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Fullerton First Christian Church

Advent Devotional 2013

Foreword
Each year our church family and friends at First Christian Church Fullerton bare our seasonal souls, in that we retell each other the ancient story of how the prophets foretold the great event when Jesus was born. No two stories are the same; no one tells our writers what they should say. Some use very old traditional religious language, while others seek to tell the story to modern ears in new words. This year our family telling the story has grown in an important way we celebrate. We welcome among our writers many of those in our partner in ministry, the congregation of Casa de Oracin de Fullerton. Their faithful witness is printed in English and Spanish. This helps us tell our story to our Spanish-speaking friends and neighbors. We can make Christmas/Advent gifts of this booklet by contacting the church office for an electronic copy or another hard copy. We also welcome a new page designer this year, Janelle Vannoy. Like the other storytellers, she has contributed her own sense of visualizing what she hears us saying in our stories. With a blend of traditional and modern art work, she has graced these pages with images to stimulate our imagination. In acknowledging new voices and gifts, we should also note the last year for one of our main contributors. Since the first year we published this Advent booklet in 2009, our Senior Pastor, Rev. Darrell McGowan, has written the first day and sometimes the Christmas day devotion. With his transition to other ways to serve, he will be missed as the anchor of that first page. We bless him for inspiring us with a steady and clear witness to the Christ child's birth. On each Sunday's page, you will find a brief candle lighting service to use at home. If you do not already have a favorite Advent wreath, make one out of some simple foam material you decorate. Add three purple candles and one pink one if you are being traditional, and then place a white one in the center to be lit on Christmas Eve. This year's candle lighting readings and prayers were adapted with permission from the copyrighted material of a retired pastor who continues to write new hymns, F. Richard "Dick" Garland of Rhode Island.

Advent itself, the four weeks of the Church's rehearsing the coming of the Christ, these days seems rather dated and barely recognizable outside our "enclave of the faithful"; yet we at FCC say "the church has left the building." Therefore, let us resolve not to dismiss our distinctive message of the true hope of a world in need of real Light, nor to dilute it into words only common to the street talk of our time. Let us rather work all the harder to find new ways and words understandable outside our walls, words which retain the original life-changing power to transform what we by ourselves are at a loss to change. We used to say "Christ for the world," with an exclusive air of near superiority. That isn't necessary nor true to the One born at Christmas. We need to hear and learn the ways of our Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish, and other friends in God's creation. But when we share our own story, we don't need to pare that story of the Christ down to a non-offensive lowest common denominator of generalized love and peace. Telling our story as though it's identical with what others mean by love and peace makes it popular but ineffective. And in a very short time in the future, that will sound so uneventful that we'll be telling our story only to ourselves, with no one new caring to listen! Leaving the building is fine for "taking it to the street and living it in the streets" as a people in mission. We just need to be sure what the "it" is we're talking out. Meditate on these daily readings and prayers as we rediscover the Christ this Christmas. Many thanks to those sharing their faithful stories with us herein!

Barry Woodbridge, editor

Home Candle Lighting for the First Sunday in Advent

Reader 1: "In days to come the mountain of the Lords house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it." (Isa. 2:2)

Reader 2: The one who is coming will bring a new order to life, and teach us the way of peace.

All: We light this candle, trusting that Immanuel will surely come. (Light the first candle, the candle of hope.)

All: We pray, "In this light we will await the coming of the Lord. Amen."

(Optional hymn "O Come, O Come Emmanuel," verse 1 No. 119 in the Chalice Hymnal.)

Home Candle Lighting for the Second Sunday in Advent

Reader 1: "A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord." (Isa. 11:1)

Reader 2: We relight the first candle to remind us that our hope is in the Lord's anointed one coming at Christmas. (Relight the first candle of hope.)

Reader 1: Today, we now light the candle of peace. (Light the second candle.)

All: We pray with gratitude for your presence, O God. We will prepare to welcome a new birth of your Spirit. Amen.

Home Candle Lighting for the Third Sunday in Advent

Reader 1: "And Mary said, 'My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed." (Luke 1:46-48)

Reader 2: The Mighty One has done great things: holy is the name of the Lord. (Relight the first two candles.)

All: We light a third candle to show the Holy Way of God. (Light the third candle, that of joy.)

All: We pray, Lord we will walk faithfully in the way of joy and gladness. Amen.

Home Candle Lighting for the Fourth Sunday in Advent

Reader 1: "Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit." (Matt. 1:18) Reader 2: The Holy Spirit has come to fulfill what has been promised by the prophets. A child will be born whose name will be Jesus.

(Relight the first three candles.)

All: We see the light of God dawning over the land. We light a fourth candle in anticipation of Immanuel.

(Light the fourth candle, the candle of love.)

All: We pray that we will prepare room for the Light of lights, even Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Home Candle Lighting for Christmas Eve

Reader 1: "But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid; for see -- I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.' " (Luke 2:10-11)

Reader 2: Tonight, we relight all four of our Advent candles.

(Relight the four candles.)

All: On this night of nights Immanuel is born, full of grace and truth. In the company of a heavenly host, we are offered an opportunity to join the celebration. We now light the Christ candle.

(Light the center Christ candle.)

All: Together we pray: We have now waited in the light of hope for the coming of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Glory to God in the highest! Amen.

Dec 1 Darrell McGowan Jeremiah 33: 14-16 Jeremiah 33:14 The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 15 In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 16 In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: The Lord is our righteousness. Jeremiahs message to a people who thirst for a divine word is simple: God keeps the promises God makes. Jeremiah shares with Gods people that God will fulfill the twin divine promises of justice and righteousness by raising up a righteous Branch in Davids lineage. This righteous descendent of David, says God through Jeremiah, will be Gods means of executing justice and righteousness in the land. Christians would later come to see Jeremiahs prophetic words fulfilled in the birth, life, and actions of Jesus. While Jesus surely was and is a fulfillment of Gods promises, perhaps we should see Jesus in much the same way Jesus saw himselfas one such fulfillment, not the one and only fulfillment of Gods promises. Jesus, like Jeremiah, knew God to be one who always and continually provides justice and righteousness through the ones who surrender their lives to the One whom Jesus called Abba. Followers of Jesus are called to do what Jesus did and to do even greater things than these. (John 14:12)

Dec. 1 Darrell McGowan Jeremiah 33: 14-16 (Cont.) The early church quickly articulated the idea that followers of Jesus are the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27). We are the ongoing fulfillment of Gods promised justice and righteousness. When people come into our presence, they should never experience judgment or condemnation, but the embodiment of justice and righteousness, so they recognize in us what they need and want. We bring the fulfillment of Gods promises not in empty words, but in loving, compassionate, healing action, as did the One whom we call Master and Lord. Gracious and loving God, help us to surrender our lives to you so we may experience freedom from our endless desires, joy in the knowledge of your steadfast love, and an abiding trust in your constant fulfillment of your promises in and through us. May we decrease so you might increase. Amen.

