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Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.  Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

-Matthew 9:35-38

After Advent: When the Wait Isn’t Over - 

This devotional was written by Suzanne Struiksma

Somehow, Advent has become one of my favorite times of the year. It hasn’t always been this way. I guess the appreciation for a season of waiting comes with age, adulthood, and well, motherhood…I’ve heard numerous sermons comparing Advent with pregnancy. It’s not that far fetched of course.

Because who can better relate to the story of promise and expectation than a mother nurturing life itself in her womb?

A few years ago on Christmas Day, my husband and I let the world know we were expecting a tiny  human. No baby bump in sight yet, but we had hope in our hearts and couldn’t wait to meet our little one. Our season of waiting didn’t last as long as we had thought though. After just 6 months, our advent was over, but it did not feel like Christmas.

Our little girl was born at just 27 weeks of pregnancy, and her health {and mine} was in serious danger. I thought I knew a bit about waiting, but then came the weeks and months in the NICU. It was the scariest, most insecure time of my life. When I was pregnant, I thought I knew what I was ‘expecting’. Or at least what I was hoping for. But after little Evi was born, I needed to learn to wait and hope for real. And it was difficult.

If I could have found the words to pray, maybe I would have whispered the words of Psalm 27:

I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living! Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!

For some of us, the waiting doesn’t begin until Advent is over. It is uncomfortable and confusing for us and those around us. In those times we need friends to help us lean into the pain. Friends to light an extra candle…as many as we need to find hope in the midst of darkness and discomfort. And we need reminders to celebrate little victories as if they were Christmas itself.

In the past few years I have learned to live in the tension of Advent. I don’t always know what I’m hoping for, other than a promise of God. But that alone is enough for today.

May your heart take courage in this season, to wait for the Lord and expect His goodness. And may you have friends for the journey.


This first appeared here and is shared with permission.

Motherhood is not one size fits all.

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Our hope is that women will feel at home at Grace for Moms – comfortable enough to share their unique story and be encouraged by others along their journey. 

This post was originally published for Grace For Moms and is used here with permission.

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Restoration of the Heart -   

This devotional was written by Robin Dugall

“It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.” -  Isaiah 49:6

It’s not hard to look around and see people broken, beat up and utterly wrecked by the daily happenings in our world. When God created life, it began complete, God-filled and utterly amazing. But, with an act of rebellion, it became grief-stricken, hurt-ridden and sin-infected. Sin and brokenness entered the world and took what God had made, twisted it, distorting the good and bringing pain into life.

But all hope is not lost. As Christmas approaches, it’s nearly impossible to miss the change that happened with the birth (theologians call this the “incarnation”) of God into our world. Roughly 2000 years ago, God “moved into the neighborhood” as a human being to bring restoration and healing to His most prized creation. The impact on the world was instantaneous with the birth of Christ, sparking a revolution that is still drastically shaping and healing the world that we live in.

We have a huge part in this revolution, day in and day out. Being a Christ-follower means that you put His love into action and through the Holy Spirit’s help, that you be an agent of change in people’s lives. Carrying the love of Jesus along with us, day in and day out is quite possibly the most effective tool that we possess. Christ’s love, expressed through each one of us as we live out the moments of our lives, can drastically make this world and our relationships better.

So, here is a bit of a challenge: as this month moves on and we remember and celebrate the birth of Jesus (the miraculous, unfathomable incarnation of God in this world!), seek God as to how you can make a difference in the lives of the people who make up your world. Dream on how you can see His love work through your hands, your words, your time, your gifts and your service.  The graceful love of God is a restorer of people, a builder of hearts, and a healer of brokenness. It is not only that which needs to be experienced day in and day out, but also brought to the people with whom you interact and whom God so desperately loves.

 

GOING DEEPER:

How will you demonstrate the healing, restoring love of Christ to someone today?

 

FURTHER READING:

John 13:34; Romans 12:10

This devotional originally appeared in “HomeWord with Jim Burns” on Crosswalk’s Family Devotional section. For more information about HomeWord with Jim Burns devotionals, please visit us online.

More of HomeWord with Jim Burns: http://www.crosswalk.com/devotionals/homeword/

The Real St. Nicholas -  

This devotional was written by Jim Liebelt

 

Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. —1 Corinthians 11:1

 

Many families choose not to include Santa Claus as a part of their Christmas celebrations. The legend of Santa, the North Pole, flying reindeer, keeping naughty and nice lists, and coming down the chimney can seem as just too much distraction from the true meaning of Christmas for many Christian families. But, whatever your family chooses to do with Santa Claus, it may be worthwhile to consider the historical St. Nicholas.

 

“Nicholas lived long ago, in the third century, in a place called Asia Minor, what is now the country of Turkey. His parents died from an illness while Nicholas was a teenager and left him a large inheritance of money. Nicholas’ parents taught him about Jesus. As he grew older, he followed the teachings of Jesus and sold all his possessions, secretly giving money to those in need.

