FIRST PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH • 2019
DEVOTIONALS INSPIRED BY HANDEL’S
TABLE OF contents
3 Anticipation 5 Comfort Ye, Comfort Ye My People 7 Ev'ry ValleyÂ 13 And the Glory, the Glory of the Lord
15 Thus Saith the Lord, the Lord of Hosts 17 The Lord Whom Ye Seek Shall Suddenly Come to His Temple
19 But Who May Abide the Day of His Coming 21 And He Shall Purify 22 Behold, a Virgin Shall Conceive 23 O Thou That Tellest Good Tidings to Zion 24 Arise, Shine 27 For Behold, Darkness Shall Cover the Earth 29 The People That Walked in Darkness 31 For Unto Us a Child is Born 33 There Were Shepherds Abiding in the Field 35 And the Angel Said Unto Them 36 And Suddenly There Was With the Angel 37 Glory to God in the Highest 39 Rejoice Greatly, O Daughter of Zion 40 Then Shall the Eyes of the Blind Be Open'd 41 He Shall Feed His Flock Like a Shepherd 43 Come Unto Him, All Ye That Labour 45 If God Is For Us, Who Is Against Us 47 Hallelujah Cover Artwork: Ann Gee
The following poem is used at gatherings of the Encouragers, a small FPC group that takes its name from the Latin root words of encourage, meaning “To make our heart strong.” These words are intended to be in the form of a prayer for all who have experienced the loss of a loved one. It so often happens that a significant loss defines us, but that's not what anyone, least of all our lost ones, would want.
The power of winter has passed away. The spring of beauty has come our way. The leaves no longer wait for death. But sprout and drink the sunshine’s crest. Thus, may our hearts be touched by the belief That God can spring a laden heart from grief. Inspire us by your pure and perfect love Until that day we shall meet in heaven above. Even as you, dear Lord, encourage us all We can but stand before you enthralled. May God bless us everyone.
— Bobby Robinson
DAY 1 ANTICIPATION Tim Brown
Isaiah 40:1 is a familiar text to all Christians. We hear it in Handel’s Messiah and sing it in inspired hymns during Advent. Writing in the midst of a people in crisis, having lost everything and being separated from all they know, with no hope in sight, Isaiah offers a tender word of comfort. Everyone needs comfort— from pain, fear, worry, regret, shame—from the chaos that results from living in a broken, fallen world. Even the people of God, in the face of suffering and grief, wonder at times, “Has God forsaken us? When will God show His face?” We anticipate PHOTO: God coming to our rescue. Through Isaiah, God speaks, “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people.”
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Why should God’s people, then and now, cling faithfully to His proclamation? How can we patiently anticipate the Advent of God even as we long for comfort and assurance now, in this fallen world? Like the flowers, we fade and die, because we are of this world. And
yet, Jesus Christ is not of this world! He’s coming from outside this world! The true King is coming with absolute authority, compassion, mercy, and wisdom so that we will have ultimate healing, restoration, and redemption. . . comfort. The promise of Christ’s Advent comforts us with all of His forgiveness, with all of His grace, and with all of His hope, peace, joy, and love, in all His glory and splendor. Why does He do it? Because He calls us “my people.” God treasures His people; He is steadfast in the commitment to His covenant. Advent means this. . .God is not finished. Christ came once, and He is coming again. We are called not to just wait, but to anticipate His glorious future of a new Heaven and new earth, a new creation of Christmas on earth. So take comfort.
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Our Savior and King is coming! Hallelujah!
DAY 2 COMFORT YE, COMFORT YE MY PEOPLE Paul Ingram
“Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way; say to those with fearful hearts, ‘Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you.’” - Isaiah 35:3-4 I write this raw with the pain of seeing the good people of the northern Bahamas suffer from an unimaginable, life altering hurricane last week. We have been to Abaco numerous times, almost a default vacation for us to recharge, with the natural beauty of the beaches, and the hospitality of a people we have always felt safe with, and who appreciated our visit. Now many have lost friends, family, homes, livelihoods, entire communities. But they are a devout people; businesses close Sundays for worship and churches are packed. They have always relied on the strength of family and community bound by faith. For them to overcome their great sadness, and to rebuild their lives, will require a fortitude of spirit bolstered a World community of faith. As brothers and sisters in Christ we must be instruments of Him and our Church, join in the prayers of the Bahamians, welcome the coming of our Savior, and respond to the great needs of others.
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Prayer: Dear God, bestow Your strength, grace and peace upon people who are suffering tragedy, and empower Your people of the World to provide both material and spiritual support to help them overcome these events. Give us wisdom to make prudent decisions as stewards of the Earth, to safeguard the life-giving land, air, water you created for us. We look to the sacrifice and promise of your Son for our salvation. Amen.
