Monday, December 5, 2022

Advent Peace

  By: Joanne Viola


“And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”
(Luke 2:13-14, NASB)

I found myself wondering … What will be the most frequently used words in the cards this year?

“Peace on earth, good will to men.”

At the time of Jesus’ birth, these were the very words declared by the angels (found in Luke 2:14). They were referring to the fullness of blessing which the birth of our Savior would bring to all people. Salvation. Well-being for His people. It was not just the absence of hostility or conflict.

“Then rang the bells more loud and deep, God is not dead, nor doth He sleep.”

Four centuries passed in which God was silent. Not a word. No prophecy given. The people had to be wondering, “Where is He?”. Yet the psalmist tells us, “Indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.” (Psalm 121:4, NIV) Every minute He is awake and attentive to His people. His silence is not indicative of inactivity. There will be a day when He will right every wrong.

The Christmas bells will ring this year as they have every year since His birth. Here’s the thing …

“And with our hearts we’ll hear them.”

There are truths we will only be able to hear with our hearts. Perhaps this is the reason Jesus prayed for our “hearing”: “Then Jesus said, ‘He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” (Mark 4:9, NASB). He knew our hearts and ears need to work in conjunction with one another.

“Open up your heart and hear them.”

May we open our hearts to Him. May we hear His words to us these days leading to His coming. “I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord.” (Jeremiah 24:7, NIV).

May you bend in close to Him and hear Him for yourself!

What do you need to do this season to open your heart and receive peace?


 

Photo by Oleksandr Skochko on Unsplash


 

 

Sunday, December 4, 2022

Insights And Encouragement From Jesus' Birth

 By: Paula Short


A few years ago, I participated in a 6 week Online Bible Study with Study Gateway On the book The Rock, The Road, and The Rabbi By Kathie Lee Gifford and Rabbi  Jason Sobel. The tagline of the study guide appropriately says— Come to the land where it all began.

The study was so interesting and easy to understand that I wanted to share some things I learned about Jesus' birth. I found these fascinating, and things started to click for me.

During Jesus' time, we believe that he was born in a stable, was actually a cave in shepherd's fields. These shepherds weren't just any shepherds—they were Levitical shepherds.

Shepherds still use caves today, not stables, as our Western minds believe. Levitical shepherds were in charge of tending the sacrificial lambs used to be sin offerings.

We know that shortly after Jesus' birth, an angel of the Lord appeared to these shepherds and announced...

 "Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." Luke 2:11-12— NIV

Of all the signs that could have been given to them, why these two? What significance could these signs have meant?

Let's see

When it was time for the sheep to give birth, the shepherds would bring them into one of the caves surrounding Bethlehem to give birth. These birthing caves were kept in a state of ritual purity since the lambs were to be pure sin offerings. And many of the male lambs were used for Passover.

Since there was no room at the local inn, Mary and Joseph used one of these caves around Bethlehem.

Connections

Back to the shepherds. So the significance here is that to protect the clumsy lambs, they were wrapped in swaddling cloths. They would find Jesus in a manger wrapped in swaddling cloths in one of these caves. This kept the lambs pure and free of blemish.

This points to Jesus as the future sacrifice of the lamb of God. He who knew no sin to be a sin offering of the world and bring a new covenant.

Jesus came to make this covenant with us. Accordingly, he was infinitely committed to us that he chose to die for us to make this covenant.

I hope you found these as interesting as I did. I recall this information each time I read about Jesus' birth.

Reflection

Do you know any additional interesting information about Jesus' birth? Please share them in the comments.



Thursday, December 1, 2022

Where Are You Christmas?

 


By: Donna Bucher

In thinking about preparations and the hustle and bustle of the season, I began pondering, "what makes Christmas, Christmas”?

In fact, a friend asked me the same question recently. After watching "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" they wondered if it would still feel like Christmas if there were no decorations, Christmas trees, gifts, or the traditional dinner and treats?

 

How about you? What makes Christmas, Christmas for you?

 

And if all of your decorations, Christmas tree, and physical symbols of the season were removed, would it feel like Christmas for you?

As we all know, even the Whos down in Whoville knew Christmas was more than Christmas trees, gifts, and feasting.

 

I still remember the first time I saw the story on TV; the scene where the Grinch sits poised listening for the wails of the Whos when they wake up and find there is no Christmas.

 

But instead, he hears the beautiful song of the Whos welcoming Christmas.

 

Even as a child I cried, because I knew there had to be more to Christmas.


Perhaps now more than ever, we should focus on welcoming Christmas in a new way. Don't get me wrong, I love seeing the Christmas lights, trees and decorations; I enjoy the special traditions and treats!

 

I especially treasure my Advent devotionals and pondering the nativity set I display in my home.

 

But Christmas is more than a day or a season. Christmas is written on our hearts.


Foretold in prophecy and depicted in shadows throughout the Old Testament, we find the roots of what we now call Christmas.

 

But at the birth of Christ it all became reality and God wrote the words of the new covenant on our hearts. (Jeremiah 31:33-34) 

 

The Greatest Gift ever given is not found under the Christmas tree; God has placed it in our hearts. The Spirit of Christmas lives in our hearts every day; it cannot be stolen, destroyed, or hindered by circumstances around us.


As you enjoy your Christmas decorations, Christmas trees, gifts, and gatherings, ask the Lord to open your eyes to Christmas within yourself and others.

 

Every human being bears the image of God. Though marred by sin, the image is not completely destroyed. Look for that image in others this Christmas.

