Last Minute Advent Devotional – 4

December 17, 2020

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.                                             Philippians 1:6 (NLT)

Notes for adults and older children: 

This passage has been a comfort and encouragement for countless believers over the years. We can rely on God’s continuing work in our lives, transforming us into people who more closely resemble Jesus Christ. Romans 12:1-2 shows that God does this for those who trust him with their lives, by changing the way they think. With this new perspective on life, we will desire the good and helpful actions that Jesus displayed. And these actions will not only please God but will give us a fulfilling life and help prepare us for Christ’s second coming. 

Notes for young children:

While we wait for Jesus to return, we can learn more about God and what is important in life. We can do the things that Jesus said are important, like praying, helping other people, and loving God and other people. God wants us to become more and more like Jesus and he will help us to grow like that if we ask him to. We want to do things that are good and not bad, not to make him love us (he already does love us), but because we want to love him back by pleasing him. It’s like waiting for your parents to come home when you’ve done something especially good. You can’t wait until they see or hear about what you have done because you know they will be pleased. 

What do you think you could do that would please Jesus?


Father, we want to be ready to see Jesus, whether it is when we go to heaven or when he returns to earth. Thank you that we can know Jesus now in our hearts even though we can’t see him yet. Please make us more like Jesus in loving you and loving other people. Thank you for loving us and helping us do the things that please you.

Advent activities:

An adult hides small wrapped treats (piece of candy or snack or tiny gift), one for each member of the family, labelled with their name, in a limited area such as one or two rooms. All family members go to look for the treats at the same time, each looking for only one treat. If you find your own name, leave it where you find it and keep looking. You must find a treat with another person’s name on it and take it to them and present it as a gift [putting the other person first]. How does receiving a treat that someone gives you feel different from finding your gift by yourself?

Last Minute Advent Devotional – 3

December 16, 2020

On that day the announcement . . .will be…”Cheer up, Zion! Don’t be afraid! For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.” 

Zephaniah 3:16-17 (NLT)

Notes for adults and older children: 

Zephaniah was prophesying in a time of confusion, conflict, concern over injustice, and suffering – all leading to fear. Does it sound like 2020? He gave a message of comfort that in the future God would resolve all the nation’s problems and live among them. When Christ comes into our lives, he gives us partial fulfillment of this prophecy by calming our fears with his love and bringing us joy in the midst of our current troubles. 

Notes for young children:

When you feel upset or very sad, is there someone who makes you feel better? We all need help when we are feeling bad. God tells us that he will help us when we ask him to. We know he will listen to us when we tell him our problems. And he promises to calm us and care for us when we come to him. The Bible says that he loves us so much that he sings happy songs to us. We can’t hear him sing to us right now, but it is wonderful to know that when Jesus comes back we will never be sad or hurt again. 


Dear Jesus, thank you that you know when we are sad and when we are happy. You hold us in your arms when we are sad and you let us know how much you love us.  

Advent activity:

Make a list of the ways that God lets us know that he loves us (for instance, the beauty of a sunset, made for us to enjoy; the parents that he gave us to take care of us). 

Last Minute Advent Devotional – 2

December 15, 2020

May the Lord make your love for one another and for all people grow and overflow, just as our love for you overflows. May he, as a result, make your hearts strong, blameless, and holy as you stand before God our Father when our Lord Jesus comes again with all his holy people.     

I Thessalonians 3:12-13 (NLT)

Notes for adults and older children: 

This passage reminds us of the need to be ready for Christ’s second Advent. Asking God to help us love others will result in actions that will make us more prepared for his return.

Notes for young children:

One of the reasons why we look forward to Jesus coming back to earth is that when that happens, Jesus will make us like himself, loving God and other people. Until then, it’s sometimes hard to be kind to other people, even people that we love, like our family. We don’t always do the right thing and be kind to others because we are not perfect and holy the way God is. But God is able to make us more and more kind and loving to others if we ask him to help us.  God will also forgive us when we are not loving to others. The Bible tells us that when we do something wrong (called “sin”), if we admit that what we did was wrong and ask God to forgive us, he will forgive us. Then he will help us not do that sin again if we ask him to help us.  


Dear Lord Jesus, you have loved us even when we did not love you or other people. Thank you for forgiving us when we confess our sin and ask you to forgive us. Please help us to believe how much you love us. Please change us to be more like you. Help us especially to love the people in our family by putting them first. 

