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3 DAILY DEVOTIONS We want Christmas to be a season of hope, of joy, of love and of peace. But we often feel anything but that! How do we get that thrill of hope, that child-like sense of expectation as we go through the season? The good news is you don t have to muster up that thrill of hope by yourself. This Christmas morning, you can have a sense that you have been prepared. Ready. For the gift of Jesus. The Light of the World. Every day in December leading up to Christmas, spend a few moments reading the Bible, a brief devotion and prayer. It s part of the ancient Christmas tradition called Advent. And it may just add up to the most meaningful Christmas you ve ever experienced. You may just feel that thrill of hope again! What is Advent? Advent simply means the arrival of an important person or era, as in the advent of the internet. When used in relationship to Christmas, Advent is a very ancient Christian tradition: For the four weeks leading up to Christmas, Christians read Bible verses about the advent, or arrival, of the Messiah, Jesus Christ! These verses are not only part of weekly Advent church services, but also part of daily candle lighting and Bible reading times at home. Advent Prophecies Advent is designed for us to develop the same sense of anticipation people in Bible times must have felt as they waited for the arrival of the Messiah! That s why many of the Advent readings are traditionally from the Hebrew Scriptures (the Old Testament): prophecies about the coming Messiah. They may not be the verses you normally associate with Christmas. But they are all about Jesus! You may recognize them: they are the verses that Handel used as the text for his famous work, The Messiah. Two Advents During this season we actually think of two advents: The first advent of Christ, at Christmas The future second advent of Christ, when He returns to renew the earth and establish His kingdom! In fact, if you listen to the lyrics of well-known Christmas carols, you ll notice that many also have this dual emphasis they not only look back to Christ s birth, but also look forward to his second coming ( Joy To The World, for example)! 1

4 The Waiting Advent is designed to help us wait. During Advent we remember: Israel s long wait for God s Messiah to save them. Our own wait for the second coming of Jesus. We also remember that there is hope, even if it seems the wait is long! And we remember that, while Jesus saves us from our sins now, there is also a sense in which we too must wait for complete salvation for the complete removal of sin and death from our world. The point of Advent is to help us prepare our hearts for Christ s coming. The sense of anticipation that children feel as Christmas approaches is a great metaphor for how all creation waits for the ultimate advent of Christ! Advent Candles There is also a tradition of candle-lighting associated with Advent: Every week, one more candle is lit in the Advent wreath. The candles each have a meaning related to that week s emphasis. Here s the order in which the candles are usually lit: Week 1: The Prophecy Candle (the week s theme is hope) Week 2: The Bethlehem Candle (the week s theme is love) Week 3: The Shepherd s Candle (the week s theme is joy Week 4: The Angel s Candle (the week s theme is peace) Christmas Eve: The Christ Candle (the theme is salvation) Bible Reading Before you begin the reading, have one member of the family light that week s advent candle. After the candle is lit, families read a brief passage of Scripture. We encourage you to read the daily verses in this devotional book. Then when you ve finished reading and praying, blow out the candle! Each week you will add another candle, until, on Christmas Eve, you will light all five candles before your Scripture reading! Advent Outreach Sometimes we lose hope because the season becomes all about what we need to do, and what we want. One way we can feel the thrill of hope again is to reach out, to look up from our lists and focus on others. Take a look at the Advent Outreach ideas at the end of this devotional and pick three or four things you can do this Advent season to reach out and recover hope. You can do these on your own, or with your family or friends. Many of these ideas won t cost a dime and won t add hours to your schedule, but they will bring the joy, peace, love and hope of the season to the people you touch and to you too! 2

