Docstoc

Advent Devotion Book 2011

Document Sample
Advent Devotion Book 2011 Powered By Docstoc
					    2010 Daily Advent
Scriptures and Reflections




      by the members of
  Cullowhee Baptist Church
       Cullowhee, NC
2010 Daily Advent Scriptures and Reflections
  Are you ready? You are about to be blessed by God this
  Advent. In the pages of this primitive printing are
  scripture references with personal reflections by the
  members of Cullowhee Baptist Church. We have
  stood alongside the members of Cullowhee Baptist now
  for almost nine full and rich years, and we have
  continually been amazed by God’s gracious activity in
  the world through our membership. We have seen
  lives changed by the gospel message we have been given
  to proclaim. A gospel that begins with the good news
  that God has come to live among us and that this life
  has made all the difference in our lives. During this
  season of Advent, let the word of God in scripture be
  your guide, and allow the reflections from the people of
  God show you how bright the light shines out of
  darkness. Together, may we find that God is born
  again in our midst and is today as always, “Emmanuel,
  God with us.”


  Grace and Peace,

  Tonya and Jeffrey Vickery
  Pastors, Cullowhee Baptist Church
Advent Week 1: The Lord is Coming
                                        Sunday, November 28
Matthew 24:36-44
Advent begins with anticipating that God is coming into our
world. This Advent anticipation culminates in the birth of Je-
sus, the Son of God, come to dwell among us. Yet in these
Advent days before that birth we are taught to expect God to
come. Not like a visitor, nor like a ruler, but like a thief. If
God were coming like a visitor we might know the time and
circumstances of the arrival. We could clean the house, pre-
pare the food, and make a hospitable space to welcome God.
If God were coming like a ruler, we could invite the right peo-
ple to witness the event, be ready to take pictures, or plan for
publicity. Since God comes like a thief, we have only one op-
tion: expect God’s coming every day.

Jesus was not purposely evasive when asked about the coming
of the Messiah. He seems to prefer that we find ourselves in
the ordinary course of events to always be ready for God to
live among us. Every day is an opportunity to live for God, to
love God and neighbor, to worship and serve. To practice our
faith today, means we’re ready for God’s coming even if it
happens in the ordinary task of working in the field or grind-
ing meal (Jesus’ illustrations from Matthew). Faithful living
means we don’t need to change how we live and become sud-
denly righteous because God may come. We practice right-
eous living because God has changed us and called us today.
Live for God today, and we remain prepared whether the
coming of God is today or not.

  -Jeffrey Vickery
                                        Monday, November 29
Isaiah 2:1-5

I remember well from my growing up years that whenever
company was coming to our home, there would inevitably be
a flurry of preparatory activity to get ready. The house had to
be cleaned, the toys picked up, and everything set back in its
proper place. If the visit involved a meal, the table would need
to be set and the good dishes brought out in order to serve the
food. If the guests were going to stay with us, the guest room
(which also happened to be my room) had to be cleaned and
made ready. When someone is coming, we make preparations
for their arrival.

The prophet Isaiah tells us that in the last days, the Lord will
judge between the nations, settling disputes, and the people
will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into
pruning hooks. The nations will all stream together to wor-
ship God. It is a beautiful vision, full of hope.

The Lord Jesus, the Prince of Peace, is coming. Perhaps while
we wait we can begin to fashion our swords into plowshares
and our spears into pruning hooks. Perhaps we can be the
ones who work to bring the peace of Christ into the conflicts
we encounter in our lives. In this way we can make ready for
our Lord who is coming.

                                              -Richard Goddard
                                       Tuesday, November 30
Psalm 122

This past August was a difficult month. Within a 10-day pe-
riod we moved 4 family members to new “homes”—Connor
started school at NCSSM in Durham, and Annelise went to
school at Berry College in Rome, Georgia. The biggest move
was relocating my parents. After living for 16 years in their
home in Lakeland, Florida, we moved them into a new apart-
ment in Asheville. I was tired physically and emotionally. It
would be so easy to withdraw and avoid people who would
need something from me.

