Come Again, Lord Jesus ~ Judy Sorensen

Some years ago, I had the privilege of being with our daughter’s family in Montana shortly before Christmas. As every December, they went into the Gallatin Mountains where they could cut down (for free!) a tree for their celebrations.
Our winding trail upwards featured a herd of 45-50 elk strutting majestically across the snow-driven road. In single file the elk bounded the barbed wire fence on the far side of the road. They stretched in regal procession up the mountain. Slowly, one by one by one, their outlines drifted over the crest to the backside of the mountain. As the last one finally crossed beyond range of my vision, I sighed for the loss of their beauty. imprinted on my memory, however, was the image of their crossing; and I knew by faith that they were not far away on the other side of the range.
One of the great mysteries of life consists of the layers upon layers of reality: some reality is visible to the human eye; some, just as real, is not. The fact that I could not see the elk on the backside of the mountain in no way diminished their existence.
Likewise, the fact that Jesus disappeared over 2000 years ago from the crest of this world in no way diminishes His reality; and the fact that He has not yet returned to earth in no way prevents His return. “Come again, Lord Jeus!”
He will; He promised, and sightings of His approach are everywhere. Shortly before returning to His Father, Jesus said to His disciples, “In just a little while I will be gone, and you won’t see me anymore. Then just a little while after that, you will see me again” (John 16;16, New Living Translation).
Father God,
The thought of Jesus’ return to earth fills me and thrills me. May I never lose sight of His return; and by the power of your Spirit, may I work faithfully in His vineyards until I see Him face to face.


Promises ~ Karl Freudenreich

This year, I type this story on my work computer that shouldn’t be on the dining room table; I have been working from home since March. At this time of year, this table should be in preparation for guests to gather and celebrate the birth of our Savior. But, it’s my office, and no one will be joining us.
I reflect that even though our world is turned upside down, and the gatherings will not happen as they have in years past, His promises are still one hundred percent true. He has this whole year under His control. He sent His son to be our Savior; we celebrate this Christmas. He is preparing us for the celebration of His life this coming Easter; he promises we will sit at His feet like the disciples did two thousand years ago.
How many times have we been let down by promises unkept? How many times have we asked for that one perfect gift only to be let down on Christmas morning?
Ask my mom and she will tell you her son has “champagne tastes”; something that is not in the DNA of either of his parents.
Too many times on Christmas morning while watching my family open the gifts I painstakingly acquired for them, I was sitting in my pajamas opening my gifts only to open another box with a pair of socks or the off-brand toy that cost five dollars less at Kmart. As I have grown older, I understand now that those five dollars were important to our family, and that a good, warm sock is an important thing to own. But, these gifts did not meet the expectations of thirteen-year-old Karl.
I sometimes wonder if from time to time Simeon had that feeling. God told him that he would see the Christ Child before he passed. He was getting old, and this gift to humanity was not here. Year after year, he prayed and studied the scriptures. But, when would that perfect gift show up?
We only get a short glimpse into his life as he meets the Christ Child that was promised to him. But did he see the star? Did he hear stories of these wise men coming to see the Child? Was he worried about the order sent out by Herod to find this Child? Did he lose hope at times that he wouldn’t survive to meet Him? We may never know.
What we do know is that when God promises something, God delivers. He declared he would send a savior, and He delivered the perfect Savior.
Luke 2:30-32 (English Standard Version)
“… for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.”
Father God,
Thank You so very much for keeping Your promises. Thank You for sending Your Son to be the King we so desperately need in our hearts. Thank You for the promises yet to come of Your Son’s return, and that we will spend eternity with You. Help us to remember that His birth is just one of the many promises You have kept with us. Send Your spirit to help us be promise keepers. Encourage us to tell Your story, the story about how this one promise kept, allows for the other promises to be fulfilled.


