Are You Ready for Something New? – This Year

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I can honestly say 2020 has been the worst, best year. This year, I realized God gave me what I wanted, but not how I wanted it to be. I say this because it made me realize the truths about God—that what he says about me is true. I have been tempted to quit many times and blame God for all the injustice; instead, I kept going and stayed focused on Jesus.

My worst, best year looked like this:

  • Traveling right before quarantine, returning home, and being forced to go nowhere. It was especially depressing being stuck in my house for months after a fun adventure.
  • Stepping into a double major at college but at the mercy of online lectures and missing out on the typical college experience.
  • Thinking I could earn some extra money working as a nail technician during the school year.

But God had different plans. As 2020 comes to a close, think about the worst, best things that you experienced.

For many of you, it is a year that you can’t wait to put behind you. Maybe you’re stuck in a bad situation—financially, relationally, or situationally, and you’re not sure what your next step should be.

For others, perhaps 2020 was GOOD. But with all the uncertainty, you’re not comfortable celebrating your achievements.

Regardless of where you are, you have a chance to start new. Lead Pastor Ben Snyder encouraged us to focus on the truths about God and what he says is true about us.

I think I would have missed those truths if I hadn’t been steadfast and kept my eyes focused on Jesus through all the unexpected situations that unfolded. There can be truth and revelation in the unexpected. When you remain focused on Jesus, he will do something new in you, especially in the midst of the unexpected.

Are you ready for something new? Do you believe that God can do something new in you? As it says in Luke 1:37, “For nothing will be impossible with God.”

God can do something new in you when you keep your eyes focused on Jesus. This weekend, Ben pointed out that we follow where we focus. I know this sounds cliche, but when we take our eyes off Jesus, we lose sight of our destination and get lost on the journey.

Over the next few days, we will focus on what is true about God and what he says is true about us.

Questions:
What has 2020 looked like for you? Where was your focus in unexpected moments?

What did you learn about God’s truth this year? What does God say is true about you? Do you believe and accept it?

Next Steps:
Take time to journal and reflect about what 2020 looked like for you.

Pray about what something new might look like in your life.

Step into joining a group or take GrowthTrack to engage in ways you can focus on Jesus.

Prayer:
Jesus, 2020 will be a year to remember. A year of ups and downs. There have been times that I have struggled to keep my focus on you. I have been reminded that we follow where we focus. If there are any distractions that are keeping me from focusing on you I pray they would fall away. Thanks for being the God of the impossible in a time of uncertainty. I know that despite the challenges, I can realize the truth about you and what you say is true about me. Your promises are certain when everything else feels like it is not. I pray I will receive your promises today. In Jesus’ name, amen.


This post was written by Rebecca Roberts, a regular contributor to the LivingItOut Bible Study.


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Joy to the World – This Christmas

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Find today’s Family Advent Activity at the bottom of today’s reading.

I have loved Christmas since I was a little kid. I love the music, the trees, the lights, and the presents. You can see the joy of Christmas in the kindness and love people show to their fellow man. My favorite thing about Christmas is attending Christmas Eve service with my family. My heart overflows with joy as my family and I celebrate the birth of our Savior, and I reflect on all Jesus has done for me. Christmas has always been my favorite time of the year.

Christmas 2020 may seem different than Christmases past, but we must remember the true reason we celebrate Christmas—the birth of our Savior, Jesus.

This weekend, speaker and writer Barb Roose spoke to our church. During her sermon, she gave some history on the song “Joy to the World.” It was written as a poem by Christian minister and writer Isaac Watts and was included in a book of poems and hymns, The Psalms of David, in 1719. The poem that led to this popular Christmas song was based on Psalm 98. The first few lyrics of the song follow:

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King!
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.

The true meaning of Christmas is that Jesus our King came to this earth as a precious baby to save us all. Jesus is the Joy of the World—yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

Theologian and pastor Rick Warren has been quoted as saying, “Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in every situation.” With God as our Savior, we can live with joy, even while we are hurting inside or struggling.

That, my friend, is the miracle of Christmas.

This Christmas, praise God for the greatest gift we ever received, Jesus! Pray daily for God to reveal the miracle of Christmas to you year round. Praise him and thank him for all he has done for you. If you are really struggling to find joy this year, pour out your heart to him. He wants to hear from you. He cares, and he wants to fill you with his presence and peace. Trust him to be with you during tough times and heartbreak. I hope this verse will give you comfort:

John 10:10 (MSG)
A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.

Jesus came to give us real and eternal life. A life that is better than you could have ever dreamed of. Receive the true gift of Christmas in your heart: Jesus.

