This Advent Season, amidst the busyness of life, it is important to take time for personal reflection as we prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ. In that spirit, we offer this series of devotionals written by members of our community of faith. We encourage you to read and reflect on these devotionals as a way to connect with Christ and other members of our church family.
Day 24 Advent Devotion by Tina Burleson
Joy to the World
Reflection on Mark 1:1-20
What is the best news you have ever received? How did you react? Perhaps you shouted or cried tears of joy. Maybe you felt a sense of relief or unbelief. Did you sing a praise song like Mary and Zachariah or offer a prayer like Hannah, Samuel’s mother? Whatever your response, I am sure your outlook changed for good that day. Yea God moments are always welcome, especially when you have waited a long time for the news.
The first verse of Mark indicates his account of Jesus’ story will focus on “the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God.” The Greek word translated “good news” is ευαγγελίων (euaggelion). The word can also mean joyful news. Mark didn’t relay the details of Jesus’ birth, but he made sure he stated up front Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah.
After introducing John the Baptist, and his call to repentance, Mark reports on the healing ministry of Jesus. Jesus brought healing and joy to those possessed by evil spirits, sick with fever, stricken with leprosy, paralyzed, and those shunned by religious leaders. Amazingly, that is just in the first two chapters! What is more, Mark ends his Gospel by recording Jesus’ command to His followers to “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation” (Mark 16:15 NIV). We get to be heralds of Joy!
Prior to Advent, Pastor Stacy was preaching the “good, the joyful” news from Mark’s Gospel. Beginning January 8, she will return to this series starting with chapter eight. I hope you will make it a priority to join us at church as we worship and study God’s Word together. Invite someone to join you. Good News is always better shared! After all, who doesn’t need to hear some good news?
Between now and then, consider re-reading Mark 1-8. While you do so, make a list of people who received good/joyful news. Reflect on the good news you remembered at the start of this devotional. Say a prayer, sing a song and/or celebrate in a way unique to you as you celebrate with joy the gift of our Messiah, Jesus Christ, God with us.
Many thanks to all our Advent Devotional writers this season. It has been a joy to read and reflect on their offerings. I pray they have blessed you as well.
Merry Christmas from your Pastors. We love you. We pray your days will be filled with happiness and joy. Thank you for the privilege of partnering with you in sharing the Good News of Jesus.
Joy to the World
Joy to the World! The Lord is come
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and Nature Sing and Heaven and Nature Sing
And Heaven and Heaven and Nature Sing.
Day 23 Advent Devotion by Bev Clayton
Reflection on Isaiah 61:1-12
As we come to the Advent season in 2022, we look back on the past three or so years and wonder what else could happen. We have struggled with Covid 19, mean political rhetoric, and the Ukraine war… We are waiting for better times – times of Hope, Love, Peace and Joy – the very things Jesus wants all of us to have and cherish. When Isaiah 61 was written, the Hebrew people were experiencing conditions much, much worse than ours. In verses 1 and 2, the people are being encouraged to look forward with hope. They are being told that a savior is on the way and “the time of the LORD”s favor has come.” (Isaiah 61:2b)
The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is upon me,
for the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted
and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed.
He has sent me to tell those who mourn that the time of the LORD’s favor has come,
and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies. Isaiah 61:1-2 (NLT)
In Luke 4 Jesus quoted Isaiah 61:1-2 as he read the scripture in the synagogue on the Sabbath:
He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” Luke 4:16-21 (NIV)
Isaiah 61:3 (NIV) explains some of the meaning of the coming Savior:
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
the oil of joy instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.
What will a “crown of beauty” look like”? It sounds wonderful. All the things listed will bring joy to the people. The LORD sends even more good news through the prophet:
The LORD has made proclamation to the ends of the earth:
“Say to Daughter Zion,
‘See, your Savior comes!
See, his reward is with him,
and his recompense accompanies him.’”
They will be called the Holy People,
the Redeemed of the LORD;
and you will be called Sought After,
the City No Longer Deserted. Isaiah 62:11-12 (NIV)
This tells us a little bit of what Jesus has for us. We can look forward during this advent season to the Hope, Peace, Love and Joy that Jesus is offering us. These wonderful gifts that Jesus offers all of us are waiting for us to claim them. They will come as we increase our faith in God and build a strong relationship with Him.
Day 22 Advent Devotion by Sara Miller
Reflection on Micah 2:2-4
A quiet, peaceful town
The town, the House of Bread
Tiny but soon to be well known
The birthplace of the King. . . .waiting
A tired, gentle man – bent with care
Walking a well-trod road – need shelter
Obedient to God
To be the earthly father. . . .waiting
An expectant teen
Heavy with child, dusty and frail
Riding a donkey
Needing a place to rest. . . .waiting
Angels on high
Waiting, listening for the time . . . . waiting
The star in the sky
Open to the command
To tell the world. . . . waiting
A place to stay
Nothing fine – a stable
A trough filled with fresh straw
Prepared for the long-awaited birth. . . . waiting
Jesus is born
Oh, little town of Bethlehem
How still we see thee lie! – Rejoicing
Day 21 Advent Devotion by Kathy Adams
Reflection on Jeremiah 29:11
For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11.
What a year 2022 has been for me. Looking back it has definitely been a roller coaster of a ride and I do not like amusement rides. I like calm waters and gentle breezes. I like seeing God’s hand in my life and I like to think that I understand exactly what he expects of me. Well, this year has been hard.
