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2012

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
As we prepare to celebrate the advent of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, this book will be a wonderful source of light from which your family can draw true inspiration. I was overwhelmed as I read many of the articles to be included in this year’s book; our church family has truly put together a most inspirational collection of devotionals. So many people have shared heart warming stories from their Christmas childhood memories and family traditions which will be a blessing to each and every individual who reads this book. We pray, as a Prayer Ministry, that your family can be blessed each and every day that you meet around the advent wreath, read scripture and a daily reading from this book. We so look forward to the stories of how God has blessed you and your family with these readings about God’s promises being fulfilled. We pray that further reading of God’s word will bring to light more promises that you didn’t know about or had forgotten. I would like to thank each and every person who shared their talent to prepare a devotional. I want to thank Robert Williams for his help getting together the Advent night. Thanks so much to Denny and Suzanne for their patience and help in putting the book together. I pray that the Christ Child will pour out a special blessing on each and every one of your families this Advent Season and may you truly be blessed, as I was, as you read the daily devotional each day.

In His Love, Carolyn Myers Coordinator

December 1, 2012

Isaiah 9:6

The Coming of the Light
Tonight begins your family and our church celebration of Advent. Advent is a Latin term meaning coming of the Light. I pause to ponder that God sent His only Son into the world at the time of year when daylight hours are the shortest and night is the longest. I know that it is no coincidence that we celebrate this season with light. After all, Jesus is referred to as the Light of the World. There is no other time of year when the light seems to shine brighter, both in the world and in the hearts of people. As we anticipate with great joy and excitement the celebration of Christmas, let us remember that it is first and foremost the birth of our Lord and Savior. Hopefully as you gather each evening around your Advent wreath and light the candles, you will be reminded of the light and warmth of Christ’s love. Please do not let Santa, presents, stress, and a bad attitude be the center of your Christmas celebration. Focus on the greatest gift of all, the gift of God’s love when he put his Son, Jesus Christ in the manger. Let this light shine for all those you meet during this Advent and Christmas season. Please read the scripture for this devotion, Isaiah 9:6. Read it again and STOP to think about what each name of Jesus means. He is our Wonderful Counselor, Almighty God, and Prince of Peace. If He is truly your Prince of Peace, how can you become stressed over Christmas? Perhaps because He is not the center of your Christmas celebration. We must remember that Jesus is the Reason for the Season. As a child, I looked forward to Christmas. It was not the giving of gifts that I remember but rather the love of our family and the traditions we held dear. My mother and father gave what they could to us for gifts, but it was not lavish. Honestly, I only remember a few of the gifts I received as a child. I do however remember our Christmas celebrations because it was all about family and God’s precious gift. Each Christmas eve, we would gather around the piano, singing carols to guitar and piano, and talking of Christmas memories. One of my fondest memories was my father reading the account of Christ’s birth in Luke chapter two. If I am still, I can hear his voice. We have carried on this tradition with our family. Each Christmas eve we gather with our family, sing, play instruments, and read of God’s ultimate gift to us. We cherish this time as a family celebrating the love of Christ. I hope all of you will commit to gather as a family each night in December around your Advent wreath, including the days after Christmas, and center your thoughts around the Babe of Bethlehem as He blesses you from above.

In His Love, Robert Williams

December 2, 2012

Matthew 2:1-12

“Wise Men”
I’ve at times wondered about these wise men that brought gifts to our infant King Jesus. We are not told a lot about the men of wisdom, except they came from the east and they followed a star until it stopped over Jesus. But we do know they weren’t called delegates or ambassadors or even shepherds from another land. No, these men in transit were definitely called wise. Wise men, the title given to them, grabs your attention. Why are they wise men? What are their credentials; their education? Then the answer, so obvious it is almost overlooked, comes into full view. When they saw Jesus they bowed down and worshiped Him. Plain and simple is the answer. They had a consuming fear of the Son of God; a fear that was a deep rooted reverence for the Redeemer of us all. We are promised, in Proverbs 9:10, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding”. If you are anything like me you want to ask for an extra-large order of wisdom and understanding for yourself. How do we get this? The wise men gave physical gifts along with their adoration of the Savior. But I believe their fear of the Lord was the most important gift they gave. This Christmas, as you make out your “wish list” of gifts, ask God for more wisdom and knowledge, that you may also fear the Lord. Then as individuals, and as a body of believers, we will worship our Redeemer with fear and deep rooted reverence.

Merry Christmas! Dave Gephart

December 3, 2012 “THERE MUST BE MORE”

Hebrews 2:17

“And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ‘till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store? What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more?” Like the colorful yet muted details of a Thomas Kincade painting, I can bring it to mind instantly. I see the stacks of lumber piled around the walls; partially finished projects sitting on the benches, and little piles of sawdust scattered around the floor. I can still smell it. The aroma of oak, pine, and cedar fills the air. I feel the heat from the large wood stove in the corner. I hear the soft comforting sound of Christmas music from the radio on the shelf next to the wood chisels, and as the light of day begins to fade, I look outside at the snow falling on the trees. It’s getting dark, and across the yard, through the lit doorway of my warm home, I see the soft muted lights of the Christmas tree and Kathy sitting at the piano. My dog Sandy lies contented at my feet, and I am overcome with emotion as I realize how happy and contented I am. This haven nestled in the maple trees was my little piece of heaven on earth, and my woodworking shop was my sanctuary. I loved it there; I was safe there; I was home. But as much as I loved it, I knew I couldn’t stay. There was a yearning that wouldn’t go away, a hunger for something beyond my understanding. I recall the words of William James, “The most important thing in life is to live your life for something more important than your life. There must be more.” Though written a century ago, those words drive me yet today, 10 years after I willingly let slip from my grasp my sanctuary, my little piece of heaven on earth. I have never regretted it.

