Advent Devotionals 2013

We pray that during this Christmas season you may find hope, peace, joy, and love in the celebration of the birth of Jesus, our savior.

Devotional for December 31 by Ryan Eves

"Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, 'I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.'" John 8: 12-19 (New Living Translation)

Scholars say that Jesus was surely born in Bethlehem in spring or summer when it would have been warm enough for shepherds to be keeping watch over their flocks by night. It's also true that many of our Christmas traditions--trees and Yule logs to name two--were absorbed into the Christian holiday over time and were never a part of the birth of Christ, the whole reason why we bother to celebrate at all as faithful members of his Church.

In John 8:12-19, Jesus proclaims the good news, that he has come to drive out the darkness of this world and bring new life. As the days grow shorter and the weather turns ever colder it's this news that brings us hope and warmth. The poetic placement of Christmas in the darkest days of the calendar year brings me joy and peace each year.

Prayer: Lord we thank you for light in dark times. For warmth when all is cold. May we remember to spread light and warmth to all we meet, that your love might carry us through to brighter days ahead. Amen.


Devotional for December 30 by Jewel Dean Suddath 

"For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith." Ephesians 3: 14-17a NIV

I love a mystery, don’t you? Long ago Paul posed a great mystery to Ephesian Christians and perhaps to 21st century Christians as well when he prayed that Christ might dwell in their hearts.

The detective in me demands, “Exactly how, Paul? Prove it, Paul.

What difference does it make?” 

I ponder the mystery and find examples from my own life to shed light on it.

• In 1964, I found myself without sufficient funds to buy groceries. Ruth Wolfe, a single mother who worked in a Concord textile mill, sent two brown bags of groceries each time my parents visited me in Laurinburg.
• In 1995, I asked a fellow volunteer at Shepherd’s Table soup kitchen why she rode the bus to downtown Raleigh each Wednesday instead of driving her car. She explained the bus ride gave her time to talk with a number of riders to whom we later served lunch.
• In 2006, I heard the story of WMPC associate pastor Polk Moffet and wife Lois pausing on their way to a Christmas party at the Governor’s Mansion. On the sidewalk a homeless man asked them for money. Along with the money, Polk removed his overcoat and gave it to the man.

God’s love surpasses human understanding, but we are blessed that God is still at work in us today. What a gift!

Prayer: Giver of Good Gifts, help us to feel your love in our hearts and to share it with your children in our community, our state, and all over the world. Amen



Devotional for December 29 by Gloria Johnson

Psalm 80: 4-7

That song the psalmist sings is ancient, and that plea, that prayer, is as old as time. And, yet it is as contemporary as the headlines of this morning’s newspaper. That prayer, that hope, belongs not to one time, but to all history. It is classic, and we turn to it time and again, even as we turn to it during Advent/Christmas. It is not the plea of one person, or even one people, but of all people and nations. Of all the things people in fear or desperation might cry out for, of all the things this world needs, of all the many things that people might pray for and wait, what these people cry out for is a face. We want to know that behind the vague curtain of creation, there is the face of one who cares. We want to know there is the face of one who ultimately cares about us. We long for a face, and the glad tidings of this season tell us “unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given.” A prayer has been answered, and we see the human face of God, this child, this face, is somehow God’s own, and it is the face that can lead us from the darkness. We do not have to go to Bethlehem to behold the face of God. That face is here, among us, in our community, in our church, in our families. Isn’t that what we need to pray for? That we will be able to recognize God’s face when it appears?

Prayer: Loving God, we know you are active in human life, but we don’t recognize your presence when it is before our very eyes. Help us to see you at work in perhaps the most unexpected place of all, our own lives. Amen.


Devotional for December 28 by Ann Montgomery

“Giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." Ephesians 5:20

Meg’s return flight from her holiday trip arrived late at night. The next morning she knew she should take time to check on her next door neighbor Jo. Christmas day had come and gone. The rush of shopping, cooking, cleaning, and decorating had passed. The long anticipated visit by her family had come to an end. The invitations to holiday meals had stopped arriving. Jo had many reasons to be down.

Meg let herself in the back door and made her way to the den. She expected to find Jo there in her favorite chair. Meg was right; Jo was sitting there in the dimly lit room staring out the window.

When Meg called Jo’s name, she responded saying, “Shh. Be still. Listen. Can you hear the birds? They are singing beautifully this morning!”

“Good morning, Jo. I thought you might be feeling low today.”

“Goodness no,” Jo answered. “I had a wonderful visit with my children, I am healthy, and the birds are singing. I have much to be thankful for.”

Meg returned home being cheered by her visit with Jo.

