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    End Game

    My husband and I are huge fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). We love the intergalactic battles raging across time and space, and the artfully crafted storylines that pull you in. One Marvel film, in particular, had us on the edge of our seats cheering on the culmination of decades of strife-The End Game. In this film, good and evil drew a line in the sand, as all of creation hinged on the precipice of eternal change. It’s no wonder audiences all over the world stood to their feet as the final scene played out in all of its glory.  Even if you are over the superhero genre, there…

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    Releasing Expectations

    Snowflakes fall silently from the sky as bright-eyed little faces peer out frost-covered windows. Best friends gather around a candlelit table, dishes clanking, laughter wafting in the air. Family members from far away places knock at your door, excitement erupting into hugs and hellos the moment you welcome them inside. An ideal Christmas is easy to imagine. But it’s hard to live out. Despite what commercials portray and Facebook depicts, life’s celebrations are often far from perfect. Our children misbehave at the worst possible moment. Our plans get altered at the last minute. Our family’s disfunction erupts at the table. If there’s anything I’m learning this Christmas season, it’s to…

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    The Foremost Figure of Advent

    In my favorite book to read in this season, Advent: The Once and Future Coming of Jesus Christ, Fleming Rutledge notes, “I have never seen a picture of John the Baptist on any Advent calendar, yet he is the foremost figure of Advent.” We might think Jesus would be the central figure, yet part of our Lord’s centrality in Advent is in his absence. We await his return asking, How long, O Lord?   In John’s day, the Jews—at least, some of them—expected the literal Elijah to return from the dead as forerunner of Messiah (Mal. 4:5). And the announcement of John’s birth identified him as the fulfillment of Malachi’s prophecy; he would come…

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    Waiting for Normal

    My husband and I put up our Christmas tree on October 25. Call us eager. And bored.   But despite all the glitter and music, the gifts and velvet bows, almost half of Americans wrestle through the holidays—even without a pandemic. Mental health workers say that some people get the holiday blues because there’s this perception and comparison of others having more and doing more. Enter 2020. Humpty Dumpty has fallen. It’s not just COVID cases that have surged. Loneliness, anxiety, and depression have also spiked this year. Weeks of waiting have turned into long months. Although Advent is the season of waiting, many could do without it by now—the…

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    Approaching Advent

    This Sunday, November 29 marks the beginning of the 2020 Advent season. Advent is a four-week period of praying, perhaps fasting, reading scripture and anticipating our Lord’s birth on Christmas Day. Similar to Lent, it allows time and a sacred space in a busy season to contemplate the coming of Christ and the miracle of the incarnation. The church has always seen Advent as a period of waiting – an intentional observance that helps us avoid what Stanley Grenz calls our culture’s “drive through Christmas” attitude. We throw ourselves into the frenzy of preparations for Christmas, but often fail miserably in taking time to prepare our hearts for the Lord’s…

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    10 Steps to a Calmer, More Christ-Focused Advent

    The word “advent” comes from “ad” meaning “to” as well as from “vent,” a form of a Latin word meaning “coming.” Think of the first word in: veni vidi vici—I came, I saw, I conquered. So: to come. For many Christians, the first Sunday in Advent—November 29 in 2020—marks the beginning of the Christian new year. Advent is the season when Christians look back and look forward; we look back on the first advent, or coming, of Messiah, and we look forward to the second advent—his return. During the four weeks leading up to Christmas, many believers observe Advent as a season of expectant waiting, during which we prepare our hearts.  Two…

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    Preparing Our Hearts for Advent: Hope Has Come, Hope is Coming

    By Victoria Monet*  Even though Thanksgiving has yet to come, many people are already putting up their Christmas trees and decorations. Christmas decorating before Thanksgiving usually happens, but this year, it seems that people are trying to get in the Christmas Spirit even earlier. And can we blame them? It’s been a rough year. In addition to facing a global pandemic that’s affected many people’s physical, mental, and financial health, we’ve also had to process the tragic reality of police brutality against African Americans, the surfacing of racial tensions, and one of the most intense, heated elections in American history. We’ve felt anxious, scared, sad, overwhelmed, and exhausted. Many of…

  • Peace on Earth to those with whom God is pleased from Luke 2:14
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    Peace on Earth to Those with Whom God Is Pleased

    “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” (Luke 2:14, NLT) These are the words the host of angels declared to a band of shepherds right after an angel of the Lord announced the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem—the Savior, Christ the Lord. They began with the words, “Glory to God in the highest.” Hundreds of years before this night, God promised to send the Christ, the anointed one who would be the deliverer they needed. The people lived with a sense of hope and expectation. Now, that promise is fulfilled! All heaven is giving God the glory. And, on earth—peace.…

  • Impact

    Receive Christ’s gift of life!

    Historians tell the story about the funeral of Charlemagne. He was the greatest Christian ruler of the early Middle Ages. After Charlemagne’s death, a tremendous funeral procession left his castle for the cathedral at Aix. When the royal casket arrived, with a lot of pomp and circumstance, it was met by the local bishop, who barred the cathedral door. “Who comes?” the Bishop asked, as was the custom. “Charlemagne, Lord and King of the Holy Roman Empire,” proclaimed the Emperor’s proud herald. “Him I know not,” the Bishop replied. “Who comes?” The herald, a bit shaken, replied, “Charles the Great, a good and honest man of the earth.” “Him I…

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    Go, Total Stranger, Go!!

    Sometimes encouragement comes from entirely unexpected sources. A few years ago, four friends and I embarked on a mini-adventure, each running a 5ish-mile leg of the White Rock Marathon relay. Mind you, my visions of the day and the reality of the morning were quite different. While training, I enjoyed either sunny skies or the comforts of a temperature-controlled workout room. I didn’t anticipate shivering outside for two hours in less-than-ideal weather conditions. Standing in the pouring rain waiting for that baton, out of my blue lips came these words (said with emphasis): “This is STUPID. Why did I sign up for this??” I had distant hope that I would…