Preparing Room

Last week there wasn’t a stitch of Christmas in my home. And although we still have a long way to go, the tree is up with lights (sans ornaments) and the Bach Christmas Station is playing through Pandora this morning. Even though it might look or seem like a half-hearted or minimalist attempt, my heart is more engaged with the Story than it has been in a long time.

I’m continuing to read through Revelation, but I also picked up a great little e-book called “Touching Wonder: Recapturing the Awe of Christmas” by John Blase. I can’t tell you how much my heart enjoys reading the Story with new eyes.

“Let every heart prepare Him room!”

That’s one of my favorite stanzas from Joy to the World. I love the visual imagery and the perfect reminder to prepare what’s most important.

Our small group discussed that very idea around a fire and S’mores (WIN) last week. How are you preparing your heart for Advent? I can’t stop thinking about that question, especially when I wake up in the middle of the night.

Do we begin our own traditions now or wait until we have kids one day? My parents used to light the candles of an Advent wreath in the evenings during the month of December. The three siblings would fight to light and extinguish the candles, we would sing a song or two, and someone would read a small passage. I’m sure it was stressful at times, but there was something about the hush of the lights, the circle, and our small family celebrating together.

I’m currently on the hunt for my own Advent wreath. It might take some convincing to get my husband to sing, but the hope is that our home, as a family unit, will prepare for Christmas in a very intentional way.

What about you? How are you preparing the room of your heart this Advent?

This week I’m going to share some of my favorite Advent resources and I hope you’ll do the same. Preparing the way for Emmanuel… who was, is, and will be.

Preparing,
Ginger

 

With You

“Moses was shepherding the flock of Jethro, his father-in-law, the priest of Midian. He led the flock to the west end of the wilderness and came to the mountain of God, Horeb. The angel of God appeared to him in flames of fire blazing out of the middle of a bush. He looked. The bush was blazing away but it didn’t burn up.

Moses said, “What’s going on here? I can’t believe this! Amazing! Why doesn’t the bush burn up?”

God saw that he had stopped to look. God called to him from out of the bush, “Moses! Moses!”

He said, “Yes? I’m right here!”

God said, “Don’t come any closer. Remove your sandals from your feet. You’re standing on holy ground.”

Then he said, “I am the God of your father: The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob.”

Moses hid his face, afraid to look at God.

God said, “I’ve taken a good, long look at the affliction of my people in Egypt. I’ve heard their cries for deliverance from their slave masters; I know all about their pain. And now I have come down to help them, pry them loose from the grip of Egypt, get them out of that country and bring them to a good land with wide-open spaces, a land lush with milk and honey, the land of the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Amorite, the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite.

“The Israelite cry for help has come to me, and I’ve seen for myself how cruelly they’re being treated by the Egyptians. It’s time for you to go back: I’m sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the People of Israel, out of Egypt.”

Moses answered God, “But why me? What makes you think that I could ever go to Pharaoh and lead the children of Israel out of Egypt?”

“I’ll be with you,” God said. “And this will be the proof that I am the one who sent you: When you have brought my people out of Egypt, you will worship God right here at this very mountain.” (Exodus 3:1-12, The Message)

Check out the question from Moses in the second to last paragraph. “But why me? What makes you think that I could ever go to Pharaoh and lead the children of Israel out of Egypt?”

How many times have I… have we responded to God similarly? “But why me? What makes you think I could ever ____________?

I love the response from God. “I’ll be with you.”

The hopes and fears of all the years are met in Emmanuel. God is WITH us.

Take heart! He is with you.

Following,
Ginger

Was, Is, and Will Be

Advent is upon us. It’s time to celebrate and prepare our hearts for the coming of the King of Kings. In my mind, the Advent readings, candles, and music serve as a giant pause button. That pause tells me to close my computer, hide my to-do list, and stop with the shopping and decorating. The pause helps me reclaim peace in the midst of busy.

