devotional, encouragement, holidays, midlife faith

Advent Week 4—LOVE

I’m pretty sure Mary did not have in mind to give birth to the Savior of the world in a dirty, dusty stable miles from home, but babies come when they are ready—or in this case, when God ordained that “the days were accomplished that she should be delivered” (Luke 2:6 KJV). She obediently followed Joseph from Narareth—and the comforts of home and family—to Bethlehem to fulfill the census orders of Caesar Augustus. 

As if the journey were not arduous enough, when the time came for her to give birth, the only place for her to lie down out of the elements was in a barn. I don’t know about y’all, but I had a hard enough time giving birth in a comfortable, sanitary hospital surrounded by doctors and nurses. Yet, Mary didn’t doubt God’s love for her, knowing that this birthing plan was all in God’s hands. 

We need love now more than ever. Not only do we need it in the world around us, but we also need it within our hearts. Sure, we may know intellectually that God loves us, but how long has it been since that knowledge traveled the endless 18 inches to our hearts? Yeah, me, too.

Let’s celebrate some good news this week as we approach the end of 2020. The fourth week of advent celebrates love, and the angels’ candle commemorates the hope fulfilled in Jesus’ first coming and our continued hope in His second coming.

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

This is good news not just for 2,000 years ago, but through the ages. We see the evidence of God’s love for us from the wooden manger to the wooden cross, to the empty tomb, to the promise of the rapture of the saints. Only a sovereign, loving, and omniscient God could have planned and executed such a plan for redemption.

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon  his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6

That’s what God’s love for us looks like. Mary’s response? “But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Luke 2:19).

What does love look like for us in this season? Sometimes it’s telling someone a hard truth. Sometimes it’s keeping our opinions to ourselves. Sometimes it’s wearing a mask when we’d rather not. Sometimes it’s letting our kids grow up and make their own decisions without making a big deal. It’s always sharing the grace and peace of the real Reason for the Season.

What does love look like for you this season, friend? Let me know in the comments or drop me an email. Catch up on the rest of the series:

Read Advent Week 1: Hope

Read Advent Week 2: Peace

Read Advent Week 3: Joy

devotional, encouragement, holidays, midlife faith

Advent Week 3–Joy

“Joy to the world, the Lord has come!” What better news has ever been declared than this—that the Savior of the Lord has already come? 

The shepherds were first in a long line of people who joyfully shared the good news of the coming of the Messiah. The angels, God’s glorious and special messengers, first announced to keepers of sheep that a King had been born?! I can kind of see Herod’s point about being left out of that revelation. Just sayin’.

But who better to be the first to hear about the One who came to save liars, cheaters, and the poor? 

Of course they were overjoyed! King Jesus didn’t come to trade gold and gems with other dignitaries—the overbearing Roman rulers of the time. Instead, he came to mingle with the tax collectors and outcasts in order to bring salvation to people from all walks of life.

We don’t have to be good enough to get an invitation to meet this King. We don’t have to Cash App a donation, sign up to sell essential oils, or have an award-winning TikTok channel in order to be noticed by this King. 

In fact, Scripture tells us numerous times that Jesus lowered himself to our level on purpose.

And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Philippians 2:8

That right there is enough to make me want to sing “Joy to the World” every day, not just one Sunday during December! In addition, throughout the Bible, we see example after example of other miracles God has done for His people. If you need a few reminders, check out Psalm 146.

Verse 3 of Psalm 46 reminds us not to put our trust in princes or in mortal men who cannot save us. This advent season, let us set aside the politics that so easily divide us and focus on the one, true King, the humble Messiah who will save us (from ourselves).

Instead, let us focus on our Savior with praise and joy. As the prophet Isaiah reminds us:  

And the ransomed of the Lord shall return
and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
they shall obtain gladness and joy,
  and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

Isaiah 35:10

Heavenly Father, please give us joy that lasts beyond the moment, beyond the holiday season, into the mundane, drab days of January and beyond.

Friend, what are you joyful about this week of Advent? Hit reply to send me an email, or drop me a line on social media to let me know!

