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God’s Gift: Christ, our Saviour

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Thank you for taking a few minutes each day over the last month to travel to this final gift with me.  I hope you have found the journey rewarding, and it has been a blessing for you.  As we continue to walk towards Epiphany in these twelve days of Christmas, may God show Himself in tangible and unmistakable ways to you. With the love of Christ, Season

Bible Reading: Luke 2:6-21

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The Shepherds and the angel, Carl Bloch, 1879

Shepherds.  They see Christ first.  They are the images used in Old Testament prophecy.

Shepherds who protect, guide, discipline. Shepherds who restore their relationships with the lost of their flock.

Christ is here! He is here to restore what was broken in the Garden.  He is here to provide the peace that surpasses understanding. . .because it is His peace, not human peace.  He is here to draw us closer to the kingdom of Heaven, the rule of God

He is what we have been waiting for.

Thoughts for today:

How does knowing that Christ is here change your time of waiting?

What does this, the final gift of God, mean to you personally?

Oh, how undeserving we are of this gift.  But how grateful we should be. Jesus. What is there to say in response to the enormity of this gift? Our reliance on His embodiment of every other gift from God is the only way to show our gratitude.  God doesn’t say that it will be easy. He understands our human hearts. He knows that while we want to do right, we won’t. But He’s here, while we wait, while we struggle, while we try.  

And He loves us. He is our gift.

God’s Gift: Prophecy

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Advent officially ended with the celebration of Christmas Day. However, sometimes, it’s longer and I have two more days in God’s Gift for those years when it does. May days 26 and 27 bless your heart and glorify God.

Bible Reading: Luke 2:1-5

It’s almost time.  The waiting is almost over.  In the midst of the busiest time of year, the child is coming.

It’s interesting here that despite the fact that the scriptures aren’t describing our modern Christmas season, there are distinct parallels. . .crowds converging in one place, no space or elbow room.  Both times following the decree of society, because what is Christmas shopping if not a societal sanctioned norm?

But in the middle of meeting government requirements Joseph and Mary fulfill God’s plan, prophesied in the Old Testament. 

It’s happening. All that we’ve been told would happen.

Will anyone slow down enough to notice?

Thoughts for today:

How can you slow down today and take in the details of happenings around you?

What part of the prophecy of Christ’s coming resonates with you most deeply?

We can thank God.  We can thank Him for each of the gifts He has put in place for us as we wait.  Preparation, promise, prophecy. He has not left us here to wait alone. Our circumstances are not without His knowledge and His care.  Each of His gifts is a helpmate during advent.

God’s Gift: Fulfillment

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Day 25 of Advent and God’s Gift.

Merry Christmas! May the peace and love of Christ light your day with joy.

Bible Reading: Matthew 1:18-25

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Joseph’s Dream in the Stable, Rembrant, 1645.

Joseph, a man trying to do what is right and good in the eyes of the Lord through His law. Probably heartbroken.  His betrothed appears sullied, unclean, a liar even.

Even in his hurt he shows mercy.

In the dream from the Lord, he’s given the explanation and the instruction. And like Abraham many centuries before him, he doesn’t question.  He simply puts one foot in front of the other to move the way God last told him.

It doesn’t make sense. But he’s assured that it is part of the fulfillment of the Lord.  So, in the time of waiting, he does it.

Thought for today:

As you wait, what is the last instruction you received from God?

How can you feel confident, even in uncertainty, in moving forward with that instruction?

Like Joseph, do you need to show mercy?

God doesn’t owe us any explanation, but He will give us enough instruction to move forward.  The strength it takes to move one foot in front of the other while we wait comes from the Lord.  He will take all we do in His confidence and exalt it.

God’s Gift: Evidence

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Day 24 of Advent and God’s Gift.

Bible Reading: Luke 1:26-38

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Annunciation scene from Jesus of Nazareth, Franco Zeffirelli, 1977.

Mary, mother of Jesus.

But in these verses, she’s just a girl.  A troubled girl at that. She heard a proclamation that seems impossible; it goes against everything she understands about the world.

