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 Holding to the testimony of Jesus Christ (Rev. 1:2)
Advent - 2019
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The word Advent means "coming" or "arrival."  The focus of the entire season is the celebration of the birth of Jesus the Christ in his First Advent, and the anticipation of the return of Christ the King in his Second Advent. Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day, which is the Sunday nearest November 30, and ends on Christmas Eve (December 24).  
The colors of the Advent candles vary with different traditions, but there are usually three purple, one pink candle and one white candle. One of the purple candles is lighted the first Sunday of Advent, a Scripture is read, a short devotional or reading is given, and a prayer offered. On subsequent Sundays, previous candles are relighted with an additional one lighted. The pink candle is usually lighted on the third Sunday of Advent. The white candle is called the Christ Candle.  It is traditionally lighted on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. 

 The light of the candles is an important symbol of the season. The light reminds us that Jesus is the light of the world that comes into the darkness of our lives to bring newness, life, and hope. It also reminds us that we are called to be a light to the world as we reflect the light of God's grace to others (Isaiah 42:6). The progression in the lighting of the candles symbolizes the various aspects of our waiting experience. As the candles are lighted over the four week period, it also symbolizes the darkness of fear and hopelessness receding and the shadows of sin falling away as more and more light is shed into the world. The flame of each new candle reminds us that something is happening, and that more is yet to come. Finally, the light that has come into the world is plainly visible as the Christ candle is lighted at Christmas. We rejoice over the fact that the hope and promise of long ago have been realized.
Advent Week 1 Devotional - HOPE -  Sunday, December 1, 2019
HYMN: "Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus" 

FIRST READER: We celebrate today as the first Sunday in Advent. Today we light one purple candle. This is the candle of hope. Advent is a time of waiting and hoping. We wait for the day when we celebrate again the birth of Jesus. We hope that everyone will come to know God and to worship God. {Light the first purple candle}.

SECOND READER: When we look at the first candle we remember God's promise. God promised to send a Savior to the people. When we listen to our Scripture reading, we learn what the prophet Isaiah wrote about God. God fulfills the promises made to care for people. God is loving and just. God brings peace. This gives us hope. We look forward to the time when everything is fair, when the world is at peace, and all people are treated justly.

FIRST READER: I will now read from Isaiah 2:1-5.

"The word which Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem:

Now it will come about that
In the last days 
The mountain of the house of the LORD
Will be established as the chief of the mountains,
And will be raised above the hills;
And all the nations will stream to it.

And many peoples will come and say,
'Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,
To the house of the God of Jacob;
That He may teach us concerning His ways
And that we may walk in His paths.'
For the law will go forth from Zion
And the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

And He will judge between the nations,
And will render decisions for many peoples;
And they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not lift up sword against nation,
And never again will they learn war.

Come, house of Jacob, and let us walk in the light of the LORD."

SECOND READER: This Scripture offers us the hope of God's kingdom where there is peace and has the wonderful sentence, "…let us walk in the light of the Lord!" 

Let us pray. Dear God: Thank you for your son, Jesus. Thank you for the words of the Prophet Isaiah that remind us that you are the source of our hope. Help us to remember to walk in the light of the Lord. AMEN
Advent Week 2 Devotional -  LOVE - Sunday, December 8, 2019
HYMN: "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear" 

FIRST READER: We celebrate today as the second Sunday in Advent. Today, we light two purple candles. Last Sunday, we lit the candle of hope. This Sunday, we light the candle of love. One verse that many memorize and remember on this day is John 3:16, "God so loved the world..." some people may not know the love of other people. That makes it harder for them to understand God's love. During Advent, we pray that we may remember again God's gift of Jesus to the world and know that God's love for all people is the reason for this gift. {Light the first and second purple candles.}

SECOND READER: When we look at the second candle, we remember God's love. When we read the words of the psalmist, we know of God's greatness and care. We remember God's love at Advent when we remember that God sent Jesus to us to help us know that God is loving and just.

FIRST READER: I will now read from Isaiah 11:1-10

"Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse,
And a branch from his roots will bear fruit.

The Spirit of the LORD will rest on Him,
The spirit of wisdom and understanding,
The spirit of counsel and strength,
The spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.

And He will delight in the fear of the LORD,
And He will not judge by what His eyes see,
Nor make a decision by what His ears hear;

But with righteousness He will judge the poor,
And decide with fairness for the afflicted of the earth;
And He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth,
And with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked.

Also righteousness will be the belt about His loins,
And faithfulness the belt about His waist.

And the wolf will dwell with the lamb,
And the leopard will lie down with the young goat,
And the calf and the young lion and the fatling together;
And a little boy will lead them.

Also the cow and the bear will graze,
Their young will lie down together,
And the lion will eat straw like the ox.

The nursing child will play by the hole of the cobra,
And the weaned child will put his hand on the viper’s den.

They will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain,
For the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD
As the waters cover the sea.

Then in that day
The nations will resort to the root of Jesse,
Who will stand as a signal for the peoples;
And His resting place will be glorious."

SECOND READER: When we think of God's love, we might not always think of the words of the prophets. But when we read this picture of the peaceable kingdom, we are amazed by God's love that allows a child to lead. 

