White Christmas

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BY BRITTANY BLACKBURN
Psalm 133:1

I am a southern girl—born and raised. I cannot remember one White Christmas, ever. There was that one year we had a little ice, but none of the white stuff. However, the carol, “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas,” has always been part of my Yuletide tradition. I can remember the holiday season as far back as when I was 5 and if I close my eyes I can still hear Elvis singing “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” in his most distinctive voice. My mom was a huge Elvis fan and I may never know how that Christmas tape did not wear out. Well, that’s a touch of a Christmas miracle in itself. Mom loved this time of year and passed this love of the season on to me. She taught us to love the sounds, the sights and smells of Christmas. There were special treats she baked in our very home. What I remember most, however, is our being together—a family. I may or may not be passing my love for the season along to my son, but I can tell you he expects every room in the house to be at its brightest at Christmas dawn. My sweet husband indulges us by carefully placing each tree in just the right spot and stringing the lights! As sounds of the season play nonstop throughout our home and sights and smells mingle with them, the thing my husband and I hope our son holds dear is the special gift we’ve all been given. The gift of a Savior. This is the key to the togetherness we share as family. So, while we may never have a White Christmas where we live, I pray it will always be a season filled with bright, spotless, sweet memories of love of family and friends. I challenge you, while dreaming of a White Christmas, also dream of a Christmas filled with the love and grace of Jesus.

PRAYER: Dear Father, as we celebrate the season with family, we thank You for the most wonderful gift or your Son! May we stay focused on You and the true meaning of this and every season. Amen.

There's A Song in the Air

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There really is a song in the air—Christmas carols play on the radio air 24/7. You can find a channel somewhere playing your favorite songs. These carols remind us of the angel’s song on that holy night so long ago. Luke tells us they praised God, saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors.” Carols remind us of the great joy of the birth of Jesus. In the song, “There’s a Song in the Air,” the author suggests, “We rejoice in the light, and we echo the song that comes down through the night from the heavenly throng.” We rejoice with the angels when we sing of the night of the Christ birth. When we lift up merriment we share the story of the Savior’s birth and the glorious hope and joy that came to the earth. This week, we want to encourage you to lift up a song to the air. We hope each of you will find a place and time to reach out with carols. In the Christmas movie Elf, the main character reminds us, “the best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.” Try one of the activities below and experience a Song in the Air.

  • Gather with family or friends and spend time singing as many carols as you can. q Go to a senior center or nursing home and sing to the residents.
  • Take a treat to a neighbor and sing a few carols together.
  • Plan a night of caroling with some friends. (Don’t forget the hot chocolate.)
  • Sing in your car. (Roll down the windows for extra fun.)
  • Find your own unique way to “spread Christmas cheer by singing loud for all to hear.”

PRAYER: Lord, use us to share your love, hope and joy through our words, songs, and actions. Help us to lift our voices up in joy and bring that joy to others in our family and community.

Jingle Bells

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BY RUSSELL CHURCH
Scripture: 1 Peter 1:8

During the Advent season, our minds tend to drift. We reflect on Christmas past and simultaneously, race in anticipation of what this Christmas will bring. Images of glad childhood times and loved ones mingle in our memories. There were also harder times endured—a loved one lost. But, what in our minds doesn’t change is a lingering hope that things will be better this Christmas. For Christmas is really all about—hope, joy and promises faithfully fulfilled. This Advent season, I’d like to share recollections about our family’s ties to the song “Jingle Bells,”’ and the joy this song brought into our home. When you were a child, or when you had little ones in the house, one of the most rewarding daily rituals was being put into bed or putting your children to bed (No, really). Usually, the parent is tired, and whether they realize it or not, so is the child. Inevitably, the child is in the bed. Stories have been read. A drink of water delivered and a bathroom visit completed. Finally, the nodding parent will attempt to sing his children to sleep. In our house, this ritual usually involved joint and enthusiastic singing of a litany of greatest hits including Christmas songs. That’s right, regardless of the time of year. Jesus Loves Me could be followed by Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer, Silent Night or Jingle Bells. They all made the list—nearly every night. But, no matter what time of year, “Jingle Bells” was the favorite. My children could understand it and feel the joy of singing. They knew God loved them and understood that Baby Jesus was a gift to the world. So, any song associated with Christmas was an opportunity to express real joy. Growing up in the coastal suburbs, my children dreamed of Christmas snow. While you’re dreaming, throw in a horse or a sleigh with jingling bells? A miracle? 1 Peter 1:8 tells us believers are filled with inexpressible, glorious joy. So, sing of jingle bells like children. Sing with joy and anticipation. Sing all year. Sing to remind yourself that God’s joy is real.

