Advent Devotional 2019

The Kingdom of God is Here – Dec. 24

Meditation for the Soul ~

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.
They shall build up the ancient ruins;
they shall raise up the former devastations;
they shall repair the ruined cities,
the devastations of many generations.
~ Isaiah 61:1-4 ~
“The kingdom of God is not coming
in ways that can be observed, 
nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’
for behold, the kingdom of God
is in the midst of you.”
~ Luke 17:20-21 ~

Reflection for the Mind ~

Merry Christmas Eve everyone! Thank you for traveling along with me these past weeks. I sincerely pray that you have been hearing from God and that these devotionals have helped that “hearing” to happen.  Our final thought today is one that requires us to zoom out from the manger and look down upon the earth from high above it. Why? Because when Jesus came to earth as an infant, His Kingdom came with Him.

We absolutely cannot separate the Christmas story from the arrival of the Kingdom of God. And yet we grapple daily with the fact that the Kingdom has not yet fully come. I’ve heard many preachers say that the Kingdom already present is really a kingdom within a kingdom. We are meant to live out the ethics of the Kingdom of God in the midst of the world’s opposing kingdom. We’re supposed to be displaying the values and behavior that will be the norm when Christ returns – all of which will appear radically abnormal until then.

And I think that’s where we stop to ponder and pray. Tomorrow is Christmas. How can you and I live as if the Kingdom of God has already come? Because it has. When you get out of bed tomorrow to commence with your traditions, how will you live differently as a citizen of the Kingdom of God? We might begin by reciting the words first offered from the mouth of the mother of Jesus. They are as true for us as they were for her: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name,” (Luke 1:47-49). That’s a pretty powerful opening line to begin the celebration of the arrival of the Promised One!

May HOPE, FAITH, JOY and the PEACE of God abound in you and in those you love today, and in the days to come. Merry Christmas everyone!

Response for the Heart ~

Lord, I bow in reverence before You… my soul magnifies You! I celebrate You, Emmanuel… God with us. I worship You King of Kings and Lord of Lords. I exalt You Savior of the world. I join the heavenly hosts and my brothers and sisters all around the world to celebrate the day that You came to the earth as a baby. Be glorified today and every day! All praise and honor and glory is Yours, forever!

Yea, Lord, we greet thee,
born this happy morning;
Jesus, to thee be all glory giv’n;
Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing.
~
O come let us adore Him
O come let us adore Him
O come let us adore Him
Christ the Lord!
~
John Francis Wade
(translated by Frederick Oakeley)

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The New Covenant – Dec. 23

Meditation for the Soul ~

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord,
when I will make a new covenant
with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 
not like the covenant that I made with their fathers
on the day when I took them by the hand
to bring them out of the land of Egypt,
my covenant that they broke,
though I was their husband, declares the Lord.
For this is the covenant that I will make
with the house of Israel after those days,
declares the Lord:
I will put my law within them,
and I will write it on their hearts.
And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 
And no longer shall each one teach
his neighbor and each his brother, saying,
‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest,
declares the Lord.
For I will forgive their iniquity,
and I will remember their sin no more.”
~ Jeremiah 31: 31-34 ~
“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace
among those with whom he is pleased!”
~ Luke 2:14 ~

Reflection for the Mind ~

I read the above text with the manger scene in my mind and it’s powerful! Christmas stands just two days away. We’ll see signs of the impending arrival everywhere as we go about our business today.  We’ll also likely have loads of “opportunities” to give our peace away in all the frenzy (note to self).

’Peace’ is our last heading for this advent devotional. And I cannot think about peace without thinking about the new covenant. This covenant makes possible my peace and yours. The forgiveness of sins and God’s decision to put them out of His mind are gifts He offers to us. When we accept those gifts we enter the new covenant with God. We are reconciled to Him, back in right standing and able to know Him as the prophet Jeremiah foretold. So peace is ours! It’s ours to enjoy.

We are new covenant people at peace with our Maker because of all the babe in the manger would do on our behalf! Wouldn’t it be a shame to squander the peace that comes to us at so great a cost? Today let’s not just protect and enjoy that peace, but be agents of peace for those in our path.

