Frederick Buechner writes, "The extraordinatry thing that is about to happen is matched only by the extraordinary moment just before it happens. Advent is the name of that moment." Buechner's words stir in our hearts, capture our imagination, and quicken our apirits as we enter this special season of Advent leading to the Christmas season. The Advent Season calls us to look backward to Christ's coming and forward to Christ's triumphal return.

Let's not miss the journey this year. Don't race toward the Christmas finish line only to realize that you have missed Christmas! Take time for God during this wonderful season as we prepare to celebrate the birth of the Christ-child.

In the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul in Llandaff, Wales, there is a marker bearing these words: "Be attentive to the times of the day. We live in the fullness of time. Every moment is God's own good time." Be attentive to the moments of time this season. An extraordinary thing is about to happen--don't miss it!

-Jeff Pethel

Sunday, December 3                                                                                                                                                 First Day of Advent

 

“Israel, put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with him is full redemption.” Psalm 130:7

 

Webster’s Dictionary defines hope as “to cherish a desire with anticipation; to want something to happen or be true”.  We hope for a good grade on a test. With the dawn of each day, we hope to have a good one. We hope that holiday travel will be less hectic than expected.  Hope seems to be a word that is bantered about easily, without much weight.

 

The psalmist urges Israel to put their hope in the Lord. Cherishing a desire and wanting something to be true are nice thoughts, but it does not seem to be what the psalmist is talking about.

 

Further research provides another definition for hope: trust. Trust is the assured reliance on the character, ability, strength or truth of someone or something; a dependence on something future or contingent. Trust requires action on our part. We must rely on someone or something else. It is not easy for most of us to let go of the reins, which is precisely what must happen in order for God to be God for us.

 

In this advent season, let us all remember that God, establishing a new covenant with His children, sent us hope in the form of his Son Jesus Christ.

 

Prayer: Heavenly Father, you are the very essence of love. You loved us so much that you sent your Son to redeem us. May we always remember that and embrace your love, learning to hope in you. Amen.

 

 

                                                                                       Lauralee Townsend

Monday, December 4                                                                                                                                          Second Day of Advent

“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.” Romans 15:13

 

 

Hoping, wishing and dreaming…are they the same?  Not at all.

 

HOPE…is it just a wish for something?   We all wish for things; “I wish I would win the lottery”; on our birthdays when we blow out the candles it’s “Make a wish”.  The song A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes when you’re fast asleep…; or sometimes don’t we say to ourselves:  “I often dream about how I can do that someday.”  So, what’s the difference?

 

Wishing or dreaming for something are the things that come alive in a Walt Disney movie where “ Disney magic” happens against all odds, but…

 

Real HOPE for a Christian goes far beyond just wishing or dreaming, and that HOPE is not founded in earthly circumstances, what we can do, or what others might do for us, but a HOPE and faith in a living personal God.

 

With Hope, we as Christians don’t rely on dreams or wishes… HOPE is a surety that any situation will be resolved according to the Lord’s plan.   HOPE wrapped with Faith and Prayer about whatever the situation might be gives us the surety and peace that God’s will, will prevail… With true faith there is a feeling and knowledge of expectation that our HOPES are in God’s loving hands.

 

 

 

Prayer:   Loving, caring God, We give our every care and concern to you and rejoice in the HOPE of your power and glory.  Fill us with faith in our HOPE so that our lives may be filled with joy and peace in your service.   Amen

 

                                                                            

Mike McNally

Tuesday, December 5                                                                                                                                                               Third Day of Advent

“Through him we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God.  More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us.” Romans 5:2-5

When Jeff Pethel asked me to write a devotional for the Advent Booklet, I immediately chose to write about hope because it is the theme that most impacts my life. Peace is sometimes elusive and joy is often well-hidden but the hope that comes through faith in the promises of Jesus Christ is always with me. 

 

Anyone who knows me knows that I can remember more words from hymns than from scripture.  My piano teacher made me sing as I played so I had to memorize the words in order to pay attention to the notes!  One of my favorite hymns of hope is “The Solid Rock” and I know many of you can sing every word without the book in front of you. I have always known that “my hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness” but the song was recently reduced, for me, to one statement. I had the privilege of singing with the Sea Island Chamber Singers in a concert entitled “Songs of Hope.” One of the last songs of the concert was a rousing version of “The Solid Rock.”  At the end of the song, each voice part came in with a different phrase from the hymn.  The altos had a simple line which was repeated until the end of the song: “on Christ, I stand.” What a powerful message is delivered in those four words!

 

Hope has been given to us through the Holy Spirit and does not disappoint us. It gives us strength to endure the hard days and wisdom to accept the good gifts from God.  The light of the world is Jesus and the hope for the world is Jesus. On Christ, I stand.

 

Prayer:  Dear God, thank you for the gift of hope.  Thank you for loving us so much that you sent Jesus to shine a light in a dark world. May your love flow through our hearts and into the lives of those around us. In your precious name, Amen.

 

                                                                             Judy Copeland

Wednesday, December 6                                                                                                                                         Fourth Day of Advent

 

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

 

As I ponder ideas for this year’s advent devotional, the first scripture to pop up was Jeremiah 29:11.  I look at this scripture through a parent’s eyes and also a child of God.  I was so fortunate to grow up in a Godly home, the youngest of six children, with parents that loved each of us deeply and had hope in their hearts that we too would have eternal salvation and know the love of Jesus.  To give you an idea of my childhood, I would compare it to the Brady Bunch (yes, we had six kids and a maid named Alice), the everlasting love shared on The Waltons, the drama of Eight is Enough and a Mama that was much like Marie Barone on Everybody Loves Raymond.  In reflecting on my childhood memories and our Christmas traditions, I am able to see so clearly through my mother and father’s eyes as Todd and I try to lead our children in that same direction.

