Advent · Hope

Our Living Hope

Today we light the Hope candle. All had been quiet for 400 years. God’s people were waiting for the Light to pierce the darkness. Waiting for their Living Hope to arrive.

As we set our hearts toward Christmas, let’s take a moment and lift our hands and hearts in thanks to Jesus, who is still our Living Hope today. ūüôƂ̧ԳŹūüôĆ

Faith

Christ

The count down to Christmas has begun.  I have struggled with Christmas for several years now.  For some unexplained reason I feel like a greedy glutton through out the holidays.  I cannot shake this unexplained feeling of sadness combined with restlessness that seems to just sit upon me.

I am a terrible shopper, fifteen minutes in and I’m ready for a nap. ¬†I don’t even consider Black Friday shopping, I find myself more of a Cyber Monday kind of gal. ¬†How is it that as I shop for others, I keep finding things for myself, my selfish self.

A few years ago I made up my mind that I would refocus my mind and my heart.  I would refuse to allow these feelings overtake me, I had to find my way back to joy.   My husband made a beautiful Advent Log and week by week as I light each candle it stills my restless heart. It would become the tool that the Lord would use to bring me back to the miracle that is Christmas.

Advent3

Hope

The first week I light the Candle of Hope and I think of Israel waiting, hoping praying longing for a Savior for four-hundred years. ¬†Hope came as Mary said,¬†‚ÄúBehold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.‚ÄĚ ¬†Our Savior was immaculately conceived. Mary would have no idea and the greatness of this Yes, this life changing, life threatening and sacrificial Yes.

Preparation

The second week I light the Candle of Preparation and I think of our of gracious God who prepared the way for His Son.

I think of Mary’s visit to Elizabeth, who was also expecting a great miracle as John the Baptist grew within in her, even at her impossible age. ¬†For everything is possible with God. ¬†I see how the Lord gave Mary a friend who would believe with her, pray with her and encourage her.

I read how the Lord prepared the heart of Joseph to honor Mary as his wife.  I watch as the Lord goes before them leading and guiding their every step.

Joy

As Jesus burst forth in the world, the whole Earth rejoices.  The sky is filled with angels who bring a great message of joy to the shepherds tending their flocks in the night.

‚ÄúDo not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. ¬†Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. ¬†This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.‚ÄĚ

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
¬†¬†¬†¬†and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.‚ÄĚ ¬†Luke 2 10-14¬†

I cannot imagine a greater joy. I picture every living thing rejoicing in their own unique way. I can feel joy stir within me.

Love

As I light the Candle of Love Imagine someone I love and I let that feeling simmer. Give that a try, for you maybe it is a spouse, a parent, brother, sister, a child or a dear friend. Hold on to that feeling for a moment and then multiply it and keep multiplying it until you can’t anymore. ¬†That is the Love of God. ¬†The sacrificial love of God for you, for me, for all.

He would love us so much that He would watch this babe grow into a boy. ¬†He would see a young Jesus who didn’t want to leave His Father’s House, the Temple. ¬†He would listen when Jesus would go off alone just to talk to Him. ¬†As His son became a man, He would watch as Jesus moved by compassion, would heal the lame, the blind, the sick and raise the dead.

He would see His Son beaten, spit  upon and humiliated by mere men. He watched as a crown of thorns would be presses deep into His skull.  He would see His Son carry His own cross up the hill where He would be crucified.   He, a holy God  would have to turn away as the sin of the world clung to His Son.  My sin, your sin.  He would endure all of this because He loves us.

 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  

John 3:16 

Christ

I light the Christ Candle, the candle that all of the other candles point to and I think of those three days that Jesus spent separated from His beloved Father.  The three days where He defeated sin, death and the grave to give the greatest gift that will be over be given.

Salvation

I encourage you my friends, if you, like me find Christmas to be an overwhelming struggle. Pause and take time to light the candles and let your heart be stilled by the perfect peace of Christ.

 

 

 

 

An Advent Journey with Mary

Joy

Joy is this – the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying; keen pleasure; elation.

This season is to be a joy-filled, but¬†sadly it can become¬†joy-less, when joy stealers like¬†anxiety, stress, tension and sadness overwhelm us.¬† I’ll be honest there have been Christmas Days that I have been so tired, I just wanted to get through the day and crawl into bed.

How do we refocus?

How do we get our joy back and enjoy this Holy Season?

Here is how… we go back to the beginning.

Mary had every right to be filled with anxiety and stress.¬† She was carrying a baby that was not her husband’s and there could be many wrong turns in this journey.

By faith, She Chose Joy 

Let’s listen to her song and get a glimpse of the joy that filled her soul.

And Mary said,

I’m bursting with God-news;
    I’m dancing the song of my Savior God.
God took one good look at me, and look what happened‚ÄĒ
    I’m the most fortunate woman on earth!
What God has done for me will never be forgotten,
    the God whose very name is holy, set apart from all others.
His mercy flows in wave after wave
    on those who are in awe before him.
He bared his arm and showed his strength,
    scattered the bluffing braggarts.
He knocked tyrants off their high horses,
    pulled victims out of the mud.
The starving poor sat down to a banquet;
    the callous rich were left out in the cold.
He embraced his chosen child, Israel;
    he remembered and piled on the mercies, piled them high.
It’s exactly what he promised,
    beginning with Abraham and right up to now.  Msg Luke 1: 46-55

Wow!¬† Instead of worry and fear, Mary was bursting with what the Lord was doing within her.¬† Looking at her through the world’s eyes no one would think Mary was fortunate to be in this situation.¬† She chose to look at her position through faith – trusting that the Lord would take care of her and her baby.

