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Devotions for the Advent Season

Lynne Modranski has been creating devotions for the Advent season for at least 25 years. She loves helping folks get closer to Jesus Christ.

These readings are great for the advent season!

These readings are great for the advent season!

Why Advent?

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 festivals 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. 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.

Why Candles?

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 thing 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

  1. Contemplation
  2. Fascination
  3. Wonder
  4. Amazement

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
Scroll to Continue

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

Why Nazareth?

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.
Luke 1:26-27

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

Why Dreams?

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.
Matthew 1:18-20

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.”
Luke 1:26-28

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!”
Luke 1:39-45

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

Sometimes when I read this part of the Christmas story I feel like I’m watching a musical. Right in the middle of the story Mary breaks out in song with Zechariah following suit just a few verses later. Let’s face it that just doesn’t happen on a normal day. And even if we pay attention enough to see that just the manmade headings tell us these are songs, it still doesn’t explain the eloquent poetry that pours out.

I write songs and poems, and each one takes time, erasers and scribbles. I throw entire sheets of paper away while I’m writing. Most song writers will tell you that only once or twice in a lifetime will they come up with a song on the fly that doesn’t need major tweaking before they let even their closest friends hear.

But everything is different with the Holy Spirit. When a person allows the Spirit of Christ to overwhelm them, beautiful things happen. Feelings are deep, healing is unexplainable, a baby is conceived and the words to a beautiful poem flow with ease.

Mary’s is simply a song of praise. After Elizabeth confirmed what the angel had said, the young girl was overwhelmed with love and admiration for her Heavenly Father. The miraculous marvelous truth that she was carrying the Son of God Most High became a verse she couldn’t contain.

Zechariah was consumed by the Holy Spirit. After nine speechless months the old man probably had a lot to say; however, he may have learned that his own thoughts weren’t important. When his tongue was finally set free, Zechariah’s first words were from the Holy One, words to remind all of his friends and neighbors who God truly is and to let them know what his son would become.

How might our lives change if all our words were guided by the Spirit of God? Would fewer people be hurt? Could more folks know the truth of Jesus Christ?

In a season filled with excess noise, let’s be as quiet as Zechariah for a bit and contemplate our words. And when we finally speak, I pray what we have to say is as beautiful and inspiring as the songs of Mary and Zechariah.

The Second Sunday of Advent

Why the Line of David?

31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David,
33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever;
his kingdom will never end.”

Luke 1:31-33

Jesus was born into the line of David because God keeps His promises.

Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom. ~ Isaiah 9:7

In love a throne will be established; in faithfulness a man will sit on it— one from the house of David— one who in judging seeks justice and speeds the cause of righteousness. ~ Isaiah 16:5

“The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. ~ Jeremiah 29:16

They will live in the land I gave to my servant Jacob, the land where your ancestors lived. They and their children and their children’s children will live there forever, and David my servant
will be their prince forever. ~ Ezekiel 37:25

And these are just a few of the verses that promise a Messiah from the line of David. All of these were written hundreds of years before Christ came, yet Jesus fulfills more than 300 prophecies from the Old Testament. I’ve read that the chances of any one person meeting the qualifications of even eight of these ancient words is 1 in 1028 (that’s a 10 with 28 zeros behind it). Jesus had a better chance of a meteorite falling on his house.

Yet with all this evidence showing us Jesus really is the Messiah, the story of Christmas is still a story of faith. Many think Jesus is the Son of God, but until we fully trust God to keep His promises and accept Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, all those statistics mean nothing.

The world puts up trees and lights and invites Santa to visit because it’s a beautiful time of year. Some folks live in hope for the peace and joy the season promises. But Advent is a reminder we must believe every promise of God is true.

To really enjoy all the beauty of this holiday, our focus has to stay on Christ; Christ, the baby; Christ, the One who walked on this earth to show us who the Father truly is; and Christ the Son of God and Son of Man who died on a cross to pay the penalty for all our sins.

When we look to the gifts or the beauty of the season, we miss the peace and joy. But when we embrace the promises of God and trust Him to bring every one to completion, we will be fascinated by the love and grace of the One whose been making those promises since the beginning of time.

The Second Monday in Advent

Why Did the Angel Say His Kingdom Will Never End?

