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Category: Devotions

Advent 2017 – Monday, Dec 25

So the shepherds 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 pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told” (Luke 2:16-20).

Emmanuel… God with us! He came back for us. He didn’t leave us. He remembered us. Just as Mary treasured up all these things in her heart, are you able to “treasure up” the goodness and love of God this Christmas?

Take a moment and “treasure” our Lord. Merry Christmas!

Jim Howard, pastor

Advent 2017 – Sunday, Dec 24

“The simple life”
As another year cruises by and my commitments seem to increase exponentially, I find that my life—which I believe was once quite simple—has become anything but simple. It seems that the new norm in today’s culture, directly relates to how busy we are; either at work, play, with family or dare I say at church? A philosophy where “busyness” is sold as a means to happiness.

I am reading the book, The Radical Disciple, by John Stott. The fifth chapter talks specifically about simplicity and the blessings and the challenges that it creates. As Christians we are called to be set apart, to live in this world but not of this world. 

During Christmas, when consumerism really entices, and our time is often stretched to the limit, I wonder what message living “A simple life” would send? As there is nothing simpler than a child’s faith and the gift that was given so long ago. 

In this Advent season, my prayer for all of us, is the ability to re-capture “A simple life” and to share it with those we love.

Brett Confer, elder

Advent 2017 – Saturday, Dec 23

READING: Philippians 4:1-7 & 4:8-9

And God’s peace, which excels above understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds…” How can peace be a guardian of the heart and mind? It should come as no surprise that Paul considers peace to be supreme over understanding. Many times we scramble to make sense out of circumstances or decisions with the mistaken belief that clear understanding will produce calm assurance. Paul suggests to Euodia and Syntyche a different (Christ-like) method: be calmly reasonable with each other (v.5 & 2:4), include non-demanding postures towards God (v.6 & 2:6), then allow peace and humility to win-out over principle and personal rights (v.7 & 2:8).

Put these things into practice, then the God of peace will be with you…” Do you grasp for peace like a commodity that you can buy on Amazon or at City Market? The goal of faithful thinking isn’t a preferred set of thoughts or emotions. The goal is to access the heart and mind of God who is the source of peace! As well-trained consumers, we often express a sense of distance from God. We place our order for God’s presence, then expect God to show up on our doorstep like a cardboard box with a smile on the side. To experience the sequence of success Paul has outlined, we will need to engage faithful practices!

What does that have to do with Advent? This season sets the bar for consumer-based living. Every time we exercise our prosperity, let’s remember the true gift: God with us! Paul reminded his partners about the path to real peace beyond an end to strife and infighting. Receive mature PEACE from God while awaiting Jesus’ Second Advent!

Mark Hill, pastor

Advent 2017 – Friday, Dec 22

I have three brothers spread around the Americas: South Carolina, Northern California, and Ecuador. Some or all of us are united each year in Cape Hatteras, North Carolina for a fall fishing trip. This has been a tradition since Jen’s and my honeymoon 36 years ago when we went north and my three brothers went south.

This year my brother in Ecuador sent two of his sons whom we had not seen for 15 years to meet us in SC. We spent three days together getting to know each other, but what they really wanted to hear were stories about what my older brothers were like growing up, especially their dad, who is 10 years older than me. Some of them were about Christmas traditions I never knew about, or remembered. We all had a great time hearing family stories, some disputed by the other brothers, of course!

However, the important point was the reminiscing and the bond we shared with another generation of our family. If you get together with family this year, I encourage you to make time to reminisce and share your “old stories” with the kids and grandkids. They’ll be blessed by the stories they hear.

Rob Strode, elder

Advent 2017 – Thursday, Dec 21

According to Wikipedia, “Advent is the season observed by many Christian churches as a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas. The term is a version of the Latin word meaning waiting.”

Waiting… not my strongest attribute for sure, but one which God requires of all of us. And isn’t the season of Advent a wonderful time of anticipation? To acknowledge, each day of December, God’s providence, His promise, His greatest gift! To expectantly prepare for the celebration of Christ’s birth is like preparing for a cherished guest in our home, our life and our heart each year.

Only God could create the emotion of anticipation, and a sacred moment so worthy of it.
I pray that the season of Advent speaks to us in a sacred voice of yearning and joy as we move toward the celebration day!

Jude Mitchell, church lady

Advent 2017 – Wednesday, Dec 20

Anticipate. That’s what I think of when I think of the Advent Season. The anticipation of something great to come.

As a parent, we anxiously anticipate the excitement in our children’s eyes as they approach the tree on Christmas morning. What surprises are wrapped inside? As a family member and friend, we anxiously anticipate the gathering of friends and family to celebrate the Christmas season together. ​And, as Christians, we anxiously anticipate the reminder of God’s greatest gift to us, his Son, Jesus.
Do you ever wonder what Mary was thinking as she carried this child? She’s giving birth to the King of the Earth, yet he is presented as a helpless baby that she is tasked with raising. What does that mean exactly? Imagine her anxiety, her self-doubt, and… her anticipation.  