 

As we would all gather together in our den on Christmas Eve, we would continue our annual tradition of Daddy reading Twas the Night before Christmas, followed by one of us reading the Christmas story from the Family Bible, each of us praying our own prayer aloud, and ending with my sister, Julie, playing her guitar as we would all sing Christmas carols.  I know it sounds pretty corny, but these memories are so dear to me as my parents are no longer living.  Those traditions have lived on in various ways as all six of us have started our own Christmas traditions with our own families. 

 

On those Christmas Eve nights and other times throughout the year, my parents taught us the need to pray and be thankful for what we were blessed, and to have hope for the future.  They knew there would be times that we would in deed mess up and make mistakes….some really big and some small.  They knew that with Jesus there is always hope and forgiveness, and as parents they tried to demonstrate that same love and forgiveness towards their own children.

As parents, Todd and I both look to Jesus for hope that our children would learn from their mistakes and have a heart that also yearns for Jesus. As I have often looked to my own experiences with my own parents I am reminded of my own heavenly father as He gave his only son so that all of us would have hope and a future through Him.

 

Prayer:  Dear Lord, I pause to pray and thank you for the birth of your Son, Jesus Christ.  Thank you for the love and forgiveness that you have demonstrated for each of us so that we can spend an eternity with you.  For I know that with you all things are possible, and there is ALWAYS hope. In Jesus’s name.  Amen

 

Patsy Stowe

Thursday, December 7                                                                                                                                                                    Fifth Day of Advent

 

“We can rejoice too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His love.”  Romans 5:3-5

 

Hope is a feeling of trust that we have with God. Its basis is the love that He gives us and that love we have for Him in return. It can be hard to have Hope when we are in the mist of those problems and trials the scripture mentions. Developing endurance is not always easy.

Maybe this is the first Christmas you’ll have after losing a loved one. Maybe this year has been particularly hard on your family financially. Maybe you are suffering from physical or mental illness and in pain this holiday season.

I cannot promise you prosperity or healing because I do not know what God has in store and I cannot presume to know His will. What I can tell you is that hope comes from love. Because God loves us, we are confident in our hope of salvation. During this season of advent, I ask you to give someone who needs hope the love that was shown to you. Hopefully, that Christian love will help them develop that quality of endurance, develop the strength of their character, and make them confident in the hope of salvation, as scripture tells us.

 

Prayer: Dear Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Let me be the hands to lift others as you have lifted me. Let me be the feet to walk with others as you walk with me. Where there is despair, let me sow hope. In your holy name I pray, Amen.

                                                         

 CJ Akins

Friday, December 8                                                                                                                                                    Sixth Day of Advent

 

 

“See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”  Isaiah 43:19

 

 

Every Christmas season I get really excited for listening to Christmas music to begin.  The many versions of “Mary Did You Know?”, “Silent Night” and the crowd pleaser “Little Drummer Boy” float around as we shop for Christmas presents, drive in holiday traffic and sit in coffee shops drinking our caffeine of choice. My favorite Christmas song that really moves me though is “O Holy Night.” Something about the melodic sounds paired with the lyrics touch something in my soul. My favorite line is “a thrill of hope the weary world rejoices.” Advent is a season of darkness as we wait for the light of Christ to appear. For that thrill of hope to appear in a world that is burdened down with weariness. The new thing that springs up in the wasteland. Without Jesus there is no hope. How weary and lost we would be without the hope that Christ brings.

 

 

Prayer:  God, How weary, tired and worn we would be without the hope we have in Jesus. Thank you for the hope you have given us in the light that is Christ.  Amen.

 

Tiffany Pickett

Saturday, December 9                                                                                                                                      Seventh Day of Advent

 

“The wise men came to the house where the child was with his mother Mary.  They bowed down and worshiped him.  Then they opened the boxes of gifts they had brought for him.  They gave him treasures of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.”  Matthew 2:11

 

This verse has a very significance meaning to me.   I look at is as the three Wise Men we hear about every year around Christmas.  The ones that brought the gifts to Jesus.  I also look at this verse in specific details.  I see that the king, that sent the three men, noticed this one tiny thing that no one else did.  He noticed a star appear in the air and sent these men to find the Messiah.

In my Christmas experience it’s not normal for anyone to notice the small things like that.  This year I was thinking about how my parents put so much into Christmas.  Every year my dad takes Santa pictures at Chick-fil-a and my mom makes ornaments for all the children in her family.  I get an ornament from my parents every year that means something to us that year.  My Grandmommy makes her house look amazing.  She comes over every year and shows us how much she cares.  I go to my MeMommy’s house every year to celebrate Christmas.  I have never had a doubt that my family doesn’t care.

This gives me hope for my future family.  I have traditions in my family that I want to continue with my children.  We have always done white elephant with all the family friends.  In addition, giving the children ornaments, so when they have their own Christmas tree they will already have ornaments.  I hope that my children will appreciate these traditions like I do.

 

Prayer:  Hey God, I pray that everyone will notice the small things this year.  I pray that all the new parents will start traditions with their children.  I pray that this year everyone will be like the king and take action on what they see.  Amen.

                                                                            

Christy Stowe   

Sunday, December 10                                                                                                                                        Eighth Day of Advent

 

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given . . . And He will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”  Isaiah 9:6

The dictionary defines peace as freedom from strife.  As we read scripture and sing familiar carols of Christmas, we picture a peaceful night in Bethlehem with angels singing “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace and good will toward men.

Where is that peaceful scene we read about?  In this troubled world does that peace tend to elude us at times?

Philippians says, “Do not be anxious about anything . . . but present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds.”

The poem “Christmas Bells” was written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in 1863 during war time and was put to music as our hymn “I heard the Bells on Christmas Day”.  The following are verses 3 and 4: And in despair, I bowed my head; “There is no peace on earth,” I said “For hate is strong, and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to men.”

(Then comes the good news):

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:  “God is not dead nor doth He sleep; The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, With peace on earth, good will to men.”

