3rd Tuesday of Advent

TOUCHING Holding Hands

Read Psalm 73:23-26 “He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters.” Psalm 18:16 (NIV) Do you remember the first time you held hands with someone other than members of your family? Like me it was probably a person who became a significant other (well for a time anyway). Holding hands with someone else brings a closeness and a sign of caring and telling others that she/he is with me! Holding someone else’s hand when they are in pain or in sadness or grief can show that you also share in that emotion. There is also something called ‘Healing Touch Therapy’. This is where the sense of touch is used to get people through treatment. A nurse tells the following story about: ‘…a patient who became extremely anxious (to the point of getting sick) when she was administered the pre-meds prior to cancer treatment. She held the patient’s hands throughout her treatment session and the patient did not get sick, nor did she realize when the treatment was finished.’ When babies are born premature and put into a humidicrib, parents are encouraged to hold the baby’s hand, stroke their skin and if possible, hold them. This touch can bring about a healing and growth that cannot be explained, except that all of God’s family and creatures need touch to survive and thrive. I can imagine Joseph holding his wife, Mary’s hand through the labour and birth of baby Jesus. The care that he would have shown his young wife would have comforted and reassured her of his love and presence. The little hands of newborn baby Jesus would have been held and marvelled at by his loving mother Mary. As He grew, she would have held these hands when possible danger arose or when she needed to guide Him safely. Then as a grown man He would have held His mother’s hands in times of grief, sickness and in comfort. Jesus holds yours and my hands today. He is there in our times of trouble, sickness, joy, grief and even in our day-to-day life guiding and directing us. Reach out your hands in love to our Saviour who is always there to hold you. Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you for your presence and love that you bring to my life. I cannot survive without the healing touch of life, mercy and grace. Guide me and hold my hand. Amen

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3rd Monday of Advent

TOUCHING Touch of Jesus

Read Psalm 139:13-14 “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.” 1 John 1:1 (NIV) The sense of touch is truly incredible. Our sense of touch is controlled by a huge network of nerve endings and touch receptors in the skin known as the somatosensory system. Our skin acts as the protective barrier between our internal body systems and the outside world. It’s not only the body’s largest sensory organ, but it’s also the largest organ! ‘The skin’s sense of touch is what gives our brain a wealth of information about the natural environment, including temperature, humidity, and air pressure.’ (Wikipedia) Most importantly, this sense of touch lets us feel physical pain - a necessity for avoiding injury, disease and danger. Many laws in the Old Testament mention touching as a bad thing. There were laws about touching women, touching lepers and the sick, touching food and many other things. When Jesus came, he abolished these laws by doing the opposite of what the laws demanded. He touched and healed on the Sabbath, he touched ‘unclean’ women, and he brought love and acceptance with His touch. Many of the leaders of the Jewish law rejected what Jesus did and condemned Him. But we know that through Jesus’ touch and love our sins are forgiven on the cross. When Jesus was born, He was not only touched by loving parents who caressed and held Him through His growth and development, but we also hear how Mary was touched by the Holy Spirit and became pregnant. The word ‘touch’ can be used metaphysically as well as physically. Jesus was touched by the Word of God as He grew and developed and He knew that God was His true Father. The Word also comes to us today and every day and I pray that each day you may be touched by all that it tells us. The touch of Jesus is healing and brings life. I pray that you will touch others with the love, grace, and mercy of a loving God and Saviour. Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for sending your Son Jesus to Earth to save me and touch me with His love and grace. Help me to also touch others through my words and actions. Amen

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3rd Sunday of Advent

TOUCHING God’s Hands 3rd Sunday in Advent

Read Psalm 139:1-10 “Yet you, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.” Isaiah 64:8 (NIV) Today is in God’s Hands and so are you. His hands are strong and will uphold you His hands are great and will enfold you His hands are gentle and will embrace you His hands are protective and will cover you His hands are reassuring and will quiet you His hands are powerful and will defend you His hands are parental and will train you His hands are masterful and will conform you His hands are compassionate and will care for you His hands are healing and will renew you His hands are calming and will comfort you His hands are giving and will bless you The hands that hold you will never let you down. © Roy Lessin 2015 At this time of Advent, we are reminded that God gave His all by sending His only Son into the world. He reached down in love from His Heavenly Kingdom to us in humanity, to save us in our sinfulness and death. God has promised that all who believe in Him will have eternal life with Him in heaven forever. I sure want that for myself and my loved ones. This love and promise is worth sharing with family and friends this Christmas – don’t let anyone miss out! Prayer: My loving Heavenly Father, thank you for your loving hands that embrace me in love and mercy every day. Guide me to help others know your saving grace. Amen

