By Aaron Tyler
For God so loved the world
Seven days He rested.
Good He saw, but restless
Pursuit of a broken
Image quickly ensued.
For God so loved the world
I ran. Without rest, He
Watched for my return,
Hoping to Embrace.
For God so loved the world
Wrestling Jacob He
Limping in wakeful search
For lasting redemption.
For God so loved the world
Word incarnate, He came
Stillness where chaos slept
To Live, die, live again.
For God so loved the world
Run no longer. Return.
Limping, I slow to rest
Relying on a new
Image: repaired, restored.
In Christmas we find rest
For God so loved the world.
By Sandra Peters
Hallelujah, it’s Christmas Eve and we are celebrating the Present of presents! King of kings! Lord of lords!
Yes! Jesus Christ!! The ultimate Present from God!!! Thanks be to God!!!!
Think about all that has happened in 2016. God through His Beloved Son Jesus has granted us gifts of Hope, Peace, Joy and Love through our church family, our families, a multitude of caring friends, and people we do not even know. We see His Presence everywhere we look
Today our church family joins Christians across the globe, whether in church or at home, to give thanks for God’s Present of Jesus Christ our Lord. Jesus, in turn, gives us His presents of Hope, Joy, Peace and Love!
By John Tompson
Psalm 98:1 begins with the admonition to “Sing to the Lord a new song.” I believe this new song is a song of praise, of adoration, of awe, of love. Too often when I pray, it is not a new song. I find myself using the same old tired phrases. Even more often what I would like to pass off as worship is simply a recitation of what I want God to do for me.
The theme of these advent lessons is rest. I need to concentrate on the person of God—to rest in Him and in His providence. He knows my desires and my needs. He really doesn’t need me to remind Him. I believe he would rather have my praise and heartfelt worship than my begging prayers.
We should sing and praise God with a new song because He has done marvelous things. For ancient Israel, the marvelous things were in the exodus and occupation of the land. It was in the deliverance from the exile in Babylon [depending on when this was written]. For us His marvelous things are given to us in, and through, Jesus our Savior. He is the strong right arm that has given the victory to God. The right hand is the place of honor and authority. Stephen says: “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” Through Christ, God has made His victory known more powerfully than the psalmist could imagine.
In verse 3 we read of his faithfulness to Israel. Christ came as the fulfillment of all that God had promised in the law and the prophets. He came in such a way that all the earth has seen His victory. Further, He came to those who were not included in the covenant with Israel. Christ extended His new covenant to all men—for which we should give thanks and praise and worship. And…we should rest in the sure knowledge that we are secure before God: John 10:28-30: “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand .” This should be reason enough to offer unending praise to God and rest in His love.
By Becky Miller
Galatians 5:22-23 doesn’t sound much like Christmas, does it? No angels, no baby, no star, but then I remembered a rhyme I learned as a child and taught my daughters.
“What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I’d give Him a lamb.
If I were a Wiseman, I’d do my part.
What can I give Him, I’ll give Him my heart.”
Jesus wants my heart for Christmas, and He will accept it as it is. But am I satisfied with this gift? Am I content with giving good enough? I have always wanted to give perfect gifts; I have spent hours shopping, returning, and shopping again to give those I love the very best gifts I can. So when I assess my gift for God, can I offer Him any less than the best I can give? If God wants my heart, and I truly believe He does, I need to make it the very best heart I can offer: one filled with the fruits of the spirit.
And here in Galatians, I find all the instructions needed to perfect my gift: the gift I give to Jesus, the Lamb of God, and the source of my salvation. It is as if I asked God for a shopping list. I have always liked working from a list and checking things off, so for this Advent Season, I am going to make these verses my shopping list. My heart needs some work, but I like knowing what God really wants. I can work on love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. I like the specificity of this list-it is real, and with God’s help it is possible, not overnight, not all at once, but little by little if I keep the goal in front of me.
Father, it is good to know that I am yours no matter what, that your love is unshakeable, and not dependent on my effort. Grace is good. But shield me from complacency; remind me that although grace and total acceptance are already mine, you are worthy of so much more. Create in me a new heart this Christmas. Amen.
By Roy Myers
1 Corinthians 13
Our holiday decorations have become one part of the way we create space for celebration and a way to proclaim our love for God and each other during the holiday. Dana and Peter, particularly, love to decorate. Of course we have a tree and other traditional trimmings. We also have many knickknacks and lights, perhaps not as many as some and probably more than others. This tradition is so important to us that we developed a special collection of deployment holiday décor, which Dana sends me while I am away. Over the years, my ‘deployment holiday set’ composed of a tiny tree, lights and Thanksgiving Turkey have grown into a pretty neat package of memories. These items are a precious reminder to me of the love we share even as I am far from home. The decorations also express a reminder of love from home for those who stop by my office to take a moment and enjoy some holiday cheer.
In reflecting upon our family tradition, I began to wonder how we might expand upon holiday home decoration. Could our love itself decorate the spaces and events of the season as a demonstration of the love of God expressed though the Incarnation of Jesus? I Corinthians 13 describes what could be thought of as decorations that we can bring to our holiday celebrations and observances. How might God’s love during this season become more patient and kind? How does the Incarnation of Jesus remind me to step back from prideful hubris and lean into long suffering forgiveness? How does God’s love in and among us strengthen us to tell the truth in forbearance, confidence and hope? In many ways the process of decoration with knickknacks and lights seems much easier than the challenge of a love that ‘hopes all things and endures all things.’ I hope in this holiday season that you might consider how each of us can decorate our celebrations with the love described in I Corinthians 13.