Usually I read through two Advent devotional booklets during the season. But this year is different… not intentionally, it just worked out that way.

I’ve been reading through the Bible for the last two years and am just about to finish up this time around. Ordinarily I would take a break for Advent, but I’m so close to the finish line. That’s how I found myself reading Revelation chapters 1-2 yesterday morning.

My Advent reading appears to be the book of Revelation. I’ll admit, the thought was a little deflating until I found the narrative of Scripture swirling all around me – reminding me that all of the pieces point to the same promise:

“Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come…” (Revelation 1:4)

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the LORD God, ‘Who is, and who was, and who is to come…”  (Revelation 1:8)

On Sunday morning the candle of promise was lit in our small church sanctuary and our pastor shared from the lyrics of the beautiful hymn, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” Not only has the song been in my head for three days, but the promise of God with us replays as well.

The main theme of the sermon: “Through faith in Jesus – God was, and is, and will be with us.”

Advent is the promise of His presence. God is with us. This was the comfort provided to a fearful Mary, a worried Joseph, terrified shepherds, and doubting disciples. Time and again the answer, the hope of all our fears, is met in the promise of God’s presence.

Confession: I have yet to play a single Christmas song in my home. There’s not a stitch of decor in my house. It’s 80 degrees outside. It doesn’t feel like Christmas.

But the promise running through the Gospel story rings clear this morning. The truth of God’s presence trumps my wandering feelings. God is with us.

“The angel went to her and said, ‘Greetings, you who are highly favored. The LORD is with you.” (Luke 1:28)

This is the theme for my reading and writing this season. I welcome you to join me.

Following,
Ginger

 

O Come, O Come

 

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny
From depths of Hell Thy people save
And give them victory o’er the grave
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

-John Mason Neale and Henry Sloane Coff

Immanuel

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14

“The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”—which means, “God with us.” Matthew 1:23

Breathing this promise in and out today. God is with us.

Oh come let us adore Him…
Ginger

He’s Here!

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.  When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child,  and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.  But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.  The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.”  Luke 2:16-20, NIV

Let every heart, prepare Him room…

We waited for Him.

Merry Christmas and Joyous Noel!

Love came down.

1 Corinthians 13

“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13

 Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, love divine;
Love was born at Christmas,
Star and angels gave the sign.

Worship we the Godhead,
Love incarnate, love divine;
Worship we our Jesus:
But wherewith for sacred sign?

Love shall be our token,
Love be yours and love be mine,
Love to God and all men,
Love for plea and gift and sign.

-Christina Georgina Rossetti

May Love be your all this day, and this season.

Following Love,

Ginger

Love.

[1 Corinthians 13:1-12]

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part,  but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.  When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.  Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”


 

Love is not proud
Love does not boast
Love after all
Matters the most

Love does not run
Love does not hide
Love does not keep
Locked inside

Love is the river that flows through
Love never fails you

Love will sustain
Love will provide
Love will not cease
At the end of time

Love will protect
Love always hopes
Love still believes
When you don’t

Love is the arms that are holding you
Love never fails you

When my heart won’t make a sound
When I can’t turn back around
When the sky is falling down
Nothing is greater than this
Greater than this

Love is right here
Love is alive
Love is the Way
The Truth the Life

Love is the river than flows through
Love is the arms that are holding you
Love is the place you will fly to

Love never fails you

Love Never Fails by Brandon Heath

Following,
Ginger

Advent Resource: Love Never Fails from the Album What if We by Brandon Heath.  Praying that these words hold new meaning for you this Advent season!  At each mention of love picture the One who has come to give in the ultimate act of love!

Love NEVER FAILS.

[1 Corinthians 13:3-8]

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.  Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails.” 

Love never fails.

TRUTH TO BELIEVE:
“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14, NIV

While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” Luke 2:6-7, NIV

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16, NIV

The one sure thing I can tell you about the coming weeks and year is this: God’s love never fails.  He promised His son, and His son He gave.

