2017 Advent Devotional

Download the full devotional guide here

How to use this guide of devotional practices

This Advent guide is filled with many different kinds of devotional practices.  Some will have you reading, some listening, and some doing.  There are so many ways to devote ourselves to God.  Some practices may speak to your spirit more than others.  That’s ok.  Devotion is about presenting yourself to God day after day, no matter the method.

Another part of devotion is using your gifts to praise God.  Many Georgetown Baptist Church members of all ages have already devoted themselves to praising God with their talents by contributing to this project.  Let their gifts of praise lead you in daily worship this Advent season.

There are a couple of ways you can use this guide.  Follow along individually or as a group or family.  Engage these practices by following the devotion assigned to today’s date, or you can also skip around, depending on what you have time for today.  Take note of the star and tree symbols that appear on some devotions.  A star will let you know that the devotional practice is especially good for children.  The tree denotes practices that are especially good for teenagers.

Finally, have fun.  Open your heart and your mind.  If a practice is unfamiliar to you, ask God to walk with you in the newness.  When a passage is familiar, ask God to speak new meaning through the text.  

Devotion takes practice.  Advent is the perfect time to practice our worship and work on our relationship with God.  Advent is a season devoted to preparation.  It’s about getting our hearts ready for the birth of Christ.  Jesus is coming.  Let’s practice welcoming him this season as we worship together.

Especially good for children

Especially good for children

Especially good for teenagers

Especially good for teenagers

Devotion: Luke 2:1-7

No place for baby Jesus in the inn.  No space to be born in, no proper clothes to be dressed in, not even a comfy bed to be laid in.  Poor baby Jesus didn’t have a very good birthday.  And poor Mary and Joseph!  Parents want to take care of their children, and they couldn’t find any better place than a barn for their son’s birth.  

I wonder if Mary thought about her clean home and loving family back in Nazareth as she spent the night on a pile of hay.  I wonder if Joseph thought to himself, “I should have left Mary at home.  At least there, the baby would have a real bed.  Here he’s lying on the animals’ food, wrapped in scrap fabric.”

This isn’t how any of us want to spend our Christmas—homeless, dirty, and uncomfortable.  But that’s exactly how the King of Kings came into the world at the first Christmas: a humble birth for the savior.  

This is how far God will go to reach us with love.  God would become human—a helpless baby, a homeless baby—to show us that God’s love for us is greater than we could ever imagine.  As you celebrate today, know that you are deeply loved by the God who made you and the Jesus who was born to save you.

Pastor Heather

Merry Christmas!

And on earth peace...

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host,
praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”
Luke 2:13-14

And on earth peace….  Finding space to rest today may be difficult.  There’s so much to do, so much to prepare, so much we are excited about on Christmas Eve.  And yet, what we rush around preparing to celebrate is actually peace—peace come to earth in the form of a child.  

Take 2 minutes, just 2 holy minutes, to meditate on this scripture.  Maybe set a timer on your phone.  Move away from the chaos or invite those around you to be still for 2 minutes.  Light a candle or turn on some Christmas lights.  Watch the light and let it help you to focus.  Repeat to yourself the words of the angels, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”

You belong to God; you are favored.  Peace has come into your life this night.

Pastor Heather

My Soul Magnified the Lord: Artwork

Read Luke 1:46-56 and the written reflection below.  
Go to the next page to see Sheila’s artistic rendering of Mary’s Song the Magnificat.  
Look for the original artwork in the sanctuary.

The enduring beauty of Mary’s Song in Luke 1:46-56 is the way it captures God’s grace and mercy in ways that prose cannot. Echoing the tune of Miriam’s Song in Exodus 15 and Hannah’s prayer of praise in 1 Samuel 2, the Magnificat reminds us that God looks favorably on lowly servants such as Mary, and calls them blessed not because they have wealth, fame, power, or prestige, but because of their willingness to say yes to God—to fear God from generation to generation.

Mary’s song images a world turned upside down, in which God brings down the powerful and lifts up the lowly, fills the hungry and sends the rich away empty. These reversals capture the heart of the Gospel message.  

