Dec 9, 2016
CONFUSION

And the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God" (Luke 1:30). Read Luke 1:26-29. Frustration is sitting on the floor with six or seven strings of Christmas lights all tangled together. After a short struggle I gave up and handed the whole mess to dad. And even though I'd left the tangled ball of wire and lights even more tightly tangled than before, in dad's skilled Navy hands they were untangled and ready for the tree in a jiffy. When Mary heard the greeting of the angel Gabriel, she was frustrated, confused, perplexed and greatly troubled- like I felt trying to untangle the lights. A debate began raging back and forth in her mind as she considered what the greeting meant. Why had the angel come? What message would he bring? There is so much confusion in life. Just like Mary we try to pick through the tangled pieces of our lives and see if we can make sense out of them. Our minds go back and forth from one point of view to another, from faith to doubt, from confidence to uncertainty, from comfort to fear. Thankfully, nothing is a mystery for God. He arranges everything according to His loving plan. He assures us, "I know the plans I have for you ... plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope" (see Jeremiah 29:11). The most important part of that plan was starting to fall into place right now. God's own Son is becoming human, so He can live a perfect life and suffer on the cross in our place to win eternal life for all of us. THE PRAYER: Heavenly Father, life can be very confusing. In such times remind me to cast my cares into Your hands so I may live in peace and quietness. In Jesus' Name. Amen. (Advent Devotions from Lutheran Hour Ministries)

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Dec 8, 2016
THE LORD'S FAVOR

"Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!" (Luke 1:28b). Read Luke 1:26-28. One of the most coveted roles among the girls in our Sunday school Christmas program was the Virgin Mary. Her big moment was when she gently wrapped a baby doll in cloths and laid him in the manger. But another sought-after part was the angel Gabriel. Since that required memorizing a larger part, it usually was given to an older student. The angel Gabriel had already brought some great messages to Daniel and Zechariah, but nothing could compare with the message God entrusts to him now. He goes out from the presence of God to a city in the northern region of Galilee called Nazareth. There he appears to a virgin who is betrothed to a man named Joseph. Her name is Mary. Gabriel greets her with reassuring words, "Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!" But what is so special about Mary? Why has God chosen her for this singular honor above all other virgins in Israel? Actually, there is nothing special about Mary. She is a sinner like you and me, and needs God's grace and favor just like we all do. The focus is upon God; He has chosen a simple person like her to be the mother of His Son. Each of us who celebrate with joy our Savior's birth has been favored by our God the same way as Mary. Like her, we deserved nothing but God's wrath, but instead He showers His grace and forgiveness on us through the Christmas Child. And just as Mary was favored to bring the Christ Child into the world, we are favored to bring Christ Jesus to the nations. THE PRAYER: Heavenly Father, You showed us Your favor by calling us by name and making us Your own children through faith in Jesus Christ. Bless us now to share that favor with others as we share Jesus' story. In Jesus' Name. Amen. (Advent Devotions from Lutheran Hour Ministries)

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Dec 7, 2016
FALSE ASSUMPTIONS

After these days (Zechariah's) wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she kept herself hidden, saying, "Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when He looked on me, to take away my reproach among people" (Luke 1:24-25). Read Luke 1:23-25. Many husbands and wives struggle with the heartbreak of infertility. But Zechariah and Elizabeth experience something even deeper. During that period when a couple was childless, their neighbors often made false and hurtful assumptions about them. Judaism had lost its proper understanding of the Old Testament. Instead of focusing on God's undeserved grace for helpless sinners, the Jews focused on their own worthiness. They judged their neighbors' relationship with God by the blessings He showered on them. Their good health, financial status, overall prosperity, social status, and number of descendants -- or lack of -- were indicators of their connection with God. No matter how much they honored God and trusted His salvation, Jewish society looked upon Zechariah and Elizabeth's infertility as proof that things were not quite right between them and God. Now, at last, God has visited them and removed Elizabeth's social disgrace. But interestingly, Elizabeth doesn't go right out and clear up her reputation by broadcasting her pregnancy. Instead, she keeps her pregnancy hidden. Perhaps it is because Elizabeth knows God is doing something even greater than granting her the gift of a child-as special as that child will be. God is sending His Son into the world, and her son will be His forerunner, His messenger. How surprised she will be in the sixth month when the mother of God's Son comes to be a guest in her house. THE PRAYER: Heavenly Father, it is not easy to be judged and misunderstood by people-especially when I struggle through difficult situations. Grant me Your joy, peace, and patience as You guide me through this life. In Jesus' Name. Amen. (Advent Devotions from Lutheran Hour Ministries)

