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Category: Devotions

Advent 2018 – Monday, December 10

Cinnamon. Evergreen. Warm sugar cookies. Eggnog.

We’re familiar with the seasonal smells of the Christmas holiday. It has become commonplace to walk into the local grocery store and experience each scent before we even reach the produce. I find that each year the cinnamon sticks sneak their way into stores earlier and earlier symbolizing the season to come. These smells play a crucial role in our holiday experience eliciting an emotional response to the season.

Culturally we have decided that the smells of the Advent season should give us the “warm fuzzies” when we experience them. We buy hand soaps, scented plug-ins and candles to create this effect in our home. This season it struck me how different these quintessential Christmas smells are from the smells of Jesus’ birth. His birth in a manger. His birth in a manger full of animals. (I will allow your imagination to take over here). The ‘warm-fuzzy’ smells of Christmas remind us of family time together, gift opening, holiday parties, but how often do these smells make us think of Jesus, his lowly birth and the *actual* smells of that Christmas night?

The next time you take a whiff of an evergreen wreath or a stick of cinnamon, take a moment to remember how blessed we are that Jesus Christ was born.

Julie Andrews, children’s ministry director

Advent 2018 – Sunday, December 9

The Tastes of Christmas

Christmas—what does it taste like to you? There are many tastes that remind me of Christmas, maybe because I usually only taste them during the holidays. How about the candy canes that we hang on the tree, Christmas cookies, turkey and stuffing, hot-spiced cider, a nice strong cup of coffee, and of course—not everyone’s favorite—fruitcake. Do these spark memories of Christmas for you, too? Each of these tastes, and all of the others that are part of your Christmas tradition, is a gift from God.

We should take time during the Advent season to remember that we have an Awesome God that provides for us. Next time you taste one of these Christmas tastes, think about it not just as an amazing flavor, but also as one of God’s many gifts to you. Psalm 34:8 says “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” Let the wonderful tastes of Christmas be a reminder to you of God’s goodness.

Lord, Let our time with family and friends be filled with the tastes of this season, let these tastes of Christmas help us bring our focus to You so that we can truly “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” Amen.

Rich Ferris, elder

Advent 2018 – Saturday, December 8

CHRISTMAS MORNING FREEDOM

It was Christmas morning, 1960. I awoke to the smells of baking pies, cinnamon, roasting turkey, and the fresh scent of the newly-cut pine tree in the living room. I jumped out of bed, excited to see what Santa had brought and, there to my overwhelming delight, was a BRAND NEW, GLEAMING RED FREEDOM FLYER BICYCLE, with my name on it!!!

In the joy of that moment, I didn’t have any idea as to the many ways in which that oversized Freedom Flyer would literally transform my life. No longer would I be confined to my ten block neighborhood in southeast Denver; I would now have the freedom to ride like the wind, wherever whim would take me. My favorite destination was to ride to Washington Park, five miles away, to hang-out, fishing with my buddies.

On that magical morning, I couldn’t have imagined the freedom and joy bicycling would bring, as I chased my friends through the warm Denver nights with no lights and no helmet. I also couldn’t possibly see how a future tandem bicycle would serve as a date-machine, giving my wife and me needed respite and exercise when our children were young. And I had no idea that my rides would someday be in the hundreds of miles and that a large part of my identity would include being a cyclist. Never being much of an athlete in ball-oriented sports, the spin of the bike pedals as I churned up the mountains was something I could excel at. In short, cycling provided me freedom and a different way of seeing the world and myself.

As I reflect on my eighth Christmas and the freedom and joy which that gift gave, I am reminded of an infinitely greater Gift received by the whole world on that first Christmas morning. This Gift was wrapped in the unlikeliest of forms, that of a human baby boy, Jesus. He was born and lived to transform our lives, to show us the true meaning of freedom and joy. To change our limited perspective bound by geography and time, to become the glorious, loving, compassionate and committed individuals God intended us to be. As Søren Kierkegaard put it “Now with God’s help, I will become myself.” With Christ’s help, we are no longer confined to our neighborhood or bound by our old way of living self-centered lives.

