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)
Read the following passages and then spend a moment in quiet stillness before God.
Readings: Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13 and Micah 5:2-4
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!
- Pray for governments, leaders, and the needs of our world
- Pray for the continent of South America
- Pray for international relief agencies
God of place and time, you chose the little town of Bethlehem to be the birthplace of David and of David’s greater Son. Make us aware of your active purpose in our towns and neighborhoods, so that we see them as places of promise in our time. Amen. (prayer based on the Heidelberg Catechism, Question 19).
*Prayer borrowed from Philip Reinders’ Seeking God’s Face: Praying with the Bible through the Year
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.
“Behold the Lamb of God” by Anthony J. Carter + “Deliver Us” by Andrew Peterson
Anthony J. Carter is a pastor from Georgia and his reflection on Jesus as the Lamb of God in Christianity Today’s The Gospel of Advent, caught my attention because it reminded me of a line from Andrew Peterson’s song “Deliver Us.”
“…our sins they are more numerous than all the lambs we slay…”
Growing up in the church, I never really could make much sense of the whole sacrificial system that Israel participated in, but when I first heard that line over a decade ago, suddenly all of the pieces of what I thought was a collection of disconnected stories clicked into place. As it turns out, the whole Bible is telling one big story, and I had simply missed how every story, in one way or another, points us to Christ.
Pastor Carter’s reflection below builds and expands on what Andrew penned in his song, and I hope that his words will help lead you deeper into the reality of what it means that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
Two Quick Notes:
- Anthony’s reflection on John 1:29-34 is below. Give the passage a read at some point today, and watch how Anthony’s insights help to expand your understanding of what is happening as John the Baptizer calls out to Jesus.
- Click the image of the Lamb to take a listen to Andrew Peterson’s song, “Deliver Us” which features the multi-talented Scott Mulvahill on upright bass and vocals.
Reflection by Anthony J. Carter
The Old Testament is replete with shepherds. Abraham was a shepherd, as were Jacob and Rachel, as well as Moses, King David, and the prophet Amos. Shepherding was an important job because the community of God’s people in the Old Testament needed sheep. They needed lambs, a lot of lambs, in order to fulfill the requirement of sacrifices to God.
The thought of a seemingly endless slaughter of lambs can be unsettling for us. Just imagine how unsettling it must have been for those who participated in these bloody offerings! Yet because of sin, God required a sacrifice. He required a lamb. But not just any lamb. The lamb had to be spotless, without blemishes or defect (Lev. 22:21–22). In other words, it had to be perfect.
Even though God’s people were tasked with choosing the most perfect lambs, those lambs were never perfect enough. Their sacrifice covered sin, but they could never actually take it away (Heb. 10:4). Every cry of a lamb sacrificed in the Old Testament was in some ways a cry of long- ing for the truly perfect Lamb of God.
This cry continued through the generations until one day, John the Baptist saw Jesus walking toward him and declared, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). Here, John the Baptist offered an answer to the piercing question Isaac had asked his father Abraham many years before, and that echoed through the centuries: “Where is the lamb?” Abraham had replied to Isaac, “God himself will provide the lamb” (Gen. 22:7–8).
There by the river, John the Baptist declared Jesus to be the lamb God promised to provide. Behold, the perfect, unspotted, unblemished Lamb of God (see 1 Pet. 1:18–19).
We’re not looking for the lamb any- more. He has come. Jesus Christ is that lamb who was sacrificed—crucified—in our place (1 Cor. 5:7). He is the lamb “pierced for our transgressions” and “crushed for our iniquities” (Isa. 53:5). Jesus is the lamb, the only lamb, that once and for all made the sacrifice for our sins (Heb. 10:12).
John bore witness to the fact that Jesus was the “God’s Chosen One” (John 1:34). The baby who was born, whom John declared, was also “the Lamb who was slain” (Rev. 13:8). Today, when we worship the Lord, may we echo John’s prophetic words: Now behold the lamb!
Read John 1:29–34. (Option: Also reflect on John 1:6–8; 1 Cor. 5:7; 1 Pet. 1:18–19.)
How do John’s teachings about sin and repentance connect with his testimony about Jesus? How do you desire to respond to Jesus as you contemplate his identity as the Lamb of God?
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)