A collection of devotionals for the season of Advent, written by members and friends of PICKENS PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH 311 West Main Street Pickens, SC 29671
WHAT IS ADVENT? Advent is a season of the church year beginning four Sundays before Christmas Day. The word advent means “coming,” and the season of Advent is a time of waiting and preparation for the coming of Christ. It is a time of reflection, repentance, anticipation, and celebration. During Advent, we remember that the Israelites were waiting for the Messiah. During Advent, we rejoice that the Messiah was born in Bethlehem centuries ago. We remember the story of Christ’s first coming as we look forward to and pray for Christ’s second coming. We read in Scriptures that when Jesus returns to earth all his promises will be fulfilled. The earth will once again be as God created it to be − without sin, evil, injustice, war, sickness, grief, or suffering. In the meantime, we wait, and we prepare for Jesus to come again. We work to live the way he taught us, and we work to share with other people the good news of Jesus. This devotional guide is designed to help as you wait and prepare this Advent season. Each week you may light another candle on your Advent wreath, and each day you may read the devotional provided. There is no right or wrong way to use this booklet, but we pray that it draws you closer to Christ during this special season.
May the peace of Christ and the joy of Christmas be with you as you wait and prepare this Advent season!
THE ADVENT WREATH One of the beautiful traditions of Advent is the lighting of the Advent wreath. The wreath is a circle of evergreens with three purple candles and one pink candle around its edge and a white candle in the center. From the first Sunday in Advent to Christmas Eve, the wreath grows in beauty and light as it helps us recall God’s gracious gift of Jesus Christ. Each part of the wreath has a special meaning: The round shape symbolizes the eternity of God. It is a reminder that God lived before there was a world; God lived in Jesus; God lives now and always will live. Evergreens are used for the wreath because they live all year and never lose their needles. They testify to the continuation of life. The candles represent the One who said, “I am the light of the world.”
First Sunday –
The Candle of Hope reminds us of the hope found in Christ’s birth and in the promise of his return.
Second Sunday – The Candle of Peace reminds us of the peace found in Christ through acts of repentance and service. Third Sunday –
The Candle of Love reminds us of the amazing and unending love of God.
Fourth Sunday –
The Candle of Joy reminds us of the joyful news that God is with us and encourages us to have joy in working with God to restore all creation.
Light the candle(s) each week at the beginning of your devotional time. We pray its light will be a blessing to you this Advent season.
by Caleb Briley
O Lord, how shall I meet You, How welcome You aright? Your people long to greet You, My hope, my heartâ€™s delight! O kindle, Lord most holy, A lamp within my breast, To do in spirit lowly All that may please You best. --Paul Gerhardt, 1653
by Kathryn Haines
Come, Thou long-expected Jesus, Born to set Thy people free; From our fears and sins release us; Let us find our rest in Thee. --Charles Wesley, 1744
THE FIRST WEEK OF ADVENT The Hope Candle
Happiness Optimism Patience Expectation -
Junior High Youth
Light the first candle and say: We light this Advent candle today as a reminder of the coming of Christ, the light of the world. We light the Candle of Hope as we continue to wait for Christ’s return. We remember the anticipation which each of us have felt when we wished something would happen. The Israelites had a long wait for the Messiah. Hundreds of years before Christ was born, Isaiah gave them a promise of the Messiah’s birth and the people waited in hope. Christ has promised that he will return to the earth to restore the world to the way God created it to be. As Christians, we have hope as we wait for this time. Where in our world do you see a need for Christ to restore the world? What is not as God created it to be? Almighty God, in Your great mercy, forgive all the things we have done; and all things we failed to do that we should have done. Teach us to live as children of God. Keep us awake and alert, watching for Your Kingdom. Make us strong in faith, so we may glorify Christ as we wait for His return. In Jesus’s name, Amen.
by Maddie Cole
Sunday, December 2, 2012 To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul. O my God, in you I trust; do not let me be put to shame; do not let my enemies exult over me. Do not let those who wait for you be put to shame; let them be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous. Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long. Be mindful of your mercy, O Lord, and of your steadfast love, for they have been from of old. Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for your goodness’ sake, O Lord! Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way. All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his decrees. Psalm 25:1-10
“Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths.” Psalm 25:4 “All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his decrees.” Psalm 25:10 It is probably a widely known fact that our family loves to hike on mountain trails. Indeed, it is a great way to enjoy and celebrate God’s wonderful creation! But paths in the deep woods, far from roads and civilization, can often be foreboding and frightening. Even experienced hikers can become confused and lose their way. So it’s always good to be prepared with a map and compass. As we begin this Advent season, perhaps we need a spiritual map and compass to help us navigate through our consumer-driven world at Christmas. In our scripture for today, the psalmist reminds us to seek the ways of the Lord and to learn His paths. How do we do this in a world that is pulling us in many different directions and sending us conflicting messages? It’s not always easy to follow God’s paths in America today. So we must remain very intentional in our worship, prayer, and service to others. The psalmist also reminds us “all the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness.” This last verse gives us hope that God will always be with us, and the proof of His amazing love is Jesus, whose birth we celebrate in this season! Have you ever been lost in the woods? How did you feel and how did you find your way? What ways can you think of to find and stay on God’s path for you? Dear Lord, help us to always seek your path and to use the gift of time you have granted us to be intentional in our worship, prayer, and service to others. We thank you for the gift of your Son and his example of steadfast love and faithfulness. In Jesus’s name we pray. Amen. Bill and Allison Ranson
Monday, December 3, 2012 Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. You turn us back to dust, and say, “Turn back, you mortals.” For a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when it is past, or like a watch in the night. You sweep them away; they are like a dream, like grass that is renewed in the morning; in the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers. For we are consumed by your anger; by your wrath we are overwhelmed. You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your countenance. For all our days pass away under your wrath; our years come to an end like a sigh. The days of our life are seventy years, or perhaps eighty, if we are strong; even then their span is only toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away. Who considers the power of your anger? Your wrath is as great as the fear that is due you. So teach us to count our days that we may gain a wise heart. Turn, O Lord! How long? Have compassion on your servants! Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, so that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. Make us glad as many days as you have afflicted us, and as many years as we have seen evil. Let your work be manifest to your servants, and your glorious power to their children. Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and prosper for us the work of our hands— O prosper the work of our hands! Psalm 90
