Devotions for the Christmas Season
Below you'll find several devotional readings written especially for Advent and Christmas. Each would be appropriate for your meeting or small group or for your personal use. Additionally, look for the links to other seasonal devotions and Advent Readings.
Devotions You'll find below
Lessons We Learn from the Christmas Story
Jesus is the Light
What is Missing in Christmas
Do I Really Have to Tell You Twice
How much Have You Grown?
Lessons We Learn from the Christmas Story
Luke 2 & Matthew 1:16-2:18
As church leaders, there's a good chance we've heard the story from Luke 2 and Matthew 1 more times than we can imagine. We are so familiar with this narrative that we may skim over it when we read. So, what is it that we can learn from this well-known piece of scripture? What can we, as leaders, learn from the leaders of Mary and Joseph's time? Everything we know about the priests, kings and leaders during those days can be found in Matthew 2. They are only mentioned in a few verses, yet there's a good bit we can discern from their actions.
First we see that Herod had a problem with jealousy and fear. Jealousy is not a becoming attribute in a ruler. It's not a healthy attitude for anyone in a leadership position. It causes us to do things that harm others and disregard what's best for those we serve. As leaders it's important to remember that we are really servants. Consider how our country would change if Senators and Representatives remembered that they are servants rather than the most important people in America. As leaders it's our job to pray and evaluate options and decide what will be the best for the congregation as well as what's in line with God's Word. Jealousy and the fear of someone getting ahead of us will hinder us in our role of being the model of Christ to the world.
Second, we see that the Chief Priests and Teachers of the Law were complacent. These guys are only mentioned in passing. We don't even consider their role in Christ's birth. However, I wonder, why didn't they become inquisitive after their King's questions? King Herod was looking for clues to where the Messiah might be born. After they answered him, these leaders of Israel didn't even begin to pursue the reason behind his inquisitive mind. The whole nation of Israel had been eagerly anticipating the arrival of the Savior of the Jews for thousands of years. One would think that these men who were in charge of the spiritual life of the nation would be curious when the King started asking about what the ancient texts said regarding where the Messiah might be found. However, these leaders were complacent. They were content with the status quo. A Messiah might mess up their plans.
Complacency will get us in trouble every time. We need to be content, but when we become so satisfied with where we are that we don't look forward, our leadership will become ineffective. Complacency will cause us to avoid those things that need changed, and we'll become the kind of church that begins to say those seven deadly words, "we've never done it that way before."Now it's time to look at what kind of leader you are. Do you worry about being "better" than everyone else or are you willing to lead by serving? Do you need the notoriety or can you be an invisible leader, getting the job done with no one knowing what you're dong?We have each been given an awesome responsibility to lead in Christ's Kingdom. Let's learn a lesson from these first century leaders and put aside jealousy and envy. Let us be content and enjoy all that Christ has given without being complacent or overly satisfied with life. Let us learn our lessons well so we can lead effectively, earnestly and like Christ.
More Devotions for the Christmas Season
- Advent Readings
Advent Readings are short daily devotions to help us prepare our hearts as we make our Christmas preparations. Here you'll find links to even more Advent Readings.
- Advent - A Season of Promise
Advent is a season of promise. Here you'll find the Sunday readings to give you an idea of what the entire series of readings is like.
Jesus is the Light
This scripture is probably one of the most familiar of all of the prophesies in the Old Testament. I think it's read every Christmas season in every church I know. It's written in the style of most Jewish poetry, which means that the author basically says the same thing twice. So, when Isaiah says "walking in darkness" and then "living in the shadow of death" he's saying the same thing.
Isaiah is describing the condition of every human.We humans think we know so much, we think we're so smart, and we think we know about God. But as much as we can do on our own, as intelligent as we are, as much as we know about God, we're still wandering around in the dark.
Have you ever been in the dark? I'm not talking about nighttime when there's a full moon or street lights. I mean have you ever been in a place where it's really dark? A place with no moon, no stars, no glimpses of the neighbors porch light.
Steve and I were in Lowe's last week when the power went out. You talk about dark. I couldn't see my hand in front of my face. He quickly held me tight because he knows how much I love the dark! We didn't move. We didn't dare. We had no idea how far we were from anything, and I was afraid. Even if we had tried to move, where could we have gone? The whole store was black.
That's walking in darkness. And basically, living in the shadow of death is the same way. The shadow of death is a place of fear. It's facing the greatest unknown that man will ever experience. And living in that shadow is a miserable place to be. You live your entire life afraid of dying. You miss out on great things because you're afraid of what you don't know. How dreadful it would be to spend your whole life being afraid of dying or being afraid someone you love might die. You'd never let your children out of your sight!