Response for the Heart ~

Lord, peace is such a coveted commodity. But you offer it to Your children in abundance. It’s ours to enjoy and put on display. Come alive in me in the person of Your Spirit so that peace overrides any chaos today might bring. How often I have given my peace away, overwhelmed by the trappings of our cultural traditions surrounding Christmas. I ought to be the calm in the chaos! “You keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You,” (Isaiah 26:3). There’s the answer! Thank You Lord.

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Jesus ~ the Worshiped One – Dec. 21

Meditation for the Soul ~

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!”
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 2:8-12 ~

Reflection for the Mind ~

For the first time… from eternity… one of the Godhead was worshiped in human form! Oh, my word! There is just nowhere within the human psyche for this to sit, yet it happened. And who got invited to that event? I mean, who would have actually believed what they were seeing? God cherry-picked a handful of people with faith we can hardly comprehend, and gave them a front-row seat to the entrance of Emmanuel. And not incidentally, God the Spirit was present and active seeing to it that no one missed a cue.

But the truth is, Jesus is still alive… and while He might not be walking the earth as He did two-thousand years ago, He is just as actively seeking those who would come to Him. That includes you and every person you are going to encounter as you go about your business today. The shepherds didn’t stop worshiping God when they left the manger scene… they told everyone they encountered what they’d witnessed!

It’s almost Christmas. Let’s be open and eager to help people find their way to Christ the Lord by bearing witness (in word and deed) to the life we have in Him. Let’s worship Him for all to see!

Response for the Heart ~

Lord, the joy that Mary, Joseph and the shepherds experienced (not to mention the hosts of heaven) is the same joy that You would have me experience in my life! You are as real this moment as You were when You were lying in that manger. Put Your joy on display in me today for Your glory and as a witness to those who need Your salvation!

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Jesus ~ the Angels Rejoice – Dec. 20

Meditation for the Soul ~

And there appeared to him (Zechariah)
an angel of the Lord
standing on the right side of the altar of incense.
I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God,
and I was sent to speak to you
and to bring you this good news.
~ Luke 1:11; 19 ~
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel
was sent from God to a virgin
betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph,
of the house of David.
And he came to her and said,
“Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”
~ Luke 1:26-28;  ~ 
And suddenly there was with the angel
a multitude of the heavenly host praising God.
~ Luke 2:13-14 ~

Reflection for the Mind ~

What a roll the angels played in the story of the coming of Jesus! The sacred tasks conducted by Gabriel and others were of paramount importance and a high honor. Both the angels and the recipients of their tidings were part of some of the most compelling moments in human history. The position the angels enjoyed before God remained the same after Jesus accomplished His mission, but everything changed for humanity! Even so the angels praise of God was so effusive you would have thought all that happened was for them! Any chance they got to make much of God they did so mightily.

We, humans, have much to learn from the way the angel’s worship. As we reflect upon them throughout the events of the birth of Jesus, I pray we would invite the Holy Spirit to teach us to worship God with more abandon. The angels were and are very clear about where all glory goes, and they give generously. As the beneficiaries of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, every ounce of passion we have ought to be spent ascribing worth to our God!

Response for the Heart ~

Lord, I pray that praise would be the dominating expression of my heart throughout this Christmas season! Help me, by Your Spirit, to take the angel’s lead and worship You as never before! Let my praise and adoration be a witness to those I meet so that they inquire about the joy in my heart, and about You, the sole object of my worship!

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Jesus ~ Born in a Manger – Dec. 19

Meditation for the Soul ~

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 2:6-7 ~
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.
~ Luke 2:11-12 ~

Reflection for the Mind ~

A manger? A feeding trough? What could possibly be the point of having the Incarnate Son of God laid in a feeding trough? The text above says it was to be a sign. The function of the manger in the storyline was to act as a sign so that those sent to find Him would know for certain it was Him. How many mangers in Bethlehem would be occupied by babies? Find an infant in a feeding trough and you’ve found your baby!

Was the manger in a stable?  Some think not. It may have been in a lower section of the house of one of Joseph’s relatives. It wouldn’t have been uncommon to find a manger or two indoors to accommodate the animals during the cold. Still, this sure seems like it’s a long way from the ideal resting place for the Promised One.

In the grand scheme (the part that trickles down to us) the manger reminds us of the inconceivably humble life the King of Kings would live throughout His years on the earth. After all “he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross,” (Philippians 2:8). As lowly as the manger was it was not the lowest the Savior would go to pay our debt of sin.

