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PREPARE FOR THE PRINCE OF

PEACE 2012 ADVENT DEVOTIONAL


Preface The 2012 Advent Devotional was written by members of First Presbyterian Church, representing an intergenerational sampling, who were willing to share a reflection from their spiritual journey. As we share our faith with one another, we learn from each other across generations and we gain a deeper awareness of the body of Christ in our midst. The Scripture passages are taken from the Daily Lectionary Advent readings from the Book of Common Worship. May God bless you as you prepare for the coming of the Prince of Peace this Advent Season.

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INTRODUCTION

Prepare for the Prince of Peace Graham W. Hardy, in an address entitled, Advent Has Three Tenses, tells about a night in Australia he spent looking up into the star-filled sky with a friend. In their conversation, Graham asked his friend a question: “Do you believe in God, Sandy?” His friend paused and then answered in a quiet voice: “Yes, I do.” But something in the tone of his reply made Graham ask a further question: “But what kind of a God do you believe in?” Again Sandy paused and then answered sadly: “You ask me what kind of God I believe in. I’ll tell you. He’s as far away and as silent as those stars.” Graham writes that after he left Australia, he kept asking himself how many others, like Sandy, “believed in a God who was little more than a religious symbol, a detached deity who would not or could not communicate.” But…Advent and Christmas connote God’s coming. It’s a time of faithful watching and waiting, of hope and expectation. Advent announces the world-shaking news that “God, despite all appearance to the contrary, does not reside in some distant galaxy, but is God on the move, God who has arrived to become part of this world.” Simply put, Advent means that God came to us in the person of Jesus Christ. It also means that God wishes to come to you this Advent season, and that God will come again in the end as our Savior and Judge. May these devotional selections help you to look to Christmas 2012 with anticipation and receive with open arms God’s great personal gift for you. —Pastor Alf Halvorson

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1ST DAY OF ADVENT Sunday, December 2

Isaiah 1:1–9; 2 Peter 3:1–10; Luke 21:25–36

It‘s safe to say that each one of us is waiting for someone or something this Advent season… Some are waiting…for the results of medical tests, for personal health issues to be resolved or for the cure of a loved one’s serious illness. Some are waiting…to hear about job opportunities, concerned about housing and paying their bills. Some are waiting…for peace after the death of a spouse or family member or for the birth of a child into their family. Some are waiting…for the resolution of tense family situations, worrying about holiday gatherings and whether everyone can get along with each other. Students are waiting…for letters of acceptance from the college of their choice. Some are waiting…for the return of relatives from overseas military duty, praying for peace in the world. As Christians, all of us are waiting…for the joy of the Christmas season and, ultimately, for the return of Jesus Christ in all His glory. The Bible tells us that Jesus will come at an hour when we do not expect Him. He will come “in a cloud with power and great glory.” Let’s all be prepared now to welcome Him as Lord and Savior. To God be the glory! Prayer thought: We pray unceasingly and wait patiently. —Marie and Dave Boltz

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2nd DAY OF ADVENT Monday, December 3

Isaiah 1:10– – 20; 1 Thessalonians 1:1– –10; Luke 20:1– –8

Sunday worship in itself is not the end-all, but it should serve to motivate us to live lives that honor God throughout the week. Through Isaiah, God tells the people to “Stop bringing meaningless offerings,” and, instead, to “Defend the oppressed, fatherless, widows.” God does not value us for appearing to be Christian on the outside. We are God’s highly valued children, and God longs for us to know and follow Him. How easy it is to close the Christian filing cabinet as I leave church, only to open it again the following Sunday upon seeing the steeple! In between, the week can be fraught with anger, frustration and impatience. I must not let the emotional charge of Sunday worship serve as a temporary lift, like a love song or a good Hallmark movie. I must allow God to transform me, my very nature, from the inside out, to be “less about me” and “more about others.” My true witness is not my church attendance, but my repentance, made known to the world by my actions and my daily life. My small group and service work help to keep me disciplined in listening to God. Only then can I hope for my fresh start— “...though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18). Prayer: Father God, please help us to focus on what you want for us. Make us clean. Use our meaningful offerings of time, talent and riches to help those who have less, and to learn from their gifts and faith at the same time. Amen. —Dave Escott

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3rd DAY OF ADVENT Tuesday, December 4