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Dec 6, 2016
SPEECHLESS

And behold, (the angel said) you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place (Luke 1:20a). Read Luke 1:20-22. I can think of few times during the year when I would hate to lose my voice more than Christmas time. There are so many beautiful carols to sing, so many thrilling songs. It did happen one year in my ministry. I had to save my voice to preach and, as a result, sat silently as our members sang all those beautiful Christmas carols without me. It was frustrating beyond all measure. What must it have been like for Zechariah to be silenced- not for a day or two-but for more than nine months? This should have been the happiest time in his life. It should have started with him stepping out of the temple, praising God with a loud voice. Instead, he can only try to make signs to communicate with the waiting crowds outside. God has left him unable to speak because of his unbelief. At first, the worshipers in the temple court wondered at his delay since usually burning incense was a quick thing. But when Zechariah came out unable to speak, they read his gestures and realized he had seen a vision in the temple. But unfortunately he was unable to tell them what had happened. The same will be true when he returns home to Elizabeth. He will have to watch God's marvelous plan unfold, seeing the dream he had long shared with his wife come true and all the while finding himself unable to speak a single word about it. THE PRAYER: Heavenly Father, I confess my doubt and unbelief. Forgive me for Jesus' sake, and fill me with Your Spirit that I may trust Your Word and praise Your Name forever. In Jesus' Name. Amen. (Advent Devotions from Lutheran Hour Ministries)

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Dec 4, 2016
STOLEN JOY

The angel said to him, "I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news" (Luke 1:19). Read Luke 1:19-25. It took a lot of behind-the-scenes work for us to get that pool table. Our neighbors let mom and dad stored it unassembled in their garage next door. Then late Christmas Eve our neighbor and my dad carried it piece by piece to our basement, where dad spent all the night putting it together. But you never saw a group of happier boys surrounding a pool table than that Christmas morning. This also should be Zechariah's greatest day. Instead, his doubt and skepticism blinds him to the joy and wonder of all that God has promised. So the angel reveals his name: Gabriel. A priest like Zechariah should certainly recognize him as the angel God had sent several times to share His message with Daniel. Beyond that, Gabriel reminds the foolish priest that he has come from the very presence of God Himself. He received these words directly from God and has come to bring this great message of good news. God has made Christmas such a joyous season, but just like Zechariah we so often let the little things in life steal our joy, along with our voice of praise and thanksgiving to God. Agonizing over our problems and self-absorbed, we miss the peace and joy that God is carefully working everything out for us. We fail to see that if God has sent His Son to take care of our most important problems, i.e. saving us from death and His fiery wrath, He will certainly take care of our mundane needs as well. THE PRAYER: Heavenly Father, I have every reason to praise You and declare Your glorious name to everyone I see. Please turn me from fear, anger and bitterness and fill me with Your Holy Spirit so I may joyfully share Your good news this Christmas and always. In Jesus' Name. Amen. (Advent Devotions from Lutheran Hour Ministries)

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Dec 3, 2016
THE IMPOSSIBLE GIFT

And Zechariah said to the angel, "How shall I know this?" (Luke 1:18) The impossible gift: for some children it's a pony; for us it was a pool table. Every Christmas we asked for a pool table and ended up disappointed. Finally, one Christmas we sat around the tree after opening all our presents. Figuring there would be no pool table, we resigned ourselves to look more closely at the presents we had received. That's when mom and dad brought out one last present for each of us. One brother opened a triangle; another opened a box of pool balls. We were all running downstairs before the other three gifts were unwrapped. That's what happened to Zechariah. But instead of running downstairs to see the pool table, he sat on the floor asking "How shall I know this?" Long ago he had given up the dream of having a child. So even though an angel stands before him delivering this tremendous good news, Zechariah finds it impossible to believe. God's great promises often greet us when we are beaten down, discouraged and depressed. A cynicism often creeps in that keeps us from enjoying God's gifts as we should, but those gifts are still offered whether you believe it or not. The Baby is still in Bethlehem's manger for you. Will you pass Him by just because you've been discouraged by the events in your life? Christmas is really all about God stepping into our world of disappointment, heartache and failure. He came to share our life of pain and sorrow; He came to give us His life of joy, peace and bliss. THE PRAYER: Lord Jesus, come to me in my disillusionment and pain. Reassure me of Your power to heal my pain, provide all my needs, and lead me to unending joy in Your presence. Amen. (Advent Devotions from Lutheran Hour Ministries)

