COME, EXPECTED ONE

By Sarah Langness

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. 

My favorite part of the Christmas story isn’t found in what we typically think of as “the Christmas story”. My favorite part doesn’t involve mangers, magi or Mary. It doesn’t involve shepherds, angels, or inns.

 My favorite part of the Christmas story involves a priest, a prayer, and a promise:

“In the days of Herod . . . there was a priest named Zacharias . . . and he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. They were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren and they were both advanced in years.

Now it happened that while he was performing his priestly service before God in the appointed order of his division, according to the custom of the priestly office, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And the whole multitude of the people were in prayer outside at the hour of the incense offering. And an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense. Zacharias was troubled when he saw the angel, and fear gripped him. But the angel said to him, ‘Do not be afraid, Zacharias,for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John. For you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. For he will be great in the sight of the Lord . . . it is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah . . . so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.‘” – Luke 1:5-17, NASB (emphasis mine) 

Zacharias’ prayer in the temple was not, as we may believe based on how the text reads, a prayer for a son. He was not standing before the Lord on behalf of himself and Elizabeth, begging God to open her womb. Zacharias was standing before the Lord on behalf of the nation of Israel, begging God to send the Redeemer. His prayer was the priestly prayer for the redemption of Israel.

 So when Gabriel comes to him and says “Your prayer has been answered”, Gabriel is saying, “The Lord God has heard your prayers and the prayers of others before you. He will send the Redeemer. The time has come. And you are going to play a part.”

 Next to being Mary herself, I cannot think of anything more humbling, more awe-striking, more fear-inducing.

 From the beginning, from the fall of man, God has promised a Savior. A Redeemer. A Messiah. The prayers of the nation of Israel was, “Come!” The Lord heard those prayers. And He answered them. In His timing.

As we celebrate His coming, His humble birth and wondrous love, may we anxiously await His return. May the prayer of every believer’s heart echo that of the Israelites, “Come!”. The Lord will hear those prayers. And in His time, He will answer them.

 

Advertisements

All I Want for Christmas

 By Jonni Sliver

Almost exactly 1 year ago a precious little girl came in to our lives. Emily was two years old, a simply adorable little lady who was terrified of everyone and everything. For days the only time she wasn’t crying was when she was sleeping. Bit by bit we won her over. First it was Odette and Neyde, who spent the most time with her, feeding her, bathing her, comforting her wounded heart. Next came two other house moms, and before long all of the Miriam Home family entered her list of people she trusted.

It was pure joy to see Emily grow. We discovered that she is a very bright little girl, with a wonderful sense of humor and an enormous heart. During this last year we saw God restoring Emily’s ability to trust and causing her confidence to grow.

About a month ago I began to hear “the” question being asked of the children in the Miriam Home –“what do you want for Christmas?” It is the same question asked all over the world, and I am guessing most of the answers are pretty similar – a toy, a game, jeans, tennis, music or even (can you imagine) books. But some of the answers are different.  When one of our staff asked Emily what she wanted for Christmas she said “ a mommy and daddy and home of my own”.  She had just turned 3 years old and I thought that was a pretty deep thought for such a little girl! Even though we have known that Emily would eventually go up for adoption, she wasn’t available for adoption yet, and we didn’t know when she would be.

Just two weeks later the judge advised us that he had put Emily on the list available to families waiting for children. A week later we were told that a couple was coming to visit the Miriam Home, to get to know Emily. During the visit they didn’t tell the children why they were there, they just visited with all of the little ones. They came back a few days later, for another visit. This time they asked Emily if she would like to visit them over the week-end. Emily said yes! This precious little lady, who just a year earlier was terrified of everyone, went with this couple for a week-end all by herself!

Emily returned Monday morning telling us she had a wonderful time with her mommy and daddy. She was happy to be back with the people she loves in the Miriam Home but she reminded us daily that this week-end she would be going to her mommy and daddy’s house, and she did. She will be staying for a month with this lovely couple, and the judge will then officially ask if they want to adopt her. The couple has waited five years to adopt. They are in their early 30’s, love the Lord and want a child to complete their family.

Seeing God’s faithfulness in restoring this sweet little girl and answering her prayers may be the best gift I have received all year!

What Do You Really, Really Want?