Merry Christmas!

Questions:
What brings you joy at Christmas? What are you struggling with this season? Have you poured your heart out to God? Have you received Jesus as your Savior? If not, what’s holding you back?

Next Steps:
Read Psalm 98. Listen to “Joy to the World.” Sing it at the top of your lungs, and praise Jesus for all he has done for you. Look for Jesus’ miracles and blessings daily. Journal them and review them during tough times.

Prayer:
Jesus, I love and adore you. I am overwhelmed with joy that you, my King, came to this earth to save me. I am so thankful your Holy Spirit is present in me at all times. I don’t have to do it alone. You are always present, filling me with your joy, peace, and love. Help me to remember the true meaning of Christmas this year. Help me to always keep my eyes focused on you. Help me to live in your joy at all times, no matter what my circumstances may be. Amen.

Family Advent Activity:
Family Connection – Use the following prompt to have some meaningful family conversations.

How does it make you feel knowing God loves you so much? That’s why God gave us Jesus. Have you asked Jesus to be your Friend Forever?

Pray – “I know I make bad choices, called sin. I know my sin should separate me from You forever. But instead You loved me and gave me Jesus. I believe and trust that Your son Jesus, died for my sin and came back to life. Thank You for loving me and for giving me the gift of eternal life so I could live with You now and in heaven someday. Be my Friend Forever! In Jesus’ name, amen.”

For more family fun, check out the monthly advent calendar full of seasonal activities.


This post was written by Marsha Raymond. Marsha has been happily married to her husband, Jeff, for 30 years. They have two grown sassy and fearless daughters. She loves spending time with God, her family and friends, reading, riding bicycles, yoga and walking.


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Visitors from the East – This Christmas

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Find today’s Family Advent Activity at the bottom of today’s reading.

The Wise Men

Matthew 2:1-11

1 Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, 2 “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.” 3 King Herod was deeply disturbed when he heard this, as was everyone in Jerusalem. 4 He called a meeting of the leading priests and teachers of religious law and asked, “Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?”

5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they said, “for this is what the prophet wrote:

6 ‘And you, O Bethlehem in the land of Judah, are not least among the ruling cities of Judah, for a ruler will come from you who will be the shepherd for my people Israel.’”

7 Then Herod called for a private meeting with the wise men, and he learned from them the time when the star first appeared. 8 Then he told them, “Go to Bethlehem and search carefully for the child. And when you find him, come back and tell me so that I can go and worship him, too!”

9 After this interview the wise men went their way. And the star they had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! 11 They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Who were the wise men? It is probable that these men were from Babylon. They had been taught of the one true God and of the Messiah promised to come through the prophecies of Daniel, the Jewish prophet exiled to Babylon in the years 620-535 BC. They were learned men, most certainly versed in astronomy, astrology divination, and sorcery. As such, they were revered as noblemen, royalty even! It is customarily believed that there were three wise men. Why do we think of them as three individuals—besides the fact that three came in your Nativity set? Because of the number of gifts they presented. However, men such as these would have traveled with many, many servants, pack animals, and aides on such a long journey, about 800 miles.

The wise men would have known what the star signified, and they would have been anxious to undertake the pilgrimage to honor the newborn king. His birth, they had learned, would usher in a new kingdom, where the messiah would rule and lead to the climax of history. Imagine the anxiety (deeply disturbed!) this large caravan of nobles and attendants would have caused the king of that day, King Herod, never mind their message or the reason for their trip!

How did the men decide on what to bring to properly honor this child: gold, frankincense, and myrrh? Gold is pretty obvious—we all know that gold is extremely valuable and would be appropriate to offer a king. Frankincense is an essential oil used as the base for incense made for worship ceremonies by priests. This gift was given to recognize Jesus as our great high priest, the sinless one who would offer himself as the perfect sacrifice for our sins. Myrrh, another costly substance, foreshadowed the Messiah’s death and embalming. Jesus died so we could be dead to sin, and he was resurrected to defeat death, bringing us new life in Christ!

Scripture says that when the wise men saw the star over Bethlehem, they were filled with joy! They entered the house and presented their gifts to this toddler! They were not really age-appropriate gifts, but certainly, they were prophetic in the life of the Son of God.

In the Christmas carol “We Three Kings,” the last stanza sums up these gifts:

Glorious now, behold Him arise
King and God and Sacrifice;
Alleluia, alleluia!
Earth to heaven replies.

