advent devotional | JOY

READ

But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create, for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy. (Isaiah 65:18 NIV)

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kind­ness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. (Galatians 5:22-25 NIV)

UNDERSTAND

One of the best things about the Christmas season is the way anticipation builds for the big day. We count down to Christmas with Advent calendars. And the closer and closer it gets to the actual day, the more and more we anticipate with excitement what Christmas morning will actually bring. In other words, our expectations for joy are high. And as the anticipation builds, so does the joy we look forward to feeling.

The people of God looked forward to that first Christmas with a similar anticipation, but what they were anticipating was much greater than any present we might be hoping to find awaiting us this year. They’d long been waiting for a Savior to come, and as news spread that He might have finally arrived, their anticipation grew to new heights. And when they knew that Jesus, the One whose arrival they’d anticipated for hundreds of years, was born that Christmas morning, their joy was endless.

While we can’t imagine what it must have felt like for the people back then to know that the King they’d been promised had finally come, we can share in their joy this Advent season. For just as God filled their hearts with His joy, He can fill ours with the same. And His joy—a deep, unmatchable, life-changing joy—is bet­ter than anything else we might be anticipating this Christmas season.

As Advent moves on, ask God to fill your hearts with joy. Focus your anticipation on the celebration of His birth. And, ask Him to make your life a living testament of His joy this Christmas.

RESPOND

Questions for Discussion:

  • What’s one thing you’re anticipating with excitement this holi­day season?
  • What do you think real joy feels like?
  • How is it different than happiness?
  • What’s one way you can find the joy of Christ this Christmas?
  • How can you help others experience that same joy?

PRAYER

Lord, you are the One we’ve all waited for, and we’re so grateful that you came to Earth for us all those years ago. We’re so grate­ful for the way you saved us and the joy you made possible for us. Help us to remember that what we have to be most excited about this holiday season is You. Give us your joy and help us to share it with others.

FAMILY TIME

The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear, right? Well, we think so!

Make a point to interject some joy into your family’s holiday season by doing something fun and unexpected. One evening this week, tell your family to put on their best Christmas paja­mas. Then, load everyone up in the car and take them to a local coffee shop for some hot chocolate. But in order to get their hot chocolate, your family has to sing a Christmas carol to the barista behind the counter!

Take your hot chocolates to go, and hit the road together to explore some of the best Christmas lights your neighborhood or town has to offer. Blast the Christmas music as you go, and sing along to some of your favorite holiday tunes together as a family.

It may sound silly, but we promise it will create some fun, joy-filled memories for your family this holiday season.

Advent & Christmas events and resources

Events

Dec 2 3pm The.Best.Bedtime.Story.EVER

Dec 3 10am The.Best.Bedtime.Story.EVER

Dec 13 7pm GriefShare: Surviving the Holidays

Sundays at 10am Coming Home sermon series

  • Dec 10 Home for Christmas
  • Dec 17 Home for Christmas HELP!
  • Dec 24 Unwanted Gifts
  • Dec 31 No Place Like Home

Dec 24 5:45pm Christmas Eve

Resources

Be part of Mary & Joseph’s journey through Orillia #NoRoomAtTheInn

Advent reflections: Introduction | Hope | Peace | Joy | Love | 10,000 moments

advent devotional | PEACE

READ

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Coun­selor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this. (Isaiah 9:6-7 NIV)

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.  (John 14:27 NIV)

UNDERSTAND

Is there anything crazier than the Christmas season? The hustle and bustle of holiday shopping, family gatherings, church services, work parties, Christmas performances, and the general busyness that comes with the season. There’s just something about the Christmas season that seems to raise the collective blood pressure of the population, huh?

What’s interesting is that this frantic feeling of frenzy is the exact opposite of what this season is meant to be. While the rest of the world is pulling us toward presents, parties, and planning, Jesus is simply leading us toward peace.

In a world marked by tragedy, division, and corruption (sound familiar?), Jesus came to bring His long promised peace to the people. His birth permanently turned the page from pandemo­nium to peace, letting all of us know that even when everything around us feels crazy, we can still have peace. Lasting, eternal, deep rooted peace.

