Advent Readings for 12/16 – 12/22/2018

Sunday, December 16

Isaiah 15:2-6

Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid;
for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.”

Exodus 15 tells the story of the Israelites celebrating and singing a song that told of the defeat of the Egyptians at the parting of the Red Sea.  “I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider, he has thrown into the sea.  The Lord is my strength and my song,  and he has become my salvation.”   Seven hundred years later, Isaiah draws on this same idea to celebrate the Root of Jesse that will save God’s people again.  The Lord is my strength and my song, and has become my salvation.

Many years ago in a church camp, much like our own Lakeshore, we sat around a bonfire singing, “The Lord my God, my strength and my song, has now become my victory.”  I doubt very seriously we knew what that meant, or the historical significance, but we loved to sing it.  It was a joyful witness to how good God is to us.

What does it mean that God is our strength or our song?  We may claim that Jesus is our savior, but what do we really mean when we say that?

In difficult seasons I have heard many people say, and I have said myself, God is my strength.  We only made it through by the grace of God.  It was God who carried us, God who supported us.  But day to day, I wonder how dependent we are on strength that comes from God.

So many songs have been “my song!”  I find a new one in a special season and that’s “it.”  God’s song is more than a temporary tune that comes along, speaks to a specific time, and fades away.  God’s song is eternal, always the right word in the right time.  It is satisfying more for its constant presence, more for the gentled whispered refrains that reassure us over and over again that we are in the palm of God’s hand.

Our salvation is for our past, our present, and our future.  “I know who goes before us, I know who stands behind,” one of our songs reminds us.  The Alpha and Omega is our confidence, our beginnings and endings are in good Hands.  Sue Engle

Monday, December 17

Hebrews 13: 8

“Jesus Christ is the same Yesterday, Today and Forever.”         In a world full of changes all around us, it is a comfort to me to recognize that Jesus (The Word) is the Plumb Line by which everything has to be judged. However I choose to live my life before others, I want it always to line up with the Jesus that is the same yesterday, today and forever. That means we have to search Him out and really know Him in order to live according to His Word, His plan. So who is this Jesus?

Jesus went about doing good. He was consistently constant. He honored his father and mother. He was fully God and fully man. He was a servant. He studied the Scripture. He didn’t run away when trouble came.  He was a friend who stood closer than a brother.

Jesus healed the sick, opened the eyes of the blind and made the lame to walk. He taught in the temple, on the hillside and from a boat. He loved the little children. He asked God “Why?”.  He was full of The Holy Spirit.  He made no distinction between man because of social class.  As The Father loved Him, so He loved others.

Jesus forgave and did not condemn.  He fed the hungry and clothed the naked. He fellowshipped with saints and sinners alike. He walked with God. He gave His life for us.  He was a great storyteller and often spoke The Word in parables.  He rejoiced, yet He also wept. When others reviled Him, He didn’t try to get even.

Jesus was crucified and three days later was raised from the dead.  He ascended into Heaven and gave us His Holy Spirit.  He is at the right hand of God, and EVER LIVES to make intercession for us.

And to think…we were made in the image of God, and when we receive Jesus, we are made joint heirs with him!  Doesn’t this sound like one that we would want to follow; like one we would want to imitate?  Like someone we can trust and entrust our lives to? Can you even imagine that He wants to fellowship with us?

This season of Advent, lean in very closely to hear the voice of God, the voice of wisdom and understanding.  Come away from the hustle and bustle of the world where Christmas has become so stressful for so many, and get still before Him.  Then tell Him how grateful you are for His love and His “Peace that passes all understanding.” (Philippians 4:7)Thank Him for His goodness, His mercy, His compassion and His provision to meet every need you will ever have. Spend time in the Word of God, searching out this Christ Child of Christmas, the greatest gift of all times!

