Monday, December 24

Matthew 1:18-25

Christmas Eve is here!! Over the last few weeks I have asked a number of children and youth what they are excited for most about Christmas. I’m sure that you are surprised that the number 1 and really only response has been “I can’t wait for the presents!!” How amazing is it that every kid knows that the best part about Christmas is our celebration of the greatest present ever in Jesus. (I know they probably are thinking of something a little different but why not go with Jesus). Even though we may have different gifts in mind we are looking forward to, the reality is that we should be excited. Because Advent is a season of anticipation and celebration. Watching kids get excited about their Christmas list and all the possibilities reminds me of the type of anticipation I should have for Christmas too. It reminds of the type of childlike anticipation I should have about the birth of Jesus and his ultimate return.

How great is it that we get to celebrate the realities of the incarnation, the realties of Emmanuel, God with us. Not God is distant from us, or separated from us, but God with us!! Love came down to rescue me, love came down to set me free! The greatest gift we could ever receive we have been given. God has come to us, we didn’t have to work and earn our way to him, he came to us. May this Christmas Eve be one that stirs each of our hearts to where we excitedly celebrate Jesus’ birth and eagerly anticipate his return.

“O come, O come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel.”

- Jon Henson


1.     What would it look and feel like for you to have a childlike anticipation to be in the presence of God?

2.     What does it mean to you to be graciously be given and to receive the gift of Jesus Christ?

For Families:
-If you have the time, consider wrapping individual pieces of a nativity set and allowing each member of your family to unwrap the figures one at a time (an alternative is to hide the pieces around the house as a hide-and-seek or scavenger hunt type activity). As you receive each figure, talk about their role in the story of Jesus’ birth – what might they have been excited about?  Unwrap or find Jesus last.  Talk about what Jesus may have felt, seen, or thought.  Then, share what the gift of Jesus means to you as a family.

--Jesus, Immanuel, God with us!  May our eyes see you, our ears know your voice, and our hearts glow with recognition.  We have not forgotten that as we look back on your birth, that we await, with eager expectation, the coming of your Kingdom.  O come, Lord Jesus, come.  Amen!

Sunday, December 23

Luke 1:39-55

Today’s collect (prayer) reads “Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation, that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us a mansion prepared for himself; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.” What a powerful thought, that Jesus would find in us mansion for himself to dwell. With so much taking place during the Christmas season, it is fitting that we would pray this prayer just days before Christmas day.

It is this theme that is shared in Mary’s Song, the Magnificat. “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” As we prepare a mansion in our lives for Jesus to dwell, the Lord surely is magnified. As we become less, he becomes more. In verse 49 she prays, “for he who is mighty has done great things in me, and holy is his name.” The more that our lives become a mansion for the Lord to dwell, the more he is glorified, for he is the mighty one responsible for the great things done in me.

The Magnificat, Mary’s Song of Praise, is a reflection of her heart and her life. She has answered the Lord’s call for her life and as Jesus is soon to be born, praises the Lord for who he is and all that he has done. Not just in her life, but throughout Israel and all of God’s people. May this Advent have that type of impact on our hearts as we eagerly await to coming of King Jesus.

- Jon Henson

1. What does it mean for your soul to magnify the Lord?
2. What would it look like for our life to have a mansion prepared for the Lord?

For Families: 
-If you were to draw a picture of a mansion, what would it look like?  How would it be different from other houses?  What if you used some of those same words to describe the time and effort you have set aside for Jesus in your life?

--Lord, we rejoice in you who has known us and loved us from the beginning of time.  Please continue to lift us up as we seek to make you bigger.  Give us the humility to become smaller, and enable us to praise you all the more.  Amen.

Friday, December 21

2 Thessalonians 2:13-17

Isn’t it great to be chosen? Isn’t it great to be handpicked, hand selected for a specific reason and purpose?

In this section of Paul’s letter to the church in Thessalonica, Paul is emphasizing a point that he has made in other writings about how God has faithfully chosen his people. He has chosen his people not based on merit or achievement but based on his own love and grace.

God has chosen us, and God has chosen you. How special is that to hear? It is likely something that we need to hear more often. Let’s say that again, “God loves me and has chosen me.” He loves us so much that he died for us. Does that bring you comfort and joy? Advent is a time that we remember how incredible it is that God has chosen us. That in his love, came down from heaven for the redemption of the world.

As Paul says in verses 16 and 17, “may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.” The work in our hearts effects the work in our lives. Everything is changed by the grace and love that God gives us. God takes the pressure of being perfect and working to be good enough to be chosen and places it on himself. (I hope and pray that you literally feel weight lifted off your shoulders)

May this Advent, this Christmas, be a time to pause and rest in the comfort and hope of being so greatly loved by Jesus that it stirs our hearts and minds and is reflected in all areas of life.

- Jon Henson


1.     Take a moment to reflect on what it means to be chosen by God.

2.     Reflect on how being chosen changes or effects the purpose of you everyday life.

For Families:
-What types of talents or traits would you look for in: a pitcher for your baseball team, an artist for a school mural, a family dog, or a mechanic to fix your car?  All of these people (except the family dog!) had to work hard to be chosen for their jobs.  There are things that you will work hard for in your life too, but one thing that you don’t have to work for is God’s love.  He already chose you, before you ever spoke a word, created a masterpiece, or crushed a test at school.  He loved you before you could do anything; he chose you because he loves you.  He loves who were, who you are now and who you will be in the future, and nothing you do can change that.  Do you think you can find a love like that anywhere else?

