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Advent Readings: Day 25

For this Advent season we offer you a Bible reading for each day which points to the first coming of the Lord Jesus at Christmas and his return in glory!

John 1:1 - 18

1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was with God in the beginning. 3Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

6There was a man sent from God whose name was John. 7He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. 8He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.

9The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognise him. 11He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

14The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

15(John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”) 16Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. 17For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.

A few comments

The word became flesh and made his dwelling among us’ (14). This was no state visit – in Jesus Christ, God has come to live with us. He came down to join us and to bring us home to him. And what did we learn when God tore open the fabric of the physical universe and came down to us? We found him to be ‘full of grace and truth.’ At the very core of his being, he is grace – he acts towards us with rich, generous, undeserved kindness. If you cut him, he bled grace. Quite literally on the cross. He is also full of truth – everything that it is possible for us to know about God in this life, is revealed to us in Jesus Christ. Of course in eternity our knowledge of God will be far richer. But it will not be different from what we find in Jesus, just deeper.

Point for Prayer

Find somewhere quiet today and read this passage a few times, chewing over and praying through its rich, profound truths.

Merry Christmas!

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Advent Readings: Day 23

For this Advent season we offer you a Bible reading for each day which points to the first coming of the Lord Jesus at Christmas and his return in glory!

Luke 2:21 - 40

21On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.

22When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23(as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), 24and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”

25Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. 26It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

29“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
30For my eyes have seen your salvation,
31     which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
32a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of your people Israel.”

33The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. 34Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

36There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 38Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

39When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. 40And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.

A few comments

There is something bizarre and incongruous about Simeon’s great declaration in verses 29-32. All through the Old Testament we’ve seen how the greatest of humans have failed to bring salvation to God’s people and the truth of God to the other nations. By the end of Malachi you are longing for a king mightier than David, wiser than Solomon, who preached more compellingly than Isaiah… And instead, God reveals to Simeon that the answer is this tiny vulnerable baby born to a poor couple from a dusty village. He is God’s salvation. He is God’s light to the nations.

This is still the pattern with God – his mighty power is seen in unexpected places and his servants appear weak and frail. God’s might works are rarely well-resourced or widely reported in the press. Just as the baby must have seemed thoroughly unremarkable to any who even noticed him in the temple that day, so too the work of God in our day and our church will often seem unremarkable at the time and on the surface.

Point for Prayer

That we would not wobble in our faith when we can’t see obvious mighty signs of God’s work in ourselves and our churches. Pray too that like Anna we who have seen God’s salvation in Jesus would tell others!

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Advent Readings: Day 22

For this Advent season we offer you a Bible reading for each day which points to the first coming of the Lord Jesus at Christmas and his return in glory!

Philippians 2:5 - 11

5In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

6Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
9Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

A few comments

Felix Baumgartner, the Red Bull sponsored extreme-sportsman/nutter (take your pick!) made history earlier this year when he jumped out of balloon in the upper atmosphere and plummeted 39 km back to earth, breaking the speed of sound as he went. That is nothing compared with the descent undertaken by God the Son on the first Christmas night…

God the Son is not some second class deity. He is fully God, perfectly equal with the Father and Spirit. And yet he ‘humbled himself.’ Down he went to earth – the creator walking on the dust of his own creation. But he didn’t come down a blazing being like the one John sees in Revelation 1. He humbled himself to become a human being. Not just any human being. He did not become a mighty king, but a servant. But he plummeted down further still. He humbled himself to die for sinners like us. Surely that in itself is a step too far for God? But no, he went further down, and humbled himself beyond anything imaginable by dying the most gruesome, painful, humiliating death ever invented – death on a cross.

Point for Prayer

Praise God for his humility and love that reaches down so far to save undeserving sinners like us. Pray that, as Paul urges, ‘our attitude would the same as that of Christ Jesus.’ In all the challenges and stresses of family relationships over Christmas, let’s pray we would serve and love and put others first, just as our God has done for us.

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Advent Readings: Day 21

For this Advent season we offer you a Bible reading for each day which points to the first coming of the Lord Jesus at Christmas and his return in glory!

Matthew 2:1 - 11

1After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”

3When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. 5“In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:

6“‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

7Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

9After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and or myrrh.

A few comments

Herod should terrify us. It’s not that he is that much more hideous than other dictators in history, or that this dead man has any power now. The terrifying thing is what he represents: Here is a man who studies the Bible and believes its teaching about the birth of the Messiah Jesus Christ, but his heart is utterly hardened to Jesus.

