advent devotion for december 31st

Worship the Lord thy God with all thy heart, soul and mind. Come before his presence with singing and Thanksgiving for his name sake. Glory to God in the Highest, and on Earth… Peace and Goodwill to all men.


As a young boy, I grew up in the Baptist Church. My dad, as well as his dad, were both Baptist ministers. Needless to say, we were there Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday night. Attending Church was what I thought worshipping was all about.


The part of Worship that I enjoyed the most was the music; especially at Christmas and Easter. My parents put me in youth choir as early as I can remember. My involvement in choir has lasted almost continuously to this day. A major portion of my worshiping God involves music.


Today, I see things that cause me to break out in song and praise and worship my God. I see deer in my yard, dolphins playing in the surf, white sand and turquoise waters… just to name a few. Being surrounded by God’s beauty is truly inspiring and should make us mindful of the many blessings we have. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t sing the chorus:


“Behold the Lamb

Behold the Lamb

Behold the Lamb of God

Behold the Lamb”


I now know that Worshipping God is more than being at church when the doors are open. It involves living your life as well as knowing and recognizing God’s Love, His mercy and His Grace. It involves giving God all the glory and honor in all that we do. And it involves being thankful for all he has given us. For me, singing helps me accomplish all of these.


Rep Bennett



advent devotion for december 30th

A Gift for the King


I have always loved this legend about Mary and Joseph’s flight into Egypt after Jesus’ birth.


Mary and Joseph knew that Herod’s soldiers would be looking for Jesus, with plans to kill him after the angle warned Joseph. So they headed for Egypt, but it was hard to ravel long distances with a newborn child. They were in real need of a rest, so they decided to stop for the night in a cave. They settled in to a deep sleep, hoping that they would be safely hidden away from those who would harm them.


As they were sleeping, a spider inched her way down from the roof of the cave. When the spider saw the Christ Child, she knew she was seeing royalty. The spider decided she needed to do something to honor and protect him. So she began to spin a huge web over the entrance of the cave, to keep out the cold. All night she worked on the web. By morning she had created the biggest and most beautiful web that was ever made. As Mary and Joseph began to stir that morning, they heard horses coming to a stop on front of the cave. They held their breath. The men outside the cave were Herod’s soldiers, looking for the Christ Child. As the soldiers approached the entrance to the cave, the sight of the beautiful spider web stopped them. They debated whether to search the cave or not, and decided that it would be futile. The huge, unbroken web over the entrance clearly indicated that no one had been in the cave for a long time. So the soldiers left, and the baby remained safe, all because a lowly spider believed in giving the newborn King her best.


Chris Eckert




advent devotion for december 29th

“Let us then draw to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” 

Hebrews 4:16


Sometimes we come up to Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, as well as days after, with little or no time for formal prayer at all. Every moment, it seems, is filled with preparation, tradition, and entertaining. Let us ask for mercy and find grace as we listen to the beautiful music of the season.


It was at a very dark moment of his life when Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote “I heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” This carol tells of his despair from losing his wife in a horrible fire and his son seriously wounded in the Civil War. As he heard the church bells ringing that Christmas, he penned these words, in part.


“And in despair I bowed my head:

 “There is no peace on earth,” I said, 

“For hate is strong and mocks the song

Of peace on earth, good will to men.” 


Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: 

“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep; 

The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, 

With peace on earth, good will to men."


Emily Vanermark



advent devotion for december 28th

Advent is the period of anticipation roughly between Thanksgiving and Christmas. At our church in Grand Prairie, TX, the Christmas Eve Service was my favorite of the year. I had the honor of greeting and ushering for almost 20 years there. On Christmas Eve as families came in we would pass out bulletins and candles (the younger kids got battery operated candles). Most everyone was in a good mood since they were with their families in anticipation of a great service and celebrating the birth the next day of God’s Son, Christ Jesus.


After some Christmas carols were sung, and, of course, a solo featuring O Holy Night, our pastor would bring a message centered on the Christmas Story. Following the sermon we assisted with Holy Communion in a somber and reverent way. Several from the congregation would stay a little extra time at the altar—I’m sure thanking God for his son and the celebration that was soon to follow.


My favorite, and to me the most moving part of the Christmas Eve Service, was the candlelight portion. The lights in the sanctuary were lowered so much that it was almost dark. The only light was coming from the advent wreath on the altar with the tall Christ candle in the middle shinning bright. The congregation was silent in anticipation and readied their candles for lighting.


Our pastor would take the Christ candle from the altar and, with a just slight nod of his head, the four ushers would approach. He would light our candles and once the four usher candles were lit, we would turn and light the candles of each person on the inside of the aisles. They would turn and light the candle of the person next to them. This continued until the whole row was lit and until the entire congregation’s candles were lit. To me this seemed like spreading God’s word or light to our neighbor.


The organist would begin playing Silent Night. It seemed everyone was singing but somberly rather than loudly. At the beginning of the third verse our pastor would hold his candle up high and the entire congregation would hold theirs high. It would light up the whole church. This brought a lump to my throat and my eyes watered a little—it was a most moving few minutes and something I will always remember. I couldn’t help but think about John 1:5


“This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light, in him there is

no darkness at all”.


Chris Helms



advent devotion for december 27th

John 1:14

"And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. "


Writing an advent study in August can be tough, but one of the positives is I’ll have completely forgotten it by the time I reread it at Christmas. For this devotion, I want us to focus on what I believe to be our greatest gift - grace. The concept of unmerited grace is often lost in platitudes and taken for granted but step back and reflect as we prepare our hearts for celebrating the arrival of our Lord. 


I have often compared grace to the gimme putt. Let me explain. I sometimes play golf with David Milam, who keeps a USGA rule book in his bag. We place small bets to keep things interesting. There is no “foot wedge” with David. You play the ball as it lies, wherever it lies, and you take a penalty if you are outside the red stake, or if you have to move a tree branch to swing, or, well you get the point. He’s a lawyer, so it’s appropriate that it’s like trying to play golf following the Old Testament law. Still, every once in a while, if I’m on the green and pretty close to the hole, he’ll tell me “that’s good”. It doesn’t matter if the ball goes in or not, the putt counts as made, but the fact that I know it’s good gives me a bit more confidence to actually knock it in if I decide to address the ball.


Hebrews 4:16  


"Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need."


After I wrote that out, I don’t think it goes far enough. I still have to get off the tee and to the green on my own, and I still have to get close to the hole for a final very close shot to count whether I make it or not. Apparently I’ve been using a bad analogy all along. Perhaps a better analogy is that of a scramble. For you non-golfers, a scramble is a tournament where 2-4 people play on one team and on every shot you play the best ball. So maybe grace is better described as playing golf, tee to green, holes 1-19, with PGA professionals. You’re out there making an effort, trying to contribute, embarrassed when you fail, but still shooting the best round of your life thanks to the efforts of someone else. I like that analogy better. 


Romans 3:20-24 20

"For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.  But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction:  for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,  and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." 


