Advent | Day 25

Advent | Day 25

 

DAY 25 |

CHRISTMAS DAY

Scripture Reading: Daniel 7:14; Rev 19:6-8

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 7:14
Then I heard something like the voice of a vast multitude, like the sound of cascading waters, and like the rumbling of loud thunder, saying, Hallelujah, because our Lord God, the Almighty, reigns!
7 Let us be glad, rejoice, and give him glory, because the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his bride has prepared herself.
8 She was given fine linen to wear, bright and pure. For the fine linen represents the righteous acts of the saints.
— Revelation 19:6-8

 The Birth & Eternal Reign of the King

Merry Christmas...the day is here!  The beginning of a kingdom, a kingdom that has no end.  Christmas Day is the celebration of the birth of Jesus, but also the celebration of the beginning of his everlasting dominion.  All throughout this advent season we have reflected on what the Bible has had to say about the baby born on that day so many years ago. The baby who grew up in Nazareth, who preached the good news of the Kingdom of God, who died on a cross as an atonement for sin, and who three days later rose again conquering death itself.  The same man who rose into heaven, will return again to judge the living and the dead and gave us his followers the task of telling the world about it.

Many songs have been written about love.  However, one of my favorites is Psalm 118. It reminds us that the greatest form of love is not a temporary love that ends with death, but an everlasting love that defines eternity. “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever!”

That is a heady thought.  Anything that last forever is hard to grasp, let alone love. Yet here we are, 2000 years later, celebrating that love with millennia of believers.  And we take todays next step in the anticipation of another moment to come. The moment that also will last for an eternity.  When we will see our savior face to face. So, today let’s remember that this really is the first day of the rest of our lives.  Our lives in Jesus. Amen.

 

Reflection Questions:

1.     How are you investing in the Christ’s eternal kingdom?  Are you living for your own temporary domain or for the “everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away”?

2.     What is the most intense moment of love that you can remember?  How does love change as it lasts for a longer and longer time?

3.     Have you ever wondered what it would sound like to hear all of heaven singing “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns” in Rev. 19? Listen to Handel's Messiah below to hear what he thought it would sound like.

 

Family Activity:

Handel's Messiah

 

 

Reflect and consider, as Handel did when writing 'the Messiah', how the sound of that great multitude singing “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns” will sound like.  How awesome would it be to be part of that choir!

 

 


Advent | Day 24

Advent | Day 24

 

DAY 24 |

CHRISTMAS EVE

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

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 1:35
21 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
14 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

The Future of Christ –Anticipation - Salvation & Return

“Are we there yet?,” is the question that every child asks on a long trip. “Can’t we open just one present?,” is the question that every kid seems to ask on Christmas Eve.  It is easy to see why Christmas Eve is the one day of the year when anticipation overflows many hearts.

There is much to look forward to including  presents, family dinners and the chance to sit back and relax. However, is it really presents and family dinners we need to be looking forward to, or something more?

This passage in Luke 2 is centered on the theme of anticipation and fulfillment.  The first sense of anticipation begins not with Simeon but with God the Father.  Many centuries earlier, God had given his people in Israel the Law through Moses and instructed them to bring their firstborn sons to present them before the Lord and to offer a sacrifice.  When God gave this law, he already knew that one day it would be His Son that would be brought to the temple.  The obedience Joseph and Mary showed by taking their new baby boy to the temple in Jerusalem was the fulfillment of this anticipatory law.

Likewise, Simeon had learned by the Holy Spirit that he was to see the Lord’s Christ (anointed) in his lifetime, and that this baby was to be God’s salvation to man.  Simeon was very old and perhaps had been waiting many years for the fulfillment of this promise. The blessing he shared gave Joseph and Mary a marvelous sense of wonder to hear that Jesus was to be the way of salvation.  Yet, they could not have foreseen how eternally significant that promise was to be, for not even death would be able to hold the Son of God. 

As followers of Christ, we should hold the feeling of anticipation close to our hearts, just as Mary did. It’s Christmas Eve and anticipation is in the air! As we look forward to the celebration of the birth of our Savior, let’s reflect also on the wonder and joy that awaits us upon his return. Anticipate the return of Jesus! A baby no more.  A dead man on a cross no more, but our glorified Lord returned to judge the living and the dead, to give us the present of his presence and to gather the church for the most glorious family dinner of all time. Let the anticipation of Christmas morning fill your heart with excitement and yet lift your gaze beyond it, towards the long anticipated hope of Christ’s second coming. Come quickly Lord Jesus!   