These men knew much less about Jesus and his earthly mission than we do now. Do you view the repetition of the Christmas story as the same old, same old story, or will you allow this different Christmas season to write a new chapter in your love and devotion to Jesus? He is glorious as he comes, King and God and Sacrifice!

Questions:
How have you thought about the wise men and the gifts they brought? What gift might you offer to your Lord Jesus this Christmas season?

Next Steps:
This Christmas, something pretty special is happening in the skies. The planets of Jupiter and Saturn will be so close together on the western horizon that they will appear as one bright shining star! This event is being called “The Christmas Star,” and the alignment won’t occur again until 2080, at which time I’ll be viewing it from heaven! Its peak was this past Monday, but you can still catch it as the planets continue to slowly separate. I hope you take time to see it, and as you do, think about the wise men’s journey to see our Savior. 

Prayer:
Jesus, how can we ever thank you for coming to rescue us? I worship you, my Lord. You are worthy of all honor, glory, and praise. This Christmas, I pray you reveal yourself in a fresh way to us, that we may give joy to the world and love and serve you, as you have loved and served us! Amen.

Family Advent Activity:
Family Connection – Use the following prompt to have some meaningful family conversations.

Take a family drive looking at Christmas lights and talk about the best gifts you have ever received.

For more family fun, check out the monthly advent calendar full of seasonal activities.


This post was written by Lauri White. Lauri is one of the 25 people that God used to start CedarCreek in the Fall of 1995, and was on staff until 2013. Lauri loves Jesus, and loves helping people, especially women, live out of the truth about who we are in Christ. She and her husband Mike live in Oregon, but now spend winter months in Florida near daughter Kelda and her family.


Check out the Latest LivingItOut Podcast

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A Most Important Message – This Christmas

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Find today’s Family Advent Activity at the bottom of today’s reading.

Luke 2:8-20: The Shepherds and Angels

Every year since I was a young child, I have heard the Christmas story. It’s either been read to me or I have read it—to my children, and now, to my grandchildren. For many years of my adult life, I wondered why God chose to send the first message of Christ’s birth to shepherds.

Luke 2:9-10
9 Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, 10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring joy to all people.”

This year, I finally decided to do some research and discovered some interesting things. I had always assumed that the shepherds referred to in the Scripture were typical shepherds of the day, considered to be lower-class citizens. However, I found that these shepherds worked the fields just outside of Bethlehem and were the keepers of the sacred sheep used for sacrifices. Because of the sacredness of their work, they were highly regarded by most everyone in the area.

The story says they were terrified, as I would guess any of us would be under the same circumstance; however, I don’t think they were completely surprised by the news. I believe they were well aware of an ancient prophecy found in the book of Micah.

Micah 5:2
But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, are only a small village among all the people of Judah. Yet a ruler of Israel, whose origins are in the distant past, will come from you on my behalf.

Because of this knowledge, I believe the shepherds had some understanding of what they were being told, and therefore, they readily went to see the baby Jesus.

Luke 2:15
When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

I had also wondered how the shepherds had known exactly where to find baby Jesus, as the story did not say the angels gave a specific address.

Luke 2:12
“And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”

While researching, I learned that some Christian scholars believe  that the location where Mary gave birth was actually the same place the shepherds would have taken the ewes when lambs were to be born, so these particular shepherds knew exactly where to go.

Luke 2:17
After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child.

These sacred shepherds were the perfect messengers to spread the news of Christ’s birth because they were so well known to everyone in the area, including the high priests because they provided all the lambs used for sacrifice.

Luke 2:20
The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.

The shepherds were the very first witnesses to the glory and truth of Jesus. They were excited and wanted to experience and share God’s great gift to man, so they moved toward him. Is that your attitude this Christmas? With all that 2020 has brought us, it would be easy to have an indifferent, or even negative attitude, this Christmas season. I urge you to remember the reason for the season—and just like the shepherds on that very first Christmas eve—move toward Christ and spread the good news through word and deed.

Questions:
What attitude are you showing others this Christmas?

Do you feel like you have lost some of the joy that this season should bring?

Next Steps:
Reread the Christmas story in Luke with new purpose and appreciation. Make a conscious effort to move toward Christ this season and spread the good news.

Prayer:
Our most gracious and loving God, please help us to remember the true reason for this Christmas season. Even though this year has been filled with trials and hardships, help us to remember that you are in control and to put our faith and trust in you. Help us, as Christians, to exemplify the excitement and joy that the shepherds did on the night your son was born and spread the good news to everyone who will listen. Father, thank you for the perfect gift of your son, Jesus, and help us to always keep moving toward him, in good times and during times of struggle. Amen.

