Advent: Illumination

Families from Jordan have written a devotion for the Advent season. After 8 months of distance, we cast our light with new members and reconnect with our church family by sharing stories or reflections through God’s Word.

Sunday and Thursday Advent Devotions:

Christmas Eve – Thursday, December 24


Isaiah 62:10-12 Go through, go through the gates; prepare the way for the people; build up, build up the highway; clear it of stones; lift up a signal over the peoples. Behold, the LORD has proclaimed to the end of the earth: Say to the daughter of Zion, "Behold, your salvation comes; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him." And they shall be called The Holy People, The Redeemed of the LORD; and you shall be called Sought Out, A City Not Forsaken.


One of the great Christmas movies of the last century was “It’s a Wonderful Life” starring Jimmie Stuart who played the part of George Bailey. George’s heart for the city he grew up in never permitted him to leave. His father dies just as he planned to leave town for college. He never left and instead become the head of the Bailey Brothers Building and Loan, focused building homes for local families.


In today’s reading from Isaiah 62 God refers to His people as being Sought Out and A City Not Forsaken. A great contrast to the warning of the prophet that they would be sent into exile and experience a time of great distress. 


In the movie as George Bailey was about to go on his honeymoon the present a run on the financial institution likely in the early 1930s. As people panicked Mary Bailey presents the investors with the couples’ money for their honeymoon to settle the fears of the investors at the Building and Loan.


The city of Bedford Falls was life to George and Mary Bailey and they would not forsake the people they loved even if it meant giving up their honeymoon. Their sacrificial love for those they loved showed how much they cared for the people who lived in their town. Bedford Falls was their city not forsaken.


This Christmas may you recognize in the words of the prophet Isaiah we are the people God sought out. We are citizens of the City that will not be forsaken by God. The birth of the Christ child has redeemed us from the selfish fears which befall us. This year has presented us with a time of great distress even as we pause today to be reminded we celebrate our Emmanuel, God with us.


O Holy Comforter give us ears of faith to hear the birth of Your Son as the steady reminder we have been sought out by you so that we may announce the day of the Lord to all people. Amen.

Contributed by Pastor Mike Merker

Wednesday, December 23

Isaiah 42:1-9 Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not grow faint or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law. Thus says God, the LORD, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people on it and spirit to those who walk in it: "I am the LORD; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness. I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols. Behold, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them."

God knew the world needed help. In the previous chapter, Isaiah describes the futility of idols. “Behold, they are all a delusion, their works are nothing; their metal images are empty wind.”-Isaiah 41:19. The help would come in His chosen servant, His only begotten Son, the one He called in righteousness. A light for the world, a covenant, bringing justice, opening eyes, making things new – for all people and at all times. 
God knew Jesus would need help. Yes…even Jesus. God in flesh living in this dark world with temptation and loneliness and rejection. And God promised that He “would hold his hand and keep him.”   
God knows that we need help.  Especially in this time of COVID and political unrest. A time when it is so easy to be stuck in darkness: anger, resentment, loneliness, addiction, depression, anxiety, unable to have traditional social interactions. God’s help is through his chosen servant – a light to shine into and rescue us from those dark places. Like a flair sent up, His light cuts through the darkness and rescues us with His faithfulness and grace. We see that same rescuing light through His church. As Christians, we have one hand held by God keeping us and the other available to help someone else. Check on an elderly neighbor.  Run an errand for a sick friend. Call someone who lives alone. Add your name to the Jordan Helping Hands group. Pray for others. Shine the light of Christ.
Also remember to let the light of Christ rescue you through your church family. Yes it’s hard to ask, but grant others the opportunity for their light to shine! If you are feeling lost or lonely, needing someone to talk to, if you need resources, or if you are questioning God’s faithfulness, please reach out to your church family. 
Let us welcome this New Year knowing whatever lies ahead, our Heavenly Father is holding our hand and keeping us TOGETHER through His Son Jesus.
Gracious, Heavenly Father, we thank you and praise you for your Son Jesus, who is the light in our very dark world. Help us to be the light to others, helping each other in our faith walk, helping others in need, and accepting help when we need it, showing that you alone are the way out of darkness. In the name of your chosen servant, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen

Contributed by Michele Kruse

Fourth Sunday in Advent Devotion

Luke 1:26-33 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin's name was Mary. And he came to her and said, "Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!" But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end."

