Advent Readings 12/23 – 1/3/2019
Sunday, December 23
“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!”
Oh to have been a fly on the wall of this meeting between Elizabeth and Mary. Elizabeth was considered by many to be too old for children. Mary would be considered to be too young, and too single, to be the mother of the child she was carrying. Yet, both of them, through the miraculous, were expecting these extraordinary children.
So many questions must have come to mind through the years, and so often Mary’s thoughts must have returned to the days she shared with Elizabeth. Did she remember when John baptized Jesus in the Jordan River? Did she think of this day when John was arrested and later executed? When she stood at the cross, did she remember the joy that she and Elizabeth shared at the wonder of that day?
Mary must have had many dark days when she wondered about what it meant to be blessed among women. At Jesus’ death she must have wondered how this crucifixion could possibly be evidence that her child had been blessed. She offers hope and encouragement for all of us when all that we thought we knew is rocked from its foundations, and we are at a loss to see God’s hand at work.
This meeting was evidence of the promise God made to Mary. Our God moments are evidence of the promise that God continues to make with us. Disciplining ourselves to find God in the ordinary creates these moments for us to return to over and over again when all seems lost.
We sing “here we raise our Ebenezer” in the hymn “Come Thou Fount”. An Ebenezer is literally defined as a rock or a stone of help. It marks those moments when you know that God is with you, that God delivered you in one way or another. There is no doubt, this time with Elizabeth was an Ebenezer for Mary, and God knew she would need it.
Where are you raising your
Monday, December 24
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light: those who lived in a land of deep darkness – on them light has shined.”
Tonight, many around the world will celebrate special Christmas Eve services. The star that stood over the manger where Christ was born is always bigger and brighter than all the other stars. In the ancient world, it was believed that when a new star appeared in the sky it signaled the birth of someone special. There is no one more special than Jesus.
There are still parts of the world that live in darkness. We have friends and neighbors that live in darkness. What if this Christmas we invited them to the star and offered them the experience of meeting someone special?
A Christmas song that is sung all around the world and is familiar to each one of us is “Silent Night”. The first verse speaks of a calmness and brightness that was present upon that special night over 2,000 years ago. That same calmness and brightness is available to us and to everyone in Jesus Christ.
Have a blessed Christmas tomorrow.
Tuesday, December 25
John 1: 1-14
John 1: 14 “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us”.
Happy Birthday Jesus! This is the Reason for the Season that we have been waiting for!
Is there anything more special than a newborn baby, fresh from Heaven, wrapped in a soft blanket and snuggled in your arms? This truly is what Christmas means. God has come into the world, born of a virgin, in the form of the Christ Child.
John 1:1 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” By digging a little deeper, I asked why He was called “the Word”. The answer that made the most sense to me was that it was for communication. He exists, has always existed for all eternity for the sake of communication with the Father.
John 1:4 “In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men.” Again, this precious baby came to be the Light of the World and He continues to be a bright light in a sometimes very dark world.
Receive this gift this Christmas: God sent His Son to the world, as a baby, to be one of us, to die on a cross to save us and for eternity to be our Lord and Savior.
As Christmas Day comes to an end, try not to dwell on the torn wrapping paper, empty boxes, dirty dishes and all the busyness and chaos of the season. Be thankful for the Gift that God gave us all those centuries ago…the Word became flesh, in the form of a baby, sent to save the world.
Christmas Blessings to All!
Wednesday, December 26
Pentecost had come and gone. The large crowds had dissipated and most visitors to the city had returned to their respective villages and countries. To the average Jew, Jerusalem looked much like it had prior to Passover.
Underneath the surface bustle of the city, members of the Sanhedrin could easily detect that the death of Christ had not quelled the Christianity movement. His apostles were openly preaching, healing and adding to their numbers daily. While this proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead was of great concern to members of the Sanhedrin, the rapid growth of the Jerusalem Church was presenting increasing concerns for the apostles as well.
Our first indication of discord comes in Acts 6:1-7 where we read that the Greek speaking widows (and certainly their children as well) were being over looked in the distribution of food. While this situation was most likely unintentional and a function of the language barrier the situation had to be rectified. The apostles recognized that their calling was to teach and preach the gospel and a hands-on resolution of this concern was beyond their time and energy resources.
