Abiding in Christmas

Daily Advent Thoughts

December 1-25

 

 

Sunday, November 29

Day 1
Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.  Genesis 3:22-24 ESV
It is officially the beginning of Advent today…this is the journey toward Christmas, the coming of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. In this day and the next 25 days, I want to offer a brief scripture and devotional thought to help us keep our eyes on Jesus this Christmas. I start in Genesis today, because I want to remind you that God’s design from the beginning was to be with us in paradise. We chose to go our own way and paid a lifetime of consequences. We were cast out of God’s presence, and we could not return…on our own. God, in His grace and mercy, enacted a rescue plan. He sent Jesus to come after us, to give us a way back to Him.
APPLICATION: Where in your life are you trying to make your own way? Are you letting Jesus lead you in this life, and are you willing to let him lead you home?

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Monday, November 30

Day 2

“The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.”  Genesis 6:5-6

After the Fall and our abolishment from paradise, we continued to pursue our own way and our own self-interest, which led to nothing but more evil.  By the time Noah was on the earth, the world was in a very dark state.  God is holy, and He could not tolerate this wickedness any longer. So, He planned to cleanse the earth of all unrighteousness with a great flood.  But God is also Love, so He provided salvation through a wooden ark.  Sadly, only Noah’s family heeded God’s warning and received God’s salvation.  Here we are, thousands of years later, still wrestling with our evil nature, in need of salvation.  Instead of a wooden ark, God offers a wooden cross, where He satisfied all the punishment due us upon his own son, Jesus.  Again, this Advent, we remember that Christmas was a rescue plan.  Today is the day to heed God’s warning and receive this salvation from Jesus.

APPLICATION:  Have you received the free gift of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ and His sacrifice for you on the Cross?   Do you understand that God sent Jesus for YOU?

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Tuesday, December 1

Day 3

Then the Lord said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites.  Exodus 3:7-8 (ESV)

Again, in our Advent thoughts, we are camping out in the Old Testament.  Why?  Because the story of Jesus started in the very beginning.  It is a love story of a God who created us and has longed for the fellowship He once had with us in the very beginning.  He is pursuing a relationship with us.  He sees our lives and cares about our struggles and concerns.  In the passage above, we see yet another example of God providing a rescue plan.  His deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt is a foreshadowing of the deliverance He wants to provide all of His children.  He sees our afflictions and hears our cries, and He came down in the form of His Son, Jesus, to deliver us.  He will bring us out of this temporary home into the Promised Land that Jesus has prepared for us.

APPLICATION:  Where are you hurting?  Cry out to the Father, and He will hear you.  But also Listen to see if He’s saying something to you about your life.

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Wednesday, December 2

Day 4

It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.  Deuteronomy 7:7-8 (ESV)

When the Lord speaks to Israel, He is also speaking to those of us who believe and follow Jesus.  Through Jesus’ blood, we are grafted into God’s family.  It is a holy adoption.  God loves His family and chooses to bless us.  He is slow to anger and quick to keep His promises.  He sent Jesus to redeem us from our bondage to a life of sin.  It is not because we deserve it…it is because He loves us.  You may sometimes feel like you are a minority as a Christian, and it may seem like our Father is not paying attention to your needs.  Christmas is an annual reminder of just how much He loves us.  “Turn your eyes upon Jesus…and the things of this world will grow strangely dim…”

APPLICATION:  Take some time to write down in your journal some of the blessings in your life since you found Jesus.  Thank Him for adopting you and setting you free from the slavery of your past.

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Thursday, December 3

Day 5

“And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord, which I am commanding you today for your good?”  Deuteronomy 10:12-13 (ESV)

In our journey toward Jesus, we are spending time understanding the state of the world before Jesus came.  All those interactions between God and man in the Old Testament are so important in understanding the heart of God toward us.  We have read in the past few days about several times that God rescued His people and showed His love.  What does He ask in return?  Just that we love Him back.  Is that so hard?  When they asked Jesus what the greatest commandment was, He quoted this verse…just to love God with all our heart and soul.  If we are not loving God, it must be because we don’t know how much He loves us.