Terrified is a word meaning filled with intense fear and panic. While the reading today says that Mary was “greatly troubled”, I am sure that is an understatement. Though a rare occurrence, angels had been mentioned in Scripture for centuries, but to actually be in the presence of Gabriel with the unbelievable message, had to fill Mary with mixed emotions, doubt and fear. Mary, a young, unmarried woman, would have a baby boy, call His name Jesus, and He would be the Son of the Most High and His kingdom would have no end. For a moment, try and put yourself in Mary’s shoes. I would be overwhelmed!
Yet God chose a woman of faith who had enough faith to listen and believe. A woman who held her ground and married her betrothed, Joseph, knowing the child in her womb was not his. Together, with many questions in their minds, accepted their roles in God’s plan to bring forth and raise Jesus, the Savior of the entire world.
Have you ever heard God calling you? How do you answer? No, not today, I have too much to do. I’ll get around to it after I (fill in the blank). Are you kidding me? I can’t do THAT! As children of God, we are asked specifically in the Bible to teach and baptize those who do not know Him. We are also prompted by the Spirit to be good Stewards of our gifts, pray constantly and give ourselves to others no matter what the need. Sometimes, it seems that the request is terrifying, taking us so far from our comfort zone that we cannot imagine answering the call. In Mary’s case, there was no choice. She was told what was GOING TO HAPPEN, not if she agreed to it! The Blessings she received from obedience were immense. Imagine the Blessings you will receive from obedience to your Father no matter what the circumstances. God reigns forever and will be with you as He was with Mary, guiding and protecting you especially when He moves you to action.

Lord, humble us as we approach the manager and recognize the Babe born in Bethlehem as the Son of the Most High, the Savior of all mankind. Give us the strength to recognize and do your will as faithful servants, believing that You are with us today, tomorrow and forever. Amen

Contributed by Scott Kipp

Thursday, December 17 - Advent Devotion

Isaiah 11:1-9 There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear, but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist, and faithfulness the belt of his loins. The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder's den. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.
I think it is safe to say that everyone would consider 2020 to have been at the very least a different, and for many of us, even a difficult year. With a pandemic raging across the globe, racial violence all around us, hurricanes that just kept coming to a beleaguered Gulf coast, and an election like no other in my memory at least. I don’t think chaos is too strong a word to describe our year. 
God’s word in Isaiah 11:1-9 describes a time when all of God’s promises will come true in the fullest and most complete sense. A time when we are ruled by a king upon whom “The Spirit of Lord will rest. This Spirit will give Him wisdom and understanding, guidance and power.” This is what we have to look forward to when Jesus comes again. Jesus will usher in a kingdom where God reigns in righteousness and rules with justice. One Bible commentary I read describes the government in God’s kingdom as unique – not a democracy where imperfect men govern, but a “Christocracy” where Christ is the supreme authority. Not a democracy where it’s impossible to be better than the people who make it up, but in God’s kingdom, Christ is King. He is compassionate, fair, merciful, and just. He will be the perfect judge, showing no bias, judging righteously, with justice raising up the poor and meek. He will give the wicked an opportunity to come to him but then he will destroy his opposition.  
In the meantime, until the day Christ returns to establish this kingdom, which will last forever (Luke 1:33), we are here on earth to deal with the chaos, the fluctuations between times of war and peace, of famine and plenty, of health and pandemics, of quiet years and those filled with hurricanes. While we are here, trying our best to live our lives as people of God, we need to reach out to those in need, speak up for injustice, show mercy and forgiveness when we are wronged. Knowing that a time is coming when all will be made right, when the lion will lie down with the lamb, when all conflict, rebellion, strife, wickedness will be brought to an end, gives us the confidence to live this way while we wait for Christ to come again. 
Revelation 21:1-4 says “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain for the old order things has passed away.’”  
“…Amen. Come Lord Jesus.” (Rev.22:20)

Dear Lord, Thank you for your perfect plan for our lives. We look forward to the day when we are safe with you in the New Jerusalem for all eternity. While we wait, please keep us focused on your Word and the promises therein. We ask this in Jesus’s name. Amen

Contributed by Pat Kramer

Third Sunday in Advent – Sunday, December 13


John 1:6-14 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.