Dec. 2 Luiz Orosco Luke 21: 25-36 In the year 2000, I didn't yet know of the Lord, but to hear that the world was going to end scared me. I was a teenager and did not understand that everything was going end; it filled me with panic. People invested so much time and money to discover when and how all this would occur, but the truth is that the Bible does not teach it specifically; it does speak about many things that will occur. We are living in very difficult and strange times, just by looking at the news we realize everything that goes on in the world. V.25/32 talks a bit about this. We can realize much of what is happening and why. Although Jesus speaks these verses prophetically that have not yet happened, we can realize many of them that we are living right now. In regard to His coming in v.27, I believe that it is delayed with the intention that you, me, and all those around can reach the knowledge of His Word through our testimonies and preaching of His Word. If the world would have ended in 2000, as many people said it would, I would not have had the opportunity to share this with you; but something more important is the SALVATION THAT CHRIST GAVE ME. 1 Timothy 2:4 V33. What a beautiful promise our Lord makes, in which we can be at peace and be confident that whatever happens: His Word is eternal for those who fear Him. V34/36 (GWT) God entrusts to us to be responsible for our actions and for us to be prudent, so when we are called to His presence we can come clean before Him.

Dec. 2 Luiz Orosco Luke 21: 25-36 (Cont.) We are close to the end of this year if God permits us. As many of us are accustomed to start the year with new plans and goals, I would like to end with a prayer to ask God for His guidance in our lives and whether He returns soon or decades later, His favor may be with us. Father, I want to thank You for letting us live until today. I ask that You may have compassion and mercy on us and on those who do not yet know You. Save them Lord, as You have done with me. Strengthen the weaknesses in our lives. We leave this coming year in Your hands; that in our plans and goals You may be working, according to Your will. In the name of Your Son Jesus, Amen.

En el ao 2000 an yo no conoca del Seor, pero al escuchar que el mundo se iba a acabar me daba miedo, yo era un adolescente y no comprenda muy bien el echo de que todo se terminara y eso me llenaba de pnico. La gente invierte mucho tiempo y dinero en poder descubrir cuando y como todo esto ha de ocurrir, pero la verdad es qu la Biblia no lo ensea con exactitud pero si nos habla de muchas cosas qu han de suceder. Estamos viviendo tiempos muy difciles y extraos, nada mas basta con mirar los noticieros para darnos cuenta de todo lo que acontece en el mundo. V.25/32 Nos habla un poco acerca de esto. Podemos darnos cuenta de mucho de lo que esta ocurriendo y porque es que ocurren esta cosas. Aun que en estos versos Jess habla de manera proftica que aun no se a cumplido podemos darnos cuenta de muchas cosas que estamos viviendo hoy. En cuanto a su venida en vv.27, yo pienso que retrasa su venida con el propsito de que tu, yo, y todos los

Dec. 2 Luiz Orosco Luke 21: 25-36 (Cont.)

que nos rodean puedan llegar al conocimiento de su palabra a travs de nuestro testimonio y predicacin de su palabra. Si hubiese sucedido como mucha gente lo deca que en el ao 2000 todo se terminara, yo no hubiera tenido la oportunidad de compartir contigo esto; pero algo mas importante que eso es la SALVACIN QUE CRISTO ME DIO. 1 Timoteo 2:4 V.33 Que hermosa promesa nos hace nuestro Seor en la cual podemos descansar y estar confiados de que pase lo que pase, su palabra es eterna para con los que le temen. V.34/36(Version DHH) Dios nos encomienda que seamos responsables por nuestras acciones y que seamos prudentes, as cuando seamos llamados a su presencia podamos presentarnos limpios delante de el. Estamos cerca de terminar este ao si Dios nos lo permite. Como muchos acostumbramos a empezar el ao con nuevos planes y metas, me gustara terminar con una oracin para pedirle a Dios su direccin en nuestra vida y sea que el regrese o tarde decadas su favor sea con nosotros. Padre te doy las gracias por permitirnos llegar hasta el da de hoy . Te pido que tengas compasin y misericordia para nosotros y los que aun no te han conocido. Slvalos Seor como lo has echo conmigo. Fortalcenos en nuestra debilidades y en ti ponemos el prximo ao. Que todos nuestros planes y metas seas tu obrando en ellas de acuerdo a tu voluntad; en el nombr de tu hijo Jess, Amn.

Dec. 3 Scott Richmond Isaiah 2: 1-5 Advent is coming. It is a time for preparation, not just for Christmas but for Jesus, too. We celebrate the memory of Jesus birth but also the realization that he will be coming again. In todays reading, Isaiah has a vision of the future. It is the belief that Christians hold to; there will be a second advent. It begins with the elevation of God. We look up to God and have the realization that we are not God. To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance. (Isaiah 45:23) Also, His coming is for all peoples and nations, not just the chosen ones. People will seek God and His will. The truth and how we apply it to our lives will be a testimony to others. Our works will show others our justification. Not only will we seek Gods knowledge but also nations will come to Him for judgment and to settle their disputes. He is peace on earth. Humanity has not been able to obtain peace throughout our existence. We tend to perpetuate and escalate our differences to the point of never ending wars. But with God, we will not need our weapons any more; they will be able to turn into more productive items for Gods purpose. Finally, those that walk with God will walk in the light. The time of walking in darkness and putting our wants and our selves first, will no longer exist. Are you ready for Advent and its promises to come? Jesus brings the hope of the Second Advent and the peace that He will bring to our meager existence. Amen

Dec. 4 - Jackie Brown Isaiah 11: 1-10


A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse, from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on himthe Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lordand he will delight in the fear of the Lord. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears, but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked. Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist. The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the vipers nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his place of rest will be glorious. God is angry with Israel. It has forsaken righteousness and justice for the poor of the land. It has even taken up some practices of worshippers of foreign gods. God will punish Israel for going astray. But there is Hope for the future, says Isaiah, foretelling the coming of Christ and his kingdom.

Creator God, help us to love you more, teach us to praise you more, and help me to overcome faults that seem to get in the way.

Dec. 5 Bill Martin Luke 10: 21-14 Jesus Rejoices


21 At

that same hour Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, I thank you, Father, Lord of

heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 22 All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
23 Then

turning to the disciples, Jesus said to them privately, Blessed are the eyes that see

what you see! 24 For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.

This scripture says to me that Jesus is grateful that his father trusted him enough to let him decide who will receive the blessings that he has been given. Many would like to share these gifts, but Jesus turned this over only to the 12 disciples, as their faith had to be incredibly strong. Have you ever thought how you would react if Jesus appeared before you? The question I might ask myself is would I be concerned why he picked me; or, just be grateful that he did pick me? Let us pray that faith will far exceed fear when the time arrives. My prayer for the day is that I worship and love God without reservation and with complete trust and that I may be his instrument in serving others.

Dec. 6 Jodie Martin Isaiah 25: 6-9


6 On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear. 7 And he will destroy on this mountain the shroud that is cast over all peoples, the sheet that is spread over all nations; 8 he will swallow up death forever. Then the LORD God will wipe away the tears from all faces, and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken. 9 It will be said on that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us. This is the LORD for whom we have waited; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation

Growing up I spent a lot of time with my grandmother who believed that God could do anything and that he would take care of the woes of the world. I dont know exactly why this passage makes me think of her, but it does. I remember her singing throughout the day when I was at her home. She would sing old hymns which talked about a God who would provide for everyone. She would tell me when I was hurt that God would help to wipe away the tears, and when I was in trouble or embarrassed by someone, God would help me to feel better about myself. She didnt coddle me by any means; she made me work hard and taught me a lot about living and being a woman. I miss her a lot and I will be forever grateful that she gave me the love and caring she did. She also helped to give me a basis for my belief in God which sustained me while I hunted for the Lord for many years away from religion.