--Father, you were and are our first Father, who loved us from the beginning of time and who teaches us what love really is.  If you love us and choose us, what else can we want?  Help us to not get weighed down by the lies of this world, the world that tries to tear us down when really, we are sons and daughters of the King of Kings, our Beginning, our End, our Forever Love.  Amen.

Thursday, December 20

Titus 2:11-14

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus; who gave Himself for us, that He night redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.  Titus 2:11-14

Did you notice that in these four short verses we have the essence of the Gospel?   Embedded in this passage are two “appearings” of the Lord.  In verse 11 we see “The grace of God that has appeared bringing salvation to all men.” This verse refers to the first coming of Christ when He secured our salvation on the cross.  In verse 13 we read that we are looking for “the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus.”  This refers to the Lord’s second coming when He will return to earth in glory.  These truths should ring a bell, we proclaim and sum them up every Sunday in church when we say, Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again.

The Christian life includes looking back and looking forward while we live in what Titus simply calls this present age.  How should we live during this in between time? What will our attitude be?  How will our actions reflect what we believe?  What will our lives look like?

Titus basically says that because of the grace of the Lord who has brought us salvation, our lives will be different.  He doesn’t give us specifics in this passage but he gives us the general idea.  We will turn from ungodliness, lawless deeds and worldly desires.  We will actively pursue a life that is sensible, godly and zealous for good deeds.  It is up to us to seek the Lord for the specifics of what this will look like in our individual lives.

The Advent look back to the grace filled salvation that Jesus secured for you.  Look forward to the culmination of our salvation, the hope of our resurrection and the appearing of the Lord of glory.  In the meantime stand strong in the Lord and be thankful.

As we think about the general guidelines that Titus gives us for how we should live in this present age,

- Kathy Phillips


1.       Ask the Lord to show you anything you He wants you to stop doing?

2.        Ask the Lord to show you some specific thing(s) that He wants you to do. 

3.     Take some time to listen and write down what you think He is saying to you.

For Families:
-Did you know that there are some places and some people you can’t visit without obeying some special rules?  For example, women have to cover their hair with veils to visit the Pope.  Men and women must bow or curtsey for the Queen of England (and you can never show her your back!).  You have to wear long pants or skirts to visit some ancient cathedrals around the world.  Did you know that there is a special rule for being with God?  You have to be sinless.  That means no bad thoughts, no bad actions, no mistakes.  It’s impossible to be sinless (even your parents!!!).  That is why Jesus’ work on the cross is so important.  Because Jesus took our punishment and took away our sins, we can be with God and live with him forever.

--Father, you are greater than time and the work of our salvation in the past, present, and future is so hard to understand sometimes, but we are still amazed.  Thank you for the real hope we have in you, and may we continue to work towards the day of Jesus’ return in the strength of your Spirit.  Amen.

Wednesday, December 19

John 3:16-18

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 

Christmas is synonymous with the spirit of giving.  When you say “Christmas”, many children think presents!  When you say “Christmas”, many parents think shopping, traffic, wrapping and delivering! It wouldn’t be Christmas without gifts. Gift giving is at the heart of Christmas. In fact gift giving was at the heart of the very first Christmas.

For God so loved the world that He gave….

Many of us have considered the fact that Jesus laid aside the glories of heaven, including equality with God, to become born as a man.  We are grateful that He would humble himself to join our plight in humanity, to live as one of us and die for us.* But have we ever considered the sacrifice that our heavenly Father made to give us His son?

We get at least three glimpses into the heart of the Father in the Gospels.  At the baptism of Christ, it was like He just couldn’t keep silent, He was bursting with love and fatherly pride in His son.  A voice from heaven spoke these words, “This is my Son whom I love, with Him I am well pleased.” At the Transfiguration a couple of years later, again He broke His silence and said, “This is My Son whom I love, with Him I am well pleased, listen to Him.” You can just hear his heart of love for His son.  And then at the cross you can only imagine how it broke his big father’s heart when every vile unspeakable sin was laid upon the Lord Jesus and God the Father poured out his wrath on the sins of the world that His son was bearing. 

Before the foundation of the world, our heavenly Father knew the plan of redemption for mankind.**  He must have known that the fulfillment of that plan would break His heart.  He knew it would be a sacrifice on the part of Jesus, but also He knew it that He, too, would be making a sacrifice.  Yet He gave.  He gave because of His love for you and me. God gave His son, He didn’t hold back.  With great strength and grace, He gave out of His so great love for you and me.  God gave; therefore we give.

This year when you are planning, shopping, wrapping and delivering, give your gifts with great joy. May each one be a token, a reminder of your heavenly Father’s great love for you.

Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!  II Corinthians 9:15

- Kathy Phillips


1) Why do you think we give gifts at Christmas?

2) What attitude will you have this year as you give?

* Philippians 2:5-11

** I Peter 1:19-20

-What have you had to do in your life that was really difficult but really good?  Maybe it was something you didn’t realize would be good until you were finished.  What God did by sending his Son, was impossibly difficult, but, unlike us, he knew exactly why he needed to do this and the immense good that would come from it.  Because of Jesus’ life and death we have been reunited with God forever. 

--Father, you are our creator, our redeemer, and the ruler of all.  It is amazing to consider how you have intervened in our lives to bring us closer to you, the pain you’ve endured for our sake.  Help us to not forget your goodness and your work in our lives, especially in this season of joy and anticipation.  Amen.

