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WBC 50th Anniversary 2017 Advent Book

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Wilton Baptist Church 50
th
Anniversary
2017 Advent Calendar
Come and Celebrate Christmas
at
Wilton Baptist Church
Sunday, December 3
First Sunday of Advent: HOPE
11:00 a.m.
Saturday, December 9
Adult Christmas Party
7:00 p.m.
Sunday, December 10
Second Sunday of Advent: LOVE
11:00 a.m.
Adult Choir Christmas Program
Church-wide Christmas Party
6:00-7:30 p.m.
Sunday, December 17
Third Sunday of Advent: JOY
11:00 a.m.
Children’s Choir Christmas Program
Wednesday, December 20
Graffiti Christmas Dinner, NYC
3:00-8:00 p.m.
Sunday, December 24
Fourth Sunday of Advent: PEACE
11:00 a.m.
Christmas Eve Service
5:30 p.m.
Preparing for Advent:
The season of Advent in the church is a time of preparation; preparation for the celebration
of the birth of Christ and preparation for His return. Jesus however calls on each of us to
live in a constant state of preparedness as we do not know the hour of His return. So really
I see Advent as an annual time for refocus and reevaluation of our state of preparedness. I
know the sound of that seems to take away some of the sentimentality, but it is the
sentimentality that is so often used as a buffer to keep us from delving too deeply into a
relationship with the very one who calls us into that relationship.
Advent is the beginning of the church year. The church calendar is a circle that has no
beginning and no end; a continuous cycle that reminds us that there is no beginning and no
end in the Lord, the Alpha and the Omega. Advent is traditionally represented by the color
purple. Purple is a color that reminds us that this a time of preparation; and the color of
royalty, signifying the coming of the King. Part of our church tradition includes an Advent
wreath, which also makes a circle, reminding us of the Alpha and Omega. The wreath is
adorned with 4 candles, each with significance, each bringing light to the world; candles of
hope, love, joy and peace.
During the season of Advent we are reminded of the hope, love, joy and peace of Christ. The
hope that we have in Christ; the hope proclaimed by the prophets as they pointed the way
to Bethlehem, showing us the way to our savior. The love that God has for us in sending His
one and only Son for the salvation of the world; the love shared by Mary and Joseph as they
cared for their son. The great joy that He brings…joy to the world! The angels told the
shepherds “Don’t be afraid. We bring you news of great joy that will be for all the people.”
And the peace that Jesus Himself said he leaves with us; the peace extended by the Magi
who followed the star to offer their worship and adoration to the Christ child.
As we enter this season of preparation, take time to focus yourself and evaluate the state of
your preparedness. Remember the hope that we have in Christ; the love that God has for us
in sending His Son; the joy that He brings to the world; and the peace that we have in Him.
O Come, all ye faithful…let us once again follow that star to Bethlehem!
May the blessings of Advent be upon each of you,
Pastor Caroline Smith
First Sunday of Advent: HOPE
by Josh Smith
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to His great mercy, He has
caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the
dead.” 1Peter:1:3
HOPE
Sunday, December 3 Mark 13: 24-37
Active Waiting
by Phyllis Boozer
This passage seems like an unusual one for the first Sunday of Advent, which we
celebrate as the coming of the birth of Jesus. Advent is taken from the Latin word “adventus”
meaning arrival. So, in this passage we are celebrating an arrival, the second coming of Jesus.
There are several ways to anticipate an arrival. One is to know the exact day and time, and to
work like crazy a few days before to prepare. Another is to always be ready for anyone to stop
by. The latter is how I grew up in Alabama. People were in the habit of dropping by
unannounced for visits. I rather liked that as there was usually something on hand to eat, and it
was a nice surprise to have visitors. My family and I usually spent Sunday afternoons visiting
relatives, we did not let them know that we were coming, but they were always prepared and
excited to see us.
As we anticipate the second coming of Jesus, I sense a bit of this scenario of being
prepared. The mindset of complacency can easily happen, it has been a long time since Jesus’
birth, many have tried to figure out a specific time by searching scriptures for clues. Since it is
not known, we might be tempted to feel we don’t have to think about it. But on the contrary,
since it is unknown, we should think about it all the time. Mark tells us “be on the alert – for you
do not know when the master of the house is coming, whether in the evening, at midnight, or in
the morning, lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you all, ‘Be on the
alert!’”
Our God and Father, While we wait for Jesus’ return, may we live in a way that allows Your life
to shine through us. Amen.
HOPE
Monday, December 4 Matthew 3:1-12
John and His Message
by Grace Yakercheck
This chapter of Matthew describes the glorious rising of the morning star, Jesus Christ.
The prophet, in 29 AD, who foretells of this is the first since Malachi. John The Baptist
fulfils Isaiah 40:3 which tells of a messenger who prepares the way of the Lord.
