Advent Devotionals: Thursday, December 24

Tommy Valentine
Christmas Eve - Thursday, Fourth Week of Advent: Love

God is with you

The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).
Matthew 1:23

As I’ve grown older I find Christmas Eve awakens me to new senses. Where I once anticipated the hurried rush of wrapping the final presents, putting children’s toys together, making sure the cookies and milk had been set out, film in the camera, and plenty of extra batteries on hand, I now find myself keenly aware of thoughts and senses I have not lately had.

I enjoy letting things slow down, smelling the aromas of a live Christmas tree, watching Christmas shows, listening to music and remembering Christmases past. I’ve also enjoyed sharing Christmas Eve with my church family and celebrating the Advent season together. Doing so somehow makes the experience deeper and more meaningful.

This Christmas Eve, wherever you may find yourself—with friends, at home, in a hospital or nursing home—know that God is with you, just as the angel said that first Christmas night.

Prayer: God, I celebrate the birth of your son, Jesus Christ. Fill me with your grace and allow me to experience the joy of your love. Amen.

Advent Devotionals: Wednesday, December 23

Brenda Farmer
Wednesday, Fourth Week of Advent: Love

‘And who is my neighbor?’

And the lawyer, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Luke 10:29

JANUARY, 1970

Ervin had just graduated from Concord College, and we were moving to the beautiful little town of Lewisburg, West Virginia where he was to start his first teaching position. We thought we were rich. No more brown beans for a week at a time. No more two-room marriage unit with two little boys ages two and seven months. We were moving into a nice two-bedroom townhouse for only $85.00 a month and a salary of $5,800.00 a year Yep, we were rich!

Little did we know that along with the townhouse came light bills, phone, water, and a whole lot of other bills. Nope, not so rich, I needed to go to work!

A job at the local nursing home worked out well, because it was a third-shift job. That way we didn’t require a babysitter. I passed Ervin coming out the door in the morning as I was coming in. Sleep? Out of the question with two babies and a new dog.

And now for the rest of the story.

Nursing homes were not as nice then as they are now. Laws governing them were very lax in the treatment of the residents. I heard, and saw, many things that would not be tolerated today. As a 21 year old, I had never witnessed anything like this. Many residents had no family, no one to give them personal attention, and they were abandoned and hopeless as they waited for hours, days, and weeks for loved ones that never came. To me, they seemed as though they were invisible to most of the staff. Just objects, not living, breathing human beings with feelings of wanting to be loved, or to love. A real eye opener for this young mother!

They all touched my heart, especially one in particular, a little black lady, Mrs. Godfrey. Mrs. Godfrey wasn’t given any attention other than feeding her meals to her. She was blind, deaf, and could not speak. She was tied with a Posey belt to a chair for most of the day, and then lay in a fetal position for the rest of her long days and nights. This was not a way to treat any of God’s people. She deserved more. Each evening when I came on duty, I would go to see her. When I approached her bed I would tell her who I was and what I was going to do, whether she could hear me or not. I made sure she was covered with her blanket, because she was always cold, especially her feet. I just talked to her. I told her about my two little boys, about Ervin, and anything else on my mind. I told her that God loved her. That she was special to Him and to me. I asked her questions, knowing there would be no answers. I was ridiculed for spending too much time with Mrs. Godfrey, especially since she was black.

When Christmas came around, one of the residents was knitting booties. Ah, just the thing for Mrs. Godfrey’s cold feet! I bought her a pair of green ones and took them to her room. I placed them on her feet and was pulling up the blankets around her when I heard this really deep, low, gravelly voice out of the dark. “Is that you, Brenda Farmer?” My heart stopped. Again, “Is that you, Brenda Farmer?” Did I really hear that? Then my heart raced. Mrs. Godfrey was not deaf, and she could speak! I cannot tell you the emotions that came over me. This beautiful, wonderful lady picked me to speak to after all the years in this place. God had blessed me beyond anything I could ever deserve. Tears flowed, mine and hers, even from the nurses and the rest of the staff. What a magnificent Christmas present!

Mrs. Godfrey’s life changed that night. She wasn’t invisible, anymore.