Response for the Heart ~

Lord, my flesh winces at the thought of You in the manger. At the same I am filled with awe as I picture You laying there. I’m not meant to feel sorry for the Christ Child but to be filled with Joy as I contemplate the wonder of the details of my rescue… details You set in place! You came humbly when You had every right to enter with all the fanfare befitting the one true God. All praise and glory is Yours!

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Jesus ~ Born of a Virgin – Dec. 18

Meditation for the Soul ~

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign:
The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son,
and will call him Immanuel.
~ Isaiah 7:14 ~
All this took place to fulfill
what the Lord had said through the prophet:
“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son,
and they will call him Immanuel”
(which means “God with us”).
~ Matthew 1:22-23 ~

Reflection for the Mind ~

How was the Son of God going to enter the world as a human unless he was born of a human? There is plenty of mystery surrounding the ways of God but Gabriel’s words to Mary, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” (Luke 1:35), ranks right up there. Maybe it shouldn’t surprise us that much. If God can call the whole of creation into being out of nothing, He can certainly bypass the reproductive process He invented.

God the Father entrusted the earthly fathering of Jesus to Joseph, but the Son of God was not going to come into the world having a biological father. Apparently it was going to take a God/man to accomplish what was needed in order to restore us to our Maker. So God, in an act of marvelous creativity, saw to it that Jesus would be born of a virgin. The Christmas story is packed with the miraculous. May God give us insight into His nature as we ponder the virgin birth of our Lord.

Response for the Heart ~

Lord, there is not a single detail of the events of the birth of Jesus that does not give me a peek into Your nature and character. Thank you for showing me who You are as I meditate on the wonder of the virgin birth. You are unlimited in Your power and creativity. You don’t seem to be bound by the structures You created and that means You do things that sometimes leave me scratching my head. You have proved time and again that You are the God of the impossible. Praise You for Your “wondrous works to the children of man,” (Psalm 107)!

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Magi ~ Seekers, Finders – Dec. 17

Meditation for the Soul ~

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea,
Magi from the east
came to Jerusalem and asked,
“Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?
We saw his star when it rose
and have come to worship him.”
Then Herod called the Magi secretly
and found out from them
the exact time the star had appeared.
He sent them to Bethlehem and said,
“Go and search carefully for the child.
As soon as you find him, report to me,
so that I too may go and worship him.”
After they had heard the king, they went on their way,
and the star they had seen
when it rose went ahead of them
until it stopped over the place where the child was.
When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.
On coming to the house,
they saw the child with his mother Mary.
And having been warned in a dream
not to go back to Herod,
they returned to their country by another route.
~ Matthew 2:1-2;7-12 ~

Reflection for the Mind ~

How is it that pagan “wise men” recognized the revelation of the star in the sky and knew exactly what it meant? We don’t know the answer, but we do know they were eager to follow that star and pay homage to the Promised King. Almost no one was actively looking for signs that would alert them to the birth of Jesus, but these magi were. There are always surprises within the workings of God, details that don’t seem like they belong.

But today as we remember this piece of the Christmas story, we can’t miss the fact that God was absolutely in charge of every person and detail associated with the coming of Jesus. Even folks like poor King Herod, who thought his crafty plan could eliminate the Christ Child, was on God’s radar. Don’t you find great comfort in the all-encompassing control of God? And look, if God’s people are asleep on the watch aren’t you glad He makes space for true seekers (whoever they are) to enter the story?

Response for the Heart ~

Lord, thank you so much for the magi. I’m sorry Your own people were not more in tune and aware. But I’m so grateful that didn’t stop You from moving forward with Your plans! Thank You for inviting the magi into the time-line of the coming of Jesus. I pray I would learn from them and seek You as they did… with my whole heart! You promise that when I do I will be found by You. And in Your sweet presence is joy… to the full!