We find this prophet messenger in a sparsely populated desert area where many dwellers
from around the Jordan River went to hear John declare the nearness of God’s kingdom.
The doctrine preached was “Repent ye.” That implies a total alteration of the mind, a
change in judgement, disposition, and affections. We are sinners in need of pardon. We cannot
be saved by our own righteousness. Those who heard John and truly repented received the seal
of baptism. Baptism that signified, by immersion, is the washing away of sin by God.
John chastises the religious leaders who relied on outward appearances and felt no need
to repent.
Since the day is coming when the wheat (believers) and the chaff (non-believers) will be
separated, think of the Savior, born to die for our sins.
Dear Heavenly Father, We are thankful for our salvation and the promise of eternal life. Amen.
HOPE
Tuesday, December 5 Isaiah 61:1-4
Words of Comfort
by Tami Emond
Isaiah prophesied the Babylonian exile during which the Jews were captives in Babylon
from 587-538 BC. Their idolatry and disobedience to Yahweh had predestined this exile. Ending
after the fall of Babylon to the Persian king Cyrus the Great, the Jews were allowed to return to
their homeland and rebuild the Temple (538-515 BC). During their captivity, Isaiah’s words in
61:1-4 must have been a great comfort to them as he proclaimed to both the People of Israel and
to all nations - God’s steadfast love, forgiveness and promise of restoration to all who are in
spiritual darkness (blind) and bondage. So, too, Jesus, the Suffering Servant, quotes Isaiah 61:1-4
in Luke 4:18-19; He comes with good news for the underclasses of His time.
Isaiah is often referred to as “The Messianic Prophet,” because of his many prophecies
that were fulfilled in Jesus. It is important to note that Isaiah’s words comforted the people of his
time. Jesus spoke those same words to bring hope to the people of His time, and we Christians
look to Isaiah 61:1-4 to speak to us in our time as a promise of what is to come when Christ
returns.
Lord, We thank you for the hope we have in the promise of Your return. Guide our steps so that
we can share the comfort of this hope with those who need it most. Amen.
HOPE
Wednesday, December 6 John 18:33-37
Christ the King
by Calli Keener
In this passage on Jesus' trial, we are made privy to Jesus and Pilate's intimate discussion
of Jesus' kingship. Pilate wants to know if Jesus is the King of the Jews, but Jesus does not
concede to it being so simple; Instead, Jesus makes it personal with Pilate as he makes it personal
with each of us. Yes, I am king, is the heart of his cryptic response, but no, not of Jews or of
revolutionaries, but rather of heaven; Truth beckons; do we hear its calling? Is Christ the King?
Pilate seems slightly irritated by Jesus' invitation to weigh it out for himself and respond to Truth
accordingly. Angels heralded Christ's birth; that baby was really something special! But the
King, the God-man, while facing his death, invites Pilate and us to judge for ourselves his
Kingship. He invites us to know Him. How rich is that invitation! Blessed and wise are we to
accept it.
Our Father, We marvel at Your wisdom and Your ways. They are not like ours. You sent
the King to a manger and a cross. May our lives be ruled by the same humility and obedience
which characterize Your Son. Be King in our hearts, Oh, God. Help us to know Your ways and
follow them. Amen.
HOPE
Thursday, December 7 Isaiah 43: 1-21
Hope Assured
by Melanie England
It was a cold, sunny day 34 years ago yesterday. I was expecting my first child who was
now two weeks late. I drove to Princeton Medical Center for a pregnancy stress test, making
sure the baby was fine. Upon hooking me up to the machine, the nurse surprisingly announced
that I was in labor. Really! Shocking! Talk about HOPE! The next 9 hours were filled with it.
Hope that this birth was finally happening and all would go well, hope certainly for a healthy
baby, and, toward the end, hope that the intense contractions would just quit already! All my
hopes came to fruition when my beautiful, blonde, blue-eyed daughter Laura came into the world
on December 7, 1983.
The hopes I felt that day could be best described by Webster’s first definition - “to trust
in or wish for a favorable outcome”. Not so much hope by the second meaning - “confident
expectation”. Yet confident expectation was exactly the kind of hope God gave the Israelites in
today’s passage. They had spent years wandering in barrenness and despair. They had been
faithless, complaining people. They had lost so much. Yet God declared “Don’t be afraid, for I
am with you”. They would not have had any hope without knowing that God was definitely with
them. The favor, love and goodness to His chosen people gave hope and comfort. “Hope is a
gift from a loving, compassionate, preserving God”.
That same God and that same hope are with us today. He has not abandoned us, despite
our shortcomings. He gives us hope in the midst of trauma, grief, and brokenness. We can be
assured that His love and mercies will endure forever.
Hope from God is confident expectation. Cherish all that that means during this season
of Lent, remembering the incredibly blessed birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ, and His eagerly
anticipated and promised return.