I selected this Psalm from the suggested list without reading it. I would think Advent would be an up-beat season. Psalm 90 is anything but up-lifting—the wrath of God, the shortness of life, the hard side of life. I’ve only heard it at funerals. It reminds me of Ecclesiastes 2:22-23. So how can this relate to the coming of Christ? If the author had been later, he/she would have known that life, though long or short, easy or hard, can also be good. We can’t escape disappointments, sorrows, and hardships of life, but we can live in hope with the coming of Jesus into the world and especially the coming of Jesus into our lives. Lord, as we celebrate Advent and Jesus coming into our lives, help us to know that there are people around us (like the Psalmist who wrote Psalm 90) who won’t celebrate a joyous Christmas this year. Lord, we ask you to make us sensitive to their pain and needs. Amen. Roger Gettys
Tuesday, December 4, 2012
Then King David went in and sat before the LORD, and said, “Who am I, O Lord GOD, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far? And yet this was a small thing in your eyes, O Lord GOD; you have spoken also of your servant’s house for a great while to come. May this be instruction for the people, O Lord GOD! And what more can David say to you? For you know your servant, O Lord GOD! Because of your promise, and according to your own heart, you have wrought all this greatness, so that your servant may know it. Therefore you are great, O LORD God; for there is no one like you, and there is no God besides you, according to all that we have heard with our ears. Who is like your people, like Israel? Is there another nation on earth whose God went to redeem it as a people, and to make a name for himself, doing great and awesome things for them, by driving out before his people nations and their gods? And you established your people Israel for yourself to be your people forever; and you, O LORD, became their God. And now, O LORD God, as for the word that you have spoken concerning your servant and concerning his house, confirm it forever; do as you have promised. Thus your name will be magnified forever in the saying, ‘The LORD of hosts is God over Israel’; and the house of your servant David will be established before you. For you, O LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, have made this revelation to your servant, saying, ‘I will build you a house’; therefore your servant has found courage to pray this prayer to you. And now, O Lord GOD, you are God, and your words are true, and you have promised this good thing to your servant; now therefore may it please you to bless the house of your servant, so that it may continue forever before you; for you, O Lord GOD, have spoken, and with your blessing shall the house of your servant be blessed forever.” 2 Samuel 7:18-29
I don’t suppose we are the only ones to have built a house without knowing one thing about how to do it! We had to trust a good architect, an excellent contractor, competent workers, and visionary designers to get what we thought we wanted. What we wanted were some of the features from our previous house and some from other houses we had visited. Most of all, we wanted a home that was welcoming, peaceful and a place in the world where we could get away from the world…a place to be, a place to settle in. 2 Samuel 7:1 says when David settled in his house and the Lord had given him rest from his enemies (away from the world); David thought he would do something for the Lord. “I know, he must have thought, “I’ll build a house for the Lord!” David knew about being a good shepherd, he knew how to write poetry and play the harp, and he certainly knew how to be a great military leader. Heck, he even knew how to dance! Yet, King David knew nothing about building a house for God. In the first place, God never asked him for a house. If God could deliver the Israelites from bondage in Egypt; if God could bring a shepherd boy out of the pasture to be a prince over all the people of Israel; and if God could deliver them time and time again from their enemies, making a great name for David; and, if God could appoint a place for God’s people, without having a house, why would God need David or anyone to build a house for God? The tent God had been traveling in since they came out of Egypt was just fine, thank you very much! We are told God’s house is not made of cedars that will eventually rot and wear out. God’s house is made of eternal stuff. So, instead of David building God a house, God reveals to the prophet Nathan all the things God will do for David, and takes it to a higher level and establishes his kingdom. “…I will raise up your offspring…and I will establish his kingdom forever.” (7:12-14) “I will be a father to him and he shall be a son to me.” (7:14) “I will build you a house.” (7:27b) Hearing this, David found the courage to pray this prayer: “…O Lord God, you are God, and your words are true, and you have promised this good thing to your servant…” (v. 28a) David finally got it. God’s house is wherever people are in need. The kingdom of God is built one soul at a time, feeding the hungry, blessing the children, clothing people with warmth and shelter, caring for the sick and lonely, working for peace, and welcoming the stranger. O Lord God, bless this house forevermore. Amen. Rev. Beverly Kelly and Burnett Kelly
Wednesday, December 5, 2012 When the crowds were increasing, he began to say, “This generation is an evil generation; it asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah. For just as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so the Son of Man will be to this generation. The queen of the South will rise at the judgment with the people of this generation and condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to listen to the wisdom of Solomon, and see, something greater than Solomon is here! The people of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the proclamation of Jonah, and see, something greater than Jonah is here! Luke 11:29-32
“Hey! I’m just looking for a sign! Is this the way you want me to go? To live? Show me! Give me a sign!” Before Jesus was born, the people of Ninevah had been living very bad lives, and God sent Jonah to tell them it had to stop. You remember the story of how an angry Jonah went there – he didn’t want to go, tried to run in the opposite direction, was swallowed by a whale and after three days (yuck) in its tummy was thrown up on the beach. (Kind of a sign to him that God really wanted him to go there, don’t you think?) They heard Jonah’s very strong message, which they saw as a sign from God, and were absolutely blown away by it. From the King to the lowliest beggar, they put on sackcloth and sat in ashes, said they were very sorry, would never do it again, and asked for forgiveness. Wonder of wonders, God forgave them! (Which made Jonah really mad, but that’s another story.) Many years later during Jesus’s short ministry, some of the Jews who were jealous of Jesus asked for a sign, a really big one (like parting the sea to make a dry land path) to prove he was really the Son of God, but Jesus said no. As Jonah had been God’s sign to the Ninevites, so Jesus was God’s sign to the ones Jesus called a wicked generation, but they refused to see it. And, he added, when judgment time came, these Ninevites would condemn this generation because they had believed Jonah and these people had not believed Jesus, who was far greater than Jonah. But, you’re still looking for that sign? When Jesus was born, the shepherds heard, “This shall be a sign – a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes in a manger” sung by angels, and the wise men saw the star in the east. Even today we see weather signs in the same skies they did. Yet we have a whole lot more –pages and pages of signs in Jesus’s words found in the Bible. In his stories, his little talks with the apostles, his many sermons, short and long, we have anything and everything we need to know. Signs. He is still a sign, this time to us, and his words in the Bible still have the answer—“If my children, who are called by my name, will be sorry and pray, and turn back from all their mistakes, then I will forgive them and even heal their land.” He will point the way as an everlasting sign, a gift from our loving Father to his searching and needy children. Thank you, dear God, for your amazing Gift to us of your loving and forgiving Son who shows us how to live. Amen. Peg Jenkins
