God has given us this season of Advent as a way to remember His work in the world and in our lives.
Advent comes from the Latin word aventus which means “coming.” This Latin word is the translation of the Greek word parouisa which is commonly used to refer to the Second Coming of Christ in the New Testament. This is the two-fold perspective and purpose of Advent: 1) to prepare and anticipate the coming of the babe, Jesus, heir of David’s throne and promised Messiah, 2) to be on alert for the Second Coming of the Son of God, Jesus, King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
Over the next several weeks, you will be guided to recall what God has already done for you in Jesus Christ, as well as look forward to what He will continue to do in you and through you.
May God bless this journey of Advent!
Week 1: Hope
Written by Corey Scott
Of all the Advent Guides Northside has put together over the years, this one seems to find us caught in one of the most uncertain times we’ve known. And yet the four themes of Advent still shine through the darkness of this uncertainty: hope, peace, love and joy. As we begin this week of hope, we turn our attention to where our hope truly lies.
Hope can sometimes seem so fragile, as fragile as a snowflake. One moment you feel that everything is going well, and then the smallest upset to a schedule or expectation can seem to knock you off track. At Christmas, we tend to place our hope in parties, celebrations, gifts, traditions, bonuses, etc. But in 2020, COVID-19 has reminded us again and again that when we place our hope in anything other than Christ, we will always end up disappointed. I feel this right now, even as I write these words while I’m in self-quarantine.
But our hope cannot be taken away and certainly won’t fade. It is rooted in who Jesus is and why He came to this earth. Jesus’ coming and His ministry would be characterized by several key marks: the preaching of good news to the poor, freedom for prisoners, setting oppressed people free and proclaiming God’s favor. And as Psalm 146 tells us, it is God alone who does this. Those who place their hope is what God does are blessed (Psalm 146:8). Christmas is a season of hope, not only because of what we look forward to in this season. More than that, Christmas is a season of hope because of what has already been done for us.
That’s why we celebrate Advent. It reminds us to look back, to remember what Christ has done and why He came in the first place. May this Advent season be filled with hope for you as you center yourself on what Jesus came to do for you…set you free!
O God, our hope, we trust in what You have done for us in Jesus. We place our hope in His work on our behalf. Thank You for setting us free. Thank You for proclaiming the good news to us, who are needy for You to move and speak this season. Please keep our eyes open during Advent to see what You want to do in us and through us. Amen.
Written by Molly Bunton
I often skip to the end before I’ve read the whole book. Some might call this cheating. Some might say I’m the worst kind of reader. They might be right, but when I get to a place in the story where things seem to be falling apart or I just can’t take the suspense any more, I read the ending. [And then I go back to finish the rest; don’t worry.]
Maybe you would never dream of spoiling the ending like this, but perhaps you can relate to the tension that drives me to it: Will things be made right? Will the guy get the girl? Will justice prevail? Hope is central to the story of Christmas. It’s one of the gifts God gave when He sent His son to be born on earth. And it’s a promise we return to each Christmas season. But maybe it feels harder to live with hope this year. As you look around, perhaps life looks more like the beginning of Psalm 2: nations conspiring, people plotting and general chaos as our world tries to do things our own way instead of God’s way.
Maybe as you approach Christmas this year, you find yourself wondering: When will things be made right? Will God get His people? How will justice ever prevail?
We are living in the chaotic, messy and broken middle of the story. But we don’t have to live as those who have no hope. We don’t have to wonder or worry. God has already given us the end of the story. Psalm 2 promised, Christ’s birth demonstrates and Revelation 15 reminds us of what is true. We can live with hope, even in the messy middle, because we already know the end of this story: Jesus will return, not as a baby but as a victorious king. All nations will come and worship the Lord. God’s righteousness will triumph over evil; God’s justice and mercy will be complete.
The middle may be messy, but we know the ending is good. That is why we live with hope; God has written it into our story, not just at Christmas, but in every page and every chapter from beginning to end.
Lord, we thank you for the hope we have found in You. We know Your promises are true and we believe that You are writing a good story for our lives. Thank You for the hope we see in Jesus’ birth and for the promise that You will return and reign forever. Help us to live each day with hope and as bearers of Your hope to a world desperate for You.
Written by Katelyn Lambing
Matthew 12:1-14 shows two types of justice. To the Pharisees, justice was conforming to the cultural and Mosaic laws. By this measure, Jesus broke the law. However, because Jesus healed the man, the Pharisees knew that their justice would need to be more cleverly constructed, if they were to find a law that Jesus was guilty of breaking. The Pharisees were trying to catch Him in breaking the law because the punishment for breaking the law is death. Sound familiar? The consequence of breaking the Ten Commandments is death. Why? Breaking the law means we tried to make ourselves God; the punishment is separation because of sin and death. For those not right with God, Psalm 11:5 says that God’s whole being hates them. The inheritance, the cup from which they drink, is filled with fiery coals, burning sulfur and scorching wind.
In order to become right with God and re-acclimated to His character, we need relationship. Justice is relationship. In the NLT, Matthew 12:20 says “… until he leads justice to victory.” In Greek “leads” is ekballo. This is a violent thrusting forth. If we read it “…until he ekballo’s justice to victory,” how does justice get thrust forth to victory? Jesus is The Word. “…The Word will thrust forth justice to victory.” Why a thrusting forth when verse 20 also says Jesus will not even break a bruised reed? Here is a picture of hesed, God’s consistent loving-kindness. God is also justice. God’s justice created a way to reconnect our physical bodies and souls to God. Justice, then, is available to those who have believed in the Son of God, that He was born for the purpose of dying in our place because we tried to be God and that because He was raised, we can experience intimacy with God forever. In God’s name, the nations will put their hope. Why? When God’s name is spoken, justice is done through a relationship birthed from love.
Father, we thank You that Your word of justice was born in a trough and from there, He violently thrust forth justice to victory; that is, a right relationship that allows us to pursue You, who are victory. Thank You for the inheritance of the cup that overflows, possible because of birth, death and victory through the birth of Your Son. Thank You for the hope in Your character and relationship through Your Son.