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2nd Saturday of Advent

SMELLING Gifts for Jesus

Read: Matthew 2:1-12

“On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.” Matthew 2:11 (NIV) ‘The three wise men came to the manger with gifts for baby Jesus. They brought gold and frankincense... But wait, there’s myrrh!’ Have you often wondered why the wise men from the East would bring such strange gifts to a baby? I just read another joke about when the three wise men had left baby Jesus, the three wise women arrived bringing fresh nappies, casseroles for the week and lots of formula. Wouldn’t these sorts of things be more appropriate and helpful - as we women tend to be? But gold, frankincense and myrrh were brought to honour God’s Son. Do you think the wise men were told by God beforehand what to bring? Maybe the Holy Spirit had given them insight as to who this special baby was to be and what He was going to do in His life. Frankincense and myrrh are saps that are extracted from trees. Frankincense is predominantly burned as an incense, while myrrh is more commonly used in medicines and perfumes – but both are known for their enticing fragrances. In ancient times, frankincense and myrrh were as valuable as gold and these valuable items were standard gifts to honour a king or deity in the ancient world: gold as a precious metal, frankincense as perfume or incense, and myrrh as anointing oil. Which brings me to the question: What would you bring to baby Jesus? A better question: What do you bring to baby Jesus? The gifts of the wise men symbolised that He was a King and had a special life set before Him. We know that Jesus came at Christmas to save the world and bring eternal life. I don’t know what I could bring except myself and lay myself at the foot of the manger as a person ready to do whatever He wants. I give Jesus my life… what about you? Prayer: Lord Jesus, take my life to do your will. Help me to be of service to you and others that I meet and gather with. May my life be a fragrant offering to reach others. Amen.

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2nd Friday of Advent

SMELLING The Incredible Nose 2nd Friday in Advent

Read: 1 Corinthians 12:12-20 “If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.” 1 Corinthians 12:17b-18 (NIV) The humble nose that sits in the middle of all faces, whether large or small, plays an important part to the human body and life. Your nose helps you make scents of the world. There are about 10 million receptors in the nasal cavity that the brain deciphers as something good or bad. I did some research and found some important facts about the nose: • Your nose contains your breath which leads to your lungs. • Your nose humidifies the air you breathe. • Your nose cleans the air you breathe through tiny hairs. • Your nose regulates the temperature of your breath. • Your nose protects you through smelling danger. • Your nose protects your brain from infection. I find that facts about the body are rather incredible. When a child is in the womb it gets its oxygen from the mother. Once born it needs to breathe on its own, so when a child is born without a cry to empty the immature lungs of the oxygenated fluid, the doctors work through the child’s nose to bring air - carbon dioxide to the lungs. The child will eventually learn to breathe on its own naturally. Thinking about all these little steps, God is truly an amazing God in creating all the different parts to work individually as well as working together. Your taste is connected to your nose. Try to eat something that smells delicious. Then try it again while holding your nose. Each part is created with the other parts in mind. We celebrate the birth of Jesus as a family of Christ, keeping in mind all the other members. When bringing Jesus into the world God didn’t keep it quiet, He shared it with everyone – shepherds and wise men, people from all parts of society. Share the birth of Jesus and His incredible love for us with others and maybe invite someone to share it with your family this year. Prayer: Creator God, you created me with all my incredible abilities. Help me to be an ambassador for you by sharing with others the incredible gift of Jesus. Amen

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2nd Thursday of Advent

SMELLING An Incense Offering

Read: Exodus 30:1-10 “May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.” Psalm 141:2 (NIV) The burning of incense was a pleasing sacrifice to God. As you will have read in Exodus, there was even an ‘Altar of Incense’ made to put before the Ark of the Covenant. Incense is a combination of aromatic spices, herbs, and oils that produces its strongest fragrance when warmed or burned. The incense used in the Jewish Temple was made of stacte, onycha, galbanum and frankincense. The aroma of incense was a physical picture of the prayers of God’s people wafting up to heaven; as in Psalm 121 above. The scent of incense mingled with the smell of burning sacrifices symbolises the mingling of prayers of repentance and devotion. Some churches still use incense in worship as a symbol of our prayers rising to God. In Old Testament times it was important to the people and to God, but with Jesus came the new covenant and the new decrees from God. We don’t need others to pray on our behalf like the priests who burned incense and offered sacrifices. We can pray to God directly and He has promised that He will always hear our prayers. Paul, in the New Testament, uses the image of incense to illustrate the Christian life: “But thanks be to God! For through what Christ has done, he has triumphed over us so that now wherever we go he uses us to tell others about the Lord and to spread the Gospel like a sweet perfume. As far as God is concerned there is a sweet, wholesome fragrance in our lives. It is the fragrance of Christ within us, an aroma to both the saved and the unsaved all around us.” 2 Corinthians 2:14-15 (TLB) Our lives are to point others to Jesus. We must be as the sweet fragrance of incense that tells of the birth of a Saviour and a loving God who sent His only Son to be the ultimate sacrifice for all our sins. Our aroma may not be pleasing to all, but that shouldn’t matter, for, in all we do, our lives are given to God for His purpose. Prayer: Loving God, make my life a living sacrifice telling others of your love through who I am and what I do. May I be a sweet-smelling sacrifice to you. Amen