Father, Thank You that we can know with confident expectation Your constant presence
and love, no matter what life brings. Please bless each of us during this most holy season. In
Jesus’ name, Amen.
HOPE
Friday, December 8 Colossians 1: 9-23
The Love of a Holy God
by Josh Smith
This passage beautifully presents the majesty and glory of Jesus Christ, the source and
holder of all creation, the head of the church and the firstborn of the resurrected and the coming
Kingdom. Here the Christ is presented fully in his holiness. How can we begin to even
approach one such as he?
And yet we can, because through God’s great love for us we have been rescued from the
domain of darkness and transferred into the Kingdom of Christ. Through Christ’s holiness,
exemplified in his bodily death upon the cross and his resurrection from the dead, we have the
great joy to enter into an intimate relationship with the very creator and sustainer of the universe.
This is one of the great paradoxes of the Christian faith, of being able to enter into a
relationship with a God who is both holy other and our loving father, brother and friend. During
this advent season, may we constantly remember that we serve a holy God who chose to become
incarnate so that through him we might be made holy and blameless, that we might be made
children of the living God.
Holy Christ,
We thank and praise You for choosing to come close to us, to invite us into an intimate and
loving relationship with You, the Father and the Spirit through Your death and resurrection. As
we celebrate the Christmas season, may we remember how You embraced all of humanity by
becoming one of us and walking among us. May You guide us in showing this type of love and
sacrifice to those around us. Amen.
HOPE
Saturday, December 9 Zephaniah 3:14-20
Ancient Words for Contemporary Hope Seekers
by Bob I. Johnson Ph.D., Retiring Minister
In 19th century England, and much before that, people believed that at the stroke of midnight on
Christmas Eve, domestic animals knelt in dumb adoration of the Christ child. Growing up a century later,
the poet and novelist Thomas Hardy was told this story by his mother.
As the years went by, the adult Thomas Hardy no longer believed in a personal and loving
heavenly Father. He chose to believe that blind fate was the governing force of the universe. The First
World War which came near the end of his life, only served to enforce his pessimistic philosophy of life.
But on December 24th, 1915, Hardy’s poem, “The Oxen,” appeared in the London Times. Here is
that poem.
Christmas Eve, and twelve of the clock,
‘Now they are all on their knees,
An elder said as we sat in a flock
By the embers in hearthside ease
We pictured the meek mild creatures where
They dwelt in their strawy pen,
Nor did it occur to one of us there
To doubt they were kneeling then.
So fair a fancy few would weave
In those years! Yet, I feel,
If someone said at Christmas Eve,
‘Come, see the oxen kneel.
‘In the lonely barton by yonder comb
Our children used to know,’
I should go with him in the gloom,
Hoping it might be so.
The tiny tucked-away book of Zephaniah contains prophetic words of warning and condemnation.
Then in chapter 3 he finds new God-given direction and relays a message of hope for the weary written in
poetic terms. Poetic words must be read by poetic people, no mere prose reading will do. Read these verses
with great imagination of the ultimate triumph of God's dominion. Picture how they speak to the world in
which you live. Imagine you are a poet! This Advent season you can hope with assurance that it is so.
Lord, My prayer today is for You to endow me with the poetic imagination that will enable me
to see life through Your eyes and to live in the light of that knowledge. Amen.
Second Sunday of Advent: LOVE
by Gordon Olivea
“He tends His flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in His arms; and carries them close to
His heart; He gently leads those that have young.” Isaiah 40:11
LOVE
Sunday, December 10 Isaiah 40:1-11
By Nancy Beckett
Many years ago while visiting New York City I remember seeing and hearing a
disheveled man ranting "repent". People, we as well, kept walking, seemingly ignoring,
possibly uncomfortable and embarrassed. I wonder if that was the reaction to John the Baptist.
We know Isaiah, long before their births, foretold of "one crying in the wilderness"and the
coming of the Messiah. We are fortunate to have the Bible and able to read about them and
those times. We also learn through history of the anger, forgiveness and comfort of God.
How loving to give us Christ, as man, to show us how life should be lead and how He will
shepherd and care for us.
We know that life is frail and transient, but what a gift it is. It is in God's hand alone
how long it will last. Help us to recognize the coming of the Lord, repent, prepare and give
thanks to Him.
Dear Lord,
Let us give thanks this advent season as we wrap our gifts. We know that You are too
large to be contained. You are everywhere, in everything and our every all. Help us to reach
out and feel Your presence.
