Day One: The Most Wonderful Time of the Year?

Herod, when he realized that the scholars had tricked him, flew into a rage. He commanded the murder of every little boy two years old and under who lived in Bethlehem and its surrounding hills. (He determined that age from information he’d gotten from the scholars.) That’s when Jeremiah’s sermon was fulfilled: A sound was heard in Ramah, weeping and much lament. Rachel weeping for her children, Rachel refusing all solace, Her children gone, dead and buried. (Matthew 2.16-18 MSG)

Where are the kids jingle belling, marshmallows toasting and holiday cheer? Isn’t Christmas supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year? Yet, the original Christmas event is riddled with intrigue, murder and survival. The powers of this world dispute the authority of God’s only Son. The rulers of this world assault the Savior sent by God. The privileged of this world deride the humble King of kings. Humanity’s resistance of God’s plan of salvation results in catastrophe – what could have been a silent, holy night has become a night of wailing and terror.

But to the destitute, the unvalued, the waiting – this is God making good on His ancient promise… His promise to send “a New King; a Rescuing King; a Forever King!” (A. Mitchell, “The Christmas Promise”) Finally! This is how our mourning transforms into dancing and shouts of joy! (Psalm 30.11). Instead of meeting God with dissension and resistance… we can gladly welcome and celebrate this “good news of great joy for all people”! (Luke 2:10).

Let’s pray: Heavenly Father, we rejoice in your salvation! While some may look at Jesus with misgivings or cynicism, we welcome Him with childlike wonder and joy!

Let’s sing and worship the Lord together. The Lord has come to us! ­— “Hearts Waiting (Joy to the World)” by Matt Redman

– JP

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Day Five: Revelation – Calling

Luke 2:22-39 (NIV) – 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.”

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[c
] 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.”

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.[d] 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.

“Luke adds yet another human dimension to the story. By the time the first two chapters are finished, almost all his readers will have found someone in the story with whom they can identify. We have met the older couple surprised to have a child at last. We have seen the young girl even more surprised to have a child so soon, and her husband coming with her to the Temple, offering the specified sacrifice. The next section will feature Jesus himself on the threshold of young adult life. Now, in this passage, we have the old man and woman, waiting their turn to die, worshipping God night and day and praying for the salvation of his people. Luke wants to draw readers of every age and stage of life into his picture. No matter who or where you are, the story of Jesus, from the feeding-trough in Bethlehem to the empty tomb and beyond, can become your story.

“In becoming your story, it will become your vocation. Everybody has their own role in God’s plan.” [N.T. Wright, Luke for Everyone, pages 26-27]

Response & Prayer: Let’s pray that Jesus will be lifted up in our lives today especially as we continue to want to faithfully work out our calling before Him.

As we close, let’s worship to the following song – A Christmas Alleluia written by Chris Tomlin, Jonas Myrin

– EK

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Day Four: Revelation – To Praise & Thanksgiving

Luke 2:36-38 (NIV) – 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, 37 and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 38 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.

“The second prophetic witness in this section of Luke is Anna. She is merely introduced and her career summarized. In all likelihood, she is over a hundred years old, having served God faithfully with worship, prayer, and fasting for years. Sometimes our most productive years in spiritual service for God come after our most productive years of earthly toil. She has given herself full-time to a ministry of intercession. Like Simeon, she hopes for ‘the redemption of Jerusalem’ (v.38; Isa. 40:1; 49:13; 51:3; 57:18; 61:2) and tells others that the baby Jesus is a reason for praising and thanking God (Isa. 40:9; 52:9; 63:4). While her words are not recorded in Luke, her testimony makes everyone aware that God is doing something special in this child. Those who are faithful to God will hear her report and share in her praise.” [Darrell L. Bock, The NIV Application Commentary: Luke, page 94]

Anna’s beautiful response to the revelation of Jesus was praise and thanksgiving and she spoke about Jesus to all.

Response & Prayer: As Jesus is revealed to us in new ways this Christmas season, let’s pray that we will be filled with praise and thanksgiving unto the Lord, proclaiming who Jesus is to all around us.

Let’s close in worship to this song – “Noel” by Lauren Daigle (written by Chris Tomlin, Ed Cash, Matt Redman)

– EK

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Day Three: Revelation – Transformation

Luke 2:22-35 (NIV) – 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 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), 24 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.”

