Category Archives: Christmas Devotion

“Brace Yourself”

December 29, 2014

Read Luke 2:33-35.
A sword will pierce through your own soul also. Luke 2:35B

Today is the fifth day of Christmas. Let’s continue to look at the first of two Israelites who saw the Christ Child at the temple long before the wise men arrived.Simeon has seen the Christ, and sung his song of praise to God. Now he turns to give Mary a private message all her own. His prophecy is not for Joseph. By at the time it reaches its fulfillment Joseph will no longer be on earth. His work will be complete. But Mary will still be here.

It is amazing to me how much God revealed to her through a total stranger. Up to this point Mary had heard the wonderful outcome of her Son’s life and the great things He would accomplish. But for the first time on this 40th day, she saw the difficulty of His mission and His ministry. Simeon warned her of the opposition her Son would face and the price He would pay to save the world from sin, death, and hell.

Simeon said, “This Child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed” (Luke 2:34b). Many Israelites will reject Jesus, and fall under God’s judgment for refusing to believe. On the other hand, many others will believe in Jesus Christ and rise to live with God in paradise for His sake.

“He will be a sign that is spoken against” (Luke 2:34b). Simeon predicted the rejection Jesus faced from the religious establishment in Jerusalem that eventually charged Him with blasphemy and vehemently sought His death.

“And a sword will pierce your own soul also” said Simeon warning Mary to brace herself because she will suffer a piercing grief when she stands by the cross and watches her Son die for the sins of the world.

God hasn’t promised that we who trust in Jesus Christ would never suffer troubles, illness, rejection, or death in this life. If it happened to His dear Son and Mary the mother of Jesus our Lord, it will happen to us as well. But He also reminds us of the great future that is ours if we endure in faith. For Jesus Christ conquered sin and death. He rose again on the third day and will return to judge the living and the dead and give eternal life to all those who put their hope, faith, and confidence in Him.

THE PRAYER: Heavenly Father, Your love is so amazing. You gave Your own Son to the agony of the cross to save us from our sins. Yet in Your mercy, You didn’t overlook the sorrow Mary would feel at that moment. Prepare us for the moments when we must suffer, and help us look beyond to the glory we will share with You eternally in our heavenly home. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Advent Devotions from Lutheran Hour Ministries
By Reverend Wayne Palmer

 

“In My Lifetime”

December 27, 2014

 Read Luke 2:25-28.

It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. Luke 2:26

My wise men are making progress along their way. Since yesterday, they have moved a little closer to the manger scene. But there are two other people who really should be included in our Nativity scene. In fact they saw the infant Jesus before the wise men did. These faithful Jews were in the temple on the 40th day after Jesus’ birth when Mary and Joseph brought Him up to the temple to present Him to the Lord.

The first is a man named Simeon. Luke describes Simeon as “righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him” (Luke 2:25b). It’s not that Simeon was perfect, he was a sinner like all of us and needed the Son of God to save him. But since he trusted God’s promise to send a Savior, the consolation of Israel, and since the Holy Spirit was upon him, we know Simeon was a believer. His faith in Jesus made him righteous and devout.

And Simeon had received a special promise from the Holy Spirit. For generation after generation God’s faithful people had been waiting for the coming of the Savior. This was a promise given clear back in the Garden of Eden to Adam and Eve. Each generation wondered if He would come during their lifetime, but countless generations had come and gone without seeing the promised Savior. But Simeon knows how close that coming finally is. In fact, during his lifetime, before he departs from this earth to rest with God in heaven, he will see the promised One-the Lord’s Christ. And this is the day, the 40th day of Jesus’ life, when God kept His promise.

You and I have that special honor too, like Simeon. Today we look at Jesus through the eyes of faith. We know that He has come and has saved all of us from sin, death, and the devil by His perfect life, and His innocent suffering, death, and resurrection. We also know He will return again, but we don’t know if that will happen in our lifetime or not. But one thing is certain, whether we depart from this world or Christ Jesus returns first, we will see Jesus with our own eyes, face to face-just as Simeon did. In the meantime, filled with the Holy Spirit, let us go up to the house of the Lord to worship every week, and joyously look forward to the day when we too will see Christ Jesus with our own eyes.

THE PRAYER: Lord God, thank You for Your promise that I will see Jesus when I depart from this world. Strengthen my faith through Your holy Word, Baptism, and Holy Communion that I may live in peace and share the Good News of Jesus’ salvation with everyone You bring into my life. Grant me the courage to do this until that great day when You let me depart in peace. In Jesus’ Name. I pray. Amen.