 

Reflection Questions:

1.     What do you look forward to seeing in your own lifetime?

2.     How does the knowledge of the imminent return of Jesus change the way you live? Does the thought of God planning and anticipating the moment of Jesus’ birth change the way you think about tomorrow?

Family Activity: 

Come Thou Long Expected Jesus

Share things you are looking forward to.

  • Kids:  Share one thing you are looking forward to on Christmas Day and one thing you are looking forward to next year.  

  • Adults: Share one thing you are looking forward to on Christmas Day, one thing for next year, and one thing you look forward to seeing in your lifetime.


 

Advent | Day 23

Advent | Day 23

 

DAY 23 |

HOW OLD IS JESUS?

Scripture Reading: John 1:1-14

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 All things were created through him, and apart from him not one thing was created that has been created. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5 That light shines in the darkness, and yet the darkness did not overcome it.

6 There was a man sent from God whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify about the light, so that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but he came to testify about the light. 9 The true light that gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.

10 He was in the world, and the world was created through him, and yet the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, he gave them the right to be children of God, to those who believe in his name, 13 who were born, not of natural descent, or of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man, but of God.

14 The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We observed his glory, the glory as the one and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
— John 1: 1-14

Have you ever wondered how old Jesus was? It’s a trick question. To answer we have to start ‘in the beginning’ (vs.1-2). Long before Christmas trees, Santa Claus, elves, and mocha peppermint lattes, there was the birth of Jesus Christ, in a sleepy little town called Bethlehem. But, that was not the beginning for Jesus was it? No, we’ve got to go further back into ancient history. Way back, before the virgin birth, before the Christmas star, the shepherds, the wise men; before Moses, Abraham, Adam or Eve; even before the creation of the universe itself, there was Jesus, the Son of God eternally existing as the second person of the Trinity (John 8:58).

The first time I heard that, it blew my mind. I hope it blows yours too! I had no category this. I thought, “Christians believe that before Jesus was born was born of Mary, the divine person of Jesus, the Son of God, eternally existed?” It’s true! You see, when you and I were born, we were new people. But when Jesus was born, it was the long-awaited arrival of the eternally existent Word of God (Micah 5:2).

Not only did Jesus always exist, but, “All things were created through him, and apart from him not one thing was created that has been created.” (John 1:3) So what does all this mean for us this Christmas season? Two things: Comfort and awe!

First, allow yourself to be comforted, knowing that although you may not sense God in the midst of whatever difficulty or stress you are facing this season, Jesus, the eternally existent, resurrected, sovereign sustainer of all things, is there with you every step of the way (Col. 1:17). Trust in Jesus, and let the light of Christ shine into the darkest corners of your heart and life.

Second, allow your mind to be blown. Let your heart be moved to worship God. Our great Creator loves us so much. He entered His creation, taking on our humanity, to die on the cross for our sins. There is a glorious mystery about Jesus that is too grand to comprehend, but can beckon you and I to a worshipful sense of awe.

As we anticipate Christmas Day, take some time to remember that though we rightly celebrate Jesus’ coming to the world, he was there “in the beginning.” Stand before the glorious night sky of the Son of God’s eternal existence and worship Him with all that you are.

Reflection Questions:

1.    If you have kids, see if any of them can answer the trick question, ‘How old is Jesus’?  (How would you answer that?)

2.    What struggle are you facing that is hindering your worship of God? How could being more awed by God overshadow the anxiety, stress or brokenness you are facing this week?

3.    What are some practical ways you can humble yourself before God this advent season, in order to experience the comfort of Christ?

Advent | Day 22

Advent | Day 22

 

DAY 22 |

MESSIAH RESURRECTED

Scripture Reading: Luke 24:4-8; Psalms 16:8-11, 110:1; Acts 2:25-28; Job 19:25; Hosea 6:2