There must be more…
There must be more. Has that ever crossed your mind? When I read the Christmas story in the Gospels, it’s hard to imagine Jesus wanting more. Didn’t he have it all? Didn’t He dwell in a heavenly home, enjoy perfect communion with his Father, have legions of angels singing His praises and at his beck and call, and no troubles, no sickness, no temptations, no pain. Yet Jesus did want more. He wanted a relationship with us, and in that desire He willingly took upon himself our humanness, complete with all its frailties. God wants us to have “more”. He wants to share all He has with us. The trouble is that our very humanness makes that impossible. God is perfect—we—are not. God dwells above us—we—wallow in the depths. God knows all—we—well, don’t.

Therefore it was necessary for Jesus to be in every respect like us, his brothers and sisters, so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. He then could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people. Hebrews 2:17 There is more…. The greatness of Jesus was not His lofty position in heaven, but His willingness to come down to dwell with us in the depths. Christ lived as we live, felt what we feel, was tempted as we are, and dealt with everyday life just as we do. Jesus is the “more” we seek. He offers the perfect gift. His will never be found in “packages, boxes and bags complete with ribbons and tags” despite our best efforts to make it so. Christ’s sinless blood is the “more” we need. It’s His blood that washes us clean of sin and makes us presentable to God. He who dwelt in perfectness and sinless purity willingly offered his blood for our redemption and as a gift of salvation that we might have more. In this season of gifts, there is no greater gift than the mercy and grace salvation gives us. Jesus entered our lives with a divine purpose…to be like us. He suffered and sacrificed his own blood for an opposite purpose…for us to be like Him. Do you this Christmas understand what that means? Jesus considered your life more than his own. Shouldn’t we do the same? This Christmas season, I want to be “more.” More caring, more thoughtful, more charitable, more loving, but most of all, I desire to be more thankful, and more aware of the gift I—we—have received. May we all be “more” together, Denny

December 4, 2012 HAVE I GIVEN ENOUGH?
God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. I John 4:9

I’ve never been much of a ‘shopper’. Perhaps this is because my sisters and I were rarely taken shopping while growing up. You see, we didn’t have enough money to spend on much besides our essentials (food, cleaning products, etc.) We never got to shop for school clothes … instead we squabbled over the best hand-me-downs that were donated to the ‘preacher’s kids’. So every year, around December 21st or 22nd, I put on my most comfortable walking shoes, and do what is expected of every ‘normal’ American woman … I shop for Christmas gifts. By the end of a long afternoon of fighting the crowds, I unpack my purchases and lay them all out to admire before wrapping. I feel pretty good about get the same amount of gifts for each grandchild? Should I have bought a little something extra for my mother-in-law?’ And back to the stores I go, looking for just a few more gifts and bargains, forgetting that it’s not the size or the price of the gifts that matter. I will be loved and appreciated regardless of the gifts I bring. We often do the same thing in our endeavor to live the Christian life. Maybe God will love us more if we do just a little more. Maybe we should offer transportation to the homebound, or put a few more dollars in the offering plate, or spend more time reading God’s word. God will then certainly love us more, won’t He? God will be pleased with our extra efforts, but He won’t love us any more than He already does. That’s impossible, for God loves us so much that He sent His very own son down to earth as a baby so that we might rise up to live with Him eternally! the gifts I have chosen. That is, until December 24th. Then I start to worry. ‘Did I

What a mighty God we serve! Kathy Dennis

December 5, 2012

THE CHRISTMAS RUSH
Psalm 127:2, “It’s useless to rise early and go to bed late, and work your worried fingers to the bone. Don’t you know God enjoys giving rest to those he loves?”
Around this time of year there is a song that constantly runs thru my mind. The country music group Alabama had a hit song with lyrics that went like this:
“I’m in a hurry to get things done Oh I rush and rush until life’s no fun.”

I think that describes most of us around Christmastime. It seems every year I tell myself that I’m going to start preparing for Christmas festivities earlier or not do as much. But it seems that every year I find myself feeling the pressure of the holiday season. Shopping, baking, cards, decorating, visiting friends/family….the list goes on and on. I found this saying written by Eddie Cantor, a songwriter/entertainer from the early 1900’s, “slow down and enjoy life. It’s not only the scenery you miss by going too fastyou also miss the sense of where you are going and why.” So true! So many times I feel like I’m running in circles or I am in a hurry to go somewhere, get there and forget what I went for. This Christmas season I am committing to the following: Reconnect with old friends and really slow down and enjoy being in each other’s company and catching up. When I am out and about to take time to look around to say hello and offer a hand to a stranger or someone in need. Instead of spending so much money on gifts and “things” plan events with the ones I love to make memories. Enjoy the beauty of god’s creation around us-the way the sun glistens on freshly fallen snow or the beautiful winter sunsets that God paints for us. Most of all remember that the true meaning of the season is the birth of God’s son, Jesus…our savior and friend…the one that made the way for us to have eternal life. I challenge us all to do the same. Commit to ending the rush to get through life. Slow down. Notice things around us. Take time to show God’s love to others. Because once this day is over we don’t get it back.

Have a Merry Christmas season!

Tammy Smith

December 6, 2012

John 3:16

Anticipation of Christmas Morning
As a small child every Christmas would be a mystery. You see every year my father would pull out his train sets. Taking his time in making sure the track and switches would be in working order. He would start the week after Thanksgiving to set up his small village within our home. It would take him until a few days before Christmas to finish his beloved village. On Christmas morning we would be lined up on the stairway from youngest to oldest waiting to be summoned to come down. The lights would be on, along with the trains running around the small village my father had created. I wonder what the Wiseman and Shepherds along with Mary and Joseph felt on the first Christmas at the anticipation of the birth of our Savior. The joy of knowing He was sent to us many years ago, to save us from our sins.

