2015 Advent Devotional

Advent means “the arrival of a notable person,” according to the first definition we found online after a quick Google search. Indeed, for us who have put our faith in Christ, Advent celebrates the arrival of our Lord and Savior. This Advent season, as we prepare ourselves for the celebration of Christ’s birth, we will focus our attention on faith, not as a possession we have, but as a catalyst for what we do. Faith that is real is undeniably evident in how we live, the choices we make, the attitudes we cultivate. 

We encourage you to spend this season walking through the Advent Devotional and considering how your faith is a catalyst in your life. Each week we will cover the same text as the previous Sunday. There are reflection questions each day around a particular section of the passage, so you have more time to soak in the words and narrative of Christ. If you miss a day or a week, don’t give up. Each day you spend in the devotional will hold value for you and your journey toward Christ.

The Advent Devotional is available here, but it's also available as a PDF to download and print at home. It is a privilege to provide this resource for you. We are praying that you will encounter Christ in a new way during this Advent season, as we await the arrival of our King, Jesus.

Blessings,
Pastor Nancy Eckardt
Jessica Miller
Suzanne Townsend

 


Sunday, November 29

First Sunday in Advent: Faith Prepares

Read Luke 3:3–14

We often think of preparation as an action. We make a list, check things off, run errands, and so on. With so many things to do and remember, the process of preparation can lose meaning and satisfaction. How might our preparation of the Advent season be different if we chose to reorient ourselves on God’s divine preparation? What if we took the time to quiet ourselves in order to be inspired by what God may be preparing us for?

Begin this Advent season with a pause, a breath. Find a quiet place to read these verses, meditating on each section. Quiet yourself with palms facing up to accept a moment of God’s peace resting on you like a feather. Close your eyes and imagine yourself sitting in God’s presence, not speaking or thinking but merely being. Quiet yourself to hear God’s whisper of inspiration into your life. Rest here a while and enjoy God’s company.

1. What is being put on your heart?
2. Who is being put on your heart?
3. How is God gently coaxing you into this Advent season in regard to repentance?

 

Monday, November 30

Read Luke 3:3–6 

1. In what ways does this reading bring you anxiety or fear?
2. List specific instances for which you are dissatisfied with your circumstances. Which of these are self-inflicted and which are seemingly out of your control?
3. Sit with God in this weakness, expressing your desire for Him to prepare a way of change.

 

Tuesday, December 1

Read Luke 3:3–6

1. How might this reading be one of extreme hope?
2. Pray a prayer of thankfulness and list all that you are grateful in this moment. Take time to remember God’s past provision and preparation for challenges. Write down major thoughts that come to mind.
3. Are you at all surprised by what you chose? Is there a theme?

 

Wednesday, December 2

Read Luke 3:7–9

1. Repentance requires a reorientation and transformation of heart. What is preventing you from fully turning from sin and looking Jesus square in the face? What fears or apprehensions do you have about giving these unhealthy behaviors up to God?
2. In what ways do you cling to your inheritance in Christ instead of owning up to sin? Can you fully acknowledge the power your sin has over you?
3. Are you prepared to fully cut down the branches that aren’t producing good fruit in your life?

 

Thursday, December 3

Read Luke 3:7–14

1. Galatians 5:22 says “By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness.” Meditate on these identified “fruits.” What comes easily for you? Which of these are challenges for you?
2. Set aside time to pray a prayer of thankfulness for the good fruit in your life. Then ask God to reinvigorate areas that are not producing good fruit knowing that God already knows your weakness. Reflect on this experience.
3. Throughout this process where do you see God nudging you? Is it toward a person, action, or behavior?

 

Friday, December 4

Read Luke 3:10–14

1. Reflect on the still small voice of God you encountered on Sunday. Who is God preparing you to be in this season? What transformation of heart is necessary for you to prepare?
2. How might you have the same generosity as those in this passage? What selfless gift can you bring forward to bless yourself and others this season?
3. What posture toward God might you take on to benefit the preparation taking place?

