Saturday, Dec. 24 – birth of Jesus

adventRead Luke 2:6-21

On this last day of our devotionals, we consider the birth of Jesus. Most likely, it’s a very familiar story to you. So, instead of making comments on it, I would ask you to consider a few questions as you meditate on the story.

Mary and Joseph experienced the birth of their son in a lowly and dirty stable. It wasn’t ideal. How has God shown you his grace in this last year in less than ideal circumstances?

The shepherds, undeserving people out in the fields at night, experienced the glory of God in an incredible visit from angels. We probably will not experience anything even close to what those shepherds saw, but God does still show us his glory in small ways. Is there any event in this past year through which God has showed you his greatness?

The shepherds obeyed. They went and saw what God had told them, and they told others about the things the angels told them. Who would God have you tell about the good news of his birth?

As you think about the star today, follow the example of the wise men and worship Christ the newborn King!

Friday, Dec. 23 – Journey to Bethlehem

adventRead Luke 2:1-6

This journey to Bethlehem was the last thing, I am sure, that Mary and Joseph wanted to do. With Mary being pregnant, they didn’t really want to make a trip, by walking or by donkey, up the mountains over 2000 feet to Bethlehem. This was a long journey of about eighty miles. Her pregnancy would make the journey slow and tiring.

It wasn’t their decision. The Roman ruler, who considered himself a god, decreed that everyone should be counted, and you had to be counted in your hometown. This meant that they had to travel to Joseph’s hometown, Bethlehem. In obedience to the decree, they went.

There isn’t any indication that they understood the significance of having their child born in Bethlehem. They both knew, through the visit of the angel, that this birth would be special, but they probably didn’t equate the birth yet with the Old Testament prophecy. That understanding would come later in life.

None of this was their plan or preference. Joseph and Mary didn’t think, most likely, that they would end up having a baby in Bethlehem. But God seems to work that way, doesn’t he? Our plans are often not his plans and his plans are far above our plans. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8–9). Luke records no complaining about this journey. Mary and Joseph had learned to quietly trust God. May God work in us the same trust.

Thursday, Dec. 22 – Mary

adventRead Luke 1:34-38

The birth of a child is a miraculous event! It’s amazing to see how a child comes into the world. The birth of some children is even more remarkable. Sarah was almost 90 years old when she was told by the angel that she would have a son. She laughed, thinking ‘that is so hard to believe!’ But the angel said to Abraham, “Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son” (Genesis 18:14). Elderly Abraham and Sarah did have a son.

The birth of Isaac to Sarah was amazing, but it only foreshadowed a more amazing birth that would happen to Mary, as an angel came again to visit a woman. Mary’s problem was not age, although by our standards she was fairly young. The difficulty was not in being able to bear a child, rather how would she bear a child without knowing a man? It was 100 times more difficult for Mary than it was for Sarah, but nothing is too hard for the Lord. The Holy Spirit would cause it to happen.

The same power of the Holy Spirit causes new birth in your life and mine. We cannot cause spiritual life to begin in our lives. We are each dead in our sins. Birth only happens by the direct intervention of the Holy Spirit. It is just as miraculous of an event! God gives us new life in Christ, because of the birth of Christ by Mary. Nothing is impossible with God!

Wednesday, Dec. 21 – Joseph

adventRead Matt. 1:18-24

God’s intervention is laced throughout this passage. Take note in this passage of three ways God showed his intervention to accomplish what he desires.

First, God intervened to bring about the birth of Jesus. We see this in verse 18, when Mary is found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. God intervened in time, at just the right time, to bring about the birth of his son. The heavens came down to earth to dwell among us, by a miraculous conception in an ordinary woman’s womb. God intervened in space and time.

Second, God intervened in Joseph’s plans. When Joseph discovered that Mary was pregnant, he formulated a plan in his own mind to protect her and himself. Joseph had this plan set in his mind, he was considering carrying it out, but God intervened in his plans through a dream. God made clear that his plan was better than Joseph’s plan. Joseph’s plan was an error in understanding. God’s plan was to change time and history.