By Velma Amundson

I’ve walked through the malls starting in October, and all the Christmas stuff is out. They’re all nicely displayed and designed to make you want things. The stores are saying they’re not even waiting for “Black Friday” to start holiday sales. The commercials on TV are designed to appeal to our vanities, and get us to want what they have. I even term those “infomercials” for things like Genie Bras, etc as “gotta have it” commercials. I’ll confess I’ve already begun to go Christmas Shopping. It’s so easy to get caught up in what we want. I could want a new computer, a tablet, a new sewing machine, new clothes, etc. And there is nothing wrong with wanting things…..except.

Matthew 6:33 says, “But seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness…” We need to put things in order. The Bible tells us the most important thing is to seek God. We need to seek His will, follow him, store up “treasure in Heaven”. We do that, not by seeking the “treasures” of this world, the material things that pass away, but by sharing the Good News of Christ’s resurrection and gift of salvation. We do that by putting others before ourselves and seeking their good. We study the Bible and bury its treasures in our hearts so that no matter what we go through, we can lean upon God to get us through.

After reflecting on these things, I’ve decided what I really, really want. I want, when I stand before Christ on his judgment throne, to hear the words of Matthew 25:21, “Well done, good and faithful servant…” I hope you want that too.

Some 2013 Maybes

by Sarah Langness

The first few week of January is probably one of my least favorite times of year. Christmas is officially over. Stores have already clearanced all things Christmas to make room for Valentine’s decor; the radio stations no longer play music celebrating the Savior’s birth or anticipating the arrival of Santa Claus; and life has simply returned to normal. Relatives return home. Classes resume. Life goes on. And while returning to the routine of life is good, I miss the joy, the awe, the wonder, the fun that Christmas brings.

As I moped over the fact that Christmas has indeed come to a close this past week, I spent some solid time considering what exactly it is about Christmas that I love so much. Here’s what I came up with:

  • The music. I love the hymns we sing in church, going caroling, and playing Christmas music while I bake or sip some coffee. Sure there is great “non-Christmas” music; but you’ve got to admit with me that there is something great about Christmas albums, no?
  • Everyone seems happier. Sure, there’s still a Grinch or two or three out there, but there seems to be this joy that is contagious wherever I go. I like that.
  • People seem less selfish. Yeah, there’s a bounty of selfishness at Christmas time as we focus on ourselves, what we want to get. But for some, there’s a focus on “What can I give to show my family/friends how much I love them? how much I appreciate them?”
  • The beautiful lights, trees and other decorations. Christmas lights on a dark night reflecting off the snow? Absolutely beautiful. Christmas trees? They seem to hold a certain fascinating beauty too.
  • Seeing family. Although 500 plus miles separate us from Jordan and I’s families, we still had an opportunity to see them during the Christmas season. I am so blessed by each and every one of them.
  • Having our mailbox stocked full of Christmas cards and letters from loved ones rather than bills, ads, and junk mail. This is the one time of year that it seems we are remembered by more than Chase, MDU, and the City of Beulah.
After making this list, I decided that most of those things I can do — I should do — every month of the year. Sure, I might not want to listen to “Let it Snow” in July, but why not something like “O Come All Ye Faithful”? And although  Christmas lights and trees are indeed beautiful, there is other beauty around me that I consistently take for granted. Like the bright beauty of the moon on a clear night or the awe-striking colors in the sunrise.
And why, oh why, does it take a holiday for me to think about something to give my loved ones? Why do I spend days, even weeks, pondering what to give my husband for Christmas when I should be giving to him daily? Maybe not buying an expensive or elaborate gift for him each day – but shouldn’t I always be thinking of him before myself? How I can put his needs above my own. How I can serve him with love and respect. How I can support him best in his ministry. And why does that stop with family? How can I bless my neighbors? The clerks at the store? My church family?

“Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” –
Galatians 6:9-10

I’m not one for New Year’s Resolutions. But I think this year I’ll try and keep the spirit of Christmas alive despite the coming of January. Maybe that means I’ll be listening to Kenny G in April. Maybe that means I’ll take time to soak up the beauty of the Lord’s creation when I would otherwise complain about the heat in August. Maybe it means your mailbox will be hearing from me more often throughout the year. Maybe I’ll begin to focus less on my self every day and more on those around me.

Who’s with me?