Merry Christmas, Caroline Hufnagle

December 7, 2012

Mark 1:2-3

“God’s Promises Are Sure”

How can we be sure that God will keep His promises to us? Because we know that He has always kept His promises, and that He knows what is going to happen. Hundreds of years before, the Prophets Isaiah and Malachi predicted that John the Baptist and Jesus would come. How did they know? God Promised Isaiah that a Redeemer would come to Israel and that a messenger calling in the wilderness would prepare the way for Him. Isaiah’s words comforted many people as they looked forward to the Messiah, and knowing that God keeps his promises can comfort you too. As you go through this advent season, remember that God had planned these events before time began, and so He has also planned the events going on in your own lives!

Merry Christmas, Mallory Markloff

December 8, 2012 “A Dad's Promise”

Jeremiah 29:10-13 Matthew 28:20 John 14:1-4

This time of year has always been one of my favorite times of the year. One in particular was when I was younger, growing up with my brother and three sisters. We would always go to our grandmother's house in Washingtonville and spend a Saturday afternoon playing with our cousins, visiting our aunts and uncles on the farm, exchanging gifts and sharing a meal. It would be cold and snowy and lots of fun. Just as our heavenly Father keeps His promises to us, we do our part by reading His word, praying and obeying His instructions. Our earthly Father kept his promise to us as well. This particular evening a few days before Christmas, dad said that we could stop in Montgomery on the way home to see the live reindeer there in town. We were excited on the way home, we siblings became a bit “catty” and Dad told us twice to settle down and behave or we would just go home. We did settle down and quietly sang Christmas carols. Before long we got into town and saw the reindeer. I thought it was amazing as we had only seen reindeer in books. After we visited the reindeer for a while, it was time to get back in the car and continue home. I don't know if we were tired by then or just behaved better, but we had an unexpected bonus. As we came into South Williamsport, Dad surprised us all by taking the family to Duboistown over to Summer Street to see Candy Cane Lane. We didn't expect this or ask to go, but I'm glad our father thought of it. He allowed us to get out of the car and actually walk up Candy Cane Lane to see the Christmas lights and decorations at each house. It was a cold winter night and snowing but it was a good evening. The fun part was since it was Christmas Eve when we got to the bottom of the hill; Santa Claus gave us candy canes, cookies and hot chocolate to drink. When we listen to our earthly father, sometimes we get more than we asked for. Our heavenly Father is much the same. When we listen to His instruction, we get more than we can ask or imagine. We returned home that night and it was hard to go to sleep from the anticipation of Christmas morning. I eagerly look forward to receiving God's blessings, and the fulfillment of all His promises to His children that He loves. Dad loved us and kept his promise. To some, this might not be significant, but to me this is one memory I treasure as it was one of the last few times spent with my brother before he was taken from us suddenly. God is faithful and keeps His promises to us. I am so glad God loves us and will never leave us alone. God never changes He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. I look forward to someday being welcomed into a beautiful place called heaven and am forever in the presence of my Father, my brother and all who have gone before. Merry Christmas Patricia DeParasis

December 9, 2012 Do You Promise?

II Corinthians 1:20; 7:1

Making and breaking promises is a part of growing up, of life itself. I can remember, as a child, there were many promises made and broken. My parents would “correct” me when I needed it. After punishment, with many tears, I would promise to be good, only to do the same thing over again! But I wasn’t the only one to break promises. Parents, siblings and others made many promises, only to make excuse for not keeping their word! (Not always, of course.) As I grew up, I learned that’s the way life is. When I became a Christian, I made promises to God and to Jesus, my Savior and Lord. I was just a baby in Christ. I tried many times to keep those promises, but I just couldn’t. I learned repentance the hard way! Finally, as I grew in Christ, I realized that God’s promises are far more important than any promise that I could make. God promised a Son – a Savior – a Lord – and He kept His promise! The Bible is full of God’s promises. He keeps His Word, because He loves us, and wants us to spend eternity with Him. As Christmas comes upon us, we should become more aware of God’s love and the promise of a Savior. Baby Jesus reminds us that God keeps His promises. He is the fulfillment of God’s promise to all who will hear and accept it. Our response to God’s promise (gift) is found in the old Hymn “Trust and Obey”. May God’s promise be yours to follow faithfully all the days of your life. Of all the promises in your life, God’s promise to you of Everlasting Life through Jesus Christ will be kept, as you “Trust and Obey”.

Merry Christmas! Fred Bryans

December 10, 2012

Joy of the World

John 16:23

December is that time of year when we're inundated with the message of 'Joy to the World'. This weekend I sat in a small New England church, listening to a message about joy. In the midst of the message, I had a personal epiphany. The speaker reminded me first that the joy of the the Lord can change the atmosphere of my sphere of influence. This is a solid, comforting thought. Who doesn't want to see their home, their relationships, their work, their neighborhood infused with the bright light of joy? As the speaker continued on, I realized that I didn't truly understand the nature, the definition of joy. Jesus promises that we will be 'full of joy' (Jn 16:23 MSG). Full of what, I asked? I'm not saying I'm right. But this is what I heard as I meditated on the meaning of joy: Joy is the result of understanding what Jesus has revealed, approaching each moment with our focus on Jesus, all requests and actions being filtered through what we understand Jesus' truth to be. Joy is not happiness. Joy is complete understanding and acceptance of Jesus' will for my life: to become like him. Complete and full joy is the result of a clear understanding of Jesus' truth. I think that when Jesus says that no one will be able to steal our joy, when we read verses like Nehemiah that tell us: “...the joy of the Lord is your strength...” (Neh 8:10), we wonder how God can expect us to be happy all the time. We wonder what we're doing wrong when we don't feel 'joyful'. I think sometimes we confuse joy and happiness. To clarify, I believe that joy is not a 'feeling'. Joy is a choice. Joy is delving into the very nature of Jesus. Reading, studying and meditating on His life. “When I see you again, you'll be full of joy, and it will be a joy no one can rob from you. You'll no longer be so full of questions.”~Jesus in John 16:23 MSG The joy Jesus speaks of is the unshakable understanding and acceptance that we were created solely to be in relationship with God himself. Jesus' coming to earth provides us with the missing link needed to experience that relationship with God. 'Joy to the world, the Lord has come.' Joy is in our midst, manifest in the opening of our heart-eyes to the revelation of our deepest purpose – to become like Jesus and be in relationship with God. My prayer for you this advent season is that you will experience true joy – the depth of belief and clarity of God's true purpose for your life. Rosalyn Price English