Written by Lauri Newlin
Blessed. That word is everywhere. “Blessed” might decorate walls of your home or be the slogan on your birthday card or coffee mug. It might even be your hashtag on your social media post. Its use (or over-use) is intended to wake us up to the good things around us. But deeper than that, have you ever looked at how blessed you are by what God is doing in or around you, then had a reaction deeper than a decorative sentiment can commemorate? Has God’s goodness ever overwhelmed you so much you couldn’t help but let it out?
We read in Luke 1:46-55 that Mary, the soon-to-be mother of Jesus, understood that feeling. This song of Mary, which could be considered the very first Christmas carol, is proclaimed about the exciting news of what God was about to do in her life and through her Son. She couldn’t help but burst into worship to the God who was actively bringing salvation to the world and involving her in the process. Read that passage of Scripture and see! God has brought us salvation too, and He involves us in telling the world of this Good News.
Psalm 13:5-7 (NIV) says, “I will sing the Lord’s praise, for HE has been good to me.” Another translation of that same passage says “I will celebrate with passion and joy when your salvation lifts me up. I will sing my song of joy to you, the Most High…” (TPT) This verse tells us that God’s goodness can cause an eruption in our souls that can’t help but come out in worship.
What has God done for you? Maybe our 2020 Christmas lists could be how blessed we really are in the Lord. If we place our hope in Him, the natural reaction will likely be to sing like the psalmist and like Mary because we can trust in the goodness God has shown us.
Pray that our hearts would be full of the blessings God has given us through the gift of Jesus. Ask Him for a heart of gratitude that erupts in worship.
Written by Mitchell Denney
During this season of Advent, we are in a time of rejoicing, a time of praise and hope! This wasn’t the case, though, until Christ was born. This hope was not found in the Law when Jesus was born. It is because He was born that we have hope.
Psalm 14:3 says “All have turned away; all alike have become corrupt. There is no one who does good, not even one.” There was no hope for those under the Law. Our hope comes from the birth of Jesus Christ. Every person was under the Law and, because of this, they were all sinners; there was no hope for them. We have no right to stand in front of a perfect and flawless God, for we are broken and full of sin. Romans 3:10-11 echoes this when it says, “There is no one righteous, not even one. There is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God.” There was no righteousness to be found in the people because the righteousness we now have is not found in ourselves but in the Son of God.
Romans 3:22 shows us hope! “The righteousness of God is through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe since there is no distinction.” It is through faith in Jesus Christ that we have hope during this season. Because of Jesus’ birth and our belief in His death and resurrection, we have the hope and the ability to stand before a perfect God. Without His sacrifice on the cross, we would not survive being in the throne room of the King.
Lord, it is in this season of rejoicing in the birth of Your Son that we must not forget that, before Your Son and His sacrifice, we had no hope. We had no hope in the future because we were all broken. It is through Your Son and belief in Your Son that we have hope. Help us to not lose sight of the hope that is given to us through faith in Jesus Christ. It is easy to get distracted and find our hope in things of this world. Thank You for Your Son and the opportunity to be reconciled with You through Him. Amen.
Written by Zach Owen
This season of the year is an exciting time for many reasons: Christmas traditions, spending time with family and lots of food. I remember as a kid looking forward to Christmas all year long. But this season is a time of pain and hurting for many as well. “I can’t wait for Christmas!” turns into “I can’t wait for it to be over.” I have fallen into that thought process myself.
On October 22, 2010, my Grandma passed away from breast cancer. Two months later, on December 19, my mom lost her battle with the same disease, six days before Christmas. The season that was once my favorite time of year became scarred with pain and suffering. Similar to David at the beginning of Psalm 22, I was asking God “Why? Why me? Why her? Why now? Why aren’t you here?”
Despite the pain we may feel, we are reminded each year during this season that we have something to hang onto – we have hope. We celebrate Jesus’ birth, which is a symbol and a reminder for what we have in God – hope. This psalm points to the suffering of the cross, but as David goes on, we can hear the hope in it as well.
Now, we don’t normally associate Christmas with Jesus’ death, but His death doesn’t happen without His birth. That is why He was sent to Earth, to die for us so that we may have eternal life. In 2 Corinthians 4, Paul reminds us that, even in our darkest days, we don’t lose heart, and we have hope because of Christ’s death and resurrection.
King Jesus, I pray that during this season of Advent, we are not only celebrating Your birth, but we are also remembering what Your birth means for us. For those of us who may be hurting, help us remember that Your birth gives us hope. We thank You that the pain is temporary and our hope in You is eternal. Amen.
Written by Ed Holt
Where’s the mayonnaise? I know it has to be in here somewhere! I have to find it because a BLT just doesn’t taste right without mayonnaise. Where is Sara when you need her? She can find anything in a heartbeat! Oh, that’s right, she is getting her hair done. Better not call her about the mayonnaise. She might not think it is as important as I do.
Do you also sometimes have trouble seeing what is right in front of your eyes? Why is that? I suspect that it is because of the distractions. Because there are so many other things that catch your eye, you are incapable of seeing what you are looking for even though it is right there in front of you. In a physical sense, it is sometimes true that we “have eyes but do not see.” How much more is this true in the spiritual realm?
Hebrews 11 is “Faith’s Hall of Fame.” This amazing chapter tells the story of men and women who had the unique ability to see what so many others were incapable of seeing. In fact, verse one says that they were “certain of what they did not see.” They were able to look beyond all the distractions, all the difficulties, all the uncertainties and all the allure of this present world that grapple for our attention and see “Him who is invisible” (vs. 27).
As we enter this time when we celebrate the birth of our Savior, there will be a tug-of-war going on for our attention. There may be more distractions at this time of year than any other season. Even during a “COVID” year that has limited children’s plays and school activities, there are so many things to do: cards to send, letters to write, friends to call, texts to respond to and of course the development of a strategy for getting family together without exposure to COVID-19. Then there is the tree and the house to decorate and lights to hang on the front of the house. Distractions! Perhaps good distractions, but distractions none-the-less.
May today be a day when we seek the Lord to help us see past the distractions of this season, so we can see Him clearly.
Lord, may we see past the glitter and distractions of this season we are entering and see You, the invisible God who has come into our world in the person of Jesus to become our savior and redeemer. Open the eyes of our heart Lord. In the midst of this busy season, we want to see You!