But only our God knows best what we really need. So that
first Sunday afternoon, we took my parents to the worship ser-
vice at Givens Estates, where they now live. What joy we had
to recognize the voice and smiling face of the pastor, Rev. Joe
Fulk, who had 16 years ago pastored the Cullowhee Method-
ist Church, only 2 blocks down the street from Cullowhee
Baptist! And his wife, Diane, was Annelise’s kindergarten
teacher at Cullowhee Valley School. We rejoiced and ex-
changed peace and hope for our families. My parents would
immediately know a true friend of our family in their new
home.

We were obedient to the call to go to the house of the Lord.
But more importantly, our God was faithful to supply all our
needs—needs of peace, joy and hope in hard times. Christ is
coming. He comes every time we come together!

                                                     -Jeff Davis
                                       Wednesday, December 1
Romans 13:11-14
As I read Romans 13:11-14, I was embarrassed to know that I
would have to write an inspirational devotion on it. I wonder
if it was divine intervention or just sheer luck that I chose the
scripture on my birthday that dealt with orgies, drunkenness,
sexual immortality, quarreling, and jealousy. Verse 13 brought
to mind the movies and television series I have seen in which
the characters participated in these behaviors, and I began to
wonder if my life reflects these behaviors also. I am guilty of
thinking mean thoughts about people who have offended me,
of yelling at my children for not doing what I have asked, of
modeling behavior that I do not want my children to emulate,
of not being the wife, teacher, mother, friend that God wants
me to be. We all have fallen short, I suppose. However, God
gives us a “wake-up” call. He tells us to “wake up from sleep”.
I interpret this as wake up from the sins that control our
lives…whatever those sins may be, and stop those behaviors
that do not reflect His Light! He tells us to “walk properly as
in the daytime” and to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ”. True,
inappropriate behaviors may make us “feel good” for the mo-
ment, but do they reflect God’s love? God tells us to “make no
provisions for the flesh, to gratify its desires,” so when I have
these mean thoughts, desires to yell, behave in such a way that
my children, husband, students, friends do not see Christ, I
must remember God’s words: “wake from sleep. For salvation
is nearer to us now than when we first believed.” May Christ
be with you today and forever more.
                                                         -Paula Fox
                                        Thursday, December 2
John 18:33-37
When I was a teenager, I sang in the youth choir at my home
church in Pickens, SC. One of my favorite anthems from
those years was You Shall Know the Truth. The chorus went
something like
        You shall know the truth.
        You shall know the truth.
        You shall know the truth, and love is the proof
        That the truth shall set you free.

The chorus repeated three times and each time just a little bit
louder. By the time we sang the chorus with its driving
rhythm for the last time, we were singing it with all our vocal
might. That last “free” was held onto and when the choir di-
rector cut us off, the sound continued in the sanctuary. All
was quiet at that point, but the song was not over. I don’t re-
member the next words, but I do remember singing it quietly,
almost like a whisper.

The impression I was graced with that Sunday evening, was
that sometimes Jesus’ voice is loud and clear and pulls us right
back in to where we need to be. And then there are other
times when the voice of Jesus is gentle and quiet, full of com-
passion and mercy.

Jesus’ voice is always there, ready to help me along in this
world. But it depends on me to hear him.
                                                  -Tonya Vickery
                                             Friday, December 3
Psalm 95
Years ago any time we were preparing for a long trip, I always
made sure the “Disney Song Tapes” were in the cassette case.
Spending several hours in a car is uncomfortable and tiring.
The questions start coming. “When are we going to get
there?” “Can’t we stop and get something to drink?” “Why
are we going in the first place?” And those were just the ques-
tions I was asking. Singing together always seemed to shorten
the miles as well as the minutes. You just can’t be out of sorts
and sing “I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly” at the
same time.

Our spiritual journey lasts a lifetime and worship is what bol-
sters us as we travel together. It gives us joy and energizes us. It
gives us direction for today and the future. It draws us to-
gether and to God. As we remember all he has done for us we
are drawn to sing, to pray, and to lead lives of worship.

The psalmist says, “we are the people of his pasture, the flock
under his care.” During Advent we remember the greatest gift
God has given - a shepherd to lead his flock on the journey.
What better reason is there to sing?

