December 23, 2020

The Stable

Luke 2:1-7

Joseph kicked a rock with his dust-covered sandal.

He and Mary were slowly plodding down the long road from Nazareth to Bethlehem. He glanced at his pregnant wife and saw her eyes squeeze tight in pain as she grasped her belly. It was swollen big like a balloon, ready to pop. Joseph sighed. Why did Caesar pick now to count everyone? Why do we needto be in Bethlehem now? The baby could come any day. Joseph closed his eyes, trying to imagine the perfect spot for this baby to be born. Maybe a family member in Bethlehem has an extra room? Maybe there’s a nice inn that will have a comfortable bed and hot water? This is God’s own Son! Surely God wants Him to be born somewhere special. Joseph was right. God did have a special place in mind, but it was very different than what Joseph imagined.

A few days later, a wrinkly, wriggly Jesus was born into the world. Of all the kings who had lived, He was the greatest. Of all the people who had walked the earth, He alone was perfect, but He would start His life in the strangest way you or I could imagine. His birth didn’t take place in a palace, or even a house, but in an old, stinky stable filled with baas and moos and cockadoodledoos. Jesus’s little body wasn’t wrapped up with soft satin blankets but with simple strips of cloth swaddled tightly around him. He wasn’t laid in a crib of gold that sparkled with bright gems but in a well-worn manger filled with bits of straw and hay that the animals hadn’t eaten during dinner. Jesus had left the highest throne in the universe to be born into the lowliest of all places.

We often think that to get to God, we have to go up to Him. We think that we have to work hard, obey our mommies and daddies perfectly, and follow every rule without messing up. Then maybe, if we get everything right, we can climb and claw our way up to Him. But God wanted to show us that for us to come to Him, it was never about us going up to Him. It was about Him coming down to us. The only way we could be with Jesus forever was if He came and got us.

We couldn’t keep all the rules. Jesus had to come down and keep them for us.

Just think how tough this had to be for Jesus! Everything had been so perfect in Heaven. Jesus sat right next to His Daddy on a throne that ruled over every other throne. He had all the riches and crowns and majesty that He deserved as King of all kings. Coming down meant that He would have to leave all of it, give it all up for us, all so that He could come get us. And He did! In the smallest and weakest of ways, He came down to us because He knew we could never make it up to Him.

Discussion Questions

Think about your home, your family, and the things that are special to you. How hard would it be for you to give those up? How do you think it felt for Jesus to give up things that were special to Him to become a human and live in our world?

Why is it important that Jesus, who is God, became a human?

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

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December 22, 2020

Mary’s Song

Luke 1:46-56

Mary walked up to the house of her cousin Elizabeth.

The angel Gabriel had told her that Elizabeth was going to have a baby after many years of waiting! Mary was so excited to see her, but also couldn’t help but think, Will she believe me when I tell her the news about my baby? Mary wondered as she opened the door to her cousin’s house and stepped inside. “Elizabeth? Hello!” said Mary. The little ears on little baby John, growing inside Elizabeth’s belly, heard Mary’s words and John jumped with joy! Elizabeth’s bright eyes shone as the excited baby bounced around in her belly. She laughed with glee and told Mary, “You are the mommy of my Lord!”

Mary’s face glowed and she gently laid her hand across her own belly. The King of the world was growing inside of a poor, unimportant girl like her. God could have chosen anyone to be the mommy of Jesus. He could have picked a rich princess with ringlets of gold, clothed in a plush, poofy dress, with a palace of servants to help care for the baby King. He could have chosen the wife of a priest to take Jesus to serve in the temple each day. God could have chosen anyone, but He chose Mary. At this thought, a song stirred inside her heart.

It would be the kind of song God’s people had always sung. It was like the song of
the Israelites when God delivered them from Pharaoh’s mighty army at the Red Sea.

Though they were small and weak, their mighty God had flung Egypt’s horses and riders into the sea. It was the kind of song that young David sang of His powerful God, who used a smelly shepherd boy like him to slay a giant and rule a kingdom. The song growing in Mary was a song like this. She wasn’t sad or mad that she needed God so much. Mary was happy as her voice sang about her God, how He was big and strong and mighty to save and how she was small and weak and needed Him.

The song that this world tells you to sing is one that says, “I am great! I am important! I am popular!” It is a song that shows that you can do everything and don’t need any help from anyone, but God has always wanted His people to sing a different song. When you belong to God, you see that you were lost and lonely, unable to lift a finger to save yourself, and God, looking down at you, completely helpless, sent His Son. Jesus has done everything to save us. When our hearts see the gift God has given us in Jesus, a song rises up inside of us, just like in Mary. We open our mouths and out tumble unending words of praise to our God who is mighty to save!

Discussion Questions

Why is it important that we understand that Jesus did everything needed to save us?

When you look at your life, maybe it seems like you are just a kid who can’t do very much. What is God showing us by doing something big through someone like Mary?

