Christmas Day Devotion

It is finally here! Christmas!

Today, we celebrate the Jesus was indeed born to redeem us. He has come, and He offers us life in Himself. He has come, and He offers us hope in His name.

Our rescue has arrived! Our Redeemer has come!

We lit the candles of expectation, preparation, celebration, and incarnation! Today, we light the last candle, the Christ candle. The Christ candle is traditionally white, and in the center. Our Messiah has come. He is our light. He is our source of hope. He is at the center.

Today, as we celebrate the Savior’s birth, let’s remember that He offers to us the love of the heavenly Father. He who is the delight of the eternal Father came so that we too might be adopted into His eternal family. He wants to make us sons and daughters of His Father. He loves us that much.

While the Gospel compels us to share this message with those who do not yet know it, it also compels us as people who do already realize its wonder to rejoice and shout with gladness. Christ, our Savior, is born!

Christ has indeed come, and Christ will indeed come again! That’s good news!

Scripture Reading:

        Luke 2:1-20

Optional Activities:

·        Enjoy the day!

·        Remember that today is the first day of Christmas. Check back in for personal devotions through the 12 days of Christmas leading to Epiphany.

·        Take advantage of the next 12 days to do all the Christmas things you didn’t get around to the previous weeks. It is still Christmas! Bake the cookies. Make the gingerbread houses. Do the crafts. There is still more time in this season.

Incarnation: Advent Week Four Devotion

He is almost here! Each week, we have lit a candle. We lit the candle of expectation, the candle of preparation, and the candle of celebration! This week, we light our fourth candle, the candle of Incarnation. What is Incarnation? It is the Son of God becoming flesh.

The Christian message is not one of escaping this life so that we can get a better one. The Christian hope is not that we can rid ourselves of our bodies. The Christian story is not of a God who from afar decreed that everything’s okay and we’re forgiven.

No, the Christian message, hope, and story are rooted in the fact that Christ became one of us to redeem us. He really did.

Does that stir you? It should.

The eternal Son of the triune God became a human person, a man, to rescue us. He really did enter the womb of a virgin and cloth Himself in our flesh. He really was born. Forget about what the hymn says; He really did cry when He woke up in the night when the cattle were lowing. He really did get hungry. And when he did, He also really did nurse.

Why? Because He loved you so much that He wanted to become like you so that you would love Him so much that you would want to become like Him.

As we go through this last week before Christmas, let us not let our eyes fill with the desires of this world, on the gifts and the glitter. Let us focus our attention on God made flesh dwelling among us. A baby who would rescue us all.

Scripture Reading:

        2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16

        Psalm 89:1-4, 19-26

        Luke 1:26-38

        Romans 16:25-27

Optional Activities:

·        Make a nativity. Draw it. Paint it. Use popsicle sticks. I’m sure Pinterest is full of ideas. Just focus on there being real people, a real stable, a real manger, real animals, and real baby Jesus there.

·        Immerse yourself and your family in the songs of the season.

·        Discuss the reality of what Mary would have been going through this week before her son, Jesus, was born. The travel. The hardship. Extend the discussion further and discuss the reality of His humanity. He was really potty trained. He really learned to walk and read and talk. He was really taught Scripture.

·        Watch a Christmas movie about Jesus. The Nativity Story is a great one that really highlights the realness of it all.

Celebration: Advent Week Three Devotion

“Why the pink candle? The rest of them have been purple.” If your Advent candles are traditional colors, you might have noticed that there are 3 purple candles, 1 pink candle, and 1 white candle. You also may be wondering why purple and pink at all. Why not red and green? Historically, purple and pink, along with white and gold, are the colors of Advent. Purple is a color that represents royalty and preparation. It is dark and serious. Pink, on the other hand, isn’t so serious. It is a color of celebration and festivity. A color of love and youth. (And if your candles aren’t purple and pink, that is okay, too.)