25 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. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 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, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

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

33 The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 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, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

“The picture is of Jesus as the true world ruler: the Lord, the Messiah, the savior, the real king of the world instead of Caesar. How easy it would be to fill in this picture in glowing, royal colours, giving us a sense of future glory, world dominion, power and majesty.

“Luke does the opposite. He chooses somber colours; and the more he fills in the picture the more we realize that this is a different sort of kingdom to that of Caesar Augustus.  It is indeed what God had promised; but, not for the last time, Luke is warning us that it doesn’t look like what people had expected.

In particular, this is becoming a story about suffering.  Simeon is waiting for God to comfort Israel.  Anna is in touch with the people who are waiting for the redemption of Israel.  They are both living in a world of patient hope, where suffering has become a way of life.  It now appears that God’s appointed redeemer will deal with this suffering by sharing it himself.  Simeon speaks dark words about opposition, and about a sword that will pierce Mary’s heart as well.” [N.T. Wright, Luke for Everyone, pages 25-26]

Joseph and Mary marvel in response to the revelation of who Jesus is.  This revelation of Jesus “pierces” to the core of who they are as they are called to follow Him.

Response & Prayer: As we are reflecting and anticipating together in this Christmas season, may the revelation of Jesus pierce to the core of who we are and may we be changed in new ways as we grow in our calling to follow him daily.

Let’s prayerfully close in this worship song together: “Jesus, Only Jesus” by Matt Redman (written by Chris Tomlin, Christy Nockels, Kristian Stanfill, Matt Redman, Nathan Nockels, Tony Wood)

– EK

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Day Two: Revelation – Of A Lifetime

Luke 2:22-35 (NIV) – 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.”

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.”

“Most people don’t notice the young couple coming in with their little baby.  Happens all the time. No different from countless others. But, as they approach, you see one of the old men get up slowly from his seat.  He has a strange look in his eyes. What’s he thinking? What’s he going to say?

“You are almost as alarmed as the parents are when he takes the child from them, but his movement and his embrace is as gentle and firm as the love of God. He has seen something nobody else has.  He has been praying and waiting for this moment all his life, and now it’s come.  This is the Messiah; he’s seen him with his own eyes; now he can die in peace.

“How do you feel as you hear him say that? What does it make you want to do, or to pray?” [Tom Wright, Lent For Everyone: Luke Year C, pages 12-13]

Encountering Jesus is that moment “of a lifetime.” Isn’t this what we really long for as Simeon did? And, we want to be in that place every day where our hearts are drawn to encounter and know him more and more.  But, as he was led by the Holy Spirit, he was one who was devoted to, anticipating, seeking and waiting on Him so that he would immediately recognize what how the Holy Spirit was moving and would see Jesus.

Response & Prayer: Let’s pray that the Holy Spirit will help us to have hearts that are devoted to Him, seeking and waiting on Him so that we will be ready to recognize as He moves us to know Him and follow His will in our lives today.

Let’s close in worship with this song, “Adore” by Chris Tomlin.

– EK

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Day One: Revelation – The Work of the Holy Spirit

Luke 2:25-32 (NIV) – “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. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 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, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

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

“There is one other facet of this passage that I should mention before we look at Simeon’s farewell. I feel I would do Luke an injustice if I did not gather up his references to the Holy Spirit and say something about them. He has referred to the Holy Spirit ten times so far (through 2:40). That in itself shows how important the Spirit is for Luke. But what he says about the Spirit is even more significant. Here in our text the Holy Spirit was upon Simeon in verse 25. In verse 26, the Spirit reveals that Simeon will not see death until he sees the Messiah. Then in verse 27, the Spirit moves Simeon to enter the temple at just the right moment to see Jesus. (Which incidentally is a beautiful illustration of how the Spirit works to fulfill what the Spirit promises.)” [Quote from John Piper’s Message – “Simeon’s Farewell to the World,” December 29, 1980]

We see the Holy Spirit beautifully at work, orchestrating for Simeon to be in the right place at the right time to finally get to see with his very own eyes the Lord Jesus, his salvation.  It was the work of the Holy Spirit revealing to Simeon and in the same way, it is the work of the Holy Spirit who reveals to us who Jesus is and so that we can know Him as our Savior and Lord.

Response & Prayer: Let’s begin afresh, recognizing our need for the Holy Spirit to help us and move us to be able to see Jesus in the center of our lives today. Let’s pray and ask for the Holy Spirit’s filling that we will “behold” Jesus as Lord, closing in this song of worship, “Come and See”, by Matt Redman:

https://youtu.be/MQVe-OYMf68

– EK

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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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