30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son,
and you are to call him Jesus.
32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.
The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David,
33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever;
his kingdom will never end.”
Luke 1:30-33

Yesterday we read just a few of the verses of prophecy Jesus fulfilled. When Gabriel told Mary her Son’s kingdom would never end, the angel reminded her of one more prophecies Jesus came to fulfill.

In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever. ~ Daniel 2:4

Jesus came to set up an eternal kingdom, a dominion that no one can conquer. All over the world people are trying to crush Christianity. During this season there are many who don’t want us to say Merry Christmas because the name of Christ in the word offends them. People have tried to stop prayer and convince us the Bible is outdated. But for all their efforts, the Kingdom of Christ has grown and remained strong. In fact the only kingdom that’s lasted a full 2000 years is the Kingdom of Jesus Christ.

All other kingdoms require land and buildings in order to be successful. Christ’s Kingdom has no soil or structures. It’s impossible to conquer because it’s a nation of hearts and lives, a realm of believers filled with a Spirit that gives them strength to face persecution and hardship.

The Kingdom has faced lions and guns, cannibals and dungeons, but because the territory is within the believer, the enemy of Jesus has never been successful in destroying His infinite rule.

Christmas is a celebration of the eternal Authority of Christ. Before Christ came the Kingdom of God seemed far away; true peace and joy as well as His presence was reserved for Heaven. But Jesus’ death on the Cross opened the door. The eternal Kingdom was made available to us while we’re here on earth. Because of His birth and death and the gift of His Spirit, we can live in His Kingdom now and have a taste of our future home in the final Kingdom which will never end.

The Second Tuesday of Advent

Why Does the Bible Say the Government Will Be on His Shoulders?

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders ...
Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.

Isaiah 9:6a & 7

This is one of the most famous prophecies of all time. These verses have been set to melody, and they’re read in most churches at some point during the Christmas season. Isaiah 9 is a beautiful description of the promised Messiah.

Yet when Jesus came He wasn’t what folks were expecting.

Because of these verses and others like them, the people of Israel were expecting someone who could come and take over the physical throne of David. They wanted the nation of Israel to be fully restored. Their hope was in a human king who’d ride in and save the day.

But they missed those first few words, “To us a child is born, to us a son is given.” And they ignored the last, “The zeal of the Lord will accomplish this.”

When the Christ came as a child in such humble circumstances, they couldn’t see how the “government” would ever be “upon His shoulders.” But if they’d have really paid attention, they’d have understood the Messiah wouldn’t conquer in any way that humans could pull off. Isaiah told them the “zeal of the Lord” would accomplish it.

It was the only real and true government that was destined to rest on the shoulders of Jesus Christ. No matter how great other rulers thought they could be, regardless the power earthly nations imagined they possessed, the ultimate Kingdom which will have no end rests with the One they thought they could kill. Little did they know His death would give power to His followers as it released forgiveness and freedom from sin. They never dreamt the crucifixion would empower the government they feared. The dominion those humans tried to destroy was actually birthed on the Cross when the zeal of the Lord Almighty accomplished what He’d promised Eve in the Garden of Eden.

A Child was born in the lowliest way possible. A Son was given to the most unlikely of couples, and God’s Kingdom entered the world with the Baby Jesus carrying the government of all eternity on His shoulders.

The Second Wednesday of Advent

Why Does the Bible Call Jesus Wonderful Counselor?

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6

One of my favorite titles for Jesus is Wonderful Counselor. It’s an identity given to the Messiah about 700 years before He was born, and a name we hear in a few Christmas songs.

At Christmas we think of Jesus as a baby. All the pictures and our nativity scenes have him wrapped in a blanket lying on the hay. People around the world are fascinated with the infant Son of God. But if we want a Wonderful Counselor we have to take Christ out of the manger.

Everyone wants peace. Most think it comes when people quit fighting. I wish that were the truth. Because even in the most peaceful of families, you’ll find at least one person who needs a counselor because their insides are all stirred up.

Yes, peace that comes from no one fighting is a blessing, but the internal peace we have when we let the Wonderful Counselor have control over our lives is amazing!