5 Feel Free to be Creative You can do this with whatever candles you have handy, or with a real Advent wreath. You can use this guide on your own, or with your family, which might certainly include close friends. All families are different, and we encourage you to adapt or to change what we suggest here or do something completely original. Parents will want to make changes to fit the developmental stages of their children. Enjoy your celebration of Advent! Millions of Christians around the world are reading these verses and lighting candles with you! In the back of this booklet you ll find more free resources for Advent! FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT, NOVEMBER 27 THE PROPHECY CANDLE THIS WEEK S THEMES: WAITING & HOPE The first week of Advent focuses on the prophecies about the Messiah (Jesus) coming to earth. For hundreds of years before Jesus was born, God used prophets to give Israel hope that their Messiah would come and save them. Usually when they heard these prophecies they were in captivity or completely ignoring God. God used the prophecy to call them to their future hope. But they had to wait a long time. READ: The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. Isaiah 9:2 REFLECT: Waiting. We all have to do it and no one really likes it. No matter what you re waiting for, waiting can be hard and waiting can seem hopeless. The promise we read today was spoken to people in exile, to people for whom it was spiritually, personally and politically very dark. It looked as though God had forgotten them. But this verse promised them (and you!) that the darkness is temporary. It may take time (this promise was 700 years in the fulfilling), but the darkness doesn t win. The light will shine. When you re waiting, when you feel like you re walking in darkness, hope changes things. It may not change your wait time, it may not turn everything to instant light, but it changes you. You wait in expectation instead of dread. You wait in peace knowing that God is the one who shines the light you don t have to figure it all out. Where do you feel in the land of darkness right now? How could hope change your wait? 3

6 MONDAY, NOVEMBER 28 READ: Do any of the worthless idols of the nations bring rain? Do the skies themselves send down showers? No, it is you, LORD our God. Therefore our hope is in you, for you are the one who does all this. Jeremiah 14:22 REFLECT: The Christmas season is a fun time of year for most people. But for some it can be a time of disappointment and loss. In fact, we can set our hopes so high on having an awesome, perfect, happy holiday that some feelings of disappointment can be almost inevitable! As we begin Advent, we need to remember that our hope is not in the Christmas holiday itself; our hope is in the God we celebrate at Christmas! It s not the ornaments and lights that bring true joy and life; it s the Christ of Christmas! At Christmas we remember that God came into our world, and began to restore and redeem it. And one day he will make everything right again! Though we still experience tears and pain and disappointment in this life (even during the holidays sometimes) the birth of Jesus is a reminder that God came into our dark places to begin to shine His light! Listen to the song Elizabeth plays on today s Advent video devotional. Make it your prayer today! TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 29 READ: Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel Isaiah 7:14 REFLECT: So now Israel knows what they are waiting for - and it s specific! They are waiting for a virgin to give birth to a son. This son has a special name: Immanuel, which translated from Hebrew means God with us. What is something you re waiting for right now? Maybe it s something fun, like Christmas or vacation. Or maybe it s something more serious - a loved one to turn to Jesus or waiting for healing. No matter what you re waiting for, the promise of Christmas is God is with us. Knowing that God is with you, even in the wait, can give you hope in the wait. He is not off in the distance waiting for you, he is with you as you wait. What is one way it helps you today to know that God is with you? 4

7 WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 30 READ: and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6b REFLECT: There is so much hope in this one verse! Imagine the hope this gave the original hearers a people forced to live under a government that wasn t their own, a government that had exiled and enslaved them. This child who will be born will take the government, all governments, on his shoulders. Those governments won t have the final say. The child, the Son, will have the final say. Isn t it amazing to read that our hope is so great that it goes even beyond our salvation? Salvation would surely be enough, but God in his grace gives us even more he gives us a Savior who is wise (Wonderful Counselor), powerful (Mighty God), caring (Everlasting Father) and he will rule over all and be our Prince of Peace. Think about the waits you have right now. How can the promise of future victory secured by your wise, powerful, caring and peace-filled Savior give you hope today? Thank God today for giving you hope and so much more! THURSDAY, DECEMBER 1 READ: Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. Psalm 33:20 REFLECT: Our soul waits That sounds like a deep wait, a wait that doesn t seem to have an end date. A wait that may not end on this side of heaven. Throughout our lives, we all have soul waits. It may be waiting for an answer to prayer for a loved one, waiting for a spouse, waiting for healing. The list is as long as the human race, but it s a wait that is out of our control; it feels like a waiting room with no exit signs. But again, did you notice who we are waiting for? We re waiting for the Lord. In the words of missionary martyr Jim Elliot, you are Waiting on him for whom it is no vain thing to wait. Waiting isn t Plan B. God is worth the wait. When you are waiting on God, it isn t a waste of time. God hadn t forgotten Israel and he hasn t forgotten you. There are things about life and about God that we can only learn while we wait. How can you see God s hand on your life even while you wait? Thank God today that he is always at work in your life. Pray for the hope to trust his timing. 5

