Advent Tree Family Devotions – December 18

Crown 

Matthew 27:29; John 19:2; Psalms 8:5; 2 Timothy 4:8; James 1:12; Revelation 4:4-11; 14:14

Distinctive head ornaments have been used as rewards for prowess, and as signs of authority and dominion, for millennia.  Laurel wreaths were given in Greece and Rome to victorious athletes and conquering generals.  The word “Laureate” used in such terms as “Nobel Laureate” refers to have received the laurel wreath.  Chieftains in barbarian tribes typically wore a distinctive helmet, which served in battle to identify the ruler and inspire the troops by his presence.  In an English coronation over 1000 years ago, the king was given a helmet, not a traditional crown.   The Jewish kings David and Joash, and many non-Jewish kings in the Old Testament, had decorative crowns of gold and precious stones.  Both beautiful and visible to all around, crowns set the wearer apart, and worldly authority itself is communicated by the word “Crown”. 

Jesus, Creator and Ruler of all the Universe, wore only one crown during His earthly sojourn, a crown of thorns (στέφανον ἐξ ἀκανθῶν – stephanon (crown) ez akanthon (thorn)).  This wreath was either woven out of the Syrian Christ-thorn (zizyphus – spina-christi), or the Christ-thorn (paliurus spina-christi), both of which have long, sharp, stiff thorns.  Rather than reward or glory, this revealed contempt, mockery, and shame. 

In the Bible, crowns are also used to signify victory. Christians will receive a crown of life to signify their victory over death, and a crown of righteousness to signify their victory over sin, both a result of Christ’s work.  The ultimate destiny of followers of Jesus is to rule with Him in unimaginable glory over the new heaven and the new earth, serving Him forever. 

Men throughout history have killed and died for crowns of gold and precious stones, and the temporary riches and power over others that they entail.  Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon, Qin Shi Huang in China, Julius Caesar in Rome, Shaka in Zululand,  Hitler in Germany, Stalin in the USSR, Pol Pot in Cambodia, and many others caused untold suffering with their dreams of glory. Yet they died, and their empires with them.  But those who know and love the Lord bring goodness and mercy to others in this life, and themselves receive perfect, everlasting life in the world to come. 

In our lives, it is so tempting to strive for the crowns of fame, money, power and success.  We fritter our moments in petty conflicts, trivial insults, and imagined wrongs.  Even the heartbreaking real tragedies that we all eventually face pale in comparison to the abundant life which is available to us now, and the magnificent eternity that we have ahead.  Christ is the greatest gift, freely available to each person, if we only believe.  Comfort, love and peace are in His right hand, and power, purpose, and victory in His left.  He is our King, so let us rejoice in Him.

 

We Three Kings

 

We three kings of Orient are:
Bearing gifts we traverse afar –
Field and fountain, moor and mountain –
Following yonder star

 

Chorus

O Star of wonder, star of night,
Star with royal beauty bright,
Westward leading, still proceeding,
Guide us to thy Perfect Light.

Born a King on Bethlehem’s plain:
Gold I bring to crown Him again,
King forever, ceasing never,
Over us all to rein

Chorus

Frankincense to offer have I,
Incense owns a Deity nigh;
Pray’r and praising, all men raising,
Worship Him, God most high.
Chorus

Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume,
Breathes of life of gathering gloom –
Sorrow’ng, sighing, bleeding, dying,
Sealed in the stone-cold tomb

Chorus

Glorious now behold Him arise:
King and God and Sacrifice;
Alleluia, Alleluia!
Earth to heav’n replies.

Chorus

Advent Tree Family Devotions – December 17

Seven Pointed Star

Revelation 5:12-13; Acts 1:8; Romans 8:18; 1 Corinthians 2:14-16; Philippians 3:7-8, 4:7-8; Revelation 2:4-5

The number seven has had many different meanings over the centuries. The heptagram, or seven pointed star, is considered a sacred symbol in the Wiccan tradition and a symbol of magical power in other pagan beliefs. The Navajo tribal police use a heptagonal badge. Alchemists throughout the Middle Ages used the seven-pointed star to symbolize the seven planets in our solar system known at that time.