We all have much to be thankful for. Thanks be to God.


Devotional for December 26 by Garrison Peppers

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

The Bible is a very complex book. It contains a lot of stories and verses; however, my favorite verse is John 3:16. It discusses God loving us. God gave us his son Jesus to die for our sins. Jesus died for us; he is the only one who can sacrifice in this way for our sins. If we believe in him, we will have everlasting life. Of all the presents, this is the best present you can ever get. 

Prayer: Lord I thank you for this day. I thank you for this world. I just pray that we trust in you and that you love us. Amen.


Devotional for Christmas Day 

"She will bear a Son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." Matthew 1:21

“The Lord has proclaimed to the end of the earth: Say to your daughter, Zion, ‘See your salvation comes; his reward is with him, and his recompense before him.’ They shall be called,’The holy people, the redeemed of the Lord’; And you shall be called ,’Sought out, a city not forsaken.’ Isaiah 62: 11 – 12

Merry Christmas! With sounds of Silent Night and Joy to the World the eve of Christmas gives way to Christmas Day and Advent ends with the birth of God’s incarnate and gracious promise. In the birth of Jesus, the promise of God is complete in the birth of the Son of God.

The birth of Jesus is a birth which means hope for the hopeless, life for the dying, forgiveness for the unforgiven, bread for the hungry, light for the darkness. Christmas means that all which has been lost can be found. Honestly! Is there any greater hope than Christmas?
 
In Christmas heaven and earth touch; salvation comes near. May it come near to you today! May it draw near this year! May salvation be close for you always! Amen!

Merry Christmas! Joy to the world! The Lord has come! Amen! Amen! Amen!

Prayer: Thank you so very much, God, for the amazing generosity you have extended in Christmas; thank you for your light. You are our God of hope, the only way to peace, the Lord of love, and the bringer of joy. How can we possibly communicate the depth of our gratitude unless we accept the gift of Jesus, humbly and without reservation? We do accept your gift, God. Please guide us on the way. Amen.
(prayer written by author Derek Maul)


Devotional for Christmas Eve by Liza Cates and Ashley Haigler, WMPC Weekday School Kindergarten Teaching Team

“A person’s steps are made secure by the Lord when they delight in his way. Though they trip up, they won’t be thrown down, because the Lord holds their hand.”  Psalm 37:23-24

After prayerful discussion (and some lively banter), we thought about how Christmas Eve, and each annual “Kindergarten Eve” is similar to us. We discovered they are alike in many ways.

Let’s start with anticipation. Just like the world waited in quiet anticipation for Jesus’ birth, each fall we too, anxiously await meeting our new little souls on their first day of Kindergarten. Christmas/Kindergarten Eve can both be filled with excitement, uncertainly and much joy. Inevitably, both have their rewards! Hence, mankind was rewarded with the birth of Jesus! For us, new minds to teach and mold.

Preparation. Joseph dutifully prepared Mary and himself for their journey. He felt responsibility and maintained the righteous course, making difficult choices along the way. He did not waiver from this calling. As teachers, we do the same on a daily basis. Often the road is rough and unclear, but we are called to follow the path God leads us on, with the end result in sight!

Finally, responsibility and joy! On Christmas/Kindergarten Eve, once responsible choices are made about gifts, traditions, a new outfit and celebrations, we then get to experience the joy of all the preparation and anticipation! Just as Mary labored, we teach. Both, a labor of love. Hence, our gifts being the birth of Jesus Christ, and for us, the joy we experience each day with our students.

Anticipate God’s eternal love for you this Christmas Eve. Prepare for your journey to God’s kingdom. Take responsibility for your spiritual education and celebrate JOY! Have peace in the knowledge that we will continue to guide you and your children through “Kindergarten Eve” each year; this is our Christmas Eve gift to you!

Advent Devotional for December 23 by Mike Condrey
 
“Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift.” 2 Corinthians 9:15 

Exactly 28 years ago we experienced an inexpressible gift - the birth of our oldest daughter Walton. Whether you have experienced this joyous occasion as a parent or not; we've all experienced being born... that's how we got here! In John 3, Jesus declared to Nicodemus "Truly, truly I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the Kingdom of God." When Nicodemus professes his confusion over this, Jesus chides him. While there is a lot in the Word that I don’t “get” one thing I hope we can all understand is that over 2,000 years ago God came to earth in the form of the baby Jesus. While the conditions of his birth were certainly different than Walton's, (there was no manger in Baptist Hospital!), the reality of his birth led to the grace of my rebirth - The babe became the Messiah and when I invited him into my heart I was born again! This is indeed the Glory of this mystery: Christ lives in me! I pray dear friend he lives in you too!

