Monday, December 31, 2018


N0TE: As we end the year, maybe there is something -- a bad relationship, a sin, a habit, a desire, a self-centeredness, etc. -- that you would like to leave behind. I have adapted a prayer from Patricia Wilson that you might want to use on this final day of 2018. Fill in the blanks with something you would like to leave behind. -- DW


I’ve tried everything, I can’t think of anything else to do, Lord. So I give this ____________ to You. I ask for nothing -- no special favors, no divine interventions, no sudden revelations. I simply place this in Your hands. And in giving it to You, I feel great relief. It is done. I have finally given up and accepted this ending. I know that from this moment on, my life will be different, and I accept this beginning as well.

Give me the strength to let all else go. Keep me from returning to this ____________. Remind me that I have given it to You.

Lead me to the higher ground, dear Jesus, where I can leave this ____________ behind. Fill me instead with Your peace and the knowledge that You are with me.

Be in this space between the ending and the beginning. It is a scary place for me as I begin to work through my life without this ____________ in it. Be between what was and what is to come.

Draw me closer to You in this time between the ending and the beginning. Let me see the place ahead not as a place to be feared but as a place You have prepared for me. 

-- Adapted from Patricia Wilson in “Quiet Spaces”

Friday, December 28, 2018


The Gospel of Matthew tells us that the magi, or wise men, travelled from the East in search of the Christ child. They inquired of King Herod where they might find Him, saying, "Where is He who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw His star when it rose and have come to worship Him" (Matthew 2:2). Upon finding the baby Jesus, “they bowed down and worshiped Him. Then they opened their treasures and presented Him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh” (Matthew 2:11).

Gold is a precious metal and as such was a very valuable commodity. Its value could very well have financed Joseph and Mary’s trip to Egypt. The Bible does not tell us any other significance to these three gifts; however, tradition has it that there is a deeper meaning for each of the three. Gold is a symbol of divinity and is mentioned throughout the Bible... The gift of gold to the Christ child was symbolic of His divinity -- God in flesh.

Frankincense is obtained from a tree by making incisions in the bark and allowing the gum to flow out. It is highly fragrant when burned and was therefore used in worship, where it was burned as a pleasant offering to God (Exodus 30:34). Frankincense is a symbol of holiness and righteousness. The gift of frankincense to the Christ child was symbolic of His willingness to become a sacrifice, wholly giving Himself up, analogous to a burnt offering.

Myrrh was also obtained from a tree in the same manner as frankincense. It was a spice and was used in embalming. It was also sometimes mingled with wine to form an article of drink. Such a drink was given to our Savior when He was about to be crucified… Myrrh symbolizes bitterness, suffering, and affliction. The baby Jesus would grow to suffer greatly as a man and would pay the ultimate price when He gave His life on the cross for all who would believe in Him. 

-- Excerpted from


Thursday, December 27, 2018


“Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid.  Then the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.’”  (Luke 2:9-11)

According to Luke's gospel, the angelic annunciation of the birth of the Savior of the world came not to important dignitaries or kings, but to shepherds tending their flocks in the middle of the night. While the recipients of the message were certainly important to God's plan, equally so were the sheep they watched.

We can trust that God had a specific purpose for this shepherd audience, and the work they performed suggests the reason. These men, who watched the sheep meant for the slaughter, received a divine message about the ultimate Lamb who would take away the sins of the world through His death and resurrection. 

-- Adapted from “The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah” by Alfred Edersheim


Wednesday, December 26, 2018


"For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish but may have eternal life." (John 3:16 NRSV)

As you gave and received Christmas gifts this year, did you notice when, in the transaction, the change of ownership took place. It was not when the gift was created or purchased. It was not when it was wrapped and labeled "from ______, to ______." It was not when the gift was sent in the mail or placed under the tree. No, the ownership of that gift changed from the giver to the receiver when the gift was actually accepted and opened.

So it is with God's Gift of Jesus Christ to the world. This Gift is given "from God, to the whole world." But just like the Christmas gifts you gave and received this year, the Gift of God's Son must be received and opened individually by believing.

"But to all who received Him, who believed in His name, He gave the power to become children of God." (John 1:12 NRSV)

What a gift! 

-- Rev. David T. Wilkinson 


Monday, December 24, 2018


“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”  (John 3:16 NKJV)

“Right from the beginning God's love has reached, and from the beginning [humans have] refused to understand. But love went on reaching, offering itself. Love offered the eternal... we wanted the immediate. Love offered deep joy... we wanted thrills. Love offered freedom... we wanted license. Love offered communion with God Himself... we wanted to worship at the shrine of our own minds. Love offered peace... we wanted approval for our wars. Even yet, love went on reaching. And still today, after 2000 years, patiently, lovingly, Christ is reaching out to us today. Right through the chaos of our world, through the confusion of our minds. He is reaching... longing to share with us... the very being of God.