The God of the Bible, who alone is God, made all things, including the seven pointed star. Christians have used this symbol to refer to the seven days of Creation, and to God’s perfection. The seven pointed star is known as the emblem of the seven characteristics of Christ as recorded in Revelation.

Power…riches…wisdom…might…honor…glory…and blessing. These seven attributes are inherent in Jesus who was slain for us. In the final days, every created thing, whether animals, people, or anything else, in heaven and earth will sing of our blessed Lord and His marvelous acts. We will recognize His glory, and respond in the only way appropriate…in praise.

One of the great mysteries of the Gospel, and the greatest joy to all true believers, is that in the most real sense, we get Christ in us, in the person of His Spirit, when we come to know Him. Thus we have all of these amazing attributes of the Son of God. Christians have the mind of Christ, the power of Christ, the peace of Christ, and the glory of Christ.

As followers of Jesus, we have everything we could ever wish for already, because we have Him. During this Advent season, when wishes and plans fill our thoughts, let’s remember that we already have everything that is valuable in the universe. Money, possessions, esteem, beauty, and every other thing for which man strives is only good insofar as we use it to serve Him. Getting these things for our own selfish purposes is a curse, not a blessing.

During your time of devotion today, think for a few minutes about what it means to have Christ in us. Do we have the joy of Christ in our own lives? If so, how can we share it with others? If not, let us return to our First Love (Revelation 2:4-5).

Angels from the Realms of Glory

Angels from the realms of glory,
Wing your flight o’er all the earth;
Ye who sang creation’s story,
Now proclaim Messiah’s birth:
Come and worship,
Come and worship,
Worship Christ, the newborn King!

Shepherds, in the fields abiding,
Watching o’er your flocks by night,
God with man is now residing,
Yonder shines the infant Light;
Come and worship,
Come and worship,
Worship Christ, the newborn King!

Sages, leave your contemplations,
Brighter visions beam afar;
Seek the great desire of nations,
Ye have seen the Infant’s star;
Come and worship,
Come and worship,
Worship Christ, the newborn King!

Saints before the altar bending,
Watching long in hope and fear,
Suddenly the Lord, descending,
In His temple shall appear:
Come and worship,
Come and worship,
Worship Christ, the newborn King!

 

Advent Tree Family Devotions – December 16

Grapes

Genesis 9:20; Proverbs 31:6-7; Luke 20:9-18; John 15:1-11; 1 Timothy 5:23

Grapes have been a staple of life since the beginning of civilization.  Details of grape production are found on hieroglyphics of the 4th Egyptian dynasty (2400 BC).  Hunter-gatherer societies were lightly populated and often able to find clean fresh water in the environment.  Once agriculture came into widespread use, previously nomadic peoples settled down.  Surface water sources rapidly became contaminated with waste from humans and animals, but subterranean water accessible by wells was sometimes available.  People drank wine, free of the disease-causing germs found in water, as a regular part of their diet.  Wine was thought to have medicinal properties, and its effects on the brain were well known.  Raw grapes and raisins were other important products. 

Viticulture was an important activity in the Holy Land throughout the Canaanite era, the Judges and Kings, and the Roman era.  Under Muslim rule, many vineyards were destroyed and grape production went into decline, but was renewed in modern times.  The conditions are favorable, boasting bright sunshine, heavy dew at night in the late summer, and gentle hillsides.  Growers in Palestine built high stone walls and watchtowers around vineyards to protect the produce from animals and thieves.  They also included a wine press, cut out of solid rock and lined with mortar.   Ancient underground wine cellars kept the wine in jars at about 20 degrees Celsius, but the climate was mild enough to prevent freezing.  Grapevines need constant pruning and several years of cultivation before they begin to bear fruit.  The work was hard but the rewards were great…abundant wine was a sign of affluence in ancient Israel, and a gift suitable for kings.

