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Christmas - Whose Birthday is it Anyway?

Updated on December 30, 2016

What will your gift for Jesus be?

Even though December 25 ranks next to last in the list of popularity of Birthdays, with on February 29 beneath it, there are still an estimated 18 million people worldwide who might have a problem with the statement, “Christmas is not your birthday.” 1 Truth be told, though, even if your birthday does fall on the least common day of the year, your birthday is December 25, not Christmas.

The day is only called Christmas because more than 1600 years ago an Emperor and a Pope decided to set aside a day to celebrate Jesus’ birth, and eventually that day became known as Christmas. Originally it was a special service (a mass) to honor the fact Christ came to earth. All the gift giving and hullabaloo came much later; and it’s only the last 100 years or less the holiday has become more about the extravagance than the baby in the manger.

A few years ago I wrote a single line about Christmas. I’d forgotten about it until I found the scrap of paper recently. It said, “What would it take for us to celebrate in such a way to remember Christmas isn’t our birthday?” Those few words begged me to consider the question, and it challenged me to ask you, “What would it take for you to celebrate as if Christmas was not your birthday?”

This year we’re going to look at 28 passages of scripture to help us see what Jesus wants for His birthday. I’m guessing we’ll still buy too many gifts and get caught up in all the holiday hoopla, but hopefully by spending some time focusing on the truth and prophecy in God’s Word, our Christmas will be a time of praise and delight for the One whose birth we celebrate.


Daily Readings for the Advent Season

I'd like to invite you to stop back every day beginning November 27 to see daily devotions designed to help us focus on Christ this Advent season. It's so easy to get caught up in the parties and shopping, but the celebration of Christ's birth was originally meant to be a holy day, a day worthy of a perfect and mighty Savior.

Join me as I journey through advent exploring the gifts I might give to Jesus this year. In addition to stopping on this page each day, these devotions will be sent to inboxes throughout the world to those who've requested it here.

Christmas Eve

The Candle of Christ

Christmas Eve

The Candle of Christ

Luke 2:1-20

Four weeks of lighting candles and contemplating the perfect gift for the perfect Son of God. If you have indeed lit those candles, now we’ll light the center white one. White to remind us the Baby born in a cave-like stable was pure, holy and sinless. Its light symbolizes Jesus bringing light into a dark world. And those verses from Luke suggest there were no gifts for the Christ Child on the day He was born.

The gifts from the Magi we talked about a couple weeks ago came later. Joseph and Mary had found a house by then. During the first few days after His birth, there were no presents for the One born to become Savior of the world.

Joseph had nothing special for Mary’s firstborn Son; they were poor. There was no money for shiny baby toys. And we’ve got no record of any gift but amazement from the shepherds who visited.

There’s a good chance the angels didn’t even show up inside the town of Bethlehem. The Bible puts them in the fields with the sheep, but never near the manger. Not even a heavenly song was lifted for a Baby who would one day be King of kings.

Fortunately, Jesus didn’t come to get gifts, He came to be God’s ‘indescribable gift.’ (2 Corinthians 9:15) He wasn’t born to impress humans or flaunt His Deity. He became God Incarnate to quietly bring peace to the hearts of His followers.

The presents, the bows, the trees and decorations, none of these are why Jesus came. All are simply reminders and symbols of a day in history never marked on any calendar; a date never recorded in any book, yet one of the most significant in Christian history.

Jesus came to be the Truth. He was born to fulfill His Father’s Prophecy. He is worthy of our Praise, and He deserves to be Delighted.

You are His delight. Though noone brought gifts on the day of His birth, we are privileged to bring Him offerings and sacrifices every day until we die. We don’t bring them out of obligation or to win His favor. You are His favor! We bring them out of love and gratitude. We offer them with a humble heart filled with awe.

Immanuel, God with us, came to this earth for you and me. The Great I Am was born in the least of places to demonstrate how much He wants a relationship with even the least of men and woman. The Messiah, Christ, Savior entered the earth as an infant instead of a conquering King to be your Friend.

And it’s your Friend whose birth we celebrate. It’s your Friend who gets the gifts. Tomorrow many of us will gather to bring gifts of praise to our Friend. We’ll celebrate His birthday with a party like friends do. And hopefully I’ll remember to bring my Friend the gift that delights Him the most . . . the gift of me.

The Fourth Week of Advent

The Candle of Delight

The Fourth Sunday in Advent

Psalm 37:3-4, 23-24

3 Trust in the Lord and do good;
dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
4 Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
. . .
23 The Lord makes firm the steps
of the one who delights in him;
24 though he may stumble, he will not fall,
for the Lord upholds him with his hand. (NIV)

What brings you delight? Your friends and family are probably looking for something to bring you delight right this minute! The thing is Jesus wants to be your delight.

