“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6

Join us this Advent season as we illuminate the truth of who Jesus is by exploring the names of the Savior used in Isaiah and how these names bring hope, peace, love and joy.

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Advent Devotions

Each week of Advent, we are featuring a devotion on the week’s theme written by a Mercy community member.

12.21.21 // Read an Advent devotion on Joy by Toni Ajayi:Devotion photo

How can we talk about experiencing joy in the middle of a prolonged pandemic, losing a loved one, unemployment, separation from family and friends, business downturns, physical and mental health challenges? The list is endless. There is almost no reason to be joyful when we are constantly let down by the circumstances of life and disappointments become the order of the day. 

Whenever I find myself in difficult situations, the words of the Prophet Habakkuk come to mind: ‘Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines, even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord!    I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!’(Habakkuk 3:17-19). Another character in the Bible that often spoke about rejoicing in God while experiencing betrayal, pain, and loss was David. Oh well, you’d think, ‘this is probably easier said than done’ right? I know! Because I think so too! 

Sometime this year, I received the news that a loved one had passed. It was quite hard to process and even harder to understand how I could be joyful at such a time. All I wanted to do was crawl into a hole and stare into space for as long as I could. Nevertheless, I allowed myself sometime of grief and self-reflection. I made peace with reality and decided to place my faith in God’s love for me, knowing that His word will always be the final word. There and then, the Holy Spirit began to minister to me, and He made me see how God uses our lowest moments to prune us so we can become better vessels for His use. In our weakest moments, His strength is released unto us through His joy (Nehemiah 8:10).

What then does this biblical joy mean? A state of mind or an attitude we adopt when we choose to focus on the promises of God. Being joyful is NOT suppressing our emotions, or failing to express grief when needed, but continually putting hope in Jesus (2Cor 6:10) and fixing our eyes on Him while yet acknowledging our sorrows and discomforts.

When we have truly received His joy, then we can pay it forward. I started to experience even a higher dimension of joy and strength as I made myself available to serve and be a channel of blessings to others.

A favorite preacher of mine once gave a thought-provoking definition to JOY as Jesus, Others and Yourself. This isn’t to say we should ignore our own priorities, but true Joy also comes from extending the love that Christ has shown us to others especially when it is least convenient. It could be from inviting a friend over for a meal to sending words of prayers & encouragement to someone, paying for a stranger’s meal, or offering a listening ear to a loved one going through a difficult time.

 Act: In this last week of advent, bring joy to someone around you by sharing in the eternal joy you have received from Christ. 

12.15.21 // Read an Advent devotion on Everlasting Father by Tia-Kristin Bestick:Tia-Kristin Bestick photo

As I reflect on the idea of an Everlasting Father I am sometimes conflicted because in my life, the word “Father” has not always been a positive one. When I examine fatherhood I am constantly having to pray over the thoughts of abuse, dishonesty, rejection and abandonment that resurface. That is why in my growth as a christian I have fallen in love with Jesus the everlasting father, who has adopted us into his family and calls us his sons and daughters.  

What I love about Jesus as the Everlasting Father is that he communicated with everyone he encountered relationally. He lets them know who they are and to whom they belong, regardless of their condition or how the world has labeled them. My favorite example of this is the encounter with Jesus and the woman with the issue of blood from Luke 8:43-48. In the culture of this time, this woman would have been considered ceremonially unclean. She would have been unable to worship God in the temple as well as unable to be in contact with the rest of the community. She was a social outcast who had experienced rejection, abandonment, as well as all of the physical ailments that come with suffering constant bleeding for 12 years like anemia, weakness, and pain. 

