NOEL ADVENT DEVOTIONAL

Leading up to Christmas, this devotional will enrich your experience with Christ’s birth, Noel, this year! We invite you to join us for the next 25 days as we draw closer to Christ.

day 25

Don’t be afraid. For I have come to bring you good news, the most joyous news the world has ever heard! And it is for everyone everywhere! 11 For today in Bethlehem a rescuer was born for you. He is the Lord Yahweh, the Messiah.

Luke 2:10-11

 

The day has arrived - it’s Christmas!

 

It’s my prayer that you’ll take the time in the midst of the celebration to remember what today is all about. We’ll spend time with family and friends and cherish the memories made today however, we mustn’t lose sight of the reality that over 2000 years ago, history experienced the first Noel and everything changed. The birth of Jesus changed the course of humanity for all of eternity and today we can reflect on how it impacts our every day walk with Christ.

 

Throughout the course of this advent, we have had the honor of reflecting on all of the ways the birth of Jesus has changed our lives.  The birth of Jesus Christ builds an attitude of gratitude, it impacts our finances, it changes the way we use our gifts/talents, and it makes us crave community. The birth of Jesus Christ transforms the way we spend time with our families and changes how I learn to trust God. The birth of Jesus Christ challenges me to serve, transforms my need for control, and changes the way that I approach God! The birth of Jesus Christ changes the way I work, helps me to understand humility, makes me appreciate my children more, and changes my selfish patterns of thinking and selfish ways of doing life. The birth of Jesus Christ helps me handle stress, it changes the way I worship, it transforms the way I see myself and it transforms the way I interact with others. The birth of Jesus Christ helps me see clearly when life gets messy, opens my eyes to God’s miracles, transforms my prayer life, my dinner table, and my marriage. The birth of Jesus Christ refocuses my attention onto the important details and reinforces my faith in God’s promises.  Which revelation did you find the easiest to agree with? Which one was more challenging?

 

You see, today is about so much more than the presents around the tree or the meal you’re going to eat. Today is about Jesus. Today points to the cross by way of a manger. Today is about the promise of eternity restored and the hope of a returning King. Today is about the reality that our Savior was born in a manger so that 33 years later He could die on a cross for you and I to experience real and true salvation!

 

And so today, we say thank you Lord. Thank you for sending your Son Jesus all those years ago. Thank you Jesus for dying on a cross for ME! Thank you Lord for the resurrection and that you’re coming again.

 

"Jesus came in bodily form for one reason only - for the salvation of those who believe." – Athanasius

 

Merry Christmas!

Love,

Hope Church Staff, Board, and Leaders

day 24

About 740 B.C., Isaiah wrote of a promise: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.  And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end.”  Isaiah 9:6-7 NIV.

 

About 770 years later, Luke records the promise fulfilled in the words of the old man, Simeon, as he held the baby Jesus in his arms:  “For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” 

Luke 30-32 NIV.  

 

Advent is a season of waiting and preparing to celebrate the Christmas promise – Jesus- and all He represents!  Let's also patiently wait and prepare for the manifestation of promises spoken over us and numerous promises that are ours in the Bible.  May our waiting be a time of preparation to receive.  Let's stand in agreement with Joshua:  “You know with all your heart and soul that not one of the good promises the Lord your God gave you has failed.  Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed.”  Joshua 23:14-15 NIV.   

 

Written by: Victor Burbulys, Leader of Young at Heart Ministry


We hope that you will join us for our Christmas Eve candlelight service at 5pm!

day 23

I admit that I get more caught up in how my home and dinner table looks than what it contains.  But Jesus’ birth transforms the way I approach how I see my dinner table.


I want my dinner table to be one that is like Christ: inviting, humble, easily accessible but still nourishing. The abundance of Christ doesn’t come in the décor and fanfare around Him but in the fact that we can walk in any time as we are and receive His love and grace.


That’s how I want my table to feel. That’s how I want to start looking at my home, however hodgepodge it may seem. I also don’t want anyone to feel like they have to clean themselves up before sitting down to eat with me!

Jesus brought a redemptive and nourishing presence so we don’t mind that Jesus was born in a ramshackle barn or wore rags. In the same spirit, those who are hungry won’t mind a paper plate, they’ll just be grateful they were invited! 


