The Week of Christmas
Christmas brings good news of great joy — our savior is here!
Our pastors have written short devotions for the season of Advent, designed for you to read on your own or share with your family. This is the last set. Merry Christmas!
THE WEEK OF CHRISTMAS
DAY 1: MATTHEW 1:18–25
Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel”
(which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.
When my two-year-old son, Eli, hurts himself he always wants one thing: his blanket. My response is usually to give him Tylenol, a band-aid, or an ice pack. His focus is on immediate comfort. My focus is on healing his bigger problem. This usually leads to more tears, but in the long run it brings greater healing.
The Bible is clear: our biggest problem in life is sin. God hates our sin. Our sin separates us from God. Our sin deserves eternal condemnation.
While we may feel like our biggest problem is our ornery teen or unethical boss, God tells us otherwise. Our biggest problem is sin and our only solution is Jesus. In fact, Jesus’ name literally means, “Yahweh saves” (v.21). As we celebrate the joy of Immanuel (“God with us”), look to Jesus, recognizing that our Father has provided sufficiently for our greatest need.
Are you looking to immediate comfort from something not promised in Scripture (maybe even Christmas gifts!), or to God for healing of the bigger problem? How is this robbing you of joy for what Jesus has done?
— Daniel Nealon
DAY 2: LUKE 2:1–20
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 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!”
When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
It turned out exactly the way they’d been told. We’re not really used to that. Movies rarely live up to the previews. Vacations and holidays always hold a twinge of unmet expectation. Deeper still, in our personal experience we are met with regular and ongoing disappointments as we fall short of how we want to live spiritually, emotionally, physically and every other way.
Not so with Jesus. From the very beginning, everything happened like it was supposed to. It started with the details of how, when, and where he was born—but it didn’t stop there. Not only did he die perfectly, he also lived perfectly, obeyed perfectly, reasoned perfectly, and cared perfectly. Even though he was tempted in every way we are, he engaged life without sin.
He was the image of the invisible God. The very image that we stained and corrupted, he came to restore. When we place our faith in Jesus, we are united to him and exchange our record for his, our sin for his righteousness, our curse for his blessing, our disappointment for his flourishing. Treasure up all of these things and ponder them in your heart.
Jesus is trustworthy. What is one thing you need to trust him with today?
— Eric Ashley
DAY 3: LUKE 2:25–32
Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of your people Israel.”
What always strikes me about this passage is how Simeon was left out of all the fun. As we imagine the nativity scene with Mary and Joseph, the manger and baby Jesus, angels, shepherds, and even some farm animals, Simeon wasn’t there. He didn’t see the star, didn’t receive a massive angelic invitation, and missed the birthday party completely! In fact, he didn’t find out about Jesus’ birth for over a month! Many of us are ready to take down our Christmas decorations the day after Christmas or at most twelve days after—but who keeps them up for a month? Simeon missed the big event. All he is known for is waiting, waiting, waiting. Waiting on the promise of God.
I remember being little and seeing the gifts under the Christmas tree. How I longed to open those packages and tear through the wrapping paper to see just what laid hidden inside. I remember begging my mom to let me open one early (she never let me) and how difficult it was to sleep on Christmas Eve. I wonder what it was like for Simeon waiting (presumably) for all those years for God to reveal His Gift.
The great conclusion is that, just like my waiting for Christmas, the waiting paid off. God keeps His promises. Simeon saw the Savior. He saw the gift and it was good. The Messiah who was coming to bring the glorious joy of salvation to all the world had arrived! And Simeon rejoiced! As you continue to celebrate Christ’s coming, pause to reflect on and rejoice in the promises of our gift-giving, promise-fulfilling, faithful-forever Lord.
What are some of the promises God made to Israel? How did He keep them? What does that teach you about God? What are some of the promises God has made to you?
— Paul Ranheim
WEEKEND: MATTHEW 2:1–12
Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.”
King Herod was deeply disturbed when he heard this, as was everyone in Jerusalem. He called a meeting of the leading priests and teachers of religious law and asked, “Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?”
“In Bethlehem in Judea,” they said, “for this is what the prophet wrote:
‘And you, O Bethlehem in the land of Judah,
are not least among the ruling cities of Judah,
for a ruler will come from you
who will be the shepherd for my people Israel.’”
Then Herod called for a private meeting with the wise men, and he learned from them the time when the star first appeared. Then he told them, “Go to Bethlehem and search carefully for the child. And when you find him, come back and tell me so that I can go and worship him, too!”
After this interview the wise men went their way. And the star they had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
When it was time to leave, they returned to their own country by another route, for God had warned them in a dream not to return to Herod.
“How’d they get in the group?” The words, body language, and slight snarl all conveyed the same sentiment. “We don’t really like their type around here.” We had just arrived for a weekend concert at a church in South Carolina. During my years at UNC, I was a part of a late 60’s/early 70’s traveling youth musical called The New Directions. Our group was born out of the discipleship of J. L. Williams, the youth director at the Burlington YMCA.
J. L., the son of missionary parents, had a huge heart for racial reconciliation. At our inception, the New Directions was “mixed company”—a wonderful group of Jesus-loving teenagers from different races and nations. Our diversity created adverse reactions wherever we traveled, especially in the South. We were a small but true expression of the unfolding story of Advent—the unfolding story of the entire Bible. Jesus has come to gather an every-nation Bride.
God promised to make of Abram a nation, and then, a father of every nation. All families on the earth (race, tribes, tongues, and people groups) would be blessed through the arrival and work of the promised Messiah. Eastern astrologers and members of Herod’s household, self-righteous Jews and “ungodly” Gentiles, despised Samaritans and outsiders of all stripes, are sought, found, and included in God’s big grace-family. Hallelujah! This is the wake-up call (Epiphany) we all need.
How does the gospel provide the only hope and resolution to the prevailing spirit of racism, tribalism, and party spirit of our day? How can we as a church be more faithful in extending God’s welcoming heart to all nations, and all people in the greater Nashville area?
— Scotty Smith