The first week, we lit the candle reminding us to Expect the Savior’s coming. Last week, we lit another purple candle (maybe) to remind us to Prepare for the Savior’s coming. This week, we light the pink candle (maybe) to remind us to Celebrate His coming!

The Advent of Christ is cause for celebration. Yes, we prepare ourselves. Yes, this is a serious season. Yes, we need to search ourselves for any need of repentance. However, we also recognize that our Redeemer offers us life and hope, joy and peace! He has come, and He will surely come again to put things aright.

And so, in the midst of the preparation, in the midst of our busyness, in the midst of our reflection and contemplation, we take pause and remember that Christmas is almost here and Christ’s return could be any day.

This is no call to weep and panic; this is the promise of the One who longs to put things back together. As His people, we look longingly for the return of Jesus, and we celebrate His presence in our hearts, in our lives, and in our midst.

Scripture Reading:

        Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11

        Psalm 126

        John 1:6-8, 19-28

        1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

Optional Activities:

·        During this week of Celebration, my family likes to do an act of kindness for our neighbors. We bake cookies, lots and lots of cookies, and we deliver them to our neighbors with our warmest wishes. Some of our neighbors know us really well. Some know us as those Christmas cookie people. We just like to spread some joy during this week. Some people might think it is weird. Some cookies may go in the trash. That doesn’t bother me at all. We are joyfully giving.

·        Have a Christmas party! You could invite some friends, or you can have it just for your family. A special meal, a special dessert, maybe even some balloons. Celebrate the Savior this week!

·        Make cards for people. Send out some cards, not necessarily Christmas cards, though you could include the kids in sending those out. But just make some cards to spread the joy and happiness of the week.

·        Have a Christmas dance party! Crank up the Christmas songs and dance and sing an evening (or afternoon) away! Joy! Joy! Joy!

·        Do something that brings you joy. You can ask each member of the family for one special Christmas thing they love and try to make that happen. Or you can take your list from week one, the expectations, and see if you can achieve any of those. Some ideas to get you started, drink hot cocoa and watch a Christmas movie, drive around and look at lights, grab a peppermint latte from a coffee shop, visit a friend or family member, drop off some toys for Toys for Tots. Just something that makes you happy.

·        Remember yourself and your spouse. Do something for you. Do something just for them. They love chess pie, though you hate it? Make a chess pie this week. You love fancy nail polish? Go get a manicure! This is a week of celebration! Not just for kids, but for adults, as well.

Preparation: Advent Week Two Devotion

Advent is a season of preparation, so we shouldn’t be surprised to find this popping up as the focus of this week. Just as a family expecting a new baby finds itself in need to prepare, so also does the Church find Herself in need to prepare for the return of Her Redeemer.

Last week, we lit the first candle of Advent, the candle of Expectation. This week, we light the candle of Preparation. We expect His coming, now let’s prepare for His coming.

Before the birth of Jesus, the whole world had been prepared for the coming of its Redeemer just as Israel had been prepared for the coming of Her Messiah. Christ came as the fulfillment of prophesy and the hope of the nations.

Well His arrival certainly caught some well off guard (*cough* Herod), it was anticipated by those who took His Advent seriously (the Magi from the East).

As we prepare this holiday season for the coming of Christmas day, we should be sure to prepare our hearts and lives for the return of our King and prepare ourselves each day for His “surprise” visits in and through others.

What would it mean to prepare for the second coming? How can we see Jesus in others?

Scripture Reading:

        Isaiah 40:1-11

        Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13

        Mark 1:1-8

        2 Peter 3:8-15a

Optional Activities:

·        In our house, the second week of Advent is the decoration week. We wait to set up our tree and hang our lights until this week. We prepare our house to remind us to prepare for our Savior.

·        Make ornaments! They can be simple. They can be complex. Make ornaments to prepare for the season.

·        Set up a tree in your kid’s bedroom. It doesn’t have to be big. Just a small tree they can decorate (prepare) themselves. A reminder in their personal space to make room for Jesus.