When Jesus is our delight, our wish list becomes as short as Christ’s. We discover we don’t need much. In fact, when the Savior becomes our delight, the desires of our heart change to things that are good for us, things that please our Heavenly Father. So it becomes easy for God to give them to us. With the Son of God as our heart’s delight our steps are firm. He leads us and we stay out of trouble! When the One whose birth we celebrate is our heart’s greatest delight, He is pleased.

It’s a simple thing, yet quite difficult. Much like the ribbons and lights and bows get in our way when we try to focus on Christ at Christmas, the blessings God gives us can steal our focus as we try to make His Son our heart’s delight.

As we bring Christ gifts for His birthday, make Him your delight. It’ll take some time, but the more you focus on His Word, the more you’ll understand exactly who He is, the easier it will become. It will be a gift that will go way past Christmas because it will take a long time to give it, and it will be one of Jesus’ favorites.

The Fourth Monday in Advent

Jeremiah 9:23-24

23 This is what the Lord says:
“Let not the wise boast of their wisdom
or the strong boast of their strength
or the rich boast of their riches,
24 but let the one who boasts boast about this:
that they have the understanding to know me,
that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness,
justice and righteousness on earth,
for in these I delight,” declares the Lord (NIV)

Yesterday we discovered our Savior wants to be our hearts’ delight. As we finish this Advent season, we’ll focus on some scripture to help us have the understanding to know Christ and what brings Him pleasure. After all, it’s His birthday we’re celebrating. Why wouldn’t we want to find gifts to delight Him?

Right now we are in the darkest part of the year. The hours of daylight are fewer than any other time. It’s appropriate that the closer we get to the celebration of Jesus’ birth, the brighter our candles grow. Celebrating Christmas during this week is beautifully symbolic of Jesus bringing light to this dark, cold world.

And Jesus is delighted when we bring His light. When we are kind and just, when we live right, we shine with the light of Christ and make the dark world brighter.

Sometimes it’s difficult. The world is so dark we don’t think we have any impact. Tonight, with all the lights out, ignite your candles one at a time. As you do, pause and consider the difference each flame makes. Like these candles, the darker our surroundings, the more noticeable our glow.

Shine for Jesus for His birthday. Be a light in a dark world by being kind, just and righteous, and Jesus will be delighted.

The Fourth Tuesday in Advent

Romans 12:1

So brothers and sisters, since God has shown us great mercy,
I beg you to offer your lives as a living sacrifice to him.
This is holy and pleasing to God,
the spiritual way for you to worship. (NCV)

Hopefully by now you’ve begun to realize Jesus has a very short wish list. The one thing that would delight Him most is you for His birthday. Paul told the Romans to come as living sacrifices. The Message rephrases it like this: “take your everyday, ordinary life – your sleeping, eating, going-to-work and walking-around life – and place it before God as an offering.”

Christ wants you. And when you come to Him, it pleases Him. In fact, He’s delighted!

Have you ever seen the look of delight on someone’s face? Some folks give a squeal with it, and others jump or dance, but true delight is usually accompanied by a smile that reveals a deep and immeasurable pleasure. Even the quietest of recipients can’t contain true delight.

I saw it on my son-in-law’s face when he retrieved his oldest daughter from my house after the birth of his second. I’ve seen it on the face of those watching their loved ones celebrate accomplishments. Some call it pride, others label it honor, but in truth, it’s sheer delight.

The Bible tells us this is how Jesus feels when we bring Him the gift of ourselves. I believe the greatest gift we can bring the Author of Life is joyfully presenting Him the heart, soul and very being He’s given to us.

As we draw ever closer to the celebration of the birth of the One who said, “I am the Life,” I hope you will consider bringing Him delight for His birthday and give Him the gift of you.

The Fourth Wednesday in Advent

Psalm 51:15-17

15 Open my lips, Lord,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
17 My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise.

Had you ever before considered God might be delighted with you? Think about a gift you’ve received that caused you to smile deep within your soul. The gifts that bring us the greatest delight come from those we love most when we know they’ve poured themselves into those gifts. I think they bring us the most joy because we’re created in God’s image, and it’s those kinds of gifts that delight our beautiful Savior.

Many assume Jesus wants great sacrifice. Some stay away from God and church because they’re sure the Creator will ask for offerings bigger than they can afford. Even those who’ve walked with the Son of God sometimes get so caught up in serving, they forget these verses from the Psalms.

Ever since our Creator walked in the Garden of Eden, it’s been about the relationship. The Word has been delighted with those who bring their repentant heart since the beginning of time.

As we share this last week of Advent together, I want to remind you that you are a delightful gift to Jesus. As we come together to celebrate the King’s birthday, it’s important to remember He’s not really interested in all the hubbub we’ve created to make sure His coming is honored. You are His heart’s delight.

As you wrap presents in these final days before the main event, be sure to put a ribbon on your humble heart. Bring it to Jesus, offer it to Him as a birthday gift, today, tomorrow and all year round!

