Advent Devotionals 2014
Advent Devotional for December 23 by Blake Daniel
This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. John 15:12-15 (CEB)
How wonderful is it to consider that Jesus invites us to be friends with him? Not to be servants or followers (although that's certainly involved), but actually friends? So often we conceive of God in purely spiritual or philosophical terms - God is "that than which nothing greater can be conceived" - that we forget the miracle of Christmas, when the immortal, invisible God of the Israelites came into our world in the form of a helpless child, a flesh-and-blood human being who would grow up to speak these words of friendship to his disciples.
And of course, to be a friend is to be in a relationship of love, to love another person and to be loved by another person with no conditions asked. It seems the God whom we Christians worship - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - desires to be in such a loving relationship with us. To be friends with us.
What does it mean to you that the God of the universe desires to be friends with you? Might Jesus, in these last days of the Advent season, be inviting you to begin or renew your friendship with him?
Prayer: O God of grace, you woo us with your love. May we love you in return and be friends with you, through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Advent Devotional for December 22 by Gwen Whiteman
Here is the great mystery of our religion: Christ came as a human. The Spirit proved that he pleased God, and he was seen by angels. Christ was preached to the nations. People in this world put their faith in him, and he was taken up to glory. 1 Timothy 3:16
One Advent season, not so long ago, a Raleigh family traveled to spend Christmas with their first-born child, who was living in a coastal town in Brazil.
Christmas Eve arrived. The family strolled down the beach. They made food for Christmas dinner, to be shared with their Brazilian innkeepers. The mother tried to locate a church for worship, but evening services proved elusive.
So the family went out for Christmas Eve dinner.
Walking to the restaurant, the mother observed that life seemed to be carrying on as usual: gas stations had many customers, and shops were open. There were no outdoor decorations to speak of. Children were playing in the dark streets, too. And the restaurant the family chose? It was the filled with sailors whose behavior did not seem fitting for a sacred night.
Where was majesty and mystery of Christmas, the mother wondered?
The next evening the family sat down to Christmas dinner with their hosts. A vagrant peered at them through the doorway. He was invited in to share the table, which caused the mother some anxiety.
Returning home, the mother told her pastor this story of a different Christmas. The pastor smiled. "It sounds a lot like the first Christmas to me," he said. "No one seemed to be aware that a lovely miracle was taking place. But a miracle was happening, all the same."
Prayer: Dear God, thank you for the knowledge that miracles surround us. May we remember that you come to us, regardless of circumstances. Amen.
Advent Devotional for December 21 by Tracey Daniel
Service Well-Pleasing to God
1Let mutual love continue. 2Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it. Hebrews 13:1-2
I have always loved angels. Through the years, friends and family members have given me angel ornaments, pictures of angels and pieces of jewelry that were made into angels. Psalm 91, one of my favorite psalms, speaks of God's angels guarding us in all our ways.
Today, I remember many people who have been angels in my life. Angels are those people who have shown me God's love. Through the highs and lows in life, I have been touched by a hug, a card, a kind word, tears and laughter shared that helped me feel God's presence. This advent season, I want to be generous with my words and actions so that I can share with others that same gift of God's love that others have shared with me. You never know when you are entertaining angels and you never know when you will have the opportunity to be an angel for someone else.
Prayer: Loving God, in you we live and move and have our being. Open our hearts and minds to receive your love for us through those around us. Help us to share the warmth of your love with friends and neighbors, family and strangers. Amen
Advent Devotional for December 20 by Jay Bowman
In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. Luke 2:1-7
Let's reflect on Joseph and Mary's journey to Bethlehem. Today's Gospel reading tells us that Joseph and Mary traveled from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Bethlehem, about 75 miles to the south. There were no trains, planes or cars at that time, which meant Joseph and Mary had to travel by foot. Can you imagine walking 75 miles from your home to another town? That would take a long time. How would you plan for a journey of this distance? What challenges do you think you would encounter along the way?
