By Daniel Zamora
Increase your Joy and Rejoice!
Have you ever tried to walk in the darkness, at least a few steps to reach the closest light switch or perhaps when the power is out during a big storm, and are trying to reach your cell phone or any other source of light? We tend to do it very slowly to avoid bumping into furniture or stumbling on a toy or rug. Suddenly, you reach the light switch or the power is back. Can you picture yourself with a big smile on your face?
Yes, after struggling with limited or no visibility, the light is back on and we can see everything around us making it easier to walk or returning to our previous activity with a joyful attitude. It has been said that people who live in areas with limited lighting tend to be sad and depressed while those living in sunny places all year round have a more cheerful mood. If one light gives us that much joy, two or more lights can bring us lots of it.
In Advent, we light a candle to symbolize each of the gifts that God sent with Christ: hope, peace, joy and love. These presents are not part of a menu from which we choose from but, they come altogether. Thus, the light coming out of these candles increases every week and finally, on Christmas Eve, the Christ candle is lit giving us the better perspective of what the prophet Isaiah referred to seeing a great light.
During this season, let every light be a reminder of increasing our joy and rejoicing before the Lord.
By Lance Mayes
Psalm 62:1-2, 5-7
I really love our mission statement: “We are a people of hope seeking to proclaim the love of Christ.” Hope is one of my favorite words. I’ve known too many people who had no hope. They felt they had nowhere to turn, nowhere to go. They thought that no one cared. They felt like no one would miss them if they were gone. What a sad place to be.
We see in our verses for today that in God we find hope.
I wait quietly before God, for my victory comes from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will never be shaken.
Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will not be shaken.
My victory and honor come from God alone.
He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me.
I’ve been there — felt like there was no hope. No one understood. That part was likely correct; no one truly understood what I was experiencing. But there was hope. People did care. God always cares.
I tend to deal with feelings of hopelessness in two extremes. One, I busy myself and try to forget those feelings. I become a human doing instead of a human being. Two, I withdraw. I get quiet. I don’t share what is going on. These options are not really “waiting quietly before God.”
A third way is the best way. Remember that God alone provides hope. God may give hope through a still, quiet voice, through nature, through people, or through other means. We can “wait quietly before God” and let God remind us that we matter, that we are loved.
Then, we need to pass on that hope to others. For “we are a people of hope seeking to proclaim the love of Christ.” How can you share hope and the love of Christ? A smile? A listening ear? An encouraging note? A kind word? A thoughtful gift?
May God bless us and make us a blessing to many.
By Lee Weems
The typical scenario at the Malls for many families is to stand in the long line with children and/or grandchildren. There each person waits, seemingly forever, for a child to sit on the lap of a white-bearded Santa. Then, in a deep voice, Santa asks THE question, “What do you want this Christmas?” After hearing a quick response from the child, someone else takes a memorable photo and the child exits so the next child can have a seat, answer THE question, and then move on.
Paul the Apostle penned the book of Romans and in today’s scripture, he addresses the idea of being a child and living with hope. How do we recognize our relationship with God and patiently await our future? Hoping and waiting for some of us includes high wishes and low patience. To develop a longer patience defines the journey of one’s Christian faith.
In reading this passage, Paul reminds me of the inheritance of being a child of God and trusting in Jesus Christ. To be mindful, that one is a Child of God is humbling and exhilarating for me. And I don’t have to wait in line or talk to a stranger in costume. I just remember that I am always in the presence of a loving and relational God no matter the season or situation. There is no better gift.
By Dena Dalton
“O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you…”
I am partial to Christmas Eve. We attend church. We have our Christmas dinner. We stay up late watching old movies, listening to music and wrapping last minute gifts. We celebrate European traditions and sneak around putting candy outside each other’s doors in empty slippers. But the best part, the very best part, is when the house is finally quiet and I am blissful in the calm that comes knowing my loved ones are safe and resting peacefully. My grateful prayers and ardent, soulful meditations are quietly offered up to God. “If day’s cares tempt us to forget God, it is well that night’s quiet should lead us to remember him. We see best in the dark if we there see God best.”
