ADVENT WISDOM POWER LOVE PEACE
INTRODUCTION hristmas is truly one of my favorite things. I love Christmas so much that I get excited in Augus when Costco starts displaying their holiday items...yeah, Iâ€™m that guy. I just love Christmas! There are so many things I love about this time of year: family, traditions, the music, decorations, wrapping presents, and giving gifts, just to name a few. But while this time of year brings me so much joy, I know the holidays can be a difficult time for many. Life doesnâ€™t always match up with the phrases we read on greeting cards, and the sting of loss can feel especially sharp at Christmastime.
It is my prayer that this guide will become a friendly companion for you during the season of Advent; a constant reminder that wherever you are throughout the coming weeks, you are not alone. You have a church family who wants to walk alongside you. Some of us wait in eager anticipation, ready to joyfully celebrate the coming of our Savior, while others sit in sadness, longing for the day when our Savior will wipe away every tear, and there will be no more pain. But we praise God that He sent His Son to meet us, wherever we are. Christmas reminds us that He comes near to us. He is Immanuel God with us! You can use this devotional on your own, as a family, or with a group. Just a few minutes each day can help us slow down and set our hearts on Christ and his coming. My prayer is God would deepen our adoration of Jesus this season!
S COT T HICKOX
THIS ADVENT GUIDE IS FOR DECEMBER 2-25. BELOW IS A BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF TYPES OF CONTENT IN THIS GUIDE.
Throughout this guide, we have devotionals written by West County staff and others. With some of the devotionals, we have provided you with questions for deeper study and reflection.
We want to be a singing people. Throughout this guide, there are lyrics, sheet music, and a link to a Spotify playlist. Sing with your family, by yourself, with your small group, or in your car. The main thing is to sing!
We don't want this guide to be another burden on an already busy season. On these days, we encourage you to read scripture, pray, and simply rest in His goodness.
TRADITIONS For many of us, Christmas is filled with nostalgia and memories. These are more than just warm feelings; these are traditions that have been passed down throughout the years that bring a sense of peace and joy. As you read about traditions from families within our church, consider sharing your traditions with a friend or incorporating something new into your family.
DECEMBER 2 WONDERFUL COUNSELOR
hen we think of the word counselor, we often think of someone who listens. However, that is a very secular understanding. The biblical idea of counsel involves both careful listening and clear advising. It describes someone who is wise; someone who really knows how to live and will share that knowledge.
Isaiah wants us to understand what kind of counselor Jesus is. Isaiah says Jesus is a Wonderful Conselor. The Hebrew word for wonderful actually means
“miracle.” So in addition to being magnificent and marvelous, His counsel is also miraculous. Jesus is a miracle-working counselor that does for us what no one else can do. We can’t get this wisdom from any other source. Therefore, we can’t afford to make decisions without hearing from the Miraculous Counselor. Just one of the innumerable reasons why He is a Wonderful Counselor, and the reason He can give miraculous counsel, is that He understands your struggles.
“FOR WE DO NOT HAVE A HIGH PRIEST WHO IS UNABLE TO SYMPATHIZE WITH OUR WEAKNESSES, BUT ONE WHO HAS BEEN TESTED IN EVERY WAY AS WE ARE, YET WITHOUT SIN.”
- HEBREWS 4:15
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DEVO He understands. He can relate to you. Sometimes when we are going through a difficult situation and someone says, “I understand what you are going through” it seems empty, because, unless they have been through the same situation, how can they possibly understand our problems? But Jesus understands. He knows exactly what you are going through. When you come to Him in need of counsel, He knows your situation. He actually knows your heart and your mind better than you do. As a result, you can trust Him. If He is your Wonderful Counselor, embrace His wisdom for your family, your finances, your future–your everything. My prayer this season is that we might realize anew how Jesus longs to share His wisdom with us. He invites us to “with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." (Hebrews 4:16) There you will meet your Wonderful Counselor. Adore Him and enjoy Him this advent season!