Upon the Ceiling ~ Lauri Narem

As long ago as I can remember, my most memorable time during the Christmas season always took place after the Christmas tree was set up and decorated. You see, we had this white feathery angel that topped our artificial Christmas tree. (Mom was allergic to pine). With the colored lights and the angel’s feathers, somehow a picture of Jesus in the manger was shown on the ceiling with a luminous glow. I knew it wasn’t a real image, yet I loved how it made me wonder. My sisters could not understand how I saw that. My mom said, “Sort of”; but I saw it, and would continuously bask in the glow of those lights often while listening to soft, Christmas music in the background on the stereo.
My thoughts would reflect on God, my family, and the warmth of a home on those cold, New England, December nights. The precious time and the peace I would sense was somewhat indescribable no matter what was going on in my life. Other than Sunday school stories, I did not really know much about Jesus at the time. Yet, I sensed God was with me.
After I was led to Christ during a Young Life retreat in high school, I understood that God somehow used those sweet times of reflection “upon the ceiling” to soften my heart and draw me to Him all those years before. I continued to treasure that time alone with the tree lights creating that image on the ceiling long into my college years.
Coming home after a solo venture to the midnight candlelight service, I’d grab a glass of eggnog, and all of my little gifts I still needed to wrap for family and friends. I’d spread them all out on the floor under the tree with that glowing image still there on the ceiling. Funny, the lights had changed to white on the tree by then, and the reflection on the ceiling was not quite the same. But, I still cherished that time in my heart of quiet reflection, the memories, the precious sensing of God’s presence, trusting Him, feeling wrapped in His love. That was what Christmas was about for me. As I reflect now, God knew I needed that time with just Him and me to begin drawing me to Him.
I have much to be thankful for during this Advent season of hope, joy, love, and peace: my four children, my granddaughter, my wonderful husband, and parents who are newly trusting in Christ as their Savior. This year was filled with anything but peace with the craziness of covid, civil unrest, and political turmoil…and who knows what’s next?! The memories of those Christmas evenings under the glow of that image on the ceiling and more so in my heart, gives me sweet peace knowing that no matter what is happening, His precious arms are trustworthy to climb into and rest.
John 17:3 (English Standard Version)
“And this is eternal life, that they know you, the one true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”
Abba Father,
We remember this time of year as the time when you gave us the most precious gift…that of yourself…your one and only Son….that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. Thank you for loving us that much. Would you give us that same love for each other as brothers and sisters in Christ, as well as for those around us who don’t know you. This world is broken more than ever God and in desperate need to know you… who calls us out of darkness into your marvelous light. Give us boldness, love, and a Spirit of power from you that we will point to you, speak about you with as many as are willing to listen. Thank you. It’s in Your name Jesus we pray,


Search for Him ~ Jean Macy

My husband and I had the opportunity to visit Israel for ten days on an Air Force Chapel Tour in 1984, while stationed in Germany. After visiting the church of the Nativity and the traditional birthplace of Jesus in Bethlehem, we purchased an olive wood creche and proudly took it home to share with our children Chad and Tauni. Every Christmas it became the center of our Christmas worship and celebration. (And still is today with my grandchildren!)
Tauni’s cat, Fuzzball, also looked forward to Christmas and setting up the cherished Christmas nativity in the living room! Every night during Advent, the children would retell the story as they put the characters in place. We would pray, then we would go to bed. In the morning, Baby Jesus was usually missing from the manger! We would eagerly look for him, eventually finding him hidden somewhere in the house… under furniture, behind a cushion, or in another room!
We discovered Fuzzball was the culprit! The children furnished me with a simple explanation, “Mommy, Fuzzball only wants Jesus to bless him!” What a lesson in childlike faith! Oh that first thing every morning, we would seek out the Christ Child and learn from Him through His Word. When we do, we will find Him, and He will bless us and guide us through each day of our lives.
Deuteronomy 4:29 (New Living Translation)
“If you search for Him with all your heart and soul, you will find Him.”
At this Advent season, may I sit at the feet of Jesus and hear Him speak wondrous words to me each morning. May I worship and pray as I receive grace and comfort for the day. May you bless me, and renew my inner thoughts, to receive the mind of Christ and be made holy through your Word.
Hymn Suggestions:
“Away in a Manger”
“Sitting at the Feet of Jesus”


Let’s Follow the Star ~ Bethany Freudenreich

This year will be the first time since 1226 A.D. that the Christmas star has appeared. The star is created by the alignment of the planets Jupiter and Saturn. It is supposed to occur on the winter solstice, December 21, 2020.
Back in our elementary school years, my sister and I were asked to sing a duet for the church Christmas cantata. Our song was the lead-in for another song that the adult choir sang. Dressed in junior choir robes, our young voices rang out in unison as we sang:
“A star, a star, a bright and shiny star sends its light to where we are.
It’s leading us to a place not far.
Oh come let’s follow the shiny star.
Look, look shepherds do you see that star so brightly showing.
See the way it’s beckoning to me to follow where it’s going.
It moves so quickly through the sky,
I wonder where it’s leading…” ~ *
Matthew 2:9-10 (New Revised Standard Version)
It is recorded that, “When they [the wise men] had heard the king [Herod], they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star had stopped, they were overcome with joy.”
Heavenly Father,
Just like the shepherds and the magi, this Advent season help me see the star as a sign of Your presence and a reminder of Your son, Jesus’ birth. Help me recognize the signs and people You put in my life to help me follow Your leading. May I rejoice and be overcome with joy when I know that You have led me to where I am, and may I give You the glory.
* My sister remembers a couple of the lyrics slightly differently than I do. So far, we have not found the composer, lyricist, nor title of the cantata. The song was probably written specifically for that composition.