Isaiah 1:21– –31; 1 Thessalonians 2:1– – 12; Luke 20:9– –18

In Luke 20:9–18, this wasn’t the first time that Jesus used a story to answer the question of the cynical Pharisees who were constantly trying to get Jesus to speak blasphemy. As the parable unfolds, the religious leaders were furious for they knew very well when Jesus said, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” he was indeed alluding to them as the ones who had rejected God’s prophets in the past and who would soon choose to reject him as the Son of God. Knowing the end of the story, it is easy to view this passage and ask ourselves: didn’t they understand God was ultimately showing them how much he loved them? How could they reject the Son of God? Yet, how often are we guilty of acting out just like the Pharisees? How many times have we been given opportunities to help those who are hurting? How many times are we asked to change our own attitudes, and to grow spiritually? Do we see these opportunities as a blessing, or do we nonchalantly reject them? Prayer: Lord, as we prepare our hearts during this Advent season, forgive us for rejecting the many ways You have spoken to us, having been blinded by our own wants and desires. Help us to pay attention to the visual ways You demonstrate Your love unto us. Lord, bless our efforts as we endeavor to be the vessels you will use to be a blessing unto others. Amen. —Priscilla Moreira

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4th DAY OF ADVENT

Wednesday, December 5

Isaiah 2:1– –4; 1 Thessalonians 2:13– – 20; Luke 20:19– –26

Luke 20:19–26 contains one of my favorite, most applicable verses. The chief priests and scribes sent spies to ask Jesus a supposedly trick question: “Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” Jesus perceived their motive, and asked them, “Show me a denarius. Whose portrait and inscription are on it?” They replied, “Caesar’s.” Jesus coolly responded, “Then give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and give to God what is God’s.” This stuns those asking the question and foils their attempt to trick Jesus into speaking against the Law. Jesus’ wit and sharpness caught my attention in this passage. On one hand, it is the simple, applicable message behind His words: follow your current governing body’s laws. On the other hand, he pointed to what belongs to God, which raises the question: what do I give to God? Jesus came to properly teach us what is good and pleasing to Him. The fulfillment of the Law is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind,” and “love your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27). How do we practice this rule of love, especially at this time of preparing our hearts for the advent of the Prince of Peace? Prayer: God, help us to give ourselves to you. Help us as we learn to love you and to love our neighbors. Strengthen us as we seek to follow you daily. Thank you for sending Jesus, who shows us the way. Amen.

 —Jacob Reagan, high school student

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5th DAY OF ADVENT

Thursday, December 6

Isaiah 2:5–22; 1 Thessalonians 3:1–13; Luke 20:27–40

The traditional first week of Advent highlights the world’s darkness surrounding us (Isaiah 2:5–22). Desperate hope increases growing anticipation for our expected Prince of Peace. This week of sacred waiting becomes time for our repentance as well as our appeal for deliverance of a Messiah who will be the “Light of the World.” What images come to our minds that help us to see God or perceive God’s kingdom during this sacred waiting period? Although often not named, our memories of before-Christmas events linger as heart-keeping songs. Recall with me public and Sunday school pageants rehearsed by young children from Thanksgiving to Christmas. The junior and senior choir Christmas concerts continued the hidden “sacred waiting” with liturgical music. Christmas Eve services and Moravian vigils satisfied our yearning during the lengthened Christmas season. Daily home worship with devotional readings, appropriate symbols and carols provided us with holy Advent experiences. What heart-keeping memories create for you the sacred waiting space, which is meant to deepen our relationship with God’s creation? The angels sing, “Peace on earth, good will to all.” Isaiah sings, God’s “covenant of peace shall not be removed” (Isaiah 54:10). What is your song? The Lord waits to be gracious to us. He will rise up to show us mercy. Blessed are all who wait for Him (Isaiah 30:18). Prayer: Come and fill our hearts with your peace; You alone, O Lord, are holy. Come and fill our hearts with your peace. Alleluia, Amen. (Taize) —Ruth Rusling

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6th DAY OF ADVENT Friday, December 7

