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Advent Devotional

Daily Advent Devotional – December 19th

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“My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others. Come to think of it, why do we have to wait for Christmas to do that?”
― Bob Hope

“Christmas, children, is not a date. It is a state of mind. ”
― Mary Ellen Chase

Christmas is ultimately a date on the calendar, December 25th, that comes along once a year. And yes, it’s a hugely important day in the Christian calendar, but it’s a day nonetheless. Perhaps what we need to begin considering as the church today is what happens on December 26th.

We all ramp up for Christmas and the holiday season in our own different ways. In the church at Linworth, it’s trying to get ready for four Christmas Eve services! (One of which we hope you’ll attend!) For families, it’s rushing to get travel arrangements made so we can get together with our loved ones. Maybe we’re even thinking of work as well and making sure everything is squared away for the holiday break.

But what about December 26th?

Once we get through this season, we might take a deep breath, and say a prayer of thanksgiving that we have a break from Christmas! But doesn’t that betray the meaning of the holiday itself? I love the above quote – Christmas is not a date, it’s a state of mind. As we spoke about in yesterday’s devotional, the meaning of Christmas is God’s love coming to us through Jesus Christ and us sharing that love. And that’s something that can’t be defined to one circled date on the calendar. Christmas is much more than that – it’s the spirit of God’s love and the hope of salvation

Daily Advent Devotional – December 18th

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Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. – 1 John 4:7-9

With this Sunday’s Advent theme of “Love” where else can we turn during the Christmas season but to this eternal truth – God. Is. Love.

If we were to explain to the world the meaning of the birth of Jesus and what it means for our lives of faith, this passage from First John might be a good place to begin. God showed his love by sending God’s son Jesus to walk amongst us, so that we might live through him. What more signific

Daily Advent Devotional – December 17th

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Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body you have prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, ‘See, God, I have come to do your will, O God’ (in the scroll of the book it is written of me).”
When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), then he added, “See, I have come to do your will.” He abolishes the first in order to establish the second. And it is by God’s will that we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. – Hebrews 10:5-10

I love the Book of Hebrews because it goes so in-depth in breaking down what the promise of the coming Messiah actually means in very logical and explanatory ways. As most scholars believe it was written for Jewish Christians, the importance of explaining the connection between the prophecies and the fulfillment of Jesus Christ as the promised Messiah becomes paramount. If you’ve ever wanted a crash course in Messianic theology, this is it!

One of the questions Christians may be asked is why we don’t do the kinds of offerings anymore that we see in the Old Testament. Here, the author of Hebrews clearly dictates why that is and why the sanctification through the offering of Jesus Christ is “once for all.”

Let us not lose sight of this important truth through the Advent season. We have a way of compartmentalizing our faith journeys and our relation to Jesus. At Christmas he’s the beautiful baby wrapped in swaddling cloths. At Easter he’s our resurrected savior. At Pentecost, the ascending Son of God. But all of these stories are connected because in truth, it is one story. The same baby born in that manger would go on to give his life, once and for all, for all humankind – so that all who call on the name of the Lord would be saved. When Christ came into the world, it was to fulfill this divine purpose. Never forget that the journey of Jesus and our journey of faith does not begin and end in Bethlehem, it goes to the cross and the empty tomb and the Kingdom of Heaven.

Daily Advent Devotional – December 16th

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Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, Love Divine,
Love was born at Christmas,
Star and Angels gave the sign.

Worship we the Godhead,
Love Incarnate, Love Divine,
Worship we our Jesus,
But wherewith for sacred sign?

Love shall be our token,
Love be yours and love be mine,
Love to God and all men,
Love for plea and gift and sign.

– Love Came Down at Christmas, Christina Rosetti

Daily Advent Devotional – December 14th

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Sometimes it’s the journey, not the destination.

As we enter the fourth and final week of Advent, it’s a helpful reminder that this season is a journey. A journey of faith, a journey of discernment, and a journey of discovery.

