Advent 2016

Love Came Down (Advent Week Four)

Love Came Down. An Advent devotion from Leslie Ann Jones.

What a whirlwind this season of Advent has been. It's been wild, y'all. I don't know what went wrong, but despite my intentions to have a calm and collected season, it hasn't happened. I've felt more frazzled than ever. I suppose some years are just like that.

Even now, I feel rushed. In just a few minutes, I need to start getting ready for the Christmas Eve service at church. I still have presents to wrap, and there are still at least 37 things on my to-do list before I can fall into bed tonight.

But I need to stop for a minute to breathe. To consider the magnitude of God's love for us. Jeremiah 31:3 says that God's love is of the everlasting variety. It goes on and on and on into eternity. It has no beginning, and it has no end. It's vaster than our wildest imaginations. 

And it's for us.

Sometimes I look at my children and think my heart can hardly contain all the love I feel for them. Can you imagine how God feels when he considers his children?

He loves us. And because he loves us, he came down. He loved us when we were at our most unlovely, and he loves us still. He didn't wait for us to get our acts together or get our ducks in a row before coming. No. He showed up. He stepped right into the crazy alongside us. He showed us what love looks like.

It looks like God bending down low and tucking in tight to put on the flesh of a tiny human baby. So that we might know that he is not so far above us that he cannot hear our cries for help. So that we may see his love on full display. So that we may know him and experience the fullness of his grace, mercy, and love.

He has loved us with an everlasting love. My prayer for you tonight, sweet friends, on this last day of this last week of Advent, is that you would lean into that love and let it wash over you. Sink into it, feel the comfort of his embrace, and be filled with wonder.

Until next time, grace and peace.

Joy for the Broken (Advent Week Three)

Good News of Great Joy. An Advent Devotion by Leslie Ann Jones. #Verses #Scripture #Quotes #LAJQuotes #LAJScripture #Advent #Christmas

Truth: I'm having a hard time with joy today. I've got a cold (again), it's a dreary day outside, and every time I login to facebook, I see a prayer request for another bad situation. 

Lives lost too soon.

Families left behind.

Wildfires running rampant.

Inoperable brain tumors.

Brilliant minds falling to dementia.

Marriages torn by divorce.

Children left fatherless.

Friends losing jobs.

And that's just what's happening in the lives of people that I know personally. In the rest of the world, things are far worse. War. Churches being bombed. Children buried under rubble. Civilians being executed.

The bad news is relentless. And in the face of such an overwhelming flood, it's nearly impossible to keep your head above water. Another wave is bound to come crashing down soon.

But it's into this fray that Christmas comes. And that, dear friends, is where our hope and joy are found. The promise of the gospel is not that we would never know suffering or feel pain but that he has seen our suffering and known our pain, and he has entered into it with us. The wonder of Christmas is that God Almighty came down. When we cried out for help, he came running.

Jesus is the joy of our salvation. He's our rescuer sent from heaven. He's our help in times of deepest need. He's the promise of aid on the horizon. When your current circumstances obscure joy, remember this: Christ has come. Christ has risen. And Christ will come again. 

When that time comes, he will wipe away every tear from every eye. There will be no more sorrow, no more grief, no more pain. No more sickness or death. We will be with God, and in his presence, no darkness can dwell.

Though the sorrow may last for a night, joy comes in the morning. Morning is coming, sweet friends. And that's good news of great joy, indeed.

Until next time, grace and peace.


(Verse  Four)

O holy child of Bethlehem!
Descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin, and enter in,
Be born in us today!
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us,
Our Lord Immanuel.

— Phillips Brooks (1835-1893)

Peace for the Ravaged (Advent Week Two)

This is the second of a 4-part Advent series posted each week before Christmas. Each post corresponds with the free Family Advent Wreath Devotional, available for download in the LAJ Shop. You can read the first week's post, Hope in the Darkness, here.

Peace for the Ravaged. An Advent Reflection from Leslie Ann Jones. #Advent #Devotion #Christmas

Have you ever tried to define the word peace? It's one of those big-concept words that's kind of hard to explain. Go ahead, try to put words to it. You'll probably come to the same conclusion that I did. Most of the time, when we talk about peace, we definite it in terms of what it is not.

For example, when I asked my daughters what the word peace means, they answered: "Not fighting." From the mouths of babes, y'all.

Peace is the absence of violence, the lack of enmity, and the end of strife. When fighting, discord, and hostility cease, peace is what remains. It is when all is as it should be. It's harmony. It's accord. It's good and right and the longing of all our hearts.

I've never longed for peace more desperately than I have in the past year. There's so much that weighs heavy on my heart. I wrote these words nearly six months ago, but they're still true today:

The news is bad and just gets worse. Christians are facing genocide in the Middle East. Terrorists are striking major cities left and right. People are fleeing from homes and countries, only to be rejected by the rest of the world.

And even here, in the United States, where things are supposed to be better, it's not. As if the worst presidential race in history isn't bad enough, it's quite apparent that we are a nation divided. Not just on one or two hot button issues, but on everything. We can't agree on anything. We squabble. We fight it out on social media. We point fingers. We lay blame. We call names. We spew vitriol. And worst of all, we kill.

It's horrifying and tragic and senseless. As I sit here in horror at the name-calling and mud-slinging and judgment-casting and hate-mongering and people-slaying, I think to myself, "This is what the Bible means when it says that the world is broken."

Sin divides. It separates us not only from one another, but also from God. But here's the thing: sin doesn't get the final say on this matter. Jesus does. Because Jesus is the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).

When he entered this world, he came preaching peace to those who were far off and peace to those who were near. And the peace he proclaimed is far more profound than we could ever imagine.

He put a stop to the enmity between sinful humanity and a holy God. He shattered the wall of hostility that separated us, reconciling us to God and carrying us into the presence of the Father. With his blood, he bought us peace. That's why Ephesians 2 says that Jesus himself is our peace.

Those of us who believe know that this present darkness will not last forever. Though sin continues to ravage the world, we're longing for the day when peace will reign eternal. The prophet Isaiah imagined it this way:

The wolf shall dwell with the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together;
and a little child shall lead them.

The cow and the bear shall graze;
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.

The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra,
and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder's den.

They shall not hurt or destroy
in all my holy mountain;
for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea.

Isaiah 11:6-9

May it be so. Until next time, grace and peace.