Philippians 2:14-15, 1Thessalonians 5:16-22, Matthew 5:14-16

December 5

[Today’s post is in addition to the December 5 devotional reading in The Dawning of Indestructible Joy by John Piper.]

You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. … The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.

1John 3:5, 8

Our sin. Make this personal and love him for it. Take the very personal words of the apostle Paul and make them your own. “The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). This is how he destroyed the works of the Devil and rescued us from our sin. Don’t leave Christmas in the abstract. Your sin. Your conflict with the Devil. Your victory. He came for this.

– John Piper, The Dawning of Indestructible Joy, page 24*

Jesus came to bring light where there was darkness. In the world. In His church. In His people. In your heart.

Consider how He has brought light to your life since He came into your heart.

Consider the places in your heart that are still dark. Do you protect them? deny them? abhor them?

Give Him permission to reveal, restore, and redeem your darkness and bring you into the light.

Lord Jesus, let me not forget You came on a mission to destroy sin in the world and in me. Work in me a deeper understanding of the eternal nature of Christmas. May I be changed by Your entrance into the world, not just this Advent, but for every day following.

[Feature Image Photo seen on blog by Josh Boot on Unsplash]

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

The Way of Wisdom: Proverbs 6:20-35

We complete chapter 6 today by reading Proverbs 6:20-35

For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light…

Proverbs 6:23

Think about a lamp for a moment. Take a look at one in your home or on your desk. Turn it off. Let’s compare the symbolism in this proverb to the real thing.

An unlit lamp doesn’t do us much good. It simply sits catching dust. But when we flip the switch allowing the circuit to be opened, a lamp gives light. Helps us to see in dark places.

The law or commandments alone are like a lamp lacking electricity. Alone it can do nothing. When the Holy Spirit switch is turned on in us, the power circuit becomes complete. What was once black and white on a page in a book is now living water, a lamp to our feet, a light to our path.

Your word is a lamp to my feet
    and a light to my path.

Psalm 119:105

Jesus promised the twelve disciples the Holy Spirit would be their teacher after He left.

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

John 14:26

Paul told the church the Spirit teaches us too.

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”— these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.

1 Corinthians 2:9-10

It is a dangerous thing to approach God’s Word without the Spirit, without His teaching. Because alone it is just law with no power to change, reveal, transform. Let us not forget this as we continue these next few weeks here on the blog.

May we always seek His teaching when we read and study His law.

[Feature Image Photo seen on website by Matheus Kohler on Unsplash]