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DAY 3 EV'RY VALLEY Sharon Penley
Our Holy Helper and Dumpster Fires A voice of one calling: "In the wilderness prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the desert a
as a college boy’s dorm after a 5 day ‘toga party’. Bless His heart; He barely has a place to sit with all
highway for our God."
the piles of trash dumped into his
Forget all the heady theology stuff
hard hat, weaving and dodging the
and let’s get down to basics. What’s the first thing we do when we receive word company’s coming? We clean! We vacuum and dust and put fresh sheets on the bed and scrub bathrooms. And then we cook. Everything is made ready to welcome guests into our house and for their stay to be as comfortable and enjoyable as we can make it…. But what of the Holy Spirit? Jesus said in John 16:7, “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you.” Before now, I haven’t much thought about the place I prepared 3YAD •7 EGAP
for my Holy Helper to live. While I’ve put my best foot forward for human folk in my home, I confess, my Helper has been living in what can only be
digs. Picture Him, forced to wear a next incoming load! But how does one prepare the way for the Lord? How does one clean up your Holy Helper’s residence? The spiritual vacuum cleaner, so to speak, comes from God’s own words spoken at Jesus’ baptism. “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17) And just as Jesus was beloved by his Father, so too are we. And just as scripture says, …”my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” , so we are also. Most times it is difficult to believe that God could be well pleased with us. Oh, I don’t mean he is well pleased with some of our actions, but He is well pleased with us! And once we truly believe and live and act from that place of God’s unconditional love, His residence within us becomes a place of clean sheets and sunlight and - joy!
Heavenly Father, we cometo you this day filled with humble gratitude that in your wisdom you sent us a helper by and through whom all we do might be pleasing in your sight. Amen, and amen.
Photo: "Hard Hat" Shelley Tingle
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DAY 3 EV'RY VALLEY Blake Teller
The Lord is our Comforter Isaiah 40:4 pronounces, “Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain.”
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In the context of Isaiah 40, the prophet is telling the people of the coming of our Lord and the good news that should be to us. Isaiah is celebrating the rescue of God’s people by the Lord, our redeemer. He is telling us that we have an allpowerful person to go to for security and safety. That person is Jesus Christ, who will lift up those who are in the “valley,” depressed and bowed down with the guilt of sin, who are low and humble in their own eyes. To the contrary, those who are king of the mountain, selfrighteous, prideful and self-reliant, will fall. In Isaiah 40:8, the prophet Photo: Shelley Tingle
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warns, “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.” The prophet is imploring us not to rely on humans and earthly ways, which are temporary, but to trust in God’s Word and the Lord He sends for us, as promised.
DAY 4 EV'RY VALLEY Sarah Johnson
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"Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill brought low; the crooked places shall be made straight and the rough places smooth."Â Isaiah 40:4
straight in the wilderness and smooths out the ups and downs in our lives? What seems too high, too low, too hard, too unclear about your spiritual journey?
Advent is all about preparing ourselves for the coming Messiah, who has already come in the past, continually comes to us in the here and now, and will come again in the future. How do we prepare ourselves so that he can come into our everyday lives - into our conversations, relationships, and into the broken world where we live? How do we level the mountains and valleys that we experience as barriers to Jesus? Are we interested enough in Jesus who makes our path
The Old Testament prophets, like Isaiah, spoke about a coming champion. This is the starting place of the Good News. Someone great and unusual is about to come. The Son of God Himself is coming into the world. However, radical landscape changes need to be made in our hearts in order to make room for the liberating forgiveness, healing, and love of this King Jesus. Today, take time to notice the newness that God is giving you, that lets your life start
over in a fresh new place. God wants to do a new thing in your heart. Believe it. Except it. Live it.
Prayer: Father God, we lift up your holy name, as you bend low to be with us. We thank you for going with us through wilderness, desert, mountain, valley on the twists and turns in our lives. Create an awesome open space for your birth. Come Lord Jesus.
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DAY 5 AND THE GLORY, THE GLORY OF GOD Shelley Tingle
This year I had the incredible opportunity to do not one but two steeple climbs in Bordeaux. While I had prepared for weeks by climbing flights of stairs several times a day, the climb was a journey—a long, hard journey. But the end result was a breathtaking view of the French countryside for as far as the eye could see. The journey to get there actually heightened my appreciation of the glorious view. Maybe this is the same feeling God’s people felt in Isaiah—a great appreciation of beholding the glory of God after a long journey. The results of preparation - the privilege of beholding the glory of the Lord! Isaiah 40:5 reads “And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it together. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” The Glory of God can refer to “his presence; his revelation; his repute and character; or his exalted state.” It is the recognition of God’s worth, whether that be in our justification, sanctification, or glorification. It is a central concept in all aspects of our salvation. Not only for the believer, but “all flesh will see it”, as we read in Phil 2:10-11, “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
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For the Israelites in Egypt they beheld the glory of God in his miraculous deliverance of them from under Pharaoh’s hand and by preserving them during their 40 years of wandering in the wilderness. For the original audience, that glory was seen through the promise that deliverance would come. And it did come at the proclamation of Cyrus. At the time of Christ, John the Baptist announced the arrival of the Messiah. And his glory was seen in his triumph over death in his resurrection. We too prepare to behold that same glory, at the Messiah’s return.
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When God’s glory is revealed in our lives, transformation is inevitable, for the individual, the greater body of Christ, as well as the culture. We are called to prepare the way through our own personal repentance and adoration of the Lord. But we are also called to stir that up in one another. I pray that you continue to meditate upon this passage and that you are stirred up to know, cherish, and show God’s glory to others this advent season.
