Advent Devotions, Week One

Sunday, December 3May You Find a Light by The Brilliance

On this first day of Advent, we light one cande in our Advent wreath. Light has long been used as a symbol of hope amid struggle, and it is especially meaningful in climates where winter is dark and cold and grey. This song by The Brilliance particularly reminds us that light is meant to help and guide; it makes our way more clear. Sometimes that light is leading us home, where we are welcomed and loved; sometimes it is drawing us out into the world, like the wise men who followed the star. What kind of light are you looking for today?

 

Monday, December 4 Strange Way to Save the World by 4Him

As we begin our celebration of Advent, this song reminds us of the strangeness of the miracle of Christ’s birth. God chose to save the world not by tearing open the heavens with a loud declaration or by setting up rules and regulations to follow or fail. God did not use power and might to change the world, but rather became human and trusted the Divine into the care of “a simple man of trade” and “an ordinary girl.” Advent asks us to remember, as we wait for the arrival of Jesus, that God does not often come to us in ways that we expect. Where does God catch you by surprise today?


Tuesday, December 5Emmanuel, God With Us by Amy Grant

“Emmanuel” (or “Immanuel”) is a Hebrew phrase that means “God with us.” It appears first as a name promised to the prophet Isaiah: “Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14). The writer of the gospel of Matthew takes this name and prophecy and applies it to Jesus, saying that “All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: ‘Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,’ which means, ‘God is with us’” (Matthew 1:22-23). Jesus is still given the name Jesus (or Joshua, in Hebrew), but Matthew uses the symbolic name to declare that this baby born of a virgin is the fulfillment of God’s ancient promise. What is a promise you are still waiting on?

 

Wednesday, December 6O Come O Come Emmanuel by Pentatonix

This hymn, over one hundred and fifty years old, recalls many of the trials that the Hebrew people have survived. Israel, the people of God, had been in captivity in Babylon, dragged into exile away from their homes and their holy temple. Hundreds of years before the exile, the people had also been in a time of questioning and struggle, as they wandered in the wilderness after escaping slavery in Egypt. At Mount Sinai, they received the law of God, the ways that God called them to live as free people. Although the coming of God as a baby was entirely new, the Hebrew people (of whom Jesus was one!) had many stories of God’s continued work to free them from sin and oppression. What is a lesson in your life that you keep having to learn again?

 

Thursday, December 7Immanuel by the Liturgists

As we wait for the arrival of Christ, we recognize how far we can feel from God. Our homes can feel like less than home; our world seems more interested in pursuing riches and prosperity than caring for those in need. How can we say that God is with us when we can sometimes feel so alone? One of the promises of Christmas is not only that God is with us, but that God is with us in our hardest times. God doesn’t enter the world in glory and riches, but to a poor engaged couple with nowhere to sleep. Maybe it is in the most desperate times of our lives that God is working the hardest to be with us. Where are you longing for God to show up today?

Friday, December 8In the Bleak Midwinter by Brandon Heath

Another classic Christmas carol, this hymn was likely written shortly after the end of the American Civil War. Although there was probably little snow in the Middle East at the time of Jesus’ birth, the author Christina Rossetti sought to convey the miracle of God’s presence at a time when all seemed bleak. The final stanza asks, “What can I give him, poor as I am?” The answer is that God is honored by whatever we give, no matter how seemingly humble; the greatest treasure we can give is our hearts, preparing ourselves to receive the arrival of a surprising God who transforms the world.

 

Saturday, December 9The Earth Stood Still by Future of Forestry

Historically, it doesn’t seem that anything significant happened in the years in which we guess Jesus was born. (Scholars aren’t sure — it could be anywhere between 6 BC and 9 AD.) Empires and nations rolled on, unaware of the King in their midst. Only a few knew that the creator of the world had put on skin and was born among us. Yet something did change that day, on both a worldy and a cosmic level: God’s promise to always be with us was coming true in a whole new way. When in your life has it seemed like nothing was happening, yet later you realized it was the beginning of something new?