PRAYER: Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for your love and forgiveness. Thank you for the gift of Jesus. Please open our hearts to the joy you have given us and keep us singing your praise every day.

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

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BY LESLEY BARROW
Scripture: Psalm 16

O tidings of comfort and joy, Comfort and joy, O tidings of comfort and joy Be truthful! You sang that, didn’t you? Maybe you even sang the whole first verse. There are just certain songs you cannot simply recite the lyrics. You just have to sing them. Then, they get stuck in your head and you find yourself singing them over, and over, and over. And, for most of us, these little “ear worms” come with a memory. For me, “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” brings back memories of my attending the annual Mobile College Christmas Spectacular with my father. The performance was a funny and very poignant telling of the Christmas story put on by the drama and choral departments at Mobile College, now the University of Mobile. It was always fantastic. At the end of every show, I would start looking forward to next Christmas and the night with my dad. Then, sometime around September each year, I would begin bugging Dad to make sure he got tickets. It was our little date night. And, I loved it! I think that is the way it should be with our Heavenly Father. We need to be excited about our “date nights” with God, those special times when we get alone with the King of the Universe. We all need a time for just us and God. We need a time that we look forward to without distractions. So often, we lose the close connection if we don’t have these special times. We should have special alone time with God each day. My prayer during this season is that each one of us hears that one song, that one Bible verse, or sees that one play, that reminds us of how beautiful it is to spend time with our Heavenly Father.

PRAYER: Lord, lead us to that song or play or moment that reminds us of who You are and how much You love us. Help us remember your faithfulness and love to us, Heavenly Father, and worship You.

Go Tell It On the Mountain

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BY ALISSA GOCHEY
Scripture: Psalm 34:1 – 3

When I was a child, one of my favorite Christmas songs was “Go Tell It on the Mountain.” I have vivid memories of being in an early elementary school Christmas choir concert with my brother, who is five years older than I. He and I, sitting side by side, sang this song. My tiny five-year-old self thought that it was the coolest thing to get to be in a show with my big brother! I’m sure we sang many, many songs, but “Go Tell It on the Mountain” is the song that always brings out one of the best Christmas memories for me. In high school and college, I regularly led worship for my youth group and for other events. During the Christmas season, I always blend “Go Tell it on the Mountains” with a song titled “All the Poor and Powerless,” by All Sons and Daughters. The bridge of this song says, “Shout it, go on and scream it from the mountains, go on and tell it to the masses, that he is God.” I chose to combine these songs because of the powerful lyrics and how powerfully they declare God’s goodness and His presence among us. Proclaiming the goodness of God can take many different forms in our lives. It can be anything from mission trips to small groups. Declaring His goodness can be in the way we prepare our food, in the way we love our friends and family. This advent season, I want to encourage you in all that you do, whether it be shouting from the highest of mountain to praising in the lowest valleys, proclaim the goodness of our savior!

PRAYER: Lord, you are everything to me. I will shout it from the rooftop. You are Christ, the Son of the living God. You are my comforter in sorrow, pain, or distress. You rejoice with me in my triumphs. I will always praise you for drawing near to me when I draw near to you. You are my heavenly Father, and the father of the fatherless. How great is your faithfulness, God, day in and day out.