                                                      -Steve Baxley
                                         Saturday, December 4
Zephaniah 3:14-20

“Do not let your hands grow weak.” What a statement for us
as we are swept into the rolling tide of the hustle and bustle of
the Christmas season! However, the prophet Zephaniah isn’t
talking about decorating the Christmas tree, or addressing
Christmas cards. Neither is he talking about shopping online
or at the mail. Zephaniah is talking about not giving up on
ourselves in relationship with God.

Turn back a few pages in your Bible and you will find that the
Book of Zephaniah opens with a clear assertion that the peo-
ple of God have been so sinful that complete annihilation is
well deserved. Ouch! However, the prophets of God rarely
leave us without as much as a glimmer of hope. In today’s
reading, the promised hope blinds us.

Don’t give up on trying to serve the Lord! Yes, we have made
gross errors in our walk with God. We are ashamed by how
we have treated our neighbors with contempt. Unfortunately,
we have completely overlooked the needs of others. Yet we
know that when we confess our failures to the Lord God, God
will take away all judgments against us. So do not let your
hands grow weak. We follow and serve a God who is all about
doing new things. God will rejoice over us with gladness and
loud singing! God chooses to live among us. May we sing
aloud, rejoice and revel with all our heart!
.
                                               —Tonya Vickery
Advent Week 2: Preparing the Way
                                            Sunday, December 5
Matthew 3:1-12
It’s easy to think about preparing to bake a cake. We make a
list, go to the grocery store, and then start baking. Preparing
for God’s entry into our world takes more than just a shop-
ping trip. From John the Baptist, in the Gospel of Matthew,
we find that confessing and repenting are needed for our
preparations for the Messiah to be born. John was just
strange enough that people didn’t want to be just like him.
After all, he wore itchy clothes made out of camel hair, and he
ate grasshoppers. No one envied John’s lifestyle as something
to emulate. But his message was front and center; what he
said is what helps us prepare for Jesus’ birth. His sermon went
something like this:

“It’s time to turn to God now. Don’t think you’re holy by
your station in life, or your family. Live what is holy and you’ll
be ready for the Messiah. And be baptized, to cleanse your
body as a reminder to cleanse your life.”

In John’s preaching, confessing and baptism were intertwined.
Confessing is one discipline that helps turn us toward God
just as baptism indicates that our commitment to Christ has
been made permanent. Too often we think of confessing as
admitting what we’ve done wrong. Confessing can also be ad-
mitting what we need to do or change or adopt that helps
bring in line our beliefs about God and our actions in every-
day life. Try completing this prayer as a confession in prepara-
tion of Christ’s coming: “God help me become … ”
.
                                                —Jeffrey Vickery
                                          Monday, December 6

Isaiah 11:1-10
Peace. Hope. Goodwill. These are words that are spring to
mind as we anticipate the season of Christ’s birth, words
found on Christmas cards and words evoked by the Prophet
Isaiah. What a wonderful and comforting idea that predators
and prey hang out together with no worries! A time when
babes would have nothing to fear from poisonous snakes!
This is the vision God has for all of us.

Unfortunately, this description of peaceful relationships
stands in stark contrast to the brutality of many situations that
represent the reality of life on earth now. People continue to
hurt other people in unspeakable ways all over the world,
through government and religious sanctioned wars, through
the tragedy of domestic violence and by the hands of drug ad-
diction, greed and other manifestations of evil. As Christmas
approaches, how can we reconcile the hope and vision that
God has for the world with the reality exists?

The truth of verse 4 helps answer this question. “But with
righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity
for the meek of the earth.” The righteousness and equity of
God is our hope and promise! Celebrations of Christ birth
can include blessings for those involved in painful situations
to be comforted by the same God who plans for the wolf to lie
with the lamb and thanks for the branch of Jesse!

                                                   —Pam Martin
                                          Tuesday, December 7
Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19
When we think of leaders, certain responsibilities fall under
their role. We want leaders to be just, to rule fairly and to give
people what they deserve, whether asked of or not. We want
leaders to ensure fertility – that things will prosper and flour-
ish to benefit the people. In Psalm 72, this blessing is for Solo-
mon, King David’s son, as he is about to become king. For
Solomon to be just and to ensure fertility among the land is
desired of all people. For many, the blessings bestowed upon
Solomon are greatly impacted by Solomon’s ability to carry
out God’s will. By God’s will, only can true justice and fertility
flourish.

