Every year at Gainesville Church I write readings for the lighting of the Advent wreath. As we approach Christmas Eve I want to share them with the readers of this blog. I hope you enjoy reading them and that help you celebrate Christmas a little more.

Advent Week 1 I called this one the Candle of Curiosity

Matthew 2:1-2; After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”

The narrative that we have here in Matthew is, at it’s core, a story of curiosity. A curiosity that is so great that it borders on obsession. And not just a curiosity for week or a month but one that lasted until it was satisfied

Here are three men who are so curious about this Jesus that they traveled a journey that lasted two years. All to find a king who wasn’t their king.

The cost in time and money was immense. It took these three men over two years to reach Bethlehem. The dangers of such a long journey were great, but their curiosity was greater.

May it be our prayer this Advent season that we gain more of their curiosity and passion for this Jesus, because He is our King.

Today we light the candle of that curiosity some 2000 years ago.

Advent Week 2 Joseph’s Candle

Matthew 1:24,25
24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

Every year we light a candle for Joseph, the earthly Father of Jesus. This year we light his candle because he was a light for his family.

First and foremost he obeyed God, and he taught his family to obey God. He also was a source of comfort and strength to Mary his wife; as she struggled to make sense of what was happening to her. He kept her and the child safe by going into Egypt. That took great courage as well as faith.

And we know that he was a man of faith. The last time we read about him in scripture he is at Passover in Jerusalem with his family. Surely he was also a light to the boy Jesus.

So for Joseph who is a light to all, we light his candle.

Advent Week 3 The Shepherds Candle

Luke 2:8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Have you ever thought about to whom God first revealed the birth of Jesus?

Foreigners; three men from somewhere in the east.

A young girl who and here fiance.

And now shepherds working the night shift. When you got the night shift in watching sheep you probably didn’t own the sheep. You were on the lowest rung of society.

God didn’t go to the religious leaders with the news although they should have known the signs; for they were all there in scripture. He didn’t go to the politically powerful. And He didn’t go to the wealthy. He went to shepherds who had nothing.

I think this says a lot about the message that Jesus came to deliver. It’s a message that be accepted only by those who humble themselves. This Christmas may we be humble enough to receive this good news.

Today we light the candle of those shepherds who were humble enough to believe the good news that is Jesus Christ.

Advent Week 4

Luke 2:5-7

5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Some people, who aren’t Roman Catholic, get offended by the glorification of Mary, the mother of Jesus. But in doing so they run the risk of missing her importance to the events leading up to Jesus’ birth. And her continued importance in His life all the way to His death on the cross.

Mary was, by today’s standards, a girl. If she were in America today she would have been in 9th or 10th grade. Her courage and commitment to the mission God gave her was relentless. Her willingness to endure hardship immense.

She made an almost 90 mile journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem that would have taken 5 days. Upon arriving she gave birth in an open stable. She then made a journey to Egypt to escape Herod’s wrath that would have taken up to 7 days. Remember Egypt wasn’t always friendly to Jews. All of this either walking or riding a donkey. Then two years later she returned to Nazareth.

We light her candle today. The candle of a woman of great courage and fortitude. Who made so much of what happened in Bethlehem possible.

Christmas Eve: The Christ Candle

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

This is one of the most beautiful benedictions ever penned by human hand. Paul writes these words in his letter to the church in Ephesus, one of the churches he founded during his journeys around Asia Minor.

These words are so appropriate on Christmas eve because it reminds us who was born in that manger in Bethlehem, whose birth we celebrate tonight. A baby born to Mary a young mother; yes. But so much more. He is the Messiah, the Christ our Savior who is God in human flesh.

This baby that we remember here tonight is so much more than a baby born so long ago. He is able to do more than we can ask or imagine. The power that He brought is at work with us and in us. The power to break the chains of sin and death. The power to set us free from our brokenness.

Tonight we light the “Christ” candle. Yes it is the candle of the baby Jesus, but it is also the candle of Emmanuel, “God with us.” As we celebrate tonight with carols and candles of our own let us also remember that this is the “Christ,” and He is both God with us and God in us.

To Him be glory and power throughout all generations for ever and ever. AMEN!!

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