Photo: Shelley Tingle
DAY 6 THUS SAITH THE LORD, THE LORD OF HOSTS Crorey Lawton
My days are busy. Mondays have work, then choir practice, and on Tuesdays I take a class over at Tulane. Chores, weekly crockpot for the office, social obligation Fridays. My bees, my Bible study group, my Sunday school preparations, my class term paper, my presentation for work…. I am busy. And it seems like every week, there is one point at which I am just overwhelmed by the tasks that I am doing, and those are the times that I actually go to God in prayer, saying, “Lord, I need help.”
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What I am not doing is setting aside time for that still small voice. What I am not doing is stopping to let God take control. The schedule takes over, and I am running –sometimes literally – from one action to another, without taking the time to discuss with God the work that I am doing for him – with him – in my life.
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For thus saith the LORD of hosts; Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land. The words of Haggai sound so powerful in Handel’s aria. But more and more, I worry that God’s words don’t stop me in my tracks, because I am not listening for the sound of his voice. I am not cued in. I am not listening. Thus saith the LORD. The Lord of hosts. Maybe, with time set aside, I can hear his voice. Maybe, I can see his plan. Maybe, I can take time to welcome the baby in the manger, whose love for me provided salvation. Maybe I’ll take that time today.
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PRAYER: Lord, in the hustling that I do, help me to stop and listen to you, to give you my undivided attention, and to express my love. To honor your sacrifice, and to give my heart – and my actions – over to you, for YOUR kingdom. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen. PHOTO: FRED NEWCOMB
DAY 7 THE LORD WHOM YE SEEK SHALL SUDDENLY COME TO HIS TEMPLE Jim Chaney
Are You Ready? Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. Malachi 3:1 (ESV) So, are you ready? No, I’m not talking about a football cheer. I’m not asking if you have made a list (and checked it twice) or whether you have done your decorating or baking or shopping. The question is whether you are ready for the coming of the Lord.
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Most commentators believe that preceding Christ’s birth, Malachi had been the last messenger from God to the Jewish people for 400 years. So what is in this important prophecy? First, just like in Isaiah 40:3, God is telling the people about the messenger who will come first, John the
Baptist, and then that the Lord himself is coming. The message of repentance preached by John was to prepare the people for the immediate coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. So are you ready to welcome the Messiah? Have you searched your heart and reflected on your faith and your hope in Christ alone? Have you prayed and asked God to forgive you of all your sins? Are you ready for your Savior to give you eternal life? Prayer: Dear Lord, we tremble in your presence for we are not deserving of your grace and mercy. Thank you for sending your son Jesus Christ to save us from our sins. Forgive us for our sins. As we prepare to celebrate His birth, help us to contemplate your overwhelming love, and help us to in turn share the wonderful Good News that Christ has come and will come again. In Christ’s name we pray, Amen.
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DAY 8 BUT WHO MAY ABIDE THE DAY OF HIS COMING Crorey Lawton
You just wait until your father gets home. It was always the ultimate statement in my household when I was growing up. Many of you will be shocked and dismayed to discover that I might have been less than the model child. I admit to being highly spirited, and not always able to repress my emotions. Or much of anything. And at the end of a long day, I often heard my mother, at her wits’ end, exclaim with total exasperation, Just wait till your daddy gets home. Who may abide the day of his coming? And who can stand when he appeareth? After Dad was done, it was more of a question of who can sit after he has left? While I was waiting, knowing, anticipating the punishment to come, I feared my father. I knew that he came home from his job frustrated and tense, and that I was not helping things by creating situations where I was relegated to my room when he got home. And while I was waiting, dread filling my chest, it never occurred to me to ponder his love for me. But it was love. It was instruction. It was teaching. And what he was modeling was the love that God has for me. Yes, I am to fear God. Yes, I am to watch when the hour is coming.
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I am waiting. With great anticipation. And when he comes, he will find me on bended knee. Prayer: Dear Lord, help me to prepare my heart so that when you come, that you will find me ready. In Christ’s name, amen.
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DAY 9 AND HE SHALL PURIFY Todd Boolos
"He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; He will purify” Malachi 3:3a Do you know how silver is refined? It is put under fire at 1,764 degrees. The refiner must sit and watch the silver thru the entire heating process, so the silver will not be ruined. The refiner knows that the silver is ready (all the impurities have melted away) when his reflection can be seen in it.
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We are the silver, and Jesus is our Purifier! Please note that He will “sit”. That means he will always be with us, always watching, and waiting. His eyes will be upon us, as the impurities are melted away. We will lose nothing but the bad stuff. Only good stuff remains. Every trial is for the purification of our souls. We will be made clean while our Creator watches and waits and continues to care for us through this process. We might not see Him or feel Him while the heat is on. We are often too afraid to realize that He won’t leave us in the fire a second longer than necessary. He observes the whole process and aches for us until the moment that He can see His own image in us.
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We should not be afraid when we feel like God is putting us in an oven. I find solace in the promise that He will be there, sitting and observing through it all. He will not allow us to be ruined. Let’s talk to Him, as He’s closer than we think. He’s glancing at us with loving eyes, knowing that this is the best for us and for His kingdom.
