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Gifts of Grace Advent Daily Devotional


Welcome Despite the decorations and music all around us, it is not yet the Christmas

season. For believers, it is the Season of Advent. Advent is a season for those of us that love the Lord. It is the season when we wait for Christmas. We remember the waiting of God’s people for Jesus to come, and we remember that we are waiting for Christ’s return. We come to God as we wait, and remember that He is always with us in the waiting. During this Advent Season, you are invited on a journey: a journey of grace. Grace, simply put, is something that we don’t deserve, that we haven’t earned, and that we haven’t paid for. It’s grace. Jesus was a gift like that – we didn’t deserve Him, we didn’t earn Him, we can’t pay for Him. And God gave Him too us.

God’s gifts of grace are often like that. In the coming days you will read many different stories of grace – of places where people saw God in times and places and stories where they did not expect to find Him. And always – there was God’s grace.

What we hope you will see is that God’s grace is all around us, even as we wait. Each day, take a moment to read the story. Ask the questions. Hear the invitation, and think about how you can share grace with others. The stories are moving and you may be tempted to read ahead. I hope that you will not. Instead, enter the waiting. Wait and see what God has done among His people. Live in the grace of the moment – and know that there will be more tomorrow.

Sunday, December 1 “HOPE” On Sundays, we will read the story of Christmas from Scripture. Each Sunday in Advent also has a traditional theme. Today we remember God’s gift of Hope as we read Isaiah 9: 6-7:

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. 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 These words were written hundreds of years by a prophet to Israel. They were a promise that God’s Messiah, their Savour, was coming to His people. For many years, however, the people had to wait. Their

hope was not in what was in front of them, but in what they looked toward. Their hope was in what God could do one day. Now we know that these words eventually came true with the birth of Jesus Christ. They waited a long time, but God’s promise came true. As you enter this Advent season, may you find grace in the gift of hope. Hope is a grace gift because it can come in the darkest places, at the hardest times, and even where it should never exist. Hope says “One day God’s Wonderful Counselor will come.” We, too, believe Christ is coming again. And so we wait – with hope. Each day we will ask two questions for you to consider.

Where have you seen God’s grace today?

To answer this, think back over your day and a place or a moment where you felt God’s blessing or saw His goodness.

Where can you show God’s grace or How can you receive God’s grace? We will alter between these questions over the next few weeks. Today, ask yourself how you can give and receive hope.

Monday, December 2 - Grace to Receive

Phyllis Kokoski

I will call my story the 1987 surprise benevolent fund gift. I had just started attending MHBC with my two children, Wally and Wanda. After much prayer and soul searching and counselling and a crisis which involved a fire, I had made the decision to permanently leave my spouse of 12 years for the safety of our family. It was a very hard decision and I was just 9 shifts into my new job at Macassa Lodge as an RN. I was taking time off from my job due to the fire crisis and marriage breakup when I was surprised with a gift from the Benevolent Fund (the fund used to help those in need in our community). At that time there were many uncertainties. Would I be able to keep my house? Would Macassa take back a new employee? And, could I raise 2 children on my own? At first when the money gift from MHBC was given to me I felt I was unworthy and that I didn't deserve it. I had a lot of pride. I was worried what others would think of me. After all I was used to working and providing for my family. I believe God used this gift of money to show me His Grace through the kindness of the MHBC church family. This was more than a gift of money. It made me feel great that the church family cared about me and my children. It helped me work on my sin of pride and gave me confidence and hope in my future, the hope that comes through trusting in God.

Where have you seen God’s grace today? How can you receive God’s grace? Invitation: Sometimes we struggle to receive. When someone offers us something we say “Oh no, I don’t need that,” or “it’s too much!” or “let me help pay for that!” This season, can you let others enjoy the gift of giving by receiving with grace? When someone gives you something simply say “Thank-you,” and receive a gift of grace.

Phyllis Kokoski works as a nurse at Macassa Lodge. She is on our Board of Directors. She is excited to welcome her sixth grandchild – due on Christmas day!!

Tuesday, December 3 - Grace and the G2

Colin Gallant

When I first obtained my G2 license, meaning I could drive legally without an adult, I was a little reckless on the road. I would take my parents car out nearly every night, staying out way later than I should and driving all around the city for the sake of my needy friends. In the first few weeks I spent driving on my own, I had already accumulated 2 parking tickets (in consecutive days), a detour into a lamp pole, and a world of grief for my parents. One night as I was driving a friend home in the dark, I accidentally backed into his next door neighbour’s car, immediately setting off the alarm. Upon closer inspection, it was barely a dent in the paint job; it could have been handled with a little bit of nail polish in my opinion. Of course, after swapping numbers with the driver, who assured me it would be less than a hundred dollars to fix, I drove home to tell my parents. As it turns out, a small scratch was actually a door that needed to be re-painted, and it would be upwards of 500 dollars instead. Not only was I sure that I was done driving for the summer, but I also figured my parents would make me pay (money I was trying to save for university) as a lesson for what I had done. Instead, they surprisingly laughed it off and ensured me they had already gone through it all with my brother. A few days later, I found myself shyly handing the man an envelope of cash that wasn’t really mine to give. To this day, I have not hit any more cars, poles, and more importantly, people! The moral of the story is, I was shown grace by my

parents, and grace from God, who not only kept me safe in the vehicle, but also continues to look over my shoulder whenever I drive.