Isaiah 3:1– – 4:1; 1 Thessalonians 4:1– –12; Luke 20:41– –21:4

Picture the Baby Jesus lying in a manger—pure, sweet, innocent, perfect. Although not sinless, at birth we were much the same—pure, sweet, innocent. 1 Thessalonians 4:1–12 calls us to “live to please God.” When I consider this command, it is easy to focus on my own struggles and failures to live a life pleasing to God. Peer pressure, political correctness, need to fit in, all tempt me to water down what Scripture tells me is God’s desire for my life. To be counter-cultural and live against the grain is difficult. Rejection could ensue if I truly abide in God’s will and be transformed, rather than go with the flow seeking earthly acceptance. Focusing on the Baby Jesus, seeing myself as once pure, innocent and sweet, points out how easily influenced I am, tempted by the social climate, the whimsical ebb and flow around me. My only opportunity of defying what the world considers acceptable when it contradicts what the Bible says, is a pure, innocent focus and the strength of God’s Holy Spirit. Living to please God rather than to fit into the world’s whims and patterns is a conscientious, courageous choice, which is possible only with God’s help. Picture the Baby Jesus lying in a manger—pure, sweet, innocent, perfect. What will you choose? Prayer: Heavenly Father, living to please You in the face of all the world throws at us is a tall task. Cleanse us and fill us with your Holy Spirit. Help us to focus on the purity and innocence of Jesus. Amen. —Jeff Mohler

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7th DAY OF ADVENT

Saturday, December 8

Isaiah 4:2– –6; 1 Thessalonians 4:13– –18; Luke 21:5– –19

We don’t often think of being persecuted as a good thing. But Jesus tells us in Luke 21 that our persecution will result in our being witnesses and, by standing firm, we will gain life. What does it mean to be a witness? It is “a public affirmation by word or example.” Being a witness is scary. People are watching as I gossip with a neighbor, spend my money or use my time, and as I show love (or don’t show it) to others. We shouldn’t just be concerned with how we appear to others, but our actions are a reflection of our hearts. We are “works in progress,” our actions don’t always fit what we believe. Are you showing evidence of Jesus Christ in your life? We may never be persecuted because of our faith, but we are standing against a culture that is “all about me,” the quick fix, and instant gratification. Jesus tells us to consider the needs of others and to love our neighbors as ourselves. We don’t necessarily like to be stretched in our faith if it requires doing something different, something out of our “comfort zone.” But through being challenged we can grow and we can be positive witnesses for Christ. Prayer: God, in our inadequacy and our weakness, help us to be faithful witnesses of Jesus’ love. Give us opportunities to be stretched, challenged and transformed as we serve you in all areas of our lives, not just the convenient ones. In this season of Advent, prepare our hearts and allow our actions to follow. Amen. —Jodi Wycherley

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8th DAY OF ADVENT Sunday, December 9

John the Baptist

—Ryan Wycherley FPC Bethlehem Advent Devotional | 10


9th DAY OF ADVENT

Monday, December 10

Isaiah 5:8– –17; 1 Thessalonians 5:1– – 11; Luke 21:20– –28

Preparing our hearts and minds to receive the Peace of Jesus is a daunting task at this time of “holiday” expectations and commercialism. I have always found the Christmas season to be a time of overwhelming tasks. Our world view of this time gives us little sense of God’s promises, and can lead us into darkness. I have found that focusing on God through prayer and Scripture, and engaging in giving to others through the Giving Tree, Operation Christmas Child, etc. bring me back to God’s light. I have experienced joy in the midst of the bus“y”ness. Today’s Scriptures remind us that the turmoil and sinfulness of the world are answered by the promise that “the holy God will show himself holy by his righteousness,”(Isaiah 5:16) and that “they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory” (Luke 21:27). Let us affirm what we believe: “…since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:8–11). —Trish Fritz

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10th DAY OF ADVENT Tuesday, December 11

Isaiah 5:18–25; 1 Thessalonians 5:12–28; Luke 21:29–38

Regardless of where I am on my faith journey, I know two things: 1) there’s plenty of room for growth, and 2) the journey is far from over. I often find myself distracted and in need of frequent reminders or insight to straighten and narrow my path. Engaging in the Christian faith can seem daunting at times, leaving me confused and consumed by pressure to be more. A reality check is necessary to focus on God’s purpose for my life and on my growing faith. Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians is one of hope and encouragement to a young church. Paul’s direct and sound advice is meant to bolster the faith of new believers and to prepare them for the Lord’s second coming. The rules are simple: Don’t be lax. Encourage others. Help the weak. Patience. Be kind. Be joyful. Always pray. Always give thanks. Test everything. Hold fast to what is good. Avoid evil. These are our “marching orders:” to equip one’s mind, soul, body and spirit for our journey of faith and to live a life acceptable before God. Prayer: Lord, we know what You ask of us: to believe and to follow You. The tasks are simple yet clouded by undue pressures and self-prescribed expectations. Help us to remember that You want to be part of the small decisions we make, as well as the big. Guide our thoughts as we prepare to welcome You wholly into our lives this Advent season. Amen. —Steve Rowbottom