Joseph and Mary's journey was especially difficult because Mary was pregnant, and her baby would be born soon. We are told that while they were in Bethlehem, Jesus was born! When he was born, Jesus was wrapped in cloths and laid in a manger because there was no room for them to stay in the inn. Imagine Jesus, the Son of God and King of Kings, born in such a humble setting. Joseph loved Mary very much and he loved Jesus, too. How do you think Joseph felt when he could not find a room for them in the inn? Like Joseph, sometimes, we are challenged when we try to do the right thing, especially when it is difficult or scary. But God will always provide for our needs at all times.
What kinds of things do you think Joseph heard, before and during his journey to Bethlehem? How did he magnify (respond to) the message?
Prayer: Go with us, Lord, and guide the way, through this and every coming day,
That in your Spirit strong and true, our lives may be our gift to you, Amen.
Advent Devotional for December 14 by Emily Nelson
We have a saying in the Nelson household, "Choose Joy!" Nine times out of ten it is my husband saying those words to me. You see, sometimes I get so wrapped up in things that when they don't fall into place or go according to plan, I find myself getting frustrated and irritated - lovely traits, I know. So when this occurs my husband helps me gain a little perspective by saying, "Choose Joy!"
This is a great reminder during the Advent season as we prepare for Christ's birth. Psalm 47:1 reads; Clap your hands, all you peoples; shout to God with loud songs of joy. While we plan and prepare for Christmas Day we should do so joyfully always keeping the reason for the season in perspective.
In a season where gift buying rules and time with family is made a priority, I am also reminded of 1 Peter 1:8-9. Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. How can we read these words and not choose joy? We are celebrating the gift that brings salvation to our souls. So maybe the Nelson house will add a little something to our saying. When we "Choose Joy" we will also clap our hands and shout songs of thanksgiving to God...especially for the birth of our Savior. It is easy to get bogged down, frustrated, irritated, but if we are constantly choosing joy, choosing him, then everything else will quickly gain the right perspective.
Prayer: Gracious Heavenly Father, help us choose joy in all that we do. May we never lose perspective and clap our hands and shout songs of thanksgiving at the upcoming birth of our Savior during this Advent season and each day throughout the year. Amen.
Advent Devotion December 13 by Dustin Tarditi
"Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?" Matthew 22:36
There is something fundamentally transformational about the holiday season... It is a magical time, with all the trappings - the bows, lights, tinsel, and music envelops us!
It can certainly be stressful too, filling our minds with anxiety about getting everything done in time, fulfilling all of our numerous commitments, being cheerful, and trying to keep all the balls we juggle in the air; but imagine more dire circumstances that others may experience: the threat of a cold house, empty pantry, or perhaps, lonely heart.
This time of year can usher in great sadness and despair for people who have lost loved ones, suffer the grip of addiction, or are burdened by misfortune. They need the care and support of others. It can be a friendly smile, a helping hand, a new (to them) coat to shed the winter chill, a meal to fill the bellies of their hungry family, or a new toy for their child on Christmas day when there is precious little in the bank for such extravagances.
When Jesus was challenged by the learned Pharisee: "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?"
Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."
Advent Devotional for December 9, 2014 by Katy Schafer
Watch and Wait
Every day my email inbox has a devotional from a website called d365.org. It is well organized and thought provoking. In mid-November an Advent theme of "Watch and Wait" started to appear at the top of the devotional page. As a cancer survivor with follicular lymphoma in remission, I cannot help but be smacked to attention by those 3 words. "Watch and Wait". The stage of survivorship that I live with on a daily basis is the "Watch and Wait" stage: watch and wait..... for something awful to return, watch and wait..... pay attention to your health. What a wonderful reminder at Advent to take those 3 words that describe cancer and turn them on their head! What a very hopeful, "Jesus" thing to do! Yes! Watch and Wait! This time of watching and waiting is rewarded with the hope of peace brought to us by the child in the manger. Thank God we have something life-giving to watch for.
Gracious God, help us watch and wait for your peace in all stages of life. Amen.
Advent Devotional for December 8 by Virginia Yopp
Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." Matthew 19:14
"Jesus is the Reason for the Season." I love this expression. It reminds me that Advent is about waiting. Waiting for the birth of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior who loved us enough to ultimately die for our sins, but who was also the greatest teacher. Jesus wanted children to come to him because he loved them, but also because they were very receptive to his teachings.
