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Category: Devotions

Advent 2018 – Saturday, December 15

All of us experience our world through our senses and one of the most powerful of these is our sense of smell. How many times have you thought, “this smells like Grandma’s kitchen” when walking by Cinnabon in the mall or “this smells just like rain” on a humid day? We all know what a dental office smells like and also the whiff one gets when driving up the hill by the dump.

Do we all recognize a common “Christmas smell?” Those in charge of enticing us into stores sure think so. Mulling spices, scented candles, peppermint, hot chocolate, evergreen all waft through the air tempting us to come in. All of these odors (real and chemically induced) are associated with personal experiences in our life that we relate to.

Are we as skilled at recognizing the “fragrance of Jesus”—the One we celebrate this time of year? Maybe not so much. 2 Cor 2:15-16 describes that odor, “For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life.” Our deep desire should be that we would give off the aroma of Jesus—the “fragrance of life” not only at Christmas but all through the year.

Judy Morgan, elder

Advent 2018 – Friday, December 14

I’m sure I could come up with a list of at least 25 of my favorite smells at Christmas! But the one that triggers joy and brings a smile to my face is the scent of citrus, or to be more specific, the scent of GIANT oranges!

As a child, we were lucky to be able to spend time with our Grandparents who lived close to each other in the Midwest. One Grandfather was a Minister, and Christmas was one of his favorite times to preach. We always stayed with them on Christmas Eve to attend candlelight services together as a family.

My Grandmother would leave for church separate from the rest of us, staying back to fill our Christmas stockings (this as her way of playing Santa). We received all kinds of practical items… a comb, toothbrush & toothpaste, small packages of toiletries, a pair of socks, maybe some Hershey Kisses, etc. But the best and most unique item was always a giant, fragrant, juicy, sweet orange. Once we awoke the next morning, we knew that it was CHRISTMAS!!!! We could smell the aroma of the oranges! Combine that smell with the scent of fresh cut pine, a steaming cup of cocoa, and cinnamon toast for breakfast… what joy, life was simple, life was good!

Reminiscing about Christmas traditions with my Great Aunt, she explained the significance of the oranges. Growing up during the Depression money was tight and they were only able to purchase certain fruits. Most were scarce and quite costly! In their stockings were placed the giant, fragrant, juicy, sweet oranges (along with practical items). The pleasant citrus aroma filled the damp and cold air, they knew it was CHRISTMAS! A simple, fragrant and refreshing treat in the dark of winter.

The Advent season celebrates Christ’s simple birth in a manger, bringing us joy and refreshing our souls in the midst of darkness. A promise of abundant life in him—experienced with all our senses! Perhaps this Christmas we can offer others the pleasing aroma of Christ, sharing the simple gift of salvation and a good life!

2 Corinthians 2:15, “For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.”

Psalm 103:5, “He satisfies your years with good things, So that your youth is renewed like the eagle.”

Cindi McDonald, elder

Advent 2018 – Thursday, December 13

Have you ever noticed that when you step into an environment where there is either a pleasing or noxious scent that you soon don’t notice it? That is the wonder of this sense of smell. Somehow the awareness seems to dull.

When I reflect on the smells of Christmas, I think of entering a home where fresh baking smells assault my senses. The aroma of baking Christmas cookies and candy is delightful. However, because of the nature of our sense of smell, it is not long before we are less aware or not aware of this enticing smell. The same sweet smells will be there, but we will not be aware of them again until we reenter the area. If I want to experience that assault of good aromas again, I just step into the garage for a moment and reenter the house to again experience those wonderful smells.

There is a lesson here as we look at the weeks of Advent. Do we continue to renew our wonder at the Hope that Christ brought into our world? Or do we become so caught in the mundane and “have to’s” of these weeks? Let’s refresh our experience by purposefully entering each day with a renewed sense of this great Gift and carrying it with us through each day.

Paul Wardlaw, elder

Advent 2018 – Wednesday, December 12

What does Christmas smell like?

When I think of the smells of Christmas the “expected” ones come to mind: evergreen trees, candy canes, burning candles, scotch tape, and Buckeye Christmas cookies (a favorite where I grew up). But as I contemplated writing this devotion on what Christmas smells like I was inclined to think of what the first Christmas actually smelled like. Probably nothing like the smells we associate with Christmas today… probably nothing at all like that! Even as I imagine going back in time and thinking of the smells surrounding Christ’s birth one might think of the wonderful fragrance of a newborn baby. But Jesus probably didn’t smell like that all!

On the one hand, one might imagine the stench that would surround a birth in a barn. On the other hand, Jesus brought THE most pleasing aroma to this earth. And how wonderful that as believers we get to be called a pleasing aroma of Christ (2 Cor 2:15). As we move into a season that is quite stressful and can be quite lonely for many, what aroma do you pour out?

Darla Schmidt, admin assistant

Advent 2018 – Tuesday, December 11

When thinking about what Christmas smells like, the scent of fresh pine stands out above all other smells. Growing up, my family’s tradition was to hike into the woods to find and cut down the family Christmas tree. There was often bickering and complaining about which tree was the best, how cold it was and when we could go home, but my parents always turned it into a positive experience focusing us on the true meaning of Christmas. Jenn and I have continued this tradition with our kids in order to create fond memories and generate meaningful conversations. The tree is a focal point to our family’s Christmas traditions as we make an effort to decorate it together and often sit around the tree reading the first Christmas story or singing songs.

As I look back on my childhood and observe my kids, I remember this highly anticipated time each year where it felt like time was standing still as we eagerly awaited Christmas morning. This anticipation generates discussions comparing it to the second coming of Christ and how Christmastime is a highly focused remembrance of heaven coming to earth. It is everything we long for as Christians. The tree is a symbol of hope and longing for true love, joy and peace on earth!

Ryan Odell, elder

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