ADVENT READING PLAN
SECTION THREE: JESUS’ BIRTH AND THE WORLD’S RESPONSE
Scripture: Luke 2:1-7
Devo: Jesus’ birth had been prophesied for hundreds of years of Israelite history. It’s something you would expect parades for. Have you seen how people react when a well-known leader or public figure has a child? Hashtags and videos are created, photos and articles document the occasion, crowds wave flags and hold up signs of congratulations. Yet the exalted Savior comes quietly, not just in a humble place but in a place that really isn’t fit for people to stay in. Without a vacant space to be found in the inn, Joseph and Mary brought the Savior into the world within a stable.
So often we think that the promises of God come to us by ease and prosperity. But Joseph and Mary obeyed every part of the Lord’s instruction about parenting Jesus and still faced a difficult journey to Bethlehem. They had to abide by the decrees of an oppressive government as they registered for the census. Then the Savior was born in a stable and laid in a manger as His first bed.
Don’t mistake difficult circumstances as a lack of God’s purpose or presence in your life. His plans are not hindered by hardship—believe that His love is with you, even when it has to meet you in the stable because the inn is full. We are praying that you and every member of New Life Church know that the Lord has powerful plans for your life, no matter what your season may look like!
Pray this today: Jesus, thank you for coming to us, for bringing heaven’s love to the earth and living among us. You entered our vulnerability and hardship so we could learn how to walk in our Father’s purpose through all seasons of life. Give us grace and faith to follow You in every moment of our lives! In Your Name I pray, amen.
Scripture: Luke 2:8-20
Devo: Can you imagine the serene, or possibly even mind-numbingly boring, act of sitting out in a field with sheep all night? Any excitement that occured for the shepherds was usually the danger of thieves or an attacking animal. Of course they are terrified when they first see the angels! However, they quickly change their attitudes as they begin to grasp that these were heavenly messengers sent to bring them the good news of the Messiah.
We should take note of how these humble shepherds receive the news of Jesus. They don’t question why they are chosen to hear this message or if they are worthy of this news. Instead, they quite literally run with this news all the way to the presence of the newborn King, falling in adoration before Him.
Why might you question God’s love for you? Whose authority is higher than His, that you could believe you don’t have as much access to grace as anyone else? Jesus came for you! Rather than focusing on why you are or aren’t worthy, find your identity in the selfless love of Jesus stepping down from the throne of heaven to become our Savior. We often say “welcome home” when you come into New Life Church, and it’s because we’re convinced that you belong in the family of God because Jesus came just as much for you as anyone else. You belong here because of who Christ is and what He has done, there’s nothing more or less you could do to make him love you!
Find one verse that reminds you of the Lord’s love for you and write it down somewhere you can see often throughout your day. Remember that you are chosen on heavenly authority to carry the good news of Jesus’ arrival in your life!
Devo: These verses in Luke about the dedication of Jesus at the temple may seem mundane compared to angels and shepherds visiting, but these details are crucial to understanding how Jesus came to fulfill the law. Moses set these requirements in place many generations before and Joseph and Mary obediently abided by them.
Jesus didn’t come to undo the laws God had in place. Being God’s Son didn’t mean He was above the law—it actually meant He would abide within the commandments as they were meant to be obeyed. The law was always meant to provide God’s people with the ability to connect with Him, to be in right standing with Him. Jesus’ sinless life within the bounds of God’s requirements made a way for us to be restored to the Father. He fulfilled what we could not so that the barrier between humanity and the presence of God could be removed! Pastor Rick always reminds us that we have to have both grace and truth. The grace that Jesus provides doesn’t mean that we do whatever we want, it cleans the slate so that we have a free conscience to walk in the truth.
Is there an area of your life you know God has asked something of you but you aren’t yet obeying? Ask Him for forgiveness and write down your course of action to walk in obedience moving forward. Now share these steps with a trusted friend or leader as you start making this obedience a reality.
Devo: Remember the Old Testament family lines of people who longed for a Savior who would establish an eternal Kingdom? Today, we read about Simeon in the temple as Jesus is being dedicated to the Lord. Simeon had been waiting for the Savior to the point that he was basically on death’s door, yet he refused to give up hope to meet Him!
Like so many before him, Simeon was waiting for the One that the Lord promised. As he aged, there must have been moments when he didn’t understand how he could see the Savior within his time. Year after year passed, but at just the right moment, God brings the Messiah right to this incredibly faithful man. Though we may not always understand the timing of God’s movement, we can trust that as we seek the will of the Father He will surely show us how to walk in His promises to us.
Write down three things that are difficult for you to trust God for because of a lack of understanding. Surrender them to the Lord as you pray and ask Him to give you the faith to trust Him for them. Our pastors and staff are praying that your faith will increase this Christmas and that you will see the faithfulness of God like never before!
