The Gift of Love

As we explore this final week of Advent, we explore the vast, powerful and varied meanings of the word – LOVE. I want us to visual us standing inside a closet with the door closed, no light is on. No light is on in the house either. How dark and lonely is it in your closet? That dark can’t compare to the darkness of the nothing that was before creation. But what does creation have to do with love…everything.

God created everything that was…that is…that will be. And his purpose was love. Think about how you feel when you make something for someone as a gift. Now take that feeling and expound it exponentially…then you might begin to understand why God creates things for us. God wants a close relationship with us. It’s why He created Eden, so he could walk in and with all of His creation, enjoying the love they shared together. But man messed it up and here we are today still trying to find our way back to that love. And patiently God waits for us to come…

And knowing our inability to fully find our way back to Him, His love never failed and He gave us an unbelievable gift…a baby…Himself in human form, to show us again that amazing Love.

As we come to the close of the Advent season we begin to fully understand the power of the four gifts of Advent and how these gifts link out past, our present and our future together. The gift of Hope, the gift of Peace, the gift of Joy and now the gift of Love, all come together to help us celebrate Christ’s coming…in the past, here with us today…and in the future when all things will be made new as they should be.

Just as a parent loves their child, so God loves us as we are his children. He loved us first…and loves us more. That is the power of His Love.

We close out Advent with the lighting of the white candle on Christmas Eve, Christ’s candle. Let us never forget the all consuming LOVE God the Father and God the Son have for each of us.

Even though we may not fully understand the completeness of this love, it is as real as the air you are breathing. Breathe it in, embrace it and share it with others who need to breathe it in.

May you all have a very blessed Christmas. And remember in all things to be kind.

The Gift of Joy

Good morning friends. I come to you this morning to explore some more through the Advent devotional book “The Gifts of Christmas”.  This week we are celebrating the beauty and power of Joy.  The candle we light is pink because this color represents joy. This candle is meant to help us enjoy the remembrance of Jesus’ birth. This candle is also called the Shepherd’s Candle as it represents the joy of the shepherds. 

I can not imagine how the shepherds felt when all of a sudden the sky erupted with angels, but they told them not to be afraid. The gift of joy that had been promised of old had now been born.  It is a gift of caring love and of strength.

And while this world around us can be quite scary, we have an inner joy that is stronger than any fear through Jesus our King.  The Wiseman from foreign lands had studied the stars for years and knew of the prophecies. They felt a powerful joy the star appeared and went to seek it out.

As our pastor explained to us during Sunday’s sermon, joy is not a feeling, it’s a choice. Happiness is a feeling that can come from joy but if circumstances are dire, you can still have joy, it is a gift from God that comes from within. 

There are many scriptures concerning joy, so it is a very important gift for us to embrace and hold tightly to.  The psalmists remind us to be glad in the joy that has been bestowed on us.

May you feel the Joy of the Lord in all that you encounter. Have a blessed weekend and remember through this season of joy to always be kind.

Always Be Kind

The Second Week of Advent, Peace

Good afternoon friends. I don’t know about you but I am loving this quick flash of warmer weather we are having here in Iowa. Us old southern birds like our warm weather.

Our pastor explained in Sunday’s sermon, that this is the week of Peace. We so often think peace is so hard to obtain but Jesus came to bring us a unfathomable gift of peace – a whole different kind of assurance. I have this small resin picture frame that sits on my shelf to remind me daily that while chaos may be swirling around me, God has given me the ability to stand strong through any conflict I face.

Think of the most peaceful scene you have ever seen. Maybe it’s a beautiful garden, or a graceful waterfall, maybe it’s the beach. Somewhere, through your senses, you can momentarily escape the  stressful world around you. But God’s gift of peace is a different type of peace – this peace came in to the world with the angel’s proclamation of Jesus’ birth.

 At His birth, Israel was looking for a mighty warrior, one who would conquer their enemies. But He came as THE Prince of PEACE, not peace as in a feeling but peace in a person. And He shares that gift of peace with all of us.

Seeing this, knowing this, hoping this, …we still have a tendency to go…”But God”…remember,  there is no but with God. His love is above all buts.

So we need to pay it forward with our fellow man. Sharing the peace we have been given freely so that others may understand it and reach for their own allotment.

The peace of God will not be understood by those who do not know the Lord, so we must reflect His peace to draw others into His love. For when we have His peace, the anxiousness of life can be coped with and we can all live in harmony.