The Fourth Thursday in Advent

2 Samuel 22:17-20
Psalm 18:16-19

He reached down from on high and took hold of me;
he drew me out of deep waters.
He rescued me from my powerful enemy,
from my foes, who were too strong for me.
They confronted me in the day of my disaster,
but the Lord was my support.
He brought me out into a spacious place;
he rescued me because he delighted in me. (NIV)

These verses are found in two places in scripture. They are a song of praise from David when he was on the run from Saul. David wrote a lot of poems that foreshadowed the One who’d be called the Son of David, and this song praising God for rescuing him is one.

We celebrate the Baby in the manger and often forget there’d be no celebration if He hadn’t been the Messiah on the cross. The Lord rescued David from the hands of his enemy, and Jesus was born to rescue us from ours. Since the day he tricked Eve in the Garden, humans have had an enemy. The ancient snake has been out to get humanity for six thousand years.

Jesus came to earth to rescue us from that enemy. His death on the cross and his resurrection were the tools of the rescue. And He did it because He is delighted in you!

One the things I admire most about David was the confidence he had in his relationship with God. The one whose heart looked like God’s knew beyond a shadow of a doubt his redeemer delighted in Him.

Wouldn’t that be a tremendous gift for the One who owns the world? What if you brought Him a relationship like David? This Christmas offer Him a friendship that is confident He delights in you. Jesus Christ has come to rescue you. Simply because he is delighted in you.

The Fourth Friday in Advent

Isaiah 43:1-7

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name; you are mine.
4 Since you are precious and honored
in my sight and because I love you . . .
5 Do not be afraid, for I am with you;” (NIV)

Imagine my surprise when I logged on to today and found the word of the day to be delectation. Maybe you guessed it’s related to the word delectable and means delight or enjoyment.

You are precious and honored in the sight of your Savior. Not because of anything you’ve done or even any gifts you’ve brought. Because He loves you, He delights in you. He thinks you’re delectable!

For the past twenty some days we’ve talked about all the gifts we could bring to Christ for His birthday. We’ve created a list for Jesus that includes justice and mercy, love and praise, songs and dancing. We’ve discovered He just wants us to come and listen and live in His peace and rest. But this week we’ve seen over and over again, Jesus is most delighted in you.

For four weeks we’ve been reminded it’s Jesus’ birthday we’re celebrating. In just two days, we may get some presents. There’s a chance we’ll get exactly what we asked for, but with each one, I hope you’ll give Jesus one of the gifts He requested in His Word. Give Him praise with each bow you untie, and tell Him you love Him each time you break a ribbon. Sing to Him with all your heart when the radio plays “O Come Let Us Adore Him,” and dance if you dare when the church starts lifting “Joy to the World.”

Don’t do it because you have to. Don’t even do it because you want to give Jesus a gift. Do it because you have a humble heart full of love for the One who loved you first. Celebrate Jesus’ birthday with all your might because you are precious in His sight, and He thinks you’re delectable!

The Third Week of Advent

The Candle of Praise

The Third Sunday in Advent

Psalm 96:1-9

1 Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth.
2 Sing to the Lord, praise his name;’
. . .
9 Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness;
tremble before him, all the earth. (NIV)

What better gift for Jesus’ birthday than the gift of praise! This week, as we add a third light, we’ll concentrate on ways to praise Jesus.

The whole holiday we call Christmas began as a special service of praise. The earliest Christians wanted to celebrate the splendor and majesty of Jesus. They were grateful the Son of God had come to earth, and set aside a special time to praise Him for giving up the beauty of heaven to live here.

Today’s scripture tells us to sing our praise. It doesn’t say it has to sound beautiful to human ears. It just says to sing and praise His Name. Jesus loves to hear your songs.

When you sing praise in the shower or the car, when you lift up one of those songs you heard in church at the top of your lungs, Jesus considers it a gift.

If you’re brave enough, end your devotion time today with a song of praise. You can even make it up as you go. Jesus’ birthday is only a couple of weeks away. Will you give Him a song of praise?

The Third Tuesday in Advent

Luke 2:46-55

46 And Mary said,
“My soul glorifies the Lord
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
. . .
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.

After she arrived at Elizabeth’s house and her relative confirmed the words of the angel, the first thing Mary did was give glory to God. She didn’t care who was around, she broke out in praise!

When was the last time you got good news and said more than a quiet, “Praise God”? I know, I’m self-conscience too. I don’t want people to think I’m a lunatic. But sometimes I think I should give the doctor at least three or four lines when he gives me good news. And what about those days you stop at the bank and find out you weren’t overdrawn when you were sure that last check would get there before you; do you take even 30 seconds of the teller’s time to thank Jesus?

Mary said her spirit rejoiced in God her Savior. We talk about joy at Christmas; we hang banners and paint it on ornaments. Isaac Watts penned a whole carol we sing every year, but are we truly joyful? Do we really rejoice in our Savior; especially during this season when we celebrate His birth?