Scott Hickox Lead Pastor at The Journey West County
DECEMBER 3 "THE FIRST NOEL"
MUSIC IS AN INCREDIBLE GIFT. Notes played and sung often express feelings that are too deep for words and spark deeper thoughts and emotions. The Christmas season is a singing season. At The Journey, we want to be known as a singing people and this season of the year is a great time to be singing. The coming of Jesus is good news that we want to remember and celebrate. So this year, we encourage you to sing. Throughout this guide, you'll have opportunities to sing. This may be privately, or this may be getting your family together and singing, or even listening together and discussing. For many of you, this is a pretty terrifying prospect. But the pressure is off. This is a time where you have an opportunity to praise God with your friends, family, and all of creation. So bust out the guitar, piano, or iPhone and sing the good news!
Scan QR code for a spotify playlist For iPhone users, simply open your camera app and hover over the QR code.
TRADITIONS EMBODY LOVE Packing a shoebox of gifts is a great way to teach your kids about needs around the world and even missions. To learn more about this ministry visit samaritanspurse.org
O P E R AT I O N C H R I S T M A S C H I L D Kasey & Landon Brewer When Landon and I started dating at age 17, our home church was very involved in Operation Christmas Child. Iâ€™m sure you have heard of it. The basics: pack a shoebox full of essentials and fun items to be sent overseas for a child. Wherever that box is sent, the gift of the Gospel is shared along with this simple shoebox. Eleven years later, this is our longest standing Christmas tradition. There is just something about specifically filling a box for a child of a particular age and gender that helps fill the thousands of miles be-
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tween that sweet child and us. Itâ€™s even more special now that we have our own kids. Hopefully, they will grow up seeing that because God gives us good gifts, we get the opportunity to show the love of Jesus by giving this small gift.
family and a personalized note. We pray over the box; we pray for whatever child and family will receive this small plastic shoe box full of perishable items. We pray they would see and know the greater imperishable gift of a personal relationship with Jesus.
While packing the box is a delight for our souls, our favorite part is including a picture of our
DECEMBER 4 WONDERFUL COUNSELOR
o often early in my life, I sought worldly wisdom and counsel. I was so quick to run to a close friend for wisdom. Many times that wisdom consisted of self-gratifying conclusions, which improved nothing. It provided only momentary satisfaction and the Kingdom of God was never exalted.
A S I H A V E M AT U R E D I N M Y FA I T H , I H AV E F O U N D T H AT S E E K I N G GOD’S WISDOM BY IMMERSING MYSELF IN
God’s wisdom is filled with grace and mercy which provides me with purpose outside of myself. God truly is my Wonderful Counselor. Wonderful in the Hebrew is “pela”, which literally means wonder or miracle. God is quite literally my miracle-working counselor. I didn't know in my younger years that I needed a miracle worker in my life. There will be many more mountains and valleys, and I need a miracle worker in all of those occasions to point me back to my purpose of abundant life through Christ.
T H E B I B L E , P R AY E R , A N D I N FA I T H F I L L E D COMMUNITY HAS P R O V I D E D T H E S O U LS AT I S F Y I N G W I S D O M T H AT M Y L I F E N E E D S .
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Amy Childers Journey Kids Director
H OW H AV E YO U E X P E R I E N C E D G O D AS WONDERFUL COUNSELOR?
I N W H AT A R E A S O F YO U R L I F E D O YO U N E E D GOD'S WISDOM?
DECEMBER 5 ISAIAH 9:5-7
THE PEOPLE WALKING IN DARKNESS HAVE SEEN A GREAT LIGHT; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. ⁶ For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. ⁷ Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.
Consider writing out synonyms for Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace
DECEMBER 6 WONDERFUL COUNSELOR
s I have begun to work as a counselor, the term "Wonderful Counselor" has take on a new significance. In this time, Iâ€™ve come to notice that good counselors are trustworthy and care deeply for those they give counsel to.
While we know counselors are trustworthy because they will keep our words confidential, it goes beyond that. Counselors are trustworthy because of the way they treat us with integrity, the way they love us consistently. Each and every time we meet with our counselor, they seek to embody love to us. Hour by hour, counselors endeavor to ensure us that we are loved, despite whatever we bring to them. God is described not just as a
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good counselor, but a wonderful counselor.
Every time we approach God, He seeks to prove to us that He does indeed love us exceedingly, despite whatever we bring to Him. Each of us has some part of ourselves that we hold back, believing that God would not, could not, love that part of us. May today be the day that part of ourselves we give that to Him and experience He is worthy to be trusted as our wonderful counselor, who loves us more than we can know or believe.