Jesus promised to send His Spirit, Paul told us when we’re saved we’re sealed with it. And when we wave the white flag and make Jesus the King of our lives, the Holy Spirit takes over and we have a close friend, an advocate, a confidant. The Holy Spirit stands with us in every difficult situation giving us advice, leading us out of harms way and filling us with the peace that goes beyond human understanding.

Jesus was called Wonderful Counselor centuries before He was born, but He wants to be your Wonderful Counselor right now. He wants to be there to answer the whys and give you peace when there’s really no answer to the why. That baby we celebrate is the answer to all life’s questions. Make sure He’s your Wonderful Counselor today.

The Second Thursday of Advent

Why Does the Bible Call Jesus Everlasting Father?

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6

Some people think it’s confusing that Isaiah would say the child, the Son of God, would be called Father. But it’s only confusing when we put limits on the Holy One.

The word Trinity can’t be found in scripture, and up until Jesus was born no one would have thought about God being more than just a Creator and Ruler. Everyone knew He was Spirit, but despite the clues He left all through the prophets, it wasn’t until after Jesus died that His followers began to truly understand the Father aspect of the Messiah.

Jesus tried to help folks understand. He told them, “I and the Father are one.” (John 10:30) and “Anyone whose seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9) John started out his gospel by calling Jesus the “Word” explaining that Jesus had been around since creation. He said, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” (John 1:1)

Christmas is a beautiful time of year, but there’s one problem. Too many times people focus on the gifts and the lights, the trees and the presents and forget the reason we celebrate. If they do remember Jesus at all, it’s a baby they picture or maybe if we’re lucky the adult Jesus fishing and preaching.

But Jesus is more. He came to be the Wonderful Counselor and the Everlasting Father. Not only is the Christ Child the Son of God, He is God. The Son is the Father and the Father is the Son. Somehow God is big enough to be Father, Son and Spirit all at the same time. Even as a baby, Jesus was wrapped in the Trinity limited only by the earthly body He chose to wear while He walked on this earth.

Israel was looking for a conquering king to save them. They seemed to ignore the heads up Isaiah gave them that the Messiah would be an Everlasting Father. He didn’t come to be an earthly type dad. Instead He was born to show us what a real Father looks like.

As you consider the fascination of Advent this week, remember that the Baby in the Manger is so much more than we generally imagine. The tiny Son of God lying in the cattle trough was the Wonderful Counselor and Everlasting Father.

The Second Friday of Advent

Why Was Jesus Called Immanuel?

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.
Isaiah 7:14

The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel (which means “God with us”).
Matthew 1:23

Yes, it was 700+ years before Joseph and Mary became parents that God told Isaiah the baby would be called Immanuel. But when Matthew told Jesus’ story, he thought it was important to quote Isaiah just in case there was any doubt who the prophet was talking about.

I’m not sure anyone ever called Jesus Immanuel when He walked on the earth, but after His death people began to recognize Jesus had many names other than the one His earthly parents gave Him.

Immanuel literally means “God with Us.” As long as Jesus walked on this earth, God was here with humans, walking with them like He did at the beginning in the Garden of Eden.

The religious leaders may have had a little clue because every time Jesus said “I am . . .” they got upset. That was God’s name. The One who parted the Red Sea told Moses His name was “I Am who I Am.” Yet Jesus continually took on that role. If people in His time had been paying attention they’d have had no doubt Jesus was Immanuel.

The good news is Immanuel didn’t stop being with us when Christ went to heaven. It’s hard to wrap your brain around, but because Jesus came to earth, because He took our punishment and is now with the Father, He is always with us.

Before Jesus was born it seems as though the Holy Spirit was limited. In the Old Testament only a few experienced the blessing of God’s Spirit on them, but because Jesus was born, because of the Cross, ever since that Pentecost about 2000 years ago, we have Immanuel, God with us, every moment of every day if we want Him to be.

It would have been difficult for Joseph and Mary’s friends and relatives to believe their Baby was Immanuel. How can a baby be God? But for some reason it was just as hard for people thirty years later to believe it. And worse yet, even after He sacrificed Himself, even after He fulfilled more than 300 prophecies, many still don’t believe Jesus truly is God, and even some who do believe don’t allow Him to be Immanuel.

