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final_advent_cover4.jpgEvery good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. James 1:17 (NAS)

Do you wander the aisles aimlessly hoping the right gift will jump off the shelves at you? Or maybe you stare at your budget willing more money to appear because otherwise you don’t know how you will buy gifts for every member of your extended family. Or perhaps you’re trying to decipher what she meant when she said, “You know me and what I like. . . .”

Whether we’re rushing around at the last minute or trying to find a gift for that hard-to-buy-for person, buying gifts at Christmastime can be more stressful than enjoyable. Even once we purchase the gift, the anxiety remains until the receiver opens it and genuinely seems pleased with our selection. How do we retain the joy of gift giving during this busy season? The answer will look different for each person, but here are a few of my thoughts. (more…)

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Spend some time today and reflect on what God’s hope has meant in your life. Here are a few ideas you might consider:

  • Reflect on the way God has offered you hope in the past. Consider making some sort of monument in your home to remind you of them (a pile of rocks, a set of keys, a special Christmas ornament . . .)
  • Write down your expectations for this Christmas, the New Year, or your life in general and consider whether or not they are reasonable.
  • Meditate on the hope God offers you today (start small if you have to!) and spend some time praising Him for it.
  • If you’re struggling to find your hope in Him, pick a couple Bible verses to read and/or memorize.

Lord, remind me of the ways you have offered me hope, and help me to find my hope in You during this busy season and throughout the coming year.

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And then he told the People of Israel, “In the days to come, when your children ask their fathers, ‘What are these stones doing here?’ tell your children this: ‘Israel crossed over this Jordan on dry ground.’

“Yes, God, your God, dried up the Jordan’s waters for you until you had crossed, just as God, your God, did at the Red Sea, which had dried up before us until we had crossed. This was so that everybody on earth would recognize how strong God’s rescuing hand is and so that you would hold God in solemn reverence always.” Joshua 4:21-24 (The Message)

As he sat half-listening to the group chatting on the doorstep, his eyes inadvertently drifted to The Path as it wound its way out of the encampment. Weary from traveling, he had stopped at this encampment to rest . . . how long ago? He hadn’t intended on staying there for long, but the appeal of routine and knowing what to expect each day had held him there for quite some time. Although he tried to ignore it, he couldn’t shake the longing deep in his heart to resume his journey down The Path. While it scared him to face the unknown, remembering the amazing sights he had seen and things he had experienced began to shake him from complacency. He could resist the tug on his heart no longer. He would go. (more…)

rest.jpgSpend some time today and reflect on how you need to incorporate rest into this season. Here are a few ideas you might consider:

  • Mentally rest perhaps by spending time focusing solely on Jesus and not the chaos around you.
  • Physically rest by doing something you enjoy or that relaxes you.
  • Emotionally rest, maybe by talking with a friend, having a good cry or simply laughing.
  • Spiritually rest by laying aside self-condemnation and judgment and abiding in God’s loving arms.

Lord, help me to find rest in You during this busy season and throughout the coming year.

final_advent_cover1.jpgCome to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28 (NAS)

Can I tell you something? I struggle to do a daily quiet time. Sometimes I go days without sitting down to pray. Before Bible study last week, I couldn’t even find my Bible. And we’ve never done a family devotion time.

I feel totally vulnerable now. Sometimes I feel like I’m less of a Christian for not having it all together. Why is it that the very things that are supposed to draw us closer to God — pull us into deeper relationship with Him — are the very things that can make us feel defeated and hopeless?

Every Christmas starts the same for me. I have grand intentions of reading a portion of the Christmas story every day, using our Advent calendar as a catalyst for a family devotion time, and preparing for the arrival of the Child in the manger. I determine to celebrate the real meaning of Christmas the entire month of December, like I think a “good Christian” should. (more…)

prepare.jpgSpend some time today and reflect on how you need to prepare this season. Here are a few ideas you might consider:

  • Prepare your heart, perhaps by spending some time in reflection or in the Bible.
  • Prepare your schedule, and allow some time today for planning.
  • Prepare your house, maybe by taking a few moments to pick up or cook a meal in advance.
  • Prepare your relationships by stopping and spending quality time with family and/or friends.

Lord, help me to be prepared to receive You this Advent season and throughout the year.

prepare.jpgLet us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Revelation 19:7 (NIV)

Around mid-July, I walked into one of my favorite craft stores and was shocked to see workers stocking the shelves with Christmas stuff! A month later, I popped into another store and found half of the store dedicated to Christmas decorations. In awe, I pushed my daughter through rows upon rows of pre-lit Christmas trees as she squealed with delight at all of the pretty lights.

Many of us feel frustrated with the commercialization of Christ’s birth. The way businesses continue to push back the Christmas selling season further and further is sometimes irritating. And, although I don’t necessarily like it, I can still learn something from these ambitious marketers. (more…)

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