Day Five: Incarnation – Immanuel

“By identifying Jesus as “God with us,” Matthew continues a theme that permeated the Old Testament concept of God with his people. When giving the law to Israel in the desert, God stressed his covenantal intent: I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people (Lev. 26:12).  The nation was called to a relationship in which God was with his people. No other person or god was to take a place of preeminence and so usurp his place. Even when God called men and women to leadership roles (e.g., Moses, Joshua, the judges, prophets), they were only intermediate leaders. God alone was to have the place of preeminence.” [Michael Wilkins, NIV Application Commentary on Matthew, 83)

Jesus is Immanuel—God with us.  As described by the quote from Michael Wilkins above, the incarnation of our Lord assures us that Immanuel has come, and we are invited into a relationship with God of uttermost intimacy and nearness.

Today, spend time in prayer calling out to the Lord—Immanuel, God with us.  Pray through every moment and situation you are, and know the presence of Immanuel—God with us!

– GK

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Day Four: Incarnation – God-man

Luke 1:26-35 (NIV) – “In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.’”

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraidMary; you have found favor with GodYou will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most HighThe Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacobs descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on youand the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God

“Without giving details, the angelic pronouncement makes clear that the mode of conception is not by any ordinary human means but by a totally unparalleled action of the Holy Spirit.  Matthew does not theorize how such a conception could take place but merely present it as historically authentic.  Matthew understands that there is something both natural and supernatural about Jesus in his conception, birth, and development. He presents the virgin conception and birth of Jesus as an accepted fact, thus accounting for the astounding truth that God has taken on human nature and is now with his people.  It is only this God-man who, as Matthew’s story unfolds, can save his people from their sins, which should cause them to pause in unending gratitude and to worship him as Jesus, “God saves,” and Immanuel, “God with us.” [Michael Wilkins, NIV Application Commentary on Matthew, 83]

Today, let’s consider the truth of what we have been told through God’s word, that this Jesus is the only one who can save us from our sins!  The only proper response is for us to worship Jesus with unending gratitude. Today, spend time in worship with this song by Matt Redman, “Unbroken Praise.”

– GK

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Day Three: Incarnation – Joseph’s Turn

Matthew 1:19-21 – “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 Jesusbecause he will save his people from their sins.’”

In most accounts of the incarnation of Christ, the focus is placed on Mary, for she clearly had a unique role to play as the mother of Jesus. However, when we come to today’s passage, we see an emphasis placed on Joseph, for he also had a unique role that he had to embrace as the earthly father to Jesus. Some commentaries say that most likely Joseph was an 18-year-old man, while Mary was around 13 years old.  So, we are shown a young man who was decent and law-abiding, hence contemplating a quiet divorce to Mary. However, the Lord speaks into Joseph’s life saying “this is not what you think it is!” Joseph is being told by the Lord that he is not to be an outsider or a mere observer in this incarnational miracle, rather Joseph is to be fully involved and affected.

Therefore, Joseph was to take Mary in as his wife—which was a similar experience that Mary had, which was to gladly embrace and welcome this incarnational reality into their lives. To make things even more personal, Joseph was tasked to give the child His name—Jesus!  This means that Joseph had an important role in this incarnational ministry!

Imagine this, Joseph went from being a confused and upset young man, due to his life being completely turned upside down, to now partaking in the greatest event of all—Jesus’ incarnation!

Today, may we also embrace and be affected by the incarnational ministry of Jesus.  The task that we have been given is to believe in the Lord Jesus, to worship Him, and to declare to others what He has done in our lives.

Today, take a listen to this song by Michael Card about Joseph and the incarnation. “Joseph’s Song” by Michael Card

–  GK

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Day Two: Incarnation—A Virgin Birth?

Matthew 1:18 – “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.”

Have you ever asked why a virgin birth? In Matthew 1:22, we are given a biblical explanation/glimpse by referencing Isaiah 7:14, “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’).”