·        Continue discussing the second coming of Jesus. How do we prepare ourselves for that?

·        Discuss the way you prepared for your children to be born. For some, you may have had to buy things. For others, it may have just been retrieving things from storage. Share with your kids that preparation process.

Expectation: Advent Week One Devotion

We begin Advent with Expectation. Christ entered the world as Israel’s long-awaited Messiah and the long-dreamed-of Redeemer of humanity. After the visit from the angel, Mary, “the maidservant of the Lord” (Luke 1:38), found herself expecting a son who she was to name Jesus (literally translated is “Yahweh saves”), for He would be the world’s Savior.

This week, we are lighting the first Advent candle. This first candle is the first. The time we’ve been waiting for is here! We light this candle with the expectation of what is to come. Advent is here! Jesus is coming! We can expect great things this season.

God has always shown Himself to be more than capable to meet the needs of man. Physical needs, spiritual needs, relational needs, financial needs- He is able to meet them all. What needs do you have right now? Can you remember a time when God met your needs? When we look back and remember the faithfulness He has shown in meeting our needs, it gives us the hope and expectation to look forward to Him meeting our current need.

Someone once said quite simply, “Faith is expecting God.” This Advent season, what are you expecting?

As we await Christ’s return, we do so expectantly. As we live our lives till then, however, we should expect to find Him in the middle of them. If we don’t, we should pray that He would walk into our days and help us to have eyes to see Him.

This week’s Scripture reading is as follows. Remember to look the verses up and read them aloud as a family. If you are personally journaling through this Advent, these are also the verses for you to read, write, and journal.

Isaiah 64:1-9

Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19

Mark 13:24-37

1 Corinthians 1:3-9

Optional Activities or Ways to celebrate the week of Expectation.

·        Give a small gift. I like to give my family a small gift at the beginning of Advent. Looking forward in the expectation of the Gift to come. But also, something to help them embrace the season. A child’s nativity playset, a book about Christmas, a Christmas movie, a new set of hot cocoa mugs for the family, a special Christmas doll, a Christmas sweater or socks. Just something to kick off this season with joy and expectation.

·        This is the week we break out all manner of Christmas things in our house. The Christmas music comes out. The Christmas movies reappear on the shelves. The Christmas books adorn the coffee table. The play nativity is set out. The Advent candles appear on the mantle. We don’t yet decorate, but we do break out the fun stuff. Just a taste of what is to come.

·        Make a list of what you expect this Advent. For kids, this can easily turn into a wish list. Try to steer them toward the more intangible aspects of the season. Time with family. Reading stories by the tree. Making cookies with Mom.

·        Have a discussion about Christ’s coming. I put this in the optional activities for two reasons. One being that smaller kids might not be able to really discuss. The other being that you yourself might not know what to say. We are not all well versed of prepared when it comes to eschatology. So, perhaps you want to wrap you head around it yourself this week. Or maybe you want to open the discussion with the whole family. My kids tend to surprise me when it comes to theological discussions. Sometimes they are heretics and need to be “smacked down” (that was a joke, I don’t actually smack them) when it comes to heresy. But they often bring up good points and questions. Look into it together. Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know.” Feel free to write your questions down and e-mail The Pastor or your pastor about questions you and your family might have. No one has all the answers. We don’t know all the ins and outs of the second coming. But that doesn’t mean we have to avoid discussing it. This week of Expectation is about expecting the coming baby in a manger and expecting that baby’s second coming on a cloud.

·        Write a story about your favorite Christmas memory. Share them with one another. You could do this on your own in a journal, or have everyone write about their favorite Christmas memory. I am always surprised with my kids’ responses to questions like this and they seem to enjoy hearing Mom and Dad sharing about their memories. You could also make a list of your top 10 or something if you’d rather not write every detail of one specific memory out.

