Tag Archives: Advent

“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

“Do You Call That a Crib?”

December 22, 2014

Read Isaiah 7:10-17.
Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son,and shall call His Name Immanuel. Isaiah 7:14B

All right, we have some kind of shelter for our Nativity scene. Now let’s turn to the one object inside that shelter that is mentioned specifically in the Christmas account: the manger. A manger is a feeding trough for animals. Don’t you think that’s a pretty shabby crib? I wonder if Joseph and Mary ever thought about that. The best they could do for God’s one and only Son was to lay Him in a feeding trough inside a pitiable shelter? If it was me, I think I’d be trembling in fear at the thought.

Actually, that’s what a lot of people do at Christmas time. They tremble in fear over problems in their lives: serious health problems, bills they can’t pay, jobs they’ve lost, marriages that have crumbled, or loved ones who are no longer here. Sadly, many Christians add the fear that these are punishments from a displeased God.

Actually, one of the great prophecies of Jesus’ coming was given to a king quaking in fear. King Ahaz was a descendant of King David and ancestor of Jesus. Seven hundred years before Jesus’ birth, Ahaz feared two kingdoms that were threatening his little kingdom of Judah. The Northern Kingdom, Israel, and its neighbor Aram (Syria) had allied together to conquer Judah and replace Ahaz.

God wasn’t about to let that happen. Instead He sent the prophet Isaiah to reassure him. God offered to perform any miracle Ahaz asked, but Ahaz didn’t trust God and refused to ask for one. So Isaiah rebuked the king, then said, “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His Name Immanuel. … For before the boy knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land whose two kings you dread will be deserted” (Isaiah 7:14, 16). Within the time a baby could be conceived, delivered, and grow old enough to know the difference between good and bad, those two kingdoms would cease to exist.

The virgin’s Son is a sign for us as well. He is holy and pure, and He gives us His holy and perfect life as though it were our own. He took our sin upon Himself and suffered the punishment we deserve. Because of His great exchange we can stand pure and holy before God the Father by faith, clothed in Christ’s holiness and righteousness.

Isaiah tells us the virgin “shall call His Name Immanuel.” That name means “God with us.” This reassures us that no matter what our problems may be this Christmas, God is right here with us just as He was with Mary and Joseph. He has promised never to leave us or forsake us. He will deliver us from all our problems too.

THE PRAYER: Almighty God, thank You for noticing our fear and anxiety. Thank You for comforting and reassuring us. Remind us that You are Immanuel and that we may know You are an ever-present help in trouble, until the day You bring us to Your eternal rest. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Advent Devotions from Lutheran Hour Ministries
By Reverend Wayne Palmer

Stolen Joy

STOLEN JOY Friday, December 19Jesus replied, “Tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised and good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is he who is not offended by Me.” MATTHEW 11:4-5
One of my Dad’s worst Christmases was in 1976. On the 21st of December he was on a step-ladder at church, trying to close a window that was stuck open. As he tugged on the window the ladder gave way; he smashed into the wall fracturing his shoulder in three places and cutting a deep gash into his shin. He spent that Christmas in agony sitting day and night in a chair in the living room, waiting for his shoulder to heal.Do circumstances in your life ever steal away the joy of your Christmas? Do they raise doubts in your mind about the Child of Christmas-if He is really God’s Son? Do you ever wonder why there is still so much suffering in our lives and in our world if Jesus came to save the world? This Christmas many of you will find or still find yourself unemployed. Others have lost loved ones whose absence is keenly felt this time of year. Some have lost marriages. Some may even be facing the prospect that this will be their last Christmas on earth.Similar thoughts darkened John the Baptist’s mind. He was locked in a dungeon because he had done exactly what the Lord commanded him to do: he had warned the wicked ruler Herod Antipas to repent. Like the prophets before him, he preached of judgment, but now John was the only one facing the judgment! There in the dark, gloomy dungeon John couldn’t see Jesus very clearly. He sent word to ask if Jesus was the One or should the people of Israel be looking for another.Jesus reminded John of the very things He came into this world to do: giving sight to the blind, restoring the lame and the paralyzed, cleansing those with leprosy, restoring hearing to the deaf, raising the dead, and preaching good news to the poor. All of these were signs to prove Jesus was God’s Son. And at the same time they pointed ahead to the future when Jesus Christ will raise all the dead and change every living believer to enjoy perfect health in a perfect creation in God’s wonderful presence forever.The Child of Christmas is here to comfort and help you through all your struggles, your doubts, your darkness, and your pain. He knows how hard it is when you are misunderstood, judged, and condemned. He was nailed to the cross because of the jealous rage of His enemies. But He rose again on the third day to remind us that God is the victor, and through faith in Jesus Christ, God will share that great victory with each of us.
THE PRAYER: Lord Jesus, in those times when my spirit is in the darkness of despair lift me up. Forgive my sins, restore my joy, and strengthen my faith and trust in You. Give me patience until You bring relief. Amen.