Something New and Exciting ~ Kay Cermak

This year is the first time in several years that I will be hosting our family Christmas celebration, and I decided to decorate a Christmas tree after not doing this for a few years. Unboxing the Christmas tree ornaments, and the memories associated with many, I found two ornaments that have survived since Jim and I celebrated our first Christmas as a married couple (a clump of plastic mistletoe, and a white bell decorated with gold ribbon and fake pearls).
I’m not a sentimental person, so I’m surprised these have lasted 53 years, but I’m sure glad they did. It brought back memories of our exciting, new first Christmas. We did everything we could to make the season special with our tight budget. (I also still have the Monopoly game we gave ourselves that year).
Remembering our first Christmas made me think of the excitement of the very first Christmas – Jesus’ birth. Mary and Joseph were spending this day together for the first time as husband and wife. Their tight budget and the circumstances forced them to spend the night of Jesus’ birth living in a barn with the farm and work animals. The birth of a baby is a cherished time for the parents. But it was a special and exciting day for another reason – this was the birth of the promised Messiah, God’s son, who would pay the price to save sinful humanity from damnation.
The Bible doesn’t tell us how Mary and Joseph celebrated, but Luke does tell us that others celebrated – loudly! The radiance of God’s glory surrounded shepherds close by, an angel announced Jesus’ arrival to these shepherds, then the armies of heaven surrounded the shepherds and glorified God, the shepherds hurried to visit the baby Jesus, then told EVERYONE (NLT) what had happened. Luke tells us Mary treasured the events of that time in her heart, and thought about them often.
Luke 2:8-20 (New Living Translation)
“That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. ‘Don’t be afraid!’ he said. ‘I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior— yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.’
Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.’
When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’ They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.”
In the hustle and bustle of our American-style Christmas, help us to remember that we should celebrate the simple birth of Jesus…and celebrate loudly!


The Lord’s Timing ~ Debbie Ross

It was discouraging to realize that “kids” I used to babysit for were getting married, and I didn’t even have a boyfriend. My mom was afraid I would be an old maid, too. I was 27, and she had married at 17, right out of high school. I said, “Mom, most of the guys my age are in the bars. Is that where you want me to look for a husband? And, I’m NOT going church to church to find a Christian man. We’re going to have to trust the Lord for this.”
Soon afterwards, one of my best friends from high school was talking to her second cousin, Linda White, who attended Orange Friends Church. They realized they knew two people (Rick and myself) who were still single. They decided to introduce us to each other on a blind date. I only agreed to go because the other two couples would be there too. We had a nice dinner, then went bowling. Rick didn’t call me right away after that, so I had almost given up hope. But, as they say, the rest is history. The Lord’s timing was perfect, even though I was impatient.
That was also true when we were anxiously wanting to start a family. After months of disappointment, I laid my desires before the Lord, and asked for help accepting HIS will. Within a couple of months, Becky was on the way! I believe that Proverbs 3:5 and 6 are God’s reminder that He is in control of EVERYTHING. We can TOTALLY trust Him!
Proverbs 3:5-6 (English Standard Version)
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.”
Lord Jesus,
As we look forward to celebrating your birth once again during this Advent season, help us to be patient in waiting for YOUR timing in our lives. We SO much want to take control, and we realize that it’s only when we follow YOUR plan for us that we can truly experience YOUR joy. We THANK YOU for coming to this earth to die on the cross for our sins, and we look forward to your SECOND coming with great anticipation! Please help us to not grow weary or faint in sharing with others THIS GOOD NEWS!