The apostles accordingly chose to delegate the food distribution responsibilities to seven wise and godly Greek speaking men (one being Stephen). The seven graciously accepted their role and a more equitable distribution of food was organized. Over time, additional areas of administrative responsibility were delegated to willing servants of the Church further freeing the apostles to fulfill their mission of teaching, preaching and heeling. So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith (Acts 6:7)
In the present day
Thursday, December 27
“Follow me!” “You must follow me.”
We all strive to follow Jesus. Whether we were early believers or came to Jesus later in life, we know where we want to be—following Jesus and his Commandments. However, sometimes in my life while I thought that I was following Jesus, I turned around not only to make sure others were following him, but also to ensure that I was following him just a little better than they were! In John 21:21, Peter was all about following Jesus, but he wanted to make sure that no one was getting a better deal than he was. Jesus was quick to let Peter know that it wasn’t his place to worry about comparing himself to others, but it was Peter’s job to be a true and loyal disciple, to feed Jesus’ sheep, and to ultimately die for Jesus’ sake.
Compare, compare, compare. Unless I think closely about it, I don’t realize that I am comparing so many things in my life to others. Then I bring myself to my senses and often hear Jesus saying to me “what is that to you!” (John 21:22). I discover that I have gathered several sins together including pride, envy, and putting the god of material things above the true God and have followed not Jesus but my own foolish desires.
God made it very plain in Proverbs 8:32 that we were to listen to him and keep his ways. Those who do will find life; those who don’t will find death. Life or death? The choice should be easy–eternal life with the Father who sent his own Son into the world to die for our sins! So why do we make the choice difficult? Just as Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, what about him?” (John 21:21b), we feel the necessity to compare our lives to others rather than truly believing that “those who find me find life and receive favor from the Lord” (Proverbs 8:35). During this Advent season, I plan to practice listening to the Lord—truly listening and to quit comparing my life to others; while consciously attempting to obey Jesus’ admonishment to Peter, “You must follow me.” (John 21:22).
Friday, December 28
We have celebrated the birth of Christ. We waited in anticipation of and prepared for this day for weeks.
But now Christmas is over; the advent wreath has been lighted, carols have been sung, and soon the Chrismon tree will be taken down and packed away until next year. It’s a little sad, isn’t it?
BUT WAIT—Our celebration is not complete. Now we celebrate the second coming of Christ. Of all the great things we celebrate, this is the greatest. Again, we wait in anticipation of and preparation for this glorious day…the day the Lord will return to earth, taking His place on the throne as the King for all time. He will make all things new—a new Heaven and a new earth; the New Jerusalem. There will be no sadness, no sin, no death and believers will spend eternity with Him, our Lord and Savior.
We long for this place He has promised even if we can’t comprehend it. Of all the beautiful sights we have seen, they will pale in comparison to what God has planned for us. The world, as we know it, will be made right and none of the brokenness will remain.
Christ came over 2,000 years ago and will be coming back again as the fulfillment of all that was promised by His first coming.
But for now, we must wait.
Saturday, December 29
I Corinthians 3: 10-17
By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. For no one can lay any foundation other that the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. (v 10-11)
I first learned the importance of a firm foundation by singing children’s songs in Sunday School. Remember: the wise man built his house upon the rock; the foolish man built his house upon the sand…and the rains came.
Recently, I have had the opportunity to volunteer in kindergarten and play the game Jenga. At first, the students just pull out a random piece and watch the tower collapse. With practice, each student learns to choose more wisely. If calculated correctly, even a bottom piece can be removed and the tower remains standing.
And so, it goes with my life…the rains come…the rug gets pulled out from under my feet. Will I crumble? Will I stand?
I must not be distracted from my work by worldly endeavors. I must not succumb to the temptation to use inferior materials. I must not waiver in my resolve to see the project through to completion.
I must continue to build on the firm foundation of Jesus Christ.