Where have you seen God’s grace today? Where can you give God’s grace? Invitation: Like Colin’s parents, who can you forgive as a gift of grace? In the next day, you may face a simple opportunity to forgive. Try saying “I forgive you” when someone apologies for something to you. Perhaps you have a bigger gift of forgiveness to give. Is there someone you struggle to forgive? Pray for strength to offer them a gift of grace.

Colin Gallant is doing his first year of his undergraduate degree at Western University. He has always shown the same wisdom as this story exhibits! His parents are Randy and Paula Gallant.

Wednesday, December 4 - Fall Into Grace

Lynn Gates

In May1983 I fell one evening, fracturing a hip and discovering I had osteoporosis. Since I had just started a new job I was sure that would end, but my prayers were answered when the head of the department said I could come back not only then as it turned out, but each time in the next two years after new surgeries. When I had my hip replaced in 1985 I had listed myself as Baptist when in hospital and felt somewhat at a loss when no one from a church visited. Once I was more mobile I decided that the churches I had explored prior to my fall were not where I wanted to be so I headed to Mount Hamilton at Inverness. I enjoyed the service and felt at peace there, but imagine my surprise when Pastor Rick Maxwell (the pastor at the time) greeted me like a long lost friend. Apparently he had not received my information until I had left the hospital and said that he had always wondered what had happened to me. Seems that God had it planned all along that I should have a new church home and the best of friends who have supported me amazingly through many events, both surgical and other (many of which I would have chosen to be without!). Life is not always easy, but God did not promise that and it is good to look back over the years and see that he really does keep his promises as we keep the faith.

Now my prayers are for my own family to find that same fountain of strength and the same second family that I have. It may take time but the good things often do.

Where have you seen grace today? Where can you show grace? Invitation: Lynn received grace when she realized someone had been thinking of her during a difficult season. If you know someone going through a hard time right now, can you email them, call them or send them a card to remind them they are not alone?

Lynn Gates is originally from England and is a retired occupational therapist. She is also a busy mom and grandma!

Thursday, December 5 - Grace in a Sandwich

Leanne Friesen

I am grateful for all of the amazing gifts I received during the season when I lost my sister this past spring, but one simple gift stands out to me as a special reminder of God’s goodness. I had booked a flight home for the last week of April this year, guessing that this would likely be near the end of my sister’s life (the flight itself was actually a huge gift of grace, given lovingly to my a member of our church). My flight was supposed to leave from Toronto at 4 p.m. and have a 5 hour stopover in Ottawa, getting me in St. John’s at 2:00 a.m. By the day of my flight my sister’s health had declined and I was anxious to get home as quick as I could, hoping to see her lucid one last time. At the airport, I asked the airline attendant if there were any direct or earlier flights as I was eager to get home to a dying family member. It turns out there was a direct flight leaving at the same time, so that I was able to get in at 8 p.m. instead of two in the morning. When someone you love is dying, every hour feels precious, so this was a huge blessing. I don’t really know how to explain what it is like to get on a plane and know that you are flying home to watch someone you love die. Everyone around you is talking and laughing, reading or watching TV and acting so NORMAL. And all you can think about is how unnormal life feels. After the flight took off, the attendants began to come around with drinks and meals. I was confused when the flight attendant came up and told me she had a meal for me. I told her I that

I had not ordered or paid for a meal. “Are you Leanne?” she asked. “Yes,” I said. “Well, I have a note here to give you whatever meal you would like.” Tears filled my eyes. I realized that the worker who had changed my flight had arranged for me to get a meal. It was not something she had to do, and I would never be able to thank her, but she did it anyway. It was just one meal, but it was a gift of grace. It was a gift that said to me “You are not alone. God is with you. Here is hope for the journey.” I felt like I had received Communion – Christ’s body broken for me in the form of chicken salad on whole wheat, the reminder that God is with us in all things.

Where have you seen God’s grace today? Where can you show God’s grace? Invitation: Leanne was blessed by a “random act of kindness” – a stranger showing her grace. Can you perform a “Random Act of Kindness” today? Examples might be buying coffee for the person behind you in the drive through, shovelling a neighbour’s driveway, or leaving a gift for someone who needs it with no card attached. Pray for God to show you an opportunity to show His kindness.

Leanne Friesen is the Senior Pastor here at Mount Hamilton Baptist Church. She is married to Dallas and has two children, Josiah and Lucy.

