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South Fellowship Church

Advent Conspiracy 2020

Love All | Luke 2:22-35

When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”

Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,

you may now dismiss your servant in peace.

For my eyes have seen your salvation,

  which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:

a light for revelation to the Gentiles,

and the glory of your people Israel.”

The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” Luke 2:22-35

As we turn our hearts and minds towards the final bend in the Advent season, love, I wonder if maybe the Beatles were right after all; maybe all we really need is love. Not a saccharine, Hallmark kind of love, but rather a true, sacrificing, agape sort of love. Simeon might surely agree. He’d waited all his life for a love like this, and now as the Christ child entered the Temple, Simeon’s wait was finally over. So overwhelmed was he, that he couldn’t help but erupt in praise,

“I have seen your salvation, which you have prepared for all people. He is the light to reveal God to the nations, and he is the glory of your people Israel!”

In one utterance of praise, Simeon reveals that this Love, though the glory of Israel, was not just for Israel. This love was far too good not to share. This Love was meant for all the nations of the world!

Think about that for a moment. Think about the people in our world today, right now in 2020. We live in a time and space where humanity is radically divided. The number of people you may agree or identify with are likely far less than the ones you don’t. Where God intended differences to unite us, humanity far too often allows them to blind us. But consider salvation. Salvation is the great unifier. It binds us all to the same Savior despite race, religion, political, sexual, or economic ideation. It unifies us in our brokenness and need, and in our future destination as redeemed children of God. It is the gift we all desperately need.

As 2020 quickly approaches its end, we turn our eyes to a new year on the horizon. Some things may remain the same, but there is also a growing hope for change and restoration. As we carry the light and love of Christ into a new year, ripe with new dreams, hopes and possibilities, let’s take some time and ask ourselves a few questions. Who was the Christmas story for? How was it different from the old stories? How do I replicate Jesus’ love for me? Choose one thing you can do to help show the love of Christ this season. God’s love is far too good and far too important not to share with a hurting world around us. For more information visit, https://adventconspiracy.org/devotion

By Sheila Rennau

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Love All | Luke 2:22-352020-12-17T14:02:59-07:00

Give More | 1 John 3:16b-17

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 1 John 3:16-17

As much as we desperately want the holidays to feel “normal” this year, the reality is that for many they just won’t. You might be one of those people. Maybe, for financial reasons, you are worried you can’t afford to give in the same way that you usually do. Maybe you are anticipating celebrating Christmas distanced from your loved ones this year, and it’s forcing you to be creative with how you will give. Maybe it feels like you’ve already given so much of yourself this year and you have very little left. The call to “give more” might seem impossible, hollow, or nice enough for someone who’s just not in your situation this year.

This year, embrace giving and the call to “give more” not as a guilt trip to “give better,” with a subtext of “be a better person you materialistic human,” but an opportunity to lean into the grace giving reflects. After all, giving is not just part of the Christmas story, but part of the Jesus story. We follow a God who gave himself for us, and every time we give, whether that is financially, relationally, or some other way, we have an opportunity to reflect over again on that sacrifice and ultimate source of hope. Maybe start by asking yourself the following questions: Where is giving present in the Christmas story? How did those within the story give? What am I called to give?

Perhaps, as you prepare to give this season, whether in time, presents, or financially, reflect on this abbreviated prayer from Every Moment Holy by Douglas Kaine McKelvey:

Let me learn to love you by this
glad practice of giving, taking joy
in every opportunity to invest
in that heavenly economy whose
scale of return will prove to be so out of proportion to all
earthly paradigms as to render them
at last trivial and absurd.

Let me give- neither as begrudging
duty nor from some blasphemous belief
that you might be manipulated- but let
me give in sincerity and cheerfulness,
as a means of making evident the infinite
implications of the gospel. Let me give to
that which moves your heart…

Ah Lord, let that best love
which shapes my life
be evident in this and in all my small acts of giving.

