Advent 2013 Family Devotional Guide Getting ready for the coming of Christ

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Advent
2013 Family Devotional Guide
Getting ready for the coming of Christ
719 Earl Garrett • Kerrville, TX 78028
LLYC.org • LLFamilyCamp.org • LaityLodge.org • TheHighCalling.org
Advent
2013 Family Devotional Guide
Getting ready for the coming of Christ
Mark D. Roberts
with Laity Lodge Staff Members
Copyrighted material ©2013 Mark D. Roberts
Not for sale or distribution.
Preface
This past summer, hundreds of teenagers descended upon Laity
Lodge Youth Camp (LLYC) to have amazing fun, make great
friends, and experience the grace of God in many different ways.
We who have the privilege of working at LLYC strive to create an
experience that campers will never forget.
This year, our camping ministry in the Frio Canyon was expanded as never before through the growth of Laity Lodge Family
Camp (LLFC). Our new Headwaters facility hosted dozens of families of all shapes and sizes. Like those downstream, LLFC campers
also had amazing fun, made great friends, and experienced the
grace of God in manifold ways.
We who are blessed to work at LLYC and LLFC seek to create
an experience that our campers will never forget. Yet, our mission
extends beyond what happens in the Canyon; we
are eager to help
kids and families grow as disciples of Christ in their whole lives,
wherever they are. We also care deeply about the families of our
LLYC campers and seek ways to serve them. This Advent devotional
guide is one way we can encourage all of our campers and their
families outside of camp.
For most of us, the holiday season is jam-packed with activity.
As we prepare for Christmas and enjoy holiday concerts, peppermint bark, and spending time with people we love, sometimes we
miss something more important—the chance to grow in our relationship with God in the weeks before Christmas.
For centuries, the Christian season of Advent has enabled people
to prepare for a deeper, more joyful celebration of the birth of
Christ. Through Advent, we can grow closer to God and experience
his loving presence. That’s the purpose of this devotional guide.
This guide was written by Mark Roberts, our colleague in Foundations for Laity Renewal, the umbrella organization of LLYC and
LLFC. Officially, Mark is the Executive Director of Digital Media
as well as the Theological and Cultural Steward for our organization. Mark works alongside LLYC and LLFC staff, providing biblical
guidance and spiritual encouragement. Last summer, he was actively
2 Getting ready for the coming of Christ
involved at Echo Valley, coaching our teachers and counselors and
teaching in our Sunday morning worship time. Mark’s children, Nathan and Kara, also worked at camp. Nathan was a programmer at
Echo Valley and Kara split her time between Sugar Shack and counseling. Mark and his wife, Linda, also taught at LLFC for a week.
Linda was often busy at Laity Lodge, giving devotions, counseling
with guests, and just hanging out. In ways both broad and deep,
Mark and his family have made a big difference in the Canyon.
Because we’re ever grateful for the refreshment Mark’s godly
teaching has provided to all of us, we’re especially pleased to gift this
Advent devotional guide to you from all of us at LLYC and LLFC.
Some of our staff have offered short reflections to this devotional,
and we hope you are blessed by their words. Whether you use this
guide for your personal time with God or as part of a family devotional time, we pray it will open your heart to knowing God’s love
more deeply in this Christmas season and preparing to receive the
greatest gift, the birth of Christ.
The LLYC and LLFC Teams
Discovering Advent
I love Christmas. I love decorations, parties, and presents. I love
carols, nativity scenes, and Christmas Eve worship services. Most
of all, I love the chance to wonder at the miracle of God becoming
human in the baby Jesus.
But, I must confess, sometimes the busyness of the Christmas
season has made it hard for me to focus on what matters most. I
could almost miss Jesus in the midst of celebrating his birthday. For
many years of my life, I tried to make him “the reason for the season,” but I fell short in my efforts.
Then I discovered the season of Advent. I learned that, for centuries, Christians set apart the weeks before Christmas as a special
season of preparing for the birth of Jesus. And, I discovered that
Advent provided a way for me to enjoy the delights of ChristmasAn Advent Devotional Guide for 2013 3
time and also to grow closer to God. Thus, I became, not just a lover
of Christmas, but also a lover of Advent.
(If you’re curious about how I discovered Advent, I tell this
story in an e-book called Discovering Advent: How to Experience
the Power of Waiting on God at Christmastime. You can find more
information about the book at the end of this guide.)