Dec. 7 Bob Hasty Baruch 5: 1-3


put on your head the diadem of the glory of the Everlasting Baruch 5:2b

Have you ever practiced smiling? Have you ever looked at your reflection in a mirror in order to improve your smile? It sounds silly; however, it takes a lot of muscles to form a smile. Go on. Try it! It takes more facial muscles to produce a genuine smile than it does a fake smile. Seriously! Research has defined the difference between the two by whether the muscles around the eyes are involved. A fake smile only involves raising the corners of the mouth [zygomaticus major]. Some also refer to this as the Botox smile. In order to produce a genuine smile, or the Duchenne smile, the muscles which raise the cheeks and form crows feet around the eyes [orbicularis oculi] must be added. If one were to practice the genuine smile more, one could begin to feel, as well as reflect, more joy. You cant make yourself feel happy. But you can practice the one thing that reflects a happy person: smiling. When you read this passage about putting on a crown, or "diadem," try practicing to put on a happy face? Certainly the promise of eternal life should provoke a smile on our faces. The Advent season is reminding us that God has for once, and for all, offered us eternity in the birth of a child.
Gloria in excelsis Deo! Prayer: Dear God, help us to practice being happy. Sometimes the very idea of practicing happiness hurts. There are so many reasons for being seriously concerned and sad about our world. May the spirit of Advent imbue us with the promise of joy everlasting, and bring a smile to our faces. Amen. "Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, what ever is commendable...think about these things." Philippians 4:8

Dec. 8 Ed Linberg Matthew 3: 1-3 Prepare the Way of the Lord This text automatically brings two pieces of music to my mind. One is the tenor solo that opens Handels masterwork, Messiah. Its rising and falling musical lines express hope for the impending release of the Hebrews from captivity in Babylon in the 6th century BCE. The other one is the opening solo and chorus from Godspell, one of the first musicals that employed rock style music. It features many repetitions of this phrase: Prepare ye the way of the Lord as it builds to a crescendo with an increasingly strong drumbeat. In quoting part of Isaiah 40, Matthew links the prophetic voice in this ancient text to John the Baptist, the forerunner, who baptized our Lord, as well as many others, in the Jordan River as Jesus began his ministry. Johns message was clear. A new day is coming. In fact it is so close at hand that John says: . . . the kingdom of heaven is near. (Matthew 3:2a) What does this new day call for as John sees it? People are to take a single action. They are to repent. This word prompts the writer to quote a portion of Isaiah 40: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. (Matthew 3:3b)

Dec. 8 Ed Linberg Matthew 3: 1-3 (Cont.) Every Advent, the annual season the Church uses to help all of us prepare for the celebration of Christs birth, we encounter John the Baptist. Most of us, if not all of us, find him to be annoying, if not down right unacceptable. We are excited about remembering the birth of the baby Jesus because the birth of babies declares, among other things, that Gods future is still open. Johns talking about repentance instead of telling us a more comfortable story about a baby being born in a manger. We know that repenting involves taking a hard look at ourselves. We know, too, that if we take that hard look, and are honest about what we see, there are things about us that need to be changed. When so confronted, our first response is usually to compare ourselves with others. Im not as self-centered as he is. Or, I dont hold grudges like she does. That doesnt cut it. God is not interested in our reports on the faithfulness, or lack of it on the part of others. God is interested in our actions and the attitudes behind our actions. So, to prepare the way for the coming of the infant Jesus to come into our lives once again, we need both to hear and to heed Johns one-word message: Repent.

Dec. 8 Ed Linberg Matthew 3: 1-3 (Cont.) The literal meaning of repent is to turn around. So, I ask this question of both you and me: What needs to be turned around in MY life? Is it my attitude toward people who are different from me--socially, politically, economically, racially, sexually and theologically? Is it my spending habits? Is it my preoccupation with all the trivial stuff of life? Is it my unwillingness to speak the truth, as I understand it, when confronted by someone who holds a view that I reject? Is it my lack of discipline in my relationship with God? Is it my unwillingness to forgive those who hurt me? Is it my penchant to not only enjoy hearing gossip, but to delight in passing it on? Is it my tendency to think that Jesus came to save individuals, like me, and not the whole world? No one can answer these questions about your life and the way your faith intersects with your life for you. No one can answer them for me. Only I can do that. Likewise, no one can force you, or me, to take an honest look at ourselves to determine if its time for us to really hear, perhaps for the first time, John the Baptists call to repent. And if we take steps to repent, the promise of the Christ Child, whose birth celebration is a little more than two weeks away, is this: The God whom he reveals is ready to welcome home and to embrace in his arms of love all those who repent. Prayer: God, whom we know best in Jesus, the child who came into this world as an infant born at Bethlehem long ago, we give you thanks for your amazing grace that he revealed. Help us to take a hard look at ourselves. Then help us, through the guiding presence of your Holy Spirit, to repent of all that in our lives that is not in harmony with the way of Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Dec. 9 Mitch Hanlon Isaiah 35: 1-4


Isaiah 35:1-4 1 The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, 2 it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy. The glory of Lebanon will be given to it, the splendor of Carmel and Sharon; they will see the glory of the LORD, the splendor of our God. 3 Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way; 4 say to those with fearful hearts, "Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you."

Calming fears is something that speaks to many. Some translations change fearful hearts to those who are discouraged. The timelessness of the message still rings true. We live in a world that can make us fearful, can make us discouraged. But God is stronger than our weakest day. That is the good news. That strength is what Jesus came to earth to show. Even our most base fear, fear of death, is one that Gods plan can handle. There is a wonderful promise of God with us in this passage. Even if you dont know the glory that was Lebanon, nor the fertileness of the fields of Carmel and Sharon, you feel the author going to great lengths to show the wonderfulness of Gods coming. Christ is the fulfillment of that promise of God to come and save us. Jesus is the way to understand the beauty that God offers those who believe. Prayer Oh God, whose plan for us is revealed in Christ, thank you for being our source of strength in an uncertain world. Keep us ever mindful of the strength we have in you. Thank you for sending your Son and your plan for conquering fear and death. With reverence, joy and peace through Christ, your son. Amen.

Dec. 10 Chris Fee Isaiah 35: 5-9

Walking The Highway Of Our God In this passage Isaiah talks about a future highway where only the holy and redeemed will be able to walk. As I read this passage and reflect on its meaning for our lives today I think about the road that each of us walks with Jesus. This is a walk that we must each individually choose to make. To stay on the road we need to give ourselves over to God, letting the Spirit fill us to help us follow the teachings of Jesus. Practically what does that mean? We need to let go of control and let God be in the drivers seat. We need to strengthen our spiritual practices of prayer, study, giving, and worship. We have to be committed to this kind of life every day. This Advent and Christmas season is the perfect opportunity for us to recommit to walking side by side with Jesus. As we await the celebration of Jesus birth we are reminded of what God has given to us and how blessed we are. We are grateful that we have such a loving companion to walk alongside us on this Highway of Our God. Prayer: Dear Lord, Be with us daily as we commit ourselves to walk on your highway. We thank you for the gift of your son Jesus who walks alongside us. Provide us with opportunities to strengthen our spiritual practices and give us the strength to stay on the road, following you in every way we can. Help us to be the best that we can be. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.