In the fragile infant, God has reached out and touched fallen creation, restoring its dignity and worth. And by the power of the Spirit, God’s coming kingdom breaks into our world, making all things new. So make no doubt about it, we may be surrounded by reversals of THE Great Reversal, but the song captures Truth—God will make good on God’s promises—yesterday, today, and forever!

Sheila Klopfer

AdventSoulArtwork.jpg

Preparing for Sunday

Over the last three Sundays, we've studied the lives of Andy and Maggie Trocmé and their nephew, Daniel.  Their selfless response to the agonizing realities of wartime France saved the lives of Jewish citizens and refugees from across Europe fleeing the Nazi regime.  I can't help but wonder what my thoughts, actions, and message would have been if I had been in their shoes.

Of course, the Trocmés did not live in a vacuum.  Their lives were lived in a particular location surrounded by specific people and a definite set of circumstances.  We call such a setting a "ministry context."  Their ministry context, the little French village of Le Chambon, included a few thousand residents and a couple thousand nearby farmers who relied upon the village for trade.  Each of these households faced its own questions of how to respond to the war being fought around them and later, the German army occupying their streets and homes.

How might the residents of Le Chambon respond?  What is peace in such a reality?  Perhaps the message of John 1:9 resounded in their memories.  “The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.”  

It isn’t so much that the light of Christ suddenly made the shadows of the Third Reich disappear.  History tells us tremendous suffering, torture, and death ensued.  It is more that the light of Christ enabled the villagers to see through the shadows and recognize themselves and their town in the midst of it all.  Though wickedness and cruelty seemed the norm elsewhere, the people of Le Chambon must have asked themselves, “Who are we and what will we do to shine this Light?”

Pastor Alan

Christmas in Ecuador

Christmas Eve is when most Ecuadorians celebrate the birth of Jesus.  We came together in the early evening to share Christmas Dinner. We ate early because there were young children who needed to eat at a normal hour.  The delicious meal was accompanied by much laughter and fellowship and afterward the table was cleared and the games began.

The family was divided into teams.  Each team would sing along with a recording of a Christmas Carol.  Someone would pull the speaker plug, but the group had to continue singing. Some time later the speaker plug was reinserted, and the winning group was the one that was still synced with the recording. Not knowing the carols, I kept time on the arm of my chair to help my group.  Our team did well.

Later each team was given modeling clay to create something of the Christmas Story.  There was much discussion as to what to build and how to build it. Most efforts centered on the stable and the manger.  My group decided that since it was Christmas Eve a model of a pregnant Mary would be appropriate, because after all tomorrow was the birth, tonight Mary was pregnant.  Alas, our team did not do well.

More games, more fellowship, more fun, more Love.

At midnight the Bible was opened and the story of our Savior’s birth was read. There was a time of prayer and a sharing of gifts. The focus was, as in many cultures, on the children still wide eyed at the excitement of it all.

After many hugs and kisses (part of the culture at all times) we left for our own homes with hearts full of family love and the knowledge that, as great as this love is, it is but a shadow of the love that the baby Jesus brought into this world.

George McCombe
Missionary to Ecuador

Christmas Craft

And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
Luke 2: 7

Make a twine ornament (pictured below) using the instructions that follow.  As you wrap your twine around and around, think about Mary wrapping her baby in bands of cloth.  As you hold the simple twine or hang your ornament on a tree, think about the humility of Jesus’ birth.

Pick up a kit for this craft with the Advent Devotional Guides at GBC, or gather the needed items from your home or the store.

Twine Ball Ornament

You will need:

  • White school glue
  • Small bowl
  • Paper to cover your workspace
  • 1 kit from GBC or the kit’s contents 
  • Glitter (optional)

Kit includes:

  • (2) 6 inch lengths of twine
  • bundle of twine
  • water balloons (1 is a back up)

Instructions:

  1. Cover working area with paper.
  2. Inflate balloon to a desired small round shape.
  3. In a small bowl, combine equal parts white school glue and water.
  4. Tie 1 of the smaller lengths of twine around the neck of the balloon.
  5. Unwind large bundle of twine and dip completely into glue/water mixture.
  6. Begin winding glue covered twine around balloon, completing a ball shape, crisscrossing the twine in different directions. 
  7. If you have glitter and would like to cover this ornament, do so now. 
  8. Hang balloon to dry by the string around the neck, for at least 24 hours. 
  9. After twine is fully hardened, pop balloon and remove.
  10. Tie 2nd of the smaller lengths of twine through the ornament so you can hang on your tree!
AdventTwineOrnament.jpg

Praying Luke: 2:8-20

Read the passage through twice slowly noting the words and phrases that stand out to you. Pray the scripture considering these elements:

“Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.” Luke 2:10

Confession:  Confess your fears to God.  What is causing you to feel afraid?  Where in your life do you need God’s perfect peace to be poured upon you?

