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.

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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 25

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Today’s Verses:

Luke 2:16-20

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Today’s Questions:

How do you think the shepherds explained what they had been told about the newborn child?

Have you ever overheard people saying good things about your parent, or child, or spouse, or friend? How did it make you feel?

Think of a time you experienced something – a beautiful sunset, a feeling, words from someone else, an unexplained mercy – that you could not quite put into words for another person. Have you been able to treasure and ponder that experience? How?

Today’s Prayer:

Father, when I read what happened, and imagine the way the shepherds must have explained to their friends, their family, and even strangers, about the arrival of the Savior, I am amazed! When I think of what Mary must have felt as she heard people describing what her son was, what he would be, and all he would do! How is it that I could ever come to see this event as run-of-the-mill, boring, or just another story? Help it sink in, Lord! Block out all the other noise and distractions that pull at me. Thank you for the blessings and mercies you have given to my heart alone. When you bless me this way, Lord, I pray that I will treasure it deeply.

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.

Daily December Devotional — Day 10

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Today’s Verses:

Matthew 1:22-25

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”).

When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son.  And he gave him the name Jesus.

Matthew refers here to the prophet Isaiah’s statement, as recorded in Isaiah 7:14: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” The phrase “call him” means “refer to him as.” Throughout the books of the prophets, there are various references to the names by which the Messiah will be called. (See for example, Isaiah 9:6; Jeremiah 23:6)

Today’s Questions:

What kind of feelings does the reference to Jesus as “God with us” give rise to in you?

Does the fact that God was with us on the earth in a human form impact the way you experience temptation, or suffering, or sickness, or conflict? What about the way you experience happiness, pleasure, or family? Why or why not?

What do you think the conversation between Joseph and Mary was like when he told her his decision to take her as his wife?

Today’s Prayer:

Oh, God, that you were here, with us, among us, living in the flesh! It’s almost too wonderful to believe! I wonder how it was to leave the majesty and perfection of heaven for this earth with war, and disease, and dust, and death, with colds, and heartbreak, and loneliness. Thank you for knowing how it is to be in this body, when it aches with fear or pain or loneliness.  Thank you that you know how it feels when I can barely stand in the face of temptation.  Thank you that you know what it is to mourn, to shake with tears of grief and longing.  Thank you that you came to be with us. Jesus. Our Immanuel.

Daily December Devotional — Day 9

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Today’s Verses:

Matthew 1:18-21

This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

Matthew’s gospel was written by Matthew, the tax collector-turned-follower of Jesus, and one of the 12 apostles. Most scholars believe that Matthew wrote his gospel in the late 50s or 60s to Jews and Jews who had become Christians.

Under Jewish law, sexual relations were not permitted during a couple’s engagement, which was much more binding than engagements today. Engagements then could only be broken by divorce, which is likely why Mary and Joseph are called wife and husband even though when Mary learned she was pregnant, they had not yet been married. If Joseph had followed the law and divorced Mary publicly, she would have been stoned to death. “Jesus” is Greek for “Joshua,” which means “the Lord saves.”

Today’s Questions:

What emotions do you think arose in Joseph when he learned that his fiancée was pregnant?

Why do you think the angel who appeared to Joseph refers to him as the “son of David”?

Can you think of a time you decided not to do something, even though you knew it was the right thing, for fear of what other people might whisper about you behind your back?

What does it mean to you to be saved from your sins?

Today’s Prayer:

Thank you for Joseph and the courageous and faithful servant he was. I pray that I can display such courage to do the right thing even when others will talk about me and gossip behind my back. Help me overcome fear in taking actions I know to be right. I am bended low in gratitude and humility that you sent your son to save me from the captivity of sin and the separation it caused between us. I am overjoyed that now I have the ability to approach you through the one who saves.