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Star of Wonder, Star of Night by Drew Kingery

Monday, December 24
Isaiah 9:1-6
“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light . . .” (Isaiah 9:2)

Here we are. It is Christmas Eve. The Christ child will be here tomorrow. Of course, we have known that for centuries. He has been the world’s guiding light ever since his birth over two thousand years ago.

Carol and I recently went to Yosemite National Park. This has been a place we have had on our list to visit for a long time. One evening after a day of seeing all the amazing views, we went on a stargazing walk. We walked to a meadow in the park with a ranger and a bunch of other people. We all laid down in the meadow and looked up. The stars were unbelievable. There were way too many to count. The ranger pointed out the constellations and how to recognize them. When our time to watch had ended we walked back to our car, and then drove to the lodge where we were staying, about an hour away.

The drive back was pretty tense. The road was curvy and narrow and didn’t have any guardrails. It didn’t seem that bad driving into the valley that morning, but it was an unnerving drive at night. Nothing but black all around, sharp curve after sharp curve, with only the headlights pointing the way. It was a long hour when we finally we saw the lights of our lodge. That was a total relief.  

The first part of verse 2 in Isaiah 9 says, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light.” That was how we felt when we got back to the lodge. Christ is our guiding light. No matter how dark, curvy, and narrow our roads are, He will guide us through. We just have to follow.
Drew Kingery

at Monday, December 24, 2018
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Joy in Giving by Caroline and Jennifer Dilts

Sunday, December 23
John 3:16-17
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son…” (John 3:16)

Caroline: When I was three or four, I wanted to pick out a Christmas present for mommy. My dad carted me around to several stores on the square, but I didn’t see anything that I thought was good enough for my mom. Finally, we went into a store that had paperweights. Each was the size of a baseball and had a letter on it. I thought, “They are perfect; now I just need to find one with a “J.” My heart was set on getting a paperweight for my mom, but there were no “J” paperweights. I was so disappointed. The shop owner offered to order one. “Order!” I thought, “That will take much too long. I’ll get one with an “E” instead!” This was a great solution because “E” was both the second letter of my mom’s name AND the last letter of my name. Perfect, maybe even better than getting a letter “J”, right? I left the store proudly carrying an “E” paperweight. When I gave my mom the paperweight on Christmas morning, she was confused by the letter adorning it, then honored by the sentiment, and finally humored by the story. I was so eager to give this gift!

Jennifer: Dear God, were you excited to give us Jesus? When I read John 3:16, I usually think of your huge sacrifice. I feel sad that you had to give so much to save us. And yet, Caroline’s story reminds me that we give joyfully to those we love. You love us so deeply and completely and perfectly, God. This Christmas, fill us with your joy. The people around us can be…annoying. And yet, with your help, we can give lavishly and excitedly. We can give more. More forgiveness, more silliness, more hugs. You gave us your very best, and we are so thankful. Amen.
Caroline and Jennifer Dilts

at Sunday, December 23, 2018
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The Dichotomy of God's Love by Wil Mellone

Saturday, December 22
Romans 5:1-8
“. . . We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God . . .” (Romans 5:2) 

Advent is a season of hope and anticipation as we look forward to the coming of Christ to the human world, a world full of brokenness and sin. The work of salvation occurs in an imperfect world. We see this in the reading today when Paul discusses God’s salvation using the words “faith, hope, love, peace” in the context of “weakness, sin, suffering, death”.

How do we reconcile this dichotomy in our own lives? First and foremost, we must understand that God’s salvation is rooted in love, not divine punishment. When we turn towards God, we turn away from our sins. Recognizing that we all fall short, and God already knows that about us, opens the door of hope through faith. It’s not in how much we love God, but in how much God loves us. None of us can ever live up to that on our own, just as Moses knew that the Israelites could not achieve salvation solely through the practice of the law. 

In this recognition lies the second teaching. God doesn’t want us to be good at practicing religion, he wants us to be good at living religion. Being good at practicing religion, the outward manifestations of faith gets us nowhere. Who gets the sharpest rebukes in the Bible, both in the Old and New Testaments? The ruling religious elites, who became good at the outward practices of religion, but lost the true meaning and purpose of God’s salvation. 

Do you struggle with some of the theology and beliefs in the Bible? We all do. The question is not about how we struggle, but in how we live our lives, what we think, how we act, what we say and do, and how we treat others. In this do we see God’s perfect love in an imperfect world. In this do we experience God’s unending love and mercy. In this do we find God’s plan for us and for the world.

Joy to the world, let heaven and nature sing!

Wil Mellone

at Saturday, December 22, 2018
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