Advent Day 18: Something New

For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?  I will make a pathway through the wilderness.  I will create rivers in the dry wasteland. – Isaiah 43:19

Prepare for something new! We go through Advent expectantly. When Jesus was born in Bethlehem, only a few knew that a miracle had occurred and that it was just the beginning of something the world had never seen before. While the plan had been in place since the earth started turning, the course of time had to flow as scheduled, in order to prepare us for that precise moment when the new direction could be revealed.

God continues to make a way for us today, out of the wilderness of confusion, the dry paths of hopelessness, and into a flood of purpose and contentment. His greatest creation was a baby, whose life and sacrifice would make it possible for us to start again fresh, out of rubble and ruin. Prepare your heart this Christmas for something new – it has been prepared for you!

Today’s Gift

Start a new tradition this year. It may be a small thing like a family outing to a tree farm, going caroling at a nursing home, or having children create an ornament for the Christmas tree. On the other hand, it may be something big. Perhaps the children have grown up and moved away or a loved one is missing. If the old customs are broken, you can approach this season as an opportunity.

If you are not going to be surrounded by family this Christmas, you can give your time to allow others to be with theirs, or you can serve a holiday meal at a community center, or bring some Christmas cheer to families that are spending the holiday in the hospital with sick children or to the nurses that must work to care for them. Giving of yourself as a new tradition can heal the sting of loss of traditions now gone.

Sue Breland, Worship For One: Advent Emmanuel ©

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Advent Day 17: At Just the Right Time

They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. When it was time to leave, they returned to their own country by another route, for God had warned them in a dream not to return to Herod. – Matthew 2:11-12

Mary and Joseph led a humble existence, and as a young family, may have had times of impoverishment. Yet in those times, God provided – sometimes extravagantly. This scripture reminds us that the Magi, kings that came to worship the Christ Child, did not arrive on the night of His birth, but just at the right time, when their gifts were needed most.

We all experience seasons of famine and of abundance. If God is indeed with us, then we are expected to bless others when we are given much. Have faith that God will provide!

Today’s Gift

 Take a leap of faith today. Give sacrificially, whatever that means to you. Whether you bless your church, a nonprofit charity cause, or a single person in need – give more than you think you can afford and a blessing will come back to you.

Here is an example from my own life. I was in my last year of college, and as usual, had very little money in my purse. I needed a $10 book for class (I guess that dates me), but I literally only had $5. As I sat in church and was presented with a need from the pulpit, I felt the call to put that precious $5 bill into the collection plate. I did, determining that I would just have to try to borrow the book from a classmate when they were done with it.

The very next day, I opened my mailbox and found a letter from a local bank. This was the one to which I had made a single deposit at the beginning of my freshman year, to hold my second semester tuition until it came due. I had forgotten all about it, thinking I had closed the account years ago. Inside the envelope was a check for $12. The letter explained that the account was now closed and they were sending me the interest that had accumulated on the few dollars that had been left after paying my tuition. This was more than enough for me to buy the needed book, including tax. God rewards obedience.

Sue Breland, Worship For One: Advent Emmanuel ©

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Advent Day 16: Revelation

In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us. – John 1:1&14

John, one of Jesus’ closest friends, gives a miraculous revelation of the life and purpose of Jesus Christ in his gospel. The Messiah came just as the words of the prophets had foretold. He came to be our light – revealing God Himself in person – though most could not understand and many still do not accept. As Jesus revealed the Father to us, we are His reflection in our world today. May our lives reveal the true miracle of Christmas.

Today’s Gift

 Read Isaiah 9:1-7 in any version of the Bible that you prefer. This was written hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus, the prophecy that He fulfilled. Consider each verse individually, what it meant to the people in Isaiah’s time, when Jesus was born, and in your life today.