On April 14, 2022 we lost a precious member of our family. After a long 3 year battle with cancer, Jess, my granddaughter-in-law, passed away. I have grown to understand that I need to try and see my circumstances through the eyes of God instead of my own. Our family prayed, believed and hoped for a miracle for Jess. The end was not what we had prayed for, if you were looking through our eyes. If we could see the situation from God’s viewpoint, our prayers were answered. We prayed for her earthly life and God gave her eternal life. My life has forever been changed by having Jess in our family. I see her smile and her determination in her children. She was a gift for which I will forever be thankful.
A few months after Jess passed away, a new baby was born into our family. As a measure of love and honor, her parents gave her Jess’s middle name. Eleanor Drew-Elizabeth Stevens came into this world fighting for life just as Jess left – fighting for her life. I pray that Eleanor will have the same assurance of eternal life that Jess had.
This may seem like a strange devotion for Advent, but I mean it as a devotion of hope. This is the season of hope – hope that we will always be aware that we are in God’s hands and no matter the circumstance he loves us and is with us.
Day 20 Advent Devotion by Ruthie Stevens
Reflection on John 3:16-17
For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world thru Him might be saved. John 3:16 & 17.
God gave us the promise of eternal life and I have two special people in Heaven that have already received this gift. My grandfather and my stepmom, Jess. I miss them both and love knowing that I will see them again.
When I think of Christmas, the first thing I think of is my families getting together. Another thing I think of is gifts. I think that Jesus was a gift to us from God. Another thing I think of is my siblings and me decorating the Christmas tree. We have so much fun together.
God loved us so much that he gave us love. I am so lucky to be loved by so many people in my family.
My mother Leslie, Chris, Liam
My father Scott, Morgan, Colton, Hadley, Riley, Turner
Gigi, PopPop, Adam, Maddie, Sam, Abby, baby Eleanor
Nanny, Pam, Mike, Grant, Ryan, Bennett
Nonny, Papa, John, Uncle Daisy
All of these people are gifts from God and I am so thankful for them. Just stop today and thank God for all of the people in your life that love you. And also thank Him for all the people who are in heaven that love us.
Day 19 Advent Devotion by Sumner Rhodes
Come and Receive
Reflection on Isaiah 55:1-3
The Lord says, “All you who are thirsty,
come and drink.
Those of you who do not have money,
come, buy and eat!
Come buy wine and milk.
You don’t need money; it will cost you nothing.
Why spend your money on something that is not real food?
Why work for something that doesn’t really satisfy you?
Listen closely to me, and you will eat what is good.
You will enjoy the food that satisfies your soul.
Come to me and listen.
Listen to me so you may live.
I will make an agreement with you that will last forever.
I will give you the blessings I promised to David. (Isaiah 55:1-3)
In Isaiah 55 God calls God’s people to come, to come to God, to eat, to drink, to listen to God, to have wine, and to have milk. God says to come and “buy” these things. The wine, the milk, and the food represent God’s blessings… God’s mercy, God’s love, God’s favor, and the many gifts of God! But at what cost is this goodness? There is no cost, it is a free invitation to receive from God. All of this you can come and “buy” for free. The penniless can come and “buy” and receive the gifts of God.
But how do you buy something that costs nothing? How do you come to the Lord and “buy” what is free? This advent, open your heart to the Lord and receive the free gifts of God. This advent, take joy in remembering and praising God for the greatest gift given to us, Jesus Christ! Jesus offers us the gift of salvation, it is free, just come to the Lord and receive.
Receive all the gifts that only Jesus can give you. If you need peace in your day, come and receive. If you need joy in your heart, come and receive. If you need strength to keep going, come and receive. Whatever it is you need, come, receive from the Lord Jesus Christ. As you do this “you will go out with joy. You will be led out by the Lord in peace. The mountains and hills will burst into song before you and all the trees in the fields will clap their hands.” (Isaiah 55:12)
Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for Jesus. Help me to remember that you are always there, with me, and available. Give me faith to know that you have all that I need and that I can come to you, trust you, and receive your gifts freely. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Day 18 Advent Devotion by Heath Burchett
Comfort for God’s People
Reflection on Isaiah 40:1-11
“Comfort, comfort my people,
says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and proclaim to her
that her hard service has been completed,
that her sin has been paid for,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
double for all her sins.
A voice of one calling:
“In the wilderness prepare
the way for the Lord;
make straight in the desert
a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be raised up,
every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
the rugged places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
and all people will see it together.
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
A voice says, “Cry out.”
And I said, “What shall I cry?”
“All people are like grass,
and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field.
The grass withers and the flowers fall,
because the breath of the Lord blows on them.
Surely the people are grass.
The grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of our God endures forever.”
You who bring good news to Zion,
go up on a high mountain.
You who bring good news to Jerusalem,
lift up your voice with a shout,
lift it up, do not be afraid;
say to the towns of Judah,
“Here is your God!”
See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power,
and he rules with a mighty arm.
See, his reward is with him,
and his recompense accompanies him.
He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young.”
What a beautiful scripture text this is to me. God has shown me this passage many times throughout the past years, so it is not by chance to me that this was my assigned text. I pray that you all experience personal God moments throughout Advent and into the New Year.
The people of God had been unfaithful, and God had already sent a message of coming judgment- but that is not the end of the story. Here Isaiah conveys a message of comfort, assuring the people that God will forgive sin and deliver them from their enemies. We have the same hope. We can find comfort in knowing that forgiveness is available, and our sins can be pardoned through Christ.