Prayer: Oh Lord Jesus, come into my heart anew today. So fill me with your spirit that I receive your blessing and become a blessing to others. In your holy name I pray, Amen.


Advent Devotional for December 22 by Nolan Huizenga

[Jesus said,] “I give you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other.” John 13:34

On this Fourth Sunday of Advent, in many churches, we celebrate the love of God. Shortly before the end of his life, as the Gospel of John tells it, Jesus entrusted his disciples with loving each other “just as I have loved you.”

So how did Jesus love them? By bringing an unlikely bunch of people into community, including a political extremist (Simon the Zealot), a tax collector for Rome (Matthew), and several commercial fisherman (Peter and Andrew, James and John). He loved them by calling them his friends, by washing their feet, by forgiving their unfaithfulness, by calming their fears, and by revealing God’s incessant love for them.

Like us, Jesus Christ knows that love can be hard! Anyone who has tried to love another person over a long time will tell you that sometimes it’s difficult to do the most loving thing. Unlike us, though, God never fails to love.

        So did the Word of Grace

        Proclaim in time and space
 
        And with a human face,

        “I AM FOR YOU.”
 
                             – John Bell


Advent Devotional for December 21 by Anne Ramsay
 
"Make a joyful noise to the Lord. Worship the Lord with gladness; come into his presence with singing. Know that the Lord is God. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise. Give thanks to him, bless his name. His steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations." --Selected verses from Psalm 100:1-5

My husband loves to go to church on Sunday! 

He anticipates worship with great joy. He enjoys so many things about worship...the singing, the prayers, the praise, the call to serve.  Most of all he enjoys the community of faith gathered together.
 
Being exposed to his joy each Sunday has changed the way I approach worship.  It is no longer simply "time to go to church". As I listen to the words of scripture, sing the hymns, receive the bread and wine, I find joy in being immersed in the presence of God. God uses those moments to nudge me to action...to remember a friend who is hurting, to call my StepUp youth, or to see an issue in a new way. 

I am grateful for the ways worship has come alive for me through the joyful example of my husband.

Prayer: May we find joy through worship, leading us and others to God, and nudging us to act. Amen.


Advent Devotional for December 20 by Tracey Daniel

"Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it”.  Hebrews 13:2

The year was 1996, and I began to feel a tug on my heart to go to seminary. I was unsure about the whole prospect of embarking on this journey. At the time I was married and I had a three year old daughter and a full time job as a preschool director and a church educator. My life was very full. How could I add something else to my life? In trying to discern my call to go to seminary, I prayed. I talked to family, friends and colleagues. I explored options of where and how I might attend school. 

In the process of my discernment, I visited Duke Divinity School. I will never forget the cool fall day when I arrived on campus; literally lost. I did not know where I was going. At just the right moment a woman, who introduced herself as Marty, asked if I needed help. I told her that I was looking for the Divinity School. She smiled the most welcoming and gracious smile and told me that she knew exactly where I needed to go, and that she would take me there. Marty was my angel that day. She reminded me that God is with me along life’s journey and that God will help me find my way.

Prayer: Mysterious God, thank you for sending us your angels. You are our Emmanuel, God with us. For the gift of your presence with us, we give you thanks and praise. Amen


Advent Devotional for December 19 by Katherine Gilliland 

“Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations. I am exalted in the earth.”
                                                                                                                                  Psalm 46:10

About this time each year, my excitement for Christmas starts to get intermingled with a little bit of panic, as my stress level slowly crescendos. Have I gotten all the gifts? Have I overlooked anyone or anything? Do I know what food I will cook? How will I orchestrate the meals? When will I clean for our houseguests? Goodness, school is almost out – when will I get all this done? This, coming from someone who shops for Christmas gifts all year long!

This year, my goal is to take a step back and breathe. Be still. Be. Purposefully enjoy each moment of preparation with joy, not stress. For Christmas is a time of celebration. Our family time together brings us to our roots. Enjoying a special meal is a ritual of family time and praise to God for all he has provided for us. Gifts are a joyful echo of the gifts brought by the wise men, in response to God’s greatest gift to us – grace through his son Jesus. It can be so easy to forget all this when focused on the minutia of preparation.

Prayer: Almighty Father, as we prepare for the celebration of the birth of your Son, please help us remember the reasons behind all that we do. Help us to be still, and hear your voice. Amen.

