I'll be adding an excerpt from my Advent devotional at the bottom of each day through Dec 24th. It's found in the Dwell app and called Love's Pure Light. I highly recommend it!
Hope everyone had a blessed Thanksgiving break. We have many battles in front of us but who can carry on day in and day out without a break? Not I! Breaks should be restful but even more importantly we should use the time to listen, reflect, and re-calibrate so that we can come back stronger than before. Taking time out to focus on and be grateful for what God has already done is a great reminder that helps us increase our faith in what He will do in the future. He has not forsaken us. Praise the Lord for His steadfastness and mercy!
When you don’t feel thankful.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 – Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
In 1981, Rabbi Harold Kushner wrote When Bad Things Happen to Good People, in which he discussed the conundrum of why, if the universe was created and is governed by a God who is good and loving, there is still so much pain and suffering. He concluded that it remains the same problem that has existed on Earth almost since the beginning: there is good and there is evil. He stopped short of promoting the provisions that God has made for overcoming evil…faith in Jesus Christ and His redemptive work on the cross.
If, for any reason, you are not feeling grateful today, if your struggles are weighing heavily on your heart making it difficult to appreciate your blessings, accept those feelings and show yourself the same compassion that You receive from your Heavenly Father. Pray and with the Holy Spirit’s guidance, make a plan to de-escalate the tensions you feel. Find the smallest thing in your life to be thankful for. It could even be dirty dishes in the sink, evidence that you had something to eat today—something many in this world would be grateful for.
Smile. Find gratitude for a sunset, a baby’s laugh, a tender message in a greeting card. Then thank God that He has given you emotions that can respond to the good things with gratitude.
Holy God, we give you thanks and praise for all that You are, for Your loving care for each of us, and Your desire to be in relationship with us. We seek Your wisdom and righteousness to be at work in our daily lives. If we are burdened, bring us relief; if hurting, ease our pain. It is our desire to be thankful in every circumstance. Through Your grace, help us through our times when we resist having gratitude. Keep us centered on You, for in that we shall ever be thankful. In Jesus’ Name, amen.
ADVENT has started!
Week 1: HOPE
Why does the first week of Advent center around hope? Because, just like the prophets of old, we set our expectations on a coming king who will deliver us from darkness, and usher us into a kingdom of light, love and peace. King Jesus is our hope, and as surely as the sun rises, we believe that He will appear!
DAY 1 - 11/29/2020
Scripture to listen to (or read):
Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19
1 Corinthians 1:3-9
This time of year, our culture is bathed in the warm glow of holiday lights. Even the most hardened skeptic’s resolve is tested by a steady stream of nostalgic films, music, meals, and customs, and at the center of this sentimentality lies a baby in a manger. At the mention of this babe it is difficult to think of anything other than the traditional nativity scene, with Mary, Joseph, Wise Men, and a smattering of barnyard animals, all reverently paying tribute to the newborn king. Timeless as this picture may be, it is an incomplete and one-sided understanding of the nature and purpose of Christ’s birth.
In Advent, we see both the humility and power of God on display. In Christ, we encounter God entering into the chaos and brokenness of our world, taking it upon himself to heal, redeem, and restore. Yet simultaneously, it is a birth that shakes the earth to its very core. The same power that tears the veil in two, splits rocks, and opens tombs is contained in the frailty and vulnerability of an infant child (Mt. 27:51-53).
In Jesus, the prayer of Isaiah 64:1 is definitively answered. “O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence.” Advent literally means “coming” or “approach,” and as the people of God we are invited every year to enter attentively into a season of holy anticipation. As we do, let us never lose sight of the true nature of the king that came, and will come again.
DAY 2 - 11/30/2020
Scripture to listen to (or read):
It is true that sin is cause of all this pain; but all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well. –Julian of Norwich
Advent forces us to confront our brokenness within and the chaos without. Though it defies contemporary logic, sin is a sickness for which we are unable to find a lasting cure. No amount of technological advancement or scientific inquiry will yield a solution to this timeless problem. For this reason, Advent developed in the Church as a penitential season of preparation. As God draws near, we are invited to grieve the way in which sin alienates us from Christ and one another. We acknowledge our need for the mercy and compassion of our Lord. As the Psalmist cries out, “Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of your name; deliver us, and forgive our sins, for your name’s sake” (Ps. 79:9).
Themes of light and darkness feature heavily in the Scripture readings during this season. In the ancient world, electricity and artificial light were foreign concepts. Instead, in Scripture we frequently encounter images of the fiery presence of God. It is this wild and untamable light that pierces even the deepest darkness. It is a fire that consumes and burns as it draws near. And confusing as it may seem at first, this is profoundly good news!
Christians are meant to be aflame with the life of God. Like the burning bush of old, we are invited to be filled with the fire of God yet not consumed or destroyed by it. The approaching fire of God is meant for our healing, never our harm. The Lord loves us more than we know how to love ourselves, and as we open up to the healing flame of his love, we rest in the promise that all shall be well.
Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Lifting our elections up to the Lord helps all of us keep the focus on the most important topics as well as softens our hearts to love everyone, even those with whom we may disagree. Believing differently shouldn't stop us from sharing God's love and His Word with others.