When chaos swirls around you this Advent season, choose peace. When you feel the stress of family dynamics or the tug of tension threatening to break you, choose peace. When you feel rushed and spread thin, choose peace. When you feel the pull toward perfection, choose peace. And when you feel the weight of weariness in this world, choose peace.

So as this Advent season marches on and we move closer and closer to Christmas, no matter what’s happening around you, cling to Jesus. Cling to the One who brings peace. Make His peace the banner over your Christmas season.

RESPOND

Questions for Discussion:

  • What is one thing that really stresses you or your family out during the holiday season?
  • What does peace look like to you?
  • How can you make a choice to let the peace of Christ permeate your holiday season?

PRAYER

God, you are the bringer of peace. You are the One who can sustain us when life feels chaotic. As Christmas approaches, help me to choose peace. Fill me with your peace and focus my eyes on You.

FAMILY TIME

Grab some pens, small pieces of paper, and your family! Have ev­eryone in your family write down on pieces of paper some things that really stress them out about the Christmas season. Have each person fold their answers up and put them in the middle of the table.

Before you take a look at their answers, read John 14:27 with your family. Talk together about what peace means to each one of you and how peace is possible in our lives because of Jesus.

Then, start going over the things each of your family members wrote on the pieces of paper. As you talk about the things that each of you said might be stressful this season, brainstorm ways you can instead choose peace.

reading the gospels | MATTHEW

This fall at OCC we are reading through the gospels
…one chapter a day, five days a week,
letting the gospels speak into our lives,
allowing the gospels to shape our thinking,
letting the gospels influence our actions…
so that’s God’s name is glorified and his kingdom is proclaimed.

We are moving into John on Monday, 11 December

Reading the Gospels matthew

Let me encourage you to post in the comments the verse that struck you the most & why

advent devotional | HOPE

READ

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness, a light has dawned. (Isaiah 9:2 NIV)

UNDERSTAND

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been good at waiting. I’ve never been good at not knowing what’s ahead. Looking forward to an unknown future with hope and excitement just doesn’t come naturally to me. I doubt it does to most.

That’s exactly what the people were facing before the birth of Christ. They’d been through so much—the good, the bad, and the unimaginably terrible—over the years. Floods and famine, war and wandering, slavery and suffering—these people endured it all, but always with the ever present hope of a Savior promised to come. They’d long been shrouded in darkness, waiting for a light to come.

But the darker the cloud, the brighter the sun that eventually shines through. And for them, that light to come was King Jesus. Though they waited in darkness, they did not wait without the hope of a Savior who was promised to come and shine an eternal light on their lives.

Waiting on God doesn’t exactly look the same for us as it did for them. We have the privilege of knowing how their story ends. The Savior they hoped for did finally come, and not just for them but for the whole entire world as well. For us. The waiting is still daunting, but we can wait with a fresh hope because we know the King has come.

I don’t know what kind of darkness you might be waiting under this Christmas season. I don’t know how heavy the cloud feels over your heart. But I do know this: for those living in deep dark­ness, a light has dawned. As we begin this Advent journey and look forward to celebrating the birth of the Savior who changes lives, do so with a fresh hope that the darkness will not win.

A light will break through.

RESPOND

Questions for Discussion:

  • What does waiting look like in your life?
  • How does the wait make you feel?
  • Do you struggle to look forward to the future with hope? Why or why not?
  • How can you remember the hope of Christ and the promise of the light to come this Advent season?

PRAYER

God, thank you that we don’t have to wait without hope in this life. We know that just as it was true for your people back then, the promise of a Savior is true for us today, too. Take the weight of darkness sitting heavy on our lives and replace it with the light of your hope this Advent season.

FAMILY TIME

At dinner one day this week, ask each member of your family to share one thing they’re hoping for and waiting for this Christmas. Depending on the ages of your children and family members, answers could include anything from gifts they hope to see under the tree, prayers they hope to see answered, or an experience they hope to have.

After everyone has shared, read Luke 2:1-20 (what we know as the Christmas story in the Bible) and talk as a family about how those people were waiting for something bigger than anything we could imagine that first Christmas. They were waiting for Jesus! Just as we have hopes for what we want to happen this Christmas season, the people then did, too.

Then, pray together as a family, asking God to help you remember to have hope this Christmas season.