Week 2: Peace
Written by Sylvia Ofori-Yeboah
There are not a lot of places in this world where the small and great are given the same opportunities. Those who are considered great are often favored. The desire to be favored can lead the small to strive for greatness and the great to maintain it. I wonder if there are times we have questioned our own greatness. Some try to be great for their significant other, family, social media or something else. This striving can lead to a life filled with anxiety and skewed priorities along with feelings of depression when we discover the lack of satisfaction.
Working in mental health, I see how symptoms of anxiety and depression create significant issues for people: it affects how they function at work, school and with people. People find it hard to relax, sleep and enjoy their favorite activities. Often, this leads to unhealthy coping skills that exacerbate the problems. How do we ever achieve peace in this world with a constant cycle of seeking greatness?
Psalm 115 tells us that the “glory” is not for us but for God because of His love and faithfulness. The psalm goes on to describe lifeless idols and warns that those who worship such things will also become lifeless. In verse 9, the author reminds the reader, whether Israelite, a member of the house of Aaron or a random reader, to “trust in the Lord— He is their help and shield” and that “the Lord remembers us and will bless us… great and small.” In the Luke 2 passage, we see Psalm 115 played out as an angel of the Lord appears to the shepherds and declares, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is the Messiah, the Lord.” We can take comfort in the fact that, rather than striving to be great, we have a great God who sent His Son to save all people – great and small!
God, thank You for Your loving kindness and for caring for all people, no matter their status in life. Help us to be humble before You and others and may we live every day with a heart full of peace that can only come from You. Amen.
Written by Lexie Stevenson
One of my favorite things about the Christmas season is the focus on joy and peace. However, it would be naive to believe that the opposition, divisiveness and uncertainty we face the other eleven months of the year just disappear. Our country is divided politically. Our homes and families are divided and separated. Social media is full of disagreements and differing opinions. Uncertainty has controlled our lives in the year 2020. Even our churches are divided by denominations. It’s easy to find opposition and enemies in our world today. It’s becoming increasingly more difficult to find peace in the midst of uncertainty.
However, one thing we can be certain of is Christ. In Psalm 25, David calls out to God for help. He is faced with enemies, trials and his own shortcomings, and he calls out for guidance from a kind and compassionate God. His desire is for God to guide him down the correct path. As he calls out to God, he has confidence in God’s character. He knows that God is compassionate and will answer his call for help.
David is honest with God about his struggles and unhappiness. He expresses anguish, distress and afflictions. In the midst of all his troubles and anguish, David still realizes that his hope is in God. He realizes that he needs help, that God will provide him with that help, and that ultimately, the struggles of this world have already been overcome.
Psalm 25:14 says those who fear the Lord are His friends. In Christ, we are not at war with God anymore. We are at peace with Him. As we remember the anniversary of Pearl Harbor Day, we recount that in spite of the troubles we face in this life, the spiritual war has been won, and we are now at peace with God.
In Romans 5:1-2, we are reminded that we are justified in faith through the grace of Christ and that we can boast in the hope Christ offers us. Because of this faith, we are offered a peace through Christ in the midst of the opposition, division and uncertainty that surrounds us.
As we enter this Christmas season of peace and joy, we will still face opposition and troubles. But, God offers us help and guidance when we experience anguish and face enemies. All we have to do is call out to Him.
Take some time to express to God the distress or unhappiness you are experiencing. Ask for His guidance and help in finding the right path to take. Praise Him for being a God who offers peace, guidance, and answered prayers. Then, allow yourself time to listen for His response.
Written by Paul Highfield, global worker (Kenya)
In Psalm 36, there is a contrast between those who trust in themselves and those who seek God’s peace, strength and protection under the shadow of His wings. In Luke 13:31-35 we see that so many people in Jerusalem trusted in themselves and refused to come to Jesus for His protection and peace. We also see that, in the end, their way resulted in total failure. This is the way it has always been and will always be. There will always be those who trust in themselves and their own strength, and there will also always be those who humbly come to God and Jesus for their protection and comfort. What is amazing is that God and Jesus are always offering a way of peace and protection right in the middle of our problems. Wow, we certainly need this word of hope in these uncertain and confusing days.
The Maasai have a blessing that says, “May God hold you under His wings.” In other words, may God protect you like a mother hen or bird protects her children under her wings. This is not to escape from the problems of the world but to be hidden by His powerful loving care for a while, so that you can feel His peace and strength and go forth in service in His kingdom. This is like when Jesus said to His disciples, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest” (Mark 6: 31). Jesus longs to gather us under His wings so we can find true rest (Mat. 23: 37). In these uncertain times, let us embrace this sacred protection, solitude and rest, and find refreshing for our souls.
Dear God, may You hold us under Your wings and give us peace in the middle of this chaos and confusion. May You be our shelter in the storm. May You protect our hearts from fear, hopelessness and depression. We may at first feel weak, but You know how to bring healing and renewed strength out of weakness. Sometimes we just need to come to You, rest in Your care and be renewed. May Your peace that passes our understanding and comprehension protect our hearts today as, in this season, we contemplate the Advent of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In the precious name of Jesus, Amen!
Written by Tim O’Kelley
The Christmas season ushers in changes all around us. Some of those changes are easy to see and easy to feel. The days get shorter and colder. The Christmas trees and the lights go up around town. Some changes are not as easy to see, but we feel them just as deeply. The holidays often bring stress that leads to isolation, loneliness, despair and grief.
Some struggle with the forced cheerfulness of the holidays and the financial strain of a generosity they do not feel. Often, the holidays bring back memories of broken relationships or loved ones lost.
The psalmist in today’s Scripture felt that way, too. The words used in this passage convey a sense of forgottenness. It appears as if the whole of creation has abandoned the writer. The longings, the sighs, the heart pounding and the lack of strength go unnoticed. Friends, neighbors and companions stay away and are plotting against the writer. The psalmist is defenseless and seemingly without hope.
Mark 14:43-50 shows us that, like the psalmist, Jesus was not immune from the plots and the schemes of those around Him who He called His friends. Verse 50 paints a stark picture of the isolation, loneliness and abandonment Jesus may have felt. “Then everyone deserted Him and fled.”
Our comfort during this Advent season is the same comfort for which the psalmist searched. It is the same comfort that Jesus found in doing the Father’s will. Mark 14:49 tells us that Jesus saw that “the Scriptures must be fulfilled.” Both turned their eyes toward God! Both waited on the Lord for an answer! Both acknowledged that God would answer!