Thursday, December 6, 2012 Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them. He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago), salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us—to show mercy to our ancestors and to remember his holy covenant, the oath he swore to our father Abraham: to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace. Luke 1:68-79 (NIV) s i ne lObligations d a De Sche du
Stressed d e us xpectations Pressu f r ed on E
em be r it a s e ll c a n Overload
Salvation Promises Forgiveness Deliverance Praise Show us the way
Do you find yourself looking to God in times of stress? Find the words above in today’s scripture. What do these words mean to you? Dear God, thank You for the promises You’ve given to guide us in times like these, to guide our feet into the way of peace. Help us open our hearts to the light in times of darkness. We praise You for the mercy You give our souls. Keep hope alive. In Jesus name we pray. Amen. Senior High Youth
Friday, December 7, 2012
You have spoken harsh words against me, says the Lord. Yet you say, “How have we spoken against you?” You have said, “It is vain to serve God. What do we profit by keeping his command or by going about as mourners before the Lord of hosts? Now we count the arrogant happy; evildoers not only prosper, but when they put God to the test they escape.” Then those who revered the Lord spoke with one another. The Lord took note and listened, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who revered the Lord and thought on his name. They shall be mine, says the Lord of hosts, my special possession on the day when I act, and I will spare them as parents spare their children who serve them. Then once more you shall see the difference between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him. Malachi 3:13-18
Have you ever spoken against God, or heard someone else speak against Him? We’ve learned that if we are faithful and obedient to God and accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior that our Father in Heaven will bring us into His presence upon our death. We all have moments and situations when we are weak and sometimes angry at things that happen to us. We see those who do not live by God’s word, but prosper greatly. We ask, “Why do these things happen to me, as I try to live as God wants, when so many others don’t reflect God’s ways but don’t seem to have the struggles that I do?” We often hear that God only allows us to carry what He knows we can bear. God does guide us and lifts us up in times of trouble. He is there to carry us when we can no longer carry ourselves. We are His and we are His “treasured possessions.” We may not have all that others do, but God provides us with what we need. Those who have enough give to those who do not. God gives us ways to look after one another, those across town and across the world. In this season of Advent, of our joyful waiting for the birth of the Christ child, may we be among the blessed, among the righteous, and look to the day when we will join with the communion of saints, knowing that we remained faithful to God and honored His name. May we be entered on the scroll of remembrance. Joy and blessings to you and yours during this season of Advent and beyond. May we be joyful and giving this season and throughout each year. How do you react when hearing someone speak against God? What do you do to help others who are in need? Do you think it’s just as important to help those across the world, even those who do not believe as we do, as those who live nearby? Our Heavenly Father, we know that You are a forgiving and loving God, and that You will accept us back into Your fold when we stray. Help us to remain faithful and not be discouraged or envious of things that others have that we may not. Forgive us if we transgress. Help us to see all in need as Your children. We pray these things in Jesus’s name, Amen. Cyndi Banks
Saturday, December 8, 2012 See, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble; the day that comes shall burn them up, says the Lord of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. But for you who revere my name the sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall. And you shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet, on the day when I act, says the Lord of hosts. Remember the teaching of my servant Moses, the statutes and ordinances that I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel. Lo, I will send you the prophet Elijah before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of parents to their children and the hearts of children to their parents, so that I will not come and strike the land with a curse. Malachi 4:1-6
Q. What is the responsibility of a father? A. It is to teach and guide his children to grow and become productive, contributing, upstanding members of the world in which they live and to be faithful to God. The book of Malachi is believed to have been written by several men, possibly priests, between 450 and 460BCE. This is the last book of the Old Testament and is filled with examples which show that God is in control and that everything will be made right by Him for those who follow His teachings and keep His commandments. They will be protected from His wrath. The Jews had built a new Temple that was not as extravagant as before, but they became disillusioned. Times were not prosperous and life was hard. They fell into their old sinful ways that were not pleasing to God. God, the Father of the Israelites, was displeased and rebuked them. He promised Malachi that he would send Elijah before the day of His wrath. The evildoers will be burned like straw and the righteous will be safe. Families will reunite in harmony and peace. The Jews were anticipating the return of Elijah just as we anticipate the return of God. This Advent season we have hope as we wait for the Messiah. Can you imagine some of the things described in this passage as action features in todayâ€™s media? Our Father, love us and care for us as we anticipate the coming of Your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen. Mary Sue Day
by Ethan Briley
What can I give Him, Poor as I am? If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb; If I were a wise man, I would do my part; Yet what can I give Him: Give my heart. --Christina Rossetti, 1872
THE SECOND WEEK OF ADVENT The Peace Candle
Promise Ease Assurance Calm Enduring - Junior High Youth Re-light the first candle. Light the second candle and say: We light this Advent candle as a reminder of the coming of Christ, the light of the world. We light the Candle of Peace as we pray for the peace of Christ in our hearts and in our world. The light of peace must brave great darkness, just as Jesus did when He came to earth. In an age when people struggle to find peace within them, we worship the Prince of Peace. Christ has promised to return and restore the earth to the way God created it to be, a place of peace. Where are the places and situations in your life and in the world where you see peace? What makes that place or situation peaceful? How can you help bring peace to places where there is anger, conflict, or violence? Dear God, we thank You for Your gift of Jesus to the whole world. We pray that You will bring peace in our lives and in our world. Please show us ways to act as Your disciples and show others the way of peace. In the name of Christ, the Prince of Peace, Amen.