During the Advent season, as we reflect upon Psalm 72 we
can substitute the Messiah for Solomon. Just as Solomon is
the prince of David, so the Messiah is the prince of God. As
God’s people, we anticipate His arrival to ensure justice and
fertility. We look to Him to defend us, crush our enemies,
and sustain us for as long as we endure.

It should give us great peace to know that we can cast all of
our cares and needs on the Messiah. For He will protect us
and guide us…as long as our hearts are open to His wants and
not our own.

                                                 —Megan Brown
                                     Wednesday, December 8
Romans 15:4-13

When I read Romans 15:4-13, I was reminded immediately of
my childhood Christian experiences. Mt. Pleasant Primitive
Baptist Church in which I grew up, was a part of the West
Florida Primitive Baptist Association. The association was
close in fellowship. Church members prayed for the other and
knew each member of each congregation by Brother or Sister,
with their first name added. Each year homecomings and as-
sociational meetings were much anticipated events in all
churches especially for us children. We ere excited not only
to see so many children our ages again, but to worship in song
and prayer and sometimes foot washing - not to mention the
wonderful southern food prepared and served by the best.
The Holy Spirit was present and very real to all ages.

Anticipation, excitement, and reverence to the Almighty in
song and prayer, laughter, and good food with fellow Chris-
tians is indescribable. What a wonderful blessing to be loved
by Christian folk from so many different places. What won-
derful memories of those elders who were setting good exam-
ples for us children to be responsible adults to God and our
country.
                                            -Etheree Chancellor
                                         Thursday, December 9
Mark 1:1-8
And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preach-
ing a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. I be-
lieve this part of the scripture provides us with one of the
greatest blessing we can receive...forgiveness of sins. If we truly
repent of our sins, we are forgiven...forever...of those sins.
John the Baptist is the one who came to prepare the way; he is
the voice of one calling out in the desert, predicted by the
prophet Isaiah (chapter 40:3). Chapter 40 reads on: “Every
valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a
plain.”

Here in the mountains, we know our pathways are not
straight, for we go up the mountain, down the valley, and up
again. However, when we repent, down goes those mountains
of pride, and up goes those valleys of expectation, and our
pathway straightens out...for God is there at that instance of
repentance. Baptism is more than a symbol of the forgiveness
of sins; it encompasses washing away the “old” you, making a
“new” you—one who lives in faith through the cleanliness of
holy water and the Holy Spirit. John brought people to Christ
the only way they can come—through acknowledgment of
guilt. When people come this way, God meets them, cleanses
them, and forgives them. God has made these things available
to any man or woman who will begin at the beginning—the
place of repentance.
                                                    —Amy Garza
                                         Friday, December 10
Psalm 138

In Psalm 138, David is giving praise and thanks to God. He is
praying that God will give him encouragement and strength.
As a king, David could have asked for power and the right to
rule. He might have thanked God for his wealth and the vast
size of his kingdom. Instead the king thanks God for His con-
stant love and faithfulness.

When Jesus was born, it was not to a king’s family, but to
Mary and Joseph. Jesus was born in the village of Bethlehem
and not in the capital city of Jerusalem. The common shep-
herds came to see him first. Years and years before Jesus’
birth, David understood that God was not impressed with
wealth and prestige. Though God is the one higher than any
of us, David reminds us that “he regards the lowly; but the
haughty he perceives from far away.”

David’s psalm ends by repeating the promise of steadfast love.
David as king had to face trouble, and needed God’s help. Je-
sus as Messiah met with resistance to his teaching and en-
dured ridicule and arrest. Both David, and Jesus, took com-
fort that God’s steadfast love endures forever. So should we.

                                            —Onifer Wilmoth
                                       Saturday, December 11
Isaiah 62
The followers of Jesus were first called “Christians” in An-
tioch about three decades after the resurrection of Jesus. Be-
fore that they called themselves “followers of ‘The Way.’” The
life of a Christian is a journey with God where we travel each
day with purpose toward the destination of life God has for us
all. Salvation begins, like that old adage about a journey of a
thousand miles, with one step taken each day.