Dec. 11 Greg Gonzales James 5: 7-10

Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. Beloved, do not grumble against one another, so that you may not be judged. See, the judge is standing at the doors! As an example of suffering and patience, beloved, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.

A farmer must wait patiently for his crops to grow; he cannot speed up the process. In his waiting, the farmer cannot sit around and be negligent; there is much work to do in order to make sure there is a good harvest. Likewise, we should patiently wait for Jesus to return. We cannot speed up the process, but while we wait, there is much work to do for the advancement of the Kingdom of God. The farmer and the believer must live by faith. Let us not live as if our king will not come, but rather, let us work faithfully in the building-up of the Kingdom because the King will come when the time for the harvest arrives. In doing so, let us not highlight the faults of others; the true judge will evaluate each and every one of us. In our sufferings for the sake of Christ, in our patiently waiting for the Lord to return, we must ultimately remember that the Lord is merciful and compassionate. The patience and faith of the prophets for a coming Messiah to redeem the world should inspire us. They did not see or know the savior but they trusted in the word and promise of God. They faithfully proclaimed this message knowing that God would come through, even if it meant going through

Dec. 11 Greg Gonzales James 5: 7-10 (Cont.) tribulations. The promise was fulfilled and we know who the Messiah is, Jesus of Nazareth. Now with the same faith and patience of the prophets we should trust in the word and promise of God that Jesus will return, only this time not as Messiah, but as King. Santiago 5:7-10
Por

tanto, hermanos, tened paciencia hasta la venida del Seor. Mirad cmo el labrador

espera el precioso fruto de la tierra, aguardando con paciencia hasta que reciba la lluvia temprana y la tarda. Tened tambin vosotros paciencia, y afirmad vuestros corazones; porque la venida del Seor se acerca. Hermanos, no os quejis unos contra otros, para que no seis condenados; he aqu, el juez est delante de la puerta. Hermanos mos, tomad como ejemplo de afliccin y de paciencia a los profetas que hablaron en nombre del Seor. Un agricultor debe esperar con paciencia que crezca lo que sembr. No puede acelerar el proceso. Al estar a la espera, el agricultor no puede ser negligente y hacer nada; ms bien tiene mucho trabajo para asegurar que tenga una buena cosecha. Nosotros tenemos que ser pacientes en nuestra espera por la venida de Cristo. No podemos acelerar el proceso. Mientras tanto, hay mucho trabajo que hacer para que avance el reino de Dios. Tanto el agricultor como el creyente deben vivir por fe. No viva como si Cristo nunca va a volver; ms bien, trabajemos fielmente en la edificacin del reino de Dios porque el Rey vendr cuando el tiempo de la cosecha haya llegado. Al hacer esto, no deberamos enfocarnos en las debilidades o errores de otros porque solo hay un juez, el juez justo;

Dec. 11 Greg Gonzales James 5: 7-10 (Cont.) Jess. Recordemos que aun en nuestras aflicciones por Cristo y en nuestra fiel espera por la venida del Rey, El Seor es misericordioso y compasivo. Los profetas de Dios, que tuvieron fe en una salvacin venidera, que proclamaron a un Mesas venidero para la redencin de toda la humanidad, aunque no lo vieron confiaron en la palabra y promesa de Dios que el Mesas llegara; fueron fieles y pacientes en su espera porque saban que el Seor cumplira su promesa. La promesa se cumpli, el Mesas llego y lo conocemos. Ahora, con la misma fe y paciencia que tuvieron los profetas de Dios, tenemos que confiar en la promesa y palabra de Dios de que el Mesas regresara; no como Mesas, pero como Rey.

December 12 - Barry Woodbridge - Isaiah 29: 17-24


Shall not Lebanon in a very little while become a fruitful field, and the fruitful field be regarded as a forest? On that day the deaf shall hear the words of a scroll, and out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see. The meek shall obtain fresh joy in the Lord, and the neediest people shall exult in the Holy One of Israel.

Do you have an Advent Garden? So many Advent scriptures depict this great coming of God's Chosen One and the new Kingdom as an abundant, verdant garden. Here, that is translated as a "fruitful field." Elsewhere it's a springing forth of righteous shoots -- Isa. 61:11 "For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign LORD will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations." One of my favorite Advent hymns is "Lo, Ere a Rose Bloometh," which in the original German has the verb "entspringen," as though the rose is to "spring up" in the dead of winter, just as the Christ is born right out of the time of "gloom and darkness." It is as though scripture, and Isaiah in particular, is envisioning this future as a making right of the original Garden in Genesis. What humans now toil to make productive, God's creativity renews throughout the earth's nations (yes, this is an international garden, and not just an individual's backyard event in Christmas.)

December 12 - Barry Woodbridge - Isaiah 29: 17-24 (Cont.)

Everyone of us can celebrate Advent with a symbolic one-pot "Advent Garden" of our own! We have taught this in our congregations and in the local intermediate care facilities where we have donated these potted bulbs: plant a Christmas Amaryllis bulb in a pre-filled pot they come in this time of year (at hardware stores and garden centers) early enough in, or just before, Advent; everyone can have four quite large red blooms around Christmas. All it takes is a little water now and again, and God does the rest. Four to six weeks and it blooms, irrespective of the color of your thumb. We can't create such things of beauty out of such a dry brown bulbs or in cracked pots by ourselves, but God can.

We must remember, however, this is not our individual garden to possess for ourselves. This great news and glad tidings comes for all the nations, so our blooming potted plant stands as a sign to the nations. Prayer: Lord, plant and water your shoots of transforming righteousness in us; grow what we cannot make happen by ourselves. May Christ spring up in us this Christmas. Amen.

December 13 Ivan Segura Micah 5: 1-5


Micah 5:1-5 Now gather yourself in troops, O daughter of troops, He was laid siege against us; They will strike the judge of Israel with a rod on the Cheek. The Coming Messiah 2 "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting"3 Therefore He shall give them up, Until the time that she who is in labor has given birth; Then the remnant of His brethren shall return to the children of Israel.4 And He shall stand and feed His flock in the strength of the Lord, In the majesty of the name of the Lord His God; And they shall abide, For now He shall be great to the ends of the earth;5 and this One shall be peace

This is truly a special season, the season of Advent. A time when people can find hope in their moments of pain and suffering. A time of deliverance in the midst of trials and tribulations when least expected. A season of love and a time of giving and receiving. A time we take to remember that our God came into this world to give us hope and peace that surpasses all understanding. That the one from Bethlehem is truly our bread of life and our sustainer. A time when we come together and rejoice that He came and in Him we shall abide. I greatly rejoice with the prophet for the long awaited second advent into this world where we will live with the One who shall bring peace and who shall be great to the ends of the earth. It is truly a great joy as we enter into the season of advent and rejoice once again with our Savior for what He has done and what He will continue to do.

