3 Helpful Advent Devotions

To keep Christ in Christmas, we need to do more than wear catchy slogans woven into tacky Christmas sweaters. We need to commit to reading the Scriptures, reflecting on the Biblical themes of expectation, fulfillment, peace, salvation, and redemption (to name a few) that comprise the Christmas story. I have found Advent devotionals to be useful tools. They have helped me and my little family to pause and reflect upon the glorious realites wrapped up with baby in the manger. If you are looking for a Christmas devotional that you or your family could use this December, I encourage you to grab 1 of the 3 titles below. If you currently don’t gather the kiddos or spouse for family worship, I encourage you to make use of this Christmas season. Grab a devotional and start a new tradition on December 1 built on the eternal truths of the Lord Jesus Christ. May we be faithful to make much of Jesus today and always!

Good News of Great Joy: Daily Readings for Advent

John Piper packs 25 meaningful devotions into this 63-page book. Each devotion extends across 2-3 pages, beginning with a Scripture passage and ending with helpful applications that challenge our hearts. I came into contact with this book shortly after its publication in 2013 and have repeatedly returned to the volume because Piper writes with a simplicity and potency that beautifully illuminates the purpose of Christmas. April and I have used this book for our family devotions on more than one occasion. I encourage you to grab a copy of the book here. It gets even better. If your Christmas Bank Account has run dry or if you simply want to preview the book before committing to it, you can download it for free here.

Joy Upon Joy: An Advent Devotional

This short 128-page book features 25 Advent readings taken from the sermons of Charles Spurgeon. In typical Spurgeon fashion, the devotionals feature a short verse or phrase and then two pages of Spurgeon’s commentary on the meaning of the words followed by a few lines for notes and personal reflections. Spurgeon has a unique way with words that draw out the deep truths of Christmas. If you love Spurgeon, reading sermons, or desire to see Christmas through a slightly different and yet profound perspective, I encourage you to grab a copy of this devotional here. If you can handle reading the occasional old English phrase out loud, this book can well serve your family worship time. If you wish to explore Spurgeon’s Christmas sermons in more depth, I encourage you to visit the Spurgeon Library Website at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary here. And then, search for “Christmas”

Come Thou Long Expected Jesus: Experiencing the Peace and Promise of Christmas

In this 142-page volume, editor Nancy Guthrie gifts her readers 22 devotions taken from sermons that have helped Nancy reflect upon the richness of Jesus’s birth. She taps into a wide selection of authors, featuring the thoughts of Augustine, Martin Luther, J.C. Ryle, Alistair Begg, and many more. The chapters feature a Scripture reading, followed by 3-5 pages of reflection, encouragement, and admonishment. Nancy designed her book to serve as a short evangelical Anthology of Advent that provides readers with the space and theology to taste the glories of Christmas anew. Though the volume does not translate well into family worship settings with little kids, I have benefited with the depth of this book and have referenced during my sermon prep. I encourage you to grab a copy here.

Don’t Box Up Baby Jesus…Just Yet

blog boxing up baby JesusAs the last round of Christmas trees are marched to the curb in preparation for their impending doom, the ceramic baby Jesus perched atop the mantel is squeezed back into his Styrofoam sarcophaguses in preparation for his impending banishment to the top of self of basement closet. Until the Easter lilies return, most souls forget about the savior encased in his protective covering. The child whom the shepherds celebrated thousands of years ago seems to offer little hope to the souls tormented by pornography, credit card debt, bullying, and mental illness.

Indeed if Jesus transformed himself from a baby into a full grown man in the spawn of the months that separate Christmas from Easter, he would have little encouragement to offer to weary and worn souls. But Jesus did not skip through life in the span of four months. He lived with us.

Instead of returning Jesus to the basement of irrelevance, men and women should place the Christ child in center of their imagination and watch him mature into the man who went to the cross.

Because Jesus was fully human, he can fully sympathize with our predicament. Jesus did not suspend reality while on earth. He suffered under it, feeling the pain of circumcision, the discomfort of hunger, and the agony of the cross. He also knows the tempting power of lust, covetousness, and depression. He can speak to the suffering soul with authority for he experienced the predicaments of those he came to save from sin and sorrow. Jesus remains relevant to the human soul because he was fully human.

But Jesus is simply a human, pontificating about life as he bounced about the hillside of Palestine. He is also fully God. While Jesus came to live amongst the broken so that he could sympathize with humanity, he also came to deliver the men and women who suffered alongside of him. Jesus did not mature into a full-grown man in a matter of minutes because he wanted to live the life sinners were supposed to live. Galatians 4:4-5 states, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”

Jesus did not get circumcised because he lacked affiliation with God. Jesus who created the universe in conjunction with God the father and God the Holy Spirit had his foreskin removed to fulfill the law for his children. The Son of God had to walk about this earth in perfect harmony with the law of God so that the Son of God could exchange his holiness for the sins of his children on the cross and thereby transfer children of darkness into the kingdom of his light. Jesus can redeem sinful men and women through his death, burial, and resurrection because he fulfilled the law for us.