 

Saturday, December 5

Look back to this past Sunday as you meditated on the Lord’s presence. Reflect on what you originally wrote down. Examine the areas you identified as needing more attention and growth. Is there a trend that appears? Take some more time today to sit in silence with the Lord. Look around you and take in a deep breath. Thank God for that breath. Look closely at the intricacies of the trees outside. Thank God for the view. Observe the vibrant color of the last clinging orange leaf. Thank God for the cycle of life, health, death and change. Sit with the God who created the skies and the oceans, those very trees, and you. Think about what it means for the God of the universe to call you Beloved.

1. Can you identify what God may be preparing you for?
2. Were there any surprises that came up this week in your process of preparation with God?
3. What “next step” can you commit to right now for the rest of this Advent season?




Sunday, December 6

Faith Receives

To begin today’s reflection, please take a few minutes to read Luke 1:26–38, 46–56. As you read, jot down any specific phrases or images that arrest you in some way. Read the passage a second time out loud and repeat the exercise, making note of any specific phrases or images that speak to you.

In my high school youth group, the place I first learned how to read and study scripture, my youth pastor encouraged us to ask a series of questions about the biblical text. The order of questioning was specific: 1) What does this passage reveal about God? 2) What does this passage reveal about God’s plan for the world? 3) What does this passage reveal about humanity? 4) What principles can be drawn from this passage? 5) How can I apply this passage to my life?

It is my personal inclination when reading scripture to jump to questions four and five. “Thanks God! That was great. Now… how do I apply this to my life?” This desire is even stronger when I read a passage like Luke 1. The verses we read contain an almost tangible energy. There is a beat, a thrust, in this passage that compels me to go out and do. “Thanks, God! That story about Mary was great. Now… let’s go take some risks, shall we?” I want to do as Mary did.

Mary took significant risks in accepting the angel Gabriel’s word to her. She risked her physical safety in many ways; her familial and relational comfort; her spiritual safety; her emotional safety; whatever idea she held about what her family would look like.

After reading this passage again, I wonder if the reason Mary was able to risk these things with so little information about what the future held is because she knew the answer to the first and second questions above. She knew who God was and she understood how this prophetic word from the angel Gabriel was a true reflection of God’s plan for the world.

If one is distant from the truth of who God is or his plan for the redemption of the world, it is near impossible to immediately accept his word to us—no matter how compelling it is. This week as we reflect on this piece of Mary’s story, we are first and foremost concerned with what this passage reveals about the character of God.

Understanding more about who God is allows us the space to take risks when we hear God’s word spoken.

1. What is one way you feel God called you to risk in 2015? Maybe, like Mary, it was a risk of spiritual, physical, or emotional safety. Maybe it’s something else entirely.
2. When you heard that word from God, inviting you to take that risk, what was your response?
3. What has been the result or outcome of your response?
 

Monday, December 7

Read: Luke 1:26–29

We see from John 1:46 that Nazareth was an unimportant village in Galilee, north of Judea. Also, it’s good to remember that Jesus’ lineage is traced from Joseph, Mary’s fiancé, back to King David. This plays into a significant theme of the Gospel of Luke, which is God’s faithfulness to the people of Israel through the coming of Jesus.

1. What do these four verses reveal to us about who God is?
2. The angel refers to Mary as “favored one.” In what ways do you see Mary as favored?
3. Why do you think this assurance of “The Lord is with you!” is one of the first things Gabriel says to Mary?
 

Tuesday, December 8

Read: Luke 1:30–33

The word ‘favor’ used again here when it was also used in verse 28 should cause alarm bells to go off! It is also used in verse 1:25. And for more on how verse 1:33 is a fulfillment of God’s promise to David, see 2 Samuel 7:16.

1. What do these four verses reveal to us about who God is?
2. Read Luke 1:26–33 as a refresher. What are you starting to understand as God’s plan for the world as revealed in these verses?
3. The name Jesus is a common form of the Hebrew name Joshua which means “YHWH (Yahweh) is salvation.” Mary is being asked to take a risk and believe that the long awaited Messiah is coming. When have you been asked to take a risk and believe something that has not yet come to pass?
 

