By Rubye Box
The Son of God came to earth as an infant altogether human and yet, altogether God. The shepherds, whose job it was to watch over a flock of sheep, were not considered as very important nor were they very high on the pay scale. They were just common men doing the job they were hired to do. The flock they tended was very possibly the sheep that were used in the temple as sacrifices. These shepherds were caring for blemish free sheep who would one day take their turn as a temple sacrifice. Their blood would serve to briefly cover the sins of man until another sheep would follow with no end in sight.
The birth of Jesus was not announced to Herod. It was not announced to Cesar or any other political official. It was not announced to the religious leaders serving in those days. No, God sent his messengers, the angels, to go to the lowly shepherds and proclaim His birth to them.
We know from scripture that the angel who appeared to the shepherds frightened them. They were certainly not expecting to be the recipients of a message from God. After all, they were just regular men doing a mundane job. Over and over in scripture, we see that God does not look at a person’s status but at the hearts of men. It is there that God finds the worth of a person. The shepherds, though of lowly status, had a heart for God. They were constantly reminded of the fact that the sheep they cared for would become a sacrifice one day. Did they realize the baby the angel told them about would one day become the ultimate sacrifice? Probably not but that is just what Jesus became. He became the ultimate and final sacrifice for the sins of all mankind.
Dear Father, help us to realize that our worth to you has nothing to do with the job we have, the education we have, or the wealth we have accumulated. Help us to realize the worth of a person is determined by how You view us and not man. Thank you for loving us enough to send your precious son to be the ultimate sacrifice.
By Gina Garrison
One of my favorite folk songs, recorded by Rani Arbo and Daisy Mayhem, is titled “Ready for Joy.” The song expresses the dark places in our lives, when we feel downtrodden, tied to the ground, or surrounded by midnight. Throughout these hardships, the lyricist speaks enthusiastically of his or her anticipation of joy. “I wanna be ready when joy comes back.”
In what could have been a time of great despair, Mary expresses her overflowing joy and gratitude for God’s blessings. Despite the challenges she was facing, she was ready for joy. In this advent season, may we all make room in our hearts for the anticipation of joy. May we all be ready for the darkness to turn to light, our crying to turn to laughter. I want to be ready for the joy of Christmas and the birth of the Christ Child.
Holy Father, As we prepare for Christmas, may you delight in our joy and anticipation.
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 Mark Noblitt
In 20 centuries of Christianity, it is counterintuitive that a faith centered on peace has been used as the excuse for so much war and violence. I’ve often wondered what the earliest Christians – or indeed the Prince of Peace himself – would think of our modern Christianity. What does it really mean to be a Christ-follower in our world? As the people “on whom his favor rests,” what is our responsibility to the world regarding peace?
Our word for “peace” originates from the Latin word pax and literally means the absence of conflict or the presence of harmony. The Romans used the term “Pax Romana” to describe the enforced – oftentimes by extraordinarily harsh means – passivity of a population. In our modern, complex world, the word “peace” may mean many things to different cultures. I think of small-letter “peace” as a time of quiet, a pause button for the noise of life. When I think of the big-letter “Peace,” the concepts get more troublesome to define.
One doesn’t have to spend much time looking at our world to find places that need Peace. For more than a decade now, groups of scholars have been exploring what Peace means in our world. Many of them have arrived at the conclusion that it is possible to build Peace consciously and deliberately by transforming conflicts. They have arrived at some important conclusions about peacebuilding, the first of which is the recognition that conflict is healthy and part of the natural evolution of a society/culture. Another is that conflict resolution is a long-term process that takes time to move forward. A third is that understanding and seeking to transform the root causes of the conflict is the only path to true Peace.
As Christ-followers and the representatives of the Prince of Peace on Earth, what do conflict transformation and peacebuilding mean for us? In his benediction, our pastor speaks of a world that is “too dangerous for anything but love.” In this season of peace, let us make room in our inn for the Prince of Peace by working to transform conflicts (action) by seeking to understand the root causes (listen) and then by working to find ways to be peacebuilders in our broken world. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.” – Matthew 5:9
By Cindy Twedt
“For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
Our dreams are said to reflect our waking lives, so it is no surprise that my dream reflected my life while working at American Airlines reservations office. In my dream, my colleagues and I were meeting in a gray-cubicle, corporate space. I offered to make some extra copies.
