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Advent Message

Dec 2021: A reflection by Mike Harris of River Church Tonbridge

River Church Tonbridge - Advent

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“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” (Micah 5:2 NIV)

‘You are the weakest link, goodbye’, so said Ann Robinson on the famous quiz show popular in the early 2000’s. Brutal and humiliating for the losing contestants and wonderfully reinforcing for the human sense that knowledge is power.

Have you ever felt that you were the weakest link and never quite ‘measured up’? Maybe you still do in some areas. I know I do.

Take heart my friend, you are not alone and someone values you including your weaknesses more than you could ever imagine.

God so often takes the weakest link and makes them into the strongest. David was the least of his brothers and the last chosen yet became Israel’s greatest King. He stood toe to toe and defeated Goliath, the Lord led him to mighty victories despite his weaknesses and built the nation Israel. Gideon was the least of his tribe and his tribe was the lowest of the tribes and yet he defeated the Midianites. So many characters throughout the bible are the least likely to ‘measure up’ and would not have got past first interview.

Thankfully God sees things differently. He sees potential, he sees possibility and above all he sees the heart.

So it was with Bethlehem, a backwater neither a military or commercial hub ; it was poor with mainly sheep farmers and yet, and yet... it was once known as Ephrathah meaning ‘fruitful’. It’s origins were from ancient times and God always had a plan for it, a plan that would shake the world in the least likely place. The name was prophetic. It echoed down the centuries and the name of Bethlehem and Ephrathah before it was held in high esteem in the heavenly courts who knew it’s time would come.

My friend your name is known in heavens realm also, your name was held in the same esteem knowing your time was coming too. Take heart and take hope my friend, you were never the weakest link.

Advent is a wonderful season in the Christian calendar, it has a deep sense of longing in it, of expectancy, of hope for what is to come. The lighting of an advent candle shines a light in the darkness before the true light is revealed. I love that the prophets of the Old Testament received the same expectancy and foretold of one who would come and save mankind.

I heard today a beautiful cello and piano rendition of that wonderful advent hymn ‘O Come, O Come Emmanuel’ the words hauntingly expressed ‘ O come, O come ,Emmanuel and ransom captive Israel that mourns in lonely exile here until the son of God appear’. My heart caught that longing in the minor keys of the instruments even without the words being sung, I could hear them in the heavenlies.

My friend let the anticipation and the longing in your heart be touched by God’s Spirit to fire in you new certainty of what you already know. We are not waiting in ancient times for that first Advent to come. No, we live knowing that God has fulfilled His promises. To the weak He says you are strong, to the insignificant He says you are a mighty warrior in my sight and to the poor of Spirit he says drink of my cup because it runs over. Hallelujah!

Soon the bells will be ringing in celebration, the angels will be singing to the shepherds on the hills of that little town Bethlehem. We will be rejoicing with them because ‘unto us a child is born ....who will be mighty King’. He came to us and for us, for our salvation sent in the form of a helpless babe. Some saw this as the weakest possible link but God created him as the strongest link and a link that reconnects us to our Heavenly Father.

So my friend, let the longing of Advent enter your soul as we approach Christmas, light a candle and let it shine in the darkness especially with so much illness around us. Let the hope in your heart triumph over any voice that says you are insignificant and helpless. You are not, you are the strongest link!

With love and advent blessings



The angel and Zacharias

Dec 2021: Christmas reflections from Jeni Smart

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Angel and Zacharias

On re-reading the Christmas accounts in the Bible and have been so struck by the angels’ words to Zacharias.

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The angel reminds him that his prayer was heard and tells him the answer is on the way. Just want to encourage us all with that and say we’re standing with all those waiting for the answer to their prayers to come. Be filled with hope..... He is faithful! Big love to all xx

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Gabriel's Promise

I’m still reading about Zacharias in Luke 1 and the amazing promise Gabriel bought to him!

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I love how he had to do something about the promise as it wasn’t an immaculate conception! So for anyone of us holding on to a promise today and yet wondering how it’s going to happen I’m praying you will reach out and put your hand in His and that He will infuse you with courage and you will pull the promise in together. I can hear Him saying over you “Let’s do this!” Big love to all xx

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Power of words

How often do you say something you wish you never had?

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The angel knew what he was doing when he silenced Zacharias until the baby was born! Our words are powerful and can build up or destroy. What are you declaring about your promise today? I’m praying that the Holy Spirit will put a guard over our mouths so that every word we speak will release grace to those who hear it and to our promises! Love you all! xx

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Time and grace

The angel tells Zacharias “my words will be fulfilled at their proper time.”