Advent Devotional for December 18 by Carole Gilliam

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. “  John 3:16

With just one short week ‘til Christmas Day, it’s a time of seemingly endless ‘to do’ lists, hard-stop deadlines, and happily booked calendars.  Amidst the clutter of my holiday-filled brain, my mind wanders back to what it must have been like the week before Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem -- people living in community, trying to follow God’s law and Roman law, doing the “right thing,” and yet….  We know the next chapter in the story, yet somehow I feel just as oblivious as those good people long ago.  Am I pausing to consider the breadth and majesty of the gift of Jesus?  Am I preparing my heart anew for the wonder and joy we are celebrating?  I want to be attentive, not oblivious, in this final week of Advent, remembering that Jesus is the gift of perfect love, joy, and peace.

Prayer: Dear Lord, help us to let you be the lens through which we live these days leading to our celebration of Jesus’ birth.  Amen.

 Special Announcement:

 

“The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” – A dramatic reading

This Christmas classic by Barbara Robinson will be shared in an impromptu dramatic reading Wednesday evening, December 18, 6:00-6:30 p.m. in K 100. Come read a part; come listen, laugh, and shed a tear at this heartwarming story. No reservation required.


Advent Devotional for December 17 by Michael Tollison

‚Äč“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”    Romans 15:13 (NIV)

I had a conversation with a friend this week, who described his hospitalized recovery as follows:  “While coming out of a drug induced sleep, I saw a person, who I assumed was a nurse, come into my room with a bag of brown fluid, which I assumed was an IV antibiotic, and I assumed she connected the bag to me so that I would receive the antibiotics.  After this series of assumptions, I promptly faded back to sleep knowing that I would be healed very soon.”

After a brief pause, my friend interjected, “I had no idea who the person was, or what was in the bag; it looked like dirty pond water.   But I immediately knew that all was going to be well.  That is how my faith in God should be.  I should know that through God I am going to be alright, even though I don't understand how or why.  God is no stranger to me and I am aware of his presence and power, but I am not sure I have the same faith in God as I did in that bag of dirty water.   Why is that?  What holds me back?  That is the kind of faith in God that I want, and that I sometimes have.  How do I achieve it always?”

Prayer: Dear God, forgive me for my shallow faith.  I am doing the best I can.  Help me to remain open to the Holy Spirit working in me and through me.  I know your will is best for me.  Please remind me when I forget.  In Jesus’ name I pray.   Amen.

Special Announcement:

“The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” – A dramatic reading
This Christmas classic by Barbara Robinson will be shared in an impromptu dramatic reading Wednesday evening, December 18, 6:00-6:30 p.m. in K-100. Come read a part; come listen, laugh, and shed a tear at this heartwarming story. No reservation required.

Advent devotional for December 16 by Katy Schafer

"Do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand."      Isaiah 41:10

Peace. These days I look for it in the quiet of my car. When I have finished the taxi driving of shuttling my 4 children to various places, and I find myself alone, I change the radio to Sirius XM Spa Chanel. My kids make fun of me for loving this music. But I know God uses it. I take a deep breath but sometimes I still have to claw my way into what resembles a peaceful state. Peace and Quiet. Peace of mind. Peace of Christ. EMMANUEL! Christ with us! The peace that passes understanding….. "I am with you", says the Lord. "I am with you…. Even in your minivan."

Prayer: Gracious and Peaceful God, When I put my keys in the ignition of my beat up old van with 230,000 miles on it…. Remind me that you drive with me and bring peace into my heart. Amen

Advent Devotional for December 15 by Christopher Edmonston

“As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: ‘What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? Someone dressed in soft robes? Look, those who wear soft robes are in royal palaces. What then did you go out to see? A prophet?’” Matthew 11: 7 – 9

Jesus has moments of stunning rhetoric. This is one of them. It is a preacher’s text because here is Jesus at full force, preaching the kingdom as he reminds the crowds about John the Baptist and the message that John professed all the way to his last days.
 
John the Baptist was a prophet. A prophet is someone who sees the world as it is, catches a vision of the world as God would have it be, and then calls the rest of us to be busy through prayer and honest work to reshape the world as God desires. That may be a great Advent question for us all: are we working, praying, hoping for the world to be more like God desires, or for a world which is more comfortable and convenient for us?

One thing we learn about following Jesus in Advent is that following Jesus is not always an easy trip. Just as I imagine it was not an easy trip for an abundantly pregnant Mary journeying to Bethlehem. Just as it must have been an exhausting trip for the three wise men. Following Jesus through Advent is uneasy because part of Jesus’ life and ministry are prophetic. And prophetic living is hard living. Prophetic living questions comfort – “did you come to see someone dressed in soft robes?” It questions safety – “did you come to see a reed shaken by wind?” It questions motives – “what did you come to see?”

