The First Sunday of Advent: November 28
"HOPE"

Jeremiah 33:14-16
Devotion by Catherine Karas
Art by Remy Karas, age 4

The season of Advent is a season of waiting. It is a season of assurances to come. It is a season of hope.

If there is one thing our current culture isn’t particularly good at, it’s waiting. We are the generation of instant gratification. Information is at our fingertips. Fast food chains can be found up and down our streets. We want what we want…and we want it now.

Being a person of faith in our current world is tough because God makes it clear that so much of faith is about waiting. Some of my most fervent prayers were the things I waited the longest and prayed the most fervently for- a baby I longed to carry or a family rift I yearned to heal.

Sometimes it can be hard to find hope when circumstances look bleak. The story of Jeremiah serves as a reminder to us of what assurances look like in the midst of chaos.

In the time of Jeremiah, Assyria was in constant turmoil, and eventually it would fall to its enemies just as he had prophesied. Jerusalem was destroyed. Its people were exiled, and Jeremiah was imprisoned. Things were about as bad as they could get.

But, in the midst of bleakness, Jeremiah offered hope. He reminded the people that the Lord would fulfill His promise to them, and that out of this ruin, He would deliver justice and righteousness to them. They would just have to wait and have hope.

Jeremiah’s faith never wavered even when he was waiting surrounded by destruction and chaos.

Dear God, During this season of advent, give us a heart prepared to wait.
Remind us that in the chaos of our world, you are our hope.

The Second Sunday of Advent: December 5
"LOVE"

Malachi 3:1-4
Devotion by Emily & Andrew Tatum
Art by Neve Christiansen, age 7

This holiday season, we are spending Thanksgiving with Andrew’s family in Athens, Georgia and Christmas with Emily’s family in Nashville, Tennessee. As we prepare to see our families for the holidays, preparations ahead of this Christmas seem higher stakes than previous years. While we plan more elaborate meals, fancier wrapped gifts, and a little more Christmas lights in the yard, on the inside we are preparing our hearts and minds to focus on the simple Christmas traditions with loved ones. With the development of the vaccine and decrease in cases, this holiday season is jam packed with any excuse to get family and friends together, making up for the time spent at least six-feet apart. As we reflect on how much the pandemic has changed us and our lives, we remember yearning, praying for a time that we could visit family members, attend church, and be with loved ones without a serious concern for one another’s health.

In the book of Malachi, the Israelites have returned to Jerusalem following a 70-year exile, reclaimed their land, and rebuilt their temple. As their once fervent faithfulness begins to wane, the prophecy of Malachi is sent to remind the Israelites where their praise and thanksgiving should be directed. Malachi 3:1-4 speaks of the coming Lord and what that day means for the followers that fear Him. It will be a day of purification for the faithful who will in turn bring “offerings in righteousness to the Lord”. As we enter the Advent season, Malachi 3: 1-4 is our reminder to prepare our hearts and offerings to the Lord rather than focusing on our return to normalcy—or newfound normal. As busy as the coming days may seem, remember that offerings of gratitude and love are the ones that God is excited to receive. May we embody these gifts as we gather to celebrate the birth of Jesus this Christmas.

Dear Lord, we give thanks for the opportunity to gather together in celebration of your Son, our Savior. Please grant us the serenity to offer the gift of love granted through you to our neighbors, family and friends this Christmas season. Amen.