The First Noel

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BY BRAD BOLAND
Scripture: Romans 12:9 – 13

News of Jesus’ birth is recounted in a couple of ways in scripture and reflected in the words of “The First Noel.” One would think that dignitaries and Jewish religious leaders would have been the ones to hear the message first. However, I think it fitting that God chose more common people, professions, and circumstances amid whom He would share His good news. When God announced first to shepherds, it reminds us that God includes us in his mission too! Imagine how Mary and Joseph felt when shepherds came to honor their child and shared with them the angels’ message! God uses ordinary people, like you and me, to remind people of His love in our everyday situations. About a year and a half ago, I got word that my mom had a stroke. Complicating the matter, she was also receiving treatment for cancer. I was very concerned about what was next for her and what kind of recovery she might have. It was during this difficult season that I felt God’s presence most through friends and people in my small group. One friend in my group kept in touch on a regular basis. He offered prayers and comforting words. He didn’t know it, but I felt God’s hand in this difficult circumstance through his consistent communication. I understood that God knew and it was important to Him even if the outcome wasn’t what I may have wanted. My mom is strong in spirit and came through the cancer treatment fine and received a good report after surgery. She is still struggling to communicate clearly because of the stroke’s effects on her speech. Although we understand that may not improve much, we are grateful she is doing this well. I am especially thankful to God for his having reminded me, in such a special way, how He sends His loving support when it is most needed.

PRAYER: God, thank You for including me in Your mission! Thank You for being present in my life through Your people. I want to be there for others who need Your hope, peace, and light. Please bring to my mind someone that needs to hear encouraging words and supportive prayers or someone who needs a kind act, reassuring hug or pat on the back. Finally, guide me as I speak and act for the purpose of sharing Your love. Amen.

Joy to the World

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BY AMY TIPPIT MADRID
Scripture: Psalm 98

Have you ever stood on top of a mountain with the wind and power of God swirling around you? Have you ever stood next to a whooshing river or a babbling brook? George Mallory had this to say about climbing Mount Everest; “is this the summit, crowning the day? How cool and quiet! We’re not exultant; but delighted, joyful; soberly astonished...” What does that sound like to you? Stop for a moment and think. I can remember the birth of my best friend Meredith’s daughter, Norah. The first time I held Norah, my hands were shaking. The room was quiet, and still. Meredith, with an exhausted smile on her face, sat in the hospital bed watching. I remember thinking she had never looked more beautiful. She looked so strong, full of peace and joy. I imagine, to Meredith, this moment felt like reaching the summit of Mount Everest. All of her hard work had finally given way to a moment of stillness and happiness. In the days and weeks after Norah was born, we shared the news with anyone who would listen. As I retold the story to my husband, the memory that fueled my loud excitement was a quiet one. We laughed together, and imagined what it might be like to have children of our own one-day. We were filled with joy and hope as we thought about that future. Today, anticipating Christmas, I can only imagine the hope inspired as Angels brought great tidings to the world. Their good news came as a young woman named Mary struggled in a town not far away to give birth to her first child. Then, think of a sunrise. Mary’s child-bearing labor is done. In these quiet moments, she looks at her son with the eyes of a new mother. In this instant, her eyes sparkle with the promise of joy to the world. A heart that pondered the news of her child’s arrival was now filled with hope. She was soberly astonished. This Christmas, I challenge you to find joy and sober astonishment in the quiet moments. May your joy inspire you to proclaim hope and joy to the world as the seasons change.

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, thank you for your son, the ultimate example of joy and love. Allow your joy to empower us, that we may boldly proclaim goodness in all seasons of life.