Advent reminds us that God’s answer to our weakness, our pain and our struggles lay wrapped in a manger. It was a child who became a man. It was a man who knew and felt and wondered and loved and lived like we live. Our peace this season comes from a God who did not leave us alone. He answered our cries! God brought His Son, Jesus, to seek and to save the lost. No matter what this season brings, rely on God and His answers!
Father God in Heaven, hear us when we cry. Hear us in our times of desperate need. Hear us amid this season when we do not often feel the joy that Christ brought to us. Remind us that hope and peace
come from Your saving grace, purchased for us on Calvary by Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Amen.
Written by Brooklyn Oliver
We all know that person who stands outside on the front porch staring into the gray sky as the sirens are going off. It’s as if they stand out there to talk to the sky and assess the storm to determine for themselves if it is going to be bad, rather than seeking shelter like they’re supposed to when the warning sirens go off.
We have all been through storms, whether that is a physical storm or a storm in life that hits fast and hard, usually leaving damage on its way out. And because of that damage left by past storms, we tend to fear and worry about the ones to come.
When I was growing up in Oklahoma, we experienced these storms I am referring to a few times. One time my dad was doing his thing, standing outside, assessing how bad they were. He came in to get us, and we went three blocks down the road to an elementary school that had a section of the school underground for cover. That was the F-5 tornado that went through Moore, Oklahoma, and was eight miles from our home. It reached peaks of 300+ miles per hour, lasted for 85 minutes and covered 38 miles with a final death toll of 36 people. That was the beginning of my fear of storms and tornadoes.
As we go through the storms in life, we need to remember that God has a plan and that we don’t have to hold onto the pain or the fear the chaos that happened in the last storm. Fear and worry have tight grips. When you let them in, they don’t want to leave, and they can keep you from things that God has planned for you. In the middle of a storm, it’s hard to look on the bright side; it’s hard to see God in the middle of the storm. I encourage you, when you feel the storm coming or if you are in the middle of the storm, pause and look to God. He will guide you. He can place people in your life to help and He will lead you to the other side. He makes the way for us, and we just sometimes have to pause in the chaos and not try to conquer the storm ourselves but let God in and let Him guide us through it.
Lord Jesus, we remember that You are with us in the storms we face. Even as the night You were born could have been viewed as a storm by itself, filled with uncertainty and fear, You have entered in to storms of our lives. You are with us in those storms. Thank You for never leaving us. We praise You that You are our safety and peace in the storms.
Written by Jason Brotherton, global worker (Kenya)
These verses represent the climax in Luke’s account of Jesus’ life. Up to this point, everyone expected that God’s Kingdom would come in a certain way, just as all the other kingdoms to date had by power and force and domination. However, at this juncture, we have found ourselves at an unexpected place. Too weak to even pick up His own cross and bear it (Simon, typically a throw away character in this story, carried it for Him), Jesus was led to the outskirts of town and executed by the state without a legitimate trial. Experiencing capital punishment to its highest degree, Jesus Christ only said, “Forgive them for they know not what they do.” Unexpected.
I imagine it was about this time that Jesus’ remaining, yet hidden, followers were recounting all the times He had reprimanded them for having little faith just before performing one of His many miracles. But then He said, just as David did in Psalm 31, “into your hands I commit My spirit” and breathed His last. No miracle. Unexpected. The other gospels recount Jesus’ final words differently, but the point remains. The full manifestation of God came, dwelt among us and announced His Kingdom from day one of His ministry. He then spent three years mystifying the mess out of everyone in trying to show them how to live in it. I say mystifying because none of what He did or taught or said was expected of a Messiah. He did not behave as they expected He would. He served instead of subdued. He spent His time with the outcast and marginalized. He said the first would be last and the last would be first. This was hardly the demeanor of someone who has come to save the nation of Israel and start a new Kingdom.
I suppose being a global worker and living in a different cultural and spiritual context has reoriented my expectations of God and what His Kingdom is like. On several occasions, I have come face to face with my own expectations of who God is and what Jesus’ work was about. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on how you look at it), every time those expectations show me who I personally want God to be and not who He has shown Himself to be in the person of Jesus. Unexpectedly, I continue to be in awe of just how unsearchable God’s ways truly are. Much greater than any of my expectations.
God, thank You for being greater than our myopic expectations of who You are. Thank You for inviting us into the renewal and initiation of Your Kingdom here and now. Grow our perspective and allow us to commit our spirits to You.
Written by Jim Riley, global worker (Honduras)
David was the great king and a human ancestor of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. He was a man after God’s
own heart; yet like all of us, he was far from sinless. After his spectacular failure involving an affair and a murder, he turned to God, confessing his sins. To his great surprise, he received mercy and forgiveness. God hid and protected him from the just wrath he had brought on himself by his sins. In the story, only David’s innocent newborn son dies as a consequence of the king’s sin. That story never seemed fair.
In the Christmas narrative, Jesus, Joseph and Mary find a hiding place in Egypt to escape the wrath of an evil king. However, the innocent baby boys of the Bethlehem area are left to suffer Herod’s wrath. Has that part of the story ever seemed fair to anyone? How can we sing “Songs of Deliverance” in a world that is full of injustices and cruelty?
It was into this unjust and cruel world that Jesus came and, while He managed to maintain His innocence and purity, His days were numbered. He walked every day in the shadow of the cross, knowing that He came to “give His life as a ransom” for us all. It was not fair that the perfect, innocent, world-maker would hang on a cross as His rebellious creatures laughed and mocked. Yet that is how God chose to deliver us all. The Messiah took upon Himself our death sentence, conquering death as He died. His resurrection proves His identity as the perfect Son of God, but it also proves our justification (Romans 4:25). Ultimate forgiveness and the freedom that it brings are real and available to all who will completely submit to Jesus. Like David, our sins can be forgiven. Mercy has been shown. Our hiding place is in Jesus. Truly, the best gift of all time was wrapped in swaddling clothes.
Thank You, Father, for being our hiding place. We thank You for sending Your Son to pay our ransom and to free us from the guilt of our sins. This advent season, help us to number our days and share
with others not only gifts and holiday greetings, but the gift of Your Son. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Week 3: Love
Written by Andrew Hatfield, global worker (North Africa)
Having come through a long and emotionally intense season, I attended a men’s retreat up in the mountains. I was excited. Mountains have the capacity to make us stand in awe and wonder in a way that few things on earth are capable of doing. I’d never been to the area, but others who had gone before boasted the magnificence of the alpine peaks that would set a powerful backdrop for our time together.