Advent Devotions from Lutheran Hour Ministries
By Reverend Wayne Palmer

“Jesus Goes Up To God’s House”

December 26, 2014

Read Luke 2:21-24.

They brought Him up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord. Luke 2:22B

Our Nativity scene has the baby Jesus, Mary, and Joseph and the angel and shepherds. The only figures left in my collection are the wise men. But they weren’t part of the first Christmas gathering. In fact, at the moment the shepherds were hurrying to find the baby, the wise men were just first seeing the star in their own countries. They still had to gather their provisions and set out on their long journey to meet the King of the Jews.

So on Christmas morning I like to put my wise men on the opposite side of the room from the Nativity scene, and slowly move them closer and closer each day through the twelve days of Christmas until they arrive at Jesus’ feet on Epiphany Day, January 6. Since today is the second day of Christmas, they still have a long way to go.

In the meantime, during these twelve days of Christmas, we will be looking at two events that occurred in the life of the infant Jesus before the wise men arrived. On New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day we will speak about His circumcision and naming, which occurred when Jesus was eight days old. But in the meantime we will jump ahead to a special event that occurred when Jesus was 40 days old.

Forty days after an Israelite woman gave birth to a son, she was to be purified and her firstborn male child was to be presented to the Lord. This set Jesus apart for a life of service to God-a service that would include living a perfect life and require His suffering and death to take the curse of sin, death, and hell away from us forever.

In our Baptism God joined us together with Jesus and set each of us apart for lives of service to Him. He forgives our sins for Jesus’ sake. He gives us Jesus’ own righteousness, makes us His own children, and fills us with His Holy Spirit. Like Jesus, we dedicate our lives to serving others and telling them the joyful news of the eternal Kingdom Jesus won for us all through His life, death, and resurrection. When our earthly lives reach their end, Jesus Himself will present us to our Heavenly Father, and welcome us into our eternal home.

THE PRAYER: Jesus, by Your presentation, When they blessed You, weak and poor, Make us see Your great salvation, Seal us with Your promise sure; And present us in Your glory To Your Father, cleansed and pure. Amen.

Advent Devotions from Lutheran Hour Ministries
By Reverend Wayne Palmer

“The First Visitors”

December 25, 2014

Read Luke 2:8-20.
The shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” Luke 2:15B

Do you enjoy a large gathering on Christmas Day? Or are you isolated this year by work, finances, weather, or for some other reason? You are not alone. It is certainly possible that Mary and Joseph came into the first Christmas feeling the same way, huddled together and all alone with their newborn baby.

God didn’t leave them alone for long. When He sent an angel with the first Christmas invitation He didn’t choose a mighty emperor or king, prominent priests or Levites, or even wealthy, powerful people. Instead He sent His angel to poor shepherds watching over their flock at night. The angel told them the exceedingly good news that God had kept His promise-a Savior had been born! Because Jesus would take their sins and pay the full price we all owe God, they could leave their flocks and hurry into the presence of their God and King.

Suddenly the sky was filled with a multitude of angels praising God. The overjoyed shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they hurried and found Mary, Joseph, and Jesus. And so began the first Christmas gathering.

Can you imagine the joy Mary and Joseph felt when this unexpected company arrived? We continue this wonderful tradition by hurrying from our homes to “go over to Bethlehem” and gathering together with our Christian brothers and sisters in church to “see this thing that has happened.”

On this day as you gather with family, friends, and your Christian brothers and sisters at church, don’t forget your eternal home where Jesus no longer lays in a manger, but sits on His royal throne at the Father’s right hand. Mary and Joseph no longer wear their poor clothing but shine in the glorious righteousness of Jesus with which they are robed in paradise. The shepherds are before the throne of God, worshiping the Son of God who saved them from their sins.

And if there is an empty spot at your Christmas gathering because a loved one has left this world in faith, then take heart. Like the shepherds, they have gone to see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord had told them about. One day you and I will gather with them because God’s Son became human, took our sins upon Himself, and died in our place on the cross. Through His glorious resurrection He has guaranteed we will rise again and live with Him forever in paradise.

THE PRAYER: Almighty God, thank You for this wonderful day in which our Savior was born. As we gather at church and in our homes, fill us with joy. And like the shepherds may we return, glorifying and praising You as we share with our family, friends, and neighbors all that we have heard and seen, just as You told us. Then, in Your perfect timing, bring us to Your eternal gathering in our heavenly home. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Advent Devotions from Lutheran Hour Ministries
By Reverend Wayne Palmer

“The Virgin Who?”