What Is Advent?
Advent is a season of waiting, expecting, and hoping. Beginning
four Sundays prior to Christmas and ending on Christmas Eve,
Advent helps us prepare for the coming, or “advent,” of Christ
at Christmas.
The word “advent” comes from the Latin word that means
“coming.” In this season, we put ourselves back into the shoes (well,
sandals) of the Jewish people who longed for the coming of the
Messiah. At
the same time, we remember that we are also awaiting the second advent of Jesus, when his kingdom will fill the earth.
Thus, Advent is a serious time of getting in touch with our hope and
yearning. Yet, it is also a joyous time because we know that Christmas is coming and that the Savior was indeed born among us.
Introduction to the Advent Wreath
For hundreds of years, Christians have used an Advent wreath to
inspire their hopes for the coming of Christ. By lighting candles and
reading Bible verses, we are reminded about the meaning of Christ’s
birth and become more excited about his coming in the past, in the
future, and in our own lives.
Advent wreaths take a variety of shapes and forms. Some are
made of actual pine and fir branches, but many other materials can
be used. They also vary in size, from a few inches wide to a few feet
wide. I’ve seen photos of a floating Advent wreath in Austria that
appears to be forty-feet wide.
If you search for “Advent wreath” in Google images, you’ll see a
wide variety of options.
4 Getting ready for the coming of Christ
About Advent Candles
All Advent wreaths include candles. Four candles are placed around
the wreath and one is set in the center. There is no set meaning for
the candles of the Advent wreath (except for the middle candle,
which signifies the birth of Jesus the Christ and is often called the
“Christ Candle”). I have been in churches where the four candles
symbolize peace, hope, joy, and love. In other settings, they are
identified with key figures in the stories of the birth of Jesus, such
as the shepherds, the angels, Joseph, and Mary. In this devotional
guide, I have used the main theme of waiting to give structure and
meaning to the Advent candles, with each candle focused on one of
four different aspects of our waiting.
Advent wreaths employ candles with a variety of colors. Some
wreaths use all white candles; others use three purple or blue
candles, one pink candle, and one white candle in the middle. I
share an understanding of the Advent wreath with many Christians
for whom the purple candles remind us of how serious and
solemn
God’s people have been in waiting for the Messiah. The pink signifies the joy of our waiting. The white is triumphant and celebrative
because Christ is born.
When using this guide, if you prefer blue candles to purple,
that’s fine. When I write, “Light a purple candle,” you can translate
that to “blue candle.” The colors have symbolic meanings, but there
is not one orthodox arrangement.
Customizing This Guide
What follows is a guide for personal, family, or corporate worship
that can accompany lighting the candles of the Advent wreath. You
can do this on your own with a real Advent wreath. You can also
use this guide with family and/or close friends. All families are different, and I encourage you to adapt what I suggest here to meet the
needs of your own unique family culture. Parents will also want to
make changes to fit the developmental stages of their children.
An Advent Devotional Guide for 2013 5
Speaking of children, they have great expectations and hopes
during Advent. These are usually associated with Christmas presents, Santa Claus, and holiday celebrations and treats. Rather
than discouraging these hopes (a pursuit, which, anyway, would
be futile), I urge parents to help their children get the feel of
Advent by sharing their own hopes and thoughts about biblical
Advent themes.
Using the Guide at Home
To use this guide, you’ll need an Advent wreath and five candles.
You can purchase Advent wreath sets online or from some Christian bookstores, but it’s also easy to make your own Advent
wreath.
In fact, making a wreath can be part of the fun for a family. Be creative as you fashion your wreath, perhaps twisting fir
branches around a circular wire frame. You’ll want four candles on
the circle of the wreath and one candle in the middle. (One word of
warning: Remember that dry fir branches are quite flammable, so
keep branches away from flames.)
Set aside time during the four Sundays prior to Christmas for
using this devotional guide. The first Sunday in Advent this year is
December 1. The lighting ceremony takes only about ten minutes,
though you can add personal elements if you wish. If you can’t
make time on a Sunday, it’s fine to light the candles on another day.
In my family, sometimes we do it on Saturday evenings. The point
isn’t following all the rules correctly. It’s focusing on the advent
of our Lord and Savior, preparing our hearts to welcome him in a
fresh way.
Wishing you God’s richest blessings as you prepare for
Christ’s coming!