“Then she gave birth to her firstborn Son, and she wrapped him tightly in cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.” Luke 2:6-7. 


“But to all who did receive him, he gave them the right to be children of God.” John 1:12. 

 

Written by: Jordan Arias, Hope Community Dinner Church


We hope that you will join us for our Christmas Eve candlelight service at 5pm!

day 22

31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 

Matthew 6:31-33

 

The birth of Jesus forces us to reconsider our priorities.  The fact is that in today’s world, there are more things to distract us than ever before.  Our time and attention are spread as thin as they can be, and unfortunately this can result in us losing perspective and focus on what’s most important.  There shouldn’t be anything that takes precedent over your relationship with Christ.  If the rigors and demands of day to day life are causing you to compromise on time in God’s Word and time in his presence, then it might be time to re-evaluate how you’re organizing your time.  Nothing can be more important than seeking the presence of Jesus!  This Christmas season and beyond, let’s commit to having the same urgency about the seeking the Lord’s presence as the shepherds did on the night that Jesus was born.  In Luke 2:16 it says that they “hurried” to be in the presence of the Savior.  As the prophet Isaiah writes in Isaiah 55:6, “Seek the Lord while he may be found.”

 

Written by: Josh Kloes, Assistant Pastor


We hope that you will join us THIS SUNDAY at 10am for our NOEL series and on Christmas Eve at 5pm!

day 21

Marriage is the beautiful design of the Almighty, a great and sacred mystery—meant to be a vivid example of Christ and his church. Ephesians 5:32 (TPT)

 

What does it mean to say, “I want a Christ-centered marriage”? If you’re a married believer in the church you’ve heard the term before. When we got married I would have said this means going to church with my husband; reading devotion books together every day; praying before every meal and never going to bed angry. But in the short 3 years that we’ve been married each one of those qualifications of a “Christ-centered marriage” have been challenged.

 

If we return to the Bible and look for a new definition we find ourselves looking at the original (and quite literal) Christ-centered marriage: Mary and Joseph. Upon being informed that they were going to be the parents of the Son of God I’m sure there was a very human moment of balking. This was a bigger marital challenge than any couple had ever, or would ever face!

 

Mary and Joseph ultimately met this challenge with hearts open to God and hearts open to one another even through the challenges. They immediately got married but didn’t celebrate the honeymoon until after the birth, which took place in a barn. They became refugees in a foreign land with a toddler. Their oldest son, who should be taking over the family business, up and left home with his friends. And eventually they watched this precious son executed by an angry mob.

 

Our Christ centered marriage will never be that dramatic but when we look at the example of the first ever Christ-centered marriage we can boil it down to two things: hearts open to God and hearts open to each other.


Written by: Annika and Derek Garcia, Children’s Pastor


We hope that you will join us every Sunday in December at 10am for our NOEL series and on Christmas Eve at 5pm!

day 20

“So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” Hebrews 4:14-16


I grew up privileged; in fact we all are privileged. See, before Jesus, you had to go through the high priest when you wanted to pray. If you wanted to ask for forgiveness, you had to see the high priest. If you wanted to pray for others, find the high priest. If you wanted to show your thanks to God, bring a gift to the high priest to give to God for you. How distant does that feel? There’s no connection, no personal relationship, just a desire for something more. This is why Jesus’ birth changes everything! God is with us now! 


This was not a one-time event, but a history changing and ongoing opportunity for all of us. We are privileged to be able to go directly to God! We are privileged to pray anywhere and anytime! We are privileged to have God with us every day. So, we take the time to remember our Immanuel. We take the time to remember that God is with us and we can come boldly with any request, praise, thanks or need we may have! I don’t want to take this opportunity for granted – because Jesus came, died, and rose again we all have the opportunity to live in this new way. Jesus is now our High Priest and the direct, personal relationship He offers transforms how I pray and bring everything before Him.


Written by: JJ Molodecki, Campus Pastor Hope Church Midway


We hope that you will join us THIS Sunday at 10am for our NOEL series and on Christmas Eve at 5pm!

day 19

Have you ever experienced a miracle in your life? (Something that could only be “considered to be the work of a divine intervention.”) Miracles can be tough to recognize if our eyes are not open to see them. God made a way for our campus, Hope Church Midway, to come to fruition with the right volunteers and finances at the right time in three short months. Since that time we have seen many other supernatural things. All we had to give Him was our Yes and He made the miraculous happen. God not only works in the small things, but also in the big things.

