December 21st devo image, Christmas ornaments on a tree.

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 80:1-3 and Luke 1:46-55

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 God to equip us to serve in uniquely Christian ways in the public arena
  • Pray for our capacity to serve the common good
  • Pray for those who work in education

Prayer

Son of David, today I bow before you as my true King. You subdue me by humbling yourself as a helpless baby, you rule me by subjecting yourself, you defend me through a chubby infant’s arm, and the hand of power that conquers all enemies is curled around a mother’s finger. Amen. (prayer based on the Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 26).

*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.

“This is the Christ” by Martin Luther (modern arrangement by Sandra McCracken*)

This is one of my favorite Christmas hymns and, unfortunately, we don’t sing it often at Christmas.

Originally entitled “Good News From Heaven The Angels Bring” (or whatever the equivalent is in German), this hymn was penned in 1535 by none other than that great, beer-loving reformer, Martin Luther, and it’s six short verses are meant to help fill in the gospel-soaked details that would have begun seep into the minds and hearts of the shepherds and all who heard their tale that night.

“The Messiah had come! That’s what the angels had said.” Now, they may have been shepherds, and it’s possible that only moments earlier they had been recounting their days to the dumb-faced sheep that were bedding down for the night, but no son or daughter of Abraham (nor anyone who has listened to Linus tell Charlie Brown about the true meaning of Christmas) could have missed that opening line the angel spoke from Isaiah 9:6-7!

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given…”

I can’t be sure, but I think Luther was hoping we would trace each line back to its source in Scripture. If you do, you will find that each stanza unfolds the promises that the angels recounted, primarily from Isaiah (see 9:6-7; 60:19-22; 61:1-4), and answers the question, “Who is this Child?” in fuller detail:

Good news from heaven the angels bring
Glad tidings to the earth they sing
To us this day a child is given
To crown us with the joy of heaven

This is the Christ, our God and Lord
Who in all need shall aid afford
He will himself our savior be
And from our sins will set us free

To us that blessedness He brings,
Which from the Father’s bounty springs:
That in the heavenly realm we may
With Him enjoy eternal day.

All hail, thou noble guest this morn
Whose love did not the sinner scorn
In my distress thou come’st to me
What thanks shall i return to thee?

Were earth a thousand times as fair
Beset with gold and jewels rare
She yet were far too poor to be
A narrow cradle, Lord, for thee…

Praise God upon his heavenly throne
Who gave to us his only son
For this his hosts on joyful wing
A blest New Year of mercy sing

*A quick note on Sandra McCracken whose retuned version of Luther’s hymn is linked below in the image.
I first heard Sandra’s music as a freshman in college. I was moved by the simplicity of her arrangements, and later learned that one of her goals as a songwriter is to give the church songs that can just as easily be sung on the back porch with a small gathering of friends as they can on a Sunday morning. I like that.
.
I should also mention that she is a prolific hymn writer (14 albums over two decades!) whose music has been featured on Grey’s Anatomy (I’ve never seen the show but I hear it’s popular).
.
Anyway, give it a listen by clicking the picture below!

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)

© 2014 - OPC|Milford