Mark D. Roberts
6 Getting ready for the coming of Christ
December 1, 2013
The First Sunday of Advent
The Lighting of the First Candle:
Waiting for Christ, the Shepherd
The Meaning of Advent
Advent is a word that means “coming” or “visit.” In the Christian
season of Advent, we prepare for the “advent” of Christ at Christmas.
Our preparation includes many things:
• We remember Israel’s hope for the coming of God’s Messiah to
save, to forgive, and to restore.
• We remember our hope for the second coming of Jesus.
• We remember our need for a Savior to save us from our sins.
• We prepare to welcome Christ at Christmas into our world . . .
and into our hearts.
By lighting one candle each week of Advent, we are intentional
about preparing our hearts for the birth of Jesus. The candles have
different meanings and each is based upon the Bible. These meanings help us understand how special the birth of Jesus is for us.
Today we focus on the coming of Christ as our Shepherd.
Prayer for God’s Help
Lord, we thank you that you are a faithful God and promise
to save us. We ask that you would help us to trust in you and
receive your grace. We look forward to the day when you come
again, but help us to experience your comfort and care even
now. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Week One Readings
Note: Parents, you may wish to abbreviate or eliminate certain readings
depending on the age(s) of your child(ren). You may also want to read these
selections out of a Children’s Bible. If you are using this guide by yourself,
consider responding to these questions in a journal.
An Advent Devotional Guide for 2013 7
Psalm 80:1-7
In this psalm, we join the people of Israel as they invite God
their Shepherd to save and to restore them.
Isaiah 40:1-11
This passage looks ahead to the coming of the Lord, who will
care for his people like a shepherd.
Revelation 7:9-17
Like God’s people before the coming of Christ, we also look
ahead to the time when Christ, who is both the Lamb and our
Shepherd, will finish his work and “God will wipe away every
tear” from our eyes.
Questions for Reflection •
•
•
•
Have you ever been rescued by God?
What does it mean for Jesus to be the Lamb of God?
What does it mean for God to be the Good Shepherd?
How have you experienced God’s care or comfort as one of his
“sheep”?
Just Keep Swimming
Reflection by Emily Ballbach,
Program Director for Laity Lodge Family Camp
See, the Sovereign LORD comes with power,
and he rules with a mighty arm.
See, his reward is with him,
and his recompense accompanies him.
He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young.
I
t’s a long story, so I’ll spare you the details. When I was fourteen,
I got caught in a rip current off the coast of Washington state in
June’s chilly water. I knew to swim parallel to shore and wait for
help to come; I just didn’t anticipate waiting for 45 minutes. I swam
hard, receiving wave after wave, hoping to keep enough air in my
lungs to make it underwater as each wave tossed me around. My
marathon swim kept me searching for the Lord and praying hard
for his help. I knew I needed to be rescued, and only God would receive the credit. If I were to make it through, I would know God had
a purpose for my life. An ambulance came to shore in the distance,
and the Coast Guard finally made their way to me in the choppy
waters, bringing me safely to shore.
We all need to be rescued, saved, or even restored. The nation
of Israel had this same need as they anticipated the coming Messiah. In exile, they needed God to rescue them and restore them to
a right relationship with our faithful God. God did rescue them, just
as he will rescue us. What is most important, however, is not just
that God saved Israel and me and you, but that he is a gracious God.
Scripture tells us that we are the Lord’s sheep, Jesus is the great lamb
of sacrifice, and God is our good shepherd. God knows his sheep
and cares deeply for us. Through Jesus, God identifies with our
pain, as he comes to save with comfort and care.
Like Israel, we anticipate the coming of Christ once more. The
Lamb of God will come again to establish his kingdom among us.
Scripture promises us that when he comes, he will lead us to living
waters of eternal hope, promise, and life. He will wipe away every
tear, and we will be truly and finally rescued into the presence of
God forever.
God’s ambulance is on the shore. His coast guard is ready to
navigate the choppy waters. He has a purpose for you. Just keep
swimming.
Isaiah 40:10-11
8 Getting ready for the coming of Christ
An Advent Devotional Guide for 2013 9
Lighting the First Candle
As someone lights the first purple candle, the following
should be read or paraphrased.
“We light this candle because, like God’s people centuries ago,
we also look forward with hope to the coming of the Shepherd.
The purple color of the candle reminds us of the seriousness of
our hope.”