Advent activities:

For each family member: choose one person living in your house and find a way to “put them first” today. For example, let them choose the TV program, even if it is not your first choice. Or give them the biggest serving of dessert. Or do one of their chores for them. Or think of another way to help them.

Last Minute Advent Devotional – 1

December 14, 2020

For the Lord [Jesus] himself will come down from heaven. . ..Then we will be with the Lord forever. So encourage each other with these words.  I Thessalonians 4:16-17

Notes for adults and older children: 

The first four days of these devotionals remind us that Jesus is returning to earth, to eventually become the king and ruler of all. It is so easy for us to forget that promise and focus only on what is happening in our lives and in our world now. Keeping the bigger picture of eternity in mind helps us to put everything into perspective. If we really believed he is coming back and that all earthly conflict will be resolved, how would that change how we live today? 

Notes for young children: 

How do you feel when you are waiting for someone you really like to come to your house? How do you get ready for them to come?

Jesus came to live with people on the earth many years ago. We celebrate his birth on Christmas. Some day he will be coming back to earth and will be the King over all. Almost everybody looks forward to Christmas, when we celebrate Jesus’ birthday. Not as many people think about looking forward to when Jesus comes back again because they may not know how wonderful it will be to live together with Jesus forever. We can look forward to Jesus coming back and thank God that he loves us so much that he wants to be our king.

[If your children can understand the concept, you can discuss why you look forward to Christ’s return]


Father, thank you for sending your son Jesus to earth to bring your message of love and forgiveness. Thank you that he is coming back to be the king over all people. Please help us to look forward to his coming and to be ready to see Jesus when he comes. 

Advent activities related to this devotional or scriptural theme:

1. For adults and older children: Read or sing “Joy to the World.” What parts of this song are referring to Christ’s second coming?

2. For families with young children:  Who are you looking forward to seeing this Christmas? When you think about seeing them, how do you feel?  Make a card with pictures [perhaps cut and pasted from magazines] telling them how much you love them and give it to them when they come. If you won’t be able to see them at Christmas (because of the pandemic or other reason) make a card for them, ask your parents to help write your thoughts down, then mail it to your special person before Christmas.

Last Minute Advent Devotionals

Discovering God’s heart through Christmas celebration

Advent is a season of looking forward to the coming of the Christ, the one who would make it possible for imperfect humans to become right with the perfect God, becoming God’s loved children. Although we usually focus on Advent as a time to prepare ourselves for celebrating Christmas, it is actually a time to anticipate multiple “comings” of Christ. He came to earth as a baby at Christmas, but he also comes to each of us who believe in him and follow him, living within us. And he will be returning to earth in His glory as the King of kings. 

By now [December 13], most of us are fully into preparing for Christmas, with pressures and possible fears about the unknown (Is it safe to gather with my family? How far can our strained finances stretch for gifts?). This may be the perfect time to set aside just a few minutes daily to settle our cluttered minds and longing hearts as we think about the love God wants to share with us through his son.  I invite you to join me for the next eleven days to consider brief Advent devotionals that will help all members of your family –from children to grandparents — to experience God’s loving gift.  

The short devotions begin with a Bible passage and an application of the theme for younger children, with simple but profound truths that can provide encouragement to any age. It includes a family prayer and daily activities that seek to demonstrate and apply the theme in a fun and “concrete” way. I encourage parents to adapt the children’s portion as needed, sharing your own related spiritual experiences, and explaining and/or expanding the content, based on the developmental level and spiritual understanding of your children. 

My prayer is that you will find these devotionals helpful to your family as you anticipate and celebrate the past, present, and future comings of Christ into our human world and lives. Use this Advent season to draw closer to Jesus by focusing on his coming to earth, his coming to each of us as Savior and Lord, and his coming in glory to rule over the world.

May this Advent season draw us each to understand the wonder of God’s greatest gift to us in a deeper and more personal way. And may our experience result in the spread of this good news to others, and ultimately…

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased.” Luke 2:14 ESV

Christmas Eve Home Worship Service

Discovering God’s heart through Christmas celebration

Since moving to Columbia, SC, we have had a family tradition of our own interactive Christmas Eve worship service, usually after the evening church service, if there is one. When we started, our children were 11, 9, and 5 years old. Now they are grown with children of their own. Each year we pick a different theme, decided by the ages of our children/grandchildren and what relatives might be visiting or living with us at the time. Starting in early November, Mom and Dad discuss the “theme” for our Christmas Eve family worship time and let the rest of the family know, so those who will be at home on Christmas Eve can be prepared to take part in worshipping. These ideas each require some preparation from each family member. Depending on the theme, the leader (Dad) will ask for a general idea of what each person will be doing, so he can organize the informal service to have a natural flow before we start. 