Sue Breland, Worship For One: Advent Emmanuel ©

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Advent Day 15: Listen

You have seen many things, but you pay no attention; your ears are open, but you do not listen. – Isaiah 42:20

Listen. God is communicating to us messages of hope. Unfortunately, hearing is not the same as listening. At this time of year, we may hear bells in church steeples and children singing carols that stir our memories and turn our thoughts toward the Christmas story of angels and shepherds and wise men three. We can hear the story of a baby born to save the world, but it requires listening with our hearts to the angels’ song for the Child of God to be born in us, for the hope of salvation to sing its melodies of peace and joy through our lives.

The sound of hope is ancient music made new every day to soothe the soul, lift the spirit and drive away fear. The song of hope is never ending rhythm and harmony that can only be felt when we learn to really listen.

Today’s Gift

Be enveloped by the sounds of Christmas. Play holiday music on your radio, computer or iPod. Sing all the Christmas carols you know throughout the day. Google the lyrics or pick up a hymnal so you can read the words and perhaps understand old words in a new way. Then make time for silence. Perhaps that may be while taking a walk on a still, snowy night, or sitting by the fireplace in the house with all the electronics turned off. Still your thoughts and wait for God to speak to you.

Sue Breland, Worship For One: Advent Emmanuel ©

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Advent Day 14: The Gift of Forgiveness

So if you are offering your gift at the altar and remember there that another believer has something against you, leave your gift at the altar. First go away and make peace with that person. Then come back and offer your gift. – Matthew 5:23-24

The gift of forgiveness may be the greatest gift you give or receive this year. Releasing a grudge, letting go of a hurt, saying “I’m sorry” relieves a burden that otherwise only grows heavier with time. A heart that cannot forgive is a life separated from God. We are forgiven by His grace to enable us to extend that same measure of grace to others.

Before you offer your gifts to God this Christmas, offer your forgiveness to others so that your heart is worthy to kneel before the Christ who gave His all to forgive us all.

Today’s Gift

You guessed it – forgive someone today. Make that phone call or meet for coffee with someone to grant or ask for forgiveness. If that person is no longer living, write a letter to them, pray over the letter and then send it off in a balloon or burn it. If you need to forgive yourself, talk with a trusted friend, pastor or counselor who will pray with you and help you release the pain, anger or exhaustion that living with years of unforgiveness can bring.

Sue Breland, Worship For One: Advent Emmanuel ©

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Advent Day 13: From the Heart

When they entered the house, they saw the Child with His mother Mary. So they bowed down and worshiped Him. Then they opened their treasure chests and offered Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. – Matthew 2:11

Everyone loves a present, but a gift given in love, not out of obligation or compulsion, is the best gift of all. Something that comes from the heart means the most, lasts the longest and touches the deepest places in our souls. The Wise Men could afford to give costly treasures, but of greater value was the sacrifice of their time in the journey and the humility of their worship to the King of Kings. They came out of love, seeking nothing in   return, and yet received more than they could ever have imagined.

Love is the never ending gift that grows in value every time it is given, received and bestowed again. Make love your gift this season – to strangers, to your family, to God – and experience the most priceless Christmas ever.

Today’s Gift

Instead of buying some gifts this year, give of your time and/or talent. Create a
service gift card for someone promising to bake some goodies, mow their yard, wash their car once a week in the summer, or provide twelve evenings of babysitting so they can have a date night once a month. The options are unlimited. The value is priceless.

Sue Breland, Worship For One: Advent Emmanuel ©

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Advent Day 12: Shepherds

That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep.  Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! – Luke 2:8-21

Shepherds were blue-collar workers, doing a dirty, smelly, solitary job; they were looked down upon by their society. Yet God knew they would be the most completely at home in a stable to celebrate the birth of His Son. God choose this location and these shepherds so that we would know today that the most common of people should feel welcome and at ease in His presence.

According to the book of James, we are to show no favoritism.  Most of us would agree with this comment, but do we really live it out in the real world? How do we provide an atmosphere of “inclusion”? Would some people feel “not good enough” to seek the Christ Child in our midst?