Prayer of Hope
Dear God,
As we light this candle, we hope for your coming as our Good
Shepherd. Please gather us in your arms, feed us with spiritual
food, wipe away every tear from our eyes, and “let your face
shine, that we may be saved.” Come, our Shepherd!
Amen.
Closing Song
To be sung to the tune of “O Come Let Us Adore Him” from
“O Come All Ye Faithful.”
O come to us, our Shepherd,
O come to us, our Shepherd,
O come to us, our Shepherd,
Christ the Lord!
December 8, 2013
The Second Sunday of Advent
The Lighting of the Second Candle:
Waiting for Forgiveness
Relight the first purple candle.
The Meaning of Advent
Advent is a word that means “coming” or “visit.” In the Christian
season of Advent, we prepare for the “advent” of Christ at Christmas.
Our preparation includes many things:
• We remember Israel’s hope for the coming of God’s Messiah to
save, to forgive, and to restore.
• We remember our hope for the second coming of Jesus.
• We remember our need for a Savior to save us from our sins.
• We prepare to welcome Christ at Christmas into our world . . .
and into our hearts.
By lighting one candle each week of Advent, we are intentional
about preparing our hearts for the birth of Jesus. The candles have
different meanings and each is based upon the Bible. These meanings help us understand how special the birth of Jesus is for us.
By lighting one candle each week of Advent, we help ourselves to
get ready for the birth of Jesus. Last week we lit a candle that signified our waiting for God our Shepherd.
Today we focus on the coming of Christ, who brings forgiveness
from our sins.
Prayer for God’s Help
Lord, you are the light which the darkness has not overcome.
Help me to see your light, even when darkness surrounds me.
Help me to put my hope in you, and to trust that you are near.
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
Amen.
10 Getting ready for the coming of Christ
An Advent Devotional Guide for 2013 11
Week Two Readings
Psalm 130:1-8
In this psalm, we join the psalmist in crying out for God’s forgiveness.
Jeremiah 31:31-34
God promises to make a new covenant with us, in which our
sins will be forgiven and forgotten.
Luke 1:68-79
When an angel appears to Zechariah in the temple and tells him
that his wife will give birth to a son, the old man doesn’t believe
the angel. As a result, Zechariah is unable to speak for many
months, until immediately after the birth of his son John (the
Baptist). Right after the birth, Zechariah is filled with the Holy
Spirit and speaks the prophecy that we will read.
Questions for Reflection • Describe a time when you have been somewhere dark and
wished it were light. Did you call for help?
• What was the response?
• What did you learn from the experience?
God Will Show Us the Way
Reflection by Steven Purcell, Executive Director of Laity Lodge
And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,
to give his people the knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins,
because of the tender mercy of our God,
by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
to shine on those living in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.
Luke 1:76-79
12 Getting ready for the coming of Christ
H
ave you ever been in a situation when you were anxious for
the sun to rise? Have you been somewhere dark and wished it
were light?
Days after I graduated from college, I had a physical emergency
which landed me in the hospital and which eventually required
surgery. Late one evening while I was still in the hospital recovering
from surgery, the same incident occurred again. Nurses were still
on duty, but my family and the doctors who knew my situation had
already gone home for the evening. I was devastated and afraid. Not
wanting to bother my family in the middle of the night, I lay in my
hospital bed and waited for the morning. It seemed to never come.
Finally, at the first glimmer of daylight, I called home.
My experience of waiting in darkness took place in a hospital
bed. But there have been other times in my life when I’ve experienced dark circumstances that I wanted to end; when I lost a friend
or felt threatened at work or felt ashamed about something.
In the Scripture readings for today, we see God’s people in dark
circumstances of their own. They are oppressed by their enemies
and burdened by their own sin. The Psalmist compares the experience to being at the “bottom of a pit” (Psalm 130). Zechariah, the
father of John the Baptist, describes God’s people as “lost in darkness” (Luke 1:79). But with beautiful poetry, Zechariah also says
that “God’s sunrise will break in upon us, shining on those in the
darkness.” God will “show us the way, one foot at a time, down the
path of peace” (Luke 1:78-79; The Message).
