Countdown to Christmas
Devotional

“The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my Savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety. I call to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and I am saved!”

Psalm 18: 2-3

December 1: Joseph! What are you doing?
December 1: Joseph! What are you doing?
Joseph! What are you doing?

 

Read: Matthew 1:18-19
Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.

Reflect: Joseph gets a bad rap here. He is a righteousness man, and he is trying to do the right thing. Ironically, in this case it would have been the wrong thing to do, luckily God intervenes. This is just another example of how God acts, in unexpected ways.

Think of a way that God as acted in your life in an unexpected way.

Pray: Dear Lord, give us the wisdom to see the ways you are acting in our lives, even when they are unexpected. Amen

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December 2: What if?
December 2: What if?
What if?

 

Read: Matthew 1:20
But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.

Reflect: Can you imagine all the what-if questions that were running through Joseph’s head? What will the village say about Mary’s pregnancy? What will the gossip be like? Will this hurt my business? All of these what-ifs must have been driving Joseph crazy. Then the angel appears. Fear not, the angel says. Two powerful yet straightforward words. Fear, not Joseph, God is in control, He’s got you.

Think of a fear you have in your life and how you can turn it over to God.

Pray:  Lord God, you are in control of all things. Help me to put my hope and trust in you, especially in the fearful times. Amen

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December 3: He will save His people
December 3: He will save His people
He will save His people

 

Read: Matthew 1:21
“She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins”

Reflect: How will Jesus save? Well, you know, through his death on the cross, the outpouring of his precious blood. Jesus came to pay the price needed to forgive. But here we learn that God is not just purposing to forgive sins, but Jesus has been sent into the world to SAVE PEOPLE from their sins. Through the blood of Jesus, your sins are forgiven, and you are SAVED.

How can you live a life of forgiveness?

Pray: Dear Lord, thank you for sending your Son into this world to save your people and to save me. Amen

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December 4: Immanuel
December 4: Immanuel
Immanuel

 

Read: Matthew 1:22-23
“All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).

Reflect: Have you ever felt alone? It can be a scary feeling. The feeling that there is no one walking with you through your struggle or pain. The feeling that there is no one to whom to talk. No one to work through the problems you are facing. Here is your good news for the day. You are not alone; God is with you. Jesus was sent into this world for many reasons, one of which is to be Immanuel, God with us. God is with you in this world. You are not alone.

If you feel alone, reach out to someone close to you, talk to them about it, and pray to the one who is with you always.

Pray: Immanuel, thank you for always being by my side. Thank you for never leaving me. Amen

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December 5: Wow! What a dream
December 5: Wow! What a dream
Wow! What a dream.

Read: Matthew 1:24-25
When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.

Reflect: I don’t know about you, but I can never remember my dreams. I am glad I never receive important instructions during them. Joseph just received the most critical instructions of his life, marry Mary, raise a baby, and name him Jesus. Oh, and by the way, he is going to be the most important child ever born. The faith of Joseph here is incredible; he listened to God and obeyed. Faith is a powerful thing.

Where are you on your faith journey? What are some steps you can take to strengthen your faith?

Pray: Lord God, thank you for giving us the gift of faith. Please help us grow and strengthen our faith in you daily. Amen

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December 6: Lets change things up a bit
December 6: Lets change things up a bit

Lets change things up a bit

Read: Luke 1:26-27
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary.

Reflect: It seems like Mary has her whole life planned and ready to go. She is about to be married, and she will be cared for and taken care of. Her life is all planned out and ready to go. Not so fast says the angel Gabriel, I am here to turn your world upside down. The plans that we have for our lives do not always match up with the plans God has. When they change on us, it can be a challenge, but luckily for us, our God knows what he is doing.

Reflect on a time in your life where your plans did not match up with God’s plans for you.

Pray: Dear Lord, when unexpected changes happen in our life give us the wisdom to see you at work. Help us trust in you at all times. Amen.

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December 7: Surprise Visitor
December 7: Surprise Visitor
Surprise Visitor

Read: Luke 1:28-29
And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be.