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

December 21, 2020

The Savior

Luke 1:26-38

In the small town of Nazareth, Mary gazed at the night sky ablaze with a thousand stars.

Does God see me from way up there? she wondered. Her life seemed like a small one, not big or special. Mary imagined what her life would be like. She would soon be married to a carpenter named Joseph, who had almost finished building their new home. Their lives would probably fill up with normal things: Joseph crafting things from wood, Mary caring for their home and raising children. Mary didn’t know that God’s eyes were fixed on her, His daughter, whom He had chosen long ago for a spectacular spot in the great story He was writing.

Mary was out walking a few days later when the angel Gabriel appeared in her path. “Mary!” Gabriel shouted aloud. “God loves you! He has picked you for a super important job. His Son is coming soon. He will be your baby. You will be His mommy.” “What?!” questioned Mary. “I’m going to have a baby? I’m not married yet!” A river of fears ran through Mary’s heart. This news,
if it was true, would turn her life upside down. In her town it was a bad thing for a girl without a husband to have a baby. It was possible that she would be kicked out of her family or put to death, but God said His Son was coming, and He had chosen her to be the mommy. This isn’t the story I would have dreamed for myself, Mary thought, but do I trust that God is a better dreamer than I am? It seemed impossible that Mary would be the mom to the King of the world. It seemed impossible that anyone would ever believe what Gabriel was telling her. The angel smiled gently and spoke into the doubts clouding her head. “Nothing is impossible with God.” With those words, Mary’s heart felt lighter and her hope grew stronger. I belong to the Lord. Whatever He wants me to do, I will do, she thought. Then she smiled, too.

When Jesus came into Mary’s world, He made her ordinary life into something extraordinary. Everything she had planned was suddenly changed. Everything normal was gone, but what may have looked like a disaster to other people was actually God writing an amazing story into Mary’s life. Her world was going to be filled with knowing and loving Jesus. The same is true for us. When Jesus comes into our hearts, He makes our ordinary lives extraordinary. The things He wants us to do may look strange or silly to other people. But we trust that God is actually doing something bigger and better than we could have dreamed for ourselves. When we believe that knowing and loving Jesus is better than anything else, we can say along with Mary, “I belong to the Lord. Whatever He wants me to do, I will do.”

Discussion Questions

What are some things that Jesus says for us to do that might seem strange or silly to others?

What things do you hope will happen in your life? How would you feel if God told you that your life would be different from what you want it to be?

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

December 19, 2020

John the Baptist

Luke 1:5-25, 57-80

The world didn’t know it, but our King was about to come. Shouldn’t a kingdom get ready? Shouldn’t someone tell everyone important news like this? Don’t worry. God thought so, too. Announcing the King was a special job, and God needed a special messenger. His eyes roamed across the earth and settled on a man and woman, the parents He had chosen long ago to have a son named John. John would be His special messenger to share the news: the King is coming!

God had always known that Zacharias and Elizabeth would be John’s mommy and daddy. These two people loved God a lot, but they were old and childless, even though they had prayed for kids year after year. Their hearts were sad and they wished their house wasn’t so empty. But God had waited all this time because He wanted to give them their special child at the perfect time, right before He would give the world His Son.

Zacharias walked up to the temple to give an offering to the Lord. Once inside, he quietly stepped up to the altar and nearly jumped out of his robe! An angel was stand- ing there! “Zacharias!” Gabriel said gleefully.

“God has heard your prayers. Your wife will have a baby and he will be special. Your son, John, will tell people to get ready because the King is coming!” Zacharias shook his head. “Surely not. My wife—she’s old! I’m old! How can we have a baby now?” Gabriel smiled a sad smile. “You can because God said so, and His words are always true. Be- cause you did not trust me, your lips will be shut tight. You won’t speak until your son is born.” For nine long months, Zacharias waited in silence. As he watched his wife’s belly grow, the hope in his heart grew as well. Finally, the day came that a screaming baby boy entered the world. Zacharias held his precious son and his mouth burst open with praise. “This is my son John! He will get everyone ready! The King is coming!”

Imagine being Zacharias, holding this great secret inside of you. Imagine looking at your family members, at your friends, at the strangers you passed on the street, and not being able to speak the most exciting thing you had ever known. What if you knew that the King of the world was coming, but you couldn’t say it? What if you had a son that would be born and would get everyone ready, but you couldn’t shout it to the skies? That must have been the hardest secret that anyone ever had to keep, but you and I don’t have to be silent about God’s Son. God says to us, “Go! Tell the world! Tell everyone in every place about My Son Jesus!” Every day, our mouths can burst open with praise to our mommies and daddies, sisters and brothers, neighbors, friends, and strangers.

“Jesus has come! He is King!”

Discussion Questions

Today we aren’t telling people that Jesus is coming the first time but that He is coming back. How can we tell people to “get ready” for this?

God has said that He wants His people to go to the ends of the earth to tell people about Jesus. Who do you think you might be able to tell about Jesus, our King?

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