Friday: December 6 - Grace in Answered Prayers

Sandy McDonald

My daughter Jessica had 3 years of College in Advertising and Communications. With 2 years in her field and not having much job satisfaction she felt that she wanted to go back to school and make a difference with her career. While completing her BA in Honours at McMaster she volunteered in the schools during the days and months she was not in class, and then moved onto Teacher’s College. She put in extra hours during lunch hours, providing extra school activities in music, drama and art. Each school term, Principals recommend one student they witnessed as good candidates for supply teaching. In all Jessica’s terms the Principals had previously made their choices and it was too late for her to be recommended. She was devastated as this was the only way to get your foot into the school system. We prayed and I shared with her that God is bigger than any School Principal! Two weeks before her wedding day in August 2011, she was working for Y-108 at the Gage Park Art Festival and was chatting with a teacher from a private school. She asked if by chance they were looking for teachers and was told that they were holding interviews that week. She got her resume in the next day, and was called the day after for a phone interview. Jessica went for a second interview the day after that, and was hired on the spot to start teaching two days after she returned from her honeymoon.

Three years later, Jessica is still at the Hamilton Academy of Performing Arts, and only one other person from her graduating class has a full time teaching job, and one is working as a Supply Teacher. God gives us His Grace when we least expect it. What a Blessing it is to receive His Grace against all odds.

Where have you seen God’s grace today? Where can you show God’s grace? Invitation: Tonight we will be having “Carols and Coffee” at 7:30 at our church. This is a reflective and encouraging night in the Christmas season. Is there someone in your life that would enjoy the gift of an invitation?

Sandy McDonald works as a financial consultant and also in the nutrition industry. She is a longtime member of MHBC and comes to church with her mom, May and sister, Deb.

Saturday, Dec7 – The Gift of Perspective

Bruce Smith

There was nothing unusual about the Sunday morning at MHBC, being greeted at the door, chatting to one another, followed by the announcements. We sat in the back and could overhear someone coming in. The talking was louder than usual. I soon saw the man. He had a large winter wool coat, a beard, hat, gloves and an overall tattered appearance.

He was definitely out of place. However, he was welcomed and sat beside us. Throughout the service he talked, and talked, and talked. Rev. Joyce Trask (our minister at the time) kept the service going even throughout his

outbursts. He told me he was hungry and that he did not have a home. I was not surprised but did not know what to do. This man had real need and yet I was ill equipped to help him. I knew I could give him a few dollars and possibly drive him to Good Sheppard or Mission Services but I did not even know where those places were. I felt a real sense of pity for him. I

prayed for him. I wanted him to be looked after, but also to quiet down. He didn’t stop. Rev Joyce soon acknowledged him and asked him to move to the front. As he moved toward her, he started having a conversation with her in front of the entire congregation. This was most unusual. I thought she knew how to handle this “situation”. She asked him to take his coat off, his hat, his gloves and underneath was someone well dressed. He soon took away his beard and the outline of makeup remained. He was transformed from a

homeless man to an actor playing his role. Joyce had planted him as part of

her message from Matthew 25:31-46, which talks about caring for the poor. Many of you reading this may see this as part of a trick or the man as a well-crafted prop. However, as I write this I still see this very differently. I witnessed a miracle. I saw a hungry, homeless man, who lacked social awareness, transformed. I experienced answered prayer. I went from feeling helpless to feeling relief. It really is about your perspective. I may not be ready the next time but I know that through God, all is possible. Thanks be to God.

Where have you seen God’s grace today? How can you receive God’s grace? Invitation: Bruce received grace when he saw things from a new perspective. Think of a situation or person in your life that is difficult for

you. Ask for God to help you see the situation from his perspective. Can you receive the gift of seeing things in a new way?

Bruce Smith works at the Halton District School Board. He is also on our Board of Directors and chair of our Missional team. He is married to Sandy. Bruce is an accomplished runner and we have lost track of the number of marathons he has completed.

Sunday, December 8 “PEACE” As we start our second week of Advent, we remember the peace of Christ. We pause and remember the great Christmas story of grace, as we read from Luke 1: 26-38:

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a

child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.” “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her. Can you imagine how scary it must have been for Mary to have this experience? It is little wonder that the angel’s first words were “Do not be afraid!” Sometimes we see the journey God has before us and, like Mary, it is frightening. Yet, Mary found peace in God. We know this as she was able to say “May your word be fulfilled.” Peace is a gift of grace. It is a gift that God gave to Mary, and that He can also give to us.

Where have you seen God’s grace today? How can you receive His grace? Invitation: Consider an area of your life where you are worried and do not have peace. Tell God the thing you are worried about and sit for one minute of silence before Him. Invite Him to give you peace.

Monday, December 9 - Grace to Wait

Nathan Krampitz

It was a Sunday evening in November 1998; I was a widower and lonely. I had been representing my Mission Society, OMS International, at Briercrest College and Seminary Mission Conference. I enjoyed doing this because of the interaction with students, other mission representatives and the guest speakers. One of the guest speakers that year was Patrick Johnstone, author of “Operation World”. One day as we were eating a meal together in the

college dining room he shared that he too had lost his wife, Jill, but recently God had brought a new companion, Robyn, into his life and he was now happily married again. I arrived back home in BC after my flight from Regina and the house really seemed empty. I was thinking of the students who were pairing off and falling in love as often happens in college. I put a CD by the Maranatha Singers in the stereo. As the music was playing I prayed, “Lord, I’m lonely, why can’t you bring someone into my life as you brought Robyn into

Patrick’s?” And in answer to my prayer I seemed to hear the still small voice of the Lord, “Within a year you will know who I have for you.” As I was reflecting on this, the Maranatha Singers were singing:

Be still my soul! Thy God doth undertake To guide the future as He has the past. Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake; All now mysterious shall be bright at last. Be still, my soul! The waves and winds still know His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.