In 2017 as we celebrate Christ’s birth, our peace has come; our Prince of Peace is here.  His name is Jesus.  Jesus said, “Peace I give to you; My peace I give you.  Not as the world gives.  Let not your heart be troubled and do not be afraid”.

In His Peace we can find unimaginable contentment just knowing He gives us life eternal.

 

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, Thank you for the peace You offer so freely.  Please calm our hectic lives and let us listen for Your still small voice saying “Peace, be still”.  In the name above all names, Jesus’. Amen.

                                                                                      Bill and Gay Winslow

Monday, December 11                                                                                                                                          Ninth Day of Advent

 

 

“They must turn from evil and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it.”

I Peter 3:11

 

I chose this passage because after I read it I realized that turning away from evil and doing the right thing is not only good, it creates peace on our earth.  In society today you see a lot of bad things that people have chosen to do.  It is natural for us to think or say “I wish that never happened” but, we cannot turn back time.  So, instead of thinking that and talking to people about it, we should take action.  When I hear the word “peace” I often correlate it to the words quiet and serene so maybe keeping quiet will create peace, right?

 

Though taking action can cause stress and anxiety and does not feel very peaceful, it creates peace.  Helping for a short amount of time can create peace in the long run.  Any little action you take that helps someone or something creates peace.  Choosing the right path can be hard sometimes.  “Should I help pick up that man’s book that he dropped?  Or should I keep playing my game?”  Small decisions like this can create peace like the butterfly effect.  Choosing the right path can serve others and God.  We should always choose what’s right even if it means sacrificing something because we all want peace on Earth. 

 

 

Prayer:  Dear God, Please help me and others seek peace and pursue it.  Let us choose the right path so that we can create peace in your wonderful creation.  Help those who are struggling turn from evil and do good.  Thank you God.  Amen.

 

                                                                  

                                                                                       Lydia Joy Capps

Tuesday, December 12                                                                                                                                          Tenth Day of Advent

 

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”  John 14:27

 

 

One of my favorite songs for any time of the year, not just Christmastime, is Let There Be Peace on Earth.  I’m especially fond of the version sung by Vince Gill and his young daughter.

 

Peace seems like such a simple concept doesn’t it?  Everyone just getting along.  How hard can that be?  The problem is everybody else, right?  We’re all waiting for someone else to go first.  Which country will give a little?  Which political party will give a little?  Which person will give a little?  However, as this song states, peace begins with me!  It begins with each and every one of us.  We can’t wait for others to start the gift of PEACE.  We each need to begin peace each and every day.

 

No, we may not bring peace to the entire world, but just think of all the peace there would be right here in Beaufort if we were inspired by Jesus’ words in John 14:27. 

 

Let there be peace on earth and let it BEGIN WITH ME!

 

 

Prayer:  Father God, I pray that this Christmas you bless us and inspire us to not be afraid.  Let our hearts not be troubled, but let them glow with peace.  Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me!  Amen

 

MaryLou Gruel

Wednesday, December 13                                                                                                                              Eleventh Day of Advent

 

…a concept longed for by all people, world around since the beginning of time.

 

During times of unrest and turmoil, we cry out for Peace and welcome it with gratitude when it’s present.

 

A person who brings about peace, especially by reconciling adversaries, is called a “peacemaker,” when he reconciles opposing factions.  This peace, however, is temporary.  Because that’s the cycle of human nature.

 

In reality, only Jesus is The Peacemaker.  He gives peace that cannot be described with mere words.  It has to be experienced.

 

This peace from God was recognized and written in scripture in ancient times: You will keep them in perfect peace whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.  Isaiah 26:3

 

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”  John 14:27

 

We know these precepts from childhood days.  So, when I chose PEACE for a topic to write a devotional about, and because I truly enjoy writing, it seemed to me to be an easy topic.   After all, PEACE is mentioned throughout scripture, both old and new testaments. RIGHT?  There’s Peace that passes all understanding (Phil. 4:7), and other expressions that describe peace without actually using the word Peace -1 Peter 3:3-5 is an example.

 

Well, that’s all what I was experiencing following my husband’s mild heart attack, then a Heart Cath, then transfer to MUSC followed by a bypass procedure, followed by the path to recovery.  All of which can be just a bit overwhelming and does eventually wear you plum out.  You get to a point where you cannot think another thought, you cannot read another word, you cannot pray another prayer, and you cannot “buck up” any more…can’t even do the most mundane chore around the house, or send a thank you note.  And frustration and anger seems to press in despite knowing that’s not a good thing for a person to carry.

 

However, yesterday, when the stress load accomplished a complete exiting of emotional strength and mental energy, I desperately longed for relief and for PEACE.  Have you been to that point in life a time or two?  

Prayer:  Lord, help us when we are at wits end, to find our way through the maze until we are again made whole.  Thank you for your constant presence in us and around us.  Amen.

 

Dollie Morrall

Thursday, December 14                                                                                                                                   Twelfth Day of Advent

 

“His name shall be called Wonderful Counsellor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”  Isaiah 9:6

Recently a Fox News host asked White House Chief of Staff, General John Kelly, “When you pray, what is the first thing you pray for?”  His immediate answer was “World Peace." Has that not been a continuous prayer throughout history?

Thankfully, as we prepare for the advent or “coming of Christmas”, we are reminded once again that Christmas is a special, powerful event that changed the course of history.  Thank God for loving us enough to have kept His promise of a Savior, our Prince of Peace.

 

I heard the bells on Christmas day,

Their old familiar carols play,

And wild and sweet the words repeat

Of peace on earth, good will to men.

I thought how, as the day had come,

The belfries of all Christendom had

Rolled along the unbroken song

Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head:

“There is no peace on earth,” I said,

“For hate is strong, and mocks the song

Of peace on earth, good will to men.

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:

“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;

The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,

With peace on earth, good will to men.”  Amen.

Henry W. Longfellow, 1807-1882

 

 

Trish Bush

Friday, December 15                                                                                                                                 Thirteenth Day of Advent

“They must turn from evil and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it.”