We will come out shinier and refined- an even more beautiful and valuable instrument in His hands.
DAY 10 BEHOLD, A VIRGIN SHALL CONCEIVE Click here to Listen
The season of Advent evokes all kinds of memories from the past. I was thinking back on my childhood memories and the first thing that popped in my head was the seven years I attended a Methodist church in Greenville, SC. Every Christmas, our church performed a live nativity scene that could be viewed by cars driving up to a lot and watching, much like a drive-in movie. A speaker broadcast the reading of the Christmas story while church members reenacted it outside. As a child you were garbed in a bathrobe type garment with a towel or scarf attached to your head with an old necktie out of Daddy’s closet. We got to gather around the bonfire portraying shepherds watching their flocks. As a female, when you got a bit older, you could look forward to portraying one of the cast of angels, complete with white gown and tinsel covered wire halos. The ultimate role was to portray Mary, the virgin who was to bear a child that would be named Immanuel. She was considered the lead player because of her significance.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, I praise you during Advent and all year long. Thank you for being my comfort and being my gift to remember. Amen
Artwork: Ann Gee
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This pageant was portrayed several times a night for several nights in a row and open to the entire area to come and view. Of course, we always loved the cookies and hot chocolate in the fellowship hall during the i intermissions between the acts. It just occurred to me how eye-opening it was to me that my fondest Christmas memories involved the acting out of the Christmas story at my church and not some wonderful gift I had received for Christmas. I praise God that I was raised in a home that put such emphasis on our church life and I feel like I carried that with me all the way into adulthood.
DAY 11 O THOU THAT TELLEST GOOD TIDINGS TO ZION Ada Lauderdale
Isaiah 53:4-5 The Cross at Christmas At Christmas, we celebrate the birth of God’s child Who was born to a virgin, both humble and mild. Called Jesus, He appeared a most common man Click here to Listen But he was God’s example and fulfilled His plan God watched His earthly children fail and fail again But He still wanted all to have eternal life with Him. God being just knew that atonement must be made And Christ was the sacrifice for man to be saved. He would bear our sins on a cross made from a tree This act of love and our belief saves you and me.
At the cross, I see my failures, and those of others, too And I wonder what I have said or what I did or did not do To cause the suffering of my Lord, and His journey into hell. Then comes the resurrection and the story we know well Death could not deny his place, upon His heavenly throne Where He sits with God the Father, calling us to home. I am so sorry and ashamed to think that I had a part I can only ask forgiveness, and give to Him my heart.
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Salvation came in a hay-filled manger, On the heart of a baby boy Who was born to die to save us all And bring the world true joy.
Praise to God the Father, Praise to God the Son
Praise to the Holy Spirit, for all that God has done!
DAY 12 ARISE SHINE Crorey Lawton
“Good morning, good morning, good morning, it’s time to rise and shine”. All through my teenage years, mom would come into my room to wake me up in the morning with a song. “It’s time to get up, get out of bed; get out of bed you ole’ sleepyhead.” From under the covers: “Mom, please don’t sing.” “There’s lots of things for us to do; oh, can’t you hear? They’re calling you” Muffled: “Mom. Please don’t sing.” “Doodley doo, doodley doo, doodley dooooooo”. Our joy comes in the morning, and my wonderful mom has still never lost sight of that fact. Isaiah 60:1 tells us, “Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee”. It is that joy that we take with us, and that keeps us through the middle of the darkness of winter.
PRAYER: Lord, I ask for the joy that comes from worshiping you. I pray that today my voice will allow me to arise, and shine, in the reflected glory of your love. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
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Singing is more than whistling in the dark – it provides a powerful way to connect to the emotions we feel – sadness, exultation, anger, and joy. Sharing that joy was one of the most important lessons my mother imparted to me, and one that continues to the current day. It is the act of joining with angels and archangels and all of the company of heaven by raising our voices in song that allows my joy to be fully expressed. Even, some days, when the covers are pulled up over my head.
DAY 12 ARISE SHINE Heidi Chausse
Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. Isaiah 60:1 So often we cower before God, afraid of His judgment and wrath. We know that as sinners, we cannot possibly be good enough to approach the throne. His radiance and His light are too great to behold. But Jesus, the incarnate God has come. He has brought the radiant light of his glory to us; Coming down to save us Living among us to teach us Dying to redeem us Resurrected to bring us life! The light came not to blind, but to reveal—to make the blind to see. Therefore, people of God, Arise Shine, Allow the abundant light of love to overflow from hearts full of faith, Pouring out love and light from our hearts into the world of darkness.
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Incarnate Son of God, you have come that we might see. You have brought the radiant light of love to a place of brokenness, of darkness, so that we who love you might shine. It is your glory that radiates from our hearts, your glory that shines from our face, shining from lives transformed by your grace. Come, Lord Jesus, Come, shine brightly and boldly over all the earth. Let every knee bow before you, let every tongue confess that you alone are LORD. Amen to the Father, Alleluia to the Son, Amen to the Spirit, Holy God, three in one.