Amen.

By Jessica Rust

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Give More | 1 John 3:16b-172020-12-10T09:42:18-07:00

Spend Less | 1 John 2:17

 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. 1 John 2:17

“…the world is passing away with all its desires…” is a gripping part of this verse. If there’s anything we’ve witnessed this year, it’s things changing dramatically in a hurry. We went from a very open society, able to move about as we wanted, to one where our freedom to move about is limited to our homes, along with perhaps a feeling of being watched for compliance. Life can dramatically change in mere moments.

If we listen to all the differing voices around us, from some friends and family to commercials, spending less in this season is completely countercultural. Our society seems to have taken this season and averted our eyes from what’s everlasting (Jesus) and focused it on things temporal (what this world offers us). And we’ve done so way earlier in the year than I remember. This really isn’t a new concept at all. It’s been around since the fruit hit the ground after the first shared bite in the Garden of Eden.

When Jesus walked the earth, there were those who spent their time teaching and watching those around them what it meant to be godly in light of the law. When asked, Jesus brought the bulk of the law down to two things: loving God with our entire being and loving our neighbor as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:36-40). Our relationships with God and neighbor trump everything.

In this season, as we’re bombarded with things to purchase, what if we turned a deaf ear to it and focused on Jesus’ call to love God and neighbor? As Advent continues, spending (more) time with God can fill us with the joy freely available to us. And perhaps the time spent in stores and online looking for that ‘perfect’ gift could be better spent with the person to whom the gift would be given. If there’s one good thing Covid-19 has brought through technology, it’s given us the ability to share life with those around us, local or not.

If this is the choice you make this season, investing time in closer relationship with God and neighbor, perhaps you’ll find lasting reward from a gift that truly keeps on giving.

By Rich Obrecht

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Spend Less | 1 John 2:172020-12-03T15:15:52-07:00

Worship Fully | Luke 1:46-55

The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children. Psalm 103:8-17. NIV

And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me— holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as he said to our fathers.” Luke 1:46-55 NIV

How is worship present in the Advent story? How do we worship fully in this season? These are good questions to ask ourselves during Advent. I view Mary’s song as pure worship – it is praise for God and thankfulness for all he has done for her and for his people. Let’s look at it and glean ways we can worship as well.

Mary clearly acknowledges all that God has done for her personally. Worship is glorifying God: for who he is, for what he has done, and for what he will do in the future. Jesus’ mother – a young woman -newly pregnant, expresses the joy in her soul and her spirit because of God’s plan for salvation and for including her in it. She is humble, she is thankful, and she gives God praise. She understands God’s mercy and compassion for his people and praises God for it. Her wording is similar to Psalm 103:13, “As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him.” Perhaps she was familiar with this Psalm, as she says God’s “mercy extends to those who fear him,” Luke 1:50.

Mary praises God for remembering his promises to Abraham and to his descendants, and for fulfilling those promises. Her faith and trust in God is astounding and convicting. May we all strive to worship God with this kind of faith. She is newly pregnant, she has many months before she will hold her baby, God’s savior, in her arms. She has many years before the entire plan for salvation is made clear to her. But her worship of God is pure praise for his mighty acts, for his lifting up of the humble, for the feeding of the hungry.

As we enter this season of Advent and we read the daily scriptures in the Advent Conspiracy, ask these questions of yourself. How do each of the people in the Advent story worship God? Who is the center of the story? How can I worship fully in this Advent season?

By Grace Hunter

During the season of Advent, South Fellowship is engaging with the themes of Advent Conspiracy: investigating how we worship fully, spend less, give more, and love all in anticipation of Christmas. We will only be posting the Daily on Mondays during this season, but if you would like a special Advent resource, or would like to engage more with the Advent Conspiracy themes you can check out the Advent Conspiracy devotional here.

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Worship Fully | Luke 1:46-552020-11-24T09:30:36-07:00
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