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 Erica Hanchey
In Psalm 27, David calls upon his experiences of strife, war, and fear in the face of his enemies. He expresses, through prayer and song, his heartfelt desire to worship, even in the midst of war, personal battles, and fear. It isn’t just David’s experience. It is the experience of many today who are battling in war, as refugees, as victims of assault, fear, personal and family struggle, and mental strife.
I envision the strength, light and salvation of the Lord as an armor or force field that moves with and within David. It is a rising spirit that deflects the assaults and speaks to David, saying “No fear.”
There is nothing to fear, for the Lord is our light, our salvation and our stronghold. No advance, no enemy, no threat breaks His shield. As long as we dwell in His house, in the presence of the Lord, fully present and calling upon Him in word, in song, in worship, in prayer, and in action, we take on the shield
“I will call upon the Lord who is worthy to be praised, so shall I be saved from mine enemies.”
Instead of crying S-O-S, call upon S-L-S … Strength – Light – Salvation. Be immersed in the light and face of God rather than misled in the face of oppression, temptation, and selfish ways. Find patience and strength through faithfulness and through focused, praise-filled and prayerful worship. It is only when we are armed with the strength, light and salvation of the Lord that we are able to see His goodness that surrounds us, without the distractions and challenges to our faith that attempt to break us down. In this we may fulfill the purpose for which we are each uniquely created – to be His light on Earth and a shield for those whose fear and darkness crowd them.
As Jesus called upon the strength of his Father in the wilderness and in the final moments of his sacrifice, God reveals that there is no greater defense than a focused and spirit-filled discipline to worship and serve a higher calling. In this time of Lent, develop a heart for worship and summon your senses to experience the full beauty and loving armor of the Lord.
By Ellen Di Giosia
High above the front door to my house perches a nest made by barn swallows. Every year the birds return for some DIY, rolling pellets of mud in their beaks and shoring up the cup-shaped home. After they line it with feathers and grass, Mama Barn Swallow lays her eggs and the waiting game begins. Both parents guard the nest, and when their precious babies hatch, they will search for food and bring it back. At just the right time, Mama and Papa will nudge their little ones from the nest, give them a few days of flying practice, and then send them out to face the big world.
Our front porch is a very active place with two children and all their friends coming and going, packages (and pizza) being delivered, and the general business of life. I often wonder why the birds have chosen that spot. Wouldn’t a quiet, peaceful place be better? So when the psalmist writes that even the birds have found a safe place in the courts of the Lord, I think, There, silly birds! That’s the place you want to be, not here trembling every time the door slams and trying to sleep through the whoops and hollers of a bunch of kids!
But it’s not the quiet of the sanctuary that draws the birds of Psalm 84, for verse 4 speaks of a house full of people singing the praises of God. The drama and clamor of worship may seem like a strange soundtrack for bird-raising, but somehow they are safe there. And that same background “noise” is right for our own adventures, whether in parenting, work, service or play. Worship is the song that connects us to God in the midst of the busiest times – the way we remember who we are and Whose we are. During this season of self-examination and reflection, let us not forget to worship together, making our little nests in the safe shelter of God.