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Bethlehem ~ Set Apart – Dec. 16

Meditation for the Soul ~

Rachel died and was buried
on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem).
~ Genesis 35:19 ~
The man’s name was Elimelek,
his wife’s name was Naomi.
They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem, Judah.
~ Ruth 1:2 ~
The Lord said to Samuel,
“How long will you mourn for Saul,
since I have rejected him as king over Israel?
Fill your horn with oil and be on your way;
I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem.
I have chosen one of his sons to be king.”
~ 1 Samuel 16:1 ~
David went back and forth from Saul
to tend his father’s sheep at Bethlehem.
~ 1 Samuel 17:15 ~
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me one
who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”
~ Micah 5:2 ~

Reflection for the Mind ~

Bethlehem was ground-zero for some significant pieces of history throughout the Old Testament. It was just a small town in Judah until God elevated it to prominence, using it as a backdrop that would ensure its notoriety for the rest of time. It means house of bread aptly named as the place where the Bread of Life would come into the world. There is a beautiful continuity through the entire lineage of Jesus that’s tied to Bethlehem. The texts written above say as much.

What I find remarkable in God’s plan of redemption (particularly in the Christmas story), is that there is not one detail that is insignificant. That includes the little town that shows up periodically throughout God’s whole narrative. Sometimes there is nothing short of priceless, hidden treasure in details that wouldn’t ordinarily capture our attention. I believe God is eager to reveal those treasures if only we would linger in the story with Him.

Perhaps today you would linger in your remembrance of Bethlehem. Not because Bethlehem is a wonder in and of itself, but because God chose this place. Every person or place or thing that God chooses to be part of His great story He chooses purposefully. And I believe no matter where we would stop within the story there’s something to be learned about our great Savior. Look for Him as you meander through the streets of Bethlehem today.

Response for the Heart ~

Lord, most often I move through the Christmas story so quickly I miss the details. But this is Your grand story, and no detail should go unnoticed. Frankly, I move through the details of my own life too quickly too! Help me find treasures you’ve tucked away and saved for those who would not be in a hurry. I have an idea they are hidden right under my nose. I don’t want to miss anything You have for me… and I’d like to be aware enough to help others find their own treasure!

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Anna the Prophetess – Dec. 14

Meditation for the Soul ~

And there was a prophetess,
Anna, the daughter of Phanuel,
of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years,
having lived with her husband seven years,
and then as a widow until she was eighty-four.
She did not depart from the temple,
worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day.
And coming up at that very hour
she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him
to all who were waiting
for the redemption of Jerusalem.
~ Luke 2: 36-38~

Reflection for the Mind ~

Eighty-four-year-old Anna would encounter the Promised One moments after Simeon did. She too was among the quiet of the land and like Simeon, received the rare gift of bearing witness to the infant Jesus.

Anna’s commitment to waiting well was utterly comprehensive. She would not leave the premises of the temple…. not ever. How many eighty-four-year-olds (or anyone for that matter) do you know who have zero moments to spare because of their sacrifice of worship, prayer and fasting to the Lord?  Do the math in the text above… Anna spent the bulk of her life demonstrating her radical commitment to God. She was one dedicated lady.

The story of waiting and waiting faithfully is a huge piece of the story of the birth of Jesus. I pray this week your soul has been reawakened to the quality of the people God chose to participate in the quiet entrance of Emmanuel! May their stories inspire and encourage us as we move another day closer to the celebration of His birth!

Response for the Heart ~

Lord –  The stories of John the Baptist, Elizabeth, Joseph and Mary and these precious elderly ones are such a gift. Help me by Your Spirit to move past the inspiration I feel so that You can work true transformation into me. I want to be found faithful as they were! And send me to people this Christmas season who need to know that the Christ Child came to earth for them.

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Simeon the Devout – Dec. 13

Meditation for the Soul ~

Now there was a man in Jerusalem,
whose name was Simeon,
and this man was righteous and devout,
waiting for the consolation of Israel,
and the Holy Spirit was upon him.
And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit
that he would not see death
before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.
And he came in the Spirit into the temple,
and when the parents brought in the child Jesus,
to do for him according to the custom of the Law,
he took him up in his arms and blessed God.
~ Luke 2:25-27 ~

Reflection for the Mind ~

I love Simeon’s story, and I love the kind of person he represents. Even though God had been silent for several hundred years, devout men and women like Simeon faithfully waited and prayed for the Promised One to arrive. Tradition held that these precious few were known as the quiet of the land. How counter-cultural to be one of the quiet ones! The elderly Simeon was seen by God and was mightily rewarded. The Spirit sent him to the temple that day to see and carry, and bless the infant Jesus and his family. Just amazing!