Unfortunately, there are many people who live like that. People who feel lost and don't know where to turn. Some who feel alone when they are in a crowd of people. They believe that no one understands. These same people often believe they fail at everything they do. There are those who fear day to day life. These folks are afraid to leave the house, afraid to let their children go, afraid to go to the doctor because they don't want to hear bad news. And then there are those with courageous looking fear. Those who are so afraid of being hurt that they hurt others first. Some are so afraid of failure they use others to get where they want to go or miss out on some of the best in life to keep from messing up.
But fear and darkness are not what God has in mind for us. In 2 Timothy 1:7 Paul says that "God did not give us a spirit of fear." So when we are afraid or live in the shadow of death, that is not from God. And what about the Christmas story in John. Did you know that there was a bit of the Christmas story there?
Look for a moment at John 1:1-5 & 14. There in verse 14 is the Christmas story . . . "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us." And when look closely at Isaiah 9:4 & 5, we'll see this is the same light that Isaiah was talking about 700 years before Jesus' birth. He knew that human nature would cause us to live in darkness, but Isaiah also knew some who walked in that darkness, if they paid attention, would see a great light.
There are hundreds of thousands of people sitting in churches today who are still walking in darkness. They think they're walking in the light, because they've caught a glimpse of it in others and they've learned to mimic it. I know. I lived that way for a long time. And there are millions more, some inside the church and some out, who don't even see a need to try to walk in the light.One of the problems with convincing these millions of the need to walk in the light is that we who do don't really walk differently than the rest of the world. Our lives are like all of the other good people in the world. We aren't letting Jesus make a enough of a difference.
Another part of the problem is that many of those "church going" people who are walking in darkness don't know that's where they are. Their eyes have grown accustomed to the dark. They can see, but they don't know they're missing out on abundant life and true light.Think about those times you wake up in the middle of the night. You've become so comfortable in the dark, you're afraid if you come into the true light, it will hurt. And just like when you flip the real switch in the middle of the night, stepping into the light of Christ may hurt, too, but just for a minute or two. It may hurt when you find out that your innocent little quirks are really sin. It may hurt when you see that you've lived for 60 years thinking you were saved and all of a sudden you realize you missed out on all of those years of blessings because you were really walking in the darkness. It may hurt when the light finally exposes the truth and you begin to take it personally that you killed Jesus. Yep, it may hurt, but does knowing that the light will hurt your eyes keep you from going outside on a beautiful day? Does it keep you from vacationing on the beach?
We can't keep walking in darkness. The light has come. We can't keep kidding ourselves about being saved. I've known two people personally who had been in church all of their lives, thought they were going to heaven and lived really great lives. I thought they'd been born again. Then they listened to the Holy Spirit and saw the light. They came to an altar one day and really gave their lives to Jesus. The finally saw the truth. These two folks had been in church for 65-75 years before they saw the light.Friends, where are you in your walk with Jesus? Are you in the dark, in the shadow of death, in a place where you can't see where you need to go next? Or are you one who has been in the dark for so long you are used to it? Maybe you don't even realize that there's no light in your life. Either way Jesus can and wants to be your light. He came to show you the truth to be your bridge to the Father.And if you have definitely made a commitment of Jesus, are you living as if you are walking in the light or are you stumbling around in your faith not showing anyone the true light?
Today, regardless of your prior commitment to your Savior, finish your time with Christ by praying these things:Ask the Everlasting Father to dwell within you and the Prince of Peace to give you His peace that is beyond understanding. Praise our Mighty God for His gifts of love and salvation and listen for the Wonderful Counselor to speak to your Heart so you don't miss a single blessing He wants to pour out on you. Tell the Son of God that you truly want to walk in His Light!
What is Missing in Christmas?
"Good news (or tidings) of great joy . . . and Peace on earth . . ."
Today I went to a Christmas music program at my grandchildren's school. The first and second grades did a musical together, followed by a presentation by the third and fourth grades. Both 15 minute performances were absolutely wonderful, and both had a theme of "what's missing in Christmas." The story line was creative, the choreography was darling and the direction was superb; however, the message was bogus.My grandchildren attend public school, so even though in our area, they can get away with a Christmas "theme," it was very secular. Santa made an appearance in both performances as did elves, reindeer and even some sugar plum fairies. And in both productions even the snowmen were looking for something that would make Christmas "real," something to take the focus off of presents so people could find joy and peace, something to make Christmas something heartfelt again.
People want peace and joy. They want it year round, but for some reason, they want it even more at Christmas. Nearly every movie tells a tale of Christmas miracles, in fact, miracles were even mentioned in those plays this morning. And a theme of hope rises in the midst of the commercialism and greed. The season does seem to turn many a Grinch into a giver and not a few Scrooges become overnight Santas.