Reflect: “She was greatly troubled.” Well, that is the understatement of the year. An angel just appeared to Mary. When an angel appears, it means some big news is about to follow. But what could this news be, Mary must have thought. At that moment, before the announcement was made, you can only imagine the thoughts going through her head, that uneasy feeling in the pit of her stomach. I know I would have felt sick to my stomach. But even in this moment of uncertainty for Mary, the angel reminds Mary of this one simple fact, “The Lord is with you.”

Is there something that is greatly troubling you right now? How can you be reminded that the Lord is with you?

Pray: Lord, keep me focused on you. Even in troubling times, help me to remember that you are with me. Amen

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December 8: Overwhelmed
December 8: Overwhelmed
Overwhelmed

 

Read: Luke 1:30-31
And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.

Reflect: Think about what has happened to Mary in such a short time. Her world has been turned upside down. Mary has gone through a full slight of emotions, and there is an angel right before her. (At least God took the stress of naming the child from her). I picture Mary just standing there with her mouth open, trying to process all this new information. The word the comes to mind here is overwhelmed. If Mary were left to figure her situation out by herself, she would not have been able to do so. What is taking place at this moment is something that God has been planning from the very beginning.

What comfort does it give to you knowing God has got a plan? Are you feeling overwhelmed this Advent season? What do you think was going through Mary’s head in these moments?

Pray: Lord God, thank you for always having a plan. Please help me to see the work that you do all around me and how it fits into your grand plan for me and your creation.

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December 9: Reign Forever
December 9: Reign Forever
Reign forever


Read: 
Luke 1:34-35
And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy— the Son of God.

Reflect: “Forever” and “no end” are two concepts that are hard for us to wrap our heads around. Everything that we see, everything in our life has an end. To know that this baby, the Son of the Most High, will come into the world and Reign forever and rule a kingdom that will have no end can be hard to grasp, but this should be a comfort to you. The leaders and rulers of this world will have their Reign come to an end. The promises they make and the stuff they do will change but not Jesus. The promises that Jesus makes, the things he says he will do, the stuff that he has done will never end. You can trust Jesus.

Is the idea of forever and no end hard to understand? Do you struggle to trust Jesus?

Pray: Dear Jesus, thank you for coming into the world to rule forever. Thank you for never leaving us and never forsake us. Amen

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December 10: God's BIG Plan
December 10: God's BIG Plan
God’s BIG plan

 

Read:Luke 1:34-35
And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy— the Son of God.

Reflect: Have you ever found yourself asking God to show you the plans He has for your life? I don’t know if Mary spent a lot of time asking God that question, but He gives her an answer. God has told Mary the plans He has for her. “Mary, you are going to have a baby, and you will name Him Jesus.” Mary’s response, “how?” Have you ever been afraid to ask God what his plans for you are because you are afraid of the answer? Maybe you have figured out what God’s plan for you is, but you spend more time asking how without just listening. Never be afraid to ask God for directions in your life, and never be scared to ask how this will be. God’s got a plan. He knows what He’s doing. All you have to do is ask.

Ask the question, Am I doing the will of God, or am I still trying to figure out the plan He has for me.

PrayHeavenly Father, I know you have a plan for me. Whatever that plan may be, Lord, I ask that you reveal it to me. Amen

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December 11: Nothing is impossible with God!
December 11: Nothing is impossible with God!
Nothing is impossible with God!

Read: “And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.”

Reflect: If you go back and read the exchange between Mary and the angel Gabriel you can understand Mary’s skepticism. Gabriel tells Mary look Elizabeth is pregnant, look at the amazing things God can do. God has done many incredible things since the creation of mankind. In fact what Gabriel tells Mary echoes the question God asked Abraham a long time ago. God has shown his people time after time that there is nothing he can’t do, so much so when the phrase “nothing is impossible with God” the response should be, that’s a no brainer.

Spend time in the Old Testament and think of all the seemingly impossible things that God has done.

Pray: God, with you nothing is impossible. Thank you for the many incredible things that you have done in the many incredible things you continue to do. Amen.