Advent is defined as, an arrival. It is the coming of something or someone. For the church, the four weeks leading up to Christmas are referred to as Advent and it’s a time set aside for us to think about the meaning of the coming of Christ. Just as generations and generations of the people of God waited for His first arrival, we now wait for Him to come again.
I love the part in verse eleven that says, “He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart.” Today, please be reminded of God’s great love for you as His precious son or daughter, being held in His comfort, being held in His arms.
Day 17 Advent Devotion by Cherise Gregory
Reflection on Isaiah 40: 1-2
“Comfort, comfort my people,” says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem. Tell her that her sad days are gone and her sins are pardoned. Yes, the Lord has punished her twice over for all her sins.”
Not your typical scripture passage you may think of at Christmas, yet there is comfort, hope and promise in these words from Isaiah.
If you know me, you know I love snow. As a child, if weather reports mentioned it, all I could think of was the “possibility.”
I love to watch it fall, measuring often how much is accumulating. I love the sound of the snow crunching under my boots. And yes, I even love the rush of the bread and milk aisles in the store several days ahead of time. This always indicated to me that people believed there was hope the snow was coming!
As an adult, I still look forward to these forecasts. I especially love the weather forecasts of a white Christmas. There is something special about snow at Christmas and the end of the year.
The pure white powder drifting from the sky, laying softly and tenderly, covering everything it touches. A clean slate. The silence is palpable.
It’s as if God is placing a blanket over us saying, “Comfort my people. Rest – the weariness of the year is done.”
Much has happened in our lives and our world over the last couple of years that has caused us immense pain and sadness. But there has also been times of celebration and thanksgiving in the mourning.
On that night thousands of years ago, the anticipation of baby Jesus coming brought so much hope.
This same hope is still alive! This same promise is still alive! The hope and promise of a new beginning can be found in Him. It will renew us, refresh us, sustain us. This is a comforting reminder…He is ever present, our redeemer, and our peace.
Day 16 Advent Devotion by Stacy Nowell
Reflection on Luke 2:8-20
In my imagination, the scene with the shepherds on the hillside is one of the most beautiful of the Christmas scenes. It’s a crisp, cool evening and midnight black – the moon and the stars shine, but the shadows are deep – when suddenly these sleepy shepherds and their bleating sheep are startled by an angel. “The glory of the Lord shone around them,” lighting up the night.
“Do not be afraid,” the angel says, “I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
And here’s where things get really magnificent: “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” I picture a glorious explosion of light made all the more dazzling by the night’s deep dark. The angels begin to sing – it’s beautiful, soul-stirring, heavenly.
And then suddenly the angels are gone, and it’s back to nighttime shepherding. But things are not the same. They never will be: not for the shepherds, not for the little family in the stable in the village below, not for the entire sleeping world.
The shepherds rush down to Bethlehem to see if it’s true. Finding the home and entering, they’re once again surrounded by light, but this is the warm glow of candlelight and hearth fire. Whereas the hillside display was spectacular and vast, this scene is small, familiar, humble. It’s a different setting to be sure, but both are deeply good, and both are occasions for meeting God.
As the shepherds take their leave, we’re told that “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” It’s a signal that even Mary wasn’t entirely sure what God was up to. Though God had revealed himself to her through an angel, and signs and wonders had followed Jesus’ birth – proving that God’s words were true – still, even then Mary couldn’t fully wrap her mind around God’s plans. So she watched, she listened, she pondered, and she trusted – trusted that God was up to something good.
I don’t know what life feels like for you this Christmas season. Maybe it’s something akin to a hilltop full of singing angels, and everything feels glorious and good. Or maybe things feel a bit more humble, small, and muddled. In either case, know that God is there. God is found in the magnificent, and God is found in the ordinary.
Like Mary, may we each humbly trust that God is up to something good. We may not understand our circumstances, and all may not yet be revealed, but we can trust in the goodness of God and that we are in his presence while we wait.
Day 15 Advent Devotion by Kyle Murphy:
“Here is Your God” …
Isaiah 35: 1-10
Isaiah Picks up in Chapter 35 with a stark contrast to what came before. Everything was barren and the hopelessness in the previous chapter was palpable.
But Isaiah draws our attention forward to the coming age; the wilderness will be glad, the desert will rejoice, the cities of Lebanon and Carmel (which just a few chapters earlier were covered in wilderness) will be symbols of restoration.
We will hear, “Here is Your God” … The blind will see, the deaf shall hear and the lame will leap like deer. (Is this ringing any bells?)
One day we will come into the full presence of God. This beautiful image that Isaiah paints for us will come into full fruition. We will hear these words, “Here is Your God,” and it will be a day when all things are made new but for now… we wait…
We are not very good at waiting. In the current time when we can open an app on our phone and have things delivered to us in just a few hours, we can certainly lack patience… It can be hard to wait.
But this is the work of Advent. Helping to cultivate within us an ability to sit with the waiting. And it’s not a passive waiting. While we wait for the coming of Jesus, we contemplate and we listen. We allow ourselves the room to listen to God. As frustrating and uncomfortable as the waiting can be, it is also the time where we can be formed. We can allow space to listen to God, to see God, to actively participate in the life and work of God that is even now making all things new.