Once in Royal David's City

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BY BOB HUPKA
Scripture: Revelation 21:3 – 4

Each year, Emory University presents a beautiful gift to the people of Atlanta with its concert setting of the King’s College “Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols.” Based on the worship service that began in England in 1918, the performance traditionally began with the classic Christmas hymn, “Once in Royal David’s City.” While I had probably sung this carol scores of times in my life, somehow it took on new meaning many years ago when I joined with thousands on a December night in a candlelit church on Emory’s campus, to sing the account of Christ’s birth. The first verse is almost like a history lesson. It sets the stage for the miracle that was about to take place. I can almost imagine my first Sunday School teacher, Mrs. Benson, saying, “OK children, this is how it happened.” And then, as we listened further, she would tell us about the divine nature of Christ coming “down to earth from heaven.” She would say that God came to our world to live with us and meet us right where we are. After that, as if to underscore His humanity, we would learn how He grew from a “little, weak, and helpless” child to a man who, even today, understands and feels all of the ups and downs in our lives, in our gladness and in our sadness. But for Mrs. Benson, and us, the final verse would be the crowning glory! We could sense the anticipation of joy and worship and majesty and completion as our “eyes at last shall see Him, through His own redeeming love…for that child, so dear and gentle is our Lord in heaven above.” Jesus came to earth as a baby, lived among us, died on a cross, was resurrected and ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father so that we, too, might someday see Him face to face and receive the incredible gift of life everlasting.

PRAYER: May we prepare ourselves to hear again the message of the angels, and to go in heart and mind to Bethlehem, and recall the loving purposes of God, from the first days until the glorious redemption brought to us by this holy Child. (Prayer adapted from the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols)

Grown-Up Christmas List

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BY LEIGH CONTRATTO
Scripture: Matthew 6:19 – 33

As a child, my Christmas list usually consisted of the newest edition of Barbie, dress-up costumes and jewelry, Lisa Frank school supplies, an American Girl doll, and a puppy. While I never got that American Girl doll, and I ended up getting my own puppy in my adult years, it’s safe to say my “needs” as a child were very materialistic. I was sure, then, that if only I would get these things on my list, then my life would be great. It wasn’t until college and into adult years that my Christmas list began to change to things that couldn’t be composed into a list, much less bought at a store. With each day that passes, and each new Christmas season, my eyes are opened more to my needs, the needs of those I love, and the needs of the world. Most of these needs cannot be bought. They can’t even be made with human hands. This Christmas season, as I prepare my “list,” I pray that my heart will break for those whose hearts are already broken. May I be aware of those around me who may not have a home and those who are without loved ones. May I include those who are scraping every penny together just to pay their bills. I pray I remember those not able to provide gifts for their children this year or must watch their children lying in hospital beds. My grown-up list this Christmas will include those who have lost their joy or feel there is no reason to celebrate this season. Instead of shiny-wrapped boxes and glittery bows under the tree, may the gift I receive be the gift of love, peace, hope, and joy that our Lord and Savior gifted us through His Son, Jesus Christ. I look forward to His gift that he tells me to re-gift to all who need it. Material gifts are replaceable, unreliable, and refundable. God’s gifts are ever-present, never-changing, and everlasting.

PRAYER: “Holy God, as You gifted us with your love and your redeeming grace through the sacrifice of your Son, Jesus Christ, may we sacrifice our materialistic desires so that we may share your gifts to others around us. Help us to see the world’s needs above our own during this giftgiving and gift-receiving season. Amen.”