Family Advent Activity:
Family Connection – Use the following prompt to have some meaningful family conversations.

John 3:16
16 “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

Happy Birthday Jesus! God loves us so much that He sent His son into the world to rescue us. That’s what Christmas is all about! Sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to Jesus as a family.

For more family fun, check out the monthly advent calendar full of seasonal activities.


This post was written by Ned Miller, a regular contributor to the LivingItOut Bible Study.


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The Already, But Not Yet. – This Christmas

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Find today’s Family Advent Activity at the bottom of today’s reading.

Immanuel has been at the top of my list of “favorite names for God” for years! Even before I gave my life to Christ in 1994, “O Come O Come Emmanuel” was my favorite Christmas carol. I just really love the thought of it—God with us. God with me. But what does that really mean?

Speaker and author Barb Roose said that the kingdom of heaven, God with us, is often described by Bible scholars as an “already but not yet” condition. I used to think that the kingdom of heaven was the place (if you could call it that) where Christ followers would go when they die. But if that were the case, then why did Jesus instruct us to pray in the Lord’s prayer, “thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”? Jesus prays for God’s kingdom to be established here on earth.

What does God’s kingdom look like? It is the upside-down, counter-intuitive kingdom where the last are first and the first are last (Matthew 20:16). It is the kingdom in which we are called to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44).  It is the kingdom where if you lead, you serve those whom you lead (Matthew 20:28). It is the kingdom where you give up all to receive all that God has for you (Matthew 16:24).

When we compare and contrast earthly kingdoms with God’s kingdom, we see very clear differences. Earthly power comes from dominance, selfishness, and fear. If you don’t believe in God and his moral authority, you should not be surprised that this is so. You are left with survival of the fittest, which exploits those who are weaker and less able to care for themselves, mainly women and children, along with the infirm. It should not surprise you that the stronger among us take what they want with no regard for others. Yet we are surprised when people mistreat us to get what they want! In contrast, the kingdom of heaven, God with us, is a kingdom built on community, generosity, and freedom. In this kingdom, we put the welfare of others before ourselves, giving to provide for their needs. We strive to find our purpose and live the life to which God calls us.

To live in this kingdom is a choice we get to make every day. We live knowing that the presence of evil does not restrict the work that God has prepared for us to do—to bring his kingdom to earth while we wait for Jesus’ return. When he comes, we will welcome the new heaven and the new earth over which God will reign in righteousness (2 Peter 3:13). For now, we live in the “already but not yet” world that God entrusted to us, each one of us, to bring his kingdom into our lives. We get to choose to live in the “God with us” kingdom—Immanuel!

Isaiah 7:14
All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’).”

Questions:
How do you live in the “already, but not yet” kingdom of God? Are you consciously working to move it forward? How, and with whom, are you engaging in this work for which God created you? 

Next Steps:
Make it your New Year’s resolution to sign up for and complete GrowthTrack! Through these four weeks, you will discover God’s gifting, plan, and purpose for your life. Then you will know what his plans are for you in bringing his kingdom into the already but not yet! 

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, thank you for being our Immanuel! Thank you for demonstrating, in the clearest possible way, God’s tender hearted love for us! Your sacrifice calls for me to offer myself as a living sacrifice, free and able to bring your kingdom to my little section of the tapestry that we will one day see as beautiful and marvelous! I am in awe of you, Jesus! I worship you! Amen.

Family Advent Activity:
Family Connection – Use the following prompt to have some meaningful family conversations.

Have a family picnic in front of your Christmas tree and talk about all of the things you love about Christmas.

For more family fun, check out the monthly advent calendar full of seasonal activities.


This post was written by Lauri White. Lauri is one of the 25 people that God used to start CedarCreek in the Fall of 1995, and was on staff until 2013. Lauri loves Jesus, and loves helping people, especially women, live out of the truth about who we are in Christ. She and her husband Mike live in Oregon, but now spend winter months in Florida near daughter Kelda and her family.


Check out the Latest LivingItOut Podcast

The LivingItOut Podcast is released every Wednesday morning. It discusses key takeaways and principles from the weekend message. Listen to the weekly podcast in your car, during your lunch break, or any other time that works for you. You can find the latest podcast here.


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God with Us – This Christmas

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Find today’s Family Advent Activity at the bottom of today’s reading.

Well, one of my family members tested positive for COVID-19, and as a result, we’re all quarantined to prevent any unnecessary spread. I haven’t left my house in over two weeks. And if I’m being honest, I’m struggling.