 

“Nicholas became well-loved by the people and later became the Bishop of Myra. He died on December 6, 343 A.D. The anniversary of his death became a day of celebration in his honor, called St. Nicholas Day. On this day, children would give and receive small gifts of candy, chocolate initial letters, or riddles hidden in baked goods or in elaborate packaging. Children also hung stockings by the fire or placed shoes filled with carrots and hay for the horse, eagerly awaiting gifts from St. Nicholas. Gold balls or oranges were given to represent the gifts of gold once given by St. Nicholas.”1

 

Influenced by St. Nicholas’ popularity in Europe, immigrants brought his story and tradition to America. Over the years, legend was wedded to historical elements and developed into our modern day Santa Claus.

 

While we celebrate Christmas as the birth of Jesus, we can have an appropriate appreciation for the lives He has touched. This includes those whose lives demonstrated compassion and selflessness out of their love for Jesus. St. Nicholas was such a person.

 

GOING DEEPER:

1. What is your family’s approach on Santa Claus as part of your Christmas celebrations? Why?

 

2. How might considering the historical St. Nicholas actually add to your family’s Christmas celebration rather than distract from it?

 

FAMILY TIME:

Even if Santa Claus isn’t part of your family’s Christmas celebrations, it’s certain that they will be exposed to images and messages of Santa (television, movies, stores, decorations, family traditions) during the holiday season. At an appropriate point, use the content above to engage your family in a discussion about the historical St. Nicholas and the wonderful example he set as a follower of Jesus. As a family, show some compassion and selflessness by choosing someone (perhaps someone needy) and decide on a meaningful gift you can give this person for Christmas. Together, deliver the gift to this person.

 

1The Real Santa Claus: The Wonderful Story of St. Nicholas by Jim Burns and Leslie Snyder.

This devotional originally appeared in “HomeWord with Jim Burns” on Crosswalk’s Family Devotional section. For more information about HomeWord with Jim Burns devotionals, please visit us online.

More of HomeWord with Jim Burns: http://www.crosswalk.com/devotionals/homeword/

What Does Love Mean?

This devotional was written by Kelly McFadden

 

Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. —1 John 4:8-10

 

A group of 4-to-8 year-olds were asked the question, "What does love mean?" As usual with children, the answers often offer wisdom. Bobby – age 7 – said this, “Love is what's in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen.”

 

God’s love expresses itself to us in innumerable and immeasurable ways. He is love, the only true and pure essence of it. God most clearly expressed His love when He sent His Son to be our Redeemer. This Christmas, take time to love as God loves you: sacrificially, humbly, faithfully, and joyfully. And as 7-year-old Bobby said, as you gather with your family this holiday, take time to push aside the hustle and bustle of the season to listen closely. For the greatest gift was given in Bethlehem. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior – yes, the Messiah, the Lord – has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!” (Luke 2:10-12)

 

In the Bible, 1 Corinthians 13,is known as the “love chapter.” Someone has created a special Christmas version (author unknown) of this chapter. I share it here, as it provides practical insight into how we can love as God loves, specifically at Christmastime.

 

If I decorate my house perfectly with plaid bows, strands of twinkling lights and shiny balls, but do not show love to my family, I’m just a decorator.

 

If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozens of Christmas cookies, preparing gourmet meals and arranging a beautifully adorned table at mealtime, but do not show love to my family, I’m just another cook.

 

If I work at the soup kitchen, carol in the nursing home and give all that I have to charity, but do not show love to my family, it profits me nothing.

 

If I trim the tree with shimmering angels and crocheted snowflakes, attend a myriad of holiday parties and sing in the choir’s cantata but do not focus on my love for Christ, I have missed the point.

 

Love stops the cooking to hug the child. Love sets aside the decorating to kiss the husband. Love is kind, though harried and tired. Love doesn’t envy another’s home that has coordinated Christmas china and table linens.

 

Love doesn’t yell at the kids to get out of the way, but is thankful they are there to be in the way. Love doesn’t give only to those who are able to give in return but rejoices in giving to those who can’t.

 

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. Video games will break, pearl necklaces will be lost, golf clubs will rust, but giving the gift of love will endure.

 

GOING DEEPER:

1. Write down three tangible ways you can actively love those around you this Christmas.

 

2. As you open presents this Christmas, take a moment to halt the ripping of paper and encourage your family to think about the incredible Gift we celebrate each Christmas.

 

FURTHER READING:

John 3:16; Romans 8:38-39; 1 Corinthians 13:1-13

This devotional originally appeared in “HomeWord with Jim Burns” on Crosswalk’s Family Devotional section. For more information about HomeWord with Jim Burns devotionals, please visit us online.

More of HomeWord with Jim Burns: http://www.crosswalk.com/devotionals/homeword/

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