How many times have we walked past people who needed help and did not see them, as though they were invisible? The children without winter coats, the old man or woman struggling to get across the street, or the young man who walks alone in the streets looking for somewhere to belong. We all get caught up in our own worlds and problems, but Jesus came to earth to teach us the right way, His way. Care for those who are sick and hungry, those who are homeless and downtrodden, build up their hope through you love and belief in our Lord and Savior, Our Blessed Redeemer, Jesus Christ. I Love You., and I thank you for loving me...and your neighbor.

Prayer: Lord, I pray that others may see your love for them through me this holiday season. Allow me to be an example of the adoration and love You show us through your everlasting grace and mercy. Amen.

December 26, 2010

Advent Devotionals: Tuesday, December 22

Joe Gibson
Tuesday, Fourth Week of Advent: Love

Gifts of Love

And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.
Luke 2:52

Christmas is a time for giving. Christians follow Christ’s commandment to love others through God by presenting others with gifts of love. All gifts should be thoughtful, but more so at Christmas. Christmas gifts should be given in the same spirit as God’s gift to us — his son, the perfect soul in a human body, the pattern, the yardstick by which our own souls’ growth and progress is measured.

God selected the one land, Israel, of the one God, as a tilled garden for his gift of love to take hold and thrive in a godly part of the world surrounded by raucous weeds and thistles.

In Christ’s honor, let us build our God-given souls, deed upon deed, kindness upon kindness, so that we may present, like the good servant, an increased gift of talents when we stand before Him.

Advent Devotionals: Monday, December 21

Martha Jett
Monday, Fourth Week of Advent: Love

Make a joyful noise

Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. Serve the Lord with gladness; come before His presence with singing.
Psalm 100:1-2

Music started long before people could read and write to record events in their lives. The oldest civilized people believed that music had come from heaven and was sent to them by their gods.

Religion has inspired some of the world’s most beautiful music and is crucial to the worship of God. We feel happiness and joy when we gather together to sing our wonderful hymns and hear our choir specials.

Music about the birth of Jesus reminds us of the angels who sang to announce that moment in history. As we approach Advent Season and sing carols once again, let us make a joyful noise!

Prayer: Lord, may we always lift our voices in praise of your name. Amen.

December 17, 2004

Advent Devotionals: Sunday, December 20

Montee Fowler
Sunday, Fourth Week of Advent: Love

God’s will be done

For God so loved the world He gave his only begotten Son...
John 3:16a

"Never has the world had a greater need for love than in our day. People are hungry for love. We don’t have time to stop and smile at each other; we are in such a hurry. Pray. Ask for the necessary grace. Pray to be able to understand how much Jesus loved us, so that you can love others."

--Mother Teresa

In all our praying we must ask that God’s will be done.

Advent Devotionals: Saturday, December 19

Dianne Stillwell
Saturday, Third Week of Advent: Joy

Our Past Preserved

Following what was heard by the original eyewitnesses and servants of Jesus Christ, who is the Word, many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the events that happened among you. For this reason, I have carefully checked everything from the beginning, and present it here in proper chronological order for you, so that you can be assured that what you have been taught is indeed true.
Luke 1:1-4

A few weeks ago, Keith and I enjoyed a Saturday in Stearns, KY, riding the Big South Fork Scenic Railway. It was a 14-mile train ride through the scenic mountains of Southern Kentucky along with a stop at the historic Blue Heron Mining Camp. As we traveled, a narrator gave us background information about the area and the several small mining towns that used to be along this path. Two of the three small mining towns were no longer there, but they had “ghost buildings” set up to give us an idea of what the towns might have been like in the past. Later we made a stop at the Blue Heron Mining Camp. Here, we were able to get off the train and do some exploring and imagining.

We had an opportunity to step inside a mining entrance and listen to recordings explain how life used to be in this small mining town. The voices we heard were from actual people who worked these mines years ago. There was something about knowing the authenticity of the narration that made the experience more real to me.

This simple experience reminded me once again how we invest our time, efforts, and money into preserving the past and our heritage. Historic homes are restored. Historical artifacts are preserved and displayed in museums. Photographs and furniture are restored and preserved. History comes alive as we sit around our kitchen tables and listen to stories of the past. We read historical books and watch historical programs.

As a church, we recently focused our attention on our capital campaign- Investing In Tomorrow’s Ministries....Today! We have reflected upon those charter members who made sacrifices so that you and I could continue God’s mission for LABC. These are just a few examples of how we value the past and seek ways to preserve it for future generations.

Remembering our past is crucial because we are grounded in who we are when we know where we have come from. We connect with others and find ourselves in the stories. We are validated by our past. Without the past, we are nothing.