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11th DAY OF ADVENT

Wednesday, December 12

Isaiah 6:1– –13; 2 Thessalonians 1:1– –12; John 7:53– –8:11

According to Isaiah, Judah had enjoyed many years of prosperity. And yet, they became more and more aware of God’s displeasure and judgment, because they were neglecting to worship God. The whole nation was in complete disarray! It was at this time of crisis that Isaiah had a lifetransforming experience through an awesome vision of God, which caused him to recognize his own shortcomings, imperfection and sinfulness. This enlightenment led to cleansing and openness to recognize God’s plan for his life. Judah sounds so much like America today, as we wonder what is happening to our great country. Because God is holy, God sets the standards for our thinking, acting and living. God gives us his strength and wisdom even to endure frustration, disappointments and hardships in preparation for his future plans for us. Jesus came into this world to be our Savior and to become part of our lives. He does his part to prepare, plant, protect and bring fruitfulness, and he also looks for our obedience. Advent is the perfect time to start anew. Join with me and make an effort to be in his word daily, to examine our hearts, to listen and to be open for his direction and call. Prayer (Hymn by Clara H. Scott, 1895): Open my eyes that I might see, glimpses of truth Thou hast for me. Place in my hands the wonderful key, That shall unclasp and set me free. Silently now I wait for Thee, ready, my God, Thy will to see. Open my eyes, illumine me, Spirit Divine! —Glenna Dunham

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12th DAY OF ADVENT

Thursday, December 13

Isaiah 7:1–9; 2 Thessalonians 2:1–12; Luke 22:1–13

The old saying goes, “God only gives you what you can handle, no more, no less.” This is another way of saying that the Kingdom of God is revealed in pieces. It is a tradition in our family to have a big pancake breakfast every Saturday morning. Without fail, Eliot’s first words after climbing up in his chair, his plate stacked high with pancakes, are, “Mommy, cut them up.” It is much the same with the Kingdom of God. There is so much about God’s big plan for salvation that, when all stacked up, we can’t enjoy it or digest it until it is broken down into parts. Jesus does just that in Luke 22: enter the city, find a man there, follow him, prepare the place, etc. Personal faith is much the same way. Jesus calls us to have the faith of a child (Luke 18:17), a child running to the table of God’s Kingdompurposed life: taking each step as it comes, chewing, savoring and ultimately thanking God for the feast of His Son. What is God giving you to do right now in your life? Where do you need to have the faith of a child? Prayer: God, thank you for your continued coming to us in Jesus. Thank you that his coming to us is always in bits and pieces. Thank you that you call us to actively participate in his coming and being revealed in our world. And thank you that you don’t hold any of Him back from us, but share him completely. Amen. —Rev. Jack Brace

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13th DAY OF ADVENT Friday, December 14

Isaiah 7:10– – 25; 2 Thessalonians 2:13– – 3:5; Luke 22:14– – 30

While I was in the RCAF, a fellow pilot stumped me in an argument over the veracity of Scripture by saying Matthew had made a mistake in quoting this Isaiah 7 passage. The promised “sign” to Ahaz in Isaiah was of a young woman (almah), not necessarily a virgin. This prodded me to look into the Scriptures to study the matter. How, then, did the “sign” to the reluctant King Ahaz become a prediction of the virgin birth of Christ? The sign said that an almah would conceive and bear a son, to be named Emmanuel (God is with us). Before the child was old enough to tell right from wrong, the two threatening kings from Samaria and Syria would disappear. However, a later, more dangerous king of Assyria would destroy the nation of Israel. These predictions came true historically. However, Matthew uses the historical prophecy of Isaiah to show how Jesus fulfills the Old Testament. Mary was a virgin until her Son was born. He was named Jesus, (The LORD saves) consistent with the name Emmanuel (God with us). The original prophecy had been historical truth for Ahaz and also foretold of a greater rescue that Jesus would bring. We, as Christians, depend on the truth of Scripture for our faith. If this is compromised, “we are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Cor. 15:19). Prayer: Thank you, God, for sending us your Son to be with us and to save us now and forever. Amen. —Douglas Feaver