One of the many wonderful attributes of White Memorial are the various opportunities for our children to learn about Jesus and his teachings in a loving and nurturing environment. Children are like little sponges for knowledge and with the anticipated excitement children experience for Christmas... the lights, presents and a visit from Santa... we have a wonderful opportunity to teach them the true meaning of Advent. Advent is about waiting and experiencing the hope, peace, joy and love that came with the birth of Jesus Christ.
Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for sharing your son Jesus Christ and for allowing us to learn from his teachings. Please give us the patience to await the many blessings that come with Advent and to share this knowledge with our children who are so loved by you. It is in your son's holy name we pray. Amen.
Advent Devotional for December 7 by Denise M. Noble
"Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!" Luke 2:14
"And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:7
Often during the Christmas season we hear Luke 2:14 - "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, and good will toward men". It is a beautiful verse that I enjoy along with the majestic imagery that it summons in my mind of angels heralding the birth of Jesus. But I must say that my favorite reference to peace is the one that we hear each and every Sunday in our church services throughout the year as members of our congregation wish each other the peace of Christ. This "passing of the peace" is a soft and consistent reminder that God and others love us, even as life whirls around us. Philippians 4:7 says "And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus". If you are like me, your pace increases to a hectic level as the holiday approaches. Joys and concerns battle for precious time. It is in the midst of this chaos, whether exciting or exhausting, that I wish you the peace of Christ. I would like to encourage you to take a moment, to pause, to allow space for yourself to experience it. May you feel the love of God and peace of Christ during this Christmas season and throughout the year.
Prayer: Dear Lord, I pray that we remember to pass peace and show love to each other in both words and actions. I pray that we take the time to allow ourselves to experience it. I thank you for all of the soft and consistent reminders of your love every day. I thank you for the joyous heralding of your love at Christmas. Amen.
Advent Devotional for December 6, 2014 by Lynn Springfield
"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life . . . But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." Matthew 6:25a, 33
Parable of the Glow Sticks
In my 19 years working in a huge church, I've learned that details matter. And details can make one anxious. It was 5:25 on Christmas Eve 2013, and I had just settled in to participate in the final Bell Service. I had been helping the ushers pass out glow sticks for the "lighting of the night sky" during O Little Town of Bethlehem, and it turned out that we had just enough glow sticks for the congregation, so I was relieved that that last detail had fallen into place. I glanced over at the empty chairs beside me. In a few minutes they would be filled with the children's Joyful Noise choir members. Then it dawned on me: these children, who would have a birds-eye view of the entire congregation waving glow sticks, didn't have glow sticks. Within seconds Gary and I were raiding trash cans in the Jane Bell Gathering Space, where some congregants from the two earlier services had tossed their glow sticks. We found 24 precious -- albeit already glowing -- glow sticks. Back in the narthex, I held my breath as I counted the now entering blue-robed children. Oh, dear, there were 27.
What to do? I looked out into the sanctuary and saw the empty reserved front pew where our "holy family" had been sitting and would soon return for their final Bell Service reenactment. Perhaps they had stowed their glow sticks? They would be leaving before they would need them for this last service. It was a long shot, but I slipped into the front pew to find a holy trinity of glow sticks lying on the cushion!
Miracle or not, placing a glow stick in each and every Joyful Noise Choir member's hand was Christmas Hope fulfilled.
"Therefore I tell you, do not worry!"
Prayer: God of Hope, help us not to be anxious. We are grateful that you are with us when the details work out well and when they don't. Thank you for providing all that we truly need. Amen.
Advent Devotional for December 5, 2014 by Cynthia Baggett
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13
As we begin the season of Advent each year, I am filled with hope. Hope that I will finish my shopping on time, hope that the house will be decorated by the end of Thanksgiving weekend, hope that the children will love their presents, hope that everyone will get along, hope that the Elf on the Shelf will magically find a new and creative place to hide each night, hope that our Christmas will have the look and feel of a Norman Rockwell painting. It should not come as a surprise that I always feel a bit disappointed and exhausted on December 26.