The last part of January, 1999 I was at MissionFest, Vancouver, working at the OMS International display when the wife of the Canadian Director of

OMS introduced Anne to me. The next month I left for a 5 month teaching assignment in Korea. In July while I was still in Korea Anne and I knew that the Lord had brought us together and on November 20, 1999 we were married in the Chapel at the Crossroads Centre in Burlington. God by His grace had kept his promise to me “that within a year I would know who He had for me.”

Where have you seen God’s grace today? Where can you show God’s grace? Invitation: Nathan was feeling lonely. Do you know someone who may be lonely, who has lost someone like Nathan? Christmas can be a painful time for those who miss their loved ones. Can you give someone who is grieving the gift of knowing they are not alone?

Nathan Krampitz spent many years as a missionary in India. He is married to Anne, and leads a Connection Group on Friday mornings here at MHBC.

Tuesday, December 10 - Grace on a Mountain

Anne Krampitz

The Global Consultation on World Evangelization was held in 1995 in Seoul, South Korea with the purpose of encouraging continued momentum building toward the fulfillment of the goal of a church for every person and the gospel for every people by the year 2000. It was a real honour for me to be one of the twenty Canadian delegates who joined those from two

hundred other countries. Every aspect of these twelve days was exciting-inspiring speakers, active participation in individual networks, meeting with individuals who had escaped from countries of persecution. The day which I most keenly anticipated was the visit to the main Prayer Mountain, the area where we would be closest to North Korea so we could pray for people in

that closed country. Our Canadians were literally sitting on the edge of our seats as the bus approached the entrance to the “Prayer Mountain” buildings. If I had wondered why “umbrella” was on the list of items to bring to Seoul, I now could see the reason! The rain poured down heavily. The Korean host

explained that on such days visitors were invited to meet in the Prayer Halls for corporate and individual prayer. However, another friend and I insisted that we had come up this mountain specifically to pray outdoors in a position where we would be facing the closest possible spot to North Korea. With umbrellas held high we made our way around past all buildings to the top of a grassy slope, praying, “Lord lead us to a sheltered spot.” Within minutes, we discovered a very small cave facing north. As we were figuring out how we could fit into this space, we heard a voice not too far ahead. As

we sat down on the wet narrow stone seat we realized that we were about to experience the most longed for moments of our whole time in Korea! The air was filled with the cries of an old Korean man pouring his heart out to God as he raised his hands toward North Korea. We wept as we listened

and although we did not understand the language, our spirits were at one as we too interceded for the power of the Holy Spirit to overwhelm all of Korea. I praise God for His Grace in answering the prayer, which I prayed before leaving Canada, that above else I would hear a genuine passionate outpouring of intercession during the days in Korea. Even now, I can still see and hear that precious man of God!

Where have you seen God’s grace today? Where can you show God’s grace? Invitation: It is easy to forget about the needs of our brothers and sisters

around the world. Today, can you give the gift of prayer by praying for God to move in a specific country in our world?

Anne Jamieson-Krampitz came to Canada as a missionary from Scotland. She is married to Nathan, has a passion for prayer, and is known to be just ever so slightly mischevious...

Wednesday, December 11 - Grace Gift

Jamie De Santis

As a young man attending this church for many years I have grown up with a church family invested in the development and progression of my life and life goals. I have had many great conversations detailing the ambitions and struggles of my life, during the talking times before or after service Sunday mornings, week to week. It’s great to have people to listen of course, but even better when an unexpected “gift of grace” is the result of sharing life casually with another family in this church body. I had been unsure about being able to pursue secondary education after high school, but had been encouraged by many to do so and I had found a way to fund all but my last semester at college. While sharing this circumstance amongst my church family, two families talked with me and agreed to cover the cost of my final semester for me to finish college. I couldn’t believe people would be so interested in me accomplishing my goals that they would offer their finances to support me. As a young man I had nothing to offer, no strings to pull, no networking opportunities with which to connect these members nothing. That’s one awesome “gift of grace” I remember knowing I couldn’t have accomplished it on my own and I still reflect on how great a model of sacrificial love they showed me. They lightened my financial burden, yes, but more importantly they showed me I was cared about here as a member of this church family.

Where have you seen God’s grace today? Where can you show His grace? Invitation: Can you bless a member of our church family as Jamie was blessed? You are probably not in a place to pay someone’s tuition but there are smaller and equally important ways to help. This Christmas we will be packing hampers, many of which will be given to members of our church. Take a tag from the tree at the back of the church with items you can give to our hampers. If you can’t give food items, sign up to help us sort or pack hampers the week before Christmas.

