Quest Church: A Community of Grace
Quest Church 2018 Advent Devotional - WEEK ONE
2018 Advent Devotional: December 2-8
Locations & Times
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  • 2004 Philo Rd, Urbana, IL 61802, USA
    Monday 1:30 PM
INTRODUCTION

City sidewalks, busy sidewalks, dressed in holiday style...

The holiday season is upon us again! For many of us, this is a time of frantic preparation: gifts to buy and wrap, Christmas cards to mail, ornaments to hang on the tree. Add in holiday parties and visiting friends and families, and it's no wonder this can be one of the most stressful times of the year! In the midst of all the hustle and bustle, it's easy to lose sight of the meaning of Christmas. Some years Christmas sneaks up and is gone before I have time to contemplate how amazing its message really is.

While our spiritual forefathers didn't have “strings of streetlights-even stoplights-blinking bright red and green”, they too felt the ease of losing the meaning of Christmas. The early Church set aside time before Christmas, called Advent, to spiritually prepare for the holiday: to contemplate what it means not only that God became one of us to rescue us from sin, but that He chose to come as a helpless infant, born in a cattle stall. It's quite a bit to contemplate, before you add in the busyness of the season!

Drawing on this tradition, we have put together this devotional to help you prepare spiritually this season. For each day, we've listed the traditional liturgical readings and included a reflection on these readings written by a member of Quest. Since Christmas is indeed a lot to take in, the Christmas holiday is actually twelve days long in the traditional liturgical calendar. We have included reflections through December 31st. Our prayer is that through these daily reflections, you'll see Christmas in a new light.

...soon it will be Christmas Day
SUNDAY: DECEMBER 2
Written by Loren Sanders

Jer. 33:14-16, Psalms 25:1-10, 1 Thes. 3:9-13, Luke 21:25-36

'Tis The Season

Ah the holidays, the time when our normal stress turns to holiday stress. The season of giving, family arguments, credit card bills, and people who want more from you and of you. This supposed season of cheer leaves many folks feeling more Grinchy than Grateful.

How do you navigate holiday time as a Christian? The world seems to be focused on excess and here you are trying to bear good fruit. There is temptation around every corner with parties, food, drinks, and presents. It’s easy to get sucked in.

Christmas was my favorite holiday until last year. In fact, the past year has made the holiday season especially difficult. I lost my little sister on 9/6/17. This day will be forever etched in my memory. My family will never be the same. Holiday stress.

Today a friend sent me a text that said: do you ever notice yourself getting bad again? Neglecting work that needs to get done, not cleaning the house, and making bad decisions-I know what I need to do and I just can’t. Stress.

Life can change at any time; in the blink of an eye or over a long and rough period of time. Jesus teaches us that in the verses for this week.

The situation is dire and armies are advancing on Jerusalem. Jeremiah is in prison and the worst is yet to come. There is a sense of gloom and doom all around- what has been prophesied is coming to pass. But there is a sign of hope. Hope that tells us if we follow God’s plan and trust in him then we can triumph over everything. Our sins are forgiven; our path can change. It isn’t easy. It takes work, diligence and a whole lot of humility to put your total trust in Jesus. It takes inner strength to be kind and compassionate to others when you feel like crap. But we are called to do just that. And when Jesus comes back and people are “fainting with fear”, Jesus tells us to “lift up our heads because redemption is drawing near”.

Knowing this, we can be confident in not getting sucked in to what everyone else is doing this holiday season. And, if we feel overwhelmed, we have a God who, if we simply ask, has the power to radically change our hearts and our paths.
MONDAY: DECEMBER 3
Written by Paul Kunkel

Psalm 90, Numbers 17:1-11, 2 Peter 3:1-18

A Christmas Letter For Advent

Writing is an important part of our human experience, providing a totally unique way of remembering and sharing. It is a blessed step in God's plan of our creation, whether it's on clay tablets, papyrus, leather scrolls, with movable type, or electronic notebooks.