In speaking of lights at Christmas, I am reminded of all the light displays that are enjoyed this time of year. In my home state of Oklahoma, there is the most magnificent display at Rhema Bible College. Started in the early eighties, it is through word of mouth, donations, and lots of labor, that this display has grown to over 2 million lights drawing over 200,000 visitors. Cars are backed up for miles from the east and the west to get a chance to drive through acres of lights. Walking around, immersing oneself in all those lights, flickering to the beat of Christmas carols, is a mesmerizing experience. 


And still, in as much as we mortal beings are attracted to the bright and shiny, the dazzling and spectacular, God chose to shine his light in the ordinary.  In a little baby, born in a manger. We are advantaged of knowing the “spectacular” in that scene, but at the time, very few knew and even less received. The star that pointed the shepherds and the wise men to Jesus was just a star and John, who was to bear witness to the light of Jesus, was just a man.


We too, like John, are sent from God. We are not the light, but we are children of God, born of God through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. As ordinary people, we have the opportunity to bear witness by caring for others and sharing the love of Christ. It is especially during this time that we celebrate the true light, Jesus – the Word made flesh, God himself – who came into the world giving light to everyone. How wonderful, especially in this challenging year, that He comes to us! No waiting in traffic! And no social distancing! 


Gracious heavenly Father, we thank you for sending your son Jesus, the true light who shines brighter than any Christmas display imaginable. Help us to reflect the light of Jesus to those around us, especially those who are in need and who do not believe in His name. We ask this in your Son’s name, full of grace and truth. Amen.

Contributed by Michele Kruse

Thursday, December 10 - Advent Devotion
Isaiah 9:1-7 But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. You have multiplied the nation; you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as they are glad when they divide the spoil. For the yoke of his burden, and the staff for his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian. For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult and every garment rolled in blood will be burned as fuel for the fire. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.
The door opened slowly, then a blast of light from the hallway and a soft voice from a silhouette in the doorway proclaimed, “Wake up!” The door shut and immediate darkness enveloped the room sending me back into slumber. This process repeated several times over a half an hour so my mother could get me out of bed and ready for school. What she did not realize, and we finally agreed upon, is the only thing needed to wake me up was light! From then on, mom simply opened the door, turned on the light, closed the door and within a few minutes I was up and getting ready for the day. The familiar reading today tells us that those in darkness will have a light shine on them and they will rejoice as their oppression will cease. They will "wake up!"
During Isaiah’s time, God’s children were divided, captured and threatened by enemies on all sides. What a wonderful message to embrace during a time of uncertainty and “darkness”. Read the passage again.
Today we face our own kinds of darkness but when we turn to our Lord, He will comfort us with the light of His salvation. Born in Bethlehem to redeem all mankind once and for all! May we be reminded that we have no more trials and tribulations than our predecessors, but what we do have is hope for the return of the Light of the World who will rule the world to come!

Lord, may Your light shine upon us and within us that we may wake up and encounter those who need you most, that they will come to Your light and see you as their Savior, the Savior of the world, now and forever. Amen.

Contributed by Scott Kipp

2nd Sunday in Advent - Sunday, December 6

Mark 1:1-8 The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, "Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way, the voice of one crying in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,'" John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel's hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey. And he preached, saying, "After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."


John the Baptist was a “proclaimer” – the voice of one crying in the wilderness instructing the people to make ready the way of the Lord – to make the path straight for him.  (Isaiah 40:3). John preached a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.


What is repentance? I did a little reading to gain clarity about exactly what this is. Repentance means to “change the mind.” It refers to changing your mind about former beliefs and behaviors and turning to a new way of believing and behaving. Repentance is what we need to do when there is a gap between our lives and God’s will for our lives. Repentance needs to mean a “turning away” from our way to God’s way. The first of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses is “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said “repent” he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.” 