Matthew and Luke must have felt that preserving the past, the story of Jesus’ birth, was important, too. They were careful to include as many events and details of the story as possible. They knew it must be preserved for all generations that would follow.

As we approach this Christmas season, we will spend time remembering the past: God’s plan, Jesus’ birth foretold, Mary’s visit to Elizabeth, Mary’s praises to God, Jesus’ birth, the proclamation of the angels, the visit by the shepherds, the visit by the Magi, our hope, our Savior! As you do, take time to find yourself in the story. It is your past.

May we be intentional this Christmas in sharing God’s story with those we come in contact with so they, too, can find their place in His story.

Advent Devotionals: Friday, December 18

Keith Stillwell
Friday, Third Week of Advent: Joy

True Joy

Twas the night before the first day back at school after the Christmas holidays.

Done was my birthday party and presents, lots of food and sweets, family gatherings, more Christmas presents, toys and games, lots of free time, Christmas and New Year's celebrations.

Now it was over. I searched the calendar of my twelve-year-old mind, trying to think when the next fun activity would be. Not soon, I determined. I felt a sense of emptiness inside. I thought, “There has to be more to life than this — living from one fun event to the next.” I grew up in a Christian family, nurtured by the church community, so deep down I knew there was more to life than this.

Twas the night before the first day back at school after the Christmas holidays, one year later.

Birthday, Christmas, New Years' and all the fun that come with them was over. I remembered how I felt in previous years, but this year was different. Gone was the emptiness. I would miss the fun and excitement of the holidays, but I did not dread going back to school and the months ahead. I had experienced the joy of knowing Christ more deeply. Since the previous year, I had committed myself to Christ and found true joy, based not on fun, presents and food, but based on a relationship with Jesus, born in a manger.

May your Advent/Christmas Season — and beyond — be filled with the true joy of Christ.

Advent Devotionals: Thursday, December 17

Maureen Elwyn
Thursday, Third Week of Advent: Joy

Lost and Found – a Celebration of Joy

I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
Luke 15:7

Recently, while riffling through a box of family pictures, I came across a picture of my mother, brothers, and me seated next to the Christmas tree playing with our Christmas gifts. I remembered that holiday well. My brothers had each received a fire-engine red Western Flier bicycle and an Erector set. My gift was the one every little girl had asked for that year – a Revlon doll.

In the photograph, I am scrunched next to Mother in her favorite chair admiring the exquisite beauty of the doll’s attire. Her hair was flame-red and tiny, tear-drop pearl earrings dangled from her ears. Her dress had a velvet bodice atop a blue, ruffled taffeta skirt. Tiny sling-back pumps adorned her feet secured by slender wisps of elastic bands. To complete the already perfect outfit, my grandmother had fashioned a mink cape and muff from scraps left over from modernizing my mother’s winter coat.

I was proud of that gift, so proud that when I came home for lunch the first day after vacation, I begged Mother to let me take the doll to school to show her to my friends. Mother did not think this was a good idea, but I begged and pleaded until, uncharacteristically, she relented. Her one admonition was that I should not lose the doll’s beautiful slippers. Promising that I wouldn’t, I grabbed my treasure and ran back to school as quickly as I could.

That afternoon when my brothers and I arrived home red-faced from our cold walk home, Mother greeted us with a smile and a snack. As I took off my coat and sat down to eat, I realized to my horror that one of the doll’s shoes was missing. Unfortunately, Mother discovered it at the same time I did. She didn’t say a word, just pointed to our coats. I could tell by the look in her eyes that we would search for the missing shoe until we found it.

And search we did, all the way down the alley to the football field, across the playground, tracing and retracing every step. Mother’s exasperation grew, matched only by my unbridled crying. My brothers were equally frustrated with me. I didn’t even want to think of what would happen when Daddy came home.

We searched until it was almost dark. Finally, with resignation, Mother said we would have to stop and go home. Disappointed, we trudged up the hill toward the baseball diamond. I bet we had climbed that hill 10 times already, but this time was different. There, hanging by its slender elastic band on a tuft of dried grass in plain sight was the tiny slipper. I can still remember the joy and relief I felt to this day. When we finally reached home, we cele- brated.