The arrival of the Christmas season and the end of the year has traditionally become a time for the writing and exchange of letters and greetings with family and friends. Over the years, they have come to our house from many places. I still have a treasured letter and a stamped envelope from a college friend serving as a Christian missionary in Nazareth, Israel.

So many of those holiday notes, wonderful as they seemed, were still just form letters, the same document to be shared with many others. They usually followed the same format and content: a list of family achievements and events of the year with a final note of good wishes. A copy of every such letter from our house over decades is still kept in a black 3-ring notebook.

Stop now and think! Our Bible is written for us in many ways. It is history and poetry, genealogical records, a code book of rules and laws, rebuke and challenge, and most of all, instruction and hope. The Bible is not a story of one year, but a great overview of God's plan for our salvation and our lives. Its writers were sometimes wordy, sometimes brief. Some, like Peter, could speak more easily than write or even read.

But perhaps, just perhaps, the greatest Christmas writing for us is God's word in our own hearts. Christ has come. His Spirit lives with us. He will come again. What a Christmas letter! Alleluia!
TUESDAY: DECEMBER 4
Written by Bobbie Ford

Psalm 90, 2 Samuel 7:18-29, Revelation 22:12-16

God's Big Picture

Psalm 90 and other Old Testament writings tell of God's ideal creation, man's sin, God's anger and discipline, and God's repeated efforts to help us “clean up our act”. Moses prays in awe at the power of God from the time even before creating the earth through the thousands of years that are like a day just gone by. He prays about the terror of man at God's anger over their sins. He asks God to relent and show compassion and unfailing love, and to show His great deeds to mankind and to their children after them. He asks God to teach us so we gain a heart of wisdom.

In 2 Samuel 7:18-29 David has just settled into his palace when the prophet Nathan tells him that the word of the Lord has come to him. God had said, “I will raise up your offspring to succeed you and I will establish His kingdom forever.” God also said, “I will be His Father and He will be my Son”. On hearing this, David prayed and asked, “God, who am I to have been brought this far? You tell me that my offspring will have a kingdom forever that you establish. O Sovereign Lord, you are God. Your words are trustworthy. You have spoken and with your blessing the house of your servant will be blessed forever.”

In Revelation 22:12-16 Jesus Christ says, “I am coming soon. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. I am the Root and the Offspring of David and the Bright Morning Star.” Jesus is the son of David that God promised him, and He is the answer to Moses' prayer. In Jesus, God has shown us His compassion and love.

Thank you God for your love and compassion and for your gift of life through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We thank you that we can be a part of your big picture through Your Son. Amen.
WEDNESDAY: DECEMBER 5
Written by Sharon King

Psalm 90, Isaiah 1:24-31, Luke 11:29-32

As I read through the assigned Bible passages, there did appear to be a common theme, and it was very depressing. The Scriptures were all pointing out that we, the people of God, have fallen very short of God's expectations for us, for many, many generations. Our time on this earth is brief, and our lives may feel insignificant. Yet, the all-powerful God is angry with us and we will PERISH if we don't change the way we live.

I had a little trouble trying to relate these Scripture passages to Advent. I felt unimportant and that my time on earth could not ever be pleasing to God. Then it hit me. When we celebrate Advent, we are celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. He is God made flesh to live among us and died to TAKE AWAY the sins of the world. Without His sacrifice, we would perish - condemned forever.

Thank you, God, for sending us your son, Jesus, to SAVE us this Advent season and for the rest of our lives!
THURSDAY: DECEMBER 6
Written by Lauren Pearce

Luke 1:68-79, Malachi 3:5-12, Philippians 1:12-18a

There are few things as engaging as an unexpected plot twist. You think you know where the story is going...and then something completely unforeseen happens!

Malachi warns us that the Lord is coming near for judgment, “against those who exploit wage earners and widows and orphans, and against those who turn away an alien, because they do not fear Me”. This includes me as well. I'm often indifferent to the 25.4 million refugees worldwide, and honestly, I'd probably rather not know how the workers who made my clothes or picked the fruit I ate for breakfast are treated. I am indeed guilty of not keeping the Lord's ordinances, as Malachi alleges.

