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 2

Today’s Verses:

Luke 1:5-10

In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old.

Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.

Herod the Great ruled over, among other places, Judea and Galilee from 37-4 B.C. Bethlehem and Jerusalem were both in Judea. Priests during this time were required to keep incense burning on the altar in front of the Most Holy Place in the temple in Jerusalem. To be the one to enter the Most Holy Place and supply fresh incense for the morning and evening sacrifices would have been a distinct privilege and a priest could only be chosen once in his lifetime to fulfill this role. As a priest, Zechariah would have been very familiar with Mosaic law and the prophecies about the coming Messiah.

Today’s Questions:

What words come to mind as I think about what Zechariah and Elizabeth must have felt as they reached old age and were unable to have a child?

If I were the one chosen for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to enter into the Most Holy Place, where God’s presence was palpable, how would I prepare to fulfill my duties?

What could I do to prepare my heart and my mind before I approach God in prayer?

Today’s Prayer:

Lord God, sometimes I feel so disappointed and discouraged when things do not go the way I expect or want. I wonder if you are really present, hearing the deep cries of my soul. Remind me, Lord, of your majesty and greatness as I approach you in prayer. Help me to remember all the ways you have blessed me, from my first breath to the moment I woke up today. I cannot wait to encounter you today, Lord.