December 13 Ivan Segura Micah 5: 1-5 (Cont.)


Miqueas 5:1-5

Rodate ahora de muros, hija de guerreros; nos han sitiadeo; con vara heririn en la mejilla al juez de Israel. 2Pero t, Beln Efrata pequea para estar entre las familias de Jud, de ti me saldr el que ser Seor en Israel; y sus salidas son desde el principio, desde los dias de la eternidad. 3Pero los dejar hasta el tiempo que d a luz la que ha de dar a luz; y el resto de sus hermanos se volver con los hijos de Israel. 4Y l estar, y apacentar con poder de Jehov, con grandeza del nombre de Jehov su Dios; y morarn seguros, porque ahora ser engradecido hasta los fines de la tierra. 5Y sta ser nuestra paz. Cuando el asirio viniere a nuestra tierra, y cuando hollare nuestros palacios, entonces levantaremos contra l siete pastores, y ocho hombres principales;

Esta temporada es verdaderamente un tiemp especial, la temporada de adviento. Un tiempo cuando la gente puede encontrar esperanza en sus momentos de dolor y sufrimientos. Un tiempo de liberacion en medio de pruebas y trubulaciones. Un tiempo de amor para dar y para recibir. Un Tiempo en que recordamos que nuestro Dios vino a este mundo para darnos esperanza y paz que sobrepasa todo entendimiento. El que es de Belen es verdaderamente nuestro pan de vida y nuestro sostenedor. Un tiempo que nos acercamos y nos regocijamos en el. El vino y en el permaneceremos. Me regocijo grandemente con el profeta despues de una larga espera. Me regocijo por la segunda venida del Senor a este mundo donde viviremos con El. Verdaderamente es un gran gozo al entrar a esta temporada de adviento con nuestro Salvador por lo que a hecho y por lo que va hacer.

Dec 14 Sammie Adams Luke 1: 46-55

Marys Song My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden. For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed;

Pregnancy and hormones raging can be a bit trying to the expectant mom and all around her. When I was having children we had to go to a doctor to confirm that, because we had no tests available. Of course there were symptoms, but we couldnt be sure about that without the visit to the doctor. There were no ultrasounds, no pictures of the baby before birth, and no knowledge of the sex of the baby. It was a mystery until the baby arrived. But even with all of the new technology the mystery remains until we cuddle, feed and love our newborn and personally welcome them to this world.

Dec 14 Sammie Adams Luke 1: 46-55 (Cont.) Imagine before my time, over 2000 years ago what that experience must have been for Elizabeth and Mary. This song of Mary, The Magnificat, Canticle of Mary or Prayer of Mary, what ever title you prefer, gives us a clue of how spiritual women of God received the news. Even if an angel hadnt been involved, the mighty act of conception is a great thing. Mary is a teenager and betrothed but not with her husband as yet. Adultery in those days was a capital offense. She could have been stoned to death. She is to bear the Savior who will save the world. Her faith in God gave her strength and peace. This song demonstrates that peace, adoration and love of God that was evident in every word. How about us? Do we have that kind of trust in God? We can say we do or think we do but when nausea, pain and all that goes with childbirth or for that matter the trials of living -- what ever they are: male or female -- visit us, can we calmly lift our voices to God and sing a song of love and praise as Mary did, and wait upon the Lord?

Prayer: Dear Lord, may I have the strength and faith of Mary. Help me to face what life brings with her grace and devotion. Thank you for sending your son, Marys baby to us to show us the way and to save us. Amen.

Dec. 15 Ben Stuart Matthew 11: 2-11

Id like to file a complaint with the U.S. Government Department of Holiday Scheduling. (I think this is an actual department.) Sometime in the last several years, without any notification, the number of days between Thanksgiving and Christmas was drastically reduced. Im sure that when I was 4 or 5 years old, we had to wait at least 340 days after Thanksgiving for Christmas to finally arrive. Now, that number has been cut to about three, or maybe four days. When I was in elementary school, there was no evidence that Christmas was coming until Thanksgiving had passed and wed finished eating all the leftover turkey. I seem to remember that city workers did not install Christmas decorations across Main Street, and no one would have a Christmas tree or colorful house lights until at least December 1st. The true signal that Christmas was coming was the arrival of the Sears Christmas catalog. Now, Christmas-themed products, merchandise and advertising begins even before Halloween. Perhaps the earlier start of the Christmas retail season is therapy for kids who are having trouble recovering from the horror of seeing the Back to School specials at Walmart .

Dec. 15 Ben Stuart Matthew 11: 2-11 (Cont.)

Theres a young woman I work with named Nicole who is a Christmas fanatic. No matter what time of year you see her, you can ask her how many days remain before Christmas and she can, without hesitation, give you the correct number. But while Nicoles enthusiasm for Christmas is amazing, I was disappointed to realize her interest seems to miss the true meaning of Christmas. Nicole took full control of handling Christmas decorations for the apartment she shares with three of her friends. Her exuberance created a conflict with one of her roommates, who is Jewish, and only wanted a small portion of a wall to hang a Hanukkah banner. This lack of sensitivity runs counter to the spirit of the season. As we celebrate the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ, we should all be sensitive to the traditions and beliefs of our friends and neighbors. Let us give thanks that our Christian faith is the true reason we celebrate Christmas.

Dec. 15 Ben Stuart Matthew 11: 2-11 (Cont.)

Dec. 16 Pedro Barona Zephaniah 3: 114-16

Oh Righteous Daughter of Zion! 14 Sing, Daughter Zion; shout aloud, Israel! Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, Daughter Jerusalem! 15 The Lord has taken away your punishment, he has turned back your enemy. The Lord, the King of Israel, is with you; never again will you fear any harm. 16 On that day they will say to Jerusalem, Do not fear, Zion; do not let your hands hang limp. We should understand that GOD gives the message to His prophet to give to the people who corrupted Israel. And it is a message in which God will rise up against all those who are against His precepts (commandments). Zephaniah talks to the people of Israel, giving them a different message than the other people. Change your attitude toward what is going on in your life. Ver 14. Isnt it true that when things are going bad for us, we feel that everyone is against us? And when everything is bad we have an attitude of sadness, especially when we know that its our fault. The Lord demands that Israel changes their attitude, that they lift their heads and rejoice because He has decided to abide in them once again (Ver 15). This message includes the promise that you will not fear problems because God will use them as a way for you to get closer to Him. Once Gods presence is in your life, the fears will leave you. I give thanks to God for His incomparable mercy toward us, for His infinite love, His grace poured on us, for His forgiveness.

Dec. 16 Pedro Barona Zephaniah 3: 114-16 (Cont.)

