Friday, December 25

Scripture Passage: Luke 2:8-20 “But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.’” (Luke 2:10)

In many circumstances in my life I have been afraid. With my Dad’s extensive medical history, I have sometimes been very afraid we would lose him. Other things bring me fear too. Life is full of reasons for fear and anxiety. Currently, I am facing a major life decision in deciding what college to attend, but I wonder what I will do if something happens to my Dad and I can’t get home. What if I get to college, and it’s not a good fit for me? It’s terrifying how many things I have to consider in making this decision. However, I know I do not need to be afraid.

In Luke we learn of Jesus’ birth and the strength and security it brings. We learn that we do not need to be afraid. In these verses, we read of the Savior being born, leaving us no reason to be afraid. Jesus has come to forgive us and welcome us into our Father’s kingdom. What do we have to fear when we have God on our side? Jesus will never leave us, and He will always be by our side. Isn’t that good news that brings great joy?

In this Advent season, we await the coming of our Lord who will bring us eternal life, an eternal life without fear. In this time of fear and unease in our country, may we still reach out and show God’s love in this world. Let us be God’s mirror into our world and lead all people to an eternal life without fear.

Prayer: Lord, thank You for sending your Son into the world. Thank You for protecting us and giving us strength in trying times. Help us to overcome our fear and be Your light and reflection in the world. Let us be gracious and show Your love fearlessly in the world in all situations, even to those that make us uneasy. Thank You for showing us Your kindness and love. In Your name we pray, Amen.

Courtney Packer – 2016

Thursday, December 24

Scripture Passage: Luke 2:1-7 “…and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed hm in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.” Luke 2:7
Can you imagine if we had existed thousands of years ago? We can only witness and imagine how the people’s lifestyles were, from the types of homes, jobs, and community they had. We really don’t know how many miles they have to travel from point A to point B and the kinds of foods they are. When I was young, I wanted to have nice things like shoes and clothes to keep up with my school peers, even though my parents couldn’t afford to provide all we wanted in life. Years passed. I realized why my parents provided what we truly need rather than what we wanted. I learned quickly in life the difference between wants versus needs.

Now, it seems easy to buy new things that we like because of all of the incentives that are added to items such as discount offers, payment options, and sales tactics. In our generation, we’re exposed to nice fancy vehicles, clothes, and gigantic homes due to the limitless amount of debt offered. In the end, however, we see the true reality that these materials are not fully satisfying and only provide temporary relief.

The story of Jesus’s birth shows simplicity and takes place in such a humble setting. God, the Father, sent his ONLY Son without any collection of colorful cotton onesies and without musical infant toys or infant furniture. Mary and Joseph were simply offered a manger to give birth. Nevertheless, this verse reminds us how Jesus humbles Himself.

Prayer: Dear God, as we prepare for Christmas, remind us on how You chose to reveal Your image in the humblest way. Help us not to focus to our wants, but to open our hearts to serve others that are in need. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Sheila Simone – 2016

Wednesday, December 23

Scripture Passage: Luke 1:46-56 “He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble.” (Luke 1:52)

Today’s Scripture has been called “The Magnificat” or Song of Mary. In Latin, the word means “magnifies,” and this prayer of praise is recorded as Mary’s joyous response to her cousin’s greeting. Elizabeth affirms Mary’s knowledge that the child she carries is of God! Mary is filled with praise for God who has chosen her as a humble servant. There is no mention of fear, loneliness, doubt, or regret. Mary knows her God – the one true God, Alpha and Omega, Lord of Lords, King of Kings, Creator – has been mindful of her. He will continue to be strong, merciful, mighty. She responds with joy, trust and love!

“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for He has been mindful of the humble state of His servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me— holy is His name. His mercy extends to those who fear Him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with His arm; He has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped His servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as He promised our ancestors.”

When God allows us to see an opportunity to participate in His plan today, our response is based on who we believe God to be. Do we respond with recognition of His power, care, and love? Do we act with faith – believing in His protection and trusting that He will work out the details? When we do not know how to respond, let us sing songs of praise and remember all of God’s goodness in the past, present, and future. Let us joyfully trust Him!