8 WEEKEND PREVIEW Women s Christmas Teas this Friday & Saturday! More info at Giving Tree Grove in the lobby. Choose an angel ornament with a gift request from Salvation Army, Prison Fellowship, or Bridge of Hope. Food Drive concludes this weekend! Bring non-perishables and/or envelope with check made to Twin Lakes Church with food drive on the memo line Acappela group RESCUE with a Christmas concert Sunday 6 pm, and in all services this weekend!! FRIDAY, DECEMBER 2 READ: But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31 REFLECT: What does this verse promise us when we wait? Isn t it interesting that we re not promised answers or an end date, but are promised strength? Again, we see God s grace in the wait. He not only renews our strength, but it s abundant strength. It s a strength that allows us to mount up with wings like eagles run and not be weary walk and not faint. Isn t that just like God? He gives in abundance. Waiting does not always feel like this. Sometimes waiting feels like slogging through waist-deep, wet cement. Sometimes waiting feels more like a turkey trying to take flight than an eagle. But even in the wet-cement and turkey moments, the promise of strength remains. There will be soaring and running and walking, but it will be in God s strength and not our own. How can you rest in God today and allow him to strengthen you in the wait? Ask God to give you the patience and trust to rest in him today. SATURDAY, DECEMBER 3 READ: The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this. Isaiah 9:7b (NIV) REFLECT: All the promises that we have read this week about waiting and hope are not up to us to make happen. Whew! All the promises are accomplished in the zeal (the New Living Translation says the passionate commitment ) of the Lord Almighty. God is so eager to have a relationship with you that he sent his Son right into our history just to get to you. That s passionate commitment! We can each resign as General Manager of the universe. It s not up to me, it s not up to you the Lord Almighty will accomplish this. As you go through your day and think about your waits remind yourself the Lord Almighty will accomplish this. Thank God for his great strength and plan. 6

9 SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT, DECEMBER 4 THE BETHLEHEM CANDLE THIS WEEK S THEMES: GOD S PRESENCE & LOVE During the second week of advent, we will focus on and celebrate God s love and presence with us at Christmas and, because of Christmas, always. READ: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel (which means God with us ). Matthew 1:23 REFLECT: There are so many things that happened for us because God sent his Son, but one of the most amazing is found in this verse (which is reminding us of the prophecy in Isaiah 7:14) - God is with us. God is with you! Ever been in a room full of people (maybe at school, work or even church) and felt alone? The great news of Christmas means, we re not alone God is with us. When you struggle to feel like you fit in, God is with you. When it feels like everyone else gets picked and you are left standing alone, God is with you. When you choose to take a stand and everyone else thinks you re crazy, God is with you. How can knowing God is with you give you encouragement today? Thank God today for his moment-by-moment presence with you. MONDAY, DECEMBER 5 READ: There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear has to do with punishment 1 John 4:18a REFLECT: The love of God was expressed fully when Christ came to earth, and grew up to take all our punishment for sin upon himself! When I realize what this means that I no longer need to fear the punishment of God since my sins are forgiven God s peace and life reign in my heart! Listen to Elizabeth s song about this, which we filmed two years ago when she joined us as a guest on Christmas Eve, on today s video devo. Meditate on these words and the scripture above, and allow yourself time to bask in the love of God in Christ! Love is here, Love is here He will wipe away every tear He will cast out every fear This is love: Messiah in a baby boy Bringing love, bringing life You will reign forever in the hearts of men Hope is here, Hope is here He will wipe away every tear He will cast out every fear This is love: Messiah in a baby boy Bringing hope, bringing life You will reign forever in the hearts of men 7 Heaven came down in a manger Light came to darkness History changed through the Savior Here with us This is love