O Christmas Tree

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BY COURTNEY MATHIS
Scripture: Psalm 25:10 (ESV)

I am that person who puts my Christmas tree up entirely too early for most people. And, I leave it up well into the New Year. I carefully decorate each branch and frequently step back to check my work. My son picks out the ornament he wants me to hang next and loves to hang a few of his favorites on the lower branches himself. The decorations, the lights, the time spent with my son and the joy it brings us are among the many reasons our Christmas tree is one of the favorite parts of the season. I love to turn on its glowing white lights and sit in the shadows and relax with a warm cup of holiday spice coffee. It warms my heart to watch my son admire the ornaments he proudly hung himself. The tree’s presence is calming and joyful. It seems to say, “Be still. Stop stressing about the fleeting aggravations of everyday life. During the past two years my son and I dealt with significant changes in our lives. It was a season when I struggled. How trying it was to be still and enjoy the moment. But, God put something inside us that sustained us through changing seasons. We clung to the certainty of God’s unchanging love. To me, my evergreen Christmas tree is a beautiful reminder of God’s steadfast love for us all. The evergreen tree doesn’t shed its needles because of the cold or the drought. It doesn’t change because of the seasons. Its lovely green branches stay true to remind us that there is something special God put inside this tree; something that sustains it and allows it to grow through all seasons. “How lovely are thy branches.” God promised us that his love toward us is strong and unchanging. My Christmas tree brings joy and so much peace because it is a lovely symbol of the unchanging love that God offers to us every day. It is one of His great gifts. Accept it.

PRAYER: Lord, help us this Christmas season to just be still and reflect on the deep love that You have for us, a love that is revealed to us in the birth of your son Jesus Christ. Remind us that through all of the changes that life can bring, that you remain constant in your love for us.

O Come Let Us Adore Him

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BY STEVE ELLISOR
Scripture Reference: Luke 2:8 – 18 and Matthew 4:17 – 20

When Allanda Small sang “O Come Let Us Adore Him” during worship some years ago, the song pierced our hearts. Her blessed voice let joy rain on us with beautiful notes and words. The song turned out to be a special gift when it came time for my halftime devotions during our basketball games that day. My devotions dealt with the “wisdom” of the shepherds. I believe we too often emphasize the “wise men” in the Christmas story at the expense of the shepherds. In Luke 2:15, the author tells us, “When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, ‘Let us go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’” You see, when the shepherds heard the “good news,” they didn’t just sit there. They responded! My purpose then, and now, is to encourage you to respond to the message and the call. Go to the Christmas worship events. Go to family and friends’ gatherings. Seek and find the Christ who has come to us and whose Holy Spirit dwells in us. Then, tell it to your children and grandchildren! When the angels came to the shepherds in Luke’s Christmas story, they announced the “Good News” we now celebrate every time we worship, give a devotion, or enjoy our private prayer time. In this unusually short message from an otherwise long-winded recreation minister, I can hardly wait to emphasize the rest of the heavenly message: “Glory to God in the highest and, on earth, peace and goodwill toward men.” Luke 2:14. I want to encourage you this Christmas season to do something extra! Telephone someone who doesn’t have many friends. Visit a homebound person. Take cookies to a neighbor or have a “face to face” with someone who needs a good word. This is the time to do it! The angels didn’t mention a time frame for the “goodwill” thing. Jesus brings new life. Let’s hear the good Word and become new ourselves. With the love, joy, and peace Jesus brings, may we become agents of goodwill toward men, women, and children wherever we go!

PRAYER: Father, help us to have the wisdom and courage to follow you and to tell others of your love and grace. Help us to show others your grace.

The Friendly Beasts: Activity

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Scripture: John 3:16; II Corinthians 9:6 – 15

In the great 12th century hymn, “The Friendly Beasts,” each of the animals gives something special to the baby Jesus. The donkey carries Mary to Bethlehem; the cow gives hay to pillow his head; the sheep gives wool for his blanket warm and the doves cooed him to sleep. They each gave a special and unique gift that only that animal could give. Each gave a gift to Emanuel. Each Christmas, we give and receive gifts. This gift-giving dates back to that first Christmas night when God gave the greatest gift of all–His Son. The giving of gifts symbolizes so many things. It tells us of God’s love for the world and for our love for each other. As the animals’ gifts tell something about them, so our gifts tell something about us. When we give gifts to others, we are truly giving gifts to God. Think of the talented singer who gives his gift of voice to sing in the Christmas musical. This is a gift of worship to God and a blessing to all who hear it. Each gift we give should be a gift to God and a gift to others. This week, choose one of these ways to give a unique and special gift.

