Advent | Day 14

Advent | Day 14

 

DAY 14 |

BORN TO HEAL

Scripture Reading: Luke 4:17-21; Isaiah 35: 5-6; Isaiah 61

The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him, and unrolling the scroll, he found the place where it was written: 18 The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. 20 He then rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. And the eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 He began by saying to them, “Today as you listen, this Scripture has been fulfilled.”
— Luke 4:17-21
Then the eyes of the blind will be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped.
6 Then the lame will leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the mute will sing for joy,
for water will gush in the wilderness,
and streams in the desert;
— Isaiah 35:5-6
The Spirit of the Lord God is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives
and freedom to the prisoners;
2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
and the day of our God’s vengeance;
to comfort all who mourn,
3 to provide for those who mourn in Zion;
to give them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, festive oil instead of mourning,
and splendid clothes instead of despair.
And they will be called righteous trees,
planted by the Lord to glorify him.
4 They will rebuild the ancient ruins;
they will restore the former devastations;
they will renew the ruined cities,
the devastations of many generations.
5 Strangers will stand and feed your flocks,
and foreigners will be your plowmen and vinedressers. 6 But you will be called the Lord’s priests; they will speak of you as ministers of our God; you will eat the wealth of the nations, and you will boast in their riches. 7 In place of your shame, you will have a double portion; in place of disgrace, they will rejoice over their share. So they will possess double in their land, and eternal joy will be theirs. 8 For I the Lord love justice; I hate robbery and injustice; I will faithfully reward my people
and make a permanent covenant with them. 9 Their descendants will be known among the nations, and their posterity among the peoples. All who see them will recognize that they are a people the Lord has blessed. 10 I rejoice greatly in the Lord,
I exult in my God; for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation and wrapped me in a robe of righteousness, as a groom wears a turban and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. 11 For as the earth produces its growth, and as a garden enables what is sown to spring up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations.
— Isaiah 61

Part of the reality of Christmas is that underneath all the lights, laughs, and gifts galore, for many people there is pain. Life hurts but God heals.

In Luke 4, Jesus stood before a crowd of Jewish worshipers and publicly read sections from the book of Isaiah. What hope was Jesus giving them? These were familiar and hopeful Scriptures for people under the thumb of ancient Rome or enslaved Jews in exile, as in the time of Isaiah. Also, if you were blind, deaf or paralyzed there is hope of future healing; which was a big deal in a culture without hospitals and modern medicine. There was even hope of healing for the brokenhearted, financially struggling and enslaved. However, if these Jews were honest, maybe a future hope seems a little too distant? Don’t we want healing now? Maybe you can relate?

They longed for God to send His messiah to bring healing and rescue asap, but they conditioned themselves to trust God in his timing. We can learn from that; as today we still live in the now and not yet of the Kingdom of God. In other words, Jesus has already come, raised from the dead, is building His Kingdom through His church but he has not yet come back. We’re stuck in the middle. That is important for us to remember, however that is not the point of the passage. Look at what Jesus does next; something jaw-dropping to everyone in ear shot.

20 He then rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. And the eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fixed on Him. 21 He began by saying to them, “Today as you listen, this Scripture has been fulfilled.”

Essentially, Jesus declared that He is the Christ; the long awaited answer to their prayers. The hope of heaven was sitting right in the room with them! They all knew Jesus as Mary’s son, or the carpenter’s boy who became a Rabbi, but not as the Savior of the world. Jesus took those old prophetic words, which were a distant dream and turned them into a present, living, breathing reality. Everyone in the room had to make a decision that day, ‘Do I believe Jesus is the Christ or not?”

How about you? If not, then humble yourself before God and admit you are a sinner in need of a Savior. If are a Christian though, do you realize that Jesus is with you right now in your pain; literally in the room with you as you read this? His Spirit indwells His people (Rom. 8:11)! Your Savior is close, comforting you, able to heal and has already taken care of your greatest need; the forgiveness of sins. You have real hope that no matter what pain you are now facing, it is temporary and pails in comparison to the eternal salvation secured by Jesus through his life, death and resurrection. This is Christmas hope!

 

Reflection Questions:

  1. What pain or struggle are you facing right now that you can present to God for healing?

  2. What are some ways you would think or feel differently if you realized Jesus is not only in the room with you, but inside you through His Spirit? What hope does this give you in the midst of sadness, pain or anxiety?

 

Listen To:

Advent | Day 13

Advent | Day 13

 

DAY 13 |

BORN FIRST BORN SON

Scripture Reading: Luke 2:7; Exodus 12:21-32; John 1:29

Then she gave birth to her firstborn Son, and she wrapped him tightly in cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
— Luke 2:7
21 Then Moses summoned all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Go, select an animal from the flock according to your families, and slaughter the Passover animal. 22 Take a cluster of hyssop, dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and brush the lintel and the two doorposts with some of the blood in the basin. None of you may go out the door of his house until morning. 23 When the Lord passes through to strike Egypt and sees the blood on the lintel and the two doorposts, he will pass over the door and not let the destroyer enter your houses to strike you.
24 “Keep this command permanently as a statute for you and your descendants. 25 When you enter the land that the Lord will give you as he promised, you are to observe this ceremony. 26 When your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’ 27 you are to reply, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice to the Lord, for he passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt when he struck the Egyptians and spared our homes.’” So the people knelt low and worshiped. 28 Then the Israelites went and did this; they did just as the Lord had commanded Moses and Aaron.