Tuesday, December 18

Romans 3:20-24

Religions have the same idea – I am able to earn right standing with God through my good deeds and works. Even outside of religions, our hearts operate under the idea that if we are good enough and do enough good things then we have worth and can be accepted. Many of us attempt to find this validation through our acts of moral goodness, work performance, social connections or even the lives of our children. Verse 20 tells us, however, that not one of us will ever be good enough to be justified in God’s sight. The law does not show us our inherent goodness but rather points us to our failures and how we have missed the mark.  This would be a depressing message except that Paul says in verse 21 “but now” which signals a complete shift from how we have always related to God. He tells us that a completely unheard of approach to God has come! We are no longer slaves to earning our acceptance before God through trying harder or doing better. There’s a perfect performance record that is available to us as a gift and when we have it it’s the end of our struggle for validation. Through Jesus we receive not only this perfect performance record but so much more. All that Jesus did has been bestowed upon those who believe in him. Through the Gospels, we see that Jesus was more than just a good person – he was brave, bold, compassionate, self sacrificial and infinitely more. This is our new identity. We no longer need to look to boast in anything else for our justification but rather to simply look upon Christ and root ourselves in the work that he has done.   

- Lauren Phillips

1)     Who or what do you seek for your validation outside of Christ?

2)     Can you think of a time in your life when the reality of the gift of your justification through Christ felt real to you?

For Families:
*Go around your group and have each person say their name and a few things they are good at doing.  Then, ask who thinks they are good at being like Jesus.  Discuss why or why not.  To be truly good at being like Jesus, we would have to do everything perfectly and in complete obedience to God.  Can anyone really do that?  Thankfully, Jesus could and he lived on this earth so that he could be perfect in our place, so that we wouldn’t be separated from God!

**Lord Jesus, how amazing is your work from Creation to Incarnation to Death and beyond!  There is nothing we could ever do to adequately thank you, so we ask that you will accept our praise and our desire to follow in your ways, strengthened by the Spirit whom you sent.  Amen.

Monday, December 17

Matthew 5:43-48

One of the hallmarks of Jesus’ life and teaching was mercy. From his birth to the cross, Jesus mission was one of mercy to those who had rejected God. Jesus taught, ‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven’. Love is more than showing mercy, but mercy is an essential part of love.

Jesus gives three reasons in the passage why you should be merciful towards those who have wronged you:

  • First, to have mercy on your enemies is to imitate your Father in heaven – ‘that you may be children of your Father in heaven’ (v.45a). God’s mercy extends to those who are hostile towards him: ‘He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous’ (v.45b).

  • Second, to have mercy like this marks you out from the world: ‘If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?’ (v.46). We tend only to love people who are like us, or whom we like. But you are called to be different. You are called to what Dietrich Bonhoeffer referred to as ‘the “extraordinary”… the hallmark of the Christian’.

  • Third, there is a connection between forgiving and receiving forgiveness. We cannot receive God’s mercy ourselves and then show no mercy to others. We do not earn forgiveness by forgiving others, but Jesus says that our forgiveness of others is essential to receiving forgiveness from God. ‘You can’t get forgiveness from God, for instance, without also forgiving others. If you refuse to do your part, you cut yourself off from God’s part’ (6:14b–15, MSG). Daily, receive mercy and forgiveness, and daily have mercy and forgive others.

Jesus also explains how you can express this mercy practically in what you do. He highlights the importance of prayer. He tells you to ‘pray for those who persecute you’ (5:44). Praying for your enemies helps you to see them as God sees them. In prayer you stand side by side with them, take their guilt and distress on yourself, and plead to God for them. Prayer is the litmus-test of love. Coming into the light of God’s presence reveals the true feelings in the depths of our hearts.

— Nicky Gumbel (from the Bible in One Year Devotional)


1) Consider that in Romans 5:10, the Apostle Paul says that we were once enemies of God. In love, God sent his own Son to those in living in rebellion. Reflect on how you, as a former enemy of God, have received God’s mercy through Christ?

2) Who in your life has wronged you? Often we carry around resentment and bitterness from past injuries. What if you began to pray and earnestly plead to God for that person?

For Families

*Sometimes people hurt our feelings. They say or do unkind things to us. When that happens what do you want to do? Sometimes we do things that hurt God, what does he do in response? What are some things you could to do be more like God when someone hurts your feelings?

**Lord, thank you that even when we forget you or hurt you, you still love us. Even though the whole world rejected you, you sent your son Jesus into the world to die for us because you loved us. Help us to love and forgive people like you do, even when they are unkind to us.

Saturday, December 15

Ephesians 4:20-24

Ephesians 4

After years of complex theologizing, I stumbled on to a simple truth.  A good day is a day when I say “yes” to God, and “no” to my bogus self.  Paul sometimes uses the word sarx (flesh) to refer to that old, stubborn self that persists in selfishness, even after we have been liberated by God’s grace. I translate sarx as “bogus self,” because the real self is created/found  in Christ.  In Ephesians 4: 20-24, Paul uses  slightly different terms to make the same point: “That is not the way you learned Christ!  For surely you have heard about him and were taught in him, as truth is in Jesus.  You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self, corrupt and deluded by its lusts,  and to be continually, spiritually renewed in your perspective, and to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”

Paul is writing to believers who have been taught and actually have learned the Truth. The Truth, in this context, is a particular and unique person, Jesus. Paul’s point is the we cannot simultaneously embrace the Truth and indulge the bogus self. So, every day and throughout each day , we have to decide between the bogus self and the Truth. We cannot say yes to both, and we cannot say no to both.  Our daily decision has profound ramifications. If we say yes to the Truth, we become more real, and more connected to reality. That is a good day.   

