December 20th devo image, Christmas themed decorations on a table.

Use this devo as you are able, in whole or in part. Don’t feel compelled to read it all. Simply read and meditate upon whatever catches your attention. The goal is enjoying time with God through His Word and in prayer. Questions about the devotional elements?

What is Advent?

Advent is the four-week season of preparation to celebrate the coming of Jesus at Christmas. This year we will prepare room for Christ in our hearts and lives through daily readings in from Philip Reinder’s Seeking God’s Face and the occasional work of art: a song, a painting, or a poem. Something that will sneak past our usual barriers of noise, hustle and busyness to help cultivate a discerning eye for both our sin and the hope Christ carries with him.

Our hope is that this season of expectant waiting will help us to tap into both our sense that the world is not as it should be AND (a glorious and!) that God in Christ has come down to bring healing and consolation to our broken world and hearts. Advent is a season, then, where we say: All shall be well! Because the true King has come!

Call to Prayer

“Restore us, O God; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved.” (Ps. 80:3)

Scripture Reading

Read the following passages and then spend a moment in quiet stillness before God.
Readings: Psalm 72:1-7 and Luke 1:39-45

Dwelling

Remind yourself you are in God’s presence and read again…notice how God might be speaking to you through his Word—dwell on a word or phrase that jumps out at you…let your heart respond to God in prayer…take refreshment in God’s presence!

Free Prayer

  • Pray for our role as caretakers of creation
  • Pray for the ears to hear God in creation
  • Pray for God’s care and comfort in natural disasters and a creation that groans

Prayer

Son of Man and Son of God, in real time, you were conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the virgin Mary. Deity and humanity were inseparably joined together in you. Thank you for the way Christmas reminds me that faith is both material and mystical. No confusion, but lots of wonder. Amen. (prayer based on the Westminster Confession, Question 8.2).

*Prayer borrowed from Philip Reinders’ Seeking God’s Face: Praying with the Bible through the Year

Wonder

Advent begins in the dark. Literally. It is the darkest time of the year. Advent, which begins our church calendar, begins facing this darkness. Advent comes to us as a gift of darkness, emptiness, and says – will you enter this period of waiting with me? Will you pause to remember and recognize your own emptiness and darkness – and practice longing for the light? These works of art invite us to enter into the wonder and waiting for the Light of the World to dawn on Christmas morn.

“Attention” and “Mighty God” by Scott Erickson

My wife, Laura, came across Scott’s art a couple of years ago. Here’s the thing I love about Scott as an artist. He’s willing to offend our sentimentalism. The thing about Christmastime and Advent is that, whatever your experience with the church, you likely have some picture in your mind about the way things are supposed to go. We’re supposed to arrive at the nativity with Mary and Joseph hovering over the Christ child with either pious awe or unnatural wonder. And, you know, maybe that’s how it happened.

But, I’ll be honest, I’ve been around for the births of my own children and, even with all the modern medical interventions, everyone collapses exhausted by the end. And, I’ve wondered, “Why aren’t there more nativities like that?”

You know, little carved wooden figurines of Joseph is sitting with his elbows on his knees, shell-shocked yet letting out little chuckle sighs as he looks down at the maker of the moon squirming in his arms. While Mary, let’s be real, is taking a much-deserved nap before the her Redeemer-babe needs another feeding.

Back to Scott. Each year Scott’s Honest Advent exhibit appears in churches around the globe. It’s a simple gallery. Each piece is meant to draw us toward the flesh-and-blood reality of God clothed in human flesh. 

Two images, however, are juxtaposed in my mind, and I’m sharing them below. One reminds us that the Creator of the Cosmos came as a baby. It’s almost too much to believe! A baby, so frail, so vulnerable was going to rescue the world? And yet, there he lay lovingly swaddled and cuddled up against the warmth of his parents bodies.

But the second image reminds us…

…and, again, I’m just going to warn you that this art is not meant to warm your heart. It’s meant to catch you off-guard, cause you to pause, pray, and to consider…

…that God really did become human right down to the undeniable, though rarely talked about, theological fact that diaper changes were part of God’s plan of redemption. I can’t believe I just wrote that but it’s true!

So perhaps all those unnaturally awe-filled nativities aren’t too far off from reality, and maybe, just maybe, what we’re really meant to do each Advent is to prepare him room by being shocked (just a little) out of our sentimentalism and into the true wonder and beauty that is the true tall tale of the coming of Christ.

Reflection by Scott Erickson

What does it say about a God…who’s willing to be this vulnerable with us? Who’s willing to come into this world through the statistical risk of childbearing? Who’s willing to be attached by a placenta for nourishment and life to His own creation? Who’s willing to wait and grow in the human womb? Who’s willing to be fearfully and wonderfully made, just like we are?

Benediction

May the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven, shine on those living in darkness and guide our feet into the path of peace. (see Luke 1:78-79)

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