29 Now at midnight the Lord struck every firstborn male in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the prisoner who was in the dungeon, and every firstborn of the livestock. 30 During the night Pharaoh got up, he along with all his officials and all the Egyptians, and there was a loud wailing throughout Egypt because there wasn’t a house without someone dead. 31 He summoned Moses and Aaron during the night and said, “Get out immediately from among my people, both you and the Israelites, and go, worship the Lord as you have said. 32 Take even your flocks and your herds as you asked and leave, and also bless me.
— Exodus 12:21-32
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Here is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”
— John 1:29

I’m the firstborn son of three boys. One Christmas morning as a kid, I led the charge in ransacking a perfectly good day. How you may ask? I woke my little brothers up before dawn, and like stealthy ninjas, we army-crawled past my parent’s open door and drooled over the magical view of presents from wall-to-wall. I just couldn’t resist! I opened the first one and then it was like falling dominos. The gifts didn’t have a chance! Within minutes we tore open ever gift under the tree. My dad woke up, hearing all the commotion, and who do you think he held responsible for this grievous sin? Yep, he called out his firstborn son…me.

There is something to being a firstborn son particularly in the case of Jesus. At His incarnation, Jesus became Mary’s firstborn and in his resurrection Jesus became the “firstborn from among the dead”. (Col 1:18 & Rev 1:4) In the Old Testament, Israel was referred to as God’s “firstborn son” (Ex. 4:22) After the Passover, in Exodus, where God spared His people through the blood of the lamb and heroically freed them from slavery in Egypt; we see a shadow Jesus Christ.

O come, O come Emanuel (Jesus) and ransom captive Israel!

Where Israel fell short as God’s firstborn, Jesus faithfully lived a perfect life under God’s Law. Like Israel, you and I have all sinned and fall way short of God’s glory; landing us under the death penalty, similar to the Egyptians. (Rom 3:23). Our sins against a holy and righteous God make us dead men walking under God's judgement. We need to be rescued! In steps Jesus; the gift of God. You and I can be forgiven and brought into a right relationship with God  through faith in Jesus Christ and his sacrificial death and glorious resurrection.

That first Christmas in Bethlehem, God gave us His superior firstborn Son; the sacrificial Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Mary’s firstborn, thus, grew up to become the firstborn among the dead (first to raise from the dead) and give us the joyful hope of heaven. What does that mean for you and I? If you are in Christ, when God sees you, He sees His firstborn Son Jesus and welcomes you with open arms!

This Christmas season, as you spot baby Jesus in manager scenes all over Tallahassee, be reminded that Christmas points to Easter. The birth of God’s Son is crowned by His resurrection. Merry Christmas!

           

Reflection Questions:

1.     What have you learned about the significance of Jesus being the ‘firstborn’ Son?

2.     In what ways do you relate to ancient Israelites? How are you different from them? 

3.     What is one creative way you could bring the joy and hope of Christmas to someone who needs it this week? Go & do it!

 

Listen to: “O Come Oh Come Emanuel” by Sufjan Stevens

Advent | Day 12

Advent | Day 12

 

DAY 12 |

BORN IN BETHLEHEM

Scripture Reading: Luke 2:4; Micah 5:2; Isaiah 11:1–4

Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family line of David.
— Luke 2:4
Bethlehem Ephrathah,
you are small among the clans of Judah;
one will come from you
to be ruler over Israel for me.
His origin is from antiquity,
from ancient times.
— Micah 5:2
Then a shoot will grow from the stump of Jesse,and a branch from his roots will bear fruit. 2 The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
a Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
a Spirit of counsel and strength,
a Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.
3 His delight will be in the fear of the Lord. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, he will not execute justice by what he hears with his ears, 4 but he will judge the poor righteously and execute justice for the oppressed of the land. He will strike the land with a scepter from his mouth, and he will kill the wicked with a command from his lips.
— Isaiah 11:1-4

I grew up in a small town where not a whole lot took place. Most people who hear “Chiefland” have to ask where it is because they’ve never heard of it. I have to use landmarks like 40 miles west of Gainesville or halfway between Tallahassee and Tampa on U.S. 19 to explain the location. Most would refer to it as “podunk." We’re probably most known for watermelons and speed traps. Bethlehem (“house of bread”), the town where Jesus was born, would not have much better of a reputation among most people. It was a “podunk" town known for raising sheep for making sacrifices at the temple in Jerusalem. We even sing “O Little Town of Bethlehem” because indeed it was very small. People would probably have to describe its location in relation to Jerusalem (about 5–6 miles SSW). Only those steeped in Scripture would have known that this little town was David’s birthplace and was prophesied as the place where the Messiah (“anointed one”) would originate. Even the prophecy from Micah 5:2 hints at the apparent insignificance of Bethlehem. Isaiah 11:1 discusses the shoot from the stump of Jesse (father of David) upon whom the Spirit of the Lord would rest, again pointing to the Messiah.

Both Matthew and Luke’s Gospels point to Bethlehem as the place where Jesus was born, thus demonstrating the fulfillment of the prophecies of the Messiah in Jesus. The chief priests and scribes respond by quoting from Mic 5:2 when the magi appeared before Herod and he inquired where the Messiah would be born (Matt 2:3–6). Although Jesus is referred to as “Jesus of Nazareth” because this is where He spent most of His growing up years (Matt 2:19–23; Luke 2:39–40), He was born in Bethlehem. This was often confused in His life and ministry. For example, in John 7:41–42, the crowd is convinced that Jesus is from Nazareth (in the region of Galilee) but the Messiah would come from Bethlehem. You can almost sense a “tongue-in-cheek” moment here because they were correct but didn’t realize He was born in Bethlehem, fulfilling the Messianic prophecies.