Jesus asks us to rejoice in Him. It’s a simple request; won’t cost you anything except a few seconds of your time. Mary rejoiced in the great things the Mighty One had done. Today we light three candles, one for Truth, one for the Prophets and one for Praise. I challenge you to start today and find at least three things to be joyful about every day between now and Christmas. Tell the world what the Mighty One has done, and don’t forget to make sure they know you rejoice in the One born so we could celebrate Christmas.

The Third Wednesday in Advent

Romans 15:7-13

9 “Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles;
I will sing the praises of your name.”
. . .
11 “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles;
let all the peoples extol him.”
12 And again, Isaiah says,
“The Root of Jesse will spring up,
one who will arise to rule over the nations;
in him the Gentiles will hope.”

These words were written by Paul as he quoted from four places in the Old Testament. These are words that Jesus left heaven to fulfill.

Jesus came, not only for the Jews, but also for the Gentiles. Some may ask, “So who were the Gentiles.” The Gentiles were the people who didn’t follow God, anyone who wasn’t part of Israel. In today’s language, a Gentile might be someone who doesn’t follow Christ. And our Savior asks us to praise His Name among the Gentiles.

I know, sometimes it’s hard! People at work and school don’t want to hear about Jesus. The guy in front of you at McDonald’s probably doesn’t care about the real reason we have Christmas. And truth is we aren’t called to be obnoxious with the gospel.

But what if we looked for more opportunities to give praise to Jesus? How might our “Gentile” friends see the baby in the manger differently if we gave Him credit for the little things He helps us with every day?

It’s easy to tell our Christians friends about the goodness of God, but this year, as a gift to Christ, let’s share those blessings with those outside the church. Maybe our praise will be just what those Gentiles need to find the One who will give them hope.

The Third Thursday in Advent

Isaiah 52:7
How beautiful on the mountains
are the feet of those who bring good news,
who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings,
who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion,
“Your God reigns!” (NIV)

Do you have beautiful feet? I don’t . . . they’re dry and rough, and my toes are weird. I don’t wear flip flops much in public. However, I’m hoping Jesus still thinks highly of them!

Beautiful feet are a wonderful gift for Jesus’ birthday, feet that take with them the gospel, feet that carry the message of the one who brings peace. Your feet are lovely to God when you share your story of salvation and praise Christ because He is Lord of your life.

I know . . . it seems like a strange gift to give the person who has literally everything. Who wants feet for Christmas?

But the feet aren’t what’s important here. They are only beautiful because of the message they carry. When we are willing to say “The Lord reigns,” we have tantalizing tootsies!

The birthday gifts on Jesus’ list aren’t pricey or impossible to find. They may cost time or the surrender of pride. But imagine the look on your Savior’s face when your beautiful feet bring Him the gift of praise and the message to the world that you want the Lord to be the ruler of your life.

The Third Friday in Advent

Psalm 95:1-7

6 Come, let us bow down in worship,
let us kneel before the Lord our Maker;
7 for he is our God (NIV)

Singing and dancing may seem like pretty bold gifts for Jesus, even if we have beautiful feet. But with what our Psalm says today, you might be glad for only three candles in a dark room. In fact it looks like the closer we get to Christmas, the more costly the gift.

King David probably wrote these words. A man who was accustomed to people bowing to him, asks us to kneel before Jesus and worship.

The very first to bow before the baby Jesus were men of great wealth and status. You might think it was the shepherds, and perhaps it was; but the Bible’s first record of anyone bowing to the baby is in Matthew 2:11. The Magi, sometimes called Wise Men, came to see the baby, and Matthew says they bowed before Him and worshipped.

These men brought three famous gifts to honor the wee one they knew would be King. The gifts were useful, especially since the family fled to Egypt right after the Magi’s visit, but I wonder if the Heavenly Father was more pleased with these mystics from the east because they understood the magnificence and splendor of His Son.

Bowing before Christ may be the greatest gift of praise we can bring. It shows we know our place. Bowing demonstrates humility and understanding. Kneeling before the throne of the Master is an act of surrender and reverence, a gift of honor to the One who is worthy of all our praise.

The Third Saturday in Advent

Luke 19:37-40

37 When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:
38 “Blessed is the king who comes
in the name of the Lord!”
“Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”
40 “I tell you,” he replied,
“if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” (NIV)

Yesterday we bowed with the first men who worshipped Christ here on earth. Today we listen to the last. In this passage Luke tells the story of the day we call Palm Sunday, the very last time the Lamb of God heard words of praise before they hung Him on the cross.

The days leading up to Christmas bring a season when more people than normal will tolerate hearing the stories of Jesus. Yes, there are those who still won’t listen, but for the most part, Christians have a window of opportunity to talk about the baby in the manger. This is our chance to invite people to church and share our thanksgivings for the King who comes in the Name of the Lord. For some reason everyone except the stingiest scrooge enjoys singing Silent Night with candles. And often the gift of praise we give to Jesus is the most effective invitation.