1 Peter 3:11

 

Peace is defined as freedom from disturbance. If you are like me, you are far from peace. There are so many things to worry about. What if I don’t meet the deadline? I should have exercised today. Did my neighbor realize she hurt my feelings? Did I disappoint my parents? Was I rude to my teacher? I forgot to call my grandmother. Of course, we can’t forget the worldly disturbances. We are a violent people, in conflicts with many nations, surrounded by injustices and political debates. For some, Christmas only adds to the stress. I have so much holiday baking to finish. Will we travel for Christmas this year? Will she like this gift? Will our family members get along? Did I finish decorating the house for the party?  

 

The quintessential example of peace is Mary. Mary was a teenager when she became pregnant. I am certain she was afraid and had many worries. Instead of letting these worries consume her, she put her trust in God, and found peace! Christ tells us, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.” (Philippians 4:6a) 1 Peter 3:11 reads, “They must turn from evil and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it.”

 

We are instructed as Christians to be the peacemakers in the world.  In the midst of Advent, I encourage you to cast your cares on Christ.  When we share our worries with Him, we are overcome with peace.  In Matthew 6:33, we are reminded to put the kingdom of God first, and we will be taken care of. When we are at peace, we are capable of bringing peace to others, just as Mary did.

 

 

Prayer:  God, I thank You for this day, and for this advent season.  Thank You for Mary and for teaching us where to find peace. I ask that You take away my worries, my fears, my doubts, and my stress. Help me to put all faith in You. Help me to seek peace, and share that peace with others. Amen.

 

                                                                   Marissa Pethel

Saturday, December 16                                                                                                                          Fourteenth Day of Advent

 

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:6-7

 

There are two places we can expect peaceful protection from the Lord: our hearts, and our minds.  God guards these two parts of us, but even if they are as close as 18 inches apart, they seem to conspire against each other.  If our thoughts head in the wrong direction, our hearts soon will follow.  God’s peace and the assurance of His control can and will guard both the heart and the mind, no matter what you face.   We all want peace.   We want peace in the world, and sometimes we fight for it.  We want peace in our countries, so we vote for the person we think will do the best.  We want peace with our friends, so we do what we can to not offend them.  We want peace in our family, so we work hard to provide for their needs.  Lastly, we want peace in ourselves, so we compare ourselves to others and say we are much happier with what we have.  People spend their whole lives working for peace.  Unfortunately, true peace is not something that can be achieved, it can only be received.  True peace can only be received from God.  As followers of Jesus, we should be the ones looked to when others need peace.  Not because our surroundings are peaceful, but because our hearts and minds are at peace with God through the death of Christ on the cross.

 

Prayer:  Dear God, Help us find peace within our own selves, and help us find true peace within you, Lord.  We ask that you be patient with us, as we find the peace we seek.  Guide our hearts and our minds to be anxious for nothing.  Help us find the place where our hearts and minds are at a happy medium.  Help us to follow Philippians 4:6-7, as we struggle to find the true peace we seek.  Help us focus on helping others find their peace instead of focusing on ourselves all the time.  Thank you for being with us every step of the way.  Amen.

                                                                   McKenzie Wilson

Sunday, December 17                                                                                                                                            Fifteenth Day of Advent

“What can I give Him, poor as I am? If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;

If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part,

Yet what can I give Him, I can Give my heart.”

-Christina Rosetti

 

It was a bleak midwinter. This was to be the first Christmas Jim and I would not be home in South Carolina with our families. We had been serving a small congregation in the rich farmland of Western Kentucky for eighteen months and still were not accustomed to the frigid temperatures and gray skies that pervaded the area from October to April.

 

Like churches around the nation, this loving group of Baptists conducted a Christmas food drive. The beneficiary of this project was a single mother with four children who resided in a less than standard tenant house situated on a nearby tobacco farm. The offerings were plentiful but when Christmas Eve arrived the boxes of flour, sugar, peanut butter, powdered milk and chocolate chip cookies still sat in the church foyer.

 

Realizing we were now the” De Facto Santas,” Jim and I loaded the cargo into our vehicle and headed to their dwelling place.  Already in a state of melancholy, this preacher’s wife was not happy about the task. I recall selfishly verbalizing, “ I am going to take these sad images with me throughout the rest of the holiday and I just don’t need any more depression right now.” I missed my mama and daddy and I could not escape the words a doctor had shared with me in hushed tones just a few weeks prior,”you probably will not be able to have children of your own.”

 

The dirt road rambled up to the front door of a shack, an apt description of tobacco farm tenant houses in the Seventies. A little face peered out of the dirty window. My heart sank. We were welcomed in as we came bearing gifts of food. Squeals of delight came from all the boys, especially the youngest one in the myopic glasses and a noticeable limp,”Look mama, it’s cookies.”

 

In addition to the kitchen there was only one room that served as the bedroom and the living area. A small fire in the fireplace heated the room.  A tiny pine tree in a glass bleach bottle sat in the corner and was decorated with ornaments the boys had made at school. They were thrilled to show us which ones they had fashioned to adorn their Christmas tree, a star, an angel, a wreath. We were the captive audience and all four took turns sharing stories about making snowmen, sledding down the bluff on a box top and which teacher was their favorite at the little elementary school where I often substituted. The mother was engaging as well explaining her life’s story and how she came upon these challenging times. The boys’ father abused not only substances but also her and was currently out of their lives.                                                     

She hoped that his absence was permanent even if it meant more hardship in providing for her sons. She was effusively grateful for the food and expressed how it would enable her to bake something special for the children.

 

We stood in a circle, held hands, sang a carol and had a prayer. The one dangling light bulb illuminating the room cast a glow on a small sparkly bowl sitting on a table. I admired the empty container and she explained it was “circus glass” from her home in Illinois which reminded her of family when she was homesick.