It amazes me how God chooses what appears to be insignificant to most people and makes them extraordinary. This is the Christmas story over and over again. In the same way Mary was chosen for no reason of her own to bear the Son of God, this little country town of shepherds was chosen as the place the Son of God would be born. It goes to show that our God sees so much more than we do and He always fulfills His promises.

               

Reflection Questions:

1.     Why was it important that Jesus was born in Bethlehem? What does this say about God and His promises?

2.     Today, Bethlehem is an unstable city fought over by Jews, Muslims, and Christians. What does this say about its growth from humble beginnings to its significance today?

 

Prayer:

Listen to “O Little Town of Bethlehem”

Advent | Day 11

Advent | Day 11

 

DAY 11 |

BORN TO SHINE A GREAT LIGHT

Scripture Reading: Luke 1:76-79; Isaiah 9: 1-7

And you, child, will be called a prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, 77 to give his people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins. 78 Because of our God’s merciful compassion, the dawn from on high will visit us 79 to shine on those who live in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.
— Luke 1:76-79
Nevertheless, the gloom of the distressed land will not be like that of the former times when he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali. But in the future he will bring honor to the way of the sea, to the land east of the Jordan, and to Galilee of the nations.
2 The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; a light has dawned on those living in the land of darkness.
3 You have enlarged the nation and increased its joy. The people have rejoiced before you as they rejoice at harvest time and as they rejoice when dividing spoils.
4 For you have shattered their oppressive yoke and the rod on their shoulders, the staff of their oppressor, just as you did on the day of Midian.
5 For every trampling boot of battle and the bloodied garments of war will be burned as fuel for the fire.
6 For a child will be born for us, a son will be given to us, and the government will be on his shoulders. He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
7 The dominion will be vast, and its prosperity will never end. He will reign on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish and sustain it with justice and righteousness from now on and forever. The zeal of the Lord of Armies will accomplish this.
— Isaiah 9:1-7

Birth announcements are common today. They may be a picture of a small pair of shoes, a little pumpkin, or something blue or pink exploding. Mary got a different sort of announcement: an angel told her that she would conceive and give birth to the long awaited Messiah—the Son of God. That’s an announcement you can’t put on the fridge!

In the passage we see that, from the very beginning and announcement of his birth, Jesus was heralded as a king. Most kings have subjects that serve them, but King Jesus came to serve and save his people. Isaiah, writing of this very birth, says that one of the names of Jesus would be Immanuel, which means “God is with us.”

The king and creator of the universe came to be with his people; he walked among them, and he died for them. The creator of light itself, entered the darkness of earth and illuminated the way of peace for those at enmity with God. This Christmas, let us appreciate all the more both the transcendent kingliness of God and his immanent nearness to us, his people.

 

Reflection Questions:                                                       

1.     In what ways do you struggle to understand and trust that Jesus is both King and “God with us?”

2.     How should we live in light of the kingliness of Jesus? Is there any part of your life that needs to change in order to be fully committed to following Jesus into the world? (John 17:18)

Advent | Day 10

Advent | Day 10

 

DAY 10 |

BORN OF A VIRGIN

Scripture Reading: Luke 1:31–35; Isaiah 7:14

Now listen: You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and his kingdom will have no end.”
34 Mary asked the angel, “How can this be, since I have not had sexual relations with a man?”
35 The angel replied to her: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.
— Luke 1:31-35
Therefore, the Lord himself will give you a sign: See, the virgin will conceive, have a son, and name him Immanuel.
— Isaiah 7:14

Put yourself in Joseph’s sandals for a minute. Knowing that the two of you have not had sex, your betrothed comes to you and indicates that she is not only pregnant but that the life inside her has been conceived by the Holy Spirit. Wouldn’t you be angry because your only logical conclusion is that she had sex with someone else? Wouldn’t you be even more angry because of the ridiculous story she has come up with and even brought God into it? Yet, Joseph maintains his cool and decides to divorce her without having her publicly stoned to death, which he was entitled to do under the law (Deut 22:20–24). He decides on this more peaceful solution until an angel reveals to him that Mary is telling the truth (Matt 1:18–25).

Really? A virgin? Many scholars have attempted to dispute this, indicating that the Hebrew word used in Isa 7:14 could mean either someone who has never had sex or simply a young woman. While this is true, the Greek translation of Isa 7:14 as well as the Greek word used in Matthew and Luke’s Gospel accounts is a word that could only mean someone who has never had sex. In addition to many other factors that point to this understanding, what else would be such a miraculous sign from God (Isa 7:14)? Luke’s Gospel certainly makes it clear that Mary is this type of virgin, not simply a young woman (Luke 1:34).

The original promise was made through Isaiah the prophet to the king of Judah as a sign of God’s presence in the midst of threats from the kings of Aram and Israel who had joined forces against Judah (Isaiah 7). While partially fulfilled in Isaiah’s lifetime with the birth of a child that signaled God’s presence and soon-coming victory over Judah’s enemies, Matthew’s Gospel points specifically to this prophecy being fulfilled in the birth of Jesus (Matt 1:22–23). Luke’s Gospel discusses the ramifications of the birth of Jesus in that it will be a supernatural birth (born of a virgin) and that Jesus will be not only the Son of God but also the long-awaited Messiah prophesied in 2 Samuel 7:12–16.