Scripture: Luke 2:36-40
Devo: Anna doesn’t have the most cheerful story; we see that the author has taken time to explain that she is a widow with a lonely life in many respects. Yet Anna is one of only a few people who recognize the newborn King firsthand! The key to Anna’s part in this story is her proximity. Anna chooses to dwell in the house of the Lord, worshiping day and night. It is her devotion to the house of God that allows her to be among the first to know of the Savior’s arrival. When we center our life around being in the presence of God and glorifying Him, we can trust that He will draw near to us as well.
Anna doesn’t keep her joy over the Savior’s birth to herself. She finds those who were also waiting expectantly for Jesus and told them the good news. Our story may not look how we expect, but we’re all invited into the greater story of God’s love and can rejoice in that! Let’s remember that our hope is not only our own, but that Jesus came for all.
The heart of New Life Church has always been to reach the one. You were once that “one” who someone else brought to church and to encounter the presence of Jesus. Who can you bring with you to church this week to celebrate Jesus? Write down the names of three people you want to come, pray over them, and invite them to a Candlelight service.
Scripture: Matthew 2:1-12
Devo: We live in a fast-paced world where our attention is being fought for in every direction we look. The amount of information being thrown at us can be overwhelming and the temptation to disengage is all too real. The magi are clearly wealthy and well-educated people. But they don’t use their knowledge or resources to avoid the world; rather, they choose to lean in closer, look up, and acknowledge the signs of the times.
When they reach the land of Israel, King Herod takes note of their presence and inquires as to why they are visiting his territory. It’s here we see wisdom and humility on the magis’ part. They don’t give into flattery or Herod’s deceit; they keep their eyes on the sign of the star and follow it to the Savior.
God has shown us the way to salvation and how to live it out through His Son, Jesus. But it’s up to us to choose to follow His lead. Paul says it this way: “Be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do.” (Ephesians 5:15-17)
Practice pausing today before each thing you do or say. Be thoughtful in your actions and speech, always evaluating if you are living in a way that the Lord desires. Michelle Bezet has often told us that we have to walk slowly through the room if we want to be able to see what’s really going on around us. Don’t just blaze through this week, take the time to engage in what the Lord is doing around you.
Scripture: Matthew 2:13-18
Devo: Herod has been appointed to his throne by the Roman empire, so we can reasonably guess that he doesn’t have Israel’s best interests in mind from the start. As we see him act out in fear and rage at the news of Jesus’ birth, we can begin to understand how unstable this king actually is. The orders Herod proclaims once he realizes that the magi won’t be reporting the young Messiah’s location to him are horrific. Herod is responsible for the murder of hundreds of innocent children—his own citizens—in his failed attempt to kill Jesus.
In the midst of so much tragedy and heartbreak, we can take heart knowing that Jesus has overcome all evil and terror. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.” (John 1:5) Jesus accomplishes the will of the Father by submitting Himself to the cross on our behalf and overcoming the grave once and for all! This child came to walk in our broken world so that He could bring comfort to all who mourn and win us freedom from the oppression of the world. As the church we are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus. We believe that we are all created with abilities to serve the local church and reach the world with the hope of Jesus. It’s our prayer that you wouldn’t be overwhelmed by the needs of the those around you, but that you would boldly come alongside us as we carry the Name of Jesus into the earth!
Pray this today: Jesus, thank You that the light of Your truth and grace still shines in the world and that it cannot be overcome! Age to age Your love has been the light of all, unchangeable and eternally shining on us. I pray today for peace in areas of conflict and terror. Show me how to carry the light You’ve given me to the people in my world. Thank you for the peace that reigns in my life through every season. I honor you. Amen.
Scripture: Matthew 2:19-23
Devo: Have you ever noticed that Jesus was a refugee? His family had to flee a terrifying king and take refuge in the land of Egypt. In fact, there are a lot of notable situations Christ experienced very early on in His life that connect with many different circumstances we as humanity face. He was humbly born in a stable under less than ideal conditions. Because of the visits from the shepherds and the magi, He was acquainted with those on the social and economic fringes, as well as with the elite. As a child who was dependant on Mary and Joseph to care for Him, Jesus experienced vulnerability and the limitations of infancy.
Jesus came to identify with humanity’s struggles and trials, to bear our pain in holiness. He bore our sins and our struggles and conquered their power at the cross. He has come unto us. Unto us: here on this earth, a child was born and a Savior came to rescue us. God’s promise of salvation is fulfilled and we rejoice in the precious gift of heaven that reconciled the earth to its Creator! We love you New Life Church,and we pray that this Christmas is full of joy and wonder for you. Celebrating this season with you will always be a glimpse into heaven and we’re so thankful we get to do this life with you.
For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.