Let us remember that God’s thinking is opposite of the world’s thinking: that lavish giving does not make us poorer, but richer; that humility does not make us trampled down, but lifted up; that pride does not fulfill us and boastful ranting does not fulfill our need to be loved and accepted.

Prayer: Dear Loving God, may I trust you today to draw near to me and fill me with your promise of hope! May I respond with joy, generosity, and humility. May my life reflect and magnify Your love to others! Thank You for the written account of Mary’s song of praise in Luke’s gospel. Amen.

Leigh Bigger – 2016

Tuesday, December 22

Scripture Passage: Luke 1:39-45 “Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill His promises to her!” (Luke 1:45)

In today’s culture, “blessed” is a word we may hear or USE often. Perhaps we use it because it carries a promise of happiness and because it “feels” holy. In this familiar passage from Luke, “blessed” conveys happiness and the powerful promise of the Holy One to the fullest extent. After encountering the angel, Mary left to visit her aging cousin who was also expecting a child. From her own state of blessedness, Elizabeth exalts the promise of the coming of Her Lord through Mary and then speaks with the purest meaning of the word.

“Blessed is she who has believed”

By believing the extraordinary revelation which had come to her, Mary became aligned with God’s good will for her and for the whole world. At the sound of Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth felt her unborn child leap for joy. We ourselves have experienced immeasurable joy if we have heard God’s news of His only begotten Son and have believed!

“…that what the Lord has said to her”

Can we even imagine how Mary received this news and what range of emotions she must have felt? The word the angel delivered to Mary would change her life forever. When His word comes to our hearts, our lives are also changed. We begin to trust, to rely on His goodness, and to experience His faithfulness. It’s why we read and study Scripture, why we worship, and why we listen in quiet meditation. Like Mary, we are blessed when we hear God’s message to us. It is a work of our Christian devotion to be always listening for the word of the Lord that brings us into line with his good will.

“…will be accomplished.”

The word “blessed” as we use it hardly seems powerful enough to describe the promise of God coming to dwell among us, but these were the very words spoken in this excited, yet intimate, conversation in Luke. Mary believed the promise, and through her God’s perfect will was accomplished through all the earth. This Advent, meditate on the promise of Christ in you, listen for how God would align you with His best will, trust Him with your fears and uncertainties, and may each of us rejoice in the assurance that God’s glorious promise for all people has been fulfilled—-even our Savior, Christ the Lord!

Prayer: Thanks be to You, O God, for Your unspeakable gift. Help us walk in Your love and work faithfully to listen, believe, and bless others in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Karen Bolton – 2016

Monday, December 21

Scripture Passage: Isaiah 7:10-14 “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14)

Some of us can admit that we had an imaginary friend growing up, maybe even more than one. When I was in elementary school I had one of these special friends; her name was Molly. Molly was important to me because she was always by my side. She sat next to me while I ate lunch in the cafeteria and we always shared a seat together on the afternoons as I took the bus home from school. She was one of my closest friends, and knew exactly what I was thinking.

Unlike these imaginary friends, God is not imaginary. In fact, nothing and no one could be more real. From today’s passage, Immanuel simply means “God with us.” God Himself stepped off His throne in Heaven and left His glory to save us from our ultimate separation. Christ dwelt in our midst, establishing His Kingdom and teaching us how we are to walk as His followers; and after ascending back to the Father, the Holy Spirit was sent to us so that God would still be with us as we live our lives.

While this is something we should remember every day, the Advent season is a time that invites us to reflect on what that means. We should be joyful that there is a God who will never turn His back on His beloved children. We should have hope that there will soon be a day when we will fully be with Him in all of His glory. We should have peace that there will never be a struggle that we will ever have to face alone.

God is with us today and He won’t be leaving anytime soon. He won’t be leaving us ever.

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, during this season of Advent, we thank You for sending Jesus Christ down to be with us and save us from our sins. Please continue to be with us as we celebrate this Advent season and reflect on who You are and why You came down from Heaven. Amen.

