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    Youth/Children
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To Us a Child Is Born: Advent Devotionals from Classic Christmas Passages


The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. … For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:2-6

Do you know what it feels like to walk around in complete darkness — unsure of where you’re going, not knowing if you’re doing any better or if your situation is improving, rapidly seeing hope fade and despair increase? God’s people did. They were exiled from the Promised Land, under foreign oppression, struggling with “deep darkness” practically and emotionally. Was there any hope? Would God be faithful? Did he even still care about them?

Maybe you’ve been there, too. Maybe you’re there right now. Life isn’t working out; nothing seems to get better; your joy is fading, and your hope is waning. Isaiah tells God’s people that it’s in that context that God shines his light. It’s in those moments of despair that the story of Christmas brings hope. It’s people like those exiles (and like you and me) that the promise of a child King allows to rejoice again … finally.

Imagine wandering around lost in the woods in total darkness, near despair. Suddenly a flashlight beam from your campsite illuminates the path to safety. Imagine the relief you feel, the hope that replaces despair, the joy that replaces the sorrow.

In Jesus, the child born to us, God himself enters the darkness, our darkness, with his light. Do you need counsel? Strength? Love? Peace? The baby in the manger comes into your darkness as the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace!

Respond: Where do you see or feel darkness in your own heart and life? Challenging circumstances? Discouraging relationships? Prevailing sin? Which of Jesus’ names in this passage remind you He is the Light you need?

 

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory …
John 1:14

Take a moment to ponder the wonder, the miracle, of the incarnation. The Word, whom John has told us was in the beginning and created all things, in whom was all life, takes on flesh. The glorious King of Kings becomes a crying baby in a dirty stable. Very God of very God becomes fully man.

Headaches. Hangnails. Heartbreaks. Hiccups. And much more. How humiliating our bodies can be! They often don’t work the way we want them to, don’t feel the way we wish they would, and don’t reflect the dignity for which we were created. Sometimes they can be downright embarrassing, can’t they? And Jesus offers to take it all on – to set aside the glory of heaven for the humiliation of earth.

Isn’t it incredible that the God who created us perfect and in his image actually takes on flesh and walks among a broken creation suffering under his curse? Jesus does exactly that. He humbles himself … he weeps, he thirsts, he hungers, he hurts … he humbles himself even to the point of death. What an incredible sacrifice!

The word used for “dwelt” in John 1 is the word for “tabernacle” in the Old Testament – the place where God lived among his people. And immediately when the holy God comes to live among his sinful people, sacrifices are necessary for that to happen. Likewise, sacrifices are required for Jesus to “tabernacle” with us; the difference is that this time Jesus himself is the sacrifice. The humiliation of the incarnation is complete as the God “in whom was life” dies for his people.

Respond: Have you thanked Jesus lately for the humiliation he endured for you and the sacrifice required to live with us and die for us? Marvel afresh at the miracle of his love that prompted him to become flesh.

 

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.
Galatians 4:4-5

I’m thankful for many ministries that allow us to provide Christmas presents for children who don’t have parents to do that for them. But imagine the difference if such an orphan were to receive – rather than candy, a toy, or a game – a father, adoption into a new family! Now there’s an ongoing source of relationship as well as provision year round – not merely for one day but for every day.

This is indeed the glory of Christmas. God doesn’t send his Son into the world merely with a few one-time gifts: forgiveness for a single sin, a second chance at life, a meal to fill your stomach for a day. No, Jesus comes to invite us into a family, to seat us at the King’s table forever, to invite us into an eternal relationship as sons of a Heavenly Father.

Our adoption means that we have access to God whenever we want to talk with him, promised provision of daily bread and whatever needs we may encounter, loving discipline that molds our hearts and never rejects us, an eternal inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade. Praise the Lord!

The first Christmas gift – God sending his Son to us to adopt us into his family – is the gift that keeps on giving. We celebrate it to this day, and we will never stop living in the good care of our Father as we dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Respond: Reflect on what it means to you to have God as your Father. How does that impact the relationship you feel with Him? How does it impact the way you live? Share your reflection with someone who doesn’t know the Father’s love for him/her.

 

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.
Philippians 2:5-7

I love movies where someone travels great distances and overcomes many obstacles to make it to his loved ones for Christmas. Has someone ever journeyed hours to be with you? Doesn’t that communicate something about their love for you?

Now consider the great distance Jesus traveled in the incarnation, the first Christmas journey. In the words of the great Christmas hymn, he went from thrones to a manger, sapphire-paved courts to stable floor. He journeyed from glory and comfort into a world of humility and pain. He refused to let anything keep him from us as he literally moved heaven and earth to enter our mess, to take on our infirmities, to be familiar with our suffering.

If we are to love others as Jesus has loved us (and we are), if we are to have his mind among ourselves (and we are), if we are to walk in his steps (and we are), then our footsteps will carry us toward pain, brokenness, and suffering. There is plenty of mess, sin, and hurt in our world these days, but I find that I’m usually seeking to move away from it rather than toward it. Christmas reminds me this is not the path my Savior chose. The footprints of the incarnation are traveling a long way in the other direction.

Like a firefighter rushing into a burning building while others are rushing out, Jesus calls us to enter the mess of others’ lives even at great cost to ourselves. Recall that it would cost him his very life. So in calling us to live “incarnationally” and “sacrificially,” he doesn’t call us to go anywhere we can’t already see his footprints.

Respond: Where would “incarnational” living take you? Whose pain or mess are you avoiding that Jesus would call you to engage? Pray God would give you courage and perseverance to walk a long journey in the direction of your Savior’s footprints.