This is the work of Advent. To wait and see what God is doing until we hear and experience the echoes of Isaiah “Here is Your God.”
Day 14 Advent Devotion by Laura Williams
Reflection on Luke 3:1-18
Luke first sets the stage and provides some historical context. Rome was in power while John lived in the wilderness, a loner, very likely considered to be a fringe preacher by most.
John as a messenger, preparing the way for Jesus, was first foretold by the prophets Malachi and Isaiah. His message of repentance for the forgiveness of sins prepared the people for hearts to be turned to Christ. He spoke condemnation to the Pharisees, Sadducees and those who felt their ancestry through Abraham was all that was required for salvation. He reminded them of the ethics of their law that embraced generosity and justice for neighbors, the poor and vulnerable. His message included turning from self to the needs of others, changing one’s mind and purpose. His message is good news because he prepares hearts for the message of Jesus. He foretold the coming salvation, even for sinners, and as he baptized, he continued to preach that when Christ came he would bring the ultimate blessing of the Holy Spirit that would cleanse and fill us.
His message resonates today as a reminder of what Christ has done and continues to do for us. God continues fulfilling his promise of comfort and salvation, not based on status or works, but because of our relationship with him as his children. We are reminded that his word is trustworthy; sometimes the wait seems long, but God’s timing is perfect. As our hearts seek comfort, healing and relief from anxiety, our sure hope is confirmed through the fulfilled promise of the birth, life and resurrection of Christ.
Day 13 Advent Devotion by Robin Stephens
Busy busy. What is on your schedule? Let’s see. It’s almost Christmas. We need to shop, bake, wrap gifts, go to church, and gather with family and friends. The list continues. We don’t want interruptions to change our plans.
Mary and Joseph had plans too – big plans. They were expecting a baby soon, God’s son. However, their plans were interrupted when the emperor of Rome, Caesar Augustus, told everyone to travel to their hometowns to register for the census. So, Mary and Joseph packed their donkey and walked 3-4 days to Bethlehem. The journey was probably slow. Mary couldn’t walk too fast.
When Mary and Joseph arrived, there was no place to stay overnight – no room at the inn. Mary knew that Jesus was to be born soon, so they had to sleep in a smelly stable. Not exactly where a newborn king should be born and sleep.
Mary and Joseph’s plans were interrupted, but it was all a part of God’s plan. They fulfilled the prophecies from the Old Testament.
Let’s slow down and be less concerned about our busy schedules. Let’s make sure that our daily schedules include being interrupted by Jesus. Let’s always be interrupted to pray, listen to and to do as God would have us do.
Day 12 Advent Devotion by Jared Winkler
Reflection on Luke 1:46-56
One of the best movie trailers I have seen in the last couple years was for Nope(2022). The trailer filled me with intrigue, and gave me a good sense of what I would be getting myself into once I finally got to sit down and watch it. The best trailers keep a lot of cards close to their chest, giving you only enough to decide if the movie is worth your time. But you know when you really find out how good a trailer was? When you go to see the actual film. Trailers are meant to capture our interest and get us to the theater (or to the couch) so we can watch the main event. If the trailer was any good, we will experience so many new surprises and twists. The movie takes us on an adventure that the trailer can’t, but the trailer is still important. It has its purpose. I have been given the opportunity to write about Luke 1:46-56. Go ahead and read these verses.
I want to make the case that Mary’s prayer is the perfect trailer. But what (or who) is the main event? The Sunday school answer would be Jesus. Coincidentally that is also the correct answer. Let’s start from the bottom: verses 54-55. Jesus is commonly referred to as Messiah which translates to ‘anointed one’ and refers to a savior or liberator (Messiah is often used interchangeably with Christ in the gospels as well). During Jesus’ time on Earth, Judea was under Roman occupation. Today we think of Jesus coming to Earth to save us (present tense, and I’m not arguing he didn’t), but when people in Jesus’ day referred to him as Messiah (or Christ) they were proclaiming that he had come to free them from oppression, from Roman occupation.
While we don’t see feats of physical strength out of Jesus, I would argue that verse 51 could refer to the many miracles he performed which demonstrate “spiritual strength,” thereby asserting that the spirit of Christ was truly within him. We see Jesus scatter a crowd of pious Pharisees in John 8:3-9. Looking from “and lifted up the lowly” in verse 52 on through verse 53; Jesus continuously demonstrates his priority for the poor and “lowly.” Let’s look a bit further into Luke 6:20-26 which uses a lot of the same language as Mary’s prayer! We also have multiple instances of Jesus healing the sick and feeding thousands of people at a time. While Luke 1:47-49 show Mary rejoicing at a fulfilled promise and great opportunity, we also see her recognizing God’s favor of the poor in that SHE is poor, and SHE was chosen to birth the Messiah into the world.
We don’t see Jesus topple the Roman empire (here I am referring to the beginning of verse 52 in Mary’s prayer), but we do see him crucified. Rome used its power in collaboration with the Jewish temple to extract wealth and resources from Judea (Jesus retaliated against this in Matthew 21: 12-13 and Mark 11:15-18). Jesus came and ministered to those oppressed people, spread hope, was killed at the behest of the Pharisees, but rose again. The ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus gave hope to a dominated people.
Just like all good trailers, Mary’s prayer helps us anticipate the story of Jesus. When we get to the main event there is so much good stuff! But as many good movies are made, you know what isn’t made as often? A good sequel. The problem is that many stories are written without the intention of a sequel. Jesus’ story fully intended for there to be a sequel; and we are living it. We are the cast! We have the opportunity to continue his work on Earth.