After prayer, we usually read the Luke 2 Christmas story and the leader (Dad) makes a brief comment about some part of it with application to our family. Many times we have chosen and read a meaningful (touching) Christmas story that illustrates the concepts of the deeper meaning of Christmas. 

Then we go around the room sharing what each family member has chosen, to go along with the theme of the service.

Here are some of the things we have done over the last 25 years:

1. Each person will write an original verse for a traditional Christmas carol; we print them out and all sing the songs together.

2. Write a “gratitude list:” 100 things you are grateful for in this past year. Share the entire list or the top 10 items with the family.

3. Choose a Bible verse or passage, memorize it, recite it for the family and tell why you chose that verse and what it means to you.

4. Gift boxes: we hand out a small cardboard box to each person (2 to 3 inches on each side, that can be folded flat, from Hobby Lobby or Michaels). On the inside of his/her box, each person writes what he/she wants to give to God, as a birthday gift to Jesus this coming year. Put name on outside. Then decorate the outside of the box to look as if it is wrapped. Then all the boxes are placed around a little Christmas tree, to be presented to Jesus on His birthday. If agreed by the participants, the contents can be read out loud. But usually we let it be personal, just between the family member and God. Option: collapse the box, save in safe place for a year or two, then at a future Christmas Eve service pass them out to the owners. Decide ahead of time if they are going to be kept confidential, so the writer will be comfortable to write personal things.

5. Artistic expression: each person chooses a way to express worship/gratitude/celebration of God’s gift. May include writing a poem, painting/drawing a picture, singing a song, etc. 

6. Musical instruments: each person picks a meaningful song/hymn/carol and play it on their instrument (could include using their vocal cords if they don’t play an instrument). Fun to do it in duets, trios, etc.

7. Make a birthday card for Jesus’ birthday.  Should be a personal expression. Read them out loud to Jesus. Pass them around. 

8. Each person give their testimony of how they came to Christ. Especially good if several generations are present. Very moving experience when in-laws are added to the family and we hear for the first time how God has led in their lives.

9. Each share the most important thing God taught you in the last year.

10. Musical variations: Play a recording or sing –

  • The song that has meant most to you in the last year and tell why.
  • Your favorite Christmas carol and why it is your favorite.
  • The song you want to sing/play as personal worship of God

We always end with praying around the circle. We keep a box of tissues available, because we rarely get through a worship time without tears as we hear our loved ones talk of what their relationship with God means to them and what the Lord has done for them in the last year.

A Love Story

About Predestination and Free Will

Once upon a time in a small village in Asia two families agreed to an arranged marriage for their newborn son Will and daughter Destiny, as their custom dictated. While their children were still toddlers, both families emigrated to America and settled in distant communities. 

Over the years Destiny grew into a loving child, secure in her knowledge of her parents’ love for her and their wisdom in selecting a spouse for her. They told her about the marriage they had arranged for her but did not tell her the name of her future spouse.

On the other hand, Will’s family did not talk about the arranged marriage, assuming he understood their customs and would accept his bride when the time was appropriate. However, growing up in America, Will followed the dating patterns of his friends, looking for the woman he would love and choose to marry. Will was very aware of his parents’ love for him and assumed that they would be happy with his choice of a spouse.

When time for college came, Destiny and Will ended up attending the same university. As fate would have it, they had a couple of classes together, and became friends. Over the next year they grew closer and their relationship turned romantic.  While she was at home for a summer break from school, Destiny’s parents told her the name of her betrothed, Will. After some questioning, she discovered that her beloved Will was actually her promised husband. She, of course, was delighted that her parents’ choice, through an arrangement made at her birth, was also the man she fell in love with as a young adult. 

That same summer Will told his parents that he had decided to propose to his girlfriend, Destiny. Happily they revealed to him that Destiny was indeed the woman to whom he had been betrothed at birth. 

So you see, dear children, some place in the spiritual realm above Destiny and Will, and even above their parents’ knowledge, the divine arranger sees the way predestination and free will merge in His orchestration of life.