But the truth is, in spite of the transformation of some, the reality of life doesn't meet the expectation of most. Perhaps that's the reason suicide and depression rates escalate during this winter holiday. People are looking for that "great joy" and "peace on earth" they keep hearing about, and it just doesn't happen. Which makes the promised "hope" of the season seem to be a lie, a lie that some can't live with anymore.I think it's because the secular has tried to take the peace and joy of Jesus Christ and make it fit their anti-Christ Christmas.
Advertisers promise joy, but neglect to inform the consumer that it's the "GOOD NEWS" that brought the great joy. The commercialism capitalizes on the peace of the season, never mentioning that it is promised to those on whom "God's favor rests."Peace and joy are available at Christmas, as it is throughout the year, from the One whose birth is the whole reason we celebrate. Without Jesus and His promise of a counselor, His Holy Spirit there is no peace. Where there is no Christ in the center of your Christmas, there can be no joy.
And miracles . . . the world wouldn't even know what miracles were if our Heavenly Father hadn't poured them out over and over. Unfortunately, most who read this will already have met the One who gives me life. Those who don't know Him won't even look for this kind of article. If they do see it, most will pass it off as a religious fanatic going on about Christmas again. So, it's up to us who've found that peace and joy to pass along the real message of Christmas.For you see, there is peace and joy available. Hope and miracles can be found right along with them. I've experienced each of these things in my own life. However, they don't come wrapped in paper or even in a child's happiness with the perfect gift.I've found that hope without Christ is just as fleeting as a snowman on a 50 day.
True peace without a Savior is as elusive as finding two snowflakes exactly alike. And joy, that deep down happiness that overflows from a heart filled with contentment, is only available through complete trust of an angel's message about Good News. It only happens when we embrace the baby who was born to die, and trust the One who lived a perfect life to be a sacrifice for our sins. It's only available to those who have met Jesus and celebrate their Best Friend's birthday.
Do I Really have to Tell You Twice
Inspired by Christmas but Appropriate Year Round
Luke 1:5-20 & 26-38
These parts of the Christmas story are very familiar, and the responses to Gabriel's messages are fairly well known. Zechariah can't believe he's really going to have a son after all these years of waiting, and his doubt results in nine months of silence. Mary doesn't understand how she'll have a baby since she's a virgin. But unlike Zechariah, there are no consequences, just an explanation.
I've heard many commentaries on the reason Gabriel treated the two in such drastically different ways. The most popular is that Zechariah spoke in doubt and Mary asked in wonder, and of course, that makes sense.
However, I have another hypothesis that might teach us a thing or two. This scripture caused me to consider all the times I’ve felt like God doesn't answer. It made me wonder if some of the times we don't hear God are related to the reason Zechariah couldn't speak for nine months?
When the angel told Zechariah that he and Elizabeth were finally going to have the child they'd been waiting for, his response was, "How can I be sure? We're really old, after all." Could it be that part of Zechariah's problem was that he hadn't paid attention to what God had done in the past? Abraham and Sarah had a child when they were 100 and 90. Samuel's parents were getting up there in age. It's not like God had never done this sort of thing before. Instead of being excited that he was getting the same treatment as his ancestor Abraham, he was second guessing an angel!
Mary on the other hand, when she asked, "How?" was asking a legitimate question. A virgin had never given birth to a child before. The whole story caused me to wonder how often we ask for answers to questions that God has already answered or demonstrated by his will or power through scripture or in our own life. If we have a question about God's will and it correlates with something that He's already dealt with in scripture, why should we expect an answer? Does our Father really have to keep repeating Himself? That's just another reason why it's so important for Christians to be in the Bible often, at least once a day. How can we know what God's "good, pleasing and perfect will" (See Romans 12:2) is if we don't know His Word?
While we're at it, let's look for just a moment at Joseph, Mary's betrothed. Joseph knew exactly what he should do when he discovered Mary was going to have a baby. The law, which he knew well, said he should divorce her. Fortunately for Mary, Joseph was a man of worth, so he was going to save her reputation and do it quietly. Joseph didn't even ask God about it. He knew the right thing to do because he knew scripture. So, when God’s plan was something different than what Joseph would have expected, God gave him a dream to help him know the truth.
What if God expects us to just step out on faith during those times when we can see that the correct thing to do is what lines up with His Word? What if we were like Mary and didn't hesitate to do God's will? Even Joseph wasn't hesitant to do what he knew was the righteous thing to do, until an angel in a dream helped him see that this was a special circumstance. How often do we wait on a sign or wonder, when God has already told us or shown us exactly what we need to be doing? Take this opportunity to give yourself permission to follow God's will in your life. Sometimes it will just be the "common sense" thing to do. Other times God will give you a special sign, a dream or an angel to help you put your life in line with His bigger plan. But don't wait on the signs and wonders. Stay close to the vine, trust that He'll give you plenty of notice and enjoy all that He has planned for you!