 

One of the biggest miracles is the gift He gave us with Jesus’ birth. Everything surrounding it was miraculous. He was born 700 years after Isaiah predicted it along with many other prophesies that showed He would come. “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God with Us’)” Isaiah 7:14. 

 

Not only was His mother a virgin but also from Judah’s family line as prophesied. And after He was born, people from all walks of life (from shepherds to rich and wise men) were drawn to Him. Man, the list goes on-and-on! 


It’s not a coincidence that all of the prophesies lined up with how Jesus came to be with us. God orchestrated it masterfully in ways that could never have been completed by man. God’s intentionality lies with who He is. God is Love and His Love came down through Jesus at just the right time.

 

God is in the business of making the miraculous happen! While you might not understand the process and while you might wonder how all of the pieces are going to come together, you can trust that He is able and that He will work things together for those who love Him! (Romans 8:28) What are the miracles you are waiting for? What are some miracles you’ve already seen happen in your life? Hold tight to the promises of God and remember His faithfulness! They will anchor you as you await the miracles to come!


Written by: Jen Molodecki, Hope Church Midway


We hope that you will join us THIS Sunday at 10am for our NOEL series and on Christmas Eve at 5pm!

day 18

There are times when our lives get really messy, like the roads of Chicago after a heavy snowstorm. Our human experience can get quite messy. It certainly was messy for Jesus - born in a stable and crucified at Calvary. Despite all our planning, Christmas can get messy. That first Christmas was definitely messy for Mary and Joseph, yet the miracle of Christ’s birth took place in the middle of that mess.


I’ve learned three truths about life when it gets messy. First, when life gets messy God is trying to get our attention.  God certainly got Mary’s attention in Luke chapter 1 when an angel appears to her with the startling news that she was chosen to give birth to the promised Messiah.

 

Second, when life gets messy God has a different plan for your life, and it’s a better plan. Most likely, all Mary and Joseph wanted was to enter into a proper Jewish betrothal and then after about a year they would have a nice wedding followed by having some healthy kids and raising a nice family. But God had other plans - bigger and better plans. He wanted to use them to bless the entire world. God wanted them to be key figures in his great plan of redemption.

 

Third, when life gets messy God wants you to trust Him. Proverbs 3:5 tells us what to do when life gest messy, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart.” Angels informed Mary and Joseph separately of God’s different, better plan for their lives and the great thing about their response is that they embraced God’s plan! They went with it; they trusted God.  When life gets messy we are presented with a great opportunity to trust in God.


Written by: Hal Kooistra, Senior Pastor


We hope that you will join us every Sunday in December at 10am for our NOEL series and on Christmas Eve at 5pm!

day 17

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”…9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.  Matthew 2:1-2;9-10


How Jesus’ birth helps me to interact with people in need.


The three wise men came bringing gifts to the king (which is rightfully so, showing respect) but why they really came was they needed Jesus.  They needed the king in their lives, just like we all do.  Jesus’ birth helps me to interact with people in need because we all need something. Just like the kings needed to see in order to believe. Sometimes we need to see in order to believe.  They needed to see and meet Jesus personally and start that relationship with him.  That’s exactly how I see my role with Jesus.  If I see a person in need it is my duty to help.  Jesus taught us about helping our neighbor and my neighbor is anyone in need.  Jesus also said in Matthew 25: 34-36 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Jesus’ birth reminds me of that we are all in need so if I can bring a little hope, joy and happiness to someone, then I did what Jesus would have done.

 

Written by: Anthony Pelegrino, Impact Church


We hope that you will join us every Sunday in December at 10am for our NOEL series and on Christmas Eve at 5pm!

day 16

Read Luke 2:8-14 imagining that you are one of the shepherds.

 

Angels didn’t come down randomly to earth and talk to the first humans they saw. God planned this encounter. God planned for shepherds, men who were viewed as unclean and unimportant in society, to receive a heavenly message for the world from angels. THEN these shepherds were the sole audience to the coolest concert of all time!

 

Though centuries apart, I’m sure the enemy has attacked these shepherds and I with the same negative thoughts: “I’m working to pay my bills at a thankless job and barely making ends meet. I’m tired. I’m overworked. I’m unimportant. I’m unclean.”