While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men stood by them in dazzling clothes. 5 So the women were terrified and bowed down to the ground.
“Why are you looking for the living among the dead?” asked the men. 6 “He is not here, but he has risen! Remember how he spoke to you when he was still in Galilee, 7 saying, ‘It is necessary that the Son of Man be betrayed into the hands of sinful men, be crucified, and rise on the third day’?” 8 And they remembered his words.
— Luke 24:4-8
I always let the Lord guide me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
9 Therefore my heart is glad and my whole being rejoices; my body also rests securely.
10 For you will not abandon me to Sheol; you will not allow your faithful one to see decay.
11 You reveal the path of life to me; in your presence is abundant joy; at your right hand are eternal pleasures.
— Psalm 16:8-11
This is the declaration of the Lord to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.”
— Psalm 110:1
For David says of him:
I saw the Lord ever before me; because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
26 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices. Moreover, my flesh will rest in hope,
27 because you will not abandon me in Hades or allow your holy one to see decay.
28 You have revealed the paths of life to me; you will fill me with gladness in your presence.
— Acts 2:25-28
But I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the end he will stand on the dust.
— Job 19:25
He will revive us after two days,
and on the third day he will raise us up
so we can live in his presence.
— Hosea 6:2

 

Imagine the defining moment of your life. That event that changed you, redirected you, set the course of your life. Write it down. 

What is Jesus’ defining moment, that single act that fulfilled all that God sent him to do? His birth?  Certainly, he was born divine, miraculously. It proved he was God.  But then he lived as a man. Pain, sorrow, hardship.  He experienced it all, everything that we feel. So, what was the moment that changed history?  Was it his healings, preaching, or miracles? No, the single event in his life that changed human destiny was the sacrifice, His crucifixion. Then came the proof, his Resurrection! 

His crucifixion was the battle, his resurrection was the victory.  “He is not here; he has risen!” was the declaration from God, spoken by angels. These words rocked earth’s very foundation.  Mankind was reunited with God. History pivoted in a new direction. Conquering death, Jesus enabled you to conquer death.

Imagine the pit of hopelessness you would be trapped in if not for this event which changed the course of your very life. Forgiveness. Freedom. Eternal life! Despair turns to Celebration. Hallelujah!

 

Pray:

“This season, Jesus, we pray that everyone celebrating your birth, will also understand your destiny.  Not simply your death, but your sacrifice and resurrection.  The conquering moment they can have as their own.”   


Advent | Day 21

Advent | Day 21

 

DAY 21 |

MESSIAH SACRIFICED

Scripture Reading: John 3:16, Psalm 22

For God loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.
— John 3:16
My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? Why are you so far from my deliverance and from my words of groaning?
2 My God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, by night, yet I have no rest.
3 But you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.
4 Our fathers trusted in you; they trusted, and you rescued them.
5 They cried to you and were set free; they trusted in you and were not disgraced.
6 But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by people.
7 Everyone who sees me mocks me; they sneer and shake their heads:
8 “He relies on the Lord; let him save him; let the Lord rescue him, since he takes pleasure in him.”
9 It was you who brought me out of the womb, making me secure at my mother’s breast.
10 I was given over to you at birth; you have been my God from my mother’s womb.
11 Don’t be far from me, because distress is near and there’s no one to help.
12 Many bulls surround me; strong ones of Bashan encircle me.
13 They open their mouths against me— lions, mauling and roaring.
14 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are disjointed; my heart is like wax, melting within me.
15 My strength is dried up like baked clay; my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth. You put me into the dust of death.
16 For dogs have surrounded me; a gang of evildoers has closed in on me; they pierced my hands and my feet.
17 I can count all my bones; people look and stare at me.
18 They divided my garments among themselves, and they cast lots for my clothing.
19 But you, Lord, don’t be far away. My strength, come quickly to help me.
20 Rescue my life from the sword, my only life from the power of these dogs.
21 Save me from the lion’s mouth, from the horns of wild oxen. You answered me!
22 I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters; I will praise you in the assembly.
23 You who fear the Lord, praise him! All you descendants of Jacob, honor him! All you descendants of Israel, revere him!
24 For he has not despised or abhorred the torment of the oppressed. He did not hide his face from him but listened when he cried to him for help.
25 I will give praise in the great assembly because of you; I will fulfill my vows before those who fear you.
26 The humble will eat and be satisfied; those who seek the Lord will praise him. May your hearts live forever!
27 All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord. All the families of the nations will bow down before you,
28 for kingship belongs to the Lord; he rules the nations.
29 All who prosper on earth will eat and bow down; all those who go down to the dust will kneel before him— even the one who cannot preserve his life.
30 Their descendants will serve him; the next generation will be told about the Lord.
31 They will come and declare his righteousness; to a people yet to be born they will declare what he has done.
— Psalm 22

John 3:16 is the essence of the Gospel, and perhaps the best-known verse in the entire Bible.  Unfortunately, John 3:16 has become so commonplace in popular culture that the verse, for many people, has lost its potency; Psalm 22 helps us to again understand the power behind John 3:16. 