APPLICATION:  Examine your heart to see if you love God.  Scripture says we show that we love God by obeying His commandments.  Are you obedient to God?  If your heart has grown hard, ask Him to give you a new heart and for His Spirit to fill you up with His love.

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Friday, December 4

Day 6

“And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”  Joshua 24:15

Christmas is the one time of year when the world seems to acknowledge Jesus.  Even non-believers may put a Nativity scene in their home.  Even the Rockettes in NYC incorporate the Nativity in their Christmas spectacular.  Christmas tugs at our hearts and begs the question…who is this Christ we celebrate?  Is He a figment of our imagination, like Santa Claus, or is He Lord of all creation, Lord of your life?  We all serve someone.  If we are not serving God, then we are serving other gods, or even worse, the devil and his purposes.

APPLICATION:  Choose for yourself TODAY whom you will serve?  Write a proclamation in your journal or on your social media or tell your family if you will serve the Lord.

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Saturday, December 5

Day 7

So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife. And he went in to her, and the Lord gave her conception, and she bore a son. Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel! He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age, for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.” Then Naomi took the child and laid him on her lap and became his nurse. And the women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi.” They named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.  Ruth 4:13-17 (ESV)

The story of Ruth is a beautiful tale of a devoted daughter-in-law who put aside her own grief of losing her husband and faithfully stood beside her grieving mother-in-law.  It also introduces us to Boaz, the noble man who honored God by redeeming Ruth and marrying her.  This faithful, selfless couple carried on a lineage that went to King David and all the way to Jesus.  Yes, God was at work long before Jesus arrived, touching hearts and arranging events and bringing beauty out of sorrow.  And He always has a way of using faithful people.

APPLICATION:  Is there anything difficult going on in your life this Christmas?  Instead of turning inward, think of how you can be a blessing to others around you.  In this, you will be blessed and will be on the road that leads to Jesus.

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Sunday, December 6

Day 8

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” Then Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but behold, he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and get him, for we will not sit down till he comes here.” And he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy and had beautiful eyes and was handsome. And the Lord said, “Arise, anoint him, for this is he.” Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers. And the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon David from that day forward. And Samuel rose up and went to Ramah.  1 Samuel 16:7, 11-13 (ESV)

The lineage of Jesus goes through his ancestor David.  King David started out as an unexpected hero, a shepherd boy.  But he was later called “a man after God’s own heart.”  I love the way the Lord instructed Samuel, when he was tasked with choosing a king, that he should not look at outward appearance, but rather, look at the heart.  When Jesus came on the scene, He did not come in majesty or splendor, but in a humble, smelly manger.  And He drew people to Himself, not because of His title or His appearance, but because of His faith, His heart and His love.  Jesus continued the family heritage of His great, great, great…grandfather David.  Jesus was a Shepherd, not of actual sheep, but of us, His flock.  He is the Chief Shepherd.  Our shepherd loves all of His sheep, and He does not judge us by our outward appearance or our accomplishments, but rather, He looks at our heart.

 APPLICATION:  Are you trying to impress Jesus with your appearance or your good works or your spiritual resume?  Have you considered that perhaps, He just wants your heart?  Spend some time with your Shepherd today, asking Him what He thinks of you and how you can serve Him.

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Monday, December 7

Day 9

When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.’” In accordance with all these words, and in accordance with all this vision, Nathan spoke to David.  2 Samuel 7:12-17 (ESV)

Joseph, Jesus’ “stepdad” was in the line of King David, which fulfilled all that God had been revealing the Old Testament.  God knew that men want a king.  We need leadership.  He was sending the King of kings.  His kingdom is an eternal kingdom that can never be defeated or stripped away from Him.  And it’s so hard to accept, but this king was punished by God for our sins.  He was perfect, not deserving of any punishment, but He took our place.  He did this so we could be a part of His kingdom forever.  And we are not just subjects of the kingdom, but rather, He makes us heirs.

APPLICATION:  Does it make you think of Christmas differently when you think of it as a celebration of your adoption in the royal family?  Because of Jesus, you are a prince or princess.  Praise our King and thank Him for His sacrifice and His throne of grace.