Sunday, December 30
And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”
I love this story in Luke. It is rich and wonderful, from the theological perspective, the tradition perspective, the parenting perspective. It is the kind of story that you can relate to in so many ways. How many of us have family traditions around our faith that help identify who we are as people and how we live together? What a gift to have this moment in Jesus’ life, at twelve years old, when he gives his parents a word they remember always. Where else would I be but in my Father’s House?
The week between Christmas and New Year is a great time to reflect on our family traditions, both within our family and in the larger context of the church family or our community. What are the things we do that help us know who we are? As we gather around the table together, what are the stories we tell every year that are classic for us?
Today I am remembering the countless Christmases when I was a child. The gifts are mostly a blur, but a few I remember. I remember clearly the decorating of the Christmas tree, not that it was always peaceful, but that we did it together. I remember the card table my mom set up every year where we made Christmas crafts out of last years Christmas cards. I remember the family photo taken every Christmas morning, wearing the Christmas pajamas my grandmother made. When I close my eyes, I can clearly picture the many Christmas Eves that we spent in worship at 7:00 and again at 11:00, and the party at the choir director’s home in between. Every year as I travel home from Christmas Eve worship, I too think, “Where else would I be but in my Father’s House?”
I wonder if the Kingdom of God isn’t just the practice of always being in my “Father’s House”. I am not sure that necessarily means the church building, but the practice of being mindful of God’s moment by moment presence in my life and in seeking out brothers and sisters in Christ to discuss the things of God. Perhaps that’s a great new years resolution!
Monday, December 31
“Again, Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life’.”
On our honeymoon, my wife and I experience the darkest darkness that either one of us had ever experienced. We were in the bowels of Mammoth Cave. Our venture to this point had been amazing and beautiful. The formations were astounding, and the colors were amazing. We had light. Then our guide told us to stand in one place and not move. On cue, the lights were turned off. We could not see each other or anyone else. We couldn’t even see our hand in front of our face. It was the darkest dark we had ever experienced.
When we look around we see a lot of darkness in the world today. We see nations at war with each other. We see individuals not being very civil or nice to each other. We see death from natural catastrophes and illnesses. There is darkness in our daily lives.
Our text tells that Jesus is the light of the world. If we walk with Him, we will never walk in darkness, and we will have Him with us wherever we might be. Jesus overcomes the darkness. This is the last day of this year. As we finish 2018, Jesus invites us to join with him in walking in his light.
Tuesday, January 1
“Oh Lord, our God, how majestic is Your name!”
Aren’t these exciting words of proclamation and praise? God, You are worthy of them for You have made Your sovereignty and excellence clear throughout all of creation! What an astounding, phenomenal God we serve! And that same God finds you wondrous, marvelous, extraordinary, unique and so much more! How’s that for adjectives? But how can we talk about Psalm 8 and the character of God without describing Him in awesome terms?
Please imagine looking up on a dark night at the vast sky when it is scattered with bright, blinking stars. Would you feel like a small child? Or perhaps like a tiny speck on the earth, so small that even you are barely aware of your own existence. Well be fully aware of this, that’s not how God envisions you! Nor is it how He thinks of you! You are His precious, valued child, full of worth and He can’t enjoy you enough! He would love to have all of your time and attention all to Himself but that’s not His plan. He wants to grow you even more in His image so you can bring glory to Him. That’s a lot of trust. He must surely have a high opinion of your ability if He believes you can bring glory to Him!
When we were children, He created something special in us so that we would be able to focus more deeply on Him in our worship and praise. It was an ability to see Him more clearly and express ourselves spontaneously, honestly and without reserve. You remember that feeling when you were a kid on the ball field and you finally caught the ball. You jumped up and down with arms and legs moving erratically, screaming at the top of your game voice and fell to the ground rolling in the dirt! Some of your best memories may be of how fun it was and how free it felt… livin’ the good life! We are well aware of this in our own children. We always love that childlike freedom! But, you know, so does God! He loves to receive that flow of love and worship from us.
Children are free to trust, love and praise God freely with laughter, dancing and joy. Too soon some of that freedom leaves us as the world chips away at us one way or another and our spontaneity fades. But God placed that in us as a child so we would always be able to love Him honestly and openly from our hearts without reservation or fear.