What is Going On? ~ Lauri Narem

During the craziness of this past year with Covid, political turmoil, social unrest, and the list goes on, I think often about the possibility that this could be the beginning of the end. Surely, Christ’s return must be soon. Yet, I am certain that generations past felt the same way when World War II broke out, or during the gas crisis, or when the stock market crashed. I think about how God tells us in his word that the things we see and sense, are only birth pangs of what is to come. Is our country being judged right now, I wonder? Other countries have experienced this type of turmoil and political unrest. Earthquakes continue to be around us in various places. Lawlessness and wickedness have surely grown, but have also been around since close to the beginning.
Even a pandemic has been here before…though back in 1918. I realize that although I would dearly love for Jesus to return. I even pray, “Come quickly, Lord Jesus.” I know that God in his mercy and grace may certainly still have us be a part of what He is doing, and is going to do.
Is this country going to lose its republic status and we its people going to lose our freedom? Maybe that is a little bit scary and exciting for me all at the same time. Scary, because I don’t know what suffering might be asked of me, but exciting because He may still use me in incredible ways to tell others about Him and serve Him. Then, take me home to be with Him.
“Wait, my kids are not all following You, Lord. Wait, my sisters have not trust in You yet. Lord, even some of my best college friends or my sweet neighbors do not know You yet.” Is it possible I might see things spoken about in the scriptures unfold before my eyes? Well, since it is not my choice, but a plan God already has set in place, I will sit back in wonder, in awe, in trepidation (if I’m honest), and in much prayer for what God has next for me– for us.
John 16:33 (New International Version)
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
You hold us up in all circumstances. I long to see your coming, and I long to see the world know and see you in all your glory. I need your help and strength to continue to follow you step by step into each day you give me– trusting that your plan is and always has been better than mine. Help me to stand firm in you in the joy of this season even in the midst of all of the craziness going on around me. Thank you God for sending your Son so long ago, that I might have life and have it more abundantly.


I Will Never Leave You Nor Forsake You ~ Rob Eggeman

As a younger adult, I went through a time of considerable isolation that led to depression and a host of self-destructive behaviours. At one point, I was so miserable and hopeless that I laid down on my kitchen floor crying, pleading with God that, “I need help!” I really was a hopeless mess with no idea what to do to turn things around…except plead with God.
A couple days later, my parents called me and said, “You’ve been on our mind these past couple days and we’d like to come visit.” What a relief that was just to receive the phone call! I lived in Massachusetts at the time and they lived in Ohio so it was no small effort on their part to come visit me.
Their visit was a very encouraging answer to prayer. It helped break the funk I was in, and provided some much needed interaction with people who loved me. It’s interesting that I was not even following Christ yet, but God was looking out for me and clearly had a plan for my life as I accepted Christ as my Savior a couple months later.
Even though I wasn’t “doing my part” to follow Christ, He was doing His part and looking out for me, knowing I was soon coming His way, I’m sure. He took care of me in a time of great need and isolation. He was faithful to me when I was not even paying attention to Him.
God knows our struggles and He knows exactly for what we are pleading. He will not leave us hurting and unattended. He will rescue us!
Joshua 1:5b (New International Version)
“…I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
You know our struggles and exactly for what we are pleading. Rescue us! Thank you for not leaving us hurting and unattended.


The Shepherd’s Witness ~ Judy Sorensen

It was the night of the first ever Christmas. A bright light accompanied singing as bright and exciting as itself. The light and singing startled a cluster of shepherds resting around their fire on the Bethlehem hillside.
Frightened and clutching at each other’s coats, the shepherds relaxed to hear comforting words from the chief angel: “Don’t be afraid! The Savior, the Messiah of God, is born in Bethlehem and at this very moment is lying wrapped in swaddling cloths in a manger.” It sounded like an invitation.
“Let’s go!” slipped from the excited lips of several shepherds. “Emanuel has come to Bethlehem, and He is lying in a manger!”
There could have been a shepherd who was too fearful, too skeptical, too proud, too apathetic, too self-absorbed, too preoccupied with his career to walk out of the darkness of his own understanding and into the light of God’s great grace. There could have been one who sat close to the fire, saw the light on other faces, heard angel wings strum with the music and, nevertheless, chose to shiver at his own fire ring, to stumble within shadows of his own making. To such people, the holy God says, “Watch out, you who live in your own light and warm yourselves by your own fires” (Isaiah 50:11, New Living Translation).
Blessed were those shepherds who accepted the divine invitation to witness God in the flesh. As they returned to their sheep through the wakening town of Bethlehem, they became the first witnesses of the Messiah’s earthly arrival. About them it could be said, “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news that the God of Israel reigns!” (Isaiah 52:7)
Everyday since then, there are others who choose God’s light and fire. For these, Emanuel is as near as their breath, and they will live with Him forever in His heavenly home.
Father God,
Thank you for inviting me, ______________ (insert your name) to live in the light of your Son, Jesus. May I be faithful until the day I walk into your presence.