Day 11 Advent Devotion by Tina Burleson
Restorer of Life
Reflection on Ruth 4:15
“Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day. . . He shall be to you a restorer of life. . .” (Ruth 4:15 NRSV).
The soft rain was suddenly disrupted by a boom of thunder. The rain grew steadier and louder. My patio umbrella swayed in the wind, and leaves blew across the yard. Following several more boomers, I resigned myself to missing my evening walk.
After a while, it was quiet again. Still hoping for that walk, I glanced out my front door. Much to my surprise, the storm had moved on. An orange sky replaced the dark clouds. The transformation was mesmerizing. I took my walk, and thanked God for redeeming my night.
In the book of Ruth, we meet Naomi and Ruth, women who knew a thing or two about storms. Naomi’s husband and two sons died. One of those sons was Ruth’s husband. In order to retain their property and continue the family line, these widows needed a kinsman-redeemer. They were poor, vulnerable, and desperate. To make their storm even louder, Naomi was living in a foreign land.
It was time to go home. Naomi begged Ruth and her other daughter-n-law to stay with their families. Ruth insisted, however, on going with her. Ruth’s love of Naomi was the silver lining in Naomi’s dark life. When they arrived back home, Naomi was bitter, broken, and desperate.
She was not resigned, however, to stay in a desperate state. Through God’s providence, her planning, the faithfulness of Ruth, the generosity of a relative named Boaz, and some perfume, their lives turned around. Through Boaz, God provided Naomi and Ruth their redeemer. God’s activity turned a bitter woman into a joyful woman. God’s activity turned an empty lap into a woman with an heir. God’s activity turned a dead-end family line into a line of decedents.
God redeemed Naomi’s life with a baby, and not just any baby, but a male heir. Obed would carry on her husband’s name. God redeemed Naomi with heirs who begat kings. Naomi’s heirs begat a line of royalty which included the King of Kings. This King of Kings died as a Suffering Servant in order to redeem people from all nations of their sins and retore them to life.
Are you bitter, broken, or desperate? Hear the good news! Naomi’s God-Redeemer is still at work. Friend, may your weeping be turned to joy, may your empty arms be made full. Receive the grace, mercy, and healing that comes from our Redeemer, the King of Kings.
Share the Good News with someone who needs to hear an encouraging word from a friend.
Prayer: God, thank you for being my Redeemer, Healer, and Restorer of life. Amen.
Day 10 Advent Devotion by Kelly Ferris
Reflection on Luke 1:39-45
In one of the previous verses, Luke 1:36, the angel Gabriel acting as God’s messenger informed Mary that she was not the only one experiencing a miracle through child birth. Her relative, Elizabeth was pregnant with a son in her old age. Gabriel states that this is because, “nothing will be impossible with God.” Mary’s immediate reaction is to “in a hurry” go travel and visit Elizabeth. I can not imagine processing all of the information that Gabriel dropped on Mary. Her first instinct after the dust settled, was to gather her things and go travel to the only other person that may understand what was happening to her. Was Mary going to Elizabeth for comfort, for understanding, for confirmation that what Gabriel said about Elizabeth’s pregnancy was true? We don’t know. But upon hearing Mary’s voice, Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and also knowledge of the truth – that Mary was the mother of the coming Lord. Mary was embraced and celebrated by Elizabeth. She immediately called her blessed. She also states that she is blessed, not just because of the situation itself (which was pretty incredible), but specifically because Mary believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her. When I read this, it makes me feel that all of us have the opportunity to be blessed if we believe that the Lord’s promises will come true. This is true in small ways and also in the big picture through trust and belief that God has a plan for us. We are all a part of his plan – to be a part of God’s kingdom now and forever.
Day 9 Advent Devotion by Emily Brown
Reflection on Isaiah 11: 6-9
While reading this scripture the first thing that comes to mind is hope and peace. The animals that feed off of each other through the food chain are laying together in peace. A child in a dangerous situation (snakes den) is kept safe. As a mother myself, when I read this passage it urges me to let go of the breath of worry I’m constantly holding when it comes to my child. The idea to know that she is safe and secure seems so unattainable, which in this world it is, but in Jesus’ kingdom all are safe and secure. What a beautiful picture of being at peace and full of hope! But how does that help us now? As Christians, we should hold ourselves to a standard of sharing the peace of Christ. We should seek to be authentic messengers of His peace in our day to day life. When the wolf lies down with the lamb and the baby goat and leopard dwell together, everything works out. This is the power that The Lord is able to do in our hearts today! He can heal the hurt from differences and bring peace towards others. We just need to stand ready with hearts and eyes open to all the ways he can work in and through us. As you go through your day, try and center yourself around the peace that Jesus offers.
Day 8 Advent Devotion by Adam Garner
Reflection on Isaiah 11:1-5,10
There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear, but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist, and faithfulness the belt of his loins…In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples – of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious.
–Isaiah (Yesha‘yahu) 11:1-5, 10
And again: “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse [or “Yishai,” in the original Hebrew], a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.