The parallels of the grape vine to the life of a believer are profuse.  Jesus directs the times and environments in which we live.  He plants us in fertile soil in the right location. He feeds and waters us physically, as well as with the sunshine of His Word and His Living Water.  He builds high walls of protection around us and keeps watch over us, with His heavenly angels, against enemies.    He prunes us relentlessly so that we will produce the most, best fruit.  As grapes are harvested and pressed to produce wine, so the fruits of Christians are squeezed and crushed, the Greek word refers to tribulation, in His service.   During the Incarnation, Jesus Himself underwent all of these things as we do.

Many common items such as grapes remind us powerfully of the work of God in us.    In His perfect wisdom, He has written His Word so that despite our feeble, fallen bodies, we can remember His love.  The toxic pace of the modern world can’t take away these reminders, but can make us forget their meaning.  How easily we are overwhelmed with activities and material stuff, and how despite how much we have and do, we always want more.  Let us live with less, and thereby gain Christ, and the abundant life He provides.   

Advent Tree Family Devotions – December 15

Shamrock

John 14:1-12; Colossians 1:15-20; Matthew 28:18; Hebrews 1

The shamrock is one of the best known symbols of the Trinity. Legend tells us that St. Patrick used the shamrock to explain his belief in the Holy Trinity to the High King of Ireland about 464 A.D. The astonished monarch was angry because he felt the idea of three persons existing as one was absurd. St. Patrick stooped and plucked a sprig of shamrock which he presented to the king saying “Here is a perfect leaf with three perfect parts.” At first the king frowned and then smiled with acceptance. From that time on, the shamrock has been used to explain the Trinity.

The second person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ, is fully God, and is also fully man.  Jesus tells us in the book of John that He is the only way to God the Father, but also that once we see Him, we have seen the Father also.  He is in the Father and the Father in Him in a way that it is impossible, with our sin-scarred understanding, to apprehend. 

Jesus is the Creator of the Universe and everything in it.  He is also the reason everything was created.  In another great mystery, Colossians teaches us that Jesus holds all things together.  One can only imagine His power holding each atom together; protons, electrons, and neutrons, in Creation.  If He “let go”, existence as we know it would instantly stop. 

Jesus is the Supreme Authority.  Every authority in every walk of life… government, business, law, medicine, education…, every person in the Universe, and every angel in heaven, will be held accountable by Him for their actions.  Christians, their sins washed away by Jesus’ blood, will account for their good works, or lack thereof.  Those who don’t know Jesus will be judged for all of their deeds, and face eternal separation from Him for their iniquities.

Jesus is the Source of everything Good in the Universe.   He is the fount of all glory, beauty, and power, flooding forth in rivers of peace, joy and love.  His words are absolutely and eternally true, and His person, character and works endure forever.  As the Creator of Time, Jesus is outside of it.  Jesus is the focal point for all existence.  The universe does not revolve around each of us, but around Him. 

Are there special gifts you can make or share with others in your family, in your church? Maybe a decoration for the tree of a friend would be the perfect gift. A shamrock with the Legend of St. Patrick would be good to share. As you make it, and as you give it, remember the second person of the Trinity, consider His attributes, and celebrate your peace and joy in Him. 

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

God rest ye merry, gentlemen
Let nothing you dismay
Remember, Christ, our Saviour
Was born on Christmas day
To save us all from Satan’s power
When we were gone astray
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

 

From God our Heavenly Father
A blessed Angel came;
And unto certain Shepherds
Brought tidings of the same:
How that in Bethlehem was born
The Son of God by Name.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

The shepherds at those tidings
Rejoiced much in mind,
And left their flocks a-feeding
In tempest, storm and wind:
And went to Bethlehem straightway
This blessed Babe to find.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

But when to Bethlehem they came
Whereat this Infant lay,
They found Him in a manger,
Where oxen feed on hay;
His Mother Mary kneeling down,
Unto the Lord did pray.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

 

Now to the Lord sing praises,
All you within this place,
And with true love and brotherhood
Each other now embrace;
This holy tide of Christmas
All other doth deface.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