Today as we reflect, I wonder if we might examine our own resolve to faithfully pray and wait, not for the babe in a manger but for the returning King. What better time to renew our resolve than as Christmas approaches. May Simeon’s story inspire us to do just that.

Response for the Heart ~

Lord, Simeon reminds me that Your eyes “run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward Him,” (2 Chronicles 16:9). Thank you for righteous, devout Simeon and for stopping and fixing Your eyes upon him! You still look for the Simeon’s of the world… those who cling to Your promises and prayerfully wait for them! Help me by Your Spirit to be among the quiet of the land.

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Mary ~ The Mother of Jesus – Dec. 12

Meditation for the Soul ~

Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord;
let it be to me according to your word.”
~ Luke 1:37 ~

Reflection for the Mind ~

The angel Gabriel was really making the rounds in Luke’s first chapter. His next proclamation would be for a teenage girl. Once again he bore vital news that no other person in all of history would receive. Mary would be challenged as no one had ever been challenged. I cannot move past Mary’s initial response (written above) to Gabriel. There is plenty here to provide us with the days pondering.

Two things jump out of the text. Mary knew who she was (I am the servant of the Lord) therefore a hearty and quick “yes” was the only answer she would give (let it be to me according to your word). While she was naturally curious about how she could conceive a child (understatement of the ages), her “yes” was not hinged upon her ability to understand. It may be among the most profound examples of faith in all of Scripture.

Is that how you respond when God the Spirit speaks to you? Don’t despair! We all have room to grow and much to learn from Mary. It couldn’t hurt any of us to spend today meditating upon her simple faith-laden response to Gabriel.

Response for the Heart ~

Lord, today as Christmas stands thirteen days out, I stand in awe of this little girl and the godly wisdom she possessed. Thank You for a glimpse into her radical faith! It’s jaw-dropping and convicting in the best sense of the word! Ground me in my identity and faith (like you did Mary) so that I answer “yes,” no matter the challenge You put before me!

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Joseph ~ A Man of Character – Dec. 11

Meditation for the Soul ~

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.”
When Joseph woke from sleep,
he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him:
he took his wife,
but knew her not until she had given birth to a son.
And he called his name Jesus.
~ Matthew 1:18-21;24-25 ~

Reflection for the Mind ~

The story of Joseph is a study in Godly character. God hand-picked Joseph to do what only a man of Godly character could do. The short text above reveals an amazing look into Joseph’s remarkable nature. I believe God would have these traits come to bear in all His sons and daughters.

As I’ve meditated on the passage above, here is what comes to the fore. Joseph was…
… a just man
He cared about what was right.
… a kind man
He cared about not bringing shame.
… a wise man
He weighed the variables and made a plan he was resolved to carry out.
… a thoughtful man
He paused to think and ponder, even after he was resolved.
… a tempered man
He was afraid, but fear didn’t inform his actions.
… a teachable man
He was open to hear from God.
… an obedient man
Once God spoke, it was a done deal. He acted immediately.
… a disciplined man
He waiting to consummate his marriage.

What would it look like for you and me to approach today with the hope of exhibiting some of these beautiful qualities? It can happen if the Spirit has hold of our hearts! That’s what made the difference for Joseph. Especially during a season where people might be sincerely wondering about the babe in the manger, let’s be approachable… resolved to put the character of our Lord on display.

Response for the Heart ~

Lord, by Your Spirit walk me through this list of traits and speak to me about my own character… or lack of character. Thank You for Joseph. Thank You for telling me part of his story and giving me such an exceptional example of Godliness. It helps me know how I’m meant to represent You to the world!

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Elizabeth ~ Mother of John the Baptist – Dec. 10

Meditation for the Soul ~

And they (Zechariah and Elizabeth)
were both righteous before God,
walking blamelessly in all the
commandments and statutes of the Lord.
~ Luke 1:6 ~
And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary,
the baby leaped in her womb.
And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit,
and she exclaimed with a loud cry,
“Blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 
And why is this granted to me
that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 
For behold, when the sound of your greeting
came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.
And blessed is she who believed
that there would be a fulfillment
of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”
~ Luke 1:41-45 ~

Reflection for the Mind ~

The mother of John the Baptist may be on my top-five list of people I can’t wait to meet in heaven. So much about Elizabeth’s character and enthusiasm is revealed in the brief text above. It’s enough for her to be seen as a person any of us would be honored to emulate. Like her son would be, Elizabeth was remarkably in tune with what was happening within her and around her. The righteousness she displayed in her life before her pregnancy was equally present after… as the miracles began to flow! She was just amazing.