No matter how you wrap your mind around grace, let’s all try to show graciousness to others this season. PLEASE NOTE I AM TERRIBLE AT THIS. I’m committing to show God’s grace to others in ways I will dread, but ultimately be grateful that I did. This week I will back off of someone in an overloaded golf cart doing 5 mph down 30a as I try to get to or from my office. This week I will congratulate an Alabama fan on their thus far undefeated season and do my best to mean it. This week I will tell Lauren to go take a long bath and enjoy a glass of wine while I watch the kids and not interrupt her once. This week I’m going to do my best to show a small sliver of the graciousness afforded me. It’s a simple as the second great commandment, that we love one another. 


Griggs, my 6 year old, often wants to contribute. For example, he will get a quarter out of his piggy bank and ask to buy a movie. Of course that goes nowhere to covering the cost, but he’s doing his best to show his appreciation and contribute. It means nothing in the grand scheme of things, but by doing so he’s showing his heart is in the right place and his heart moves mine. Griggs’ example is much like when we pass on grace to others. It doesn’t mean much in the grand scheme of things and it isn’t going to shorten a war, but it shows our heart is in the right place and means much to the recipient. 


John 13:34-35  

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” 


Mark Poston, my sister’s mentor, wrote her a letter when she graduated from vet school and went out on to her own as a new doctor. It hangs in my office today. I won’t do it justice unless I quote it directly. 


"Dear Tammy (excuse me, Dr. Justiss), I guess this is the part where the mentor gets all the warm and fuzzy sentiments, and tries to convey in a few words some pearls of wisdom that will help the fledgling to navigate carefully all of life’s waters; sorry but I just don’t know very many things for sure. About two thousand years ago a very great man named Jesus Christ said “Love one another”. To that, I have nothing significant to add. Be Happy, Mark" 


Love one another. To that, I have nothing significant to add. 


Philip Justiss



advent devotion for december 26th

“Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house

Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. 

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, 

In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there. 

The children were nestled all snug in their beds, 

While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.”


As a kid I remember being excited, so very excited, as Christmas approached. Everything about Christmas was special, a wonderful feeling, a mysterious, profoundly deep sense of connectedness overwhelmed me as the day drew near. “Twas the night before Christmas…” filled me with joy.  


It’s the same for me as I have grown into my “3rd Act.” The reasons for my joy are different, but the anticipation of Christmas Day is still the same. There is so much activity, celebrations in Church; buying presents; special dinners; family traditions on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. And as we have matured we look forward to the Arrival of Jesus, perhaps more than all the earthly things that our Christmas celebrations are mostly all about. Then He is here again and it is the day after Christmas and there is a feeling of, “what now?” This event that changed the universe seems to begin to fade in our hearts, as this life we live in the now can seem to overwhelm the reality of Christ in us.


“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; 

I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

(John 10:10, NASB95)


The anticipation that carries us joyfully into Christmas needs, somehow, to be transformed in our hearts and lives into the very present life of Jesus in us. The thief (the devil) sends us dissatisfaction and a kind of post Christmas letdown that takes away from us the very thing we seek. But Jesus in us, if we will only let Him, has given us a new life, not for the future but RIGHT NOW. In Him we have entered into immortality and there we can live abundantly, NOW!; And EVERY NOW. 


Lord God, Help us to let His Abundant Life reign in our every day. 


Amen! 


Robert Curtis

advent devotion for christmas day

Christmas Day


“While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger." Luke 2:6-7


Hayes was well past his second birthday before he slept through the night. Because of this Keri and I would try to give each other a night during the week without having to get up with Hayes. On Friday night Keri would go in the guest room and shut the door and sleep all she wanted into Saturday morning. She would let me go in the guest room on Saturday night so I could get a good night’s sleep before church the next morning.


On the weekend before his first Christmas, Hayes was having one of his restless nights—a two bottle night. I took him downstairs to the living room of the parsonage in Hartford, Alabama. We sat in front Christmas tree so I could look at the lights as he drank his second bottle of the night. Our son always seemed to inhale his bottle, and this night was no different from any other. As he was drinking his early milk, I started to tell him about the Christmas story and baby Jesus. As we looked at the Christmas tree, I told him that Jesus was the light of the world. He stopped drinking and moved his bottle away from his mouth; now he started moving his mouth as if he were talking with me, through he was only making little baby noises.


To this day I believe he was saying to me, I know all about Jesus, Dad. I just left heaven a few months ago. I know all about the Christmas story, and I have seen the glory of the light of the world.” He gave me a small baby smile and returned to his bottle. I thanked God right then and there for all the babies who are born into this world, and especially for Jesus, who was born so long ago this day in the town of Bethlehem.


Merry Christmas to all and Peace on Earth.


Chris Eckert

advent devotion for christmas eve

It was March 2005. I had graduated from college several months earlier and then spent 4 months on mission in West Africa. Upon returning from Africa I had asked Lissa to marry me, and she had said yes. I was living in Niceville trying to find a job in ministry while working for slightly more than minimum wage at a carpet store. She was in her last semester of nursing school in Gainesville.


On the outside it looked like everything was ok, but on the inside I was scared…scared I might not find a job…scared I might not be the man Lissa thought I was…scared of being an adult. My fear caused me to run from God. I stopped spending time with Him. I stopped praying. I stopped reading the Bible. I stopped thinking about Him. I filled my life with noise…falling asleep to the TV…waking up with the radio on while I showered…and noise at every hour in between.


Then one day in March I was driving to Gainesville to visit Lissa and I hit a spot on I-10 where I could not pick up a single channel on the radio. I hit seek and watched the digital numbers go around the entire span of radio wavelengths without ever stopping. I tried using the tuner to uncover a channel with something on it and could only find static. To top it off the CD player had been broken for years. Frustrated, I turned the radio off and kept heading East hearing only the white noise of my tires on the pavement.

 

In the silence, God showed up. I felt His Spirit completely overtake me in that moment. I began crying…and that led to sobbing. His Spirit and my spirit were finally able to connect without the constant distractions that I had been using to not face my fears. The tears were such that it was difficult for me to see the road. With no exit in sight, I pulled over on the shoulder and turned on my flashers. I did not time it, but by my judgment I sat there for somewhere between 30 minutes to an hour and I wept.


While sobbing and feeling completely overwhelmed I knew that the tears were not from the fear that I had been feeling. They were tears of joy. And the overwhelming feeling was not from the tremendous anxiety that had defined my past few months. It was the Spirit of God communing with my spirit. In that moment, He let me know that everything was ok. He invited me to let Him have control. He assured me that in all things He was with me and I did not have to run anymore.  


When thinking about Christmas Eve…the night before Jesus showed up on the scene…strangely this is this story that has continued to weigh on my heart. The world had neglected God in the same way that I had tuned Him out and run from Him. It took a break from the noise…it took silence for me to hear Him. And after nearly half of a millennium of not hearing from God, the world hears Him. It was certainly not what was expected…in the middle of the “Silent Night” is the cry of baby. A baby that will change the world! A baby that will take away our fears! A baby that came to make things right!


Tonight as you lay nestled all snug in your bed, what is it that is dancing in your head? Is it fear? Is it anxiety? Worry? Grief? May that not be so. Instead, in this moment may all of your apprehension be overcome by the anticipation of the arrival of our Emmanuel…our “God with us”.