by Addie Sanders
Sunday, December 9, 2012
…The word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’” Luke 3:1-6 The Jewish people were waiting for a mighty Savior, a king to reign over them and lead them to many worldly victories. Jesus’s way was prepared by those before him; John the Baptist, the prophet Isaiah, and others had proclaimed his coming for many years. When Jesus came to them in Bethlehem, was born in a manger, and was raised as a carpenter there was much skepticism around the king they had received. Jesus was not, in a worldly sense, a mighty warrior who would conquer their enemies but one who would peaceably and humbly defeat the hold that sin had over their lives, as well as our lives. Jesus was not the Messiah everyone expected. In our Scripture, we read, “Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth.” Jesus came to change the way we see the world. In his teachings he tells us, “You have heard it said…but I say to you…” Everything about Jesus, from his humble birth, to his entrance into Jerusalem on a lowly donkey, to his disgraceful death on a cross, shows us a different way. It was not the way Mary expected when she was told by Gabriel her son would be the Messiah. It was not the way any of Jesus’s disciples or critics expected either. Yet, this was God’s perfect way to bring salvation to the world. During this season of Advent, keep your eyes and heart open for the unexpected. Look at the world in a new way. Instead of problems, see possibilities. When things don’t seem to be going the way you think they should, remember that the God you serve can level those tough to climb mountains, raise up the deep valleys, and straighten and smooth out the crooked, rough places. How can we also prepare the way of the Lord? Have you encountered the unexpected this Advent season? Lord, help us to prepare our hearts this Advent season. We remind ourselves that Jesus came humbly into this world; he spent his first nights in a borrowed manger surrounded by lowly animals. He didn’t seek to glorify himself but that the will of the Father be done. Let us also not seek our own glory but let our actions follow the will of the Father to bring glory to Him. Matt and Jessica Varney
Monday, December 10, 2012
We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Romans 8:22-25 We are being shaped and molded by our trials and tribulations to become what we are intended to be. It is necessary for all of us to go through difficult life experiences. Through the suffering we experience, all those things which we humans cling to, the obstacles and impediments we hold dear are worn down until at the end, they are removed. Just as the hymn, “Have Thine Own Way, Lord,” expresses, we are the clay to be molded and made in compliance with God’s will and his plan for each of us. The extra bits and pieces stuck around on the body of clay are disposed of. At the end, after we, the clay, are fired we are finished and ready for our place in God’s kingdom. We get tired of the struggle sometimes. This is where “We ourselves groan within ourselves.” God has put a plan into action so that we, as believers, hope for what is yet to come. We are to stand firmly in faith waiting patiently for our hopes to be fulfilled. Remember when Americans began the long trek west in covered wagons? When they began the journey the wagons were loaded with things they thought they couldn’t live without. As the trip lengthened and they encountered heat, drought, hunger and the loss of stock, they would sort through the wagons and dispose of nonessentials. At first these would be heavy things like a piano or a grandfather clock. Later, as circumstances became more dire, china, heirlooms, furniture and keepsakes would be left by the trail. Sometimes, a family would lose children or parents to the hardships of the trail. And though I’m sure they often felt despair in their circumstances, they kept going. For every material thing or beloved person we may lose in life, for every pretension and worldly achievement taken, space is made within us for spiritual fruit. When we are ripe, God will harvest us. What would be the hardest thing in your life to give up? How would you handle it? Dear Lord, Please help us to recognize Your hand as it shapes us through sometimes difficult experiences. Strengthen us and endow us with the wisdom to recognize Your plan for us. Amen. Olivia Fowler
Tuesday, December 11, 2012
When the Lord brought back the captives to Zion, we were like men who dreamed. Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy. Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like streams in the Negev. Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping carrying seeds to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him. Psalm 126 About this time last year, my Mother died. She was 94 and had lived a long and full life. It was not always an easy life. She grew up the eldest of eight children of a Missouri tenant farmer during the Depression, and the rest of her life, and my Dad’s, were informed and colored by that time and by the Wartime that followed. But, unexpectedly, my Mother seemed always centered and peaceful to me. She took life as it came. I could always count on her to restore my peace in any distress with “Barbara, it will be all right.” And I believed her. Her peace came from deep within her faith and her simple love for her family and her God. She sowed those seeds of love among all of us who knew and loved her, sometimes with tears, but her innate joy always bubbled up. Her last years were difficult ones and there were more tears and less joy. What a comfort it is to me to know that, with her work here finished, her seeds sown and wisdom harvested in so many lives, our Lord has now restored her to health, wiped away her tears and gathered her to Himself with songs of joy!
In your times of distress, who or what helps you to remember that “It will be all right?” Is it possible to find joy in the midst of unhappy times, knowing that God holds you in the palm of His hand?
Dear Father, we thank You for always drawing us back to You when we stray, for calming our fears, for drying our tears, for the many great things You have done and do for us every day, for filling our mouths with laughter and our tongues with songs of joy, and for the peace of Your dear presence with us always. Amen.
Wednesday, December 12, 2012
Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who are of a fearful heart, “Be strong, do not fear! Here is your God. He will come with vengeance, with terrible recompense. He will come and save you.” Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy. For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water; the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp, the grass shall become reeds and rushes. Isaiah 35:3-7 “Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who are of a fearful heart, be strong, fear not! Behold your God will come……... He will come and save you.” The Israelites have been in captivity as slaves for many years and there is a great desert between their camp and the place they call home. God has told the prophet Isaiah the good news that God had seen their struggle and would take them home after so many years in a foreign land. They can go home! Have you ever been on a long trip? A trip where you have to sleep in a strange uncomfortable bed, and eat food that is okay, but it’s not your favorites certainly not eating Mom’s cooking, and you have to spend a long, long time in the car and maybe have to share the backseat with your brother or sister? When you get home at last it feels so good! Think of the Israelites joy after being away so long and picture their smiles. “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped, and the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongues of the mute shall sing for joy. Waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams run in the desert. The burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs with water…” Before the vision of returning home could be fulfilled for those who first heard Isaiah's words, it would take the efforts of many as well as, more importantly, the Divine guidance and blessings of God. The promise of what this new way will open is not limited to the people in exile- but to all those who hear His call. There will be new power and hope that comes from God's presence in our lives and in our world. In these days leading up to Christmas, may we see beyond the everyday things that take up the days of our lives to the hope that was born so many years ago in Bethlehem. We, too, can find the way home. The call is for us to find the way to God to be in our days and in our hearts. David and Kathy Chamlee
Thursday, December 13, 2012