Now, what is going on in Isaiah 7 is that it begins with the account of king Ahaz during a time when God’s people are immersed in idolatry, have become desensitized to sin, and there is an overall rejection of the Lord.  Therefore, as they were being oppressed by foreign powers due to Israel’s sin, God assures Ahaz of God’s promise of deliverance still.  When the Lord asks Ahaz, ‘what sign do you want to see to assure you that God will deliver you’, Ahaz refuses to obey and ask for a sign.

Now why was this so wrong?  The role of the King of Judah was to lead the people towards the Lord, and it was the role of the king to also engage the Lord for the sake of the people.  However, when the Lord is dealing and engaging King Ahaz, he refuses to take that role, and here he stops engaging God. So, at this moment, we are left with this question, what do you do if the king—the one the Lord appointed from the line of David, is no longer leading and obeying the Lord? To consider even further, what happens if there are no more descendants of king David on the throne who were tasked to lead the people towards the Lord? To answer that question, the Lord himself says, I myself will give you a sign, and that sign is that a virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will call him Immanuel. The point being, as Israel was in shambles, and the descendants of David thus far have failed, even still God will be faithful to His covenant by making the King/Messiah come from a virgin.  Hence, God will cause the promised Messiah to come where once there was no life or hope.

So, in this passage we are seeing the Holy Spirit do the very thing that the Lord has promised to do!  This is incarnational ministry!

So, in light of this, we come to this moment in Matthew 1—that through the Holy Spirit, Mary was pregnant with Jesus—and this is the sign of God’s promised salvation.

Today, this the sign that we have been given that assures us of God’s salvation—Jesus Christ is born of a virgin as declared in Isaiah 7:14. May hope and joy arise within our hearts, for the savior has come!

– GK

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Day One: Incarnation—The Genesis

Matthew 1:17-18 – “Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah. This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about…”

The first thing that we encounter in today’s passage is that Jesus’ birth (incarnation) begins with a genealogy—from Abraham to David, and then from David to the exile to Babylon, and then from the exile to Jesus. In each of these breakdowns, we are given the whole biblical history of salvation. 1. Abraham to David: Of God’s covenant, 2. David to the exile: The unfaithfulness and inability of the Israelites in keeping the covenant before the Lord, 3. From the exile to Jesus: Of the awaiting for the Messiah to come.

Now, the reason why Matthew does this is to let us know that the whole account of Jesus’ birth (incarnation) is to be understood and considered through the whole of Scripture—where every OT passage and promise has been leading up to this moment. That is why the actual Greek here does not say “Jesus’ birth”, but it says: “this is the Genesis (origin) of Jesus the Messiah.”

By using the word ‘genesis,’ the readers would immediately be taken into the Book of Genesis, and that we are to now understand God’s plan of salvation by Jesus’ incarnation as described in scripture. This has always been God’s intention, that it all begins and ends with Jesus!  Without Jesus, nothing makes sense. The OT doesn’t make sense. Without Jesus, our lives don’t make sense.

Today, as we consider the genesis of Jesus’ birth, the incarnation is the answer to every issue, need, and promise that God has made in scripture. Today spend time praying this passage: “For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding “Yes!” And through Christ, our “Amen” (which means “Yes”) ascends to God for his glory” (NLT).

– GK

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Day Five: Simeon

Luke 2:25-32 – 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.”

“Simeon also exemplifies how one can define life in terms of faithfully following God and serving him with joy and surrender. When his duty is done, he is ready to be with the Lord…Simeon’s sense of identification with doing God’s will and then surrendering to the timing of his own death shows just how committed he is to God’s timing. His attitude is paralleled by Paul in Philippians 1:21–26. Here is a servant who seeks only to do what God has called him to do. The timing of his life and death are in God’s hands.