Paul Barrett



advent devotion for december 23rd

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights...” James 1:17


Heroes


The Bible is so full of heroes that it is hard to pick a special one. We have Abraham who trusted in God so much that he left his home, moved to another country and lived in a tent. We have David who was just a little boy who believed God could do something, He did. We have Daniel who outlasted four Kings because he asked favors of his God three times a day. We have Samson. Job and Paul and I have my Granny.


Granny never went to a foreign country, never killed a giant or did mighty deeds like heroes of old but she could cook and sew like no other. She could make me laugh like no one else and hold me close and make me feel safe. Granny wasn’t strong like Samson, her strength was in her kindness, her dignity and her love which flowed from Jesus Christ in her heart.


I remember Christmas at Granny’s house. She never did things in a small way; she did everything big when she cooked for forty or so relatives and friends. They would just come filing in over the holidays and were always welcomed with good food and warmth. Those who had other places to go preferred to go to Granny’s. Her house wasn’t very big but somehow it never seemed crowded with all family and friends inside.


The Christmas tree was always a big cedar, which smelled so good. There were red and blue bird lights and strings of popcorn and cranberries. Delicious cakes and pies were tucked away in a very old pie safe guarded by Bugger, her big German shepherd, who slept underneath.


At Christmas we think about Jesus and those who have had a great influence in our loves whom we consider heroes because my Granny modeled her life after Christ she will always be at the top of my list of heroes. Her house was very humble but that was okay because the greatest Hero was born in a manger on Christmas Day. Have a wonderful Christmas and remember the heroes in your life.


Bonnie Vines



advent devotion for december 22nd

The season of Advent, which comes from the Latin word advent us meaning “coming” or “visit,” begins four Sundays before Christmas and ends on Christmas Eve. Advent is the beginning of the liturgical year for Christians. [Liturgical -- from liturgy, which means the forms and functions of public worship.]  


During Advent, we prepare for, and anticipate, the coming of Christ. We remember the longing of the Jews for a Messiah and our own longing for, and need of, forgiveness, salvation and a new beginning. Even as we look back and celebrate the birth of Jesus in a humble stable in Bethlehem, we also look forward anticipating the second coming of Christ as the fulfillment of all that was promised by his first coming. We were introduced to the advent season celebration when we joined the United Methodist Church. I will never forget the wonderful feeling I had when I participated in my first candle light service and try very hard to never miss a Christmas Eve candle light service.  


We had returned to Michigan for the Christmas season. Our little home town has two churches and neither one celebrates the advent season with a candle light service on Christmas Eve so we found a United Methodist church in a nearby town which was having a candle light service. Staying with our son’s family we asked each of them to join us for the candle light service. What a wonderful feeling we had when our grandson instantly said I want to go with you. For the next few years that we returned we didn’t have to ask if he wanted to attend with us he always asked if we were going and assured us he was going with us.  


This past week we returned to Michigan for our grandson’s wedding. I was honored to be asked to say the blessing on the reception meal. What a joy it was to me even though my grandson does not attend church he remembers that I thank Jesus before every meal and this allowed me to ask God’s blessing on this newly united in marriage family. It is my prayer that he will use that candlelight experience, his grandfather’s example, and find a church home for his family. 


We are called to do whatever we can to pass along the praises of him who called us. (1 Peter 2:9).


Lynn Flickinger



advent devotion for december 21st

It was Christmas Eve in 1992 in snowy Wisconsin. My grandpa on my dad’s side had been suffering from cancer for almost two years. Hospice had been caring for him in his home and my family was there to be with him and my grandma for Christmas. Even though I was only 10 years old I remember being aware of how solemn and quiet their house was. On Christmas Eve their church choir came to the window and sang carols outside. Even though he had been in a coma for two days my grandpa shed one single tear. That single tear showed everyone that he was still with us and could hear us. It was the most special Christmas gift that could have been given to our family and especially to my dad. Hours later. Early on Christmas morning, he passed away.


I learned an important lesson that Christmas that God speaks to us in unusual ways. That Christmas Eve night He used the power of music. I pray this Christmas you will hear God’s voice through music and all of His other marvelous creations.  


"He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds...


He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name. Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding is beyond comprehension!” 

Psalm  147: 3-5


Katie Ott



advent devotion for

december 20th

“Search me O God, and know my heart. Test me and know my anxious thoughts. Find any offensive way in me and lead me into the everlasting.” Psalms 139:23-24


To this day, the song Amazing Grace always brings tears to my eyes. At Christmas one year when I was a little girl, I remember my grandfather gathering my family in our living room and singing Amazing Grace to us. There wasn’t any music but the words he sang from this famous hymn will always be with me.


My favorite words of this hymn are, “ Through many dangers toils and snares, I have already come. Tis grace that brought me safe thus far and grace that will lead us home. The Lord has promised good to me, His word my hope secures. He will my shield and portion be, as long as life endures. “


When I am feeling anxious, and the path ahead is getting rocky, I get discouraged and sometimes I will go days without opening my Bible. Instead of seeing the obstacles ahead of me as opportunities to trust God, I get anxious and discouraged.  


I am reminded there are many times in the Bible that circumstances got worse before God’s promises became a reality. He knows what is best for us even when we don’t and He is quietly arranging His perfect plan. Knowing that He is always present and always has our best interest, we can rejoice in Him even in hard times.


My Mom turned 91 this month, and she has been living with us for five years. She has the master bedroom and her and I share the master bath. Every morning when I get ready to go to work, she asks me if my outfit is new (it rarely is) and tells me how beautiful I look. She always looks for the positive things to say and no matter what I serve her for dinner she calls it “ a gourmet meal.” She has lots of friends and the phone in her room rings several times a day. She became ill recently and she is now living in a nursing home. This has been a very sad time for me but I know that God has arranged for her to be a light to all the people that she encounters there, too. He is quietly arranging His perfect plan.


The words of Amazing Grace gives us a certainty that even when sadness overtakes us, all will be well because WE HAVE JESUS!  


Lord, lead us into the everlasting, help us to be a light for you wherever we go, help us to remember during this Christmas season, wherever we are, wherever we go, to look for someone who needs a word of encouragement or maybe just a smile and a hug! Help us to LOVE like you love us! Amen


Vicky Curtis



advent devotion for december 19th

My family has always had a joke around Christmas time when the topic of gifts comes up – “It’s going to be another sad Christmas.” Dating back to when my brother and I were kids, my parents never believed in spending a lot on gifts. We got more than we needed or deserved, but we weren’t getting the TV’s, Nintendos and stereos that we wanted. So when I called my mother up recently to tell her that I needed to come up with a memorable Christmas experience, we laughed and concluded that my parents had seen to it that there weren’t any. Of course the reality is, I have fond memories of Christmases with my family. Church on Christmas Eve, back to the house with grandparents, try eggnog only to remember how disgusting it is, sleep, wake up, open presents, eat, eat, eat, eat. And now, with children of my own, this advent assignment has me looking back and wondering what lessons I’ve learned and what lessons still need to be learned. 


As Christmas approaches, rapidly as it does, I am convinced of the dire need to keep it simple. Not that that’s easy or completely realistic for any of us. We will travel, go to parties, host parties, attend Christmas plays, stress out over the right picture for the Christmas card and gift away. But along the way, we’re well served to stop sometimes and simply ask God, “Help me to make this Christmas season about you.” He will. And the more we ask, the more we reflect, the more we listen, the more we hear what He has to say. The lesson is as much about the journey as it is about the destination. To borrow Paul and Timothy’s words to the Philippians:


“This is my prayer to you: that your love will grow more and more; that you will see the difference between good and bad and choose the good; that you will be pure and without wrong for the coming of Christ; that you will do many good things with the help of Christ to bring glory and praise to God.” 

