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First Sunday of Advent
Immanuel—God With Us

Tea Time for Your Soul Advent 2021 begins on November 28, 2021.
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Daily devotions from Advent through Epiphany


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A wonderful gift for yourself and those you love!



Advent draws our thoughts towards the beyond-good-news that God shared with the world over 2000 years ago. God’s news spread throughout the whole world and continues to encircle the globe. This news was broadcasted long before our modern media communication tools. Similar to the way the good news spread in the vicinity of Bethlehem on the eve of His birth, this particular news has best been shared via word of mouth from individuals whose lives have been personally transformed after encountering Jesus. After the angels startled the shepherds by announcing the birth of Jesus, the people of God have taken it from there. The church can’t stop sharing the reality of what it means that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ came to our world to be one of us.  He did this so that God could restore any who will put faith in Jesus Christ to become one with Him.

As we prepare to gather in crowded churches on Christmas Eve, let us consider how we have become proclaimers of this good news. How do we experience God with us, and how does that impact the news we discuss? Do we digest the police shootings, riots, protests, unrest in this world in light of the Good News? Does the fact that God is with us make any difference in our personal response?

God is with me. He entered this fallen world.  He told me that a day is coming when He will make all things new. This is a promise. It is His promise to keep.  Just as He kept His promise to send the Messiah, He will keep this promise. In the in-between, He has sent me good news. The Good News He sent was that in the meanwhile—from the time He sent His Son and after He died and rose again to cover the sins of the whole world to the time that His Son returns to make the world right again—He wants me to spread the Good News.  

Advent Season returns my focus to the First and Second coming of Christ. During the four Sundays before Christmas, the church calls me to prepare my heart through repentance and anticipation. Christmas marks the point in time when we celebrate the unimaginable promise of God fulfilled in the unexpected way—He, God, became one of us so that we can become one with Him. The way that I become one with Him is through repentance and recognition of my utter inability to be holy. God tells me that my faith in His Son’s righteousness will bring me holiness that has the potential for oneness with God. When Christ comes again, my holiness will become a true reality, but in between He gives me the power to experience tastes of holiness through the Holy Spirit who lives in me. 

Immanuel, God with us, and Salvation, us with God, are the too-good-to-be-true Good News that gives hope because most other news stings of bombing, murder, heartache and destruction. The Good News of Advent and Christmas is best shared from household by household, by changed life to changed life.  God sent Jesus to be one of us so that we can become one with Him. God sends all who are one with Him to demonstrate the salvation He longs to share with the whole world. As Peter explains: The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). He also instructs how we can best broadcast the Good News until the day He comes to earth the second time: Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. (1 Peter 2:12).
The first candle of Advent is lit for hope or the prophecy candle. It is a reminder that the prophets told about Christ's coming hundreds of years before he was born. What is your hope this Christmas?

My first granddaughter was born on the first day of Advent 2017. My great hope for her is to find out about the day that this too-good-to be-true Good News becomes transformational for her!  Why not write down your hopes in a prayer to God. Perhaps you hope for an opportunity to share Christ with an unsaved family member. Maybe you just hope that you can get through the holiday without a big blowup. It may be your hope that you don't overspend like last year. Is your hope just to not give the family food poisoning from your first turkey dinner? God wants you to hope. Hope is not demanding. It is unrelenting faith and confidence in God.

Spiritual Disciplines for Advent.

  1. Don't stress. Most holiday stress comes from thinking you have to please everybody. Do less this year. Say "No" to some things with confidence. Know that saying "yes" to every person, party invitation, and charity will definitely land you in the stressed out zone. Realize that the world can go on without you, but you cannot go on without proper sleep, exercise and mental relaxation.
  2. Be joyful. Hum along to Christmas tunes. Make it the most wonderful time of the year, because it is. Jesus came to earth to make it possible for you to have a relationship with God. That is something to celebrate. Practice praying without ceasing by asking God to show you the joy in each task: wrapping gifts, decorating, baking, card writing shopping, and all the others.
  3. Be with joyful people and prepare for grumpy ones. Make sure you have time to share joyful moments with others this year. And for those negative people who live in your house, or you will visit this holiday season; accept their faults. Don't let yourself be abused by them, but don't let unforgiveness extinguish your holiday cheer.


