Yesterday was the first day of Advent. If you were in church, it’s possible someone read a special scripture and lit the first candle on the Advent wreath. That’s what we did at our house. It’s the beginning of one of the most exciting seasons of the year and I love the way these days of preparation help us center our hearts on what’s truly important.

WHAT IS ADVENT?

The season begins each year on the fourth Sunday before Christmas, which can be as early as November 27 and as late as December 3. The word Advent means “coming.” These weeks are set aside so we can focus our hearts on the coming of Jesus. By the time Christmas arrives, we can wholeheartedly celebrate His birth. He came in human form to show us God’s love through His life, sacrifice on the cross, and triumphant resurrection.

The Second Advent of Christ is even more anticipated – when Jesus comes back to take all Christians home to heaven. All who have accepted the forgiveness and new life He offers look forward to this even more than Christmas.

THE FOUR THEMES OF ADVENT:

There are four small candles and one large one in an Advent wreath, and each introduces a theme for that week. This week is Hope, followed by Peace, Joy, and Love. The fifth candle is the Christ candle, which we light on Christmas Day.

This is exactly what I wish for you this Christmas – in your relationship with Jesus Christ, with your family and fellow man, and in the deepest places of your heart. May you experience the Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love that Jesus brings.

In the weeks to come I will be posting an occasional devotion from the book my pastor asked me to write for my church family. I hope you enjoy today’s:

Monday, December 2: It’s the Same Every Christmas

We read about the same characters every year. But each time we return, God has something new for us. Jesus came gift-wrapped in swaddling clothes. The only ones who knew who He really was were a brave young couple, some smelly shepherds, a resentful king, a few misguided priests, and foreign stargazers. Yet heaven rang with praise and the earth rejoiced in God’s plan.

Where do you find yourself in the story?

Joseph and Mary – The Weary Travelers: Found in Luke 2:1-7
·         Are you traveling for Christmas this year? Is it by choice?
·         Was it was difficult for Mary and Joseph to trust God in this inconvenient trip just before Mary’s due date?

The Innkeeper – The Harried Host: Found in Luke 2:6-7
·         Have you unwittingly left Christ out in the cold this Christmas because your life is too full? What needs to change?
·         How might the story have changed if the innkeeper had known who was to be born that night?

The Angelic Host – The Pageant: Found in Luke 2:8-14
·         What was the purpose of their display: to draw a crowd, show off their costumes, wave at their mom’s? What was their message?
·         How can we model our programs after theirs?

The Shepherds – The Partygoers: Found in Luke 2:15-20
·         These men didn’t hesitate to accept the party invitation – they didn’t shower, stop to buy a hostess gift, or get a babysitter for the sheep. They just went! How did it change their lives?
·         How could our attitude change the focus of the Christmas parties we host or attend?

Herod – The Greedy: Found in Matthew 2:1-3, 7-8 and 16-18
·         King Herod was the Grinch who tried to steal Christmas. Why?
·         How does Satan try to steal the throne from Jesus today?

The Priests – The Party Poopers: Found in Matthew 2:4-6
·         The priests knew the King would be born in Bethlehem, and that the Wise Men were on their way to worship Him. Instead of welcoming the Messiah, they went along with Herod’s plot to kill Him. Why?
·         What excuses do people today give for not worshiping Christ at Christmas?

The Wise Men – Lavish Givers: Found in Matthew 2:1-2, 9-12
·         These were not your normal baby shower gifts, but they were perfect for King Jesus. Gold symbolized His position of royalty, Frankincense His priestly role, and Myrrh foretold His sacrificial death.
·         What will you give to honor the King this year?