You know how full of love and kindness our Lord Jesus was: though he was so very rich, yet to help you he became so very poor, so that by being poor he could make you rich. Having started the ball rolling so enthusiastically, you should carry this project through to completion just as gladly, giving whatever you can out of whatever you have. Let your enthusiastic idea at the start be equaled by your realistic action now. If you are really eager to give, then it isn’t important how much you have to give. God wants you to give what you have, not what you haven’t. Of course, I don’t mean that those who receive your gifts should have an easy time of it at your expense, but you should divide with them. Right now you have plenty and can help them, then at some other time they can share with you when you need it. In this way each will have as much as he needs. Selected verses from 2 Corinthians 8:1–15 (The Living Bible) Have you ever considered Jesus to be wealthy? He was born in a stable to working class parents. He worked as a carpenter. He didn’t own a home or have a lot of possessions. In our society, people are often judged based on the amount money and possessions they have acquired. Some people judge others by their family or educational background. In order to understand Jesus’s riches and poverty, we need to look a little deeper. Psalm 50:10, 12b states that “Every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills… the world and its fullness are mine.” According to Paul, Jesus was equal to God, and then He emptied himself and made himself nothing. He took on the life of a servant. Jesus knew he belonged to God. He did not have physical riches, but he gave his life in order that we have the spiritual riches of God. Therefore, we know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. He became human and died on the cross, so that we could enter into the riches of the fellowship of God. We are not called to be materially poor, but all of us should be willing to give what we have to bring honor and glory to Him. We have been given the love of God for all eternity. In our society today, how do we know when we have enough “riches?” How can we share with those who have less? What do we receive from those who have less? Thank You for giving us all the riches of Your creation. Thank You for sending Your Son to sacrifice Himself so that we can inherit riches in heaven. Amen. Nancy Goldsmith
Friday, December 14, 2012
Surely God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid, for the Lord God is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation. With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. And you will say on that day: Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known his deeds among the nations; proclaim that his name is exalted. Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously; let this be known in all the earth. Shout aloud and sing for joy, O royal Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel. Isaiah 12: 2-6 This scripture passage presents a song of praise for the return of the outcasts of Israel from their long captivity. It also provides an expression of praise for us who find strength, joy and peace in the promise of salvation. In The Living Bible translation Isaiah 12:3 reads “Oh, the joy of drinking deeply from the Fountain of Salvation.” This joy and comfort and the resulting peace comes to us through Christ whose promised birth we are celebrating. As a child, probably my favorite Christmas carol was, and still is, “Silent Night.” It instills a sense of quiet, wonder, and tranquility in spite of the hustle and busyness of the season. “Sleep in heavenly peace” evokes a restful, peaceful feeling reminding us of God’s presence and comfort through his Son. Billy Graham (in Hope for Each Day, 2002) and others have written about the Christmas “perfect peace” that came about on a battlefield in Europe in December 1914, early in World War I. As the story of that Christmas Eve truce goes, troops on both sides of the battle declared an unofficial ceasefire. In the relative quietness of the ceasefire some soldiers in the trenches began softly singing “Silent Night.” As they finished, they heard the song echoing across the battlefield as other troops were singing the same carol in their own languages. Soon, as the Spirit of Christmas grew among the troops; they ate together and talked among themselves before angry superiors ordered them back to the fight at hand. However, there was that brief period of peace for those soldiers in the midst of the chaos of war as they spontaneously celebrated the birth of Christ, the Prince of Peace. Total and lasting peace can come only through the abiding grace of our Lord in each of us. Do you have the joy of “drinking deeply from the Fountain of Salvation?” Have you ever experienced a feeling of perfect peace? Gracious God, thank You for our salvation through Christ. We pray for perfect peace in our lives in the midst of worldly chaos and perplexity. Amen. Joe Padgett
Saturday, December 15, 2012
“Surely the eyes of the Sovereign Lord are on the sinful kingdom. I will destroy it from the face of the earth. Yet I will not totally destroy the descendants of Jacob,” declares the Lord. “For I will give the command, and I will shake the people of Israel among all the nations as grain is shaken in a sieve, and not a pebble will reach the ground. All the sinners among my people will die by the sword, all those who say, ‘Disaster will not overtake or meet us.’ “In that day I will restore David’s fallen shelter— I will repair its broken walls and restore its ruins— and will rebuild it as it used to be, so that they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations that bear my name,” declares the Lord, who will do these things. “The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when the reaper will be overtaken by the plowman and the planter by the one treading grapes. New wine will drip from the mountains and flow from all the hills, and I will bring my people Israel back from exile. “They will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them. They will plant vineyards and drink their wine; they will make gardens and eat their fruit. I will plant Israel in their own land, never again to be uprooted from the land I have given them,” says the Lord your God. Amos 9:8-15
To understand these verses, we need to put them in context. With the people of Israel in the north enjoying an almost unparalleled time of success, the book of Amos holds God’s people accountable for their ill-treatment of others. It repeatedly points out the failure of the people to fully embrace God’s idea of justice. They were selling off needy people for goods, taking advantage of the helpless, and oppressing the poor. Full of their own economic success and intent on strengthening their financial position, the people of Israel had forgotten God. God decided to call a quiet shepherd and farmer to travel from his home in the less sinful south and carry a message of judgment to the Israelites. The people in the north used Amos’ status as a foreigner as an excuse to ignore his message of judgment for their sins. While their outer lives were successful, their inner lives continued to sink into a pit of moral decay. Rather than seeking out opportunities to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly, they embraced their arrogance, idolatry, self-righteousness, and materialism. Amos communicated God’s utter disdain for the hypocritical lives of His people. His prophecy concludes with today’s scripture of a brief glimpse of destruction and restoration of Israel. In these few verses, Amos like other prophets, points out the steadfastness of God’s love to His faithful people by His promise to a faithful remnant and restoration of Israel. As Christians, we have a covenant of life everlasting through Jesus Christ. God demonstrated His enormous love for us by sending His Son to die on the cross for us. Christ’s death on the cross for sin gives us assurance, hope and peace like nothing else can. The word “Peace” is used in the King James Bible about 400 times. When we celebrate the Lord’s Supper we normally start with, “May the peace of Christ be with you,” and we respond with, “And also with you.” What other references to peace can you think of in the Bible? In our hymnals? Sunday School lessons? Let us Pray: Our dear heavenly Father, We want to thank You for Your many blessings and Your steadfast love. We thank You for loving us so much that You sent Your Son to die on the cross to cleanse us from our sins. We thank You for the joy and peace that Your love allows us to have. Be with each of us, our family and our Church; especially during the Christmas season. We ask these things in Christ’s name. Amen. Ralph Perkins
by Isaac Haines
Still, still, still, He sleeps this night so chill! The Virginâ€™s tender arms enfolding, Warm and safe the Child are holding. Still, still, still, He sleeps this night so chill. --George K. Evans, 1917
THE THIRD WEEK OF ADVENT The Love Candle
Lord Of Victory Embrace -
Junior High Youth
Re-light the first two candles. Light the third candle and say: We light this Advent candle today as a reminder of the coming of Christ, the light of the world. Today we light the Candle of Love. We see reflected in the glowing of the candle the message of a wondrous love â€“ the kind of love which . . . . . . God showed by sending His Son to earth for us; . . . Christ had when He died on the cross for us; . . . Is eternal and promises that Christ will come to earth a second time; . . . God gives to us to share with one another. Dear God, help us to have room in our hearts and in our homes for other persons who need us. We thank You for friends and strangers who have received us when we were lonely or afraid, tired or depressed. May we be ready to receive the love God offers us in Jesus. We pray in the name of Christ our Lord, Amen.