Spencer Thomas Director of Care
W H AT ' S K E E P I N G YO U F R O M E X P E R I E N C I N G GOD'S WISDOM IN YOUR LIFE?
W R I T E O U T A P R AY E R B A S E D O N T H I S W E E K ' S RESPONSES.
ENGAGE CULTURE Consider how you might include your neighbors in your Christmas traditions this year.
B I R T H D AY PA R T Y F O R J E S U S Billie & Ken Ellingsen A favorite tradition when my children were young was our annual “Birthday Party for Jesus.” We started when Jared was three years old. It began with four neighbor boys who had not been introduced to Jesus at their homes. “Find Baby Jesus” (from a soft Nativity set) was always our first activity. Whoever found him first got to hide him next. The other activities included a Christmas picture book and a little craft which depicted the real meaning of Christmas. One year we made a nativity scene out of graham crackers and little Keebler Elf cookies representing the characters in the story. Another year we
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put yarn on a bell and called it an ornament to enhance the Christmas song we sang each year. â€œCome On, Ring Those Bells, light the Christmas tree, Jesus is the King, born for you and me. Come on ring those bells, everybody say, Jesus we remember this your Birthday.â€? It was always more fun with bells to ring as we sang! We included the Nativity story every year as well. After hearing the story, we would act it out. Each child wore something on their head to represent the character they portrayed. As I told the story and directed,they acted it out. We always ended our celebration with a birthday cake for Jesus. Each piece held a candle so every child could blow one out. They insisted nothing change from year to year. For the last party (Janie was ten) two of the original boys, then 15 and 17, came to watch. They had fond memories to relive. That was a highlight for me!
DECEMBER 7 "JOY TO THE WORLD" Joy to the World
The angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. Lk. 2:10
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WORDS: Isaac Watts, pub.1719. MUSIC: “Antioch”; George F. Handel; arr. by Lowell Mason, pub.1836. Public Domain.
DID YOU KNOW? "Joy to the World" was written by the famous English writter, Issac Watts in 1719. He based the lyrics of this hymn off of Psalm 98.
DECEMBER 8 PSALM 98
SING TO THE LORD A NEW SONG, FOR HE HAS DONE MARVELOUS THINGS; his right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him. ² The Lord has made his salvation known and revealed his righteousness to the nations. ³ He has remembered his love and his faithfulness to Israel; all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God. ⁴ Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music; ⁵ make music to the Lord with the harp, with the harp and the sound of singing, ⁶ with trumpets and the blast of the ram’s horn— shout for joy before the Lord, the King.
Pick 1-2 verses and re-read them several times. Each time placing emphais on the next word and reflecting on that word . Example: The Lord has made his salvation known. The Lord has made his salvation known.
DECEMBER 9 MIGH TY GOD
ave you ever received a birth announcement? You know, the card with a cute picture of the new addition that tells you things like the baby's name, weight, and length. Well, Isaiah 9:6-7 is a birth announcement. But unlike an announcement we might receive today, there are some aspects of this one that are unique. Isaiah tells us information about the baby’s birth, but we are also given a list of names that describe this baby and what He will do. As one author observes, “One name wasn’t sufficient to describe this special child.”
"Mighty God" is one name given in verse 6. Some have attempt-
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ed to reduce this name to meaning simply a “god-like hero (Ezk. 32:21),” but to do so would miss the point and significance of this name. We are not talking about a human Davidic King. We are talking about a future king that is divine in nature, as seen in the names that are applied to Him (cf. Is. 10:20-21). As one biblical commentator rightly notes, “No other person ever has God’s name and God is never called Moses, Abram, David, or Jeremiah, so there must be something very special about this son that causes Him to have God’s name.” There is nothing in this world, or in our life, that is bigger or more powerful than our Jesus, our
DEVO “Mighty God”. Jesus was not just a good man. He was the God-man, and this is great news for all of us. Jesus’ divine strength and power guides, corrects, and protects us. Jesus, our Mighty God, saves us.
W E S HO UL D L EA N ON G O D IN O UR W E AK NE SS A N D I N O UR “STREN GTH.” We can trust that He is faithful to do the things He says He will do. God delivered on this promise from Isaiah 9;Jesus was born seven hundred years later and fulfilled every promise announced. God came among us in the person of Jesus. This is a God that we can trust in, hope in, and run to.