 

But when I insert myself into the narrative of Jesus’ birth my view changes. I’m chosen. I’m special. God sent angels to someone like me. Even better than that: God sent his son, a human embodiment of himself, to SAVE me because that’s how much I’m worth to my Father!

 

Christmas season can make me hard on myself. All of the events, busy schedules, spending too much money, family encounters, reflecting on the past year and looking ahead to the next creates a lot of negativity. When I return my thoughts to Luke 2 though it brings my spinning brain back to center. Jesus was born FOR ME. That fact is the lens that I choose to view myself through.

 

Written by: Annika Garcia, Children’s Pastor

We hope that you will join us every Sunday in December at 10am for our NOEL series and on Christmas Eve at 5pm!

day 15

The birth of Jesus changes why I worship because it reveals to me God’s faithfulness, Sovereignty, and His nearness.

 

For many years, the people of Israel waited the coming of their Messiah. Jesus is the fulfillment of a long-awaited promise and He came in the humble form of a baby. He fulfills His promises and is faithful to His word even in the waiting, and in often, unexpected ways. He has proven Himself faithful to Israel and to the world by sending His one and only begotten Son!

 

I praise God because He is sovereign. The way in which he chooses to keep His word, and the timing in which He does, is ultimately up to Him. I can trust that He is always worthy of praise.

 

I am moved to worship Him because he is Emmanuel, “God with Us.” (Matthew 1:23). I want to experience His presence and nearness as I agree with Heaven as to who God is and thank Him for what He’s done. He is always with us!

 

Jesus came as a humble, meek, powerful, and loving servant; not as a pompous ruler demanding he be served and waited on. Jesus is a King and Redeemer who has and continues to surpass my expectations. 

 

In Luke 46-55, we read “Mary’s Song.” As the promise was being fulfilled in, through, and for her, she was moved to praise God. This Advent season, we celebrate the coming of Jesus to Earth and all of the ways God has been faithful, Sovereign, and present in our lives. Let us worship as we allow Him to fill us with hope and joy throughout our lives!

 

“And Mary said: ‘Oh, how my soul praises the Lord. How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…

For the Mighty One is holy, and he has done great things for me.” 

Luke 1:46-49

 

Written by: Hannah Stanford, Worship Pastor (Midway)


We hope that you will join us every Sunday in December at 10am for our NOEL series and on Christmas Eve at 5pm!

day 14

10 The Lord says, “Shout and rejoice, O beautiful Jerusalem,[a] for I am coming to live among you. 11 Many nations will join themselves to the Lord on that day, and they, too, will be my people. I will live among you, and you will know that the Lord of Heaven’s Armies sent me to you. 12 The land of Judah will be the Lord’s special possession in the holy land, and he will once again choose Jerusalem to be his own city. 13 Be silent before the Lord, all humanity, for he is springing into action from his holy dwelling.” Zechariah 2:10-13

 

            Once I became an adult, the holidays took on an immense amount of pressure to perform. I wanted to make sure our house was picture-perfect, the presents were wrapped in a photogenic fashion, and each and every present would meet the exclamations that it was perfect.

 

It was only until recently that I discovered the desire for perfection leads to feelings of pressure, which gives way to stress and fear, which gives way to resentment when others don’t meet our (often unspoken) expectations.

           

Suddenly the holidays, meant to be a joyous and celebratory time, are full of resentment, stress, and distraction. It’s often not until the candlelight service on Christmas Eve, once everything is done, the lists are checked off, and the food is almost prepared, that we even take the time to quiet ourselves. It’s sad that the whole season, which starts seemingly earlier and earlier each year, is only met with worshipful rest the night before it all ends!

           

How fitting, though! How similar is it to the birth of Jesus! Imagine the stress of teenage Mary knowing that she’s expecting a child, not just out of wedlock, but not even from her betrothed. Throw in the stress of travel to make it in time for the census to be completed, plus absolutely nowhere to spend the night, plus all the discomforts of pregnancy... And all the stress, pressure, and distraction comes to a silent point when the beautiful baby boy is finally born, healthy and holy.

