Hope, Peace, Joy, & Love

Advent marks the beginning of the liturgical calendar. It is a time to step aside and prepare as we recall and celebrate the birth of God’s Son — Jesus. We also look forward with great anticipation to Christ’s eventual return. Over the next four weeks we will turn our attention away from the secular trappings of the world and focus upon the traditional Advent themes of hope, peace, joy, and love.

As we prepare our hearts, our sanctuary, and our homes to celebrate the birth of Jesus, we will re-visit familiar scriptures that foretold the coming of Immanuel — God with Us. Each week we will provide daily scripture readings, a devotional written by our ministers, and a suggested Family Ministry Action. We invite you to use these as guides for personal or family meditation and reflection.

Throughout the coming month we encourage you to turn your attention to Advent, to consider Christ’s coming — God’s continual ‘nearness’. As God is very present in our lives, may we look for ways to show God’s presence to those we encounter daily. The world needs to know of the hope, peace, joy, and love God offers. The world needs to know the truth — Jesus Christ, Immanuel Has Come!

Susan Eernisse
Director of Education and Children’s Music

Hope (Nov. 29)

Behold, I am the servant of the Lord, let it be to me according to your word. Luke 1:38 (ESV)

In a world starved of hope, God moves. We live in a world that revolves around the latest Crisis and it is easy to fall into the hand-wringing, heart wrenched spirit of the day that simply seeks to hold on during the latest storm to hit the newsroom. But we are not alone and that is the hope of Advent. God chooses to come down and be with us. God comes and cries in a manger. All Creation is held and sustained in the tiny hands of this Babe. Let us hold tightly to hope, for God is with us.

We stand as obedient witnesses just like Mary and tell the world that everything is not as it seems. As Advent begins, the Church shouts that everything is not doomed. Time has passed but the truth of Christ’s arrival is still powerful and life changing. We live in a world being redeemed. We live in a world aching for resurrection. Let us hold tightly to hope, for God is with us.

Reverend Christopher Simonton
Associate Pastor of Students

 

Selected readings:

  • November 30, 2020 Isaiah 7:14-17
  • December 1, 2020 Isaiah 9:2, 6-7
  • December 2, 2020 Isaiah 11:1-10
  • December 3, 2020 Isaiah 40:1-5
  • December 4, 2020 Isaiah 40:9-11
  • December 5, 2020 Isaiah 52:7-10

 

This week’s family ministry action:

Make a list of things that God has blessed you with. Each day go over one as a family and let that gift inspire hope within you. Consider sharing that hope with others in your community who are feeling a bit hopeless…do a small act of kindness — send a Christmas card, give them a call, or if possible, make a visit.

Peace (Dec. 6)

And he shall be the one of peace. Micah 5:5 (NRSV)

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. John 14:27 (NRSV)

In my adult years of composing written communications of a personal nature to family, friends, fellow pilgrims of the faith and to others, I have conscientiously and purposefully chosen to use these words “Grace and peace,” in the Complimentary Close just before my signature. I have so chosen to do so because I consider God’s greatest gifts to me personally have been the bountiful measures of grace and a “peace that passes understanding” through my Lord Jesus Christ–The Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).. These two gifts at the top of an extensive list of other gifts have been my sustenance through the ups, downs, and winding paths of life’s adventuresome journey to date.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote the poem “Christmas Bells” on Christmas Day, 1863. His first wife Mary died in November, 1835, after suffering a miscarriage while they were traveling abroad. His second wife Frances and mother of their six children died in a tragic fire in July, 1861. In November, 1863, his oldest child/son Charles was severely wounded in a battle of the Civil War. These difficult experiences heavily influenced the words of the sixth verse he penned on that Christmas Day as follows:

And in despair I bowed my head: “There is no peace on earth,” I said, “For hate is strong, and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to all.”

And yet, the words of “those old familiar carols…and wild and sweet…words” flooded the depths of his soul with the same “peace that passes understanding”, and Longfellow acknowledged the same in these words of the seventh and final verse:

“Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: God is not dead, nor doth he sleep; The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth, good will to all.”

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ enter and fill the hearts of every humankind on earth to the end that each of us is reconciled to God and to our neighbor. May the peace of our Prince of Peace–“the one of peace”–sustain us as we seek to live hopefully….. peacefully…… joyfully…… lovingly….. together.