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Tuesday, December 8

Day 10

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”

And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke.And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”  Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”

And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.”  Isaiah 6:1-8

I am a big fan of Charles Dickens classic story, “A Christmas Carol.”  I think the scene where Scrooge meets the Ghost of Christmas Present must have been inspired by this experience Isaiah had with the Lord.  Dickens depicts this spirit high on a throne, overseeing a big banquet and the image is such a feast for the eyes that Scrooge’s mind cannot grasp it.  I don’t think we understand the power of the holiness of our King of kings.  When we stand at His throne, we, like Isaiah, will most likely feel woefully inadequate and sinful.  Yet, our gracious King has atoned for our sins and takes away our guilt.  He invites us to the great banquet at the King’s table, but He also has missions for us to do, if we are willing to go for Him.

APPLICATION:  When you come before Jesus, do you stand in awe of His holiness and the fact that He allows you to be a part of His plans and purposes?  Does it make you fall to your knees in repentance, begging for mercy?  Worship Him, receive His forgiveness and then, ask Him what you can do for Him this Christmas.

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Wednesday, December 9

Day 11

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.  For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called  Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore.  The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.  Isaiah 9:2, 6-7 (ESV)

700 years before Jesus was born, God announced His coming through the prophet Isaiah.  Up to that point in history, God’s people had still wavered between faith and self-sufficiency.  One generation would love God and serve Him wholeheartedly, while the next would appease their sin nature and fall for the temptation to worship other gods.  They saw that when they served the world or themselves, they were in darkness, without peace and hope.  We so desperately needed the Light that only God could provide.  He was sending Jesus, a King, who was a counselor, God incarnate, a loving Father and a Prince who would bring peace.   We still need the Light of Jesus, now and forevermore.

APPLICATION:  This Christmas, is Jesus your King, your Counselor, your God, your Father and your Prince of peace?  If not, you may be celebrating a man-made Christmas.

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Thursday, December 10

Day 12

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion—to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.”  Isaiah 61:1-3 (ESV)

When Jesus began His public ministry, he walked up to the front of the temple, opened the ancient scrolls to Isaiah 61.  After reading it, He said, “This scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”  How powerful!  So, as you think about the baby Jesus this Christmas, think about all that his birth meant:  help for those in need, healing for the brokenhearted, freedom for those in bondage, comfort for those mourning, gladness, praise, favor, strength.  These benefits and attributes He gives to all who follow Him and not only that, He gives us this power to help others on His behalf.

APPLICATION:  Write in your journal what you need most from Jesus this Christmas.  Ask our gracious Lord to help you with whatever it is, and ask it in the name of Jesus, according to His will and purpose.

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Friday, December 11

Day 13

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.  He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.  Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.  You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.  Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”  Psalm 23:1-6 (ESV)

Let’s meditate on a few more Scriptures from the Old Testament, as we continue to establish a foundation for the coming of Jesus.  As we said a few days ago, Jesus is a Shepherd, just like King David, who wrote Psalm 23.  He gently leads us and protects us and feeds us, and He says His sheep know His voice.  You probably would rather be called a prince or princess than a sheep.  If you want a great analysis on how much we are like sheep and need a shepherd, read “A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23” by Phillip Keller.  But this Christmas, just know that God sent you your very own Shepherd, one who will never leave you or forsake you, and one who will go and find you when you are lost.  He will guide you, if you will let Him, into paths of righteousness, all the way to the house of the Lord.

APPLICATION: Have you given ownership of your life over to your Shepherd, Jesus?  If not, recognize that He purchased you with His very own blood.  Give him the deed to your life.

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Saturday, December 12

Day 14

“Have you not known? Have you not heard?  The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.  He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.  He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength.  Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.  Isaiah 40:28-31 (ESV)

The prophet Isaiah was one of God’s favorite mouthpieces in proclaiming words about the coming Messiah, Jesus.  In the Old Testament, God mainly spoke through his prophets and they would share the messages with the people. But One was coming who would tear down the dividing wall between God and His people, who would give all access to hear from God directly. “Have you not known?  Have you not heard?”  His name is Jesus!  He will renew your strength, He will help you run your race to the end, He will help you fly like an eagle.