Isaiah has that same hopeful message for the people of Israel.
Banished to a foreign land for decades, God’s message finally
comes about a journey. Isaiah tells them that God has pro-
vided a way for them to return to Jerusalem, their home. Be-
yond resettling in the city, however, God has just as surely
mapped the way of salvation. The journey leads home and it
leads to God. All they have to do is to join the pilgrimage to-
ward God’s promised salvation.

Advent and Christmas are never intended to be an end to
themselves but one step along the journey with God. Just like
one day does not hold all that God brings to us in a lifetime,
the birth of Jesus is not everything we claim that is true about
Christianity. With Advent we “go through the gate” that
leads us to “The Way” of God. And as this journey stretches
before us, we are able to see that our salvation comes by God’s
grace into this world through Jesus our Lord.

                                                -Jeffrey Vickery
Advent Week 3: The Coming of God
                                        Sunday, December 12

Matthew 11:2-11

Moments of Questioning. In journalism classes students are
told to gather at least two sources for the veracity of their
story. I am reminded of this as I read about John the Baptist
when he was in prison. Jesus was in his early ministry and he
was traveling around to different towns healing people. John
heard this and asked his disciples to go find Jesus and ask if
he was “who is to come, or shall we look for another?” John
was double checking. After all, getting people prepared for
God's anointed was his life's work.

Moments of Clarity and Courage. Jesus tells John's disciples
to report what they have seen and heard. John learns about
the ministry of Jesus through their eyes. Wouldn't this be
comforting to John as he sat in prison? Jesus reminds his
listeners about John's role in introducing the coming of God's
kingdom and preparing the way for God's son.

Moments of Commitment. Even John the Baptist asked for
reassurance when he could not personally witness Jesus help-
ing others. When we have a friend or relative celebrate a
milestone in their lives, we want to be there to witness the
event or call them to hear about it. We become part of the
celebration when we share in the story. We tell the news to
other friends. Advent is here! Tell of the coming! Broadcast
the news!

Dear God, thank you for your blessed assurance.

                                                     -Pam Hill
                                         Monday, December 13

Isaiah 35:1-10
For many of us, our days are littered with aspirations of quick
resolutions, efficiency and productivity. Results are often de-
manded according to another’s schedule; it doesn’t matter
how it gets done, just as long as it does. Failure to deliver goes
beyond our personal abilities, and becomes an indictment of
who we are as a person. By the same measure, how often do
we impose these same limits and restrictions in our Christian
lives? We want our prayers answered, situations resolved, and
holiness accomplished in a timely manner. If expectations are
not met, we begin to doubt our relationship with God, per-
haps even questioning God’s ability and interest in providing
for us. This passage from Isaiah, only ten short verses, assures
us of God’s desire to see us made well in Him. These are
promises of strength, sight, song, and a way prepared for those
seeking to be transformed in God through His coming Son,
Jesus Christ. That transformation will be both everything and
nothing we can imagine, because God’s power is not limited
by our human expectations. His timeline remains a mystery to
all, though His presence and power are available to any who
seek Him. As we prepare for the coming of Christ, let us re-
member the beauty that exists when life is altered in ways be-
yond our imagination. At the same time, let us take time to
enjoy where we are right now, for in our pursuit of big mira-
cles, we may miss the many small ones that happen each and
every day..
                                                  —Nick Clanton
                                        Tuesday, December 14

Luke 1:46b-55

Mary has been told by the angel Gabriel of her immaculate
conception, and instead of being filled with fear she is filled
with the Holy Spirit! Beginning in Luke 1:46, Mary praises
the Lord; she rejoices that God picked a servant to give birth
to the Savior. Like other expectant mothers, Mary must have
had the normal hopes and dreams for her child. Mary’s joy is
expanded because the child she is carrying will fulfill God’s
promises to his people! There is excitement and anticipation
within Mary that the hungry and oppressed will be filled with
good things, and the humble will be exalted. Isn’t it great that
this mother’s love for her child includes a vision of how he
will serve others in God’s name. She is not selfish with what
she hopes her son will do for her, but she anticipates how
much he will love and care for others, including us. Mary’s
motherly love for her son is both wise and generous.