 

Jim and I spent more time there than I had imagined we would and our hearts were strangely warmed by the hospitality and joy we found in this home. My dread had been transformed into peace, something God knew I needed that Christmas.

 

The next morning, we celebrated around our big tree, opening gifts sent to us from family in South Carolina. As we exited the back door to discard the mound of wrapping paper, a little gift sat on the stoop. It was the circus glass container full of divinity fudge. There was no note, but I knew where it had come from. When DSS workers delivered winter coats to the boys late on Christmas Eve, the mother asked them to leave the surprise on our porch.

 

Jim and I were so humbled by the gesture and the tears began to fall. In her gratitude, she had given us the brightest item in her possession laden with treats she made with her own hands and our church’s groceries.

 

Isn’t this what God gave us that very first Christmas, sharing the brightest item in His possession with a shadowy world in need of an eternal light?

 

We bring out the circus glass bowl during Advent every year and put it in a special place as a reminder of the Christmas Eve we were surprised by joy in the sacrificial gift of a fellow struggler.

 

As a post script, the following Christmas, we celebrated

in Kentucky with a newborn son of our own. Joy

indeed comes during the Yuletide in anticipated life

events and unexpected acts of love.                                       

 

Prayer: Thank you, Father for the immeasurable

 joy of anticipated life events like weddings, babies,

graduations, new jobs, and holidays but also for

the joy shared through unexpected acts of love like

the kind words of a friend, grace interrupting

loneliness and a bowl of divinity fudge. Amen

 

 

 

Becky Wooten

Monday, December 18                                                                                                                               Sixteenth Day of Advent

 

“You will show me the path of life, In your presence is fullness of joy; At your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

Psalm 16: 11

 

JOYS OF OLD

  1. Creation of heaven and earth. (Genesis 1:1)

  2. The Holy Spirit “hovering over the face of the waters”. (Genesis 1: 2b)

  3. Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. (Genesis 2: 7-24)

  4. Ready to obey God, the angel of the Lord appeared to Abraham to spare the life of his son, Isaac. (Gen 22:9)

  5. Having climb Mount Abarim, Moses sees the land God promised to the Israelites.(Numbers 27:12)

 

JOYS OF CHRIST

  1. The birth of Jesus Christ

  2. Men left their lives to follow Jesus and become his disciples.

  3. A flash of light and a voice on the road to Damascus signaled the beginning of Paul’s conversion to becoming a follower of Jesus Christ and bring Christianity to the Gentiles. (Acts 9)

  4. Lydia being “Europe’s first convert” to Christianity opened her door to Paul after the Holy Spirit barred him from the Roman Province of Asia”. (Barclay, The Acts of the Apostles, pg. 121.)

 

JOYS OF TODAY

  1. An infant’s hand wrapping itself around a parent’s finger.

  2. God’s manna, all around and in all we see, to remind us of Him and His provisions for us.

  1. The poem, Footprints, to remind us that God carries us in His arms in our times of need.

  2. Hugs from those we love.

  3. Listening and hearing experiences shared by those who are older and wiser.

  4. Remembering that joy is one of the Fruits of the Spirit. (Galatians 5: 22-23)

  5. Thanking God for all the blessings He has provided to each of us.

  6. Having a personal relationship with the Triune God.

  7. Sharing our blessings with others.

  8. Reading, studying, understanding and applying God’s word through Scripture.

 

“Take time to find joy in the blessings God has given you and thank Him for them in your daily prayers. Remember that the Lord delights in us because we delight in Him. “The Lord your God is in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness.”  Zephaniah 3:17

 

Prayer:  Lord God, how mighty you are. How is it that you find joy in me when I am a sinner? Come to me and show me what you want me do to so that I will delight in you and You will find joy in me. Amen

 

Catherine Pardue

Tuesday, December 19                                                                                                                           Seventeenth Day of Advent

 

“. . . Count it all joy . . .” James 1:2

 

Count it all joy. Sure, that’s easy to do when my newborn grandson tightly grasps my finger with his tiny, perfectly-formed fingers. Or when the sight of an exquisite sunset simply takes my breath away. Or when a soaring musical offering causes me to experience worship in a profound and awe-inspiring way. Or when a special friend sends a remembrance or telephones “just because”. Or even when my favorite team wins an unexpected game. Joy comes easily.

 

But count it ALL joy? How can there be joy when a dear friend is diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer? When another friend gets weaker by the day and doctors can’t seem to fix it? When hateful things are said to my husband – the kindest and most generous person I have ever known? When family members are estranged, and there seems little hope for reconciliation? When evil personified walks down the aisle of a country church and shoots little children one-by-one? When there is so much anger in our country? Where is the joy then?

 

Christians have never been promised an easy road. Trials faced strengthen our faith and bring us closer to our Lord. There is the joy.

 

For the past several years, I have chosen a word which has been my focus for 365 days. This year, my word has been “Joy.” I have made a purposeful attempt to find joy everywhere – in the good and in the bad - as well as to spread joy wherever I am.  Some days I do a better job than others! The photograph below is the windowsill above my kitchen sink, which I see throughout each day. On the left is an oyster shell crèche which local artist Chris Nietert created, and which is one of my favorite Christmas decorations. I chose this year to leave it out alongside the reminder of my watchword for 2017. This picture pretty much says it all: “Joy to the World! The Lord Has Come!”

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, empower me to trust You when it’s hard to remember that You are near. Help me to live joyfully when times are bad as well as when they are good. Thank You for the greatest joy of all – the gift of Your Son.

 

Cindy Duryea

Wednesday, December 20                                                                                                                     Eighteenth Day of Advent

 

“Now may the God of hope fill you with joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”  Romans 15:13

 

“Heaven came down and glory filled my soul” When John Peterson wrote the lyrics to “Heaven Came Down,” he was thinking of the cross.  The words of the hymn reflect the joy that he felt after his personal encounter with Jesus.  He understands that he has experienced an emotion that is not of this world.  It seems to me that the lines, “Heaven came down and glory filled my soul” can work equally well when we attempt to describe the word Joy during our Christmas season.  The feeling of joy escapes defining because like so many of the words associated with Jesus – grace, love, hope- joy is a gift straight from Heaven, and no words can adequately define it.  But, we recognize it when we experience it.