 

Across history, many Christians have interpreted Psalm 22 as a direct prediction and description of Jesus’ suffering on the cross, as Jesus was mocked and scorned during the crucifixion, and even cried out “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46, Psalm 22:1).  Imagine Jesus Christ, Holy God in human form, suffering in the way the Psalmist suffers in Psalm 22.  Further still, remember that Jesus’ suffering is punishment for YOUR sin, so that you “will not perish but have eternal life,” if you repent and follow Him.  Try to comprehend how grievous your sin is, that the perfect Son of God had to endure so much to pay for it, but also think of how vast God’s love is for you, that He would willingly sacrifice Himself so your sin would be forgiven and forgotten!

 

 Reflection Questions:

1.       Do you always see your sin as serious enough for Jesus to suffer for? Or are you tempted to rationalize or minimize your sins?

2.       Do you always believe that God’s love shown in the Gospel is enough to save you?

 

Song:

“How Deep the Father’s Love” – King’s Kaleidoscope

Advent | Day 20

Advent | Day 20

 

DAY 20 |

MESSIAH REJECTED

Scripture Reading: Luke 20:17-18; Psalms 118:22-24

But he looked at them and said, “Then what is the meaning of this Scripture:
The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone?
18 Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, but on whomever it falls, it will shatter him.”
— Luke 20:17-18
The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone.
23 This came from the Lord;
it is wondrous in our sight.
24 This is the day the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.
— Psalm 118:22-24

What a tragedy it is that so many rejected this sweet and glorious Christ—the Exalted Cornerstone of the universe! As He walked the way to Golgotha, “the builders” were those who rejoiced in his execution and sought to end his life. They were those who refused to acknowledge his claims to be Messiah, the Bread of Life, and the all-satisfying Savior from sin.

Today’s “builders” reject this cornerstone—God incarnate—by declaring with their words and with their deeds that Christ is not who He claims to be. They reject Him every time they find the things of this world more marvelous than Christ. They reject Him by not rejoicing in the day of the Lord, and by not finding His triumph over sin and death to be the greatest, most glorious occasion in all of history. And they reject him when they refuse to acknowledge that salvation is “The Lord’s doing” and not the work of man’s efforts to be righteous before God.

Indeed, everyone who rejects this cornerstone—the Preeminent One, Christ Jesus Himself—will endure the furious wrath of Almighty God. On their day of reckoning, they will be crushed and broken to pieces by Lion of the Tribe of Judah, because they did not accept his sacrifice as the Lamb that was slain. That may not be a warm and fuzzy thought for the Christmas season, but it is biblical truth undergirding the incarnation of Christ. Trust in Jesus and let us rejoice and be glad in the day of His birth.

               

Reflection Questions:

  1. What do I find to be more “marvelous” than Christ, and causes my eyes to drift from him?

  2. What “builder” do I know that refuses to acknowledge the worth of Christ?

“All Glory be to Christ”—Sovereign Grace Music

 

Pray:

Let this Savior be my Savior, my Ruler. Let my soul prosper and be in health, in that peace and righteousness which His kingdom brings. Let me have victory over the lusts that war against my soul; and let Divine grace subdue my heart.


 

Advent | Day 19

Advent | Day 19

 

DAY 19 |

MESSIAH FOR THE WEARY & STRESSED

Scripture Reading: Matthew 11:28-30

Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.29 Take up my yoke and learn from me, because I am lowly and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
— Matthew 11:28-30

God is not surprised by the presence of stress in our lives. Over two thousand years ago Jesus spoke to the people following him about the very thing that plagues so many of us still today, stress. We all have felt the uneasy feeling stress brings, the unhealthy habits or behaviors that stress can manifest. Stress  can consume thoughts, alter moods, dictate behaviors and rule you like a slave-master if you let it. But Jesus knew this would be a battle we would face. Our flesh desperately tries to pursue what the world promises, while the Spirit of God in us fights back, reminding us of our new nature in Christ. Ultimately this is a war of where we place our trust. 

At the time of Jesus, the religious leaders oppressed people with religious legalism. The written Torah was not the burden.  It was the additional traditions of the Pharisees that caused the people to be weary and burdened.  They called for utter outwardly perfection by following unattainable standards that were not from God.