I wonder how things would be different if I put a just a small part of that hope somewhere else this year. What if instead of obsessing over the latest idea on Pinterest, I took more time to hope for the coming of God through Christ in our world? What if I put my hope in God to shower the world with goodness and love? What if I worked to become an agent of that goodness instead of just another harried shopper at the mall? Everything might not be perfect. Everything might not even get done. But I might wake up on December 26 with renewed sense of hope and purpose to go out into the world and live the good news of Christ.
Dear God, thank you for this season of Advent. Help us to use it to prepare our hearts for the coming of Jesus. Create a light of hope within us that outshines all of our busy holiday preparations. In your Son's name we pray. Amen.
Advent Devotional for December 4, 2014 by Lindsay Jordan
I have traveled to Haiti twice and more recently to the Holy Land. In each place there were times when I thought the situation was hopeless. One of our Christian guides in Israel said there is nothing holy about that land. But each time, I met people who loved their land, devoted their lives to improving the conditions of those around them, and who served God.
I certainly don't know any solutions for the poverty and hatred that we see around the world, but I am determined to have hope. Psalm 39:7 says, "And now, Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in Thee." I must trust that somehow God is in control of this world and that he will lead and guide those who are working for peace and justice. And I will continue to pray for this.
Prayer: "Our, God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come,"
keep watch over this world. Bring hope to those in danger and distress. Give compassion and wisdom to those in positions of authority. Show us any ways we can be instruments of this hope. Amen
Advent Devotional for December 3, 2014, by Bill Jackson
What If ....
18A certain ruler asked him, "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" 19Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. 20You know the commandments: 'You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honor your father and mother.'" 21He replied, "I have kept all these since my youth." 22When Jesus heard this, he said to him, "There is still one thing lacking. Sell all that you own and distribute the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me." 23But when he heard this, he became sad; for he was very rich. 24Jesus looked at him and said, "How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! 25Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God."
26Those who heard it said, "Then who can be saved?" 27He replied, "What is impossible for mortals is possible for God." Luke 17: 18-27
One of the most popular movies shown each Christmas season is It's a Wonderful Life, a critically acclaimed and much loved drama produced in 1946. The lead character, despondent over the turn of events in his life, is given the chance to see what his town would have been like if he had not lived. He then returns to reality, his problems are resolved in a heart warming way, and he realizes that his is actually a "wonderful life."
It is impossible to imagine what the world would be like if Jesus had not lived. His teachings have shaped every form of human endeavor for two thousand years. As for individuals, the story of Jesus and the rich ruler reveals the plight for each of us without the advent and the saving grace of the Lord. When the man asks Jesus what he can "do" to inherit eternal life (as if one can "do" anything to "inherit"), Jesus tells him it would be easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for him to earn his way into heaven by living a perfect life. On our own, without Christ, we would have no hope!
Who can then be saved, the disciples ask. "What is impossible for mortals is possible for God," Jesus answers. Because the Son of God came to our world to redeem us, as believers we can be deemed righteous in the eyes of God. We can have a life of peace and joy, now and forever, despite our own troubles. The Advent of Christ allows us to live in hope, and that is a wonderful life indeed! Praise be to God!
Holy God, how can we be grateful enough for the gift of your son, who came to earth to teach us of your love? He came to make it possible for us to become your children through faith and to live in eternal hope. Help us to live our days thankfully and faithfully. Amen.
Advent Devotional for December 2, 2014, by Thomas Montgomery
And hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. Romans 5:5
I have encountered many hardships in my life and I am sure you have also. When these events happen it is difficult for us to see that in every situation there is hope. Sometimes we may not be able to see or feel this hope but God has given us the gift that there is hope in every situation.
Despite some tough events or situations the glory and hope that God has in store for each of us will surpass anything we have ever known on earth. God is always there to comfort us and strengthen us during these hardships. When God gave us the gift of hope he not only gave us the ability to realize that there is hope in every situation but he gave us life. During this Christmas season the greatest gift that you will receive is the gift of everlasting hope.
Dear God, thank you for your everlasting love and your gift of hope. Help me to share your gift of hope with everyone this Christmas season. Please help everyone who hasn't felt your gift of hope to feel it and embrace it. Amen.