Candlelight

by Velma Amundson

I like candles. I like to light up my living room in the evening and watch the flames flicker. It soothes me. I read somewhere that the human eye can see the light from a single candle two miles away. It seems almost impossible to me. But, driving home at night along country roads, I can see yard lights and house lights and know that they are at least that far away, and sometimes even more.

In the church year, we use light and dark. In Advent, we build from the steady light of the Pentecost season until the “Light of the World” enters to a fully lighted church. Epiphany blazes out the light of Christ. I’ve been known to do a candle theme similar to Advent, only in reverse. I begin with the number of candle in that Epiphany season (say 6) and each week remove one candle until Lent when only one candle is left. We’ve then entered the dark period of Lent when we take the time to examine our lives; to remove the sin in our life and examine our relationship with Christ. Easter again lights up the world with the light of Christ. The Day of Pentecost shines forth bright, sending the Light of Christ into the world, to fade into the season of Pentecost; a time of growth and learning.

Right now we’re in that dark period of Lent, with only one candle burning. I’m glad they say that one candle will guide us home. One candle is enough to hold off the dark and lead us to Christ. I pray that one candle will hold you and guide you. I pray that Christ’s light will continue to shine in your life; leading you safely into the full light of Christ’s love and grace.

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Anticipation

by Velma Amundson

I’ve heard the experts say that animals do not anticipate things. They’ve never watched my cats when they know they’re getting a treat. They dance around, meowing, and their tails stick straight up in the air quivering with excitement from the base all the way to the tip. Or, if we have food they think they want, they will come running, licking their lips in anticipation of getting a good bite to eat (and if it’s protein like a piece of turkey, I might give them some).

Advent is all about anticipation. First we anticipate Christmas. Christ came to earth humbly, as a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths. I know that I look forward to Christmas every year. The excitement and love that seems to surround everything. I enjoy the children’s Christmas pageant, the choir’s caroling, and having an “open house” for all our church members to come and enjoy some goodies and company.

The other thing about Advent is anticipating Christ’s return. We’re in a period of waiting. We don’t know when He will return, only that He has promised that He will do that. There was a time when I feared that, or I should say the unknown about it. I wanted Christ to come, but…. You know what, we should be excited and eagerly waiting. Christ will come and take us home with Him. We will get to go to Heaven, where there will be no more tears, no more sorrow, and Christ will be the light of the world. The old song says, “The light of the world is Jesus.”

This Advent season, I pray you have the peace and joy of knowing that Christ loved you enough to come, and the excitement to eagerly anticipate His return.

Shepherds, Children, and Others Who Listen

by Jonnie Sliver

Today, if you are observing Advent with the lighting of candles, you will be lighting my favorite advent candle (well, of the first four anyway): the Shepherd candle. I just love the shepherds in the Christmas story, because if anyone but God had planned this event, they probably wouldn’t have gotten a passing glance. Bethlehem , city of David , is packed to the thatched roofs with everyone who is anyone (literally), in town to register for the census. Political dignitaries, local celebrities, religious leaders great and small, manual laborers and teachers of the Law; they were all present. So why did the angels announce the best news the world will ever hear to a bunch of shepherds, out in a field?

Because God knew they would listen! He knew that these men would find the good news of great joy more important than anything they had to do.  Because He knew that they would respond; He knew they would take action! First, they went to see what the angels had told them.  When they found Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus they knew that this was not just a couple with a housing problem – this was the promised Son of God. Then they went and told everyone they knew what they had seen.

It is wonderful to be in the Miriam Home as Christmas approaches. The combination of children, Christmas trees, colored lights and special programs all add up to joy! But this Christmas, in this house, filled with these children adds up to much more than just pretty lights and goodies. Our children are a little like those shepherds – everybody who is anybody is in town, but they are just outside the city limits. They aren’t considered important by most (especially those who should truly value them – their own families), but they are precious to the One who matters the most! We, here in the Miriam Home , have the great honor of playing angels! We get to declare good news of great joy to the children God has put in our care for a short time. For many of them they are learning for the very first time, what Christmas is really all about – not fat men in red suits, but a Savior, born as a baby; God’s greatest gift! I am thrilled to see how our mini-shepherds will respond, and I am dreaming of how far they will carry the good news they receive.

Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus

by Lorilee Mundfrom

One of my favorite Advent hymns is Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus, written by Charles Wesley.  It is a majestic, exciting hymn which welcomes Jesus who has been expected for so long!  Certainly the first coming of Jesus fulfilled the longings of those believers in the Old Testament who had been faithful to the promise of Christ’s coming.  The Old Testament Scriptures contain many promises regarding His coming.

Isaiah 7:14 says: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign.  Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel” (ESV).  The name “Immanuel” means “God with us”.  Isaiah 9:6 says, “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder.  And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace”  (NKJ)  In Micah 5:2, we read that from Bethlehem would come a ruler whose “goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity”  (NASB)

In the New Testament, Luke 2 speaks of Simeon, a man of faith, who had been praying and “looking for the consolation of Israel” (v. 25)  When Simeon saw Jesus as an infant, he knew this Child was the fulfillment of his hope.  Wesley uses the words”Israel’s strength and consolation” to describe Jesus in this hymn.

Certainly Christ fulfilled these prophecies, and Christ is the “hope of all the earth” as Wesley states.  Wesley also calls Jesus the “dear desire of every nation”.  Jesus came into the world to bring salvation to all people.  But even more, Jesus is the “joy of every longing heart”.  He is the only One who can satisfy the longing of every soul.

Do you know this “long expected Jesus”?  Is He your hope?  Is He your joy?  I pray that during this Advent season of expectation you are not only expecting Christmas to come, but that you are expecting and looking for Jesus to come again to bring you to dwell with Him for eternity.

Come, Thou long expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s Strength and Consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear Desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.

Born Thy people to deliver,
Born a child and yet a King,
Born to reign in us forever,
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring.
By Thine own eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By Thine all sufficient merit,
Raise us to Thy glorious throne.

Thanks-living

I’m stuck between Thanksgiving and Advent.  I’m between gratefulness and anticipation. But, I started thinking about something my husband says. He says we should practice “Thanks-living”. We should be thankful every day for the things that God gives us…the sunshine, flowers, pets that love us, etc. I try to do that. But, I confess that I’m not always good at it. 

I’ve been fighting diabetes for 13 years.  Lately, I’ve developed psoriasis.  I struggle everyday to control them but sometimes it seems more like they are controlling me.   It gets very frustrating!  In James 1:2-4 (ESV) it says, “Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have it perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing,” I think sometimes we think those trials, or some versions say sufferings, must be some big thing…like Mother Theresa living in poverty for Christ’s sake, or like those who have inflicted pain on themselves to suffer as Christ did, or a crisis like finding out you have terminal cancer. You know, big deals. But, I think it usually comes in the everyday trials we face, like illness, dealing with family, finances, our jobs, etc. In other words, we need to be thankful for everything that we face each day, and allow God to use it to mold, or perfect us into the person He would have us to be.

May God Bless You,
Velma Amundson