Today’s devotion is based on Luke 2:30–32, where we hear Simeon say as he held the baby Jesus, "My eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the face of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel."
It is a terrible human tendency to dwell on our differences from other people. Rather than celebrating everything that makes us human, we divide ourselves into competing groups according to different qualities we deem necessary. Our nationality is the basis for our division. Our skin tone causes us to categorize ourselves. Our differences stem from our endorsement of one political candidate over another. Is it any wonder that our world is currently suffering such instability with all this separation?
Fortunately, God does not notice our differences from one another when he looks at us. As he embraced Jesus, Simeon realized this. He acknowledged that Jesus had come for both the people of Israel and the Gentiles (non-Jewish people) as he gave thanks to God for sending Jesus. That encompasses all people. That takes care of you. Jesus came to be your Savior, regardless of who you are, where you are from, or any special qualities you may or not possess. And we thank God for that.
Thank you, Lord Jesus, for coming to earth to provide salvation to everyone. Please make it clear to me when I distinguish myself from others who are not like me. I ask this in the name of Jesus. Amen.
Since we are still in the Christmas season, I am continuing the devotions based on Luke. “And this will be a sign for you: And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased!" (Luke 2:13-14)
I love these angels. They are just so extremely happy about this wonderful Gift God is giving humanity—the Savior, Jesus, Christ the Lord. It's as if they can't control themselves, and once the lead angel has given his message clearly and carefully to the shepherds, they all burst onto the scene, celebrating and singing and praising at the top of their lungs. It's party time!
By nature I am a worrywart. I can find something to be anxious about on the happiest occasion. And if I am not anxious, I can become anxious about the fact that I'm not anxious! It's like an emotional snake swallowing its own tail.
Jesus is definitely at hand—as a tiny baby sleeping in a manger; as the Lord of life who died and rose again to save us; as the One who has promised to come at the end of time and take us to be forever with Himself. This is good news!
And so we gladly say, "Behold, this is our God; we have waited for Him, that He might save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for Him; let us be glad and rejoice in His salvation" (Isaiah 25:9).
Please pray with me: Lord, I am so glad You have come. Thank You for that. Amen.
Since we are still in the Christmas season, I am continuing the devotions based on Luke. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger." (Luke 2:12)
What is a sign for? I've always figured a sign is there to point the way to where you're going. Ideally, it will be clear, and I should also see it somewhere before I actually reach the goal of my journey—right?
We are used to thinking of Jesus' birth as a beginning. But perhaps the baby in a manger is an ending to God's long-hidden plan for overcoming the devil and rescuing His people. Wait no longer. Travel no further. Here He is—the sign, the signature, the baby in a manger.
Please pray with me: Lord, help me to recognize and thank You for the great salvation You have prepared for us. Amen.
Since we are still in the Christmas season, I am continuing the devotions based on Luke. "And the angel said to them, "Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." (Luke 2:10-11)
The ancient Israelites had a concept we usually translate as "redeemer" or even "kinsman-redeemer." You needed This person if you got into trouble or lost all your money. The kinsman-redeemer had the legal right to repurchase your property from the new owner. He could repurchase you as well if you got sold into slavery. He was allowed to do this because he was related to you. The closer the relationship, the more right he had to rescue you. Of course, you still had to hope he had the money to redeem you! Otherwise, he could do you no good.
A kinsman-redeemer is precisely what we need as human beings. Once, all of us were under the power of the devil, living as slaves to guilt and shame and sin. We needed help. But who could do it? We got ourselves into that situation—by rights, it ought to be fixed by a human being. But no human being was in a position to pay. God could pay—but He was not human. By being born into our human family, Jesus fixed that problem. He became our Kinsman-Redeemer, our blood relative who has the right and the ability to buy us back out of slavery to sin.
Please pray with me: Dear Lord, thank You for coming to be my Redeemer. Thank You for being born to me and for me. Amen.
Today's devotion for today is based on Luke 2:8,9: And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.
I doubt the shepherds were expecting what they got that first Christmas night. And yet the shepherds were on the spot at the right time to see the angel—why? Because they were doing their ordinary jobs, faithfully, quietly, just as we do ours. God came to meet them on the job—not in the temple, but in the middle of the stink and sweat of laboring ewes and the dirty clothes their wives and mothers would have to launder later. They went to see the baby Jesus dressed like workers. God came into their real, ordinary lives, just as He comes into ours.
There is no need for us to "dress up" for God. He comes to us where we are. Jesus comes to us as our Savior—not in a storybook, not in a stained-glass picture of events far away, but in reality. He wants the real us, and He gives His own life to make that possible. And He promises us Himself in return.
Please join me in prayer: Dear Lord, bring me close to You in truth, and not in daydream. Be with me in my everyday life, and help me to trust in You. Amen.
“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.”
On Christmas Eve and Day, the symbols of Christ surround us—manger scenes and Christmas trees, Chi-Rhos and candles. Perhaps you attend an evening candlelight service in which the light from the Christ candle, the center candle of the Advent wreath, is used to light other candles that in turn light all the candles held by worshipers. With building lights dimmed, the light from the candles fills the room with a heavenly glow.
But the glow produced from the Christ candle is a pale comparison to the brilliant glory of the angels who filled the night sky to announce Jesus’ birth! Any symbolism we employ at Christmas is only a dim reflection of the first Christmas and an imperfect representation of the miracle that the angel messenger announced: “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord” (Luke 2:11).