On another Christmas , 2000 years ago, God sent his only Son to seek and to save a lost and hurting world. I love the stories in the Bible that tell how our Savior is not willing that any person should be lost – how He will search and search until He finds and saves us and when He does, all heaven rejoices with him celebrating with joy.

I kept that Revlon doll for another 30 years and you would probably not be surprised to know that I never lost her shoes again. I am thankful to have had a mother who taught me the value of not giving up, and I am blessed beyond measure to have a heavenly Father who loves his children and rejoices over them with great joy.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you that each and every one of us is precious in your sight. Thank you for the gift of your Son which allows us to be part of your family and for the joy that floods our hearts because we are your children.

Advent Devotionals: Wednesday, December 16

Philip Quinn
Wednesday, Third Week of Advent: Joy

Decide to be Joyful

But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great
joy that will be for all the people.’
Luke 2:10

SO...how is your Christmas Season going? Is it happy? Exciting? Are you full of the Christmas Spirit? Or is it just full of headaches, busyness, and stressful decisions?

One of our Christmas Carols is named, “While by The Sheep”- the first verse says, “While by the sheep we watched at night, glad tidings brought an angel bright. How great our joy! Joy, Joy, Joy!”

OK, so think about this a minute: If you were a poor shepherd out in a cold, dark field with a bunch of dumb, dirty sheep and a supernatural being appeared to you and started singing and scaring your flock, how would you react? You might say, “I’ll never get these sheep rounded up now. I’m gonna get fired!” OR “That crazy angel wants me to go where? I don’t have the time or money to do that!” OR “Either this field is haunted or my goat-milk has fermented-Bah-humbug!”

But what did these guys do? They listened to the angel, believed the angel, and were filled with “exceeding, great joy.” This led them to Bethlehem where they found Jesus and worshipped him. It changed their lives!

SO...once again, how is your Christmas Season going? Are you stressed? Worried about the expenses of gifts, entertaining, etc? Wondering if it’s worth all the trouble? If so, consider this thought: JOY IS NOT MERELY AN EMOTION, BUT A DECISION, and you can be as joyful as YOU WANT TO BE! No matter how broke or busy you are, your Christmas Season can be a time of “exceeding, great joy—JOY, JOY, JOY!”

You see, the angel didn’t just appear to those shepherds: he appears each year to all of us and says, “Hey! This Event of the birth of Christ is really a great thing! Rise up from your ordinary life and celebrate it with great joy. Let it change your life as you find Jesus and worship Him!”

God, during this season, pull us away from our daily fields to celebrate Christmas with hearts full of joy. Amen.

Advent Devotionals: Tuesday, December 15

Paul Elwyn
Tuesday, Third Week of Advent: Joy

Good news...in a business meeting!

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15:13

Advent focuses on the good news of God’s gifts of Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love, but we mere mortals benefit from down-to-earth circumstances — even a business meeting— to better understand God’s promise.

The October 28 business meeting in the choir room featured a packed house where business rose to celebration. That evening we heard good news about pledges to completely pay for the bus shelter. On the previous Sunday we had learned we were nearly half way to our capital campaign fundraising goal only one week into the campaign. And now we had money to build a garage!

On first blush we celebrated pledged money, but I hope we began to reflect more spiritually on the good news. Some members had doubted that we would be able to raise even half of the capital campaign goal. They worried also about attendance, the budget, and more to the point, the capacity of LABC to do God’s work.

Donors who pledge money or service time give much more than they realize; they lift us up. Perhaps, then, between the two revelations of bus shelter and capital campaign pledges, we realized in the choir room that our church is stronger than we thought. Our prayers, if not immediately for the number of souls in seats, but for the future of LABC, were being answered in part by love offerings.

The good news, after all, is we should not worry, but trust in prayer and trust that God provides. We do find, then, good news in pledged money and work, but more importantly we find the good news in the promises of Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, during this Advent season, let us remember that all we have comes from you. Strengthen our faith and help us to see more clearly how we can give back to you with gifts out of love, for you and for our church, out of optimism and encouragement for one another in our journey of faith.

Advent Devotionals: Monday, December 14

Kate Valentine
Monday, Third Week of Advent: Joy

The Lord’s most precious gift

Every good gift and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
James 1:17

During the Holiday season, we hear a lot about remembering that Christmas isn’t about the gifts, but the birth of Christ, and the gift God sent to us. We try to remind ourselves that it’s okay if we receive something we don’t want, or don’t receive something we did want, because it’s not about that; it’s about Jesus.