“For there is born to you this day in in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:11

Thanksgiving:  Thank God for the gift of His Son and the salvation that comes through Him.  Thank God for the blessings in your life.  Thank God for the work He is doing in your life now.

“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:  Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
Luke 2:13-14

Praise:  Praise God not for His good works but for who He is.

“Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child.  And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds.” Luke 2:17-18

Supplication:  Ask God to show you the work He has called you to do for this moment in time.  Who is He calling you to befriend?  Who is He calling you to serve?  Where has He placed you to work for His glory?

“But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Luke 2:19

Reflection:  Pray for wisdom.  Ask God to remind you of the hope and security that comes through Jesus in a new way this Christmas season.

Megan Redditt

Devotion: Matthew 1:18-25

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

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

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).

When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

One of my favorite memories of treasured Christmas traditions was when my family would all gather around the Christmas tree after Christmas dinner.  My Daddy would open his Bible and read the Christmas Story to us.  Often he read from Luke, but many times he also read from the text that we are referencing today.

Daddy began this tradition when I was very young, but I remember the last time he shared it was the Christmas before he passed away.  What a happy memory!  He taught me the importance of always stressing what Christmas was truly about.

It is so important that we share these traditions with our loved ones.  I know what a hectic time Christmas can be.  Many of us attend one of our Christmas Eve services where the scripture will be read.  This year I encourage you & your family to share the true meaning of Christmas by taking time to read the Scripture together in your homes on Christmas Day.  It will be a memory you will cherish always.

Thank you, Father, for blessing me with an earthly father that taught me the true meaning of Christmas.

Faith V. Hammond

Your Peace: A Song

Listen to this original song by Kerry Jeter.  Click Play below or pick up a CD of the songs contained in this Devotional Guide in the HUB area at Georgetown Baptist.  Follow along with the lyrics below.

YOUR PEACE

We made chaos where there was once Your perfect garden
Paradise was lost and left us desperate for Your pardon
The spiral of death and pain remained only Your great love could beat
And still to this day on Earth, we need Your peace

We waited hopefully for our long promised Savior
Never dreaming He’d come lay in a humble manger
But like the shepherds, the angels and the far travelling kings
We follow Your light and on Earth, we seek Your peace

The most beautiful sunset glowing radiantly on the ocean blue
The most pleasant sunrise shining on a quiet morning’s dew
Or even a mother’s love or child’s gentle hug all fall short of the plea of our hearts
The stillness and comfort we hope for are found only in Your loving arms

Even in our violence, Your love for us made the way
You gave us innocence in spite of all of our misguided hate
For driven nails and a crown of thorns could not stop sin’s defeat
It’s through the cross, here on Earth, we find Your peace

BRIDGE

Storms and fires rage as hope dwindles through the land
But when bullets rain we’re calm beyond what we understand
We lend a hand or bend an ear and let our faith be clearly seen
‘Cause by Your grace here on Earth we give Your peace

TAG: By Your mercy here on Earth, we live Your peace

© Kerry Jeter 2017

Kerry Jeter

Joy!: Artwork

JOY! He is here! And there was not only earthly rejoicing but heavenly!

I found this lovely little wood sculpture in the Otavalo Indian market located about two hours outside of Quito, Ecuador, where we lived.  In a market square teeming with people and jammed with weavings, watercolor artwork, wood carvings, jade bookends and all other sorts of artisanal things, this was the only one like this.  I was immediately taken with it.  To me, it expresses irresistible excitement at what has just happened. As you look at it, I hope you find that feeling too. 