Philippians 1:9-11.


David Milam



advent devotion for december 18th

Adjusting to a new norm.


Each day I am in search of my new norm, things will never go back to the days of semi selfishness. Sleeping late, a clean house, walking out the door with just my phone and wallet, O and showering! Let’s be real it was do what I want when I want how I want...the end. But the thing is, that no longer makes me happy! God has blessed me with a busy little boy. This amazing little person is my new norm. Getting up early, dirty dishes in the sink, clean clothes on the bedroom floor, and let’s not forget milk maid! That’s my new norm. Motherhood is something I never knew I needed until I had it.


I have to slow down, I have to rethink the day's purpose. It’s an exhilarating feeling to watch him explore the world and his new norm.  As the days go by I am amazed that I have the privilege to be his mommy. I know I am his and what mother isn’t, but as sure as the sky is blue and the grass is green I know that my son will show the love Christ through his actions. From the day he was born we have participated in service projects and mission trips. He was the hands and feet before he could walk. We visited the girls at the Milton children’s home regularly, packed boxes for Operation Christmas Child, meals for Stop Hunger Now, a trip to Marvell AK, and he rocked the trip to Russia. The joy he brings others is a wonderful thing to watch.  


A personal goal I set for myself daily is for show Jesus through my actions and interactions. Some days are much harder than others! I just want to make sure you know I am a sinner. I am thankful for His Grace and mercy. These worldly pressures are simply that, worldly. They have no place in God's Kingdom. I pray that I can show my son how to focus on the Glory and he lives his life as a permanent  sermon


"Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”


Colossians 3:12-17


Marri Helen Taylor



advent devotion for december 17th

In December of 2013, having just finished supper, I gathered the dishes and prepared to load the dishwasher. Suddenly I grew very dizzy, the kind of dizzy, which means, “I’m in trouble.” I called out to Donna, “I need your help.” Thus began my unintended journey to “life after a stoke.”  


The experts’ claim all stokes are serious and sometimes fatal. The Fire Department EMT’s worked on me and got me to Sacred Heart in record time. I was just a baffled on looker, not able to comprehend or understand what had just happened. Twenty-four hours later the Cardiologist, the MRI tech, and the Internist all told me how very fortunate and lucky I was. I had no residual effects from the stoke, no limitation on talking, walking or memory loss. 


Why am I telling this story? Why reveal my personal history or information? Because I believe God worked a miracle on a most underserving yet fortunate Christian. What an incredible time of year for God to grace me with the gift of life. 


My personal experience with God was good, certainly not to the level of a lot of my Christian Brothers and Sister’s. In my own way I believed “God” could always make us better Christian followers, if we could witness a few more miracles, similar to the Old and New Testament. In the Gospel of Luke (NIV) many of the doubters are referenced. “God used many doubters and showed great patience with them.” Honest doubt is not bad starting point as long as you don’t stay there. I had been putting it back on God to make me better rather than putting forth effort and determination myself. 


Through this miracle my belief in God’s wisdom and power has been reinforced. Miracles do happen all the time even to the undeserving. In John 20: 29 Jesus told His disciples “Because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believed.” I truly believed God worked a miracle for me. This magical time of year,  Christmas was not lost on me. The “doubting Thomas’” and other honest doubters need to understand the Bible teaches us about, God’s patience and His Miracles. 


Dear God, grant me the power to do those, God pleasing things that you have put on my heart. Amen. 


Bruce Luedtke


advent devotion for december 16th

This is a picture (see below) of our home on the farm in Ohio where I grew up. The holidays were magical for me. My mother hung our Advent calendar and from that moment on each day was a whirlwind of baking and cooking, practicing for our neighborhood caroling and our parts in the Church and school Christmas pageants and choir. Mom transformed our home into a beautiful memory of the smell of fresh pine, sparkling lights and the perfect Christmas tree (another Griswold outing) and we entertained family and friends culminating on Christmas Eve at church and opening gifts Christmas morning.


Needless to say, I loved Christmas and still do! But it was not until after my parents were both gone that I mentioned to my older brother Tim, my memory of how special our parents, especially our beautiful mother, made Christmas for us. Tim turned and looked at me like I had just grown two heads and said: “Are you kidding me? I dreaded Christmas! Mom was so cranky and irritable with us from lack of sleep and everyday was “extra” work on top of her normal exhausting routine of caring for our large family! I couldn’t wait for our life to go back to normal!”


I was so surprised that my sweet and kind brother whom I adore had such a radically different perception of our childhood Christmas! How could this be? I realize now that we actually were both right, but the “intent” of our beliefs was what differed. My brother is practical and pragmatic (Webster’s definition of pragmatism: the theory that actions and beliefs must be judged by their practical results.) And my brother WAS genuinely concerned for our loving mother! But I have always been more in tune with the energy in and around me----Christmas FEELS different to me---it feels hopeful, loving, kind, generous, gentle AND magical! Where does this energy come from? I believe it comes from the power of the Holy Spirit within us. The unexplainable energy that the bible tells us was felt by those living in the area of Jesus’s birth: a cause for celebration! A baby who changed this world forever and even though I cannot see HIM, I “feel” HIS everlasting love within me each day that I live and I gratefully accept the precious gift of HIS life for me. And I thank you, Jesus, for never being “normal” again!


“That is why we live by believing and not be seeing.”


2 Corinthians 5:7


Roxanna Thompson



advent devotion for december 15th

The Spirit of Christmas


Psalm 118:24  "This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it."


It is only ten days until we commemorate and celebrate the birth of our Savior on Christmas day.


My thoughts go back to my childhood growing up in El Paso, TX. On the first Sunday of Advent a gigantic star was lit on Mt Franklin every night through Jan 1st. Seeing it from afar made it appear it was hanging in the night-sky. We also had an Advent wreath at home which was lit every evening before dinner. Later in the month, we search out the perfect tree, with our Dad in charge of lights and Mom, sister and me decorating with ornaments and hanging tinsel. A small nativity was set at the base with a blue light bulb; a white one would be too bright for the baby Jesus. My sister and I helped our Mom bake cookies and Dad was in charge of the fudge; it was all so yummy! After attending Mass Christmas morning, Mom would prepare a feast that looked like it would feed an army. What a blessing these memories are for me.


Then, in the late 1980’s, I had, what I like to refer to, as ‘my Epiphany’! 


My employer invited me to attend ‘The Boar’s Head &Yule Log Festival’ at his church. He promised me that I wouldn’t be disappointed and it was the perfect ending to the Christmas holiday season. For a good number of years, I’d struggled with: ‘was there some sort of unwritten rule’ that any reminder of Christmas be put away before New Years Eve? And so, I went, and went back every year until we moved here in 2005. 


