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Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room
DAILY FAMILY DEVOTIONS FOR ADVENT
By NANCY GUTHRIE
Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.
Copyright © 2010 Nancy Guthrie
All right reserved.
Chapter One DECEMBER 1 The Promised One
When someone promises us something wonderful, we can hardly wait for that promise to be fulfilled. If the promise is something good, we want it now! We really don't like to wait. And yet the very best things are worth waiting for.
A long, long time ago, God made a promise to his people, Israel. In fact, he made many promises to them. But God's most important promise-the promise all his other promises depended on-was that he would send the Messiah, the Anointed One, who would save them from the difficulties of living life in this world broken by sin. The Messiah would not be an ordinary person, but God's own Son. The people he made the promise to had to wait, putting all their faith in the One who made the promise.
The season leading up to Christmas is called Advent, which means coming. During Advent, we remember the thousands of years God's chosen people anticipated and longed for the coming of God's salvation through the Messiah. Then, at Christmas, we celebrate the fulfillment of the promises God made. Jesus-the Savior God had promised-was born to us. No more waiting. Jesus came.
When John the Baptist was born, his father, Zechariah, recognized that the long years of waiting were finally over. God gave him a special understanding that his son, John, was going to prepare the way for the promised Messiah. Zechariah celebrated that God was about to fulfill his promise. He said, "Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has visited and redeemed his people. He has sent us a mighty Savior from the royal line of his servant David, just as he promised through his holy prophets long ago" (Luke 1:68-70).
God promised that he would send a Savior, which he did when Jesus became a human baby. And while Jesus did everything necessary to save us when he came the first time, he also promised to come again. Then all God's promises will be completely fulfilled. So again we are waiting. Waiting patiently for God to fulfill his promises is what it means to have faith.
Putting faith in God's promises is not something a person does only one time on the day he or she becomes a Christian. The essence of being a Christian is placing all our hope in God, knowing we can trust him to fulfill all his promises-even the ones that haven't been fulfilled yet. We are willing to wait, trusting that "God's way is perfect. All the Lord's promises prove true" (Psalm 18:30).
Like your people of old, we are waiting for you, God, to fulfill all your promises. And because we remember how you fulfilled your promise to send Jesus, we know that you will fulfill all your promises to us.
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- What does it mean to make a promise?
- Zechariah said that God would soon send a mighty Savior "as he promised through his holy prophets long ago." Look up these verses in your Bible to see a few examples of promises God made about the Messiah, given through his prophets in the Old Testament: Deuteronomy 18:15; Psalm 72:10; Isaiah 7:14; 9:6-7; Jeremiah 23:5-6.
- Waiting for Christmas to come gives us a tiny taste of what it must have been like for God's people to wait hundreds of years for God to fulfill his promise in sending Jesus. Why do you think it is good to learn to wait on God?
More from the Bible about- THE PROMISED ONE: Remember that Christ came as a servant to the Jews to show that God is true to the promises he made to their ancestors. ROMANS 15:8
All of God's promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding "Yes!" 2 CORINTHIANS 1:20
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DECEMBER 2 Right on Time
Most days we set specific times for when we will go to school, have piano lessons, or get picked up from our friend's house. But sometimes there is not a specific time set for something, and we're left waiting, wondering when the package will be delivered, when the plumber will arrive at our house, or when our ride is going to show up. We wonder if we've been forgotten.
By the time Jesus was born, the Jewish people had been waiting for hundreds of years for God to send his promised Messiah. It had been more than four hundred years since they had even heard God speak to them through one of his prophets about the Savior he would send. It seemed like God had stopped talking to them, and some people had grown weary of keeping up their hopes that God would come through for them. While they were waiting, the Romans occupied their country and ruled over them. This made them long even more for the great Deliverer God had promised.
Though it is hard to wait on God, and though it sometimes seems to us that God is slow, God's timing is always perfect. He is never late. He always acts at just the right time.