I eventually received the care I needed and was released from
the hospital. That particular health concern has never bothered me
again. However, there have been plenty of other dark nights along
the way that I wanted to end with the rising of the sun. Some of
those nights lasted longer than others. But in hindsight, I believe
God’s tender mercy was with me in every situation. Advent reminds
us to look forward to the day when we will no longer need to wait
for the sun to rise, because the Glory of God will be our light. In the
meantime, we can trust that God is with us, even in times of darkness. Maybe especially in times of darkness.
An Advent Devotional Guide for 2013 13
Lighting the Second Candle
“We light this candle because, like God’s people centuries ago,
we also need a Savior who will forgive our sins. The purple
color reminds us of the seriousness of our sin and our great
need for God’s forgiveness.”
Prayer of Hope
Dear God,
As we light this candle, we recognize our sin and our need
for a savior. We wait for your forgiveness in Christ. We long
to be purified so that we might present ourselves to you in
righteousness. Come, Our Savior!
Amen.
Closing Song
To be sung to the tune of “O Come Let Us Adore Him” from
“O Come All Ye Faithful.”
O come to us, forgive us,
O come to us, forgive us,
O come to us, forgive us,
Christ the Lord!
December 15, 2013
The Third Sunday of Advent
The Lighting of the Third Candle:
Waiting With Joy
Relight the past weeks’ candles.
The Meaning of Advent
Advent is a word that means “coming” or “visit.” In the Christian
season of Advent, we prepare for the “advent” of Christ at Christmas. Our preparation includes many things:
• We remember Israel’s hope for the coming of God’s Messiah to
save, to forgive, and to restore.
• We remember our hope for the second coming of Jesus.
• We remember our need for a Savior to save us from our sins.
• We prepare to welcome Christ at Christmas into our world . . .
and into our hearts.
By lighting one candle each week of Advent, we help ourselves
get ready for the birth of Jesus. So far, we have lit two candles. The
first helped us to hope for God our Shepherd; with the second, we
asked God to come and forgive our sins.
Today we remember the joy of waiting, because we know how
the story ends!
Prayer for God’s Help
Lord, thank you for your many blessings. Forgive me when I
take life into my own hands. Help me to not worry. Thank you
for being near and continuing to pursue me and love me in my
weakness.
Amen.
14 Getting ready for the coming of Christ
An Advent Devotional Guide for 2013 15
Week Three Readings
Psalm 126:1-6
This psalm celebrates God’s restoration of Israel—and it cries
out to God for future restoration.
Zephaniah 3:14-20
Through the prophet Zephaniah, God looks ahead to the time
when he will renew and heal his people. It will be a day of great
rejoicing, both for them and for God!
Philippians 4:4-7
We also rejoice in the Lord, in part because we know that “the
Lord is near.” This means, not only that God is with us right
now, but also that Christ is coming soon.
Questions for Reflection • How does it look to “rejoice in the Lord always?”
• Do you struggle with anxiety?
• Do you consider the season leading up to Christmas to be a
time when it is easier or harder to experience God’s peace?
•Why?
Are You Running Just to Avoid Losing?
Reflection by Chandler Pruitt,
Senior Director of Laity Lodge Youth Camp
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your
gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious
about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with
thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God,
which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and
your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:4-7
16 Getting ready for the coming of Christ
M
y favorite Christmas gift of all time was an electric football
game.
The game was played on a small, vibrating metal field with
plastic players who amble aimlessly when the game is switched on.
Even as a child, I was a perfectionist, so I would meticulously arrange my players in exacting formations. My cousin, on the other
hand, would simply bunch his players in haphazard fashion on the
line of scrimmage. To my absolute wits’ end, he would usually win.
My running back would sprint in the open field for the end zone
only to make a sudden, random U-turn at the five yard line, retreating to be tackled or running out of bounds. Or my wide receiver,
with his arm extended, would lock arms with any willing accomplice and do-si-do until the play ended. The unpredictability of the
game haunted me. Perhaps this explains why I am troubled by this
passage of Scripture.
Paul’s words to the Philippians are so clear, so precise, and so
profound. God is near! Yet my “perfectionism” makes this hard to
accept. Rejoice in the Lord always? Do not be anxious for anything?
These seemingly unattainable absolutes haunt me because I am too
human to meet God’s standard. In my struggles, I have often wondered if God is indeed near.
As I moved on in life, I transferred my perfectionism to academics and athletics. I was raised in the culture where second place
was the first loser. I found myself running races, not to win, but to
avoid losing. And even more recently, I inspected and fretted the
smallest of details when my house was being built.