The pageant is based on an old legend, and it gained Christian significance: the wild boar, symbolic of evil, is overcome by good through the teachings of Christ. The sanctuary at University Christian Church is perfect for this pageant: the orchestra, hand bells, and the congregation singing carols while experiencing the visual feast of the participants. The second part features the original Christmas story, as an Angel carrying a star leads the procession of the shepherds and Wise Men traveling to bring gifts to the Christ Child. The traditional tableau, Mary, Joseph and Christ child is revealed at the climax.


This amazing experience opened my heart and mind to know: Christmas begins with Christ’s birth that we celebrate on December 25th and continues to Epiphany, the feast of the Wise Men. The 12 days of Christmas. Peace!!


E Jeanie Miller



advent devotion for

december 14th

Infant Holy


“Infant holy,

Infant lowly,

For His bed a cattle stall;

Oxen lowing,

Little knowing

Christ the Babe is Lord of all.

Swift are winging

Angels singing,

"Noels" ringing,  

Tidings bringing,

Christ the Babe is Lord of all.”


We shudder when we think that Jesus was born in a stable. It stinks in a stable: cows, chickens and other unwashed animals, Barns aren’t much on heat or A/C as well. (Shut that door! Were you raised in a barn?) But there’s something right about it...


First, Christ is our divine burden-bearer. Just like people once used an ox or a camel to shoulder a load that they couldn’t, Jesus carries the burdens, which our weak frames cannot. Mind hurt? Soul weary? Pack ‘em on! Jesus will carry your problems.


The first words of John the Baptist in the Gospel of John were: "Behold the Lamb of God!" Just as God provided a ram as a sacrifice in place of Isaac, Jesus was provided in our place.


Besides, what palace could contain the glory? What temple or pyramid or fortress carved by human hands is noble enough a place? The simplicity of that stable for the birth of the King of Kings could there be any nobler place. I don’t think so.


“Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave,  

coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance,

he humbled himself....” 


Philippians 2: 7-8a


Chris Eckert



advent devotion for

december 13th

On December 19, 1999, I phoned my mother, age 86, to see how she was feeling. She had been dealing with a bad cold for a week or so. When she answered I heard a very weak and slurred voice. It concerned me enough that we spoke for a minute or two and then I had a friend call to see if they heard the same tone of voice. It was unanimous…….we were driving to her home immediately


When we arrived, we found her in her favorite chair covered with her favorite blanket, conscious but listless. I thought she might have a severe case of pneumonia so an ambulance was called and she was taken to the emergency room. A few minutes later, I was called back to the treatment area and met with a cardiologist who advised me that my mother was having and had been having a massive heart attack and suggested that I call all family members. She was not going survive the heart attack. 


Needless to say I was stunned. How could MY mother, who was healthy, vibrant and was still asking for something to eat at that moment be having a heart attack! She died the next morning on December 20, 1999, five days before Christmas


My heart was broken and it ran through my mind that this was going to be a terrible Christmas. We had the funeral and while reminiscing with so many wonderful friends and family I was reminded that no matter what had happened, Christmas was still coming. Christmas truly is the most wonderful time of the year, if we let it be so! 


My mother was already with Christ and while I was missing her, I realized that she would have wanted me to be joyful for her and for those around me. We all need to surround ourselves with loving people and always remember that God is with us and loves us always. 


Joy to the world, the Lord is come!


Margaret Cox



ADVENT DEVOTION FOR DECEMBER 12TH

Within two weeks the world stops for a day and most will remember and celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ so many years before. For on this day a child was born, he is the Messiah, the Lord – that is what the angels proclaimed to the shepherd that starry night as told in Luke, Chapter 2. That day is one of the grandest days of Christian celebration with families travelling great distances to be together and to rejoice that we are part of the family of Christianity that recognizes Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.


The anticipation looms daily for the weeks leading up to this day. When our children were very young we acquired a table top manger scene like so many millions of others in Christian families’ homes around the world. Baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the three kings, some shepherds, sheep, cows, a horse and even an Irish Setter dog are in our manger scene.


The tradition we started with our boys was to help them understand the story of Jesus’ birth and to recognize those that were there for that miraculous entrance. We allowed the boys to place one character in the manger each day. We started with the animals,  progressed through the shepherds and kings and culminated with Joseph, then Mary, and, of course, Jesus arrives every Christmas Day. We alternated each day to let one of our sons choose which animal or person arrived, and they decided where to place them in the manger. We had enough of these “characters”, including the never before (biblically) mentioned Irish Setter, to start this tradition each year on December 12th. 


For our family, the Christmas season starts taking shape around this date, as the characters arrive to await the birth of our Savior. The boys are grown now, and the “aura” of placing the characters in the manger to wait for Christmas (just like they too must wait) has waned a bit. But the tradition carries on, and it has certainly served as a visual reminder of the anticipation for the most celebrated of all days of the year. 


As a child growing up, I often heard direction from my parents that went something like this, “If you’re going to do something, give it your best effort,” or “If you’re not going to try your best, then you shouldn’t try at all.” While these may seem like motivating phrases from overzealous parenting adults,  it fostered within me a desire to give a 100% effort in most things in which I involved myself. 


Fast forward to a young adult man seeking more out of life than an unfulfilling career and shallow relationships, and I knew I was missing a component of life and that most likely originated from God the creator (of my life). As a new Christian at age 27, with a (new) Lord of my life, and a new wife surrounded by a godly family, I found strength to face my daily professional struggles through Colossians 3:12-17, where Paul writes from the Holy Spirit how we are to conduct ourselves in our daily walk – with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. And then in verse 23, he summarizes thus, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters..” Loosely translated, work as if you are working for God, not the man who signs your paycheck! 


Our works will not get us the reward of eternal life – only faith in Jesus as our Savior can do that. Nonetheless, it is a real joy to look forward to each day, regardless of the tasks ahead, whether unpleasant or monotonous, whether fun or rewarding, knowing that we will work each day for the Lord. He will see our efforts and the joy we achieve from working hard for Him, and we will know that our earthly effort will bring a smile to Him that comes from seeing the faithful at work in his garden on Earth. 


As the New Year awaits, resolve to do your work each day for the Lord – there is no more rewarding boss that you can have. 


David Leuze



advent devotion for december 11th

As we are now into the Season of Advent, it is a time of reflection on the anticipation of the birth of our Lord, Jesus Christ. God provided His greatest miracle of all of us to be able to have the closest relationship with Him ever imaginable! It is a season to reflect on our own relationship with God and how that relationship has developed and grown through the years. For some of us, our walk with God has been a constant presence all of our lives. For others, there may have been an interruption in that journey, and we strayed off the path, to wander about lost until God, in His infinite Grace, and in His own way, guided us back to that path, to begin anew a fellowship with Him that would change our lives forever.


I am one of these people. I had moved to the area 22 years ago just after Thanksgiving. I spent the next year getting established finding a job, building a home, getting through “the holidays”, and trying to keep a marriage together. (Did you notice that I did not say “finding a church or having a relationship with God)? The following December arrives and I happened to run across an announcement in the paper about an antebellum mansion called Eden in a place called Point Washington that was hosting a Christmas tour. I decided to go, found my way there, parked at the school and walked up a path to the mansion. Darkness had fallen, and after the tour, I started walking back to where I thought I had parked. I soon realized that I was completely turned around and lost, but I felt compelled to keep walking down this unknown path


It opened up to a sight I will never forget: a little white church that was completely decorated in greenery with two huge wreaths wrapped in red ribbon and bows anchoring the antiqued wooden doors leading into the church. The fence surrounding the church was wrapped in greenery and ribbon and camellia bushes were in full bloom. A Spotlight highlighted this grand and humble sight and after walking so far in the darkness, it stopped me in my tracks. It seemed that I had never encountered anything so beautiful in my life. As I walked around the grounds of this sweet little church, I felt the tangible presence of God walking with me and that was a feeling I had never encountered before. I felt a peace that had left my heart many years before, and I felt God was showing my future to me. I spent a long time sitting on the steps of that church.