Thank You for all your blessings. Amen
LOVE
Monday, December 11 Luke 1:5-25, 57-80
The Wonder of Birth
by Bill Bruster
Several things jump out at me from this wonderful passage. The first is the Miracle of Birth. It is
easy to see the miracle of these two babies, John and Jesus. The birth of John reminds us of the birth of
Isaac. Both set of parents were to old to conceive, both beyond the childbearing years and yet, a miracle,
both set of parents gave birth to a boy. And in the case of Jesus, Mary was a virgin. It took a miracle for
her to give birth to Jesus. Charlotte and I were married 8 years before our daughter, Julie, was born. We
wanted a child so badly. We counted her birth a miracle. But if you have even been in the delivery room
when a child is born, or held a newborn in your arms, you know that all birth is a miracle. Giving birth is
one of the most violent-loving acts of humankind, and each child is a miracle.
I am also struck by the Rejoicing that takes place at Birth. We are not surprised by the joy
exhibited by Elizabeth and Zacharias when John was born. In Luke 1:45-56 the wonderful song of joy
that came from the heart of Mary was expressed by Luke. I can remember like it was yesterday, the joy in
my soul at the birth of our two children, although it was almost 50 years ago. The birth of a child renders
an almost unspeakable joy.
This passage also speaks volumes about the Adventure of Birth.Jon's parents are told about the
wonderful adventure that lay ahead for their son. We read in verse 76, "And thou child, shalt be called
the prophet of the Highest; for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways." I am not
sure they knew what all that meant but the sense of adventure must have been almost overwhelming.
When you stare into the eyes of a newborn you have no way of knowing the adventure which lies ahead
for the baby. But if you look closely you can see the love of God in the eyes of the baby and know that
God loves the newborn even more that its parents, siblings, or grandparents.
Dear Lord, During this Christmas season, may we recall the marvelous miracle of birth, our
own, our loved ones, and our spiritual birth. Father, help us experience the joy of birth, our own, our
loved ones, and the joy of spiritual rebirth,. As we look toward the new year, open our eyes to the
possibilities of new adventures, and give us the faith to follow the spiritual impulses You implant in us.
We pray in the name of the One who was born in a stable. Amen.
LOVE
Tuesday, December 12 Matthew 4:1-6, 28:18-20
Let the Message of LOVE Get Through
by Cindy Kaoud
“It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the
mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:4)
During the Advent season, we are reading our devotions to help us prepare for the
celebration of Christ’s birth. This is the week of LOVE.
God wants us to love one another. We are one of God’s treasures. If we follow Him, He
will be our treasure too. God loves us so much that even though we are all sinners and we are all
tempted, He sent His Son to die for us. It was LOVE that sent Jesus to earth to live a life of love.
It was LOVE that made him pay the price for our sins. This is a LOVE that says, “I am willing to
LOVE you no matter what.”
Do you LOVE like that? I want to LOVE like that. I pray I can LOVE like that. Fred and
I try to practice positive discipline with Neil, John & Isabella. One of the key messages in this
philosophy is making sure the message of LOVE gets through to your children. Preparing this
devotion for Advent made me think of this. This is the week of LOVE! Is the message of LOVE
getting through to those around you? Do you LOVE your family, your friends, your neighbors,
your coworkers, your fellow Christians, your pains in your life … your enemies? You can!! We
can LOVE, because He first loved us!
Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank You so much for Your constant and never-ending LOVE. Please help us Lord to
show others LOVE like You LOVE us. Please Lord, helps us to get the message of LOVE
through to those around us! I know we all can get so busy and hectic as we prepare for
Christmas, but help us to slow down and remember the reason for the season and to LOVE! May
we be a light to others. May we LOVE like You have LOVED us. Thank You Lord for all Your
many blessings. It is in Your name we pray. Amen
LOVE
Wednesday, December 13 Matthew 3:1-12
Is This Love?
by Charles R. Wade
When you read the passage for today’s Advent meditation, the word, “love,” might be the
last word that comes to mind. This is the story of the herald, the “preparer of the way,” the
preacher of judgment and repentance, the fiery prophet who held rulers accountable, the plain
living desert preacher who found a river where he could baptize his repentant hearers. There
were many who listened and, confessing their sins, were baptized.
But the powerful and self-righteous, the folks who were intent on doing religion well,
John the Baptist rubbed the wrong way. He irritated the smug and self-satisfied. He “stepped on
their toes” where they had not built up protective calluses. His preaching called into question the
sense of security upon which they depended. He announced that God was ready to do a new
thing. And unless they repented they would be left out and thrown into the fire.
Is it love to tell people harsh truths? Is it love to point out to people that they are capable
of better selves if they will lay their self-righteousness and spiritual barrenness aside? Is it love
to call people to turn from their own kingdom building and enter into the Kingdom of Heaven
which has come near in Jesus?
Hear Jesus about the Kingdom of Heaven: You can experience blessing and joy even in
your poverty, even when you mourn, even when you are hungering for righteousness, when you
are merciful, when your heart is pure, when you seek peace, even when you are persecuted. You
are salt and light in a dreary and dark world! You can love God and love people with your whole
heart.
And the gift Jesus brings to you in his Kingdom? You will know God and you will know
love.
