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Day 23 – Candle of PEACE – JBA

Deep breath.

How about we do that again, I need it.

Deep(er) breath.

That’s a little better. Now it’s time to light our 4th candle – the candle of peace. Isn’t it pretty? I just want to sit here and look at it…

Tomorrow is the last day of advent, and it isn’t lost on me that today we are led to dwell on the gift of peace. It’s like the Lord knew something about human nature (go figure).

There is something in us that feels the need to work, strive, and busy ourselves when we know something is coming. So when the angel appeared to declare the arrival of the new born King, the message was,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” Luke 2:14

Peace to those on whom his favor rests. Did you know that’s you?

No, really. You are favored by God. And the Lord wanted all of us to know that with the gift of the Savior comes peace. We don’t need to earn the gift. In fact, we couldn’t even if we tried. That’s why he came – we needed it, didn’t deserve it, and couldn’t earn it. So it had to be a gift. And gifts are free.

I need this message today.

We have taken the idea of Christmas – the celebration of the greatest gift ever given – and turned it into the most busy and stressful time of the year!

I want to start out by confessing that this has been the craziest holiday season for me. I have a ton of balls in the air, and while none have dropped, and my juggling act has been quite impressive, I am screeching into Christmas with nothing left to contribute.

I am not proud.

So, today, (while doing 4 Christmas services) I am going to center my attention on the declaration of peace that precedes the gift. I am grateful that the Lord knows us. He knows that we are inclined to work from a place of worthlessness and fear and he meets us in his generosity and love and says,

“my child, rest”

Have you been like me this year? Working to make this season great for everyone else, but not resting in the gift? I am stopped by this revelation. If we are receiving his favor, we need to honor the Lord by not making this season about work. Of course, we can have fun and celebrate, but if it becomes about everything else but the celebration of His love and gift, what are we celebrating!?

So, today, I receive the good news of the peace that we are given before the gift. And I bless you to join me.

Peace, be still.

Joyfully,

Season

Joy Bringer’s Advent

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Day 22 – Till He Appeared – JBA

I couldn’t end the Joy Bringer’s Advent without talking about the lyrics from the most beloved Christmas song of all time, Oh Holy Night.

Oh Holy Night

Long lay the world
in sin and error pining
Till he appeared and the soul felt it’s worth.

How many times do we make mention of our worthlessness? You may not realize it, but it’s actually common language for us.

We have been groomed by society to believe (or at least state publicly) that we are less than. We don’t want to appear cocky or arrogant so we minimize, negate, and contradict what the Lord says about us. But the problem is, we don’t just say it, we believe it.

I’m so (stupid, dumb, lame, fat, ugly, etc.)

Never mind, it doesn’t matter

I’m not good enough

I only did well because…

I can’t do anything right

I’m only human

This song captures the beauty of what else happend the night of Jesus’ birth.

Humanity was affirmed.

God himself became a human. Humankind is not worthless. If it was, the God of all the universe would not have chosen to reveal himself as a human. He could have picked another created being! God could have come as a tree or a bird or a jewel. He came to restore the value of humanity. And in that moment, like the song says,

The soul felt its worth.

Instead of convincing yourself that you are less than and a hopeless cause, come into agreement with what the Lord thinks about you.

You are fearfully and wonderfully made. Worthy of love. Worthy of gifting. Worthy of blessing. Worthy of the birth of the savior. Worthy of salvation.

And Jesus makes a way for you to live into that truth. He was born to affirm you. He lived so he could show you. He died so he could free you. He rose from the grave so he could defeat the enemy of your soul. He ascended into heaven so he could live with you forever!

You are worthy. Believe it.

Joyfully,

Season

Joy Bringer’s Advent

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Day 21 – Xmas – JBA

Merry Xmas!

Don’t be mad….it’s not what you think!

I was curious what the word Christmas actually meant…turns out it’s not as obvious as you’d think!

Yes, the first part of the word is in reference to Jesus Christ. It’s a form of the words “Christ’s mass,” or “Cristes Maesse” and was first recorded in 1038.

The word Christ (originally, Crīst) comes from the Greek word Khrīstos, a translation of the Hebrew word Messiah, meaning, “anointed.”