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14th DAY OF ADVENT

Saturday, December 15

Isaiah 8:1–15; 2 Thessalonians 3:6–18; Luke 22:31–38

Isaiah 8:10 states discouraging news for Israel’s enemies: they may plan for the battle but their orders to their armies “will be useless, because God is with us” (the Israelite army). It is difficult to trust that God will take care of us no matter what is going on in our lives. He will pull through for us, and He will use our lives to glorify Him, if we let him. While struggling with accepting this in my own life, I came across a quote by C.S. Lewis: “We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.” Like C.S. Lewis points out, we may know God will do the best for us, but we are reluctant to be put through some painful experiences in order to get there. God does not promise happiness by following Him, but what He does promise is a life filled with purpose and an intimate relationship with the Creator of the universe. Prayer: Lord, please help me to direct my eyes and mind towards you, the Prince of Peace, this Advent Season. Help me to let go of my own plans and allow you to be in control. I know it may be painful, but remind me that a relationship with you is the only thing that will ever truly satisfy me. Amen.

—Korrinne Yurick, Liberty High School Senior

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15th DAY OF ADVENT Sunday, December 16

Isaiah 13:1– –13; Hebrews 12:18– – 29; Luke 3:7– –18

During this Advent season, we usually think of Mary’s babe, Jesus, being born in a stable with a pleasant snowfall and a very peaceful, passive picture. We don’t necessarily think about Jesus’ birth as the invasion of God into this fallen world. Yet that is exactly what happened with the coming of the Prince of Peace. God, in His entire splendor, came to earth in the form of a human baby. The Prince of Peace, the King of Kings, our Lord and Savior Jesus has come! Hebrews 12:28–29 says, “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our ‘God is a consuming fire.’” God, as a purifying, all-consuming fire, came in Jesus to establish His unshakable kingdom. As the writer of Hebrews states, “let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe.” How often do we think of our God being a “consuming fire?” Do we hold God in awe? Is He dangerous like a lion (the Lion of Judah), or do we just think of Him as a tame, peaceful lamb? How shall we prepare ourselves for His coming? He continues to come to us today. As we consider preparing ourselves for the coming of the Prince of Peace, may we take time to meditate on God, who is a consuming fire. Prayer: Father, as we prepare for the coming of the Prince of Peace, help us to see Your consuming, purifying fire. Amen. —Bill Freeman

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16th DAY OF ADVENT Monday, December 17

Isaiah 8:16– –9:1; 2 Peter 1:1– – 11; Luke 22:39– –53

Isaiah wrote these words to the nation of Judah 700 years before Christ humbly came into this world to pay a worldly price for our heavenly gain. These ancient words are still so timely, perhaps even more so as Satan’s insidious grasp winds its way, like wispy fingers of smoke, into so many subtle places, gently tugging at us until, without being fully aware of it, we find ourselves despairing and not knowing how we got to such a dark place. Movies, TV, magazines all tell us what we need to be happy—the clothes, the car, the money, the image…an empty image of worldliness. The more we allow ourselves to be swayed toward the thinking of the dead—those whose sights aren’t set on God (Col. 3:1)—the more we become like those Isaiah described. We become weary of the pursuit of an empty ideal, hungry for God, yet bitter and angry that the things we have around us do not bring us happiness. When we seek and value worldly guidance over God’s infallible instructions and teachings, we condemn ourselves to the darkness. Jesus is the Light, and God’s good instruction leads us to a path of Light modeled after Him. Following in His perfect footsteps to the best of our ability, seeking God’s instruction and guidance, and reading and acting on His Word will bring us to rejoicing in living in the Light. Meditate daily on God’s Word and become enLIGHTened and freed from the darkness. Prayer: Father, may my heart desire Your Will. Amen. —Debbie Moody

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17th DAY OF ADVENT Tuesday, December 18