“Furthermore, having seen Jesus and knowing him, Simeon is at peace. Everything else in his life pales in comparison. He has met Jesus, and the details of the rest of his life’s résumé are irrelevant. One’s walk with God and faithful service to him are what define everything else about life.” [Bock, Darrell L.. Luke (The NIV Application Commentary) (pp. 95-97). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.]

Spirit-filled expectations will put our whole life on the line for Jesus being revealed. Nothing else will matter, life is simply life for Jesus and His revealing God’s love to the world. He is better than life itself.

Worship: “He Shall Reign Forevermore” by Chris Tomlin – Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V5UXgs6nvGM

Prayer: Father, teach me the way of faithful obedience and how to rely more and more on the Spirit’s leading in my life. Today, may I experience the Spirit-filled expectations that put everything on the line for Jesus. May nothing else be more important than Jesus and Him being known through my life. For He is truly better than life! I pray for my friends and family, my co-workers and neighbors, that they will come to know You and experience the fullness of your salvation in their lives. Please rescue them Lord, rescue them with your love and power. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

– TR

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Day Four: Zechariah

Luke 1:11-20 (NIV) – Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord…he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord…to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.”

“Zechariah teaches us that God occasionally instructs saints through difficult times. Sometimes underestimating God is as dangerous as rebelling against him. Our sin may not be a matter of doing overt wrong but of being hesitant to pursue righteousness and to trust fully in the Lord. Once God speaks, we should respond.

“People often pursue relationships or actions they know are wrong, often with a sense of having been a victim, as if that justifies their turning away from God. But we can also do the same thing using more subtlety, with a type of lukewarmness that says, “I am happy with where I am spiritually, so I will not pursue God as in former days.” Such a “cruise control” approach risks a slow spiritual decline. One senses that Zechariah needed a fresh lesson of faith to avoid such a slow motion spiritual fall.

“The fact that Zechariah doubted the angel’s word meant he was already at risk. What God promises, he will perform—only he will do it in his time and sometimes in surprising ways. When the time of fulfillment comes, we realize that his timing was better than ours. Perhaps we sometimes wish we could be in the boardroom of heaven, telling God how to make his plans. This passage calls us to see that his plan has its own design and timing. The Creator of the universe knows what he is doing.” [Bock, Darrell L.. Luke (The NIV Application Commentary) (p. 55). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.]

Spirit-filled expectation recognizes that God is at work in our lives, and that He will work in everything, especially the things that are seemingly most precious in our lives.

Worship: “Glory Hallelujah” by Matt Redman – Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=om9ZtohxZV4

Prayer: Lord, forgive me for my doubts and ‘cruise-control’ living. Turn my heart toward your Word and purposes. I humbly ask that you fill me with the Spirit-filled expectations that recognize who You are and that seek to obey your Word and plans in my life and for Your glory in our church. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

– TR

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Day Three: Mary & Elizabeth

Luke 1:39-45 (NIV) – At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!

“The remark about the Spirit’s filling Elizabeth is crucial, for it indicates that her remarks and emotions are directed by God. In an enticing omission, the text never tells us how Elizabeth knew Mary was expecting this child. This adds to the mystery of the event. The humility reflected here by John’s mother in feeling honored just to be in the presence of the child is expressed more fully by her son in John 3:30: ‘He must become greater; I must become less.’…Peace reigns among those who serve God as each understands his or her place in God’s plan.

“The note of joy in the passage echoes a theme already sounded by the previous events. The sense of privilege and favor at being used by God finds fresh expression here. Elizabeth knows God does not owe her such a central role, yet she is amazed at God’s involvement with her. In asking ‘Why am I so favored?’ (v. 43), she understands that she is but a humble beneficiary of God’s grace.

“We should not miss the significance of the testimony about these children that comes through this grateful mother-to-be. Three points are central: (1) Mary’s child is especially blessed, being at the center of God’s fresh activity; (2) there is amazement in being any part of these astounding events; and (3) joy and blessing come to those who believe that God does what he says.” [Bock, Darrell L.. Luke (The NIV Application Commentary) (p. 64-65). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.]