“On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings.” Theologian John Gill wrote: “Whether David is writing about the wings of the cherubim stretched out over the mercy-seat, between which God was said to dwell; or to the wings of a bird, under which her helpless young ones have shelter, in all life’s dangers and difficulties we place ourselves under God’s protection.”
According to the NIV Study Bible: “The psalmist’s night meditations nurture his longing for God.” He waits for the morning trusting that God will watch over His people, provide for and protect them. Understanding the metaphors in scripture we know that darkness and light have many meanings. We have all experienced the many meanings of both. I choose to see light in the darkness. I look forward to my Christmas Eve meditation. During this Advent Season may you find hope, safety and peaceful rest in the protecting power and mercy of God.
By Karen Calhoun
My dad pastored small Texas Baptist churches. When I was eight, I had already lived in Brownwood, Fort Worth, Big Spring, Cohoma, Hico, Stephenville, Talpa and Bangs. Making and keeping friends was impossible — we were always moving!
In third grade at Bangs, Donna asked me to come and swing with her friends at recess. I knew she was the most popular girl. Happily, I felt “in” and joined them for several days. Then one day, I went out to those swings, but Donna and her friends were not there. I looked up. They were swinging at the edge of the school yard…without me. I walked home in despair. I told Mother what had happened. She had no comforting words for me. Her dad had pastored small Texas Methodist churches, and I later learned she had moved more than me.
In mining my own journey, I began to put together a new truth: I learned that school yard cliques of eight-year-olds is typical behavior. Also my thirst for hope led me to Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 1 — “The Messiah comes alongside us when we go through hard times and before you know it, He brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us.”
Are you going through hard times? Do you need hope? Before you know it, the Messiah will bring someone alongside you who can be there for you just as God was there for them.
We have the chance to learn that better every year in Advent. The Messiah is born again in your heart today because you made room!
Have you been wanting to make a difference?
Mentors from Woodland work with kids each week at Larkspur Elementary. It takes just one hour a week to mentor a child that needs your attention, love, and prayer. Would you consider donating your time this semester to be the presence of Christ to a child that needs you?
- substitute mentors
- Prayer Partners
Training is provided, background checks required.
If you are interested, please join us in our Mentor Appreciation Luncheon.
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 Randy Edwards
Believing in Jesus is the most counter-cultural thing you and I will ever do.
While the world chases down instant gratification,
demands quick solutions,
politicizes cut and dry platforms,
preaches morality in black and white sound-bytes,
and invests itself in endless Facebook debates,
we as believers are called to get quiet,
pray without ceasing,
Really? Well, isn’t that lame and lazy?
Just sit around and do nothing, you say?
Resting need not be confused with accomplishing nothing. It is not a substitute for productive work, nor does it connote a couch potato. Resting is not the opposite of labor. In fact, one can rest and strive all in the same motion. Rest need not infer weakness, passivity, spectatorism, acquiescence, blind faith, or shifting one’s brain into idle.
The way I read the Bible, I believe resting means actively “faithing” God’s eternal process, which, most of the time is not the common habit of humanity (or, at least, it certainly does not come naturally for me). Our ways and our thoughts demand the quick fixes, clichéd one-liners, glib come-backs, fact-checked truths, and the meaning of life reduced to the 140 characters of a tweet. Keep it simple, we say.
Alas, if we demand that our belief system be utterly simple, totally obvious, and always clear, then that’s a pretty good sign we have created a religion god in our own image. Having tried to eliminate the mystery from our belief system, we have thereby lost the very essence of belief itself. Knowing and believing are not synonyms. They are, in fact, opposites.