Q. What are three things in life that cause you to feel stressed and weary? 

“Come to me”. Jesus invites us, you and me personally, to come to Him. He invites us to trust in His ways and not the world’s.  He invites us to trust in His redeeming work by acknowledging we are insufficient before our Holy God.  He invites us to trust in His plan, promises, provision, redemption, grace, mercy and unfailing love.  Jesus promises to provide rest for our souls.

Q.  How would trusting in Jesus’ ways change your perception of the three things that are causing you to feel stressed and weary? 

The yoke is a wooden frame that joins two animals together so they can pull a heavy load.  Jesus uses this as a metaphor to explain our subjection to another.  The Pharisees subjected the Jewish people to loads of expectations they could never carry.  Our flesh subjects us to strive more. It promises that if I had ___________ than_____________.  Our soul whispers that we should trust in ourselves alone, to ignore the guilt of our inability of perfection before our Holy God, and just try harder.

Jesus promises that the work was and is His alone to complete.  He was born to take the nails, so you and I wouldn’t have to.  He was born to bring eternal rest for our weary and burdened souls. Therefore, weary soul, find rest in Christ rather than trying to manhandle all your anxiety on your own this Christmas season. We can find rest both now and in eternity by simply surrendering to God, and trusting Jesus to be our Lord of it all. When we are weak, He is strong.

 

Reflection Questions:

1.     What are some ways your flesh beckons you to strive for what this world has to offer?

2.     What are some ways your spirit whispers to trust in God alone?

 

Read: Psalm 34:8, 1 John 5:1-5, Psalm 46:1, 1 Corinthians 15:54-58


 

Advent | Day 18

Advent | Day 18

 

DAY 18 |

MESSIAH PROCLAIMED

Scripture Reading: Luke 2:10-11; Isaiah 42:1-6

But the angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: 11 Today in the city of David a Savior was born for you, who is the Messiah, the Lord.”
— Luke 2:10-11
“This is my servant; I strengthen him, this is my chosen one; I delight in him. I have put my Spirit on him; he will bring justice to the nations.
2 He will not cry out or shout or make his voice heard in the streets.
3 He will not break a bruised reed, and he will not put out a smoldering wick; he will faithfully bring justice.
4 He will not grow weak or be discouraged until he has established justice on earth. The coasts and islands will wait for his instruction.”
5 This is what God, the Lord, says— who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people on it and spirit to those who walk on it—
6 “I am the Lord. I have called you for a righteous purpose, and I will hold you by your hand. I will watch over you, and I will appoint you to be a covenant for the people and a light to the nations,
— Isaiah 42:1-6

Picture yourself minding your own business at work, wherever that may be (sitting at your desk, teaching a class, serving tables, taking care of children). Without warning, a sudden and astonishing interruption appears with an extraordinary message. You are frightened, but what you hear is long-awaited news that immediately stirs your heart. So much so, that you stop what you are doing, hop in your car, and travel far to see if this miraculous news is really true. And while driving you think to yourself, “Why was I the first to hear of this news? How was I chosen to be among the few to receive this message before many others?”.

Almost 2,000 years ago, this scenario actually happened, to three simple shepherds minding their own business of watching their flocks of sheep. “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified” (Luke 2:8-9). In the night, the greatest news of all came to them unexpectedly through an angel sent from the Lord, “Today your Savior is born in the city of David. He is Christ the Lord.” The appearance of the angel was nothing short of remarkable, as the heavens opened up unlike any other time in history. Can you imagine the awe that the shepherds must have felt? The shepherds were no doubt frightened by the appearance of the angel, but they believed and wasted no time in seeing this Savior for themselves.

Read Isaiah 42:1-6

At the point of the angel’s proclamation, the Savior was already born. This is a pivotal point in redemptive history! It’s a proclamation that the One, God’s Servant, has finally come to rescue people from sin. This gentle, just, unfailing, and righteous Servant, is competent to heal and restore the brokenness of this world. Do you believe you are among those who Jesus came to redeem? Perhaps you feel discouraged, unworthy, undeserving, or too far from God’s reach. We can be sure that this line of thinking is nothing but a deceitful lie. Look again at to whom the angel of the Lord first appears. The angel does not approach rich rulers, high priests, or great educated minds in ancient Rome. Today, maybe that would be wealthy businessmen, spiritually-fit pastors, or high-society politicians. No, the message was first proclaimed to shepherds, considered to hold a menial vocation with lowly social status. Truly the least of these.

