Daily December Devotional — Day 30

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Today’s Verses:

Luke 2:36-40

There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.

Today’s Questions:

What is the significance of Anna’s age as you read this passage?

What do you make of the fact that the person who spoke about Jesus “to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem” was a woman?

What do you think it means that the grace of God was on Jesus? How do you picture that manifesting itself?

Can you identify all the people or groups that we have come into contact with over this month of study who were waiting in expectation for the arrival of the Messiah? How might you refer to their example as you wait for the second coming of Christ?

Today’s Prayer:

Father, thank you for your Word. Thank you for the example of Zechariah, Elizabeth, Mary, Joseph, the wise men, the shepherds, Simeon, and Anna. Their sacrifice, devotion, and faithful obedience and waiting amaze me as I have come to learn more about their lives and context. Thank you for your servant, Luke, for writing his account with a commitment to investigating what happened so that we may be certain of what we have been taught. Never let me forget, Lord, that these were real people who lived on this earth and struggled with the same kinds of doubts and fears and longings that I struggle with today. Thank you, Lord for the sacrifice that Jesus made on my behalf, for the robe of righteousness I now live within as a result, and for the knowledge that Jesus will come again and make all things new.

Daily December Devotional — Day 29

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Today’s Verses:

Luke 2:25-35

Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of your people Israel.”

The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

Today’s Questions:

What is the importance of the Holy Spirit being on Simeon as he speaks?

What words does Simeon use to describe Jesus?

What does Simeon say Jesus will cause? And why?

How do you think Mary felt when Simeon said, “a sword will pierce your own soul too”?

Today’s Prayer:

Father, where would I be without your salvation? Thank you that you keep your promises! Thank you, Lord, for extending your saving grace to all the nations, to me. Thank you for the moment I realized your light was for me, would overcome the darkness, and would satisfy the deep longing of my soul. I pray, Father, that the thoughts of my heart would be of you and that they reveal my faith in and devotion to you. Where my thoughts wander, God, I pray that you would forgive me quickly and redirect them so that my eyes and heart are fixed on you and my words and actions reflect your love and grace.

Daily December Devotional — Day 28

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Today’s Verses:

Luke 2:21-26

On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.

When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”

Purification rites would have been required 40 days after Jesus’ birth. Consecrate means to set apart for God’s use.

Today’s Questions:

What do you imagine the conversations between Mary and Joseph were like just after Jesus was born? A week later? A month later?

Knowing what they had been told about their baby, do you think Mary and Joseph had any hesitation about presenting Jesus at the temple?

Is any emotion evoked in you when you speak the name, “Jesus”? Describe it.

How do you feel when you hear someone use the name of Jesus in anger or frustration?

Today’s Prayer:

Jesus, my Lord. Your name evokes in me a love beyond compare. Forgive me the times your name has escaped my mouth as a curse or out of anger or frustration. My heart breaks to know how this grieves you. When I hear your name, I see eyes that penetrate my soul and cried for me, arms spread wide enough to encompass even me, a body beaten and broken for me, and a mouth that knows my name. But Lord, I also see a glorious and fierce light, a strong arm that pulls me up, and an ocean of grace. Jesus. Lord Jesus.

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.