Jesus came to the earth to be “God with us.” Yet for some reason Christmas is the only time we talk about Immanuel. Advent is more than half over, but we have a choice. After December 25th we can leave Jesus in a manger and continue trying to live life on our own, or we can surrender to His Spirit, follow His path and walk with God every day, Immanuel.

The Second Saturday of Advent

Why Did They Call Him Jesus?

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.”

29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. . . ”

Luke 1:26-31

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. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,
because he will save his people from their sins.”

Matthew 1:20b-21

Just in case there was any doubt, God sent a messenger to both Mary and Joseph to tell them what to name His Son. And the angel told Joseph it was because ‘He will save people from their sins.’ That’s the answer in a nutshell.

Jesus in Greek (and Spanish if you say it with an “h” at the beginning), Joshua in Americanized Hebrew and Yeshua in Hebrew, all mean one thing, Savior. Every time I read the name Joshua in scripture I try to find out what the person is saving.

Joshua, Moses’ assistant, led the people into the Promised Land and the Israelites faithfully followed God as long as he was alive. As soon as he died the people turned away from the One who fed them for forty years in the desert. Joshua saved them from life in the wilderness by following God.

In Zechariah 3 and 6 the Bible tells of another Joshua, a man who was following God and was appointed to lead the people in rebuilding the temple. But even more than that look at what God said about this Joshua,

“Here is the man whose name is the Branch, and he will branch out from his place and build the temple of the Lord. 13 It is he who will build the temple of the Lord, and he will be clothed with majesty and will sit and rule on his throne. And he will be a priest on his throne.”
Zechariah 6:12-13

This Joshua was high priest during His time, as much as He could be while the Babylonians ruled. The rest of the words of Zechariah were a prophecy about Jesus, the Branch. Joshua, whose name means Savior, had the name of the Branch. God told His people their Savior’s name hundreds of years before the Messiah was born. He told them this Savior would build the temple of the Lord, would rule and be a priest.

Yeshua came to be the Savior. This Baby we celebrate was born to one day build a temple in you (I Corinthians 6:19), a temple where He Himself would sit on the throne and rule, a place where He would both King and Priest.

Is Jesus King and Priest in your life today? Is He your ruler, has He shown you the Father? Don’t let Christmas come and go until you are sure Jesus truly is what His name tells us He is . . . Your Savior.

The Third Sunday of Advent

Why a Census?

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register.

Luke 2:1-3

Why a census? Why did the ruler of the largest nation in the world decide to call a census right at that moment in time? Mary and Joseph were in Nazareth living as newlyweds when they got word Joseph was required to return to Bethlehem. They were probably trying to keep a low profile to keep tongues from wagging since she was pregnant prematurely, and now they had to pack up and leave Nazareth to walk all the way to the Town of David.

After at least a week on the road, and maybe longer, the couple would have finally found Bethlehem. Where they stayed each night no one knows. We can only assume they traveled with a group for protection from robbers, but it could have been just the two of them making the long journey. The only thing we know for sure is a woman nearly ready to have a baby would have been exhausted at the end of the ninety-some miles.

The census proves to us one more time that Jesus’ Father was orchestrating the whole event. Wouldn’t it have been easier to tell Joseph and Mary to go to Bethlehem personally? Angels had already had chats with each of them; one more message wouldn’t have been a big deal.

But God wanted everyone to know He was in charge. A census called by a Roman ruler at precisely the right time in history is just one more demonstration that the Creator of the Universe was in control of the situation.

God had promised the ultimate ruler would come from Bethlehem, and He wanted us to know He was keeping His promise. He could have simply told Joseph to go to Bethlehem, but then we’d have only Joseph’s word for it that God spoke to him. He could have chosen a family already in Bethlehem to save someone the trip. Instead the Ruler of the Cosmos chose to use a king who didn’t even believe in Him to get His Son to precisely the right place to fulfill prophecy. The census is a reminder that God has everything under control, even the rulers of this world.

The Third Monday of Advent

Why Was There No Room?

4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. . . . 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger,
because there was no guest room available for them.

Luke 2:4-7

Did you know there may not have even been an inn in Bethlehem? (The Greek word for inn and guest room are the same) All my life I’ve heard about that innkeeper who let Joseph and Mary have a stall in the stable. But now I’m told because of the size of the city, there’s a good chance Bethlehem had no hotels.

