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Strange Christmas | Devotions for Advent and Christmas

“Advent” means “arrival” or “coming,” and it’s a season of the year that Christians have observed for centuries as a time of anticipating the birth of Jesus. For many of us, however, December flies by with a flurry of activities that can leave us worn out and feeling just glad that it’s over at the end of the month. It can be the most stressful time of the year. But what if “the Christmas season” actually brought us closer to Christ? What if we were able to create some space to really feel the longing for Jesus to arrive, to be born anew in our lives? What if there were time for reflection and refocusing, such that we could truly receive and experience the gifts that Jesus brings—love, peace, joy, and hope?

This blog of daily devotions is offered as one simple tool to help us connect with Christ more deeply in the days leading up to and after Christmas. It will follow the rhythm of our Strange Christmas series, publishing reflections Monday through Saturday around the themes of LOVE …
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Advent Day 24- HOPE

Saturday, December 29, 2018
Romans 15:1-13
We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. 2 Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up. 3 For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.” 4 For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.
5 May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, 6 so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
7 Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. 8 For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, so that the promises made to the patriarchs might be confirmed 9 and, moreover, that …

Advent Day 23- HOPE

Friday, December 28, 2018
1 Corinthians 1:4-9
4 I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. 5 For in him you have been enriched in every way—with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge— 6 God thus confirming our testimony about Christ among you. 7 Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. 8 He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Picture a pair of college students in their dorm room as the semester starts. They’ve received their schedule, they’ve bought their supplies and styled their dorm room to their liking. However the only thing they forgot: textbooks. As they sift through Amazon to find each textbook, they realize they’d get them way after the semester had already started. That crushing reality causes them to become anxious…

Advent Day 22- HOPE

Thursday, December 27, 2018  1 John 3:2-3 2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 3 All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.
It was another morning drop off and, as was the routine, young Daniel gathered his bookbag, lunch and gym bag, set to venture into another day of school. As he stood within the car door opening performing his check for all things elementary, he looked back inside the car toward his faith-filled mom to get the most important things he would bring to school that day: “I love you, Daniel. Have a great day. Don’t forget who you are and whose you are.”
Who are you? And whose are you? The answer to those two questions influences everything.
With a simple phrase, Paul succinctly sums up the answers to each of them. Once estranged by sin, all who have called on the Father in the name of Christ are ado…

Advent Day 21- HOPE

Wednesday, December 26, 2018
Matthew 2:1-6
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” 3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born.5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:
6 “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
    are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
    who will shepherd my people Israel.’”
7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

Advent Day 20- HOPE

Tuesday, December 25, 2018
Luke 2:22-24, 36-40
22 When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), 24 and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”…
36 There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 38 Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.
39 When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. 40 And …

Advent Day 19- HOPE

Monday, December 24, 2018
Psalm 72
1 Endow the king with your justice, O God,
 the royal son with your righteousness.
2 May he judge your people in righteousness,
 your afflicted ones with justice.
3 May the mountains bring prosperity to the people,
 the hills the fruit of righteousness.
4 May he defend the afflicted among the people
 and save the children of the needy;
 may he crush the oppressor.
5 May he endure as long as the sun,
 as long as the moon, through all generations.
6 May he be like rain falling on a mown field,
 like showers watering the earth.
7 In his days may the righteous flourish
 and prosperity abound till the moon is no more.
8 May he rule from sea to sea
 and from the River to the ends of the earth.
9 May the desert tribes bow before him
 and his enemies lick the dust.
10 May the kings of Tarshish and of distant shores
 bring tribute to him.
May the kings of Sheba and Seba
 present him gifts.
11 May all kings bow down to him
 and all nations serve him.
12 For he will deliver the needy w…

Advent Day 18- JOY

Saturday, December 22, 2018
Isa 9:2-3
The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned.
3 You have enlarged the nation
and increased their joy;
they rejoice before you
as people rejoice at the harvest,
as warriors rejoice
when dividing the plunder.

The Christmas season seems to focus on cheery spirits and good tidings. These are, of course, wonderful things, and we could all use a cheerful spirit this time of year. Yet, we also know that Christmas is often a time when we reflect on the events of our lives during the past year. With this reflection, a lot of us relive the painful and dark events that may have taken place, and suddenly the cheery spirits and good tidings evaporate. But Isaiah reminds us in chapter 9 that even though we may be living in a land of deep darkness, a new light has dawned. This new light is Christ Jesus. Praise God! Glory to Him in the Highest!

In this Jesus, there is a harvest of spiritual bless…