But our gifts to Jesus shouldn’t have an expiration date. Just because Christmas passes doesn’t mean we quit bringing these precious gifts to our Savior. Jesus told the Pharisees if His fans kept quiet the stones would cry out. Praise is that important to Christ. God has made a way for Jesus to be praised whether or not we lift out voices.

I, for one, do not want a stone to have to speak for me. My Father is worthy! His Son is wonderful! The Spirit is wondrous. I want to be sure to praise Him loud and clear, “Happy Birthday, Jesus! You are blessed because you come in the Name of the Lord bringing peace and glory!”

The Second Week of Advent

The Candle of Prophecy


The Rest of the Archive

In case I don't get here to add the current day's reading in time, you can find the archive here:

2016 Advent Archive

The Second Sunday in Advent

Isaiah 61:1-13

1 The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
3 They will be called oaks of righteousness,
for the display of his splendor. (NIV)

Every day this week we’ll light two candles. We’ll relight the Candle of Truth to remind us the basic truths of scripture never change and the first things Jesus wants for His birthday are the basics.

The second candle we’ll call the Candle of Prophecy. More than 300 prophecies in the Old Testament gave Messianic clues to the people of Israel. Jesus fulfilled every single one. This first one from Isaiah is pretty well-known because one day when they asked Jesus to read scripture at the temple, this is the one He read. And just in case there was any doubt He was the Messiah, Mary’s Son told the people of His hometown, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” That sermon didn’t do a thing to increase his popularity in Nazareth. But we know these verses are talking about Jesus.

So, what do you see to add to Jesus Birthday Wish List? I think He’s telling us to bring to Him the poor, the brokenhearted and those who are being held captive.

Each of us have fun gifts on our wish list based on the talents we’ve been given. I like paper, pens and guitar strings. Jesus was given the ability to bind up broken hearts and free those held captive unfairly. Makes sense He wants us to bring Him the things that help Him best use His gifts.

In your prayer time, bring to Jesus the names of those who are poor, broken hearted and held captive. Lift them up to Him as a gift for His birthday. Plus if you’re poor, spiritually or financially, come to Christ. If you have had your heart broken, by a friend or loved one, death or disappointment, bring your brokenness to Jesus. Perhaps you feel like you’re being held captive. You feel stifled and unable to reach the potential you were created with, come to the Savior who wants to free you from those chains. And remember when you do, you’re bringing Jesus a tremendous birthday gift.

The Second Tuesday in Advent

Isaiah 32:17-20

God will put his Spirit from above into us
. . . righteousness will be found in the fertile fields.
That righteousness will bring peace, calm and safety forever.
My people will live in peaceful places .. .
They will live in calm places of rest. (NIV)

Have you ever had one of those days when nothing goes right? You can’t find your shoes or you forgot to pick up your lunch on your way out the door. Maybe it was something worse: you were cheated, lied to or wrongly accused. Whatever happened, it wasn’t right, it wasn’t fair and you didn’t have any peace.

That’s how the nation of Israel was feeling about the time Jesus was born. They had cruel kings who cheated and stole. The people didn’t feel safe, and even the guys who were supposed to be talking to God for them were more interested in saving their own skin than helping the people. It was a mess. Then came Jesus.

Most people expected the Messiah to fix things right away, so they didn’t believe Jesus when He said He was the Son of God. But after He lived a perfect life, then died and rose again, the followers of Christ began to understand what Isaiah meant. Jesus’ people, His disciples, were given the Holy Spirit and started to feel peace no one could explain. Even though their situation didn’t change, the followers of Christ knew peace. One of the greatest presents we can bring to Jesus is to live out these words of Isaiah.

Did you light candles today? There’s something peaceful and serene in the flame of a single candle. True peace is only found in Christ and His Spirit. When we spend time getting to know Jesus, learning to be His friend, we grow to know the peace we read about in today’s scripture.

For Jesus’ birthday find the calm the Spirit gives, give up the yelling and the worrying we find when we’re walking alone. Ask His Spirit to fill you so you can bring Him the gift of a tranquil and reposed you, a gift worthy of the Prince of Peace.

The Second Wednesday in Advent

Isaiah 9:6-7

6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end. (NIV)

This might be one of the most famous prophecies of Jesus ever recorded. It’s read in nearly every church sometime during the season, and for three hundred years people have been singing Handel’s classic, “Messiah” that includes these words.

Jesus added this to His list about eight hundred years before he was born. He told us He would be born as a baby, but He would be a leader. And He asked us to recognize Him as the Trinity . . . The Wonderful Counselor (The Holy Spirit), Mighty God (The essence of the entire Trinity), Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace. Jesus simply wants us to know who He is and live like we know it.