We might expand the interrogation a little wider: what are we hoping to see this Advent? Maybe today is the perfect day, ten days before Christmas, to get close to our Savior and see him as he is in Matthew 11. Let us see him as a Savior who is also a prophet. He is a prophet like John the Baptist, but a prophet who is greater than John the Baptist. He is the prophet born to save. He is the prophet who calls us to see what is, and to work for what shall be.
 
Prayer: With Advent hope, O Lord, hear our prayer. Help us to see what is. Help us to stand for what shall be. Help us to catch a vision of you kingdom come as your will is done in the manger, for the sake of the world. Amen.


Advent Devotional for December 14 by Anne Boney

“Let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are all called to live in peace. And always be thankful.” Colossians 3:15

How do we live in peace amidst the brokenness and heartaches of life? I think this scripture gives us the answer. We are one body, we are a community of faith and through Christ and in relationship with each other we literally pass the peace.

This doesn’t mean we are always at peace. Bad things happen to good people. Tragedies strip away all hope. So, I find myself asking, what can I possibly do to restore someone’s peace in the face of such a great loss? I can’t, but Christopher shed some light on this in one of his sermons. If a brother or sister in Christ is suffering and has lost all hope, we, as a part of that body of Christ, must hold on to peace and joy and love; nurturing it and keeping it safe and alive, so that one day, when healing has come through Christ, the peace that has surrounded them will find its way back into their heart.

This is the very notion on which Stephen Ministry has been built. When one member is in need, the other carries her hurts and burdens and walks with her. Christ brings forth healing and again we see the peace passing from one to another.

This is how we – as the body of Christ, a faith community – work. We care for one another, in joy and in sorrow, so that collectively, through Christ we can live in peace. It is through this faith community and the grace of God that I find peace and for that I am forever grateful.

Prayer: Gracious and loving God, for those who rejoice, let them be thankful and let them be the nurturers of your peace. For those who struggle through this Advent season, bring healing so that peace and comfort will one day reign in every heart. Help us to remember that we are called to live in community with each other, to pass the peace and always be thankful. Amen.


Advent Devotional for December 13

“The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness.” Jeremiah 33: 14 & 15

The people of God have been a people of waiting throughout all of history. We have been waiting for God’s good action in the world to bring about the redemption of God’s people. The people of God found themselves waiting in Egypt, longing for release. Later the people of God found themselves in exile, waiting for God to redeem them and bring them home.

We find ourselves in that long tradition. In many ways we are a people who do not like to wait. We are often impatient, whether we are waiting in a line that is moving too slowly, or we are waiting for a major event, decision, or action. In this time of Advent we find ourselves waiting with eager anticipation for something even greater. God’s love surrounds us all as we wait.

Prayer: God of grace, ever faithful to your promises, the earth rejoices in hope of our Savior’s coming and looks forward with longing to his return at the end of time. Prepare our hearts to receive him when he comes, for he is Lord forever and ever. Amen.

Advent Devotional for December 12 by Meghan Price

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors, through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, no life, no angels, no rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Romans 8:37-39

At this time of the year, with Thanksgiving behind us and Christmas around the corner, I am always overwhelmed with emotions! Emotions of gratitude, thanksgiving, happiness, excitement, stress, and even sadness. It’s in this time of the year that I am reminded of all the blessings I have in my life, but in reviewing the past, I am also reminded of things or people that were once in my life, or of situations or events that brought sadness or grief. The holidays can be such a wonderful time – time spent with family and loved ones celebrating the birth of Christ – but there is almost always something missing (family, a loved one, a tradition, a job, a sense of calling or purpose, or even the answer to a hounding question). But what I love about Romans 8:37-39 is that we are reminded that nothing can separate us or others from the love of God. Though we might not know the answers, or we might mourn something that once was, we are comforted by the fact that Christ Jesus is with us, in us, forever and always.

Prayer: Gracious and loving God, thank you for your persistent and everlasting love for us. We praise you and celebrate your life in Jesus Christ, and I ask that you bring comfort to those this season that might be in need, for nothing can separate us from your love. Amen.

Advent Devotional for December 11 by Emily Nelson

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”        Matthew 28: 19-20

You are probably asking what does this scripture reference regarding The Great Commission have to do with Advent? Well, my job here at WMPC is to communicate. Help tell our story. When I think about the journey to the manger I dive into scripture, the stories that re-tell the events leading to Christ’s birth. Then I think about our individual stories and how we will prepare for this Christmas. During this season…are we taking the time to tell our own personal story? Or are we going through the motions, checking off the “to-do” lists in preparation for December 25? Why can’t our story be added to the “to-do” list? Sharing how, through the birth of Christ, we are forever changed to at least one person who needs to hear this good news during the holidays.