Jon Hessel Pastor of Spiritual Formation
DECEMBER 10 "HE WHO IS MIGHTY" by Soveriegn Grace Music
Mary, Jesus’ mother, has always been a hero of mine, and the Magnificat is one of my favorite details of the Christmas story. In the midst of all the amazing and terrifying things God was doing in her life, her response was to sing praise and declare God’s power and faithfulness! Her courage and obedience is convicting and inspiring, and I have frequently thought of her example when asking the Lord for the strength and humility to submit to His leading in my life. I had also never heard a song based on the Magnificat that moved my heart in the same way that reading the passage did, so when Kate and I sat down to write a Christmas song, Luke 1:46-55 was my first suggestion for a text. In retrospect, it is clear to me how appropriate it was that we were drawing inspiration from Mary’s Song mere weeks after the births of my daughter and Kate’s son. I am supremely grateful to have been able to work on this song with my dear friend Kate, who is a fantastic songwriter and editor. We have talked about how humbled and joyful we are to hear others sing this song in worship. It is my hope and prayer that the Lord continues to use it to edify and encourage the church, and inspire the same awe that Mary felt when she sang her song of praise and surrender to God.
By Rebecca Elliot, Author of “He Who is Mighty”
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Oh, the mercy our God has shown To those who sit in deathâ€™s shadow The sun on high pierced the night Born was the Cornerstone PRE-CHORUS
Unto us a Son is given, unto us a Child is born CHORUS
He Who is mighty has done a great thing Taken on flesh, conquered deathâ€™s sting Shattered the darkness and lifted our shame Holy is His name VERSE 2
Oh, the freedom our Savior won The yoke of sin has been broken Once a slave, now by grace No more condemnation BRIDGE
Now my soul magnifies the Lord I rejoice in the God Who saves I will trust His unfailing love I will sing His praises all my days
Scan QR code for a spotify playlist For iPhone users, simply open your camera app and hover over the QR code.
ENJOY GRACE This season make a concerted effort to find rest and encourage others to do the same.
CHRISTMAS EVE SLOWDOWN Casey Jordan The older I get, the more I look forward to Christmas Eve. Christmas Eve is, for our family, the night when we all slow down after the inevitable chaos of the holiday season, which seems to begin earlier and earlier each year. For as long as I can remember, Christmas Eve has included three things: the Muppet Family Christmas movie, a gingerbread house, and us. Just us. Just me, my parents, and my brothers â€“ and, now, their wives and daughters. Christmas is the celebration of God coming down to be with us so that, through Christ, we could be with Him and, in Him, find the peace and rest for which we long. The stress and anxiety of the Christmas season are entirely contrary to the gift God has offered us in Jesus. The peace and rest that we enjoy as a family every Christmas Eve is wholly the overflow of the peace and rest we have found in Christ. My hope and prayer for you is that, this Christmas, you would experience peace and rest â€“ that you would resist getting caught up in the chaos of the season and that you would enjoy good food, good time with family and friends, and, especially, our very good God.
DECEMBER 11 MIGHTY GOD
here are many attributes of God that I struggle to comprehend, but mighty isn’t one of them. A quick Google search helps us flesh out the idea of might: possessing superior strength and power. My head thinks of superheroes, massive mountains, and killer whales.
But my heart, one that is continually being transformed, thinks of a God who has saved me, who has taken me from an incredibly cynical, distrustful, shame-ridden person and is faithfully showing me what it’s like to live with hope, free of shame and embracing love. He truly is mighty to save, to radically transform lives. And how incredible that our Mighty God came to us in the form of a helpless babe.
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“ I N F A N T H O LY , I N F A N T L O W LY … . CHRIST THE BABE I S L O R D O F A L L .” I need God’s power to live outside of the chains that He’s freed me from, to walk in new life remembering my identity in Him. We’re familiar with the phrase "old habits die hard". Apart from God, I so easily revert back to my old self. Cynicism, anger, and shame creep back in like they were just on a brief vacation, many times without me even realizing it. This Advent, may God grant us His power to believe and trust that He truly is Lord of all.
Emilie Nevins-Carter Director of Operations
H OW H AV E YO U E X P E R I E N C E D G O D AS M I G H T Y GOD?