When we trust Jesus to be our Counselor, our Father and our Prince, we give Him a great gift. The deeper we grow in understanding of His greatness and might, the bigger the present. If you want to really get beyond your little Christmas celebration this year, this is one of the things you’ll bring to Christ.

Even if you don’t completely understand the concept of the Trinity, Jesus invites you to accept it. Believe Him when He says, “I am in the Father, and the Father is in me.” (John 14:10) Even on the day Mary laid Him in the hay, the Savior was a part of the Triune God. Praising Him for this marvelous revelation will be a gift fit for the King.

The Second Thursday in Advent

Isaiah 11:1-3

1 A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
2 The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
. . .
the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord—
3 and he will delight in the fear of the Lord. (NIV)

Jesus is the Branch. Jesse was King David’s dad, so Mary’s baby is the shoot from the stump of Jesse. And more than anyone else in history, the Son of God had the Spirit of the knowledge of the Heavenly Father as well as the fear of Him.

When we talk about fear, most people understand it as a December kind of fear. Many are afraid of the dark, and right now we have more dark than light. But when Isaiah talked about fear, the prophet wasn’t asking us to be terrified. Other versions of the Bible use words like respect, honor and obey in place of fear.

Jesus delights in the fear of the Lord, like an earthly father delights in his child’s fear of the parent. A good daddy doesn’t want his kids to be afraid of him, but he does want them to respect him enough to keep away from trouble, to live in a way that would honor him and the family. It’s a fear of disappointment and sometimes even a fear of punishment, but never a fear of being unloved or tormented.

Our Savior just wants a little respect and honor for His birthday. He’s hoping we’ll take His words in the Bible seriously, believe them and live them. And when we bring this gift of fear, honor, respect and obedience, the Messiah is delighted to have you celebrate His birthday.

The Second Friday in Advent

Isaiah 40:3-5

3 “In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
4 Every valley shall be raised up,
every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
the rugged places a plain.
5 And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
and all people will see it together.
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” (NIV)

We can’t talk about getting ready for Christmas without mentioning John the Baptist. Jesus’ older cousin was sent to get everyone ready. These verses from Isaiah 40 were words John would share when he started his ministry just before Jesus went public. But what do these words mean to us almost 3000 years after Isaiah wrote them?

John’s job was to tell people to prepare for the Messiah, and even today, people need to prepare. Our hearts are the wilderness; they’re rough ground, the rugged place. Let’s face it, until we commit to Christ, our hearts tend to get out of hand.

You give your heart to the wrong people, and it gets broken. When I follow my heart instead of Jesus, I end up in places no human was ever meant to tread. But when I prepare my heart to be a place where Christ can live with Bible reading and prayer, the glory of the Lord is revealed. People take notice.

This is the gift Jesus wants, perhaps most of all, from us for His birthday. As you pray today, ask the Holy Spirit to help you prepare your heart. The Wonderful Counselor loves to help with the best birthday presents for the Son.

The Second Saturday in Advent

Revelation 2:1-7

These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands. 2 I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. 3 You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. . . (NIV)

Those who follow Jesus trust He’ll be back again. He promised it more than once. And just like last week, we’re including a few verses that look ahead to those days to come.

Did you know Jesus walks among the churches? He called them lampstands, maybe because we’re supposed to be a light to the world. And did you know each church has an angel assigned to it? Yep, that’s what Christ told John when He gave the apostle the vision, each church has an angel Jesus holds in His hand. The Son of God is in charge of those angels. And the Messiah sees everything we do.

But what does this have to do with Jesus’ birthday presents? The Savior reminded John, and us, He wants us to keep on keeping on. Wrap it up and put a bow on it, our endurance is a gift to the One born in Bethlehem.

Jesus knows life on this earth isn’t easy. He walked here. He put up with the drama and persecution. The Son of Mary gets it. So when we stand up for what is right and endure hardship, He knows how we feel, and He appreciates our efforts.

If you’ve lit candles and the sun’s gone down, turn out the lights. Just like those flames brighten the inky darkness, your perseverance is a sparkle in an world with no light. When you continue to walk in the Spirit and not grow weary, you bring the One who holds the seven stars a marvelous offering, a beautiful and appreciated birthday present.

The First Week of Advent

The Candle of Truth

The First Sunday in Advent

Micah 6:8
But he’s already
made it plain how to live,
what to do,
what God is looking for
in men and women.
It’s quite simple:
Do what is fair
and just to your neighbor,
be compassionate
and loyal in your love,
And walk humbly with God.

Have you made a Christmas list yet? That’s the question everyone’s asking. This time of year we get so caught up in decorations, gifts, parties and preparations, we sometimes forget it’s not our birthday. How would your celebration be different if instead of asking for presents or searching for the right gift for someone else, you tried to give Jesus everything on His list?

For the next few weeks, that’s exactly what we’ll try to do. For a few minutes each day, we’ll slow down, light a candle or two and read some scripture to discover what’s on Jesus’ wish list. These first seven days we’ll light one candle we’ll call Truth. Its light will remind us there are a few basics Jesus wants for His birthday.