           

Let’s try, in all the chaos, travel, and turmoil, to remember and revisit that quiet reflective moment as much as we can this Christmas season. Before you go into the madness that is the mall (or time with your family), stay in your car in the quiet and think back to what you feel at that candlelight service. Make each night throughout the advent be a silent night, substantiated by the reality of why we really celebrate, knowing that nothing on earth could ever be as perfect as the real reason for this season.

 

Written by: Jordan Arias, Hope Community Dinner Church


We hope that you will join us every Sunday in December at 10am for our NOEL series and on Christmas Eve at 5pm!

day 13

Before hearing the good news of the love of Jesus, I craved purpose, acceptance, and love. That emptiness led to addictions, compulsive behaviors, blaming, people pleasing, overall bad decision making, and rationalizing every bit of it! 

 

Then, one wonderful day, I heard the good news that, “The Word (Jesus) became flesh and lived among us….and that “To all who received him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God….”(John 1:14, 1:12). 

 

My own willpower was not sufficient to change dysfunctional patterns of living. I continually tried to fool myself into thinking I could beat these things, with enough focus and effort. I couldn’t. And I didn’t. 

 

But God’s grace was enough to do it. “But he said to me, My grace is sufficient for you. For my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2Corinthians 12:9). His power became my strength, my power to change. 

 

“I waited patiently for the Lord; He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.” (Psalm 40: 1,2) 

 

Because of the birth of Christ, His desires are becoming my desires. My thoughts are becoming more like his thoughts. The character defects that I couldn’t let go of or change, are changing. His birth, death, and the power of his resurrection are transforming me into the person He created me to be.


Written by: Bruce Stefancich, Leader of Celebrate Recovery


We hope that you will join us every Sunday in December at 10am for our NOEL series and on Christmas Eve at 5pm!

Day 12

“Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” 2 Corinthians 9:15  


What an unexpected plot twist that God would come down to earth as a child! Our big, powerful God became the small, helpless baby Jesus. How appropriate, then, that we celebrate that event with a holiday that is all about the kids. 


Our traditional Christmas activities are all kid-oriented: sleigh rides, decorating the tree, making cookies, opening presents. Little kids make all of these things so much more exciting for me because everything is still new and fun for them. Each year when I tell the story of Jesus’ birth to my children it gives me an opportunity to slow down and think about the story the way children do. It causes me to approach the birth of Jesus in a more child-like way. I guess that’s how we’re supposed to approach God- with excitement and with faith, anticipating that He has something great in store for us. 


The birth of Jesus makes me appreciate children more because children make me appreciate Christmas. They point me to Jesus, just like the little baby Jesus points us to God. “This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:12

 

Written by: Seth Robia, Elder

We hope that you will join us every Sunday in December at 10am for our NOEL series and on Christmas Eve at 5pm!

Day 11

Christ Jesus was born into very humble beginnings. He was born to a woman, Mary, who was not yet married. She was betrothed to Joseph and when He found out about her pregnancy - he wanted to quietly divorce her so as to not embarrass her or himself (Luke 1:27-35, Matthew 1:18-19). In those days, divorce and having a baby out of wedlock were both extremely shameful. The Lord sent an angel to Joseph to reveal the Lord’s plan for this babe and through that, Joseph decided to stay with Mary and fulfill his vow (Matthew 1:20-25).

 

What is even more humbling is when Jesus’ birth came around. Jesus was born in a barn in a manger (if you don’t know what that is, it is a feeding trough for animals where their slop went.) Not to mention, He left His eternal fellowship with the Father to live among man. Our Jesus began His life in the humblest of ways and grew to be recognized as the savior of the world. This humble beginning gives us beautiful insight into the heart of God. He is so, so kind to us!

 

Choosing humility is not always easy, in fact I don’t know if it’s ever been easy for me, but the outcome is always so powerful. Whether you have to choose humility or if humble times are thrust upon you, “...He will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6b). He did not leave Mary when she was pregnant, He did not leave Joseph in His confusion, and He guided Jesus’ life on earth from humble beginnings to humble end. He will guide you all the days of your life until you meet with Him in paradise. Choose humility over and over, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up” (James 4:10).


Written by: Karina Kornbaum, Worship Pastor (LaGrange)


We hope that you will join us every Sunday in December at 10am for our NOEL series and on Christmas Eve at 5pm!

day 10

As the director of large mission outreaches and Convoy of Hope Chicago, I often have people ask me about how I work. Am I a delegator? Do I have a leadership philosophy? I come back again and again to my relationship with Jesus, the one who has revolutionized the way I work.


