Devotional Category: Advent

“Comfort and Joy”

As we turn our focus to Joy this week, remember that our joy is not based on emotions or circumstances but comes from the peace we have knowing God is faithful to His word. Take a moment to nurture your peace by meditating on the personal promises God has given you and let your joy be refreshed!

“Be it Unto Me”

With God all things are possible, and those who trust and wait on Him patiently have true Shalom, true peace! Mary trusted in God and responded to what seemed to be the impossible with “Be it unto me according to your word.” As this week comes to a close, continue placing your trust in the one that is true to His word. Keep humbling yourself and relinquishing the need for control, so that you may live with abundant peace.

“Don’t Be Anxious”

There is a great struggle for humans with fear and anxiety. In America, as well as other Western nations, there is a significant rise in depression and mental illness. We seem to be struggling with how we deal with life’s hardships and uncertainties. Yet we are admonished as Christians to not be anxious. How are we to do this?

Paul, in Philippians 4, gives us a simple process for not being anxious: pray, be thankful, and trust God. When we continually bring our needs and hopes and struggles before the Lord in prayer, we learn to trust Him with our lives. Yesterday we read about God being at work, with the humble benefiting the most from His activity. Today, we learn to become humble by recognizing we cannot control everything, but we can trust the One who is in control. As we learn to pray and yield to the Lord, there is a promise of peace. This peace, that is from God, is not something that we can figure out. But even if we can’t fully understand it, we can experience it. This peace guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Today, let’s humble ourselves in prayer, releasing all of our pains and struggles into God’s hands, being grateful for His work, and receiving His peace. This is what it means to “bless the Lord.” Psalm 103 is a psalm of praise for all that God has done. Slowly pray these verses, speaking God’s promises and character over your life today. Learning to pray this in humility allows for God’s peace to guard your heart and mind from anxiety even in the midst of difficult circumstances.

“The Song of Mary”

These verses from Luke 1 have been called “Mary’s Magnificat”, or Mary’s song of praise. What is her praise song about? When God acts, there is a reversal. It is not the mighty or the proud that get exclusive access to God’s work, it is the humble, the weak, the powerless. Those who have built their lives arrogantly upon themselves, those who have shoved their way to the top, will get a painful reality check when God acts in the world. God looks for those who are humble and put their trust completely in Him.

This song carries a theme from Isaiah 61, that God takes the ashes of our lives and makes them into something beautiful. These verses from Isaiah 61 were so important, that Jesus chose to begin His first sermon in Luke (Luke 4:16-21) with them. I suspect that His mother Mary taught Him this idea from a young age.

Maybe you are in a helpless situation, or maybe you feel overlooked and powerless. The state of your circumstances aren’t nearly as important as the state of your heart. Whether you are powerless or powerful, are you humble? That is what God is looking for when He is at work, those with humble hearts. Let’s take today, and this season as a whole, to recognize any pride in our lives and repent of it, humbling ourselves before Him and trusting in Him to follow through on His word, not trying to make it all happen by ourselves.

“Joy and Peace in Believing”

Today’s readings converge themes from last week (hope), this week (peace), and a small preview of next week (joy). In the gospel reading, Mary visits Elizabeth and the baby in Elizabeth’s womb leaps for joy and is filled with the Holy Spirit. I find it incredible that the first person to recognize Jesus was a baby still in the womb! There is great joy that comes with recognizing Jesus, even in the hidden or subtle moments of life and relationships.

You may be in a season of waiting. Most of our life is in that season. Advent is a season for us to slow down enough to pay attention to what we are actually waiting for. Instead of just blowing our way through life, speeding through it in a hurry, distracting ourselves from the uncomfortable realities of living in a broken world, we are called to spend Advent recognizing God’s promises and our hopes. Often when we slow down enough to pay attention, the Holy Spirit enables us to recognize the ways Jesus is still present in our lives in the midst of our waiting. This recognition fills us with God’s peace.