The second part of the word Christmas – maesse – is a version of the Latin word missa, the celebration of the Eucharist – eating bread and drinking wine in memory of Jesus, or Communion, as many of us know it.

The tradition of gathering together in church to celebrate who Jesus was and what he did for us was mostly centered around Easter and Pentecost. But because of the celebrations  that occurred in December of a pagan origin, the religious community began to hold gatherings to honor the Lord. Thus the Christmas season began, and the birth of Jesus was celebrated in the winter.

So what about the “heathens” who write x-mas?!  Are they taking Christ out of Christmas?! Well, turns out it’s not an elimination of Jesus at all!

Khrīstos (the origin of the word Christ) appears as “Χριστός” when written in Greek. This abbreviation first appeared in the 16th century and was in direct reference to Jesus! The intention of this abbreviation was never meant to take Christ out of Christmas.

Whatever way you look at it, who Jesus is and what he did for us is worthy to be celebrated. No matter what anyone else’s intention is, this time of advent is for you to reflect on Jesus. As Christmas fast approaches, if it’s not already in your plan, I invite you to join together in a community of faith to celebrate the birth of the savior of the world, Jesus.

Joyfully,

Season

Joy Bringer’s Advent

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Day 20 – Grace And Peace To You – JBA

Our Pastor shared this idea with us today and I immediately thought of you! I’m passing along the joy to you. (Thanks, Pastor John!)

Most of the Apostle Paul’s letters in the New Testament include this phrase somewhere in the beginning,

Grace and peace to you.

When Paul was writing these letters he wasn’t lying on a beach, or hanging out in a cabana sipping on something fruity. No, Paul was typically in very stressful situations (like jail!) and writing with urgency to people who were also in trying times. We all know that change is often very messy, and the early church didn’t have it easy! There was much opposition and they were breaking molds and establishing new things that today we take for granted.

But still, grace and peace to you.

For most of us, we are in a very stressful week. Pressure, deadlines, expectations, and heightened emotions often surround Christmas.

But still, grace and peace to you.

Odds are, we may find ourselves in sticky situations, tense or awkward moments, and even experience disappointment.

But still, grace and peace to you.

We may be faced with real opposition and difficulty.

But still, grace and peace to you.

The whole point is that no matter what we face, we can always grab hold of the grace and peace that Jesus offers us at every moment.

The catch is, we have to grab it.

We also have the power to extend it. As you have received it, so you can freely give the grace of the Lord to those who need it (and don’t deserve it…but that’s why it’s grace). We can operate from a place of peace in those moments of chaos and turmoil and disperse it to others.

It is possible to be carriers of God’s grace and peace so that wherever we go, or whoever we encounter, we can freely give it away.

So, during the Christmas celebrations, however they look and whatever they bring your way…..

grace and peace to you.

Grab it, and give it away!

And joy!! Much joy to you!!

Joyfully,

Season

Joy Bringer’s Advent

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Day 19 – The Most Joyful – JBA

Friends, it’s coming. Can you feel it?

My goal for Joy Bringer’s Advent is to help us stay more centered and deeply connected to the Joy Bringer, Jesus.

As I was reading scripture this morning, I came across something that I hadn’t seen before (I love the living Word!).

In Hebrews chapter 1, the writer is describing the relationship between Jesus and the Father and says,

“Therefore, O God, your God has anointed you,
pouring out the oil of joy on you more than on anyone else.”

Hebrews 1:9

Did you catch that?! Jesus was the MOST joyful!

As we are in the process of becoming more and more like Jesus, we can be assured that it also looks like being saturated with the oil of joy.

Oil is something we put in or on things to loosen it up…to move freely and more effective. The oil of joy helps us – powers us – to move through the rough, sticky, and narrow areas of life with freedom and ease. Joy is really that powerful!

The reason Jesus was the most joyful was because he was free from sin, shame, burden, and fear. He was so light and free that no matter what he encountered, he could maneuver through it, come out unscathed, and still joyful. That came from a total understanding and trust in who his Father was and who he was.

