Advent 2, Monday, December 8, 2014
The Promise of Peace Restored Read: Isaiah 40:1-11
The image of Jesus as king is a bit lost on me. I can appreciate it in this passage; but, as an American, I have no king! At least, not an earthly one. What I know about kings I learned from Disney, which is not all that helpful. Thinking of Jesus as my President does not have the same meaning. Jesus is not the elected leader of the world. He doesn’t need our votes to hold that position.
When I read this passage I think of when I was thirteen and my dad was flying back from war. For months my life had felt like the opposite of peaceful. The moment I watched the second plane ram the World Trade Center, on live television, I knew what it could mean for my family. The peace and ignorance of childhood shattered for me on that day. Fear, not peace, filled my life, while my dad was away for war.
When the passage talks about the king coming with power and compassion I see my father in uniform walking toward us after his deployment. I remember the moment when his presence brought peace back to my family, after months of fear.
Do you have a memory of when peace was restored in your life? I think that feeling is what this passage is talking about.
Advent 2, Tuesday, December 9, 2014
Something Better Read: Mark 1:1-8
The Gospel of Mark does not talk about the birth of Jesus. He skips ahead to an adult John the Baptist preparing the way and talking about someone greater who was coming soon. I think this confused the people who came to hear John and be baptized by him. John was a celebrity who drew huge crowds and inspired multitudes of people to turn to God—and he started talking about somebody else coming along who was better?
Not a very good marketing strategy.
But John the Baptist saw the bigger picture. And I think Mark did too. The birth accounts in Matthew and Luke paint pictures of expectation surrounding the coming of Jesus, and Mark captures that same theme. When the Messiah comes, it will be better.
Christmas is a time we celebrate the birth of Jesus bringing better to us. He brought light to the world, hope to humanity, and peace to earth.
“Even better”, this is a theme that continues in Scripture as Jesus defeats death and promises us that there are greater things to come when He returns to earth next time.
Advent 2, Wednesday, December 10,2014
Missing Read: Psalm 72:1-8
The king, in this song, is one of strength and power and majesty. In his kingdom, there will be justice. In his kingdom, the poor will be cared for. In his kingdom, there will be peace and prosperity.
What an image of power and splendor this song creates, a foreshadowing of the promised Messiah. I imagine that first century Israel treasured this song and dreamed of the king it describes. A great king, a mighty king!
No wonder so many missed it, when the Messiah was born in tiny Bethlehem, to a small town girl and an average Joe, with nowhere to lie but a dirty manger. The king, who was the champion of the poor, was born into poverty. The king, who was to bring peace, was born into an Israel held captive by a foreign empire. The king, who was to bring justice, would eventually stand trial for crimes he never committed, and his execution be demanded by the very people he came to save.
Israel was awaiting a strong and powerful KING!
Jesus arrived as a helpless baby.
During Christmas, we are taught to expect miracles, grand gestures of God’s love, great proof of his power. We look for greatness! We look for might!
And God is great and mighty, a powerful king.
But don’t miss it when He shows up quietly, humbly, in the small moments of every day.
Advent 2, Thursday, December 11, 2014
Like Christmas Morning Read: Isaiah 11:1-10
As a kid, waiting to finally open presents on Christmas morning was absolute agony. It was torture to look at the nicely wrapped packages under the tree, scout out the ones that were mine, and know that I could not have them until Christmas. On Christmas Eve, my little brother and I would shovel down our dinner, race to put our pajamas on, and be in bed by 6, because we knew the sooner we fell asleep, the sooner it would at last be Christmas morning.
And I remember Christmas as a kid, and let me tell you, it was good. Always worth the wait. I couldn’t tell you now anything I got. But the anticipation, which was killer at the time, was always worth it in the end. I believe now that the long wait for presents was one of the things that made Christmas feel “magical” as a child.
This passage gives us a glimpse of how Israel longed for the promised Savior. Just like seeing wrapped gifts under the tree, they knew there was something incredible coming. That first Christmas morning must have been awesome in Heaven. The angels loved it. After all those years of waiting, at last! Jesus arrived!
How much greater will the party be when Jesus comes back again? I am grateful to live on this side of Jesus’ birth, but it is going to be even better than Christmas morning, when He returns.
Advent 2, Friday, December 12, 2014
A Different Kind of Peace Read: Isaiah 9:6 & Philippians 4:6-7
Many of the passages we have read together this week talk about Jesus as king. One of the reasons many first century Jews rejected Jesus was because He did not look like the king they thought the Messiah would be. They were an oppressed nation, praying for freedom. Their prayer was for a warrior king to lead them to victory over Rome.
But that was not the kind of king Jesus was. He spoke of a different kingdom. He taught a different peace.
During Advent we talk about peace, but we must remember not to think of it in earthly terms. Sometimes when we think about peace we think about an end to war, poverty, hardship, injustice, inequality. We think of life without the stress of deadlines and bills to pay and driveways to shovel. But God’s peace is different.
Just like Jesus did not come to free first century Israel from the grasp of Rome, neither did He come to lower gas prices or give us immunity to bad news concerning our last doctor’s visit. Jesus is a light in a dark world, but as of yet it is still a fallen and broken one.
Paul writes in Philippians about what God’s peace looks like. May His peace guard our hearts and minds.
Advent 2, Saturday, December 13, 2014
The Gift of Peace Read: John 14:27
I love this verse. I love how it reads in the New Living Translation: “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”
As I write this devotion it has been one day since the death of my grandfather. I read these words of Jesus with the memory of his life held close.
Who can say they are preparing to go to their grandfather’s funeral and have peace in their heart? Who can say they are remembering the life of a loved one and have peace of mind knowing we will have eternity to make more memories together?
Every year we read about the birth of Jesus, this beautiful story with this scandalous beginning and this crazy idea that the tiny baby Jesus was born to be a sacrifice for the entire world. We know what eventually happens to that baby! We know the story of manger just as well as we know the story of the cross!
Written by Pastor Amber Bryan