Paul’s prayer at the end of the reading from Romans is that God, whom he identifies as “the God of hope,” would fill us with joy and peace in our believing. So today, can you recognize your hope in God and allow it to settle you in faith that He is at work, even when we can’t see it or feel it? When we can trust God, it fills us with joy and peace. You may be having to wait, but you don’t have to wait in fear or anxiety. The power of the Holy Spirit empowers us with hope, joy, and peace as we trust God, even in the waiting season.

“Nothing Will Be Impossible For God”

Today, we come back to the story of Mary’s conversation with the angel Gabriel. Mary, no more than 15 or 16 years old, is curious how she’s going to have a baby while being a virgin, and Gabriel makes clear that it is the very power of the Holy Spirit. The same Spirit that hovered over the waters in Genesis 1, bringing life and light out of the dark chaos, will come into her womb, and generate the life of the child, the Son of God. There is a clear sense of this being hard to believe, so he informs Mary of another unlikely miracle, that of her barren elderly cousin who is also pregnant. Then he makes one of the most powerful statements in the whole of Scripture, “For nothing will be impossible for God”!

What impossible situations are you up against? What challenges have you faced that seem insurmountable? What has God said about those things? What has God said about you? Whatever God’s will is in those situations, however improbable or impossible, nothing is impossible for God!

Mary’s response to such a powerful declaration is just as miraculous: “I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” Keep in mind, Mary is only a teenager, and yet had the faith to trust in God’s word, regardless of how impossible it sounded. So what is God’s word to you today? Do you see yourself as Mary saw herself, the servant of the Lord? Can you trust God’s word, even if it seems impossible?

“From Everlasting to Everlasting”

I love the poetry of the Psalms. The Psalms are prayers for the people and Psalm 103 is a beautiful one. In today’s portion of the Psalm we are reminding ourselves of the character of God and His relationship to us. His steadfast love is beyond measure, it’s so vast that it is as “high as the heavens are above the earth” and so long-lasting that it’s “from everlasting to everlasting.” His steadfast love (His “chesed”) toward us reveals His mercy, His compassion, and His forgiveness. It reminds us He does not view us through the lens of our sins and weaknesses, but through His character. It is His character, not our behavior, that makes Him faithful to His covenant promises.

You may be very aware of your sin and weaknesses and think that those are making God turn away from you. But it is quite the opposite. God loves you and has abundant mercy and forgiveness ready for you. He “remembers that we are dust,” and quite frail. His steadfast love is overflowing for you, and He invites you to repent of any sin and recognize your weaknesses and turn your face back toward Him and experience His steadfast and unfailing love.

“Peace on Earth”

We can be at peace in any situation, not because we ignore the trouble and struggles in the world and just pretend to be happy, but because we trust that God will be true to His word – that Jesus will come again and make things right. Where are you feeling a lack of peace? How can you shift your focus away from that situation and back on to the promises of God?

The Blessed Hope

Paul, writing to his pastor friend Titus, refers to the “appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” as the “blessed hope.” What are we hoping for? For Jesus to appear. We celebrate Advent to nurture our waiting and hoping for Christmas, which celebrates Jesus’ first advent, which in turn nurtures our hopes for the second advent of Jesus.

Today, let’s be reminded of what this season is really about. It’s not the shopping or the holiday parties; it’s about Jesus. And we don’t just celebrate Jesus coming as a baby in the past. We celebrate by anticipating His return in the future, the hope that is most blessed.

Light to those in darkness

In the last part of Zechariah’s prophecy, he turns to speak over his son, John. He prophecies his role in God’s plan to bring salvation to His people. These are powerful words of promise: salvation, forgiveness, tender mercy. He draws attention to what it’s like to experience these things from God. It’s like a sunrise.

Are you in darkness today? Is your life in a season or a moment that feels like night? Maybe you don’t know where to go or what to do. Maybe your feelings are overwhelming. You might even be wondering if this season will ever end. You are looking for the sunrise. And just as the sun faithfully rises every morning, so God will faithfully bring His word to pass.

As you read the verses today, imagine the sunrise. That is what it is like to trust God through the night and see Him come through at dawn.