O, God, You are the One who has come close to us in Jesus Christ. We want hope,
peace, joy and love in our lives...indeed, Lord, we need them deep within nurturing us in our
journey through life. We like it best when You speak kindly to us, but let us be willing, also, to
hear hard truths that shake us out of our complacency and draw us more closely to You and to
others who need You as well. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
LOVE
Thursday, December 14 Isaiah 62
Thy Kingdom Come!
by Gordon and Rosiane Olivea
“And the Gentiles shall see thy righteousness, and all kings thy glory”
The coming of the Lord is marked by Isaiah in this passage. Not for the Jewish people
alone, but for all people on this Earth. Jesus is our Lord, King of kings, as all are equal under His
name, and share His glory.
The birth of Jesus of Nazareth was the coming of a man who had true righteousness, no
stain of sin, and lived among us as an example of how to act in accord of God’s morality. Jesus
fulfilled God’s law, and yet transcended it, bringing all people under His righteousness to grace.
All Jews and Gentiles, kings and peasants, are bathed in the light of the glory of the Lord.
We were gentiles then - before the Glory of the King was bestowed upon us - but are now
part of the court of the King, his children, heirs to his kingdom. The Lord’s righteousness and
mercy has reached us; it has given us hope and strength even when turmoil surrounds us. We just
need to put our many worries at His feet and trust in His covenant of love and justice.
Dear Lord,
Give us comfort in times of loss and pain,
Give us thankfulness in times of bliss and also sorrow,
Give us steadfast love in times of hate,
Give us wisdom in times of uncertainty and doubt,
Give us Your grace every time.
Amen!
LOVE
Friday, December 15 John 1:6-34
Who Is the One Who Comes?
by David Sapp
Sometimes, when I am preaching, I wish Jesus would suddenly appear in a blaze of glory
and say, “Listen to him, people. He is right!” Then they would be convinced!
Of course, history teaches us that it doesn’t work that way. When Jesus appeared in
Palestine two thousand years ago, people didn’t even recognize him (John 1:10, NIV). He
walked among them, and still they didn’t know who he was.
Oddly, it took more than Jesus showing up. It took an Advent preacher, a John the Baptist
who would point to Jesus and say, “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the
world!” (John 1:29). Jesus’ role was to be the redeemer of the world. John’s role was to help
Israel understand who he was. Because John was willing to do that, the Christian faith was born.
So it is with us. Jesus walks past us everyday, and most of the time we don’t recognize
him. Then God sends, say, a Wilton Baptist Church to be a modern day John the Baptist, to say,
“Here he is, the One for whom you have been longing and searching.”
For fifty years Wilton Baptist Church has been doing John the Baptist work, and because
of that more people than you imagine have opened their eyes and beheld the risen Christ. What
you have been doing is loving the world in the name of God.
Now. you are quite properly taking a deep breath in this your Jubilee year and pausing to
celebrate. As you do, I have a prayer for you. I pray that you will not only look to the past, but
that you will be Advent people, looking to the marvelous future to which God has called you, the
future in which your love will grow, and in which you will continue to proclaim to all to whom
Jesus comes, “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
O God, In this season of Advent, help us to proclaim the Coming One to those who do not
recognize Him when He appears. In the name of our Lord Christ, Amen.
LOVE
Saturday, December 16 Mark 1:1-8
John Appeared
by Betty Schneier
“John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins”.
(Mark 1:4)
John “appeared”? Who is “John”, and what does this John have to do with “The beginning of the
gospel of Jesus Christ, the son of God”? (Mark 1:1)
Approximately 30 years before this John appeared in the wilderness of Israel, near the banks of
the River Jordan, preaching his message of repentance to his Jewish listeners, and “baptizing” those
fellow Jews who had heard, repented, and wanted to demonstrate their repentance through John’s ritual
cleansing ceremony, a startling event had occurred in the temple at Jerusalem. A priest named Zechariah,
fulfilling his duties there “in the days of Herod, King of Judea” (Luke 1:5), had a dramatic encounter with
an angel at the altar of incense in the Holy Place in the temple. “Do not be afraid, Zechariah”, the angel
said, “for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his
name John…he will be great before the Lord….and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his
mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their god, and he will go
before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the
disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.” (Luke 1: 13-17)
“Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way, the voice of one
crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’ ” (Mark 1: 2-3). The
Jews of John’s day would most likely have been very familiar with these references to Malachi 3:1 and
Isaiah 40:3, with their strong Messianic overtones. The Jewish people had been waiting for their
promised Messiah for many, many years. But Israel was currently under the rule of a Gentile nation, and
there had been no new prophecies for hundreds of years. Were those old prophecies still worth believing?
Hoping for? Waiting for? Would Messiah ever come?
Did Zechariah ever stop praying for a son, even as the years went by and he and his wife grew
older maybe too old to have children?