Now imagine being Mary who was chosen to carry the Son of God in her womb! Why Mary? We do not know a specific reason other than that she was favored by God (Luke 1:28, 30). Our God is a God who loves us because of Who He is and not because of what we have done. Like Mary, although we do not see it in ourselves, God sees the potential in us for what He can do through us. Jesus was born of a virgin through the conception by the Holy Spirit of God, demonstrating that He is God in the flesh. As we reflect on Christmas, let us remember that we worship a God of miracles and a God who can take the ordinary and make the extraordinary.

 

Reflection Questions:

1.     What does the miraculous entry of Jesus into the human race say about God’s love for us?

2.     How does Jesus being called “Immanuel” (God with us) impact your view of Christmas? How does it impact your view of the world around us?

Prayer:

Listen to "Silent Night"

 

 


 

Advent | Day 9

Advent | Day 9

 

DAY 9 |

THE BIRTH OF CHRIST

Scripture Reading: Luke 2:1–7

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole empire should be registered. 2 This first registration took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. 3 So everyone went to be registered, each to his own town.

4 Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family line of David, 5 to be registered along with Mary, who was engaged to him and was pregnant. 6 While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 Then she gave birth to her firstborn Son, and she wrapped him tightly in cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
— Luke 2:1-7

Recently, as I was sitting outside reading, I looked up and the beauty of the sunset took my breath away. Does that ever happen to you? I’m not sure why that setting sun caught me by surprise because our Creator shows his handy work every day in the sunrises and sunsets, but too often I take it for granted and miss them entirely. Maybe you have heard the story of Jesus’ birth so many times you know it by heart or maybe you are newer in your faith and eagerly learning about who Jesus is. Like with the sunset,  take a few minutes today to read this passage with new eyes and to reflect on Jesus’s divine nature and why it matters.

Read Luke 1:35 and Isaiah 7:14.

In the first passage an angel is telling Mary that she has found favor with God and will bear His Son, Jesus. In the second, we see that Jesus, Son of God, is the long awaited savior who would be called Immanuel, a name that  means “God with us”.

Read Luke 3:21-22 and Hebrews 4:14-16.

Later on, Jesus is baptized and the Holy Spirit descends on him and God speaks “You are My beloved Son. I take delight in you”. (Luke 3:21-22). In Hebrews, Jesus’ identity as the great high priest is established in his completely divine and completely human nature. As a man, he has been tempted and tried in every way we have but as God’s beloved son, Immanuel, he remained holy and sinless so that through Jesus, we can approach the throne of grace with confidence instead of fear or shame.

Prayer: Thank you God for the beauty of sunsets and sunrises that cause worship to well up from within me. I declare with Scripture that the heavens declare the glory of God. Forgive me for taking such beauty for granted. Similarly, keep my heart from becoming numb towards the Christmas story. Refresh my mind with a new amazement and appreciation for the incarnation of Christ. In His name I pray, Amen.

Advent | Day 8

Advent | Day 8

 

DAY 8 |

SON OF GOD

Scripture Reading: Luke 1:35; Luke 3:21-22; Heb 4:14-16

The angel replied to her: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.
— Luke 1:35
When all the people were baptized, Jesus also was baptized. As he was praying, heaven opened, 22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in a physical appearance like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well-pleased.’
— Luke 3:21-22
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens—Jesus the Son of God—let us hold fast to our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin. 16 Therefore, let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need.
— Hebrews 4:14-16

Recently, as I was sitting outside reading, I looked up and the beauty of the sunset took my breath away. Does that ever happen to you? I’m not sure why that setting sun caught me by surprise because our Creator shows his handy work every day in the sunrises and sunsets, but too often I take it for granted and miss them entirely. Maybe you have heard the story of Jesus’ birth so many times you know it by heart or maybe you are newer in your faith and eagerly learning about who Jesus is. Like with the sunset,  take a few minutes today to read this passage with new eyes and to reflect on Jesus’s divine nature and why it matters.

Read Luke 1:35 and Isaiah 7:14.

In the first passage an angel is telling Mary that she has found favor with God and will bear His Son, Jesus. In the second, we see that Jesus, Son of God, is the long awaited savior who would be called Immanuel, a name that  means “God with us”.

Read Luke 3:21-22 and Hebrews 4:14-16.

Later on, Jesus is baptized and the Holy Spirit descends on him and God speaks “You are My beloved Son. I take delight in you”. (Luke 3:21-22). In Hebrews, Jesus’ identity as the great high priest is established in his completely divine and completely human nature. As a man, he has been tempted and tried in every way we have but as God’s beloved son, Immanuel, he remained holy and sinless so that through Jesus, we can approach the throne of grace with confidence instead of fear or shame.

Prayer: Thank you God for the beauty of sunsets and sunrises that cause worship to well up from within me. I declare with Scripture that the heavens declare the glory of God. Forgive me for taking such beauty for granted. Similarly, keep my heart from becoming numb towards the Christmas story. Refresh my mind with a new amazement and appreciation for the incarnation of Christ. In His name I pray, Amen.