Hannah Stoops – 2013

Sunday, December 20

Scripture Passage: Luke 1:26-38 “‘I am the Lord’s servant,’ Mary answered. ‘May your word to me be fulfilled.’ Then the angel left her.” (Luke 1:38)

Mary was an unmarried, young, teenage girl; a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph. She was visited by the angel Gabriel who told her she had been chosen to be the mother of Jesus Christ. Mary was very troubled by Gabriel’s announcement. Gabriel told Mary she was very favored and that the Lord was with her. Mary submitted to God’s will. She believed what Gabriel told her and agreed to be Jesus’ earthly mother even while believing it to be humanly impossible. Mary’s story about being with child by the Holy Spirit risked the possibility that she would be considered mentally troubled and could have destined her for a life of rejection and hardship. But even with all the risks, Mary said “May it be to me as you have said.” Mary only knew that God was asking her to serve Him, and she willingly agreed to obey the Lord.

Mary’s willingness and readiness to serve the Lord should inspire and challenge us today. Life can be very difficult and troublesome, but life can also be very joyful. My experience as an obstetrical nurse for many years gave me the opportunity to witness many of God’s miracles and blessings such as seeing an expectant mother with such great anticipation about what her child will be like. Will she be a good mother and give her child as many opportunities as possible in life? There is usually concern about whether a pregnancy will progress normally and if the child will be healthy. I cannot imagine how a young girl in her early teens must have felt when the angel Gabriel visited her and told her that God had chosen her to be the mother of Jesus, God’s son. She was probably frightened and unsure of what this would mean in her life, but she still agreed to serve the Lord. If only we could be more like Mary today!

Prayer: Our Heavenly Father, be with us during this Advent season. Help us to answer Your call and follow Your direction in our lives without hesitation as Mary did so many years ago. Grant us grace and peace in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Kaye Baggett – 2017

Saturday, December 19

Scripture Passage: Isaiah 7:10-14 “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14)

In my job, I prepare high school students for live choral and musical theatre performances in front of live audiences. Putting together one of these productions is, well, a production. There always seems to be a time, usually a week before the performance, when the students start questioning whether everything is going to come together. They begin to doubt and fuss and fume, but a few days before opening, it suddenly clicks. Everyone remembers their words, everyone remembers their blocking, and everyone remembers their lines. All of a sudden, they understand my process and start looking forward to the next performance. When all of the hard work finally comes together, it is electric.

In Isaiah 7:10-14, the Lord tells Ahaz to ask Him for a sign that the Savior is coming, but Ahaz says he will not ask the Lord for a sign. He will not test God. Ahaz reminds me of my students who want to know my next move or why I am doing something, but are afraid to ask. They constantly test me. Then Isaiah speaks and tells the people to listen! He wants them to stop trying the patience of the Lord! “The Lord Himself will give you a sign; The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”

Can you imagine what people thought after Isaiah tells them of the Virgin giving birth? I wonder if they were skeptical or if they were always looking for a woman with child, wondering if she could be the one. It was a time of hope and wonder.

Aren’t we always looking for signs? We ask God to show us a sign so we will know if we are doing the right thing or going in the right direction with our lives. We look for signs while we travel. I look for signs that I have chosen the correct music or that the production will turn out well. While on vacation, I find Bible verses printed on decorative accessories and for some reason, it is the sign from God that I need. God must have known that His people needed reassurance through this prophecy. He knows us and knows we wonder and worry and question, so He provides what we need.

Prayer: Lord, please help us to trust that You will give us the signs we need. Please help us to let go of our questions and worry and doubt and to trust that You have us in the palm of your hand. Amen.

Mary Summerlin – 2016

Friday, December 18

Scripture Passage: Isaiah 61:1-11 “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.” (Isaiah 61:1)

Jesus quoted these verses as He described His own ministry in Matthew 11:5 and Luke 7:22. At this Advent season, we are challenged to consider our calling from the Sovereign Lord. Could we each do this work alone? I want to work with a team! Our headquarters would need to be a lighthouse, a broadcast tower, a comfort station, a walk-in clinic, a freedom zone.

This is the challenge members of Berea Baptist Church on Fayetteville Road accepted years ago. They saw the needs of the new community forming near the intersection of Highway 54, Hope Valley Road, and the still-dirt road called Garrett. Through years of praying, planning, raising money, donating and buying land, prayerfully preparing leadership, and rejoicing in God’s blessings, they organized Hope Valley Baptist Church.

