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Advent 2020: Christmas Presents

The gifts of God through Jesus.

Merry Christmas! As you celebrate with gifts and games, family and friends, however you spend the day, take a moment to consider your Advent journey.

Sense your level of adoration for Jesus as Savior and King, Creator and Redeemer. Think about what you learned from the spiritual discipline of Advent.

Rejoice in the Lord! Your Savior was born this day!


Read December 25: Three Christmas Presents

Photo by Hert Niks on Unsplash

What did John Piper give to you through today’s devotional?


Believe Jesus and love others. That is your purpose. …
Let the freedom to fail give you hope to fight. …
Christ will help overcome sin in you. …

John Piper, Joy to the World

Purpose. Forgiveness. Help. According to John Piper, these are the three presents Jesus gives us through Christmas. Gifts to help us persevere on our faith journeys.

Which of these Christmas presents means the most to you? Why?

Does one stir your heart with more joy and adoration for Jesus than the others? Explain.

Do you see the need for all of these gifts of grace in your life? How?

Ask God to bless you with the faith to open each of these Christmas presents in your life and use them to the fullest. Let Jesus define your purpose, forgive your failures, and help you move ever closer to Him.

May the Lord lead your hearts into a full understanding and expression of the love of God and the patient endurance that comes from Christ.
2Thessalonians 3:5 NLT

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[Feature Image Photo by Max Beck on Unsplash]

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Advent 2020: Freedom

The destruction of sin and death.

So far this Advent season, we’ve gone deep into the heart of Christmas, perhaps seeing things previously unseen.

Today, as you go about your day, think about what you’ve learned. Look for signs of the deeper meaning of Christmas in the world around you. See past the temporary and into the eternal.


Read December 19: Christmas is for Freedom

Photo by Paul Green on Unsplash

Did today’s reading give you a different perspective on Christmas? How?


Christmas is for freedom — freedom from the fear of death.

John Piper, Joy to the World

Christmas frees us from fear. A good thing to remember when fear of death is rampant in a world gone viral with a pandemic.

On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being high), what is your current level of fear? anxiety?

What does your fear-rating tell you about your faith?

Take time today to consider: Christmas ushers in freedom from the fear of death. Does this concept ring true in your heart? or is there resistance? Do you hear a “Yeah, but…” in your spirit?

After considering your heart’s response to this good news, ask God to reveal the sin keeping you bound to fear of death. Ask Him to speak the truth of the power of His love and grace into your life.

Ask Him to set you free!

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.
1John 4:18 ESV

Store window decal: Joy, Peace, Love ornament. Merry Christmas.
Photo by Frédéric Dupont on Unsplash

[Feature Image Photo by Max Beck on Unsplash]

December 25: Christmas Day

Love Came Down

For 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

On Christmas Eve when I was young my family traveled to my grandparents’ home. The house was always full of good food and fun. We opened presents and played dominoes. When it was time, one of the adults in the house proclaimed, “It’s time to go.”

We bundled up and headed over to my cousin’s church. Watching the houses decorated in lights go by, the loud of the day drifted away. The hush of anticipation filled the air as we took our seats in the sanctuary.

Cousins dressed as angels and shepherds made their way to the manger. I listened as they told about Mary and Joseph’s journey, and my heart overflowed when they placed the babe in the manger. I’m not sure how to express the love I encountered in that church. If it had a smell or a sound, I experienced it there. It was in that place I experienced what holy felt like for the first time.

I’m much older now, but I can still feel it. My heart overflows when I consider Love lying there in the manger. The same Love that makes its way to the cross to save you and me. Love that transforms hearts and makes us holy. Love so deep I cannot fathom, so wide I cannot cross.

Love came down at Christmas, and I will never be the same.

Don’t let this day pass by without lighting your Advent candles. Ring the bells! Sing out loud! Hug tighter and smile brighter.

Christmas-Love-Jesus-FUMC-Advent.jpg[Photo by Chad Madden on Unsplash]

For this is Christmas Day! This is the day our hearts become holy with the light of Love, and it’s the most precious gift of all.

Stacy Boyer

Oh God! Your incredible love for Your creation overwhelms. To think of You – Father, Son, Holy Spirit – separating Yourself in such a way to make the Way for us to return to You is truly awesome. Fill us with the wonder of Your love for us and bless us with the faith to love others the way You love us. Amen.

Additional readings: John 1:14, 1Corinthians 13:4-13, 1John 4:9-10

December 19

Chosen to Share the Good News

 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Luke 2:8-20

In the time that Jesus was born, shepherds were not considered important people, but God chose to tell them about Jesus’s birth. The shepherds hurried off to see for themselves, and when they saw Him, they were excited to tell others about the baby Jesus.

Sometimes, we may not feel like we are very important. But God does not see us the way we see ourselves. He knows everything about us and still loved us enough to send Jesus to save us. We should be like the shepherds when they heard the news from the angels about Jesus being born – we can be excited and hurry and tell everyone that Jesus is born, and He is all the reason we need to celebrate Christmas.