Advent Tree Family Devotions – December 14

Chi Rho

John 1:40‑41

In his book on the life of the Emperor Constantine, the Church Father Eusebius of Caesarea (263-339 A.D.), wrote that prior to the final battle against Maxentius in the Saxa Rubra, Constantine decided that the fight would be carried not by armies, but by divine favor.  He considered his predecessors, fighting in the names of many deities for fear of offending any and hoping for help from all.  Without exception, they failed and perished.   He resolved to fight only in the name of the God of his father, Constantius, and prayed to Him.  Eusebius then wrote “while he was praying, God sent him a Vision of a Cross of Light in the Heavens at Mid-day, with an Inscription admonishing him to conquer by that.”  This vision was the chi-rho, an ancient monogram of Christ that comes from the first two letters of the Greek word XPICTOC (pronounced Christos).   In the ensuing battle, Constantine’s Army of Gaul won a total victory, and Maxentius perished while fleeing with his defeated army over the Bridge at Milvian, which spanned the Tiber river and led into Rome (27 Oct 312 A.D.).  Constantine later made Christianity legal in the Roman empire, rejecting the violent persecutions of Christians under his predecessor Diocletian (235-284 A.D.). 

The chi-rho comes from “chi”, written “X” in Greek and “rho”, written “P” in Greek.  This symbol is the oldest one in use and is often called a “Christogram”.   Simplifying the symbol, the X stands for Christ and is used in Xmas, an abbreviation for Christmas.

Like many of the symbols, the X is found everywhere in our environment, whether man-made or natural.  In the providence of God, He has given us many symbols to remind us of Him and His goodness to us.  They are also useful ways to communicate God’s blessings to those who do not know Him.  During this holiday season and throughout the New Year, take advantage of the opportunities you have to share your faith. Speak boldly for Christ and share your blessings with others. You and they will be glad you did.

Do You Hear What I Hear?

Said the night wind to the little lamb
Do you see what I see
Way up in the sky little lamb
Do you see what I see
A star, a star
Dancing in the night
With a tail as big as a kite
With a tail as big as a kite

Said the little lamb to the shepherd boy
Do you hear what I hear
Ringing through the sky shepherd boy
Do you hear what I hear
A song, a song
High above the trees
With a voice as big as the seas
With a voice as big as the seas

Said the shepherd boy to the mighty king
Do you know what I know
In your palace wall mighty king
Do you know what I know
A child, a child
Shivers in the cold
Let us bring him silver and gold
Let us bring him silver and gold

Said the king to the people everywhere
Listen to what I say
Pray for peace people everywhere
Listen to what I say
The child, the child
Sleeping in the night
He will bring us goodness and light
He will bring us goodness and light

Advent Tree Family Devotions – December 13

Chalice

Isaiah 51:17; Matthew 26:39; Mark 14:22‑26; Revelation 3:20

December 13 – Chalice

Isaiah 51:17; Matthew 26:39; Mark 14:22‑26; Revelation 3:20

To share someone’s food and drink is to be in intimacy with them.  The life of the strongest man is vulnerable to poisons in his food and drink, and kings and emperors for thousands of years appointed their most trusted servants as cup bearers to taste everything served to the regent.  Those with whom a man shares his table are usually his closest friends and family.  Jesus spent His last hours on earth eating with those He loved. 

“Cup” is used in other ways in the Bible too.  David said “My cup runneth over” referring to the overflowing blessings of God in his life.  Isaiah taught that the wicked would have to drink the cup of God’s judgment to the dregs.  Jesus used the word to refer to the bitterness of suffering, sin and death when He prayed in the garden of Gethsemane “Let this cup pass from me.” 

The chalice is a type of cup usually associated with the Last Supper of Christ and with liturgical worship.  More than a simple cup, it is the most important symbol of communion for it reminds us of the spilled blood of Christ for our sins. As we place this decoration on our advent Christmas tree, let us take a few minutes to thank God for this glorious gift.