That was my first encounter with Point Washington United Methodist Church, and the next year,  just before Christmas, during the biggest trail and storm of my life, God brought me Home to this church. That was nearly Twenty years ago and my relationship with God, this church and my family here has grown every day, far beyond what I had ever imaged.


Every Advent I reflect on this experience, for that was the start of God’s hand re-establishing my relationship with Him and the second greatest Christmas present of all!


Sharon Mechling






advent devotion for december 10th

News of the Day


Take the year 1809. The international scene was tumultuous. Napoleon was sweeping through Austria; blood was flowing freely. No news organization cared about babies. But the world was overlooking some terribly significant births.


For example, William Gladstone was born that year. He was destined to become one of England’s finest statesman. That same year, Alfred Tennyson was born to an obscure minister and his wife. The child would one day greatly affect the literary world in a marked manner. On the American continent, Oliver Wendell Holmes was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts. And not far away in Boston, Edgar Allan Poe began his eventful, albeit tragic life. 


And in that same year cries of a newborn infant in a rugged log cabin in Hardin County, Kentucky. The baby’s name --Abraham Lincoln.


If there had been news broadcasts at that time, I’m certain these words would have been heard: “The destiny of the world is being shaped on an Austrian battlefield today.” But history was actually being shaped in the cradles of England and America. Similarly, everyone thought taxation was big news when Jesus was born. However, we know a young Jewish woman cradled the biggest news of all—the birth of the Savoir.


Chris Eckert

advent devotion december 9th

I WONDER


“I Wonder As I Wonder” is one of my favorite Christmas hymns. I catch myself singing it at other times of the year when I am in situations where I am exploring with no intent and expectations. Most recently I sang it aloud as my husband, Britt, paddled a kayak on a moonlit night through a mangrove canal to reach Laguna Grande “ in Las Croabas, Puerto Rico. And it’s here on this night that I write this.


Despite the dappled moonlight, it was dark on our paddle out, so much so we couldn’t see each other just feet away. And then the narrow canal opened up into the lagoon and the stars and heavens overhead were breathtaking. And we looked up and soaked it all in. And then we looked down and saw that the dark water below us was coming alive with stars all of its own


We were in one of 5 bioluminescent bays of this type in the world and with each swish of the paddle or passing of the hand underwater, an entire universe of microorganisms lit up. And under a glistening sky of heaven above us with my hand dipped below the water creating a swirl of light I said that this moment was how I envisioned God creating the heavens on the fourth day. The swirl of His hand dipped in darkness. And I know He was overjoyed at His creation and I think He laughed aloud even as I did on this night. And even in these beginnings of the beginning, He knew that a star in the sky would be followed to introduce the King of Kings in the form of a mere baby


Matthew 2:2


“For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” Oh God of paradoxes who send us a King when we were anticipating a king, “I wonder as I wander out under the sky, how Jesus the Saviour did come for to die, for poor on’ry people like you and like I, I wonder as I wander out under the sky.”


Jackie Ward



advent devotion for december 8th

When I was an active young child my mom would take my brother and I to church most Sundays. Our favorite time of the year to go to church was at Christmas. It was a long wait from year to year. The church would have a nativity scene on the lawn area with live animals. There would be a children’s play, The 3 Wise Men, with the bright star that the wise men followed to find baby Jesus and to give him gifts. The birth of Jesus began a journey for millions of people to come.


Sometime in November, as things now stand, the “Christmas Season” begins, the streets are hung with lights, the stores are decorated with red, and green, and you can’t turn on the radio without hearing songs about the spirit of the season and the glories of Santa Claus. The excitement builds to a climax on the morning of December 25, and then it stops. Christmas commemorates the most momentous event in human history, the entry of God into the world he made, in the form of a baby.


This advent season may we pay particular attention to the Spirit’s work of Conviction in our lives, but may we be defined by the grace of God and seek to actively participate in the work of God in our lives. Amen!


John 1:14,16

Philippians 1:4-11

Luke 3: 4-6


Tim Norris

ADVENT DEVOTION FOR DECEMBER 7th

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”

John 14: 1-4


This was my mother’s favorite scripture, and her trust in this passage was made real to me in April 2007.


My mother had enjoyed a very full, meaningful life and truly lived each day as her last. She was healthy and active so the diagnosis of heart disease, at the age of 83, came as a surprise. She lived for six weeks after her diagnosis, with the constant companionship of her daughter and or grandchildren, and then died as the result of complications of heart surgery. Near the end of the six weeks, two of her granddaughters and I went to see her at 6 AM in ICU, intent on visiting with her and seeing her doctor. When we went into her room, we were pleased to see Mother eating her breakfast, which turned out to be the last earthly meal she would eat. After exchanging good morning greetings, Mother said, 


“Girls, I have something to tell you. I have talked with my Lord and I am going to be with him.” We were shocked, but we somehow knew Mother meant what she said. A few minutes later the doctor confirmed that, while not common, patients who say this usually know it is real.


My niece and daughter and I told mother how much we loved her and how much we would miss her. We were so grateful for her relationship with her Lord and with us. She pointed her finger at each of us and asked if we were a Christian.


Each reassured her that we were Christians and trusted in God. We spent the next 30 hours by my mother’s bedside, singing hymns, praying, and watching her slip away. Shortly before her earthly death we saw a big smile on Mother’s face, and I believe that was the moment when she met the Lord her God face to face.


Mother loved her God, trusted this scripture, and knew God had prepared a place for her.


“Dear God, as we celebrate Advent and focus on love, we know that you are with us every day of our lives and on into eternity. Help us to love you more deeply and trust in you more fully each day. Help us to love others as you have loved us. Amen”


Judy Brock



ADVENT DEVOTION FOR DECEMBER 6TH

Will this be the best Christmas Ever? Hope-Know!


Have you ever noticed that the word “hope” gets used a lot, especially this time of year?


I hope FSU beats Florida. I hope Thomas likes the video game we got him. I hope the decorations look picture-perfect. I hope my bonus comes through so I can pay for all of this. I hope this is the best Christmas ever.


Used this way, “hope” is an expectation that translates into a “hope-so” approach to the holidays and extends to our daily lives. We do our part, hope for the best, and keep adding to the list of things to hope for.


If you’re like me, all that “hoping-so” can leave you feeling anxious and exhausted because, although the words sound optimistic, the hope-so approach is really just stress and anxiety in disguise.


There is a big difference between this hope-so kind of hope that comes from expectations and creates anxiety and the “hope-know” kind of hope that comes from trusting God and gives us assurance and peace.


Last Christmas, that difference stabbed me in the heart.