Third, God intervened to be with us by becoming a man. God had made his plan known through the prophets in the Old Testament, through angels, through revealing himself to men, but God himself had never become a man before now. God’s intervention was fully personal. God became a baby, a flesh and blood human being, in his fullest revelation to us. He showed himself to us so that we could come to know him. Thank you, Lord, for entering our world!

Tuesday, Dec. 20 – Annunciation

adventRead Luke 1:26-33

We are going to focus on just one verse in this passage, the greeting from the angel Gabriel. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” (Luke 1:28). What is the significance of how the angel greets Mary?

First, Mary is given special, divine favor from God. The root of the word favor is often translated in the New Testament as grace. God gave Mary special grace for the task that was ahead of her. Mary was not a dispenser of grace, as some would believe, but rather she was shown special favor by God for the task for which God had chosen her, bearing the Son of God. This had nothing to do with anything in her that set her apart. She was a humble girl, from an unimportant place, yet God chose her for this important role and gave her grace to perform it.

Second, God not only chose her, he granted his presence with her in a special way. He promised to be with her. That’s the promise of all of Scripture, that God would be with us. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel (which means, God with us) (Matthew 1:23). God’s plan from the beginning of time until the end of time is to be with us. He is the good news, and his presence is all that we need.

We can all have God’s grace and his presence with us, through the sending of the Holy Spirit, just as God showed his grace and presence to Mary. That’s the promise of Jesus, given by God. We can experience his new birth in our lives and his presence with us, always, by faith. What an indescribable gift!

Monday, Dec. 19 – John the Baptist

adventRead Matt. 3:1-6

Before Jesus, there was John the Baptizer. He was a relative of Jesus, and he came to prepare the way for Jesus. John connects the saving activity of God in the Old Testament with the work of Jesus in the New Testament.

He does that first by fulfilling Old Testament prophecy. Isaiah wrote about John, the forerunner to the Messiah, in Isa. 40:3. A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” This prophecy is about John. John came to prepare the people for the Lord, just as Isaiah said. John came, as the Scripture foretold, to prepare the way for another that the Scripture foretold. This one foretold is God himself.

There is a pattern to God’s plan. God sent many prophets in the Old Testament period to prepare people for the coming of the Messiah. They all spoke of him in different ways and in different periods, just as the author of Hebrews said: “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets” (Hebrews 1:1). God spoke through the prophets, and the last prophet he spoke through was John.

But “in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world” (Hebrews 1:2). Jesus was the final Word. We don’t need any more words from God in order to know his purpose, plan, and provision. Jesus is the one. Listen to him and follow him.

Sunday, Dec. 18 – Peace

adventRead Isaiah 11:1-9

Before we finish this week looking at the New Testament references to the birth of Jesus, we are going to go back briefly to Isaiah 11 to look at it a little more fully. This passage describes the rule (3-5) and the world (6-9) of the Messiah, when he comes.

What will his rule be like? First, he will rule in righteousness. What does that mean? All his judgments will be right and just. Nothing will sway the Messiah when he makes a decision, not sentiment, or feelings, or what he sees. Each person will get exactly what he or she deserves, unlike what often happens in our world today. His clothing itself indicates his nature, one of complete and perfect righteousness.

Second, the world he rules will be characterized by incomparable peace. He will bring what sounds like a new Garden of Eden. Predators and prey will now be reconciled (v. 6). They will be at such peace with one another that even a little child can rule over them. Beasts will have their nature changed and eat the same food (v. 7). The curse between the serpent and the woman will be removed (v. 8). This Eden will fill the whole earth because the knowledge of God will cover it all (v. 9).

We don’t experience that rule and that kind of world yet, do we? Not entirely, but we can experience it in some ways in our hearts and lives as Christians, as Paul commands us to allow the peace of Christ to rule in our hearts (Col. 3:15). That is the peace that Jesus brought, partially, and that he will complete in the end when he comes again. Maranatha – Lord, come quickly!