Catch up on the rest of the series:
Read Advent Week 1: Hope
Read Advent Week 2: Peace

devotional, encouragement, holidays

Advent Week 2–Peace & Preparation

When my kids were small, their father would take them to the mall (or WalMart) to buy me a gift for Christmas and my birthday, which are two days apart. They would be so excited to wrap their gifts and place them under the tree—almost as excited as they were about shaking and squeezing all the gifts with their own names attached. 

A month, let alone a few weeks, was such a long time for little girls to wait! They would grow more excited and animated about those gifts under the tree every day until I thought they would burst from excitement! 

Each day, more gifts would appear under the tree, building the anticipation even more. More Christmas cookies, more Christmas carols, and more Christmas parties fueled their frenzy.

Our custom used to be that we would each pick one small gift to open on Christmas Eve before heading off to bed. One year, my younger girl was so anxious for me to open the gift she had picked out for me, that she asked if I would please open “the umbrella-shaped gift”!  

As with children (young and old!) at Christmas time, we, too, anxiously await the second return of Christ to bring us peace, right all the wrongs, and deliver us from the cares of this present world. 

For he delivers the needy when he calls,
    the poor and him who has no helper. Psalm 72:12

Psalm 72:12

Even though the Israelites were longing for the promised Messiah, the Bethlehem of 2,000 years ago was not prepared for Jesus’ birth. 

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
    who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
    one who is to be ruler in Israel,
whose coming forth is from of old,    
from ancient days.

Micah 5:2

We’re looking for a Savior, just as much as the Israelites were over 2,000 years ago. So how can we prepare for Jesus’ peace during Advent? We can do good things for those around us. We can love and care for those within our sphere of influence. And we can pray to be transformed more to His likeness.

But just like the flurry of preparations that take place during December, we also must prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ. Lord, help us remember to prepare our hearts for your coming. Soften our hearts. Give us open hearts to receive the King.

Friend, what do you need to do to prepare your heart for the coming King this Advent season?

Read Advent Week 1, Hope.

devotional, encouragement, holidays

Advent Week 1–HOPE

Advent

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Hebrews 11:1

Hope has lost the original weight of its meaning. Now we say things like, “I hope it doesn’t rain again this weekend.” But in biblical times, hope held a much deeper significance. It means “joyful and confident expectation of eternal salvation.” 

Many prophets foretold the coming, or advent, of the Messiah, and the Israelites pinned their hopes—their confident expectation for salvation—on the long-awaited Messiah. Isaiah 40 foretells the coming of a Messiah who will comfort His people and establish justice. The Messiah will display the power of light over darkness and the triumph of good over evil.

In this hope, the Israelites anticipated a time of amazing worship, and we can likewise worship Jesus while looking forward to His second coming (see Psalm 122).

When the Messiah arrived as a baby in a manger in Bethlehem, many were shocked and did not believe that He could save Israel from their hardships—the oppression of the Romans (as Moses saved the Israelites from the oppression of the Egyptians thousands of years earlier, see Exodus 1-14). 

For those looking for salvation from our current conditions (and who isn’t?) of pandemics, politics, and prejudice, our salvation might not look like what we think it should—just like the Jews of 2,000 years ago were sure the Messiah would arrive as a great and mighty King, not a tiny baby in a tiny town.

Today, we put our hope in the baby in the manger and our future hope in the second coming of the Messiah to save us from the oppressors of our current world.

While we don’t know the day or the hour, we do know that He will come to save us from the impending tribulation as foretold throughout the Scriptures “to save those who are eagerly waiting for him” (Hebrews 9:28).

The Jews of Jesus’ day were hoping for salvation from the Romans. We Christians today are hoping that Jesus will bring judgment to right all the wrongs. Justice will prevail—if only at the final judgment.  

We need to remember not to overlook the ordinary miracles and seemingly small moments of joy. In those things we will find our hope is truly a “steadfast anchor of the soul” (Hebrews 6:19).

What are you hoping for this Advent season? Please share with me, so I can pray with you!