What if you were a shepherd in the field and the sky is suddenly filled with angels! Wow! What do you think they anticipated they would see? The Wise Men? Really? Trekking miles and miles to see this new King… imagine their anticipation!  
But I don’t think their anticipation ended with seeing this baby in a manger. Because what can a baby do? The anticipation continued. They laid their trust in God that this child would truly become a King—a Savior. Did any of them ever anticipate the miracles Jesus would perform? Did they anticipate the cruelty he would endure to bring us all closer to God?  Did Mary ever anticipate that she would see her son hung on a cross?  
Anticipate—Expect, foresee, predict, be prepared for, bargain on, and reckon on.
I like “…be prepared for”

Are you prepared?

Rick Nelson, elder

Advent 2017 – Tuesday, Dec 19

As we hunker down while it gets colder, we can prepare for Christmas with real depth.

Scripture helps me, especially if I look at it as a living word. For me it breathes life into me and that’s what “inspired” literally means. 

I can breathe a sigh of relief when I realize that we can encounter a real flesh-and-blood Christ in the present, beautifully represented by Bethlehem and full inns. 

I have to be careful to really encounter Christ that isn’t sentimental memory of 2,000 years ago. The Christ of the Trinity is something that is happening today to me and you on the streets, on the slopes, and at our jobs. 

It’s easy to forget what happens in between Christmas and Easter. Jesus’ whole life is what happens! And his whole life is bookended and filled with challenges for us to empty ourselves and let the sap that is Jesus’ life flow into us because he is the vine and we are the branches. Then we can be one as he and the Father are one. 

Then we’ll be sappy and fruity, like a Christmas tree and holiday fruitcake. Yippee!!

Stefan Seeling, student ministries director

Advent 2017 – Monday, Dec 18

Have you ever noticed how balance (or lack thereof) seems to dictate so much of the peace and joy you experience in life? Standing on one foot with your eyes closed, looking at what you usually eat, your bank statement, how many hours you work, how much you play, time spent with family/friends, time spent in reflection with God—all will give you an idea of where you have balance… or not.

Christmastime seems to magnify the issue. Our own unrealistic expectations and those of our culture force us to look at the way we handle our time, our finances, our relationships, and our generosity. The signs of Peace and Joy! that are all around us are merely “wished for” places we would like to experience. Yet it is a time of celebration of the birth of Jesus—the only one who ever modeled true balance in all areas of life. If we are willing to trust in him and believe he truly wants us to have peace and joy in life we can ask him—the one who mastered it—to show us the way… what a concept! What a gift we received when he was born!

Judy Morgan, elder

Advent 2017 – Sunday, Dec 17

As I look back into my life, I am reminded how much the Lord has been with me; even holding my hand at times, when I felt empty and unable to understand his love for me. 
As we focus on the “True-Meaning” of Christmas (not the tree …), we look at the cross, unchanging, immovable, solid! Christ is here!

We are fascinated by lights, presents, and the allure of the after-Christmas sales. Knowing this, the gift that keeps giving through the year is the birth of Jesus Christ! And, our ongoing journey with him, a relationship with a friend and anchor that will never run out on us, and our investment of our time spent with him. 

His promise and his mission on earth has profoundly impacted all humanity and has allowed his continual love to shine through us as his own children. As we usher in 2018, may the gift of Jesus Christ December 25th Resonate with us all year long. 

Mark Williams, elder

Advent 2017 – Saturday, Dec 16

I love Christmas Music! Some of my favorite memories of Christmas were those times spent singing with the church choir, caroling with friends, or listening to the music of the Christmas season while decorating the tree. When the first snowflakes start to fall and the weather turns colder I am tempted to pull out all my favorites and begin “setting the mood” for Christmas gatherings and celebrations. The traditional hymns and carols help me to FOCUS on what I LOVE most about Christmas… anticipating the celebration of Christ’s birth, sharing this time with family and friends, reflecting on life’s blessings!
One of my all-time traditional favorites is “Oh Holy Night.” I remember first loving this song when I was learning to play the piano. It is one piece of music I would practice with enthusiasm and loved to play and sing because of the beautiful composition of the piece. Then, there are the humbling, awe inspiring, and gracious lyrics that bring back special memories of standing next to my Grandmother at Christmas Eve services… I thought she had an Angel’s voice!  “Oh night divine, Oh night when Christ was born…”  Yes, it sets the stage for the gifts that Christ’s birth offers us!
Listening to and reflecting on those traditional hymns and carols of Christmas helps me stay grounded in the true meaning of Christ’s birth and find “peace” amidst the chaos and stress the holidays can create. So my challenge to you is to take time to listen to your favorite Christmas music, find the peace that the lyrics offer, and enjoy the traditions that make Christmas worth celebrating! Please don’t forget to invite someone to join you for Christmas Eve Services… standing next to you they might think you have an Angel’s voice!!!! 
Merry Christmas and Happy Singing! 

Cindi McDonald, elder