Spirit-filled expectations are magnified when we seek to be together for God’s glory and plans. When Christ is central we can expect Him to do mighty things.

Worship: “My Soul Magnifies the Lord” by Chris Tomlin – Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OAQLR3RlDpk

Prayer: Our Father in heaven, help us to honor Your name, magnify Jesus in our lives, and keep in step with Holy Spirit as you lead us into your plans and purposes. May Christ be at the center of all I say and do, and may He be exalted in the interactions I have with Your people. May we spur one another on to greater worship and love as we experience the grace and hope we have in You. Jesus, be glorified in our churches, in our missional groups, and in our campus ministries. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

– TR

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Day Two: John the Baptist

Luke 1:11-17 – Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.

“Are we prepared for God and do we respond to his work through the One he sent to lead us to him? John will point the way. Do we take the path of sensing our need for God and of responding to the One who offers forgiveness to us? Are we humble before God, taking the path he calls us to, or do we opt to go our own way?

“John is someone whose dedication to God is expressed even in his lifestyle. That lifestyle, as reported to Zechariah, shows how totally focused John must be as he represents God. Filled with the Spirit from birth, he will testify to Jesus even by kicking in his mother’s womb (Luke 1:44). The presence of the Spirit in Luke is often accompanied by a powerful testimony. Those who are directed by God in the Spirit do not render testimony to God in the privacy of their own home, as the many Spirit-filled characters in the book of Acts will also show. If we have the Spirit, God will be manifest in both our words and deeds.” [Bock, Darrell L.. Luke (The NIV Application Commentary) (p. 53). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.]

Spirit-filled expectations are rooted in hearts prepared for God’s salvation, prepared to receive Him as He is – in His power, love, and holiness.

Worship: “Hearts Waiting” by Matt Redman – Link: https://youtu.be/AFCRxv2e8aA

Prayer: Lord, I thank You for making a way for my salvation through Jesus, and for raising up the many lives who loved me and helped prepare the way for me to know Your love. May I thrive on Spirit-filled expectations today, seeking to live in such a Christ-magnifying way that my love and attitude prepare ways for those in my life to know You and receive Your love. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

– TR

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Day One: The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us…

John 1:1-5,14 (NIV) – In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it…The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

1 Timothy 1:15 (NIV) – Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”

“The prologue to John [John 1:1-14] is not about a message that offers hope, but about The Message that is the only hope. It is not about an idea, but a person. The Word became flesh tells us that God is intent on communicating with us not about mere concepts; he is intent on communicating about himself.

“There is only one hope, and it is God in Christ. In this incarnation God has exhibited the glory and grace that is native to his selfhood; and through this incarnation, humankind can regain the glory and grace it once had when it was created. The natural eye cannot see the glory of God since it is dimmed by sin. Instead, it is necessary for God to work, to self-disclose, to send his Son, who alone has exposed God’s heart (1:18).

“When God takes this initiative, new possibilities are born. Divine power is released into the broken world and its broken lives so that new life is possible. The theological key that the world finds so foreign lies here: Transformation and hope cannot be the fruit of some human endeavor. Only God can take the initiative, and men and women must see, receive, and believe the work he desires to do. And when they do, they are reborn to become God’s children.” [Burge, Gary M.. John (The NIV Application Commentary) (p. 14, 17). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.]

Worship: A Christmas Alleluia” by Christ Tomlin – Link: “A Christmas Alleluia”

Prayer: Our Father in heaven, help us to honor Your name. May Your kingdom come and Your will be done here on earth as it is in heaven. Reveal to me afresh your Son who came to save sinners like me. Renew in my heart the only hope for my life and may I express it fully today by magnifying Jesus in all that I say and do. Be glorified in my life. In Jesus name, Amen.

– TR

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