Advent is filled with joy and celebration, but it can also be difficult. The holidays sometimes bring up powerful feelings of grief, loneliness, and sorrow. If you’re feeling blue this Christmas, we invite you to join us for the Longest Night Service on Wednesday, December 21, at 6:30 p.m. We will acknowledge the darkness and turn our hearts toward the light.
By Becky Upchurch
The setting for today’s text is the Upper Room where Jesus and his disciples have their last meal together. Judas has left to do his traitorous work. Jesus first tells his disciples that He will be glorified and God will be glorified through Him. Then He tells them that where He is going they cannot come. It is at this point that we find our text: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”
It appears the disciples may not have even heard Jesus say these words about this new command and love because the immediate response from Peter is “Where are you going”? After a short conversation with Peter, Jesus reassures the disciples and tells them He is going to prepare a place for them. Thomas replies, “We don’t know where you are going.”
Unlike the disciples, we know where Jesus went – to the cross. We know what happened – He died and He overcame death. And we know where He is – He ascended into heaven and resides with God His Father. And because we know these things, we are able to focus on His words about love. We know, because of where He went, just how much He loved us. We know, because of what happened, that our sins are forgiven. We know, because of where He is, that He is truly the Son of God. And because of Who He is and His extreme and unending love for us, we are challenged each day to follow His new command: “As I have loved you…so you must love one another”.
By Edgar Twedt
1 Peter 1:8
6 In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, 7 so that the genuineness of your faith – being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
The first thing that came to my mind when I read this verse (in bold letters above) was what does this have to do with Advent. Then I tried to turn my doubting mind away from its cynical bent, and take a deeper look. The passage is a message from the Apostle Peter to those who have not actually seen the Lord physically as Peter had. When we look at it in the overall picture of Advent through Resurrection and finally seeing our Lord face to face, it makes remarkable sense. Just as we have not seen our Lord face to face, and just as we do not see him now, still we love him, believe in him and rejoice with what Peter calls an indescribable and glorious joy. And the same is true of the Advent of his Incarnation. None of us was there, none of us saw the event personally, but we believe in him who came and dwelt among us, and we continue to rejoice with indescribable and glorious joy at the oft repeated story of the Advent of his coming. In a very important sense our first meeting of our Lord was one of indescribable and glorious joy, and so every time we celebrate ADVENT it reminds us of the first time we met him. No wonder we are filled with awe and wonder as we move into the season of ADVENT. It isn’t just the holly and the ivy, the trimmed Christmas tree, the stockings all hung by the chimney with care, or the beautifully wrapped presents so neatly displayed around that tree. It’s the indescribable and glorious joy of our relationship to the living Christ.
By Lori Tyler
I don’t know about you, but I love Christmas carols. They are what make the Christmas season so special and memorable. They remind me of growing up, singing these very same songs at the candlelight service with my family. Can you imagine Christmas without Christmas carols? Wouldn’t it be a tragedy if the first Christmas had no music to announce Christ’s coming?
Another beautiful song of this season is found in the first chapter of the Gospel of Luke. I am thankful Luke included this song of Mary for us to read. It is sometimes referred to as the Magnificat, which is a Latin term meaning, “to magnify.” Even though Jesus Christ has not been born yet, Mary wants to sing His praises and magnify His name. She reveals here that true worship of God begins with the spirit. It is the understanding of who God is, what He has done, and all that He has given us. This alone should cause us to sing. You may not have a good voice. You may not have a poetic way of saying things. That doesn’t matter because God made you and He loves to hear you sing and give praise to His glory. So this Christmas season, what do you give to the God who has everything? You give Him praise and thanks.
As you offer this gift of praise to God, in return you will be filled with the same peace and rest within your heart that Mary experienced when she trusted God’s magnificent plan for her life. She could easily have wept and mourned when she learned that she had been chosen for this humanly impossible responsibility. Yet she turned her sorrow into gladness and rejoiced in God’s overwhelming love for her. Trust God’s plan for your life this Christmas season and rest in the gift of his son, Jesus Christ. You will experience a peace that passes all understanding.
By Nora O. Lozano
Psalm 40 is full of contrasts. On the one hand, the Psalmist writes about his own difficult experiences:
Being in a desolate pit, and a miry bog (verse 1)
For evils have encompassed me without number; my iniquities have overtaken me…; they are more than the hairs of my head, and my heart fails me (verse 12)
The Psalmist is in a desperate situation. I cannot remember how many times I have recited and prayed this Psalm. In fact, at a certain point in my life, it was one of my most constant prayers. Perhaps you have had similar experiences where you felt, too, that you were in a desolate pit and a miry bog.
But there is hope! With God there is always a sense of expectation and anticipation as Christians wait for divine intervention.
In this hope, the Psalmist narrates God’s actions on his behalf:
I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry (verse 1)
You have multiplied, O Lord my God, your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us; none can compare with you (verse 5).
…the Lord takes thought for me. You are my help and my deliverer; (verse 17).
Having experienced life’s vulnerabilities as well as God’s mighty deliverance, the Psalmist rejoices and invites us to do the same:
…may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation say continually, “Great is the Lord!” (verse 16).
For Christians who have witnessed God’s deliverance, joy is a deep state of mind and heart. Even though we may be experiencing problems and difficulties now, we rest in joy because God will act again on our behalf, just as God did in the past.
The topics of joy, deliverance, rest, and salvation continue into the New Testament, yet they find new expressions. As we anticipate the miracle of the incarnation, let’s rejoice because Jesus’ birth represents a fresh and powerful expression of God’s love, salvation, and goodwill towards humanity. Life is difficult, but there is rest in our triune God’s nature and actions Amen!