Thirty-some years ago I started a tradition in our family. Every year each of my girls, and now my grandkids, get a Christmas ornament. Plus we create handmade ornaments to give to the extended family. It’s a basic gift, something my family has come to count on (and hopefully appreciate).

Our verse from Micah gives us the first three items to put on Jesus’ Birthday Wish List. Like my ornaments, these three things are just basic gifts. They aren’t showy or fancy. They’re just simple truths, gifts, presents for Jesus.

Micah tells us God wants us to act justly, be compassionate and walk with Him. Our celebration of Jesus’ birthday is just around the corner. It’s important we give Him the right gifts, things He’s asked for. But what will these gifts look like when you wrap them up for Jesus? How will you do what is fair? Who will you treat with more kindness? Will you read more scripture and take more time to talk to Him so you can walk humbly with Jesus tomorrow and the next day? Tomorrow we’ll add more truths to the Birthday Wish List, but until then let’s start giving Jesus these basic gifts today.

The First Monday in Advent

Isaiah 55:1-5

1 “Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters; . . . 2 Listen, listen to me, . . .
3 Give ear and come to me . . .

I hope you read all five of those verses today! Because if you did, you saw Jesus doesn’t really need much from us. These verses of prophecy, written hundreds of years before the Savior was born, told the people of Israel God was going to give His witness, Jesus, splendor. Truthfully, once you have the splendor of God, you’re pretty hard to buy for!

So, Jesus makes his wish list easy, basic. For His birthday this year, He simply wants us to come and listen. Yep, just show up for the party. Don’t fill up on the junk the world has to offer before you arrive; come hungry and thirsty so you can get your fill of the best! And then listen to Him when He talks. It’s His birthday, his party. He deserves our attention.

Our candle this week is called Truth, and the truth is Jesus wants us to come to Him. Yesterday Micah told us this One who is covered in God’s splendor wants to walk with us. Today He says, “Come and listen.” It doesn’t get much more basic than that.

We should celebrate Christmas like we’re partying with our friend. Friendship means being there. Christ asks us to be with Him. The best part of the deal is He has the absolute best party favors! He plans to make sure we’re never hungry or thirsty, especially spiritually. In fact, He says He has the richest of fare.

Your friend has asked you to come to His birthday party. Will you be there? Will you come and listen even on the days that aren’t His birthday? He gives us so much and asks for so little. Make this a year round gift, come to your Savior and listen.

The First Tuesday in Advent

Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight. (NIV)

The kinds of things Jesus wants for His birthday are a lot different than the items you’ll find on our lists. Little ones want toys and games, teens are hoping for electronics and grown-ups dream of cruises, vacations and more. I wonder if anyone reading this has “trust” on their wish list.

This week we’re lighting a candle called Truth because we’re looking at some of the basic truths about Jesus. And the truth of today’s scripture is Jesus wants you to trust Him.

Trust is difficult. Most of us have experienced broken trust at one time or another. We trusted a friend who didn’t follow through with his word. We’ve trusted co-workers who made us look bad. When we were young we trusted parents and other adults who, in their humanness and often through no fault of their own, weren’t there when we expected them or weren’t able to keep a promise. Even when those adults’ intentions were good; even if they were just as crushed as we were, we learned at a young age trust is a fragile thing.

So often we trust God from the perspective of our own understanding. We trust Jesus the same way we trust other humans, with a guarded heart instead of the whole thing.

This year for His birthday, Jesus is hoping you’ll find the childlike trust you had before humans messed it up. He’s waiting for you to bring Him your whole trusting heart with all the confidence of a two year old. And like a gift from a two year old, your heart doesn’t have to be all cleaned up and pretty, it doesn’t have to be perfect. He just wants all of it to trust Him.

The First Wednesday in Advent

Isaiah 1:11-13

11 “The multitude of your sacrifices—
what are they to me?” says the Lord.
. . . 13 Stop bringing meaningless offerings! (NIV)

Today’s scripture doesn’t seem to be very Christmassy or hold much hope. One might wonder how these three verses made the cut. But if we’re going to talk about what Jesus wants for His birthday, we might as well check out the things on the “fruitcake” list.

Each of us has a list of gifts we hope no one buys for us. We don’t actually write it down and give it to our loved ones, but if you think about it, you know it’s true. The kids don’t want clothes or school supplies. Mom does not think a new gravy ladle or pancake turner is the perfect gift, and Dad is thinking, “Please, not one more personalized mini-plate from Timbuktu.” Admit it, not many folks really want a fruitcake for Christmas, and each of us has a “fruitcake” list in our head. We’re just too well trained in social correctness to put it out there.

Jesus, on the other hand, could never have been called politically or socially correct. He was often brutally honest; and before you go thinking you should take up that trait, remember, Christ always did it with love.