In Matthew 1:23 (NIV) The angel states: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel (which means “God with us”). God with us is the profound truth that we can experience in work. When God is working through us, He is doing the heavy lifting. Many times, I sit quietly and wait for Immanuel to speak to my heart “go this way,” “call this person,” “look at it from this perspective.” 


John 1:14 (MSG) puts it this way: “The Word (Jesus) became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood…” Ever since He came to Earth, born as a baby, we have experienced His nearness—He is as close as the mention of His name. We need only ask Him for help.


Finally, I claim this promise from Matthew 11:30 (MSG) straight from Jesus mouth: “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Walking and working with Jesus is the adventure of a lifetime.


Written by: Dawn Kooistra, Missions and Outreach Pastor


We hope that you will join us every Sunday in December at 10am for our NOEL series and on Christmas Eve at 5pm!

day 9

When I was a kid, I always saw God as this old man in the sky who was mad at me when I did something wrong. You see, I grew up in a church that focused on rules and religion but no one told me about the love of Jesus until I was a teenager. When I heard the story of Jesus for the first time, it changed my life and the way I look at God.


The scripture says in Matthew 1:21, “And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” This scripture changed my outlook because I thought, “Well – that means He saved me from my sin too!” And then I read another verse, one of the most well known verses in the Bible, John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that he sent His one and only son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”


God sent His son as a child, to grow up to become a man, and to die for MY sins so that I may have eternal life with Him! This changed everything for me. He isn’t constantly angry with me, He loves me so much that He was willing to send His Son to die for me so that I may be closer to Him. When I learned all of this, it helped me to stop looking at God as an old man in the sky who is always mad at me and it enabled me to approach Him as a loving Father who loves me. A Father who wants to see no harm come to me but wants to see me succeed and live a full life with Him!


Written by: Alex Liescke, Youth Pastor


We hope that you will join us every Sunday in December at 10am for our NOEL series and on Christmas Eve at 5pm!

Day 8

The birth of Jesus transforms my need for control.  There are two kings mentioned in Matthew 2:1, King Herod and baby Jesus.  One king had an inordinate need for control the other was actually in control.  One was a cruel tyrant the other was (and is) the Prince of Peace.

 

Herod lived a sumptuous lifestyle in a magnificent palace but he was both paranoid and maniacal. Baby Jesus was born a couple of miles away from that palace in a stable and had a manger for his first bed. Some have called Bethlehem’s manger the first king-size bed! Herod was so intimidated by the birth of Jesus that he ordered the murder of all the baby boys in Bethlehem. What a control freak!

 

I must confess that for most of my life I also had an unhealthy need for control.  This could be seen in ways that I regret. At times I was too strict as a parent or overly harsh as a husband.  Thankfully, the more I patterned my life after Jesus the more I began to live gracefully with others. 

 

I had emergency open heart surgery six months ago and during that surgery I suffered a stroke that has caused left-side weakness in my left leg and left hand. My life has changed dramatically since that surgery.  My need for control is gone. I now take each day as gift from Jesus.  My oldest son tells me, “Dad, you’re living in your bonus round!” Jesus is in control of my life now and my heart is filled with his peace.

 

For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. ISAIAH 9:6


Written by: Hal Kooistra, Senior Pastor


We hope that you will join us every Sunday in December at 10am for our NOEL series and on Christmas Eve at 5pm!

Day 7

When you think of a king and where he would be born, your first thought is probably a palace in a huge, beautifully decorated, ornate setting and a beautiful white bed for mother and baby. Nowadays, you think of a decent-sized room in a cozy hospital with nurses and doctors caring for your every need.

 

Neither of these scenarios were the case for our Savior. He was born in a manger in a stall dressed for an animal. He didn’t have nurses or white linen or a cozy bed. Jesus had stable animals all around him and straw as bedding. That is not how I see a king being born but we remember that Jesus was no ordinary king! He is the King that said “I did not come to be served but to serve.”