by June Simms
Sunday, December 16, 2012
Sing aloud, O daughter Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem! The Lord has taken away the judgments against you, he has turned away your enemies. The king of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; you shall fear disaster no more. On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: Do not fear, O Zion; do not let your hands grow weak. The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory; he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love; he will exult over you with loud singing as on a day of festival. I will remove disaster from you, so that you will not bear reproach for it. I will deal with all your oppressors at that time. And I will save the lame and gather the outcast, and I will change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth. At that time I will bring you home, at the time when I gather you; for I will make you renowned and praised among all the peoples of the earth, when I restore your fortunes before your eyes, says the Lord. Zephaniah 3:14-20 Simply put, "The Lord [our] God is in [our] midst." He is with us every day, 24/7. We donâ€™t have to search for Him; He is already here. Each day this week write on a calendar a time during that day when you knew God was with you. (Families may want to tell about those times at the dinner table.)
How aware of God-with-us are we in our daily routines? What does it mean for us personally? How might we live differently if we were aware of God's constant presence in our midst?
O God, you sent Immanuel, God with us, in the form of a baby born in a manger. Thank you. Amen.
Monday, December 17, 2012
Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Hebrews 13:7
Ever watch a very young child trying to walk in their parentâ€™s shoes? A few years later, the same child will struggle to learn to tie their shoe laces. One of the fundamental steps in the process of learning is imitation. Even as adults, we learn best by watching a demonstration, then repeating the behavior. So it is in our walk with Christ. We have been given His Word and His Story to guide us in our living. And many of us have been given parents, teachers and friends who are examples of a faith-led life. One of my earliest memories is of a very quiet young woman who was my Sunday school teacher. Miss Ida would barely speak above a whisper, but somehow she managed to contain a half dozen or so 6 year olds for forty five minutes each Sunday. There was something about her that made you want to be quiet and listen, as she had such a wonderful way of telling Bible stories. Most of the lessons she taught have remained with me: pray, share, sing, be kind, and love one another. As I have grown older, I have been blessed to have in my life saints worthy of imitation, whom I respect and trust, and serve as an example of Christâ€™s love and teachings.
Do you recall those people who have influenced your life to the degree that you imitated what they did? Who in your life provides an example of Christ, either by word or deed? If you imitated their life, what actions would you be displaying?
Dear Lord: Thank You for Your life and what it means to us. Bless those who strive to live like You and show Your love to others. Help us to follow in Your path so that others might see You and glorify Your name. Amen. Liz Stokes
Tuesday, December 18, 2012 The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den. They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. Isaiah 11:6-9
In 1987, while with the US Army in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, we decided to go out for our first Dutch Christmas Eve dinner. We went to the nearby town of Gouda, where the famous cheese is made. The Dutch love Christmas so much that they have a first day and second day of Christmas on the 25th and 26th of December. We were wandering the streets after our meal, when we came upon hundreds of people. As far as the eye could see, people were packed shoulder to shoulder on the historic, picturesque cobblestone square. There was no way to maneuver through all these people, so we watched the festivities. We will never forget what unfolded. This mass of people was gathered around a huge, beautifully decorated Christmas tree. It was a chilly December night, crisp and clear, with twinkling stars. We had not learned enough Dutch to understand much of the message spoken by several people over a loud speaker. The unforgettable moment came when the most beautiful music and choir we have honestly ever heard came very loudly from all corners of the square. The notes of a loud majestic organ and trumpets filled the air. The music, “Ere Zij God,” we later learned was a traditional piece done at Christmas time in The Netherlands. The words being a version of our well known, “Glory to God in the highest, peace on earth good will to men.” We would thankfully hear it again in our next two Christmases there. When the music began, the large crowd became so quiet you could hear a pin drop. No one talked, no babies cried. Then everyone began to sing in clear strong harmony. Everyone knew the words from memory. For the duration of the song, no one stirred from their place! Then the nearby church bells began to ring. To this day, it was the most beautifully harmonized amen I can remember hearing. In that wonderfully memorable moment, we experienced a little bit of peace and goodness that Isaiah wrote about and that will come to us eternally one day. Have you ever experienced a peaceful time when you felt the presence of God? Can you imagine the peaceful time Isaiah wrote about in verses 6-9? Dear Father, How we long for this peace and merciful fairness You have presented to us in Isaiah. Thank You for precious moments when we experience just a brief glimpse of that peace here on earth. Please help us to always try to be a peacemaker every day. Peter and Katherine Gitto
Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Opening Prayer: Dear Lord, open our hearts and minds to this reading of Your holy word today. Help us to learn from Your example and live as You would have us live. “To what will I compare the people of this generation?” Jesus asked. “What are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace calling out to each other, ‘We played the flute for you and you didn’t dance. We sang a funeral song and you didn’t cry.’ John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ Yet the Human One came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunk, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved to be right by all her descendants.” Luke 7:31-35 (Common English Bible) This is part of a larger dialogue beginning in Luke 7:18 regarding John the Baptist and comparing him to Jesus. John was the last of the traditional Old Testament prophets, calling for repentance. Jesus’s message was radical and new in focus, even though much of it can be found in excerpts from the Hebrew Scriptures. Jesus came to demonstrate love, healing and forgiveness. Even John the Baptist sent his disciples to validate that Jesus was the Messiah. He did not respond in words, but action, going through a litany of ways he demonstrated love and healing. Those questioning him here in this passage want to challenge both messages and lifestyles. John lived a life in isolation in the desert, a very sparse ascetic life style, while Jesus mingled with everyone, welcoming all to his company and companionship. Jesus challenged the Pharisees who looked for ways to condemn; not being open to a new message of love and acceptance. Wisdom stands the test of time in its behavior; those affected by Jesus’s teaching and example changed the world and ultimately established a new religion. As a descendant of Jesus Christ, how are we to be recognized? What lesson can we learn about prejudging others that may be different from us? Dear Lord, open my heart to others in love and compassion and to the hearing about the good news of Your kingdom. Help me to look with awe and love on others, especially those who may not be just like me. Help me to see beyond what others look like into their heart, as You have done in many of Your encounters in the Scriptures. Leslie Flynn