December 11, 2012

God’s Love
John 3:16 For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. When I grew up Christmas always meant much preparation for the Christmas meal. Being the next to the youngest of seven children I only ever remember Christmas at my parent’s home. My grandparents had all passed when I was very young. Having married siblings with children just a little younger than myself it was always an exciting time knowing that the Christmas celebration would take place at our house. My mom would begin preparing for the meal days ahead of time. Many of the main ingredients came from previously canned and frozen food grown in her own garden. Hours and hours of work for the celebrating of Christ’s birth. I remember anticipating the exchange of gifts days in advance. Now keep in mind we would only receive a few items, perhaps an item of clothing and a special toy. But I couldn’t wait. I remember my mom having very little time to join in the actual gift exchange. It used to upset me that my mom wouldn’t take time to relax and enjoy the gift exchange. As I became older I realized that she gave the best present she could possibly give. What she gave was not materialistic. It was all she had, hours of preparing food, cleaning, wrapping gifts and decorating. She gave what she had with love to the people who mattered the most in her life asking for nothing in return but for her family to enjoy the day. I imagine that is what our heavenly father did for us magnified many times over. He gave all that He had His only Son to save us from our sins and asked nothing in return. His gift is free to all with no strings attached so that we can someday celebrate in eternity. If you haven’t received God’s gift what a perfect time to give real meaning to this Christmas.

Merry Christmas, Rhonda Getgen

December 12, 2012

John 8:12

The Promise of Light
As I think of light at Christmas I think of a Christmas tree. We put a lot of decorations on them, especially lights. Sometimes the lights are colorful and sometimes they are all white. Today I am thinking of a special tree called "The Living Christmas Tree". While going to college I attended Thomas Road Baptist Church. Each year they would present a large Christmas pageant based around a large man made tree. The tree had an engineered steel fame shaped like a half round tree. This tree was actually a large frame on which was placed choir risers, safety railings, and a heavy wire mesh for safety. On each of the mesh covers were placed live pine boughs to give the appearance of a large living tree. Each of the pine boughs were decorated with lights that were controlled by a computer and synchronized to the music. The choir would perform all of their musical numbers while standing on the risers on this tree. As the tree was over thirty feet tall the choir members near the top could not have a fear of heights. The pageant was spectacular with a lot of activities performed around the base of the tree. There are three things that stand out in my memories from years I was able to see "The Living Christmas Tree". The first one was Bev Buffington playing a trumpet rendition of "The March of The Toy Soldier" while someone did a marvelous rendition of that soldier. The other two things that stand out to me were annual traditions. One was Dr. Jerry Falwell and his family sitting together in a living room scene as he read the Christmas story from the Bible. The other was the ending scene of the pageant. Strategically placed white lights on the tree formed a cross as the choir sang the last two numbers. The numbers were first a medley of "No Room/ Have You any Room For Jesus" followed by "There is Room at The Cross". This was always followed by an invitation. This pageant has grown over the years and still continues. It is now known as the Virginia Christmas Spectacular" and still centers around "The Living Christmas Tree". It is performed four times on each of two weekends. Through this pageant the promise of God's light is shared with the thousands who attend each showing. In John 8:12 we see that promise. When Jesus spoke to the people, He Said, "I am the Light of the World. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the Light of Life. (NIV) Merry Christmas, Clair Clark

December 13, 2012 He Who Promised is Faithful

Hebrews 10:23

During my years of teaching, some of my students would tell me that one of their parents or relatives promised to do something with them over the weekend. They were so excited and said they would tell me all about it on Monday. When Monday morning arrived I could tell by the expression on their faces that the promise had been broken. How disappointing for them! I would explain that sometimes things happen and a promise can’t always be kept. Consequently, I started to think of the times I casually promised my class we would do this or that. My attitude about promises changed and I decided that when I said “I promise” that I had better fulfill that promise or my promises could not be trusted. We serve a God who, according to Paul in Titus 1:2, does not lie. Therefore, if God does not lie, then what He promises, He will do. In the Old Testament we read of the promise of a Messiah who would come and save us from our sins. But who would have ever thought that this Messiah would come into the world as a baby? At this time of the year we think of the Babe in a manger, helpless and small. We think of Mary and Joseph, the angels, the shepherds, the wise men, and the gifts they brought. We don’t think of what Jesus had to endure on the cross to fulfill the promise God made to all people; past, present or future. As we gather in our homes to read these devotionals, I hope we stop and think of all the promises God has made us. We should live our lives in a way that deepens our faith and our relationship with our loving God. There is an old song that came to my mind when I heard the theme for this year. I hope it helps you to understand just how much God loves us. “Every promise in the Book is mine, Every chapter, every verse, every line, All are blessings of His love divine, Every promise in the Book is mine.”

Merry Christmas, Diana Combs

December 14, 2012

Matthew 1:21

Believing

What a great time of the year! So many wonderful sights and sounds with all the Christmas Decorations and Christmas Carols. Let us not forget the many Christmas Cookies. It is easy to believe that it is Christmas Time. But what is more important is believing God’s promise to us. Throughout the Bible God told of the coming of His Son, Jesus. We are told how He was born in Bethlehem in a stable. How the Angels appeared to the Shepherds and told them where they could find Him and the Star that pointed the way where He laid. In the Bible we find the story of Jesus’ life and the miracles that He performed. Changing the water into wine, cleansing the leper, raising the widow’s son, healing the blind, and feeding the five thousand just a few of the many miracles that He so graciously did. But His greatest show of love was going to the cross and bearing our sins so we could be forgiven. As we ponder the gift of Jesus, God’s promise to us, we need to believe that Jesus will come again to take us to our heavenly home. Yes it is Christmas time and we are reminded again of God’s Promise, His Son Jesus.