Reverend Henry Tyson, Jr.
Associate Pastor of Pastoral Care

 

Selected readings:

  • December 7, 2020 Isaiah 60:1-3
  • December 8, 2020 Jeremiah 33:14-16
  • December 9, 2020 Psalm 95:1-7
  • December 10, 2020 Haggai 2:6-7
  • December 11, 2020 Malachi 3:1-1
  • December 12, 2020 Luke 1:26-33

 

This week’s family ministry action:

Consider ways to promote peace and unity in your community. Reach out to local groups to thank them for their service. Write notes, deliver treats, provide a meal, or offer gift cards to community helpers – police/fire departments, hospital, nursing home staffs, or others.

Joy (Dec. 13)

Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say, Rejoice. Philippians 4:4 (NRSV)

Joy to the World is one of my favorite Christmas hymns. Every time I hear it, I’m transported back to my childhood. I’m nine years old, sitting at my grandparents’ organ. I spend what feels like hours playing it over and over again, wrong notes abounding, singing off key, and yet so full of joy.

As an adult, joy does not always come as easily. Life is not as simple as it was for that nine-year-old girl. Life has taught me that sometimes bad things happen to good people, that diseases like diabetes and cancer do not discriminate based on age or the goodness of someone’s soul, and that sometimes the people you love the most are gone to soon.

Joy to the world! The Lord is come…

The joy the angels proclaimed as they announced the arrival of Jesus is the joy that comes from knowing that God loves us so much that he came to live among us as Immanuel, “God with us.” It is the kind of joy that allows a person to rejoice, no matter the circumstances, because of the eternal promise that has been fulfilled by our God through our savior, Jesus Christ.

So as we wait on the advent of our Lord, may we choose to live in the great joy given to us in the form of a baby born on Christmas day.

Joy to the World! The Lord is come; let earth receive her king!

Reverend Jennifer G. Jindrich
Associate Pastor of Children and Church Administration

 

Selected readings:

  • December 14, 2020 Luke 1:34-38
  • December 15, 2020 Luke 1:39-45
  • December 16, 2020 Luke 1:46-56
  • December 17, 2020 Luke 1:57-66
  • December 18, 2020 Luke 1:67-80
  • December 19, 2020 Luke 2:1-7

 

This week’s family ministry action:

Go Christmas caroling and spread the joy of Jesus! You can go caroling with other members of First Baptist on December 13 at 6pm.

Love (Dec. 20)

She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Immanuel,” which means, “God with us.” Matthew 1:21-23 (NRSV)

Hope, peace, joy, and love – these are the traditional themes of Advent. These themes are inspired by an incredible act of God that we call the Incarnation. The term refers to God taking on flesh and becoming a human being. It is a miracle inspired by love that is hard to even imagine! In fact, if we were able to push aside all the trappings that have become associated with the season and focus on one central truth of Christmas, this would be it – God with us.

What is your image of God? Is God distant and unapproachable? Is God almighty and unconcerned? The truth is, God is so beyond our tiny and finite minds, so totally Other, that we cannot possibly imagine such a Being. No doubt, that is part of the reason God came to us. Jesus said, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9) The way has been provided for us. We do not have to change anything about ourselves to imagine God or communicate with God. Through Jesus Christ and the love He brings, God is with us.

We often comment about how busy we are during this season of the year. Strange to think that it was the same at the time when Jesus was born. It is easy to shake our heads at how oblivious those people were to what was truly important. But we have a great advantage in our era. They were not aware that the arrival of Jesus was imminent, while we are totally aware. We really have no excuse. We are the ones who decide how we spend the precious resource of time. So, for heaven’s sake, let’s look. Let’s contemplate the Incarnation. Let’s absorb and share hope, peace, joy and love. Let’s remember: God is with us!

Dr. Glenn Eernisse
Associate Pastor of Music and Worship

 

Selected readings:

  • December 21, 2020 Luke 2:8-24
  • December 22, 2020 Luke 2:25-32
  • December 23, 2020 Luke 2:33-40
  • December 24, 2020 Matthew 1:18-24
  • December 25, 2020 Matthew 2:1-12
  • December 26, 2020 John 1:1-5

 

This week’s family ministry action:

Discuss as a family how you might show God’s love to others. Carry these ideas into the coming year: volunteer at the Soup Kitchen; donate food to Open Hands; or make a financial donation to the First Baptist benevolence fund.

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