By going into the crowd that day “unclean” she risked her life just to be healed, and when Jesus feels her touch she panics as she realizes that she can no longer remain hidden.  She “trembled and fell to his feet” and told Jesus as well as the crowd why she touched him and how she had been healed . But instead of being met with judgment and further rejection Jesus publicly calls her “Daughter”. After so many years of being “unclean” and ostracized she was now a daughter who belonged. And the thing that strikes me is that I’m sure Jesus, the savior who knows thoughts and performs miracles, knew exactly who touched him that day. He probably felt her intentions as soon as if not before she entered the crowd. But in his plan for this woman’s redemption Jesus didn’t just want her to be healed, he wanted her to know that she had a new name, a new Father, and a new life. He didn’t just want her to slink back into the crowd with that same unclean mentality. He wanted her and the crowd to know that she was a “daughter” who belonged to God, and that she can live in peace. 

This beautiful illustration of sonship is exactly what Jesus the Everlasting Father has done for each and every one of us. Through his salvation he has made us clean. In his compassion he has taken away the old names the world has given us and replaced them with  “son” and “daughter”. With his love he watches over and waits for his children to respond, meets them where they are, and lets them know that they forever belong to him.   

In my own story I will never forget this specific time I felt far from God. I was attending a concert and in the middle the band started playing old church hymns and the vocalist started leading the people in song. I looked around and started to see everyone begin to sing along and even worship. What began as a secular concert turned into a mini worship service and I was just in awe of the response to the people. In that moment I heard the Holy Spirit say so clearly “There is no place I can’t get to you”. These words just reaffirmed that the everlasting father was there and always had been. And just like a true father, there were no limits to his love and  no lengths he wouldn’t go to, to be there and call me his own. 

While we celebrate the birth of Christ this season, let us remain thankful for the Everlasting Father. Let our hearts be filled with joy because no matter our current situation, how we grew up, how long we’ve suffered or the ways we’ve been misunderstood, we always have a Father who loves and watches and waits and calls us his own. Be reminded that there is no place you can go that this Father can’t “get to you” and find peace in that promise of security.  Rejoice that as a son and daughter we belong to a family where we are loved, redeemed, and given new life.

12.08.21 // Read an Advent devotion on Hope by Beccy Adams:Beccy Adams photo

“Hey Google, set timer for 5 minutes.” I told my device as I dropped to my knees on my bedroom floor.

There on the floor, I experienced a taste of God’s peace in five minute intervals in 2020 as I sat between the disaster that was distance learning in my house, and the mental health crises that were my job to deal with as a mental health therapist.

My three kids were struggling with distance learning. There were packets of papers strewn about, 27 pencils littered the room, but not one was both sharpened and had an eraser, and where was that sharpener? The passwords and chargers were missing (or perhaps intentionally hidden) and Zoom calls were painful. The internet waxed and waned, and so did my tolerance for hearing the teachers chide the kids to “turn their cameras on and mics off.” The kids missed their friends and their grandparents and my toddler wasn’t her typical cheerful self after being stashed in front of the tv too many times. I was tech support, emotional support, food service, potty trainer, and taskmaster. I felt frazzled and numb at the same time.

When crying on the floor or hiding oneself in the toy box proved to be ineffective strategies for avoiding school, one of my kids pulled the plug on the internet router just before a virtual class. My husband was suddenly kicked off an important meeting with his boss, my toddler was up in arms because her movie (Frozen) froze, and my other child was fine with it because it rendered her test momentarily cancelled. As upsetting as it was, I did understand the motive.

By 4pm everyday I was spent and my mind a wasteland. That’s when I had to start my other job as a therapist and business owner. I had just a few minutes to find some semblance of peace.

In Exodus (14:14), the people of God thought they were doomed and told their leader Moses as much. Moses told them, “You need only to be still, the Lord will fight for you.”

I’m all for stillness in a hammock-on-the-beach sort of scenario, but when it came to the lifestyle I was forced into in 2020-2021, stillness did not seem plausible. I felt like I was being chased toward a dead end.

When the Egyptians were chasing the Isrealites, Moses led God’s people straight into the sea, but the Israelites found their feet on dry ground.

Exodus 14:21-22 says, Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, 22 and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.”

Moses, through the power of God, parted the Red Sea and let God’s people cross on dry ground. I don’t have illusions of grandeur, I know my 5 minutes of holding space for myself wasn’t as heroic as Moses parting the Red Sea, but I felt similarly desperate for that path of peace through the raging waters that threatened to pull me into their darkness. 