We journey with the people of Israel waiting on the promised coming of the Messiah, to imagine what it must have been like for those who looked forward in expectant waiting to when those prophecies would come true.

We journey with John the Baptist, who called out in the wilderness to prepare the way of the Lord.

We journey with Mary and Joseph as they found no room at the inn and searched for a place for her to give birth.

We journey with the shepherds and the wise men as they are called to arrive at this place where something that would change the entire history of the world would happen.

We journey forward to look ahead in hope to the promised return of the Messiah and the reign of Christ that will last for all eternity.

It may be easy to lose sight of the big picture, but through the Advent season, we join together with all peoples of all places and all times who call upon the name of the Lord. Because together we all share that common journey of life and faith together.

Daily Advent Devotional – December 13th

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Sing aloud, O daughter Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem! The LORD has taken away the judgments against you, he has turned away your enemies. The king of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst; you shall fear disaster no more. On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: Do not fear, O Zion; do not let your hands grow weak. The LORD, your God, is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory; he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. – Jeremiah 3:14-17

As we were blessed by a performance of Handel’s Messiah at church today this Scripture passage from today’s third Sunday of Advent couldn’t be more fitting. Today’s Advent theme is “joy” and one of the great ways in which we as human beings express joy is through song. Yes, there are a number of emotions we can convey through song, but there’s something special about singing when you’re happy.

“I sing because I’m happy, I sing because I’m free. His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me.”

As we look at the world around us, there may not be much to sing with joy about. Jesus is one of them. As God has given us the gift of God’s Son, as Emmanuel comes to be with us, we can rejoice with gladness that God is in our midst. Hallelujah!

Daily Advent Devotional – December 11th

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“One can never have enough socks,” said Dumbledore. “Another Christmas has come and gone and I didn’t get a single pair. People will insist on giving me books.” ― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Socks.

Yes, socks. Those most mediocre of Christmas presents. There’s nothing like opening up a Christmas package on the morning of December 25th, being all excited for the mystery that lay inside, and then finding… socks. If you’ve ever had that experience, you probably felt something like this.

But you know what they say, “one kid’s socks is another kid’s Red Ryder BB Gun“… or something like that.

The things we so often take for granted in life are the same things that someone somewhere are dreaming of having.  And the truth is that there is someone somewhere whose every hope and wish will come true this Christmas if he or she could just have a new pair of socks.

Hopefully this helps put this season in proper perspective. There are so many children around the world who won’t even have that opportunity to open any Christmas gifts. That’s why one of our great joys as a church is to participate in the Operation Christmas Child ministry so that a few more kids around the world may have something to celebrate this season.

So why do we worry so much about the possessions that we have and don’t have? Why do we worry about who gets the best or newest gift? Why do we worry about building up our treasures on earth that we can’t take with us into the next life? Why don’t we instead find joy in all the simple things in life, even socks.

Daily Advent Devotional – December 10th

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Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. – Philippians 4:4

This very short verse from Paul’s letter to the Phillippians may not contain a lot of words, but the encouragement therein couldn’t say more about our faith.

This Sunday’s Advent candle lighting theme is joy. During Christmas one of my favorite hymns is “Joy to the World” because it depicts the happiness and exaltation that we as Christians experience in celebrating the birth of Christ.

However, there is a difference between happiness and joy. Happiness depends on our circumstances and even “how well things are going.” Think of the times when you are happiest in life and they are likely to be exclusively those moments when something positive was happening.

Joy is something that is much deeper. Joy is something that is inherent within us. Joy goes beyond our present circumstances and speaks to our what’s in our hearts in good times and in bad.

Rick Warren defines joy like this, and it’s helpful to discern how it goes beyond just being content with our circumstances and connects us with the divine:

Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in every situation.

Rejoice in the Lord always. Not just in the good times, but in all times. Rejoice because God reigns. Rejoice because Christ saves. Rejoice because the Holy Spirit sustains. Again I will say, rejoice.