Instead, the couple probably found a relative of Joseph’s to stay with while they were waiting to be counted. But since every descendant of David’s seventeen sons was expected to be in Bethlehem for the census, no one had a room left for the young couple. And that’s how the Baby Jesus ended up in a manger. Considering God had arranged the time and the place of His Son’s birth, we have to wonder if there was another reason no rooms were open to the family of Jesus.

When God works there’s often more to see than we perceive at first glance. Generally there’s an extra lesson we can learn, and the lack of guest rooms for Christ has a lot to teach us.

Even before He was born the Son of God was dismissed as unimportant, put in the darkest corner as an afterthought. And when we stop and consider it, we all think it’s terrible. Yet how often do we do that to our Savior? How many times do we dismiss Jesus? How often do we put Him aside while we do things on our own, take care of important tasks or go ahead with the busyness of our lives?

It’s easy to judge the people in Bethlehem who allowed Joseph and Mary to bed down near a feeding trough instead of giving them a proper room. Unfortunately, every time we put something in our lives ahead of Christ’s requests, we do the same thing. Too often there’s just no room for the Messiah in our lives.

Christmas is just days away. Do you have a moment to stand in wonder of the Creator who became one of us so we’d know the fullness of His love? Has the hullabaloo of the holiday kept you from spending time with the One whose birth you celebrate? This Christmas as Christ calls and asks to come in, I pray you’ll be sure to make room.

The Third Tuesday of Advent

Why a Manger?

6While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born,
7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son.
She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger . . .

Luke 2:6-7

OK, so there’s no official room for the young couple. The older folks score the guest room, I get it. But in the whole town they couldn’t find any better bed for the Baby than a feeding trough? Have you ever laid on a bail of hay? It’s really kind of prickly!

Over and over God has proven He likes to be unpredictable. Throughout scripture, the Creator continually surprised people. He led the nation of Israel away from Egypt right toward the Red Sea, then at the last possible moment, when they thought they were all going to die, the waters parted and dry land lay ahead of them. Daniel found himself in a lions den for a whole night, and Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego thought they were done when they were thrown into that fiery furnace. We’d like for God to intervene a bit earlier most days, but it seems like He works in ways that humans would least expect.

Picture Mary preparing for the birth of her first Son. Even in her poverty, I’ll bet she was getting everything ready so this Boy that she knew would be the Son of God would have the best place possible.

And then Caesar decides he needs a census, so she heads to Bethlehem. I’m guessing she still expected God to make sure His Son had prime real estate for His birth. Maybe she even thought Her Heavenly Father would use the trip to Bethlehem to give the Baby an even better start to life. I just can’t imagine that Mary expected to have to give Him a manger for a cradle.

During Jesus’ time, most folks were expecting to find the Messiah in a palace. They certainly didn’t expect Him to be the son of a carpenter. They were looking for a conquering King, not a peace loving peasant. And a Messiah who started life out in a manger was definitely not on their radar.

As you enjoy this holiday season, watch for Christ in unexpected places. Pay attention while you’re shopping; listen for Him in the sounds of strangers. Look for Jesus in the eyes of the lost and lonely, and wait for Him when patient is the last thing you want to be. Jesus is there. But we may be surprised where “there” is.

The Third Wednesday of Advent

Why Did Herod Say He Wanted to Worship the Baby?

7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

Matthew 2:7-8

King Herod may have fooled the Magi, but anyone who’d been around him for long would have doubted his motives right away. Herod had a history, he’d never worshipped anything in his life except perhaps power. Herod the Great was known for being ruthless as well as his expensive, extravagant buildings. I’ve read that it’s really no surprise that this king would murder all the babies in Bethlehem. He was that bad. So, why would he tell the Wise Men he wanted to worship the Baby?

Herod was sneaky. He was looking out for himself. Herod was raised a Jew. He knew all of the prophecies about the Messiah. The news that the King of the Jews was born should have been exciting, but Herod knew his form of government wouldn’t be pleasing to the One who sent the Messiah. The King needed to know where the Baby was because he wanted to make sure no one could mess up his very privileged life. And it’s our job to make sure we learn from Herod.