Although this is a step to understanding the meaning of Christmas, we usually do these actions emptily. We don’t always fully understand Christmas, and therefore, we don’t always fully appreciate one of God’s amazing gifts: joy and happiness.

We’ll remember that Christmas isn’t about what’s under the tree in that wrapped up present you’ve been dying to open, but we won’t do so with joy, and accept that being joyful is partly what Christmas is about. You might cringe on the inside when you open that beautifully wrapped present to find an itchy sweater, but it’s not about that awful sweater that you’ll most likely never wear; it’s about getting to be with people who care about you and love you, and this is what makes us joyful.

So, do not let your selfishness blind you to what you really should be celebrating, and what you feel in your heart as you celebrate. Remember that Christmas isn’t necessarily about getting or even giving, but instead about the Lord’s most precious gift that should bring us all the joy in the world.

We are celebrating the joy that has been brought to us from above, and this is what matters.

Advent Devotionals: Sunday, December 13

Jean Steinhauer
Sunday, Third Week of Advent: Joy

Exhibit joy in all that you do

When thinking about this advent article, I could only hear the word “joy” in my head. I truly wondered how I could write about “joy” when all around me sadness was being exhibited in so many ways. The TV brings us word of killings and death from overdoses, drive-by shootings and brother killing brother. How can one find joy in a world so corrupt and sad?

Then I thought of each new baby born into the world and the joy the mother and father feel as they hold their newborn. I thought about those who have been very ill and are at last on their way to recovery. I thought of those who find a remembered loved one after many years apart. Joy exhibits itself in so many ways. What has made you joyful today?

At this time of the year, we begin to sing our songs of joy and remember the joy of the birth of the baby born in Bethlehem so many years ago. The joy of the Angels as they trumpeted the baby’s birth, the joy of the shepherds as they went to seek the newborn Savior, the joy that Mary experienced knowing that she was the mother of the Most High God. The earth was filled with joy on that night so long ago! Look into your heart. Where is the joy in your life?

Christmas is a time for joy! Exhibit joy in all that you do! Let those around you see the joy in your heart. Christ our Savior is born!!!

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, fill our hearts with joy that we may show the world your love in sending your only son to be its Savior!

Advent Devotionals: Saturday, December 12

Evelyn Newsom
Saturday, Second Week of Advent: Peace

Return to old-fashioned values

The family will only prevail if husbands and fathers accept their God-given responsibilities for leadership in the family to lead their children in paths of righteousness, integrity, honesty, and decency and to love and care for those that depend on them.

It’s time to get back to some old-fashioned values, like commitment and sacrifice and responsibility and purity and love and the straight life. Not only will our children benefit from our self-discipline and perseverance, but we adults will live in a less neurotic world, too!

Prayer: Thanks to the Lord, for he is good, and his mercy endures, forever. Amen.

Advent Devotionals: Friday, December 11

Katie Fowler
Friday, Second Week of Advent: Peace

We don’t need to know everything

Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel.
Matthew 1:23

It was a few days before Christmas around 1960. I was 12 years old and home alone. I was well beyond the visions of Santa coming down the chimney, leaving presents for good boys and girls. I had always exasperated my parents with my “why” questions and “what ifs.” I always wanted to know everything. But the main thing I wanted to know, that day, was - what am I getting for Christmas?

Since I was “home alone,” I started searching for presents. It wasn’t long before I found several neatly wrapped gifts in the very back, top shelf of my mother and dad’s closet. I took the ones with my name on them and very carefully unwrapped them all and opened them up. Then I very carefully re-wrapped and re-did the tape. That Christmas morning was the worst Christmas I ever had in my life — past and present! Not only did I have to act sur- prised on Christmas morning (when there was no surprise), but I felt as guilty as heck. Why did I feel that I had to know everything? Why did I ruin the day for myself? I guess I was a pretty good actress, because my mother didn’t suspect anything. I did eventually confess, way after the statutes of limitations had run out.

I guess it is just human nature to want to know the why and what for of everything. It is the same when we question the mystery of the birth of Christ. How could a young virgin girl deliver a baby in a stable and how could this little baby also be God? Sometimes we really don’t need to know it all. We just have to have faith and believe that our Father knows. He has a plan and it isn’t for us to know. As the song says, “Just Trust and Obey.”

