"Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look."
- 1 Peter 1:8-13
We've chosen to participate in Advent this year at Illuminate Community Church. The word advent literally means "arrival" or "coming" - and so we will meet together every Saturday to worship and celebrate the reminder that there was an arrival and there will be an arrival. Christ came to earth long ago to redeem His people and will one day come again to finally bring restoration. During this Christmas season we want to embrace this idea of longing and anticipation, and so for the next four weeks we will focus on the love, joy, peace, and hope of Jesus Christ.
Even if you know the Advent narrative well, don’t rush past what God has for you in this season. For many, this may be the first time to consider all that God is saying through the birth of His Son. For others, it will be an opportunity to rediscover the way God intimately works in the details of life for His glory and the good of man. For all of us, may this season be one marked by hope, expectation, remembrance and worship. The King has come and is coming! There is much to celebrate.
Week 1 - Love Gave Everything
As we begin our journey to Christmas, a day of celebration and the fulfillment of God’s loving act in sending His son, let’s read, reflect, and pray about what this means to each of us.
OT: Isaiah 7:10-17, Micah 5:2
NT: Luke 1:26-33, John 3:16, Romans 5:8
What does God’s love mean to you? Spend a few minutes really allowing the love of God to sink in to your heart. He cared so much about us that He came down to earth to begin the rescue plan. How can you show love to those around you this week?
Dear God, on this first week of Advent we begin a spiritual pilgrimage as we joyously anticipate Christmas day, a reminder of the birth of our Savior. Thank you for your love, which transforms our lives. In his name we pray. Amen.
week 2 - Joy Overcomes Fear
Jesus is coming, shout for joy! Joy is a word we see and hear everywhere at Christmas but few understand its meaning. Joy is the absence of fear. Joy to the world is the resounding message of the season because true joy is found in the Savior come to earth!
OT: Psalm 98:1-6 | Isaiah 11:2
NT: Luke 2:1-10 | 1 Peter 1:8-9 | Philippians 4:4
Is something stealing your joy? How can the truth of these verses restore it? Philippians 4:8 points us to how we should align our heart & mind in order to accomplish that. How can you be someone who spreads joy to others this week? Think of practical ways to make it happen.
Lord, as we enter the Christmas season, we want to take time to thank you for sending your Son to be born as a baby and to become our Savior. We rejoice in knowing that we have eternity ahead and we have great joy in our hearts as we trust in Him daily. Amen.
week 3 - peace proclaims freedom
For those of us who are in Christ, our peace is absolutely certain, because we not only have the peace of God with us right now, we have the peace that comes from knowing that nothing at all, not even death, can separate us from the love of God that is ours in Christ Jesus our Lord. This peace sets us free.
Matthew 1:18-25 | Luke 2:14 | John 14:27 | Romans 5:1 | 1 Thessalonians 5:23 | Philippians 4:6-7
The readings remind us that peace is available to us now. So often we turn to ourselves first and we allow our problems to consume our thoughts. What circumstances are stealing your peace? Take time to reflect on what God’s Spirit is saying to you in the midst of these worries? Is there someone in your life who needs you to be a peacemaker toward them?
If so, what will you do?
Dear God, I cannot control people, plans and all of my circumstances, so I give those things over to you and focus on your goodness. I know that when I pray and give thanks instead of worrying, you have promised that I can experience the kind of peace that passes all understanding. I ask for this now. I am so thankful you brought me peace with you through Jesus. Amen.
Week 4 - Hope for Eternity
If ever there was an age without hope, it is our own – terrorism, wars, environmental pollution, racism, crime, corruption, poverty…the list goes on. Hope gives us encouragement in the midst of the trials and tribulations of this life because it
focuses our affection on the blessings which await us for all eternity. Hope is the Christian’s response to the gift of Jesus and all that He provides now and in the life to come.
Luke 2:25-32 | Romans 5:5 | Romans 15:13 | 1 Peter 1:13 | Hebrews 6:19-20 | Titus 2:12-14
These verses remind us that hope can only be found in the person of Jesus Christ. For those who have placed their trust in Him, our hope remains certain and secure. Are the cares of this world competing for your heavenly hope? If so, hand them over to God in prayer. Meditate on the verses and allow them to restore the hope that Jesus came to give you. Hope grows when shared with others. Is God nudging you to share that hope with someone you know this season?
Father, you are the God of hope who brought love into this world. This is the hope we stand on - Jesus brings salvation. We live with the expectation that our hope will one day be fulfilled at the return of Jesus. We look forward to that day when we see him face to face. Enable us to live our lives in holiness, purity and obedience until that time comes. Amen.