10 TUESDAY, DECEMBER 6 READ: It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed. Deuteronomy 31:8 REFLECT: This verse is encouraging both when we feel lost and alone and as we walk through our normal days. It s important to see that God is not only with you, but he goes before you. He is not surprised by the twists and turns of life. He goes before you. This is something only God can do. God promises us even more he also promises not to forsake us. To forsake something means to abandon, renounce, or desert it. God will never do that to you. You may forsake him, but he won t forsake you. He is Immanuel, God with us. How does it help you today to know that God is with you and before you? Ask him to help you live in peace today, knowing he is with you and knows the road ahead. WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 7 READ: And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. Matthew 28:20b REFLECT: It s so interesting that the book of Matthew begins with the promise of Immanuel, God with us (1:23) and ends with Jesus last recorded words to us, I am with you always, giving us one final reminder that he is Immanuel. God with us isn t just for Christmas. Because Jesus was born, died and rose again, God with us is forever. There have probably been moments in life when you didn t feel like God was with you. There have probably been moments in life when you wished he wasn t with you because you were making choices you knew were wrong. But no matter what, God is with us. What can you do today to remind yourself that God is always with you? Thank God today for his constant presence with you. 8

11 THURSDAY, DECEMBER 8 READ: For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:15-16 (NIV) REFLECT: The truths of God with us and God before us which we read yesterday get even more amazing when we read this verse. God isn t just with us, he understands us. He understands everything you go through. He understands your joys, sorrows and even your temptations. That s mind-blowing to think God understands my temptations - the big temptations that maybe no one else knows and even the little ones like sneaking an extra Christmas cookie. Because Jesus came to earth and lived life as one of us, he understands. But it gets even better! Because Jesus came to us and understands, we can now approach God s throne with confidence! What!? Imagine approaching an earthly king or queen s throne. Even though you know in your head they re human, that would be intimidating. Approach the throne of God with confidence? Yes! And not only that, this verse assures us we receive mercy and find grace there. Not what we expect, or even deserve, but it s what we receive. Thank God today that his presence with you isn t dependent on you earning it or deserving it. WEEKEND PREVIEW TLC Kids Parents Night Out Bring your kids (2 yrs 5th grade) on Friday 12/9. Crafts and dinner while you go out! $10 donation. Info: Food drive totals revealed this weekend!! If you d still like to give, bring your envelope or food to the church office before the weekend! TLC Kids Choir in all services bringing Christmas cheer! Trent, Elijah, and Tianna Smith s violin trio in all weekend services 9

12 FRIDAY, DECEMBER 9 READ: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end Lamentations 3:22 REFLECT: When these words were written, life looked dark. Israel was mourning the loss of their city and temple the place they met with God. But God reassures them that though they ve lost so much, they haven t lost him. It s so comforting to see God s grace toward us again and again throughout the Bible. Today we re reminded that God isn t just present with us, off to the side and uninterested in our daily lives. He is steadfastly loving us; he is blessing us daily with unending mercies. God doesn t just want to be present with you, he wants to lavish you with his love and mercy. This is what we really need. We may want God s presence and money, God s presence and the perfect gift, or God s presence and the perfect relationship, but what we need is God s presence and his love and mercy. Thank God for his unending mercies and steadfast love for you today and everyday! What will you do today to live in joy? Ask God to keep pointing you towards joy as you go through the Christmas season. SATURDAY, DECEMBER 10 READ: And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. Revelation 21:3-4 REFLECT: This is the amazing end of the story! At the end of all time we will see God and dwell with him. The Apostle John uses the same word here to describe God s presence with us that he used in John 1 to describe Jesus coming to earth at the first Christmas ( the Word became flesh and dwelt ). When Jesus came to earth the first time his physical presence with us was temporary, but what he did on our behalf ensured his physical presence with us for eternity. And what happens when God comes to dwell with us forever? John says he will wipe every tear from our eyes (for some of us that s lots of tears!), there will be no more death, no more mourning, no more crying, no more pain. All that s gone when God once again physically dwells with us. What excites you about the end of the story in Revelation 21? Thank God for his power and control over time and history. Pray for the faith to trust his ways. 10