I would like to confess that as we get closer to Christmas, my work load increases and my pile of to-dos are growing, I am feeling the pressure….and I still haven’t purchased one gift(!). But I am taking a moment to saturate in the oil of joy….the stuff that only comes from God. I need to move freely and smoothly through this next week. What I have learned is that to maintain my joy, I need to rely of God as my source and not manufacturer it myself. The artificial joy substitute may work for a bit, but my version will run dry and there will be chafing (haha, that’s a visual!) and it doesn’t just irritate me, it affects others. I want to be like Jesus and move smoothly, with freedom and power, leaving a wake of joy behind me.

So, in Jesus name I bless you, and myself, with oil of joy that flows from Jesus. Let’s get saturated and leave a trail of it everywhere we go!

Joyfully,

Season

Joy Bringer’s Advent

 

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Day 18 – Permission To Dim The Lights – JBA

Do you need a reason to celebrate this year?

I have been there. No matter where I looked I couldn’t find a reason that was big enough to get me past all the other reasons to grieve. You’re not alone, and it’s ok.

If you’re in a season of difficulty, I want you to know you have permission to tone it down. There is no pressure to perform. Even if it feels like you HAVE to produce all the bells and whistles of the Christmas season to satisfy everyone else – you don’t.  Everyone could use a bit of subtle reverence in their lives. It’s ok to not blow it out like every other year.

When the world around us rejoices with a bright and loud cheer, we can be led to feel like there is something wrong with us. My joy is loud, but it hasn’t always been, and your’s doesn’t have to be either.

There are some helpful ways I have maintained my joy and gratitude even in times when it didn’t show on the outside.

  • Recognize the real feelings. If you’re struggling to “get it up” and celebrate the way others are, or the way you’ve done in the past, it’s important that you identify the reason. If you don’t, you may find yourself angry and frustrated with those around you. The Grinch took his personal pain out on those who were genuinely joyful. It wasn’t their fault, but it exacerbated his pain because he wasn’t aware of the source of his anger.
  • Give yourself permission to dim the lights. You don’t have to put on the show like you have in the past just to please others. It’s vital that others in your family or friend group understand where you’re at and that you share with them the reason you are a bit turned down this year. AND BE OK WITH IT, even if they aren’t.
  • Keep your thoughts in front of the Lord. It may feel as if others don’t understand your pain or grief. I’ve heard things like, “it’s been so long since that happened,” or “but look at all the good stuff around you.” Everyone has a different process and you can bless them to not understand.  So, instead of relying on others to understand and even give you permission, share all your thoughts and feelings with the Lord. He really does understand you and he cares about all of it.
  • Make a gratitude list and check it twice. When it feels like nothing is permanent or trustworthy, what you can rely on is that God is good. Turn your attention to the things you are grateful for. This can be hard! I know this all too well. Your flesh doesn’t want to focus on the good. Misery loves company and your flesh is a powerful voice against gratitude. So do it anyway! Start with the small things and watch that list grow long! Then, read it over and over.
  • Ask the Lord what he wants you to do. God never wants to overwhelm you, but he does want to keep you moving forward. Ask him what he wants for you…sometimes he’ll say, “just sit here with me for a bit,” or “start with a shower today,” or “let’s go get a tree, but you don’t have to decorate it, just enjoy the smell.” He knows what you need and what you can handle. He is so faithful.

If you’re not in a season of difficulty or grief, that’s great, but it’s important we remember our lives move through many stages and those who are in places different than us, are granted permission to be right where they are. If your joy is loud in this season, ask the Lord how you can assist someone. You may be surprised by the answer.

Joyfully,

Season

Joy Bringer’s Advent

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Day 17 – HARK! – JBA

Today’s Christmas song lyrics are ones that fly under the radar, but have the power to literally destroy sin and death!

Hark! The herald angels sing
Glory to the new-born king.
Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinner reconciled.

Do you wonder if God has something against you? That he holds you at an arms length and doesn’t talk to you as much as others? Or, because of all kinds of things, you just have to work extra hard for his approval. Maybe you are trying to avoid him because you’re afraid of his reaction to your current state or past decisions. There is a gap between you and God and sometimes it just feels too big to do anything about.

But, the angels in the song were right!

Hark! Listen up!

Jesus is here!! And because of him, we have been reconciled to the Lord!

He has come to bridge the gap of our sin and the holiness of God. He doesn’t come with pointed finger and condemnation. Jesus came as a gentle and humble baby. He comes to us with love. He comes to us with peace. He comes to bring us into deep and loving relationship with our Father in heaven.