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Whether it's as a group leader or on your own.
How Much Have You've Grown
A Devotion for the New Year
When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. ~ 1 Corinthians 13:11
New Year’s Day is nearly upon us. Every year all around the world people are making resolutions, setting goals and reviewing the past year. The start of a new year is a good time to look back over the past 365 days and see how far we’ve come.
Some folks evaluate their health and fitness, others consider their career, but Christians really need to look carefully at their Spiritual growth. In order to become all that Christ has created us to be and really experience the abundant life Jesus promised in John 10:10, it’s vital we are “aging” in Christ.
Paul says, “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.” When Paul initially met Jesus, He must have acted like most of us who make that first commitment to Christ. For example, at the moment of my salvation the Bible says I was “reborn.” I became like a little child in the faith. And much like a small child for a short time everything in my spiritual world revolved around me. My prayers were focused on my wants, material wants, emotional wants and spiritual wants.
Most of us can relate to folks who’ve just come to Christ. We remember the excitement, the hunger for more knowledge of Christ, the awareness that God can do anything and our prayer life being more like a wish list than a conversation with our Father. But just as an 18 month old toddler begins to understand the importance of sharing and a world outside of herself, when nurtured properly, our spiritual health generally begins to develop into an awareness of the bigger picture of the Kingdom very soon after our Salvation.
At the beginning of the New Year, it’s a good idea to make sure we’ve put behind us a little bit more of our childish ways. Are we still in the infant stage? Perhaps you are new to the faith. First let me welcome you to the family! As a newborn Christian, the Spiritual world DOES in fact revolve around you. Heaven is still rejoicing because of you! (Luke 15:7) And there are many folks like me who are overly anxious to help you grow in your faith and develop into all Christ has created you to be so that you can know the abundance Christ talks about!
Growth is vital! Without growth we experience many of the same problems we encounter in the physical world. For instance, the 18 month old whose not been taught that the world is bigger than herself becomes the epitome of the “terrible twos” syndrome, and a teen who is still self-centered becomes arrogant and rebellious. And if a person makes it to adulthood without someone who has helped him to understand his place in this world, we find someone who is either tremendously lazy waiting for someone to give him what he thinks he deserves or he develops narcissism and no one can stand to be around him.
The same thing happens in our Christian development. If we don’t soon discover that there is more to the Kingdom of God than our own salvation and prayer needs then we become pouty and don’t appreciate it when God pours out His blessings on us. If we allow our spiritual life to continue to be underdeveloped we will almost inevitably get lazy in our faith, we don’t read scripture, we feel like we don’t really need Bible Studies and Sunday School and we’ll eventually skip out on worshipping with other believers every week. An even greater danger lies in going through the motions of these “activities” and becoming arrogant, even narcissistic, in our faith. We’ve all met those folks, the ones who act like they are better than Jesus Christ. But hopefully in your spiritual encounters you’ve also met men like my friend Edwin. He is probably the deepest spiritual person I’ve ever met, one of the most confident in his faith as well as things outside the spiritual realm yet probably the most humble and loving man I’ve ever known.
You see, Edwin and others like him have “put childish ways behind” them. It’s not that they act “all grown up” and better than everyone else. No, these pillars of the church understand that the world is bigger than they can even imagine. They are humbled by the fact that the Creator of the Universe has chosen to love them personally, and because of that realization, they give their lives back to Him to mold, shape and use to make the “bigger picture” better.
Yes, growing in the faith means getting outside of our own little world and seeing how all of the pieces fit together to make the Kingdom of God a bigger and more beautiful place. If your prayer time is still a list of things you want God to do for you, then you are still in the infant/toddler stages of your faith. No matter how bad your life seems to be, no matter how much you think you need, a growing Christian will still have a prayer life that reflects the bigger picture, a world outside of himself.
Many children stand up against a wall every year while their parents make a mark to see how much they’ve grown in the past twelve months. The New Year is a good time to make a similar mark on our Spiritual wall. As this year closes and the new one opens, I’ll be considering my growth. Do I care more about others salvation than I did last year? When I have to deal with difficult people am I more likely to label them as “created in the image of God” than I was last year? Are my prayers more Kingdom focused and less self-centered?
When I was newly born into the Kingdom of God, I thought like a child, I was quite concerned about my own Spiritual welfare and how God was answering my prayers and speaking to me. But as I’ve grown into a more mature child of the Living God, I’ve begun to put those childish things behind me, and the blessings Christ has given me are more beautiful than I can imagine.
© 2014 Lynne Modranski