His love never, ever fails.

His mission does not fail.

His Word will not fail.

Immanuel means God with us… that God saves… and that our Father’s love never fails.

HOPE TO CLAIM:
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose… For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:28, 38-39, ESV

God’s love will not and does not fail.

He is sustaining the family reeling from a cancer reoccurrence in their vibrant son.

He is guiding the single foster mom as she opens her home to the children sent her way.

He is healing the father who just endured a second surgery for another round of yet a different cancer.

He is giving peace to families sleeping in hospital rooms, watching their children breathe with machines.

He is granting courage to the couple driving miles in order to adopt a third into their family of four.

He is watching out for the single mom who seems to always battle uphill for the care of her son.

He is moving in all of these situations that make it hard for me to breathe.

He is working in every challenge, every joy, every tear, and every moment.  He is with you today and He will be with you tomorrow.  His love will not fail.

CHALLENGE TO EMBRACE:
“The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23, ESV

List out your need for His mercies this morning… every situation that steals your breath.  After each line write out Lamentations 3:22-23.  Soak in the words and let them move from your head to your heart.  Any time you feel ready to worry or despair today, recite the words of this verse and remember that God’s love never fails.

Love never fails.

Following,
Ginger 

Advent ResourceDona Nobis Pacem (Give Us Peace) performed by Yo-Yo Ma.  I could listen to this delicate rendition with cellos all day long.  It calms my heart and focuses my mind on the simple lyrics: Give us peace… over and over and over.

Love ALWAYS PERSEVERES.

[1 Corinthians 13:3-7]

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.  Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always perseveres.”

Love always perseveres.

TRUTH TO BELIEVE:
This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.  But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”—which means, “God with us.”

 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.  Matthew 1:18-25, NIV

I hate running but I’m spending a lot of time these days hitting the pavement and training for a big race.  Around my 4th or 5th mile my knees start hurting and my brain begins to tell me that I should probably just stop.  But if I stop at mile 5 in training, there is no way that I’m going to make it to mile 13 on the day of the race.

It’s always easier to quit than to keep going.  Perseverance is one of the greatest marks of maturity.  Continuing to press on even when things are difficult isn’t a natural human response.  Persevering in relationships when they are inconvenient or unpleasant… that requires a supernatural kind of love.

HOPE TO CLAIM:
“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register.  So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.” Luke 2:1-5, NIV

David Smith says that “Love continually pours itself out for others — not conveniently, but continually.

Nothing about Joseph’s role as Father was convenient.  He had every legal right to divorce Mary.  Jewish law even went so far as to say that Joseph could have Mary stoned for her illegitimate pregnancy.  When Joseph decided to listen to the words of the angel, he also made an active decision to love Mary as his wife.  He would adopt a son who was not of his flesh and blood.  He would care for a girl who was likely the talk of the town and the subject of constant rumors.  He would love them even if it cost him everything.  Note that he didn’t do this because Mary was “the one” or because he chose “the right person,” he loved his family because that’s what God asked of him.

CHALLENGE TO EMBRACE:
“May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.”  2 Thessalonians 3:5, NIV

Read all of 1 Corinthians 13 (again!) today.  Be sure to notice that you will not find any verses that say love is convenient.  It wasn’t convenience that caused the Son of God to enter the world as a child.  Convenience didn’t compel Him to walk this earth.  Convenience didn’t hold Him on the cross.  His love never, ever stopped.

Love always perseveres.

Following,
Ginger

Advent Resource: THE STORY- The Bible as one continuing story of God and His people.  I believe that the impact of the Christmas Story is felt and realized most deeply in the midst of the entire story of God’s Word!  That’s why I’m recommending The Story. “God goes to great lengths to rescue lost and hurting people. That is what The Story is all about—the story of the Bible, God’s great love affair with humanity. Condensed into 31 accessible chapters, The Story sweeps you into the unfolding progression of Bible characters and events from Genesis to Revelation.