Wednesday, December 9

Read: Luke 1:34–38

Jesus, the holy Son of God, surpasses David and his royal heirs, adopted sons of God. Psalm 2:7 makes mention of this language.

1. What do these five verses reveal to us about who God is?
2. The angel Gabriel mentions Mary’s cousin Elizabeth. In some ways these two women are different sides of the same coin. Elizabeth did not think it possible to have a child because she was barren. Mary did not think it possible to have a child because she was a virgin. Gabriel’s mention of Elizabeth’s miraculous pregnancy seems to encourage Mary to accept his words. Write briefly about a time when you’ve been inspired to take a risk because of the actions of another person.
3. Mary goes from asking “how can this be?” to affirming “let it be.” When is a time you’ve gone on a similar journey from ‘how’ to ‘okay’?
 

Thursday, December 10

Read: Luke 1:46–51

This hymn of praise echoes Hannah’s song over Samuel’s birth (1 Samuel 2:1–10).

1. What do these six verses reveal to us about who God is?
2. The word ‘favor’ is used again in these verses. In David DeSilva’s An Introduction of the New Testament he mentions that a “distinctive aspect of God’s favor is God’s determination to take the initiative in seeking reconciliation with those who had affronted God.” How do these verses of Mary’s hymn, and all that we’ve read in Luke, reflect this initiative God is taking to reconcile with his people?
3. Use verses Luke 1:46–51 to guide your prayer as you close today’s reflection.
 

Friday, December 11

Read: Luke 1:52–56

1. What do these five verses reveal to us about who God is?
2. In the ancient world it was not uncommon for a patron to bestow favor upon beneficiaries considered worthy of such gifts. After that it was possible the patron would, in a show of generosity, give to those considered less worthy. How does Mary’s prayer demonstrate that God’s economy is different than human leaders?
3. Use verses 1:52–55 to guide your prayer as you close today’s reflection.
 

Saturday, December 12

Read: Luke 1:26–38, 46–56

Having spent this week reflecting on what this passage in Luke reveals to us about who God is, I now ask you to answer the same questions my youth pastor would ask me as I studied scripture.

1. What does this passage reveal to us about who God is?
2. What does this passage reveal about God’s plan for the world?
3. What does this passage reveal to us about humanity?
4. What is a principle you can draw from this passage? (Side note: a true principle should be able to be applied to anyone, in anytime, anywhere.)
5. What is one way you can apply that principle to your life?

 

 


Sunday, December 13

Third Week in Advent: Faith Believes

Joseph responds to a dream. The wise men (or magi, or astrologers depending on your translation) follow a star. The shepherds witness an angel.

Each group (or individual in Joseph’s case) received revelation and were invited to respond. Each was asked to respond in a different way. Joseph was called to take Mary as his wife, admonished by the angel in his dream to stop making choices motivated by fear (or propriety). The wise men were led by a star to pay homage and offer gifts to the true king—despite likely not understanding just who this child was. The shepherds were told of Jesus’s birth but the account in Luke does not include a command from the angel to go—rather the angel tells them of the joy that awaits and they choose to go to Bethlehem.

Three different classes and groups of people. Three different calls to believe.

In evangelical circles, this language of ‘God’s calling’ is used often. The implicit, and at times explicit, understanding is that we as individuals are all called to something unique and that until we discover that one true calling we are not living into the fullness of our faith.

What we see through Joseph (Matthew 1:18–24), the wise men (Matthew 2:1–12), and the shepherds (Luke 2:8–20) is different. In these gospel accounts we discover that each person is called to the same thing: worship of Christ. There is a single calling.

The contexts in which they each heard this call, the means before them to follow, and the obstacles they had to overcome—all those things were different, but the call was the same.

It’s the same call we have today and the one we are invited to reflect on this week: the call to believe that in the person of Christ, God is with us (Matthew 1:23).