We have all been blessed with unique gifts and, through those gifts, are able to communicate, tell our personal story to others. For this to occur, we need to be aware that opportunities are ever-present, especially during the Advent season. In addition, as believers, this is our call…our duty…our commission. I urge you to let the Holy Spirit work through you as I ask him to do so through me…not just over the next four weeks, but every day over the next year.

So ask yourself, how can I share my story? How can I be part of the Great Commission so that others can celebrate alongside me the true meaning of Christmas? I have a feeling it will be the best present you receive this holiday season!

Prayer: Gracious Heavenly Father, I am one of many here to do your work. Create in me the need to tell my story of how you have blessed me with the ultimate gift, the gift of your Son. No other gift purchased and placed under a tree can compare. Let me be an open book, Lord, ready for others to hear the words that have shaped my life, not only this Advent season but each and every day. In your precious and holy name I pray. Amen.


Advent Devotional for December 10, 2013 by Mandy Patterson

Good News! 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 clothes and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:6-7

Six years ago, I gave birth to my firstborn child, a son – gasp. And, three years later, I gave birth to my second child – gasp – another son. Gone were my days of dreaming about pigtails, baby dolls, and flowers.  Here are the days that I have adjusted to cars, trains, and superheroes. But, through both of them, I have learned so very much.

We moved to Raleigh three years ago, and have watched them learn to love God through this church. Their two sets of bright blue eyes exude hope, love, innocence and pure joy over hearing the stories of the birth of Jesus Christ. The holiday season for them holds no stress, no crazed look in their eyes, no anxiety over buying the wrong gift or cooking the meal. They simply appreciate the true meaning of Christmas.
 
This holiday season, I hope you will join me…Let's slow down and celebrate like a child! If “Joy to the World” comes on at a stoplight, turn the volume up and sing loudly. Smile and wave if the person beside you stares. Bring a bell to the “Bell Service”, and ring it as loudly as you possibly can. It will feel so good! Join our family tradition, and buy a birthday cake for Jesus.  Forget the calories, eat a piece! After all, we are celebrating Jesus’ birthday and are so very blessed to be invited to the celebration.
 
Prayer: This holiday season may we all find our inner-child. Let us live, enjoy, embrace and remember the true meaning of Christmas. Amen.

Advent Devotional for December 9 by Blake Daniel - The Ministry of the Pointing Hand


Scripture text: Luke 3:1-6


http://www.whitememorial.org/uploads/Crucifixion-500x450.jpg

This painting, by the 16th century artist Matthias Grunewald, is one of the most striking pieces of Christian artwork I have seen. At first glance, though, it may seem like this painting doesn’t have much to do with Advent. After all, don’t we usually associate Jesus’ crucifixion with the season of Lent? Yet if you look a bit more closely, you will notice the man standing to the right of Jesus. See him? That’s Jesus’ cousin, whom we call John the Baptist. And John has everything to do with Advent.

In his shocking depiction of Jesus’ crucifixion, Grunewald saw fit to include John, the one who was born just before Jesus and who dedicated his life and ministry to proclaiming Jesus’ arrival, who was “A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord’” (Luke 3:4). This is, after all, why John is so relevant for Advent: because John teaches us what it looks like to prepare for the coming of the Lord.

Just take a look at what John is doing in the painting. In his left hand, he cradles the Scriptures, and with his right hand he points to his crucified Lord, as though to say, “Don’t look at me. Look at him. He’s the one we’ve been waiting for.” In this simple image we hear John’s startling words from John 3:30: “He must become greater; I must become less.” Is there any better charge for us as we move through the season of Advent?

Ultimately, John’s purpose is not to tell his own story, but to tell the story of Jesus. As one who has received and responded to the word of God (Luke 3:2-3), John’s calling is to bear witness to the word of God in his life and teaching. In this way, John bears witness to Christ. As we move through Advent, may we be witnesses as well, as we faithfully point to “the glory of this mystery” – the God who will make salvation known to all people.
 
Prayer: Help us to prepare a way for you, O Lord, in our hearts, in our lives, in our church, in our world. In Christ’s name, Amen.