 

That’s what stands out for me when I read the story of the birth of Christ.  Our King came for one reason and that was to serve the underserved and save mankind. He came ready to serve his people, not to rule over them like a dictator. He did it by serving them and hanging with them right where they were. He got his hands dirty and sat at wells, talked with people on mountain sides, and fed the hungry. Our King, our Savior did life with his subjects! And that makes me want serve just like Jesus. My question to you is are willing to get your hands dirty and serve like Jesus? Or have you built a palace of comfort that keeps you and others hidden from each other?

 

My challenge to you is to find others who may be underserved and to do something nice for them. This Christmas season, try and lift others up, not to magnify your name, but to magnify the name of Jesus!

 

Written by: Anthony Pelegrino, Impact Church


We hope that you will join us every Sunday in December at 10am for our NOEL series and on Christmas Eve at 5pm!

day 6

Ephesians 1:9-11 

And through the revelation of the Anointed One, he unveiled his secret desires to us—the hidden mystery of his long-range plan, which he was delighted to implement from the very beginning of time.  And because of God’s unfailing purpose, this detailed plan will reign supreme through every period of time until the fulfillment of all the ages finally reaches its climax—when God makes all things new in all of heaven and earth through Jesus Christ. Through our union with Christ we too have been claimed by God as his own inheritance. Before we were even born, he gave us our destiny; that we would fulfill the plan of God who always accomplishes every purpose and plan in his heart.

 

The most wonderful time of the year is upon us again. The holidays are a time of revelry, a time for reflection, and for some a time of remembrance. They can even be stressful and at times feel chaotic with all the parties and gift exchanges planned. We can easily get overwhelmed in the busyness, but even though these lists never seem to get smaller, the cornerstone among it all is the birth of Jesus: the truth and beacon of hope that outshines the brightest house in the neighborhood.

 

This season, we remember the moment God revealed His plan to the world through a baby. A plan that would allow us to relinquish our trust back to God.  It’s a wonder though, we would’ve never been able to handle it on our own but as I write this, I think to myself “Your plan is a baby?!” This is probably the most confusing, wonderful, unlikely, and brilliant plan ever.

 

The challenge is wrapping my head around the modesty of it. Because when I ponder the scope of how miserable we are at being in charge, the solution to our issue doesn’t quite look like what I would have in mind. I think that’s the beautiful irony of it; I’m not meant to lean on my own understanding so why would God’s plan look anything like mine?

 

We try so hard to plan, accomplish, and measure up on our own apart from God and we waste all our energy on doing when in reality, the victory comes in surrendering. Wow what a great plan! This holiday season let’s rejoice and remember the birth of God’s plan and trust that, although it may not always make sense to us, God’s plans will always far outweigh anything we could ever come up with!


Written by: Ben Arias, Hope Community Dinner Church


We hope that you will join us every Sunday in December at 10am for our NOEL series and on Christmas Eve at 5pm!

day 5

Have you ever watched your children and in your heart prayed that you could remember that moment forever, hoping that picture is never forgotten?


As I read about the birth of Christ, I read “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”
Luke 2:19 NIV


So the birth of Jesus transforms the way I spend time with my family!
Who could possibly fathom what Mary pondered with her sweet baby being God plan to save us all? Did she think of her son’s future, or how she was going to raise him, or, rather did she just soak up God’s love for us? I know that when I see my loving spouse and my beautiful children, I try to cherish and embrace all that God has planned for us and thank Him for family. We spend our time in awe of God’s greatness together in church, home, and out in nature. We love deeper and forgive fully. We spend time serving like Jesus at church and on the streets as a family. We hold on to each other as we hold on to Jesus and his promises. Even as Jesus is older at the age of 12, Mary still tries to cherish the moments in her heart just as she did at birth. Our time together is precious and I love every season of life as it comes.

 

Written by: Tracy Pelegrino, Impact Church


We hope that you will join us every Sunday in December at 10am for our NOEL series and on Christmas Eve at 5pm!

day 4

Mark 2:15 Later, Levi invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. (There were many people of this kind among Jesus’ followers.)


What do you think about when you hear the word “community”? You might think of close friends, family, or your neighbors however, Jesus’ birth signaled a new definition of community. He was born away from the community that Joseph and Mary came from. Angels called upon shepherds to visit Jesus. These men had long been looked at with contempt because the rest of the community didn’t trust them and felt that they were thieves. A while later, visiting foreigners came and brought gifts as they met with Jesus. Then His family flees to Egypt as refugees, joining a new community. Jesus’ birth expands beyond those who share the same views that we do, look like us, come from the same culture, or have the same values. Jesus’ birth shows the value of variety in our community. The broader our view of community, the broader our love for one another, and the more we become like Jesus. 