Christmas is close, but are we looking for Jesus or looking out for ourselves? Are we ready to truly welcome the Christ Child, or are we afraid of how He might disrupt our lives? Can you sincerely celebrate the holiday, or are you like Herod, putting up a good front so everyone will think well of you? Do you celebrate for the sake of the gifts or the praise of the Giver?

Those are hard questions so close to the big day, but if we want to truly experience the wonder of Christmas, it needs to be with truth. The celebration will never be better than when we’ve checked our heart to be sure our worship is sincere, selfless and completely focused on the One who came as a Baby to be our King.

The Third Thursday of Advent

Why Angels?

10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

Luke 2:10-14

There are a lot of angels in the Christmas story. Gabriel visited Zechariah and Mary, and another spoke twice to Joseph in a dream. Then finally one more angel made the great announcement to the shepherds.

I know someone just thought, “One angel?” Yep, it was just one angel that told the shepherds where to find the Messiah, and despite every Christmas Carol ever written, he didn’t even sing.

We can’t be sure why God chose angels to bring the news of Christ’s coming to all those people. What we do know is angel visitations were rare. In the four thousand plus years before Christ, the Bible only records a handful of angel sightings. Abraham may have seen a pair and Gideon probably saw one. Jacob may have seen an angel and one or two of the prophets had visions like Joseph. Each time God had something important to tell His people, and obviously the message of Jesus was of extreme urgency, but never before had so many angels visited in such a short span.

God wanted people to know He was sending His Son. He wanted the world to be ready. Our Father sent angels so there’d be no doubt this Baby was different than every baby born before or after.

The birth of this child was so spectacular an entire army of the heavenly beings couldn’t keep quiet. Sometimes I wonder, “Are angels like that always around?” Perhaps they are, not allowing themselves to be seen. Christ’s birth; however, was so magnificent they couldn’t keep quiet. Jesus’ birth was the fulfillment of prophecy, answer to a promise made four thousand years before. All of heaven had been waiting for the monumental moment. So when it finally arrived the angels couldn’t contain themselves. They had to praise God for His magnificent gift.

Angels are seen when God decides we need to see them. They bring and deliver God’s message, in fact the word angel is the Greek word for messenger. And during the time of Jesus’ birth, especially on that day, God had something of utmost importance He wanted humans to know. He’d sent His Son as a fragile infant, swaddled tightly and helpless for a time. Finally, the One promised to bring salvation has come, and now, it’s up to us to believe their message and spread the Good News of Great Joy to all people.

The Third Friday of Advent

Why Was Everyone Afraid of the Angels?

12 When Zechariah saw the angel, he was startled and gripped with fear. 13 But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid,

Luke 1:12-13

29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words
and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.
30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary;

Luke 1:29-30

9 An angel of the Lord appeared to the shepherds, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.
10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid.

Luke 2:9-10

I’m not sure what angels look like; I’ve never seen one personally. However, I’m guessing their presence must be kind of overwhelming. Every time an angel shows up one of his first sentences is “Do not be afraid.”

In my mind I don’t picture an angel as scary looking, but then again, I’m pretty sure they don’t look like those cute little Precious Moments figurines either. The Bible tells us these heavenly beings make up God’s army. In the book of Daniel the angel Michael is called a prince. (Daniel 10) So perhaps they’re a bit intimidating.

Imagine being visited by a being who spends much of His time in the presence of God. When Moses spent time with His Creator, the leader of the Israelites had to wear a veil over his face because he, a human, radiated. These angelic beings don’t have our flaws. Moses’ radiance faded after his visit with the Almighty, but these angels spend all their time with the Trinity, their brilliance never fades. They radiate so much that Luke tells us one single angel lit up the night sky with God’s glory as he shared the good news of a Baby born in a manger. I think that could be pretty scary!

But as the angel assured Zechariah, Mary and the shepherds, when God sends His messenger there’s nothing to fear. Our Father’s message is always encouraging and splendiferous. So if you happen to see an angel, don’t be afraid, he’s probably got good news!

The Third Saturday in Advent

Why a Star?

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

Matthew 2:1-2 & 7-12

First of all, let’s clear up a common misconception. The shepherds didn’t follow this star. The Bible never mentions that Joseph and Mary saw the star. In fact, it looks like Herod and his wise guys couldn’t find the star. Otherwise, one would think they’d have followed it themselves to find the new King instead of waiting for the Magi to bring back some word.