With Christ in the center of our lives, he promises to heal our hurts and mend our brokenness so that we may become the masterpieces he intended us to be. We need to understand and appreciate how uniquely wonderful each of us is, if we are to play our part in God’s plan to bring his more peaceful, verdant and just Kingdom to earth. With Christ, we have the freedom to lose the shackles of our self-imposed and self-centered limitations, to find our wings and to become the glorious individuals God intended us to be. Embracing and living into this truth is even more exciting than finding a Freedom Flyer with your name on it in the living room on Christmas morning. Jesus is the greatest Gift of all!

Steve Hill, elder

Advent 2018 – Friday, December 7

What Does Christmas Taste Like?

I remember all the good things my Mom would make leading up to Christmas. They were usually seasonal, temporary goodness. Things that you would not expect to have a chance to taste at any other time of year. Several years ago I asked my Mom about a recipe for one particular Christmas treat. To my dismay she could not remember it. This was not her normal response for a recipe as she could usually come up with them from memory. I miss you Mom.

As I was putting my thoughts together for this Advent Devotional I passed a framed Bible verse that hangs on one of our walls. It is Galatians 5:22. It’s not exactly what I had in mind for what Christmas tastes like, but I kept coming back to it. “The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control: against such there is no law.” Maybe this is what Christmas should taste like. It’s not seasonal and has eternal value. It’s a good recipe to remember all year long.

Loren Vawser, elder

Advent 2018 – Thursday, December 6

“This fish taco is pretty tasty, but it is nothing like The Stuffed Surfer’s!” If you are like me, you have certain “gold standards” of excellence by which you compare experiences. Your “gold standard” vehicle might be a vintage classic, or a new Rubicon. Your snowscene might be Copper or A-Basin. My “golden” fish taco is found with bare toes in the sand of Newport Beach in SoCal. At the end of 15th Street, right next to the coolest elementary school in the world (the playground is built on the beach), is a nondescript building that serves tacos out the window facing the Pacific sky. Taste there is contextual—the sound of the waves, freshly grilled Mahi, palm trees swaying, perfectly balanced white sauce, beach bikes and blankets, abundant cabbage slaw, salty ocean air—a deeply satisfying experience.

Which surfaces the question: What does your relationship with God TASTE like? Do you anticipate time with the revealed Jesus as your “gold standard” for all relationships? Psalms 22-24 were often connected in Hebrew teaching traditions. David describes a trusting relationship with God using wonderful “foody” metaphors. In 22:26-29 he says the experience is like the hungry poor receiving the rich food of the Fellowship Offering (Lev 7) and being “deeply satisfied” as they “feast and worship” together. In 23:1-2 the provision for the sheep includes “rich pastureland” and “cool, clean water.” Later in 23:5 he alludes to a “banquet table” filled with wonderful culinary creations. Psalm 24:1, 5 portray a “perfect place fit for flourishing” in which the “blessings of plenty” flow from the LORD’s holy place.

This Advent, stop to enjoy and revel in life with Jesus as your “gold standard” of tasting the Goodness of God in relationship!

Mark Hill, assistant pastor

Advent 2018 – Wednesday, December 5

The “taste” of Christmas. Some might suggest that is a rich topic for Advent. When I was growing up, my mother did not bake very much throughout the year. However, at Christmastime there were tins of chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin cookies, her infamous cream cheese brownies, lemon squares, and cherry coffee cake. If there ever was a savory reason to argue that “man does not live by bread alone,” (Matt 4:4) these treats were it! However, until a Riddler pastor suggested “taste” as a devotional topic for Advent, I hadn’t spent any time connecting “taste” or these much-anticipated treats to the real reason for the season.