We arrived on a rainy, cloudy day. The valley and hills were beautiful, but it was hard to imagine that mountains were truly there beyond and above the misty fog. Yet, there was a promise and the testimony of others. The next morning I awoke to a clear, sunny sky. The clouds had rolled back to reveal a scene that was truly marvelous. On the central day of our time together, a few of us took a train up the mountain to the top, the highest point on the continent. We hiked several miles and the once distant scene became a well-trodden and familiar space. The mountains, whose presence I’d questioned, I now experienced with great confidence. The following day, rain clouds again masked what had become known, yet my confidence of their presence and the picture in my mind’ eye were strong.
In the days before Jesus’ birth, the prophets foretold of the steadfast love of the Lord and that He would send a Savior. It was a season like arriving at a mountain valley socked in by clouds, trusting the prophets’ testimony. Then Christ came. The Gospels chronicle Jesus’ birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension. Through their record, we get to tread with Jesus and know Him well. It is promised He will return. Yet, after 2,000 years, it can feel like the rain clouds have returned, and we must wait with confidence that His love never ceases.
Advent is a season of anticipation. We wait and prepare for the Christmas celebrations that mark the birth of Jesus. At the same time, we wait and prepare for Christ’s Second Coming. As we wait in great anticipation, we are sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Bless the Lord, O my soul!
Pray for God to keep “mountain top” moments fresh in your mind. Ask Him for opportunities to help others come to know Jesus with such familiarity that they can join us in the anticipation as we wait for the Second Coming.
Written by Dave Embree, global partner (Christian Campus House)
2020 has certainly put the “fun” in dysfunctional…or maybe not. In addition to the threat posed by COVID-19, we’ve seen many people lined up in bitterness against one another due to endless divisions. Meanwhile, “entertainment media” has continued to batter down any previous boundaries of discretion under the banners of “artistic freedom” and “authenticity.” And, despite the ills of the world, the common attitude is not a perception of the need for change through humble repentance, but an arrogance that “NO ONE should criticize any of my choices – just let me be.”
But Christmas is coming, with our recognition of the world’s Maker lying down in the feed trough of some of His creation. We are reminded by the incarnation of Jesus that strength is seen in deliberately chosen weakness; that in denying the world, we qualify for a better one; and that in servanthood is greatness. Christmas is not about creating within us a seasonal high of “holiday cheer,” but the basis for living in this stressful world with peace and hope that nonbelievers can’t understand.
The nativity is not just a cute “folk tale,” but a live demonstration of balancing this world with that which is eternal. Christmastime is not a season for competing over who has the largest “Keep Christ in Christmas” sign in their yard, but a time to kneel in the presence of Jesus and to offer oneself to Him. So often, our prayers are like letters to Santa, spelling out what we want God to “deliver on” for us, when prayer needs to be a time we especially recognize the presence of God and reassert that we exist as His children and His servants, offering ourselves anew to Him. When we recognize the necessity for surrender and servanthood in the midst of a world seemingly spiraling out of control, we will come to a “Christmas” sense of peace, and praise our Lord, truthfully singing, “Oh come let us adore Him—Christ the Lord!”
Dear Lord and Father of humankind, forgive our foolish ways. We are so sorry that the delights and urgencies of this world can so distract us from that which is true, real and eternal. Thank You that Christmas is a season in which we can choose to recalibrate ourselves and realize that we will be most at peace when we recognize the roles we play in Your big story. May this Christmas not be about diving into the “rush”, but soaking in the realities of Jesus’ time on His earth, and His invitation to us to live His life while we are here. In His Name, Amen.
Written by Angela Highfield, global worker (Thailand)
When I read the first line of Psalm 47, I think about the Maasai people in Kenya dancing under a tree in pure adoration and praise. I think about the Akha tribe in Northern Thailand gathered in an open air pavilion huddled together singing hymns over the monsoon rains. I think about the generations upon generations of people who have given God glory and praise even in the face of slavery, war, persecutions, plagues, and the list goes on. I think about our own faithful church family who have also faced many trials and have suffered in the face of disease, divorce, death and yet have still chosen to praise God.
One of the most beautiful things that ties us all together as brothers and sisters in Christ is that God chose each and every one of us. Throughout history, even until now, He has given us all new life in Him and an inheritance which is Jesus. Our hope is eternity in heaven with Jesus. And can I tell you how excited I am for that day when we are all together in heaven continuing on the praise that we started here on earth?
But we won’t just be by ourselves. We will be with every tribe, tongue and nation; those who were also chosen by God and given new life. It sends chills down my spine, thinking of how majestic it will be to hear praises sung in every language at once. I imagine it not as chaotic but enchantingly melodic, to know that each one of those voices came through trials and sufferings, but persevered and remained strong. “Praise be to God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Oh Lord, we long for the day that we will be together with all our brothers and sisters from all generations praising Your name. Give us the continued strength to cling on to the hope of salvation and our inheritance. May we never stop praising Your name for You have chosen us and given us new life.
Keep our eyes, our voices, our hearts forever tuned to Your heart. Amen.
Written by Libbie Hampton
What would inspire a person to give up his or her life for someone else? Could it be that they might give their life for a family member, perhaps a parent, brother, sister or even a child? It is conceivable that a person might give up their life for someone they truly loved. But would they give up that same life for a thief or murderer or someone who had wronged them? I don’t think so!
There was one, born long ago, who came with the sole purpose of sacrificing Himself for someone else. He willingly gave His life for all of mankind. Yes, even the thief, the murderer and all those who had wronged Him. He came into this world tiny and fragile, encased in human flesh. He came in the lowliest of places, with humility and grace. He grew into a faithful servant and taught others His ways so that they might follow after Him. Then, when God ordained the right time, Jesus, the perfect sacrifice took on mankind’s sin and willingly gave up His life for them.
Christmas is a time we often spend thinking about giving gifts. Some people spend hours, days and even weeks looking for the perfect present to give someone they love. Yet, by the time the wrapping paper is off and the gift unveiled, it has already lost some of its thrill.