This year has been deeply challenging for personal reasons as well as …  well, you know, 2020. I like to think I’ve handled those challenges with grace and wisdom, but with the added challenge of quarantine, sometimes it feels like I’ve hit my limit. It’s hard to feel like I’m living out the purpose God has for me when I can’t leave my home. Some days, it’s hard to even feel God near when I can’t connect in-person with friends and other Jesus followers or celebrate the holidays like I normally would.

But as I reflect on Barb Roose’s weekend message, and the holiday season in general, I’m reminded of the powerful message of Christmas for Christians—the message of Immanuel, God with us.

Matthew 1:23       
“Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’”

Jesus humbled himself to be born an infant, to physically be with us. Later, he would sacrifice his life so we could reunite with the Father through his forgiveness of our sins. And after Jesus ascended to heaven, his followers were able to receive the Holy Spirit—God within us.

In her talk, Barb offered this bottom line: “The Kingdom of God is closer than you think, so let your hope in Christ soar and tell your fears to shrink.” She discussed three gifts that come with the kingdom of God: his presence, power, and promise.

  • God’s presence means he is with you. Even if COVID-19 has you feeling a little isolated, you are never alone with Christ at the center of your life.
  • For those who have accepted Jesus as their savior, God’s power means God is living within you. Even when you don’t feel strong, God can give you victory.
  • God’s promise means that, with God, all things are possible. Even when things are challenging and we don’t know when they’ll get better, we know there is hope in him.

No matter what situation you’re in or how you’re feeling this holiday season, remember God is with you. God has made great sacrifices so he could be with you, because he loves you. Even if present circumstances make it difficult to see, he is still working on your behalf, in you and through you.

So take heart—even in the difficult times, the Kingdom of God is near, and Jesus has already overcome the world.

Questions:
What helps you feel close to God? Which gift do you need to be reminded of today: God’s presence, power, or promise?

Next Steps:
God’s presence never leaves us, but sometimes we neglect the habits that help us experience his presence. Set aside some time today for the things that help you draw close to God—maybe that means spending time in the Word, going for a quiet walk outdoors, or having a good conversation with a trusted Christ follower.

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank you for your presence. I know whether I feel close or far from you, you are always with me. Thank you for sending your Son as Immanuel, God with us, and for all that means to us as your followers. Thank you also for your power and promise. Help me to draw close to you today, making time to be still, to listen, and to invite you into what I’m doing. May your will be done in me and through me.

Family Advent Activity:
Family Connection – Use the following prompt to have some meaningful family conversations.

Read Luke 2:1-7

Take some time to read the Christmas story together as a family. What is your favorite part of the story? God loved us so much that He gave us a Savior.

For more family fun, check out the monthly advent calendar full of seasonal activities.


This post was written by Payton Lechner. Payton is currently the apprentice copywriter at CedarCreek. In her spare time, she freelances as a writer and editor. Besides the English language, Payton loves swimming, cats, and a good cup of tea.


Check out the Latest LivingItOut Podcast

The LivingItOut Podcast is released every Wednesday morning. It discusses key takeaways and principles from the weekend message. Listen to the weekly podcast in your car, during your lunch break, or any other time that works for you. You can find the latest podcast here.


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John Reading Plan


Oh Holy Night – This Christmas

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Find today’s Family Advent Activity at the bottom of today’s reading.

O holy night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of our dear Saviour’s birth.

So begins one of the most beloved Christmas carols in America. I have vivid memories of singing this song during my church’s candlelight Christmas Eve services as a child. When I focus on the lyrics of this song, I am transported to the cold night in Bethlehem when God entered the world in the form of a helpless child.

Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till He appear’d and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn

This song found its beginnings in France in 1847. A Catholic priest asked a parishioner and poet, named Placide Cappeau de Roquemaure, to write a poem for the Christmas Eve service. Placide Cappeau was a nominal Catholic at best, but on his way to Paris, he opened the book of Luke and imagined himself under the Bethlehem sky. Once he finished the poem, he asked his friend Adolphe Charles Adams to compose music for it. Adolphe was Jewish.

   Fall on your knees! O hear the angel voices!
   O night divine, O night when Christ was born;
   O night divine, O night, O night Divine.

The song was performed during the Christmas Eve service that Christmas and was immediately embraced by the French Catholic church. Sadly, in the following years, Placide Cappeau walked away from the church, and after finding out about the Jewish ancestry of the composer, the Catholic church in France banned the song.

Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;
And in His name all oppression shall cease.

Some years later, American writer John Sullivan Dwight found the song. He translated it from its original French and introduced it to the American people. Not only did he love it as a Christmas hymn but also used it to promote his belief that slavery was wrong. It became a popular hymn during the Civil War.

   Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name.

Tradition also has it that in France during the Franco-Prussian War, a French soldier suddenly jumped out of the trenches on Christmas Eve and began singing the song, which resulted in a 24-hour cease-fire.

Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever,
   His power and glory evermore proclaim.
   His power and glory evermore proclaim.

Finally, on Christmas Eve 1906, Reginald Fessende, a university professor and chemist for Thomas Edison, became the first voice to be broadcast over radio waves. He read from Luke 2 and then picked up his violin and played “O Holy Night” to the shock and amazement of all who heard.

This song demonstrates the power of God to use all people for his glory. It was commissioned by a forgotten priest, written by an irreligious poet, composed by a Jewish musician, banned by the church, used for a social and political agenda, and finally, broadcast over radio waves to the ears of an astonished audience.

This Christmas, know that God can use anyone to spread his message, even when you feel insignificant. God’s story cannot be silenced by those in this culture or this world. Christ is our King! He is Lord, and his power and glory will be proclaimed forevermore. Amen.

Questions:
Do you believe that God can use your life to glorify his name? What is one way that you can proclaim his power and glory today?

Next Steps:
Close your eyes, listen to your favorite version of “O Holy Night,” and really focus on the song lyrics.

For a more traditional version may I suggest this version: Celtic Trio and Choir deliver Magical version of O Holy Night or O Holy Night – Josh Groban

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank you that you can use anyone to spread your message of hope to the entire world. Thank you for assuring me that when the day comes for me to leave this world, I will see you face-to-face as my great deliverer. Give me courage to stand up for what is true, even when those around me are falling away. Help me not to be led astray. I proclaim your power and glory forevermore. Amen.

Family Advent Activity:        
Family Connection – Use the following prompt to have some meaningful family conversations.

Just like Mary, God has special plans for your life. Do you get excited thinking about the good plans God has for you? Thank him for all He has planned.

Pray – “God, thank you for making me special and for the special plans you have for my life and for our family. In Jesus’ name, amen.”

For more family fun, check out the monthly advent calendar full of seasonal activities.


This post was written by Julie Mabus. Julie has a passion for thinking about big ideas, art, reading, and seeing God reveal himself through creation. She is married and is homeschooling her five young children.


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He Has Purpose For You – This Christmas

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Find today’s Family Advent Activity at the bottom of today’s reading.

“Oh, how my soul praises the Lord. How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior! For he took notice of his lowly servant girl, and from now on all generations will call me blessed. For the Mighty One is holy, and he has done great things for me” (Luke 1:46-49).

Life is full of surprises. Think of yourself a year ago. There’s no way you could have imagined then where you’d be right now—in the midst of a pandemic. But nothing is a surprise to God. I think it’s safe to say none of us would have chosen to have 2020 go the way it has. And while our circumstances are out of our control, each of us does have a say in our attitude and outlook.

The above scripture from Luke shows Mary rejoicing with the surprising news of being pregnant with Jesus, God’s son. She isn’t stuck in the negatives of her extraordinary situation. She isn’t dwelling in the stigma that will come with her growing belly. Mary had a choice: focus on all the challenges that come with her pregnancy or step into a life of faith.

She chose to turn toward her purpose. She leaned into her assignment and chose not to focus on the inevitable difficulties and uncertainties that came with it. Mary understood that her pregnancy was not an accident. God chose her. He had a purpose for her.

God has a purpose for you, too.  Jesus has an assignment for you based on your unique personality, your past, your passions, your spiritual gifts, and your circumstances. When we recognize our purpose, we show up differently. We bring our newfound motivation with us to work, to school, into our relationships, and even into our prayers.

As we enter what is shaping up to be our most unique Christmas season ever, step into it with an open hand, anxiously awaiting God’s plans for your life in this coming year.

1 Corinthians 15:58
So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.

Questions:
Does the concept of living with an open hand to God scare you? Does trusting God come naturally to you, or is it a struggle?

Describe a time you felt purpose-driven. How was your outlook different? Do you feel that purpose now?

Next Steps:
When you read the Bible, specifically look for reasons why Jesus is trustworthy. I think you’ll find that even though he is surprising and hardly ever reacts in the way you’d expect, he will lead you in the best direction according to his plan for you. Check out John 10:1-21.

Prayer:
Dear God, when you created me, you had great things in mind. And while my path is seldom straight, you are with me through every turn and every choice I make. Help me to understand that no matter my circumstances, you still have a purpose for me. You still have hope and love for me. Help me to feel that, and help me to seek to know your purpose for me. Let me focus less on my own plans, and more on yours. Your plan is greater than anything. Amen.