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December 12: Doing what God says
December 12: Doing what God says
Doing what God says

 

Read: Luke 1:38
And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.;

Reflect:Talk about faith. Look over the last 12 verses, over the entire exchange between Gabriel and Mary. Was Mary taken by surprise? Yes. Was she unclear about some stuff? Yes. Did she think what God was asking of her impossible? Yes. But through this all, through all the doubt, confusion, uncertainty, and fear, what does Mary say in the end? I am your servant God, and I will do what you say. Wow! To see the faith of Mary should be inspiring to us today. We like to have things all planned out and know what we are getting into, but it doesn’t always work that way. Sometimes God is directing you in a way or telling you to do something that you are unclear or uncertain as to the outcome. But that’s faith. Looking to God and saying, “whatever may happen here I am God, and I will do whatever you ask of me.”

Are you ready to say to God, “Behold, I am your servant, and I will do what you want me to do?”

Pray: God, there is a lot of uncertainty in our lives. Please help me to have strong faith like Mary. Please help me to be willing to do whatever you ask of me. Amen.

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December 13: Travel Time = Waiting Time
December 13: Travel Time = Waiting Time
Travel time = waiting time.

 

Read: Luke 2:1-3
“In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town.”

Reflect: The time has come. We have spent the past two weeks talking about the announcement of Jesus’ birth so that all parties involved knew what was going on. Now that everyone is on the same page, it’s time for the baby to be born. The buildup, the anticipation, the longing, the waiting, it’s finally…….well, it’s not time yet. First, Mary and Joseph must do some traveling. Advent is a season of waiting. Sometimes it’s easy to wait; other times, it’s hard to wait. We are still in a season of waiting. Jesus has come, but now we wait for him to come again. Sometimes this waiting can be discouraging, sometimes it can be challenging, but the waiting is always worth it. Come thou long expected Jesus.

What is the hardest thing you have ever had to wait for? How did you get through it? What did you learn?

Pray:Heavenly Father, we pray for your Sons return, but as we wait for the day, we pray for patience and peace as we wait. Amen

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December 14: O little town of Bethlehem
December 14: O little town of Bethlehem
O little town of Bethlehem

 

Read: Luke 2:4-6
“And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed,who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth.”

Reflect: Micah 5:2, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from old, from ancient times.” In the tiny town of Bethlehem on a dark and quiet night, the King of all Kings, the Lord of all Lords, the Messiah, the promised one is to be born. He did not come with fanfare, nor was not born in a palace, and no people were standing by with eager anticipation awaiting His birth. Our King, our Savior, was born in a small town, in a stable, to two unknown people. It is amazing how God chooses to work and enact His plan for all humanity. He uses unknown, sinful people to bring about his ultimate work of sending His Son into the world. God does not need all the fanfare; all he needs is you.

Reflect on the song Oh, Little Town of Bethlehem. Think of ways that you can serve God in the coming year.

Pray: Pray verse four of “Oh little town of Bethlehem. “O holy Child of Bethlehem descend to us, we pray; cast out our sin, and enter In, be born in us today. We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell; O come to us, abide with us, Our Lord Immanuel!” Amen

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December 15: No Room for Jesus
December 15: No Room for Jesus
No room for Jesus

 

Read: Luke 2:7
And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

Reflect:We have a lot to do in our lives. Even in the middle of a global pandemic, we have still managed to keep our lives full of stuff to do. It’s hard to find time for more stuff. It’s a strange thought, no room for Jesus. The time has come for our Savior to be born, and there is no room for him. It’s as if the world did want him. It’s as if the world wasn’t ready for him. Oh, but it was. God prepared the world for Jesus from the moment Adam and Eve sinned. God breaks through the challenges and barriers that the world puts up and does the most incredible thing that has ever happened in this world. He sends His Son into our lives to be our Savior. The devil tried to stop it, but nothing would prevent God from fulfilling His covenant, His promise with His people.

Do you have room for Jesus? Are there things in your life that make it, so there is no room for Jesus? If so, what are they?