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DAY 13 FOR BEHOLD, DARKNESS SHALL COVER THE EARTH Anonymous
For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee. -Isaiah 60:2
We must have light to live. Science teaches that truth. We only live because our solar system is perfect with Earth’s tilt and position relative to our Sun. We must also have spiritual light to live. Jesus speaks in John 8:12 “I am the light of the world”. We can have life and light when Christ is the center of our spiritual solar system. Have you ever been lost in the complete dark, no moon, no sun, no stars, no fire or artificial light? Besides fear, you first realize that you cannot walk, or go anywhere without danger. Isaiah has seen a vision as to what is coming in his land. He is prophesizing that Jesus will come, and this light will shine in a country has become spiritually dark. 31 YAD •72 EGAP
We are also spiritually dark without Jesus and His light. I prefer the light. Join me in walking without fear on the well illuminated path toward the ultimate light, our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. PRAYER: Lord, your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path. Help me to hide its words in my heart that I might not sin against you.
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DAY 14 THE PEOPLE THAT WALKED IN DARKNESS Jean Blue
The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light, and they that dwell in the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined. Isaiah 9:2. Arise shine for your light has come! Isaiah 6:1. A special part of our Christmas Eve service, for me, is the moment the sanctuary is transformed from darkness to become bathed in light, one candle at a time. Darkness into light! When the prophet refers to the people who walk in darkness, and Isaiah 9, he is speaking of the nation of Judah that, because of disobedience, is in a miserable situation under Assyrian dictatorship. 41 YAD.92 EGAP
It was a time of oppression, hardship, and war. While the prophet’s assessment of their plight is dismal, his vision suddenly shifts to an unimaginable image only
possible with God. He lets his vision of the birth of a child and the appearance of the peace of God shine like a light into the conflicts and experiences of real life. The hopes and fears of all the years are truly met in the Everlasting Light born in the little town of Bethlehem. Darkness into light! Although today we see all about us the darkness of unrest, family discord, class struggles, poverty, and social injustice, it doesn’t have to be that way. We are made radiant by the One Light of the World, Jesus Christ, and if we dare to claim the title He gave us, we can be lights to the world as well, and reflect his golden light in every dark corner. Just as the Christmas Star in the night sky was a sign that light was breaking into darkness, let us shine light into the darkness around us, turning fear into peace, hatred into love, and despair and hope.
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PRAYER: Father God, I praise you for your life-giving light that penetrates the depths of my heart, energizing and transforming me with your love and grace. Thank you for your Son, the Light of the World, who still shines peace in the midst of discord and confusion, and hope in the presence of discouragement and disappointment. Â Fill me with the radiance you gave to him so that I will have the courage to reflect the light of Christ in the dark in the world. Amen.
DAY 15 FOR UNTO US A CHILD IS BORN Barbara Tracy
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. Isaiah 9:6 A relatively new hymn written in 1986 by Natalie Sleeth begins: “In the bulb there is a flower; in the seed, an apple tree; in cocoons, a hidden promise: butterflies will soon be free....”. This hymn resides in the eternal life section of our hymnal and uses a tune named "Promise."
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Handel has set the “For unto us a child is born...” text as an elegant dance expressing joy for the gift of God’s Son as an infant. I always spend a lot of time working on this music since the organ version requires the feet to play the cello part, and the hands cover the rest of the instruments. This Messiah chorus is a wonderful exposition of the text.
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We recall how it was the goal of earthly kings to produce an heir to continue their family reign. This heir needed time to prepare and grow in wisdom—there was no guarantee that the earthly child would become a good king. We have the promise that God’s Son will have awesome qualities. We, as Christians, must remember that the Christmas celebration is only the beginning with the presentation of the bulb, seed or cocoon. His birth was in a stable to a carpenter’s family although he was descended from King David. The child needed protection from Herod’s wrath. He needed to grow and experience humanity and learn to communicate with neighbors, family, tradesmen and even fishermen. His goal was to undertake His earthly ministry and make the ultimate sacrifice of His life for us. The butterfly stage will be in the future with Christ’s second coming and our promise of eternal life.
Sing "Glory to God in the Highest” at Christmas but do not let the celebration end as Christmas fades—the best is yet to come. Savor the promises. We can call on Him as Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, and Everlasting Father, and can look forward to the day when the government will be on His shoulders and He will be the Prince of Peace.
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PRAYER: Dear God, Help us to remember all your promises and help us to grow in our faith and expectation of a world of peace and goodwill. We rejoice and thank you for sending us your Son. Amen.
