3 Devotionals For Your 2022 Advent Season

Set against the backdrop of all the Christmas business that threatens to overwhelm us, the season of advent proves to be a blessing. It calls us to pause and to find hope afresh in the Christ child. Here are three fantastic devotionals that will help you and your family care for your soul this Christmas season.

The Weary World Rejoices

Put together by the editors and writers of the Gospel Coalition, this five-week devotional contains focused meditations centered upon the traditional themes of the advent wreath that can be used in a variety of ways. Each of the 25 devotionals begins with a Scriptural passage and then moves on to a 1–2-page reflection that feeds into a response section that contains a couple of questions that will help the reader (and if applicable the reader’s family) to apply the message to their life. Each devotion ends with a rejoice section that highlights a hymn. This 117-page devotional devotes 5 readings to each of the of the 5 advent themes that churches often focus upon when lighting their candles: Hope, Peace, Joy, Love, and Faith. The book can be read from Dec 1- Dec 25 or can be used once or twice a week to compliment your family devotions. I will be using modified selections from this book for some of our church’s advent readings and will also be reading this book with my kids during our family devotions. If you are looking for an advent devotional that will emphasize the traditional themes of advent through faithful exegesis of the Scriptures, I encourage you to grab a copy of this book.

Repeat the Sounding Joy

Christopher Ash’s 153-page book beautifully applies Luke’s account of the Christmas story to our lives over the span of 25 devotionals. Each day begins with a passage from Luke which then is followed by 2-4 pages of exposition that apply the Scriptures to the fears, struggles, traditions, expectations, and hopes that shape our holiday experiences. At the conclusion of each devotional, the reader will find a suggested hymn, prayer, and space to write down their own reflections. If you long to know the theology behind the first Christmas story better, I encourage you to grab a copy of this fantastic devotional. My family and I worked through it last December and were encouraged by Ash’s gospel-centered meditations which helped us to appreciate what Jesus has done and what he promises to do again. Adults, teenagers, and families with older kids intent upon enriching their faith this advent season would do well to spend this December reading their own copy of Repeat the Sounding Joy.

Gifts of Grace

Jared Wilson wants this book to serve as a spiritual advent calendar that presents its readers not with a Lego minifigure or a piece of chocolate but with something far more sustaining….one of the “myriad of gifts that Christians receive through the coming of Christ and belief in his gospel.” Not only is Wilson’s advent devotional quite readable, containing fantastic lines such as “Santa Clause is a big, fat legalist,” it is also profoundly theological. Each of the 25 devotions found in this 136-page book opens with a Scripture passage before turning to a story that guides the reader from fun reflections to deep theological meditations tied to terms such as propitiation, expiation, and idolatry. Each of the 4-page devotionals also contains a Christmas song theme that are clearly laid out in the book’s last two pages. Those looking for a fresh, engaging (you’d be hard press to find another devotional that mentions Donald Duck), and yet theologically sound devotional for their quiet times or their family’s devotional time should order a copy of Gifts of Grace.

Don’t Discount the Boring

As we march the Christmas tree back into their unlit closets, we cannot help but slip back into the mundane cycle of life that had guided us through the weeks leading up to holiday. More often than not, we regret this return to normalcy, offering a little sighs under our breathe as life’s engine begins to hum at full speed. Though human nature often discounts the ordinary running of life in favor of extraordinary events, Christians should value the monotony. God uses ordinary life to form extraordinary character.

In Matthew chapters 1-2, God supernaturally reveals his will for the wisemen and Joseph through a series of four dreams. They are not alone. In Luke 1 and 2, we read that angels appeared to Zechariah and Mary. The supernatural story of Jesus’s birth could provoke a hunger in our hearts for dreams, visits from angels, and miracles. But upon closer inspection, the supernatural pushes men and women to ordinary action. Zechariah fulfills his husbandry duties and names a son. Joseph marries Mary and then takes his family to Egypt, and then to Nazareth. The wisemen take the alternate route home. The shepherds go hang out in a stable with a baby. No one storms Herod’s castle, reforms the Sanhedrin, or starts a nationwide revivalist ministry. The characters of the Christmas story simple do the next ordinary thing in faith. And as they do, the extraordinary happens, Jesus comes to save us from our sins.