December 23, 2014

Read Luke 1:26-38.

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph,of the house of David…. Luke 1:26-27A

Our Nativity scene has a shelter and a manger. Now it’s time to start adding the figures. My Nativity figures have a special meaning for me because my dad hand painted each of them a few years before he left us to go to his eternal home. He took great care painting the faces of baby Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, the shepherds, the wise men and the angel. Now, because of his faith in Jesus Christ his Savior, Dad has spent 22 years looking at those same glorious faces in his heavenly home.

As we begin placing the figures into the Nativity scene let’s take some time to examine each one. It is interesting that a shelter and manger stand ready in Bethlehem for that special night. But look as hard as you want, you can’t find the virgin mother in that little town just south of Jerusalem. You have to travel 70 miles north to the region of Galilee and to a town called Nazareth. That’s where a young virgin lives. That’s where God sends His angel Gabriel.

Look closely at the virgin and the clothes she wears. It is obvious this young woman has no claims to fame. Her family is not wealthy, powerful, or influential. Her betrothed husband is a carpenter who has no claim to fame either except, perhaps, that both he and his virgin wife are descendants of King David. God could have selected any virgin girl to be the mother of His Son, but He specifically chose this young woman.

You and I are also unlikely people God has chosen. So often we are self-absorbed and concerned about all the wrong things-problems that in the end don’t pile up to a hill of beans. These days before Christmas we usually focus on the least significant things, and we display our irritation and impatience to our families, co-workers, and everyone we encounter who is standing in our way. Now is the time to slow down and follow the story of our Savior’s birth.

The angel explains to Mary that she will be the mother of God’s Son through the miraculous power of the Holy Spirit. He will be a holy Child, whose Father is God. Being human He will be able to suffer and die in our place. And being God’s Son, He will be able to win salvation for all people by His suffering and death on the cross, and He will be able to stomp death into the dust.

This Christmas we would do well to learn from Mary’s humility and simple trust. “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word. …” (Luke 1:38a). When we approach Christmas with that same trusting response, we will enjoy a more profound and joyous celebration of our Savior’s birth.

THE PRAYER: Heavenly Father, thank You for choosing an unknown virgin to be the mother of Your Son. Give me true humility that I may live as Your child and live with You in Your heavenly home forever. I pray this in Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Advent Devotions from Lutheran Hour Ministries
By Reverend Wayne Palmer

Rediscovering the Christmas Season: For Unto Us a Child Is Born

The Birth of Jesus Foretold

26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, 27 to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David.28 Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you![a]”

29 Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. 30 “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 And he will reign over Israel[b] forever; his Kingdom will never end!”

34 Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.”

35 The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. 36 What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she has conceived a son and is now in her sixth month. 37 For nothing is impossible with God.[c]”

38 Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her.

Mary Visits Elizabeth

39 A few days later Mary hurried to the hill country of Judea, to the town 40 where Zechariah lived. She entered the house and greeted Elizabeth. 41 At the sound of Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth’s child leaped within her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.

42 Elizabeth gave a glad cry and exclaimed to Mary, “God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed. 43 Why am I so honored, that the mother of my Lord should visit me? 44 When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy. 45 You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.”

The Magnificat: Mary’s Song of Praise

46 Mary responded,

“Oh, how my soul praises the Lord.
47     How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!
48 For he took notice of his lowly servant girl,
    and from now on all generations will call me blessed.
49 For the Mighty One is holy,
    and he has done great things for me.
50 He shows mercy from generation to generation
    to all who fear him.
51 His mighty arm has done tremendous things!
    He has scattered the proud and haughty ones.
52 He has brought down princes from their thrones
    and exalted the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
    and sent the rich away with empty hands.
54 He has helped his servant Israel
    and remembered to be merciful.
55 For he made this promise to our ancestors,
    to Abraham and his children forever.”

56 Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months and then went back to her own home.

Luke 1:26-56

The Birth of Jesus the Messiah

18 This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit.19 Joseph, her fiancé, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement[a] quietly.

20 As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus,[b] for he will save his people from their sins.”

22 All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet:

23 “Look! The virgin will conceive a child!
    She will give birth to a son,
and they will call him Immanuel,[c]
    which means ‘God is with us.’”