Our founding families worshiped, discipled, equipped, and reached out in ministry. The nearest needs called for a vigorous Vacation Bible School, support of the Durham Rescue Mission, and cooperative projects through the Yates Baptist Association such as the food pantry. Offerings for needs in our state such as the Baptist Children’s Homes extended the light. The world was sent the Good News through offerings as well.

Our church’s heritage has grown with increased outreach. Our young people have served others as far away as New York State. Our adults have gone out to Hawaii, Africa, and Asia. Locally, we serve the homeless through IHN. We have helped refugees and baked cookies for the Women’s Prison in Raleigh. We teach the Bible, not only in Sunday school, but in Awana as well. We reach out to the community with our playground, Easter Egg Hunt, Fall Festival, English as a second language training, the Toy Store, and special events such as Operation In-as-Much, and projects at McDougal Terrace and the Union Mission in Roanoke Rapids.

As you prepare your heart for renewal this season, ask yourself, “Have I found the ministries which need MY talents, MY time?”

Prayer: Sovereign Lord, I praise You for Your might and majesty. I thank You for Your love and guidance. Reveal to me Your plans for my joy and fulfillment through using my talents and time to serve others in Your Name. Amen.

Jacquie Allen – 2015

Thursday, December 17

Scripture Passage: John 1:1-18 “Yet to all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.” (John 1:12)

The four Gospels give us four views of the life of Christ. Matthew begins with Jesus’ ancestry. Mark’s account starts with Jesus’ ministry, and the book of Luke gives us details about the events that led up to the birth of Jesus. John goes back to the beginning of the world saying Jesus was the Word that was in the beginning in creation. John says in our Scripture text that the Word came to God’s people, but His own people did not receive Him.
John 1:12, the focal passage for today says, “Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, he gave the right to become children of God.”

This verse caused me to recall the time when I accepted Christ as my Savior and Lord and became a child of God. It was at a Billy Graham Crusade in Memphis in 1951. During this same crusade, my parents and my sister also became Christians. What a wonderful memory to recall!

Remembering my salvation was an Advent experience because it prepares me to meet the coming Christ during this Christmas season. Perhaps recalling your salvation will also be an Advent experience for you. I pray that it will.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for sending Your son, Jesus Christ, to be our Savior. Be with us during this Advent season as we prepare to receive Him anew. Amen.

Tommie Calhoun – 2016

Wednesday, December 16

Scripture Passage: Luke 1:5-25 “And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” (Luke 1:17)

The concept of time has always fascinated me. I especially enjoy movies that explore the inevitable paradoxes that occur with travel back in time. It is also interesting how our perception of the passage of time changes depending on our circumstances. We are all familiar with the phrase, “time flies when you are having fun,” and have experienced how quickly time seems to pass when we are fully occupied in some activity. Conversely, when we are waiting for something, time seems to drag and the phrase “A watched pot never boils” is often quoted to distract us from the difficult experience of watching and waiting.

I am curious about how time works in Heaven. God clearly has a very different perspective on time. We read in 2 Peter 3:8, “With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” In Luke 1:17, the angel of the Lord is laying out the plan for John’s life which is going to start immediately with his birth, but part of this plan can also be found prophesied in Malachi 4:5 over 400 years earlier. Whereas we tend to think in terms of days and weeks when we are making plans, God frequently seems to work on a much larger time scale that can include numerous generations.

As Christmas approaches, it seems natural for our thoughts to turn to our children as we try to find gifts and make preparations for the celebration. From a longer term and Godly perspective, if we are really to make ready a people prepared for the Lord, then in this regard we should also turn our hearts to our children to ensure they are prepared to be the next generation.

Prayer: Gracious God, thank You for the time You have given us on this earth. Thank You for the earthly life of Jesus that we may come to know You as Father. Help us build and maintain relationships with our children so that they may also grow in their relationship with You. Guide us day by day so that we may be prepared for the return of the Lord, in whose name we pray, Amen.

Toby Bowen – 2016