Advent | Day 7

Advent | Day 7

 

DAY 7 |

SON OF A KING

Scripture Reading: Luke 1:32; 2 Samuel 7:12-16; Isaiah 9:7; Romans 1:1-4

He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David.
— Luke 1:32
When your time comes and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up after you your descendant, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He is the one who will build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will discipline him with a rod of men and blows from mortals. 15 But my faithful love will never leave him as it did when I removed it from Saul, whom I removed from before you. 16 Your house and kingdom will endure before me forever, and your throne will be established forever.
— 2 Samuel 7:12-16
The dominion will be vast,
and its prosperity will never end.
He will reign on the throne of David
and over his kingdom,
to establish and sustain it
with justice and righteousness from now on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord of Armies will accomplish this.
— Isaiah 9:7
Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God— 2 which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures— 3 concerning his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who was a descendant of David according to the flesh 4 and was appointed to be the powerful Son of God according to the Spirit of holiness by the resurrection of the dead.
— Romans 1:1-4

Tracing one’s family tree back in history can be an incredibly exhaustive task; though a fun endeavor on Christmas break. There are many companies today that can trace your ancestry through a simple DNA sample. That would be an interesting Christmas gift!

However, for most generations in human history, people like you and I relied heavily on written documentation, all with the purpose of never forgetting where you came from and whose you are. 

In Luke 1:32 we learn a little more about where Jesus came from… the lineage of David.  Jesus’ adoptive father, Joseph, was a direct descendant of King David.  This fulfilled the prophecy set forth in Isaiah and carried forth the promise of God’s Kingdom through David, and ultimately through his most significant descendant, Jesus.  Jesus, therefore, had royal blood and was the son of a king Himself. (in more ways than one!)

David was not a perfect king at all.  He would falter… he would sin… he would make the same mistakes that many of us do today.  But his coming descendant, Jesus, the Christ, would be the Perfect King.  And He would usher God’s Kingdom into eternity according to the Scriptures and establish His throne forever and ever. Thus Christmas celebrates the birth of a royal child; King Jesus.

 

Reflection Questions:

1.     How does Jesus' lineage help you see the story of Jesus through both the old and new testaments?

2.     David was an important person in the lineage of Jesus, and yet made many mistakes.  In what ways are you, being a child of the King Jesus, also disobedient to God’s commands?

3.     How does it feel to now rest in the Kingdom that Jesus has established for all eternity?

 

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for coming and using your servant David to establish Your eternal reign.  I recognize that you use people who make mistakes, just like David, to make Your Name known to the whole world.  Forgive me when I take for granted your perfect Word and forget Jesus’ role in my life as both my Savior and my King.  I am Your humble servant this season, and I ask that You use me in bringing Your Kingdom to those around me.  You alone are worthy, Jesus.  Amen.

 

Advent | Day 6

Advent | Day 6

 

DAY 6 |

SON OF A CHOSEN PEOPLE

Scripture Reading: Luke 1:33; Numbers 24:16-19; Daniel 2:44, 7:13-14; Genesis 49:10; Daniel 7:27; Hebrews 7:14

He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and his kingdom will have no end.
— Luke 1:33
the oracle of one who hears the sayings of God and has knowledge from the Most High, who sees a vision from the Almighty,
who falls into a trance with his eyes uncovered: 17 I see him, but not now; I perceive him, but not near. A star will come from Jacob, and a scepter will arise from Israel. He will smash the forehead[d] of Moab and strike down[e] all the Shethites.[f]
18 Edom will become a possession; Seir will become a possession of its enemies, but Israel will be triumphant. 19 One who comes from Jacob will rule; he will destroy the city’s survivors.
— Numbers 24:16-19
44 In the days of those kings, the God of the heavens will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, and this kingdom will not be left to another people. It will crush all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, but will itself endure forever.

13 I continued watching in the night visions,
and suddenly one like a son of man
was coming with the clouds of heaven.
He approached the Ancient of Days
and was escorted before him. 14 He was given dominion, and glory, and a kingdom;
so that those of every people, nation, and language should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will not be destroyed.
— Daniel 2:44, 7:13-14
The scepter will not depart from Judah
or the staff from between his feet
until he whose right it is comes[a]
and the obedience of the peoples belongs to him.
— Genesis 49:10
27 The kingdom, dominion, and greatness of the kingdoms under all of heaven will be given to the people, the holy ones of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will serve and obey him.
— Daniel 7:27
14 Now it is evident that our Lord came from Judah, and Moses said nothing about that tribe concerning priests.
— Hebrews 7:14

Read Luke 1:33, Numbers 24:16-19

The Old Testament recounts God’s endless commitment to the Israelites, His chosen people. The Savior of the world was born into a Jewish family. That was no accident! Despite the consistent rebellion and unworthiness of Israel, God's every action aimed to set them apart and make them holy. Generation after generation, the Jewish people lived in the tension of God’s discipline and mercy, and often lived in slavery or oppression under other nations. But God continued to promise a coming Messiah who would rule over them in love and set them free from all oppression.

Read Daniel 2:44, 7:13-14; Genesis 49:10

Imagine living as an Israelite before the coming of Jesus, knowing the prophecies concerning the coming Messiah. Now, imagine that all of those prophecies have come to fruition in a helpless baby born in a small town. It is no surprise that some Jewish people could not recognize Jesus as the promised king.