Deborah Lomison

December 15, 2012 “The Light of the World”

John 8:12

You may remember from science class that the earth rotates around the sun one revolution per year. It is tilted on its axis, I think it's 23 ½ degrees as it spins one revolution per day. At this time of year we who live in the northern hemisphere experience shorter and shorter daylight hours. When we do see the sun it is lower in the sky. This could have a negative effect on one's joy. Children of God be not dismayed, for Isaiah 60:1 tells us; “Arise, shine for your light has come and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.” Jesus tells us Himself in John 8:12 ; “I am the light of the world, Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” I love that word whoever. It includes you and me, all of us. What a wonderful time of year to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, the light of the world. Merry Christmas, John Getgen

December 16, 2012
James 1:26-27 Anyone who sets himself up as “religious” by talking a good game is selfdeceived. This kind of religion is hot air and only hot air. Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world. (MSG)

I think the year was 1983. As a family we were very involved with 4-H Horse & Pony Club. My daughters Mariah and Jenifer, ages 5 & 10 respectively lived and breathed their horses. Because of church family, they had learned about nursing homes and that often elderly were lovingly cared for there instead of at home, when that level of care was needed. At our 4-H meeting in November the idea of community service projects was brought to the group of young riders. The idea was to find a way to involve what the 4-H club was about into a way of service in the community. I really do not remember where or who the idea came from but the discussion turned to Christmas Caroling on horseback at the local nursing home in Berwick. As a family we had done a lot of winter riding, but knew many of the youth I worked with only were on their horses in nice and warm weather. Every family was encouraged to start riding some after school and especially in snow, if and when we had any and I was in charge of calling the nursing home for permission to come and to set up a time. The nursing home was ecstatic about having us come. We picked the Saturday before Christmas at 1:00 pm so we could ride there and home in the daylight hours. Well sure enough we had snow the day before our caroling event. One member of our group had family that lived about ½ mile from the nursing home so we all decided to meet there. Well most of the families had horse trailers, so that meant they only had to ride the ½ mile to and from.

But we did not have a horse trailer, so we rode 12 miles in the snow each way. But we were to have no idea the joy that all this effort would bring to all of us. We sang outside the activity room window where many were gathered inside to see us for at least 30 minutes. Then we rode all the way around the home singing at each window where we could see that someone was bedfast. After that we were allowed to tie off our horses to the light posts and came in for hot chocolate and cookies. We were then the ones who received the gift from these wonderful seniors as they told our young riders of how many of them had grown up on the farm, having horses and also about their love of the Lord. These wonderful seniors shared with the youth the true story of Christmas and praised them for doing what the Lord would have them do by serving those who can no longer serve. It was a long, cold and dark ride 12 miles back to our farm, but as soon as the horses were fed and the rest of the barn animals cared for Mariah and Jenifer had another idea. They wanted to ride the horses back to the nursing home on Christmas morning and take baskets of cookies to all the seniors who maybe would not have family to visit them that day. Once again I called and was given a hardy welcome for us to return. The girls helped bake cookies until we had so many I was not sure how we were going to carry them in our saddle bags, but we managed. We got up early Christmas morning, had our own meal and opened presents. We then quickly saddled the horses and again took that 12 mile ride through snow back to the nursing home. It was one of the most wonderful Christmas’ we had as a young family, and I truly believe my girls learned the true meaning of Christmas that year on horseback. Merry Christmas and God’s Love to all of you! Martha Stroble

December 17, 2012

Isaiah 9:6 Isaiah 7:14 Luke 1:31 Matthew 1:23 Jesus the Christ Child

I think about Christmastime as a wonderful time of the year. I remember as a young boy Christmas was so delightful. It seems like we always had snow and cold weather for Christmas. I liked the time off from school. My family would go to Florida to see my grandparents and we would go to the beach, but in spite of the warm sunshine of Florida I would miss the weather up North. As I got older we would stay home and enjoy Christmas as I remembered from before as a family. We would go to candle light services at our church. Over the years Christmas means a lot more than all the things I thought were important to me. As a believer in my heart Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, who came into the world, to be born of a virgin mother and father. Joseph would care for Mary and Baby Jesus. I give thanks for God the Father. That He gave us a Savior so we might live with Christ forever in His kingdom. Jesus paid it all, all to be my own, sin has left a crimson stain that I be washed as white as snow. Merry Christmas, Joseph Myers

December 18, 2012

Matthew 2:9-10

LIGHT OF THE WORLD To me Christmas has always been my favorite time of year. I love the snow, the decorations, and especially the lights. Going to Candy Cane Lane to look at the dazzling lights has always been a special tradition for me and my family. Isn’t it fitting that a single star led the wise men to Jesus. It was dark and I’m sure they could have gotten lost easily, but they followed the only light they could find to get to Jesus. In Matthew 2:9-10 (MSG) it says, “Then the star appeared again, the same star they had seen in the eastern skies. It led them on until it hovered over the place of the child. They could hardly contain themselves. They were in the right place! They had arrived at the right time! John 1:5 (MSG) says “The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness; the darkness couldn’t put it out.” Jesus is the light of this dark world we live in. We have His Holy Spirit living inside of us so let’s shine the light of His love to point lost and hurting people to the only source of hope in this dark, cruel world. Just like it was one single light that led the wise men to Jesus, you could be the one single light that leads someone to really come to know and worship in adoration our beautiful savior, Jesus. Merry Christmas, Laura Brooks