A pastor I served with thirty years ago would often say from the pulpit, “I know that I know that I know that I know.” And the hyped-up congregation would pronounce a hearty, “Amen.” Sitting high and lifted up on the chancel near said proclaimer, I kept thinking to myself, “If you’re so sure you know, then why did you have to say it four times? Who are you trying to convince, us or yourself?”
If we know something, where is our need for faith? We know that 2 + 2 = 4. That fact requires not one modicum of faith in order to apply it. But to believe God even when we don’t feel God’s presence, can’t see the whole picture, or strongly disagree with a fellow believer on an important issue, now that is function of faith. And those faith functions are best exercised, not in isolation, but in community with one another.
“For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one hope for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.”
Rest means hoping rather than knowing.
Rest means trusting when we do not see.
Rest means accepting another when we cannot concur with his opinion.
Rest means “faithing” rather than proving.
Rest means relationship even when there is disagreement.
Rest means taking a deep breath and trusting God implicitly.
Rest means relaxing our fingers and dropping our judgment stones … all of them … in the dirt.
Rest means unclenching our fists to extends hands of friendship.
Rest means allowing the chasm between us to become holy ground.
Rest produces human compassion rather than self-righteous judgment.
Rest means finding a place peace, and celebrating it with everyone
within the reach of a warm and lengthy hug.
By Barbara Higdon
“All day I’ve faced a barren waste/Without a taste of water,” sang the Sons of the Pioneers. “Old Dan and I with throats burnt dry/And souls that cry for water. Cool, clear water.”
Those of us who live in South Texas know well the thirst-provoking landscape that Bob Nolan’s lyrics describe. The psalmist who wrote today’s reading understood that thirst and the deeper thirst of the soul when he wrote, “I seek you, my soul thirsts for you…in a dry and weary land where there is no water.”
Mirages beckon, but they fail to deliver. We long for rest, but continue to seek false promises of relief.
“Keep a-movin‘ Dan, don’t you listen to him, Dan/He’s a devil, not a man, and he spreads the burning sand with water.”
How often the false relief promised by a shimmering pool of water on the sand distracts us. We rush towards mirages in hope that we’ll find relief, only to be disappointed. Like the desert dwellers of old, we stumble about dismayed that we’ve been beguiled by lies again.
At the well, Jesus promised the Samaritan woman, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give them will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14).
What a promise.
May our hope rest upon the Keeper of the well that never runs dry. May we drink deeply from the spring of water that gushes up to eternal life.
Father, forgive us when we are sometimes distracted by the sparkling promises of the world. Help us gratefully drink the living water you offer to satisfy our souls and quench the thirst within us. Amen.
By Erica Hanchey
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. Isaiah 7:14 NIV
Isaiah’s words to Ahaz, King of Judah, prophesy the conception and birth of Immanuel, God with us, as a sign of Hope for the king and his kingdom. Long before the birth of Jesus, this Hope was upon the Earth. God brought Hope through a prophet to a king and a kingdom. Through a gentle, virgin mother, God made Isaiah’s prophecy a reality. He brought Hope to Mary and to Joseph, even when they doubted or feared.
As a mother, the fullness of Hope that I experienced in pregnancy, childbirth and now experience in childrearing is a gift only God can bring through the Holy Spirit. While marked at times with fear, anxiety and doubt, it is a Hope that is filled with anticipation and promise. I can only imagine what Mary’s mind and heart were feeling as she carried and raised the Hope of the World. And yet, I need not imagine the Hope that God brings me each day for it is ever present with us. When we fall weary, we need only to speak the name of Jesus, Immanuel, or to look around at the great Hope He brought through His life and sacrifice.
My Hope this Advent is in the members of Woodland, who will build each other up as a community of faith and as a source of Hope in our communities and ministries.
My Hope is not in kings and leaders, but in the children who will seek and be shown goodness so that they may shine and become generations of light to the World.
My Hope is in a baby born to be my Savior, and whose prophetic birth was itself a sign of Hope, a promise from God.
My Hope is in Immanuel, always with us, raised to serve and risen to save.