His love still is longing. His love still is reaching, right past the shackles of our mind. And the Word of the Father became Mary's little Son. And His love reached all the way to where I was.” (Gloria Gaither)

“He rules the earth with truth and grace,
and makes the nations prove
the glories of His righteousness
and wonders of His love.”  (from “Joy to the World” by Isaac Watts)

May you know the Wonders of His love this Christmas!


Friday, December 21, 2018


“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.”

St. Bernard of Clairvaux writes of three advents. One is in the PAST: Christ was born to the Blessed Virgin Mary when God Incarnate came to rescue the world. One is in the PRESENT: now is the time to prepare our hearts for Christ’s dwelling. And one is in the FUTURE: Christ will come again in glory. During the Advent season I usually only consider the past Advent, Christ’s Nativity. After all, it’s complete and all that I need to do is remember what has happened and celebrate on Christmas morning what Our Lord has done. The other two advents require more of me. How do I prepare my heart for the Son of God to enter it? And perhaps even more difficult: How can I bear waiting for Christ’s return in exile, amidst grief, pain, and uncertainty?

In the advent carol the first step is to long for Christ. O come, O come, Emmanuel, God with us. We long for Him because we have come to understand the difficult reality of our situation. Until we realize that placing our security in anything of this life is fruitless, we will not be able to long for Christ as we ought.

“Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel” 

-- Haley Stewart, excerpted from her blog


Thursday, December 20, 2018


"When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’ They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger.”  (Luke 2:15-16)

Is it possible to have Christmas without Christ? I mean apart from the name; obviously you can’t spell the word Christmas without the name Christ. But I mean the event… the celebration… the holiday. Can you have Christmas without Christ as the focus?

As ludicrous as the question sounds, if you stand back and look at our society, it looks like that’s exactly what people are attempting to do. We pile up gifts and food and festivities and shopping and… more food and days off from work so high that it’s hard to find Christ in Christmas...

So it’s makes me wonder how many people could care less whether He came or not; whether they have a Christ for Christmas or not? So what if He didn’t come? What if the shepherds found an empty manger? They would have just gone back to their flock of sheep; but would it make a difference in your life?

Well, whether it would matter to you or not, and I hope it does, it would make all the difference to the whole world. A Christmas without Christ would mean that the Bible is false and the world would be lost. Which is why I am glad that the manger was not empty. There, born on that day in the City of David, was Christ the Lord. Our savior was born and He still lives. I have believed Him and received Him, and it has made all the difference for all of eternity.

I pray that this year, you won’t be having a Christmas without Christ. 

-- Rev. Eric Evans, excerpted from his blog


Wednesday, December 19, 2018


"Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call Him Immanuel, which means 'God is with us.'"  (Matthew 1:23 NLT)

The moment Mary touched God’s face is the moment God made His case: there is no place He will not go. If He is willing to be born in a barnyard, then expect Him to be at work anywhere -- bars, bedrooms, boardrooms, and brothels. No place is too common. No person is too hardened. No distance is too far. There is no person He cannot reach. There is no limit to His love. When Christ was born, so was our hope.

I think we need Christmas more than ever this year. We could use a season that is dedicated to giving, not receiving; to caring, not critiquing. Put away our differences. Put up the Christmas tree. Take comfort in the familiar story and the ancient carols. Our world, like that of Bethlehem, is difficult and crowded. Our days can feel as cold and uncertain as that midnight manger. Yet, in the midst of it all, let’s do what Mary did. Let’s invite the source of peace to enter our world. Let’s find hope, once more, in the infant King.

God became one of us so we could become one with Him. That is the promise of Bethlehem. 

-- Max Lucado, excerpted from an article entitled “Do We Really Need Christmas This Year?”


Tuesday, December 18, 2018


“What Child is this who, laid to rest,
on Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet
while shepherds watch are keeping?
This, this is Christ the King,
whom shepherds guard and angels sing.
Haste, haste to bring Him laud,
the Babe, the Son of Mary!”  (William Dix)

The Christmas miracle -- God made man, omnipotence and weakness, vast reach and tiny fingers -- is absolutely the most perfect example of God’s upside-down way of getting His agenda accomplished. In the smallness of a baby, our God has come to earth. This tiny Child has come to our world to do nothing less than do battle with sin and Satan.

But He’s big enough. Because in that little head is the mind of God, and in those little hands is power to heal and protect. He became incarnate to have a life to live in our place and to have a life to give in our place. That is what Child this is.

“Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:6-8). 

