Advent Wreath

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.

Hope in the Darkness (Advent Week One)

This is the first 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.

Light Has Dawned. Devotions and readings for Advent from Leslie Ann Jones. #LAJQuotes #Scripture #LAJVerses #Advent #Christmas

Unless you've been living under a rock, you've probably noticed that the world has gone a bit crazy over the past few weeks. I thought for sure that things would get better after the election, but it turns out that I was wrong. It could get worse. And it has.

Those with her were convinced that she was the answer to all our problems. Those with him were hanging on the promise that he would make America great again. And when the results rolled in, half the country grieved while the other half exulted. 

It's never been more obvious that we are a people looking for a savior. It seems that all our hopes and dreams were pinned on the one we thought would save us all, but no matter how much power the president of the good ole U.S. of A. wields, it's not nearly enough for that. Only Jesus can save.

The world is a dark place these days, y'all, but it is not so dark that the light of Christ can't pierce it. Jesus called himself the Light of the World, and it is his light that we cling to when the darkness presses close.

In moments when darkness lays heavy and thick upon us, even the tiniest flicker of light can give us the hope we need to carry on, but thanks be to God that the light of Christ is not a flickering candle in the wind. It's the steadfast and sure glow of a lighthouse warning us of danger and guiding us to safe harbor. 

The hope of Advent is the promise that Christ has come and that he's coming again. It's not wishful thinking. It's not an empty promise. It's a certainty—a forgone conclusion based on the rock solid ground of God's faithfulness. His word promises that something unimaginably better lies ahead for those who place their trust in him. And because his word is based on his character, we can rest assured that it's trustworthy indeed.

He will not leave us or forsake us. Though the world is quite dark, he has not left us stranded. He came into this dark and dreary world to save sinners, and he's coming back someday to take us home. Now that's something to look forward to.

Amen and amen.

Until next time, grace and peace.