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 23

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Today’s Verses:

Luke 2:8-12

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Today’s Questions:

Why do you think God chose to have his angel declare the good news of the arrival of the Savior to shepherds living in the fields (as opposed to people in town; a family in a home; or the Jews at the temple)?

Why do you think the initial reaction to the Lord’s angels, by Zechariah, Mary, and the shepherds, was fear?

When and how did you first come to realize your need to be saved? How did you feel when you came to the realization?

Today’s Prayer:

Father in heaven, thank you for the day you revealed to me not only my need for a savior, but also the availability of the Savior. Thank you, Lord, that you met my need with your grace; my sin with your forgiveness; my darkness with your light. There are days I forget the good news: you have saved me. Minor irritants, insignificant hurts, small resentments, and paralyzing fears pull me off course. How can I forget that you’ve set me free and called me higher? Help me to remember, Father. Help me to lay down my pride and fear. Help me to be patient, bring my hurt to your healing hand, and manifest your grace and love.

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.

December Devotional Day 1

Ironically, Christmas is a season in which you could look around at our culture and ask: “What does Jesus have to do with Christmas?” and conclude that the answer is “nothing.” I am not getting pulled into that trap. So, I’m seeking to bathe myself in the story of Jesus’ birth as told in God’s Word.

For the month of December, I am reading a segment of Scripture each day that relates to the story of Jesus’ birth and the time just before he arrived. The Jews who lived before Jesus came into this world waited in expectation for the Messiah, the one who would save them. I am seeking to enter into this “waiting in expectation” state in which they lived not only to increase my understanding of that time, but also because that is where we find ourselves today – waiting in expectation for the second coming of Christ. I think there is much to be learned and I pray I won’t be the same at the end of this month.

I will post the Scripture I’m reading each day as well as some questions I am considering and meditating on in connection with my reading.

Today’s Verses:

Luke 1:1-4

“Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.”

This is the first paragraph of the gospel of Luke, who was a doctor and a traveling companion of the apostle Paul. Luke wrote his gospel, scholars believe, sometime between 60 and 80 A.D., about 30-50 years after Jesus died. It is not definitively known who Theophilus was, but scholars believe he may have been Luke’s patron, the person responsible for ensuring that Luke’s writings were copied and distributed. What follows immediately after this first paragraph is an account of the birth of John the Baptist and Jesus and then, of course, an account of the life, ministry, and death of Jesus.

Today’s Questions:

How does the fact that Luke says he “carefully investigated everything from the beginning” impact my view and understanding of the rest of what he says?

What did Luke mean by “the things that have been fulfilled among us?”

Who would I have talked to or interviewed to be sure I could write an orderly account of what had happened? What types of questions would I have asked?

What was Luke’s purpose according to this introduction in writing his account?

Today’s Prayer:

Father in heaven, help me to enter into this season with my eyes focused on your Son, Jesus. Keep me from the temptation to forget you, put myself at the center, and get caught in the trap of consumerism. Help me to see, hear, and feel what it must have been like for those I read about in your Word just before the birth of Jesus. Help me, Lord, to wait in expectation for the second coming of Christ.