The Lord Jesus (Yeshua‘) was Jewish, and he was also Middle Eastern. Of course, “O Little Town of Bethlehem” is firmly situated in the soil of the Middle East, and if you visit Bethlehem today you must travel to the Palestinian territory or “West Bank” – to a foreign land and foreign world with a foreign culture and foreign language, a place where our Christian brothers and sisters still greet one another with “a holy kiss” (1 Thess. 5:28) in the street. On one hand, we know this, but on the other hand, we sometimes fail to realize it. However, as we anticipate the coming of the Anointed One (i.e., the Messiah) during Advent, this messianic passage from the Book of Isaiah (Yesha‘yahu) reminds us of our deep spiritual roots and heritage that transcend our particular time and place, pointing us back toward something much larger and far greater than ourselves.
Jesse (Yishai) was a Bethlehemite in the business of sheep herding, and so his youngest son David (Dawid) was as well. Though Yishai had seven older sons who outwardly appeared to be perhaps more naturally suitable candidates for the role of king – the prophet Samuel (Shemu’el) soon discovered that our way of looking at people and things does not always line up with the vision of God. The prophet Shemu’el had come to Bethlehem at God’s directive, in order to anoint one of Yishai’s sons as king with olive oil. As he looked upon Yishai’s older sons, God spoke to Shemu’el: “For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7b). That day the youngest of Yishai’s eight sons was anointed king (a dramatic twist in that Middle Eastern context), and the rest is history. Now we all know him as “King David,” instead of the little shepherd boy from Bethlehem.
Again: “He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear, but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth…”
It is through the particular Jewish and Bethlehemite lineage of King David that the long awaited Messiah and true King of Kings and Lord of Lords eventually comes to us, but born humbly in Bethlehem in a local cave, according to ancient Christian tradition. And if you visit the Church of the Nativity in Old Bethlehem today (built on top of what was identified as the cave of the Nativity at an early time) – you must enter through a small rectangular doorway that stands less than five feet high. Thus pilgrims are forced to bow down as they approach the traditional birthplace of Christ; for it is “the Door of Humility.” And when you enter the Door of Humility, you may immediately find yourself standing beside pilgrims who have traveled from lesser and far greater distances than you, speaking various foreign languages that you cannot understand. And yet, you do understand these people because you share with them the very same sense of awe and Lord who has drawn you together to himself to receive grace upon grace. And in this way you and they are one.
Speaking specifically to the non-Jews among the community of believers in Rome, the Apostle Paul reminds them and us: “Now I am speaking to you Gentiles [i.e., non-Jews]…But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you” (Rom. 11:13a, 17-18). Let us willingly enter Advent through the Door of Humility and humble our own selves. Let us remember the great, great depth of our spiritual roots, and the countless many that have faithfully gone before us and handed down to us our spiritual heritage and identity. Let us remember and feel the proper familial connection to our many brothers and sisters living today both near and far – from those speaking Palestinian Arabic in Bethlehem where our Lord was born, to those in Jerusalem and all Judea, in Samaria and all North Carolina, even to the end of the earth. Let us remember that it is the root that supports us and not the other way around, and let us see beyond outward appearances as we all together approach the birthplace of Christ at Christmas to see the child that is born. Let us rightly see brothers and sisters there and pray for one another; for we are all one in Christ Jesus, and if we are Christ’s, then we are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise (Gal. 3:28b-29). It is not mandatory that we journey to Bethlehem physically, but we must journey to Bethlehem spiritually and enter through the Door of Humility. And may the peace of Christ be with us all.
Day 7 Advent Devotion by Jeremy Horton
Reflection on Luke 1: 26-38
When I read this passage, a couple things stood out. First was God’s favor for Mary. Mary was a young, poor, female and to the people of her time would have had no status or standing; seemingly unusable by God. Even so, God chose her to be the mother of Jesus. The culture of the time would have expected the Messiah to come bursting in and lead a revolution in war. Instead, he is born to a poor, teenage girl. It’s like God is saying that while society may think “this” about you, you still mean something to me and this is how much I love and value you.
When we give ourselves over to God and willingly do what he asks of us, we can do things for him that we may think are too difficult for us or things for which we are unqualified.
The second thing that stands out to me is Mary’s response. She doesn’t doubt what God can do. Rather she takes pause and ponders. She asks how it can be, but it doesn’t seem to me that she is questioning God’s power. Rather, she is reflecting on what is being asked and wanting to understand more.
It’s easy to make assumptions about an individual or group of people based on how “society” values them. But I think we should be more contemplative than a rushed judgment. A man named Michael visited us a few weeks ago. He was homeless and didn’t have anything but what he carried in his backpack. Our “society” would have thought it easy to dismiss him as someone looking for a handout. But our congregation invited him in and welcomed him. He sat in with our Bible study and I noticed several of our members speaking with him individually and showing God’s love.
God loves and values everyone regardless of society’s values and I think Mary’s story is a great reminder of that.
Day 6 Advent Devotion by Luke Nowell
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
will accomplish this.
Every couple of years there is a debate about the GOAT. For those of you who don’t know, GOAT stands for Greatest of All Time. In sports, people debate about baseball or basketball players from different eras and try to figure out who was the best. People can debate who had the best decade in Hollywood, who was the greatest President or military leader, what is the funniest show… You get the point.
Now, here comes this word from God about the coming Messiah. A child that will bear the government on his shoulders. He is called “Wonderful, Mighty, Everlasting, and Prince of Peace.” No end to the greatness of his government and peace. A world where peace is everywhere, a kingdom that brings about justice and righteousness. Not just justice for a time, but for all time. That is one way to silence the debate about who is the GOAT.