The imagination fixed upon the growing Jesus will sustain the weary soul. When the couple believes their marriage has twisted into sins that Jesus could never address, they should recall that Jesus experienced all of our temptations and defeated them. When the woman is tempted to assume that her past sins are beyond fixing, she should look and see Jesus offering her his unstained past. When the man fears that his latest sin will remove him from paradise, he need only to remember that he carries not the faults of his life about his shoulders but the glory of Christ’s spotless life. And when the youth afflicted with unspeakable hardship doubts that God will see him or her through to the next day (much lest to the next year), he should meditate on the tears his savior shed before cross, recalling that the power of God over death. The imagination captivated by the story line of Jesus cannot help but concluded:

“15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” – Hebrews 4:15-16:

Baby Jesus offers relevant hope to the modern soul because he grew into a man, died on the cross, and rose again. Will you embrace this hope? Will you leave Jesus up in your soul this year?

The Original Christmas Story is Still the Best

baby-4258530_1920Only baby Jesus explains why Christmas is good when people are not.

But biblical truth cannot restrain the imagination of pop culture. Books, movies, and songs seek to transform the divine message of Christmas into secular terms that all can embrace.

The Whos down in Whoville attribute the magic of Christmas to the power of community. Frosty the snowman ascribes the power of Christmas to the magic of the seasons. And, Fred Clause celebrates the holiday because there is no longer a naughty list

While these sentimental messages that connect with hearts, they fail to minds. The beauty of Christmas music can be destroyed by Kevin’s of the world whose sibling rivalries result in the school pianist being decked by an oversized Christmas tree. Many winters have come and gone since Karen meet Frosty. But no one else has seen Professor’s Hinkle’s hat. And for every misunderstood Fred, there are the water bandits,  Marv and Harry, who enjoy impersonating police officers, attacking kids, and stealing from charities.

Pop culture struggles to explain the magic of Christmas because the Christmas is ultimately not magical season. It is miraculous season.

Christians celebrate Christmas because a tiny baby was miraculously born. Luke 1:27-38 recounts how God told Mary that she would have a son. The verifiable virgin conceived a son prior to marriage and prior to sleeping with anyone. As Mary told the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin? (Lk. 1:34b)” The short answer is God through the Holy Spirit according to his power. Though unexplainable, the virgin birth was scientifically and historically verifiable. Luke credits his story as being “an orderly” account derived from eyewitness testimony (Lk 1:1-4).

Mary supernaturally had a baby boy. And, the baby born to Mary was not any ordinary baby. Mary calls her baby, “Jesus” (Lk 1:32). The name means God saves. The miraculous baby comes for a miraculous mission. He comes to save all those not nasty people who throw snowballs at little whos, who lock Frosty in a greenhouse, and who enjoy terrorizing a little kid left home alone. More importantly, Jesus comes to save people like you and me who struggle with very unChristmasy things such as pornography, pride, and gossip. He comes to save.

And this baby about to be born to an insignificant girl engaged to an insignificant guy living in an insignificant town can save people because he is God. Jesus is not some good teacher lighting the path of kindness for humanity. He is God in human flesh. Luke says, “He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High.” In plain English this means, Jesus is great for he is God. As opposed to John the Baptist who “will be great before the Lord.” Jesus is simply great because he is God. Jesus is both fully God and fully man.

We should be thankful, Jesus is divine. For if he were not divine, he could only save one of us. He could trade his life for another life. But because Jesus is God, he can pay for the sins of every man and woman who repents and believes. He has the power of God to bring all of us to him.

But the question remains how?

The angel’s next words answers this question. He tells Marty that Jesus will sit on the throne of David forever. Though God, Jesus is also fully man which means he can rightfully lay claim to the throne of his great (many times over) grandfather David.

But this raise a problem.  If Jesus can ascend to David’s throne, then he must also be mortal and capable of experiencing death as David had. Yet, the Luke 1:33 says “of his kingdom there will be no end.”

How does this work?

Jesus does die. Luke 23:46 recounts, “Then Jesus calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father into your hands I commit my spirit!”’ and having this he breathed his last.”

But he does not stay dead. Three days later Jesus defeats death. The angels tell us, “He is not here, but he is risen” (Lk 24:7). Jesus conquers death. He does the impossible. All who repent and believe gain access to the impossible. They can access to heaven, to life with God, to unbroken joy and glory. For the power the raised Jesus from the dead is the same power the guides all repenters to heaven.   Colossians 2:11-14 sums up the joyousness of Christmas well stating,

In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.

Christmas continues to be worth celebrating because it reminds us that God does miracles. The blessed virgin conceives. And then the God-man, Jesus conquers death, bringing countless numbers of sad and messed up people to the heaven. This is the miraculous joy of Christmas that transcends human imagination. This is why we can relishes the goodness of the day even when people are not good. Jesus saves!

Why are you celebrating Christmas this year?