God wanted to make His grand announcement of His Son’s earthly existence to ordinary humanity. His love extends to all people across all nations, and He deems the least of these as important. "Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?" (James 2:5). The good news of a Savior being born into the world to fulfill prophesy, redeem us, break down the sinful barrier between us and God, and ultimately bring glory to God, is joyful news that affects every person. This good news announced by angels also moves ordinary Christians today to proclaim the gospel to those around us at work, at home, or in class etc.

The birth announcement of the Messiah comes at just the right time when the world desperately needs Him. The weight of the world’s burdens and responsibilities lay heavy on humanity. Perhaps today, you are feeling weighed down by your own circumstances and life’s demands. Jesus’ birth brought hope and a future for all of mankind. And God had Jesus’ back from the very beginning, starting with His birth. He would remain constant and steadfast in His love and care for His Servant. In the same way, God desires to be in relationship with you, to love, care for, and guide you. If you are in Christ, God also has your back. You can take comfort in knowing that in a world where tragic news seems to saturate our lives, the greatest news of all prevails. In the midst of the seemingly unending darkness, a baby boy was born and proclaimed as the light of the world. A light that brings a hope and a joy unmatched by any other.

 

Reflection Questions:

1.     Do you believe the message announced by the angel is also meant for you? Can you relate to the shepherds in this story?

2.     Like the angel of the Lord’s proclamation, how can you be like the angel in proclaiming the life-changing news of Jesus’ birth and truth with someone else?

3.     Think upon the hope that Christ’s birth brings to the world. How does this hope change how you view your experiences, circumstances, and purpose as a follower of Christ? And just as Christ came into the world as the supreme Servant, how can you find ways to serve Him?  


Prayer: Father, thank you for the miraculous birth of your Son, the Messiah. I praise you for loving me enough to send a Savior to rescue me from my sin. May I be like the angel of the Lord, and proclaim your plan of hope to others. Give me a boldness and a confidence in serving the greatest Servant of all.


 

Advent | Day 17

Advent | Day 17

 

DAY 17 |

MESSIAH PRECEDED BY A MESSENGER

Scripture Reading: Luke 1: 57-66; Malachi 3:1, 4:5-6

Now the time had come for Elizabeth to give birth, and she had a son. 58 Then her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her his great mercy, and they rejoiced with her.
59 When they came to circumcise the child on the eighth day, they were going to name him Zechariah, after his father. 60 But his mother responded, “No. He will be called John.”
61 Then they said to her, “None of your relatives has that name.” 62 So they motioned to his father to find out what he wanted him to be called. 63 He asked for a writing tablet and wrote: “His name is John.” And they were all amazed. 64 Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, praising God. 65 Fear came on all those who lived around them, and all these things were being talked about throughout the hill country of Judea. 66 All who heard about him took it to heart, saying, ‘What then will this child become?’ For, indeed, the Lord’s hand was with him.
— Luke 1:57-66
See, I am going to send my messenger, and he will clear the way before me. Then the Lord you seek will suddenly come to his temple, the Messenger of the covenant you delight in—see, he is coming,’ says the Lord of Armies.
— Malachi 3:1
Look, I am going to send you the prophet Elijah before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. 6 And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers. Otherwise, I will come and strike the land with a curse.”
— Malachi 4:5-6

There are few things more exciting than a pregnancy announcement. New life is always such a miracle; especially when the couple announcing have been trying for years. Can you imagine the celebration and shock at hearing that Elizabeth and Zachariah were expecting? Both Elizabeth and Zachariah were “well along in years” which is Bible talk for really old to be having children. But who else would God decide to carry the messenger of the coming Messiah than two geriatrics? Then again, God chose a virgin girl to carry the Savior of the world. The Messiah the people had been hoping for would not come in the way they had expected, and neither would His messenger.

John’s arrival was the fulfillment of a prophecy. He was the Messenger who was to “clear the way for the Lord”. The Hebrew meaning of the name John is “Jehovah has been gracious: has shown favor”. And what incredible favor John came to proclaim, that the Creator of the Universe was coming to seek and save the lost and that the hope of our salvation would soon be realized in flesh and blood. John would later say, “I baptize with water for repentance but the One who is coming after me is more powerful than I. I am not worthy to remove His sandals. He Himself will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” Matthew 3:11.

Yes, people were in shock and awed at John’s arrival: a miracle pregnancy, Zachariah becoming mute and then able to speak again. Yes, John’s arrival was something quite spectacular, but how much greater would be the one John was sent to proclaim. This Christmas season, recognize that like John, you too are sent by God to point people to the Messiah.