There are many explanations of what this star was and how it came to be, but because of the mystery that surrounds it, I prefer to think it was something more supernatural created by God especially for these Wise Men to see rather than an act of nature.

This still doesn’t really answer the question of why. Why didn’t God just send another angel to these star gazers from the East? Why not another dream? That’s how He told them Herod was up to no good.

But the answer to this last why, is really the same as the root answer to all the others. Because Yahweh is God, and He likes to do things in His own way in His own time.

These stately astronomers and their entourage didn’t make it to the manger. By the time they arrived, Joseph and Mary had found a house to stay in. Yet God’s timing is always perfect.

I have to wonder if our Creator wanted the earthly king to know He was preparing to take over. Why would the star have led the Magi to Jerusalem first unless the One who holds the universe was ready to announce His arrival?

I’m sure as Joseph and Mary fled for safety in Egypt they wondered if God really had it all under control. Through the years as they raised the Son of God in a poor community without enough money to buy a lamb to sacrifice, they may have questioned the Divine’s plan for the One He sent to save the world.

But God’s ways were higher than Joseph’s and Mary’s, and they’re bigger and better than ours. On those days when you wonder, “What was God thinking?” Remember the star. A special yet unassuming star led noblemen to tell one of the most notorious rulers of Israel a new King had been born. It seems like a strange plan. But the Father protected His Son. He kept Him safe so He’d be ready for the day when He’d give the ultimate sacrifice on my behalf . . . on your behalf.

Jesus gave what no one had been able to give before, and now He sits at the Father’s right hand just waiting to greet us, eager to show us the fullness of His glory that shines brighter than anything, even the Magi’s star.

The Fourth Sunday in Advent

Why All the Pondering?

17 When [the shepherds] had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.
Luke 2:17-19

I can’t imagine all that must have been going on in Mary’s mind during the months between Gabriel’s message and the shepherds’ visit. Holding a tiny infant in her arms, could she really comprehend the reality of this Baby becoming a Savior. But in spite of the surreal circumstances, Mary pondered every detail and treasured them in her heart.

Mary understood every moment mattered. There was something to be learned, something amazing thing to behold in each element of her precious Son’s birth and life. She pondered each detail. Later when she retold the account after her Son’s death, she had a tremendous story to tell, a story that recounted amazement and beautiful memories, one that put all the pieces together.

Each of us has a similar story to tell, the story of Jesus’ birth in us. Yet, often we think our salvation tale isn’t fabulous enough to share. Unless we had some phenomenal, over-night transformational experience, we hesitate to tell others about Jesus’ coming into our lives.

But today is a great day to ponder. Truly ponder where you’d be if Christ hadn’t changed you. Ponder for a moment the blessings you have because of the Savior’s mercy.

Mary’s pondering made for an accurate and exciting story many years after the fact. Our pondering can do the same. Never dismiss the value of your story. You’ll be amazed who it can touch.

Four candles light our Advent today. It’s much brighter than when we began our journey many days ago. We’ve had all this time to ponder, to truly consider all that Christ has done. Let’s take all that pondering and help someone else see the light that is Christ.

Christmas Eve

Why Christmas?

Read Luke 2

Almost every day we’ve touched on the answer to this “why.” We talked about the feasts and festivals God gave His people so they would remember His goodness. We contemplated the stories; we were fascinated by His names. We enjoyed the wonder of the Magi and Mary and saw the amazement of the shepherds. But if all we’ve done is read the story and buy some gifts, we’ve still missed the “Why” of Christmas.

Our focus tonight will be on a Baby, but Christmas is about so much more than a Baby. We celebrate because the Everlasting Father is now Immanuel, the Mighty God with us, all because of the Baby. We celebrate because the Baby allows the Wonderful Counselor to be with us and speak to us daily. We celebrate because the Prince of Peace came to permeate our soul. We celebrate because of the great joy the angels proclaimed, and because when Jesus is more to us than just a Baby in a manger, when He is all His name implies, we can be highly favored and immeasurably blessed.

I pray as you celebrate tomorrow your celebration will be more about the Savior than the manger. May your holiday be a truly holy day, and may every “why” of the new year bring you closer to Christ.

Stop back for even more Advent meditations!

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