There was, however, an irreplaceable precious gift given over 2,000 years ago that even to this day, has not lost its thrill for a believer. Jesus came to earth because of His over abundant love for man, in order to provide the everlasting gift of redemption, by sacrificing His life for ours.
Pray that God reminds you of the ultimate gift that Jesus gave, when He willingly gave up His life for yours. Ask Him to guide your life, so that it reflects this incredible sacrifice made by Jesus because of His great love for you. Pray that God provides a way for you to share the redemptive story of Jesus with those of whom you come in contact.
Written by Jacquelyn Clevenger
What circumstance pops into your head when you hear the word defeat? It might be anything ranging from losing a major competition, to a long season of struggle in family life, a recent diagnosis or a battle with addiction. COVID-19’s surprise arrival has only added to the number of times defeat knocked on our doorsteps this year. Though feelings of defeat may be easy to identify, the enemy we’re battling works hard to keep himself hidden.
Psalm 59 peeks into a heart desperate for protection from the enemy, proclaiming dependence on God’s victory in the face of hounding defeat. Verse 8 declares the Lord is so victorious, He can even laugh at those who make themselves His enemies. He has no thought of defeat, like a father receiving a challenge to wrestle from his young child! Victory is certain! When the psalmist contemplates this truth, He boldly states, “O my strength, I will watch for You – for You, O God are my fortress. My God in His steadfast love will let me look in triumph on my enemies” (9-10).
As he meditates on the love and strength of God, the writer decides “I will sing of Your strength; I will sing aloud of Your steadfast love in the morning. For You have been to me a fortress and a refuge in my day of distress. O my Strength, I will sing praises to You, for You O God, are my fortress, the God who shows me steadfast love” (16-17).
This is our Christmas joy: that the One with the right to laugh in the face of His opponent, humbly came to bring victory, restoring our hope. Colossians 2:13-15 reminds us that God chose to make us alive with Him, by saving us from our enemy in the midst of our defeat. Baby Jesus grew up, took the list of our debts, wrote paid in full with His own blood and laughed in the face of his enemies as He triumphed over them through the power of His perfect love! The cradle was always meant to get Jesus to the cross, our treasured reminder of His love, strength and victory!
Victorious Jesus, we worship You! You are our strength and our fortress, and Your love is better than life. May the Holy Spirit guide and counsel us in battle as You fight for us. May Your love, and Your right to claim victory over every circumstance of our lives, give us hope when defeat comes knocking. Thank You for Your good plan and triumph; we put our trust in You!
Written by Gary Bishop
Psalm 40:5 says that God has multiplied His thoughts toward us in wonderful and wondrous ways. Think of this: The Creator of all that is, all that has ever been, all that will ever be thinks about us continuously. Faithfully. Lovingly. We never leave His thoughts. We are never forgotten by God. This is one of the great demonstrations of His love for us.
Indeed, God has made plans for us, before we were born, and He watches over us minute by minute, day by day and throughout our years on this earth. He listens to our prayers. He knows when we are weary, and He gives us strength. He knows when we are afraid, and He gives us courage. He calls on His angels to keep us safe when we are in danger. And He grieves with us when we lose someone dear.
And yet, despite all these truths, we sometimes wonder, in our weakness, where He is. Has He forgotten us? Does He not hear us? Has He turned His back on us? The exact opposite is true. We forget that many times even Jesus had to wait for His prayers to be answered. And often, like in the Garden of Gethsemane, He did not receive the answer He wished. Do we deserve more?
In this Advent season, we’d do well to remember that God’s mercies for us far exceed our ability to declare or count. Indeed the Scripture says that God multiplies His thoughts toward us in a way that He alone can do. This is the very model of love. If we feel unnoticed and unloved today, remember that Jesus watches over us. He sees us. As no one else can. Always. And, He has a love and compassion for us that never ends. Praise His name!
Take time to recount the demonstrations of God’s love revealed to you. To recount means you bring them to mind…and then count them again…and again. Let the limitless compassion of Jesus wash over you today. Express your gratitude in prayer.
Written by John Presko
For 29 years now, I have bought my wife a nativity scene every year that we have been married. In fact, I already have purchased the nativity for this year and am excited to give it to her a few weeks before Christmas, so she can enjoy it all during the holiday season. They all include Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus, many include animals surrounding them, and some will include shepherds. But, Brenda’s favorites are when an angel is included.
In the few verses before your reading in Luke 2, an angel appears to the shepherds to announce the coming of a Savior, Christ the Lord. Then a great company of angels appeared with the angel to praise the Lord together. The shepherds then went to visit Jesus, and after, they went praising God and bringing glory to Him.
Psalm 138 starts with, “I will praise you, O LORD, with all my heart.” It goes on to plead for all kings of the earth to praise the Lord, and reminds us in verse 6, “though the LORD is on high, He looks upon the lowly…though I walk in the midst of trouble, You preserve my life..with Your right hand You will save me.”
I don’t know about you, but 2020 has been a year that has had more than its fair share of trouble and times where I have felt like one of the lowly. The great news of the Christmas story and God’s story throughout history is that God is here for all of us and uses us all in the most unexpected times to give Him praise and to spread the word about the Savior.
Mary and Joseph had their baby, Jesus, and as Luke says, He was placed in a manger because there was no room in the inn. I am sure that they were not feeling real great about that as parents, but they did their best with what was available to them. What does God do to remind them that He is with them? He sends angels to visit them and cheer them up as verse 19 of Luke 2 says, “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” What does God do to shepherds who were caring for their flocks and seen by some as the lowest of occupations? He uses them to cheer up Mary and Joseph and to spread the word about the Savior, Christ the Lord who had been born.
Just like God used Mary, Joseph and the shepherds, He wants to use you. The last verse of Psalm 138 reminds us of this when it says, “The LORD will work out His plans for my life–for Your faithful love, O LORD, endures forever. Don’t abandon me, for You made me.”
Thank You, God, for being with me, especially through my times of trouble. Thank You for reminding me that whether I feel on top of the world like a king or like one of the lowly on earth, all You want is for me to praise You and spread the glorious word of the Savior, Your Son, Christ the Lord. Thank You for answering my prayers and may I praise Your name with all my heart this Christmas season and all of my days.