Let us pray. Dear God: Thank you for your son, Jesus. Thank you for the words found in our Bible that help us remember your love and care. Help us see how we can bring God's message to the people we meet in our schools, at our jobs, and in our neighborhoods. Help us be messengers of God's love for everyone. AMEN

Advent Week 3 Devotional -  JOY - Sunday, December 15, 2019
HYMN: "Joy to the World" 

FIRST READER: We celebrate today as the third Sunday in Advent. Today, we light two purple candles and a pink candle. The first Sunday, we lit the candle of hope. On the second Sunday, we lit the candle of love. Today, we light the candle of joy. One thing that sometimes happens as we get ready to celebrate Jesus' birth is that we expect to be happy all the time. Joy is not the same as happy. Joy is a deeper feeling created by knowing that God cares for us. Joy is remembering that God sent Jesus so we would always know of God's care. During Advent, we pray that we may remember again God's gift of Jesus to the world and know the joy that gift brings to all people. {Light the first (purple), second (purple), and third (pink) candles}

SECOND READER: When we look at the third candle, we remember God's promise of joy. God promised to send a Savior to the people. Today we read from the Gospel of Luke. In the Scripture, we read Mary's song of praise and joy. There must have been times when Mary was frightened, worried, fearful, and sad. But we have these words of joy even in a time when she was unsure of the future. Her words can guide us to look for the joy of God even when things may be uncertain for us.

FIRST READER: I will now read from Luke 1:46-55.

"And Mary said:
'My soul exalts the Lord,

And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.

For He has had regard for the humble state of His bond slave;
For behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed.

For the Mighty One has done great things for me;
And holy is His name.

And His  mercy is upon generation after generation
Toward those who fear Him.

He has done mighty deeds with His arm;
He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart.

He has brought down rulers from their thrones,
And has exalted those who were humble.

He has filled the hungry with good things;
And sent away the rich empty-handed.

He has given help to Israel His servant,
In remembrance of His mercy,

As He spoke to our fathers,
To Abraham and his descendants forever.'"

SECOND READER: How privileged we are to have this beautiful song of Mary. Can you imagine her singing the words written in Scripture? It is a testimony to her faith and joy at being chosen as God's servant.

Let us pray. Dear God: Thank you for your son, Jesus. Thank you for the joy remembering Jesus' birth brings to us today. Help us live in such a way that our words and our actions help others know of the joy you give. AMEN.


Advent Week 4 Devotional -  PEACE - Sunday, December 22, 2019
HYMN: "O Little Town of Bethlehem” 

FIRST READER: We celebrate today as the fourth Sunday in Advent. Today, we light three purple candles and one pink candle). The first Sunday, we lit the candle of hope. The second Sunday, we lit the candle of love. The third Sunday, we lit the candle of joy. Today, we light the candle of peace. Our world is not always a peaceful world. People hurt other people. Countries are at war today. People don't take care of the world. People yell and scream at other people. But God promises peace. During Advent we pray that we, as well as all people, will seek God's peace. {Light the first (purple), second (purple), third (pink), and fourth (purple) candles}

SECOND READER: When we look at the fourth candle, we remember God's promise of peace. We recall the words of Jesus in John 14:27, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you." In times of war and hatred it's hard to remember that Jesus is the one who brings peace. As we approach Christmas let's remember that God's intention is a place of peace where people shake hands instead of harm one another.

FIRST READER: I will now read from Luke 2:1-20

"Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth.

This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 

And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city.

Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David,

In order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child.

While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth.

And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. 

And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. 

But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; 

For today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 

This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.'

And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

'Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.'

When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, 'Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.'

So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger. 

When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child.

And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. 

But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart. 

The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them."

SECOND READER: This Scripture reminds us that when we are fearful, we are often not thinking of peace. The shepherds may have not felt very peaceful when they heard the words of the angel. They were probably scared and confused, but they followed those words, trusting in God. Sometimes all we see around us gives a message different from the message of peace. Yet we, like the shepherds, can follow God's words and trust in God's promises.

Let us pray. Dear God: Thank you for your son, Jesus. Thank you for those in our world today who seek to act for peace. Help us look for ways to be peacemakers at home, at church, and at school. AMEN.


Last Day of Advent Devotional -  CHRIST - Tuesday, December 24, 2019
HYMN: "Silent Night" 

FIRST READER: Today we celebrate the last day of Advent. First, we light three purple candles and the pink candle. We also light the center white candle. The first Sunday, we lit the candle of hope. The second Sunday, we lit the candle of love. The third Sunday, we lit the candle of joy. The fourth Sunday, we lit the candle of peace. Today, Christmas Eve, we light the center candle. This candle represents Jesus. When we light this candle, we remember Jesus' birth. Our waiting has ended. {Light the first (purple), second (purple), third (pink), and fourth (purple) candles. Light the center white candle.}

SECOND READER: When we look at the center candle, we remember that God sent Jesus to give hope, peace, joy, and love to all people. Outside of Bethlehem, the shepherds saw a great light and heard the voices of angels. They traveled to the manger and saw the baby Jesus.

Far away from Bethlehem, wise men saw a star in the sky. They followed the star and were filled with joy when they found Jesus. They remind us that the gift of Jesus was not just for the people in one place, but for all people.

FIRST READER: I will now read from Matthew 2:1-12.

"Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, 

Saying, 'Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.'

When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 

Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. 

They said to him, 'In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet:

‘AND YOU, BETHLEHEM, LAND OF JUDAH,
ARE BY NO MEANS LEAST AMONG THE LEADERS OF JUDAH;
FOR OUT OF YOU SHALL COME FORTH A RULER
WHO WILL SHEPHERD MY PEOPLE ISRAEL.’'

Then Herod secretly called the magi and determined from them the exact time the star appeared. 

And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, 'Go and search carefully for the Child; and when you have found Him, report to me, so that I too may come and worship Him.' 

After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was. 

When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 

After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 

And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, the magi left for their own country by another way."

SECOND READER: It's amazing to think of these persistent travelers who were determined to find Jesus. They traveled with hope and faith in the promise that they would find the new king.

Let us pray. Dear God: Thank you for your son, Jesus. Thank you, God, for sending Jesus for ALL people, not just those in one place at one time. On this Sunday, help us remember and rejoice again because Jesus was born. May we live every day remembering your love and care and showing that love and care to others. AMEN.