Pray: Heavenly Father, thank you for always having room for us. Thank you for being a God that makes and keeps His promises. Amen

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December 16: Keeping Watch
December 16: Keeping Watch
Keeping Watch

 

Read: Luke 2:8
And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

Reflect: Being a shepherd was no easy task. They always had to guard and protect their flock. They could never take their eyes off them. If they did, they ran the risk of the sheep running off, getting lost, or worse, they could be killed. They had to keep watch all the time. Were they always perfect at this? No. There would be times where they would fall asleep or begin looking in a different direction or do something that would allow one of the sheep to wander off. It is impossible for us always to watch and keep guard of something. At some point, we will need to do basic human things that will pull us away. Thank God we are not God. God is always keeping watch over us. God is still guarding and protecting us and will never leave us. There is nothing that can pull God away from us

How long do you think you could watch something for? Is it a comfort to you, knowing that God will always guard and protect you? If so, why or why not?

Pray: Dear Heavenly, thank you for always guarding and protecting me. Amen

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December 17: Another angel, another person fearful
December 17: Another angel, another person fearful
Another angel, another person fearful

 

Read: Luke 2:9
And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.

Reflect: Another angel appears. Another person was filled with fear. When I think of times when I was filled with fear, I remember being frozen. I was unable to think or process what was going on in front of me. Fear can paralyze us. It can cause us to make weird decisions, do uncharacteristic things, or even cause us to become violent if we feel threatened. But these shepherds stayed put. They did not run away, faint, or even try to fight off the angel (like that would have done anything). Even though they were filled with great fear, they stayed put and listened to what the angel had to say. It’s a good thing they did because they are about to be told the most important news of all time.

Are you fearful of telling people about Jesus or talking about your faith? If so, what are some steps that you can take to overcome this fear?

Pray: Dear Heavenly Father, I pray that you give me the courage to overcome the fears that I have and share the message of Jesus with others.

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December 18: Good News of Great Joy
December 18: Good News of Great Joy
Good News of Great Joy

 

Read: Luke 2:10-11

And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

Reflect: Joy has become an Advent word. We talk about it a lot more during Advent; there are sermon series about it, one of our advent candles is even name the Joy candle. Joy is more than just an Advent or Christmas word. Joy is an everyday word. Jesus was sent into this world to be our great Joy to be our source of Joy. Joy is not happiness or a good feeling. Happiness and good feelings come and go. Joy is something that will last forever. Why? Because the source of your Joy, Jesus, will last forever. How do you know you have this great Joy? Simple, “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for ALL THE PEOPLE.” This Joy is for you. Jesus is for you.

Do you find it hard to tell the difference between Joy and happiness? How can you be Joyful even when you are not happy?

Pray: Jesus, thank you for being my source of Joy. Please help me to be joyful in all circumstances. Amen.

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December 19: His first bed was a manger.
December 19: His first bed was a manger.
His first bed was a manger

 

Read: Luke 2:12

And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.

Reflect: 
What was your first bed? I imagine it was a crib. Something with bars, so you did not fall out. Something with a pad and blankest so you could be warm, cozy, and comfy. It might have been new, or it could have been a crib passed down from family member to family member. Now compare that to Jesus’ first bed. A manger, something animals ate out from. It had hay and maybe even a little animal spit. It was not what you would picture, putting a baby in, let alone God’s Son. Jesus humbled himself to become a man. Jesus came into this world not to elevate himself above us but to lower himself. He lowered himself to a cross. That baby laying in that hay will one day do the greatest thing ever. Die for your sins.

How has the manager been described to you? How do you imagine the scene of Jesus’ birth?

Pray: Dear Jesus, thank you for the mighty act of death on a cross and dying for my sins. Amen

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December 20: Angels we have Heard on High
December 20: Angels we have Heard on High
Angels we have Heard on High

 

Read: Luke 2:13-14
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

Reflect: I love the song Angels we have heard on high. When I think of a Christmas eve service, I think of that song. People in the church are singing as loud as they can because they know the words so well, and it is such a glory filled song. You can almost picture the angel choir praising God at the great news of Jesus’ birth. This is an example of one thing I am going to miss this Christmas. The big choir, the packed to the brim church, and people singing at the top of their lungs. It is okay to be sad at the things that will look different this Christmas, and do not hesitate to talk to people about it. But let me encourage you with this. The message that those angels were praising God for has not changed. Christmas for all of us may look different this year, but the message of Christmas remains the same. Christ has come, and we can praise God for that. So, take a moment this week to see one of your favorite Christmas hymns and sing as loud as you can, praising God for the great gift of His Son.