13 THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT, DECEMBER 11 THE SHEPHERD S CANDLE THIS WEEK S THEME: JOY During the third week of advent, we will focus on and celebrate the joy of the first Christmas and the joy that Christ gives us in our relationship with him today. READ: And the angel said to them, Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Luke 2:10 REFLECT: The first Christmas had a lot of emotion wrapped up in it, but the one the Bible keeps pointing us to is joy. The story is similar today. Christmas still has a lot of emotion wrapped up in it. There are task lists each as long as your arm, more parties than you ve attended in the previous 11 months, expectations from yourself and others, the emotions of spending time with family. But God keeps pointing us to joy. Jesus being born is good news and the Good News is meant to bring us great joy. Joy, knowing that we don t have to fear because God is with us. Joy, knowing that because of Jesus we have peace with God. MONDAY, DECEMBER 12 READ: When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy Matthew 2:10 REFLECT: On today s daily video devo listen to Elizabeth s song Bring Your Joy to the World. It s meant as a prelude to the carol Joy to the World. It s a crying out to God for joy to come and then, as the song concludes, we recognize that true Joy has entered the world in Christ! He is bringing life and reigns with truth and grace! One day He will right every wrong and restore the world in perfect joy! As you listen, think of the confusion and heartache in the headlines and in your neighborhood and pray the chorus: Lord, bring your joy to the world! Then rejoice that the prayer is being answered in Christ. Joy to the world! The Lord has come! 11

14 TUESDAY, DECEMBER 13 READ: And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. Luke 2:20 REFLECT: The shepherds, like the wise men, didn t have all the answers. And since shepherds were not allowed in the temple (their occupation made them unclean) it s hard to imagine they even knew much about the prophecies. In other words, they weren t expecting anything to change and they didn t have a whole lot of hope for their future. Imagine their shock when they encountered the Savior, their Savior, in such humble circumstances. What joy they must have felt to realize their Savior really had become one of them. Their Savior was poor, their Savior was homeless, their Savior wasn t on the social fast track. Yet God chose to save the world he loves through the life of the little baby before their eyes. Their lives were never the same. Their days were probably the same, but their lives their hearts and their hopes were never the same again. Thank God today for the Savior sent for you. Rejoice in the truth that you were on God s mind when he sent his Son. WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 1 READ: You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. Lord my God, I will praise you forever. Psalm 30:11-12 REFLECT: When King David wrote these words they were for the dedication of the Temple. Something that David had longed to be part of. Something he wasn t sure he d get to see. He closes this hymn with a great summary of God s work in his life. God turned David s wailing such a powerful word into dancing. God replaced David s mourning with joy. God is the only one who can do this for you. He may use other people to encourage you along the way and help you, but God is the only one who can turn wailing into dancing and mourning into joy. And just like the first Christmas, joy comes with an assignment share it! David says the joy is so great, he will not be silent. Look for opportunities to share the joy of Jesus with others today. Where you find yourself wailing and mourning, ask God to give you dancing and joy today. 12