Christ is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word Messiah. Both words mean “Anointed One.” This special name for this special child tells us that there is more than what meets the eye in Bethlehem’s manger. This child is anointed and appointed to be the King of kings and Lord of lords. The innocent baby wrapped in strips of cloth is also the almighty God wrapped in human flesh. God has become one of us and one with us! The One who created heaven and earth is now cradled in a manger. What an amazing heaven-sent miracle from the heart of God the Father.
Please pray with me: Almighty God, you sent your Son, Christ, the Lord, as our Savior. Receive our thanks for this miracle of your grace and enlighten our hearts with the good news of his birth that we may proclaim his praises now on earth and forever in heaven. Amen.
And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with Child. (Luke 2:4-5)
It could not have been an easy trip. Joseph needed to get to Bethlehem for legal reasons, and he brought Mary with him on the verge of delivery. In spite of the Christmas cards, there's a good chance they both walked. The Bible says nothing about a donkey. And the trip was at least 70 miles.
Why not leave Mary home? After all, surely she would be more comfortable with her female relatives to care for her, and a proper midwife on call. We don't know. Perhaps they remembered the prophecy that Bethlehem would be Jesus' birthplace. Perhaps Joseph just didn't want to leave his wife alone in the hands of gossips.
And then the birth itself—not in an inn, as there was no room for them there. Labor and delivery for a first-time mother—could Joseph find anyone to help? Who knows? An adorable baby, at long last. A manger, to keep Him off the floor so no one could step on Him and the rats wouldn't bite Him. The birth of the Son of God.
This wasn't what Mary and Joseph wanted. It wasn't what they planned. But it was what God chose.
This is how much God loves us, that He sent His only Son into the world under such circumstances. This is how much Jesus our Savior loves us. Our troubles, our suffering, our poverty, our griefs—He shared them all from the beginning, every day of His life. He came on purpose to be the "Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief" that the prophet foretold (Isaiah 53:3). He took them to the cross.
And then He rose from the dead, triumphant over all of this—over evil, over sin, over death, over the power of the devil. He did it for you and for me, because He loves us. As He shared our suffering, so now we share in His joy and everlasting life. Jesus came to be Immanuel, God-with-us forever.
THE PRAYER: Lord, thank You for loving us so much. Draw me closer to You. Amen.
December 23, 2019
When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a Son. And he called His Name Jesus. (Matthew 1:24-25)
I really admire Joseph. What courage he had, to simply wake up and go finalize the marriage, bringing his wife home—all on the basis of a dream. Mary and Zechariah both had the benefit of a face-to-face meeting with a real live angel. Joseph? Well, like his Old Testament namesake, he got his instructions in dreams.
I think that most of us are a lot more like Joseph than like Mary in this. God speaks to us in less flamboyant ways—through the Bible, through prayer, through consultation with wise Christian friends. God makes Himself known, but He does it in ways that are easier to mistake.
And we worry about that, don't we? What if I get it wrong? What if I think God wants me to do something, and later on it turns into a disaster? We fret and worry, as if knowing God's will were some sort of test we could score an F on—as if we could fail, and disappoint God. Sometimes that worries us more than the actual outcome of the decision!
But that is not the case. Because of our Savior Jesus, we are now God's beloved children. We are very dear to Him-so dear that He lay down His own life for us!—and He is certainly not looking to set traps for us. As King David wrote, "As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust" (Psalm 103:13-14).
There is no chance that the same God who became a human baby out of love for us would be looking for things to blame us for. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we will make the best decisions we can; and if things go badly (and face it, don't they often?), we will know that God is still with us, and we are still His children. After all, He is Immanuel; He is "God with us."
THE PRAYER: Lord, You know that I get confused easily. Guide me, and help me to trust in You when I am nervous and afraid. Amen.
Today's devotion is based on Luke 1:31-33, "You 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 High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob's descendants forever; his kingdom will never end."
How do you properly celebrate the birth of the most significant, most highly anticipated person to ever walk on this earth? What if I told you that this great man willingly allowed himself to be humiliated before men so that you and I could be glorified before God? He suffered the shame of the cross so that we might be honored with God's grace and the gift of forgiveness. And after rising from the dead, Jesus now watches over you, showering you with his love and blessings and working out all things so that you might share in his never-ending glory. What's so great about Christmas? It's the birth of our great Christ and King!
Please pray with me the prayer for today: Heavenly Father, gracious God, creator and sustainer of all things, seen and unseen, help me to truly hear your message of peace and joy during this turbulent time in my life. In Jesus' name, I pray. Amen.
Today's devotional message is based on Matthew 1:19-20, “And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream.”
There are many times when I wish God would speak to me from on high. Just open the heavens, shout (or whisper) a little guidance. Or send me an angel—or a letter, or a text message, you know, anything would be good. Because I just don't know what to do.
But of course, God usually doesn't do that. Instead, we're left to do what Joseph did—lie awake, "considering these things" with the best wisdom we have available to us. We have to figure out what to do.
But the good news is that we do not have to "consider these things" on our own! Most of us are painfully aware of the limits of our own wisdom. But we have a better resource to rely on, what Paul calls "Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God" (1 Corinthians 1:24b).
We can ask for the help we need. We can ask about anything—even a situation as seemingly messed up as Joseph's, where he thought his future wife had cheated on him. God will not judge us for being in that situation. He will not say, "See, if you had listened to Me, you wouldn't need to ask for help!"
Jesus is not that kind of person. He listens to us when we are in trouble and cry out. He gives us the Holy Spirit's help to make decisions, even the terribly tough ones. After all, He knows what our lives are like. Isn't He the One who became a human being like us, to suffer, die, and rise for our sakes?
Please pray with me: Lord, when I am in trouble, help me to remember you are my ever-present help in my time of need. Thank You. Amen.