Daily December Devotional — Day 27

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Today’s Verses:

Matthew 2:7-12

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 they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

Today’s Questions:

What was Herod afraid of with the appearance of this new king of the Jews?

What do you think it would have been like for Mary and Joseph for these men to have come, bow down, and worship their new son?

Have you ever been afraid of what God might ask you to do if you listened carefully? Why? What are you afraid of?

Today’s Prayer:

Father, how is it that I forget that I am the created and you are the Creator? How is it that I constantly seek to wrest control away from you, turn my way, ignore you, ask you to wait outside, deny you? Am I no better than King Herod? You see the broken places in me, Lord. Hold me fast, lock your hand on mine. I am apt, over and over, to let go. I have not always given you my best gifts, but offered instead the leftovers. Help me to be what you made me to be, to follow you fearlessly. Help me to worship you in each moment of my life and use my remaining breath to make you known, glorify you, and forward your purposes.

Daily December Devotional — Day 26

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Today’s Verses:

Matthew 2:1-6

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, 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.”

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:

But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.”

The “magi” were likely non-Jewish wise men or scholars of the day who studied astronomy and knew the Jewish prophecies about the coming Messiah. The appearance of a previously unseen star was seen as the fulfillment of the prophecy made by Balaam and recorded in Numbers 24:17 (“A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel.”). The passage quoted by the chief priests and teachers of the law (spiritual leaders of the Jews) is found in Micah 5:2, 4.

Today’s Questions:

How do you picture the magi responding when they first saw the new star in the sky? Did they know right away? Did they doubt?

Why do you think “all of Jerusalem” was disturbed by the news that the magi saw the star and came to worship the new king?

What do you think the response of the chief priests and teachers of the law was when they heard the claim of the magi and advised Herod of Micah’s prophecy about the birthplace of the Messiah?

How would you have responded if you had been a Jew and were present when the magi explained what they had seen and why they had come?

Today’s Prayer:

Oh, God, I worship you. I want to be someone who, as soon as I am aware of your presence, lifts my hands, laughs with joy, and exclaims your praise. Let every star, every sunrise, every breeze, every smile, every storm, every pair of eyes, every snowfall, every breath lead me to worship you. Lord, let all that I see as good and all that I see as suffering lead me to my knees in worship. You are my King. The King. The one predicted by the mouths of prophets, the stars in the sky, and the hearts of the faithful. My heart calls out and longs for you alone.

Daily December Devotional — Day 24

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Today’s Verses:

Luke 2:13-15

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom
his favor rests.”

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

In Latin Vulgate, “Glory to God in the highest” is translated “Gloria in Excelsis Deo.”

Today’s Questions:

Why do you think the company of heavenly host appeared to praise God before the shepherds?

How do you picture the shepherds as the angels descended and began singing? What did they do? How did they feel?

Can you think of a time when you said, “I can’t believe that happened!”? What were you referring to? Was it something you could see or touch or hear?

Today’s Prayer:

Oh Father, thank you that Jesus happened. Here. On earth! Thank you that you came to be with us, Immanuel. Thank you for yet another reminder that Jesus isn’t a concept, but someone who happened, someone who occurred and came to pass. Lord, I want to be a person who sings, “Glory to God in the highest!” Glory to you, Lord, not to me. When your glory is revealed, let me be the first to sing your praise, to go and see, to stand in awe. Let this not just be a refrain I sing, but a life I live.

Daily December Devotional — Day 21

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Today’s Verses:

Luke 2:1-5:

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.

Caesar Augustus was the first emperor of Rome and ruled from 27 B.C. until 14 A.D. A census was taken in order to effectively tax all those living in the Roman Empire. Scholars believe Quirinius was in office for two terms – 6-4 B.C. and 6-9 A.D – and a census was taken during each. The prophet Micah prophesied that the Messiah would come out of Bethlehem. (Micah 5:2) The prophet Jeremiah prophesied that the Messiah would come from the line of David. (Jeremiah 23:5) Bethlehem was about 80 miles south of Nazareth.

Today’s Questions:

Does the historical context that Luke gives hold any importance to you as you read this passage?

Consider what it would have been like for Mary and Joseph to travel 80 miles by foot and/or donkey in order to take part in the census. What would your response to such a directive have been? How would you have felt as you walked 80 miles?

Where would your thoughts take you as you walked mile upon mile, knowing that the child you were expecting was the long-awaited Messiah? What kinds of fears? Doubts?

Today’s Prayer:

Father, thank you for your Word. Thank you for the reminder that this is not a fairy tale, but that it happened in a real place, during a real time. Help me to remember, God, that Jesus was born into this very world that I live in, the same earth, the same sun and moon and stars. Help me to remember that Jesus is not a concept, a set of rules, a made-up character. Jesus happened in history and you used two human beings with hands and feet and fear like mine to carry out your purposes. I pray, Lord, that you would strengthen me for the assignment you have for me, that I can exercise strong faith and unbending trust to do everything you ask of me. Use my hands, my feet. Allay my fears. Settle my doubts. Rid me of my selfishness. Oh, Father, use me for your purposes in this world.