Unlike her poor hubby, Elizabeth didn’t seem to struggle to receive the news that the angel Gabriel delivered. She thanked God and recognized the favor He extended to her by removing her reproach as a barren woman and granting her the honor of being in the presence of the unborn Messiah. She was also an agent of encouragement for Mary, quick to applaud Mary for her great faith! Oh, to be like Elizabeth!

Response for the Heart ~

Lord, I want to have the awareness of Elizabeth especially as Christmas approaches. Sensitize my spirit by Your Spirit, so that I’m quick to see You at work and give You honor. Let me be unashamed and generous in my praise of You, and let it be contagious, just as Elizabeth’s testimony is to me! Thank you for her life and for the gift it has been for two-thousand years.

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The Forerunner ~ John the Baptist – Dec. 09

Meditation for the Soul ~

Behold, I send my messenger,
and he will prepare the way before me.
~ Malachi 3:1 ~
A voice cries: “In the wilderness
prepare the way of the Lord;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”
~ Isaiah 40:3 ~
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.
He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light.
~ John 1:6-7 ~
He will be filled with the Holy Spirit,
even from his mother’s womb. 
And he will turn many of the children of Israel
to the Lord their God.
~ Luke 1:15-16 ~

Reflection for the Mind ~

Our second week of Advent will focus on a few primary figures surrounding the birth of Jesus. Each was invited by God to play very different but vital roles in the story of the coming Savior. We begin with the forerunner, John the Baptist. He shows up in the Christmas story as a Spirit-filled baby in utero who leaped in his mother’s womb when the unborn Jesus was near him. Before he was even born he was bearing witness that the Promised One had come!

The forerunner for the Savior of the world was strikingly humble: “The friend of the bridegroom rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease,” (John 3:29-30). His was a humility akin to that of Jesus. John also possessed an unshakable clarity of purpose: “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, make straight the way of the Lord” (John 1:23).

How utterly Christ-like, never to put yourself forward but to live to elevate Jesus! And how fulfilling to be so clear about who you are and why you’re walking the earth that you confidently live it out! John lived his life under the sway of God the Spirit. It shouldn’t surprise us then, that he would so profoundly emulate the One he was born to usher in! May God have access to our hearts, so that we represent Him to the those in our path as John did… humbly and without reservation!

Response for the Heart ~

Lord, I’m inspired by the clarity and resolve of John the Baptist. And I’m convicted by the depth of his humility. Please use this time of remembering the birth of Jesus to make me the person You would have me be for Your glory! Capture my heart and be the ruling force within me. Help me to boldly yet humbly declare the truth about the babe in the manger who is Christ the Lord!

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The Christ Child ~ Son of God – Dec. 07

Meditation for the Soul ~

The Lord said to me, “You are my Son;
today I have begotten you.
Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
and the ends of the earth your possession.
~ Psalm 2:7-8 ~
And a voice came from heaven,
“You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
~ Mark 1:11 ~

Reflection for the Mind ~

We close the first week of Advent by drawing our attention to another title given to Jesus. Sixty-seven times in the New Testament Jesus is referred to as the Son of God. The Babe in the manger was the Son of God. Our natural mind rejects such an implausibility. But an over-familiarity with the title Son of God might cause us to skip over the wondrous fact: God’s Son, a member of the Godhead, once laid in a manger as a baby boy! Selah (pause and reflect)!

Imagine being present and peering into the manger where the infant Jesus lay. And imagine declaring these words of truth as you looked upon Him: “And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life,” (1 John 5:20).

The Christ Child is non-other than the Son of God. He was begotten of the Father from eternity which means He has no beginning. He is God. He is God the Son, a distinct person from the Father and the Spirit but one in essence with them! And a few thousand years ago He lay in a manger as a helpless babe.

Response for the Heart ~

I worship you, Son of God. You are fully God… as is the Father… as is the Spirit. You convened as the Triune Being and mapped out the way You would ransom humanity. You ransomed me! My heart is overflowing with awe and wonder and gratitude! Thank you Lord! You do all things well. Thank you for the HOPE I have in You… the Promised One… the Son of God… my Redeemer and Savior!

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