Some things just need to stay a mystery. We don’t need to know everything. I learned my lesson that horrible Christmas morning long ago. Have you?

Advent Devotionals: Thursday, December 10

Jennifer Valentine
Thursday, Second Week of Advent: Peace

Peace

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, through prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7

Peace. What do you think of when you hear that word? I do not do social media but I do love Pinterest. Since Pinterest is all about pictures and I am a visual learner, it is perfect for me. I have a Pinterest board named “Serenity.” I browsed through it and noticed a clear pattern. Almost every picture included water and EVERY picture was outside in nature! There is also no other human being in any of the pictures. Everything is quiet, calm, still. To me, that is what peace is.

However, I was challenged recently when I came across a picture and a quote about peace that I was not expecting. The picture was of a young woman walking through a blowing rain storm. It was late fall and the leaves were blowing around. She was holding an umbrella that was being tattered by the rain and wind. But the woman was calm. The wind and rain beating against her did not seem to bother her. Included was this quote:

“Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.”

Wow! That was a view of peace I hadn’t thought about. But it is true. And the only way I can do that is through Jesus.

How appropriate for God to reveal this view of peace to me as I prepare to celebrate Jesus’ birth. I imagine your home is like ours, and the swirl of chaos begins after Thanksgiving. But the psalmist tells us to “Be still, and know that I am God.”

This season, ask God to help you know true peace, even in the midst of life’s storms.

Advent Devotionals: Wednesday, December 9

Adam Nash
Wednesday, Second Week of Advent: Peace

Fruit of the Spirit

Earlier this year the youth group took time to memorize the Fruit of
the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). At this point most of the youth have all nine memorized and have a short definition of what each one means, along with an example from scripture, or modern day life, of what each virtue in the list could look like.

In the youth group we talk about “peace,” the third fruit of the spirit, as meaning more than simply the absence of violence, but the poetic function of harmonious relationships (becoming a part of something more grand than any one person could be alone). However, I experienced two things that made me stop and rethink my approach to this lesson: I should take less time explaining words and their semantics, because even though we might not give the same definition to the word “peace,” we all can identify its absence.

First, I saw a video by World Vision. This video was of displaced children from Syria, and they were asked, “What does peace mean?” None of their answers matched. Not a single child could give a good working definition. However, they understood, far more than I, the longing that is intended to be associated with the word “peace.”

Second, as I began to type this devotional, preparing to draw it to a conclusion, there was a barely audible knock at my front door. Rushing to see who it was, I found a small woman pushing a stroller. She extended her hand to me, in it a small box, and in that small box a small blue light bulb. I accepted it with a slightly puzzled look on my face. She said, “I don’t know if you know, but the officer that was shot lives right there (pointing about a dozen houses away). We are asking people to put out these lights to show their support.”

As I was about to tell everyone reading this to remember the people of the world who are torn apart from the absence of peace, I was reminded that the absence of peace can be anywhere... even just a few doors down.

Unfortunately, peace is known best in its absence. We Christians must find the places and people who hunger for peace and proclaim the Gospel of Peace and its Prince.

Prayer: Father, in this season we are grateful for you, for stepping into your creation so that we could see and know peace. Amen

Advent Devotionals: Tuesday, December 8

Evelyn Crooke
Tuesday, Second Week of Advent: Peace

God will take care of you

Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid.
Isaiah 12:2a

The year was 1961. I was in the hospital facing my first major surgery. A thousand miles from home, away from family, I was lonely and frightened.

As I lay on the hospital bed, uncertain of the future, a soft tap came on the door. I mumbled, “Come in,” and my pastor’s wife and five-year-old daughter, Sue, entered. Sue clutched a brown paper bag in her hands, and as she approached the bed she opened the bag ad pulled out a small ceramic figurine. Handing it to me she said, “Miss Evelyn, I’ve brought you a guardian angel to watch over you while you’re asleep. So don’t be afraid; God will take care of you.” That visit, those words, and the little angel brought comfort and peace to my anxious spirit.

For 44 years that guardian angel has occupied a prominent place in my home. Every day I look at her and remember the words of a five-year-old child, “God will take care of you.” And he has!

Be not dismayed what-e’er betide,
God will take care of you;
Beneath his wings of love abide,
God will take care of you.

God will take care of you,
Through every day, o’er all the way;
He will take care of you,
God will take care of you.

— Civilla D. Martin

Prayer: Gracious God, thank you for your loving care, your tender mercies, and your protection over us no matter what the circumstances may be. Amen.