How can our God who is so loving and awe-inspiring think so highly of us? It’s just hard to believe Him when the men and women of this earth can tear us down and we let their words win over His. Eventually, our self images become distorted if we give credence to their words. Those who suffer from low self-esteem don’t get that way because God has accused them of being bad or not measuring up. He can’t do that. It is not in His nature. That has come from the mouths of humans. But He said we were made “a little lower than God and crowned with glory and honor.” So when you feel unworthy, undeserving or unloved step back and remember who you are! To God you are highly esteemed! And upon you is the noble fingerprint of the Creator of heaven and earth because you were created in His image, too! You are not defined by what you’ve done but by who you are. Oh, Lord! Your name is truly Majestic! And You are Lord Over All The Earth! Donna Seltzer
Wednesday, January 2
James 3: 13-18
“Are any of you wise and understanding? Show that your actions are good with a humble lifestyle that comes from wisdom. However, if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, then stop bragging and living in ways that deny the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above. Instead, it is from the earth, natural and demonic. Wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there is disorder and everything that is evil. What of the wisdom from above? First, it is pure, and then peaceful, gentle, obedient, filled with mercy and good actions, fair, and genuine. Those who make peace sow the seeds of justice by their peaceful acts.”
Don’t deny the Truth of God. Others in the world are able to see by our conduct and works if it is God whom we follow or Worldly Values that encourage bitter jealousy and selfish ambition that step on others to gain what we want.
Choose wisely who you will follow. To be a Christian, it is important to follow three steps. First, know God with a personal relationship. Trust him. Next, seek God’s instruction by reading the Bible daily. You can’t follow God if you don’t know what his word says. Finally, act according to what you know is right as a follower of Christ.
Mature Christians are open to reason and full of mercies fresh every day. (We forgive and forget after it is over.) Also, we believe that all people are worthy of Christ’s love. Deacon Palmer, father of Arnold Palmer, taught his son how to grip a golf club and how to swing it. But, that is not all that Deacon taught his son. One day as they were talking, Deacon said to Arnold “Don’t tell them how good you are, show them.” We, as Christians, should take the same advice.
Thursday, January 3
After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before. All his brothers and sisters and everyone who had known him before came and ate with him in his house. They comforted and consoled him over all the trouble the Lord had brought on him, and each one gave him a piece of silver and a gold ring. The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part. He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand donkeys. And he also had seven sons and three daughters. The first daughter he named Jemimah, the second Keziah and the third Keren-Happuch. Nowhere in all the land were there found women as beautiful as Job’s daughters, and their father granted them an inheritance along with their brothers. After this, Job lived a hundred and forty years; he saw his children and their children to the fourth generation. And so Job died, an old man and full of years.
Most of us know the story of Job. He had everything he could ever need or want, but he lost it all. When Job had plenty, do you think he thanked God everyday? Do you think he appreciated what he had? The scriptures tell us that Job was a man of God: that he loved God and praised God, not only when things were good, but also when things were bad.
Recently I was very sick for about 24 hours. When I woke up the next morning feeling mostly normal I was so enormously grateful to be well. The crazy thing is, I wake up feeling well most every day and don’t give it a second thought! After being so sick, being well seemed like such a blessing. The thing I don’t realize is that being well is a tremendous blessing every day, whether I acknowledge it or not.
I do not know if Job appreciated things when they were good for him or if he, like most of us, took them for granted. But I can imagine that Job never considered that things could be even better. How often do we grow content with what we have or how things are? How often do we settle for less than God’s best for us?
In this passage, we read that the Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part. That’s pretty remarkable. God not only restored Job’s wealth and family, but He increased it. He made it even better than it had been before. Not only were his blessings numerically greater, his appreciation of those blessings was likely much greater because of the trials through which he had suffered.
At Trinity, we have walked through some hard times. But I would challenge us to consider whether we are looking expectantly towards what God will continue to do in our midst, or whether we are happy and content with the way things are. His blessings for us will certainly exceed our former blessings. Through Advent, we are taught to wait expectantly. Now that the Christ Child has come, our hope and our salvation, what are we expecting God to do? Through faith, let us cling to the promise that it will be exceedingly far more than we could ask or imagine. (Ephesians 3:20) Shana Page