Tempy McCombe

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior,
who is the Messiah, the Lord.
Luke 2:10-11
AdventJoyCarving.jpg

Preparing for Sunday

Pastor Andy and Maggie Trocmé weren’t the only ones in the family who stood against injustice during the war.  A cousin, Daniel, also joined in the effort to coordinate a network of concerned and active persons who would provide care and hiding for Jewish citizens and refugees.  Like so many around the village of Le Chambon, he too placed his own life in great peril while serving the needs of others under constant threat of deportation and violence.  

Where do we find peace in the defining moments of life?  What about when our burdens so pile up as to overwhelm us and threaten despair?  For Daniel Trocmé, the work was deeply meaningful, though swamped by the sheer magnitude of the Nazi regime and the struggle between Allied and Axis powers.  Against those steep odds, what might have kept Daniel going as his own future grew less clear?  

Perhaps he felt a bit like John the Baptist, about whom John 1:6-8 says, “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.”

One way to sustain peace is to identify where the Light of Christ is shining and follow it.  Although my life may not be easy, and even if there seems to be persistent shadow over some circumstances in our time, the Light of the World is always shining.  In those places where the Light is breaking forth – in kindness, generosity, humility, selflessness, advocacy, and justice in its many expressions – you and I can also reflect its rays.   

Pastor Alan

The Faith of a Child: Christmas Activity Ideas

There are so many ways to celebrate at Christmas time.  The 3rd and 4th grade Sunday School Class came up with several ways to help us remember what Christmas is really about: the birth of Christ and sharing Jesus’ love with others.

  • Read the Story of Christmas from the Bible, Luke 2:1-7. 
  • You can listen to Linus from A Charlie Brown Christmas.  Or read some of the lines below:

Charlie Brown: Isn’t there anyone, who knows what Christmas is all about?!

Linus: Sure Charlie Brown, I can tell you what Christmas is all about. Lights please?

And there were in the same country shepherds, abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them! And they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, “Fear not! For, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all my people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ, the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” And suddenly, there was with the angel a multitude of the Heavenly Host praising God, and saying, “Glory to God in the Highest, and on Earth peace, and good will toward men.

That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown

*Notice that when Linus speaks of A Savior he drops his ever-present blanket. It’s the only time that Linus felt so secure that he did not feel a need for his blanket.

  • Help with Christmas Cards.
  • Draw a special picture and write a special greeting about the true meaning of Christmas.
  • Sing Christmas songs like O Little Town of Bethlehem, Joy to the World, Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, and Silent Night.
  • Make Christmas cookies that are shaped like symbols of Christmas, and share these with your friends and neighbors.

3rd/4th Graders Abby, Ayden, Colton, Emilie, Izzy, Lillian, Mercy, Olivia, Ryan, Rylee, Mrs. Rachel Hisel, and Mr. Welch

O Come, O Come Emmanuel: A Song

For many, O Come, O Come Emmanuel is a beloved song that expresses the longing and desire for the arrival of Christ. As you listen, we invite you into a time of reflection, contemplation, and prayer, as we wait and long together.

Follow the link below or pick up a CD of the songs contained in this Devotional Guide in the HUB area at Georgetown Baptist.

Kyle and Sable Snyder

A Time of Rest

[Christ Jesus] who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross.
Philippians 2:6-8

As a kid, my church didn’t celebrate the season of Advent in any significant way; however, my parents came from a church tradition that did. So even though it didn’t happen at church, they made sure it was celebrated at home. Some of my earliest Christmas memories revolve around our weekly lighting of the Advent Wreath at our dining room table and opening the doors on the Advent Calendar each day.

For many of us, marking time throughout the season like this builds the excitement and anticipation toward Christmas day; however, what it also does is slow time down. We actually had to stop and think about these special moments, look at them together, talk about them, pause and notice them. In a season in which it seems hard to stop long enough to take a break and breathe, these intentional rituals created a clear moment to stop and rest before we took off again in a fury of church, school, family, musical, travel, sports, and birthday activities (yes, my birthday was 2 days ago!).