God and sinner reconciled.

And the best part is that it isn’t something you can earn. Jesus did it just for you, before you even knew about it.

Are you living as one who has been reconciled with the Father? Or, do you walk around believing that there is still a disqualified stamp on your record preventing you from receiving the fullness of your inheritance?

HARK! Listen up! You are a child of the Most High, and through your faith in Jesus, you get all that is His.

Glory to the new born King!

Joyfully,

Season Bowers

Joy Bringer’s Advent

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Day 16 – Candle of JOY – JBA

It’s the 3rd day of Advent! So, once again, we light a candle together – today is the candle of JOY.

I know you know it….sing it with me….Joy to the world, the Lord is come!

“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” Luke 2:8–11

Good news that will cause great joy for all people.

From the human perspective, the birth of Jesus was under the radar. It’s not like today when, with just a few clicks, the masses can know something. Jesus was born to nobodies (by social standards), in the middle of nowhere, and no one (outside of the immediate family) really cared. But from the heavenly perspective it was the biggest happening in all of the universe since creation!

I love this moment between the angel and the shepherds. Who were they?! Why were they told? Was there some kind of gossip spreading circuit in shepherd culture that we don’t know about?! The angel could have told anyone, why them?

Or was it that the spiritual realm was just so electric with joy they couldn’t help but tell the good news to someone – anyone! It’s so cinematic, like in the movies when a man finds out he’s going to be a dad and runs out into the street to tell perfect strangers his good news…only way bigger.

Imagine the whole of heaven bursting with excitement. Jesus, their Jesus, was ready to bring to the world crazy, big, powerful good news. It’s so huge that it motivated the vast armies of heaven to sing and trumpet. Imagine what that sounded like!

Jesus was the original joy bringer.

The joy Jesus brought to the world didn’t just stop at his birth. Everywhere he went he brought it. Where there was pain, he brought healing. Where there was isolation, he brought community and acceptance. Where there was shame, he brought beauty. Where there was bondage, he brought freedom. All of those things left a wake of powerful joy.

But it all started at his birth.

Good news of great joy for all people. So, how was it good for you? How did the birth of Jesus affect your life? The whole point of the season of advent is to slow down and connect intimately with the passion of Christmas.

I can’t answer that question for you, but I will be thinking about it this week, and I challenge you to do the same. Let’s connect our hearts and our souls by receiving the good news of the birth of Jesus as great joy.

Joyfully,

Season

Joy Bringer’s Advent

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Day 15 – Did Mary Know – JBA

Mary, did you know?

It’s a great song…but also an interesting question.

As I think about Mary, my heart is stirred. We only have a glimpse into her heart, mind, and life, and the rest is, well, unknown.

“God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!” – Luke 1:26-28

How did she feel about her arranged marriage? What did her heart long for? What was she doing the moment Gabriel came to her? I imagine she was in the middle of chores; fetching water, cooking, or cleaning perhaps. Maybe she was daydreaming about her upcoming marriage, or meditating on her favorite psalm.

He calls her favored, but did she know that? Did she feel or believe that she was favored by God – set apart? I imagine that she was a young woman of purity — in heart, mind, and spirit. She knew the Lord, and he knew her. She was obedient and faithful, but this was a real moment, and Mary was a real girl….

“Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean.” Luke 1:29

I love that we are privy to this reaction! When the Lord calls us favored we often don’t see it. We are not judged by our initial reaction, the Lord gives us so much grace to process in our humanness. She was confused and disturbed, not by the angel’s message (he hadn’t told her the big news yet!), but by the label, favored.

She wasn’t favored by the world’s standards. She was a poor servant girl who didn’t have much going for her, accept the thing that really mattered – her heart was pure.

“Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!” – Luke 1:30-33

In this moment, the angel reveals to her that the her baby will be the King! But did she know more than that? Was she able to process the full extent of what he said? Like most of us would, she had a hard time getting past the reality of her perspective and current life situation…

Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.” – Luke 1:34

No matter how big our faith, or our love for the Lord, we can’t help but assess our situation from our own perspective. We want to believe but often we cry, BUT HOW, GOD!?