Family Advent Activity:        
Family Connection – Use the following prompt to have some meaningful family conversations.

Bake Christmas cookies and decorate them with the word “Joy” to remember that the Christmas story brings us great joy.

For more family fun, check out the monthly advent calendar full of seasonal activities.


This post was written by Ashlee Grosjean. Ashlee is a blogger at GratefulSheep.com and a stay-at-home mom and wife. She loves writing for this team, and she hopes to help convey God’s message through this study.


Check out the Latest LivingItOut Podcast

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Move Toward Others – This Christmas

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Find today’s Family Advent Activity at the bottom of today’s reading.

Have you ever been so full of news that you thought you would burst? I know I have! Sometimes, it is the simple things, like a meaningful line in a book or the funny way my siblings say something. Other times, it is something important, like the birth of a baby or a promotion. Whatever it is, there is something in each of us that excites us to share good news.

I imagine that Mary felt similarly. An angel had told her that she was to be the mother of the Messiah, the one she and all of her people had been waiting for. I imagine Mary was in awe, confused, and excited. But I imagine she was also afraid. Not yet married, a young teenager, and unsure of how her fiance would react, Mary had a lot on her mind. She needed someone who would listen to her.

So Mary went to visit her cousin Elizabeth, who had also experienced an unbelievable blessing. Despite her old age, she too had been blessed by the Lord and was about to have a baby! But instead of focusing on herself, Elizabeth honored Mary and settled in to listen.

Luke 1:42-43
42 Elizabeth gave a glad cry and exclaimed to Mary, “God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed. 43 Why am I so honored, that the mother of my Lord should visit me?

Both Mary and Elizabeth were going through something extraordinary, and their presence in each other’s life was a gift. The women were blessed with someone they could process and share their emotions with.

It is easy to focus inward, either by keeping to yourself or by only talking about yourself. But these women needed each other. They gifted their attention to each other and truly listened. Mary and Elizabeth set a great example of how to move toward others.

Even in the midst of quarantining and social distancing, it is important for us to draw toward each other—to share our blessings and our burdens.

Galatians 6:2
Share each other’s burdens, and in this way fulfill the law of Christ.

Burdens aren’t something anyone needs to hide. God’s word calls us to share them! God wants us to open up to each other and take the time to listen. Only then can we put our troubles behind us and adjust our focus to what’s most important.

In this Christmas season, I have no doubt you are experiencing an array of different emotions. Whatever they may be, don’t keep them to yourself. Instead,  take a step toward others.  Let’s share each other’s blessings and burdens, and move forward, together.

Questions:
Is there a burden you can share with someone you trust? Are there any blessings you can’t wait to tell someone? To whom will you gift your attention—so that they may share their blessings and burdens with you?

Next Steps:
Share a burden with someone, either by telling them about it or helping them through it. If you have good news, share that as well! Take the time to listen to someone else, whether they are sharing a burden or a blessing.

Pray about how you will participate in the upcoming Winter Group Semester.

Prayer:
Father God, thank you for the gift of people in our lives. Please give me the courage to move toward others. Help me to be generous with the time you have given me by genuinely listening to others. Help me to share my burdens and my blessings with those around me. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.

Family Advent Activity:        
Family Connection – Use the following prompt to have some meaningful family conversations.

Read Luke 1:38

Mary probably had a lot of questions after an angel told her she would be the mother of God’s son. But she trusted God. How do you feel when your plans don’t happen like you anticipated?

For more family fun, check out the monthly advent calendar full of seasonal activities.


This post was written by Lydia Snyder. Lydia has been a story-lover for as long as she can remember, often found reading books or writing. She is thrilled to be making a difference by inspiring others to take part in the best story ever – God’s story. Lydia lives with her three wonderful siblings and two amazing parents.


Check out the Latest LivingItOut Podcast

The LivingItOut Podcast is released every Wednesday morning. It discusses key takeaways and principles from the weekend message. Listen to the weekly podcast in your car, during your lunch break, or any other time that works for you. You can find the latest podcast here.


Leave a Comment?

We would love to hear how the LivingItOut is making a difference in your life. Let us know how today’s post inspired, challenged, or encouraged you by leaving a comment here.


Want to be a part of the LivingItOut team?

We are always looking for people who are passionate about writing and proofing to serve on the LivingItOut team. If you are interested, email LIO@cedarcreek.tv today!


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Keep the Main Thing … the Main Thing – This Christmas

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Find today’s Family Advent Activity at the bottom of today’s reading.