Monday, December 14

Read Matthew 1:18–21

In the time when Joseph and Mary lived, a girl at the time of puberty would be pledged by her father to her future husband. To be pregnant before they lived together (1:18) dishonored the male and was grounds for the dissolution of the engagement and at times execution. It is notable that the text mentions Joseph is a righteous man but his concern is for Mary. He is motivated by wanting to save her from public disgrace.

1. An angel of the Lord appears to Joseph and tells him not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife. Why do you think Joseph might be afraid of doing that?
2. What reason does God give Joseph for why Jesus is being born? Compare this to what the angel Gabriel tells Mary in Luke 1:26–39. How are they the same? How are they different?
3. If you had a dream in which you heard an angel of the Lord speaking to you, how difficult would it be for you to trust that dream?

Tuesday, December 15

Read Matthew 1:18–25

1. Joseph’s response to the words of the angel is immediate, ostensibly because he believed them to be true. In fact, he responds to commands he receives in dreams three other times in Matthew’s gospel. Reflect on a time when you responded immediately to revelation from God. What prompted your immediate response?
2. The name Jesus comes from the Greek form of the Hebrew name Joshua which means ‘he saves.’ But in the same passage we also read that the son shall be called ‘Emmanuel’ which means ‘God is with us.’ How do you see these two names being related—‘he saves’ and ‘God is with us’?
3. Based on this passage of scripture, what (or who?) do you feel Joseph was being called to believe?

Wednesday, December 16

Read Matthew 2:1–6

The wise men would have been Gentiles, court priests who practiced astrology and magic.

1. The wise men weren’t Jewish. They saw a star and followed it. What do you think motivated them to drop everything and follow that star?
2. They expressed to Herod they wanted to pay homage—express reverence or respect—to the King of the Jews. What are some ways that you follow this example of the wise men and pay homage to Christ?
3. In your journey to know God, how are you like the wise men? How are you unlike them? 

Thursday, December 17

Read Matthew 2:1–12

1. Before the wise men even saw Jesus, simply knowing they were within close proximity to him, they were overwhelmed by joy. Reflect on a time your faith brought that kind of joy.
2. How was the response of the wise men to seeing Jesus similar to how Christians respond today? How is it different?
3. Scripture is filled with examples of ‘the outsider’ providing a vivid example of how we are to respond to God. What can you take away from the way the wise men respond and believe? Can you think of other ‘outsiders,’ those outside of the Christian faith, that you could learn from this Advent season?

Friday, December 18

Read Luke 2:8–12

1. Why do you think God sent the angel of the Lord to the shepherds? (Luke 1:52–55 might provide some insight.)
2. In 2:11, Jesus is called Savior, Messiah, and Lord. The term ‘savior’ was commonly used of the Roman emperor and is relatively rare in the gospels. The Messiah, or the Christ, is an anointed ruler. Reflect on the significance of these three separate titles (savior, messiah, lord). How are they the same? How are they different?
3. Of the three titles used in verse 11 (savior, messiah, lord) which is the hardest for you to see Jesus as? Which is the most natural for you? 

Saturday, December 19

Read Luke 2:8–20

1. The shepherds respond to seeing Jesus by telling others “what had been told about this child.” Often when people share their faith with others, they highlight aspects of Jesus’ character they have been most impacted by. What are those aspects for you? 
This week we have reflected on the ways that God foretold and announced the birth of Jesus—to the righteous Jew (Joseph), to the pagan gentile (the wise men), to the wealthy (the wise men), to the poor (the shepherds). Many of these encounters, these calls to belief, occurred while the individual or the groups of people were just going about their lives.
2. What does this imply about what it means to be ‘spiritual’? When you encounter God in the midst of the ordinary flow of your life, how do you usually respond?
4. Of Joseph, the wise men, and the shepherds, whose response to the proclamation of Jesus’ birth do you most resonate with? How can you bring that posture into your celebration during the remainder of this Advent season?

 

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