Lynne Modranski has been creating devotions for the Advent season for at least 25 years. She loves helping folks get closer to Jesus Christ.
This Advent, we’re going to look at the “why” of the holiday. Why did God choose to bring His Son to earth the way He did?
Some folks might tell us we can’t ask why. But the book of Job tells us another truth, God doesn’t mind the whys. And the whys often help us understand our Creator a bit better.
But, the first question we must answer, even before we begin is this one...
Why Does Advent Exist?
Like Christmas, Advent is a totally manmade holiday season. You won’t find it anywhere in the Bible. But what we do find in the scriptures are many feasts and festival that God Himself set up so the people of Israel wouldn’t forget the good things the Almighty had done. So hundreds of years ago when the early church was developing, they set up a few extra holidays to celebrate the goodness of God, and Christmas along with the Advent season was just one of several.
The word Advent comes from the Latin “to come.” It’s a time to remember that Christ came to earth. And it’s a time to remember how He came. He could have chosen to come as an adult or to a wealthy family. Instead He decided to come as a helpless baby, the Son of an impoverished family. We celebrate the goodness of God to send us a Redeemer and Savior.
But, “Why Advent?” isn’t the only question we need to answer.
Why a Wreath?
Often as folks read the Advent devotions each night, they’ll use a wreath with candles to help focus on the scripture and the reading. The circular wreath reminds us that just like a circle has no end, Christ’s love and life will never quit either. The green of the wreath symbolizes the same.
Generally candles are a big part of every Advent celebration. Many families light one each night of the first week and add a candle every week after. They are usually stationed around the wreath like the four main numbers on a clock. Any color candle will do; however, deep red, purple or royal blue candles symbolize the royalty and majesty of Jesus, the King. Sometimes a pink candle is used during the third week to remind us of Joy. All of the candles remind us Christ came to be the light in a dark world. Each week our Advent Wreath will become brighter and brighter despite the fact the season is held during the coldest and darkest season on the earth.
The wreath and the candles are optional. They are a touching reminder of the truth of Christ, but the important this is to read the scripture as well as the short meditation each day and then close in prayer. Whether you are by yourself or with your family, pray for those whose cards you received that day, pray for your church family, and ask your Heavenly Father to open your heart as well as your spiritual eyes and ears and let His Spirit flow through you so you can understand the whys of the season a bit better than ever before!
The Candles of Advent
This year we'll call the candles of advent
Each of these concepts will help us explore the "Why" of the season. Right on this page you'll find
- Why Angels?
- Why did they call Him Jesus?
- Why did they have a Census?
- Why Nazareth?
- Why is He called "Wonderful Counselor"?
- and many more
Read More From Holidappy
The First Sunday of Advent
Why Zechariah and Elizabeth?
5 In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. 6 Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. 7 But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old.
11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him [and] 13 said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John.
Luke 1:5-7 & 11-13
Nearly every Advent we begin with the story of John the Baptist. Scripture tells us Zechariah’s son was sent to prepare the way for the Messiah, so it’s important to give this cousin of Jesus a place in our Advent celebration.
As we light the first candle of our Advent of “Whys,” let’s contemplate the mystery of Zechariah and Elizabeth.
Luke tells us they were not only childless, they were old. Were Zechariah and Elizabeth still around when John was in his teens? We have to wonder why God didn’t choose a younger couple, a man and a woman who’d have been there to see him become an adult.
Of course, their age made John’s birth a miraculous event. People were probably still talking about when the 30 year old John started dressing like a prophet and preaching “repent for the Kingdom of God is near.” Perhaps his extraordinary birth made those who knew him pay a little more attention.
But there’s one more bit of information regarding John’s parents we can’t leave out. “Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, obeying all of the Lord’s commands blamelessly.”
Not many folks fit that description today, and I’m pretty confident the first century wasn’t much different. Human nature hasn’t really changed. People don’t like the idea of obeying all of the Lord’s commands blamelessly.
It makes me ponder . . . could the Holy One of Heaven use me? Would Luke use the word “blameless” to describe me?
I believe the answer to the “Why” of Zechariah and Elizabeth has more to do with their obedience than their age. There’s a great possibility God wants to use you in some marvelous way like He did Zechariah and Elizabeth. The lives of these humble parents challenge us to listen to our Heavenly Father and obey.
The First Monday of Advent
26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David.