Then when you go back out into the world, see it through His eyes and be the person who will offer hope to the hopeless and love to the forgotten. Let Jesus be Jesus in you, a beacon of light in a dark world.  For the same Jesus that was, still IS, and forever will be! He will never go back on His Word, and He will never leave us nor forsake us, even till the end of time! (Hebrews 13:5)  What a reason to celebrate Christmas! What a reason to celebrate every day!  Lord, let it be so in our lives! Amen! Marsha Beaton

Tuesday, December 18

Acts 28: 23-31 

Paul, the apostle, was finally in Rome having journeyed for long periods of time and surviving much danger and persecution along the way. On this occasion, Paul is speaking with a large number of local Jews and Jewish leaders who have heard about him and the Christian sect in Rome. They want to know more and hear “up front” what this sect is about and what Paul, himself, knows and believes. He has testified and taught about Jesus and the kingdom of God from both all day and on into the evening.

Newsflash! What? The people who had come didn’t all agree about it?

Some were convinced, but others would not believe.  Paul then closed the day’s gathering with these words: “The Holy Spirit spoke the truth to your ancestors when he said through Isaiah the prophet:

“‘Go to this people and say,
“You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.”
“For this people’s heart has become calloused;
they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts, and turn, and I would heal them.’”

So here we are today, centuries come and gone. We’ve heard, we have been told the story of God’s love for His people, of His only Son, Jesus, who gave His life that we may live, and of the Holy Spirit who is present in every person who has given his/her life to Christ. If, indeed, I believe and know the story, and have experienced it personally, shouldn’t I, like Paul, be anxious and ready to share it with someone who may never hear it if I don’t?

Am I keeping my ears open to hear God’s voice?

Am I keeping my eyes open to see the needs of others as I go about the day?

Is my heart open to understanding all He has for me in His plan?

Does my life speak the love of God and make another want to know Jesus?

I pray to grow in my witness, knowing that “God goes before us, behind us, and He is the one who saves” –   He has known the end from the beginning.

Nancy Page

Wednesday, December 19

Micah 4: 8-13

The book of Micah emphasizes the divine purposes of Jerusalem – God’s social, political, and religious community – and that city’s failure to show God’s mercy and justice to its own people, and the rest of the world. It predicts God’s correction of Jerusalem through judgment – the advancing military threat of Assyria — to be followed by Jerusalem’s restoration to God’s intended use.

Micah includes hope for Jerusalem based on God’s purposes for Israel and the world.

Most people, at some point in their lives, face a time of exile. Perhaps a bad choice was made — by you, a family member, someone who had dominion over your life. You find yourself living in a way that God did not intend, that you may not have intended as a child, young adult or whenever you started planning your life’s work. You may recognize that poor direction yourself, or it may be pointed out by someone whom God has placed in your life.

For some, exile offers guidance through remembering what you had. That could be in the form of being part of a loving community, or physical comforts, or satisfaction that your life was honorable and glorifying God. The memories of what was reality, even though it is now absent, can serve as incentive for self-examination on changes that need to be made to restore that good life.

Perhaps you feel you were born into this exile: that life has never blossomed, that you don’t have nice memories to draw strength from. God tells us that rescue remains possible, “from the hands of your enemies.” The decision to arise rests with you.

Chris Ash

Thursday, December 20

Psalm 80: 3

Restore us, O God.  Make your face shine on us that we may be saved.   Psalm 80: 3

Little did I realize when I was growing up how very blessed I was to have Christian parents who not only took me to church but went with me – every time the church doors were opened (it seemed at the time).

As Methodists, we didn’t have Wednesday night services – only Sunday morning and Sunday evening services.  An hour before the Sunday evening service, the teenagers gathered for Methodist Youth Fellowship (MYF).  Our group was huge in number and a good mix of guys and gals.  We did some mission work, raised funds for UNICEF, had some rather serious theological discussions, and had a really fun time as our group fellowshipped together.

Our MYF group never failed to dismiss without praying the MYF benediction from Numbers 6: 24-36.

Many of you will remember it:

“The Lord bless you and keep you;

The Lord make His face shine upon you,

And be gracious to you;

The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,

And give you peace.”

I wasn’t aware at that time that the words of this benediction were the words Moses had been instructed by God to use to bless the people of Israel.  I wonder how many times have we been blessed by God’s face shining upon us?  When God’s face shines upon us, upon our hearts and our lives, shouldn’t we – like Moses after he experienced the presence of God on Mount Sinai – radiate God’s glory?  Exodus 34:29 states that Moses was “not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken to the Lord.”  Isn’t that what we should be striving for – to have such a close relationship with God that we too are “not aware” that our faces are radiant after being in His presence?