Advent Devotional for December 8 by Neil Peterson

“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”    Romans 8: 38-39

As we head into the Thanksgiving and Holiday season, many of us stop to ponder what we are thankful for. As we move through the Holiday season, let us not only thank God for the love he provides for us as it is said in Romans, but also let us stop and be thankful for all of God’s children. As we deal with the stress of our busy lives during the holiday season, whether it is travel or preparation, family or friends, let us not forget that “neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”


Advent Devotional for December 7 by Amy Leden 

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”      Philippians 4:6

“When are you due?” a stranger asks as they look at my swollen belly. “December 7,” I typically say and then meet their eyes as they ponder how I can be so large and yet not be due for quite some time. “We are pregnant with triplets,” I say, to fill in the gaps for them. The range of responses varies substantially but nearly always causes my husband and me some slight anxiety as our minds race about all that triplets will entail.

We find ourselves playing the waiting game. Waiting to know when we will deliver, waiting at home in order to stay off my feet, waiting to meet our three precious babes, waiting to know if all three will be healthy, waiting to know how our 17 month old daughter will react, waiting to know how we will manage it all….waiting, waiting, waiting. This period of waiting is filled with both excitement and nervousness.

With four unplanned visits to Labor and Delivery behind us and the doctors describing me as a walking time bomb, it becomes increasingly difficult to remember to rest on the Lord. ‘Be anxious for nothing.’ Four simple words and yet so difficult to apply. How else can one ‘be anxious for nothing’ without constantly lifting up our requests to God?

One of my favorite choruses would come to mind to remind myself to rest and wait…. “Trust in the Lord with all of your heart, lean not on your own understanding. In all of your ways acknowledge God, and God will make your paths straight. Don’t worry about tomorrow, God has it under control, just trust in the Lord with all of your heart and he will carry you through.”

Post script: Our triplets were born healthy on November 1, 2013 – two girls and a boy. We found ourselves continuing to wait as our two girls stayed in the NICU until discharged on November 11. Praise be to God for blessing our family so richly and for all God’s goodness!

Advent Devotional for December 6 by Laura Boisvert Boyd

"Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you."  

Thanksgiving, Advent season, Christmas, Birthdays, and New Years…all special day landmarks that may lead you to feel more stress than joy, more anxiety than peace over the next thirty plus days and beyond! The words in I Peter are so knowing. There is a presumption you are going to feel anxious. It’s not a question of IF, it’s WHEN. There are so many expectations to attend to, gifts to buy, lights to string, parties to enjoy, etc. God’s vast wisdom tells us we are cared for and God knows what we are feeling. I like the word "care", it’s a noun and a verb, which lets me know God knows my heart and is going to care for me actively. What a great gift to us in the midst of holiday season chaos.

Prayer: Dear God, thank you for the care and caring you promise us. Amen.


Advent Devotional for December 5 by Lindsay Jordan

“God knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with him”.  Daniel 2:22

“Jesus spoke to them, saying ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.’”   John 8:12

The Daniel passage may seem a strange choice for an Advent message, and I hope the devotions for yesterday and tomorrow are more “cheerful.” However, my Bible study group has been studying Daniel this fall and this verse has stuck with me for weeks. Daniel was in exile in Babylon and under threat of death, but in this passage, he praises God for his many blessings.
 
During Advent we are waiting and watching. Most of us are joyful and excited. But others are hurting and grieving. Loved ones are sick or have recently died. Jobs have been lost. Families are estranged. Futures are unknown. Nations are in strife. So many things can make the world dark.

But, for me, it is comforting to be reminded, yet once again, that God is in this darkness and if we can refocus on God, we can see and feel the light of Jesus. Hope can be restored.

Prayer: God of hope, walk with us when our days are dark. Comfort us and show us your light during this season of Advent. Amen.


Advent Devotional for December 4 by Gwen Whiteman

“We also boast of our troubles, because we know that trouble produces endurance, endurance brings God’s approval, and God’s approval creates hope. This hope does not disappoint us, for God has poured out God’s love into our hearts by means of the Holy Spirit, who is God’s gift to us.” 
                                                                                                                                     Romans 5:3-5

The pastor at Ibo Beach in Haiti graciously welcomed our WMPC travel group and showed us through the village school and church.

The school -- cramped, dark, humble -- was abuzz with the voices of teachers and learners. The church was different. It was certainly humble, but the church was empty on this Monday afternoon, and ablaze in light, because the roof had been blown off in a hurricane six months before. Worship services were held under a ceiling of torn, blue tarps that provided some respite from the blazing sun but could not keep the rains from pouring in when weather was uncooperative.
 
“I need help to rebuild this church,” the pastor said. Praying together, we could not miss the truth that Christians are called to support each other in times of trouble. When we left, dollar bills were pulled from pockets, and words of encouragement were shared, too.