I went to visit my mother who was suffering from Alzheimer’s. On the drive to Georgia, I kept hoping that she would still recognize me and that she would like the new sweater I brought her. When I arrived at her assisted living facility, I walked over to her table in the dining room and she looked up at me, as if to say “can I help you”? She didn’t know who I was.


In that moment, I realized that my “hope-so” approach was superficial and misguided. And, I knew better.


Still, I needed this poignant reminder that a “hope-know” person trusts in God and would have simply thanked Him for keeping watch over Mom during her illness. A hope-know person would have asked for help to be an extension of His love for her, no matter how sad the visit might make me. A hope-know person would have realized that whether mom liked the sweater was much less important than whether she felt my love.


This Christmas, let’s be hope-know people who suppress the temptation to focus on the hope-sos of the holiday season. Let’s be hope-know people who make sure that our holiday expectations don’t overshadow the season’s message of love. Let’s be hope-know people who trust in God because he gave us the gift of His son Jesus and the promise of peace, comfort, and joy.


Romans 15:13 (NLV)

Our hope comes from God. May He fill you with joy and peace because of your trust in Him. May your hope grow stronger by the power of the Holy Spirit.


Jamie Williamson

advent devotion for december 5th

As the Christmas Season gets into full swing, our focus and thoughts on all that this season means to us tends to become stronger and more present in our daily routines. As we draw closer to Christmas Day we remind ourselves more often of the blessings and gifts that we have all been given. 


As we all know though, there is no other time of the year, no other Season, that is more commercially exploited than Christmas. It has become such a huge part of our culture, and as we all know, it can sometimes over shadow the truly important aspects of the Season. The twinkle of the lights, the beautiful melodies of the music that we all know by heart, the wonderful aromas of the special treats that we wait for all year. The decorations, the gift lists, the shopping, finding just the right tree, the travel or the preparation for those traveling to us, did I mention the shopping? It can all be very exciting, but can also be very distracting and sometimes downright overwhelming! We have all been there, so deep into what needs to get done that we let it completely dominate our thoughts and time.  


We all need to be diligent and keep the real reason for this celebration in the forefront of our minds every day. 


So let’s not forget to take time to be Holy. Time set apart for sacred thought and prayer. Time to focus on God’s Presence in our lives and not the presents we think we have to buy to make it all complete. A quiet moment, a walk on the beach, a stroll through a park, a few quiet minutes away from all of the distractions of the day. During this Advent Season take a few private moments and remember why this really is the most wonderful time of the year!  


Gary Gibson

advent devotion for december 4th

Redeemer…THIS side of Heaven


Psalms 127:13

“I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living!"


I believed for a very long time that God was far off, and Heaven was far away. Our duty, as believers, was to do good and wait for redemption in Heaven. Shame was a large part of my relationship with God. I was taught that I had much to be ashamed of, and I should not forget it. The best I had was filthy rags before Him. The story of the gospel was not the “good news,” it was more of God having a pitiful glance at us and sending his Son down to maybe round up the good people. It was up to us to muster through this broken world and wait patiently for Heaven.


Later in life, I found myself caught up in a daily cycle of secret shame and outward performance, leading a double life. My continual sin just confirmed the old belief of “you’ll never get it right… maybe in Heaven you’ll be better off.” In my darkest hour, God sent an old acquaintance from college to pass by me on a sidewalk of downtown Birmingham. I was on my way to get coffee, and while we were saying our hellos, I blurted out that I could not find a way out of this cycle. She responded by telling me her husband had found himself where I was, years ago, and told me of a way out.


Today, I can tell you this: There is redemption and freedom THIS side of heaven. 


Jesus’ birth, death and resurrection all point to God seeing us, knowing us, and offering us freedom. His love never fails. He sings over us! (Zeph.3:17) We are not made to be self-sufficient, self-reliant, prideful people. We need Him daily, and the more often we cry out and ask for help, the more often He shows up as Redeemer, Savior and Healer. During this Advent Season, I encourage us to reflect on our own vulnerability and honesty about where we need help, and where we can cry out to Him to redeem and restore, THIS side of Heaven!


Liza Snyder

ADVENT DEVOTION FOR DECEMBER 3RD

Romans 16:10 “Give my greetings to Apelles, a good man whom Christ approves...”


There are some days when I just open the Bible and randomly select my reading of scripture. One day I came across this man Apelles and I cannot get him out of my mind. Paul is writing to the Romans and wants to greet this good man, whom Christ approves. I wonder who is this man, what does he do, what has he done to be regarded so simply noble? He must be the type of person whom when they smile at you it’s a breath of fresh air. He must have soulful eyes...when you look into them you know the Holy Spirit is dwelling within. Even though I have never heard his name before, I want to know him and be more like him. Apelles speaks to my heart; My heart's desire to be a good servant to our Lord and Savior. I’m grateful for the word of God and introducing me to Apelles whose one sentence description inspires me in my walk in faith.


Cindy Garrard

ADVENT DEVOTION FOR DECEMBER 2ND

WHAT DO YOU WANT?


As this advent season unfolds, I am reminded of the joys of Christmas past, the smell of the evergreens, the glow of the colorful lights on houses and trees in the window of the living room. The excitement of the season as a child, the fear of checking your list twice and making sure you have all of your bases covered as an adult. I remember being in Atlanta alone with all of my family on the west coast and having Christmas dinner at the Waffle House on South Cobb Drive. But times have changed for the good. I am now married to a wonderful wife named Patsy and I have an extended family here at Santa Rosa Beach. I have purposely titled this devotional from a scripture in the book of John. The title of the series of verses is titled “Jesus’ First Disciples”: John 1:35-37. 


"The next day John (John the Baptist) was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said “Look, the Lamb of God.” When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, 'What do you want?' "


This haunting question sticks with me as I contemplate my life’s wishes and desires. A sense of security, the ability to support my family, wisdom to make the right decisions or simply my two front teeth (as a child of course). And during the Christmas season the question looms even greater as I fill out my Christmas list of presents to give and consider what I might like to receive as well. WHAT DO YOU WANT?


Certainly none of the items mentioned above were on Christ’s mind when he asked the question of Simon Peter and Andrew. Rather, His question cuts right to the heart. Believe in me, follow me and you shall receive….everything you could ever want for. I remind myself daily that this question and its answer is the most important wish and goal of my life as I strive to be a follower of Christ. 


During this holiday season, pause to take the time to ask yourself, “what do you want”….and may the joy of His reward be your answer.

In Christ…..UNITED,


Danny Powell

ADVENT DEVOTION FOR DECEMBER 1ST

When I was asked by Pastor Chris to write a devotional for Advent Season, I came very close to declining. You see, I have never felt very gifted in the area of writing. My Husband, Paul, encouraged me, however, to give it a try. After realizing there was no way I could persuade him to write it, on my behalf, I decided to give it a shot.


As believers, we are told that within the Body of Christ, we all have talents to offer. I was told that my ability to sing was my gift from God. Since a very young age, I enjoyed performing on stage. I even dreamed of a career on Broadway. Real life concerns re-routed that dream. I was under the impression that you couldn’t have a career in performance and a family. I felt like God wanted my gifts to be shared in a different way. He wanted me to become a wife and mother as well as have a career. 