My perfectionism has led to unwarranted anxiety. I know that
God is near. I have enough faith to fear God, but do I have enough
to hope? God’s grace helps me to hope, even though I know God’s
standards can be nothing less than perfect. Of course, I want to
be perfect! God wants this for me, too, and so he offers grace. My
anxiety arises when I lose sight of that grace. Surely, Paul himself
had anxious moments too, perhaps even as he wrote his letter to
the Philippians.
An Advent Devotional Guide for 2013 17
The wise man Bobby McFerrin said, “Don’t worry. Be happy.”
Great words to live by, but Paul’s advice is a little different. He says,
“Don’t worry. Pray.” He even presents a classic “if-then” statement.
If you pray, then “before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness,
everything coming together for good, will come and settle you
down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at
the center of your life” (The Message).
December 22, 2013
The Fourth Sunday of Advent
The Lighting of the Fourth Candle:
Waiting With the Son
Relight the past weeks’ candles.
Christmas is coming. Rejoice, for God is near!
The Meaning of Advent
Lighting the Third Candle
Advent is a word that means “coming” or “visit.” In the Christian
season of Advent, we prepare for the “advent” of Christ at Christmas. Our preparation includes many things:
“We light this candle because, like God’s people centuries ago,
we know that God has come in Christ and that Christ will come
again. We rejoice in God’s work in history and in the future. The
pink color means joy!”
Prayer of Hope
Dear God,
As we light this candle, we rejoice. We know how the first act of
the story ended—with the birth of Jesus the Messiah. And we
know that he will come again in glory. So even though the story
isn’t over, we rejoice in our hope. We wait for you, rejoicing!
Amen.
Closing Song
To be sung to the tune of “O Come Let Us Adore Him” from
“O Come All Ye Faithful.”
We wait for you, rejoicing,
We wait for you, rejoicing,
We wait for you, rejoicing,
Christ the Lord!
18 Getting ready for the coming of Christ
• We remember Israel’s hope for the coming of God’s Messiah to
save, to forgive, and to restore.
• We remember our hope for the second coming of Jesus.
• We remember our need for a Savior to save us from our sins.
• We prepare to welcome Christ at Christmas into our world . . .
and into our hearts.
By lighting one candle each week of Advent, we help ourselves
get ready for the birth of Jesus. So far, we have lit three candles. The
first reminded us to wait for God our Shepherd. With the second,
we asked the Lord to come and forgive our sins. The third, pink,
candle signified our joy as we wait.
Today we focus on the coming of the Son—the son of Mary,
the Son of God!
Prayer for God’s Help
Jesus, sometimes it feels like we still live in a land of deep darkness—when the lights go out, when the storms rage, when we
are overwhelmed with sadness or fear. Shine a light into the
dark places of our lives. Help us feel your presence where we
need it most.
We thank you so much for Christmas coming soon! Help
us know your peace during these last days before the big celAn Advent Devotional Guide for 2013 19
ebration. Thank you for giving us a reason to celebrate so many
years ago when Jesus came into the world. In his name.
Amen.
Week Four Readings
Psalm 89:1-4, 19-37, 46-52
This psalm celebrates God’s covenant with David and with the
descendants of David. He even calls God “my Father” (vs. 26).
But the psalmist composed this psalm at a time when God’s
blessing upon Israel seemed very far away. He calls upon the
Lord to remember his covenant to David.
Isaiah 9:1-7
Deliverance will come for God’s people through the “son” who
is given to them. He will sit on the throne of David and his
kingdom will last forever.
Luke 1:26-38
The angel Gabriel announces to Mary that she is pregnant and
will give birth to a son. Her son will also be “the Son of the
Most High” and will sit on the throne of David. He will be the
reigning Son of David and the divine Son of God!
Questions for Reflection • Are you excited about Christmas?
• What are you especially excited about?
• How does waiting for Christmas help you think about waiting
for Jesus to shine his light into the world?
• Does Jesus shine his light through you?
Hoping to Touch Jesus This Christmas
Reflection by Marcus Goodyear, Senior Editor of The High Calling
The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those
who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine.
D
o you have big thunderstorms where you live? My family loves
a good thunderstorm during the day. We sit together on the
porch and watch the dark sky and the sheets of rain. Our poor dog
is terrified of storms, so she will sit on my lap and tremble with fear.
