Advent 2020 Day 12: Messengers of Peace

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I love the imagery in the above verse…the idea of God’s compassion breaking over us like the dawn. The light reveals all things. What we thought was a marauder lurking outside of our house turns out to be a bush. God’s light illuminates everything around us, allowing us to see things clearly. We gain new understanding, new perspective. We feel more confident and (maybe) less afraid. The light allows us to get our bearings…to find our path…to get our footing. Everything is easier when there is light to show us the way. And God gives us this gift because of his compassion…because he loves us and wants to enter into our lives. How beautiful is that gift!? Everything else pales in comparison to the fact that God loves us so much he comes into our lives, every day, to walk beside us as we journey. So what do we do with such a gift? Like the prophet John, we are called to be Christ’s messengers of peace.  We have been appointed to give light to those sitting in darkness and to guide others on the path to peace.

Today, ask God to show you how you might be a light to someone sitting in darkness.  Ask God to use you to guide others on the path to peace.

Also, say a prayer of encouragement for someone else.  Pray that they, too, would be a light in the darkness today.

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Advent 2020 Day 11: Worry

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I know a lot about worry. It’s something I do quite well. I worry about big things, like will my kids who love watching YouTube videos on Minecraft and Funko Pops ever be able to live outside of our house and have successful careers. I also worry about little things, like whether or not I have enough stocking stuffers for my family for Christmas. Of course all of my worries, big and small, have been compounded and magnified in a way this year that makes me one giant ball of anxiety. It looks like me, speaks with my voice, and engages in the activities I normally engage in, but it’s always there, just beneath the surface.

Worry is one of the enemy’s best tools of destruction.  Worry is a worm that invades our thoughts, disrupting our ability to think clearly and weakening our trust in God.

Everyone has worries—it’s a part of life.  However, what we do with those worries is up to us.  Today, make a choice to give your worries over to God.  Even if they seem silly or insignificant, name them in God’s presence.  Then, accept the peace that God is offering to you today.

Moreover, share that peace with others.  Listen to the worries of someone else today, then pray with or for them.  Ask God’s peace to surround all of those you hold in prayer.

Blessings and Peace,

Sara

Advent 2020 Day 10: A Future of Hope

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Life can be a struggle.  I think we’ve all become very aware of that in 2020. The thing about being a Jesus follower that we tend to forget, especially in the United States, is that Jesus didn’t promise a “good life”. In fact he was very clear that in this world we, his followers, would have troubles. For the early church leaders these troubles were often physical persecution and emotional abuse. There are those who still face such tribulation. At some time in our lives, we all will face suffering, injustice, grief and pain. And not just once. Life is a tapestry pieced together from moments both raw and beautiful.  There are times when the whole world seems to be against us.  But God has plans for you, my friend.  And his plans are plans of peace and hope.

The prophet Jeremiah reminded the Israelites of this while they were in exile in Babylon. Though they were persecuted and scattered, God would not abandon them. There was a future filled with hope for them, if only they would turn to God and seek him. Though this message is old, it rings true today. God has plans for us. More importantly, God has a FUTURE for us. Whatever darkness we find ourselves fumbling in the midst of, it is not the end of the story. God has given us a FUTURE of HOPE. God has already written the final page, and it’s perfect. In the end, God saves. In the end, God brings peace. In the end, God reigns.

In the meantime, God brings us his Word which is full of story after story of how he fulfills his promises. God also brings us, his people who carry him within themselves, to go out into the world and bring a message of hope. We are to show those who are grieving that they are not alone. We are to provide those who are hungry with food to eat. We are to stand with those who face injustice and lift our voices to say, “No more.” We are to remember those who are imprisoned and to treat them with compassion. In these acts, we proclaim our firm belief that God has already won life’s battles, that the end of the story is already told, and that we all have a FUTURE of HOPE.

Today, call on God to help you face whatever difficulties life has thrown your way.  Pray, too, for others who are struggling to overcome adversity.  Pray that they will experience the Lord’s peace in their time of trial.

Finally, give thanks beforehand for the work God will do to bring peace to your life.

Blessings and Peace,

Sara

Advent 2020 Day 9: Prince of Peace

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Prince of Peace…

In a world so often filled with conflict and strife, peace seems like some sort of magical fantasy.  It’s a noble ideal, but not a practical reality.  And yet, Jesus is called the Prince of Peace.

As Jesus followers, we are called to walk the path of peace.  Jesus taught us to love our enemies, not persecute them.  He commanded us to turn the other cheek in times of conflict instead of hurling punches, insults and accusations.