Jamie De Santis works at Orlick Industries. He is also on our Board of Directors and plays drums on the worship team. He is married to Amanda.

Thursday, December 12 - A Hard Gift of Grace

Amanda De Santis

When I Jamie and I first started dating, it was a very exciting time for me. I had never felt like this about anyone and I wanted to spend all my extra time with him. What ended up happening was that as I filled my time with Jamie, I spent less and less time with my other friends. I know this is a normal kind of problem at the beginning of a new relationship, but I didn't really think I'd be one of those girls. Love can do funny things! ď Š My gift of grace came about three months in when my good friend Mikayla (who now attends MHBC) lovingly mentioned to me how she and my other ignored friends were feeling. I felt pretty bad and intentionally set aside time to spend with them. Now, Mikayla and I even have a date night of our own to make sure that among all the other responsibilities and relationships we have, we make time to invest in our friendship as well. I am so thankful that she was willing to have that tough conversation with me instead of letting resentment build and maybe letting the friendship fall away. I am thankful that God is like that with us as well. Even when we get caught up in our own lives and forget about Him sometimes, He gives us a little nudge to remind us He's there and happily welcomes us back every time.

Where have you seen God’s grace today? How can you receive God’s grace? Invitation: Amanda’s gift of grace may not have looked like a gift at the time. We don’t always like it when people challenge us. Can you show the grace today to receive wisdom from others? The next time someone says something to you about your life, can you receive it as a gift?

Amanda De Santis is the administrator at Mount Hamilton Baptist Church. She also works with The Navigators doing spiritual mentorship with university students at McMaster. She is married to Jamie.

Friday, December 13 – Grace in All Things

Mary-Ellen Gillies

What a wonderful thing to be able to know that I know wonderful grace of God! The Grace of God has protected us. While driving on the QEW toward Toronto, a wheel flew off a vehicle heading toward us on the other side of the highway. It became airborn and flew across the median, just narrowly missing us, avoiding an almost certain deadly collision. A while ago I had a call back after a cancer screening. After consultation with the medical staff, I was prepared to hear that biopsy results would probably indicate cancer. It seems unbelievable, but upon hearing this, I immediately felt overwhelming peace and absolute love. Even though I didn't know what I would be facing, I knew that God was with me. I could face what was ahead because of His grace. Thankfully everything turned out okay. I've seen God's Grace in others, like the time we were hiking along the Great Wall of China, and a young girl noticed the cross around my neck, held it in her fingers saying "Jesus" in her strong accent, then gave me a big hug. She called to her sisters and her grandmother showing them the cross and saying Jesus over and over. They were so joyful! We had many pictures taken and as we parted we shared blessings for each other. Amazing!

Realizing that I can never do enough to actually deserve this Grace makes it even more astounding that I should receive it at all. When we sing words like, "He calls me Friend", or "He is a Friend of Mine" or read in the scriptures how He knew us even before we were born, I am humbled and thankful that God is so generous with His Love and Grace. We have but to receive what He offers so freely.

Where have you seen God’s grace today? Where can you show God’s grace? Invitation: Mary-Ellen sees grace all around her. Others are blessed when they see grace in her. Tomorrow, our church will meet on Concession Street to sing carols. Sharing God’s grace by singing songs of His story in our neighbourhood is always a Christmas highlight. Join us to sing His songs, or, if you are unable to come, pray that this would be a gift of grace to those who hear.

Mary-Ellen is officially one of the longest serving members of MHBC. She is a retired music teacher who is still busy sharing and teaching music all over the city. She is married to Jack and has three grown sons and four much-adored grandchildren.

Saturday, December 14 – Gratitude for Grace

Sam Parras

I receive gifts of grace every day, from waking up healthy, to having food on the table and a roof over my head. I have so many things to thank God for. He has never and I know that He will never abandon me and that alone is a gift of grace. Even though sometimes I forget to give thanks for the many blessings that he has given me, He's always there with His arms open wide and for that I'm thankful. I believe that one of my gifts of grace is God blessing me with an amazing family. I have the most wonderful and loving wife I could have ever dreamed for. He could not have paired me up with anyone better and I know that God set her aside for me years ago. And He has recently blessed us with a beautiful daughter. He has given me the beautiful gift of grace, of being a parent. It’s the greatest feeling ever. I thank God every day for blessing me so richly with these two ladies in my life.

Where have you seen God’s grace today? How can you receive God’s grace? Invitation: Sometimes we have many grace gifts, but, like Sam, we forget to give thanks. One of the ways to realize our gifts is to stop and think of the things for which we are thankful. Today think of three things that God has given you and pause to give thanks.

Sam Parras is a husband to Gracie and a proud new dad to Daniella who was born in May. When he is not busy with family he is probably either playing music or enjoying sports! He works at Royal Bank.