December 19, 2012

THE MEANING OF CHRISTMAS
Of course, most adults know the real meaning of Christmas. Children think differently than adults. What Christmas means to you may be different than what Christmas means to a child. If you ask my daughter Nicole, she would say presents, Christmas tree and decorations, cookies and hot chocolate and of course snow!!! She would also tell you that it is Jesus’ birthday. As a child I remember my brothers and I opening presents one by one. But I always thought my parents got the short end of the deal because they never received as many presents. It wasn’t until I was a mother that I realized that the holidays are much more exciting from a parent’s point of view. Of course, we have taught our children to know the true meaning of Christmas. They know it is Jesus’s birthday and we celebrate it on Dec. 25th. I try to teach them that it is much better to give than to receive and it makes you feel unbelievable inside. I look forward to seeing their faces light up when they open up a gift they wanted. All of these things fill my heart with so much love and joy, I never knew how much better my parents had it on Christmas. I almost feel silly that I thought they missed out over the holiday season, but I know that they were the ones who had the best view of Christmas morning. I plan on making a lot more happy memories during the Christmas season by spending time with family and people I love. Sharing great meals and decorating the house. Enjoying the simple things in life, and realizing what we have to be thankful for is what we should be focusing on. Here is your challenge: Stop over spending on cool toys for your children and start teaching your children the true meaning of Christmas. Not only to celebrate the birth of Christ, but to spread good will towards all, doing something nice for someone else, and to appreciate the little things in life. We need to get back to tradition. Our society has become too materialistic. We need to remind our children that there are so many people that are less fortunate in this world that we need to pray for them every day and help as much as we can. This Christmas season, let’s be grateful for what we have, and not focus so much on what we want.

Merry Christmas, Ruthann & Nicole Belton

December 20, 2012 Following the Light

Matthew 2:1-2

Every Christmas Eve, as a little girl, my sisters and I would ride with our parents to the family's annual Christmas Eve party. Nothing thrilled us more while riding along than to watch for a red light in the sky. That red light was a promise to us. We knew that Rudolph was pulling Santa's sleigh across the sky to deliver presents to all the good boys and girls. If we ever spotted a red light on the way home we always urged our parents to race for it hoping to catch a glimpse of Santa. My sisters and I aren't the only ones to follow a light in the sky. Many years ago a group of men saw a star shinning in the night sky. This star was different from any other they could see. Not only did this star shine more brightly then any of the others it didn't move as a star should. It stayed in one place, always casting its light on the same place. The men knew this star was special and would lead to something wonderful. They gathered gifts of frankincense, myrrh, and gold: and set out to follow it. I imagine it must have been a long and hard journey for them; crossing mountains and plains, facing dangers to reach their destination. Still they followed the star, hoping to glimpse the wondrous sight it shined so brightly over. Finally the men's journey came to an end. They found the star shinning over a little boy. They knelt before the child, laying their gifts before him and proclaiming him King. As you and your loved ones watch the night sky for a red light this Christmas Eve, remember the star that shone so brightly. It was a promise to all that the Messiah, Jesus, had come to earth. And that is the greatest gift anyone could ever hope to receive. Merry Christmas, Heather Webb

December 21, 2012 Heartache to Happiness

Psalms 139

It was on this day in 2006 that my life would forever change, and my relationship with God was tested like never before. It was the day before my 12th birthday and through a series of terrifying events I ended this day with the diagnosis of my mom having brain cancer. To say that I was devastated would be an understatement. Overwhelming emotions of sadness and fear of the unknown began to consume me. I began to feel alone and betrayed by God. How could something so horrific happen to my family and right before my birthday, right before Christmas? As I would muster up a smile and say “thank you” to all the condolences during this time, I was still desperately craving the peace that passes all understanding, which no one could seem to deliver. As I spent the majority of the holiday season in the ICU something began to dawn on me. As Mary and Joseph searched for a proper place to give birth to our Savior, they were met with disappointing outcomes and disheartening answers, just as I had been. But they found contentment and happiness from a lowly stable, similar to the joy I had found opening my birthday and Christmas gifts with my family in my mom's hospital room. Now as December 21st approaches each year, I am reminded of my favorite Bible passage, Psalms 139. This chapter is an awesome reminder to anyone who has forgotten that God knows our every thought, our every ache even when it feels as though He's abandoned us. This holiday season we should all be appreciative of all that we have, whether humble or extravagant. Remember even our Savior's parents found happiness from the heartache. Merry Christmas, Libby Hill

December 22, 2012

Romans 5:15

“The First Step” For the longest time I viewed Christmas as a holiday in the shadow of Easter. At first glance, the event of God dying for mankind easily tops the birth of a baby in Bethlehem. I mean, everyone is born right? However, when we step back we discover more to the story of Christmas. Genesis 6:6 tells of how grieved God was that He ever created man, so much so that our sin had filled His heart with pain. Usually when we wrong someone we are in a relationship with, we somehow try to make up for it with a selfless sign of affection. In fact, it's safe to say that is how man has always been attempting to repair relationships broken by our sin. In just three days, at Christmas, God who owed no debt, took the first step to mend our situation. The timed beauty of Christmas is not found in a newborn baby, but in a heartbroken God, desperately jealous for our love. It is the cross that is the shadow of God's hand reaching down ready to grasp ours. Merry Christmas Eli Getgen

December 23, 2012 Be Still

Micah 5:2-5 Psalms 46:10

Christmas, for many of us, brings memories of special times with family. One special time for me was while walking with my Mom to Christmas Eve Service, complaining all the way. Why? We had just received a fresh new coating of snow which meant the car stayed home at the top of the hill! In my early teens I never imagined this would be one of the more memorable times spent with my Mother. What a beautiful evening. Everything was clean and coved in white, peaceful and still; a time to reflect on our surroundings and know that God promises to always be there. “Be still and know that I am God (Psalms 46:10). While writing this devotional the Eastern United States has just experienced a horrific storm in many areas and a Presidential election will soon determine the future of our nation. Stop and know that God is in control at all times, good and bad. He sent His son Jesus to give us that everlasting peace. This is only our temporary home. Enjoy those glimpses of Heaven during peaceful winter nights after a new snowfall when all is calm and all is bright. Merry Christmas Kim Bannon

