This post is by guest writer Kris Schwab. This is a four week devotional that can be used for personal reflection during the advent season.
ADVENT – from Latin adventus, which means “coming.” A time to celebrate the coming of our savior as a baby, and a time to prepare for the second coming of Christ.
Advent encompasses the four Sundays (and weekdays) leading up to the celebration of Christmas. It is a season of preparation for our hearts and minds. It is a season to contemplate, reflect and focus.
WEEK 1: HOPE
In the Old Testament, hopeless people heard a message from God through the prophet, Isaiah:
Isaiah 9:2, 6–7
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. […] For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.
This prophecy spoke of Jesus. Around 700 years later, this prophecy was fulfilled with the birth of Jesus. Jesus, a little baby. God and flesh united. He entered the world in rare, humble circumstances. He brought hope to all.
Hope was part of God’s plan all along. He had a message of hope for the Israelites and he has a message of hope for us still today. No matter your feelings about God, or what you have done, there is hope. During times of victory and times of defeat, there is hope. Where uncertainty abides, there is hope for peace. When hurts run deep, there is hope for healing. When you face the impossible, there is hope to overcome. Hope requires patience. Hope requires perseverance. Hope requires belief. Hope may even require surrender. But hope is found in Jesus Christ.
During this blessed, Christmas season, make a declaration of hope in your life today. Take a few moments to pray, asking God to give you hope in abundance. And if you are courageous, ask him to empower you to share His hope with others in your life.
WEEK 2: LOVE
The gift of love. Have you ever given it? Have you ever received it? This is a special kind of gift, given freely. Completely independent of getting anything back.
Luke 1:26-36, 38
In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. […] For no word from God will ever fail.” “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.
Mary was bewildered when the angel appeared and called her “highly favored.” But her deep love for God caused her to submit to God’s purpose. Her love for God empowered her to embrace the promise of the Holy Spirit and power of the Most High. She surrendered herself to do the work of the Lord.
Jesus would then come to show the ultimate demonstration of love by laying down his own life to pay for the sins of the world. His blood would pay the price for all wrong doing which separated man from God. His life would be sacrificed so that you can be free from eternal separation from God. Jesus brought freedom, restoration, healing and salvation. God’s gift of love is available to all mankind. There are no pre-requisites or strings attached. It is a love that does not have to be reciprocated. God willingly embraces all who turn to Him.
Take a few moments to thank God for sending Jesus to earth so we could learn from him. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal anything in your life which may hinder you from fully accepting God’s love. Ask for a new understanding of His love afresh and anew, or perhaps as you have never known before.
WEEK 3: JOY
“When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.”
The season of Christmas is fully decorated in joy. We sing songs about joy. We read scriptures about joy. We find joy in giving and joy in receiving. But for just a moment, consider where this joy comes from. The joy of Christmas comes from someplace deep within. It is sparked by a deep desire to find the foretold Messiah and truly know the King of Kings. It burns with reverence and shudders with awe. This raw emotion of joy cannot keep silent and cannot be contained. Perhaps our hearts are so filled with joy during this holiday season because Christmas is the closest encounter humankind has ever had with God in the physical realm. When Jesus came to earth, man held him, ate with him, walked with him, touched him, learned from him and loved him. Mankind encountered God in a way that had not happened since sin entered the world over 4000 years earlier. But Jesus came to restore what had been broken between God and man. Perhaps we feel this deep, powerful joy at Christmas because God finds joy in his beloved creation being excited about Jesus. For a brief period, mankind and God are united in spirit by this unexplainable joy.
Take a few moments to invite the Joy of Jesus into your life. Confess hard feelings, hurts, resentment, frustration, anger, depression…feelings which oppose joy. Ask God to replace the negative things in your life with joy. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you choose joy at all times.
WEEK 4: PEACE
Throughout the Old Testament, God unfolds his plan for re-establishing his peace on earth. In Ezekiel 34:24-25a, we read about the covenant of peace (Ezekiel 34:24-25a). In Isaiah 9:6-7, the prophet speaks of the promised Messiah as our Prince of Peace…of the greatness of his peace there will be no end. In Micah, 5:5, it is written “he himself will be our peace.” Yes, Jesus Christ came to bring peace. He was the fulfillment of the promise of peace for Israel and he is the fulfillment of the promise of peace for us today. Romans 5:1 explains that by dying in our place, and by faith, we can have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Without Christ, we cannot be fully at peace. Jesus was so much more than some baby born to an unwed mother in a barn. His story doesn’t stop there. To fully understand the peace Jesus gives, we must look far beyond his birth. We must look at his death, and even beyond. You see, Jesus chose death. He chose death so that your inner peace may be restored with Creator God for all eternity. Before Jesus died, John Chapter 14 records Jesus speaking of “the Counselor, the Holy Spirit” whom the Father would send. In the same chapter, he went on to say, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (v. 27). Although Jesus is no longer on earth, the Holy Spirit is here and will walk with us each and every day. He will be our Counselor and friend. He will give guidance when asked and bring comfort in the midst of sorrow and difficulty. When we walk with God, we will still encounter hard things in life, but when we have the Prince of Peace directing us, our hearts can be sustained, our strength can be renewed and our lives can be enveloped in peace.
Take a few moments to reflect on areas of your life where peace may be lacking. Ask the Holy Spirit to work in that situation to bring peace and comfort.
Christmas is not just a holiday. Christmas is a blessed celebration of Jesus Christ. If these Advent readings are causing you to think, wonder, and question your own standing before God, please talk to Pastor Burt or another person you know to be familiar with the Bible. Jesus Christ is the best gift you will ever be given but you must accept the gift and choose to do something with it. Truly knowing Jesus brings a completely different understanding, feeling and experience to Christmas.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.