DAY 16 THERE WERE SHEPHERDS ABIDING IN THE FIELD Donna Ingram
shepherds? Shepherds made up the lowest class of people. They were unclean, couldn’t testify in court and were kept out of the temple. We know that they represent the outcasts and sinners In the song “Beautiful Boy” John for whom Jesus came. They Lennon includes the lyric “Life is what happens to you while you’re represent us! God announced Christ’s birth, not to kings,princes busy making other plans”. or temple officials, but to the Wouldn’t it be nice if each day outcasts of society. was a peaceful ride, where we could just sit back and enjoy each moment without dwelling on the Like Lennon’s quote, God came unexpectedly, at night, to those past or making plans for the who were simply going about their future? Can we really do as daily task. They were probably Lennon says and just let life tired and startled when the angel happen without any fear. Isn’t appeared. It’s doubtful the this what trusting in God is all shepherds were out there praying about? or waiting for some sort of sign Handel transitions from “For unto or message from God. But God us a Child is Born” in Isaiah, to the knew they would be the perfect messenger, because they knew New Testament. Handel could how to tend his sheep. have had the singers tell of Gabriel’s announcement to Mary PRAYER: or about the inn being full, but Father, during this Christmas instead he goes to Luke 2:8 and season help us listen to your good the shepherds in the fields. Why news and respond did God make the most through rejoicing and loving all important announcement the sinners and outcasts so that your world has ever heard to the love may shine in the hearts of all of us. Luke 2:8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night (KJV).
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DAY 17 AND LO, THE ANGEL OF THE LORD CAME UPON THEM; AND THE ANGEL SAID UNTO THEM Click here to Listen
And the Angel said unto them, Fear not, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Saviour, which is Christ, the Lord. Luke 2:9-10 My sons and daughter-in-law and I took an incredible trip to Wyoming this fall. When God created the Grand Tetons, He showed his power, strength, might and majesty. They jump up out of the flat earth with no foothills. When God created Yellowstone, He showed his mystery with steaming geysers, boiling hot springs, hissing fumeroles, and blurping mudpots. Add in His creatures the bison, bear, coyotes, elk, pronghorn, mule deer, eagle, and tiny squirrels. Yellowstone is a fearsome, dangerous place. My family was in awe!
However, God showed His greatest power-the power of HIS LOVEwhen he sent his only Son to earth to walk among us. Jesus’s mysterious birth, his great knowledge of scripture, his miracles, his speaking for the one who sent him, his leaving the Holy Spirit with us to guide and comfort are all evidence of an awesome God’s redemptive plan to bring his sinful creation back to Him. Someday we will truly stand in awe in the presence of God our Creator and Jesus Christ our Savior. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believe that in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Photo: Shelley Tingle Grand Tetons
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Prayer: Lord, today we thank you for your love, expressed in the birth of your Son. Help us to walk in your light, sharing your love.
DAY 18 AND SUDDENLY THERE WAS WITH THE ANGEL A MULTITUDE OF T H E H E A V E N L Y H O S T S Click here to Listen Shelley Tingle
“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God,” Luke 2:13 Luke describes what has never happened before and in this way expresses the significance of the birth of Jesus. The distance that separates heaven and earth from each other is removed for a moment; the earth becomes the place of the heavenly praise of God and humans become its eye witnesses. Suddenly heaven collides with earth. In modern terms, the word "host" is often used to describe a large number of something - for example, we might say: "I have a host of things to get done today." A closer look at the Greek word used in this passage is highly revealing. The word used by Luke is στρατιά (transliterated: stratia), a word that in classical Greek denoted an army or a company of soldiers. Understanding "stratia" as a word with explicit military overtones transforms our "sweetly singing" choir in the fields of Bethlehem into a powerful angelic army robed in battle array. Somehow Christmas just became a little frightening.
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During advent, may we remember to be like the angelic army and proclaim peace. Until God’s new creation overwhelms this old one, the way that heaven touches earth today is through His people.
Instead of the angel armies arriving for the Day of the Lord, the army was praising God and heralding a time of long suffering and amnesty for all of humanity. Heaven touches the earth with peace.
This military imagery intersects with the Christmas story and with the identity of Jesus as "Christ the Lord", as the angel announced to the shepherds (Luke 2:11). In a dirty feed trough in Bethlehem, the long awaited Messiah lay cold and hungry. God himself was visiting His people and light was shining on the sons of men. The stunned angel onlookers see more than just another baby. They behold their commander in chief - not as the mighty conquering "captain" as He was seen throughout the Old Testament, but as a helpless baby whose cries fill the night air.
DAY 19 GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST Donna Bodron
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God... The Almighty, all powerful and loving God created heaven and earth and all that is in it, all the creatures, as well as man and woman with a plan, an intention. The purpose, the intent, was a loving and glorious relationship with His people that He created. Man and woman, because of our sin, are incapable of having any relationship with God: much less a glorious relationship. But God, in His kindness and mercy, had a plan for that too.
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Throughout history, God called up prophets to foretell of a Redeemer, a Savior, a Messiah. The Old Testament is a record of these prophets and tells the history of how God speaks to His people, makes a contract with His people to guide them, rescue them, discipline them and ultimately save and reconcile His people, fulfilling his original intent for us.
Click here to Listen History has revealed in many various places and times man's pitiful wretchedness and our need for a Redeemer, a Savior, a Messiah. History, as recorded in Scripture, tells us that God did provide a Redeemer; that a baby was born in Bethlehem in a manger from the line of David, and that that baby is Almighty God Himself. He grew to be a humble carpenter who spoke of loving God with all of our hearts, minds and souls, and our neighbor as ourselves. History tells us that although most people rejected Him and eventually killed Him, those who believe in Him have eternal life and a wonderful, glorious relationship with God through Jesus Christ. At Christmas time, we celebrate the birth of that baby, Jesus, God Almighty Himself, coming to earth as a human so that those who believe in Him can have that glorious relationship with Him. History continues to record humankind's struggles through the ages needing a Redeemer and Savior.