I N W H AT A R E A S O F YO U R L I F E D O YO U N E E D GOD'S POWER?
DECEMBER 12 LUKE 1:46-55
AND MARY SAID, “MY SOUL MAGNIFIES THE LORD, ⁴⁷ and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, ⁴⁸ for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; ⁴⁹ for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. ⁵⁰ And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. ⁵¹ He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; ⁵² he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; ⁵³ he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. ⁵⁴ He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, ⁵⁵ as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”
Consider reading Hannah’s prayer from 1 Samuel 2 alongside the Luke 1 passage
Consider reading 1 Samuel 2:1-10 alongside this Luke passage.
DECEMBER 13 MIGHTY GOD
f I’m honest, I rarely consider the mightiness of God. I regularly think of His grace, love, mercy, sovereignty, etc. but might isn’t a regular descriptor I give God. But as I reflect on what it means that God is mighty, I see the effects of His might all over my life.
In Luke 1:46-55, we see a beautiful song that Mary sings as a response to being told she will carry the Christ. In it, she gives a glimpse of God's might: “He scattered the proud, brought down rulers, lifted up the humble, filled the hungry.” In this, we see a paradoxical principle that is repeated throughout scripture and life:
GOD PROVES HIS MIGHT BY USING THE U N M I G H T Y. His most significant act of might ,however, is saved for v.54-55, "he remembers to be merciful and keeps his promises". Even to a group of people that are helplessly broken and undeserving. So how have I experienced God’s might? He has used me, despite limitations, despite sin, and despite brokeness. God has been and continues to be mighty in my life.
is that we would reflect on how God has been mighty in our lives and that we would remember His greatest act of might: He came to earth as a weak and helpless child. And from that child, He shined a light on those living in darkness to guide our feet unto the path of peace.
Landon Brewer Worship Leader
My prayer for myself and you
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W H AT ' S K E E P I N G YO U F R O M E X P E R I E N C I N G GOD'S POWER IN YOUR LIFE?
W R I T E O U T A P R AY E R B A S E D O N T H I S W E E K ' S RESPONSES.
JESSE TREE Tracy & Jon Sullivan Advent is truly one of the most magical times of the year! Several years ago when our kids were very small, we began celebrating the Advent season by counting down to Christmas with the Jesse Tree tradition. We begin by decorating a small tree with a simple strand of lights, and this becomes our family’s Jesse Tree. The Jesse Tree tradition is based upon Isaiah 11:1-2, which says,
“A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse, from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The spirit of the Lord will rest on him - the spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the spirit of counsel and of might, the spirit of the knowledge and the fear of the Lord…”
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One evening at a time, key passages are read in the Bible that tell the story of how all of biblical history points to Jesus, from the creation of the world and the fall of mankind, to the cry of the Savior’s birth as He came to redeem His people. One by one, our kids open up a wrapped ornament each night to add to the tree. They find it fun to guess what the ornament will be after reading that night’s Bible passages. As the tree fills with ornaments, the collective narrative of God’s big story is on display for our family to remember and for our visitors to take in. Finally, on Christmas morning, the Light of the World has come! Reflecting again and again on the scarlet thread of Christ’s coming throughout the pages of Scripture has helped our family to slow down and to rejoice in the greatest gift we’ll ever receive, Jesus Christ - the true magic and miracle of Christmas!
ENJOY GRACE Consider incorporating the Jesse Tree in your home this year as you reflect on God's grace towards us through Jesus.
DECEMBER 14 "O HOLY NIGHT"
Scan QR code for a spotify playlist For iPhone users, simply open your camera app and hover over the QR code.
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DECEMBER 15 JOHN 1:1-14
IN THE BEGINNING WAS THE WORD, AND THE WORD WAS WITH GOD, AND THE WORD WAS GOD. ² He was in the beginning with God. ³ All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. ⁴ In him was life,and the life was the light of men. ⁵ The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. ⁶ There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. ⁷ He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. ⁸ He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. ⁹ The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. ¹⁰ He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. ¹¹ He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. ¹² But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, ¹³ who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. ¹⁴ And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. Consider picking 1-2 verses and rewritting them in your own words.
