Advent is a season of hopeful preparation, culminating in the celebration of the incarnation, God himself taking on flesh. Jesus has come and is coming again! That hope of Advent allows us to experience the fullness of joy in Christmas.
Our pastors have written short devotions for the season, designed for you to read on your own or share with your family. There are four devotions each week, so if you miss a few days, you'll still be right on schedule. These devotions will be posted to this blog and also shared through our Advent, Lent & Holy Week Devotions email list. You can subscribe if you want to be sure you don't miss them!
The week before the first Sunday of Advent
DAY 1: ISAIAH 40:1–11
“Comfort, comfort my people,” says your God.
“Speak tenderly to Jerusalem.
Tell her that her sad days are gone and her sins are pardoned.
Yes, the Lord has punished her twice over for all her sins.”
Listen! It’s the voice of someone shouting,
“Clear the way through the wilderness for the Lord!
Make a straight highway through the wasteland for our God!
Fill in the valleys, and level the mountains and hills.
Straighten the curves, and smooth out the rough places.
Then the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
and all people will see it together. The Lord has spoken!”
A voice said, “Shout!” I asked, “What should I shout?”
“Shout that people are like the grass.
Their beauty fades as quickly as the flowers in a field.
The grass withers and the flowers fade
beneath the breath of the Lord. And so it is with people.
The grass withers and the flowers fade,
but the word of our God stands forever.”
O Zion, messenger of good news, shout from the mountaintops!
Shout it louder, O Jerusalem. Shout, and do not be afraid.
Tell the towns of Judah,“Your God is coming!”
Yes, the Sovereign Lord is coming in power.
He will rule with a powerful arm.
See, he brings his reward with him as he comes.
He will feed his flock like a shepherd.
He will carry the lambs in his arms,
holding them close to his heart.
He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young.
I slowed my pace walking to the mailbox. This was the day I was supposed to get an official letter from the Myrtle Beach police department, detailing the cost of a speeding ticket I was given (and deserved) over Spring Break. I held my breath, expecting the worse; but was totally shocked, one paragraph in. I didn’t win the lottery, but it felt like it.
“Dear Mr. Scott Smith, upon further review, we have decided just to leave you with a firm warning, and wish you well. Please come back and visit the Grand Strand again soon. Stay safe, and drive carefully. Captain Tim Jones.”
Isaiah’s words to Israel, carry a far greater expression of grace than my reprieve from Captain Jones. God’s people, called to be a light to the nations, had been living way more like a blight to the community. They deserved (and were expecting) a visitation of judgment from God. And, in Isaiah 1-39, we have many strong warnings concerning the consequences of Israel’s sin.
Yet, with chapter 40 of Isaiah, a ray of hope breaks into the darkness and drama of Israel’s sin. God doesn’t give his people a second chance; he promises the Advent of the second Adam—the Messiah. Comfort and pardon will come through a great King and gentle Shepherd—the Lord Jesus Christ, the Yes! to every promise God has made.
Advent is a season of waiting and hope, not a season of doubt and dread. Jesus now carries his lambs close to his heart because he first carried his cross to the place of death. The Lamb of God has become the Shepherd of his lambs.
Spend a season of reflection and prayer, pondering the shocking promise of Advent. Though we deserve condemnation and judgment, in Jesus we receive forgiveness and comfort. Ask Jesus to make this good news more real to you than ever throughout Advent.
— Scotty Smith
DAY 2: LUKE 1:67–79
His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit & prophesied:
“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,
because he has come to his people and redeemed them.
He has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of his servant David
(as he said through his holy prophets of long ago),
salvation from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us—
to show mercy to our ancestors
and to remember his holy covenant,
the oath he swore to our father Abraham:
to rescue us from the hand of our enemies,
and to enable us to serve him without fear
in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,
to give his people the knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins,
because of the tender mercy of our God,
by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
to shine on those living in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.”
“I’ve got a fresh word from the Lord for you.” That phrase used to intrigue me, when my young Christian friends offered it. Now it sounds like long fingernails raking across a blackboard, two minutes of a car alarm interrupting a quiet lunch, or the screech of a cat whose tail got caught in a door.
As this passage indicates, we don’t need new words from the Lord, but old promises from God’s Word, made certain by the birth and work of His Son, Jesus. We need hope, not hype; and every promise God has made finds its Yes! in Christ (2 Cor. 1:20).
Advent is a celebration of timeless promises, not novel possibilities. In this passage, Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, was moved by the Holy Spirit to remember promises God made about the Messiah. When he arrived, the Messiah would be the greater King David, and his kingdom will be everlasting. The Messiah would fulfill all the covenant promises God made to Abraham—promises of the redemption of an every-nation family, the assurance of sins forgiven, and a life of shalom.
We all look to someone, or something, for hope. The Bible calls us to anchor our hope in God, who neither exaggerates or lies. What are some of your favorite promises from the Old Testament that point towards the person and work of Jesus—the Messiah? How big and how grand is the salvation God has promised us through Jesus?
— Scotty Smith
DAY 3: REVELATION 21:1–5a
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”
I recently had the regretful experience of discovering that the novel I had been reading for quite some time is plagued by an utterly unfulfilling ending. As I closed the book I felt sucker-punched and sad, as the hope I had been carrying through every chapter dissolved into disappointment. The story’s finish proved so frustrating that even the earlier parts I once enjoyed are now nearly intolerable. The fact is, a story is only as good as its ending.
In Revelation 21:1-5, the apostle John gives us a glimpse of the glorious conclusion of the Great Story of God’s redemptive work in the world. This is also the staggering climax at which the Christmas story itself hints. In Advent, we celebrate the incredible reality that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” But we celebrate it fully when we understand that the Son of God came to this Earth, in order that He might one day renew this Earth and be forever present with us.
The crying infant born in Bethlehem was also the King who will one day wipe away every tear. In humility he inhabited a manger so that we might one day inhabit the holy city. He made his dwelling among us so that by His work we might one day hear what our hearts have always longed to hear: “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man.” The little one born to Mary and Joseph, wrapped as a small package in swaddling cloths, was also the Mighty One who would accomplish a cosmic salvation.
How does knowing the glorious ending of the Great Story of God’s Redemption affect the way we live out the smaller stories of our own lives in the present?
— Jon Young
WEEKEND: ROMANS 8:18–25
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
It sort of rocked my world the first time I considered that Good and Evil are not equal and opposite forces. Something is “bad” or “wrong” or “evil” because something truly good and right has been distorted, corrupted, or taken in the wrong direction. God’s answer isn’t scrapping his world and creatures and starting over. Rather, he cleanses, restores, and renews his world and his people—a much longer, but far better process!
Still, that means waiting, re-formation, re-training—all of which are hard for us unless there is something good waiting for us on the other side.
Clean your room – groan!
Clean your room so your friends can come over – done!
This is a long line – groan!
There is a long line for Bobby’s Dairy Dip – we can wait!
Can I teach you a better way to throw? – groan!
Coach said that if you can improve your throw, he may try you at quarterback next game – I’ll meet you outside!
Eugene Peterson puts it this way: “God reins (everything) in until both creation and all the creatures are ready and can be released at the same moment into the glorious times ahead. Meanwhile, the joyful anticipation deepens” (The Message). The coming of Jesus signals the final major event before the redemption of all things—now we actively and eagerly wait!
How might you experience life differently if you embraced daily trials with “joyful anticipation” for “glorious times ahead”?
— Eric Ashley