Jesus is God. Jesus is God in human flesh. This truth is blasphemous to Jews and Muslims. It is bewildering to those learning the Bible for the first time. Yet it is and has been a central truth of the Christian faith since the time that Jesus ascended back to heaven. Jesus taught, the apostles explained, and Christians have always believed that He is nothing less than the Son of God, the second Person of the Trinity, who stepped out of heaven and eternity to live among us, and we celebrate his Incarnation at Advent.
- Matthew 1:20-23; John 1:1-3, 14
- Watch for the Light, 165-167
- How do you explain the unique nature of Jesus, that he is both fully God and fully human at the same time? What explanations have you heard that have helped you understand this mystery?
- How does Jesus’ nature make Christianity different from other world religions? Why would Boff state that Jesus being God and man is a “scandal” to Jews and other world religions? (166)
- Jesus told Philip, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). What can you learn about the character of God the Father by studying the life and teachings of Jesus?
Spend time in prayer today confessing your faith in this key biblical truth, realizing that unless God’s own Son had come to live like us and die for us, we would have no hope of eternal life or forgiveness of our sins. It may be helpful to re-read some of the Scriptures that affirm this truth and simply pray those verses back to the Lord in faith: Micah 5:2; Matthew 27:54; John 1:1-3, 14; John 10:28-30; John 14:9; Colossians 1:15-20; Hebrews 1:3-4.
It is probably a safe bet to say that you have never done a careful study of Genesis chapter 5. In the same way, not many people get excited about the first nine chapters of 1 Chronicles. Genealogies tend to be dull and noted more for their impossible-to-pronounce names than anything else. (Hazarmaveth? Elioenia?) But the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1 is important not only because it proves his messianic heritage, but because it is loaded with stories of God’s unpredictable ways of choosing and blessing who would play critical roles in the generations leading to the Savior.
Bonus: Two songs in one week? Only because we are reading about genealogy, and this song it too good not to share. Enjoy. “Matthew’s Begats”
- Matthew 1:1-17
- Watch for the Light, 156-164
- Have you ever slowed down to carefully read and consider all the names in the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1? If not, how has today’s reading helped you think differently about those obscure characters from the Old Testament?
- How do you draw encouragement from noticing who is God included in the listing of Jesus’ ancestors? Whose story in that list do you relate to more from your experience? A faithful, steady saint? A scandalous schemer? Or maybe an unremarkable nobody, a wallflower in the pages of Scripture?
- Today’s reading ends in this way (164), “Jesus called Peter and Paul… Paul called Timothy… someone called you…” who are you calling? Who do you need to begin praying for, or with whom are you looking for an opportunity to share the gospel of Jesus?”
Praise the Lord for giving grace people we would never choose to be part of his story, and thank him for pouring grace on you as well.
DOUBLE BONUS – FALSE TEACHING ALERT!
Did you pick up on the blatant false teaching in today’s reading? If so, well done. We always want to read with careful discernment, weighing anyone’s words against the standard of truth we find in the Bible. In the middle of page 160, Godwin suggests that the two accounts of the Advent in the gospels cannot be reconciled and perhaps should not be taken as historically accurate. The truth is that pastors and scholars have shown the harmony of these accounts for years and Scripture time and again shows itself to be a faithful and accurate record of human history. For an inspiring and insightful treatment of the different Christmas stories, take a look at Andreas Kostenberger’s “The First Days of Jesus.” For a relatively short interview explaining the historical reliability of Scripture, check out this interview with Craig Blomberg.
“The Scripture declares that perfect love casts out fear. But love is still imperfect, and fear hangs around.” – RC Sproul
Today’s reading is about death. It isn’t a topic we typically consider during Advent, but it could not be more relevant. When the angels announced great tidings of joy for all mankind, they were announcing much more than a Messiah who would give us moral teachings and a positive example to follow. They announced the birth of a Savior who would reverse the curse of sin on all of creation. When He was born in the manger, Jesus took the first earthly step in a plan that had been conceived before the world created, to rescue you and me from sin and death forever.
- Matthew 1:20-21; Luke 2:8-11
- Watch for the Light, 150-155
- At what times in your life have felt most aware of “the gulf between our present state and eternal unity with God”? (152) How did you react in those moments to the sense that this life is truly a short time before our eternal destination?
- Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection conquered death and removed our reasons to fear death. So why does the fear of death continue to exercise such power of us, even when our faith in Christ assures us that death is not our end? Are there specific ways that you see the fear of death influencing your thoughts and behaviors? How is this fear manifested in our culture?
- How do you allow the truth of Christ’s victory over death to become more than just a fact in your mind? How would your life look different if the fear of death were fully extinguished?
Praise the Lord for his victory over the grave and for his immeasurable grace towards us! Pray that God would press the truth that Christ is infinitely greater than the grave deep into your heart until you love him completely and fear no more. Finally, thank the Lord for doing for you what could never do for yourself, and pray that his perfect peace would sustain you now, and at the hour death.
“It may well be, as Jesus says, more blessed to give than to receive. But it is more difficult to receive” (142). Today’s reading is about receiving. Specifically, it is about receiving grace from a position of weakness and poverty. This entry is pointed, but it is soaked in truth that will refresh you and help you embrace the Good News that Jesus meets our deepest needs.
Bonus: To set the tone, today’s entry includes a video of a beautiful hymn that will press these truths into our hearts. Click here to listen.