Refrigerate Overnight

Advent Devotions from Lutheran Hour Ministries
“REFRIGERATE OVERNIGHT Wednesday, December 17 Read James 5:7-9. “December 17, 2014

Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. … Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. JAMES 5:7A, 8

My favorite Christmas cookies growing up were made of molasses and sugar. We called them “animal cookies” because we shaped them with animal-shaped cookie cutters. The worst part of making animal cookies is that once you mixed up the dough, it had to sit in the refrigerator overnight. Talk about a test of patience!As a child, impatience seemed to go hand in hand with Christmas. It seemed like that great, wonderful, magical day would never, ever come.

There is a far greater day coming, however. It’s that ultimate Christmas when Jesus Christ will return to this world with all His angels. He will raise all the dead and judge between those who believed during their earthly lives, and those who did not. For us who believe, Jesus will remove every source of evil, pain, and suffering as He renews His creation and makes it perfect. Then we will enjoy perfect health, perfect relationships, and a perfect life forever.

How can we wait for that wonderful day? In today’s reading James tells us to establish our hearts. He means for us to strengthen our hearts with the certainty of His coming just as He promised. When our hearts are established the problems of this life simply don’t loom as large because we can clearly see our God is bigger and stronger than anything we face.

How do you establish your heart? Gather for worship with your church family. There you will be reminded of Christ’s promises. There your Baptism will be renewed as you confess your sins and as the Holy Spirit reassures you through the pastor that those sins are forgiven. There you will receive the very body and blood that Jesus sacrificed for us on the cross. And there the Spirit of God will establish your faith and keep you until that final day. Then you will know a peace and confidence as all your problems shrink back to their true size, easily managed by our God and Savior.

THE PRAYER: Lord Jesus, You have promised to return to this world to make all things right and perfect forever. Establish my heart in Your promise so that none of the problems I face will shake my trust and confidence in You. Amen.

Devotions for Advent: December 13, 2014

Philippians 4:4-6

The Lord is near: This is the message of Advent. No matter where you are, no matter what doubts and worries and fears keep you up at night or fill you with anxiety during the day, the Savior is close at hand. Do not worry. Do not be afraid. You are not alone. The Lord is near.

Nestled in the middle of this wonderful, familiar passage of Philippians are these words of unbelievable promise and comfort. They are for the single person dreading facing the holidays alone. They are for low-income workers who don’t have enough to buy presents for their children. They are for the grieving, who can’t imagine a family dinner with an empty chair at the table. They are for anyone who finds their hearts filled with longing. The Lord is near. And He will give you peace.

Fill us with your peace, O Lord, and draw near to us today. Amen.

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Devotions for Advent: December 12, 2014

Philippians 1:3-6

Imagine that today is bread-making day. It starts with a little yeast and warm water dissolved in a bowl. Cups of flour and spoonfuls of salt are gently mixed in. It’s a mess on the counter until the kneading process blends everything together. Finally, a lump of dough is carefully turned into a bowl and set aside to rise. It doesn’t look like much … but with time and patience, that lump of dough will expand until it becomes a loaf of tasty goodness.