DECEMBER 16 EVERLASTING FATHER
here is always the potential for certain passages of Scripture to lose their power to teach and inspire by sheer familiarity. Some of us bemoan Christmas music played too early in the season or perhaps too long after the season has passed. While Christmas music is increasingly secularized and those with strong religious overtones are eschewed, in Handel’s sublime oratorio, Messiah, the moving passage quoting Isaiah 9 is repeated by the choir in powerful pauses, majestically accenting the phraseology of the prophet.
What profound mystery is proclaimed when Jesus is proph-
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esied to be the “Everlasting Father?” In some senses it points to the poetic interchangeability of the three persons of the Trinity in Scripture that find expressions of personhood represented by Father, Son, and Spirit constantly reinforcing Their divine nature. Perhaps the prophet is pointing to the sense in which the Son is the ultimate expression of the Father’s personhood in the only way humans can understand it— incarnation. In Colossians 1 the Apostle teaches us that Christ is the “image of the invisible God.” In other words, He shows us the Father in all His splendor. Since we can’t see God, Jesus is the ultimate lens into the Father’s
WHATEVER YOUR PERCEPTIONS OF FATHER—PERHAPS THEY ARE WONDERFUL OR DEEPLY TROUBLED—JESUS IS POINTING US TO THE CHARACTER OF FATHERLY PERFECTION. He is demonstrating the complete love and unconditional grace of the one who loves us with all our flaws, forgives every failure, and offers hope to every hope-deprived, weary sinner. Most significant of all, this Father will “never leave nor forsake you,” won’t ever fail you and will never die—He is the “Everlasting Father!”
Slade Johnson Dean of Academics
glory and perfections. Jesus famously said to His disciples, “I and the Father are one,” and “If you’ve seen me you’ve seen the Father.”
DECEMBER 17 "O, COME ALL YE FAITHFUL" REFRAIN
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ENJOY GRACE It's often easier to give grace than receive it. This year, give yourself more grace as you deal with stress. Try to take inventory of simple graces throughout your day and thank Him for them as they come to mind.
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OVER THE RIVER & THROUGH THE WOODS Cameron & Lisa Engle Like most other traditions this time of year, The Engle Family Tradition begins as the temperatures drop, semesters end, and beautiful, gentle snowflakes begin to kiss the ground. The tradition usually starts with us putting our anxious 5-year old Husky/Chow mix outside, so he doesn’t see us packing. Then begins the controlled chaos of packing 1-2 weeks of life into a few pieces of luggage, a task that was much easier and more efficient prior to the dawn of parenting. The tradition then moves from a state of chaos to a state of anxiety, backdropped with joy. See, our tradition is to travel back to Indiana each Christmas season to be with our extended families. We love our family and love our time with them. But the joy of that stay is often overshadowed by the 6+ hour drive to get there, where we turn into the team from Mission Impossible, calculating every decision, planning every detail, and when everything goes awry, resorting to survival mode. The funky doggy breath wafting up to the front seat is only upstaged by our children playing their unique part in the “orchestra of love” as we call it; you may call it screaming. Yet, though we may struggle with trauma-induced stress whenever we prepare to jump in the car, God has always gotten us to our destination safely. Having arrived, we proceed to unpack the car, settle in, and watch with joy and broad smiles as our kids are embraced, cared for, loved, and welcomed in the homes of their grandparents.
DECEMBER 18 EVER LASTING FATHER
can remember vividly when I experienced God as Father recently. I was sitting in the back of our sanctuary, feeling alone and out of place, crying over the truth that was just preached, as an elder called the congregation to communion. And the Holy Spirit used that man’s message to pierce my heart. I heard my invitation to His table for the first time in my life.
When this ugly world gets me down, when Satan is in my head reminding me of my failures and my faults, when I can’t keep up with the ever-changing high demands of this life, I close my eyes, take a deep breath and remind myself of exactly who I really am: His daughter! He chose me. He made me. Every last bit of me was hand-crafted by my everlasting Father, and He will always be with me, He will always protect me, and He will always show me The Way.
I heard at the very core of my soul, ‘You are mine, and I am yours.’ I felt His love wash over me in that moment, and I knew I was welcomed, I was wanted, and I was loved by an all-knowing, everlasting Father.
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Amanda Mixon Church Administrator
H OW H AV E YO U E X P E R I E N C E D G O D AS E V E R L A S T I N G FAT H E R ?