Week 4: Joy
Written by Tammy Hill
It was a June evening in 1992. I was riding with my cousin when he lost control; hitting a culvert, the truck flipped three times throwing me out on the first flip. Our other cousin, behind us, drove back home to call 911 (yes, before cell phones). I was flown to St. Louis University Hospital, though I remember none of this. After slipping into a 5-day coma, I woke up with amnesia, not even knowing my mom. As clear as day though, sitting at the bottom of the right side of my bed was Jesus! I didn’t know the friends and family who flocked to visit, but I did know my Jesus.
The following weeks were filled with MRIs, speech and physical therapy, etc. No matter where I went in the hospital, Jesus went with me, ALWAYS before me at my right side. It didn’t surprise me that He was there; it just seemed natural. I talked to Him with ease.
The last day of my stay, I noticed I didn’t see Him go to the MRI with me. I asked Him later why and He said He was there even though I couldn’t see Him. I was to be released the next morning. Visiting hours had ended, and the nurse who’d readied me for bed dimmed the lights and left the room. Jesus came up and sat close to my right side and leaned near.
He told me that I had needed to see Him to help me survive. He said, “Tomorrow when you wake, you will not see me but I am still at your side. I always will be, and we can talk just like we have been. Is there any question you would like to ask Me?”
I asked, “Why did you keep me alive?” Jesus said, “Because you have a job to do, and you won’t die until the job is done.” With those words, I drifted to sleep.
The precious details of His face have faded over the years. With healing, my memory was restored. Later that fall, I came across our scripture reading for today in Acts 2: “I saw the Lord always before me. Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.” Yes!! It’s true not just for me, but for you! As in the song My Testimony, the lyrics ring with truth; “If I’m not dead then You’re not done. Greater things are yet to come”.
Psalm 16 is packed with promises: of wisdom, His presence, His comfort, the promise and prophecy of the One who will conquer the grave, guidance, joy and an eternal inheritance! Acts 2:22-28 is on the other side of the cross proclaiming what Christ did on the cross and pointing back to what David proclaimed and prophesied in Psalm 16.
Emmanuel, God with us, help us to remember that You are always before us at our right hand. Fill our hearts with gladness, our tongues with rejoicing. Pour Your own love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit so we can live our days in hope and with joy in You, the resurrected Jesus. Amen.
Written by Kevin Punch
We are meant to grow. God designed us to grow. He intended for us to grow. While we naturally grow physically from helpless infants to adults who can walk and chew gum at the same time, we are also meant to grow spiritually in our relationship with God. In this passage, we receive a rare glimpse into the child Jesus growing up into a man.
Joseph and Mary would have likely taken a yearly trip to celebrate the passover in Jerusalem. On this particular occasion, Jesus was 12 years old when He, as a Jewish boy, became a man. Because they would travel in large groups, Jesus got separated from His parents. It took them three days to find Him! You can imagine the panic Mary and Joseph felt about their lost child.
When they finally found Him after their frantic searching, Jesus was doing a question and answer session among the religious leaders. It is important to note that these religious scholars were amazed at His understanding as a 12-year-old. Like most mothers when they find their lost child, Mary questions why Jesus didn’t stay with them. Jesus responds by saying, “Where else would I be, but my Father’s house.” He reminds His family of His identity as God’s Son and His desire to be in His Father’s presence. Luke goes on to tell us that Jesus continued to grow in wisdom and favor with God and man.
Even at a young age, Jesus knew the importance of engaging in God’s Word and living in God’s presence. He engaged with the leaders who spent years studying the Scriptures and desired to be in God’s presence by being in His Father’s house. As Christmas approaches, let the example of 12-year-old Jesus guide you to deeply engage in God’s Word and desire His presence.
We don’t have to go to a church or even a person to experience God’s presence because God dwells in the heart of each believer by His Holy Spirit. Pray that God would awaken your spirit to His presence with you right now. Ask that the eyes of your heart would be open to the Father’s nearness. It might be helpful to simply sit still for several minutes and let your heart listen for God. Though it may take more than a few minutes, this may be the most blessed time of your day when you actually feel God’s presence close to you. When that moment comes, give God thanks for the chance to be with Him.
Written by Lori Medlin
Any kid who has been in Critter Land the Sunday before Christmas could tell you that my favorite part of the story of Jesus’ birth is the shepherds. They are the last people who should have been in line to welcome the King of the universe upon His arrival to earth. They were filthy, social outcasts not even welcome in the temple to worship.
And yet, the first guys to get the good news of great joy of Jesus’ birth are these last guys. And they don’t just get the news in a memo or from the town messenger. No, God goes all out for this wretched crew and sends a multitude of heavenly hosts to announce the biggest news in history. It’s the most extravagant message delivery moment ever conceived delivered to a band of social outcasts.
As soon as I recover from the ways that image overwhelms me, I come to the part where those stench ridden caretakers find themselves in a filthy cave bowing before the divine newborn. With this image I am undone. The contrasts are overwhelming. THE GOD OF THE UNIVERSE HAS COME TO EARTH AND MADE HIMSELF A BABY??? He does not even afford Himself a room, and the first people to worship Him are the last that, on any other day, would be allowed. My expectations are shattered and joy overcomes my heart because if this story includes them, surely there is room for me, too.
Later, when that baby has become a man, He refers to Himself in John 10:11-15 as the good shepherd. The “great King above all other gods” describes Himself as a common, smelly, outcast who tenderly cares for minimally intelligent animals. The juxtaposition of this ultimate being representing Himself as a most humble shepherd so that I can find the way toward a relationship with Him leaves me speechless. I read Scriptures like Psalm 95 that describe a God who holds the depths of the earth in His hands and I can barely reconcile the contrast. Every Christmas I wrestle yet again with the realization that the most lofty would reduce Himself to the most lowly to make sure that even the most minimally intelligent “sheep” like me could be included in His fold.
Oh Lord God, let us kneel before You, Lord our maker, for You are God. I am so thankful to be the people You watch over, the flock under Your care. I am overwhelmed that You would go to such extreme measures to humble Yourself and that in doing so You were making a way for all the smelly, unworthy sin-ridden hearts like mine to enter into a relationship with You. This is an exceedingly great joy. May the wonder of Your gift and the tenderness of Your care always overwhelm us.