Worse, “fear of the Lord” alone isn't enough to keep me doing what's right! Like Israel, even the warning of a coming judgment doesn't “scare me straight”. Surely, when the Judge comes, He's not going to be happy...

...and yet there's a twist. When the Judge comes, He comes bringing, not punishment, but salvation- for the oppressed and the oppressor. Because fear of the Lord isn't enough, he comes to “grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve Him without fear”. We are saved- not to continue in our sins as oppressors- but to obey out of a new, changed heart. And to receive that changed heart, we must experience the plight of the helpless oppressed ourselves- unable to fix our own sinful natures.

Not that my heart is perfectly changed, of course. I still struggle- and Malachi is there to remind me of the ways I fall short. This year, I'll be prayerfully considering ways to help refugees and the oppressed- doing so not out of fear, but out of a delivered heart. 
FRIDAY: DECEMBER 7
Written by Anne Ahrens

Luke 1:68-79, Malachi 3:13-18, Philippians 1:18b-26

When promised a son with his wife Elizabeth, Zechariah was confused because they were too old to have children. It may also have been puzzling when the angel told them that the son would turn many Israelites to the Lord (Luke 1:16). How would this be so? The child, John, was born and everyone rejoiced and wondered what his future held. They knew it must be something great, which brings us to Zechariah's prophecy in Luke 1:68-78. After John’s birth, Zechariah was filled with the Spirit and declared that his son was going to prepare a way for the Lord. Specifically, he was to prepare a way for salvation and forgiveness.

What a joy it must have been to have a son with such a high calling! John was to prepare the way for the Lord. This poses the question: Were Zechariah and Elizabeth ever scared or hesitant about where God was sending their son, even though He was clear about John's calling? I wonder this because we later find out John's ministry ultimately led to his beheading. But we know that death is not the end. For to live is Christ but to die is gain (Philippians 1:21). When life here on earth ends, we rest assured that we will spend eternity with Him. Meanwhile, our life here will lead us to be more like Christ as we serve Him. This is a joy and truth worth living and dying for.

When we as a church look at our children and youth, do we hope they will preach the joy of the Messiah who has already come and died for us? How far are we willing to teach our children to go? It has been said the biggest barrier to young adults becoming missionaries are their parents. Can we be a church who speaks, with the same Spirit-filled joy of Zechariah, that our children will one day share the gospel with the world? We must because the truth is the Lord has called us all to live for Christ.
SATURDAY: DECEMBER 8
Written by Donna Hoeflinger

Luke 1:68-79, Malachi 4:1-6, Luke 9:1-6

My sister, Harriet, made a pilgrimage to Lourdes, France, when she was very ill in the last stages of ovarian cancer. She was determined to go as a last resort to be healed by the holy waters of Lourdes. No one in our family was able to travel with her at the time, so she went alone. She had a borrowed walker, and probably a very large suitcase. So, she didn’t travel lightly.

Here’s the thing: Harriet had great faith in God to help her on this long journey. She said that most people were very kind to her, helped carry her suitcase, change money, gave her instructions about getting to Lourdes from Paris, and even shared meals with her at the small inn at Lourdes. It was a cold late October day when she reached the waters. She told a funny story of how a sturdy, no fuss woman volunteer helped her through getting out of her clothes, into a simple tunic, got her in and out of the stone bath in record time, and helped dress her as she shivered to get warm again. My sister was the one in need of healing and God’s love was present in all those who stepped up to help.

When we talked on the phone afterwards, Harriet told me this: When she was finally there, at Lourdes, and had her first few moments to pray for her healing, she was moved instead to pray fervently for each one of her brothers and sisters (there are seven of us) and my parents. She told me her heart was at peace. She prayed often. She came home safely, and lived four more months, with God’s Light shining bright in her heart. My sister’s example of great courage, love, and trust in God continues to be an inspiration to me.
DEVO WEEK TWO!
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Week two of our Advent Devotional will post Sunday morning. Check back then!