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GOD'S GREAT PLAN

He will go before (the Lord) in the spirit and power of Elijah to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared (Luke 1:17). Read Luke 1:14-17. The angel tells Zechariah his son "will be great before the Lord." That's high praise for any of our children- that God looks upon them as great. But John's greatness is not because he is the son of Zechariah and Elizabeth, but because he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before his birth. The Spirit will equip him to accomplish his great God-given mission. Zechariah is instructed to keep his son from drinking wine or strong drink. John will live like a Nazarite of Old Testament days. Nazarites were Israelites who were set apart from the Israelites with their lives dedicated to serving God and His people. They demonstrated that separation by letting their hair grow long and refraining from eating grapes or drinking wine and other alcoholic drinks. As the angel tells Zechariah, "He will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah ... to make ready for the Lord a people prepared" (see Luke 1:16-17). John will expose our selfishness and show us why we need a Savior, so we will trust in the promised Son of God. It is He alone who will work out our salvation in His perfect life and innocent suffering and death. Clearly, it was worth waiting all those years to have such a son as John. THE PRAYER: Lord God, thank You for sending Your Son into our world, and preparing people like Zechariah and Elizabeth to be parents of His forerunner John. Give me courage to walk with You in faith as You order my steps. In Jesus' Name. Amen. (Advent Devotions from Lutheran Hour Ministries)

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Dec 1, 2016
ZECHARIAH AND ELIZABETH'S BOY

And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth (Luke 1:14). Stringing up Christmas lights is hard work, especially when you are on that ladder on a cold, windy day in December. But it's all worth it when evening comes- when you stand far enough back to take it all in, and then ... you throw the switch. Those bright lights bring such joy: a joy many of your neighbors will share too. Now Zechariah stands in the presence of the holy angel hearing amazing news. How wonderful it must be for Zechariah to hear that he and Elizabeth will finally have that child for whom they prayed so many decades ago. They will finally hold him in their arms, their long-awaited son. This child will be a source of great joy, ending their sorrow, disappointment and heartache. God even handpicks his name: John. It means "The Lord has shown favor." That favor is even greater than the conception of this miraculous child Elizabeth will soon bear; it rests in another Child- God's own Son. That Son for whom Christmas is named will bring us true joy and peace as He removes our sin and guilt and reconciles us to God. Zechariah and Elizabeth waited decades for the birth of their son, but God's people waited thousands of years for their Lord to keep His promise and send His own Son to save us. John will bring all these believers great joy because he will be the messenger who will show the world God's Son has come at last. THE PRAYER: Heavenly Father, fill us with the joy of this blessed Christmas season, and drive away all our guilt, fear, and sorrow. In Jesus' Name. Amen. (Advent Devotions from Lutheran Hour Ministries)

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SHOW US THE WAY

SHOW US THE WAY Verse There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28 Voice The smallest indivisible human unit is two people, not one; one is a fiction. From such nets of souls societies, the social world, human life springs. Tony Kushner Prayer Show us the ways, God, in which we can be there for the many people affected by HIV/AIDS. Teach us this, on this World AIDS day, and make it so that we don't forget your wisdom once today ends. (sojo.com}

Posted at 10:18 am by preacher314
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Nov 30, 2016
A LONG FORGOTTEN PRAYER

But the angel said to him, "Do not be afraid Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. And your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son" (Luke 1:13) . When I was a teenager I desperately wanted to find the girl I would marry. Over the next 20 years I kept praying for a wife, but that prayer went unanswered. At times I was convinced I would be single all my life. Then I finished seminary and went to my first call. Within a month I was dating the woman who would become my wife. For decades Zechariah had prayed for a child. But when no child came he eventually gave up-but not God. On the very first day Zechariah prayed God marked that prayer in His memory. Decades later God vividly remembers every detail of that prayer, including the urgency Zechariah felt month after month as he poured out his plea to God. Now as the clouds of incense are rising from the altar to symbolize God's acceptance of His people's prayers, the angel brings Zechariah the answer to his long-forgotten prayer. Have you been raising heartfelt prayers to God for years and years, only to find things get worse-finances, employment, health, family strains? Does it seem God is against you -- that He just doesn't care? We learn the truth in this angel visit. The first moment we offer a prayer in faith to God, He in His great wisdom and care chooses the best way to answer that prayer as well as the best time to answer it. Sometimes, like Zechariah, we just have to wait until God's time is right, and He has made everything fall into place. THE PRAYER: Heavenly Father, fill me with confidence that You mark all my prayers, and will answer them when Your time is right, and always for my good. I pray in Jesus' Name. Amen. (Advent Devotions from Lutheran Hour Ministries)

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