Advent Day Five: Let the Star of Morning Rise

Lord God,
in the deepest night
there rises the star of morning,
    of birth,
        the herald of a new day you are making,
a day of great joy dawning
    in yet faint shafts
        of light and love.
I hear whispers of peace in the stillness,
fresh breezes of promise
winter sparrows
    chirping of life,
a baby’s cry
    of need
        and hope —

In the darkness I see the light
    and find in it comfort,
            cause for celebration,

for the darkness cannot overcome it;
and I rejoice to nourish it
    in myself,
        in other people,
            in the world
for the sake of him
    in whom it was born
        and shines forever,
            even Jesus the Christ.

                            —Ted Loder

Reflect on the words of this poem. What does it mean to you? How do you see yourself living this out? Do you see a day of great joy dawning? What does it look like?

Christ has come. Christ still comes to us. Christ will come again. May the Spirit prepare and enable you to receive Christ daily, in the midst of the challenges and the joys, with wonder and gratitude and hope.

reflections taken from Two Steps Forward: A Story of Persevering in Hope by Sharon Garlough Brown

Advent Day Four: Love Descends

Imitating Christ’s Humility

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.  Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father. — Philippians 2:1-11 (NIV)

In what ways does Jesus descend? What would it mean to have the same mind and love and Christ?  What are some practical ways to model self-giving, humble love?

Spiritual Practice: Generosity

Practice giving gifts to others this week. Prayerfully consider what would be a meaningful expression of love and offer it wholeheartedly.


Spiritual Practice: Gratitude

Practice rehearsing God’s faithfulness to you. Begin by naming the more obvious gifts, then offer thanks for ways God cares for you in less noticeable ways. Find ways to express your gratitude to others.

Sing a verse from a hymn or chorus that has exclamations about who Christ is and what He has done.

reflections taken from Two Steps Forward: A Story of Persevering in Hope by Sharon Garlough Brown

Advent Day Three: In a Place Like This

Are you able to name a time in your life when you offered a costly “Here I am, Lord” prayer of surrender? What happened?

Spiritual Practice: Prayer

As you pray focus not on “behold me” prayer but on beholding Jesus. Don’t start with your ‘Here I am’ to God,” rather start with God’s ‘Here I am’ to you.”

A shoot will come up from the 

     stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear
The Spirit of the Lord will rest on
  the Spirit of wisdom and of
  the Spirit of counsel and of power,
  the Spirit of knowledge and of the
     fear of the Lord—
and he will delight in the fear of the

He will not judge by what he see with
     his eyes,
  or decide by what he hears with his
but with righteousness he will judge
     the needy,
  with justice he will give decisions
     for the poor of the earth.
He will strike the earth with the rod of
     his mouth;
  with the breath of his lips he will
     slay the wicked.
Righteousness will be his belt
  and faithfulness the sash around his

The wolf will live with the lamb,
  the leopard will lie down with the
the calf and the lion and the yearling
  and a little child will lead them.
The cow will feed with the bear,
  their young will lie down together,
  and the lion will eat straw like the
The infant will play near the hole of
     the cobra,
  and the young child put his hand into
     the viper’s nest.
They will neither harm nor destroy
  on all my holy mountain,
for the earth will be full of the
     knowledge of the Lord
  as the waters cover the sea.

                      —Isaiah 11:1-9 (NIV)

Ponder and pray over what it means to wait for the kingdom of God to be revealed, to groan and struggle and weep even while taking comfort in the work God has already accomplished through Jesus Christ.  What does it mean to sing hope and good news in a minor key?

The Word became flesh and blood,
    and moved into the neighborhood.
We saw the glory with our own eyes,
    the one-of-a-kind glory,
    like Father, like Son,
Generous inside and out,
    true from start to finish.
                    John 1:14 (MSG)

Take a moment to ponder the revealed glory and generosity of God in Christ.

reflections taken from Two Steps Forward: A Story of Persevering in Hope by Sharon Garlough Brown

Advent Day Two: Waiting in the Dark

Reflect on a time of suffering in your own life. What role did community play in the midst of trial, either in sharing your burden or compounding your pain? As you remember the experience, what can you give God thanks for? What still needs to be grieved or forgiven? Write about the sorrow or wound, and offer it to God.

Think about a time when you witnessed Christlike community. What did it look like? Or, if you have not seen the body of Christ functioning like Christ, what do you imagine it would look like? Where might God call you to offer ministry of his presence to others? What gifts of listening, compassion, or service has God given you to share?

Spiritual Practice: Worship

Is weekly worship with a group of believers an important part of your life with God? Spend time thinking about motivation and desire. If you have avoided worshiping in community, talk with God about the reasons why?