·        Make a picture (draw, paint, color, cut out, art in some way) of you favorite part of Christmas. And I do this right along with my kids. We art together. The Pastor usually skips it, but I love it too much to let the kids have all the fun.

Personal Advent Devotion

In addition to the Family Devotion this Advent, I have included a personal devotion aspect, as well. This is for Mom and Dad or older kids to do on their own through the week following the Family Devotion. You can also do the Family Devotion alone and incorporate the Personal Devotion aspect into your own days if you choose, as well. This is intended to compliment the weekly devotional. You can do this all at once, stagger it through the week, or just do some of it. Really, make it your own. The goal is to center our hearts and minds on the season at hand and the truths God has to reveal to us this Advent.

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So, you’ll need a Bible, notebook, and pen. You may want more, that is up to you. You may want washi tape, stickers, colored pencils, markers, watercolors, etc. You don’t need them, but if you are more of an art or craft style journal person, those might be what you need.

Now, I just grabbed one of my handy little mini notebooks from Casemate. (They come in 2 packs at Wal-Mart for $1.88.) You might choose a composition notebook, sketchbook, Moleskin, or some other form of notebook. I went with what I had. I may fill it up completely and have to bust out the second one before Advent is over, which will be fine for me.

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What you’ll be doing is very simple. Each week, there will be several Bible passages that go along with the devotion. You’ll look them up and read them as part of that devotion time. Some other time during the week, you’ll take each passage and write it down in your journal. On the right hand page of your notebook, you’ll copy the Scriptures word for word. You can use any translation you like. You can read the Hebrew or Greek and translate it yourself. I numbered my verses to match my Bible, but you can omit the verse number if you’d like. Just copy the Scripture on the right side of the page. Now, one passage may take several pages, and that is fine. Just write the Scriptures only on the right hand pages. On the left hand pages, you’ll go back and write thoughts, questions, song lyrics, other verses, or doodles that come to mind. The left hand pages are for your journaling. The right hand pages are for Scripture. Easy enough, right?

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Why write the verses and not just read them and write what you think? Well, writing will activate different parts of your brain and memory than just reading them. Remember in school when you would write out notes and make note cards? The more various ways you interact with a specific text, the better ingrained in your memory it becomes and the better you really “see” it.

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There are several passages each week. You have all week to write and journal about the passages. Take your time. If you miss a passage, no worries. This is for your benefit, not to make you feel bad. I encourage you to put forth the effort to get as much out of this as you can. But if life happens, don’t beat yourself up. Just get back on track as soon as you can.

My prayer for you is that you immerse yourself in the Word this Advent. That as we draw close to our remembrance of the Word being made flesh, we fill our hearts and minds with the Word and find Jesus there.

Advent Family Devotion Tips and Tricks

Celebrating Advent is big in our house. Some people think that because we choose to skip the Santa and Elf on the Shelf bits of Christmas, we somehow miss the magic. Let me tell you, we do not. Part of what makes Advent the special, magic time for our family is my intentionality in how we go through this time of year. As Mama Bear, I set the tone of my household and I set the rhythm of our lives. (Not that The Pastor isn’t an important part of this balance, but let’s be honest, Mama’s. We know that we are the ones that make the magic happen.) It doesn’t always unfold like I planned. I remember plenty of years when I really wasn’t feeling the magic myself. (Specifically, I recall being pregnant with Topher during Advent. End of the first trimester. I puked an average of 12 times a day with that child. B vitamins and Benadryl helped me sleep through most of my first trimester. I definitely was not feeling magical. I was sleeping and puking my days away.) But I have decided that regardless of how I feel, I am going to try to set the rhythm and tone of our household in the best direction for those in it. (Even that pukey Advent, I managed to keep the magic on track.) It does take work on my part, but what aspect of parenting isn’t work? So, yes, Dad’s get on board. And in your house, it may be Dad that keeps the rhythm flowing. For us, the atmosphere and rhythm is set by me. So here are my tips for you. (Please note, I also have general tips for surviving the holiday season. These are specific to this devotion, but you can read and apply the others, as well.)

