Daily December Devotional — Day 30

IMG_1350

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

IMG_1349

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

IMG_1317

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

IMG_1308

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 22

IMG_1263

Today’s Verses:

Luke 2:6-7

While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

Today’s Questions:

How do you picture Mary’s reaction when she first held Jesus?

What words come to mind when you think of a newborn baby?

Why do you think God chose to come into the world by being born as a baby? Why not just appear as an adult?

Today’s Prayer:

Most High God, how could you have subjected yourself to the weakness and vulnerability it is to be a human baby? I have dreamed of being greater, stronger, immortal. I have never sought to become weak, vulnerable, or subject to death. How could you have left all the riches of heaven for the suffering that awaited you here on earth? I don’t understand your love, Father. Help me to just receive it. Thank you, Lord, for the way you came, the way you know, the way you save.

Daily December Devotional — Day 21

IMG_1262

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 17

IMG_1233

Today’s Verses:

Luke 1:56-60

Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.

When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy.

Today’s Questions:

What do you think it must have been like for Mary and Elizabeth to wait month after month for their babies to come given the circumstances of their pregnancies?

Can you think of a time that you had to wait for something that seemed like it would never happen? Describe it and the emotions attached.

Describe a time that you truly shared in someone else’s joy. What about a time you felt more envy than joy when someone else experienced a great mercy or blessing?

Today’s Prayer:

Father in heaven, please forgive me. I am impatient. I doubt you. I think you’ve forgotten me. I forget your blessings. I pray, Lord, that you would increase my patience and help me to see you in the midst of this season. I don’t want to miss you here, now. Help me to rejoice with others as you bless them or extend them mercy. So often, I feel envy instead of sharing in their joy. I know you are endlessly good. Remind me, Father, that you do not and will not run out of goodness.

Daily December Devotional — Day 16

IMG_1230

Today’s Verses:

Luke 1:53-55

He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.

He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever,
just as he promised our ancestors.

Today’s Questions:

Can you call to mind the last time you felt physically hungry? What kind of symptoms did you have that made you know you were hungry?

Have you ever felt a similar kind of hunger for God, a kind of restlessness or desire in your soul? How was that hunger satisfied?

What things, attitudes, or people pull you away from God?

Today’s Prayer:

Oh, Father, I long for you. Though success, affirmation, and adoration lure me away, and though fear, failure, and disappointment threaten to overwhelm me, my soul searches for you alone. My spirit reaches out, longing for your peace, joy, and life. Fill the ache in me with your presence today. Pour your love into my hungry heart. Remind me of your promises and your mercy. I am yours.

Daily December Devotional — Day 15

IMG_1207

Today’s Verses:

Luke 1:50-52

His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.

He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud
in their inmost thoughts.

He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.

Today’s Questions:

Why do you think Mary praises God in her psalm for lifting up the humble and scattering the proud?

Are there areas in your life where you are prideful in your inmost thoughts – your motivations, your thoughts of yourself, your thoughts of others in relation to yourself?

Can you identify any mighty deeds that God has performed in your life?

Today’s Prayer:

Father, extend your mercy to me. I am desperate for it. I have had self-aggrandizing motivations just this week. I have tried to wrest control away from you, I have sought my own glory over yours, I have sought my own comfort over love for someone else. Father, without you, I can do nothing. Pour your grace over me once again. Purify my inmost thoughts and bring me low if it means you will be lifted high.

Daily December Devotional — Day 14

IMG_1206

Today’s Verses:

Luke 1:46-49

And Mary said:

“My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.

From now on all generations will call me
blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me –
holy is his name.”

This section of Scripture (along with six more verses) is a hymn referred to as the Magnificat, which means “glorifies” in Latin Vulgate.

Today’s Questions:

How do you imagine Mary’s posture as she says these words? In what position are her arms? Her hands? The rest of her body?

When did you last feel your soul glorify, or worship, the Lord? What did it feel like?

What does it mean to you to be humble in the sight of God?

Today’s Prayer:

Father in heaven, I lift my hands and fix my eyes on you. I am here on this earth, praying that your will would be done in my life, in my family, this day. I want nothing but for my soul to glorify you and my spirit to rejoice in knowing you. Lord, when I seek my own glory, remind me gently that you made me, that you are the creator, that you are God. Be gracious to me, Father, grant me mercy as you transform me and I learn how to walk in humility and gratitude. You have done great things for me, your name is above all names.