But Gabriel provides evidence that nothing is impossible in God’s hands. . .that this is not to be understood by the world’s standards.

Mary claims her servanthood to the Lord.  She claims her part in a plan much bigger than herself despite the earthly ramifications she is sure to face.

She puts her faith in God.

Thoughts for today:

Can you recall a time when God provided you with evidence to ease your heart?

How does the gift of evidence prove that God understands our human-ness?

God created us.  He understands our needs better than we do. He knows when we need reassurance.  In your time of waiting, don’t be hesitant to ask God for that evidence. He wants to give us all that He has.

God’s Gift: Preparation

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Day 23 of Advent and God’s Gift.

Bible Reading: Matthew 3:1-6

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John the Baptist, Juan de Juanes, c. 1560

A season of waiting does not negate the need to prepare.  John the Baptist extols that need.

Repent–make radical changes to prepare yourself for the coming of God’s kingdom. Make straight the path for Christ to follow into your heart.

Preparation takes work.  It is not merely sitting in the quiet, though that is part of the task to hear God’s voice.  It is taking the knowledge of His promises and the evidence of His blessings and putting them to use.  

God worked to prepare the way for Christ’s coming. We should follow His example.

Thoughts for today:

Do you find it easy in a time of waiting to become lax in your own preparation?

In what area of your life are you waiting for something to change?

What could you do today that would be active preparation during your waiting?

Our body, mind, and soul need to be prepared for all that God calls us to.  It takes work to make each of these elements stronger. God, help us to do the work that is required to be strong in You during Advent.

God’s Gift: Favor

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Day 22 of Advent and God’s Gift, an advent devotional I wrote in the past year to help me work through my personal grief.

Bible Reading: Luke 1:5-25

Moving closer to the birth of Christ, John comes to Zechariah and Elizabeth.  Advent, the season of waiting, is mirrored in the waiting of Zechariah and Elizabeth for their child.

Even in the midst of what many saw as divine disfavor through their childless marriage, they remained upright and followed the Lord’s commandments. They waited.

And when the seemingly impossible was bestowed they continued to wait in the presence of the Lord and His favor, His approval.

Thoughts for today:

Have you ever sought the approval of someone?

What actions did you engage to try and achieve that favor?

How can maintaining the commandments help you remain in God’s favor?

How can doing things in love help you remain in God’s favor?

God approves of us.  He created us and it was good.  But it is our responsibility to do our part to maintain that favor.  While we can do nothing to earn His grace, we can do much to remain in His love. We need His guidance and His commandments to continue to remain upright in His presence.  May we be like Zechariah and Elizabeth as we wait.

Do You Have Your Passport?

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CarolynI love to travel.  If I could find a way to do it full time, I probably would.  I love taking my students to Europe and watching them realize just how big the world is and then come to the conclusion that while we’re all unique, we are all alike as well.  People have dreams and hopes and fears and families and friends and insecurities and confidence and all the rest of it no matter what their first language is or where they live.

This love of traveling was sparked in me by my friend Carolyn.  I introduced you to her when I first wrote about my book club, Between the Covers.  She was an amazing woman.  She possessed class and dignity and compassion and humor and more knowledge about literature and teaching than I can ever hope to attain.  She took me to London and Paris in 2005 and opened up the world to me.

Several years ago we were going to go to Rome.  But she couldn’t find her passport.  She looked everywhere.  Carolyn considered having it replaced, but her health was declining, and she wasn’t sure if she’d really ever get to use it again anyway.  As it turns out, 2005 was her last trip across the pond.  The lost passport became somewhat of a joke–if we misplaced things we’d say “It’s with Carolyn’s passport.”Passport

However, Carolyn had the most important passport there is.  Carolyn knew our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  She was a godly woman who was an example not only to me, but also to everyone she was around.  She touched so many lives–in her family, in her friends, in her classroom, in her church, in her visits to the hospital and cancer center, in her nail salon, in restaurants.  She was steadfast in her faith.

Carolyn knew John 14:6: “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

This morning Carolyn’s Passport was stamped by Jesus Himself as He welcomed her home.