Oh Justa Hija de Zion! 14 Canta, oh hija de Sion; da voces de jbilo, oh Israel; gzate y regocjate de todo corazn, hija de Jerusaln. 15 Jehov ha apartado tus juicios, ha echado fuera tus enemigos; Jehov es Rey de Israel en medio de ti; nunca ms vers el mal. 16 En aquel tiempo se dir a Jerusaln: No temas; Sion, no se debiliten tus manos. Sofonas 3:14-16

Debemos entender que Dios da el mensaje a su profeta para dar a la gente que corrompi a Israel. Y es un mensaje, en el que Dios se levantar contra todos aquellos que estn contra sus preceptos (mandamientos). Sofonas habla al pueblo de Israel, dndoles un mensaje diferente que a los dems. Cambia tu actitud hacia lo que est pasando en tu vida. Ver 14. Es cierto que cuando las cosas estn mal en nosotros, nos sentimos que todos estn en contra de nosotros. Y cuando todo est mal tenemos una actitud de tristeza, especialmente cuando sabemos que es nuestra culpa. El seor exige que Israel cambie su actitud, que levante la cabeza y que se alegre porque ha decidido habitar en medio de ellos una vez ms (Ver 15). Este mensaje incluye la promesa de que nunca ms estars temeroso de los problemas porque el Seor los usar como una manera de acercarte a l. Una vez que la presencia de Dios est en tu vida los temores se irn de ti. Doy gracias a Dios por su incomparable misericordia para con nosotros, por su infinito amor, por su gracia derramada en nosotros, por perdonarnos

Dec. 17 Patty Segura Isaiah 7: 10-17 10 Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, 11 Ask the Lord your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights. 12 But Ahaz said, I will not ask; I will not put the Lord to the test. 13 Then Isaiah said, Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of humans? Will you try the patience of my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. 15 He will be eating curds and honey when he knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, 16 for before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, the land of the two kings you dread will be laid waste. 17 The Lord will bring on you and on your people and on the house of your father a time unlike any since Ephraim broke away from Judahhe will bring the king of Assyria. A lot of times we want to see a sign that God is with us, but the greatest sign is to be able to feel our Savior, His Holy Spirit touching us, talking to us through his word. Remember when we are in need, feeling sad, or afflicted the greatest sign is to understand that we have a Savior to take refuge in. He will give us what we need according to His will. In this time of year as we celebrate Advent, lets remember the biggest, greatest most wonderful sign, the Son of God, Jesus, He is the greatest sign that has come to this world for us.

Lord your words are clear. You have sent The Savior for the forgiveness of the worlds sins. Blessed are you forever!

Dec. 17 Patty Segura Isaiah 7: 10-17 (Cont.)


Isaias 7:10-17 10 Habl tambin Jehov a Acaz, diciendo: 11 Pide para ti seal de Jehov tu Dios, demandndola ya sea de abajo en lo profundo, o de arriba en lo alto. 12 Y respondi Acaz: No pedir, y no tentar a Jehov. 13 Dijo entonces Isaas: Od ahora, casa de David. Os es poco el ser molestos a los hombres, sino que tambin lo seis a mi Dios? 14 Por tanto, el Seor mismo os dar seal: He aqu que la virgen concebir, y dar a luz un hijo, y llamar su nombre Emanuel. 15 Comer mantequilla y miel, hasta que sepa desechar lo malo y escoger lo bueno. 16 Porque antes que el nio sepa desechar lo malo y escoger lo bueno, la tierra de los dos reyes que t temes ser abandonada. 17 Jehov har venir sobre ti, sobre tu pueblo y sobre la casa de tu padre, das cuales nunca vinieron desde el da que Efran se apart de Jud, esto es, al rey de Asiria.

Muchas veces queremos ver una seal de que Dios esta con nosotros. Pero, que seal mas grande que poder sentir a nuestro Salvador, Su Espiritu Santo tocandonos, hablandonos por medio de su palabra. Recordemos cuando estemos necesitados, tristes o, afligidos la seal mas grande es entender que tenemos a El Salvador para refugiarnos en El y el nos dara lo que necesitemos conforme a su voluntad. En este tiempo al disfrutar el adviento, acordemonos de la seal mas importante el hijo de Dios, Jesus la seal mas grande que a venoa este mundo para nosotros.

Seor tus palabras son claras. Tu enviaste a El Salvador para perdon de los pecados del mundo. Bendito eres por siempre!

Dec. 18 Donna Woodbridge Romans 1: 1-7

Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures, the gospel concerning his son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for the sake of his name, including yourselves who are called to belong to Jesus Christ. To all God's beloved in Rome, who are called to be the saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Here Paul is writing to a congregation that he has not yet visited or even known, and for what purpose? I believe he was getting them ready for when he was coming to Rome and to get them reflecting on what is the Gospel of God. Paul had met Jesus on the road to Damascus and therefore could call himself an apostle, one sent out. God called Paul and sent him out into the world to tell the story of the Gospel. In verse 2 God promised through his prophets that he would send his son who would have power according to the spirit of holiness, and through his resurrection we would receive grace. We are about to celebrate that time when God sent Jesus as a baby boy, born of a virgin so everyone would know there was something special about this child. Little did the people of that time know what we know today - how powerful and life changing this event would mean to us all.

Dec. 19 Lisa Parks Psalm 80: 17-19

But let your hand be upon the one at your right hand, the one whom you made strong for yourself. Then we will never turn back from you; give us life and we will call your name. Restore us, O Lord God of hosts, let your face shine, that we may be saved.

Have you noticed that the face of God is more evident to us this time of year? As we light the candles of Hope, Joy, and Love all around us shimmers. The holy season that heralds the newborn Kings birth fills us with wonder, whether we are celebrating our fifth or seventy-fifth Christmas. We carefully unwrap the manger scene and arrange it in a place of honor. We decorate the tree with treasured ornaments and place carefully selected gifts beneath it.

No wonder it is at this time of year, perhaps more than any other, that we clearly see God in the faces of those around us our beloved family and friends, neighbors, coworkers, and those we meet every day. We greet each other with a lighthearted gentleness. We smile easily. We stop to chat. And our hearts are deeply touched when we recognize Gods face in those who are alone, in need, and without hope. We reach out to help those we do not know or will never meet again.

Dec. 19 Lisa Parks Psalm 80: 17-19 (Cont.) Until I was in my late thirties, I was surrounded by a very large extended family. Our Christmas dinners were noisy, multigenerational celebrations. My photos from that time are more precious than any gift I ever received. But, as we all know, time changes every family. Weve endured the heartbreak of saying good bye to loved ones and weve joyfully welcomed new lives into our circle. Today, when I look around our Christmas table my family looks different than the one I knew when I was younger. But, the peace, joy, and love that fill my heart are the same. And, as always, I see the face of God smiling back at me.

Prayer for the Day Dear Lord, please help me to see your face in everyone I meet today. May I remember that although families and traditions may change, your love is constant --- and that your face will always shine upon me. Amen.

Dec. 20 Roberto Cruz Luke 7: 18-23

Luke 7:18-23 18 Johns disciples told him about all these things. Calling two of them, 19 he sent them to the Lord to ask, Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else? 20 When the men came to Jesus, they said, John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else? 21 At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind. 22 So he replied to the messengers, Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. 23 Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.

A lot of times we doubt that the Lord has sent someone to help us in the situation that we are in -- knowing that it is Him helping us through people that have listened to Gods will. Most of the time we need to see to believe, but lets remember that we walk by faith, not by sight. If we have faith the Lord is with us when we are sick, the Lord will heal us physically, spiritually and mentally. Jesus responded to Johns disciples by His actions, not by words. God has sent His son to die for us, so that we can celebrate not only in these times, but always, that He has paid the price for our sins. Lets celebrate life walking by faith, not by sight, in Jesus Christs name.