As with the bread, the chalice containing the “blood of Christ” reminds us to take His character into ourselves.  We must know the Word of God as Jesus did.  We must pray daily and intensely as Jesus did.  We must trust God completely, while taking joy in His leading, as Jesus did.  We must forgive others as Jesus did, and we must look beyond the suffering of this life to the eternal glory to come…as Jesus did.  Even more, we must acknowledge that in the greatest sense, we are crucified with Christ, and our lives are actually His. 

This Christmas season and all through the year we will see many cups, and even a few chalices.  Each time you see one, refocus your life on reflecting His will in you.  Take in a double dose of His Word, His works (especially in Creation), and His peace, joy and Love.   

Advent Tree Family Devotions – December 12

Shepherd’s Crook

Exodus 12; Numbers 27:16-17; Isaiah 53:6; Psalm 23; John 1:29; 10:11‑18

More than any other class of livestock, sheep require constant and meticulous care.  Sheep are timid and fearful, stubborn and stupid, and will move with the mob, even to their own destruction.  At the sight of a predator, sheep panic, losing their babies through miscarriage and even their lives in unrestrained fear.  Within the flock there is tension, rivalry, and cruel competition.  Sheep lead other sheep down treacherous paths and then butt them into injury.  Sheep are notorious for getting “cast down”, in which they have rolled on to their back with their feet in the air.  A “cast down” sheep is helpless to right itself, and will die in a few hours if not turned upright.  Sheep that have too much wool, are too fat, or rest too long in a soft and easy place are in grave danger of being cast down. 

A brief look at human behavior in the past, and in the present, is enough to make anyone with insight realize that people are very much like sheep.  That is why we desperately need a shepherd.   

A good shepherd loves his sheep.  He walks with them over many hard miles, carries them when they hurt, protects them from predators, and sleeps with them in the cold.  He finds food and water for them even in rough places, lifts them up when they are cast down, and is willing to put their needs before his own.   Jesus Christ is our Good Shepherd.  The Shepherd’s Crook is a symbol of the shepherd and was one of the earliest symbols used by Christians. It helped them find strength and comfort, and the courage to face ridicule and persecution.

The Shepherd’s Crook also reminds us that the lamb was sacrificed in Old Testament worship to atone for the peoples’ sins.  The blood of the lamb protected the Children of Israel from the Angel of Death when it was passing over the Egyptians in judgment.  Ultimately, Jesus’ sacrificed Himself for the sins of the whole world.  He is the true and final “Lamb of God”. 

We can never understand human behavior until we accept that we truly are like sheep.  How often do we remark, when told of another’s foolish act or sin, “How could he have done that?”  Instead we must realize that without the common grace of God given to all men, and the special grace given to those who trust Him, mankind could never do anything else. We cannot exalt in the pinnacle of grace until we confess the depth of depravity of the human heart. 

Jesus, the Lamb of God, took the just penalty for all of our sins upon Himself.  Jesus, the Good Shepherd, cares for His sheep, protects them, and loves them.  The power and life of what He did, and does, for us, beggars description.  Take a few minutes, or hours, to meditate on Him and His works.  Whenever you see a sheep or a shepherd’s crook, let these memories and thoughts flood your heart with a peace that only the Lord can provide. 

 

O Little Town of Bethlehem

O little town of Bethlehem,
How still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight.

For Christ is born of Mary,
And gathered all above,
While mortals sleep, the angels keep
Their watch of wondering love.
O morning stars, together
Proclaim the holy birth
And praises sing to God the King,
And Peace to men on earth!

How silently, how silently
The wondrous gift is giv’n!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His heaven.
No ear may his His coming,
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive him still,
The dear Christ enters in.

O holy Child of Bethlehem!
Descend to us, we pray,
Cast out our sin and enter in,
Be born to us today!
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us,
Our Lord Emmanuel!

Advent Tree Family Devotions – December 11

Eight Pointed Star

Genesis 7, 8; I Peter 3:18‑22

“Nuclear holocaust”, “Global Warming”, “Overpopulation”, “Pandemic Flu”, and a host of other predictions of calamity fill the news in the 21st century.  This is nothing new…newspapers of earlier centuries; pamphlets before that and stories earlier still have contained the same thing.  Bad news (or even predictions) sells.  It is easy, and encouraged in modern culture, to believe that the fate of God’s creation lies at the whim and power of man.  It does not…Our Lord still reigns.