December 24, 2012 “THE LESS THAN SILENT NIGHT” “Unless the LORD had given me help; I would soon have dwelt in the silence of death.” (Psalm 94:17) When we think of the song “Silent Night,” we picture Mary and Joseph quietly waiting for the birth of our Savior, but intermingled within the quiet were the braying of donkeys, the bleating of sheep, the rhythmic chewing of cows on their cuds, and probably the sounds of chickens settling into their roosts for the night. In 2006, on Christmas Eve, it was far from a silent night for my family and friends. That night, the sounds of medical carts rolling, monitors beeping, and nurses pensively whispering was intermingled with the silence of my family and friends anxiously waiting. That Christmas Eve, I lay on an operating table awaiting urgent and unexpected brain surgery. Today, God in His mercy and grace has taken the entire event from my memory, but for those waiting for the results it must have been agonizing. Yet, true to His promise, our marvelous, awesome God, and Savior in so many ways, brought me through it safely. What a relief to those who love me and care about me! Every year as Christmas approaches, I think of all the love and prayers that surrounded me that night and, I’m sure still do today…Christmas Eve 2012. I wasn’t healed from cancer that night, but God has kept it silent and still.

Merry Christmas, Andrea Hill

December 25, 2012

Luke 2:1-7 (The Birth of Jesus) John 14:27 & 2 Thessalonians 3:16 (Peace)

Peace
Christmas Morning is a morning buzzing with anticipation! At least, it is at our home with three very excited boys dragging us out of our cozy bed! Our tradition has always been that we all go down the hallway together. No one gets to the Christmas tree, until I have had a chance to find my glasses, fuzzy socks, and the camcorder, of course. We have a tradition that the boys enjoy before the whirlwind of opening presents begins…placing baby Jesus in the manger. Let me back up a minute…sometime after Thanksgiving, John and the boys set up the Nativity. The men in my life look forward to this every year. And the boys know that it doesn’t get set up until Dad is home. Every piece has its place. The manager is placed between Joseph and Mary. The baby Jesus is hidden somewhere near the nativity, but out of sight. This brings me to Christmas morning; the boys will run to the Nativity and place baby Jesus in the manager. You would think that there would be fighting over who gets to do this, but there is Peace. Today as you celebrate Christ’s birth; remember that the baby lying in the manager promises to bring you peace.

Merry Christmas,
Patsy, John, Jakob, Zackary & Oskar

December 26, 2012 The Promised Messiah Came Now What?

Luke 2

Yesterday we celebrated Christmas so that means we honor Dec. 25 as the day Jesus was born, the Promised Messiah, so what happened to Jesus, Mary, Joseph, Shepherds, Wise Men and now you the day after the birth or Christmas? I want to know what happens next. Mary, Joseph and Jesus are reported about in Luke 2:21 “And eight days were completed for the circumcision of the child His name was called Jesus the name given by the angel. Luke 2:40 says “and the child grew and became strong in spirit filled with wisdom and the grace of God was upon Him.” So to summarize, Mary and Joseph gave Jesus his name and went to the temple and there they met two people who had been waiting for Jesus a long time, Anna and Simeon. They went home and Jesus grew up and we don’t know anymore about Jesus till he is a grown man. We learn about the shepherds in Luke 2:17, 18 & 20 “Now when they had seen him they made widely known the sayings which was told them concerning the child. And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. Then the shepherds returned glorying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.” We know the wise men brought gifts and worshiped Jesus and went on their way. Matthew 2:1, 2, 11 and 12: “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold wise men from the east came to Jerusalem saying ‘Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him’. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down and worshipped him and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.” So now it’s your turn, we have celebrated Jesus birth what will you do? Just go back to your life as we think maybe the wise men did? Will you go tell others about Jesus like the shepherds did because they were so excited? If you are young and still need to grow will you become strong in spirit filled with wisdom and the grace of God to be upon you as Jesus did? God has great promises in His word for you to read and claim. Accept Jesus as your savior and claim God’s promises as yours today.

Merry Christmas, Carolyn Myers

December 27, 2012 “Gift Which Defies Time”

I John 4:9

By the time you are reading this, Christmas has been over for two days. The tree is beginning to molt and little Johnny has no doubt broken the top off the helicopter he so anxiously wanted two months ago. Christmas is fading from your memory; those weeks of ceaseless playing of “Jingle Bells” on the radio have done untold harm to your mental stability. I know I am sick of hearing it, but let’s not be so quick to pass Christmas by as just another holiday this year. In the secular world Christmas is a consumer spending free for all with companies who make huge profits off the latest toy flying off the shelves. The same toy which months later is discarded and soon forgotten. We as Christians do not have to worry about this though, as we celebrate the greatest gift of all, one that does not go out of style or fade from memory. But one that lives in our hearts for all eternity as the single hope and true love which we base our entire faith on. This Christmas Season may we dwell on all that God has done for us the past year, and as we continue into the New Year, everything He will continue to do for us. God's gift is one that cannot be outdone or bought and sold, it is ageless and everlasting. I hope the promise of this gift brings peace and stability to our lives as we go throughout this coming year. May God bless you this Christmas season, Caleb Getgen

December 28, 2012

I Thessalonians 5:14-18

Grateful
As the Christmas season comes to a close, I reflect on the wonderful season of giving. I am most grateful and thankful for the simple gestures of kindness from those around me including my husband, children, family, friends, and co-workers. As we journey through this busy yet joyous season, I am reminded that people who show gratitude to others, through a touch, a gesture, a task, a simple act of kindness give because they are truly grateful for what has been given to them. They want to give of themselves because they desire to give and not obligated to give. In I Thessalonians 5:16, we read the following words: be joyful, pray continuously, and give thanks in ALL circumstances. I have paused to questions if I express gratitude in all circumstances? Do I express my gratitude to my family and friends? I am reminded after Christmas how much I have to be grateful for and how each of us need to look around and be grateful for the small gestures. I realized I need to cultivate my grateful spirit each day and not just at Christmas. It is easy to overlook the minor and satisfying joys such as when my husband scrapes the windshield or makes the bed. Likewise a church brother or sister who spends time with a widow or sends a note to someone that is ill just to show they care. Are you grateful when your child prepares a meal or cleans up a room? Those daily gestures of help or kindness should not go unnoticed. As Christians, we need to make a conscious effort to express our gratitude to our spouse, our children, our church family, and even co-workers. When someone makes you happy in even the simplest of ways, express your gratitude. This season, as you prepare to begin a new calendar year, make thanksgiving part of your daily life. Incorporate gratitude and thoughtfulness into your life in order to appreciate the simplest things or kind gestures that happen each day. We should give thanks for God’s love for us daily. Show God’s love by letting someone know how grateful you are for their simple acts of love and kindness. Let us have hearts of contentment and continually give thanks.