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I wonder what Gods strategy was for the”proper time?” May be it had something to do with Mary reaching the right age so that Elizabeth could cheer her on! The plan was way bigger than what Zacharias could see at the time. Praying today we each have grace in our waiting as we look expectantly to see what we’re hoping for appear on the horizon. Big hugs to all xx

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Favoured!

Just continuing my reading in Luke and have got to the part where the angel says to Mary, “ greetings favoured one! The Lord is with you!”

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Praying that as we set about our day today we will know His presence with us and that we will live this day as His favoured one, in humility and wonder that He would call us so! Big hugs to all xx

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Think on these things

I don’t know about you but life is so hectic at times that I forget to consider, ponder or meditate on Gods word or on what I feel He’s saying to me!

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Mary shows us in Luke 1 and 2 how she considered, pondered and treasured everything she was seeing and hearing. I’m praying we will all find the space we need to do the same. Maybe it’s a prophetic word you need to dig out or a favourite Bible verse ..... whatever it is may you encounter Him afresh today and tomorrow as you “ think on these things!” xx

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Fear dispelled

I love it that Gabriel tells Mary not to be afraid and then to “listen carefully.”

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How often does fear stop us from listening to what we really need to hear! Fear is not our friend but is easily dispelled when we lift our eyes to the one whose Kingdom shall never end....Jesus. There is no one like Him and in Him is perfect peace. Today I’m praying that we will hear His voice above all others.... I feel Him saying, “Lean in! All is well!” Big hugs all round xx

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His power and life

Mary to the angel....

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“How will this be, since I am a virgin.... I love the expectancy Mary shows in this statement. It’s going to happen, she just wasn’t sure how! I was thinking we could each make our own statement like that too.... How will this be since.... then fill in the blank! e.g. I’m not qualified, I’m too young/ old I’m in debt etc! Then let’s remember the power and life of the One who lives in us! There is always a way with Him! He is good! xx

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Limitless

“......and of His Kingdom there shall be no end,” the angel says to Mary.

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The Passion translation says, “ and His reign will have no limit.” This is Jesus! This is the one we put our faith and trust in, the limitless One! I’m praying today that we will each experience more of His limitless love, limitless peace and limitless reign in our lives as we step into a new week! Big love to all

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Celebrate and encounter

Reading the angels description of who Jesus will be has led me to Isaiah 9:6.

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He is the Wonderful Counsellor who leads and guides us, imparting wisdom and bringing resolution. He is Mighty God.... warrior champion, powerful and valiant. He is Everlasting Father.... His nature as Father will never change. He is our protector and provider. He is Prince of Peace.... He wars on our behalf to bring peace into our lives. How do you need to know Jesus today? I’m praying that we will each have time to encounter Him in all these ways over this Christmas period and as we celebrate His coming into this world! xx

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Power of the most high

“The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.....” the angel says to Mary.

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This is the same power that raised Jesus from the dead and the same power that lives in us! I’m praying today that He will overshadow each one of us so that our “shadow” will release the magnificence of Him wherever we go! Have a fab Friday! Much love xx

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Ignition of faith

Just as Mary is beginning to grasp what Gabriel is saying, he shares Elizabeth’s testimony.

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“And listen, even your relative Elizabeth has conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month.” Wham! The power of testimony right there to help Mary believe. Notice how the angel says “listen”. It’s a command-behold, lo, see. It’s important! Testimony is a gateway to our own miracle - the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. Anything Jesus has done before prophecies that He will do it again. I’m praying for all of us today as we wait for our own miracle that we will use testimonies to ignite our faith..... or maybe your breakthrough will be the exact testimony someone else will need! Big hugs all round xx

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Partner with God

“For with God nothing (is or ever) shall be impossible” (Amp)

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God needed someone to birth His promise! WOW! “Not one promise from God is empty of power, for nothing is impossible with God.” WITH God! The call to partner WITH God to see impossibilities become realities. To call in the promises of God over our lives and in His word. What a privilege! I’m praying that we would pull in the promises He has made and that we would be strengthened by His grace and might as we sit, walk and stand with Him. Big love to all xx

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Bigger than everything

Luke 1:38 Then Mary said, “Behold I am the servant of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” And the angel left her.

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How terrifying this must have been for Mary and yet her “Yes” to God was bigger than what lay before her. I’m praying today that our “Yes” to God will always outweigh what we are facing. May it echo in the heavens and bring joy to His heart. Big love xx