The First Week of Advent
Advent reminds us that Christ is near. Our God is not far off; God himself comes to be with us, bringing us the peace we long for.
Our pastors have written short devotions for the season, designed for you to read on your own or share with your family. This is our second week. 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 First Week of Advent
DAY 1: ISAIAH 2:1–5
The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.
It shall come to pass in the latter days
that the mountain of the house of the Lord
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
and shall be lifted up above the hills;
and all the nations shall flow to it,
and many peoples shall come, and say:
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the house of the God of Jacob,
that he may teach us his ways
and that we may walk in his paths.”
For out of Zion shall go forth the law,
and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between the nations,
and shall decide disputes for many peoples;
and they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war anymore.
O house of Jacob,
come, let us walk
in the light of the Lord."
Everyone wants peace. I have yet to meet a person, Christian or non-Christian, who wants to be between jobs, discipline a rebellious teen, or be diagnosed with terminal illness. Christians especially hope for peace from their own sin and the powerful temptations of Satan. Indeed, the search for peace is universal.
Scripture reminds us that the world’s search for peace is a fool's errand. A trip to Barnes & Noble will show you that the world seeks peace within through self-improvement, self-reflection, and greater self-knowledge. Peace in the Bible, however, is not found within, but is found outside of ourselves in God. When God is exalted above all other powers (v.2), obeyed above all other voices (v.3), and rules over all nations (v.4), then — and only then — will we have true and lasting peace. That is what it means to “walk in the light of the LORD.”
As we celebrate Christ’s first coming to give us peace from sin and await his second coming when he will beat our “swords into plowshares,” may we pursue peace by walking “in the light of the Lord” — daily exalting, obeying, and anticipating our peace-giving God.
Where do you look for peace and which path do you take to get there?
— Daniel Nealon
DAY 2: JOHN 14:25–27
“These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you."
Growing up, I loved visiting my grandparents in Minnesota because I knew that every time my grandmother would make me cinnamon rolls. During my young life, I ate many different kinds of cinnamon rolls, but none—absolutely none—were as good as Grandma Lillie’s. The store-bought ones just weren’t as good. Cinnabon proved disappointing. And any that the neighbors gave to us at Christmas only turned out to be imposters. How deeply I yearned for—and only for—Grandma Lillie’s cinnamon rolls. They were unlike any other!
Jesus doesn’t just leave his followers peace. He leaves a peace unlike any other. He says “my peace I give to you.” The world offers many kinds of peace. Peace of mind from a good career. Peace from insurance policies. Peace from good circumstance. These bring a degree of comfort, but we all know they all disappoint. Careers come to an end. Insurance runs out. Circumstances almost always change. We need his peace unlike that which the world gives.
The joyous news is that Jesus gives the peace we all long for. He gives his own peace: the peace that comes from being perfectly delighted in by God as Father. A peace that comes from having no guilt, no shame, no bitterness, no remorse, no fear. A peace that comes through having God’s Spirit as Helper and Christ’s words as guide. This Advent, know that Jesus offers you real and unending peace. And no peace—absolutely none—is as good as the peace of Jesus.
What might it look like for you to receive the peace that Christ gives?
— Paul Ranheim
DAY 3: COLOSSIANS 1:15–20
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
I have dislocated my shoulder at least seven times. I know—it makes me cringe too. What’s interesting is that although this brings pain, the main sensation and desire is for relief… for the shoulder to go back to where it belongs, to the way it is supposed to be. Colossians 1:15-20 is packed with truth, but its main message is “The King who created and sustains you is also the King who redeems and restores you—by making peace.” In the Bible, peace is far more than the absence of war. It is more fully the relief of creatures returning to whom we belong and wholeness of cultural ideas, institutions, and habits returning to how they were meant to operate.
So many people, places, and things in our daily life are not the way they are supposed to be. Why is my brother or sister or friend angry or sad or mean today? Because something inside them or in their circumstances is dislocated, crying for relief. Why are we weekly made more aware of deep and enduring violence, racism, poverty and injustice? Because our world’s ideas, institutions, and habits are dislocated, crying to be made whole again. All of these cries are answered by Jesus. The King who created and sustains us and our world is also the King who came to redeem and restore us and our world. In him, and only in him, we find relief; wholeness; peace.
Think of how a person, place, or thing in your life is experiencing dislocation today. How could you tangibly pass along the “peace” of Christ to them?
— Eric Ashley
WEEKEND: ISAIAH 11:1–9
A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and of might,
the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord—
and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.
He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,
or decide by what he hears with his ears;
but with righteousness he will judge the needy,
with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.
He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth;
with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.
Righteousness will be his belt
and faithfulness the sash around his waist.
The wolf will live with the lamb,
the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling together;
and a little child will lead them.
The cow will feed with the bear,
their young will lie down together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
The infant will play near the cobra’s den,
and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest.
They will neither harm nor destroy
on all my holy mountain,
for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea.
As a kid, there were two kinds of Christmas presents I didn’t like. The ones, by shaking them, you knew weren’t toys (probably underwear and socks); and the little ones that were small in size. When it came to Christmas presents under the tree, my mantra was “the bigger the better!” But, as I found out, some mantras don’t hold up.
One Christmas, after dumping out all the candy in my stocking, a little card fell out. I assumed it was simply a “We-love-you-Mom-and-Dad” card—a prelude to the real presents. What 8-year-old gets excited about a card? Boy, was I wrong. It was actually a little map that led me to our garage. Opening the door, my eyes locked onto the most awesome bike I had ever seen!
Today’s passage from Isaiah also begins quite unimpressively, before exploding into measureless grandeur. A little green-leaf of a shoot will emerge from an old stump in the ground. This doesn’t exactly grab one’s attention, at first. But the shoot has a root system that, in time, will bear great fruit. This shoot, of course, is Jesus—the promised Messiah, whose incarnation was completely unimpressive, but whose fruit will bring the shalom of God (peace) to the hearts of an every-nation family, and to every sphere and place in God’s creation.
Isaiah envisions the Day when peace will permeate everything and every place. What are you most looking forward to, when Jesus returns at his second Advent, to finish making all things new? What does this stir in your heart?
— Scotty Smith