Read Daniel 7:27; Hebrews 7:14

The life and ministry of Jesus pointed unmistakably toward His death on the cross, through which God revealed a new covenant for His eternal kingdom. By God’s amazing grace, through the blood of Jesus, we now have the opportunity to share in the inheritance as part of God’s holy, chosen people. The Bible tells us that when we trust in Christ, we are adopted into His family as sons and daughters. We are now part of the holy kingdom of God, regardless of our earthly heritage.

Reflection & Prayer:

1.     Have you ever struggled with the reality that God has a chosen people? What are some reasons God has the freedom to choose people for Himself and why might some people dislike that?

2.     In your own life, have you failed to acknowledge Jesus as the all-powerful king of the universe? Have you regarded Him as something less?

3.     Pray that God would give you proper sight to see Jesus for who He is, – and to see yourself properly as part of His eternal family.


 

Advent | Day 5

Advent | Day 5

 

DAY 5 |

SON OF SACRIFICE

Scripture Reading: Genesis 22:1-19, Luke 2:32

After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!”
“Here I am,” he answered.
2 “Take your son,” he said, “your only son Isaac, whom you love, go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.”
3 So Abraham got up early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took with him two of his young men and his son Isaac. He split wood for a burnt offering and set out to go to the place God had told him about. 4 On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. 5 Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey. The boy and I will go over there to worship; then we’ll come back to you.” 6 Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and laid it on his son Isaac. In his hand he took the fire and the knife, and the two of them walked on together.
7 Then Isaac spoke to his father Abraham and said, “My father.”
And he replied, “Here I am, my son.”
Isaac said, “The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”
8 Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” Then the two of them walked on together.
9 When they arrived at the place that God had told him about, Abraham built the altar there and arranged the wood. He bound his son Isaac and placed him on the altar on top of the wood. 10 Then Abraham reached out and took the knife to slaughter his son.
11 But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!”
He replied, “Here I am.”
12 Then he said, “Do not lay a hand on the boy or do anything to him. For now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your only son from me.” 13 Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught in the thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram and offered it as a burnt offering in place of his son. 14 And Abraham named that place The Lord Will Provide, so today it is said: “It will be provided on the Lord’s mountain.”
15 Then the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven 16 and said, “By myself I have sworn,” this is the Lord’s declaration: “Because you have done this thing and have not withheld your only son, 17 I will indeed bless you and make your offspring as numerous as the stars of the sky and the sand on the seashore. Your offspring will possess the city gates of their enemies. 18 And all the nations of the earth will be blessed by your offspring because you have obeyed my command.”
19 Abraham went back to his young men, and they got up and went together to Beer-sheba. And Abraham settled in Beer-sheba.
— Genesis 22:1-19
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and glory to your people Israel.
— Luke 2:32

As we are nearing the day we wait for all year long, we look beyond the gifts and tinsel to praise Most Holy God for the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus. 

We find ourselves in a search looking for what might bring us close to God and forgive us for the wrongs we've done. Do you know if you are forgiven by God? Is it something we can do for ourselves? Is it a love offering that I could give? What about a monetary gift? ... can we provide a bribe, a wage, our time, a promise, our house, car, bank account, 401K, stocks, jewelry, education, abilities, family??? What? The search goes on but nothing found can take away our sin...

Abraham loved God and was obedient to God and did not disobey Him for Issac's safety. Abraham said to His son, Isaac, "God himself will provide the Lamb." Abraham was asked to sacrifice his son, but God provided a substitute. God sacrificed his Son, Jesus, as a substitutionary atonement for our sins.  Jesus willingly humbled himself and became obedient unto death - even death on a cross.

"I am too ashamed and disgraced, my God, to lift up my face to you, because our sins are higher than our heads and our guilt has reached to the heavens." Ezra 9:6

Have you ever prayed a prayer similar to Ezra's?

Have you searched to find forgiveness for what you've done wrong, a sin, against God?

What provision could be made for the sinful state we find ourselves in? Was there something I could do?

God provided a Lamb in Christ Jesus - finding the perfect redemption wasn't up to me - God already gave it. Like Abraham, we obey God knowing and trusting he has provided all we need for the forgiveness of sin.

The babe laying in the manger was God's sacrificial gift to us and the babe himself, the Son of Sacrifice, was a bundle of love, joy, peace and our redemption.

Take some time now to thank the Lord in prayer.

Thank you, Jesus, for coming to our broken world full of sin and despair. Thank you for showing us how to live through your life. Thank you for being the ultimate sacrifice for each of us who believe in you. Thank you, Son of Sacrifice, for carrying the cross and dying for me that I might live with you forever.

 

I'll Give Him My Heart (by The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir)

What can I give Him Poor as I am

If I were a shepherd,

I would bring Him a Lamb

If I were a wise man, I'd sure do my part

So what can I give Him

Give Him my heart

What can I give Him

But all of my heart

Advent | Day 4

Advent | Day 4

 

DAY 4 |

SON OF THE MOST HIGH

Scripture Reading: Luke 1:32

He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David.
— Luke 1:32

The birth of Jesus wasn’t random.  It was promised thousands of years beforehand -- He is the Son of Promise.  Hundreds of years before Jesus, God promised David that he would raise up one of David’s descendants, whose throne would last forever. (2 Samuel 7:13).  Here in Luke 1:32 we see that promise fulfilled.  Even farther back, God promised Abraham that “all the nations of the earth will be blessed by your offspring.”(Genesis 26:4).  This promise was also fulfilled by Jesus. (Galatians 3:16).  What’s incredible is that even in the Garden of Eden right after Adam and Eve fell into sin, we see the promise of one who would “strike” the “head” of Satan. (Genesis 3:15).   This too is fulfilled by Jesus -- his death and resurrection conquered Satan, Sin, and Death.