Mary’s song of praise is filled with hope, anticipation for the
birth of her son, and of blessing. She knows she is blessed to
be carrying the Savior, and her Song of Praise is full of rejoic-
ing. We rejoice and call her blessed as well, for her son is also
our Savior.
                                             —Meagan Wilmoth
                                    Wednesday, December 15

James 5:7-10

In general I am a person of action; give me a task to do and I
am as happy as can be. Tell me to “be still” and wait and it is
misery for me. The past year has been one that has required
me to stop so many times that I have often wondered if I will
ever get going again. However, in this stopping, waiting and
being still I have learned much. I have learned that in these
times of waiting there is great potential for strength, hope,
courage and renewal.

We often hear, “things will happen in God’s time” and cer-
tainly I believe that to be true. But, I also believe that some-
times in our state of waiting, we forget to look at that which is
taking place right in front of us. Many of my days in the past
year have been filled with tears but I have not faced one of
them alone. I have been reminded time and time again of
Christ’s presence in my life. This awareness has come through
many avenues such as a phone call from an old friend, an un-
expected hug from a child, a thermos of coffee from my
Granny, an “I love you Mama” note, or truly hearing the
words of a song for the first time. As we anticipate the coming
of Christ and celebrate his birth may our eyes be open to the
beauty of his presence that is always surrounding us.

                                                  -Sheila Gibson
                                      Thursday, December 16

Ezekiel 34:1-10

I have often been told that among all of God’s creatures,
sheep rank as some of the most vulnerable. Sheep have little
in the way of natural defenses to protect themselves against
predators. If they wind up on their backs, they are completely
helpless to get back up on their own. Sheep do not have very
good straight-on vision and they have been known to follow
each other into danger. If left in one spot for too long, they
will sometimes eat themselves sick. In short, sheep are in con-
tinual need of care and oversight from a shepherd for their
well-being.

The unpleasant news for us is that we are like sheep more
than we may want to believe. How often are we weak and in
need of strengthening or in need of having our wounds
bound up? How often do we wander astray and need to be
brought back? The pressures and struggles of day-to-day living
in our world can leave us feeling flipped upside down. We are
in continual need of care and oversight from a shepherd for
our well-being. The good news is that we have a Good Shep-
herd who will not abandon us or neglect us. As we await the
coming of Christ, we can have peace in the knowledge that we
are never outside the care of our Good Shepherd.

                                            -Richard Goddard
                                          Friday, December 17

Psalm 85

A few years ago, the church took numerous mission trips to
the other side of the Mississippi River to one of the oldest
towns in Arkansas—Helena. Helena is a beautiful river town.
She used to be booming with life and creativity. Now she is
struggling to be a thriving and vital community for her resi-
dents. Large buildings downtown sit empty. Sidewalks, pools
and parks, forgotten and neglected. You’ve seen similar towns
in your travels too. Places once full of life and energy, now
just existing, but empty of meaning and purpose—almost dead.

The people of faith who sang Psalm 85 had once lived in a
beautiful place, too. They were sent away against their will to
a foreign land to work. Now, they have returned home to
find the place desolate and dead. What do they need from
the Lord God? They need the Lord to revive them again.
They need to see the Lord’s steadfast love and salvation. They
need to hear the peace God speaks to his people.

Our lives can become like that—once full of life and energy,
but now just existing. Sometimes, we go through so much ad-
versity and too many hardships that we feel dead. When the
trials and struggles of life leave us feeling dead inside, we too
need the same thing. We need to be “revitalized” by the One
who gives life. For only God can fill our empty, dead lives
with meaning and purpose. Today may we pray together
Psalm 85 knowing that God will “give what is good.”

                                                 -Tonya Vickery
                                       Saturday, December 18

Revelation 1:1-8

I remember reading Revelations when I was a young person. I
had mixed feelings then--feelings of fear and worry and
doubts. “What if I'm not ready for Jesus to come back?" "If I
do something wrong will He leave me behind?" "Will it be
scary when Jesus comes back?"

As an older person with more understanding of God's grace,
peace and love, I see Revelation in a different way now. Not a
view of fear, but a view of expectation, of God's promise that
Jesus will come back, that nothing I do will make God stop
loving me. I now know that God has a plan and God knows
the end of the story. For Christians, the best is yet to be. It
won't be the end for us, it will be the beginning of for-
ever. Evil will be crushed, and peace and love will reign. My
tears, your tears, will be washed away. No sin, no greed, no
heartache. Our future is in the hands of a God who loves us
more than we can ever comprehend. The fear of my youth is
replaced with the peace of knowing a loving Christ and hav-
ing felt the grace and peace of a God who carries me, in good
times or bad. I have great expectations. Do you?