Dec. 20 Roberto Cruz Luke 7: 18-23 (Cont.) Lucas 7:18-23 18 Los discpulos de Juan le dieron las nuevas de todas estas cosas. Y llam Juan a dos de sus discpulos, 19 y los envi a Jess, para preguntarle: Eres t el que haba de venir, o esperaremos a otro? 20 Cuando, pues, los hombres vinieron a l, dijeron: Juan el Bautista nos ha enviado a ti, para preguntarte: Eres t el que haba de venir, o esperaremos a otro? 21 En esa misma hora san a muchos de enfermedades y plagas, y de espritus malos, y a muchos ciegos les dio la vista. 22 Y respondiendo Jess, les dijo: Id, haced saber a Juan lo que habis visto y odo: los ciegos ven, los cojos andan, los leprosos son limpiados, los sordos oyen, los muertos son resucitados, y a los pobres es anunciado el evangelio; 23 y bienaventurado es aquel que no halle tropiezo en m.

Muchas veces dudamos que Dios ha enviado a alguien que nos ayude en la situacin en que estamos . Sabiendo que es El quien nos ayuda a travs de personas que han escuchado la voluntad de Dios. La mayora de las veces necesitamos ver para creer, pero recordemos que caminamos por fe no por vista. Si tenemos la fe de que El Seor est con nosotros cuando estamos enfermos, el Seor nos sanar fsicamente, espiritualmente y mentalmente. Jess respondio a los discpulos de Juan por sus acciones, no palabras. Dios envio su hijo para morir por nosotros, para que podamos celebrar, no slo en estos tiempos, sino siempre porque ha pagado el precio por nuestros pecados. Celebremos la vida caminando por fe no por vista en el nombre de Jescristo.

Dec. 21 Aida Valladarez Luke 1:26-38


26 In the sixth month of Elizabeths pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgins name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you. 29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacobs descendants forever; his kingdom will never end. 34 How will this be, Mary asked the angel, since I am a virgin? 35 The angel answered, The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail. 38 I am the Lords servant, Mary answered. May your word to me be fulfilled. Then the angel left her.

The announcement in the Bible of the birth of Jesus is truly astounding! It is exciting every time I read it. The name "Jesus", or "Yeshua" means SALVATION! In verse 34 Mary asks "how?", and in verse 38 she simply accepts it: "I am the Lord's servant...may your word to me be fulfilled." I truly believe that if we seek to be more like God --not only every Sunday, or every day --but every minute of our lives, we will be able to recognize His wonderful plans for us. In verse 30 the angel said: "...Mary, you have found favor with God". Let us rejoice not only during Advent but all year knowing that this announcement of the angel is the best and most complete promise all mankind can receive, and it is up to each of us to simply accept it. Lord, thank you for your amazing grace and unconditional love towards us! We pray for spiritual strength today so we may remember your birth all year long and honor you by living our lives in a way that only pleases you. Amen.

Dec. 21 Aida Valladarez Luke 1:26-38 (Cont.) Vamos a Lucas 1:26-38 26 Al sexto mes el ngel Gabriel fue enviado por Dios a una ciudad de Galilea, llamada Nazaret, 27 a una virgen desposada con un varn que se llamaba Jos, de la casa de David; y el nombre de la virgen era Mara. 28 Y entrando el ngel en donde ella estaba, dijo: !!Salve, muy favorecida! El Seor es contigo; bendita t entre las mujeres. 29 Mas ella, cuando le vio, se turb por sus palabras, y pensaba qu salutacin sera esta. 30 Entonces el ngel le dijo: Mara, no temas, porque has hallado gracia delante de Dios. 31 Y ahora, concebirs en tu vientre, y dars a luz un hijo, y llamars su nombre JESS. 32 Este ser grande, y ser llamado Hijo del Altsimo; y el Seor Dios le dar el trono de David su padre; 33 y reinar sobre la casa de Jacob para siempre, y su reino no tendr fin. 34 Entonces Mara dijo al ngel: Cmo ser esto? pues no conozco varn. 35 Respondiendo el ngel, le dijo: El Espritu Santo vendr sobre ti, y el poder del Altsimo te cubrir con su sombra; por lo cual tambin el Santo Ser que nacer, ser llamado Hijo de Dios. 36 Y he aqu tu parienta Elisabet, ella tambin ha concebido hijo en su vejez; y este es el sexto mes para ella, la que llamaban estril; 37 porque nada hay imposible para Dios. 38 Entonces Mara dijo: He aqu la sierva del Seor; hgase conmigo conforme a tu palabra. Y el ngel se fue de su presencia. El anunciamiento del nacimiento de Jess en la biblia es verdaderamente asombroso! Es emocionante cada vez que la leo. El nombre Jess o Yeshua significa salvacin. En el verse 34, Mara pregunta cmo?, y en el verso 38, simplemente lo acepta; Yo soy la sierva del Seor.

Dec. 21 Aida Valladarez Luke 1:26-38 (Cont.) Tu palabra para mi sea cumplida. Realmente creo que si buscamos ser ms como Dios, no solamente cada domingo, o cada da, sino cada minuto de nuestras vidas podremos reconocer sus magnficos planes para nuestras vidas. En el verso 30, el ngel dijo; Mara, haz encontrado favor delante de Dios. Regocijmonos no solamente en el tiempo de adviento pero en todo el ao reconociendo que el anuncio del ngel es lo mejor y completo que toda humanidad puede recibir, y est en nosotros el simplemente aceptarlo. Seor gracias por tu maravillosa gracia y tu amor incondicional para nosotros! Oramos que nos des fortaleza espiritual hoy, para recordar tu nacimiento todo el ano honrndote viviendo nuestras vidas como te plazca a ti. Amen.

Dec. 22 Pedro Valladarez Luke 1: 46-55.

Prayer: Lord, your love has been showed to the whole world, through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. And in these times we can remember the birth of Jesus and be thankful and grateful.
46 And

Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord,47 And my spirit hath rejoiced in God

my Saviour.48 For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.49 For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.50 And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation.51 He hath showed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.52 He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.53 He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.54 He hath helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy;55 As he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed forever. It is ironic that many people think Mary was supernatural. But the truth is that she was a woman who feared God, whose life was pure and she was obedient. Mary was the Mother of the Christ but she humbled herself and proclaimed that she needed a savior. She was blessed by being the instrument God used to bring his Son to the world. I think we should all ask God for a heart like Marys, to be pure, obedient and willing to do anything for the kingdom of God.