With life’s struggles and all the world has to offer, good and bad, my faith has grown stronger over the years. I have found that I cannot do life without God. Life changing events have made me continue to seek His will and guidance in my life. As He draws me closer to Him, I no longer care about singing for the world, but desire to sing for God’s glory. 


The Christmas season is my favorite time of the year. We celebrate the birth of our risen Savior Jesus Christ and remember His ultimate gift to us. We get to sing His praises, rejoice with all the earth and share our many gifts, as God’s church, with those in need, letting them know that Jesus loves them! 


I encourage you to share your talents every day for the glory of God. 


1 Peter 4:10-11

“Each of you has received a gift to use to serve others. Be good servants of God’s various gifts of grace. Anyone who speaks should speak words from God. Anyone who serves should serve with the strength God gives so that in everything God will be praised through Jesus Christ. Power and glory belong to him forever and ever.” Amen. 


Heavenly Father, We thank you for blessing us. We love you and ask that you would help us to use our gifts to bless others in need. Help us to share your love with them at Christmas time and every other day of the year. 


Thank you for the gift of your Son Jesus Christ. We pray this in your Holy name. 


Amen


Jan Carter

ADVENT DEVOTION FOR NOVEMBER 30TH

HOPE Waiting with Hope ... Jesus is coming! This candle represents the HOPE we have in

Christ and His return.


Scripture: Luke 21:25–36 Jesus predicts the future when the Jesus comes again with power and great glory. Whatever trouble the world may be experiencing, whatever fears we may have, we can wait peacefully for Christ knowing that his Kingdom is near.


Christmas growing up was magical for both me and my husband. We both have very fond memories of Christmas morning waking up and being excited to see what was under our tree. Having to wait at the top of the stairs or in our room with our siblings until mom or dad gave us the ok to come down is NOT one of those fond memories! Just kidding... now it is, but Oh the torture! We danced, we giggled, we wailed and pleaded with our parents to please, please, please let us come down!!!! Not yet they would yell back....not yet. They were busy making everything perfect for when our eyes caught that first glimpse of the tree and the presents underneath.


I think back on these moments when I wonder when will Jesus come again? I get so excited for I know He IS coming back! Hallelujah! And , our Heavenly Father knows the perfect time. So, I will wait, giggle, dance and sometimes even plead to God to please send Him back now.

And....I will keep praying when God answers....not yet my child....not yet.


Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, as we light this first candle, we are so excited to celebrate your Son’s birth and tremble with anticipation for the day when He comes again! Help us to not get caught up in the business of the season and help us to always remember that Jesus Christ is our hope, now and forever!


The Burns Family

Bill, Cheri and Jasmine

ADVENT DEVOTION FOR NOVEMBER 29TH

Luke 1:35


"The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirt will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you, therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.” Then Mary said, “Here I am, the servant of the Lord, let it be with me according to your word.”


Very strong and courageous words spoken by Mary, but have you ever thought that at some point she cried. She knew what the angel said to her, but other people did not. It must have become obvious to the people around her that she was going to have a child. Even Joseph, before the angel explained things to him in his dream. She was a very young teenage girl with emotions and feelings like anyone else. She must have had moments of fear and anxiety, before Joseph and her family became aware that this was God’s plan. The Holy Spirit comes to mind as instilling her with peace and calm and the feeling that God loved her. 


Many years ago I had that fear and anxiety when I was told by my doctor that I was pregnant with my second child. All I did for weeks was cry. We had only been married for a year and a half and my son was only 6 months old. My husband had told me when we married that he did not want children for 5 or 6 years and it was my responsibility to make sure that did not happen. He, being a devout Catholic, my using birth control was out of the question. 


My faith then was not what it is today, but I did ask God for some kind of help. That is when I believe the Holy Spirit instilled me with his peace and calmed my heart for it did not take long for me to totally accept and love this child. This peace must have transcended to that child for she was born calm, loving and patient and is one of the better joys of my life. 


The Holy Spirit can work miracles, from calming Mary, the Mother of Jesus, to calming the fears of a young mother. The marriage did not last, but the love of the Holy Spirit did and has grown within me along with the growth of my children. 


Oh Lord, may your Spirit give me the calm and peace that this human heart needs for this day. Amen


Kathy Carpenter

advent devotion for NOVEMBER 28TH

I believe God speaks to us directly, through the Bible, through other people and though circumstance. In a special season in my life God gave me three of the most wonderful gifts I’ve ever received. The first two were communications from him regarding the third. One communication from the Bible and I believe one directly from him.


One morning before work I had a dear friend on my mind. I was concerned about something in his life and was bringing it before God as I was going about my routine. I felt He was reminding me of a verse that had application to my friend’s situation. I stopped what I was doing and went to my Bible. It’s a Bible given to me by a former employer when I was in college. He made me write in it the day he presented it to me which I did with some about of discomfort. Shortly thereafter I heard Charles Stanley praise the ability to account past victories and concerns by noting one’s Bible. The two unknowingly conspired to change my views on writing in my Bible.


As I went in search of the verse to which I thought the Sprit was leading me, I found I had marked it 2 years before. After reading the verses, Psalm 127:1-2, I continued onto verses 3-5. 


“Behold, children are a gift of the Lord; The fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one’s youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them...”


While these verses had nothing to do my friend’s dilemma, they spoke to me so unexpectantly I reached for a pen and wrote, “3.22.05 - Is Brett with child?” While I didn’t know it at the time, God was preparing my heart. He was softening my selfish ambition.


Several months later, on the day we learned Brett was pregnant I heard from within my soul, “Your life is about to change, and I am with you.” Just like a Dad telling his young son that everything is going to be alright, I was fill with real peace. Just to make sure I got it, he told me three times before we confirmed His voice.



Ryland was born on March 10th, 2006. It’s marked in my Bible under Psalm 34.


Ty Nunn



ADVENT DEVOTION FOR NOVEMBER 27TH

"Mary’s Song of Praise: The Magnificat"


"And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.”"

"~ Luke 1:46-49"


"Imagine when the angel Gabriel gave Mary the news that she had found favor with God and that she would conceive a son! Imagine what faith that young lady must have had! It must have been thrilling just to hear that she was in God’s favor! She was chosen to give birth to the Son of God! In just a few short minutes, Mary went from incredulous to acceptance, obedience and realizing she was indeed blessed!"


"How I wish for the faith and obedience that Mary had. But, I am far enough along in my spiritual journey to know that kind of faith requires an intimate knowledge of and relationship with God. Time spent alone with Him --- to dwell, abide and rest with my Heavenly Father is very special to me. I seek Him every morning. It’s important to me that I spend time alone with the One who""calls me His beloved daughter. And as a branch, I must stay connected to the vine. I can’t do that in the hustle and bustle of the world if I don’t begin my day with Him. I need to hear the voice of my best friend through His Word. To me, His Word is His revelation of Himself. It tells me how much He loves me, what He gave for me so that I may have an opportunity to spend eternity with Him, and how to direct my paths. When I’ve had this time of solitude with Him and turn to face the day, I feel “…like a watered garden.” ~ Isaiah 58:10."


"I give you thanks Lord for the beauty of this season. “Let it be with me according to your word” (Luke 1:38) In the precious name of Jesus Christ, Amen."


"Mitzi Millsaps"