ADVENT READING PLAN
SECTION TWO: PRE-BIRTH OF JESUS
Scripture: Matthew 1:1-17
Devo: We don’t have to be Bible scholars to see that Jesus’ family tree has a few people who aren’t what you’d expect in the line of a king. Judah was a natural leader but also used that strength for harm when we sold his brother Joseph into slavery. Ruth was an incredibly faithful and loyal woman, but as a Moabite widow she was both a foreigner to Israel and a reminder of ancestors who didn’t remain faithful to the Lord. King Josiah restored the temple and the law of the Lord to his kingdom, but was only eight years old when he took the throne.
No one in the line was perfect or who we might expect to be there, but each person was included in the process of bringing a holy Savior to the world.
Your background doesn’t disqualify you from the Kingdom of God. In fact, Jesus came as He did—in a manger, to an average girl—in many ways to show the world that, just like the prophet Samuel anointing David as king, so Jesus also wasn’t the typical expectation of a Savior. God isn’t looking for the typical person, or even popular, most unique, or most talented person. He’s looking for a willing heart.
Think about what you consider to be your greatest disqualification from God’s Kingdom, then ask Him to show you His perspective on it. What does your weakness look like in the light of Jesus? Pastor Rick and Michelle’s prayer is that you would begin to see the strength of His grace in your life and it’s power to redeem all things!
Note: The number 14 was special in Hebrew culture, which the author knew, so he left out some generations in the list to make a point of three different sections of 14 generations. This would have been obvious to readers in the author’s time, but you can read more about how and why here.
Scripture: Matthew 1:18-25
Devo: Joseph is put into a pretty tough situation. Of course we can see from our vantage point in the story what is really going on, but Joseph? He was living out what is probably a newlywed’s worst nightmare. Like Mary, Joseph is given a message by the angel of the Lord; and, like his bride, he responds with obedience and humility. We can learn so much from Joseph about choosing to remain faithful even when things don’t appear the way we thought they would.
Joseph would go on to raise the child as his own and give him the name Jesus, just as the angel commanded. The name Jesus actually means “Jehovah is Salvation.” This is incredibly significant to understand because Jehovah is the proper name of God, it means “The Existing One.” Here, salvation means “to be saved; be delivered” particularly from moral struggles. So even within this child’s name, God is telling people that He is real, He exists, and He is giving Himself to save us from sin. How incredible that Joseph’s obedience in the simple act of naming his child actually began ushering in the good news of the gospel! Before Jesus was even old enough to speak, His name would declare His mission in the world.
There is infinite power and hope in the Name of Jesus. As the church, we exist to lift up this Name above all other names! Today, invite Jesus into every moment of your day. Ask God what it looks like to honor Him in every task before you. Remember that the Lord is for you and has come to you: He is your ever-present help in every need!
Scripture: Luke 1:5-25
Devo: Isn’t it funny how when we’ve been waiting for something, hoping beyond all reason for it, then when we realize it’s actually going to happen, we’re in disbelief? Sometimes we even get frustrated or angry with the timing. Zechariah and Elizabeth had wanted a child for years. Yet it is still difficult for Zechariah to believe the angel Gabriel. Nevertheless, God is faithful to fulfill His word to the couple.
Out of their single hope for a child, we see that many people are brought into the Kingdom of God. Their son is John the Baptist, the man who prepares the way for Jesus to begin His ministry. In the same way, the things you hope for may seem simple or even too insignificant to ask the Lord for. But ask again. Know that you are heard (Psalm 145:18) and that He has far higher hopes for you than you could even imagine.
Today, ask the Lord to give you faith to believe in the good things you see or hear. Where can you surrender skepticism and choose to embrace what is good instead? Write down your thoughts and thank Him for these good things. As you are praying and believing for new things, we would love to stand with you in faith. Our pastors and staff pray weekly over the prayer needs shared on Connect Cards. While these are available every weekend in our campus services, you can also share what you need prayer for here at any time in your week.