  • Hand make a card or ornament to give to friend or family member.
  • Bake a treat for your neighbor, garbage person or postman.
  • Use your talent to help a person in need or create a special gift.
  • Make a sacrificial offering to White Christmas: The United Methodist Children’s Home.

PRAYER: Jesus, we desire to give the gift of love to others. Give us creative ideas of ways to use our resources and talents to worship You and bless others.

Deck the Halls

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BY MARCIA JACOBS
Scripture: Luke 1:78 – 79

“Deck the Halls” is a Welch carol written in the 15th century. The English lyrics were written in 1862 by a Scottish musician, Thomas Oliphant. It was around this time that Santa Clause, Christmas trees, caroling and the sending of Christmas cards became a part of family traditions. Many of the great traditions remind us of Jesus and the holy night of his birth. In 1862, the halls were indeed decked with boughs of holly, along with branches of pine and mistletoe. Today, we carry on these traditions with decorated mantels, doors, porches, trees and lights in windows. The evergreens speak to the eternal life that Jesus brings to us all. The evergreens were and are today adorned with green ribbons representing the continued life through Christ and the red ribbons symbolizing Christ’s shed blood at the crucifixion. Festive halls led to festive occasions, including dancing and delicious spreads of food. The tradition of the candles in the windows is to light the way for the Christ child. When we light the candles we are simply trying to emulate what God did to prepare for the baby Jesus. God lit the biggest and brightest star ever appearing in the heavens to mark the place where Mary’s child lay. Other stars sparkled differently on this night and angels appeared with their own glory and rustling wings. Even the first Christmas carols could be heard as the angels sang the heavenly announcement of Jesus’ birth. Would we expect anything less for the birth of God’s son? When we decorate this year, we should decorate for the Christ child. Embrace the celebration that lights the way for the Christ child to come into our hearts and live there throughout the year. Praise God for the life of Jesus, the willingness of Mary to bear God’s son and the sacrifice that Jesus would make for our eternal salvation. Celebrate that we are saved and will live forever because of what God began that day.

PRAYER: Father, thank You for sending the light of the world to us on this special night. Let it continue to shine throughout the world and bring peace for all.

O Come, O Come Immanuel

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BY DR. TOM GRAFTON
Scripture: Zephaniah 3:14

Rejoice! Rejoice! How can we rejoice before we have a reason to celebrate? The Israelites were celebrating the coming of the Messiah before the Messiah had come. One of the most difficult things God asks of us is to believe we have received something before we have it. The great hymn, “O Come, O Come Immanuel,” has a deep and rich history in the church and is a witness to the kind of faith that believes and rejoices in God’s promise before that promise is fulfilled. Words in this great song are a cry for God to hear our prayer and keep his promise to be with us. But, the chorus tells us to rejoice now in faith, because God is going to keep His promise. The life of faith is a constant movement back and forth between our longing for God to be with us and rejoicing that God has fulfilled his promises, between prayer and praise, longing and celebration. As Christians, we live in an in-between time. We live between knowing God has sent his Son to us, and we have received the gift of God’s salvation through Jesus Christ. And recognizing, we have not yet received fellowship with God to the fullest extent and are longing for the fullness of God’s salvation when he wipes away every tear from our eyes. We live in-between these two realities. God continues to call us to rejoice, not because we ignore the sin and pain in this world, but because we recognize that God is healing the broken and will make all things new. When we celebrate, we step into the future reality of the new heaven and new earth in faith that God will do what he said he would do.
“O Come, O Come, Immanuel! Come, Lord Jesus, come!”

PRAYER: Jesus, thank you that you promise to be with us always. Give us hearts that long more deeply for your presence and give us faith to believe that you will do what you say you will do. Amen.