I N W H AT A R E A S O F YO U R L I F E D O YO U N E E D GOD'S LOVE?
DECEMBER 19 LUKE 1:67-79
“BLESSED BE THE LORD GOD OF ISRAEL, FOR HE HAS VISITED AND REDEEMED HIS PEOPLE ⁶⁹ and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, ⁷⁰ as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, ⁷¹that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us; 72 to show the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, 73 the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us 74 that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, 75 in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. 76 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, 77 to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, 78 because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high 79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” Consider answering these questions: What does this passage reveal about God's character? What does this passage reveal about me?
DECEMBER 20 EVERLASTING FATHER
ike a good superhero or a good earthly father (which, as you know, are synonymous in the hearts of many children), I have experienced God as my perfect protector and rescuer. Christ has protected me from sinâ€™s promise to take me down many painful paths that all inevitably lead to cul-de-sacs of destruction. I, like all Christ followers, am a walking testimony of Godâ€™s grace. I am living an abundant life of freedom in Christ rather than the shackled life that many of my childhood friends are living, lives chained by heroin addiction, broken marriages, and endless pursuits.
He, the everlasting father, has rescued me from my past, saved me from future self-destruction, and set me up with His promise of the family inheritance as an heir to the Kingdom. Today in my life I need the everlasting Father's love to overrule all fear, insecurity, and anxiety that I may feel when presented with opportunities to share with others the amazing freedom that I have found in Him. I need the courage of Christ to
point others to my source of life, Him, the Fountain of Living Water.
Cory Ball Pastor of Student Ministries
W H AT ' S K E E P I N G YO U F R O M E X P E R I E N C I N G GOD'S LOVE IN YOUR LIFE?
W R I T E O U T A P R AY E R B A S E D O N T H I S W E E K ' S RESPONSES.
C O U N T D O W N & TA N D O O R I The Raj Family One of our family traditions at Christmastime each year involves hanging up our Advent calendar on the 1st of December. The dated pouches on the calendar include a variety of small items with velcro on their backs. The four of us take turns each day pulling an item from the pouch and sticking it on the felt Christmas tree. The item for that day becomes the theme of our family prayer. For example, if my daughter picks the small musical instrument from the pouch, she prays for The Journey worship band members and other worship teams around the world. On Christmas day, I (dad) always get to stick the star on top! And after opening presents and enjoying a quiet day at home, we all lend a hand making one of our favorite meals â€“ Chicken Tandoori! It's a flavorful recipe that is always a huge hit in our household on Christmas!
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INGREDIENTS 4-6 boneless skinless chicken breasts or large chicken thighs Basmati rice, for serving (optional)
MARINADE 1/2 cup plain yogurt 1 tablespoon lemon juice 1 tablespoon onion powder 1 tablespoon minced garlic 1 tablespoon garam masala (available in Indian stores)
1 tablespoon cilantro leaves 1 tablespoon paprika 1 tablespoon coriander 1 teaspoon cumin 1/2 teaspoon ginger 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
DIRECTIONS Prep Cook 24 h 25 m 1. Combine marinade items in a large bowl and whisk until smooth. 2. Add chicken to bowl and toss to coat well in the marinade. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 12-24 hours. 3. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Lightly grease a large baking sheet. Transfer chicken to baking sheet. Spoon any remaining marinade over the chicken. 4. Bake for 35-45 minutes until chicken is cooked through. Once cooked through, switch oven mode to BROIL and cook another 3-5 minutes until chicken begins to blacken on the edges. 5. Goes well with Basmati rice or just by itself!
DECEMBER 21 "SILENT NIGHT"
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DECEMBER 22 PSALM 85
LORD, YOU WERE FAVORABLE TO YOUR LAND;YOU RESTORED THE FORTUNES OF JACOB. ² You forgave the iniquity of your people; you covered all their sin. Selah ³ You withdrew all your wrath; you turned from your hot anger. ⁴ Restore us again, O God of our salvation, and put away your indignation toward us! ⁵ Will you be angry with us forever? Will you prolong your anger to all generations? ⁶ Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you? ⁷ Show us your steadfast love, O Lord, and grant us your salvation. ⁸ Let me hear what God the Lord will
speak,for he will speak peace to his people, to his saints; but let them not turn back to folly. ⁹ Surely his salvation is near to those who fear him, that glory may dwell in our land. ¹⁰ Steadfast love and faithfulness meet; righteousness and peace kiss each other. ¹¹ Faithfulness springs up from the ground, and righteousness looks down from the sky. ¹² Yes, the Lord will give what is good, and our land will yield its increase. ¹³ Righteousness will go before him and make his footsteps a way.