But repentance is not equal to forgiveness – so where does forgiveness come from if not the act of turning away from our way to God’s way?    While not equal to forgiveness, repentance does lead us to forgiveness. John preached “After me One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to stoop down and untie the thong of His sandals.” (Mark 1:7) So the Jews confessed their sins, were baptized by water and were pointed toward Jesus.  Jesus is where the forgiveness comes from. We have forgiveness, not because our repentance is so perfect and complete. It is not – it needs to be a continuous, daily occurrence – as we recognize our sinful selves and resolve to turn away from our sinful ways. Forgiveness is ours because Christ’s atonement is so perfect and complete.  As He died on the cross, Christ said “It is finished.” Once for all – he took care of it for us – we are forgiven.


So let this Reading on the Second Sunday of Advent every year be our opportunity to take stock of our lives. Does my life live up to God’s commandments?  If not, repent and turn toward the goodness of God. Let these verses do for us exactly what John was doing – pointing others to Jesus. 


Heavenly Father, thank you for the Season of Advent – a time to prepare for the coming of your precious son into our world to save us from our sins. Help us to live lives that honor You and point others to You. We ask this in Jesus’s name, Amen.

Contributed by Pat Kramer

Thursday, December 3
Isaiah 7:10-14 Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz, "Ask a sign of the LORD your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven." But Ahaz said, "I will not ask, and I will not put the LORD to the test." And he said, "Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
Last summer I didn’t feel well, and I wasn’t able to carry out even the simplest tasks. Several different days I had very high fevers. I felt calling the doctor was just not something I wanted to do, and I would be able to resolve these issues without any help. A few months later, still experiencing no energy, my daughter called and highly recommended I call a doctor after all the months of not feeling myself. I finally relented and made an appointment for a checkup. That very day I had a sonogram which looked like I needed surgery immediately. Four days later I was scheduled with a specialized doctor.  
God gives us many different signs and we so often ignore them and don’t listen to him. I thought I knew better, and I would wait until COVID was behind us. But I should have listened to all the signs God had given me even though it wasn’t on my timeline. 
Unfortunately, I did not listen to God’s signs to get help and I got into a very dangerous situation. I ended up in the emergency room with a very bad infection (sepsis) and needed surgery immediately. God blessed me with successful surgery, but I did not listen to him for a very long time which resulted in my becoming very ill. Only by God’s grace that my surgery was very successful, and my recovery was remarkable. Through prayers from friends and family my energy and body returned to normal. Like King Ahaz I did not listen to what God was telling me. We need to know Jesus came to this world to save us and we should listen to his signs. 
Lord let us not be troubled in this world but help us to find everlasting peace and remind us that Jesus came to save this world and that He is present and caring for all His people. Amen.

Contributed by Nancy Nagel

First Sunday in Advent – Sunday, November 29
Isaiah 32:1-5 Behold, a king will reign in righteousness, and princes will rule in justice. Each will be like a hiding place from the wind, a shelter from the storm, like streams of water in a dry place, like the shade of a great rock in a weary land. Then the eyes of those who see will not be closed, and the ears of those who hear will give attention. The heart of the hasty will understand and know, and the tongue of the stammerers will hasten to speak distinctly. The fool will no more be called noble, nor the scoundrel said to be honorable.

“That’s not fair.” A young boy spoke those words on many occasions as his older brother got to stay up later and go to friends houses while the boy stayed home with his parents. The boy could not see from his perspective how his parents were trying to raise each boy safely permitting them to do more as they matured. The boy felt he was being held back so he made it a point to complain about what he saw as an injustice. When someone else gets to go out and we cannot it does not make sense. If they can do it, I want to do it as well. Years later raising his own children the boy understood that there is a time for all things. A 5-year-old does not get to do what a 9-year-old does.
Today we hear the cries of “it’s not fair” around many corners as we wonder why one person is permitted to do something and others are told to refrain. In Isaiah 32 the people of Isaiah are told that while they had some good kings and others who led them astray. Their eyes and ears would not be fully opened until the arrival of the Messiah. In the Lord’s perfect timing the day will come when “the fool will no more be called noble, nor the scoundrel said to be honorable.” The cries of “it’s not fair” meet their match in the matchless King who is above all Christ Jesus our Lord.
Gracious God, through the Holy Spirit point us to the works of Christ who is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Amen.

Contributed by Pastor Mike Merker