-- Excerpted from “An Advent Playlist: Hymn-Based Devotions” at


Monday, December 17, 2018


“No more let sins and sorrows grow
nor thorns infest the ground:
He comes to make His blessings flow
far as the curse is found.”  (From “Joy to the World” by Isaac Watts)

Any careful reading of the Bible provides a lot of evidence to support the claim that trying to make all things good and beautiful is very much a part of being God's people.  When Jesus saved us, He called us to be partners with Him in the work that He wanted to do in the world.  There is little doubt that our Lord very much wants to recreate this world through us and make it like new.  Part of the reason why Jesus came into the world and saved us from sin was for just that purpose.  Through us who are saved and sanctified by His grace, He wants to renew the earth.  God's will is that everything, ourselves included, should be made new and beautiful again.  The Bible says as much in Romans 8:19ff:

"For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who His children really are. Against its will, everything on earth was subjected to God's curse. All creation anticipates the day when it will join God's children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right to the present time. And even we Christians, although we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, also groan to be released from pain and suffering.  We, too, wait anxiously for that day when God will give us our full rights as His children, including the new bodies He has promised us." (Romans 8:19-23 NLT) 

-- Tony Campolo in “Following Jesus Without Embarrassing God” 


Friday, December 14, 2018


“The Word became a human being and lived here with us. We saw His true glory, the glory of the only Son of the Father. From Him the complete gifts of undeserved grace and truth have come down to us.”  (John 1:14 CEV)

"As nurses commonly do with infants, God is wont in a measure to 'lisp' when speaking to us," said John Calvin.  In the Old Testament especially, God "lisped."  Speaking in a language that could be understood, God gradually edged His people toward a different way.  He took the side of the oppressed and promised a Suffering Servant who would redeem not as the perpetrator but as the victim of violence.  For a time He allowed behavior that He disapproved of, "because your hearts were hard."  Meanwhile, albeit sometimes in zigzag fashion, the long vectors of history pointed steadily toward His Son, Jesus, the final revelation of God in human form.  In Jesus, God no longer lisped; the Word spoke loud and clear. 

-- Philip Yancey in “The Bible Jesus Read”


Thursday, December 13, 2018


“Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.’"  (John 8:12)

Candles are always popular for giving a warm romantic glow and this time of year they are to be seen on many different occasions.  Of course a candle is easy to blow out!  So much so that its flickering light was chosen by Shakespeare as a picture of the transitory nature of life.  Out, out brief candle!

Darkness is a reminder of evil, for it is in the darkness that people get lost, stumble and fall.  It is in the darkness that power is misused, corruption reigns and evil is done.  It is easy to imagine that in the end evil will triumph and the light will disappear.  Situations change.  Familiar landmarks… disappear.  There is the unrelenting pressure of a vanity fair society.  The candle burns down and gives a thin wisp of smoke before going out.

But there are also the special party candles that keep bursting back into life.  They are a much better picture of the light of the gospel!  For though they have been numerous attempts down the centuries to extinguish the light, it has kept on bursting back into flame.

The light of Christ keeps on shining.  New ways of sharing the good news come along.  New believers are attracted to His light.  Sleepy Christians are re-awakened…

The light keeps on shining in the darkness.  It is a statement and a promise at the same time.  It is isn't that once the light shone, but rather, that in the present it shines, and it will do so in the future as well.  For the light comes from the One who is, as well as who was, and is also the One who is to come. 

-- David Bronnert 


Wednesday, December 12, 2018


"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and without Him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in Him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it… And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen His glory, the glory as of a Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth."  (John 1:1-5,14 NRSV)

Christ is the Word of God. It is not in certain texts written in the New Testament, valuable as they are; it is not in certain words which Jesus spoke, vast as is their preciousness; it is in the Word, which Jesus is, that the great manifestation of God is made. 

-- Phillips Brooks (1835-1893) 


Tuesday, December 11, 2018


“Do not be afraid” serves as the first word spoken by the angel to the shepherds in the field (Luke 2:10) and later by an angel to two women at the tomb (Mark 16:6). When angels appear on the scene, it would seem, fear is not far behind -- and for good reason. When angels appear, something of the divine breaks in on human history, something that exceeds our understanding, not to mention our control; something that pronounces there is more to life than meets the eye in the keeping of a flock or the maintaining of a career or the “business as usual” sign we hang on our relationships and commitments. When angels descend, fear of the new and the unknown shakes us with the announcement that God is up and about and on the move.

“I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Messiah, the Lord.” The angel who spoke to shepherds in the fields outside of Bethlehem seeks to disarm their fears with a word concerning the birth of good news. It is a word that has worldwide implications (“for all people”), yet a word that bears the most personal of implications (“to you”). The word speaks of Savior, Messiah, and Lord. 