At night, though, thunderstorms can be scary, especially if the
electricity goes out. When my kids were younger, they would climb
in our bed next to our poor, scared dog who trembled so badly she
shook the whole bed. The entire family cuddled together in the
darkness, hoping for the storm to end.
Sometimes, I would light a candle on my dresser to help us see
in the night. Light is a good thing. In the beginning, God said, “Let
there be light!” Light was God’s first act of creation (Genesis 1:3-4).
In Psalms, David says, “The Lord is my light and salvation” (Psalm
27). He also says that God’s word is a lamp for his feet and a light
for his path (Psalm 119:105).
In one of the readings this week, Isaiah prophesied that God
will send a light to the people who live in darkness. Jesus fulfilled
this prophecy when he came to earth and preached that the Kingdom of God is near (Matt. 4:12-17). And Jesus is still fulfilling the
prophecy today. He is the light in a dark world. Sometimes I think
the Kingdom of God is especially near when we live as children of
light—loving God with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength
and loving our neighbors as ourselves.
Jesus has redeemed the world for us, and he continues to spread
his light into the dark places. This doesn’t make the darkness any
less scary. But you know what? It is okay to be scared of things that
are scary. When the house is dark, I might bump into something
and hurt my toe. When there is a bad storm, I want to stay inside
where it is warm and dry and calm.
Sometimes, I wish I could run to Jesus the way my kids ran to
our bed during those storms. Of course, I do run to Jesus by praying
and reading Scripture and worshipping at my church and offering
my life as a sacrifice to God. I am deeply grateful for all of the ways
God is present and active in the world today, but during Advent, I
Isaiah 9:2, NLT
20 Getting ready for the coming of Christ
An Advent Devotional Guide for 2013 21
find myself wishing I could touch Jesus. I look forward to the day
when that hope will be real.
As excited as I am about the coming of Christmas, it won’t even
compare to how exciting it will be when Jesus comes again!
Lighting the Fourth Candle
“We light this candle because we look forward with eagerness
to the birth of a child, the son of Mary and the Son of God!
The purple color reminds us of how serious we are in looking
forward to the Son’s birth.”
Prayer of Hope
Dear God,
As we light this candle, we look ahead with hope to the birth
of your Son—the Son of David, the Son of Mary. May we be
prepared to welcome him with open arms and open hearts. O
come now, Son of David!
Amen!
Closing Song
To be sung to the tune of “O Come Let Us Adore Him” from
“O Come All Ye Faithful.”
O come now, Son of David,
O come now, Son of David,
December 24, 2013
Christmas Eve
The Lighting of the Christ Candle:
Our Wait is Over!
Relight the past weeks’ candles and the pink candle.
We Celebrate the Birth of Christ
This Advent, we have used the wreath and its candles to help us get
ready to celebrate the birth of Christ. When we lit the first purple
candle, we asked God to come and be our Good Shepherd. God our
Shepherd has come in Jesus Christ! When we lit the second purple
candle, we asked God to come and forgive our sins. God has come in
Jesus Christ to take our sins and die upon the cross so that we might
be forgiven! When we lit the third, pink candle, we felt joyful even in
our longing for Christ to come. Christ, who has been born in a manger, will come again in glory to wipe away every tear from our eyes!
When we lit the fourth candle, we remembered that Christ would
come as a son—the son of Mary, the Son of David, and the Son of
God! This Son has been born! He is Immanuel—God with us!
Today we celebrate the birth of Jesus the Christ, Jesus the Good
Shepherd, Jesus who forgives our sins, Jesus who will come again,
Jesus the son of Mary, the Son of David, and the very Son of God!
O come now, Son of David,
Christ the Lord!
Prayer for God’s Help
Dear God, thank you for Christmas! Thank you for Christmas
presents and Christmas dinners, for Christmas parties and
Christmas specials. Thank you for family and friends who share
these joys with us.
Be with those for whom this season is hard. Comfort them.
Give them peace that passes understanding. Help them to rejoice in you always.
22 Getting ready for the coming of Christ
An Advent Devotional Guide for 2013 23
And help us to not forget why we celebrate. Thank you most
of all for the gift of your son, Jesus Christ, who died on the cross
for the forgiveness of sins and rose on the third day to save us
by grace.
Thank you for Christmas. In Christ’s name, Amen.
Readings
Micah 5:1-5
God promises through the prophet Micah that his future rule
will come from Bethlehem, even though this town is, indeed, a
“little town” and quite insignificant.