Reflection Questions:

1.      As we saw with the birth of Jesus, God keeps his promises.  But it might not be in our timing– David probably didn’t anticipate it would be hundreds of years before the promise was answered.  Are there ways that you are experiencing impatience with God’s promises?

2.      Let’s think about some other of God’s promises:  Read Philippians 1:6; 1 Peter 5: 8-10; Revelation 21: 3-4; Hebrews 13:5-6.  How does seeing that God kept his promise to send Jesus, give you more faith that he will keep his other promises?

Advent | Day 3

Advent | Day 3

 

DAY 3 |

SON OF THE MOST HIGH

Scripture Reading: Luke 1:32; Gen 14:18-20; Heb 5:5-10; Psalms 110:4

32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David.
— Luke 1:32
18 Melchizedek, king of Salem, brought out bread and wine; he was a priest to God Most High. 19 He blessed him and said:

Abram is blessed by God Most High,
Creator of heaven and earth,
20 and blessed be God Most High
who has handed over your enemies to you.
And Abram gave him a tenth of everything.
— Genesis 14:18-20
5 In the same way, Christ did not exalt himself to become a high priest, but God who said to him,

You are my Son;
today I have become your Father,
6 also says in another place,

You are a priest forever
according to the order of Melchizedek.
7 During his earthly life, he offered prayers and appeals with loud cries and tears to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. 8 Although he was the Son, he learned obedience from what he suffered. 9 After he was perfected, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him, 10 and he was declared by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.
— Hebrews 5:5-10
4 The Lord has sworn an oath and will not take it back:
“You are a priest forever
according to the pattern of Melchizedek.
— Psalms 110:4

Depending on your background, you may be unfamiliar with the idea of having to go through a priest to make peace with God. But ever since the fall, there has been a requirement for sin’s atonement. And in Scripture, we see that God has always provided the specific parameters for that atonement.

In the Old Testament, the Jewish people had high priests from the tribe of Levi who would offer sacrifices on behalf of themselves and the Jews. There was a routine structure in place and the stakes were very high.

Read Luke 1:32; Psalm 110:4; Gen 14:18-20

Many passages of Scripture refer to Melchizedek, a high priest from a different lineage whom Hebrews 7 describes as worthy of priesthood not because of heritage but by character. He serves as a precursor to Jesus Christ, our permanent high priest whose ultimate sacrifice on the cross does not need to be replenished or accompanied by additional sacrifices.

Take a moment to consider what it means that Jesus stands between us and the Father, interceding on our behalf.

Read Hebrews 5:5-10

Jesus, whom Hebrews describes as our forever high priest, has made the final, totally sufficient sacrifice in His body on the cross for all sins past, present, and future. For those who have trusted in the blood of Jesus for the atonement of their sins and have submitted their lives to Him, Scripture tells us He is always interceding for us before the Father. What an amazing thought!

Reflection Questions:

1.     Have you struggled to believe that Jesus is praying for you? How do you feel knowing that Jesus is interceding for you right now as you read this? (See Hebrews 7:25)

2.     That in Him, God is for you? 

Take a moment today to pray and reflect on the reality that Jesus has reconciled us to the Father – forever and thank Him for constantly interceding for you to the Father in prayer.

 


Advent | Day 2

Advent | Day 2

 

DAY 2 |

THE PROMISE OF CHRIST

Scripture Reading: Luke 1:26-38

26 In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man named Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And [the angel] came to her and said, “Rejoice, favored woman! The Lord is with you.” 29 But she was deeply troubled by this statement, wondering what kind of greeting this could be. 30 Then the angel told her: Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 Now listen: You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will call His name JESUS. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end. 34 Mary asked the angel, “How can this be, since I have not been intimate with a man?” 35 The angel replied to her: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the holy One to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 And consider your relative Elizabeth-even she has conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 “I am the Lord’s slave,” said Mary. “May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel left her.
— Luke 1: 26-38

Before Jesus was born, it was promised that he would appear. That was one great promise! Can you remember a time when a promise was made to you, that came true, and was wonderful? Maybe you were promised a special gift that you received, and you treasured that gift when it was yours. Maybe you were told that you would go on a trip to a far away place and the destination seemed almost unreachable until you arrived.

When God sent the angel, Gabriel, to tell Mary that she would give birth to Jesus, she was troubled by Gabriel’s message. She didn’t quite understand why he came to her with this earth shattering news. Gabriel reassured Mary that she had found great favor in God’s eyes. Mary should trust that God loved her and was pleased with her. This helped her believe that God was going to do something that seemed impossible.

Believing in a promise means putting your hope into the fact that the promise will be fulfilled. Just like Mary, we as Christians are faced with the question of whether we will trust God and His ways or whether we will lean into our own understanding. We are called to obey God even when we do not know exactly what He is doing. Just like Mary, the picture God is painting in front of us may trouble us. However, just like Mary, we too, have great hope that God’s plans are perfect.