Thursday, December 20, 2012 Hear us, Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock. You who sit enthroned between the cherubim, shine forth before Ephraim, Benjamin and Manasseh. Awaken your might; come and save us. Restore us, O God; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved. How long, LORD God Almighty, will your anger smolder against the prayers of your people? You have fed them with the bread of tears; you have made them drink tears by the bowlful. You have made us an object of derision to our neighbors, and our enemies mock us. Restore us, God Almighty; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved. Psalm 80:1-7 (NIV)
We know that God is always with us and watches over us as a shepherd watches over his flock. This makes us happy, because we know that God loves us. God hears us, restores us, feeds us, and protects us. At Christmas, Christ came into the world. This is how God saves us. Throughout Advent, we are waiting for Jesus to come. When the psalmist says, “Restore us, God Almighty; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved,” we think of Jesus coming into the world and we see God’s love. What about this Scripture speaks to you? Almighty God, we know You love us, care for us, hear us, restore us, and protect us. Thank You for sending Jesus to save us. Amen. The Confirmation Class of 2013: Emily LaFoy, Dawson Harden, Tori Morris, Mary Brooks Thrift, Kent Townsend
Friday, December 21, 2012 And I will lead the blind in a way that they know not, in paths that they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the things I will do, and I will not forsake them. Isaiah 42:16
Daddy didn't put blinders on old Hattie when she pulled the plow in the garden. No other mule was near to distract her. Besides, Daddy's strong hands on the reins and the plow, and the occasional "gee" or "haw," kept Hattie on a straight path. Straight were the furrows where the corn, beans and potatoes would grow. Some of us wear blinders of choice, so that we see only what we want to see. Some of us ignore the strong hands of God and don't listen when God calls. Some can't see the single mom with no job, the homeless boy with no bed, the hurting spouse, the old lady whose children don't come around. The blinders usually are idolatry - worship of graven images, love of the ego-driven self, love of money or sports or fame. You name it. Some are blind and don't know the way. Some are blind and love the darkness. Some are blind and live in the rough places. Well, God has something to say about that in Isaiah. God will lead and guide the blind! God will turn our darkness into light! God will level the rough places! God will not forsake us! And so God came into a stable on that first Christmas to save the blind. Do you think the Bible verse is about real blindness? What does Isaiah mean by "blind?â€? Jesus said that he is the light of the world. What do you think he means? Dear God, thank You for Your very great and wonderful love for us, even in our blindness. Help us every day to see more clearly. Amen. Bob and Bert Allison
Saturday, December 22, 2012 At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” He said to them, “Go and tell that fox for me, ‘Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.’ Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’” Luke 13:31-35
Please read this passage thoughtfully, noticing the details in what Jesus says. Jesus is travelling to Jerusalem like many Jewish pilgrims had done for generations. “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord” is a line from a processional Psalm (118:26) sung by pilgrims entering Jerusalem. But Jesus’s pilgrimage is different. Following many days of teaching in one town and village after another, He has almost arrived at the Holy City. Some Pharisees come to warn Him (verse 31). Jesus replies (verses 32 and 33), and also alludes to His crucifixion and resurrection. Then Luke’s account anticipates the hope of a New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:2) when the risen Christ will return and everyone will sing: “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.” Each year during the season of Advent we prepare ourselves again for recognizing the entry of Jesus into our world; His coming in order to reveal the love of God, a love so vast that Jesus will die for the very people He came to offer salvation from the evils in their lives. Each day Jesus offers us this salvation, but when we refuse the gift of His love we become part of “the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it.” (verse 34) But we are not alone awaiting the return of Jesus. In Acts chapter 2 Luke records the coming of the Holy Spirit which fulfills Jesus’s promise: “The Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.” (John 14: 26) May our constant prayer be that we, individually and as a Christian community, accepting the Love of God and being open to the teaching of the Holy Spirit, looking forward to Jesus’s return when everyone will sing: “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.” What can each of us do to be open to the Holy Spirit? Describe one occasion when you felt the presence of the Holy Spirit. For your closing prayer, read aloud or sing the hymn “Spirit of the Living God:” Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me; Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me. Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me. Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me. Amen. Dot and Jay Pence
by Jessie Cole
Brightest and best of the stars of the morning, Dawn on our darkness and lend us thine aid; Star of the east, the horizon adorning, Guide where our infant Redeemer is laid. --Reginald Heber, 1811
FOURTH WEEK OF ADVENT The Joy Candle
Jubilation Of Your heart -
Junior High Youth
Re-light the first three candles. Light the fourth candle on the outer circle and say: Today we light the Candle of Joy. Today we remember the joy of the first Christmas. We are thankful for Christ’s coming to earth, for God’s great love for us, for Christ’s promise to return again. We are joyful as we realize the amazing good news of Christ’s birth. As the light shines brightly, we rejoice that Jesus came and Jesus will come again. How can we show the joy of Christ to those around us? How can we share joy when there is so much sadness in the world? Come, Lord Jesus, into the darkness of the world! May Your light shine brightly, and may we be faithful as we await Your return. Renew us, so that we may welcome You with joy! Amen.
by Jayden Harden
Sunday, December 23, 2012
Luke 1:46-55 is known as the Magnificat. It is a hymn sung by the Virgin Mary in praise of God. Here is Mary’s song, my version, and an opportunity to write your own version. Mary the Mother of Jesus And Mary said, "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever." Luke 1:46-55
I want to bring the love of God into the world, because I am so glad that God loves me. I don’t understand how God can love someone like me so much. I want everyone to know like I do how God has blessed me and you; Great God has done amazing things for me, God is indescribably good. To know God is to know God’s all-powerful compassion for me and you. God is all-powerful; God has made me understand that God is in charge. God’s greatness overcomes whatever seems to be taking over in the world, blessing those who need the most, giving everyone what they need. God has never forgotten me, God always remembers that God made me to be God’s own and will always be there to help and encourage, yes, to save me. Amen.