Sunday, December 15 “JOY” As we enter the third week of our Advent season, we reflect on the gift of joy that is a grace to us. Last week we read the story of the angel telling Mary that she would have a child. Later, realizing how God was working in her, Mary sang this song:

My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones, but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things, but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors. (Luke 1: 47-55)

Can you hear the joy in Mary’s song? When she sang this song her life would have still been messy. She was still an unwed, pregnant young woman. People probably wondered about her. She did not know what life would look like. There were challenges ahead. Yet, she sang with joy. She had joy because of what God was doing, something that she must have understood was bigger than her circumstances. That’s what makes joy a gift of grace. Joy is different than happiness. Happiness often comes because of our circumstances – joy comes in spite of it. Joy can only come from God.

Where have you seen God’s grace today? How can you receive God’s grace? Invitation: God longs for you to know His joy. It is not always easy to feel joy when life is hard. Today, take a moment to tell God the things that you feel are taking away your joy. Admit to him the things that make it hard to feel joy. And then ask God, not to take those things away, but to give you joy in the midst of them.

Monday, December 16 – Grace in Giving

Dallas Friesen

Each year it is wonderful to be part of the Christmas hamper program at MHBC. It is an amazing blessing to see how God uses us to help others. Years ago we were packing the hampers and we were distributing some gifts for some people that we knew may not receive gifts otherwise. Teresa Elliott had thoughtfully gathered gifts that we could give, and there was a real mix of toys, scarves, chocolates and bath items. One gift that was donated that seemed a little odd was an adult sized pair of pajamas that were covered with pictures of none other than Betty Boop! We puzzled over what to do with these pajamas. We couldn’t give them to someone young because of the size. And would an adult WANT a pair of pajamas? With Betty Boop on them? We wondered if we should leave them aside and donate them elsewhere. Finally, we decided to take the risk and include them in the hamper of one particular woman. Later, we got a call from the woman who received the hamper. She was so excited as she asked: “How did you know that I love Betty Boop?” Turns out that the woman we had chosen to receive what seemed like a very weird gift COLLECTED Betty Boop items! She said: “When I opened the gift on Christmas day I screamed and ran to put them on! I couldn’t figure out how you knew how to buy me the

perfect gift!”

It was incredible to see how God directed that gift to make sure it went to just the right person. Seeing how God cares about the details was a gift of grace to me.

Where have you seen God’s grace today? Where can you show God’s grace? Invitation: We can show God’s grace by helping others. Tomorrow our church will start to prepare our Christmas hampers (food baskets) for those in need and our YMCA toy drive. It is not too late to give. Perhaps what you give will turn out to be someone’s perfect gift of grace!

Dallas Friesen is the Associate Pastor here at Mount Hamilton Baptist Church. He is married to Leanne and has two children, Josiah and Lucy.

Tuesday, December 17 – A Wrench in the Plans

Rod Elliott

There have been many times that God's grace and intervention has turned not so good times into great memories with good outcomes. The one I will write about to day is a time when two friends and I were returning from fishing in Eagle Lake and pulling my boat. As we were going up a hill, we see a tire go flying by us. The tire had come off the boat trailer. We were able to track the tire down, but could only find one nut. I was able to unhook and go back and get 3 more nuts. I came back to the car quite proud that I was able to get 3 nuts in the middle of nowhere. I gave them to my friend to put on when the problem arose - each nut was a different size! – and I have a wrench that fits only one. So much for my great find! Where would we find more wrenches on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere? My one friend was getting a little annoyed because this was the third thing that happened that weekend (stories for another time!). Blake said: “We need a 4 way wrench.” John said: “What are we going to do?” I said “Let’s pray.” And I did. Just then, a truck by, and the ladder it was carrying fellow out. When the driver stopped to get the ladder, it turned out he had a 4-way wrench. We tightened the nuts and away we went. This is one of those great stories that show God is a great God.

I love when God shows up in unexpected ways, but the biggest gift of Grace is to know that death is a new beginning and not an end because of God's grace.

Where have you seen God’s grace today? Where can you show God’s grace? Invitation: Today, we invite you to share in the grace-gift of prayer. As we distribute out toys and hampers tomorrow, pray that God will work in all the details so that each recipient will feel the love of God.

Rod Elliott is retired, but is always busy volunteering wherever he is needed! He is also on our Board of Directors. He is married to Teresa.

Wednesday, December 18 – Amazing Grace

Diane Baker

Over the course of my life, I can think of so many examples of “gifts of grace” that it is hard to choose just one. However, the greatest blessing in my life was when my twin brother and I were adopted at 18 months. I truly believe that God chose our adoptive parents specifically for us. We were able to grow up together as siblings in a stable, loving home with parents who are our biggest supporters and have provided us with many opportunities. They also weren’t afraid to say “no” when it was needed. I am so thankful for my adoptive parents and for my biological mother’s choice. At 12 years of age, my mom told me that we had a biological sister and gave me her blessing if I wanted to look for her. Our sister was a year older than us, but my mom didn’t know anything else about her. I have to admit that I was curious—did she look like me? Did she know about us? Had she been adopted as well? However, I had this overwhelming feeling that I wasn’t supposed to look for her. Looking back, I think that God was protecting me, waiting until I was mature enough to fully understand my biological history. When I was pregnant with our first child, I decided to fill out the paperwork to try and find my sister. I was interested in our medical history, but wasn’t optimistic that I would find her. My brother had tried unsuccessfully to find her 10 years before that. I clearly

remember the day that I got the letter with her name on it. She had

filled out the paperwork on our 18th birthday and had been looking for us ever since. Within an hour, I found her on Facebook and we started to make up for 30 years of lost time. It turned out that we grew up within 10 blocks of one another and were at the same middle school at the same time, although I do not remember her. Today, we have a good relationship and I feel very fortunate to have been adopted but also to have a connection to my biological family. I think of this verse: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