Consider reading this passage in multiple translations. Example: ESV, NIV, The Message Translation
DECEMBER 23 EVERLASTING FATHER
ne of the most common responses people get and give when asked how they are doing is: Life is just busy. Even if we do not explicitly say the word 'busy' or even use a substitute phrase, most of us view ourselves and our lives as busy or full of activity. It doesn’t seem to matter our life stage, “being busy” seems to define our mindset and fill our schedules.
teaches us, but pressures us into a life of busyness that many of us never intended to engage in or pursue. But somehow, we often find ourselves on the treadmill of an overscheduled, overburdened life leaving little room for the true rest that our Heavenly Father teaches and gives. However, Isaiah 9:6 points us to exact opposite of busyness and names Jesus as our Prince of Peace. Jesus says in John 14:27,
In fact, our culture not only
“ P E AC E I L E AV E W I T H YO U, M Y P E AC E I GIVE TO YOU. NOT AS THE WORLD GIVES DO I GIVE TO YOU. LET NOT YOUR HEARTS BE TROUBLED, NEITHER L E T T H E M B E A F R A I D .”
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DEVO This word 'peace' means more than just the absence of conflict and busyness, but the notion of positive blessing, especially in terms of a right relationship with God. Peace cannot be found in our worldly identities or in the things of this world, but rather in a life lived for Christ. Peace is the ongoing blessing we get as our lives are changed for and by God’s work. So, the opportunity and challenge we have in this 2018 Advent season is to take a step back and examine what this word “busy” means for us in this season of life. Is it keeping you from the ongoing blessing we receive from faith in the Prince of Peace? While I am confident we are not all in the same place this season, we all need to remember His story, Christ into this world, and how that affects our story.
Josh Jaworowski Community Groups Coordinator
DECEMBER 24 ISAIAH 9:6 & LUKE 2:1-20
FOR TO US A CHILD IS BORN, TO US A SON IS GIVEN, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. THE BIRTH OF JESUS CHRIST ² In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. ³And all went to be registered, each to his own town. ⁴And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethle-
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hem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, ⁵to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. ⁶And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. ⁷And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. THE SHEPHERDS & THE ANGELS ⁸And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. ⁹And an angel of the Lord appeared to them,
“GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST, AND ON EARTH PEACE AMONG THOSE WITH WHOM HE IS PLEASED!” ¹⁵When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” ¹⁶And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. ¹⁷And when they saw it, they made known
the saying that had been told them concerning this child. ¹⁸And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. ¹⁹But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. ²⁰And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
Consider reading this story from the "Jesus Storybook Bible"
and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. ¹⁰And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. ¹¹For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. ¹²And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” ¹³And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
DECEMBER 25 EVERLASTING FATHER
ow can I express the unbelievable gift of peace that God freely gives through Christ?
Through salvation, I became a child of God. Therefore, I have peace with Him. I can rejoice that I am His! Experiencing peace in my daily life has been a work in progress. Thankfully, the Lord is patient and kind! The older I get, the more greedy I am for more of God. He is faithful to grow me through the power of His Holy Spirit as I read the Bible, study, and pray but also through the hard stuff of life. The more I surrender and trust Him, the more I experience true peace. This peace is the goodness in life that canâ€™t be touched by what happens on the outside. Sometimes I grow weary and can become restless. It is easy to
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become overwhelmed by all the needs around us, including my own. I continually need a good dose of truth and the promises of God on a daily basis! There are countless scriptures reminding me of my hope in Jesus and His gift of peace. All of Godâ€™s promises are YES in Christ Jesus! My hope for you and the entire Journey this family year is that we would experience the peace of Christ anew. That His peace would remind us that we are continuously and perfectly loved. That His peace would allow us to better enjoy His grace with ourselves and others. And that His peace would be a clear and visible sign of Christ to our neighbors and the nations.