- Jack Wisdom


Proposed two-step agenda for your day:  

1) Consider Jesus, the eternal Word who became the Incarnate Word, who demonstrated love for you on the cross, and power for you in the resurrection; and

2) say thank you and yes!

For Families:
*In your group or family, who can produce the best foreign accent?  Who can do the best impression of another member of the family?  These examples, though funny, are really fake, or bogus, versions of us.  But sometimes, it isn’t as easy to tell when we are not living in the way for which Christ created us.  How might you fall into a bogus life, one that is not what Jesus intended for you?

 **Lord, we are so thankful for the new life you invite us into.  Spirit, continue to guide us in the way you have laid before us.  Give us the eyes to see your Truth and the wisdom to choose your Truth.  Amen.

Friday, December 14

Ephesians 1:13-14

Reflection:  Take time to read the passage.  Circle or take note of words, concepts, or truths that stand out to you.

Ephesians is addressed to people who are “faithful in Christ Jesus.”  The phrase “in Christ Jesus,” (often shortened to “in Christ,” or “in Him”) is key to understanding Ephesians in particular, and Paul’s theology in general. Some theologians argue that the phrase connotes a “mystical” relationship/communion between and among the resurrected Christ and the members of his body, the church. Other theologians argue that the phrase refers to our present participation in the blessings of the  already- inaugurated- but- not -yet -consummated  “kingdom of the beloved Son” (Col. 1:13) and the “new creation.” (2 Cor. 5:17) Ephesians confirms that these theologians should find something else to argue about, because they are both right!   

Ephesians 1:3-14 could literally be translated from the Greek as one long, mind-blowing, breathless sentence about the manifold blessings we find “in Christ.” Paul caps off the recitation of blessings with Ephesians  1:13-14: “In Him you also, having heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and having believed in Him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit;  this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, culminating in the praise of His glory.”

Note the progression: we hear the gospel; we believe in Christ; the Holy Spirit marks us as God’s people; we inherit the ultimate treasure; we praise His glory. In context, the ultimate treasure is a Who, not a what. Our inheritance is eternal, unbroken communion, fully knowing and loving Christ, as we are fully known and loved. But, we don’t have to wait for the consummation of history to get started on our  calling to praise God’s glory. The Holy Spirit offers a foretaste of eternal communion here and now, in Christ.

Ask the Holy Spirit to give you a taste of your inheritance today.

- Jack Wisdom

For Families:
*What does it mean to seal something?  What is the purpose of sealing things (like letters, doors, food, etc.)?  Why is it amazing that people who hear the good news of Jesus and believe are sealed with the Holy Spirit?  What does it mean to you to know that you have been or could be marked and sealed as Christ’s own forever?  Is there anyone on your heart that you would like to pray for to experience this same sealing?

**Holy Spirit, you overwhelm us with your care.  How is it that we can become one with Jesus and saved for eternity?  Only through you can we experience the promised fulfillment of the good news that Jesus is our Savior, our King, and our Brother.  May we never lose the wonder of it all.  Amen.

Thursday, December 13

2 Corinthians 5:16-19

Reflection:  Take time to read the passage.  Circle or take note of words, concepts, or truths that stand out to you.

16So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view.  Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.  17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:  The old has gone, the new is here!  18All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:  19that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them.  And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.

Paul’s words to the believers in Corinth literally say, “If anyone is in Christ, new creation!”  Thus the translator is left to supply the subject and verb.  The common choices are “he is a new creation” and “there is new creation.”  Paul has been talking about how we are radically changed by our relationship with Christ.  In vs. 15 he has just pointed out that we no longer live for ourselves.  That’s a radical change.  Then in vs. 16, he remarks upon the change in how we view the world and regard people.  Another quite radical change.  These lend support for the view that Paul was intending to say that if anyone is in Christ, then he is a new creation. 

On the other hand, Jewish writers of that day spoke of the coming of a Messiah that would bring about an end to the old order and introduce a whole new age.  Isaiah wrote, “See, I will create new heavens and a new earth.”  Paul also saw Christ’s death and resurrection as “the divider of history”.   So, perhaps he was truly intending to say that if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come.

I love both options and I am glad that both are true.  I am new.  God is doing a new thing.  Maybe Paul didn’t want us to have to choose between the two.

If we were reading the Greek, we would also see that some of our English translations leave a word out.  Behold.  “The old has gone.  Behold, the new is here.”  I’ve seen it argued that the word is archaic; some translations forego the “behold” and include an exclamation mark instead.  In my mind, I keep behold.   God’s work is something to behold.  That he reconciles us through the sacrifice of His One and Only and makes us different than what we were in our dusty fallenness, that we are part of all that He makes new—this calls us to stand in wonder and behold his lovely Otherness.

- Diana Wisdom

For Families: 
*Think of examples with your family of things that begin one way but end up looking completely different (examples: butterflies, plants, origami, clay pottery).  Talk about how people are similar to your examples, how they can be new creations in Christ.

**Jesus, our Messiah and Creator, without you we are dust.  But, in your beauty, you have recreated us for new life and for glories unseen.  May we ever see you before us and follow you home.  Amen.

Wednesday, December 12

John 14:1-7

Reflection:  Take time to read the passage.  Circle or take note of words, concepts, or truths that stand out to you.

Jesus of the Upper Room reveals significant things to me. 