It was in those five minutes, I let the first part of my day melt away. I inhaled slowly, and let the breath expand my lungs and expand the moment. I soaked in the stillness after a day that was in constant motion. I exhaled slowly, and released muscles I didn’t know were tense. My wordless prayer was for a sense of spaciousness within the tight confines of those five minutes. I fought to hold space between raging storms on either side of me.

One last breath, before I double checked the lock and ensured adequate internet bandwidth. I chugged something caffeinated, and sat my weary bones into the office chair in the corner of my bedroom to log on to my first therapy session of the night.

My clients were struggling. The loss, the panic, the sickness, the loneliness, the suffering, the family discord and broken relationships were almost too much. Beyond the collective traumas we shared, there were countless personal traumas to untangle. The dry path through the Red Sea wasn’t just for Moses, it was meant to provide safety to others. I tried to allow the sense of peace I had experienced to extend through the screens and across the distance to my clients as well. It felt like all I had to offer at times.

Psalms 34:14 says we are to “Seek peace and pursue it” aka, look for it, then chase after it. Read: some effort required. You don’t have to manufacture peace, you just have to hold space for it and allow it. Like me, you might need to lock yourself in a room and set a timer and be still. Like Moses, you might need to walk into uncertain waters, and trust God for a miracle.

Act: Recall a time when you experienced a ‘peace that passes understanding’ and tell someone about it.

Peace Devotion Prompt

11.30.21 // Read an Advent devotion on Hope by Kimberly Witt:Kim Witt photo

While my diagnosis is not official, I’m sure I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder. As the days grow shorter and the sun becomes a stranger, I find myself sliding into a state of despair and gloom. 

Ironically, this happens as we near the season of Advent, a season that’s supposed to be marked by excessive joy as we prepare to celebrate our Savior’s birth. The world, with its overly-obnoxious jingles and excessively-gaudy jangles, does its best to remind me that if I’m not feeling merry and bright, then surely something is wrong with me. 

It’s hard to belt out “glory to the newborn king” and “joy to the world” when you just want to shut the blinds, crawl under a mountain of heavy quilts, and hibernate for a few months. And that’s during a “good” year, not the second Advent season scarred by a global pandemic.

I miss the light.

Spring will come. It always does. So I act in hope. 

I make a habit of sitting in front of my therapy lamp, upping my vitamin D, and accumulating as many outdoor running miles as I can. (I’m not opposed to a therapy session and some good, doctor-prescribed antidepressants either!)

Hope is lighting a candle in the dark of the night, knowing that while it provides only a temporary reprieve, the sun will be rising again in the morning.

In the NIV version of the Bible, the word “light” occurs 263 times starting all the way back in Genesis 1 when God commands the light into being. Sixteen of those occurrences happen in the Gospel of John where we learn that Jesus is “life, and that life was the light of all mankind” (1:4). John is where we also learn of Jesus as the Light of the World (8:12), and in this season when I find darkness lurking in the grey skies and unfulfilled expectations, I cling to the Truth that this Light shines in my darkness (1:5).

Most importantly, I look to the vision of the glorious future depicted by John in Revelation 22:5, a time when I will no longer need the sun because the Son will be shining forever and ever: “There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.”

Come, LORD Jesus, come.

For now, as I walk here on this earth — often gloomy and frequently full of darkness — I still hope, my eyes straining for the horizon, looking for a glimpse of the light. It’s there. He’s there. And this Advent season, whether or not you’re feeling that magical warmth of expectation, remember that hope can be an action, even when we’re not feeling it. 

It can be as simple as lighting a match.

Act: Add some light to your Advent routine, and share some with a friend, too. Whether it’s lighting a traditional Advent wreath with your family, cozying up next to your fireplace while sharing a warm drink with a friend, or buying a new string of twinkle lights to decorate your workspace, look at that light and thank Jesus for coming and being our Light, even in the darkest of seasons.

Hope Devotion Prompt