-- John Indermark in “Setting the Christmas Stage” 


Monday, December 10, 2018


“Praise the Lord, you heavenly beings; praise His glory and power. Praise the Lord's glorious name; bow down before the Holy One when He appears. The voice of the Lord is heard on the seas; the glorious God thunders, and His voice echoes over the ocean. The voice of the Lord is heard in all its might and majesty.”  (Psalm 29:1-4 GNT)

If you don’t see the greatness of God then all the things that money can buy become very exciting. If you can’t see the sun you will be impressed with a street light. If you’ve never felt thunder and lightning you’ll be impressed with fireworks. And if you turn your back on the greatness and majesty of God you’ll fall in love with a world of shadows and short-lived pleasures. 

-- John Piper


Friday, December 7, 2018


A gift is something that is given to another voluntarily and for which no payment is received or expected. It is a way we have of saying to another, “I love you” or “I think you are wonderful.”

God’s ultimate gift to us is the giving of His Son, Jesus Christ. We remember that gift in one of the best know verses of the Bible, John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” When we remember the giving of that great gift, it is appropriate that we should respond to God’s love with expressions of our love. But how can we respond to God’s love? Jesus taught that love of God and love of neighbor go hand in hand. (Cf. Matthew 22:37-40, John 13:34-35, 1 John 4:19). The giving of gifts to those we love is just one way to show that we have learned of love from Jesus. 

-- Kenneth A. Mortonson in “The Advent Instructor: Reflections on Christmas Symbolism”


Thursday, December 6, 2018


“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God... The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”  (John 1:1,14 NIV)

“In the beginning…” With those words, John intentionally places the opening of his Gospel alongside the opening words of the biblical witness. In those first words of beginnings in Genesis, the story spoke of creation’s unfolding from God’s hand and purpose. In the Gospel of John, these new words of beginnings portend a new creation emerging from those same hands and purposes. The Word present at creation’s beginning, the Word now become flesh to live among us, John identifies not only with God; this Word was God, according to the prologue. In Jesus of Nazareth, as a relatively recent affirmation of faith puts it, God has come and shared our common lot.

-- John Indermark in “Setting the Christmas Stage”


Wednesday, December 5, 2018


“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.”  (Colossians 3:15-16 NRSV)

The peace of Christ should “rule” in our hearts. One meaning of the Greek word translated rule is to be the umpire.

Peace, or lack of it, is one way God has of telling us whether we are out or safe, and whether a situation is fair or foul.  This does not mean we can never make a decision until we feel some kind of mystical peace.  Some people, by their very nature, would never make any decision if they had to wait until they felt peace about it.  It means instead that we can be at peace about doing the things God's Word specifically says we should do.  For instance, God says we should go to a brother or sister we've offended and ask forgiveness.  Therefore we can have peace about doing it even though we feel anything but peaceful on the way over to do it.

-- Gary Smalley in “Joy That Lasts”


Tuesday, December 4, 2018


"To all who received Him, who believed in His name, He gave power to become children of God…" (John 1:12 NRSV)

Advent marks the beginning of the church year and lays before us the pathway of faith for the year ahead.  Advent initiates once again remembering, retelling, and celebrating the whole drama of God's revelation.

Four weeks is the limit to this season that declares the truth about a God whose love and resourcefulness have no limits.  "Advent" has its roots in the Latin word "adventus," or coming. This season proclaims the coming of Christ in the birth of Jesus, in the Word and Spirit, and in the final victory when God's kingdom shall be complete. 

Our privilege as Christians is to receive the gracious gifts of God's presence in Christ.  Our task is to prepare for His coming so that we will not miss life's greatest gift. 

-- Norman Sawchuck and Rueben P. Job in “A Guide to Prayer for All Who Seek God” (Nashville, Tenn.: Upper Room Books, 2003) 


Monday, December 3, 2018


“In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.’ This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: ‘A voice of one calling in the wilderness, “Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for Him.”’”  (Matthew 3:1-3)

We are used to democracy and everyone receiving a voice; but that is not Christianity and it is certainly not God. Due process and the majority vote can and do err especially in regards to religion. God is wholly other, but has chosen to reveal Himself in history and become one of us in the person of Jesus Christ. He has also left us His Church… We have not elected God President and God's creation is not made up of registered voters. There are no referendums on God's will and there is no chance of recalling Him... Consequently, certain images of God, such as Lord and King will always seem foreign in a democratic, individualistic society. But, once again, we must remember that God is a different type of King: all-powerful, but also all-loving, all-merciful and in a loving relationship with His creatures… We must submit to Jesus as our Lord and King, but it is a submission that paradoxically brings with it liberation, freedom from sin. 

-- Jonathan Bennett