First Monday of Advent
How NOT to Have a Merry Christmas

Have you been listening to the Christmas advertisements?  I want to challenge you to stop and fully receive the message of Christmas they bring.  They tell you that the true joy of the season is found by purchasing their latest bargain for someone you love, but they don't stop there.  The real enticement is to get you to think more about yourself.  The messages end by encouraging you to buy gifts on sale for your friends and family and save most of your money picking up something you really want.  After all, the advertisements imply, you are sure to get bad gifts from everyone else in your life. 
When I think of the messages I receive about Christmas from the world, it sends me running back to Christ to find the true meaning of Christmas.  Jesus didn't come as a baby so that I could have a rationale for splurging on myself once a year.  He didn't come to wear me out chasing a dream holiday.  He didn't come so that I would remember the homeless and hungry only in December.  He came to be my Savior.  He came to make a relationship with God possible.
He also put me in charge of telling others about the true meaning of Christmas.  It’s sad to think about how empty Christmas is without Jesus, yet that is exactly what Christmas is like for over half the people you live, work and interact with each year.  They are living the dream of Christmas that will never satisfy.  Even if they could buy everything they wanted for themselves and everyone they love, they would never be satisfied. 
When I listen to the messages from the world around Christmas, I stop and face the empty feelings so many must be experiencing as this season comes and goes in their lives.  They were created for a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, not to replace their disappointment with Aunt Gertrude’s sweater with a shiny new car.  And by the way, what is so wrong with wearing Aunt Gertrude’s crazy Christmas sweater with a smile and wrapping yourself in the warm feelings that though she doesn't have the best taste in clothes, she does love her niece enough to buy that gift?
If you want to miss out on a Merry Christmas, listen to the advertisements that bombard you every day.  If you want to have a Merry Christmas, reflect on the life of the baby that was born.  He lived His life focused on loving His Heavenly Father and telling everyone how much He loved them.  I just read an article this week about what the unchurched think of Christians and most of them said that they would attend church with us if we will ask.  The best way to have a Merry Christmas is to share the story of Christmas with those who don't know, but who have hearts that were designed to accept the story.
This year I hope you will spread the joy of Christmas to the people in your world who do not know Jesus.
Take some time to pray and ask God to show you someone you can share His love with at Christmas this year.

First Tuesday in Advent
Joseph, a man of great hope
God plans every detail of our lives. He offers us the opportunity to join Him in His work. Because He is infinite, He can prepare good works for every one of us to do for His glory (Ephesians 2:10). God had big plans for Joseph’s life. No one would have suspected that Joseph, the gentle carpenter, would become the step-father to God.

Fathers always play a back-stage role when their wives are having a child. Joseph was no exception. What we know of Joseph from Scripture is very limited. We do know that he was a loving follower of God. We know that God gave him a special responsibility while he lived on this earth and, from all indications; it seems that he fulfilled his role very well. Even when Joseph first heard that Mary was pregnant, he didn’t respond in wounded jealousy. He knew that he shouldn’t marry a woman who had been unfaithful to him, but he didn’t want to publicly disgrace her. He was not a hothead either. He could have reacted right away; we know he at least took one night to sleep on it because the Scripture tells us that God spoke to him in a dream (Matthew 1:18-25).

God’s message to Joseph changed his view of his options. The angel told him that he should take Mary as his wife because she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit. Joseph did everything the angel told him to do. He married Marawq2y, kept her a virgin until after Jesus was born and named the baby Jesus. He went beyond that to providing for his Son, teaching Him the craft of carpentry, and providing religious training. The last time we know of Joseph was when Jesus was 12 and was left in Jerusalem. Joseph was by Mary’s side as they searched the city for their budding teenage son. When they found Jesus, it was Mary who spoke. Joseph was ever quiet and in the background. We think that Joseph probably died before Jesus’ public ministry. We know he was not living when Jesus hung on the cross because one of His seven sayings from the cross was taking care of his mother and putting her into the care of John the Apostle.

As we enter the Christmas season this year and reflect on Joseph, he is a great example of how to live your life as a pleasing sacrifice to God (Romans 12:1-2). Joseph didn’t have to be in the spotlight to serve God. He was willing to be in the background. It’s important to remember that service in the background does not go unnoticed by God. He designed us that way. Joseph didn’t argue with God about why his life was turning out the way it was, rather he embraced God’s purpose for his life.

Most of us are like Joseph, the good works that God has prepared for us to do won’t get much attention from the world. Maybe God created you to share the gospel with your neighbor. Perhaps there is something about your personality or your story that will reach a person as no one else was able. Maybe God’s good works for you are to volunteer at a homeless shelter, perhaps in the back room sorting the clothes, the job everyone hates to do. Good works come in all sizes, big and small. Each good work is as important to God as the other. Why not take a lesson from Joseph and live your life accepting the good works God gives you to do. I’m sure it will help you have a Merry Christmas.
What do you think is the most important work you have done for God?
Who do you know that works hardest for God but gets rare attention?
First Wednesday in Advent
The Innkeeper at Bethlehem providing hope for shelter
Every Christmas pageant must have an innkeeper. His part in the Christmas story appears at a critical moment. The suspense turns tragic as the famous innkeeper turns the pregnant couple away. At last he redeems himself somewhat by offering the shelter of his barn. Any child is proud to play this role in the pageant.