This Advent season, how can we not shine with the Light of Christ as evidence of His face shining upon us and the Holy Spirit’s presence within us.  Just as God’s glory shone around the shepherds when the angels announced to them the birth of Jesus, may we too shine with the Light of Christ as we welcome our Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

Trena Tucker

Friday, December 21

Hebrews 10:34-35

“You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.  So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.” Hebrews 10:34-35

I had a special coworker when I worked at one of our local high schools a few years back. He was a good teacher, well respected and liked by all. The last year the high school was open was a stressful time for all of us. Packing up the school was an immense job, and added to that was the stress of waiting to hear who would still have their job, who would get a transfer, or who would be let go.

This co-worker and I, and a lot of the group I worked with, as Christians, we knew it would all work out, exactly as God would have it be. Hebrews 10:34-35 tells us that if we have done what God has asked of us, with joy in our hearts, we will be richly rewarded with so much more than earthly possessions. This passage lets us know that no matter what happens, even if our home and all we have are taken away, we are still far richer than those without the joyful hope of what it means to be a follower of Christ Jesus.

The co-worker I mentioned had more of a burden than most that last year at the high school. He and his wife had a precious little boy, and they had become parents a second time. This time, it was twins, two girls. There were complications, as there often are with preemies. Throughout much of the school year, this young man would leave right after the last bell to rush to the hospital. There he would spend the nights talking to his sweet new babies while his wife tried to get some rest.

Yes, he was tired and worn thin, but I never saw him lose hope. I never saw fear in his eyes, and I never saw defeat on his face. He and his wife, rich in faith, never seemed to waiver in knowing it was going to be as God wanted it to be.

Recently I reconnected with my co-worker when I saw him on my Emmaus weekend. God did not fail him and his family, and He continues to bless their confidence and faith in Him. My friend’s family, including beautiful, healthy children, will be moving to Africa next year to be missionaries. They have already sold their house, and continue to have steadfast faith in God’s promises. Today let us all take the time to nurture that tiny flame of faith and trust, and allow it to grow into a wildfire that cannot be contained.

Prayer: Father God, author of all creation, help us to stand firmly on the rock of Your word. To joyfully be Your hands and feet to those in need. Help our unbelief Lord, that we may glorify you Father. In the precious name of our savior Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.   Gail Massey

Saturday, December 22

Isaiah  66:7-11

What a wild question God asks. “How is it that a birth comes before the time of labor?” It is a birth that is “out of season.”? Without warning, without pain, and without labor a Son is suddenly born. Who has heard of such a thing? Who has seen such things? Shall a land be born in one day? Shall a nation be brought forth in one moment?

The questions in the latter passage shifts the focus from the birth of the Son to the birth of a nation. Is it possible, in this day and time to believe that an entire nation of descendants, as was promised to Abraham, holy and great, can fulfil this promise?

There is a story of a Jewish Talmud teacher whose students started falling asleep on him, so he said, “Did you know that there once was a woman who delivered 600,000 children in one day?” That shocking statement woke his students up again, and he proceeded with his lecture on Jochabed, Moses’ mother. In giving birth to Moses, she gave birth to the future freedom of 600,000 Jews from Egypt!

The Lord predicts that Zion will give birth to the Messiah without labor, but then He predicts that Jerusalem will come under labor to produce “her children.” If the Messiah can come forth without labor, why do the rest of Zion’s children require labor?

God brings forth His people in maturity through “labor” which is equated to difficult processes that produce maturity. Whether it be the loss of a child, a job, the sandpaper people in your life, God must ultimately be in your midst.

So today, are you caught in “labor pains”? Pray without ceasing, deliverance will come. When God says “Shall I bring to the point of birth and not bring forth?” He is giving hope to those who experience the pains of labor.

Like a woman giving birth, you will pass through the most intense moment just before giving birth and the resulting birth will be so glorious that it will cause all memory of the previous pain to pass away.

As we strengthen our souls as disciples, encouraging others in the faith, and know that as we endure many tribulations, we will enter the kingdom of God.

Rhonda Ash