The Second Week of Advent
Though we live in a world broken by sin, Advent reminds us that it won't always be this way. Christ came before and he's coming again. How great is our joy!
Our pastors have written short devotions for the season of Advent, 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 Second Week of Advent
DAY 1: ZEPHANIAH 3:14–20
Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion;
shout, O Israel!
Rejoice and exult with all your heart,
O daughter of Jerusalem!
The Lord has taken away the judgments against you;
he has cleared away your enemies.
The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst;
you shall never again fear evil.
On that day
it shall be said to Jerusalem:
“Fear not, O Zion;
let not your hands grow weak.
The Lord your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.
I will gather those of you who mourn for the festival,
so that you will no longer suffer reproach.
Behold, at that time I will deal
with all your oppressors.
And I will save the lame
and gather the outcast,
and I will change their shame into praise
and renown in all the earth.
At that time I will bring you in,
at the time when I gather you together;
for I will make you renowned and praised
among all the peoples of the earth,
when I restore your fortunes
before your eyes,” says the Lord.
I’ve never liked surprises, preferring predictability and control over vulnerability and embarrassment. But Darlene managed to pull off a grand surprise, and I’m so thankful she did. It was my 40th birthday, one of the monumental ones. Blindfolded, I expected to be driven to a quiet restaurant, to share a nice dinner with two favorite couples from our small group.
As I walked through a door, my blindfold was lifted, and in front of me stood 50 very close friends, many of whom had flown in from significant distances. Stunned and flattered, I soothed my inner introvert, until they wheeled the cake out. Of course, you know what happened next. The song that accompanies every birthday, began to fill the room. It’s hard to describe the feelings that seized my heart’s attention.
Fifty people, all there for me; all wanting to make eye contact; all delighting in me, rejoicing together for me. Why do we have such a hard time believing people really love us? Let’s ramp that question up several notches. Why does it seem unfathomable (impossible?) that Zephaniah’s declaration of God’s immeasurable love, unfettered joy, and loud singing are directed to you and me?
Yet this is the hope and joy of Advent. Jesus has come, and his finished work secured our place in the permanent favor and delight of God.
What difference would it make in your life if you really believed that, because of Jesus—the Lord of Advent—God greatly delights in you, is committed to quiet you with his love, and rejoices over you with singing?
— Scotty Smith
DAY 2: PSALM 126
When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dreamed.
Our mouths were filled with laughter,
our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.”
The Lord has done great things for us,
and we are filled with joy.
Restore our fortunes, Lord,
like streams in the Negev.
Those who sow with tears
will reap with songs of joy.
Those who go out weeping,
carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
carrying sheaves with them.
Who can blame the shepherds for being terrified? Night after cold night they had kept watch over their flocks, readying themselves to protect their sheep from some potential predator on the prowl. But no amount of vigilance could have prepared them for what they witnessed that night. The angel of the Lord appeared, and the glory of the Lord radiated around them, blinding their eyes, and dissolving their hearts.
The veil had been pulled briefly back and the reality behind all reality was shown to them, and they, like all who come into such contact with the weight and wonder of God’s glory were devastated. So, the angel steadied and stimulated their hearts by saying, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” Don’t be afraid. I’m not bringing news of judgment, I’m bringing news of JOY.
The good news of Jesus—his birth in Bethlehem, his life of perfect obedience, his sacrificial death, his victorious resurrection, his heavenly ascension and his promised return—is news of GREAT JOY. It is news of joy because it tells us that “the Lord has done great things for us.” He has defeated all of his and our enemies, He has conquered and subdued even our own stubborn and sinful hearts. And He has restored us to God and to each other, securing for us a paradise even better than Eden in which we will enjoy Him for eternity. The vulnerable baby of Bethlehem was also the Victorious King of all Creation. The good news is that Jesus wins! And because He does, no matter what trials and temptations we face in the present, we can be sure that Joy will have the last word!
The psalmist looks back on past deliverance to fuel future hope in a coming joy. How might you do that today? What difference might it make?
— Jon Young
DAY 3: I PETER 1:3–9
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
As a kid, my family would often take trips in our little boat across the Puget Sound to the islands. One day, the waves and wind were strong and the bouncing of boat made the journey very unpleasant. But as the stormy waters tossed us around, I smiled. I didn’t like the big waves. I didn’t like the rain. I didn’t like going so slow. But I knew something: when we arrived, my dad promised to get me a maple doughnut the size of my face!
Peter writes Christians who suffer “grief in all kinds of trials.” Yet he recognizes that even in suffering, they “greatly rejoice.” Why? Not because they’ve learned to suck it up. Not because they know the power of positive thinking. Not because these sufferings are somehow good. No. They rejoice in an inheritance that cannot spoil and is guarded in heaven by God Himself.
The promise on the other side of this life is far better than a maple doughnut; it is marvelous, new-and-forever life through Christ! This advent, as we all face the troubles of life, may we pause to consider the joyous gift of Christ and the promised new life he has secured for us.
How might remembering this inheritance benefit your life today? Regardless of your present circumstances, ask the Holy Spirit to help you rejoice in the promised new life of Jesus given to you.
— Paul Ranheim
WEEKEND: ISAIAH 35:1–7A
The desert and the parched land will be glad;
the wilderness will rejoice and blossom.
Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom;
it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.
The glory of Lebanon will be given to it,
the splendor of Carmel and Sharon;
they will see the glory of the Lord,
the splendor of our God.
Strengthen the feeble hands,
steady the knees that give way;
say to those with fearful hearts,
“Be strong, do not fear;
your God will come,
he will come with vengeance;
with divine retribution
he will come to save you.”
Then will the eyes of the blind be opened
and the ears of the deaf unstopped.
Then will the lame leap like a deer,
and the mute tongue shout for joy.
Water will gush forth in the wilderness
and streams in the desert.
The burning sand will become a pool,
the thirsty ground bubbling springs.
Remember the old adage, “If you believe that, I’ve got a nice piece of property in the Sahara Desert I’ll sell you real cheap.” The implied warning: “you’re about to get snookered.” I have a friend who really did buy a piece of desert, not in the Sahara, but outside Phoenix, Arizona. Not being a friend of “dry heat,” I thought he was crazy, until I visited him a year later. He took a bone-dry and lizard-laden, sandy, rocky, ugly yard and turned it into a lush, landscaping wonder. As green as Ireland, and watered as a rainforest, my friend’s home-site gave put meaning to the joy of Isaiah’s vision of the age of the Messiah.
Jesus turns barren places to blooming gardens. He brings gladness to the hapless, hope to the heartless, wonders in the wilderness. Feeble hands become hands raised in worship, and paralyzing fear is replaced with leaps of joy.
During Advent, we are given a chance to slow down, marinate in God’s promises, and offer a congruent response of great joy and worship to our Lord, who is making all things new. Though it will require Jesus’ second Advent, his first Advent is the firstfruits and down-payment of the best of Eden and the fullness of the kingdom.
Why not risk hoping this particular Advent season? Ask the Holy Spirit to take the governor off your joy. Make plenty of time to fill your heart and imagination with the things God has promised to accomplish through the first and second Advents of Jesus.
— Scotty Smith