                                             -Michele Galloway
Advent Week 4: God is With Us
                                        Sunday, December 19

Matthew 1:18-25

God is with us. God is around us. God is in us. God holds us
in his hand. No matter how it is proclaimed, our direct rela-
tionship with God is clear.

As I read this passage from Matthew, I thought back to the
process by which most of us learn to appreciate messages from
God. When we are young, we often look for the literal voice
of God. For some people, that may have happened and they
are blessed to have had such an experience. For myself, I have
come to appreciate the way God speaks to me from within.
Some may call it my conscience while others, including my-
self, believe this to be the primary way I receive God’s mes-
sages.

Too many times in my life I have failed to listen to those mes-
sages. Too many times I feel I have tried to “out think” my
inner voice. Too many times God has laid bare the message
for me while I pretend not to see. I am learning to trust myself
more with God’s messages. What about Joseph?

God sent Joseph a message while he slept. What if Joseph had
delayed his decision because it came to him in a dream and
not in a direct conversation? What if Joseph had thought
more like I have at times in my life?

Thank you God for letting me learn more about my own faith
through the faith of others, including Joseph.

                                                -Dale Galloway
                                       Monday, December 20

Isaiah 7:10-16

I was watching an old home movie of a family on vacation at a
state park. In one scene they are standing around a water
fountain set into the top of a stone column and the smallest
child is standing on top of the column trying to get a drink.
He is not too steady as he very gingerly tries to figure out a
way to squat down to the water running right in front of him.
One by one father, brother, and then mother try to steady
him so he can reach the water but each time he removes the
hands that hold him. He never gets that drink of water.

Toddlers aren’t the only ones with control issues. Why is it we
don’t want reassurance even when we most need it? Why do
we continue to think we can handle things ourselves when it
is so clear we can’t? Why do we stubbornly remove the hands
that hold us safe and secure?

One of the most amazing things about God is that in spite of
our stubbornness he did not abandon us to fend for ourselves.
Even when we think we can handle life and be our own salva-
tion we are not alone.

Simply speaking the name of the one whose birth we antici-
pate reminds us of that. Immanuel – God with us.

                                                  -Steve Baxley
                                         Tuesday, December 21

Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19

A brightly decorated home, cookies in the oven, piles of gifts
under a perfectly symmetrical tree, being unwrapped by a
laughing and beautiful family; those are the images of Christ-
mas that bombard us from every direction during the Holiday
Season. While that is the reality for some of us, for others it
is just an illusion.

This psalm is the lament of a mother or father who cannot
provide the basics for their children’s well being. It is the si-
lent plea of a young child who wants someone to value them
for who they are. It is the cry of a soldier, far from home and
unsure of tomorrow.

In my twenty plus years at the Christmas Store, we have heard
stories that broke our hearts and stories that restored our faith
in the power and spirit of Christ love. Elaine White and I
have cried untold tears as people brought in just the right gift,
just when we needed it. We cried when the young mother
confided that she and her girls were in an apartment this year
and would not have to unwrap their gifts by the lights in the
Ingles parking lot, like they did last Christmas Eve. Through it
all, we have never doubted that God is with us and with every-
one whose lives intersect with ours in those few weeks each
December.

Thank you Oh God, for Your presence in the lives of those who are
lost and broken. Restore us for a new day. .
                                                    —Wanda Kidd
                                      Wednesday, December 22

Romans 1:1-7

A common metaphor for living a Christian life is to compare
it to a journey. This analogy works because it is something
that we can all relate to in some manner. Seeing our relation-
ship with God as a journey recognizes that it is a process that
requires dedication and commitment. When we begin a physi-
cal journey or trip we do things to prepare. We make travel
plans; make to-do lists so that we do not leave anything un-
done, pack and make arrangements for our houses, plants and
pets. What do we do to prepare our hearts, minds and lives
for our journey with God?