Three decades after Zechariah’s prayer for a son was answered, his son John fulfilled the angel’s
prophecy about turning many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God; even John’s clothing -
camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist (Mark 1:6) – symbolically revealed his role of forerunner
to Messiah in the spirit and power of Elijah (see 2 Kings 1:8 for a description of Elijah’s clothing). And
Jesus himself, in Matthew 17: 10 13, confirmed to his disciples that John the Baptist was indeed the
“Elijah” who was to come before the Messiah.
Do you ever give up hope when your prayers seem to have fallen on deaf ears? When time goes
by and still the circumstances don’t change, the loved ones don’t heal, the desires of your heart seem to be
fading like dried-up autumn leaves?
“John appeared”. Remember John.
God is faithful. God is good. In God’s timing, not our timing, God will fulfill his promises and
make all things new. Come, Lord Jesus.
Lord Jesus, You told us that You are the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Please help us always to remember these
words, and please encourage us never to grow weary of proclaiming Your birth, death, and resurrection to a world
so desperately in need of You. Amen.
Third Sunday of Advent: JOY
by Paula Aspesi
“An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they
were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will
cause great joy for all the people.’” Luke 2:9-10
JOY
Sunday, December 17 John 1: 6-8, 19-28
John: the Baptizing Prophet
by Marion Aldridge
Rarely do we think about John the Baptist during Advent, during this season of
preparation for Christmas. But, like the Old Testament prophets, John the Baptist pops up
occasionallywith a purpose!
What John does, like the Hebrew prophets, is to point us to Jesus. He was a witness to the
light. He was not the light. He was not the Messiah. He pointed to the Messiah.
Just to be clear, John the Baptist did not point toward Santa Claus. He pointed us toward
Jesus.
“I’m not even a Big Deal prophet like Elijah or Isaiah,” said John the Baptist. “I’m just
repeating their message as the voice of one crying out in the wilderness. Here’s the memo:
‘Make straight the way of the Lord.’”
“Who are you?” the Pharisees kept asking. “Why are you baptizing people if you’re not
the Messiah?”
John the Baptist didn’t use the following words exactly, but he explained he was like the
moon that merely reflected the sun. If the people saw something good or interesting or important
when they saw him, John the Baptist, it’s because he was preparing the people to be ready to see
someone far better, far more interesting, and far more important.
“I’m not worthy even to tie his shoelaces,” said the Baptist.
Throughout the Advent season, we keep being pointed toward Jesus. The prophets point
us toward Jesus. The angels, the shepherds, and the wise men point us to Jesus.”
What are you doing this Advent Season to prepare for the coming of Jesus?
Lord, Help us to have the humility of John the Baptist and to always remember that our lives and
our words should point toward Jesus. Amen.
JOY
Monday, December 18 Luke 1:39-45
The Visitation
by Dr. Rev. Jason Coker
This passage from Luke is the historical account when Mary goes to visit Elizabeth, her
relative who is pregnant with John the Baptist. The significance of the visit is the fact that baby
John leaps for joy in Elizabeth’s womb when Mary arrives and greets her. Both Elizabeth and the
baby she carries recognize the significance of the baby that Mary carries. The miracle of the
visitation is that both Elizabeth and gestating John recognize Jesus as Lord, as Elizabeth makes
clear: “And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me?”
Pregnancy is as much of an emotional issue now as it was in the ancient world because
life and love are so intermingled in it. As we meditate on love today during this Sunday of
Advent, what aspects of this passage speak most to us? How do we read love into this passage,
how do we experience God’s love from this passage, and how does that encourage and motivate
us to love in our own daily lives? Asking these questions from this text may be harder for some
than others, but it is an important spiritual discipline to read for love. Where do you see love in
the text? How does that love shape your capacity for love today? My prayer is that you will
experience the love of God that is in Christ Jesus as you read this passage. I hope that this short
text from the Bible fills you with the Holy Spirit as much as Elizabeth was!
Lord, Help us experience Your love in the profound, in the terrible, and in the mundane. Amen.
JOY
Tuesday, December 19 Isaiah 35:1-10
The Joy of Togetherness
by Timothy Peoples
I love a good horror movie. This year, I have assigned Stephen King’s It to the first place
on my “horror movie of the year” list. The premise of this movie exists around the occurrence of
an evil spirit that encompasses the town every 27 years. As you can imagine, the town is filled
with fear and confusion upon the arrival of the evil spirit. Yet, there are a few teens who, while
filled with fear and confusion, are much more skeptical about the evil spirit, and are determined
to figure out who/what this spirit is. This spiritwho comes in the figure of a clown known as
Pennywisefeeds on each individual by shapeshifting into their greatest fears. The teens realize
they cannot defeat the spirit alone. They must face their darkest fearstogetherin order to
defeat Pennywise.