24 When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife. 25 But he did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born. And Joseph named him Jesus.

Matthew 1:18-25

The Birth of Jesus

1 At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. 2 (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. 4 And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. 5 He took with him Mary, his fiancée, who was now obviously pregnant.

6 And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. 7 She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.

The Shepherds and Angels

8 That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. 9 Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified,10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! 12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in highest heaven,
    and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

15 When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. 17 After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. 18 All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, 19 but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. 20 The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.

Jesus Is Presented in the Temple

21 Eight days later, when the baby was circumcised, he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel even before he was conceived.

22 Then it was time for their purification offering, as required by the law of Moses after the birth of a child; so his parents took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord. 23 The law of the Lord says, “If a woman’s first child is a boy, he must be dedicated to the Lord.”[a] 24 So they offered the sacrifice required in the law of the Lord—“either a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”[b]

The Prophecy of Simeon

25 At that time there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon. He was righteous and devout and was eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come and rescue Israel. The Holy Spirit was upon him 26 and had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 That day the Spirit led him to the Temple. So when Mary and Joseph came to present the baby Jesus to the Lord as the law required, 28 Simeon was there. He took the child in his arms and praised God, saying,

29 “Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace,
    as you have promised.
30 I have seen your salvation,
31     which you have prepared for all people.
32 He is a light to reveal God to the nations,
    and he is the glory of your people Israel!”

33 Jesus’ parents were amazed at what was being said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them, and he said to Mary, the baby’s mother, “This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, but he will be a joy to many others. He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him. 35 As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your very soul.”

The Prophecy of Anna

36 Anna, a prophet, was also there in the Temple. She was the daughter of Phanuel from the tribe of Asher, and she was very old. Her husband died when they had been married only seven years. 37 Then she lived as a widow to the age of eighty-four.[c] She never left the Temple but stayed there day and night, worshiping God with fasting and prayer. 38 She came along just as Simeon was talking with Mary and Joseph, and she began praising God. She talked about the child to everyone who had been waiting expectantly for God to rescue Jerusalem.

39 When Jesus’ parents had fulfilled all the requirements of the law of the Lord, they returned home to Nazareth in Galilee. 40 There the child grew up healthy and strong. He was filled with wisdom, and God’s favor was on him.

Luke 2:1-40

Visitors from the East

1 Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men[a] from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, 2 “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose,[b] and we have come to worship him.”

3 King Herod was deeply disturbed when he heard this, as was everyone in Jerusalem. 4 He called a meeting of the leading priests and teachers of religious law and asked, “Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?”

5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they said, “for this is what the prophet wrote:

6 ‘And you, O Bethlehem in the land of Judah,
    are not least among the ruling cities[c] of Judah,
for a ruler will come from you
    who will be the shepherd for my people Israel.’[d]”

7 Then Herod called for a private meeting with the wise men, and he learned from them the time when the star first appeared. 8 Then he told them, “Go to Bethlehem and search carefully for the child. And when you find him, come back and tell me so that I can go and worship him, too!”

9 After this interview the wise men went their way. And the star they had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! 11 They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

12 When it was time to leave, they returned to their own country by another route, for God had warned them in a dream not to return to Herod.

Matthew 2:1-12

Rediscovering the Christmas Season: So Loved

“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”

John 3:16

So Loved

Exposure: Christmas Eve is the last day of Advent. One verse sums it up the best. Read John 3:16. Make a really huge poster or sign of it like you see at sports events or stadiums and post it outside your home.

Exploration: Do you feel so loved today?

Expression: Say this verse aloud. Memorize it if you haven’t already. What has been your greatest moment of being a follower of Jesus? What has been your worst moment as a follower of Jesus?

Experience: Reflect on your experiences this Christmas season. Attend a Christmas Eve worship service with friends and family (possibly at St. Paul Lutheran Church Olean’s 7:00 p.m. and/or 11:00 p.m. service!).

Rediscovering the Christmas Season

Rediscovering the Christmas Season: He’s Coming

Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids

1 “Then the Kingdom of Heaven will be like ten bridesmaids[a] who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3 The five who were foolish didn’t take enough olive oil for their lamps, 4 but the other five were wise enough to take along extra oil. 5 When the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep.

6 “At midnight they were roused by the shout, ‘Look, the bridegroom is coming! Come out and meet him!’

7 “All the bridesmaids got up and prepared their lamps. 8 Then the five foolish ones asked the others, ‘Please give us some of your oil because our lamps are going out.’