Paxton's Pic.jpg

Dear God, thank You for sending Your Son, Jesus. Help us to be brave like the shepherds and share the news of Jesus and of Your love for us all. Amen.

 Paxton Johnson

Additional Scriptures: Romans 10:15, Psalm 8, 1Peter 2:9

December 14

Christmas: 1964

 I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.

Philippians 4:13

Christmas is a time for rejoicing in the Lord Jesus Christ. Philippians 4:4 says, “Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.” But for some people Christmas is a time for sadness.

I remember it well, the day I learned my dad was dying. Thanksgiving had come and gone and Dad had been home to enjoy our traditional family gathering.

It was now the Christmas holidays and I was watching Father Knows Best on television. Mother was at the kitchen sink peeling potatoes for lunch. At first I thought she was laughing to herself, but realized she was crying instead.

Rushing to her side, I said, “Mother, Dad is dying, isn’t he?” She said, “Yes, he has only weeks to live.” Christmas was never the same after that. And I relied heavily on Scripture. In Deuteronomy 31:8 God promises never to leave nor forsake us. Instead, He walks by our side (Psalm 23:4) and provides a way of escape.

Dad passed away peacefully with my mother at his side on January 6, 1965 at MD Anderson in Houston, Texas. He had fought lymphatic cancer for two years. Dad had told Mother that God answered every one of his prayers and to read Luke 2:26, “And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Spirit, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.”

My father prayed one last time before he died. He prayed for God to take him Home. He had told us many times that he would be Home for Christmas, if only in his dreams. His last prayer was finally answered. In Philippians 4:6 it says, “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.”

Comfort-God's Promises-Hope-Advent-Faith-FUMC.jpg

[Photo by James Coleman on Unsplash]

With the birth of Jesus Christ, the beginning of a promise of eternal life was given to us. By remembering this and the way He died for our sins helps us to make the Christmas holidays a time for rejoicing.

I can do anything as long as Jesus Christ gives me strength.

Paula Small

Father God, You are the God of all compassion and mercy. Thank You for sending Jesus as our salvation and strength. Bless us with the words to encourage others who may be having difficulty experiencing the joy of the Season.

Additional Scripture: 1Thessalonians 4:13-18, Romans 12:15

Another Side of Sunday

Our Pastor began a series this week on the fruit of the Spirit. He spoke about love.

The very foundation of our faith is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength (Matthew 22:37).

I sat in the early morning light and read,

Know that the Lord is God!

Psalm 100:3

I am reminded, to know Him is to love Him. Love cannot be manufactured or created by man.

It is He Who made us, not we ourselves.

Psalm 100:3

God’s love made us. God’s love sustains us. Any other love is not love at all.

We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.

Psalm 100:3

His love binds us together, calls us into the fold, leads us to green pastures.

For the Lord is good. His mercy and loving kindness are everlasting, His faithfulness and truth endure to all generations.

Psalm 100:5

As the end of the week draws to a close, and you enter the rhythm of the weekend, may His love flow over you. May you know He is God, He created you, and you are His. Amen.

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

December 3

[Read the December 3 devotional in The Dawning of Indestructible Joy before entering into this reading.]

Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Hebrews 13:20-21

One of the things pleasing in God’s sight is that his people keep on drawing near to him forever and ever. And so he is working in us this very thing.

– John Piper, The Dawning of Indestructible Joy, page 19*

Consider God the Son, emptying Himself of all divinity to enter the world as a baby so we might be near Him.

Consider the great extremes, the great cost He endured to make the Way to restore relationship with you.

What feelings arise?

How determined are you to draw near to Him?

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.

James 4:10 ESV

Father, Son, Holy Spirit, work in my heart to stir up a desire to be near You. Remove any barriers keeping me from coming closer.

[Feature Image Photo seen on blog by Greyson Joralemon 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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The Way of Wisdom: Proverbs 31

Today we finish up Proverbs!

Read Proverbs 31

My perception of the call to be a Proverbs 31 wife has changed over the years. I used to read it with dread, feeling like “that woman” was so far away from who I was.

I saw it as a checklist:

  • be nice to my husband… every day
  • get up early… eagerly
  • cook breakfast
  • maintain an organized home
  • be productive… all day long
  • readily assist those in need
  • don’t worry
  • be prepared
  • sew??? (I may or may not own a sewing machine that is still in the box from 7 years ago)
  • always speak wisely and kindly
  • leave no room for laziness
  • raise respectful, productive children

And I was not stacking up.

I would drown in the details of verses 11-27 and lose sight of the message waiting for me in verse 30.

Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.

All of the qualities listed are wonderful, but I don’t count check marks (or lack thereof) anymore. My desire is to live in love and fear of the Lord, every single day.

Lord, remind me all Your ways add up to love. Loving You. Loving others. In those two things the whole law is fulfilled. Amen.

 

P.S. Tomorrow the journey through the Advent devotional by John Piper begins: The Dawning of Indestructible JoyIf you haven’t picked up a copy for your household yet, they are available in the Commons Area.

Here we will be adding to the devotional with thoughts and questions to consider. Hope you will continue to follow along.

[Feature Image Photo seen on blog by Kris Atomic on Unsplash]