Isaiah 35 tells of a people living in a state of fear and desolation. Not from the existence
of a clown named Pennywise, but from something much more relatable. The world they once
knew is no more and it almost seems as if the powerful God they put their trust in and cry out to,
has turned off their hearing aids. Where is this God? How can we move forward?
However, there is a beautiful piece in this text in Isaiah that states, “Strengthen the weak
hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who are of a fearful heart, ‘Be strong, do not
fear!’ Then…” we are given a list of the wonderful things that happen when the community
comes together to strengthen each other and remind one another of the possibilities that are
present when we move forward despite our fear…
Then eyes are opened.
Then the lame can walk and ears can hear.
Then words are given to those who were once unable to speak.
There is something beautiful about community; about togetherness. When our greatest
fears have come to overtake us. When the world seems to be in desolationwhen everything
seems different from what we once knew. There is a community. There is Wilton Baptist Church
to remind us to be strong and courageous. A congregation to remind us our God has not forgotten
us, and is with us every step of the way. When we are reminded of our community of strength…
Dear God, May we obtain joy through those who love, support, embrace, and remind us of the
One who created us and continues to sustain us. Amen.
JOY
Wednesday, December 20 Revelation 1:1-8
by Tom Bourne
In 1967 the founders of the Wilton Baptist Church had a vision for the bedroom
communities of Fairfield County, Connecticut. Just as John bore witness to the Word of
God and testimony of Jesus Christ, the visionaries of Wilton Baptist yearned to extend that
vision to Route 7.
As they met in the American Legion Hall in the Wilton Center, they believed in Jesus
Christ. They knew him as God’s gift. They looked to him with great hope for their future and for
the future of this church. They wanted this church to deepen and expand their understanding and
experience with Him as the Lord of their lives. The visionaries showed great courage and faith as
they opened their pocketbooks and followed through with execution of their vision. And so it
began.
The same joy and enthusiasm for the coming of Jesus Christ unveiled by John in
Revelation was emulated by those followers. This message of Revelation is remarkably
contemporary. We also rely on the same scripture for meaning and purpose and guidance to
make Jesus alive in our lives as the authority for the present and the future.
Fairfield County is very different. Things have changed in Wilton. And yet, nothing has
changed with God. He is available. The peace from Him who was, and is, and is to come will
continue forever in Jesus Christ the Alpha and Omega.
Dear Heavenly Father, May Your words leave us with peace and the abiding joy of Your
presence for today and tomorrow. Amen.
JOY
Thursday, December 21 Luke 1:26-38
Good Ole Days
by Jim and Wanda Stockfisch
Back in the “good ole days” when I still had my flip phone, I could make/receive calls
and even send/receive texts. The one problem was that emoji’s came through as either # or *. I
was missing that all important emotion so crucial to the message.
One can only imagine the 14 year old Mary’s feelings when the angel appeared to her.
Here she is, a freshman in high school, great grades, marching band, and engaged when Gabriel
drops this bombshell on her. Scripture records her reaction as “greatly troubled”. My thoughts
would wander more to fear, doubt, confusion, scared, angry or lonely. Can you imagine some of
the emoji’s she would have used to convey her emotions to her friends and Joseph?!
If God revealed his plan for your life like he did for Mary, would you:
Ask a lot of questions?
Wonder if you had any say?
Worry about your ability to carry it off?
Run away?
What emoji’s come to mind when Pastor Caroline suggests another devotional activity
for the first 15 minutes of the day? Is there one that corresponds to Mary’s reaction, “I am the
Lord’s servant, may it be to me as you have said It”.
Father, Remind us of the emotion You share with us each day that we may respond as Your
servants. amen.
JOY
Friday, December 22 Luke 12:35-48
Ready
by Todd Beaney
Do you have days when it is particularly hard to rise above the kinds of petty annoyances
that can really “get under your skin?” Maybe you can do a pretty good job, most days, of
brushing off negative comments, thoughtless behavior, or even direct insults, but just about
everyone has a day, once in awhile, when events conspire to render tolerances (and tempers)
shorter than usual. “That’s the last straw,” we might exclaim, or “Don’t try me today—you won’t
like the result,” or something similar.
Certainly these are very human responses to stress, or frayed nerves, or any number of
causes. Yet in today’s scripture, Jesus challenges us to a higher standard.
In this passage Jesus calls us to a permanent state of readiness in anticipation of His
return. We are to live each day, each hour, each minute in our best effort at finding and following
God’s will; we are to live each minute as though it could be the very time when Jesus returns.
And there are no exceptions for stress, bad coffee, bullies, or discourteous drivers! We are to rise
above all of it and seek to be constantly living our Christianity “on the alert.”
It’s a tall order, for sure.
The only chance is to rely completely on God’s strength, compassion, provision, and love
all day, every day, in every circumstance (“pray without ceasing”). Only then will we truly be
ready.