The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she has conceived a son and is now in her sixth month. For the word of God will never fail.” – Luke 1:35-37

God is so faithful to meet us where we are and provide for our every need. Mary wasn’t punished for her questioning – he answered her. The Lord even provided her with someone to link arms with – someone who was also in a miraculous situation. He thought of everything. He is so faithful.

“Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” – Luke 1:28

There it is again – a pure and faithful young woman. Trusting, obedient, and even though she probably didn’t completely understand, Mary was going to walk forward through the fear.

And there was plenty to be frightened of!

Mary responded,

“Oh, how my soul praises the Lord.
How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!
For he took notice of his lowly servant girl,
and from now on all generations will call me blessed.
For the Mighty One is holy,
and he has done great things for me.
He shows mercy from generation to generation
to all who fear him.
His mighty arm has done tremendous things!
He has scattered the proud and haughty ones.
He has brought down princes from their thrones
and exalted the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
and sent the rich away with empty hands.
He has helped his servant Israel
and remembered to be merciful.
For he made this promise to our ancestors,
to Abraham and his children forever.” – Luke 1:46-55

Mary was not perfect, but she was chosen to carry the perfect one. We will never know all she knew and when, but we can learn from her story.

Like Mary, we are chosen to carry the perfect one. All it takes is a willingness to believe and receive him into our hearts.

We can trust that God is doing things in our lives far beyond our capacity to understand and all it takes is a, Yes, Lord.

And finally, we need to hold loosely the gifts the Lord gives us. Mary was given Jesus, but only to give him away. The gifts we receive from the Lord aren’t just for us. They are for us to bring him glory by giving them away to others.

Today, my prayer is one of gratitude. Like Mary, I rejoice that the Lord has taken notice of me, and you, and given us the gift of Jesus.

And in case you haven’t been told lately, you are favored by God!

Joyfully,

Season

Joy Bringer’s Advent

 

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Day 14 – To Eggnog Or Not To Eggnog – JBA

I hate it.

My family loves it.

But to be fair to the beloved traditional drink, I looked up the recipe. After all, the passionate polarization eggnog creates in a group has to be based on something good, right? Maybe I just haven’t given it a chance!

It starts out pretty good.

Directions
1. Combine milk, cloves, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, and cinnamon in a saucepan, and heat over lowest setting for 5 minutes. Slowly bring milk mixture to a boil.

Not a bad start! There is a part of me that is drawn to this. Creamy, a little sweet, and full of holiday flavor…let’s keep going!

2.  In a large bowl, combine egg yolks and sugar. Whisk together until fluffy.

REALLY!?  Now, don’t get me wrong, I love eggs. I eat them all the time….but I am not sure I can drink them – especially just the yolks! The thought of the thick and slimy texture that takes me right to the edge of…well, you know. But, to be fair, I do love eggs, and I certainly love sugar….I will continue on with caution…..

3.  Whisk hot milk mixture slowly into the eggs. Pour mixture into saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly for 3 minutes, or until thick. Do not allow mixture to boil. Strain to remove cloves, and let cool for about an hour.

Here is where I wonder how you don’t suddenly wind up with scrambled eggs in the pot! I know, I know, it’s a slow process that you must follow exactly, but I can just imaging my batch suddenly transforming into a fluffy batch of sugary scrambled eggs! But assuming that doesn’t happen, we move on….

3.  Stir in rum, cream, 2 teaspoon vanilla, and nutmeg. Refrigerate overnight before serving.

Two things here…if you are inclined to add the adult portion, maybe that’s what helps you get over the fact that you are drinking liquefied egg yolks! Also, I don’t appreciate things I have to wait for 24 hours to enjoy. Every time I make sugar cookies, I find the recipe that doesn’t require the long refrigeration process – I want my dang cookies now!

One other question, does anyone ever serve or drink it warm? I think that may help. I do love warm and creamy sweet things (ie, hot chocolate or tea with cream).

So, there you have it. Will you be drinking eggnog this Christmas?! I just may give it a try. And if you want the recipe I just covered, the link is below. The creator calls it, “amazingly good eggnog” so, there you have it.

Joyfully,

Season

Joy Bringer’s Advent

https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/57028/amazingly-good-eggnog/