At Christmas, we celebrate the Sovereign Creator of the universe coming to earth as a man to accomplish His purpose, a glorious relationship with His people.
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PRAYER: Lord, as the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, we beheld His glory, the glory of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. Â He has come! He has come! Glory to God in the Highest! Glory to God in the Highest! - Amen
Photo: Ann Gee
DAY 20 REJOICE GREATLY, O DAUGHTER OF ZION Betty Jackson
God made promises to those in the Old Testament emphasizing that faith in Him was paramount to their being protected by God. Also by becoming believers, God would lead them to the best way of living their lives. God kept watch over those who became believers. God promises that our king (our Savior) will come to those who are righteous and have salvation. He will be “gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey”.
Photo: Shelley Tingle
This is the prophecy of salvation presented throughout the Old Testament. As modern day Christians, we have faith that Jesus was sent by God to save us from our sinful ways and enable us to be forgiven by our Father. We should strive each day to strengthen our beliefs, love, and knowledge of Jesus and the Trinity. To do this each day, we must study some portion of the Bible, thank God for our many blessings and praise Him for all He has done for us. 02 YAD •93 EGAP
In the New Testament, we find the story of God’s love for us played out. Our only responsibility is to become believers that Jesus died to save us as Christians from having to pay for our sins by being separated from God for eternity. This atonement does not mean we are free to do as we please. We must live our lives in a Godly manner and pray each day for guidance and help in doing this. The celebration of Jesus’ birth is the beginning.
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DAY 21 THEN SHALL THE EYES OF THE BLIND BE OPEN'D
Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy.” Isaiah 35:5-6 His name is Bartimaeus, a blind beggar. His little space beside the road is home. Like the litter collecting in the gutter, he sits there day after day, crumpled up on the side of the road. He takes what comes his way: a coin in the cup, a slap on the hand, a blessing, a doctrinal curse from the religious. Then, one day, he hears voices, “Jesus the Nazarene is coming!” Bartimaeus is blind, not deaf. He knows that name! Many say Jesus is the future king and heir to the throne of David. They say that He’s the One to fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy. Jesus and the crowd approach, Bartimaeus yells out, twice, “SON OF DAVID, HAVE MERCY ON ME.” Jesus stops and sends for the man. Bartimaeus has the undivided attention of not only David’s heir to the throne, but to the heir of the throne of heaven. Jesus asks, “What do you want me to do for you?”
Without hesitation, Bartimaeus answers, “Lord, I want to see.” Meaning, “I want to get out of the dungeon where I’m stuck. I want to walk without running into walls. I want out of prison. I want to be free. I want to love. I want to laugh. I want to live…I want to see.” In an instant, Jesus knows everything those four short words mean to this man. And the response is not of an exalted king, but of a lowly servant. Jesus says. “Receive your sight.” And in the twinkling of an eye, Bartimaeus passes out of darkness and into light. His faith has healed him. Faith enough to make a fool of himself by stopping a crowd. Faith enough to come to Jesus. Faith enough to ask what no one but God could grant. Quite a lot to see, for a blind man. Prayer: Emmanuel, You came to give sight to the blind. You meet us where we are, where we need you most. Even in our darkness, help us to sense your redeeming presence and trust in your redemptive power. Lead us to share your light in the darkness. Amen.
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DAY 22 HE SHALL FEED HIS FLOCK LIKE A SHEPHERD Kelle Barfield
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey. (Zechariah 9:9) In this portion of the symphony, the soloist sings one syllable on several notes, going up and down breathlessly on the second syllable of “rejoice.” It gives the listener a feeling of joy. As I meditate on the ups and downs of life, I strive to find that same ecstasy and joy in all things.
Click here to Listen All things are wrought at the hand of our magnificent and loving God. While we may not understand the reason for disappointments, trials and catastrophes in life, we do know that all things work together for good. So let us love the Lord with all our hearts and minds, in all the seasons of life. In darkness and in light, in joy and in sorrow. Rejoice always, remembering this day is our gift from God, whose love and power are ever with us and before us. Amen! Photo: Shelley Tingle
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DAY 22 HE SHALL FEED HIS FLOCK LIKE A SHEPHERD Jennifer Grey
The first thing that comes to mind with this verse is comfort. In this world that is full of pushes and pulls, in this world that tests our beliefs, in this world that questions our faith, in this world that presents false happiness, and in this world that blurs our focus.... we do not have to be our own Shepherd. He is our place of rest and it is He that will
strengthen our souls so that we can continue down the path He has set for us. We are His. We are His lambs. We are His lambs that are called to share His love. By definition, a shepherd guides and directs his lambs in a particular direction while providing protection and nourishment. How lucky we are to have the ultimate shepherd to accompany us through this crazy life. It is through His love and guidance that we find true joy and purpose. During this season (and every season), we should remember that we are the lambs and not the shepherd. Comfort comes knowing that He paid the ultimate price for us and now we can carry Him in our heart. Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for being our shepherd. Thank you for your guidance, protection, and unconditional love. Thank you for the comfort and joy in knowing that you have our back. Keep our eyes fixed on the true meaning of this season and help us to give of ourselves in a way that pleases you. Amen.