Imagine, much like ourselves, that each year generation upon generation of Jewish believers would hear these words and dream of a time when this child would come. Imagine the dinner conversations and dreams about how they thought God might bring this about. What peace would look like, what a world of peace would feel like to live in they tell each other. They describe a world where justice rolls down like water cleaning and washing away the wicked. They talk about someone who will be wonderful, someone who is mighty. As each year rolls around, the expectation builds of what is to come, what it will look like, what he will look like, and how God will do this.
Is it any wonder, that with all these big names and great qualities, that a little boy in a manger might get overlooked? That a homeless man roaming the hill country teaching with odd stories might get dismissed. That a man touching the lepers, blessing the children, healing women, holding up a Samaritan as a role model of mercy might provoke such a reaction from people looking for the GOAT.
Expectations are funny things. Perhaps a better way to phrase it is to say that expectations are tricky, they can muddy the water, they can prevent us from seeing what is actually there. Our expectations of how we think God should work can cause us to miss how God is working. As we celebrate Advent together, let us throw off the expectations that so easily entangle us of how things used to be, how things should be, and how things will be. Instead, let us be surprised by how God is working and will work in our lives, in the life of our church, and in the Church.
Day 5 Advent Devotion by Jamie Winkler
This year as I read the story of Zechariah’s encounter with the angel, what stood out to me was Zechariah’s uncertainty concerning the angel’s message.
To summarize, the angel told him, “Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son” and Zechariah asked “How can I be sure of this?”
Zechariah wanted to believe the angel’s words, but he just wasn’t sure that he could; after all, he and his wife were “well along in years.” He asks for assurance.
I can relate to Zechariah’s need for assurance. In my own life there have been times when I have felt God calling me to do something that I thought was beyond my ability or I felt God leading me to head in a new direction that seemed illogical, and I just wanted to be sure before taking that leap of faith.
Then the angel responded to Zechariah: “you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words.”
In years past, I always interpreted Zechariah’s inability to speak as a punishment from God for his unbelief, but this year I found myself thinking that perhaps his time of silence was less of a punishment and more of a merciful means toward belief – an undeniable evidence of his encounter with God.
I don’t know about you, but if I was told by an angel that I wouldn’t be able to speak for 9 months and then it happened, that would put to rest any of my doubts about the other things the angel said would happen.
May God grant us faith to believe his words and in our moments of doubt may God, in his mercy, grant us a means toward belief.
Day 4 Advent Devotion by Laurie Nappier
“Come let us go up to the mountain of the lord, to the temple of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths. The law will go out from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. HE will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore. Come, descendants of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the Lord.” Isaiah 2:1-5
Out of the Cave
Every year advent sneaks up on me. It’s the rush of the Fall and Thanksgiving followed by family birthdays, girl scout poinsettia sales and my anniversary. A busy season for our family but also a time of conflict all around us… anxiety, depression, shootings, Ukraine war, Civil Rights, school violence, Political divides, Media untruth, Environmental/weather shifts, Genocide and unrest within the Christian community. Our culture thrives in chaos, and our baseline is isolation, comparison and need. That means that for many and most of us, we have normalized the conflict. We are used to feeling left out, managing drama, feeling insecure and worrying about those around us. It feels like there is never a moment when life feels predictable and at rest.
As a therapist, I was working last week with a depressed 16-year-old girl who emotionally lives in a dark cave. Her baseline is anxiety, feeling like there is so much conflict around her everyone would be better off if she stayed in the cave. “It’s safe in here, comfortable and dark, away from the light.” It may not be a cave of depression for you… for me it’s the juggle of parenting, work, not tripping over the dirty laundry and having food in the house to eat. It’s the lack of peace and dim light that I feel in the cave.
Yet as we read Isaiah 2, we learn how the Lord wants us to shift from that normal day-to-day life in a cave. We are called to come to the Mountain of the Lord and learn from him, to follow Jesus on his path. Then the Lord settles disputes and offers judgement between nations and people. As we climb his mountain, we can trust him to shift our mindset to peace and acceptance of one another. The people in our scripture find rest and turn their weapons into tools for good. Wars won’t begin, people won’t even plan or train for war. What a shift of thinking that is… to focus on building bridges, not walls and creating peace.
I asked my client who she had outside her cave that was in the light. Who wanted her to come out of the cave and who brought her light? “My dad, my friends, the dogs, music” These were blessings and sources of comfort to her as well, but ones that required movement from the cave. It requires a shift from a baseline of chaos and conflict to one of peace and light.
As believers, we are called to walk out of the cave and up the mountain to Jesus. He knows it’s easy to be stuck in grief and trauma, to be paralyzed by expectations and missed opportunities, but he offers us peace beyond our understanding, tools for growth and not weapons for destruction. During this advent season, I challenge you to stick your head out of your cave. Seek to find a new baseline in time with Jesus every day and look for the light in all your circumstances.
As we trust in the coming Messiah, our baseline shifts to a place of peace – to a place of light.
Come, friends in Huntersville, let us walk in the light of the Lord.
Day 3 Advent Devotion by Tammy Cremins
Reflection on Matthew 2:1-12
When I was younger, I didn’t understand the gifts the Magi gave to Jesus.
Now I see things a little differently. I could be wrong, but this is how I see it; the 3 Magi, or kings, came to visit Jesus because he was a king. They came from far away. Their gifts represent the importance they placed on Jesus.