- Micah 5:2-5; Matthew 5:3-6
- Watch for the Light, 141-149
- What does it mean to be poor in spirit? Why would this author lead with the statement, “No one can celebrate a genuine Christmas without being truly poor” (141)? Do you agree?
- Think of a Christian you know who you feel models the characteristics Jesus describes as “blessed” in Matthew 5. What is it about this person’s life that stands out to you as spiritually poor, meek, or hungry for righteousness?
- Do you agree that receiving is more difficult than giving? Why or why not?
- We frequently sing about God’s grace or talk about it in our Bible studies. But are you really ok with receiving grace if it means confessing your spiritually poverty? Why do you think we prefer so strongly “to think of ourselves as givers – powerful, competent, self-sufficient, capable people…” (144) rather than owning up to our deep weakness and poverty?
Let a large portion of your prayer time today be a prayer of confession. Rather than rushing to ask for grace and forgiveness, confess not only that have committed sin, but that you see your desperate spiritual need, that (apart from Christ) you are sinner. Then thank God for his grace and wisdom in sending us his Son as a baby, a gift we would have never requested that meets our eternal need.
We have been reading bits and pieces of the Advent story each day for almost three weeks now, pausing each day to wrestle with some of the questions that thoughtful brothers and sisters in Christ have provoked. Through all of this, and in the weeks to come, let your aim to be to “let the word of Christ dwell richly in you” (Col. 3:16), so that his word may lead you to believe more deeply and become more like Jesus himself. That is, after all, part of the wonder of the Advent. “However else we think about it, the living word of God is available to us.” (136) Our role is to listen to his word, and believe.
- Luke 1:11-22
- Watch for the Light, 132-140
- On page 137, Barth challenges us to believe God’s word to the extent that his greatest passions become our own greatest passions. When you consider the ills, injustices, hurting, and oppression that mar this world, what causes you the deepest concern? Do you believe that your greatest burdens are the same things that most concern God? How do you know?
- When you consider the challenges, weaknesses, needs, and shortcomings in your own life, what weighs on you the most heavily? Do you believe that your greatest cause of angst, guilt, or pain is the same thing that God is most concerned about in your life? How do you know?
- Even as you are striving to grow in faith until your heart matches God’s heart, how can you live as one who is “still a herald of the Advent, one who wait[s] for God”? (140) How can you proclaim the Good News of the Advent to your own heart and to your world?
Ask the Father to give you wisdom and faith to understand his voice in Scripture clearly. Pray that He would help you to see the world and yourself as He does: to love what He loves, to rejoice over what pleases him, to grieve over what grieves him. Finally, pray for boldness to speak as a herald of the grace and truth He has revealed to you in Jesus Christ this Advent season.
“How could God hate us, when He gives
us what He, past all measures, loves?”
With these words, Emmy Arnold points directly to the greatest reason that Advent is a season of joy. The arrival of Jesus on earth is irrefutable proof that God loves us with a love that is beyond our understanding. God’s love for you is an undeniable reality. When that truth takes root in your soul, you cannot escape the joy that comes from being reminded that because a Savior was born, your eternity is secure with the Lord.
- Luke 2:8-11
- Watch for the Light, 127-131
- Describe some of your most joyful Christmas memories. What is it that makes those memories stand out to you as wonderful and joyous?
- Which parts of the Christmas story excited you or fill you with awe when you were younger? Which parts of the Christmas story still inspire you or bring you joy today?
- If you could carry one special aspect of the Christmas season with you all year without experiencing any decrease, what would you choose? Joy? Peace? Eager anticipation?
- As a child, many of us experienced a deep joy at Christmas connected to the anticipation of a great celebration (even if we thought we were just celebrating presents). As adults. our faith teaches us to look forward with joy and anticipation to Christ’s return, the second Advent. When you think of the second coming of Christ, what fills you with excitement and eager anticipation?
Today, pray from joy to joy. Beginning by remembering the joy you have experienced associated with Christmas in the past. Thank God for these things, and praise him for the bright hope we have because He sent us his Son, the ultimate gift to prove his love. Then, reflect on our hope that Jesus is coming again to save those who are eagerly waiting for him, and rejoice that God’s promise is certain. We will see our King soon, and we will be with forever.
Today’s reading will challenge you to think about exactly what the gospel, the Good News of Jesus’ coming and Kingdom, really is. Some today suggest that the message of the gospel should be mostly about erasing poverty and injustice by ushering in new ways across our society. While we would point out that gospel itself deals with the forgiveness of sin and our reconciliation to God, we must recognize that our new relationship with God should lead us become people whose lives are marked by truth, mercy, and justice.
- Luke 1:50-53, 76-79
- Watch for the Light, 120-126
- What are some different ways you have heard the term “gospel” used? How do you describe the gospel based on the Bible’s teachings?
- How does the good news of Jesus’ coming bring hope to the poor and overlooked today? Is the gospel also good news to affluent Americans?
- Has the gospel brought a revolution in your own life? How has the news of Christ’s Kingdom transformed your thoughts, actions, and relationships?
As you begin to pray, ask the Lord to help you see how radically different a life of following Jesus looks from a life committed to living by the world’s values and ideas. Praise the Lord for giving us a gospel that transforms each one of us now, and will ultimately transform all of creation when Christ returns to reign as King.