December 1, 2015 (Advent Week 1)

Today’s Readings: Genesis 3:1-15, Isaiah 7:14

Advent.jpgThere are a variety of ways to celebrate the Advent season, depending on tradition and background. Many people use an Advent calendar, typically made up of 24 “windows” containing Scriptures, stories, poems or gifts, to count down the days until Christmas. As each window is opened and the final day draws closer, expectation increases. This reminds us of the hopeful yet anxious waiting God’s people experienced as they longed for the promised Savior to come.

Another popular tradition is marking the progression of the season through an Advent wreath made up of five candles. This symbol is borrowed from the emphasis throughout Scripture of Jesus Christ being the Light of the World (Matt. 4:16; John 1:4-9, 8:12). Each week a new candle is lit in anticipation of Christmas Eve. The last candle, called the Christ Candle, is lit on Christmas Eve to represent Jesus’ first advent. Through this theme of ever-increasing light penetrating the darkness, we see a picture of the gospel.

Regardless of the tradition, Advent is a significant time in the life of the church. It’s an opportunity for believers to remember God’s promise to send One who would overcome sin and death forever. God promised a Savior, and He kept that promise perfectly.

Advent in the Beginning: Many of us grew up with the story of Advent beginning in a stable. But, the story begins in a Garden. When God created the world, all things were just as they should be. Creation functioned in perfect order and moved in seamless harmony. Man walked in unbroken relationship with God, fully known and unafraid.

But in an instant, all that changed as Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s good instruction.

They took of the fruit, ate, and sin entered the world. Fellowship broken. Peace shattered. Creation thrown into chaos. Darkness, depravity, fear, shame and selfishness flooded the human heart, separating man from God. The situation was dire. But right then, amid the darkness, God spoke a word of hope: a Savior would come, born of a woman, to defeat the enemy and deliver God’s people… Before He addressed Adam and Eve, God turned to the serpent and announced that sin would not have the final say and that the schemes of the enemy would not prevail.

(Devotional credit: The Village Church – “Advent: He Keeps His Promises” )

 

November 30, 2015 (Advent Week 1)

 

Manger-Star.jpgWelcome to the most wonderful time of the year! As the Advent season gets into high gear, let’s pause each morning  together, Monday thru Friday, here at Jumpstart to get perspective and keep proper focus. You might ask the question, “What is Advent?” Quick refresher: The word Advent is a derived from latin, and it means “coming.” Noel Piper says, “…it’s as if we’re re-enacting, remembering the thousands of years God’s people were anticipating and longing for the coming of God’s salvation, for Jesus… Even God’s men who foretold the grace that was to come didn’t know what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating. They were waiting, but they didn’t know what God’s salvation would look like.”
Advent.jpg

The Advent season consists of the four Sundays leading up to Christmas, and is designed to remind us of our true longing for the Prince of Peace. The song “O Come, O Come Emmanuel is quite fitting as a description of what Advent means to us. Justin Holcomb put it this way: “While Israel would have sung the song in expectation of Christ’s first coming, the church now sings the song in commemoration of that first coming and in expectation of the second coming in the future.”

Not too long ago, John Piper wrote a fantastic family devotional called, “Good News For Great Joy” that I have gone through a few times. It has served as an appropriate encouragement to my heart in this special season. We’ll refer to it a few times over the weeks to come. Here is his opening-day reading.

“He will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.” (Luke 1:16–17)

What John the Baptist did for Israel, Advent can do for us. Don’t let Christmas find you unprepared. I mean spiritually unprepared. Its joy and impact will be so much greater if you are ready!

That you might be prepared . . .

First, meditate on the fact that we need a Savior. Christmas is an indictment before it becomes a delight. It will not have its intended effect until we feel desperately the need for a Savior. Let these short Advent meditations help awaken in you a bittersweet sense of need for the Savior.

Second, engage in sober self-examination. Advent is to Christmas what Lent is to Easter. “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” Let every heart prepare him room . . . by cleaning house.

Third, build God-centered anticipation and expectancy and excitement into your home — especially for the children. If you are excited about Christ, they will be too. If you can only make Christmas exciting with material things, how will the children get a thirst for God? Bend the efforts of your imagination to make the wonder of the King’s arrival visible for the children.

Fourth, be much in the Scriptures, and memorize the great passages! “Is not my word like fire, says the Lord!” Gather ’round that fire this Advent season. It is warm. It is sparkling with colors of grace. It is healing for a thousand hurts. It is light for dark nights.

(Devotional credit: John Piper, Good News For Great Joy)