Our Heavenly Father invites us at Christmas time to come and see the Christ Child.  There is nothing like Him.  He’s the most beautiful baby in the world.  He’s the Prince of Peace, the King of Kings, the Messiah, Emmanuel, the Resurrection and the Life.  And, God gives Him freely to us because He loves us.  When we begin to comprehend this gift, an overwhelming emotion that often leaves us speechless surrounds us.  That’s Joy.  Certainly, Mary and Joseph must have experienced it, along with the shepherds, Anna and Simeon, and the others who caught a glimpse of the glory of another world.  Perhaps those of us on the other side of the cross have a fuller understanding of this wonderful gift of grace, and our hearts burst forth in gratitude to God for His unspeakable gift.  That’s Joy.  Heaven comes down, and glory fills our souls.

So, as we prepare our hearts for the coming of Jesus this Advent season, may we experience anew this wonderful Joy.

 

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, Our souls long for you and the joy that knowing you brings.  Thank you for Jesus, our path to You and the Joy that You give us.  Amen.

                                                                             Pat Patterson

Thursday, December 21                                                                                                                          Nineteenth Day of Advent

 

“And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all mankind together will see it.  For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” Isaiah 40:5.

 

Waiting, waiting, waiting. We know for 400 years the Israelites waited for the Messiah to come. Generation after generation waited through silent years for His coming. They longed and prayed for the promises revealed by the prophet Isaiah to be completed!

 

In this advent season, we too wait for the coming of the Christ child. We know it is a babe and not a powerful King that appears on the scene. We see the shepherds as they bow down to worship. We follow the star from the East along with the Wise Men. We arrive at the stable where Mary and Joseph marvel at this newborn and all those who come to worship him. We too bow before the manager—Our Savior is born!

 

What joy is ours that our God would send His Son in such a vulnerable way for us—sinners with no hope or worthiness!  How glorious as we too hear the angels singing Glory to God in the Highest!

 

As we prepare our hearts for His coming, we should not forget the years of waiting and longing for this precious gift. We have the vantage point of looking back with full knowledge of all the events from Bethlehem to Calvary. What joy is ours “For the mouth of the Lord has spoken it.”

 

 

Prayer:  Our Heavenly Father, Your glory surrounds us and fills us with JOY. Let our joy flow forth that others might too seek the babe on Christmas morn. Amen.

 

 

Mary Rich

Friday, December 22                                                                                                                                  Twentieth Day of Advent

 

 

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” James 1:2-3

 

Remember your youthful Christmas toys?  Where are they now?  If you've been alive for more than a few years or so into your adulthood, you probably have no idea what happened to them.  Those toys brought you so very much joy during your youth.  A worldly joy (in most cases) that did not stand the test of time.  Those childhood gifts brought a temporary burst of joy that soon faded when the next new toy came into view or when you perceived yourself as requiring a more sophisticated toy or, perhaps, when it fell apart in your hands.  That's not the fickle worldly joy a Christian should seek in their lives.

 

In the Old Testament, joy was associated with the true worship of God.  If we embrace it as a beautiful gift from God as we worship Him, God will increase our joy.  Even as we walk through the darkest of trials in our lives, we will feel His presence with us and we will be able to see His hand throughout our gravest moments.  And because of the joy we share with our heavenly Father through our commune with Him in worship, prayer and study, He will give us the strength and hope to carry on with grace in very difficult times.

 

 Doing God's will shall increase our joy and circumstances will not diminish it.  However, there is one thing that can steal our joy away.  That is sin.  So resist those temptations that would siphon off the joy that you share with God.  Rejoice always!

 

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, please teach us to know the difference between the joy a child feels with a new play toy and the perfect joy given to us as we commune with You through prayer, worship and study.  We make this prayer in the precious name of Jesus Christ.  Amen

 

 

Joe Poveroni

Saturday, December 23                                                                                                                            Twenty-first Day of Advent

 

Reflect on the words of this beautiful carol today.  Joy to the World!  The Lord Is Come!

Joy to the world, the Lord is come
Let earth receive her King
Let every heart
Prepare Him room
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven and heaven and nature sing

Joy to the world, the Savior reigns
Let men their songs employ
While fields and floods
Rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy
Repeat the sounding joy
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy

He rules the world with truth and grace
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness
And wonders of His love
And wonders of His love
And wonders, wonders of His love

Joy to the world, the Lord is come
Let earth receive her King
Let every heart
Prepare Him room
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven and heaven and nature sing
And heaven and heaven and nature sing

Sunday, December 24                                                                                                                                                Christmas Eve

 

 “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, His love endures forever.” Psalm 136:1

 

Since 1976, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania has been home to an iconic piece of art known as the LOVE Sculpture. Designed by artist Robert Indiana, the four letters that spell out the word “love” are painted in red, blue and green and welded together in a giant statue. The piece is on display in Kennedy Plaza, better known as LOVE Park, in the City of Brotherly Love.

 

At least the piece was on display until February of this year, when it was removed for what the city’s public art director called “a full conservation treatment.”

The city’s tourism bureau went so far as to provided information on alternative sites in Philadelphia that people might want to visit. That’s how iconic the sculpture has become. Yes, it’s only a symbolic representation of a feeling, but when it is removed for restoration, is it really gone? Does taking the symbol away from public view mean the piece itself no longer exists?

 

Christmas is also celebrated once a year, every year. Its most symbolic representation is in the form of a baby, not a man in a red suit and beard or a candy cane or a snowflake. That baby represents the love of the Father for His son and the love of that son for humankind.

 

But what happens the rest of the year?