He is with us every day, in every place – not just in sanctuaries and “holy” places – but in our homes, on our jobs, throughout our communities and wherever we invite Him in. Find ways to prioritize grace and acceptance, so that everyone will want to share in the celebration of the Savior. In welcoming the “shepherds” of the world, we welcome God.

Today’s Gift

Befriend someone – a widowed neighbor, an “outsider” at work, a new person at church. Identify someone that you can make feel like they belong on the inside this Christmas and you may change how they feel from now on.

Sue Breland, Worship For One: Advent Emmanuel ©

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Advent Day 11: Gifts

Oh, the joys of those who are kind to the poor! The Lord rescues them when they are in trouble. – Psalm 41:1

As we are consumed with getting those special things for our loved ones and friends at this time of the year, God reminds us that His gift was given to those He didn’t know, the unloved, and the outcast. He tells us that it is by helping others – the poor and strangers – that we find help for ourselves. It truly is in giving that we receive.

How often do we walk by people on the streets – judging them, ignoring them, showing our fear or disdain for them? We may, in fact, not have a dollar to spare at that moment, but our love and empathy costs us nothing. If we have a roof over our heads, we do have the means for serving these in our community, from writing a check to a charity or mission project, providing a used coat for a teenager, dropping off a few canned goods at the local food bank, to adding one small gift to our Christmas list for someone else’s child. Jesus taught that it is not the size of the gift, but the size of our heart that matters.

Today’s Gift

 Help a child discover the joy of giving. Whether with your own children, a niece, a nephew, a neighborhood kid or one borrowed from church, take a child to the store to buy a gift for a needy child or to fill a Christmas box for a missionary family. Have them collect canned goods from the neighborhood for the food bank. Take them with you to deliver toys to a children’s shelter. Help them understand how good it feels to give.

Sue Breland, Worship For One: Advent Emmanuel ©

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Advent Day 10: The Star

When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! – Matthew 2:10

Seeing the Star of Bethlehem brought great joy to the angels who brought it, the wise men who sought it, and the shepherds who were caught off guard by it. Thousands of years later, the real Star – Jesus – still brings joy into our lives. He said. “I have come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).

A life of joy comes from an abundance of the unchanging love and grace of the Christ.  Open your heart to the Star and be filled with joy – not just for today – but forever!

Today’s Gift

Read Matthew chapter 2 in any version of the Bible and examine how the star of Bethlehem was the intersection of science, history and faith. Consider these questions:

  • How do you think the star affected the lives of the Magi / Wise men in both the short and long term?
  • How did the star’s rising impact Herod personally and politically?
  • This chapter covers an extended period of time. How does this knowledge affect your thoughts about the impact of the star in your own life today?

Sue Breland, Worship For One: Advent Emmanuel ©

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Advent Day 9: Christ in a Real World

This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. – Luke 2:12

Can you imagine the smell of the stable where Jesus was born? If the shepherds expected to find the Messiah in the sweet smell of heaven, they were likely surprised to find Him amid the odor of their own very familiar world. The Savior of mankind was not surrounded by the incense of perfumed priests, but the smell of hard working common men and lowly beasts. He would be a carpenter with calloused hands and burdened with the responsibility for this widowed mother and siblings when work was plentiful or scarce.

He is one of us, albeit the best of us, and He knows what it means to give until it hurts. He did. May we follow His example.

Today’s Gift

Be sure to visit the “real world” this season, a world that may be uncomfortable or unknown to you. Connect with a local nonprofit that will enable you to step into a new experience such as feeding the homeless, delivering blankets or coats to those in need, making cards or small gift bags for seniors in a nursing home. Walk in the shoes of someone less fortunate than yourself today and begin to understand how Jesus felt in our skin.

Sue Breland, Worship For One: Advent Emmanuel ©

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