APPLICATION:  Jesus was born 2000 years ago, and He was crucified and was buried, BUT He rose from the dead.  Before He ascended to Heaven, He promised He would be coming back to get us.  This Christmas, in the midst of our hustle and bustle, are we waiting on Jesus?  He is coming back for His followers, but through His Spirit, He’s here now.  Do you know Him?

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Sunday, December 13

Day 15

“But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.  Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has given birth; then the rest of his brothers shall return to the people of Israel.  And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.  And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth.  Micah 5:2-4 (ESV)

One more Old Testament passage on our journey to Jesus this Christmas.  God is mysterious in His ways at times, but He is not a God of confusion.  He makes His plans known, and He sometimes will let us know before things happen.  This Shepherd, this King, this Prince of Peace, this Mighty God was coming into the world, and God said He would be born in Bethlehem.  I believe God wanted His people to know that He had not forgotten us, since the Garden of Eden.  All along, He had been planning to send His son, Jesus, to forge a path for us back to Himself.  This truly is good news for all the earth.

APPLICATION:  Do you believe God has specific plans for your life?  Have you been sensing this for a long time?  God is still writing this story of faith and in this history, you play a part.  Ask Him today, if there is anything you need to know about your life and your future and give Him permission to use you however He pleases.  In this, you will find peace.  You will find Jesus.

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Monday, December 14

Day 16

“And Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ. So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations.”  Matthew 1:16-17 (ESV)

Of all the Gospels, Matthew was mostly written to the Jews.  The Jews knew their history, the plight of their ancestors, their scriptures, and they knew the importance of bloodline.  So, Matthew starts out with a genealogy, starting with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob.  As you peruse it, you won’t know many of the names, but you will see others you know like Boaz, Ruth’s husband.  By the way, Boaz’s mom was Rahab, the famous prostitute who helped hide the spies of Israel when they were in trouble.  Then there’s King David, of course, and His son, Solomon, who was born to David by Bathsheba.  Yes, this is THE Bathsheba, the one David fell for and sinned with at a dark moment in his history.  So, on the path to Jesus, there were ups and downs, times of great faith, but also distress.  One name on the list is King Hezekiah.  He was sick and about to die, but He prayed to the Lord and God granted Him 15 more years.  In that 15 year extension, Manasseh was born, who is also in the lineage list in Matthew.  All of this tells us that God’s plans will not be thwarted.  Despite our sin and or brokenness and sickness and evil, Jesus made His way to us.

APPLICATION:  Do you realize that you are part of Jesus’ family tree, as well?  Those who have received Jesus as their Savior are adopted into His family.  So, your life and your lineage are important.  When they write about your life, there will be ups and downs to mention, but will there be details of faith and trust and obedience?

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Tuesday, December 15

Day 17

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”  Luke 1:26-33 (ESV)

This scene never ceases to amaze me.  Imagine a young girl in the youth group of your church, engaged to another nice young man.  The couple has been committed to their faith and kept their relationship pure.  They are looking forward to their wedding and their future together.  Then, an angel visits the girl, telling her she is going to conceive a baby boy, and he would become a mighty king.  I doubt she could hear the part about this baby becoming a king, for she would still be trying to wrap her brain around becoming pregnant, outside of marriage and without having sex.  What?!  And how would Joseph understand this, for he had been so faithful and so full of self-control in their relationship, only to see her become pregnant.  By whom?  Once again, on the path to Jesus, the world could perceive scandal and impossibility, but God knew he found someone who would be obedient in Mary.

APPLICATION:  Has God ever spoken to your heart, asking you to do something difficult or even seemingly impossible?  If not, are you seeking Him in His Word and listening to the Holy Spirit?  What if your obedience or disobedience, like with Mary, might make the difference for all eternity?

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Wednesday, December 16

Day 18

And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.  Luke 1:34-38 (ESV)

In The Journey discipleship groups we lead through Influencers Global Ministries, we guide people toward John 15 where Jesus says He wants to “abide” with us.  This relationship of abiding with Christ suggests a most intimate bond between us and the Lord, one where the Holy Spirit overshadows our fleshly, sinful nature and empowers us to do great things for Him.  When Jesus comes into the picture, impossible things seem possible.  Hear these words again, “For nothing will be impossible with God.”