Where have you seen God’s grace? How can you receive God’s grace? Invitation: Scripture tells us that we have also been adopted into the family of God. This is a gift of grace to us. Pause for a moment and thank God for choosing you as His child.

Diane Baker is a science teacher at Ancaster High School. She is married to Sean and has two adorable and entertaining young boys, Daniel and Alexander.

Thursday, December 19 – Saving Grace

Tara Smith

My parents separated and divorced when I was 17 years old. My Dad left our family to marry a woman he had met from Australia. And he left just before Christmas. This was a complete shock to me - my parents had been married for 30 years and I thought they would be together forever. My grandmother also died that fall. She was a woman of faith who ensured that we went to church and knew about God. We spent all of our holidays together as a family. That first Christmas was a hard one, but the family of one of my sibling’s friends invited us to have Christmas dinner with them. It was a little awkward at first but it was nice to be included in someone else’s Christmas celebrations. God has continued to work to redeem the Christmas season for me. When my brother got engaged my mother and I started celebrating Christmas and other holidays with my sister in law’s family. My sister-in-law Amanda comes from a big family - she has 3 aunts and an uncle and lots of cousins. It is really nice to be included in their family celebrations. A few years ago, my brother and his family and Amanda’s parents and her brother and his family began to come to my Mom’s church on Christmas Eve. I still find it hard sometimes when I think about the Christmas season because it is the time that my family split apart, however, I truly have been blessed by others and I am thankful for that.

Where have you seen God’s grace today? Where can you show God’s grace? Invitation: Tara is blessed by being included as family with others. We, too, have been given a new family. As children of God, we have many brothers and sisters in Christ. Today, can you think of a brother or sister in your church family who may be lonely at Christmas? How can you include them as family during this season?

Tara Smith works at the Halton District School Board. She is also the Chair of our Board of Directors. She is enjoying driving her new to her car.

Friday, December 20 - Saving Grace

Richard Nyaga

Today as I reflect on my past life I can see how God was patient with me while transforming me to be a better person. Even though God has been in my life always, there have been several occasions in the past I ignored His presence. On one such occasion, while in India, I was travelling by train from my resident town of Bhopal in central India to New Delhi City in

Northern India. I happened to be in a train that was fully packed with passengers. When the train stopped at one of the small towns along the route, I alighted to get a snack and before I finished the train horn sounded to alert the passengers to board. When I got back, my seat had been taken and the coach was filled to the door. As I was trying to get inside the train

started moving. I was now hanging outside the door and there was no ramp to disembark. I was facing the rear end of the train and about 2 coaches away noticed one of the local Indian passengers motioning his hands frantically for those of us outside to get in quickly. At first I hesitated and was wondering why the urgency until he started pointing at his head

making actions to indicate danger ahead. At that point I turned to face the direction of the train and at that moment the train was going over a narrow bridge on which I was on the path of one of the metal beams used to construct the bridge. Those of us hanging outside realized the danger and in those few seconds before we came into contact with the beam we pushed hard to force everyone inside and get past the metal beam. I always

remember this incident because the metal beam went past my head about 3 inches away and had it not been for the passenger (whom I did not know) on the other coach I cannot imagine how this would have ended.

When I look back I see God’s patience, forbearing love and grace. There have been many such occasions where I may not have made wise decisions but God was always with me and today I am glad to have Him on my side. He tell us very clearly in Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for

you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Where have you seen God’s grace today? Where can you show His grace? Invitation: It is easy as we go about our day to get “in our heads” and not notice what is happening around us. Thankfully on that train, one man was

keenly present in the moment and was able to help others when they needed it most. Today, ask God to help you see when you may need to help someone around you.

Richard Nyaga is originally from Kenya and works at the Royal Bank of Canada. He is married to Philomena and has the joy of having three teenage girls – all at the same time.

Saturday, December 21- Giving Grace

James Bowick

For many years I worked as the manager of the Christian bookstore “Blessings,” on Upper James Street. Salvo’s Gifts now exists where my store once was. Shopping at Salvo's on Upper James is always a bittersweet experience for me. I love the selection they have – figurines, pictures, statues, keychains and more, all in a variety of designs and styles. But we

also get lost in there because they left so much of Blessings when they took over the space. I check out the missing piece of tile at the end of the walkway, admire the creative way they use our framed print wall, and look for the stain where Betty spilled her coffee on the very first day we opened. One day I was at Salvo’s and lost track of time as always. I don't know how long were in there, but when we came out, the weather had gotten worse. Late evening dusk and falling snow made visibility poor, and the parking lot was a slushy, slippery mess. Squinty eyed and huddled together like a pair of explorers challenging a polar storm, eventually my wife Joan and I made it to the car.