God knew when the time was just right to send Jesus, the Messiah, into the world. He knew when the exact religious, cultural, and political conditions were in place. Paul wrote, "When the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman" (Galatians 4:4, emphasis added). You see, God is not making up plans as he goes. All the grand events of God's plan for our redemption have been scheduled in advance, from Creation to the enslavement and exodus of God's people from Egypt; to David's taking the throne in Israel; to the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus; to the day when Jesus will return. Paul said that God "has set a day for judging the world" (Acts 17:31). The course and timing of history is not a mystery to God. Time is in his hands, and he will bring about his plans and purposes in our world and in our lives right on time.
You are the God of history and time is in your hands, so we know that you can be trusted to accomplish everything you intend in the world and in our lives in your perfect timing.
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- Describe a time when you had to wait for someone to show up. What was it like to wait?
- Can you think of some instances in the Bible when God said exactly how long something would last? For example, what did he say would last forty days (Genesis 7:4)? What did he say would last four hundred years (Genesis 15:13)? What did he say would last forty years (Numbers 14:34)? What does this show us about God's careful timing?
- How can understanding God's lordship over time help us to trust God's perfect timing for our lives?
More from the Bible about- GOD'S TIMING IN SENDING JESUS: Before John came, all the prophets and the law of Moses looked forward to this present time. MATTHEW 11:13
"The time promised by God has come at last!" he announced. "The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!" MARK 1:15
The writings of the prophet Isaiah inspired the hymn "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel." Long before the birth of Jesus, Isaiah prophesied about the Savior God would send, implanting in the hearts of God's people a longing for Immanuel (which is the Hebrew version of the Greek name Emmanuel). Hundreds of years before Jesus was born to the Virgin Mary, Isaiah wrote, "The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means 'God is with us')" (Isaiah 7:14).
Though it was hard for the people in Isaiah's day to imagine or understand how God would actually become a human, they began to long for this Messiah who would be "God with us." They looked forward to the day when God would fulfill all his promises by coming to live with them. We identify with them in their longing for God to fulfill his promise to send Jesus when we sing "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel."
To understand what this song is saying, we have to understand some of Israel's history. Remember that at one time God's people were slaves in Egypt and God brought them out, led by Moses. They wandered in the wilderness for forty years before finally entering into the land God had promised them. But God's people sinned and rebelled, and after a while, one part of the country was carried off into exile to Assyria and another to Babylon. Living far away from home, the people of God longed for him to come and rescue them from their captivity. As they sat in exile, many undoubtedly remembered the prophetic words of Isaiah. A child was coming who would save Israel-the Lord's presence in the flesh. We sing of their longing in the first verse:
O come, O come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel, that mourns in lonely exile here until the Son of God appear. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!
When we sing the verse "O come, Thou Day-spring, come and cheer ...," it reminds us of Zechariah's prophecy: "The morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death" (Luke 1:78-79). In other words, Zechariah likened the coming Messiah to the rising sun, shining light upon the dark world (cf. John 1:1-5).
O come, Thou Day-spring, come and cheer our spirits by Thine advent here; Disperse the gloomy clouds of night, and death's dark shadows put to flight. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.
This song stirs in us a longing for Christ to come to fulfill his promises. The words prepare our hearts to truly celebrate Christmas when it comes. We are preparing for Christmas by purposefully nurturing in our hearts and in our homes a sacred longing for Christ to come.
Singing this song reminds us that the birth of Christ was not a surprising turn of events in history; it was the long-awaited fulfillment of God's promise to his people. As we sing it, we are encouraged that as he came before, he will come again! When he comes again, we'll hear a shout from the throne of God, saying, "Look, God's home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them" (Revelation 21:3). When he comes back, all the longings we sing about will be fulfilled. Finally and forever we will enjoy Emmanuel-God with us.
Remembering How God Has Prepared Our Hearts Year to Year
COMMENTS MADE AND QUESTIONS ASKED DURING OUR FAMILY'S DEVOTIONS DURING ADVENT
DECEMBER 3 Family Matters
You might know people who can trace their ancestors to someone famous-a war hero, an inventor, a sports legend, or a Hollywood actor. People who are related to someone famous usually like to talk about it, but it is different when people can trace their ancestry to someone infamous for being a liar or murderer or thief. Descendants of these kinds of people are not usually so quick to want to talk about their ancestor.