May you enjoy the rest of this week of peace. I am looking forward to Sunday’s gift of Joy.  What a wonderful time of year to share the Joy of the LORD. Be safe and remember to always be kind.

A Time of Preparation

Good afternoon friends. I hope this day finds you well. This is a time of year where we are scurrying about getting ready for Christmas. We are decorating our homes, shopping for gifts and trying to be our best selves. Sometimes that is a hard thing to do with the rushing about and chaos. We are preparing for one day of joy. But in all actually, there is a bigger picture.

There is a song we love to sing at Christmas called Joy to the World. I have heard debates off and on about this not really being a Christmas song. It was just released around Christmas time. While down in the latter verses of the song it talks of Him already here and ruling so its not really a song about his birth…but the first three lines of the song represents what we should be doing now, every day.

Joy to the world! The Lord is come
Let earth receive her King!
Let every heart prepare Him room

Joy, for He has come. Joy, for He is our Lord. Let the earth receive Him as King. Then the line to represent what we should be doing now…today. Prepare our hearts to give him room. We are in the season of Advent. I did not grow up knowing or celebrating Advent but as an adult, to me it is a very important time of preparation. Not only is it sharing with the ancient longings of Israel in waiting on the coming of the Messiah or the excitement of celebrating His birth but its preparing our hearts for His second coming…as our Lord and King.

I was given a wonderful little book called “The Gifts of Christmas”. Its a devotional book through the season of Advent and I want to share those scriptures with you over the next few weeks. For those who already celebrate Advent, I hope these scriptures bring you Joy, for those who do not celebrate Advent, I hope these scriptures and notes help you understand there is a bigger picture. Advent themes are based on four gifts from God – the gift of hope, the gift of love, the gift of joy and the gift of peace. This week starting on this past Sunday through Saturday is the gift of hope. Hope can be something we use flippantly or something to hold tightly to as our lives depend on it. I hope you understand the power hope can give you as I go through these scriptures.

Peter reminds us of the joys of Jesus birth, he also reminds us of the beauty of Him coming again.

Hope is key to our survival and when we lose hope we lose purpose. Hope is central to our faith and hope is central in waiting for the rest of the story – Jesus’s second coming.

Paul tells us in the book of Romans how his suffering produced perseverance, how the perseverance produced character and how that character gave him hope. It can do the same of us in our struggles.

Hope also has a byproduct – faith.

The gift of hope comes when we place our trust, by faith, in Jesus Christ…something we cant see. But this hope is not in something but in someone. It’s an assurance of the bigger picture of eternity. It’s a patient waiting and a patient hope in Jesus Christ no matter the season or the chaotic circumstance.

Sometimes when we seem to be low on hope, we can rejuvenate our hope in sharing God’s hope with others. Hold close to Romans 15:13, simply because of God’s love for you.

13 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.

Share that hope through kindness as you go through this day.

Always be Kind

Reflections of Love, Loss and Encouragement

Good Saturday morning friends. If you celebrate Thanksgiving where you are, I hope It was a wonderful time of family and love. This past week we lost two women from our church family that were synonymous with their biblical names reflecting love, kindness and strength of character. I did not know Mary as well as Ruth but we as a church family will miss both ladies. Even in this last year as Ruth began to slow, her love of Jesus and people never slowed and the power of kindness radiated from her. Something we all should remember and try to copy. 

As we start into this holiday season, first with this past holiday of Thankfulness, we next go into a season of preparation. A time filled with hope, love, joy and peace. Another fierce encourager in our church family gave out a small devotional book to help us prepare for this season, the season of Advent. I realize not all churches celebrate Advent but I think we should all understand its purpose and decide individually whether or not to celebrate this beautiful season. I hope to shed some light by sharing this devotional with you, each week until Christmas, to help us focus on “the coming”. So many of us focus on the coming of Christmas that I think we forget to focus on the coming of Christ. The nation of Israel focused for centuries on the coming Messiah and now that he has come, we need to focus on His return so that not only are we celebrating His birth, but we are focusing on our preparedness for His return.

The circle of evergreen surrounding the candles of advent represents God’s never ending love for each of us. He came into this world to save us. The large white candle represents Christ, an ultimate gift of love from God surrounded by four other gifts from God to help us walk through this darkness.

As we prepare to walk through this season with these gifts from God, lets remember to share these gifts with those around us and to always be kind.

Always Be Kind