When I saw the note under the windshield wipers, I thought someone was mad at me for parking crooked. (I hadn't. This time.) I love my car, so reading the note was a bit of an emotional experience. It seemed the person who left the note had slid in the parking lot and hit my car. There was now damage on the left fender. He had left his name and phone number so I could contact him about paying for the damage. I was glad he had done that.

When I got home, I phoned him right away. I left a message on his machine. An hour later he called me back. “Hello. My name is Max. I hit your car.” I could hear the fear in his voice. “Thanks for calling,” I said. “Be at peace. I looked at the damage, and it matches nicely the ding on the right fender. Let's just forget all about it.” “Really?” He said. “Really,” I said. “Have a merry Christmas.” I really do love my car. I love that it is not new, and that it has a few dings. I love that a minor hit does not affect it. I love that it gives me the

opportunity to extend grace. I know I definitely need enough of it.

Where have you seen God’s grace today? Where can you show God’s grace? Invitation: Pray for an opportunity to show grace today. Sometimes that opportunity comes when someone drives us crazy and we let it go. Sometimes it is when we help someone we see who needs a hand. Sometimes it is when someone wrongs us and we let it go. We always have chances to show grace – pray you can see them.

James Bowick is the executive director of The Bridge, a transitional home for men leaving prison. He is also an Old Testament scholar and has the beard to prove it! He is married to Joan.

Sunday, December 22 “LOVE” On this fourth Sunday of Advent, we pause to be thankful for the gift of Love. God’s love for us is one of His greatest gifts of grace. Read this part of the story of Christ’s birth from Matthew 1: 18-24.

This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. Joseph and Mary were engaged. Engagement was a more binding contract than our engagements today; to end an engagement, one had to get

divorced! I can only guess how Joseph must have felt when he heard Mary

was pregnant. He came to the only logical conclusion – she had cheated on him. However, God revealed to Him that He was doing something greater. Joseph married Mary at what was potentially great cost to him – his

reputation, his role in the community, perhaps even his honour. Yet, we see in this an act of love. His love for God helped him love another person and see the big picture. Although he probably did not know Mary well when he married her (that was not the practice at the time) so that we can’t say he married her out of love, I like to think that Joseph grew to love Mary with

the love that only comes from God – love that puts others first, that sees God in all things, and makes sacrifices.

Where have you seen grace today? How can you receive grace? Invitation: Did you know that you are loved? We are told in Scripture that it was because God loved the world that he sent Jesus. We did not deserve Him. We had not earned Him. Out of love, God showed us grace. Say to yourself right now “God loves me.” And believe it.

Monday, December 23 – “Grace and Mercy”

Doreen Leaney

I’ve heard it said that mercy is not getting what you do deserve and grace is getting what you don’t deserve. Since we’re all flawed, imperfect people, none of us deserves grace. That’s what makes God so great – because of His great love for us, He gave us His only Son and required His sacrifice so that we could be in right relationship with Him again, the kind of relationship He wanted when He created Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden. Apart from that great gift, He gives us smaller things which enable us to not give up on this life, but keep our hope for the future alive. Very recently, I was looking through file drawers and book cases for an important document I needed. I was becoming more and more agitated until I came across some cards and letters from various friends and family members I had received years ago. I didn’t even know I still had them. These notes were filled with love and care and affection, things which I have been missing lately. Even though I never found what I was looking for, what I found was really what I needed. What great grace! “Grace, grace, God’s grace…grace that is greater than all our sin.”

Where have you seen God's grace today? How can you receive God's grace? Invitation: If you are a follower, you already know His grace. The harder part, sometimes, is seeing that grace. Today, take a moment to ask yourself: "What is my story of grace?" What story do you have to tell about how God has been good to you?

Doreen Leaney works as an administrative assistant at Rygiel Supports for Community Living and Truscott, Brown & Dwyer Funeral Chapel. She is also a gifted musician, a mom of four and a grandma.

Tuesday, December 24 “The Great Gift of Grace” During this season, we have read many different stories of gifts of grace. Today we read one more, and it is a very very good one…

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah,the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. (Luke 2: 1- 18) Ah, it’s a good one isn’t it? God in the most unexpected place – tucked

away, crying in a stable, in a city that was not his home? Angels singing to

shepherds out in a field, telling the most unexpected news that the Messiah had finally come? Dirty, smelly shepherds leaving their sheep to realize the gift of grace was finally here? Like the angels, I can hardly resist shouting “Glory to God!!!”

Glory to God for your grace! Glory to God – you came! Glory to God – you will come again! Glory to God – you will be here in the waiting! Glory to God – your grace is always near us! May this truth make your Christmas merry… And together, we all say – Amen.

Gifts of Grace Mount Hamilton Baptist Church Advent Reader  

The Gifts of Grace is an Advent Daily Devotional book put together with stories from the people of Mount Hamilton Baptist Church.

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