Dec. 22 Pedro Valladarez Luke 1: 46-55. (Cont.) Oracion: Seor, tu amor se ha demostrado al mundo entero, a travs del sacrificio de Cristo en la cruz. Y en estos momentos podemos recordar el nacimiento de Jess y ser agradecidos. 46 Entonces Mara dijo: Engrandece mi alma al Seor; 47 Y mi espritu se regocija en Dios mi Salvador. 48 Porque ha mirado la bajeza de su sierva; Pues he aqu, desde ahora me dirn bienaventurada todas las generaciones. 49 Porque me ha hecho grandes cosas el Poderoso; Santo es su nombre, 50 Y su misericordia es de generacin en generacin A los que le temen.51 Hizo proezas con su brazo; Esparci a los soberbios en el pensamiento de sus corazones.52 Quit de los tronos a los poderosos, Y exalt a los humildes.53 A los hambrientos colm de bienes, Y a los ricos envi vacos. 54 Socorri a Israel su siervo, Acordndose de la misericordia 55 De la cual habl a nuestros padres, Para con Abraham y su descendencia para siempre. Es irnico que mucha gente piensa que Mara era sobrenatural. Pero la verdad es que ella era una mujer que temia a Dios, cuya vida era puro y obediente. Mara fue la Madre del Cristo, la cual se humill y proclam que ella necesitaba un salvador. Ella fue bendecida por Dios para ser el instrumento que Dios us para traer a su hijo al mundo. Creo que todos debemos pedir a Dios un corazn como la de Mara, para ser puro, obediente y dispuesto a hacer cualquier cosa para el reino de Dios.

Dec. 23 Pedro Barona Matthew 1: 18-25

The angel of the Lord appeared to a young girl, letting her know that she was about to bring into this world the one true King -- the boy that was about to change everything for His people, bringing freedom, health, light to the blind.

One thing that really gets my attention is that once she got pregnant, and knowing everything she was about to go through, she was not scared. The main reason for that was because God Himself gave her a task, to be the mother of a new life, to be the way God wants to come and live among us, bringing us His beautiful love and mercy. Have you ever asked yourself what is within you, what has God given you? Let the Master lead you and use what is inside you. Allow our Master to do with you ordinary things and then to do the extraordinary things, with the natural and the supernatural for the blessing of His people! It is my prayer that today is the day that we stand up and lift up our heads and start walking as Kings and Queens of the Most High, showing the world that we are ready to give them what the Lord has placed inside of us. His love, mercy, forgiveness, power, glory, joy, and happiness. In Jesus name I pray, Amen!!!

Dec. 23 Pedro Barona Matthew 1: 18-25 (Cont.) De una joven mujer sale un Salvador Mateo 1: 18-25 El ngel del Seor, se le aparece a una joven mujer, dejndole saber que va a traer al mundo un verdadero Rey. El nio que cambiara todo por Su gente, trayendo libertad, salud, luz a los ciegos. Una cosa que realmente toma mi atencin es que cuando ella esta embarazada, sabiendo todo lo que iba a pasar, no tena miedo. La mayor razn era porque Dios mismo le dio una tarea, ser la madre de una nueva vida, ser de la manera que Dios quiere vivir en medio de nosotros, trayndonos su hermoso amor y misericordia. Alguna vez te has preguntado. Que hay dentro de ti, que te ha dado Dios? Deja que El Maestro te guie y que use lo que hay dentro de ti. Deja que el Maestro haga lo ordinario, y deja que haga lo extraordinario, con lo natural y supernatural para las bendiciones de Su pueblo! Es mi oracin hoy que nos paremos y levantemos con nuestras cabezas en alto y comencemos a caminar como Reyes y Reinas del Altsimo. Debemos de ensear al mundo que estamos listos para dar lo que El Seor ha puesto dentro de nosotros. Su amor, misericordia, perdn, poder, gloria, gozo, y felicidad. En el nombre de Jess, Amen!!!

Dec. 24 Tim Acquistapace Luke 2: 1-20 I began appreciating classical art at a very young age by playing a board game by
Parker Brothers called Masterpiece, and it wasnt until high school that I realized that I had an aptitude for creating it as well. In that early time of exploration I had little interest in the Gothic period. However, once I discovered that much of the Gothic art mannerisms were achieved through a careful consideration of visual elements and color for the purpose of establishing a religious symbology, which I began to find rather compelling. Additionally, though I felt the figures in Gothic work never appealed to me due in part to the fact that they always looked so emaciated and weak, but this also was done to convey a sense of otherworldliness which in turn fascinated me. The painting above is titled The Adoration of The Magi by the Italian Gothic artist Gentile Da Fabriano. It is an altarpiece which depicts not a typical serene manger setting but more a siege of the newly born Christ and his modest environs by throngs of noblemen, royalty, religious leaders and the like. It may be our natural inclination to assume that the realization of such a glorious event would create such fervor in the simple agrarian

Dec. 24 Tim Acquistapace Luke 2: 1-20 Cont.

fold as well as those that comprise the upper echelons of their society, though I doubt that it was the case then and certainly neither today as well. Sadly, so many today are far more self assured of their place in the universe and content in our mastery of the matter that constitutes our collective reality to be hornswoggled by something as sublime as the event depicted above. Yet, I believe that it is precisely that which we find so extraordinary that draws us in as a people longing for a universal wholeness. I doubt that we would be so drawn into the birth of Jesus if it came to us with only half of the cast of players in a form which we are familiar. There are two very distinct and well defined visual presentations at work in the depiction of the birth of Jesus. The first is that of the common people so destitute they are delivered to the least hospitable shelter for the birth of any child, let alone our Messiah. The second is that of the Heavenly Host declaring for all to hear that God is now among us. The first is as terrestrial as one can imagine and the other is one we arent expected to understand because they are from the invisible realm which we are not obliged to see. As surreal and enthralling as these pair of images occurring within the same proximity may be it is the exchange and acknowledgement of each that galvanizes the event. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God saying glory be to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men - Luke 2:13-14.

Prayer: Let us all this day strain our eyes, minds and hearts to perceive those things which may very well grant us the wholeness with which we may finally understand and accept one another through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Dec. 25 Debra Todd John 1: 1-18 The Word Became Flesh John 1:5: The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

I dont remember exactly when it happened, sometime when I was old enough to know and experience and understand on a new level, but Im not sure when it was. It may have been as late as high school, but all of a sudden, I fell in love with a midnight Christmas Eve service that ended at Midnight. That means that Christmas Eve ended with everyone holding candles, circled around the sanctuary singing Silent Night acapella in the dark. What a powerful and profound moment, to be in communion with others, allowing the light to shine bright in the darkness as we usher in Christmas Day, as we usher the Christ child into the world. Christmas day is truly about light, salvation, joy, love, and hope. Into the darkness of our lives, we remember again that precious new life that entered the world, the word, which was and is God, became flesh in a baby named Jesus. I invite you to light a candle and keep it lit this Christmas Day as a visual reminder of the birth of the Light into the world. Embrace the joy that comes from giving and receiving of gifts, but take time to pause and see the light and remember that the greatest gift came in the most unexpected time and place in a perfect vulnerable child named Jesus.

Blessings to you on this Christmas Day!!

Barry Woodbridge, Editor Janelle Vannoy, Designer Worship Ministry, Team 2013 Anna VanDiest Barry Woodbridge Edie Stahnke Jack Townsend Janelle Vannoy Mitch Hanlon Leslie Beck Lin Garcia Laura Miller Ex Officio Darrell McGowan, Senior Pastor Debra Todd, Associate Minister Deb Taylor, Council of Elders Chair

First Christian Church 109 E. Wilshire Ave. Fullerton, CA 92832 714-525-5525 FullertonFirstChristian.org