 

The baby in the manger may not be out on display, but the love he represents is still there. It’s freely available in May and June just as easy as it is in December. There is always a lot of talk about “catching the Christmas spirit,” but it shouldn’t take a Nat King Cole song or a gift exchange or mild weather to get us to that place in our lives. We can show our love for the Father – and each other – at any time, and we can accept that love from Him at any time.

 

Whether it’s Christmas or not.

 

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, thank you for the opportunities we have to accept your love so freely given in our lives. Thank you for the time set aside to celebrate the gift of your son, Jesus, and help us to share that love at all times of the year. Amen.

 

Ryan Copeland

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Monday, December 25                                                                                                                                                 Christmas Day

 

Robert Louis Stevenson was one of my favorite authors as a kid… from A Child’s Garden of Verses (a children’s book of poetry) to the thrilling pirate adventures Treasure Island and Kidnapped. When he was a child (and really throughout his whole life) he was very sickly. He was, like I, an only child; and he spent a lot of time at the home of his grandparents, playing in contemplative solitude.

 

In the mid 1850’s, Stevenson’s maternal grandfather was a Presbyterian minister in Edinburgh, Scotland, and his home was at the top of a very hilly street. Young Robert loved to play beside an upstairs window that opened on the city expanse below. There was built-in cabinetry that he could sit on and gaze down the winding street that led up to the Victorian house.

 

One evening, just after it turned dark, he was playing at his post when he looked down and saw the most mesmerizing sight… a small flame moving steadily up the street, stopping along the way, at first one lamppost and then the next… and with each stop an illuminating light burst forth. It was the old lamplighter making his way along the street, bringing light to the dark city.

 

He ran to his mother excitedly and said, “Quick, quick! Come see the man who is punching holes in the darkness!” That is what it looked like to his young eyes… a canopy of darkness enveloping the city and one man punching holes that let some light through.

 

I often think of that story at Christmas, for in essence that is what God has done in sending Jesus. God punched a hole in the darkness of our world and let the Divine light shine through in a way it never had before. God came near in Jesus and brought with Him the light of hope and joy, peace and love that warms our hearts and shows us the way… bright, bright light in a dark, dark world.

 

 

Prayer:  On this Christmas morning, we give thanks for the most precious gift of all- the gift of Yourself in Jesus Christ. Through Him, help us to see You more clearly, love You more dearly, and follow You more nearly in the year yet before us.  Amen.

 

                                                                                      Dr. Jim Wooten

,

Tuesday, December 26                                                                                                                              Second Day of Christmas

 

“I love you, O Lord, my strength.”  Psalm 18:1

 

Growing up in the home of a military family with 5 children I don’t recall hearing the words “I love you” spoken very often.  I always felt loved, which is more important than hearing those three words, but as a child and a teenager hearing my mother or father say “I Love You” would have reinforced what I was feeling most of the time.  My father was away from home on deployment for 24 months of my young life leaving my mother to manage the home by herself raising the five of us.  There were times of struggle but the love she had for us helped her to persevere and handle being both the mother and father to all of us.  Once again, I felt loved but still felt the need to hear those three special words.

 

As an adult I was determined to be sure that those three words were part of my everyday life with my family.  My children heard the words every day from me when they were growing up and they hear them from me now as young adults. 

 

I truly believe that God knew the importance of those three words in my life and as both of my parents suffered terminal illnesses the words I LOVE YOU became more important and were said more often by all. 

 

 

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, You are our strength and our comforter.  You love us and help us to show our love to others in both words and deeds.  Dear Lord this Christmas season is a time to reach out to those we love and to let them know that they are loved.  Dear Lord let this take place not only during this special season of the year but throughout the year. Thank you dear Lord and we ask all this in the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ.   Amen

 

Donald Gruel

Wednesday, December 27                                                                                                                             Third Day of Christmas

 

Love Came Down

 

 “He came to His own people.”  John 1:11a

 

About this time, three years ago, I was in Yokosuka, Japan awaiting the arrival of baby Henry.   The small base clinic where we were stationed did not have the capabilities to deliver babies, so expectant mothers would travel north to a larger base hospital about three weeks before the expected delivery date. Hank was on deployment and Jack and Josh couldn’t miss school, so Sam, Macy, Avery Grace and I made the trip together.  We stayed in a hotel suite for those weeks enjoying our free time together.  We used green masking tape to make a Christmas tree on the hotel room wall and then tacked colored lights onto our make-shift tree.  We frequented the base bowling alley and movie theater.  We ate Chinese take-out almost every day.  We made cinnamon apple sauce Christmas ornaments and rented holiday movies from the library.  We enjoyed the gift of each other’s presence.  We made amazing memories.  Hank arrived just in time for the birth of Henry.  Henry was healthy and perfect and my heart was so full. 

 

The evening after Henry was born, I found myself alone with him for a few quiet moments in the hospital room.  I held him close and looked through the window down on to the street below.  The lamp posts were decorated with lighted wreaths and candy canes.   Snow was coming down in light flurries.  The dark waters of the bay in the distance were calm and still.  The world seemed so very peaceful in that moment.  As I surveyed the scene, I couldn’t help but think about that Christmas long ago when Jesus was born.  It was on that very night when Love came down.  Love came down to earth in the form of a tiny baby boy.  “He came to his own people” (John 1:11a NLT).  The world would never be the same.  It is difficult to comprehend the fact that God loved us so very much that he came to live with us in the person of Jesus. 

 

This Christmas season, we can celebrate by living as Jesus did in this world- by loving God and loving people.  This is His greatest commandment after all.   Sharing take-out with a friend who is lonely, making cinnamon applesauce ornaments with a child who longs for the gift of presence, decorating the hospital room wall of a sick loved one with a green masking tape Christmas tree-  the best gifts are not always wrapped in ribbons and shiny paper. We can share Christ’s love at Christmas by giving gifts of kindness, forgiveness, presence, and time.   To the heartbroken, hurt, lonely, or lost, these are the best kinds of gifts.  This is the very reason that Love came down- to bring the gift of hope to a hurting world.  How will you bring hope to those in need?  How will you share the love of Christ this Christmas? 