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2nd Wednesday of Advent

SMELLING Traditions

Read: Luke 1:5-10 “Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense.” Luke 1:8-9 (NIV) Traditions are important. Growing up we always had turkey with all the trimmings on Christmas day lunch (in both our families), and we have continued it with our family. A Christmas pudding has evolved into the tradition of our eldest son making a Christmas dessert – baked Bombe Alaska, homemade ice cream or something else incredible. But our family has the tradition of a baked dressed ham on Christmas eve. The dressing of the ham varies each year, but what is exciting is all the taste and smell sensations in the house over Christmas. Last Christmas added to it was the mulled wine cooking on the stove. Traditions can provide a sense of wellbeing and belonging and create peace that all is well. Traditions are also important to a church and congregation: receiving the Word and Sacrament, celebrating the church festivals, the time of fellowship, the constancy of someone to care for the church and the people. When these are missing, it is upsetting, and all the familiar things are thrown awry. It would be like Christmas day not smelling good – everything would be wrong. God can send us these times to be patient and to keep on with His work through other means to keep the church smelling appealing and bringing peace. There were many things that threw that first Christmas into disarray. Zechariah, who went to the temple as usual to make a fragrant offering to God on behalf of the people, found himself in the presence of an angel. Mary was heavily pregnant when she had to go to Bethlehem for a census. Instead of finding a nice clean place to have her baby, there was ‘no room in the inn.’ I am sure that Joseph and Mary had a birth plan, but God had other plans. God’s plans are not always known to us. The important thing is that family is still family and God can work through any issues. Prayer: Dear God, you give me constancy in your presence. Let me understand the importance of traditions, but to see your love and grace as the most important of all. Amen

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2nd Tuesday of Advent

SMELLING Shepherds

Luke 2:8-20 “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.” Acts 20:28 (NIV) In Jesus time I think shepherds got a bad rap. We are told that they were smelly and dirty and the outcasts of society. They had to sleep outside to take care of the sheep against wild animals and robbers who could steal the sheep. They had to make sure the sheep had water and grass to eat, that their wool didn’t get them stuck on brambles, and watch that the sheep didn’t get fly blown. Were they really the outcasts of society, as they had an incredibly important role looking after the ‘money’ of the landowners at that time? The first people who were told about the birth of Jesus were these important, yet unimportant people of society. Why did God choose some shepherds to send His messenger angels to herald the birth of His one and only Son? Throughout the Old Testament we see God choosing many shepherds to lead His chosen people – Abraham, Moses, Jacob, King David, and others… see if you can think of more! Shepherds had to put the care and welfare of the sheep above their own needs and cares which made them great leaders. Maybe that is why Jesus refers to himself as the Good Shepherd – His coming to the world was to care and shepherd all His sheep. “The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11b NIV) Let’s not stereotype these shepherds as smelly and unimportant. God saw fit to have the angels appear to them for they then went out proclaiming the Good News of Jesus’ birth and God’s gift to the world. If they were such outcasts, people would not have listened to these smelly shepherds. Instead, we are told in verse 18 of Luke 2, that all who heard it from the shepherds were amazed at all that they had been told. These shepherds heralded in the birth of Jesus with the glorious angels. Let us not forget that God comes to all to share with them His love and goodness and for us in turn to share it with others! Prayer: Lord Jesus, you came to the lowly of society to share the magnificent news of your Son. Guide me to see all people as worthy of your love and grace. Amen.

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2nd Monday of Advent

SMELLING A Smelly Stable? 2nd Monday in Advent

Read: 2 Corinthians 2:14-17 “While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” Luke 2:6-7 (NIV) My uncle was a dairy farmer in Eden Valley, SA. He used to milk cows, morning and evening, every day, winter or summer. I never heard my uncle complain about the hours or the hard work. During holidays or when our family came to visit, I do remember going up to the dairy to watch the cows being brought in and then being attached to the milking apparatus. The sheds were kept sparkling clean and even though the cows had been standing in mud and manure, they and the floors were always clean. I used to think that this shed would smell of cow and manure, but the memories I have is the smell of wonderful warm milk. In Scripture the place where Jesus was born and laid was in a manger, an eating trough for the animals. We are not actually told if Jesus was born in a stable, but this is assumed from the above verses. I like to picture it as a clean place with the smell of fresh hay and that ‘new baby’ smell. We imagine and depict this scene with animals – if that was the case, there would definitely be animal and manure smells as I know they wouldn’t have kept it as clean as my uncle’s shed. But no matter the place that Jesus was born or the smelly stable that it possibly was, we know that Jesus was a gift to the world from our Heavenly Father. Gifts TO God back in those times were called offerings and many times in the Old Testament we hear of fragrant offerings being pleasing to God. What about when it was a gift FROM God? The gift of a baby is one of the greatest gifts and blessings for a family – this gift of Jesus for the world cannot be any better. Close your eyes and breathe deeply to experience this incredible gift, this fragrant offering to us! Prayer: Loving Father, you gave me the fragrant gift of a baby born to save the world. Guide my thoughts and actions to be pleasing always to you. Amen.

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