Jo Anne Gessell
by Lucy Sanders
In Bethlehem a Babe was born With love enough for all. While kingdoms slept, the Lord came down To grace a manger stall. And with a glorious light Angels appeared that night, Singing, â€œCome, come, Christ is born! Come, come, world forlorn. The Child of peace and sacrifice is waiting to be found.â€?
CHRISTMAS EVE The Christ Candle Re-light the first four candles. Light the Christ Candle and say: We light the Christ Candle today, knowing the Christ, the light of the world, has come to bring hope, peace, love, and joy to the earth. We remember the salvation that comes through Jesus Christ and pray that we may be faithful in serving the Christ child throughout the Christmas season and always. How will you celebrate the birth of Christ today and tomorrow? What can you do to keep your celebration focused on the Christ child? May the blessings of Christ be with you this Christmas Eve! Thank You, Lord Jesus, for coming to earth! Help us to spread the hope, peace, love, and joy of Your birth to the world. In Christâ€™s name, Amen.
by Nevaeh Harden
Monday, December 24, 2012 In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. Luke 2:1-7
One of the desires of the human heart is to have a sense of belonging. As children grow up, they want to be accepted by their peers and teachers. They find friends with similar interests and find security in those relationships. As we get older, we hold on to this desire. The clubs, organizations, committees and events we participate in help us feel like we belong to something important. In those groups, we often feel safe knowing that we fit in. There are also times when we find it hard to fit in. Relocating to a new area, for instance, can make us feel disconnected from the community. There may be times when we feel we are starving for some familiarity when starting a new job or attending an unfamiliar church. This feeling is almost universal, because most of us will experience it sometime in our lives. It is comforting to know that because so many people have gone through this, we will most likely be understood and supported by others when we seem lost or confused. Our close friends and family members can be great sustainers for us when we face many hardships in life. Others can help but the greatest example and source of support is our Lord Jesus Christ. Even He knows what it is like to experience the rejection and sense of disconnect this harsh world can sometimes offer. There was no room for Him in the inn, yet His family persevered. He faced human hardships in His life, and ultimately triumphed over them. He now sits in Heaven as an experienced guide to lead us by the hand through whatever we may face. Have you ever felt like you were not accepted? If so, what could have been done differently so that you felt better about the situation? What can we do when others feel disconnected or rejected? Heavenly Father, Thank You for loving and accepting us just as we are. Help us to be reminded of that promise each day. We ask that You help us to be sensitive to the needs of others and love them with Christâ€™s love. In Jesusâ€™s name, Amen. Ashley McGrath
Tuesday, December 25, 2012
In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. Luke 2:8-20 It never fails, every year we receive the same news about the birth of the new born king lying in a manger, and every year we get excited. Every year we hear about the shepherds. We read of their fear when they saw the angel and quickly that fear turned to glory. As I think about the extreme emotions of the shepherds, especially their excitement, I think about Rylee Gessell. Each Wednesday night before her brothers were born she would give us updates on her mother and her unborn brothers. She asked us to pray for them. When babies are born there is excitement, but worry comes along, as well, because so many things can happen. So, we wait and hope the new born baby is born healthy and mom does well. When Rylee’s brothers were born she was thrilled and exclaimed, “They are here!” We celebrated with her in her joy. Welcoming a baby into the world, into our community never gets old. Every year we tell the birth of baby Jesus with excitement. Every year we wait through Advent for the big day. We know the story, we know what happens. We know Joseph and Mary’s response. We know the Inn keeper will send them away. We know our Savior will be placed in an eating trough of the animals. We know the shepherds response. Unfortunately, we also remember the response of the Jewish leaders at the end of Jesus’s time on earth. And yet we remain excited. I think we remain excited because our response to the birth of our Savior within our hearts may be different this year. We have the opportunity to receive the new born king in a new way. Our lives are different because of his actual birth over 2000 years ago and because God transforms us each time we receive Christ’s love in our hearts. With God’s help this Christmas we may be able to change our lives and our relationship with Christ in exciting and new ways. That is the hope of a new baby in the form of the Messiah. That is the hope of Christmas! He is here! Joy to the world, the Lord has come! Let us rejoice and be glad in it! Merry Christmas! What does the birth of Christ mean to you in your life? How can we respond differently this year to the good news of the new born King? Loving God, help us to receive the exciting news about Christ’s birth in positive ways to serve you through his love. Amen. Rev. Nath Briley
by Madison Roper
Go, tell it on the mountain Over the hills and everywhere; Go, tell it on the mountain That Jesus Christ is born! Down in a lowly manger The humble Christ was born,
And God sent us salvation That blessed Christmas morn. --John W. Work II
Merry Christmas from the Staff and Session of Pickens Presbyterian Church! PICKENS PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH STAFF Ministers – All Members Pastor – The Reverend Nath Briley Parish Associate – The Reverend Beverly Kelly Director of Christian Education and Communication – Jessica Varney Administrative Assistant – Mackenzie Owens Choir Director – Ashley McGrath Organist – Donna C. Nabors Treasurer – Jonathan Haines Director of Child Development Center – Karen C. Durham Nursery Caregivers – Jessica Anderson, Ashley Erickson Riley, Katie Ward SESSION Class of 2012 Sylvia Erickson Joe Padgett Ralph Perkins Ken Roper Elizabeth Stokes Trustee: Ken Acker
Class of 2013 Bert Allison David Chamlee Leslie Flynn Tina LaFoy Paula Owens Trustee: Jeff Holder
Class of 2014 John Blackwood Bill Caruthers Roger Gettys Nancy Goldsmith Tom Smith Trustee: Ralph Perkins
Class of 2015 Cyndi Banks Mike Carmical Mary Sue Day Ralph Perkins Matt Varney Trustee: Chil Francis
Moderator: The Reverend Nath Briley Clerk of Session: Elizabeth Stokes Assistant Clerk: Leslie Flynn Pickens Presbyterian Church ◦ P.O. Box 834 ◦ 311 West Main St. ◦ Pickens, SC 29671 Office: 864-878-9422 ◦ Website: www.pickenspresbyterian.org ◦ Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: www.twitter.com/PickensPres ◦ Facebook: www.facebook.com/PickensPresbyterian
Published on Dec 19, 2012
A collection of devotionals for the season of Advent, written by members and friends of Pickens Presbyterian Church in Pickens, South Caroli...