In 1963, I was 8. There was a fashion phenomenon called “GoGo Boots.”  They were beautiful, flat-soled, calf-high, white boots. That was all I thought about for Christmas. (That, and opening another “door” on the Advent calendar.) After what felt like forever, Christmas finally arrived, but it was very different than it had ever been before.

It began on Christmas Eve—while hanging ornaments on our 10-foot tree, my brother fell off the ladder and knocked it over. Reboot. Later that evening, after my dad took the “big kids” to midnight service, our next-door neighbor came to the door to tell us our house was on fire (I slept through that.) Finally, Christmas morning arrived, and we were all so happy!

My mom told me to turn the oven on to warm up the baked breakfast goods. She failed to mention they were in cardboard boxes in the oven and that, no, the broil setting wasn’t what she meant. Ten minutes later, I paused my present-opening to check the oven. The boxes of goodies were on fire!

Luckily, I had given my dad a cummerbund and tuxedo tie set that year. He ran into the kitchen and managed to beat out the flames with the cummerbund. Everyone laughed!

The best news is, although it sounds like a dreadful Christmas, it wasn’t. Why? Because it was Christmas! We’d been opening our Advent calendar one day at a time since Dec. 1. We had put up and played with the manger, lit the Advent candles, and helped wrap presents in anticipation of the best day of the year. I was even given the opportunity to narrate our third-grade rendition of Luke 2:1-20, the birth of Christ. (What an honor not to be a sheep!) When it came time for dessert at Christmas dinner, we sang Happy Birthday to Jesus in honor of that most special day.

We didn’t care a whit about those so-called disasters because we were focused on the birth of our Savior. Christmas was, and still is, Christmas—the holy day chosen to celebrate God sending his perfect son to save us and bring us into a holy relationship with him forever.  That baby grew up to be the one and only Lamb of God. The only one capable of paying the price for our sins and, thus, making us children of God forever. If only we choose to accept his invitation.

Isaiah 9:6-7 (AMP)
6 For to us a Child shall be born, to us a Son shall be given;
And the government shall be upon His shoulder,
And His name shall be called, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 There shall be no end to the increase of His government and of peace,
[He shall rule] on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness
From that time forward and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this.

So whenever things become unbearably hard, painful, and seem to go on indefinitely, remember it’s only temporary and what others meant for your harm, God will use to bless you.

Romans 8:28 AMP
And we know [with great confidence] that God [who is deeply concerned about us] causes all things to work together [as a plan] for good for those who love God, to those who are called according to his plan and purpose.

2 Corinthians 4:17-18
17 For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!  18So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.” 

So like my dad always said, “Keep the main thing, the main thing, and don’t sweat the rest.”

Questions:
Have you chosen to accept God’s gracious invitation of fellowship? Is God your main thing? Or are you focusing on your fears and/or disappointments? Does worrying about your troubles change anything? Or is it stealing your joy?

Next Steps:
Read the above Scriptures every day until Christmas, preferably out loud and with your family members. Recall one good thing that happened to you the day before and thank God for it. Pray a prayer of thanksgiving to the one who has saved us all.

Prayer:
My Lord, God, maker of all things that ever were or will be—thank you for being the answer to every painful, seemingly endless horror that occurs in this temporary world. Please, help me to keep my eyes, heart, intentions, words, and actions on you alone—in all things and through all events.  In Jesus’ powerful name, I pray. Amen

Family Advent Activity:        
Family Connection – Use the following prompt to have some meaningful family conversations.

Pick some of your favorite Christmas songs and have a family dance party.

For more family fun, check out the monthly advent calendar full of seasonal activities.


This post was written by Martha Smith, a regular contributor to the LivingItOut Bible Study. Martha describes herself as a lover of Christ who likes to share faith with others.


Check out the Latest LivingItOut Podcast

The LivingItOut Podcast is released every Wednesday morning. It discusses key takeaways and principles from the weekend message. Listen to the weekly podcast in your car, during your lunch break, or any other time that works for you. You can find the latest podcast here.


Leave a Comment?

We would love to hear how the LivingItOut is making a difference in your life. Let us know how today’s post inspired, challenged, or encouraged you by leaving a comment here.


Want to be a part of the LivingItOut team?

We are always looking for people who are passionate about writing and proofing to serve on the LivingItOut team. If you are interested, email LIO@cedarcreek.tv today!


Printable version of this week’s LIO study:

Click Here


More Resources

Series Theme Verses
LivingItOut Podcast
RightNow Media
John Reading Plan