Isaiah 11:1–9; Ephesians 6:10–20; John 3:16–21

You are reading today one of the Bible’s most quoted and powerful verses, John 3:16. You see it everywhere: T-shirts, football games, concerts and even bumper stickers. But have you really truly thought deeply about the meaning of these verses? These verses reveal to us the heart of God, the mission of Jesus Christ, and the greatest hope for the world. God is establishing the pattern of true love, which is the basis for all relationships. God showed his love for the world by giving his son Jesus for the salvation of all who believed in him. As a mother of three, the thought of losing a child is almost unfathomable. This thought became very personal for me when our daughter Ellie’s life was threatened from a kidney infection. While in the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, I realized more deeply how much our heavenly Father really loves us. God spared Ellie’s life, and in the process breathed new life into my own faith in Him. Because I experienced the possibility of losing a child, I more fully appreciate God in Jesus offering his life for us. As I love our children each day, I strive to model to them the same depth of love that God shows me. His love is all we truly need. Prayer: God, reveal to us this Advent season your overflowing love. May we see your hand at work in our lives. And may we revel in your glory and light. Amen. —Abby Spencer

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18th DAY OF ADVENT

Wednesday, December 19

Isaiah 11:10–16; Revelation 20:1–10; John 5:30–47

Isaiah offered a vision of hope to the people of Israel and Judah. The vision was of a Messianic King who would be lifted up over all nations, a King who would bring peace and rule with fairness and justice. As Christians, we live in that same hope as we celebrate that first Advent and eagerly anticipate the Second Coming of Christ, our Prince of Peace, when we will be united with Christ and Christ’s reign will be fully established. Christ has come, Christ has risen, and Christ, our Prince of Peace, will come again! Hallelujah!! Today the world is still filled with much pain, poverty, and injustice. Many have placed their hope in political leaders, in winning big in the next roll of the dice or lottery ticket, or in other addictions. Where will they find their only True Hope? Recently, I was deeply touched by a prayer written by a homeless man. In his prayer, he asked forgiveness for his sin, recognizing God’s gift of life and abiding love, while acknowledging that he was still alive and filled with hope for the future because of the love and care shown to him by the people who serve at New Bethany Ministries. This Advent season, who in your life needs to hear that message of hope, love, and salvation found only in Jesus Christ? Prayer: Lord, keep us faithful to our journey. Help us to share your love and hope for the future, found only in You, with those who desperately are searching. As we pray, “Come, Prince of Peace!” Amen. —Shirley Jacobson

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19th DAY OF ADVENT

Thursday, December 20

Isaiah 28:9–22; Revelation 20:11–21:8; Luke 1:5–25

Sometimes it seems that life is a matter of continual preparation. Whether we are getting ready for an exam, a presentation, a job interview or a speech, we must prepare. In Luke 1:5–25, the angel Gabriel explains to Zechariah that his wife will bear a son who would “make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” His son would be named John (the Baptist), and he would preach to the people, foretelling the coming of the Messiah. If God felt the need for the way to be prepared for the birth of the Messiah, how much more should we prepare for his birth? If we prepare for things like a speech, how much more important is it for us to make diligent preparations during Advent for our celebration of Christ’s birth? The Lamb of God dwells in our hearts as the Holy Spirit, and we can rely on Him to guide all our preparations both large and small. Christ’s life, death and resurrection need to be the center of our faith and prepare us for this life and beyond. Prayer: Dear God, please soften our hearts to receive the Holy Spirit on a daily basis. In this way we stay in touch with you and let your counsel guide us in preparation for all of life’s decisions. Your wisdom is more reliable than ours in all of life’s matters. Amen. —Bill Ender

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20th DAY OF ADVENT Friday, December 21

Isaiah 29:9–24; Revelation 21:9–21; Luke 1:26–38

The angel said, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the lamb.” (Revelation 21:9). Now shut your eyes. Imagine a city of light, with many different jewels. Feel the smooth gold of the pillars. Let your bare feet walk on a glass surface. Breathe the air, fresh and clean. Inhale God’s essence. Take a deep breath, and tear yourself away from God’s marvelous kingdom. Open your eyes. What you see is nothing like the place you imagined. However, this picturesque location does exist. To enter its gates, give your burdens to God. Never doubt Jesus. Close your eyes again. Imagine now being submerged in unbearable torment, your thoughts filled with horrible memories. You have experienced hell, separation from God. There was no help, nor hope. The choice is yours. Do you turn around before it’s too late, rethink your route and continue safely in God’s arms? Let Jesus guide you. He will carry you from sin to revival. Let him open your heart, ripping away the seams of sin that are clenching it. Give your life to Jesus, and be prepared to spend eternity in God’s kingdom. Take the second chance. Prayer: Dear Lord, place revival into my soul. Lead me away from the path to hell. Guide me on the road towards your blissful heaven where my soul will enter pure, innocent holiness. I will join hands with you, as you lead me on the stepping-stones across the River of Temptation. Be my Savior. Amen. —Aria Sivick, high school student