When I think of food in the Bible, I most immediately think of manna and daily bread, but the passage I find myself needing and wanting to revisit again and again are the “Fruit of the Spirit” (Gal 5:22). “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Not only does this passage cover ¾ of the Advent candles, it is the most succinct recipe for foundational Christian life and spreading the gospel. There was, and never will be, a better example of living the fruit of the Spirit than our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ—who is the real reason for the season.

While standing in line with crowds shopping for gifts over the next few weeks, and “loving” tourists who cross three lanes of traffic in 10 yards to make a right turn, let’s take some time this Christmas to taste and live the best produce in the Bible. Remember “spiritual food” is high nutrition and low calorie.

Merry Christmas and good eating from the Butler family.

Bruce Butler, elder

Advent 2018 – Tuesday, December 4

What does Christmas taste like?

My first memories of Christmas taste were two-stroke snowmobile smoke straight to the mouth. There’s nothing like that super cold air mixed with super-fast exhaust. Yeeew buddy!!

We would thumb that throttle right up behind our house to the woods and get reeeeeeeeeally stuck. If my friend’s dad had to rescue us, the punishment was a rooster tail to the face. Let me tell you, the power coming off that paddle-track knocked us right over. So, Christmas tastes like snow too. We couldn’t smell because our nostrils were packed with snow and snot.

Even though we suffered a lot as little 8 year-olds out in the cold, digging out sleds, we kept going out there. Something drove us. Our experience was a mixture of loss (of circulation/expectations/hydration), excitement, hope, doubt, fear, and elation. We had some sort of lack in us that drove us to abandoning the warm, cozy indoors for the punishing Christmas Wonderland.

The lack was not some “God-shaped hole” in our hearts that only Jesus could fill. It seems to me now that the gaping hole is God in our heart(s). Advent is the Divine taking on that Lack at the core of existence. Jesus doesn’t abandon the privilege and coziness of heaven to walk around in a Maui “you’re welcome” way, keeping suffering and struggle at an arm’s length (see Moana for reference). “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). He especially experiences Lack on the cross. When he experiences God forsaking God (Psalm 22 and Matthew 27:46). This doubt is not the opposite of faith, but made divine through the cross.

Maybe if we were certain that everything would be fine when we went snowmobiling, there would be no reason to go. In the adventure of doubt, we came to have knowledge OF the Absolute, but never absolute knowledge. Through Jesus that Lack is now Divine.

That’s what Advent tastes like.

Stefan Seeling, student ministries director

Advent 2018 – Monday, December 3

What does Christmas taste like?

For me, peppermint candy cane will always signify the Christmas season. This sweet candy is my favorite during a time of celebration with family and friends. I remember being told that the shape represents the shepherd’s staff, the color white signifies the purity and holiness of Jesus and the red stripes remind us of his shed blood given for our forgiveness.

A quick Google search shows numerous sites trying to debunk this Christian narrative. Whether the origin has a secular beginning does not matter to me. The peppermint flavor will always make me think of Christmas, and when I think of Christmas, I remember the birth of our Savior who came humbly to this world to save each and every one of us.

So, during this season, please remember it is not how forcefully or eloquently we argue our beliefs, but the simple humble acts of love and kindness that will share Christ’s message. Just like the taste of a favorite holiday candy.

Brett Confer, elder

Advent 2018 – Sunday, December 2

It tastes like sweetness! What does? The goodness of the Lord. “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him” (Psalm 34:8).

This Christmas season we will sing our wonderful and sweet Christmas songs, enjoy the sweetness of the Advent candles, decorate our homes, and enjoy the sweetness of true friends. We will, for a brief moment, reflect on the birth of Jesus! But there is so much more… a young baby who redeemed all of creation and then will return as a great King in all of his glory. Jesus, who left the glory of heaven for a messy, sinful world. Mary, who submitted to the will of God even though it cost her her integrity in front of all of her people. And us… who gaze longingly upward waiting on the next Advent while we enjoy the sweetness of this one.

“Now that you have tasted that the Lord is good” (1 Pet 2:3), remember to stop, rest, and gaze this Advent season.

Warmly in Christ,
Jim Howard, pastor

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