The greatest catastrophe in human history was neither the 1945 nuclear explosion in Hiroshima nor the 2005 tsunami in Indonesia.  It wasn’t the Black Death in 1350, and also not the Influenza Pandemic of 1918.  Rather, the most horrible disaster of man occurred thousands of years earlier, before 4,000 B.C., when the entire world was drowned in a flood.  Millions were killed; only eight survived. 

The Bible tells us that God saw the evil on earth, and it was great.  He decided to destroy the world with a flood, but to continue the line of man through one man, Noah, and his family, the only people who continued in righteousness.  The number eight is historically symbolic of rebirth, and the eight pointed star reminds us that though evil results in destruction, those who remain true to God will ultimately be reborn, and enjoy a great reward. 

God is just, but He is also merciful.  No sooner did Adam and Eve sin in Eden than He foretold the coming Savior (Gen 3:15).  No sooner did Peter deny Christ than Jesus restored fellowship with him after the Resurrection (John 21:15-22).  Springtime and butterflies are great examples of rebirth, but some of the greatest are the rebirth of marriages after discord, the reconciliation of parents and children after estrangement, and the restoration of a man to God after a time of falling away. The ultimate example of rebirth is the Resurrection of Christ, an event all who believe in Him will share. 

Stars are some of God’s greatest symbols.  They are visible every night throughout the world and are dazzlingly beautiful.  Each one is also an independent sun, providing light and heat to many galaxies.  The glitter and power of a star, combined with eight, the number of rebirth, is a striking reminder of the authority of God to effect the rebirth of His people in every way, now and in eternity.

This Advent season, consider the areas in your life which need to be reborn… perhaps a career dream, a relationship with a friend, child or spouse, or a recommitment to God.  Then decide to make that rebirth happen, search the Scriptures for the many examples of rebirth noted there, petition the Lord for His help, and then do what He tells you, with joy.  

 

Angels We Have Heard on High

Angels we have heard on high
Sweetly singing o’er the plains,
And the mountains in reply
Echoing their joyous strains.

 

Gloria, in excelsis Deo!
Gloria, in excelsis Deo!

Shepherds, why this jubilee?
Why your joyous strains prolong?
Say what may the tidings be
Which inspire your heav’nly song?

Gloria, in excelsis Deo!
Gloria, in excelsis Deo!

Come to Bethlehem and see
Christ Whose birth the angels sing;
Come, adore on bended knee,
Christ the Lord, the newborn King.

Gloria, in excelsis Deo!
Gloria, in excelsis Deo!

See within a manger laid,
Jesus, Lord of heav’n and earth!
Mary, Joseph, lend your aid,
With us sing our Savior’s birth.
Gloria, in excelsis Deo!
Gloria, in excelsis Deo!

Advent Tree Family Devotions – December 10

Wheat

John 6:31‑58; Matthew 26:26‑29

Since antiquity, wheat has been the most important grain in the world.  China, traditionally considered a rice-eating country, annually consumes 190 lbs per capita of wheat, mostly in noodles.  Each person in the US consumes about 144 lbs per year.  Wheat is even more important in the Middle East, with annual per capita consumption in Israel of 294 lbs and Egypt of 384 lbs.  Wheat is mentioned 52 times in the Bible, and Palestine was a major exporter in ancient times.  Grains such as wheat and rice contain carbohydrates which comprise about 55% percent of a healthy diet.

Jesus taught that man cannot live by (physical) bread alone and said “I am the bread of life”.   Just as physical bread is required for physical life, so spiritual bread, Jesus Christ, is required for eternal life.  In a powerful but frightening statement, He said that unless people eat His flesh and drink His blood, they cannot have eternal life.  Unless we take Jesus’ teachings into our hearts and minds, accept His sacrifice for our sins, and welcome His Holy Spirit into our lives, we cannot have eternal life. 