Interesting, it is not a role that is written in the real Christmas story contained in the Gospels. The only mention of the inn is the context of an explanation for why Mary and Joseph placed Jesus in a manger. The Innkeeper has become popular from the dramatic retelling of the story, not from the Gospels.

How did Mary and Joseph end up outside of an inn and where the animals are kept? There were inns in the time that Jesus was born, but they were usually in larger cities. Jesus Himself referred to an Innkeeper in the parable He told about the Good Samaritan. It is probable that no inn existed in the town of Bethlehem because it was such a small village. The term inn can be interpreted “a place of lodging,” thus it did not necessarily indicate a hotel type residence. In fact, an inn could be used to describe the way a caravan of people made lodging together as they traveled. Their animals and belongings would be right beside them as they settled up for the night, usually around a public well for safety and convenience.

What kind of inn was it that offered no room for Mary and Joseph? It might have been that Mary and Joseph came to the home of one of their relatives, along with all the other relations who were required to travel to Bethlehem to register for the census. Perhaps they were offered hospitality and food, but when it came to finding a private place to have a baby, their needs were unique from the others who had sought shelter. Perhaps they were sent out to the place the animals were kept in order to find the privacy they needed for the birth of their child. The manger, the feeding trough for the animals, was a creative makeshift cradle for the time they spent sleeping outside.

We must not conceive of the Innkeeper as an inhospitable, barely compassionate brute. We must begin to look at him as a loving family member, offering the best of convenience to his special relatives who had traveled a long distance. The fact that there was no room in the inn was not an indication that Jesus wasn’t welcomed and wanted by the people in Bethlehem. Indeed, preparations were made for His birth; even though they didn’t think of Him as their Savior, they thought of Him as their relative and they wanted to create the best environment possible for a birth to take place under the circumstances.

It makes me think about the readiness of my own heart. Have I made every preparation possible to welcome Jesus into the home of my heart? Will I make whatever adjustments are necessary in order to give Him the best place possible in my thoughts, hopes, and dreams this Christmas? It seems Jesus’ relatives at the inn where Joseph and Mary sought refuge made room for Jesus. What about you? Is there room for Jesus in your Christmas season? Are you making whatever adjustments are necessary for Him to feel most welcome in your heart?
What is too much for your this Advent?
How can you make room for Jesus in this Advent season?
First Thursday in Advent
Hoping to display Virtue
How have you been feeling so far this Advent season? Have you had regular times of stillness and wonder about God and what He did by sending His Son to earth as a baby? Are you growing spiritually after each Christmas service you attend? Are you smiling more this season? Are you getting more rest or less? Are you able to schedule your regular exercise and eat healthy food?

I can relate to you if you have to admit that you find yourself losing ground rather than making spiritual progress during the Advent season. Do you ever wonder why? After all your attempts to make this Christmas different from last year you yell at your husband, you spend too much money, you over-commit to parties. It's not just you. You have a cunning adversary who is constantly looking to trip you up. Satan tempts us when we are weak. I know that I can grow spiritually weak during the Advent season. If I don’t watch out, I will become a prime target for Satan’s schemes.

Jesus was weak when Satan tempted Him. Satan waited until Jesus was the most tired and hungry before he set in after Him out in the wilderness. Be aware, your adversary the devil, is constantly looking for ways to trip you up. Don’t you just know that he is behind the crazy mess that Christmas has become for so many? We are told in 1 Peter 5:8 to be alert to the devil. Be alert that he wants to steal the love, joy and peace of Christmas. The best way you can keep Satan from stealing your Christmas is to take some time to sit still and take in what Advent has to teach us.

We not only need to be alert to Satan and find time for stillness, but we also need to heed Jesus’ example in how to resist him. Jesus used God's Words from the Bible to fight off the temptations Satan brought before Him. God’s Word is the best possible way to fight off temptation.

Here are some words to help you fight Satan during Advent. When you catch that nasty spirit Christmas brings out in the post office line the mad dash for the most in-demand toy quote Psalm 37:7:
Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.
When you get overwhelmed by the parties, baking and things you need to do, remember Isaiah 40:30-33:
Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagle; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
When you find yourself being angry with the people in your household, remember that your precious Heavenly Father is slow to anger and He can help you be that way too:
And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. (Exodus 34:6).
It will take the power of the Holy Spirit to give you the patience you need to experience an Advent that brings glory to the Father. Remember, it’s not the Grinch who stole Christmas, but you do have an enemy who wants to keep you from fully receiving the message of God’s love this Advent Season.
Are you weary?