15 THURSDAY, DECEMBER 15 READ: Don t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength! Nehemiah 8:10 REFLECT: At first this verse seems harsh. Don t be dejected and don t be sad ; how in the world is that possible? When the prophet Nehemiah first said these words to the people of Israel, they were dejected and sad because they had just heard the scriptures for the first time. It was just dawning on them how far they were from God. But Nehemiah says, No, God doesn t want you to wallow don t be dejected and don t be sad the joy of the Lord will be your strength to come back to him. When we realize how far we are from God we don t have to be dejected and sad. The joy of the Lord, the joy of the Savior, is our strength. And God gives the joy it s grace again! When you re tempted to give in to sadness and dejection today say to yourself, The joy of the Lord is MY strength. WEEKEND PREVIEW Guest musicians Dave LeMieux and The House of Soul in all services with special holiday music from their album Memphis Christmas Sessions Giving Tree Grove please bring your gifts with you to church Food Drive grand total for our food drive is revealed in all services! FRIDAY, DECEMBER 16 READ: When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy. Psalm 94:19 REFLECT: When we re feeling anxious, even overwhelmingly anxious, God s comfort can fill us with the opposite emotion joy. And just as we saw yesterday, we don t have to work for or earn this joy. In his kindness, God brings us joy. You may be frozen in anxiety, feeling like you can t take one step towards God. It s ok, God will bring you joy. Wherever you are physically or emotionally, God can bring you joy today. Keep your eyes open for the ways God is bringing you joy today 13

16 SATURDAY, DECEMBER 17 READ: Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. Habakkuk 3:17-18 REFLECT: Right out of the gate, these verses list six things that are not going well. Isn t that like life? Trouble comes in clumps! Then after the list of bad things, there s the little three-letter word, yet. The prophet Habakkuk spent the previous two chapters spilling out his troubles to God, basically defying God to act. But slowly, as Habakkuk prays to God, he is changed. His circumstances are not, but he is. Suddenly, Habakkuk switches his focus from all that s dead and gone, to the Lord, his Savior. And he doesn t just focus on him; he rejoices in him, he finds joy in him. What an amazing way to live. Honest about life s troubles, but honest about where your true life is found in God your Savior. As you look at the things that feel broken in your life today, how can you switch your focus to rejoicing in your God and Savior? FOURTH SUNDAY OF ADVENT, DECEMBER 18 THE ANGEL S CANDLE THIS WEEK S THEME: PEACE During the final week of advent, we will talk about the peace on earth that Jesus brings. His first advent brought peace to our hearts and our relationship with God. His second advent will bring peace to every corner of our world! READ: And the angel said to her, Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Luke 1:30 REFLECT: Can you imagine being face-to-face with an angel? When we read about angels in the Bible they frequently begin by saying some variation of Don t fear! And that s how the angel begins his conversation with Mary. The angel doesn t say, Don t be afraid because I am not really scary. He says, Don t be afraid for you have found favor with God. Favor isn t a word we often use in this way. It means goodwill, kindness, grace. While Mary certainly played a special role in history, she was in need of God s favor just as much as we are. And here s the really good news. Because Jesus was born, God says to you and me today, Do not be afraid, you have found favor with God. Let that roll around in your mind today. Talk about the path to peace! Thank God today for his favor on you. 14