God loves us and is pleased with us because His promise came true about His Son, Jesus. Yet, sometimes we struggle to believe what God says in His Word, and because of this, we sometimes fail to trust God and follow in obedience. However, in His great love for us, God made a way for you and I to be forgiven for our sins and to live in eternal relationship with Him. When we believe that Jesus is the Son of God according to the truth of Scripture, turning away from our sins, then we become sons and daughters of God. Amazing! Like Mary, we can be found favorable in the sight of God…not because of our goodness, but because God’s promise is true.

When you’re tempted to wonder how you can possibly trust God in the face of something that seems impossible, remember Gabriel’s promise to Mary. He told her that the Holy Spirit would come upon her and accomplish all that God had declared to happen. We can have hope and find freedom in the fact that when we trust God, and believe in His Son, the Holy Spirit will lead us to obey and live for God’s glory.

 

Questions & promises for reflection:

1.       Have you ever had trouble believing, or keeping, a promise?  Ask God’s forgiveness when you doubt or when you do not fulfill a promise. Remember that God keeps all His promises, and they are all fulfilled in Jesus Christ!

2.       How would you have felt if you were Mary? Remember that God is bigger than what we see. He is bigger than our fears. 

 

Family Activity:

The angel Gabriel helped to calm Mary’s fears by telling her some good news. Think of a time when you helped someone to overcome a fear by sharing good news or encouragement. What did you say? Did he or she feel better after you shared this news? Now, write down the name of a friend or family member whom you can share the good news of Jesus with this Christmas!

 

Christmas Song:

The Promise of a Savior – The Chapel

 


 


Advent | Day 1

Advent | Day 1

 

DAY 1 |

THE FALL AND HOPE

Scripture Reading: Genesis 3:1-24

Now the serpent was the most cunning of all the wild animals that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You can’t eat from any tree in the garden’?” 2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit from the trees in the garden. 3 But about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden, God said, ‘You must not eat it or touch it, or you will die.’” 4 “No! You will not die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “In fact, God knows that when you eat it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 The woman saw that the tree was good for food and delightful to look at, and that it was desirable for obtaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it; she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 So the Lord God called out to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 And he said, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.” 11 Then he asked, “Who told you that you were naked? Did you eat from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” 12 The man replied, “The woman you gave to be with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate.” 13 So the Lord God asked the woman, “What is this you have done?” And the woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” 14 So the Lord God said to the serpent:
Because you have done this,
you are cursed more than any livestock
and more than any wild animal.
You will move on your belly
and eat dust all the days of your life.
15 I will put hostility between you and the woman,and between your offspring and her offspring. He will strike your head,
and you will strike his heel.
16 He said to the woman:
I will intensify your labor pains;
you will bear children with painful effort.
Your desire will be for your husband,
yet he will rule over you.
17 And he said to the man, “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘Do not eat from it’: The ground is cursed because of you. You will eat from it by means of painful labor all the days of your life. 18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. 19 You will eat bread by the sweat of your brow until you return to the ground, since you were taken from it. For you are dust, and you will return to dust.” 20 The man named his wife Eve because she was the mother of all the living. 21 The Lord God made clothing from skins for the man and his wife, and he clothed them. 22 The Lord God said, “Since the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil, he must not reach out, take from the tree of life, eat, and live forever.” 23 So the Lord God sent him away from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. 24 He drove the man out and stationed the cherubim and the flaming, whirling sword east of the garden of Eden to guard the way to the tree of life.
— Genesis 3:1-24

As we prepare to reflect on the birth of Jesus, we cannot ignore the reason for which He came. It is important to ask, why would God send His only Son to Earth? Along with the Holy Spirit, the Father and the Son existed, and continue to exist, in perfect harmony with one another. What was God’s plan in sending His Son?

When we go back to Genesis, the first book of the Bible, we see God’s creation of man and woman, humans who were made in God’s image and meant to live in union with their Creator. As we read, we quickly learn that this union was broken by the disobedience of Adam and Eve; the fall of man. Adam and Eve fell out of a right relationship with God and were face to face with their own sin, shame and brokenness for the first time. This is now true of us; we often live in fear and shame over our sins being revealed.

The truth is that God has already seen all of our sin, and he has offered divine grace to us. That is what Christmas is all about. Jesus was born to live a perfect life on Earth and to die for our sins on the cross. Christmas is a divine rescue mission!

God promised Adam and Eve that there would be One who would come to forever strike the head of the serpent and conquer evil and death in this world. As we look toward Christmas Day, we look to the hope that Christ died for our sins, and we believe in Him for forgiveness and redemption. One day, we will live forever in the presence of God, by grace, through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Today, we can already worship Jesus as King, Rescuer and Conqueror.

Reflection Questions:

1.    What is the primary reason Jesus was born? Why is it important to first realize why Jesus was sent to Earth before anything else?

2.    What are some ways the birth of Christ gives you hope this Christmas season?

3.    Who is someone you could invite to Christmas on the Moon with you tomorrow (12/3)? Invite them directly if you have not already!

 


 


WELCOME

WELCOME

 

Join Us |

We are excited to introduce CITYCHURCH’s Advent study and podcast to you. We will be providing you with a series of daily devotions to carry us through the Advent season. Our brothers and sisters throughout history and around the world have set aside this season to concentrate on, and celebrate the coming of Jesus Christ. In this study, we invite you to join in a series of daily devotions to help direct our attention and affections to this Christ who stepped out of heaven and came for us. Go ahead and check out our Advent website and subscribe to our podcast today to make sure you have this content delivered to you as soon as it’s available. 

Welcome to City Church’s Advent devotional. We pray that this blesses you and your family.