Now some kings are good; some are not. King Herod was not. He felt threatened by Jesus so he shows his true colors. We see it when we read this passage, but it probably wasn’t so obvious at the time.
This passage demonstrates Jesus’ kingly status, even though He’s a baby born to normal, earthly parents. This is important to us as Christians. It tells us He is more than what we expected.
Day 2 Advent Devotion by Neal Clayton
The Shaken Heart
Isaiah 7: 1-17
“. . . the heart of Ahaz and the heart of his people shook as the trees of the forest shake before the wind.” (v. 2, NRSV).
Why so afraid? In the days of King Ahaz the kings to the north of Judah joined together and set out to attack Jerusalem. They wanted to force Ahaz to ally the kingdom of Judah with them against the mighty Assyrians. Though these two northern kings were unable to take Jerusalem, their alliance against Ahaz was frightening and the heart of Ahaz shook.
The LORD God was not afraid. God sent his prophet Isaiah to an out-of-the-way place, a conduit at a spring of water beside a highway, to meet King Ahaz. Maybe it was an arranged meeting or maybe Isaiah was there waiting to catch the king as he came by. Significant things happen in several other Bible stories when people meet at water sources. God sent a prophet not to make a prediction about the future but to bear the truth of God into the present situation of King Ahaz.
“Don’t be afraid, King Ahaz. Be quiet. Listen. These two kings who’ve joined themselves against you seem like blazing torches, but really they’re just two smoldering stumps.”
The prophet Isaiah was not alone out there by the highway next to a conduit at the Gihon Spring. Isaiah had a son and God sent him too. The son’s name was “A Remnant Shall Return.” It’s a name with significance, a sign. Did King Ahaz already know this boy? Isaiah is thought to have had some connection to the royal family, to have been present around the royal court and the temple. Maybe Ahaz had already heard this boy’s name. Or maybe he saw him for the first time out at the edge of that pool alongside a highway.
Outdoors in an out-of-the-way place people might share a serious word together. “Take heart, Ahaz. Don’t be afraid.” Take the name of my son for a sign. Even if the worst happens, A Remnant Shall Return.
But Ahaz was not a man of steady heart. Not a man of faithful heart. Perhaps his conscience was disturbed by the sight of Isaiah with the boy, for Ahaz had made his own son “pass through the fire,” burnt as a sacrifice, probably to one of the Canaanite gods such as Moloch, according the account of Ahaz in the book of 2 Kings (ch.16).
The LORD spoke again to Ahaz through the prophet Isaiah. God invited Ahaz to ask for a sign. If the first sign didn’t help, ask for another. Ask any sign you want.
“Oh no,” said Ahaz. But God gave another sign anyway, and it was another son.
“Look,” says Isaiah. “The young woman is going to have a baby. She’ll call this one God With Us. And before this baby boy knows right from wrong those two kings who’ve frightened you will be gone.”
The anointed kings in Judah were meant to be as a son of the LORD, as in Psalm 2, “You are my son, this day have I begotten you.” But King Ahaz did not go that way. In the end he rejected the signs God gave him. He turned away and according to 2 Kings, rather than be as a son of the LORD he submitted himself to the king of Assyria.
“I am your son,” he tells that king. “Come and rescue me.” Ahaz paid that rescuer with silver and gold he took from the house of the LORD.
Isaiah and his wife would go on to have another son. That son’s name would be a sign of the devastation that was coming for the northern kings who had allied themselves against Jerusalem. Darkness was looming for those kings and their people. Those things are in chapter 8 of Isaiah.
You don’t need me to tell you that the New Testament writer Matthew knew this story. He’d read it. So when it came to his writing the story we call the Gospel of Matthew, he knew how to frame it. “Immanuel, God With Us,” at the beginning, and again at the end: “Behold, I am with you always.” And it’s not an invading army from the outside that shakes the heart of King Herod and of all Jerusalem. Something secret was already within, like a seed, like a pregnancy, like a dream in a heart or an angel in the night, that no king could find. Outsiders, magi, who knew how to be quiet, who knew how to listen, who knew how to watch with faith and wait, had seen a sign they knew how to follow. They showed up in Jerusalem, I have to think with joy on their faces wondering, where is the newborn king? The heart of King Herod was not ready to hear anything about any king other than himself. There really was a newborn king, a son, a boy they named Savior.
Day 1 Advent Devotion by Gwen Howard
What Has Just Happened?
Mary, betrothed to Joseph, has just told him she was with child. Betrothal was a marriage contract; she was committed to Joseph and not to be with any other man. Yet she just said she was still a virgin, but with a child from God by His Spirit. Unbelievable, shocked, confused and disappointed were all emotions running through Joseph’s mind. Sweet Mary was someone he believed to be good, true and honest. Yet this was something he could not excuse or ignore. Because Joseph was a good man, religious, just and merciful, he waited before he reacted. He needed to ponder about all this. Then God spoke. God will guide the obedient when all your understanding is lost. An angel of the Lord came in a dream and told Joseph not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife, because her baby was conceived by the Holy Spirit. Mary needed the protection of marriage for the birth of the Saviour to be justified in the eyes of the world, and she needed a helpmate to raise the child.
Fear of life’s circumstances can get out of control, but God says “Fear Not.” God-sized events will always take us out of our comfort zone and leave us totally dependent on His help. So this season watch and wait for the unusual or unexpected. Remember the worst thing is not always the last thing. Think about what God will do next then obey and follow His plan.