(1) He loves me.  Jesus’ tenderness toward his bumbling, oafish, often clueless, occasionally noble disciples, tells me that his love is full of grace and forgiveness.  He gets who we are. 

(2)  He is not like me.  His is an authority and majesty in a place I dream of and long for.  In that place he has rooms that he has prepared for us.  Our current dwellings are not the goal.  Heavenly dwelling places have been made ready.

(3) He has a plan.  I don’t see much evidence that others ever seemed to understand the plan.  (I don’t think I would have been any different.)  But he knew what he was doing and he was steadfast to the plan from first to last.  Jesus of the Upper Room persuades me that though I don’t see the way, I can trust him with the plan.

(4)  His power is absolute.  When I read the Gospels I am surprised by how many times Jesus told the disciples in what seemed to be plain language that he knew where he was going and that when he got there he would be handed over, would suffer and die.  At this last meal, his certainty is equally evident.  Just as before, he knew where he was going and what awaited him.  Significantly, he knew death would not rule the day.  A tomb would not be his resting place.  His friends would see him again and soon.  Divine power is the power that puts death in its place. 

(5) He loves me.  (I know I used this one already but it seemed worth repeating.)  He opened a way to the Father so that I might be with him forever.  The way isn’t hard to find. It isn’t elusive or changeable.  He is the way.  I just stay near him.

- Diana Wisdom

For Families: 
*When you go on vacation, what are some tools your parents use to find your hotel?  How would you react if, instead of getting directions to a new place, someone told you, “You will know the way”?  You would probably feel about the same as Thomas the disciple!  But, when it comes to how to get to the Heavenly Kingdom, we can be sure that Jesus knows the way and he will give us everything we need for our journey home.

**Jesus, thank you for your care, for your changelessness, for your plan, and for your power in our lives.  Help us to remember that you are Lord of lords and that to trust in you is the best way to pursue you and your ways.  Amen.

Tuesday, December 11

Galatians 2:20

The early church was suffering from a big problem, one that Paul took so seriously that he addressed it 29 times across 7 letters.  The problem was circumcision.  On the surface this might seem trivial, but to Paul, this old initiation ritual was placing God’s people back under the Law for which Jesus had already fulfilled and died.

The problem of hollow ritual acts and law following is not a thing of the past.  Our flesh is constantly pulling us towards a self-interpreted law with stilted rewards of self-importance.  Our need for checklists and accolades pulls us away from grace.  We forget that the Law was weakened by humanity because we did not use it as a tool to better understand the heart of the Law Maker; instead, from it we created a system that doomed us to failure generation after generation.

Paul’s argument in Galatians 2 is that faith is enough to be counted as sons and daughters of God.  Faith in Jesus is what takes our sinful nature and replaces it with His spiritual nature.  Our old lives of sin, guilt, and striving died on the cross with Christ.  And now, in the same way that His death was our death, His life is now ours.  Through the power of the Holy Spirit in our new lives, our faith is greater than our flesh.

To close, soak in these words from Martin Luther: “Read the words "me" and "for me" with great emphasis. Print this "me" with capital letters in your heart, and do not ever doubt that you belong to the number of those who are meant by this "me." Christ did not only love Peter and Paul. The same love He felt for them He feels for us. If we cannot deny that we are sinners, we cannot deny that Christ died for our sins.”

- Mikah Alge

1. Think about your old life and your new life after believing in Christ.  What has been crucified to Christ in your life?

2.  How does Christ live in you?  Essentially, what is different now, and can you see the role of the Holy Spirit in that change?

For Families:
Parents: grab a glass of water, some cooking oil, and dish soap.  Tell your children that God like the clean, pure water.  Add the oil and tell them that we are like the oil. The oil looks really similar to the water but, no matter how much you shake or stir the mixture, they just can’t mix together.  In the same way, our sin actually separates us from God.  Now add the generous amount of dish soap and say, Jesus is like the soap.  In this experiment, the soap breaks down the structure of the oil so that it can mix with the water, this is the only way these two liquids can mix.  In the same way, Jesus actually changes us so that we can be with God.  What do you think of that?

**Lord, you communicate your love for us in so many ways, and we are in awe.  Thank you for sending Jesus to change our beings so that we can experience your love and presence for the rest of our lives!  Amen.

Monday, December 10

John 8:31-37

A strong foundation is the most crucial part of building a home that will last.  Signs of a weak foundation are immediately obvious in the form of sloping floors, cracked walls, or stubborn doors. 

In John 8, after long discourses with the scribes and Pharisees, Jesus addresses a group of onlookers.  These budding believers are beginning to understand that Jesus has authority and really is the prophesied Savior.  He now charges these believers to abide, or build their home, on His word.  This means more than accepting or obeying his word but giving it permanent residence in their lives, allowing it to teach them truth, and, in turn, set them free from sin.

The Jewish nation was known for their resilience and also for their pride, which is why Jesus’ comment about their enslavement was so insulting to them that they completely forgot about thousands of years of slavery and oppression they endured at the hands of many nations.  In fact, they even forgot about the Roman garrison, closely monitoring this inciteful, riotous people, that overshadowed this very conversation in the temple courtyard.

Abraham’s offspring were so proud of their history, that they were completely blind to the cracks in the walls of their faith.  They had grown comfortable and had even come to love the quirks of their paltry house.  But sin wounds more deeply than is evident on the surface.  One storm can obliterate a weakened home.