 

Reflection Questions:

 “…like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” – C.S. Lewis. 

1.     We often settle for less – like the messenger instead of the Messiah. What have you chosen instead of Christ’s best for you?

2.     Ponder Jesus’ power and holiness - that like John, we are not worthy of removing his sandals. Humble yourself before the Messiah. Who is someone God might be sending you as His 'messenger' to this Christmas season? What are some ways you can point them to Jesus?


 

 

Advent | Day 16

Advent | Day 16

 

DAY 16 |

THE WORSHIP AND PROCLAMATION OF CHRIST

Scripture Reading: Luke 2:8-20

In the same region, shepherds were staying out in the fields and keeping watch at night over their flock. 9 Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: 11 Today in the city of David a Savior was born for you, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be the sign for you: You will find a baby wrapped tightly in cloth and lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying:
14 Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to people he favors!
15 When the angels had left them and returned to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go straight to Bethlehem and see what has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”
16 They hurried off and found both Mary and Joseph, and the baby who was lying in the manger. 17 After seeing them, they reported the message they were told about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary was treasuring up all these things in her heart and meditating on them. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had seen and heard, which were just as they had been told.
— Luke 2:8-20
“Chaos: an advent poem”


In the beginning,
before there was anything,
God’s building block—from which he would make the entire universe—was…

Nothing.

Out of the Void
The Abyss
The Emptiness
The Nothing
God makes
EVERYTHING.

His other building block?

Chaos.

The Bible says God hovered over the chaos—over the disorder, the darkness, the confusion—and out of that makes the universe.

Out of chaos, he makes…

…the butterfly

…tomatoes growing on vines

…sun, moon and a thousand stars—all turning, wheeling, orbiting together in a delicate dance.

This is not the clash of violent forces
making the world by chance.
This is an artist
creating his masterpiece.

Not because he has to.
But because he wants to.

For the sheer joy of it.

Doing what he loves to do.
Working with his favorite materials—
nothing
and
chaos.

Filling the emptiness.
Lighting the dark.
Turning chaos to Joy.

But sin lives in our hearts, unleashing chaos once more, working backwards—unraveling God’s beautiful creation, breaking his perfect world, un-creating everything: turning life to death, joy to sadness, hope to despair, light to darkness, order to chaos.

But God would once again turn chaos to Joy.

This time not hovering over the chaos.
But entering into it.
Taking the chaos into his own heart.
Mending his broken world
And in mending it
Die.

For, one night, long ago in Bethlehem,
Into the chaos of homelessness and poverty
Into the chaos of breaking hearts
Into the chaos of darkness and hate and tears and sickness and dying…

A Light.

A Word.

A Child.
— Written by Sally Lloyd-Jones

The parallels of wonder and amazement

I wonder what that night would have been like to stand with the shepherds under the stars keeping watch over sheep. In one moment, unexpectedly, their lives and our world were forever changed. An angel appeared to them and proclaimed the good news about a savior who would come, and a multitude of angels began to worship Jesus.

It is amazing how quickly things can change. After hundreds of years of waiting, a group of shepherds found out that the moment was here. Jesus was born. Hope had entered the world, and the angel proclaimed “good news of great joy that will be for all people.”

I also wonder what it would have been like to stand over Jesus swaddled in a manger. After hearing the message from the angel, the shepherds went to see this Savior for themselves. Can you imagine the joy they felt as they looked at the face of Christ?

It is amazing that we can feel that joy today! The same good news that was proclaimed two thousand years ago in Bethlehem is our same good news today. The angels worshipped Christ singing, “Glory to God in the highest heaven” and they are still singing today. The world needed a savior to rescue them from their sin and the world still needs that savior today.

I wonder what it was like when the shepherds returned home, “glorifying and praising God for all the things they had seen and heard.” Did people think they were crazy? Did some begin to listen and learn? Did some join their praises?

It is amazing to think a baby who laid in a manger in Bethlehem would change the world.

I wonder what it was like for the shepherds to know that God was pointing them to this good news; that he loved them and wanted them to know Jesus.

It is amazing that He feels the same way about you and I today.

 

Reflection Questions:

1.     What do you think it would have been like to hear the angels sing with the shepherds?

2.     Why was the birth of Jesus such great news?

 

Advent Activity: Telephone your Proclamation!