When we study the Christmas story closely, it’s important to notice all the ways it lines up in opposition to what our society tells us Christmas ought to be:  the small instead of the big, the quiet instead of the loud, the humble instead of the powerful, the outsiders instead of the insiders, the inward and secret instead of the outward and overt, and on and on. Another very important one of these countercultural shifts is holy rest instead of nonstop activity.

So here is the assignment for today’s reflection to help you stop and notice:

Gather your family around your dining room table tonight. Light a candle together (maybe help a younger kid learn to use matches to light it). Play some Christmas music softly. Pick one or two of the following questions and let each person take a turn answering and explaining their answers:

  • What is something we do as a family at Christmas that you really like?
  • Who is someone you look forward to spending time with around Christmas?
  • What is one thing we can do as a family to make Christmas more peaceful?
  • What is a feeling you hope to feel even after Christmas is over?
  • So far, how is our Christmas schedule making you feel about the season?
  • How do you think Christmas will be different when you are older?
  • When you are finished, pray together… maybe saying something like this:

“Lord, thank you for the people you have placed in my life. As we move toward Christmas together, please give us a deeper peace as we receive all the most important gifts you have for us. Help us to slow down and appreciate this season as we hear your voice speaking to our hearts. We stop to welcome you here. Amen.”

Pastor Tim

Christmas Reflections with our Senior Adults

Star & Tree.jpg

Christmas brings so many memories and meanings to each of our minds.  Two of our senior adults, Bob Barlow and Edna Taylor, sat down with two 7th graders, Ethan Sexton and Will Schindler, as well as Pastors Tim and Heather to talk about the meaning of Christmas in their lives.  Read some of the conversations transcribed below.  As you read these reflections, ask yourself the questions we talked through.

1. What does Christmas mean to you?

Will: What does Christmas mean to you?
Edna: First of all, it means that we’re celebrating Jesus’ birthday. And God really celebrated it with gorgeous stars and angels and their beautiful songs and how God led the wise men right to the place where they were. I mean it was so exciting, really. Anybody who doesn’t know the Christmas story from the Bible, they really are missing something. It’s one of the most exciting stories. I can’t think of anything more to say about that question, but I just wish everybody knew the Christmas story from Luke 2 and Matthew.

Will: So what does Christmas mean to us?
Ethan: I think it’s a time to celebrate Jesus’ birth and God’s life, and also to celebrate everything in life with family and friends.
Will: Yeah, I probably couldn’t have said it better myself.

2. Tell me about a favorite Christmas memory.

Heather: Do you have a favorite Christmas memory or one of many you’d like to share?
Bob: Well, you know, that’s one of the busiest times in athletics because they have tournaments. And sometimes we would go to the two during the Christmas season and you’re probably involved with at least 4 or 5 games, and if you’re good, you’re involved with more than that. So that Christmastime kept me hopping, and I didn’t really like to… I’ve done a better job of worshiping and enjoying Christmas since I retired from teaching.
Heather: You had to spend a lot of time with students and with athletes then, didn’t you?
Bob: Well, yes, I was involved with the team. And we also during that period of time it didn’t stop practice, in fact we got more of it. I don’t know. I think back. I think my favorite Christmas was when Mother (I’m a twin) and we both got brand new silver king bikes. It was our first bikes. It was a wonderful present. Because my mother had to raise 3 kids because my father died when I was very young. I was 9 years old when he died. And then he spent most of those years when he was alive either in the hospital or upstairs in bed because he was slowly… well, he was just a very sick man. So I hardly knew him. And all that fell on Mother. But she kept us fed. She was a great mother.

Will: So, tell me about your favorite Christmas memory.
Edna: Well, some of the favorite Christmas memories were the little church programs we had. I can remember my mother teaching Christmas songs and poems to me and my brother, and she taught us to teach so loud. I can remember standing up there at the pulpit and saying those things, and oh I practically yelled. And one woman told my mother, she said “Your children were the only ones that I understood.” But of course mama had been a school teacher and she really made us project. Those Christmas programs at church are some of my very favorite memories. And that’s where I learned the carols was through those Christmas programs. Of course I learned them at school later on, I mean we sang them at school later on, but it was church that I really learned those beautiful carols that I still cherish.
Will: Do you have a favorite?
Edna: O Little Town of Bethlehem is one of my very favorites. Of course I love Silent Night just like everybody else, I guess. But I love that O Little Town of Bethlehem and The First Noel.
Will: Those are all some of my favorites too.