The virgin’s name was Mary.
Nazareth, the town didn’t even exist during Old Testament times, and while Jesus lived there it may have had 1000 residents, but the population was probably closer to 500. Even Nathaniel asked the question, “Can anything good ever come out of Nazareth?”
God always defies human logic. He said in Isaiah 55:9, “My ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts are higher than your thoughts.” Our human minds wonder why Jesus’ Father didn’t choose a more notable place for the Savior of the world to be raised, but His humble upbringing make it even more convincing that Jesus is the Christ.
If your using candles, tonight we light only one. If the lights are out you’ll notice this single flame seems insignificant in the room. It’s a good reminder of Nazareth.
Jesus was raised in an insignificant town by insignificant parents. There’s no real record of His grandparents other than His grandfathers’ first names listed in the genealogy lists. He was only called “Mary’s Son” by the people of His hometown. Outside of that no one knew who He was. And the term Nazarene has a not so nice overtone every time it’s used in the scripture.
Despite His obscure upbringing, people started noticing Jesus all over Israel by the first Passover of His ministry. Within months of His baptism, whenever Jesus entered an area, people traveled twenty miles or more to see Him. We might expect such notoriety for someone born in Jerusalem or the son of a high priest or a king, but the fact a nobody from a nothing town born to nondescript parents made such an impact in so short a time just solidifies His position as the Son of God.
I wonder if that’s the reason Yahweh chose Nazareth. No one was looking for the Messiah to come from some tiny unimportant town. But Nazareth proves our Almighty God doesn’t need fanfare to become famous. Nazareth reminds us the Creator is God of the miniscule as well as the mighty. On those days we feel irrelevant and inconsequential, we can remember Jesus’ hometown and live in the truth that God has consistently chosen the minimal to be magnificent.
The First Tuesday in Advent
18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.
This is the first of two dreams God utilized to speak to Joseph. These dreams make us contemplate, why didn’t the angels just come talk to the man face to face? After all Gabriel had a one on one talk with Zechariah, and the magnificent heavenly being visited Mary personally. Why not Joseph?
The more we read scripture, the more we discover God seldom does things exactly the same way twice. Of all those miracles Jesus did, only one man got spit in His eyes, and there was only one time someone was called out of a grave. Even in the Old Testament Naaman was the lone soul healed of leprosy by dipping himself in the river seven times.
In the thousands of years recorded in scripture, only Jacob, Joseph and perhaps the Magi were visited by angels in their dreams.
Christmas is a reminder that The Great I Am is unparalleled and original. Our Heavenly Father sent His One and Only Son to live on this earth. In a remarkable, one of a kind move, the Trinity made Himself vulnerable and human.
And even more phenomenal, each thing He created, every move He makes is unique and unprecedented. No two snowflakes are the same, no two human beings, not even twins, have the exact same DNA. You are an exceptionally rare, unimaginably extraordinary creation of the Master Designer Himself. He calls you precious and the “apple of His eye.” Your maker loves you as if you were His first and most magnificent creation.
The season is about to get busy. It’s such a short time to prepare. And in the middle of the search for the perfect present it becomes easy to forget that our unequaled and uncommon Father created you to be one of His greatest gifts ever.
The First Wednesday of Advent
Why Was Mary Highly Favored?
26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
Nine months before Jesus was born an angel visited a young girl in Nazareth and told her she was “highly favored.” I wonder what went through Mary’s mind as she processed just that part of the angelic message.
Everyone has always assumed Mary was young when she found out she was going to have a baby. So picture any sixteen to twenty year old girl you know and see if “highly favored by God” would describe her.
Mary was a typical young woman. She had dreams and plans as well as flaws. Yet somehow she lived a life that made God smile a bit.
Some might imagine Mary as perfect. Most would assume that’s how she came to be highly favored, but I seriously doubt it. Only Jesus was perfect. I think the young virgin was really a lot like you and me.
I think Mary laughed and cried. She may have unintentionally done things that weren’t honoring to her family and probably even hurt someone’s feelings every now and then. Mary was human, and in her humanness bad days were inevitable. So what made the Mother of Jesus “highly favored”?
Well, what if the only difference between Mary and the average person in the pew was her heart? What if the only thing that separated her from you and I was deep down she always did her best to stay close to the Almighty?
As we focus on the birth of our Savior, it’s a good time to ask the question, “Would an angel call me “highly favored? Do I bring joy to my Heavenly Father?”
