During our Christmas Eve offering we will be taking up a special offering to benefit SPA ministries - an Elkhart-based organization focused on bringing healing and freedom to women struggling through addiction, domestic violence, or the emotional aftermath of sexual assault or prostitution.
Gifts given during our special offering will support an ongoing building campaign to expand their residential facilities to house more women, centralize their ministry efforts, and allow for better administration. For more information on SPA ministries and their building campaign, you can visit:
ALSO, we encourage you to MARK YOUR CALENDAR for their Dinner and Delicacies fundraising event 6PM on Saturday, February 10th at the RV Hall of Fame Event Center. It's a perfect opportunity to support an important ministry while also having a date night out close to Valentine's Day.
My wife and I have really enjoyed Pentatonix's rendition of the Mark Lowry classic "Mary, did you know?" It's fun how music changes and adapts over the years, and yet the message can still impact us in profound ways. As we reflected on these lyrics and Mary's own song of praise when she's encouraged by her relative Elizabeth, we wondered how Mary's thoughts about her promised child changed throughout the years. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, she penned these words early on in her pregnancy:
“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.”
- Luke 1:46-55 (NIV)
She sings of salvation, mercy, and favor through the miraculous gift of this child. She's willing to face the difficulties ahead in her relationships with her fiancé and her family, because she believes that God is doing something powerful and profound through her. She believes it so much she writes a song to celebrate.
It was one thing for her to sing it early on in her pregnancy, but I wonder her own lyrics echoed in her mind as angels sang choruses and shepherds and foreign kings alike showed up to bring gifts to Jesus in a stable (Lk 2:1-20; Mt 2:1-12). I wonder how she felt about God’s mercy and favor when Jesus had crowds following him, and it was sometimes difficult for her to get in to see him. I wonder if she ever doubted in that promise of salvation when her son was ridiculed, spat upon, and hung on a cross to die looking like a liar and a criminal. I wonder how her song changed in her own eyes when he rose again.
She sang of salvation because she understood something special about God's goodness. But did she really know what was in store? She obviously knew to some degree...but she couldn't have understood fully.
I wonder how often we fail to grasp completely just how deep our Savior’s love is for us. Just how good the peace is that He offers. Do we really know what a profoundly spectacular gift we are given when Christ draws near to us and reconciles us to himself? I hope today that we can have the courage to give up our lives so that we might receive that peace in full.
"...the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High..."
“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.” - Luke 1:30-36
Virgin birth is a tricky one to get your head around. But Gabriel reminds Mary that God is able to do the impossible, and the Word of God will never fail.
I don’t always believe that myself. Oftentimes, I’m like the father who brought his ailing son to Jesus (Mark 9:17-24).
He said, “Lord, if you can do anything to help my son, please take pity on us."
“IF?” replied Jesus (he’d been getting a bit perturbed by the lack of faith around him).
And the man replied, “I believe, but help me in my unbelief.”
We’ve heard the Christmas story many times over, but trust in God’s promises doesn’t always take root. We believe in miracles like we believe in hallmark Christmas movies. They're nice stories that make us feel good, but they don't mean anything substantive for our lives and the problems we face.
I recently came across an exchange on Twitter with a writer and director named Dan Harmon - you may know him as the creator of shows like Community and Rick and Morty. For some reason, one of his fans felt led to ask him about his thoughts on dealing with depression. That’s the wonder of social media - average folks can ask these sorts of questions of celebrities without a second thought. Harmon actually answered, and his advice was really helpful.
I have no idea if Harmon is a Christian or not, but there is truth to his words evidenced in scripture. We may feel that all is lost, there is no hope, or that life has no meaning. It’s important to acknowledge those feelings and come to grips with why we feel and believe them. But thank the LORD that our feelings do not have the last word.
Our meaning and hope is supplied by the Lord - the Creator of the Universe, who simply spoke a word and the heavens and the earth were created. Our hope is supplied by the One who created a child in the womb of a virgin. Our hope is supplied by the One who conquered the grave! When He says He’ll do something, He means it.
As we enter the Advent season this year, may we remember the real and present hope of Jesus. Emmanuel. God with us. Even when we feel that all is lost, we And may we remember God's promises to meet us in our hurting. And we He says He'll do something. He means it.
Updates and devotional thoughts for and from our faith family.