APPLICATION:  I don’t know where you are this Christmas in relation to Jesus.  Perhaps you’ve just been viewing Jesus from afar.  He came into this world so He could not just save you, but to have a relationship with you.  Are you willing to let Him do the impossible in your life?

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Thursday, December 17th

Day 19

The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.  John 1:9-14 (ESV)

In John 1, we see a proclamation about Jesus which confirms many of the prophecies from the Old Testament that we read earlier in this Advent season.  He is a Light in the darkness.  He gave us a way to become children of God.  He came to many who did not receive Him, so he broadened His invitation to ALL who would receive Him.    He is also called “The Word” which helps us understand that all of Scripture supports His being, His presence and will guide us into all truth.  Lastly, this passage says that Jesus is not only Truth, but He is full of grace.

APPLICATION:  Have you seen the glory of Jesus as the Word, the Truth, the Light, the Father, the Way?  Have you received Him?  Please don’t let Him pass you over because you have rejected Him.

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Friday, December 18th

Day 20

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”  Matthew 1:18-21 (ESV)

I’ve always thought Joseph was an unsung hero in the story of Jesus.  Sure, his family lineage qualified him for this amazing role as it satisfied the prophetic scriptures saying the King would come from the line of David.  But he seems like an innocent bystander as his fiancée Mary becomes pregnant, and he knew he was NOT the father.  Imagine his disappointment and embarrassment and the feeling of betrayal.  Yet, he was going to break off this engagement quietly, so as not to cause Mary harm.  He must have really loved her.  In the midst of his anguish, a heavenly host visits Joseph and tells him the father of this child is the Holy Spirit.  Still, Joseph must have been so confused.  Yet, this man of faith accepted this inconceivable notion and fulfilled his role with honor.

APPLICATION:  Is there something in your life that hurts, that doesn’t seem fair, that is challenging your faith in mankind or even in God?  Perhaps things are not what they seem.  Ask the Lord to give you His perspective, for He has a knack for bringing beauty out of ashes.

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Saturday, December 19th

Day 21

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.  Luke 2:1-7 (ESV)

We’ve been reading many Old Testament passages that make it clear that this coming King was going to come out of the line of David and that he would be born in Bethlehem.  Interesting that right as it was time for Jesus to be born, it was also time for Joseph to go to Bethlehem to be registered in the census.  Coincidence?  I think not.  It is amazing how God is the great orchestrator of our lives, making sure we are in the places we need to be at the right time.  This was a very important birth record, for sure, and God needed His plans followed so that all would know that the Messiah was here.  Of course, God found two faithful servants in Mary and Joseph, who were obedient every step of the way.  Lastly, it should be noted that our King Jesus was not born in a palace or even an inn, but a barn.  What an exclamation point that this was a king for ALL people.

APPLICATION:  As you look back on your life, can you see where God was orchestrating your steps, your plans, whether it be a college choice, a job, a mate.  Can you think of times when you were not seeking Him, but He was still guiding your circumstances?  Is there something He is prompting now which requires your obedience?  Praise Him for His faithfulness and trust Him for your next steps.

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Sunday, December 20th

Day 22

John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.  John 1:15-18 (ESV)

John the Baptist was about six months older than Jesus, born to his older mother Elizabeth, who was believed to be barren.  This child’s miraculous conception was also announced by an angel, much like when the angel Gabriel visited Mary.  John was the herald, paving the way for Jesus’ ministry.  He knew that Jesus was from God and was God.  John baptized people for their sins, but he knew One that was greater was coming who would baptize in the Holy Spirit.  Up until that time, God’s people only knew about laws and their inability to keep them.  Jesus, also known as the Way, the Truth and the Light came into the world to bring Grace.  No longer was it about performance.  It was about Jesus fulfilling the requirements of the law, gracing us with His holiness.

APPLICATION:  Do you understand Grace, also known as “unmerited favor”?  When we were sinners, Christ came and died for us.  Think about a time when someone showed you Grace, gave you something you didn’t deserve.  It’s powerful!  Thank God for Jesus and His grace for you personally today.