Jesus told us to forgive again, and again and again—as many times as it takes.

Today, prayerfully consider the conflicts you are holding onto in your heart.  What grudges are you harboring?  What hurts are you feeding?  Who do you need to forgive today in order to walk the path of peace?

Ask God for the gift of forgiveness, both for yourself and others.

Blessings and Peace

Sara

Advent 2020 Day 8: A Living Hope

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Ponder the phrase, “a living hope”.  What does this look like?  Mary reflected a living hope when she answered the call to carry the Messiah with “I am the Lord’s servant. Let it be with me just as you have said.” (Luke 1: 38) Elizabeth showed a living hope when she responded to Zechariah’s encounter with the angel with “This is the Lord’s doing. He has shown his favor to me by removing my disgrace among other people.” (Luke 1:25) And, oh, the hope that abounded when Elizabeth and Mary met and the unborn John lept for joy in his mother’s womb! (Luke 1: 44-55) These women faced an uncertain future with joy and confidence because they had hope in God’s promise of salvation. They knew the stories of their faith, and they trusted that the Lord would continue to deliver, as he had always delivered in the past. They did not fear, but accepted the shake-up God had brought to their lives and stepped forward into the unknown with assurance. God would save.

Do you reflect a “living hope” in your life?  Do you live as one who has an “inheritance that cannot perish”?

Today, give thanks to God for the gift of salvation.  Then, ask God to show you one thing you can do today to share with someone the “living hope” we have in Christ Jesus.

Blessings and Peace

Sara

Advent 2020 Day 7: Experiencing the Lord’s Goodness

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Like many people this year, I have spent the past couple of weeks looking for Christmas gifts online in an effort to avoid the so-called “shippageddon” that is set to ensue. The UPS driver has started delivering in a U-haul truck–seriously. I never know if I’m getting new neighbors or a package from Target. We live in a culture of consumption. It can be hard to find the balance between our wants and needs. Or maybe we just don’t want to. Maybe it’s easier to numb ourselves by looking at everything we could have than sitting and being still where we are. Society tells us more is better, and we buy it, quite literally. In a culture that focuses on always attaining bigger and better things, it’s easy to forget the good things God has already provided for us. Advent invites us into stillness. Like Paul, we are to pause where we are and to be content in whatever circumstance we find ourselves. In the stillness, we have a choice. Do we focus on what we don’t have, or give thanks for what we do?

Even in the most difficult circumstances, God’s goodness can still be seen.

Today, make a list of all of the ways you see the goodness of God in your life right now.  Then, spend some time specifically thanking God for all of those things.

Pray that others will experience the Lord’s goodness today.

Blessings and Peace,

Sara

Advent 2020 Day 6: Patience

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I remember when I was pregnant with our firstborn. It’s hard to believe it was over 14 years ago!! I was SO ready for him to be born. We had painted the nursery, stocked it with ridiculous amounts of baby stuff, secured the house, and installed the carseat. Finally the day arrived. We were ready to have this baby! Two days later, as I paced the floor all night with a wailing infant, I wondered why I had been in such a rush to get him here.

Just like waiting for the birth of a child, or a vacation, or a family celebration, it is tempting to rush through the season of Advent and jump headlong into the joy that is Christmas.  Yet, Advent is a time to practice patience.  In Advent, we anticipate and hope for God’s deliverance.  It is the season where we learn to wait and trust in God. As Jesus people, we are called to be a people who wait. In spite of our instant gratification culture, God tends to take the long way around. He reveals his plans slowly, according to his time. And they are always worth the wait.

Today, put aside all thoughts of Christmas.  Instead, ask God to reveal himself to you in a situation that requires time and trust.  Then, practice waiting patiently to see the manifestation of God’s divine glory.

Blessings and Peace,

Sara

Advent 2020 Day 5: For Those Who Weep

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Christmas can be a painful time for those experiencing grief and loss.  The tragedies of this life do not take a holiday during December. My family knows this all too well. Two years ago this December, I was making Christmas cookies to send to school with my boys the next day. It was the final day before Christmas break, and I had a long list of tasks to accomplish, as well as work deadlines to meet. When the phone rang, I didn’t think much of it. My parents had been visiting my dad’s sister, when he’d had what we thought was a minor health issue. An ulcer, he was sure. No need to panic, he’d keep us posted. I finished the cookies, got the boys to bed, and was settling in when another call came. What was thought to be minor was not. My sister and I should come. Less than 24 hours later, we were gathered in an ICU room saying goodbye to one of the most important people in my life. Four days later we would celebrate Christmas in a kind of hazy, numb disbelief. What had happened?