During the last meal of Jesus’ life, He broke bread and gave it to His disciples to eat, representing His body to be broken by the Crucifixion, just a few hours away.  He then gave them wine, representing His blood to be poured out for their sins.   Earlier in His ministry Jesus taught these men that they needed to let His Spirit reign in them, and in this final hour, He symbolically helped them do so. 

During the Holy Communion, the remembrance of this night, Christians take bread and wine to remember the Lord, and His great sacrifice for us.  Whatever our specific tradition in the Christian faith, this remembrance is a chance to reconnect with His Spirit, and be made more like Him.  But every day, whether Communion or Advent or not, we can thank God for His bountiful blessings.  

As with the other decorations, wheat is a common element in our lives.  Whether we are enjoying bread, noodles, pastries, cereals, or thousands of other food products using wheat, let us remember how Christ is the Bread of Life.  If we eat heartily of His body, our joy in Christmas will be renewed.  If we drink deeply of His blood, our peace in this busy time will be restored.  If we pause and remember vividly His sacrifice, our wonder at the mystery of salvation will grow, and our awe and delight and His unfailing grace will abound. 

Let us slow down and take time to come to Jesus for the bread and wine which sustains us through every trial and tribulation, gives us sustenance and encourages us to grow for Him. 

Advent Tree Family Devotions – December 9

Dove

Genesis 8:6-12; Leviticus 1:14-17; 1 Corinthians 12:4-11; Galatians 5:15‑25

The dove is mentioned often in the Bible, from helping Noah know when the waters had receded, to serving as a sacrifice for the poor.  The dove is also the most common image of the Holy Spirit.  Do you recall the scripture passages which tell of the Holy Spirit descending from Heaven like a dove? (Matthew 3:16) 

The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Godhead.  He is the Comforter of Jesus’ followers, and the Giver of the gifts of the Spirit and the Fruits of the Spirit. 

The Gifts of the Spirit are God-given abilities.  Every believer has at least one, a few have several, and they are all to be used for the building up of the church and the glory of God.  These are not the natural talents, inherent in nonbelievers and believers alike.  Preachers and evangelists often display speaking gifts (prophecy, knowledge, wisdom, teaching and exhortation) and while serving gifts (leadership, helps, giving, mercy, faith and discernment) are frequently found in other groups.  Prophecy is the speaking forth of God’s Word, knowledge is the understanding of His truth, and wisdom is the practical application of that truth.  Teaching is the ability to help others understand a concept fully, and exhortation is the power to effectively encourage.  Of the nonverbal gifts mercy is the ability to empathize and sympathize, faith is an unusual depth of trust in God, and discernment helps the individual distinguish truth and falsehood.

The Fruits of the Spirit are character traits planted by the Holy Spirit and growing in everyone who knows and loves the Lord.  Their presence proves that a man is a Christian, and their absence proves that he is not.   Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control are all within our reach. God develops these fruits within us as we read and obey His word, and as we step out in faith. 

The incessant demands of life, especially during this season, can prevent us from developing our spiritual gifts, and slow our growth in spiritual fruit.  The Spirit of God rarely shouts through an earthquake or a storm, but usually whispers to us during our quiet moments.  Lives that overflow with frenzied activity and mountains of material goods will never overflow with the Spirit of love and power.  The dove is not a prince among birds, but in its simplicity and ordinariness it was chosen above all other birds to represent the Holy Spirit. 

Will you develop your Gift of the Spirit this Advent season?  Will you cultivate your soul in trust and obedience so that the Fruits of the Spirit can grow in you?  This Advent season, and any time you see a dove, remember the Holy Spirit of God, and thank him for the gifts He has given you, and in the Fruits of the Spirit available to all.

 

What Child is This?

 

What Child is this, who, laid to rest,
On Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?

Chorus

This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing:
Haste, haste to bring him laud,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

Why lies he in such mean estate
Where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christian, fear: for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading.

Chorus

So bring him incense, gold, and myrrh,
Come, peasant, king, to own him.
the King of kings salvation brings,
Let loving hearts enthrone him.

Chorus