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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 be centered on the core themes of the Christmas story, publishing reflections Monday through Saturday around the themes of L…
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Advent Day 6- LOVE

Romans 8:31-39

31 …If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the…

Advent Day 5- LOVE

Lamentations 3:17-23

17 I have been deprived of peace;
    I have forgotten what prosperity is.

18 So I say, “My splendor is gone
    and all that I had hoped from the Lord.”

19 I remember my affliction and my wandering,
    the bitterness and the gall.

20 I well remember them,
    and my soul is downcast within me.

21 Yet this I call to mind
    and therefore I have hope:

22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.

23 They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.

Let’s be honest, Christmas does not always feel like “the most wonderful time of the year.” The season boasts of peace and hope and joy, but many of us feel deprived of these things, like the author of this scripture. These words come from a book in the Bible entitled Lamentations. It’s filled with cries of anguish toward God because life has not gone as expected. What was hoped for did not come to be. The joys of days gone by seem destined to remain past tense. The experience…

Advent Day 4- LOVE

1 John 3:16-18

16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
We know what love is. We don’t have to guess. True love is not some spiritual secret that God has tucked away for only a select few to experience in some enlightened state of consciousness. No, true love has been revealed to us. God’s love shows up in real ways…earthy ways…gritty ways. A baby was born and the afterbirth spilled on the straw of a barn floor to bring life to hopeless people. The baby grew to a man who touched the lepers’ sores and shared a glass with crooks that they might be made brand new. Later, spikes were driven through Jesus’ hands and feet, and his blood soaked the ground to announce G…

Advent Day 3- LOVE

John 3:16-17

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

Probably the most well-known verse from the Bible, John 3:16 reminds us that at the heart of Christmas is a Gift and a Giver. God gave his Son to us, and He did it out of love. These are the fundamentals of Christmas. The gift giving we do around our Christmas trees and at holiday parties is a reflection—even if a poor one sometimes—of the original Gift and Giver. Use these moments to return to this basic truth. As you venture into the commercial fray with your gift list and see images of Santa with a sack of gifts slung over his shoulder, remember the Gift that gave rise to all our celebrating. Remember the Giver and the love that he has for you. Spend some time making a different sort of list—not of the presents you want or need to buy—b…

Advent Day 2- LOVE

Philippians 2:1-11

Therefore, if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. 

5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

6 Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;

7 rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.

8 And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!

9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is…

Advent Day 1- LOVE

Matthew 1:18-21

18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit.19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. 

20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

“Pregnant through the Holy Spirit” wasn’t anything Joseph was familiar with or ready for. Very quickly, he starts to scramble for a way out of this “predicament” (for, what else would you call it when your fiancĂ© becomes pregnant with someone else’s baby?), until a messenger of the Lord opens…