Luke 2:1-20
Jesus the Messiah is born in Bethlehem!
Psalm 145
Let us join the psalmist in offering praise to God for his mighty
works!
Questions for Reflection • What is your favorite Christmas special? Why?
• Has your Christmas season this year felt extremely busy and
hectic or more calm and peaceful?
• How can you shine a spotlight on the true meaning of Christmas this season?
Shining a Spotlight on What Christmas Is All About
Reflection by Marcus Goodyear, Senior Editor of The High Calling
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping
watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to
them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were
terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you
good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the
town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the
Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in
cloths and lying in a manger.”
Luke 2:8-12
24 Getting ready for the coming of Christ
A
t our house, we love our Christmas movies and Christmas
specials. During Advent, we watch Elf and The Muppet Christmas Carol and The Nightmare Before Christmas. We watch Rudolf
and the original animated Grinch and the hilarious nativity scene
from Merry Christmas Mr. Bean.
But one special trumps them all: A Charlie Brown Christmas.
Nearly 50 years ago in 1965, Charles Schulz and the Peanuts
gang were already struggling with an overly commercialized
holiday season. Even Charlie Brown himself loses sight of the
true meaning of Christmas when he tries to direct his friends in
a Christmas pageant. Finally, he shouts in frustration, “Isn’t there
anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?!”
In one of the most astounding moments in television history,
Linus answers Charlie Brown’s question. He drags his blanket
to center stage, stands alone in a simple spotlight, and recites
Luke 2:8-14.
Linus says, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a
Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”
Back in 1965, executives at CBS thought the scene was a mistake, but audiences loved it. They needed to hear Linus’ answer
as much as Charlie Brown. In my house, we need Linus’ answer
every year.
Jesus is more than just a baby in a manger. He is more than just
a good teacher and a storyteller. He is more than our prayer buddy
who takes our requests to God. Jesus is our Savior. He is Christ. He
is the Lord, fully God and fully human.
During the insanity of Christmas, I hope we are all taking time
like this to reflect, to meet with family and friends, to shine a spotlight onto the true meaning of Christmas. It isn’t about presents. It
isn’t about decorations or food or cookies or caroling. Those are fun
ways to celebrate, but they are not our reason for celebration.
Christmas is the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. His life is a
model for how we should live. His death for our sins is a model of
the humble nature we should have. And his resurrection is a prom-
An Advent Devotional Guide for 2013 25
ise that someday we will know peace on earth and good will toward
all people.
Merry Christmas from everyone at Foundations for
Laity Renewal!
Lighting the Christ Candle
“We light this candle with great joy and celebration, because
Christ is born in Bethlehem. God’s Son has come into the world
to be our Saviour! And he will come again in glory.”
Prayer of Joy and Adoration
Dear God,
As we light this candle, we rejoice in the birth
of your Son. May we worship him, welcome him,
and make room for him in our hearts.
O come, let us adore him!
Amen!
Closing Song
To be sung to the tune of “O Come Let Us Adore Him” from
“O Come All Ye Faithful.”
O come let us adore him,
Discovering Advent
If you’d like to learn more about Advent, you might want to check
out Mark’s e-book: Discovering Advent: How to Experience the Power
of Waiting on God at Christmastime. Visit the following page on
Mark’s blog: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/markdroberts/pages/
marks-e-book-discovering-advent/
The Rev. Dr. Mark D. Roberts is the Executive Director of
Digital Media and the Theological and Cultural Steward for Foundations for Laity Renewal, the umbrella organization of LLYC and
LLFC. From October 2007 through August 2011, Mark was the Senior Director for Laity Lodge. For 16 years, before moving to Texas,
he was the Senior Pastor of Irvine Presbyterian Church in Irvine,
California.
Mark writes a devotional for The High Calling, a website produced by Foundations for Laity Renewal. His “Daily Reflections”
can be viewed online or sent as a daily email. If you wish to receive
this email, visit TheHighCalling.org.
Mark has been an active blogger since 2003. His blog is now
part of the growing community of Patheos.com. You can find it
here: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/markdroberts/.
Mark has written several books and dozens of articles for magazines and journals, including No Holds Barred.
O come let us adore him,
O come let us adore him,
Christ the Lord!
26 Getting ready for the coming of Christ
An Advent Devotional Guide for 2013 27

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