Advent Devotionals: Monday, December 7

Amanda Standiford
Monday, Second Week of Advent: Peace

We can be peacemakers


How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of a messenger
who proclaims peace,
who brings good news,
who proclaims salvation,
who says to Zion, “Your God rules!”

Isaiah 52:7

Among other things, Isaiah calls the coming Christ a peacemaker.
And in so many ways, during his time on earth, Jesus brought peace. He healed. He loved. He showed people the kingdom of God.

We live knowing that Jesus has come and that in some ways, the wait for peace is over. Yet we live in a world of “already but not yet.” Jesus has come, but God’s work in the world is not yet finished. Jesus showed us the kingdom of God, and it is ours to enact in our world.

This fall, the children studied the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). As we learned together about peace, we read a book called What Does Peace Feel Like? (Vladimir Radunsky, Athenaeum Books for Young Readers: 2003). The author compiled ideas from children all around the world about what peace looks like, smells like, feels like, sounds like, and so forth. The children’s ideas are creative and beautiful. To them, peace was like all sorts of things, from a good hug to a scoop of ice cream to a day at the park.

What is peace like for you?

None of us can enact world peace nor bring in the kingdom of God single- handedly, but together, we can be peacemakers and peace-bringers in our own small but important ways. We can be the beautiful feet (and hands!) of Christ when we proclaim peace to our neighbors, our community, and our world.

Advent Devotionals: Sunday, December 6

Max Hester
Sunday, Second Week of Advent: Peace

Peace Like a Turtledove

Our world is filled with trouble and tragedy and we hear about it instantly through television, telephone and internet.

Our world is much like the Christmas carol, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,” when Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote, “And in despair I bowed my head; there is no peace on earth I said.” Those words, written during the Civil War echoed in my mind as I crossed the pedway at the Chandler Medical Center in Lexington to visit a critically ill patient.

With emergency lights flashing and sirens screaming, an ambulance turned into the hospital entrance. I paused to pray for the patient being transported to the emergency department, and that is when I saw her. She was sitting high above the busy thoroughfare below and on top of a metal box surrounding a lighted traffic sign. She was a turtledove, and she sat calmly on a makeshift nest of scattered twigs while protecting and warming the eggs beneath her in anticipation of the day when they would hatch and begin her new family. She sat calmly and peacefully despite the chaos and noise around her.

She taught me that peace is not the absence of chaos, noise or trouble. Rather, peace is a calm and quiet spirit in the midst of chaos, noise and trouble. True peace comes by the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

As Galatians 5:22 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, PEACE...”

Prayer: Dear God, give me peace in the midst of trouble and tragedy, chaos and noise that I may warm the hearts of the people I meet. In the name of the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.

Advent Devotionals: Saturday, December 5

Adam Standiford
Saturday, First Week of Advent: Hope

Hymns teach us many things

Our hymns teach us many things. The words reveal to us how we talk to or about God; the music provides a flow that enriches our learning to worship God; the moments in worship and our lives when we use and re- member them bless us as a testimony of God’s persevering love.

For example, one of the important hymns from my childhood is “Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling.” The refrain goes:

Come home, come home, / Ye who are weary, come home; / Earnestly, tenderly Jesus is calling, / Calling, O sinner, come home.

What a peaceful, inviting, and warm image of Christ! However, our hymns also teach us another thing: Though we may claim a hymn to be one of our favorites, that does not mean we find comfort in all of its verses. For example, verse three: Time is now fleeting, the moments are passing, Time is fleeting? Where is it going? Don’t rush me!

Shadows are gathering, deathbeds are coming, Hold it. Shadows? Deathbeds? Suddenly I feel very uncomfortable about this song and learn why my little Baptist church skipped most third verses during hymns.
We often avoid concerning ourselves with the things in life that bother us, because they make us feel uncomfortable. With all of the outlets in our lives to fill our day, we are able to break free from the agony of having to wait. When we wait, we begin to think. And when we think, we are sometimes surrounded by worries, concerns, and what-ifs that drag us down and wear us out.

When we are weary, we should try to remember that there is true hope and joy. We find ourselves waiting for the birth of our Lord during Advent, but we know that our promise has been fulfilled: Jesus has come and will come again. The author of Romans says, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace... so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

May you find the light of hope this season, even when life get dark.