Advent Devotion: Worship the newborn King

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Matthew’s Gospel shares with us how the scholars of Jesus’ day knew where He was to be born. It is almost as if you can hear them say to Herod, “In Bethlehem in Judea – of course- don’t you remember the prophecy?” But it is the Magi from the East, these strange fellows following a star in search of hope beyond hope, that actually make it to the place where the newborn King was born. They didn’t want to just know where He was for the sake of knowing, they wanted to know so they could go and worship Him.

I don’t know if we truly see the humor, irony or just weird setting this must have been. Imagine that you are Mary and Joseph at this point. Here come these guests who wish to see your child. You escort them back to the nursery and they kneel down next to Jesus’ crib/manger/pack-and-play, offer Him gifts, and worship Him as King. Although you (as Mary and Joseph) know that God has a special plan for this child, it has got to be a bit odd seeing them open their treasures to your baby, who is still so weak that he relies on your protection, and placing their hope in Him. Your baby is King to them. A King not just in knowledge, but in Hope.

Spend time to worshipping God this Christmas. The Magi worshipped a newborn baby King, a seemingly insignificant thing. Maybe the things that call us or to worship God seem insignificant at the time- worship anyway.

Sages, leave your contemplations,

Brighter visions beam afar;

Seek the great Desire of nations;

Ye have seen His natal star.
Come and worship,

Michael Smith has served at the camp in many capacities over the years and is the pastor at Tabernacle UMC in Erma.

Advent Devotion: A Child Born For Us

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“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” -Isaiah 9:6

Hundreds of years before the birth of Christ, God spoke through the prophet Isaiah a word of hope. God’s chosen people are being threatened from within and without. Enemies surround them and the threat of invasion and defeat are ever before them. Inside their borders, corrupt leaders and spiritual apathy create an expectation that all is not well. In the darkest of hours, hope and promise appear—God will continue to walk with and deliver His people.

Sometimes we miss the historical context of the Incarnation and the Messiah’s birth on this side of history. We are keenly aware that Christ came to save and redeem us but He is also the hope of the nations, the hope of generations, the hope of the entire world. He is described as one on whom the government rests—He is Lord. He is described as a wonderful counselor—one who walks with us and journeys with us. He is described as Mighty God—the all powerful King of Kings. He is the everlasting Father— the one who loves us and calls us His own. He is the Prince of Peace—the one who brings hope and rest in the midst of difficulty.

Who is He inside of your life today? Sometimes we’re content to know Jesus in a limited way…He died for my sins…Or perhaps, He lives in my heart. But there is a richness and a vastness to who He is…indescribable, Word made Flesh, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Beginning and the End, Lion of Judah, Son of God, Redeemer, Savior, Friend of Sinners, God with us.

Will you open your life this Christmas season to the fullness of who He is? Beyond the cute pictures of an infant in a manger, will you open your heart to the one who came to make a difference in your life, my life, and the whole of human history. Charles Wesley’s famous Christmas carol says this of Him:

Hail! the heaven-born Prince of peace! Hail! the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings, Risen with healing in his wings
Mild he lays his glory by, Born that man no more may die:
Born to raise the sons of earth, Born to give them second birth.
Hark! the herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King!”

In light of all that He has done and still desires to do, will you give Him glory this Christmas season and you seek His face. Merry Christmas!!

Michael Bill is the incoming president of the camp’s board of directors and is a pastor at Sharptown Church.

Advent Devotion: More than a countdown

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“I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and the mire; he set my feet upon the rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the LORD and put their trust in him.”
-Psalm 40:1-3 (NIV)

It’s been a week since the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School. As the father of a kindergartner and a 2-year-old, I cannot imagine the terror, pain, sorrow, and questions experienced by the families, teachers and community as they deal with this incredible loss. As a nation, we mourn with the people of Newtown and lift them up in prayer.

As I watched Facebook and Twitter over the weekend something else became evident; our world is broken and in need of redemption. Our world is crying that injustice would be made right; that lowly would be raised up; that the most vulnerable in our world would be cared for. This is likely not news to you, but every once in awhile we are wakened from our slumber to realize the grip that sin has on our world and how desperately we need God’s grace through Jesus.

In Psalm 40, the psalmist writes about crying out to God for rescue. Whatever situation he is in, he describes it as being stuck in a slimy pit- the mud and the mire. When he cries out, God hears his cry, pulls him from the pit, and sets his feet upon solid ground. This act puts a song of praise in the mouth of the psalmist. The psalmist’s circumstances have been reversed. Salvation has come and given him new life and opportunities.

The season of Advent is more than counting down the days until Christmas- it is our anticipation when Jesus will return. When he will rescue us from sin and death. Advent is a time anticipating that Jesus will renew and redeem creation and wipe every tear from our eyes. That redemptive work begins now when we surrender our lives to Jesus and will be fully realized when Jesus comes back as he promised.

Today, maybe you’re mired in the slimy pit. It could be sin, fear, depression, anxiety, confusion, dealing with a loss, or even overwhelmed at the holiday season. When we cry out to God, we believe that God hears our cries, rescues us, and even turns our “mourning into dancing” (Jer. 31:13).

God of creation, there are times when we feel lost, alone, or apart from You. Hear our cries- the cries of our heart for salvation, redemption, and renewal. Send Jesus. Immanuel, God-with-us, to comfort, guide, redeem, and save us. Call and equip us to be people of Hope wherever you lead us. Help us to stand on the firm foundation of Your Son, Jesus- and put a new song of praise in our mouths. Come, Lord Jesus! Come! Amen.

Steve LaMotte is pastor at Hope United Methodist Church (www.hopedover.com) and Campus Minister at Wesley College in Dover, Delaware. He has been a speaker and worship leader at Delanco Camp. He is the husband to Andrea and father to Abigail and Chloe. He attempts to blog at www.stevenlamotte.me and tweets at @steve_lamotte.