Herod does not fear God or love the truth, but he does fear any man who might be a rival to his rule, so he seeks to destroy the baby. The Magi – the wise men – fear God not man, so they obey God’s dream and ignore Herod’s instructions. And they love the truth so they stop at nothing to find and worship this foreign king. None of us are quite in Herod’s position, but for all of us Jesus is a direct challenge to our autonomy. He claims to be the rightful king of our lives. The question for all of us therefore, is this: will we seek him out and worship him as the wise men did, or ignore/reject him as that fool Herod did?

Point for Prayer

That we would recognise Jesus as our rightful king and give our whole lives over to worship him. Confess the areas of life where we are still wrestling him for control.

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Advent Readings: Day 20

For this Advent season we offer you a Bible reading for each day which points to the first coming of the Lord Jesus at Christmas and his return in glory!

Luke 2:1 - 20

1In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2(This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3And everyone went to their own town to register.

4So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

8And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
15When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

A few comments

What is our greatest need? Our world is bleeding, starving, lonely and afraid. There are terrorist gunmen in coffee shops in Sydney, patients dying of Ebola in West Africa and sex slaves being trafficked for the Christmas party season in London. But all those human ailments are a symptom of our greatest problem – that we are cut off from God; that we are his enemies.

If our greatest need was leadership,
he would have sent a king or a president to govern us.
If our greatest need was knowledge,
he would have sent a teacher or philosopher to enlighten us.
If our greatest need was health,
he would have sent a doctor to heal us.
If our greatest need was wealth,
he would have sent a banker actually, that wouldn’t help us as once his bonus is
paid there wouldn’t be much left for the rest of us…

But our greatest need is salvation, so he came himself to die for us. That is why the sky burst open with the praise of angels that first Christmas – ‘do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you…’ God had come to deal with the disease and not just the symptoms. One day that same Jesus will come back. He will judge all wickedness and bring an end to everything that causes misery. Even death itself will be destroyed.

Point for Prayer

Confess to God the sins we commit that contribute to the suffering in this world and praise God that he has sent us the saviour we need.

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Advent Readings: Day 19

For this Advent season we offer you a Bible reading for each day which points to the first coming of the Lord Jesus at Christmas and his return in glory!

Luke 1:57 - 80

57When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. 58Her neighbours and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy.

59On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah, 60but his mother spoke up and said, “No! He is to be called John.”

61They said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who has that name.”

62Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child. 63He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, “His name is John.” 64Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, praising God. 65All the neighbours were filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things. 66Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, “What then is this child going to be?” For the Lord’s hand was with him.

67His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied:

68“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,
because he has come to his people and redeemed them.
69He has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of his servant David
70(as he said through his holy prophets of long ago),
71salvation from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us—
72to show mercy to our ancestors
and to remember his holy covenant,
73     the oath he swore to our father Abraham:
74to rescue us from the hand of our enemies,
and to enable us to serve him without fear
75     in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
76And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,
77to give his people the knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins,
78because of the tender mercy of our God,
by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
79to shine on those living in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.”
80And the child grew and became strong in spirit; and he lived in the wilderness until he appeared publicly to Israel.

A few comments

Again there is much that could be said about John’s birth and Zechariah’s explosion of praise. But let us meditate on one theme: When the angel appeared to Zechariah, he was afraid (12). When the neighbours realise that God is at work among them they are awestruck – literally ‘fear came upon them all’ (65). But the angel says ‘don’t be afraid!’ (13) and Zechariah prophesies that the saviour who was promised to Abraham so long ago, and who is soon to be born, as come,

that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear.

We make a tragic mistake if we think God is so trivial and ‘matey’ that we would not be struck dumb with awe and terror if he appeared before us now. We must understand that God is not a tame God; he is not pocket-sized personal genie. He is the unlimited creator God of the Bible. But this frankly terrifying God welcomes us as children and calls us to love him and serve him without fear. Through Jesus Christ we are welcome to approach the unapproachable God and to feel safe in the presence of the one who is a ‘consuming fire’ (Hebrews 12:29).

Point for Prayer

Ask God to help us relate to him rightly – with reverence for he is the mighty God and holy judge; but also with love and confidence for he is the loving Father and forgiving Saviour.

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