Written by Leah Scott
Every year, I find myself drawn to the story of these mysterious men and the journey that they embarked upon over 2,000 years ago. Perhaps my intrigue derives from the fact that from the very moment of His arrival, Christ calls out to the nations to come and worship! I am inspired by how these men listened and obeyed with such dedication, perseverance and joy! Though their journey was costly, they willingly uprooted their lives and spent years traveling through the unknown desert in search of greatness. And as their journey came to completion, they laid their finest treasures at the feet of Jesus…and worshiped!
Jesus’ journey, in contrast, was clearly laid out before Him. Our Savior willingly left behind the splendor and majesty of heaven to embark on a journey that would lead Him through obscurity, humility, betrayal and ultimately…death. And yet, He too journeyed with dedication, perseverance and joy. For Hebrews 12:2-3 tells us that it was for the joy set before Him that Jesus endured the cross, scorning its shame. Because of His victory, we are to fix our eyes on Him so that we do not grow weary and lose heart on our own journeys.
And what a journey this year has been! Like the wise men, it has been life-changing, and for many, characterized by disappointment and loss. As a world, we’ve been uprooted and have experienced the loneliness and uncertainty of the “desert.” We’ve buried those we love, missed out on treasured fellowship and canceled more activities than we can count. And yet, in the midst of such hardship, we look up and see our Savior, one who is no stranger to suffering, yet reigns in victory! It is His victory that equips us with perseverance and joy as we face trouble and hardship. It is His faithful presence with us that speaks hope and supplies peace in the darkest of circumstances!
Two thousand years later, Christ’s invitation remains. May we follow in the examples of the Magi and even more so, our Savior, faithfully surrendering and joyfully bringing our finest gifts to lay at His feet. As we journey towards Christmas, may we echo the praises found in Psalm 96 and may our spirits be lifted and our strength renewed as we fix our eyes on Jesus; “For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise!”(Ps. 96:4).
As you conclude with a time of prayer, ask the Lord to examine your worship. Is it characterized by dedication, perseverance and joy? Are you declaring His praise, recognizing His deeds, trembling before Him and living like He is worthy of your greatest offerings? Take some time with our victorious Savior, echoing the prayer found in Psalm 96 and may your strength and joy in Him be renewed in this season!
Written by Allen Tyger
It’s inevitable that sometime around the Christmas season, you will hear the Hallelujah Chorus. You know the one. It’s in almost every Christmas movie, ironically or not. The tune from Handle’s Messiah is as synonymous with Christmas as reindeer and that big, bearded guy. To me, the most powerful part of the song is the resounding “KING OF KINGS” that rings out in the middle. Followed by “LORD OF LORDS” and if you didn’t get the point, they take it up a few notes and sing it again, “KING OF KINGS” and “LORD OF LORDS.”
Growing up in the church, those titles for Jesus were thrown around a lot. I mean, there was always so much talk about making Jesus the “Lord and Savior of your life.” But lord is not a word that we used anywhere except for church. As a matter of fact, if I said something like, “Good, Lord,” I was likely to be reintroduced to the taste of Irish Spring soap. There was no context outside of church, and the words of that song for a lord. That was true for the word king too. I’ve never lived under king, never bowed to a king, and so making Jesus my “King of kings” really didn’t seem like much of a dethroning.
This would not have been the case with the first century Jews. Their king was Herod, but he was just a puppet king. Everyone knew that the real king of kings was Caesar. But to the Jews there was a standard of king that had lived for centuries. Caesar and Herod were no match for King David from their Old Testament history. Not perfect, but humble. Anointed, mighty and God-fearing, David was the standard to which all other kings were measured. Take a moment to read again what was written about King David in Psalm 45:1-7.
Talk about a ringing endorsement. How could a king ever live up to the greatness of David? A king so noble and favored, the Jewish people likely did see David as the ultimate “King of kings.”
But what we learn through this season of Advent is that there is another king coming. When Isaiah wrote the words that Handle borrowed for his chorus, he wasn’t writing about King David. This new king would “…reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom” (Is. 9:7). This new king would truly be a King of all kings. Including the seemingly untouchable reputation of David.
The promise of Advent is not only that King Jesus is a better king than all the puppets and presidents that fail us time and again, but that this Jesus is greater than even the greatest of our earthly kings. Psalm 45 was beautifully written for the majestic earthly King David. But it’s most truly understood when applied to the kingship of Jesus Christ.
Are there areas of your life that are not surrendered to the rule of King Jesus? Take time to confess those things to Him, trusting in His goodness to forgive you. Ask that He would help you to yield every moment to His rule in your life.
Christmas Day: Light
Written by Corey Scott
Merry Christmas! Once again, God has given us another year to celebrate the coming of our Messiah, the Son and Song of God…Jesus Christ. Through this Advent season, we have uncovered some of Jesus’ songs. The book of Psalms was basically Jesus’ song book during His ministry. I pray that these divinely inspired prayers have ministered to you this season.
On this Christmas day, we turn our attention to the only day that focuses on the theme of light. As John clearly tells us at the beginning of his Gospel, Jesus is that light. In fact, as verse 9 tells us, Jesus is the true light, sent from the Father to guide us. And as Psalm 43 tells us, God sends His light to lead us into His presence. That’s exactly what Jesus has done. Through Christ, and Him alone, we are led into God’s presence for eternity. Praise the Lord!
But the Good News doesn’t stop there. John tells us that the true light of Jesus is for “everyone.” There is not one person on the planet who should be ignored in hearing this Good News. Not only was Jesus sent to be the true light, but we also are sent to shine the light of Jesus to the world.
I know that for many, this Christmas has been a difficult one. Compounded with COVID, this may have been your most difficult Christmas, and yet the light still shines. The light of Jesus will not be quenched by COVID or any other challenge.
One of my favorite new quotes is from a Global Worker named Lindsay who serves in London. She said, “The Gospel was made to run!” I love that! We hold the light of Jesus and are given the awesome joy of carrying that light to everyone in the world.
So, this Christmas Day get your running shoes on! Run to those who need to hear the Gospel. Carry His light with you. In the grace of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit, lead people into God’s presence. Merry Christmas!
O Jesus, on this Christmas Day, we remember that You are the true light. Would You turn your face
toward us today and shine upon us? Draw our attention to those in need of your light today. Send us out as carriers of the true light. And give us the strength to run! We love You, Jesus! Amen.