I often think of God walking with me along the journey ac-
knowledging his presence each step of the way. The path is
not always as straight as we would like, some days we face
thorns, pebbles, bumps, and gigantic boulders. At times we
come across the boulders that are so big we cannot see around
them or over them and we certainly cannot figure out how to
get past them on our own. It is in those moments that we
have to fully rely on God to guide us. It is in those moments
that God reaches his hand down and pulls us up and over the
boulder or perhaps he gently guides us around them. The first
step in this greatest of journeys is faith that God is in fact with
us each moment and that he knows each step before we take
it.

                                                   -Sheila Gibson
                                       Thursday, December 23

Luke 2:1-7

When God sent Gabriel to announce to Mary that she had
been chosen to give birth to the long-awaited Messiah, she
didn’t understand how such a thing could happen. Gabriel
assured her that God was with her and that with God, noth-
ing is impossible (Luke 1). But now it’s time for the baby to
be born, after Mary has traveled with Joseph three days to par-
ticipate in the census, and there’s no place for Mary and Jo-
seph to stay. No place except a stable. Surely God didn’t
mean for the Messiah, the Anointed One, to be born in a sta-
ble? The answer to that question provides the true meaning of
Christmas: God sent his son to be the savior of the world, but
first he was to live a human life, experiencing all the joys and
sorrows that humans encounter every day. That’s the key: eve-
ryday lives. The ordinary activities of everyday life in the world
didn’t stop for Jesus to be born; he was born in the midst of
all that activity. Today, when we are so busy living our lives—
going to work, doing homework, practicing basketball, going
to band practice or gymnastics, paying bills, cleaning house,
grieving a loss or celebrating a milestone—doing all the things
we humans do, Jesus is still present. When we feel over-
whelmed with the stuff of everyday life and think God is far
away taking care of more important things, God is really right
there with us. What was God thinking? About how much He
loves these people He created in His image and how He can
best show them that love.

                                                  -Dianne Yount
                                          Friday, December 24

Luke 2:8-14

One angel came to announce the birth of Jesus to the shep-
herds. I have often marveled at how such great news could be
carried by one single being. I love the fact that this angel did
not leave the shepherds trying to figure out where to find the
newborn savior. Neither did the angel leave them wondering
how to recognize this new gift from God. The angel clearly
told them, “You will find him in the city and you will find
him wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. Look
for him, for he will be there!” (my paraphrase.)

Immediately following the pronouncement, a multitude of
heavenly beings, whom I imagine had been itching to share in
the celebration, stood there with the one. They all began to
praise God and say, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and
on earth peace among those whom he favors!”

On this Eve of Christmas, may we dedicate our hearts anew
for the Christ-child to come alive in our own lives and the life
of our church family. Where can we find this One who will
change our lives? It is not hard. Look for him, for he will be
there! Jesus promises us in Luke 11:9, Ask, and it will be given
you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be
opened for you. .
                                                —Tonya Vickery
                                        Saturday, December 25

Luke 2:15-20

Jesus is born! God has come! The Savior has taken his first
breath!! Imagine the joy of the shepherds as they went to see
Jesus in Bethlehem. They knew quickly that the message was
true and not conjured in their heads. When they found the
Christ child in the manger, they didn’t linger at the side of
the crib to ooh and aah, but went to make known what they
had seen and heard. Their joy was in God’s incredible mercy
born into our world through Jesus Christ. Christmas Day is
meant to contain the same joy for us as Christians—not be-
cause of vacation time away from work, nor even from time
with family. Christmas joy is found in the birth of the one
who brings God’s salvation to us all. Each year the visual pub-
lic celebration of Christmas is either overly commercialized to
the point of being cheesy, or it is neutralized by the seculariza-
tion of decorations and messages vacant of the Christian mes-
sage. We should neither be bothered nor bolstered by either
of these things. Today is Christmas, and we as Christians are
drawn to the miracle of the incarnation of Jesus whether or
not any lights are lit or trees are trimmed. We are glad to
share Christmas with family, and to adorn our homes with
Christmas decorations. We take joy in singing carols of Jesus’
birth with the communion of the saints. Yet the joy of Christ-
mas depends alone upon the miracle found in an undecorated
manger. Glory to God, Christ is born!

                                                  -Jeffrey Vickery

				
DOCUMENT INFO