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Isaiah 40:11 : "He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young."
DAY 23 COME UNTO HIM, ALL YE THAT LABOUR Shelley Tingle
Making the Grade: Confessions of a Geek
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” Matt. 11:28-29 I am the stereotypical first born, straight out of all modern parenting books. You know the type: overachiever, structured, desiring to excel at everything. My parents always stressed the importance of education but never required all A’s only for my sister and I to do our best. For me, if I can’t excel and get the A, there is basically no point in the effort. This drive for excellence meant choosing to study over having fun, working hard on all assignments, attending study groups and even staying up all night studying for the exam. By December I was weary, exhausted and ready to go home for the holidays This need to “be the best” has also spilled into my daily walk with Jesus--everything from studying both Greek and Hebrew translations of the Bible to finding any verse within 8 seconds. While these skills are nice to have, this is not at all what God desires or requires of us. My almost sense Jesus taking my face in His hands and saying, "Stop 32 YAD .34 EGAP
looking to the rules for your worth. Stop trying to measure yourself against the law. It is not about achievement. It's all too heavy to bear. You'll never be good enough that way. Look at Me. Learn from Me."
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heart sighs at Jesus' words, so great is the relief they promise. I can
What a difference this truth has made in my life. When I take my eyes off the rules, tests and performance, and put them on Jesus, a weight is lifted. Rather than constantly striving to make the grade, He releases my need
to perform and replaces it with His acceptance. The heavy yoke of pride is replaced with His light yoke of humility.
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Photo: Shelley Tingle
DAY 24 IF GOD IS FOR US, WHO IS AGAINST US Mike Davis
"What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God's elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us." Romans 8:31-34
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Centuries had passed since the days of David and Solomon. The people of Judah had seen hard times and immense difficulties. They had lived under cruel domination by Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, and then Romans. There seemed to be no hope of an end to the most recent foreign presence. The promise of a Messiah must have seemed like an unlikely dream to the people of this minor Roman province. They heard in festivals and Sabbath readings regular reminders of their heritage and the promises
which had been made to this remnant of a once-mighty nation. Such reminders in pointing to a coming Deliverer may have been bittersweet. "Oh Lord, how long ... " It was to such a people and at such a time that the One whose promises never fail brought to fulfillment the advent of the promised Messiah. Handel's masterpiece nears its conclusion with a solo voice proclaiming a text from the eighth chapter of Paul's letter to the Romans. Paul gives assurance of God's ultimate deliverance of His people. The eighth chapter of Romans begins with the assurance that "there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" and concludes with further assurance that neither is there separation from the love of God in Christ Jesus. The Apostle presses his argument with a series of rhetorical questions, all pointing to the reality of the death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ and his continuing intercession for us.
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We should have no expectation of escaping hard times during our mortal existence. Difficulties will come. But we have certainty in knowing that the One who came to share our humanity and bear our sin is also the one who has been raised for our justification, sits at the right hand of God theFather, and prays for us. He is our Messiah, our "Deus pro nobis". God is for us!
DAY 25 HALLELUJAH Josh and Katy Woltmann
Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: "Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns…'” Revelation 19:6
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Katy and I recently took a trip to the Great Smoky Mountains. It was truly a beautiful time basking in the beauty of God’s creation and soaking in the love of family. Well, of course, like all great trips someone had to get sick. That someone happened to be our son, Caleb. His first time to ever get sick no less. So here we were about to embark on what became an eleven hour drive with a sick baby with two clueless parents. Oh, and did I mention a tropical storm was moving through so it was storming the entire way home. The only thing that got us through that drive was the idea of sleeping in our warm beds. We kept telling ourselves, “We’re almost home…just a little further.” The thought of that offered us hope and even changed our mindset on how we treated each other. During advent season, we are looking toward the “coming” of our
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Lord and Savior at Christmas. Living in the post-resurrection, we are called to look even further toward the second coming of Christ as the judge and ruler of all. Speaking specifically for our family, it is so easy for us to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of life especially around the Christmas season. We can easily lose sight of our ultimate destination. Tensions become high and hearts become hardened which is why the call to stop and look ahead is so crucial. Revelation gives us so many beautiful pictures of what “home” will be like for the Church. What a glorious sight to behold every tongue, tribe, and nation gathered around the throne of grace free of suffering and sin. I can only imagine the glorious sounds of us singing what can only be likened to the Hallelujah chorus by Handel. Until then, we, the Church, must strive on with our ultimate destination in sight. Living with the earnest expectation of Christ’s return, our hearts will be changed from being inwardly focused to having hearts to reach others and hearts to quickly forgive. The idea that Christ will reign forever and ever gives us hope and an overflowing joy that can only leave you singing,
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“Hallelujah, For the Lord God omnipotent reigns!”
PUBLISHED BY VICKSBURG FIRST PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH Â
FOR REFLECTION DURING THE 2019 ADVENT SEASON