The copy room was not in its normal place, so I opened a new door and found myself in an unlikely room. Golden sunlight glowed through the windows, and there were high ceilings, warm wooden floors, and the amazing smell of freshly baked bread.
The baker had his back to me as he took the bread out of the oven. He said, “Hello, Cindy, I hoped you would stop by. Would you like to taste this bread?” He turned to the counter and sliced a piece of bread from another fresh loaf, and offered it to me. He then asked me a question about my life that woke me from the dream.
What a dream. I was greeted by name, I was made welcome, I was offered bread, and I came away richer for the spiritual nudge to pause and reflect.
The bread of God, Jesus Christ, is always there for us, always welcomes us, and always enriches our spirit, and promises eternal life.
By Glo Parchman
This passage of scripture was unknown to me. I was eleven years old and living in Nevada during World War II. I was a new Christian. I did know the prayer, “Now I lay me down to sleep…” and had memorized the 23rd Psalm in V. B. S.
Mother and Daddy were having marital problems. Mother was in the early stage of pregnancy with her fourth child. I am the oldest. She decided to move us back to East Texas where my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins lived. We had a long bed, four-wheel trailer that we had used to move to Nevada. Because of the war everything was rationed. We needed ration stamps to buy some grocery items and especially to buy gas, tires, etc.
We left Nevada in the fall. Mother had nausea the entire trip. Travelers were encouraged to give rides to service men who were hitchhiking. At one point we picked up a sailor. He helped Mother with the driving until we needed to take a different route.
Unfortunately, our route took us through the mountains south of Flagstaff, Arizona. We were enveloped in a snowstorm. A forest ranger pulled us over and told Mother that he had been trailing us. He said that the trailer was going to pull us off the road and down the mountain. He put his tire chains on our car and led us to a mountain village where we rented a vacated ranch house. We stayed there until the storm ended.
By the time we got to Fort Worth, we had exhausted our ration stamps for gas. Mother had to appeal for extra stamps at the courthouse. When we pulled off the highway and onto the road leading to my grandmother’s house, the trailer hitch broke. The trailer rolled to the side of the road with contents unharmed!
I now know, when you drive from Nevada to Texas during war years with rationing and an impaired driver, that the words: “Do not be afraid, for I am with you” are literally true.
By Kirsten Hancock
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
There is much to be afraid of in our troubled world. Reckless drivers. Drug and alcohol addiction. People who do not have our best interest at heart. Gun violence at concerts, churches and other places we assume we ought to be safe.
Will my body outlast my mind? Will I outlive my savings? Will I outlive my beloved spouse? Are my children safe playing outside? Will I have a job tomorrow? How long will I be unemployed? How am I going to make ends meet this month? How long will this physical pain last? How much longer do I have to live? There is much to trouble our hearts on this earth.
When I was a child growing up in the 80s and 90s, I played outside a lot with my younger brother. I also watched the evening news with my parents. I’m trying to remember when the news became something from which we protect our children.
I recently spoke to some parents in our Woodland Church family who said they don’t watch the news in their homes because the local news is too violent and the topics in our U.S. News are too uncertain. “It’s too stressful,” they said, “to race to the mute button or change the channel on the television to censor what goes into our children’s minds and hearts.”
The one thing we never have to be afraid of in this world is the absence of God’s Love. There was room in Jesus’ heart for us when He died on the Cross. There will always be room in God’s Kingdom for us to find purpose and rest. There was and is Room in the Inn for each of us to worship the Christ child. Don’t be afraid or let your heart be troubled. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you,” says the Lord. Amen.