Prayer: Dear God, open my eyes and my heart this Advent season, so that I may understand who needs to receive a gift of hope. Show me how to share hope with others, after the manner of Christ. Amen.


Advent Devotional for December 3 by Ann Dodge

“Though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with his hand."   Psalm 37:24 

I love to imagine an invisible hand guiding us through every speed bump in life. I picture a firm, but gentle hand, confident in its direction, placed between our shoulder blades. Although, instead of this hand nudging our bodies towards the way it wants us to go, it pushes our hearts down the path God calls us to follow. It's a comforting thought to keep in our heads when we aren't sure what Christ's plan is at particular low points in our lives.
 
Although, this hand is only figuratively there, God's guidance and promise of good purpose are what give me the most hope in bad situations. I think we too often forget how lucky we are to have a God who always has a good plan that we can trust. So, just like it tells us in Psalm 37, we are going to undoubtedly "stumble" but we don't have to fear that we will keep descending. Instead, we get to rejoice and have hope in the plans of the one whose only son was sacrificed so that we will not "fall."

Prayer: Dear God, thank you for the hope and comfort I can find in your love. Help me to show others the same unconditional kindness you give me. Amen.

Advent Devotional for December 2 by Catherine Devins

“Look! I’m standing at the door and knocking. If any hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to be with them, and will have dinner with them, and they will have dinner with me.” Revelation 3:20 (CEB)

The story of Zacchaeus is a favorite of mine. Jesus was passing through the town of Jericho and the excited buzz of it all caused crowds to gather. Being short in stature, Mr. Z ran ahead of the crowd and climbed a tree so he could be sure to see Jesus as he passed by.  When Jesus approached the tree, he unexpectedly looked up among the leafy branches and called out to the wee little man: “Zacchaeus, come down at once. I must stay in your home today.” Sometimes, in my imagination, I place my own name in Jesus’ invitation.

God, incarnate in Jesus, was born into this world to be in intimate relationship with us. God desires to come into the very personal space where we live—to eat and drink and have conversation. God calls us by name. God stands at the door knocking. In the bustle and hurried noise of the season, do you hear? Are you listening?

Prayer: Emmanuel God, this Advent, help me climb down from the tree. Let me open the door and embrace the One who calls to me, who invites me—the One who wants to be with me, today and always. Come, Lord Jesus. Amen.
 
P.S. On November 3 of this year, Nolan Huizenga preached an inspiring sermon on the Zacchaeus passage (Luke 19:1-10). You can view it in the sermon archives of the church website.


Advent Devotional for December 1 by Lisa Hebacker

Waiting - Luke 23.46-56

We say it all the time: “What are you waiting for?!”

The blouse/car/house/vacation is exactly what you’ve been looking for and the price is right -  right now. The doctor’s advice makes it clear that surgery is indicated, but you can’t book the appointment. Or, all the writing is on the wall, but you can’t seem to leave the harmful relationship. “What are you waiting for?!”

All around us, “What are you waiting for?!” is encouragement to jump in, to do something, to move forward decisively. Stop watching, stop waiting, stop twiddling your thumbs – DO something!

Then comes Advent – the season when the church waits. But what are we waiting for? One answer is that we are waiting to celebrate the One who came among us as God-With-Us. We wait for Christmas. We wait to peer over the edge of that manger to see a king. We wait for angels to announce the good news that the bearer of Good News has arrived. We wait for the light of Christ to enter into human darkness.

But in Advent we also wait for the One who has been among us to come again. We wait for Christ’s kingdom to come in its fullest revelation. Joseph of Arimathea, the one who claimed Jesus’ body after the crucifixion, was ‘waiting for the kingdom of God.’ And the Church is somehow a worldwide congregation of Josephs, waiting for the completion of the kingdom that was inaugurated in Jesus’ birth, death and resurrection.

Seems an entirely different answer to that “What are you waiting for?!” question, doesn’t it? Well, yes and no. We Presbyterians say that God is our sovereign and we affirm that God is the one with a firm grasp on the future. It is God’s kingdom we are waiting for, after all. Yet, even as we wait we are called to be active participants in making the unfolding kingdom of God ever more evident. That babe in a manger grew up to be someone who showed us a distinctive way of life, a way of servanthood and sacrifice, a way of justice and righteousness, a way of peace and hope and love and joy. Following in that way is both our gratitude for God’s kingdom already come and our anticipation of God’s kingdom yet to come. That’s waiting that is as active as it is awe-inspired. Waiting that is as decisive as it is devoted. Waiting that is as responsive as it is celebratory.

So, it’s Advent, time for us to do our annual waiting. Tell me, “What are you waiting for?!”