Scripture: Luke 1:35-45
Devo: How incredible to read these stories of Elizabeth and Mary, two rather ordinary and quite unlikely women who are chosen to usher in the promised words of generations before. Mary giving birth to Jesus had been prophesied since Adam and Eve, and Elizabeth’s son John was the messenger Isaiah foretold would prepare the way for the Savior. “For the word of God will ever fail,” the angel told Mary in Luke 1:37, and how true this is in both of these women’s lives!
The Word of God doesn’t fail us; the Word of God is not just text, but a Person—and that Person is Jesus. “In the beginning the Word already existed, and the Word was with God.” (John 1:1) Hold onto the promises and words of the Lord and believe that those words are embodied by the coming of Jesus Christ, Emmanuel, God with us. Maybe, like Elizabeth, it seems your time has passed; or, like Mary, you feel so unlikely and unworthy. But remember that there is a blessing we get to experience when, like these two women, we believe that the Lord will do what He has said He would. Have faith and take part in how He is working in the world around you!
Just like the encouragement Elizabeth and Mary gained from talking with each other, we can gain perspective when we share our needs with others. Take some time to write down things about your purpose in life that are difficult for you to believe. Ask God to give you faith for those things and ask people in your life group to be praying for you! Relationships have always been the heartbeat of our church, so if you don’t have a life group check out our upcoming 2019 groups beginning in January.
Scripture: Luke 1:46-56
Devo: Worship speaks the eternal into the temporal. Worship declares who the Lord is; it puts the focus on God because we are choosing to look through the fog and noise of the world to what He is doing.
For Mary, there was a lot she could have been consumed with as she visited Elizabeth, but she chooses to engage her mind and speech in worship. She recognized that there was so much more at work in her life than a new marriage and pregnancy. Generations of expectation and hope were about to be fulfilled and the future of humanity would shift into redemption through her son’s birth. Maybe your task list and calendar seem overwhelming during this holiday season, but ask the Lord to remind you what Christmas is really about. Remember we’re here to celebrate Jesus coming to us!
Today, spend ten minutes in worship and recall specific ways that the Savior has given you an abundant, full life. Worship is vital in our relationship with the Lord and keeping our eyes focused on Him, so we’ve created this Spotify playlist to help you stay in a worshipful state of mind wherever you may be today!
Scripture: Luke 1:57-66
Devo: What a beautiful story of this family’s struggle to have a child and then see them experience God answering their prayers. Friends and family gather around them at their son’s birth to celebrate this miracle child born to them in old age. While visitors encourage them to name the baby after his father, Elizabeth and Zechariah remember the word of the angel and named the child John, which means “Jehovah is a gracious giver.”
What a powerful and true name for this baby! Not only was John a precious gift to his parents, but he would be the messenger going out ahead of Jesus to prepare people for His ministry. Our hopes and desires are not lost on the Lord. He is the God who gives good and perfect gifts. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He was generous to Elizabeth and Zechariah; He will be generous to us, too, and is ready to do more than we can ask or imagine!
Take time today to write down five things the Lord has given you. Thank Him specifically for each of these gifts and tell Him why they are important to you. Then this weekend at church, ask the Lord to show you someone you can encourage with what God has given you. We believe that what God has done within you He will also use to move through you to bless others!
Scripture: Luke 1:67-80
Devo: Zechariah must have been anxious to say so many things after the birth of a son and restoration of his speaking ability. He sets a powerful example for us when he chooses to quickly declare the goodness of God and how He is faithful to the promises made throughout Israel’s history, inviting others to praise the Lord with him. Zechariah was among the first to declare that the Savior was arriving: the One the Lord promised would come to save and set captives free.
The last portion of Zechariah’s prophecy was over his son. He speaks directly to the infant, telling him he would be a prophet of the Most High who would prepare the way for Christ to bring the message of salvation to all people. Some of the first words John would have heard were of the mercy of God, who brings light into the dark places. We have this same opportunity to speak heavenly life over the world around us! One of our core values at New Life has always been that we believe in life-giving relationships and communication. We encourage you to choose words that line up with who God has called you to be and to speak life over others.
Who are you declaring life and kingdom-purpose over today? Take time to pray for three people and send them a message to encourage them in their faith.