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December 25, 2020

Merry Christmas!

John 3:16

Do you remember the story we started with? In the beginning, God spoke into
an empty blank space and created shining, silvery stars and a scorching sun. He built bulky-brown buffalo, lounging-lime lizards, and fast-flying falcons. He crafted a land covered with tall, trembling trees and fields of lilacs, daisies, and bluebonnets. Water ran cool and crisp to drink. This whole perfect world God made to give as a gift to His favorite creation, people. Adam and Eve walked through the garden of Eden with eyes full of wonder at the world their Father had made for them to share with Him. In every petal, every blade of grass, every squawk, every drip-drop, God was saying to His children, “I love you! This world tells you about Me. I will meet with you here. It is My gift to you.” But there was one tree that God said not to eat from, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And in telling them not to eat that tree’s fruit, God was still saying, “I love you,” but with this rule, God was also asking Adam and Eve a question: “Do you trust me? Do you trust that I love you and haven’t kept one good thing from you?”

Adam and Eve looked around at the beautiful world their Father had given them. They thought about how He walked with them there during the cool weather. They listened to His whisper through the leaves of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, “I love you. You can trust Me.” But then Satan slithered up to this tree and whispered his questioning lies to Eve. “Does God really love you? Wouldn’t He have given you everything if He really loved you? Can you trust Him?” The questions that Satan asked sank deep in their hearts. Adam and Eve answered those questions by biting into the fruit that God had told them not to eat. From that moment on, sin sliced down deep into their hearts, and ours as well, where it whispers those same old questions once again: “Does God really love you? Can you trust Him?”

There was yet one more gift that God had always planned to give. God waited until that very first Christmas to give His greatest gift. This gift would be the final answer to that lying question our hearts have been asking since we were born. Does God love me? Can I really trust Him? Jesus, God’s only Son, is His answer. He came to cry out on the cross with painful shrieks, “I do love you!” And with His Son—His biggest show of His love for us —God is shouting, “Yes! Trust Me!” If He didn’t hold back His own Son from us, then surely He will not hold back anything that would be good for us. Yes, He loves us! Yes, we can trust Him!

Discussion Questions

John 3:16 tells us God so loved the world that He gave His Only Son. He says if we believe in Him, if we trust in Him, that we have everlasting life. What does it mean to “believe” in His only Son?

Is there anyone who comes to your mind that needs to hear the great message of Christmas, that God has given us the greatest gift we could ever hope to receive?

This Advent devotional resource was produced by The Austin Stone Community Church in Austin, TX. The original resource can be found here.

December 24, 2020

The Good News

Luke 2:8-20

One night long ago, an angel, overcome with great excitement, whooshed down into a huddle of shepherds in the fields outside Bethlehem.

He looked into the eyes of these tired, raggedy men, and his face glowed with warmth. The shepherds stared at the glowing angel with knees knocking and teeth chattering. Looking at them with burning but gentle eyes, the angel grinned and said, “Ah, you don’t need to be afraid! I have really good news. In Bethlehem, there is a baby that was born tonight. But it isn’t just any baby. It’s Him! The One that God promised to Adam and Eve, to Abraham, to David. The Rescuer that God promised is here! He is God’s gift to you, to everyone! Hurry, go see Him! Look for a baby in a manger, wrapped up in swaddling cloths!” The shepherds looked at each other in surprise and then shock as they found themselves surrounded by a choir of angels shouting in song, “Glory to God in the highest!” Then, just as suddenly, the voices were silent. The angels were gone. All was quiet. The shepherds glanced at each other, smiles spreading across their faces. They threw down their staffs, left their sheep, and went sprinting through the streets of the town, searching for God’s gift. They came to an old stable. Inside, wrapped up like a gift, was their King. Christmas had come! God was with them!

While most people were inside their homes snuggled up with their families in soft blankets, those shepherds had been outside, shivering in the cold. Their sheep couldn’t be left alone or they would wander off, fall in a ditch, or be snatched away as a wolf’s supper, so the shepherds stayed with their sheep, softly stroking their heads and speaking in gentle tones. These smelly, simple shepherds were not special. They weren’t invited to celebrations. They never received special gifts from anyone. They sat out among their herds, forgotten and ignored, until this night. God had not forgotten the shepherds on the hill. The gift that He had always wanted to give to the world was finally here, and God invited these shepherds to celebrate His newborn Son, His most special gift.

Did you know that in the Bible, God calls us “sheep” and He calls Jesus the “Great Shepherd”? We were the lost sheep that wandered off from God’s care. We wandered off thinking we knew better, that we knew where the best water and the best grass to lay in was. Instead of finding what was good, we fell into the ditch and were attacked by enemies. Then Jesus, the Great Shepherd, came looking for us, the lost sheep that He loved so much. Jesus is God’s special gift to those who are in need of a Shepherd. He invites everyone who feels alone and forgotten, broken, and smelly to come to Him. Jesus is the gift that God always wanted to give to His people. He is the reason to celebrate Christmas every single day. Jesus is with us always!

Discussion Questions

Sometimes we see people who don’t look special in our eyes. But how do you think they look in God’s eyes? How should we treat people God thinks are special?

How does it feel to know that Jesus is with you wherever you go?

This Advent devotional resource was produced by The Austin Stone Community Church in Austin, TX. The original resource can be found here.