Welcome Christmas

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BY ASHLEY TIPPIT
Scripture: Proverbs 14:30

Proverbs 14:30 tells us that “a heart at peace gives life, while envy rots the bones.” When I read this verse, I immediately know what it means. For quite some time now, I would admit to struggling with having a “heart at peace.” At college (with work, homework, sorority activities, reading, Netflix, and maybe exercise, when I am particularly amped up), I really start to feel exhausted. I often feel so far removed from peace. I begin to crave more time, so much that I find myself coveting even the down time my friends have when they are sick. Instead of feeling worried about them, I am jealous of the time they get to sit in bed and do homework. Clearly, I am doing something wrong here. Hearing the verse in Proverbs speak positively of peace and negatively of envy, made something click for me for the first time. Envy is so toxic. It can ruin our relationships with others, and it can hurt us as individuals. Envy allows us to idolize others and their situations, and devalue what we already have. No one better represents envy than the Grinch. He is the character whose heart, mind and spirit are literally green with envy. He is so jealous of the community and the fun the Who’s have, he becomes a truly miserable person. When I have been envious, I have been on the path to becoming a cantankerous old grump, just like the Grinch. Listening to “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch,” instantly shows you that you don’t want to be like the Grinch. Instead, you want to strive to have the alternative to envy, which Proverbs identifies as a heart of peace. It seems easier to be jealous than to be grateful sometimes, but the consequences of jealousy are not worth it. Peace, on the other hand, is restorative and helps us grow. I pray we lean into the community and love Christmas can bring us, and carry it with us through the year. In addition, I pray we let these good spirits aid us to combat envy with gratitude, which leads us to peace.

PRAYER: Papa God, we recognize in ourselves the tendency to be jealous of other people. We ask that you aid us in letting go of jealousy and lead us to be thankful for all we have.

Come Thou Long Expected Jesus

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BY REV. DR. ROB COUCH
Scripture: Matthew 6:33

Do you know what it is like to long for something? Deep inside each of us, there are desires so strong that they, at times, can physically hurt us. Longings are indications that something isn’t quite right, incomplete, or partial. Much of the time our longings can operate in the backgrounds of our lives. Sometimes they are just a nagging feeling for a different life or different circumstances. At other times, the pangs of longing are too much to bear: husbands and wives longing for their first child, soldiers longing for home, a person longing for a spouse, a grieving widow or widower longing for their lost love. Most of us have been there or, at the very least, known someone who has. Longing can be painful, however, at the same time at the root of deep longing is hope. Those who long haven’t given up hope, otherwise they wouldn’t long anymore, they would just move on, perhaps pretending everything is OK. For thousands of years Israel longed for a savior. When Jesus came no one, except some shepherds and some foreign stargazers really noticed. I sometimes wonder why those most knowledgeable of the prophecies, and living so close to where Jesus was born could miss his birth. Had they forgotten their longings? Had they lost hope? Or, had they just moved on, practicing their religion, but not really believing all that had been promised? The hymn “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus” should certainly be first on our mixtape, because it is about our longing for Jesus to come. Though Christmas celebrates Christ’s coming as our Savior and Messiah in Bethlehem 2000 years ago, our longing isn’t complete with the just the coming of the Christ child. We long for Christ’s return, and we long for Christ to reign in us, in every heart, and throughout all creation. Toward the end of the hymn are the lyrics: “Born to reign in us forever/Now Thy gracious kingdom bring/By Thine own eternal Spirit/Rule in all our hearts alone.” May we long for the reign of Christ in our hearts, and may we long for Christ’s kingdom to come.

PRAYER: Gracious God, thank You for sending us Christ the King. In the midst of the challenges and difficulties of our world, help us to never give up hope. We yield our lives to You and invite You to reign in our world, in our church, and in our hearts. Amen.