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Monday, December 21st

Day 23

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”  Luke 2:8-12 (ESV)

It is so interesting that not only was Jesus born in a barn, but the first people to whom God wanted to reveal the news of His birth were shepherds.  Not the religious leaders, not the royal family, not the business owners, but working class men out in the field.  I think this move reminds us that this King that was born was a Shepherd King.  He was the Chief Shepherd who came to gather His flock, to save them, to protect them and lay His life down for them.  This is “good news of great joy for all people”, as the angels said.  This is good news of great joy for you and me today!

APPLICATION:  Is Jesus’ birth personal to you?  Do you need an angel to visit you to make it more real?  Well, how about spending some time with Jesus Himself, as you talk to His Holy Spirit.  Ask Him to speak to you about the meaning of Christmas and this good news for you.

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Tuesday, December 22nd

Day 24

When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.  But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.  Luke 2:15-20 (ESV)

Imagine the excitement and curiosity that filled these shepherds after being visited by a heavenly choir of angels, lighting up the night sky, and hearing about this special child which had been born.  It says they went with haste.  They ran to Jesus.  The only clue they had was that the baby would be lying in a manger.  I think the bright star which guided the wise men to find him could have also shone a spotlight to help the shepherds find the location. Or perhaps they just knew where to go.  Once they found Jesus, it says the first thing they did was share the news with everyone they knew.  Finding Jesus brought them joy and prompted praise.  And I love the little line that gets lost sometimes, “Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.”  Once you come face to face with Heaven, your heart can never be the same.

APPLICATION:  Have you seen Jesus with the eyes of your heart?  Do you relate to the shepherds and to Mary and the treasure of joy that filled their hearts?  If not, run to Jesus by falling on your knees and worshiping Him.  He will give you this treasure.

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Wednesday, December 23rd

Day 25

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”  When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: ‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’”… When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.  Matthew 2:1-6, 10-11(ESV)

Once again, we see how God wanted His people to know for certain that this Jesus was the One He promised to send from long ago.  These astronomers, scholars knew the Scriptures and knew prophecy was being fulfilled right in front of their eyes.  Interesting that a worldly King Herod felt threatened by the thought of a new king being born.  All he could think of was his own position being in jeopardy.  Those who have their eyes on this world or on their power or position, cannot see the beauty of God’s kingdom, even when it is right in front of them.  The wise men found him and like the shepherds, rejoiced exceedingly.  They worshiped him and showered him with expensive gifts.  Little did they know that this king was unlike any other they had seen.  He would not take his place on a throne in a palace, nor would he own earthly treasures.  He would live more like a shepherd with a meager existence and rather than rule over His people, He would die for them.

APPLICATION:  Would you be willing to give up your position, your possessions, your power, your influence so that Jesus could be your king?  This Christmas, He’s not asking you for gold, frankincense or myrrh.  He’s asking you for your heart.

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Thursday, December 24th

Day 26

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.  And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.  For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”  John 3:16-21 (ESV)

This is the last day of Advent 2020.  Tomorrow we celebrate Jesus’ birthday.  I hope you have enjoyed this journey to Jesus.  Hopefully, these daily thoughts have stimulated your heart and kept your eyes on the prize this Christmas.  Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came to earth to give us eternal life in Heaven once we die.  God did not want us to be condemned to Hell for all eternity, but He wanted to save us and restore the abiding relationship with us that He had in the beginning.  Sadly, John tells us that some will love the darkness rather than the light.  As God’s ambassador, one of His children, one who walks with His Spirit, I feel His love for you right now.  On His behalf, I implore you to receive this free Christmas gift of His Son, Jesus.

APPLICATION:  Romans 10:9 says, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”  Can you simply humble yourself this Christmas and say, “I believe in You, Jesus, that You are Lord.  I believe you died on the Cross for my sins.  I believe You rose from the dead to show me that this life is not the end.  Jesus, I want to be in paradise with you one day.  Please save me.”  If you prayed that, your journey to Advent 2020 may be ending but the biggest adventure of your life is just now starting.