Her entire song declares the very character of God – the very character that would live in her son, her Savior, our Savior.

To Mary He¬†is a God who is –

  • Holy
  • Set Apart
  • Full of Mercy
  • Strong
  • Rescuer
  • Provider
  • Honors His Promises

In the months that followed Mary’s song, she would watch as the Lord protected her and worked everything out between her and¬†Joseph.

She would find herself giving birth in a stable full of hay and animals.  I must say, I would not be feeling the joy at that moment.

The moment Jesus took his first breath, let out his first cry the¬†earth would be filled with joy.¬† Angles would appear in the sky singing, ‘Glory to God in the highest,And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!’

After the angles made their grand announcement to the shepherds on the hill side, those very same Shepherds would be knocking on the stable door.  Once they laid eyes on the new born babe, they left declaring to all with joy filled voices all that they had seen and heard.

The joy in the air must have been tangible!

joy

If you find yourself loosing your joy this Christmas Season.  Take a moment, as we light our joy candle and remind yourself who God is to you.

Remember a young woman, who carried a precious gift.  Immanuel, God With Us.  The Christ,  who would honor the Promise of His Father and become the sacrifice for our sin.

He would come as a new born babe, who would grow to be a man, that would lay hands on the sick and they would be healed.  He would speak to the storm and it would calm.  He would stand for justice and lift up the oppressed.  He would take a journey to a cross, where He would take His final breath.  For you.  For me.  For all.

Then take a quiet minute and let joy seep into your soul.

An Advent Journey with Mary

Preparation

 

We spend more time preparing for Christmas than actually celebrating Christmas.¬† Our days are filled with grocery Lists, gift lists, baking, cooking and decorating.¬† Let’s be honest Christmas can be a lot of work and preparation,¬†it is also part of the fun.¬† For me, I enjoy the baking.

With¬†Christmas carols¬†playing, I¬†roll and cut the sugar cookie dough.¬†Soon I’m pulling out trays of warm cookies and frosting them with a thick layer of butter cream icing. It’s my happy place… a place where my young ¬†children, nieces and nephews would gather around the table to add the sprinkles.

Just like we prepare every year to celebrate this beautiful and holy day, the Lord in His wisdom knew that Mary would need some preparation.

Her cousin, Elizabeth played a big part.   As we read in Luke Chapter 1 Elizabeth had something wonderful happen to her.  She had been barren up to this point, longing for a child of her own.  In her words, she had suffered a lifetime of reproach, of blame, she was the object of scorn or contempt from those around her. The Lord was preparing to redeem those years that she spent aching for a child.

In their old age, when it would seem impossible to have a child.  An angel appears to Zacharias telling him that Elizabeth will bear a son and his name has already been chosen, John.

He would be a child who would…

  • Would¬†bring joy and gladness
  • Cause many would rejoice at his birth
  • Be great in the sight of the Lord
  • Not drink wine or strong drink
  • Be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother‚Äôs womb.
  • Turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.¬†
  • Walk in¬†the spirit and power of Elijah, ‚Äėto turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,’ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord

Zacharias couldn’t believe what he was hearing and for doubting his lips were sealed until the day he would name his son.

Elizabeth stayed in her home for the first five months of her pregnancy.  Why?  We wonder.  My guess, to stay away from the naysayers and doubters.  She was hanging on to her God Promise.  There are times when we must hold our God Promises, close to our heart, so that no one can bring doubt to our mind.

Elizabeth and Zacharias may have been weary of waiting and praying for a child, but the Lord was planning to give them an extraordinary child who was well worth with the wait, John the Baptist.

Elizabeth would be part of the preparation process for Mary.  Two women experiencing miracle pregnancies, they had much to discuss!

Let’s look at this precious greeting between them…

Mary didn’t waste a minute. She got up and traveled to a town in Judah in the hill country, straight to Zachariah’s house, and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby in her womb leaped. She was filled with the Holy Spirit, and sang out exuberantly,

You’re so blessed among women,
    and the babe in your womb, also blessed!
And why am I so blessed that
    the mother of my Lord visits me?
The moment the sound of your
    greeting entered my ears,
The babe in my womb
    skipped like a lamb for sheer joy.
Blessed woman, who believed what God said,
    believed every word would come true!  Luke 1: 39-45 Msg

Elizabeth knows and so does baby John.  The knew the were in the presence of the Messiah and both were filled with joy.  Just typing those words made my own heart leap!

Then the¬†visiting began.¬† I am sure that Mary and Elizabeth laughed, ate, cried, prayed and encouraged each other.¬† Such a beautiful time between friends and all the while Elizabeth’s belly grew.¬† Reinforcing the miracle happening within her.

God knows how important friendship is.  How it encourages and strengthens us.  We see examples all through  the Bible.  We can find ourselves consumed with creating the perfect Christmas for our families that we forget our friends.  Our friendships are a treasure, we must nurture and care for them.

For me, spending time with a good friend, refreshes me in ways nothing else can.

As we light our preparation candle this week plan to reach out to a good friend.  Plan to spend time together eating, talking, laughing, even crying.  Make it a point to encourage each other, this will prepare our hearts.

Preparation

 

An Advent Journey with Mary

An Advent Journey

I am so excited for this Series!

Year after year I have found myself swallowed by my to do list, my grocery list and my gift list.¬†¬†¬†Christmas Eve and Christmas Day would bear down upon me and I would feel¬†a great sadness overwhelm me. ¬†Christmas cheer was nowhere to be found and¬†¬†I¬†had failed yet again to celebrate Jesus¬† the way I really wanted to. I am determined that this year will be different. Continue reading “An Advent Journey”