Lord, Thank You for coming to us and bringing us Your incredible love and gift of salvation.
Help us to live for You all day, every day, that we might be found “ready” when You come again.
Amen.
JOY
Saturday, December 23 Acts 1:1-11
True Joy
by Dr. Wallace Williams
Now we are but two days away from the grandest miracle of allthe birth of Jesus
Christ. He became what we are, so we could become what He is (John 1:12-13). God stoops to
conquer us by sending us the greatest gift of His Son (John 1:14): true joy which keeps on
giving and delighting.
Luke, also the author of Acts, links Luke 2:9 with Acts 1:1-11. The shepherds in the
fields saw and heard the angels tell them not to fear, because they brought “good news of great
joy...for all the people.” In Acts the resurrected Jesus told his disciples God had another gift for
themthe Holy Spirit. He would bring certainty and power and joy to them to proclaim the
Gospel to all. Crushing circumstances and deafening doubt would be overcome by the powerful
gift and glory of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, the same
Jesus, who was taken up into heaven and seated at God's right hand, would come again! They
were moved from doubt to dedication, from passivity to power, from hopelessness to Heaven.
True joy is rooted in a victorious Jesus, not the “fake news” of this world.
Our happiness depends too much on “happenings” around us which we deem helpful to
our needs: winning the lottery, a significant promotion, our favorite team winning a
championship. The Bible says joy is given and sustained by the Lord. “In Your presence is
fulness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Ps 16:11). Jesus told his followers,
“These things have I spoken to you, that my joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be
full.” (John 15:11) In addition Paul writes in Galatians 5:22 that joy is part of the fruit of the
Spirit. May your Christmas joy rest in Jesus and illuminate a darkened world.
Writing on this 50
th
Anniversary of Wilton Baptist Church gives me much joy. The
wonders of Wilton, the beautiful buildings, the delightful disciplined disciples who comprise
your membershipall remind me of the joy expressed by St. Paul in Phil. 1:3-6: “I thank my
God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you I always pray with joy because
of your partnership in the Gospel...”
Joyfully, your former pastor (1974-81, 2006-07)--Wallace
Fourth Sunday of Advent: PEACE
by Cindy Kaoud
But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of
heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14
“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the
kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:3; Mark 10:15; Luke 18:17
PEACE
Sunday, December 24 Psalm 85:8-13
A Great Secret
by Steve Erickson
In the third century A.D., Cyprian the Bishop of Carthage wrote to his friend Donatus; “It
is a bad world, Donatus, an incredibly bad world. But I have discovered, in the midst of it, a
quiet and holy people who have learned a great secret. They have found a joy, which is a
thousand times better than any of the pleasures in our sinful life. They are despised and
persecuted, but they care not. They have overcome the world. These people are Christians, and
I am one of them.”
This is the peace that God promises in Psalm 85. The passage was written as an
encouragement to the Jews returning from exile in Babylon. They had been prisoners for many
years and now they saw that their beloved temple had been ruined. But God, through his
prophets, reassured them that He would shower His favor on them. And, He did.
Basically, the point of the passage is that we cannot hold back God’s love for us. We
face disappointments and think that this is the way it will always be. We wonder where will we
find our next job, our next ounce of energy or patience, our next…?
It is through God’s work in history and in our lives that we know we can trust His
promises. God will hear us and bring us peace, but only if we draw near to Him. As C.S. Lewis
said, “God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there.
There is no such thing.”
Lord, Help us to find the peace that passes all understanding that only can be found in You.
Amen.
PEACE
Christmas Day, 2017 Matthew 1:18-25
“’She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from
their sins.’ Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the
prophet: ‘Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His
name Immanuel,’ which means, ‘God with us.’”
Welcome To Bethlehem
by Caroline Smith
Together we have been travelling on a journey…a journey to Bethlehem.
Just as the prophets pointed the way to Bethlehem and to the hope that we have a savior
who would come.
Just as Mary and Joseph journeyed to Bethlehem, preparing to receive their precious
child in perfect love.
Just as the shepherds journeyed to Bethlehem to see the baby that the angels had
declared was their savior, declaring, “We bring good news of great joy, for all the people.”
Just as the magi journeyed to Bethlehem in peace, prepared to give worship and
honor to the baby born a king.
We too have journeyed together, preparing our hearts and our minds to once again
receive the good news of the birth of our savior. The one in whom we have such great hope.
The one who is love. The one who brings great joy in everlasting peace.
Today, as we rejoice in the celebration of the coming of Christ our King let us
remember that He came as our savior…saving us from ourselves, from our sin. Saving us
that we might live in the light of His glory, all the days of our lives.
He came and will come again but we are not alone. The one who came is called
Immanuel, “God with us.”
O holy Child of Bethlehem,
Descend on us, we pray;
Cast out our sin, and enter in,
Be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide in us,
Our Lord Emmanuel!
Amen.