Spiritual Practice: Daily Review

Look back over your day as a way of discerning God’s presence in the midst of ordinary life, or as a way of glimpsing the ways God is being born in the midst of mess. Journal your insights each day.

reflections taken from Two Steps Forward: A Story of Persevering in Hope by Sharon Garlough Brown

Advent Day One: Keeping Watch

I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
    and in his word I put my hope.
I wait for the Lord
    more than watchmen wait for the morning,
    more than watchmen wait for the morning.

                            —Psalm 130:5-6 (NIV)

What comes to mind when you think about the word HOPE? What helps you to persevere in HOPE?

 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” — Luke 1:28 (NIV)

Ponder what it means to be loved, chosen, favoured by God. Which Scripture verses remind you of the love of God? Write them down.

The greek word for “favoured” in Luke 1:28 means “graced.” In fact, the apostle Paul uses the same word in Ephesians 1:6 to describe God pouring out his grace upon us: “to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.” Write down your own response to the word “favoured.” What helps you to receive the good news of God’s grace? What makes it hard to believe?

Spiritual Practice: Celebration

Ponder what it means to be “pregnant with the Son of God,” to be chosen and graced and favoured to bear Christ like Mary. Find a way to celebrate the Spirit’s work in making you a dwelling place of the Most High God.

Practice standing in front of a mirror and saying these words: “Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you!” Notice your receptivity or resistance to the exercise.

Jesus was not born in the Bethlehem Hilton, He came right into the mess of our world. And we look around at the mess of our lives and wonder, what can be born in a place like this?

Spend time considering the landscape of your own life. How are you welcoming Christ’s presence into chaos, trials, or mess? Or if nothing comes to mind with a current situation, contemplate a past experience. How did Jesus make his presence known? How might the memory of God’s faithfulness encourage you to trust God in the future?

Spiritual Practice: Waiting

One of the common ways God forms us is through waiting. If you find it difficult to wait – perhaps you find yourself battling impatience while waiting – look for opportunities to practice waiting well. If you choose to wait in the longest line in the store, don’t distract yourself with your phone or magazine while you wait. Use the wait time to be attentive to the presence of God. What would God have you notice about the people around you? How might you pray for them? Offer a word of kindness? Provide a simple act of service? Practice prayerfulness in the waiting times.

reflections taken from Two Steps Forward: A Story of Persevering in Hope by Sharon Garlough Brown

Advent ~ A Season of Preparation

If you were with us on Sunday morning (December 18), you should have received a booklet full of five guided devotions to take you to Christmas. It is our hope that you will take some time before the 25th to reflect on the season and all that God has in store for you. We will post each devotion here as a reminder to dig into the Word and seek Jesus in the midst of the hustle and bustle.

Through the heartfelt mercies of our God,
God’s Sunrise will break in upon us,
shining on those in the darkness,
those sitting in the show of death,
then showing us the way, one foot at a time,
down the path of peace.
— Luke 1:78-79

Advent, a season that invites us to keep watch and remain attentive to all the ways Christ comes into our world and into our lives. Advent is a season of prayerful preparation, a season to practice hope – not the kind of hope synonymous with “wishing for” certain outcomes, but a hope firmly rooted in the person, work, and promises of God in Jesus Christ. We are called to be Advent people, to live in a posture of readiness and expectation, every day of the year.

During Advent we are reminded of the paradoxes and incongruities of life: light and darkness; faith and fear; joy and sorrow; vulnerability and power; weakness and strength; done, but not complete; already and not yet.  These pairs of contrasting ideas are not just for Advent. They are the daily themes and dilemmas of ordinary, everyday Christians.

December 20: Day One – Keeping Watch          

December 21: Day Two – Waiting in the Dark           

December 22: Day Three – In a Place Like This      

December 23: Day Four – Love Descends        

December 24: Day Five – Let the Star of Morning Rise

reflections taken from Two Steps Forward: A Story of Persevering in Hope by Sharon Garlough Brown

Mary’s Song ~ Sermon Video

When your world is turned upside down, remember…

1. God provides faith-filled-friends.

2. God plants his word in overlooked people.

3. God promises to lift up the humble and bring down the proud.

Luke 1:46-55 New International Version (NIV)

Mary’s Song

46 And Mary said:

“My soul glorifies the Lord
47     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has been mindful
    of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
49     for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
    holy is his name.
50 His mercy extends to those who fear him,
    from generation to generation.
51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
    he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones
    but has lifted up the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
    but has sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
    remembering to be merciful
55 to Abraham and his descendants forever,
    just as he promised our ancestors.”
New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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