My family’s story is not so unique. Tragedy comes daily in our world. So many experience loss over the holidays, and yet the carols keep playing, the lights keep shining, and the holiday rush keeps going. But here’s the good news. Jesus came to a people living in darkness bringing his light of hope. Jesus didn’t come in the midst of revels and feasts, but in a cold dark stable with two young people who were all on their own. There was no family nearby to celebrate the birth. There were no showers, no diaper cakes, not even a hot meal. Shortly after their child was born, these two young people, alone and completely unprepared for what God was doing, became political refugees, fleeing for their very lives into Egypt. Not only were they far from their families, they were far from their country and the traditions and religious practices that had governed their way of life. Things were a mess. And yet, God was with them–literally–in the child they worked so hard to protect. God is still with us today, even in the midst of our suffering and grief. God asks us to carry him to those who mourn, to those whose hearts are hurting while the world celebrates.

Pray today for those who are mourning.  Pray for those who are struggling with broken relationships.  Pray for those who have lost their homes or experienced crisis. Pray for those who are lonely.

Ask for God’s presence to be with all of those who grieve this Christmas and to fill them with hope.

Blessings and Peace,

Sara

Advent 2020 Day 4: Hope

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Advent is a time of waiting and hope. There is anticipation in Advent.  We know that there is more to this life than what the world offers. We know the end of the story—Christ wins—Love is victorious; therein lies our hope. But the walk can be difficult. Life’s trials, pressures, and tragedies can stop us in our tracks. This year, particularly, has been difficult for millions of people around the world. It’s easy to lose hope in the face of so much suffering and uncertainty. And yet, as Jesus people, we are called to choose hope. More than that, we are called to carry the hope of Christ into a world that is fraught with situations in which hope seems to be gone. Jesus calls us to reach out to those who mourn, to those who hunger, to those who are imprisoned, to those who are vulnerable, to those who are alone and to bring them the good news that is Immanuel–God with us. How do people know that God is with them? We bring him to them. We bring hope.

The above image spoke to me, profoundly. One lone person (a woman, in my mind) standing at the edge of the ocean. An unlit lantern is at her feet, and she is watching the horizon over the waves that are rolling in an endless cycle at her feet. There is purpose to her waiting, for she has a light at the ready to point the way for whomever she is seeking beyond the shore. This, then, is what it means to be a Jesus follower. We search the horizon, light at the ready, to point the way for others.

Pray today that others find hope this Christmas season.  Pray that your family members, friends, co-workers and neighbors will see the Lord’s goodness afresh.

Pray, too, for hope for those walking in darkness.  Pray for the victims of violence and abuse.  Pray for those who are enslaved and neglected.  Pray for those who live in poverty.  Pray for those who are homeless and hungry.  Pray for those who live in war-torn nations.  Pray that the hope of Christ will shine in the darkest corners of the world, our communities and our homes this Christmas.

Blessings and Peace,

Sara

Advent 2020 Day 3: Prayer for Feast in Peace

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I love the prayers of the ancient church leaders. There’s something profoundly meaningful and beautiful about praying the words that millions of saints have prayed for hundreds, or even thousands, of years. The words of those who have passed this way before remind us that we inhabit this space and time for just a moment, but in that moment we are connected by spiritual cords to the past and the future. There is a oneness of time that is celebrated in Advent. We yearn, as all those before us have yearned. We hope, as all those who come after us will hope. And we believe, as all those before us have believed and how we pray that those who come after us will believe. Today, think about the time and place in which you inhabit on this earth. Stretch out your thoughts and call to mind all those who have gone before you. Hold them in one hand, and with the other, take hold of those who will come after. See yourself perfectly centered between the past and the future, with the great I Am holding it all in balance.

Pray this prayer from the ancient Christian Church at Christmas.

Enable us, Lord, to reach the end of this luminous feast in peace, forsaking all idle words, acting virtuously, shunning our passions, and raising ourselves above the things of this world.

Bless your church, which you brought into being long ago and attached to yourself through your own life-giving blood. Help all orthodox pastors, heads of churches, and theologians.

Bless your servants, whose trust is all in you; bless all Christian souls, the sick, those tormented by evil spirits, and those who have asked us to pray for them.

Show yourself as merciful as you are rich in grace; save and preserve us; enable us to obtain those good things to come which will never know an end.

May we celebrate your glorious birth, and the Father who sent you to redeem us, and your Spirit, the Giver of life, now and forever, age after age. Amen.

Blessings and Peace,

Sara