Our Heavenly Father was clear, the Trinity does not want meaningless sacrifice. Those things we do for our Savior out of guilt and obligation aren’t good birthday gifts. Money dropped in the plate without appreciating God’s provisional love is worthless. Self-martyrdom is pointless and not on Jesus’ wish list.

Today we light again the Candle of Truth so it’s only fitting we are reminded of the truth of what Jesus wants from us. He does not want obligatory sacrifices and meaningless offerings. Jesus wants justice, mercy and trust. He asks us to come, listen and walk with Him. The Prince of Peace would prefer you bring no gift at all to His party than bring a gift without your full love and true devotion.

The First Thursday in Advent

Exodus 34:26

Bring the best of the firstfruits of your soil
to the house of the Lord your God. (NIV)

Firstfruits isn’t used much in the Twenty-First Century. It’s just a fancy word for the first things you pick from the garden. In other words, Jesus wants the best of the first.

As you light a candle tonight, think about what the best of your firstfruits might be. If you’re gardening, the answer’s a bit easier. The first really wonderful tomato you pull off the vine belongs to Jesus. If you get a paycheck, the best of the firstfruits might be taking God’s share out before you pay the bills. For kids the best of their firstfruits could be bringing their best behavior to church or giving up one new toy every now and then, donating it to someone who has less. Teens might consider their time a gift and give some of the first of their time to volunteering at church or helping an elderly person who can’t leave the house. Ideas for giving Jesus Christ firstfruits for His birthday are unending.

In the rush to get and give more gifts than we’ll ever need it’s important to remember everything is a blessing from God, and every blessing has some firstfruit attached. This is what Jesus wants for His birthday.

So, what will you bring? And will you bring it gladly with a joyful heart? A gift begrudgingly given isn’t a very welcome one. What will you wrap up for Jesus for His birthday this year?

The First Friday in Advent

Psalm 149

1 Praise the Lord.
2 Sing to the Lord a new song,
3 praise his name with dancing
4 For the Lord takes delight in his people;
5 Let his faithful people rejoice in this honor
6 May the praise of God be in their mouths
9 Praise the Lord. (NIV)

This Psalm, and many others, makes it very clear that one of the items you’ll find on Jesus’ Birthday Wish List is praise. At least six times the Bible says He’s worthy of our praise, and several places tell us to be loud with praise. Leviticus reminds us praise is an offering or gift, and Isaiah asks us to bring so much praise to Christ it looks like our clothing.

So often when we’re shopping for presents, we try to make sure we’re spending enough money. We don’t want to look cheap; so sometimes we confuse the cost of the gift with the amount of our love.

We do the same with Jesus. We imagine the one who serves on the most committees or travels the furthest for missions must love Jesus the most. Like the widow who threw her last two coins into the offering plate, many fear their mites (that’s what the widow’s coins were called) aren’t enough.

But have you looked at Jesus’ Birthday List so far? You won’t find one thing money can buy. The truth is we make Christmas expensive and stressful. Jesus’ requests are free and simple, yet priceless.

The candle of Truth burns bright tonight. Even if you do have a real flame, I hope the Truth is shining in your heart, too. Before you pray take a minute and give Jesus His gift. Give Him praise for who He is and what He’s done. I know it’s early, but it’s a gift He deserves all year round.

The First Saturday in Advent

Revelation 22:16-17

16 “I, Jesus, have sent my angel
to give you this testimony for the churches.
I am the Root and the Offspring of David,
and the bright Morning Star.”

17 The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life. (NIV)

We’ve reached the last day of the first week of Advent, and while there’s a lot more truth in scripture we could share, we only have time for one more, so I’ve included these words from Revelation.

Advent is a time to prepare for Jesus’ coming. Sometimes we’re so caught up in preparing for the celebration of His first coming, we forget we’re supposed to be looking ahead to His second coming. These verses at the very end of the Bible remind us that one day when the Spirit says, “Come!” we will be ushered into the presence of Christ. Then, we’ll bring Jesus the gift of ourselves, and He’ll tell us, “Now you can drink from the water of life.” The ultimate gift for Jesus is you and me ready to live forever with Him.

Earlier this week we added “come” to the list of things Jesus wants for His birthday. Today we’ll explore it to its fullest. You see, Jesus wants us to come to Him now. His greatest desire is a relationship with each of us. It’s like giving a gift to your mother. She’d rather spend the day with you than have you buy her a diamond pendant. Jesus is the same way. He really just wants us to come to Him, and the main reason is so we’ll be ready to come and drink from the water of life when He comes again, whenever that is.

As we focus on this Candle of Truth one last time remember Jesus wants you. He wants you to come so He can lavish you with His love. After you come, He may ask you to do Him a favor from time to time, but what Jesus truly wants for His birthday is you. You don’t have to do anything special or be somehow better. Jesus sent the invitation, no strings attached. He just says, “Come!”


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