 

Amy Thomas

Thursday, December 28                                                                                                                         Fourth Day of Christmas

 

 

“May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love; and may you be able to feel and understand, as all God’s children should, how long, how wide, how deep, and how high his love really is; and to experience this love for yourselves, though it is so great that you will never see the end of it or fully know or understand it. And so at last you will be filled up with God himself.”  

Ephesians 3: 17b-19

 

Down through the ages, folks have endeavored to find just the right words to express the depth of love they feel for those very special people in their lives.  We reserve the most extraordinary words just for them, to let them know our feelings for them are exceptional, off the charts, unlike any other.  Sometimes it seems that language is inadequate to express the love we feel, so people might come up with unusual words to convey love.  I come from a long line of “keepers of adages, mottos, and sayings”.  A good friend of mine calls them “Easley-isms” because she suspects some of these “sayings” are unique to the place I was born and raised.  Truth is, some real doozies were conceived and popularized by colorful members of my own family such as my favorite uncle, Riley Painter, who excelled at expressing himself in the most uncommon and endearing ways.  Uncle Riley had an unusual way of saying “I love you” to the children in the family.  He would gather us up in a great big bear hug and proclaim, “I love you harder than thunder can bump a stump!!”  Unusual, yes, but I knew it was a good thing because Uncle Riley backed up his loving words with loving actions.

 

Perhaps more has been written about the subject of love than any other topic under the sun.  It’s been explored in books, songs, speeches, sermons, plays, poems, movies, and more.  Love has been desired, debated, sought, found, lost, and found again.  The absence of love can be devastating.  Sadly, infants who do not experience love will not thrive.  Love is basic to human growth and development.  Yet, for all we know about love and appreciate its immense value, we “do” it very imperfectly.  The only way we can ever hope to love well is to be “filled up by God himself”, who IS love.  When we are filled with Christ’s love, it overflows not just to those who are lovable, but to those we can only love through the power of His presence in us.

 

This is how God showed His love for us:  God sent His only Son into the world so we might live through Him……If God loved us like this, we certainly ought to love each other……If we love one another, God dwells deeply within us, and His love becomes complete in us - perfect love.    1 John 4: 9-11

 

Perfect love! It’s what all humanity hungers and strives for!  And it came to us as a baby in a manger, humble and powerless, yet His selfless act of love changed the course of history. 

 

 

Prayer: God of love, thank you for loving us so much that you bridged the chasm that separated us from you by casting your lot with ours in a manger and on a cross.  Enable us to love so purely and unselfishly that others see the reflection of Christ in us so that you might be glorified.  Amen.

 

Cathy Ragsdale

Friday, December 29                                                                                                                                     Fifth Day of Christmas

 

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.” 1 Peter 4:8-11

 

For over a quarter century the Kansas City, MO Secret Santa, Larry Stewart, anonymously approached strangers on the street, at coin laundries, barbershops, restaurants, and thrift stores and handed them $100.00 bills. Next, he wished them a Merry Christmas and as he walked away, wanting no credit or recognition, many praised the Lord and were endlessly grateful for his act of love.

 

In 2001 Steward traveled to New York following the terrorist attacks, in 2002 he headed to Washington, D.C. during the serial sniper event, in 2003 he went to San Diego while the wildfires burned, in 2004 he went to Florida during the hurricane recovery, and in 2005 he went to Mississippi following Hurricane Katrina. He always found a way to spread love anonymously with complete strangers. Since he began this mission he gave away over $1.3 million dollars, $100 at a time.

 

Since Stewart’s death in 2007 he has inspired a group that go by the name of the Society of Secret Santas. They continue his work and using their own financial resources and gifts they anonymously give from their heart to their neighbors asking for no credit and nothing in return.

 

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, help us to be more grateful for small acts of love shown by our family, friends, and neighbors. Give us the vision to identify opportunities to perform our own loving acts for strangers as the Secret Santa did. Help us to take these opportunities to give financially, give our time and talents, or share kind words with a stranger. Help us to make a difference in someone’s life each day like Jesus. In your name we pray. Amen

 

                                                                                  James Quandahl

Saturday, December 30                                                                                                                               Sixth Day of Christmas Day

 

 

“Pilate called together the chief priests, the rulers and the people, and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was inciting the people to rebellion. I have examined him in your presence and have found no basis for your charges against him.”  Luke 23:13-14

 

 

As a child I loved all the excitement and traditions that are associated with this season... the pageants, tree decorations and wonderful food.

 

And I loved the Luke-chapter-two story of Jesus.  I loved the vision of the baby, the angels, shepherds and magi. 

 

I suppose to my young heart and mind those things near the beginning of the book of Luke manifested the love that God expressed to us through the gift of his son.

 

And I still love all those things.  

 

But it is a chapter near the end of Luke to which I was drawn when preparing to write these words.  And it is the Luke-chapter-twenty-three Jesus where I see a true and remarkable love expressed.

 

Pilate could find no fault in Jesus simply because there was no fault to find... no fault of any kind.  Not only was Jesus innocent of the treason claimed by His accusers, but He was innocent of any wrongdoing whatsoever.

 

Even though our Jesus was pure in every sense He accepted the weight of my sins and justified me through His suffering.

 

That is true love.

 

Prayer:  Father in heaven I thank you for this season.  And I thank you for all those things that remind us of the joyous time of Jesus’ birth.  But most of all I thank you for the love that you expressed to us by allowing your faultless son to pay the price of our sins.  It is in His holy name I pray.  Amen

 

David Dugger 

The Baptist Church of Beaufort

601 Charles Street, Beaufort, South Carolina

Mailing Address: PO Box 879, Beaufort, SC 29901

Call / Text (843) 524-3197

bcb@bcob.org