Merry Christmas!

by Velma Amundson

Editor’s Note:  In the AFLC, we celebrate the Christmas Season from Christmas Day up until January 5th, then we celebrate the coming of the Magi on January 6th which we call Epiphany.  So, I am really only a couple of days late with this post! 🙂  All of us here on this blog pray you had a blessed Christmas and that you will have an awesome New Year in 2013!

Our youth group led the Christmas eve worship service again this year…we had “smelly” shepherds and angels roaming the congregation during the sermon. Not exactly what you would have expected. But it fit perfectly.

I have to tell you about this group. We’re very proud of them. Every year the youth group asks for a family in the Abused Resource Center to go shopping for. They raise money through the year so that they have enough to go shopping. Then they go shopping during the first couple weeks of December. The youth themselves pick out the gifts, wrap them and one of the adults delivers them to the Resource center. They never see the family they’ve shopped for, but they are very enthusiastic about what they do. This year they went shopping for a family that consists of a single mother and her 7 plus (one due any day) children. They had so much fun wrapping the gifts and showing them off to anyone willing to look. This is the same group that keeps inviting their friends to come to Confirmation with them. (And their friends do, and tend to stay!)

Our youth show us the Spirit of CHRISTmas by what they do, with their willingness and enthusiasm for helping others, by sharing the message of the Gospel with their friends, and by doing any task we throw at them.  They make sharing the Gospel look easy.  They just do it.

I pray that in the coming year, this same Spirit will dwell within you. That you would be enthusiastic for Christ. I pray that God would richly bless you.

Christmas Greetings from the Pillmans

We have so much to be thankful for and rejoice in at this Christmas season.  Christmas in Ecuador has different sights and sounds to what we are used to in the US, but the reason to celebrate is still the same. Jesus came at Christmas for the purpose of saving us from our sins. It is so neat to be able to celebrate Christmas with the Ecuadorian believers in their own ways and culture.

Thank you for your part this past year in our ministry. Thank you for joining with us in sharing the good news of salvation, Jesus and Christmas with the people of Ecuador!

Click here to listen to what Christmas sounds like in Ecuador. If you would like to share this video with your church, it can be downloaded herePillman Christmas header

In Christ,
Justo, Tricia, Nathanael, & ?

No More Goodbyes

by Sarah Nelson

Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.  In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.  And you know the way to where I am going.”  John 14:1-4

Saying good-bye to people who I love and cherish has been an oft repeated happening in my life.  This afternoon, my two youngest children spent many minutes on the telephone, catching up with their friends and neighbors they left in Michigan.  I loved hearing the laughter, the questions and answers, and even an ukulele solo my son played for his buddies.  After the hellos and good-byes, and everything else in-between were done, my daughter told me she had a tummy ache.   I gently asked her if she thought it was because she was both happy to have talked with her friend, and sad at the reminder that she is far from her that was the cause of her hurt.  She thought about that for a few seconds and responded with a question, “How can I be happy and sad at the same time? Because I am.”

This past year I am sure that you, like me, have said farewell to family and friends.  Some of those good-byes have been with the hope that we will see that loved one here on earth.  Some of those good-byes have been in the words “I will see you in Heaven!”   For those who have been suffering, their leaving this earth has been a time of mingled joy at knowing they are in the presence of Jesus –  healed and well forever, and sadness for those of us left behind who will miss their words, music, and presence in our lives.

As we are nearing the celebration of Jesus come to earth as a little babe, we rejoice in knowing that because of His coming to earth, we have been given the gift of heaven by believing in Him.  He has gone before us to prepare a place for us.  A place where all of us who have known and received His forgiveness will be reunited forever with Him.  I am looking forward to seeing many loved ones again when Heaven becomes my residence.  There are great-grandparents, aunts, uncles,  friends, and six of my little ones that I will rejoice to see again.  My greatest joy however will be to forever be in the presence of the One who went and prepared my eternal home for me.  I hope to see you there, and together we will celebrate no more good-byes, only “WELCOME HOME!”

Thank You from Jonni Sliver

Aside

Nativity scene

Precious Ladies of the WMF,

The middle of Advent is a wonderful time for thinking about the gifts the Lord has brought in to our lives! I am so grateful for the Gift of life, grace and power God sent in His Son. And I am grateful for the lovely sisters in Christ I have in the WMF. You have encouraged me in so many ways and I can only thank the Lord and you for the rich blessing you have been.  The Lord bless you in wonderful way this Christmas and in 2013!