Will: Tell me about your favorite Christmas memory.
Ethan: I really liked how you [Edna] said Christmas programs. Those were fun, like getting ready for them…
Will: I always enjoyed doing those too. I remember my favorite Christmas memories are we’d wake up on Christmas day and we’d get up like 5 o’clock in the morning and wait at the top of the stairs until finally we could convince our parents to get out of bed, drag them downstairs so we could open our presents, and then about noon we’d drive down to our grandparents house, and we would go and spend the after-, we’d get there at night, and sometimes we’d have like a Christmas dinner, then we would go and unwrap all of our presents, and it was really awesome spending time with family and the presents too… that was fun too.
Ethan: I would remember I would always try to sleep in later, so like when I got up, I could just go downstairs. My mom would always make quiche and it’s really good.
Will: My mom recently she’s always made sausage balls, it’s like this cheese and it’s really good.
Ethan: My mom makes also--she does this for worship2worship sometimes--the rice sausage casserole.
Will: Oh, that’s good.

3. How do you get yourself (and your heart) ready for Christmas?

Heather: How do you like to celebrate Christmas, to remember the birth of Christ?
Bob: I just think I personally use that as a [chance] to please Jesus, and when I do … that’s a one-time gift to Lottie Moon. And I like Lottie Moon because it goes directly to where it’s suppose to go. Anyway, I do my best to worship Christ. And I’m sure I fall short on that. If we all got what we deserved, what I don’t want, we’d be sent right straight to hell. And thank goodness for Christ Jesus. And I think his birth. I think that everybody living today has a lot to be thankful for because he lives after the birth of Christ. I would hate to have grown up in Old Testament times. And I’m not sure how God is going to make all those judgments there. But it’s a wonderful peace to know that Christ is in heaven waiting for us. And he’s presenting us to God sin-free. What a wonderful gift. It has nothing to do with works. Although people try to bring it in. For instance, I have a hard time with [James?], I’m not real sure who wrote that, I think it was Paul, but whoever wrote that, they spent a lot of time talking about works. And I think that works are something that just comes naturally if you’re trying to please the Lord. So that I try to worship a little extra I guess at Christmastime and Easter.

Ethan: How do you get yourself and your heart ready for Christmas?
Will: Well, spiritually-wise, I always enjoy reading the Christmas story and stuff like that. And also, besides just the spiritual part of Christmas, I really enjoy listening to Christmas music.
Ethan: That’s pretty much the same with me. I like reading the Bible verses and then once it’s closer I listen to the music.

4. At Christmastime we talk about Jesus as Emmanuel, God with us.  Where do you see “God with us”?

Ethan: At Christmas time we talk about Jesus as Emmanuel, God with us. Where do you see God with us most?
Edna: Well, I feel like God’s just all around us. And I just think it’s so exciting that God brought all nature in when he let the world know--that world know--that something very special had happened. Angels singing. The gorgeous big star. It must have been very light that night. Beautiful. Of course, when a person’s been born again, we have immediately the presence of the Holy Spirit and we’re never the same again. Never.
Will: One of the places I see God a lot is, one, at like church and stuff. And I often see him, just in different places. A lot of the time I see him at school, just like different things. And then one place where I really saw him is on the mission trip I went on and camp Bigstuf.
Ethan: I think like at Christmas Eve, usually we go up to Louisville with my cousins and their Christmas Eve service is a lot like ours, like they have the candle and music, and they have an ensemble at their church, sort of like how we do it a few weeks before. It’s really nice. I just feel it a lot.
Edna: I like those candlelight services. I think it sets an atmosphere.
Tim: It does bring a little bit of the sacred to the craziness of Christmas.
Heather: Lets you slow down a little bit.
Edna: The Lord’s Supper. I think that’s very meaningful.
Heather: Well I hope our reflections can help other people to reflect on the same questions and to find meaning in the busy time. And just to remember where they see Christ in their memories and in their present this year. 