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21st DAY OF ADVENT

Saturday, December 22

Isaiah 31:1– –9; Revelation 21:22– –22:5; Matthew 1:18– – 25

How do you respond to difficult and embarrassing situations? What feelings do you experience as you confront such dilemmas? How do you finalize your decisions? Sometimes it is tempting to just charge ahead, try to cover things up, or control the damages. In today’s scripture from Matthew, Joseph is guided through a very difficult circumstance. Engaged to Mary, he suddenly learns that she is pregnant with a child that he knows is not his. The social consequences of this situation are enormous. Joseph’s first instinct is a quiet divorce to avoid embarrassment and disgrace for Mary. Fortunately, Joseph listened to and obeyed God by marrying Mary and naming the child Jesus, a name that means “God saves.” Indeed, Jesus saves us from our sins. Our sinful nature often tempts us to solve difficult circumstances on our own. The consequences of this tact can be nerve wracking and gut wrenching with lasting negative consequences. Alternatively, we can turn to God for wisdom and guidance before making tough decisions. Sometimes this doesn’t seem easy. The story of Joseph reminds us that confidently relying on God’s guidance results in a peace that passes all understanding. Listening to and obeying God help to prepare us for the Prince of Peace and to renew and strengthen our relationship with Him. Prayer: Lord, help us to take time to be open to you and to listen to your promptings. Give us the courage and strength to always obey you. Amen. —Terry Cline

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22nd DAY OF ADVENT Sunday, December 23

Isaiah 33:17–22; Revelation 22:6–11, 18-20; Luke 1:39–45

When we use our understanding and place our eyes on what is visible around us, the world has a way of grabbing our hearts and filling them with apprehension, worry and, many times, fear. We forget… We forget promises that require us to be attentive to the Word of God; we forget to use the eyes of faith; we forget to claim life abundant in our daily lives. How transforming it is to be open and filled with the reality of the beauty of our King (Isaiah 33:17), the blessing of belief (Luke 1:45), and the assurance that the Lord is coming soon (Revelation 22:12, 20)! Try it…go on…prepare to receive the Prince of Peace. Prayer: Lord, we surrender to you.We want to empty ourselves, but not so the world will fill us with unnecessary and material things, or with lies and fear. We want you to fill us with blessings and the “free gift of the water of life” (Rev. 22:17b). Come, Lord Jesus! —Rev. Manuela Kauer

FPC Bethlehem Advent Devotional | 24


23rd DAY OF ADVENT Monday, December 24

Isaiah 35:1–10; Revelation 22:12–17, 21; Luke 1:67–80

On this special day, we remember that God created the world and it was beautiful and good. He made man and woman, Adam and Eve, in His own image to rule over the land with Him in perfect harmony. Through an act of disobedience, eating the forbidden fruit caused all of humanity to be separated from God. The perfect world became a world of sin. A hand reaching down and one reaching up, unable to meet, visualizes the separation. Nevertheless, God’s love was so great that he continued to communicate with humankind using the prophets in the Old Testament, revealing his reconciling plan. In due time, God spoke to a righteous, spirit-filled man named Zechariah, making him aware that his wife Elizabeth would conceive a child that they would name John, who would prepare the way for the coming of the Messiah. The Messiah would preach forgiveness, offer salvation and redeem the world. Those in darkness would see His Light and receive God’s peace. Today, with excitement, we await the celebration of the coming of the Messiah. Through Him, we are no longer separated from God! We know this is true through the Holy Spirit. Prayer: Jesus, our Savior, you are the Light of the world. Through your sacrifice, you mercifully forgive our sins, and you give us the gift of eternal life. Alleluia! Thank you for loving us! Amen. —Lucille Marshall

FPC Bethlehem Advent Devotional | 25


JESUS IS BORN

Tuesday, December 25

—Ryan Wycherley FPC Bethlehem Advent Devotional | 26


Know GOD Love PEOPLE Serve the WORLD

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Prepare for the Prince of Peace  

2012 Advent Devotional

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