This view continues throughout Jesus’ life as He surrounds Himself with a community that didn’t rely on social status, economic status, or gender. After His resurrection, He continues this idea of community by telling His disciples to reach out to the whole world. This is what Jesus came into, what He modeled, and what He calls us to today; real community.


Written by: JJ Molodecki, Midway Campus Pastor


We hope that you will join us for our Midweek service, Wednesday at 7pm and every Sunday in December at 10am for our NOEL series!

day 3

Christmas is a time when we should meditate on what the Lord Jesus has done for us. In John 3:16 it says For God so Loved the world that he gave His one and only son that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. 


Because we know that God’s love is directly reflected in His giving and also that He is a creative God, as His children, we can be encouraged to try and reflect that same nature through the giving of our gifts and talents. 


The Lord has provided us with unique talents whether seemingly big or small. We cannot create these talents on our own but we can strengthen them through practice. Start small, start messy, but start using those gifts as a gift back to God!


Take some time and meditate on the following scriptures:
Ephesians 2:10- For we are Gods handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared for us to do.
James 1:17- Every good and perfect gift is from above coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
Exodus 31:3-5 - And I have filled them with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding and with all kinds of skills to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut stone to work with wood and engage in all kinds of crafts.


The Lord has given you gifts and talents to be used to glorify Him. This Christmas season think about the gifts and talents He has given you. Write down three gifts the Lord has given you and ask Him how you would be able to use those gifts to help someone around you.


Christmas is a time of giving. Take this season to give the same way the Lord has given to you in beautiful and creative ways!


Written by: Vicky Meier, Prayer Ministry


We hope that you will join us every Sunday in December at 10am for our NOEL series and on Christmas Eve at 5pm!

day 2

Have you ever watched, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”? The Jim Carrey one is my favorite version. In one of the first scenes, Cindy Lou Who and her father are seen in a jam-packed store and as he is naming off all of the people they’re buying gifts for, Cindy sheepishly asks, “Dad, doesn’t this seem like a bit much?” She waits for answer that will hopefully enlighten her family and instead he responds, “What do you mean? This is what Christmas is all about!” A fleeting moment in a kids movie gently exposes the mentality of our society that echoes the Who’s down in Whoville. It’s so easy to think that Christmas is the best time of year because it is when we get the best gifts. However, I fear that we easily forget how we’ve already been given the best gift ever on that first Christmas!


Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” (LUKE 2:11-12)


When Christ came into this world as an infant, it set forth the plan that 33 years later He would die on a cross for you and I. No one can give a gift so great as that and if we’re not careful, we’ll begin to believe that the physical gifts we receive are more important than the gift we’ve already received through Christ! But can I challenge you with a thought? This season is about far more than giving or receiving presents. It’s about spending time with the ones you love, giving thanks for what you have, and most of all it’s about celebrating that God so loved the world that he sent his son!


Things will break, go out of style, or disappear in no time but, memories together, adventures, and time spent with one another will last a lifetime. What’s more, Jesus invites us to enjoy eternity!


“Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more!” – Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas

 

Matthew 6:19-21
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.


Written by: Rachel Kloes, Assistant Pastor


We hope that you will join us every Sunday in December at 10am for our NOEL series and on Christmas Eve at 5pm!

day 1

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:18


The holiday season is my favorite time of the year. Starting around Thanksgiving, and stretching through New Year’s, the season is filled with celebration! It’s also a season in which we take time to consider all the things we have to be thankful for. But why limit it to just the Christmas season? The reality of Christ’s birth (the greatest gift humanity was ever given) demands far more than just a month’s worth of gratitude! James 1:17 tells us that every good gift we have comes from our Heavenly Father and this reminder is worth celebrating every day. This Christmas season, take some time to reflect on all the ways that you have been blessed. And I encourage you all to continue this practice well into the New Year. We can all start our gratitude list with the same thing listed in the #1 spot: That God sent his son Jesus into our world!


Written by: Josh Kloes, Assistant Pastor


We hope that you will join us every Sunday in December at 10am for our NOEL series and on Christmas Eve at 5pm!