·        You do not have to give up the fat man. We simply choose to do without the Santa aspects of Christmas. I just only have so much time and energy. You may be far more energetic than I am. You can fit it in. You can make it beneficial to a Christian Christmas. Just be aware of where the focus is. Shift the focus to the manger as much as you can. Let the Christmas extras compliment the baby in the manger.

·        You cannot do it all. Accept it now. All activities listed are OPTIONAL. Very, very optional. Everything you do or do not do is up to you. Intentionally choose what fits your family and best points them to Jesus. Leave the rest with no guilt.

·        For this devotional, we’ll be using Advent candles. You’ll need 5 candles. 1 for each week and then one for Christmas.  The candles add so much of the magic to Advent. Just that holy glow and atmosphere is so calming and centering. You can buy an Advent wreath with the candle holders made into it. You can buy a box set of Advent candles. Traditionally, there are 3 purple candles, 1 pink candle, and 1 white candle. (The order is week one- purple, week two- purple, week three- pink, week four- purple, Christmas- white.) Now, any 5 candles will work. If you want all white candles, all gold candles, all neon yellow candles, whatever. Just choose five candles. (The candle color is mentioned in the devotions, but that doesn’t mean you have to use them.) Last year, I bought scented candles in jars. (3 purpley gray, 1 pink, 1 white) I’ll likely do the same this year because I am not a taper candle person. You’ll be burning the candles quite a bit, so you probably don’t want tea lights or something super small unless you plan to replace them. You’ll light these candles during the devotion each week. (Week one, you light week one’s candle. Week two, you like week one and week two’s candles. And so on.) You can light them at other times during the week. (Though, for me, I will only burn the appropriate candles for the week. So week one, I won’t light more than the week one candle.) You can light them while you sing carols or do other family devotions or during dinner or during reading time. It is up to you how much you light and burn your candles. Usually, they are arranged with the colored candles circling the white candle. I lined mine up. With two purple on one side, then the white candle in the middle, then the pink candle and the remaining purple candle.

·        There are several verses each week to look up and read together. I would usually include those in the devotional, but I have been working with my kids on looking up Scripture. If your kids aren’t old enough to read, you may want to just look them up and mark them in advance. I have each of my kids look up and read a different passage.

·        I encourage you to do the personal devotional journal aspect of this, as well. It is optional. It is just a chance for you to go a little deeper while the whole family is still on the same page. If your kids are older, you can encourage them to do the personal devotion aspect, as well.

·        This Advent, remember, that busy isn’t always better. Your family needs time to breathe, center themselves, and enjoy the season. Don’t let them get overbooked. Carve out the time for family and personal devotion time.

·        Play Christmas songs, burn scented candles, make hot cocoa! Do the things that trigger those warm, fuzzy holiday feelings. Set the atmosphere of the house in a way that directs everyone’s thoughts and moods toward Jesus. Get the fire going. Break out the cozy blankets for the living room. Make your home atmosphere reflect the season so that the hearts and minds of your family go toward the manger.

·        Choose your devotional location to be somewhere that sets the right tone. You’ll need to be near the candles. You may find that best at your dining room table. Maybe your living room is more inviting. Maybe your parlor is less distracting. (I don’t have a parlor, but you might.) Keep your location consistent each week.

·        There is only one devotion per week. These should be done at the beginning of the week. On Sunday or Monday. Remind your family of the topic through the week. Add in the optional activities on the other days of the week. Do your personal devotions through the week. Your family will be moving through this together. Each week brings about a new idea and aspect as we look toward the coming baby in the manger. Write the time into your calendar. Make sure you prioritize it.

To give credit where it is due, this entire family devotional is adapted from a devotional written by The Pastor for our church for Advent. I did tweak it just a little, but the guts of it remain his. You can find his blog here. You can find our church website here. You can e-mail him at adam@faithmethodistchurch.org .