By Conrad Navarro
As I sit writing this devotional I’m still feeling sick, still shedding tears, and still praying for the survivors and the family members of our brothers and sisters of this week’s massacre in Sutherland Springs. King Ahaz, facing an attack from Israel and Syria, asked Assyria for help. Assyria saved Judah from destruction but made Judah a vassal state. As good a king as Ahaz was, he could not bring about the kingdom described in these passages. After all, he was only human. The kingdom on earth that the prophet Isaiah described here, the reversal of the Original Curse due to Original Sin, will only be accomplished by the King of all kings, the long-awaited Messiah, Jesus.
Notice that this picture-perfect restoration of God’s creation is here on earth. It’s not in the by-and-by. It’s in the here-and-, and still waiting for the, now. God will defeat hatred, hunger, fear, illness, violence…evil! We will live in true peace with one another and in harmony with our environment. Some still wait for the Messiah, but we know that He has already come. He has come in our lives and in our world. There is always “room at the inn” for God in us and in His world.
Yet, we yearn and groan as creation does for our final redemption. At times like this, I can’t help but ask, “How long, Lord?! How long before we are rescued from ourselves?” And then, I force and remind myself once again, that in spite of the evil in this world, God is still in control of time. Then again, I remind myself that we are in a perpetual Season of Advent, still waiting for the final triumph of good over evil. There is “room at the inn!” Maranatha, come Lord Jesus!
By Barbara Higdon
There is a pervasive theology called the “prosperity gospel” or the “name it–claim it” gospel which says that wealth and physical well-being are what God wants for us. All we need is faith to believe it, positive speech to claim it, and we’re going to get it. It sort of makes God a vending machine: we insert faith and he’ll deliver security and prosperity.
Paul had a different take on this in today’s Scripture reading. He acknowledges that we may grow anxious, then he promises us the peace of God—not the removal of difficulties.
My online dictionary defines peace as “freedom from disturbance; quiet and tranquility.”
Is that possible when the world is wracked by mass shootings, terrorists driving into crowds, nuclear threats, and violent storms?
Is that possible when threatening illnesses strike our loved ones or us?
Is that possible when relationships dissolve, children do drugs, or spouses drink too much?
Paul was in prison when he wrote the letter containing today’s verse. After his confrontation with Jesus and conversion, Paul faced a lot of difficulties. He left a life of power to become a traveling missionary, persecuted as he had once persecuted. He knew the peace of God, and he knew it wasn’t going to change those hard circumstances. In fact, he found a way to rejoice in every circumstance. He wanted others to know that the peace of God would guard our minds and our hearts.
How? “…by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, we must present our requests to God.”
Requests for more money and security for ourselves?
Requests that we’ll never grow sick or die?
I don’t think so. Those fears and failed expectations are often what produce our anxiety.
If there’s room in my inn for Christ, He is going to help remove anxiety and replace it with peace. The Lord is near. Rejoice.
By Dan Jean
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given.
There would be no room for the family tonight even if Mary seemed ready to give birth. The innkeeper who turned Joseph and Mary away was just doing his job. There were no empty rooms. There was nothing left of the evening meal and everything was put away. It was late. He was tired. Please, just go somewhere else. He didn’t realize that this mother was chosen, this birth special, and that upon the shoulders of this child-to-be would rest the future of the world. The innkeeper couldn’t know that this babe would be called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace.”
Today there are mothers carrying babies who have no place to stay. These babies have no permanent home, and the future they face is clouded with doubt. No one seems to care what potential they have. No one sees their gifts. No one gives them a safe place to be born and grow. Please, just go somewhere else.
Governments tussle over borders and budgets. Walls promise to keep strangers out and us safe. Fear overshadows compassion and care, even for those who cannot care for themselves. Principles, policies, and positions speak for us. Please, just go somewhere else.
The child of Christmas, born in a manger, ushered in the kingdom of God showing the way toward justice and righteousness for all humanity. The baby Jesus would promise hope for all babies born, calling them all to life abundant and eternal. In this season we are challenged to stand in the innkeepers shoes. Will we make room for those who need a place? Do we turn them away? Isaiah answers our doubts. “The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.”