9 “But the others replied, ‘We don’t have enough for all of us. Go to a shop and buy some for yourselves.’

10 “But while they were gone to buy oil, the bridegroom came. Then those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was locked. 11 Later, when the other five bridesmaids returned, they stood outside, calling, ‘Lord! Lord! Open the door for us!’

12 “But he called back, ‘Believe me, I don’t know you!’

13 “So you, too, must keep watch! For you do not know the day or hour of my return.

Parable of the Three Servants

14 “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a man going on a long trip. He called together his servants and entrusted his money to them while he was gone. 15 He gave five bags of silver[b] to one, two bags of silver to another, and one bag of silver to the last—dividing it in proportion to their abilities. He then left on his trip.

16 “The servant who received the five bags of silver began to invest the money and earned five more. 17 The servant with two bags of silver also went to work and earned two more. 18 But the servant who received the one bag of silver dug a hole in the ground and hid the master’s money.

19 “After a long time their master returned from his trip and called them to give an account of how they had used his money. 20 The servant to whom he had entrusted the five bags of silver came forward with five more and said, ‘Master, you gave me five bags of silver to invest, and I have earned five more.’

21 “The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together![c]’

22 “The servant who had received the two bags of silver came forward and said, ‘Master, you gave me two bags of silver to invest, and I have earned two more.’

23 “The master said, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’

24 “Then the servant with the one bag of silver came and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a harsh man, harvesting crops you didn’t plant and gathering crops you didn’t cultivate. 25 I was afraid I would lose your money, so I hid it in the earth. Look, here is your money back.’

26 “But the master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy servant! If you knew I harvested crops I didn’t plant and gathered crops I didn’t cultivate, 27 why didn’t you deposit my money in the bank? At least I could have gotten some interest on it.’

28 “Then he ordered, ‘Take the money from this servant, and give it to the one with the ten bags of silver. 29 To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away. 30 Now throw this useless servant into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

The Final Judgment

31 “But when the Son of Man[d] comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne. 32 All the nations[e] will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. 36 I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’

37 “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? 39 When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

40 “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters,[f] you were doing it to me!’

41 “Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons.[g] 42 For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink. 43 I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’

44 “Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’

45 “And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’

46 “And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life.”

Matthew 25

He’s Coming

Exposure: Read some parables Jesus told about when He would return.

Exploration: What do you think is the main point of the chapter? You’ve done a lot to get ready for Christmas. What can you do to be ready for the Second Advent?

Expression: How are you preparing for the return of Jesus? Discuss with friends and family or journal about what you want to do to be ready for that day.

Experience: How would your life be different today if you believed Jesus was returning at midnight? If something springs to mind that you would do differently, go do it now.

Rediscovering the Christmas Season

Rediscovering the Christmas Season: Servant of All

The Greatest in the Kingdom

33 After they arrived at Capernaum and settled in a house, Jesus asked his disciples, “What were you discussing out on the road?” 34 But they didn’t answer, because they had been arguing about which of them was the greatest. 35 He sat down, called the twelve disciples over to him, and said, “Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else.”

36 Then he put a little child among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf[a] welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes not only me but also my Father who sent me.”

Mark 9:33-37

Servant of All

Exposure: Read Jesus’ remarks to His disciples about being a servant. In the next 24 hours, live this out by serving someone. Especially think of a way you welcome a little child in Jesus’ name.

Exploration: Why do you think Jesus took a child into His arms for the remark? What does it say about Jesus’ ministry that a little child was already nearby?

Expression: Who do you think was blessed more? You the server or the people being served?

Experience: Take an inventory of how you spend most of your days. Is your life characterized more by being served or serving? Is it any different during Christmas time?

Rediscovering the Christmas Season

Rediscovering the Christmas Season: The Greatest Story Ever Told

Jesus also did many other things. If they were all written down, I suppose the whole world count not contain the books that would be written.

John 21:25

The Greatest Story Ever Told

Exposure: Christmas is getting closer! It will be easy to lose focus on Him as the season gets busier. Read the last verse of the Gospel of John. Gather some friends or family and watch the 1965 movie classic, “The Greatest Story Ever Told.” It’s available on DVD or online.

Exploration: What is your favorite part about Jesus’ life?

Expression: How did the movie help your understanding of Jesus’ life? How did watching that with others open up opportunities for good discussion?

Experience: How has your story become a part of the greatest story?  Journal about the role you have played in God’s big story.

Rediscovering the Christmas Season