The promise that something beautiful will come from an unfinished “mess” isn’t limited to bread dough. Paul writes that God “who began a good work in you will be faithful to bring it to completeness.”

The truth is, God isn’t finished with any of us … thank goodness. But it takes patience, faith and confidence to trust that wherever you find yourself—even if it feels like a mess—is not your finished destination.

Thank you for working in my life, Lord, and promising to bring forth something good from my messes. Amen.

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Devotions for Advent: December 11, 2014

Psalm 27:1, 4-5

In the midst of the holiday hustle and bustle, could you be satisfied with just one thing? This season seems to celebrate more, more, more. But what if there was just one thing on your Christmas list; just one wish your heart could make? What would it be? Good health? Enough money? A life companion? World peace?

The psalmist wishes for just one thing: to be fully immersed in God’s beauty and truth. “One thing I asked of the Lord: to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life” (Psalm 27:4). Perhaps he imagines that doing so would lead his every action to reflect God’s heart of love and mercy; that his every thought would center on the good and upright, every night’s sleep be free from fear and worry. Perhaps if we pursued God like we wish for so many other things, we would be less consumed with the thought of more, more, more and instead find peace in the one who truly satisfies our deepest need.

Give me a laser-like focus on you, O Lord, so that my life might revolve around and be guided by your love. Amen.

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Devotions for Advent: December 10, 2014

Isaiah 40:9-11

Waiting. It doesn’t matter if it’s for a baby to come, or the check to arrive, or the doctor to call or simply for the light to change. Waiting can be one of the most challenging things we do.

Isaiah’s people were waiting, too. Their misery was justified: Jerusalem and the temple in ruins, the people exiled from their homeland, prayers seemingly unheard. They were waiting for some sign that God had not abandoned them, for something to give them hope. The prophet paints for them this picture: The Lord is coming. He is strong, able to defeat every enemy. He is gentle, ready to gather the people into his arms. Imagine what the future will be like! Take heart. It will come.

During times of waiting, we need words that give us something in which to believe. The next time you find yourself waiting, try breathing deeply. Imagine the Holy Spirit filling you with patience and peace. And trust that God’s goodness will come.

For all people waiting for a sign of your presence, O Lord, we pray that you would send your Spirit and give them hope. Amen.

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Devotions for Advent: December 9, 2014

Isaiah 40:3-5

Last year’s Oscar-nominated movie “Nebraska” told the plaintive story of Woody, a man who journeyed home to claim what he was sure was a winning sweepstakes prize. Who among us hasn’t been enticed with words like, “You may already be a winner!” Like Woody, at times we desperately want to believe that there’s something better for us out there—a life that’s more satisfying, more comfortable, more fulfilling than the one we have now. And sometimes that belief leads us on a long—if not entirely productive or pleasant—journey.

The prophet Isaiah isn’t telling the people they’ve won the lottery. He’s bearing an even more enticing message: “Your exile is over! The traveling road home will be smooth and easy. You will see the glory of the Lord.” These words send their desperate hearers on a journey. They need to believe that something better is out there, and that God will deliver them.

What messages have you been listening to lately, and where have they been leading you?

Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening. Guide my steps today, that I might walk in your path. Amen.

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Devotions for Advent: December 8, 2014

Isaiah 40:1-2

My colleague has a delightful 3-year-old son. He’s cute as a button. Twice a week, he comes to work with his dad before going to preschool. When I hear those little feet scampering down the hall, my heart perks up. There’s no better way to start the day than by holding out my arms and having him run into them to give me a hug. No matter how long my to-do list or how stressful my morning, spending a few minutes with my little buddy always sends me back to my desk with a smile on my face.

Do you have times of anticipation that lift your spirits? Daily devotions can be those moments. They center our hearts in the word and attune us to God’s voice. We need to encounter God in Scripture because we can forget God’s life-giving power. The Bible’s words can breathe peace and hope: “Comfort, comfort.” “Do not be afraid.” “Lo, I will be with you always.” They can give our days much-needed perspective.

Thank you, Lord, for lifting our spirits with your reassuring word. Draw us close and refresh us today. Amen.

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