Instead of regretting the return to normalcy that yips at the heels of every holiday season, Christians should welcome the ordinary. When we follow the commands of Scripture in our marriages, places of work, churches, schools, and friendships, the kingdom of God goes forward. Ordinary obedience transforms our souls, helps in the salvation of others, and facilitates the growth of our local church. The kingdom of God does not need the help of senators, conference speakers, or celebrities. Nor does the kingdom advance primarily when we step out of our comfort zone, jetting off to Africa or Asia for some type of monastic mission work. The kingdom normally expands when shepherds, teenage newlyweds, old priests, and Magi follow Christ in the ordinary things of life whether that is here in America, or in South Africa, or in Indonesia. Jesus said in Luke 16:10:

One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.

Don’t fear the boringness of your life. Embrace it. Obey God as you eat your cereal, wash your car, buy groceries, watch football, and help your kids with their homework. Even in the ordinary, you and me can accomplishing the extraordinary through faith by God’s grace. God is faithful!

Happy New Year!

Memo: April’s Cancer Update – Christmas 2020

As we wait for the glories of the Christ child to once again pierce the darkness of Christmas Eve, April and I want to bear witness to how the Christ child has blessed us this December. This past Monday, April endured her latest set of scans replete with needle pricks, swallowable dyes, and not so comfortable beds that drift in an out of large machines. Then like children bouncing around the house the night before Christmas, we waited to unwrap the results. On Wednesday, December 23, 2020 with the help of April’s talented UVA medical team, we unwrapped the latest report and found good news! Though a few new nondescript nodules have dotted the scans like misplaced Christmas light, the overwhelming majority of her tumors have either shrunk or remained stable. One has even decreased from 4.5 centimeters to 3.2 centimeters. The favor of Jesus rests upon my sweet bride.

But that divine favor does not eliminate all sorrow and hardships. Much like the reformed Ebenezer Scrooge, April and I find ourselves living in the past, present and future. We look back at the pain and uncertainty that hovered over our last Christmas and give thanks for the radical improvements that have occurred in April’s body. She just made a Yule Log Cake (Hello Christmas!). We seek to stay in the present reveling in the good news of the day as we watch our three kiddos open Christmas presents, embrace Christmas cookie decorating, and sing “Joy to the World” at the top of their lungs. Lastly, the future also hangs about us like a damp, ill-defined midst. We know April will have to endure more scans, back pain, and days away from our children. April wishes she could reshape her future like Scrooge. Sadly, it remains both fixed and elusive.

Though we do not know what the content of the next report will be, we do know something of the sender’s character. He is our savior, the Christmas child, Christ the Lord! Psalm 100:5 declares, “For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever.” We know this is true because the baby in the manger, lived, died, and rose again to save sinners like April and me. He humbled himself to the point of death on the cross so that we might be exalted to live with God. And he guides us through life with more love and power than even one of Scrooge’s spirits. The famed pastor and theologian, John Calvin, rightly noted that when God’s people descend into hardship, “[God] will not desert them, but will powerfully help them should they need his aid.” In short, the light of Christmas morning reminds us that our future will be snuggly wrapped in the love of God. Though the results of April’s scan will invariably contain variation, we know the love of God will remain fixed. Because of that first Christmas long past, we too can sing with the angels, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased (Lk 2:14)!”

Thank you for rejoicing with us this cold December day. We covet your prayers and support. They warm our hearts, manifesting the love of God. We hope our good news infuses a little gospel cheer into your Christmas celebration.

More importantly, we pray that you too will discover the joy of the Shepherds, and of Mary and Joseph who knew that Jesus, “the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people the sheep of his pasture.” God is good all the time!  

Merry Christmas!  

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