Jesus invites us to build our home in Him and on His word.  He is our rock, our shield, and our sure foundation.  When we ask Jesus to forgive our sins and rely on His word to keep us from becoming once again enslaved, we will be sons and daughters of God the Father and inheritors of the promise of eternal life.

- Mikah Alge

1) What does abiding look like in this season for you or your family? 

2)  Is this time with Jesus shaping and influencing your way of life?  Why or why not?

For Families: 
*If you wanted to build a house all by yourself, how would you know what to do?  Who would you ask?  Could you do it all by yourself?  Why or why not?  If we wanted to know how to live a holy life, one that was pleasing to God, who would be the best person to ask? 

**Lord, thank you for sending Jesus to show us how to live a life that pleases you.  Help us to surrender control, and show us how to make sure you are the foundation of our lives.  Amen.

Saturday, December 8

Hebrews 9:11-14

When I proposed to Langley, I gave her a beautiful diamond ring. During our engagement, I would occasionally catch her just staring at it on her finger, turning it ever so slightly to see ever cut, every sparkle of light.

Advent gives us the chance to gaze intently at Jesus; to see all the amazing facets of who he is and why he came. The Book of Hebrews presents a unique facet of Jesus’ identity as the perfect high priest. As modern followers of Jesus, it can be difficult for us to appreciate what this means. For the Jewish people, the high priest was central to their worship and way of life. He offered gifts and sacrifices on their behalf at the temple. He was the mediator between God and the people. God would come in judgment because of the sins of the people and the high priest would stand in their place, offering sacrifices that satisfied God’s justice and demonstrated His mercy by punishing an innocent animal in place of a guilty human being. 

Hebrews 9 tells us that the role of high priest in the past was pointing to the ultimate high priest, Jesus Christ.  Jesus, God in the flesh, is the perfect mediator between us and God who offered Himself for our sins once for all. There is no longer need for the sacrificial system because Jesus death permanently satisfied God’s justice and demonstrated His mercy by laying our punishment on Jesus at the cross.

Jesus, the ultimate high priest, came to offer is life as a sacrifice and shed his blood for us so that we might be forgiven our sin and set free to love and serve God forever.

— David Cumbie


  1. Jesus’ role as high priest leads us to the cross where he offered himself as the perfect sacrifice for the whole world. Imagine the cross looming over the nativity scene of Jesus as a baby. How might this change the way you think about Christmas and Jesus’ birth?

  2. 1 John 3:16 says, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” Try to memorize this verse and repeat it to yourself during Advent. Ask God to use it to remind you of his love for you and to help you love others sacrificially during this Advent and Christmas. 

For families

*What does the word sacrifice mean?  Can you think of an example of sacrifice?
What is the greatest sacrifice Jesus made for you and me? Why did he do it? 

**Spend some time thinking of a tangible way you can demonstrate the love of God as a family to someone in your neighborhood this Christmas by imitating his sacrificial love. Pray and ask God to bring to mind someone that really needs to know God loves them this Christmas.

Friday, December 7

Romans 10:1-4

As a parent, I love the joy my children experience opening presents on Christmas morning. My boys especially love to rip into their gifts with reckless abandon — so excited and eager.  What they never do is turn to me and ask, “What do I have to do to earn this?” They know it’s a gift given in love. 

In Romans 10:1-4, Paul pleads with his fellow Jews to come to this same realization about their own salvation. He says his own people have a zeal for God but rather than simply receiving the God’s gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, they are trying to earn it through their own good works.  That’s what Paul means when he says Christ is the end of the law for righteousness. While all of us fall short of God’s perfect law, Jesus hasn’t and his perfect righteousness is gifted to us. 

We live in a performance-based culture. Make the grade, make the team, get the degree, get the job and on and on it goes. From our childhood we learn that if we want to be accepted, significant, even loved then we have to earn it. Unfortunately, this carries over into our relationship with God and our salvation becomes something we try to earn through our religious performance.  But that isn’t how God works.

The word grace in the Bible comes from the Greek word charis which can be translated “a gift” or “blessing.” Since the fall, humanity has been longing to recover what was lost in the garden, namely life with God. That’s why God took on flesh and entered into his creation. We could never climb our way back up to him, so he condescended to us out of his love for us. By the cross, he fulfilled all righteousness and open the way for us to receive life with God. As Paul says in Ephesians 2:8, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” Lord Jesus help us to receive this greatest of all gifts!

David Cumbie


1)     How does knowing God does not accept or love you on the basis of your performance change the way you see God? see yourself?

2)    Ask God to reveal and help you let go of any ways you might be trying to earn his love or win the approval of others by acting religous.

For Families:
*What is the best present you ever received? What did it feel like to receive it and why did someone give it to you? How is Jesus the greatest gift we have ever received and what did it tell us about how God feels about us?

** Jesus, thank you that you came into the world to give us life with God. Help us to remember we can never earn your love or be good enough to make you accept us. Thank you for living a perfect life and dying on the cross in our place. Thank you for the gift of life that comes through faith in you. Amen.

Thursday, December 6

2 Corinthians 1:19-22

 “For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Slivanus and Timothy and I, was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes. For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us,, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.” — 2 Corinthians 1:19-22

Yesterday’s reading showed Jesus had come, in righteousness, to accomplish all that God had promised by the Law and Prophets. Namely, the rescue of the world from the affects of sin—to bring shalom. Paul, then, echoes this fulfillment-power of Jesus by saying in Christ all of God’s promises are YES. Even when darkness abounds, in Christ, God at work to accomplish his promise.