17 CHRISTMAS CANDLELIGHT PREVIEW 12/23 at 5:30 & 7pm; 12/24 at 3, 4:30, & 6pm Special services featuring: TLC vocal ensemble, special soloists, and orchestra Trent Smith leading your favorite Christmas carols Candle lighting Inspiring Christmas devotional message from René PLUS on Christmas Sunday at 11am a completely different, intimate acoustic service with Elizabeth Hunnicut leading worship and a special Christmas day message by René Schlaepfer AND a special service for those mourning a loved one Remembering If you are grieving a loss this holiday season, join us for this intimate, brief service to light a candle and reflect on the love of Jesus. 12/23 at 6:30pm; 12/24 at 5:30pm in Monschke Hall MONDAY, DECEMBER 19 READ: Because of the tender mercy of our God the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace. Luke 1:78,79 REFLECT: Our world is in a lot of turmoil right now. There s fighting and war. Many are also experiencing inner conflict. That s why Elizabeth wrote her song Prince of Peace, inspired by the words you see here from Luke s gospel. You can hear it in today s video devo. In Luke 1:78,79 Zechariah is singing a song of joy about his son John, who would become the famous John the Baptist and prepare the way for Jesus ministry. In her song based on these verses, Elizabeth asks God to guide our feet into the path of peace. The world needs people who are determined to walk a path of peace! We also need to be people of peace for our own spiritual health. Sometimes the circumstances we face seem to call for fear or dread. Ask God to help you be a peaceful person today. Because of what Jesus did for you on the cross, you can live with His peace. Make this song your prayer today! 15

18 TUESDAY, DECEMBER 20 READ: 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. Luke 2:8-9 REFLECT: Shepherds were not easily frightened people. These were tough guys who were used to the wild and used to defending themselves. Yet they see the glory of the Lord and they re terrified. You know what? God s glory is terrifying! Not because God is mean, but because God is overwhelming. Overwhelming in holiness, overwhelming in love and overwhelming in peace. Sometimes we feel overwhelmed by life, by fear, by control, by desire, and we forget that God is more overwhelming. Jesus told his disciples, just before he was going die and things were going to look completely overwhelming, that we can be at peace because he has overcome the world (John 16:33). No matter the circumstances, our peace is secured because Jesus was born and Jesus has overcome! Knowing that God has overcome the world, how can you live in peace today? WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 21 READ: Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests. Luke 2:14 REFLECT: The Bible tells us a great company of angels spoke these words together. Can you imagine the thunderous roar of praise? Wow! The shepherds must have felt very small in that moment. But just like we saw yesterday, this powerful and thunderous message is one of peace. The angels are shouting God s glory and in the same breath reassuring us of God s peace and his favor his grace. You know, shepherds were not favored by the people around them. No one wanted to be around them and they weren t trusted by others. They were isolated, poor and very low on the social ladder. Yet, God chooses to thunder his message of grace to them first! And it s the same today. Maybe you feel like the shepherds, low on the social ladder, maybe you re poor or isolated. Or maybe on the outside you look high on the social ladder, surrounded by friends and money, but on the inside you feel like a shepherd. No matter where you are, God s peace and favor are thundering for you today. Listen for God s thundering peace and grace in your life today. 16

19 THURSDAY, DECEMBER 22 READ: And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14 REFLECT: The Apostle John refers to Jesus as the Word the revealer of who God is. Think of all the ways God could have chosen to reveal himself to us. He could have created some spectacular display of power that would have left no doubt in anyone s mind that he was God. But he chose to reveal himself by becoming one of us, taking on flesh and dwelling with us. Think about the difference between hosting a guest and dwelling with someone. By choosing to dwell with us, Jesus opened the door for a relationship with him. He opened the door for an abundant life with him. He opened the door to ensure we could eternally dwell with him. Thank God today for coming to dwell with us. Ask God to use your life and words today to reveal him to those you encounter. FRIDAY, DECEMBER 23 READ: For to us a child is born, to us a son is given Isaiah 9:6a REFLECT: To us a child is born to us a son is given. This is personal! The promise is for you! The hope is for you! Let that sweep over you today. It s easy to believe the lie that God intended this for someone else someone more deserving of his promises. But remember Isaiah 9:2? This is for people dwelling in a land of deep darkness. If you feel on the margins of God s love, if you feel on the margins of society s ideals, on the margins of your relationships, take heart because the promises are for you the hope is for you. And look who we re waiting for - we re waiting for a child, God s son, who is given to us. He is given to you! You don t have to beg for him, you don t have to earn him. He is given. The hope is given to you. How does it encourage you today to know that God s hope is given to you? 17