With a Grateful Heart, Bonnie Williams

December 29, 2012

Luke 2:19 Jeremiah 29:11

Pondering
“But, Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” This is the time of year when we hope for better things in 2013. As a mother, I ponder what the New Year holds for my family. Will my children do well at school, will they make the right choices when they are not with me, will they have good health…the list goes on and on. Sometimes, it can cause you to feel overwhelmed and worry as to what the future holds for those that we hold dear. But, we don’t need to worry, because God is in control. He holds our loved ones future in His hand. He knows the hairs on their head. He gives us this promise in Jeremiah 29:11 (one of my absolute favorite verses) “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” So celebrate the beginning of 2013, go forth with the promise and hope that God is holding you every step of the way. Wishing you a very Happy New Year, Patsy, John, Jakob, Zackary & Oskar

(I also just wanted to share the lyrics to the song “Mary Did You Know?” by Mark Lowry. It kept running through my head whenever I was thinking about what to write for the devotional.) Mary did you know that your baby boy will one day walk on water? Mary did you know that your baby boy will save our sons and daughters? Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new? This child that you've delivered, will soon deliver you. Mary did you know that your baby boy will give sight to a blind man? Mary did you know that your baby boy will calm a storm with his hand? Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod? And when you kiss your little baby, you have kissed the face of God. The blind will see, the deaf will hear and the dead will live again. The lame will leap, the dumb will speak, the praises of the lamb. Mary did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation? Mary did you know that your baby boy will one day rule the nations? Did you know that your baby boy is heaven's perfect Lamb? This sleeping child you're holding is the great I am.

Dec. 30, 2012

Our “Going into the Gutter” God
Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man, “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” (Mark 1:41)
When I was a youngster growing up on my family’s dairy farm (and the boss’s son), our hired men had a game they would play with me that they got a real kick out of. They would throw coins into the manure gutter behind the cows for me to dig for with my bare hands. I would eagerly get down and dirty in search for a coin that apparently, held no value to the hired help once it was encased and buried in the…well, you know. I had no problem with this, my hands and those coins could always be washed, and besides that, every nickel, dime, quarter, and the occasionally half-dollar I pulled out meant more money for me! They laughed particularly hard whenever it was a single penny I diligently dug for. In their perception, a penny… a single cent… wasn’t worth the effort or the indignity of “going into the gutter” to rescue. Today, though I’m not around cow gutters, I still go out of my way to retrieve a lost penny I might spot on the ground. No matter where it lies or what it’s covered or coated with. Not because I’m thrifty, but because it’s an opportunity to be reminded of someone who viewed me as valuable and worthy of getting dirty for. What a wonderful and compassionate Savior we have! On that Christmas day 2000 years ago, God made the effort…setting into motion the best and most beautiful and perfect of promises. He accepted the indignity of going into the gutter to rescue us. With compassion and love, mercy and grace, Christ willingly came down in the form of an innocent and vulnerable baby. With pure, clean hands, He reached through the muck of our sin filled life, pulled us up, and washed us clean with what only He could provide— His sinless blood. Remember this the next time you bend down to pick up a lost coin. Jesus came into this world to save what is lost and dirty. He is the Promise of Christmas, the Promise for the coming year, and the Promise of a lifetime. Denny

December 31, 2012

Jeremiah 29:11-13 Be Resolved, God Has a Plan

Another year has come and gone as we look to the New Year, reflecting on where we have been and where we are going. Likewise, we look back to Christmas as the remembrance of the miraculous birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, a promise kept, and forward to Easter and the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord, promise kept. God had a plan from before the beginning of time that he would provide a way for us to be made right with him, that is, to make us acceptable to a holy God. When mankind fell into sin in the Garden of Eden through willful disobedience, God out of unconditional love made a promise to provide us a way out, a Savior, and that promise was fulfilled through the willful obedience of his Son. Born as a man, fully God and fully human, lived a perfect, sinless life, went to a cross to take our sins upon himself and die in our place, and raised from the dead in power and glory to sit at the right hand of the Father. In spite of all the turmoil and unrest in the world and often in our lives, we should not be afraid to go forward because of God’s promises to us; he has, after all, proved he is a promise keeping God. In particular, his promise to never leave us or forsake us and that he has a plan for each one of us, if only we trust him. Rather than making a laundry list of New Year’s resolutions that will be mostly forgotten or broken days or weeks later, let us resolve to rest on the promises of God, seeking and obeying his plan and perfect will for our lives. Let’s begin the New Year with a renewed zeal and commitment to live our lives for Jesus. Here are a few thoughts from God’s Word to help us draw closer to him in the coming year. Jeremiah 29:11-13 For I know the plans I have for you, “declares the LORD,” plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. Micah 6:8 He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Happy New Year, Gary Thomas

The Christ-child lay on Mary's lap, His hair was like a light. (O weary, weary were the world, But here is all aright.)

The Christ-child lay on Mary's breast His hair was like a star. (O stern and cunning are the kings, But here the true hearts are.)

The Christ-child lay on Mary's heart, His hair was like a fire. (O weary, weary is the world, But here the world's desire.)

The Christ-child stood on Mary's knee, His hair was like a crown, And all the flowers looked up at Him, And all the stars looked down G.K. Chesterton