Paul, then, highlights 4 things the Father accomplishes through the Word made flesh.

1.     He establishes us with you — God makes a new humanity with a new family identity. We are now the community of God. Our lives and ministry intersect. We are now, in all our uniqueness and brokenness, gifted by God to one another!

2.     He anoints us — Anointing in the Bible typically symbolized one of two things: a) a person being appointed to a divine task/role; or b) a person being brought before God for healing. Whether Paul is directly speaking of his anointing as an apostle, or of our “anointing” to the priesthood of all believers, a fundamental truth underlying either is that the object of God’s anointing is deeply loved and imbued with purpose!

3.     He seals us — Durning baptisms the priest puts the sign of the cross on the newly baptized persons’ forehead saying “you are marked as Christ’s own”. This is a signet of love. In Christ, we are God’s beloved. We are children of the one, true King; and he deeply loves you—the unrepeatable, uniqueness that you are.

4.     He gives us his Spirit — The Spirit is specifically a guarantee of God fulfilling his word/promise through the Word made flesh. The Spirit also empowers us to live into the righteousness of Christ as God’s agents in this world.

- Luke Kunefke


1)     Consider the fact that you are loved by God. In what ways do you feel loved by God?

2)     In what ways do you live out of your being loved by God?

For Families:
*How do you know that someone loves you?  What kind of things do you do with a person you love?  God is the perfect gift-giver, and more often, we call these gifts blessings.  What gifts or blessings in your life help you know that God loves you?

** Father, you care for us so much that you have freed us, loved us, marked us as your own, and given us the power of your Holy Spirit through Jesus work on the cross.  How can we help but rejoice in these great blessings!  Thank you for your love; we love you!  Amen.

Wednesday, December 5

Matthew 5:17-18

Anticipation builds as we inch towards Christmas. We’re told Christmas is the “best time of the year,”[1] and are promised “sentimental feelings”[2] as we surround ourselves with songs, decorations, gift giving, family, and friends. However, the commercialization of Christmas has distorted our anticipation. There is joy in this, but it pales in comparison to the anticipated joy Christmas should elicit. Christmas hope does mean “Joy to the World”. A question asked during Advent, but absent in our cultural liturgy, is: why does Christmas mean joy to the world?

Our cultural liturgy wrongly suggests all is well. But, all is not well. The world is, in fact, marred by sin and in desperate need of someone to put it right.

As the Old Testament ends Israel has physically returned from exile but God’s Spirit has not returned as promised. Desperate, Israel longs for God to act—to break into the darkness with his light, to liberate, to pour out his Spirit, to bring shalom.

Into the midst of this longing Jesus comes—Word made flesh[3], born to save the world! At his baptism God’s Spirit does return! Signs of God’s kingdom undoing the world’s brokenness are displayed as Jesus teaches, heals, and forgives.

However, his life and ministry were often misunderstood. Thus, Jesus declares in Matt. 5:17-18 that his life is not about undoing the Law and Prophets, but fulfilling and accomplishing them. Jesus came to earth to accomplish God’s rescue plan by righteously fulfilling the Law’s requirements. It was not to initiate God’s-Rescue-Plan-B. He came to fulfill and accomplish what God had promised long ago. Everything about Christ’s righteous life was to this end.

- Luke Kunefke


1)     Consider Christ’s righteousness in juxtaposition to the unrighteousness in our world and selves.

2)     Then, thank God for the gift of Jesus and ask for grace to imitate his righteousness.

For Families:
*What if you had never heard of Christmas before and you walked into a toy store or a bookstore (or any store) in December.  What would kinds of things would you see?  What might you think Christmas is about?  Now, what if, instead, you walk into a church in December?  What kinds of things would you see?  What might you think Christmas is about?  Why do you think these two versions of Christmas are so different?

**Brother Jesus, you always knew that you were on a mission to save us, and you did that through fulfilling God’s perfect law for us and taking away our imperfection.  Help us remember that true peace comes from knowing you and joy comes from being with you.  Amen.

[1]  A Holly Jolly Christmas, Johnny Marks; Columbia Records, 1962.

[2]  Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree, Johnny Marks; Decca Records, 1958.

[3]  John 1:14, ESV.

Tuesday December 4

Luke 24:22-27

Today we read about a remarkable encounter between the resurrected Jesus and two confused disciples. The disciples had hoped that Jesus would redeem Israel (Luke 24:21), but he had been brutally murdered on the cross. These disciples had heard from others that he had risen from the dead, but no one could find his body. They wondered if their hope had been misplaced.

We do not know exactly what Jesus said to the disciples, but his point is clear from verses 26 and 27: the thread of the cross has been carefully woven throughout the beautiful tapestry of the history of Israel and the Old Testament, and he is the tie that binds it all together. Abraham, Egypt (Joseph), the Exodus and the Law (Moses), the judges, King David, the prophets, even the exile to Babylon had all been leading up to this point and hint about the coming of Jesus. Jesus left his home (i.e. heaven) in obedience to God’s call (like Abraham) to be sacrificed as a sin offering by his father (like Isaac). Jesus was betrayed by those who supposedly loved him, only to be their savior (like Joseph), and he would set his people free, not from slavery to pharaoh, but to sin itself (like Moses). Jesus is the High Priest and King forever who fulfilled the Law and made atonement for sin once and for all on the cross (1 Tim. 2:5; Hebrews 7:27), and he defeated Satan, our greatest adversary (like David). Scripture is clear that Jesus’ crucifixion was God’s will and sovereign plan to redeem people from every nation from their sins (Isaiah 53:10; Mark 14:36; Gen. 22:15-19). This Advent, let us remember the purpose of Jesus’ birth and marvel at the mystery of the cross, God’s plan at work through the ages.

