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Day 24 – Candle of FORGIVENESS – JBA

Merry Christmas eve!

What a wonderful journey this has been. Thank you, dear friend, for joining me for the Joy Bringer’s Advent.

Today is the last candle…. The candle of forgiveness.

As we light it together, let’s just stop for a minute and take it in – the forgiveness of Jesus.

There is nothing greater.

There is nothing more powerful.

There is nothing more passionate.

It’s for you and for me. I am blown away by his love.

“Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” Isaiah 1:18

There have been times in my life when I was very aware of my crimson red sin. I felt the weight, I lived in the shame, and sometimes I repented, and other times I buried my head in the sand of excuses and pride. Then there are times when I live oblivious to my sin because it’s not so high on the sin-o-meter according to the list created by us.

Here’s a recent experience…

I was sitting with a group of pastors and one of them shared a story about a guy who was visiting him. They were in two cars and the visiting friend wasn’t keeping up as he was following in a car. My friend had to keep pulling over and waiting for the guy to catch up. When they got to their destination, my friend, the driver in the leading car asked, “are you ok? Was I driving to fast?” The guy, with total sincerity said, “oh, your fine. I just don’t do anything to grieve the Spirit so I follow all the traffic laws.” We all laughed at this guys “extreme conviction” and joked, “that’s crazy! Then we’re all going to hell!” (of course we don’t really believe that).

Later, while I was in bed, I asked the Lord,

“God, do you actually care about traffic laws?!”

To which I heard him kind of laugh and say, “well…. it’s not about that. It’s the spirit behind it.”

Ugh…immediately I was deeply convicted.

The spirit behind my blatant disregard for some traffic laws is PRIDE. It’s my pride that says, “I don’t have to follow that rule, that law doesn’t apply to me.”

I repented for the pride in my heart that has lived there without any acknowledgement for so long. Who do I think I am?! Forgive me, Lord Jesus!

Often, we get caught thinking that our sin isn’t red. It may be a little pink, but not RED. But from God’s perspective it’s all deep crimson. When we do this, we cheapen the price Jesus paid by shedding his sinless, crimson blood for us to live in freedom and loving relationship with the Father.

We don’t like to think we need a savior. We don’t like to think about our shortcomings and our sin. We don’t like to focus on that part. But the good news of the gospel is that that is exactly who Jesus is!  We can’t celebrate Christmas without that part!

“Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord”  Luke 2:11

He is our savior. And through the saving grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, our sins have been forgiven. We are washed white as snow.

As we celebrate the birth of our Lord and savior, Jesus, it’s important that we see the whole picture. You may not want to look at it, but the invitation in this moment is to ask the Lord to show you your red….but not so he can condemn you – he doesn’t do that. No, he wants to take that red, and turn it white. Will you let him?

See the whole picture and receive the fullness of his love.

Rejoice!

Joyfully,

Season

Joy Bringer’s Advent

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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 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 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/

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Day 13 – What Color Is Your Christmas – JBA

White?

Black?

Red?

Green?

Blue?

Let me explain.

For many of us, our childhood Christmases were red and green and sparkling with hope and possibility. Bright lights twinkled with our heart’s desire. The smell of food and the sounds of laughter are carved into our memories and all it takes is one sighting of the infamous red and green combination to bring that feeling to the forefront of our hearts.

But at some point, for many of us, the colors have changed.

I’ll never forget the year that not one, but both of my grandmothers were in the hospital….and no joke, same hospital, same floor, a few rooms away from each other. Talk about a grey Christmas! My parents and I spent both Christmas eve and Christmas day going back and forth between their room trying to bring as much cheer to the gloomy situation. Of course, the hospital’s cafeteria was closed so we ventured out to find an open restaurant to have some kind of Christmas dinner. The truck stop we found didn’t help to bring any color to the moment….Just grey and very sad.

I don’t have to go into too much detail to tell you about when Christmas was black. Fresh divorce, living alone, no family (almost all recently diseased), and ugly crying all day on the couch.

There have been times when Christmas has felt more green than anything. A few years ago, my husband and I found ourselves both unemployed, penniless and totally at a loss as to how to pay rent or any of our bills, let alone provide even one gift for our girls on Christmas morning. We were thankful that our daughters were with their mom that year so we didn’t have to disappoint them with our financial reality.

You’ve never seen two more downtrodden people than my husband and I on the couch all day on Christmas with no kids, no money, and no cheer…only silent prayers and football on tv. But just like the Lord in his faithfulness, a friend of my husband stopped by late at night on Christmas day and gave him a card to thank him for helping with some personal fitness goals. In the card….$500. The friend said, “please use this money to bless your family.” He knew nothing of our situation. We were able to hit the stores early the day after Christmas and buy each girl a few things so that when they came back to us that night, we had gifts under the tree (and money left over to get groceries).

There were many years of blue Christmases where nothing sparkled because without my mother and grandmothers, I couldn’t grab hold of the hope and promise that was supposed to be celebrated.

But then there was the yellow Christmas. Christmas day 2011, the day I met my future daughters. Hope and light came back into the picture. I never thought it would happen that way, but the Lord knew. I was given the best Christmas present ever…a family of my own.

And now, after a kaleidoscope of Christmases, I can honestly say Christmas is now red. It’s full of love, warmth, and truth. I’m able to see and celebrate the reason for the season. I am struck by the power of my Savior’s love and I marvel at the beauty of God’s great plan.

What color is your Christmas?

White: peaceful and pure?

Blue: painful and lonely?

Green: full of financial strife?

Black: hopeless and dark?

Whatever color your Christmas, the truth is, all color is beautiful. No matter what color, you have permission to feel and be just where you are. But, if I may, as one who has been through the many colors of Christmas, let me encourage you with this. It will change. Your black Christmas will not be black forever.

The colors are endless.

At its core, Christmas is full of color. The black of the world in turmoil, desperate and in need of breakthrough. The shining yellow star of hope piercing through the darkness. The white and pure Savior who was born to bring peace to the world. And the red love that was poured out from the throne room of heaven to a world in need.

Whatever color your Christmas, be encouraged and remember, a beautiful rainbow doesn’t exist without all of them.

Joyfully,

Season

Joy Bringer’s Advent