Edna Taylor, Bob Barlow, Will Schindler, Ethan Sexton, Pastor Tim, and Pastor Heather

A Gift for Baby Jesus: Matthew 2:1-12

I love the surprise of presents at Christmas.  It’s fun to open a package, not knowing what’s inside. But it is also wonderful to surprise other people.  Giving each other presents reminds us of how the wise men brought gifts to Jesus—gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

    Put together a package for Jesus to add to your family’s gifts.  Find an empty bag, box, or basket and place your gift inside.  As for gift ideas, consider the wise men’s gifts—they were precious and came from their treasure chests.  What do you have that is precious that you can give to Jesus?

You might consider wrapping up a picture, writing Jesus a letter or even a single word, or packing up a household item to symbolize your treasure.  Or you could pack 3 items that remind you of the wise men’s gifts.  This is especially good for younger participants.  Pack something shiny or yellow to remind you of gold.  Use something fragrant like an air freshener to represent frankincense.  Pour a small amount of oil into a small container or resealable bag or find a second fragrant item like hand lotion to represent myrrh.  

When you have your gift prepared, label the present with Jesus’ name and put it with the rest of your gifts.  Open it again on Christmas Day when we celebrate God’s great gift—baby Jesus.

Pastor Heather

Devotion: Isaiah 2:1-5

During Advent we pray for peace.  Not just the peace that is a pause in our busy schedules, but the end of wars and violence.  People worldwide long for an end to conflict, but how do we work toward peace?  We often forget that prayer is not just for grand visions; it is also for practical, baby-step miracles that will bring us closer to the Kingdom of God.

In today’s scripture, swords are beaten into plowshares.  Instruments of war are ruined so that they can never be used again.  This is a beautiful vision of peace.  What Isaiah is really describing in this passage, however, is how to develop a willingness to put away violence.  Isaiah gives us practical steps toward the smithy where we might turn instruments of destruction into tools of creation.  

The mountain of God is where God proclaimed to Israel, “You are my people, and I am your God.”  This is a radical picture Isaiah paints when he describes other nations climbing the mountain of God.  It’s not just Israel, God’s special people, who visit God’s holy mountain anymore—it’s everyone!

When God said to Israel, “You are my people,” Israel was chosen as a beloved, special people.  It was a gift of grace to be called God’s people.  But Isaiah is telling the Israelites that they have taken this gift and viewed it as an entitlement, something they deserved.  They have drawn lines in the sand, distinguishing who is part of the chosen people and who is not, creating division that is not part of God’s vision.

Perhaps peace has more to do with our idea of who belongs to God than anything else.  It is easy to hate our enemy but hard to hate our friend.  This is why loving our enemies was so important to Jesus.  Jesus knew that excluding people and dividing the world into “us” and “them” breeds hate, and hate leads to violence.  Jesus was telling us to put away the divisions so that we can put away the swords.  Baby-steps.

Pastor Heather

Preparing for Sunday

In last Sunday’s sermon, we heard the story of André Trocmé and his ministry in a little French village during World War 2.  During the build-up to the war, and continuing throughout German occupation, Pastor Andy (as we called him) joined the villagers and farmers of his area to receive and protect more than 5,000 Jewish refugees of all ages and backgrounds.  

2 Peter 3 examines the all-too-familiar situation of waiting for the Lord to set things right once and for all, yet sensing life as mundane and unknown.  In verse 8, Simon Peter writes, “While you are waiting for these things, strive to be found by him at peace.”

This must have been something of a mantra for Magda Trocmé, or Maggie as we will call her tomorrow.  A social worker by training and trade, and the wife of Pastor Andy, Maggie displayed amazing resilience in continuing the work at some of the most frightening and seemingly unstable moments in the war.  What must it have been like to wait for peace?  For refugee families staying in the village to be reunited?  For the army to retreat?

In the presence of the unknown, sometimes it helps to make a conscious choice: Today, I will choose to focus on those things I do know.  I know Jesus is the Prince of Peace.  I know he has come to show me how to live.  I know he has died and risen again to set me free.  I know he prepares a place for me.  I know I am loved by my family, my friends, my church family, and the family of God.  I know today I can make a difference – in my life, and in the lives of others - by walking in the way of Christ.

Pastor Alan