Reach out to someone who may be struggling this Christmas, share God’s love with them and pray with them.

Pray: Lord, help the many people who are struggling this Christmas. Put someone in their life to help them in their struggles and never lose sight of your Son. Amen

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December 21: Running to Jesus
December 21: Running to Jesus
Running to Jesus

 

Read: Luke 2:15-16
When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger.

Reflect: I have always enjoyed that there is no break between the angels leaving and the shepherds going. You would think that they would stand there for at least a moment in awe of what has just happened in front of them. That is a fantastic thing; they don’t. The angels leave, and they go. They run there! Did they make sure they had all the sheep accounted for before they left? Did they put out their fires? Did they leave anyone behind? We don’t know. All we know is the angles left, and they booked it to see Jesus. They dropped everything to go and see this thing that had happened. Wouldn’t it be amazing if more people did that in their lives? Dropped everything to be with Jesus.

Is there something in your life that gets in the way of your relationship with Jesus? How can you focus more on Him this Christmas and into the new year?

Pray: God, thank you for giving us the example of the shepherds. Please help us to remove the things in our lives that get in the way of our relationship with you. Amen

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December 22: You can’t help but tell
December 22: You can’t help but tell
You can’t help but tell…

Read: Luke 2:17-18

And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.

Reflect: The shepherds hurry as fast as they can to go and see Jesus. I can picture them all out of breath, walking into the stable, seeing this baby, and just being amazed. They must have been amazed because what is the very next thing they do? Go and tell people about the things that they had seen. They see this incredible thing, and the first thing they think to do is tell everyone about it. Have you ever been to an excellent church service (Maybe Christmas), walked out, and thought to yourself, “I can’t wait to share the message I heard with everyone I come in contact with?” You are all excited to share the news, and then life happens, and you tell no one. It happens, but we should do everything we can to stop it. This Christmas, share the fantastic news of Jesus with everyone you can, like the shepherds.

Think of two people you can share the message of the Gospel with this Christmas.

Pray: Heavenly Father, give me the courage and will to share the Gospel’s message with someone new this Christmas. Amen.

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December 23: Jesus, priceless treasure
December 23: Jesus, priceless treasure
Jesus priceless treasure

Read: Luke 2:19
But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.

Reflect: Mary ponders all these things in her heart. Think of everything that has happened to Mary in the very recent past. Things have finally begun to slow down, and she does what I imagine most of us would do. Sit back and think about everything that has just happened. She just had a baby, but as we know, this is not any baby; this is the Savior of the world. The things that this child will do are things that have never been done and will never be done again. She has a lot to think about but also a lot to be thankful for. It is the day before Christmas Eve. This day has always had the feeling of the calm before the storm. Today is the gift of a moment of rest before the craziness that is Christmas Eve and Christmas. Today, take time to ponder all the things that God does through His Son. Take time today to think about the implications of Jesus coming into this world and what that means for you. Jesus Christ has come for you. Take a deep breath and take a moment to reflect. Because tomorrow we party. It’s Jesus’ Birthday.

Talk about what it means for us as Christians that Jesus came into this world? Who can you invite to watch a Christmas service with you this year?

Pray: Heavenly Father, bless our time as we celebrate your Sons birth. Help us focus on you in all things. Amen.

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December 24: Praise God!!!
December 24: Praise God!!!

Read: Luke 2:20
And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

Reflect: Praise God!!
We have made it to Christmas Eve! It has been great walking through the story of our Saviors birth with you. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. But we know that this is not the end; it is only the beginning. Sometimes Christmas Eve and Christmas can feel like the end of a race. You have been going like crazy for the past month to reach this point. You get here, and now what? It’s kind of sad, or is it? JESUS HAS COME! This is the most important news, the greatest gift, the most incredible show of love you have ever received. My prayer for you is that you set aside time to celebrate our Saviors birth over the next couple of days. Watch service in person or online (we have a couple of options 😉). But most importantly, take time to praise and thank God for sending His Son into the world. I wish you all a very Merry Christmas. Thanks for reading, and I look forward to doing this again in Lent. With Love, Pastor Matt.

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