 

We often take those closest to us for granted. Find ways to be grateful for God's image in your loved ones. At the same time, look on those you may not know, and honor them as image bearers

Christmas Spirit demonstrated in giving. The Christmas story speaks of giving. We give in many ways; God gave Himself for others.

 

Christmas often becomes about gift giving but consider other ways to "give". How can you best give with a Kingdom mentality, to demonstrate your love for your loved ones and others?

Christmas Spirit demonstrated in love. In John 15:12-13, Jesus leaves the commandment to love one another as He loved them. But He takes it a step further, to say there is no greater love than to lay down your life for another. If you cross reference this conversation, it points back to John 13, where Jesus washed the disciples' feet.

 

We tend to rush right to the example that Jesus "laid down His life" for His disciples (and all of us), and we brush past it, thinking we would not be asked to die for anyone, but if we did face death for a loved one, we would [hopefully] choose bravely.

 

However, Jesus' death had not occurred yet, He was not speaking of future events, He was reminding them of His "laying aside" His identity to wash their feet.

 

Consider how you can "lay down" your life, for others, loving as Jesus loved. Perhaps putting aside preferences and desires, and instead embracing inconvenience, sacrifice, and self-denial.


Trust me, sweet friend, if you look for Christmas within yourself and others through the ways listed above, your heart will grow in size exponentially just like the Grinch's did!

 

Ok, not literally in size, but your capacity for God and His desires will grow.

 

As He takes up more space in your heart, His love will overflow to you and others in ways you never thought possible!

 

Let the Spirit of Christmas written on your heart by God the Father, fill your heart, home, and relationships to overflowing as you hold the Greatest Gift ever given.


"May you experience Christmas in the smile of stranger, the laughter of a child, the tear of loss, the touch of kindness, and the embrace of a God who loved you enough to become flesh, live as you live, and ransom you with His life."

 

 

What makes Christmas, Christmas for you?

 

How will you share the Spirit of Christmas with others this season?




 








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Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Choosing Your Five

By: Jenifer Metzger

I enjoy listening to podcasts as I go about daily activities. One of the podcasts I like to listen to is the new Candace Cameron Bure, The Podcast. Candace's co-host, Tara Leigh Cobble, said something that has stuck in my mind. She said, "You become like the five people you spend the most time with." (I believe she was quoting someone, however I didn't catch who.)

When I thought about that statement, I immediately thought of an icebox. That may sound silly, but bear with me. Growing up my family and everyone we knew called a refrigerator just that, a refrigerator. My husband, on the other hand, grew up calling a refrigerator an icebox. After spending so much time with him, I soon adopted the word without any thought. For the past twenty-five years, I've called it an icebox.

Choosing Your Five

Those we hang around the most, we become like. We pick up on their words, their mannerisms, their styles, their habits. It's natural.

So in knowing that we become like those we spend the most time with, specifically the five people we spend the most time with, why wouldn't we want to Jesus to be one of those people?

If Jesus is one of the five people we spend the most time with, it will be a natural progression to become more like Him.

Search for the Lord and for His
strength; continually seek Him.
1 Chronicles 16:11

If we are spending time with Jesus every day through Bible reading, prayer, and worship, if we are returning to Him throughout our day, if we are intentional about seeking Him, we are creating that deep and intimate relationship with Him that will make Him one of our five people.

In addition to Jesus, we need to be careful with who we choose as our other four people. This doesn't mean to never be around unbelievers, but those we spend the most time with need to be those who point us back to Jesus.

Remember, you become like the five people you spend the most time with. Choose wisely.

Discussion:
1. Think of the five people you spend the most time with. Do you share any habits, mannerisms, etc?
2. Are you careful to make sure Jesus is one of your five? If not, are you willing to?



Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Jesus Wants to be Your Prince of Peace This Christmas Season

 By: Rebekah Hargraves


Photo Courtesy Of: Joanna Kosinska


"For a child will be born for us, a son will be given to us, and the government will be on his shoulders. He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace."

~Isaiah 9:6



As too often is the case sometimes, I got really stressed out a couple weeks ago.


The enemy swooped in, and I allowed him to steal my joy and peace as he got me thinking about all that I need and want to do over the next month.


The result was that rather than enjoying the meditative beauty and anticipatory peace of the holiday season, I was left running around like a chicken with my head cut off as I instead pondered “all the things that needed to be done.”


But you know what happened just days later?


I was reminded that the Advent week of peace would soon be coming.


The passage in Isaiah about the Messiah being the Prince of Peace started popping up everywhere (this always happens when the Holy Spirit is trying to teach me something 🤣).


And then a sweet friend on Instagram sent me video of what she had just been reading in a book of mine and how it had encouraged and impacted her. You want to know what the reading “just so happened” to be on? It was all about how our identity is not to come from what *we* accomplish, but instead from what Christ has already accomplished on our behalf! How cool is that??


All of those God things lined up in just such a way as to prove to me that the Lord was trying to teach me something - He wants to be my Prince of Peace. He wants me to lay down my striving, my hustling, my bustling, my stressing. And He wants me to take up His peace, His joy, His rest, and His comfort this Christmas season (and every day!).


May this encourage your own heart this week as we walk through what is, for many of us, commonly the most busy part of our entire year. Do not, do not, do not let the enemy in. Do not let him distract you from what is most important with all the little things you think you have to busy yourself with. Don’t let him steal your peace this Christmas.


May you look to, rest in, and lean on Christ, and come away amazed by just how much peace you can feel and experience down deep in your heart this Christmas season!