20 CHRISTMAS EVE, DECEMBER 24 THE CHRIST CANDLE THEME: SALVATION READ: While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. Luke 2:6-7 REFLECT: This is it! Jesus is born! Thousands of years of promise are at last fulfilled - and two people are there. And there is a shared room with livestock. Mary and Joseph must have felt like nothing was going the way they hoped. Jesus humble and quiet beginnings remind us that circumstances don t determine our hope and circumstances don t determine our peace. God s biggest miracles sometimes start so small and so quietly we almost don t notice them. You can be at peace when, as the old hymn says, All around my soul gives way knowing that God is just getting started. God has a plan. No matter how small the start is or how big the storm gets, God is with you. His peace will be your strength and your hope. When things aren t going the way you hoped today, ask God to remind you of his peace. CHRISTMAS DAY, DECEMBER 25 READ: Shout for joy, you heavens; rejoice, you earth; burst into song, you mountains! For the LORD comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones. Isaiah 49:13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men! Luke 2:13,14 REFLECT: It s finally Christmas Day! Let your heart be full of the joy and comfort and peace that God wants to lavish upon you! You can listen to Elizabeth s song on today s video devo and receive God s love in Christ as His glorious gift to you! Pray for all to know God s comfort and joy on this day. 18

21 ADVENT OUTREACH IDEAS: 1. Select a gift tag from one of the Giving Grove Trees in the church lobby. 2. Make or buy a frozen main dish to give to someone. If no one in your circle of friends needs a meal right now, be on the lookout the next two weeks for someone you can share that meal with. 3. Do something kind for one of your family members today. 4. Write a letter to a soldier. If you don t personally know a soldier you can write a thank you note and send it to: America s Adopt a Soldier, P.O. Box 1049, Springfield, VA and it ll get delivered to a soldier who needs mail. 5. Give a compliment to three different people today. 6. Try to find at least one thing to do to help someone today and try to do it without being noticed. 7. Write a letter to an older relative or friend. 8. Leave a thank you note for your mailman or garbage/recycling collectors. 9. Ask at least one person today how you can pray for them and then don t forget to pray for them! 10. Let someone go ahead of you today in line at the store, on the freeway, at school, at the coffee shop, etc. 11. Think of one person to thank for their impact on your life and then take a moment to call, text, , Facebook or write them. 12. Be on the lookout for people who seem weary and need a smile, an arm around the shoulder and a Merry Christmas today. 13. Leave flowers on someone s doorstep. Or buy socks, a coat or a blanket and drop them off at a shelter or the Salvation Army to help keep people warm this winter. 14. Bake (or buy) and deliver a treat for someone today maybe a neighbor, co-workers, an elderly person in your life, anyone whose day you can brighten! 15. Write an encouraging note or to someone. 19

22 16. Call someone you haven t spoken to for awhile. 17. Buy a poinsettia or small plant and bring it to someone in a nursing home. You don t have to know them- ask the nurse at the front desk for the name of someone who doesn t get many visitors. 18. Pick up litter in your neighborhood or at a beach. 19. Buy a grocery store or gas gift card for someone you know in need and give it them anonymously. If you don t know anyone in need of food or gas, call the church office ( ) and we will find a person for you to bless! 20. Offer to do a task or run an errand for someone today. 21. Pick up some cans of food to bring to church and donate to our People s Pantry food bank. Here are some things we always need: tuna, peanut butter, soup, canned beans, canned fruits and canned vegetables. 22. Hold the door open for someone today and give him or her a smile. 23. Put a $5 bill (or any denomination!) in an envelope, write Merry Christmas on the outside and leave it under someone s windshield wiper. 24. Buy a box of hot chocolate and a bag of marshmallows to either give away for a family to have a special Christmas moment or invite some folks to join you for an impromptu cocoa party. 25. Buy coffee or tea for someone today. 26. Write a thank you note to your local police/sheriff department or fire station. 20


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