First Friday in Advent
Waiting with Hope

On the first day of Advent I awoke to a call at 3:20 am that I should come to the hospital because my daughter was being taken down to deliver Lila—my first grandchild!  I had been first alerted to her early arrival two days before when Rachel's water broke, but not much labor. I arrived in Birmingham seven and a half hours later (it would have been sooner but there wasn’t a direct flight!). And then...we waited. We waited on Lila’s lungs to respond to a couple of steroid shots (she was three weeks early). As we waited, we halfway watched football and occasionally made small talk about subjects other than Lila’s birth; but mainly we carried on just wishing, wondering and thinking we could plan for the time that Lila would arrive based on the medical advice we were given.  All we could think about was what we were waiting for, our baby girl to come into the world.

While waiting on Lila, a code blue was called to her room; then the number was changed to the room next door. We Grandparents huddled and prayed for the baby hoping it wasn't ours but doing the only thing we could do while we waited. Now we were waiting and shedding a few tears and offering more intense prayers. The waiting got rocky at this point.  We didn’t know, and we had no way of finding out for sure.  My devotional thought for the day was: received a faith as precious as ours (2 Peter 1:2). In those moments of not knowing if our 3-week-early baby, whose mother's water had broken 40 hours earlier, was in trouble, I had a faith as precious as ours.  My sister-in-law texted me that she was praying; she didn’t need to know the inner struggle at this point, but I was so grateful for that text that confirmed a precious faith.  As time went on with no news, we were able to confirm that our baby was just taking a few hours to push out into the world so we waited with deeper relief.  I decided to write my Tea Time for Your Soul for Advent 2 while I waited.
I was literally writing this post when my son-in-law walked out, tears flowing down, to bear the great news of her healthy birth and healthy mom and beautiful baby.  The wait was over.  It wasn’t four Sundays of Advent, rather a 40-hour journey, but it was filled with all the ups and downs and mundane moments of life.
This most recent experience of intense waiting challenges me and reminds me that waiting is what my life with God is all about.  I’m challenged because I have never had the experience of not being able to get His return for me off my mind as I did waiting on my first granddaughter.  I’m reminded that waiting is what life is about.  I’m grateful that God was with me, steadying me in the wait as He does every day that I wait for His return.  I want to learn to wait in the same way Paul did, thinking about it every day as he revealed to Timothy and all of us in 2 Timothy 4:8: Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.
Advent re-orientates our souls to what our lifetimes are all about—waiting.  The gift of Advent is an annual practice of waiting with hope.
In addition to Advent what important areas of your life has God asked you to wait?
How Can you wait in hope?
First Saturday in Advent
Make it a Holy Season
Advent rolls around again, but it’s not the first time I have been reminding that Christmas is coming.  Christmas decorations have been rolling out in all the stores since before Halloween. It is the first time I accept Christmas. It is the week I begin turning my heart to what the season is meant to be all about. As I begin to experience Christmas again this year, I need to hold my heart open to the holiness of the season or I have no chance of making it a holy season.

It starts with fighting off the world and all its trappings at Christmas. There is nothing holy about frantically buying gifts I can’t afford, packing my schedule with events and parties that drain my energy, and eating every delight that is set before me.
The season begins with high hopes that will be fulfilled only if I set my hope on Jesus. He brings hope to every heart! Hope will help us make this season a holy season. One of the reasons that I set out an Advent wreath on my kitchen table is to help me maintain my focus on the holiness of this time of year. The circle of evergreen dotted by a candle to light each week with the white candle in the middle, reminds me of Christ, untainted by the other trappings of Christmas. It invites me to remember that Christmas is holy.

You have to orientate your soul to feel hope because hope is about what is not seen. Christmas is thrown in your face and can distract you from hope. The first candle of Christmas is called the Prophet’s candle. The prophets held on to the hope that God would do what He said He would do. Year after year they held on to the promise of the Messiah even though hundreds of years passed without a sign of Him.

Holiness was everywhere Jesus was while He lived on this earth. Not everyone recognized His holy presence. There is holiness in the air at Christmas, but it can easily be overcome by all the pressure and pleasures the season offers.

I will live in holy hope as I focus on my living King. He is in heaven reigning over the spiritual kingdom that will never leave me hopeless. I have more reason than the Israelites in Isaiah’s day to believe in the light that has come. Isaiah 9 talks about the child that is born with a special introduction in verse 2, “The people walking darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.”
Each Sunday before Christmas I will remind myself that this is a holy season as I bring light to represent the hope that cannot be taken away from me because the child was born at Christmas, He became a man who taught me how to know God as my father, then He died on a cross, was buried and rose again. I wish you a holy season.

The first two weeks of Advent are meant to focus on holiness through repentance.  When we ponder the need for Christ to empty Himself and take on human flesh we are confronted with the reason for His drastic, sacrificial action is that it was the only way for sinners to be redeemed.  Take some time this first week of Advent to ask God to search your heart and reveal the sin that Christ came to earth to conquer in your soul.

Dr. Deborah Newman

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