Every day we get one day closer to Christmas. And on each of those days it’s vital we also get closer to Christ. I truly believe whenever we do everything in our power to know our Creator more, we are highly favored. It’s when we’re focused on the things that concern the Son we’ll find ourselves favored by Our Father.
Advent is the time to prepare for Jesus’ coming; His first coming, His second coming and His coming into our hearts to change us and mold us into all He’s created us to be. Mary was prepared for God to make her into the mother of His Son. It’s time for us to prepare so an angel can call us highly favored.
The First Thursday of Advent
Why Zechariah and Not Mary?
18 Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”
19 The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news.
20 And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words . . .
~ ~ ~
34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” 35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.
Luke 1:18-20 & 34-35
For as long as I’ve celebrated Advent, each year someone asks me this question. Why was Zechariah punished for asking the question while Mary got off scot free? I have always assumed the answer connects to yesterday’s “why.”
One of the most important lessons to learn from Mary and Zechariah about the Holy One of Israel is that He is always more concerned about our heart condition than our actions. Plus, our Heavenly Father knows the motives behind everything we do and everything we ask.
Look again at Zechariah’s question. He’s basically saying, “How can I believe what you’re telling me?” If we read the few verses before 18, we see it’s pretty clearly it was an angel from God talking to Him. I think we can all agree, it’s not a good idea to question the integrity of an angel. Mary, on the other hand, simply wanted an explanation of what to expect. “Can you please tell me how it’s going to happen?”
God doesn’t mind our questions. He loves our why’s and what’s, our how’s and when’s. It’s just the “I don’t believe you’s” He’s not so crazy about.
The news Gabriel told Mary was unbelievable, even more unbelievable than what he’d told Zechariah. God had helped old people have babies more than once in scripture, but never before had a virgin had a baby, and till then no woman had ever carried the Son of God.
But what about you? Will you believe the unbelievable? What is it you find it hardest to believe about Jesus? Is it difficult to imagine how much He loves you? Do you find it hard to fathom a Savior who’d die in your place? Perhaps you think you’re too far gone for God to use or care for even though you’ve been told “nothing is impossible for God.”
No matter what it is you’re finding hard to swallow, don’t tell God, “How can I believe you’re telling the truth?” Try asking instead, “Will you show me how can you make that happen?”
The First Friday of Advent
Why Did Elizabeth’s Baby Leap?
39 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40 where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”
By the time Mary visited, Elizabeth’s baby would have been pretty active. He probably rolled around a lot making Elizabeth uncomfortable. So when Elizabeth said the baby leapt, there must have been something different in the way he moved. Infant John must have done some kind of super somersault inside his mommy’s tummy.
The question is why. Why did this baby leap at the sound of Mary’s voice? There’s only one feasible answer. Even before he was born, John was in tune with the Holy Spirit. John, an unborn baby, knew he was in the presence of the Messiah, he felt that the Son of God was near. If John could sense the unborn Christ from within the womb, what keeps us from seeing how close our Savior is every day?
Yes, the cousin of Jesus was anointed by the Holy Spirit even before he was born, but Ephesians 4:20 tells me those who’ve accepted Christ as their Savior are sealed with the Holy Spirit. So, I believe I’m encased with Spirit of God like it was plastic wrap.
During the next few weeks we’ll be busy. We have parties, shopping, wrapping, planning, dusting, scrubbing and more to get done. All of our plans point to a celebration of the baby John leapt for, but in the hustle and bustle it’s easy to miss the real party.
John danced in the womb because he was excited to know Jesus was on His way! I wonder if we should be like John, doing some kind of jig all through Advent because we’re ecstatic our Savior was born.
If you know Jesus as your friend and Messiah, then you have the ability to sense Christ’s presence. So, take a chance, skip to the car or do a little shuffle at the water cooler. In this month that boasts it’s a season of Joy, don’t be afraid to leap because Jesus is near!
The First Saturday of Advent
Why did Mary & Zechariah Sing?
46 And Mary said:
“My soul glorifies the Lord
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me - holy is his name.
. . .
67 His father Zechariah
was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied:
68 “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,
because he has come to his people and redeemed them.
69 He has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of his servant David
70 (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago)
Luke 1:46-49 & 67-70
or read the entire songs in Luke 1:46-55 & 67-79