- Joey Alge


1)     How can you allow the cross to shape your Christmas this year?

2)     The cross is the fulcrum of history. Now God is at work reconciling the world to himself through faith in Jesus, and he wants us to join him in this work. How can you be a part of his mission? With whom can you share the good news about Jesus during this season?

For Families:
*How long have you loved a brother, sister, or friend?  How long have the people in your house loved you?  How long has God loved you?  How does it make you feel to know that God loved you before time began?  How does it make you feel to know that God had a plan before you were ever born to bring you into his family with Jesus?  Who do you want to know this good news?

**Jesus, thank you for your life on this earth.  Thank you for leaving your kingdom to save me.  Thank you for loving me before I even knew you.  Help us not to forget what you have done for us.  Amen.

Monday, December 3

John 5:39-47

Today’s reading reminds us that Jesus life and teachings must be understood in the context of the Old Testament and a society that had been carefully constructed around God’s law, which had been given to the people of Israel by Moses. Moses’ words of warning- obey God’s law or die (Deut. 30:15-18) were taken seriously by the Israelites of Jesus’ day because they were descendants of those who had survived the fall of the kingdom and the exile (see 2 Kings 25, and the book of Daniel, Nehemiah, and Ezra). Therefore, God’s law governed every aspect of their lives. Circumcision. Food. Clothing. Sex. Marriage. Divorce. Property. Tithing. Religious ceremonies and sacrifices, and the Sabbath. Even so, they had missed the forest for the trees (Matt. 23:24), and Jesus’ words to the religious leaders struck at the very heart of the lie upon which they had built their lives.

Jesus, like Moses, set the issue of life and death before them. He knew that they sought to earn eternal life through obedience to God’s law; he offered them eternal life as a gift and plainly told them that Moses’ writings were really about him, the Messiah. Jesus had come to set his people free, not from slavery to pharaoh, but from slavery to sin. He is the true Passover lamb who died for the sins of his people (John 1:29), and he is worthy of more glory than Moses because he is not just the law giver, but the author of the law itself (Hebrews 3:3). More than that, he is the fulfillment of God's law (Matt. 5:17). This Advent let us remember that Jesus is God’s perfect law incarnate, full of grace and truth, and he alone can save us and give us eternal life.

- Joey Alge


  1. Do you put your hope in things other than Jesus?

  2. In what ways do you try to earn God’s favor and eternal life?

For Families:
Have you ever been told to do something that you really didn’t want to do?  What do you do when your parents or a teacher or a grandparent tells you to do something that you don’t want to do?  I bet your response was the same as the Israelites – they looked like they were obeying God on the outside, but on the inside they grumbled and didn’t understand why they had to obey.  They didn’t understand the heart of God, but Jesus did.

Father, we thank you so much for your Son, Jesus.Help us remember that He is the only one would could fully obey you and fix our broken hearts so that we can live with you forever. Amen

Sunday, December 2

John 1:1-5

John starts the story of Jesus by calling him “the Word.” It may sound strange to us, but to Jews and Greeks in the first century, it was a clear signal. God created the world by his Word (Genesis 1) and revealed his wisdom (e.g., Proverbs) and truth by his Word (the Old Testament prophets). For Greeks, the Word or logos was the divine animating reason behind everything.

John claims this Word is Jesus and that Jesus’ story doesn’t start with his birth, it starts with the words “In the beginning.” Genesis 1:1 tells us “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” John frames the story of Jesus in cosmic terms. Jesus is and always has been the eternal creator of all life.

At Christmas we celebrate the incarnation — the incredible mystery that the eternal creator of humanity became fully human. That God himself took on flesh and came to us. But why did Jesus come? 

He came because God so loved his creation that he sent Jesus (John 3) not only to rescue us from sin, suffering and death but to restore a fallen creation. The story of Jesus is a second Genesis and Jesus is a second perfect Adam. At Christmas, God begins to recreate the heavens and the earth, a cosmic redemption project he Jesus will one day return to complete (Rev 21). 

Until then, as followers of Jesus we live in gratitude that Christ came to give his own life to rescue us and in anticipation that he will one day return to complete his recreative and redeeming work in the world. Advent is the season in which we not only remember what God has done for us in Jesus, but longing to see Jesus again. It is a time to celebrate Jesus as the light shining in the darkness that offers hope to a broken and hurting world.

-David Cumbie

Reflection Questions:

  1. Take a few moments and consider your own life story. How have you witnessed God’s power to rescue and recreate or redeem your life?

  2. Who in your life could use some hope right now? Spend some time in prayer asking God how this Christmas you can share with them the good news of God’s power to rescue and redeem.

For Families:
Consider turning off or dimming the lights as you read John 1:1-5 to your family, and light a candle during verse four.  Who is the light?  (Jesus) What was the world like before Jesus came?  (dark, sinful) What did Jesus bring to the world?  (light, truth, God’s word) Do you think your life would be different without Jesus?  How?  Share with your family one or two ways your life was different before Jesus, and how he changed your life.  Ask your children if there is anyone they would like to pray for, that they would also know Jesus.

**Lord, you are our great rescuer and we are so thankful that you would send your Son to live with us and die for us so that we could be with you forever.  Help us to see those who need this good news this Christmas.  Give us the words to speak light into their lives.  Amen.