But that is not the case with Jesus. The Gospels of Matthew and Luke both include a genealogy-a record of Jesus' human ancestry-and it includes some people known more for terrible sin than for something good. Matthew began his book this way: "This is a record of the ancestors of Jesus the Messiah, a descendant of David and of Abraham ..." The list goes on for many generations and ends, "Jacob was the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary. Mary gave birth to Jesus, who is called the Messiah" (Matthew 1:1, 16). Luke traced Jesus' ancestry all the way back to Adam, beginning, "Jesus was known as the son of Joseph," and ending, "Adam was the son of God" (Luke 3:23, 38).
When we look through the list of people in Jesus' ancestral line, we see people famous for their faith-like Noah and Abraham and David. But we also see people with tarnished reputations-like Judah, who was intimate with his daughter-in-law; Rahab, who was a Canaanite prostitute; and Manasseh, the king who put false idols in the Temple. Even Noah, Abraham, and David, as faithful as they were, were sinners, and all of them needed a Savior.
We find hope in the ancestry of Jesus that no matter what we've done or where we come from, we too can be included in Jesus' family. Jesus does not look for people who are perfect and have never failed or made mistakes to be in his family. Instead, he is drawn toward people who recognize their failures and see their need for him.
How grateful we are to know that you are not ashamed to have sinners and failures in your own family, Jesus. When we look at this record of your own family, we know that you are not ashamed to have us in your family. Instead, you welcome us.
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- What do you know about your ancestry-your grandparents and great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents? (Parents, do you have an interesting story you can share with your children about one of their ancestors?)
- Look through the two genealogies of Jesus, in Matthew 1 and Luke 3. What do you know about some of those people? Who are you surprised to see there because of what you know about them?
- Why does Luke 3:23 (NIV) say that Jesus was "the son, so it was thought, of Joseph," and why does that matter?
More from the Bible about- BEING IN JESUS' FAMILY: Anyone who does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother! MATTHEW 12:50
So now Jesus and the ones he makes holy have the same Father. That is why Jesus is not ashamed to call them his brothers and sisters. HEBREWS 2:11
DECEMBER 4 Getting and Giving
This is the season our mailboxes are filled with stacks of mail-order catalogs, and the television is full of advertisements of all kinds of shiny new things wrapped up with red bows. Through their colorful pictures and creative words, advertisers seek to convince us that we don't have enough stuff-that we need more, newer, better. It is their job to convince us to feel dissatisfied and discontented with what we have. They want to feed our natural desires for more than we really need.
So how will our family respond to all the messages around us this time of year? How can we make sure that Christmas in our house is about more than making lists of the stuff we want and figuring out what to give to other people? Do we really need to keep collecting more stuff and spending more money on ourselves? Can we stop believing the lie that the more we get, the more satisfied we'll be?
By putting our focus on giving to others and meeting their very real needs, we can battle the greed in our hearts. Christmas is a season not of getting, but of giving, because at Christmas we are celebrating that God is the most generous and outrageous Giver in the universe. After all, he gave us his Son. Proverbs says, "Some people are always greedy for more, but the godly love to give!" (Proverbs 21:26). To pour ourselves into becoming outrageous givers is to pursue becoming more like God. God turns greedy, grasping, fearful hoarders into generous, honest, cheerful givers.
To become givers, we have to decide not to listen to the voice inside us that tells us we must keep a tight grip on what we have so we will never be in need. We have to reject the lie that money in the bank and a pantry full of food takes care of our needs, remembering that ultimately it is God who takes care of all our needs. We have to tell ourselves the truth about God-that because he has been so generous in giving us Jesus, we can be confident that he will give us everything we need. We take him at his word, believing that he can satisfy us and that he will bless us as we give to others. We trust his promise that "it is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35).
Generous, giving God, we want to put your word to the test this Christmas. We want to find out for ourselves how happy it will make us to give. We want to become generous givers like you are, confident that you will take care of all our needs.
Excerpted from Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room by NANCY GUTHRIE Copyright © 2010 by Nancy Guthrie. Excerpted by permission.
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