Play a game of Telephone as a family. Sit around a table, or in a circle. Start with one person whispering a message and see if the message makes it around the circle with no words changed. Picture yourselves as the group of shepherds. What would your message of proclamation and worship be after seeing Jesus born?


 

Advent | Day 15

Advent | Day 15

 

DAY 15 |

BORN TO SUFFER, SERVE, AND TO SAVE

Scripture Reading: Mathew 20:28; Luke 22:20; Isaiah 52:13-53:12

Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
— Matthew 20:28
In the same way he also took the cup after supper and said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.”
— Luke 22:20
See, my servant will be successful; he will be raised and lifted up and greatly exalted.
14 Just as many were appalled at you— his appearance was so disfigured that he did not look like a man, and his form did not resemble a human being—
15 so he will sprinkle many nations. Kings will shut their mouths because of him, for they will see what had not been told them, and they will understand what they had not heard.
53 Who has believed what we have heard? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
2 He grew up before him like a young plant and like a root out of dry ground. He didn’t have an impressive form or majesty that we should look at him, no appearance that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected by men, a man of suffering who knew what sickness was. He was like someone people turned away from; he was despised, and we didn’t value him.
4 Yet he himself bore our sicknesses, and he carried our pains; but we in turn regarded him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced because of our rebellion, crushed because of our iniquities; punishment for our peace was on him, and we are healed by his wounds.
6 We all went astray like sheep; we all have turned to our own way; and the Lord has punished him for the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth. Like a lamb led to the slaughter and like a sheep silent before her shearers, he did not open his mouth.
8 He was taken away because of oppression and judgment; and who considered his fate? For he was cut off from the land of the living; he was struck because of my people’s rebellion.
9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked, but he was with a rich man at his death, because he had done no violence and had not spoken deceitfully.
10 Yet the Lord was pleased to crush him severely. When you make him a guilt offering, he will see his seed, he will prolong his days, and by his hand, the Lord’s pleasure will be accomplished.
11 After his anguish, he will see light and be satisfied. By his knowledge, my righteous servant will justify many, and he will carry their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will give him the many as a portion, and he will receive the mighty as spoil, because he willingly submitted to death, and was counted among the rebels; yet he bore the sin of many and interceded for the rebels.
— Isaiah 52:13-53:12

As we reflect on and celebrate Christ’s coming on this side of the cross, it is helpful to remember that Israel was expectantly longing for the Messiah to come, not knowing when he might appear. They were watching, waiting, for a man of royal birth with prestige, position, and power. What they didn’t expect was a Christ born in humble conditions, to common parents, growing up to work as a carpenter. They expected a popular king, not a suffering servant, to save them.

These words resonate with me as I write them. I think that if some two thousand years ago I was looking for the Messiah, I wouldn’t start that search in a manger. It seems illogical to us that the Savior of the world would come to suffer and to serve us. That is counter to everything the world tells us to look for in a savior.

However, those are the words God spoke through the prophet Isaiah. The servant coming to save would not have an “impressive form...no appearance that we should desire him.” That he would be “despised and rejected by men, a man of suffering who knew what sickness was.”  We see that the coming Christ would be a man acquainted with grief, and pain, who had a heart to serve those whom he came to redeem through his death. This was all prophesied hundreds of years before Jesus was born!

Christ reinforced this prophecy when he declared, that “he came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” And that he would establish the New Covenant with his blood. Baby Jesus would grow up to ultimately reconcile sinful humanity with our holy God; thus saving us from the punishment we deserved.

Jesus saves, but not in the way most expected Him to. He came to serve, ultimately through his death on the cross, and as followers of Jesus, we are to serve as well. He came to suffer on our behalf, and we are reminded that this life may not be easy, or comfortable, but because of Jesus we will not have to suffer for eternity. We have a hope being reconciled through his death, for a future where the King will reign on His throne, exalted at the right hand of the Father, receiving the praise, honor, and glory in fanfare we expected Him to come with originally.

 

Reflection Questions:

1.     Jesus came to serve. As we desire to model his life, how have you served this last year? How has it brought you joy? What is one new way you could serve regularly at City Church?

2.     Christmas can be a time where you feel very blessed, or may experience much pain. In Isaiah 53:1-12, we see that Christ is well acquainted with pain and suffering. How does Jesus’ experience with pain and suffering comfort you in difficult times? In times of difficulty, how can Christ’s birth, death, and resurrection bring you joy?

 

Listen To:

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.