Week 5 - JESUS
Daily Family Devotions - appropriate for families with children
Monday, January 1: Read John 1:1-5
Tuesday, January 2: Read John 3:16-17
Wednesday, January 3: Discuss together these questions: Why does it matter that Jesus came to earth? What difference did Jesus make in the lives of those who knew him? What difference has Jesus made in your life?
Thursday, January 4: Think about these things: How might you introduce someone to Jesus who has never heard of him? How might you share your love of Jesus with someone who is hurting?
Friday, January 5: Consider together what makes it hard to share Jesus with other people.
Saturday, January 6: Name a couple of things you and your home could do to share Jesus in your neighborhood, community, or in our world. Pray that God would give you opportunities to do so. Then, don’t be surprised when it happens. Be courageous as you share!
Daily Personal Devotions
Monday, January 1 - God With Us
Now all of this took place so that what the Lord had spoken through the prophet would be fulfilled: Look! A virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and they will call him Emmanuel. (Emmanuel means “God with us.”) -Matthew 1:22-23
My freshman year of college was tough. I didn’t know anyone and often felt very alone. Towards the end of the fall semester, I started attending chapel on Thursday nights.
The last service before Christmas break every year is a service of Lessons & Carols. During this service, we pile together all of the lessons from Advent and sing Christmas carols. After each lesson or song, we light a candle to represent us getting closer to the birth of Jesus.
When we got to the story of His birth, this passage stood out to me, specifically “Emmanuel: God with us.” In a time when I felt alone, I was reminded that I truly wasn’t. God was with me through it all; I just hadn’t been looking for Him.
God sent His son to earth as a little baby, to live with us as a human. He experienced human emotions. He walks with us through the hard times.
Now I am a part of close-knit community of chapel-goers. I am able to use my tough experiences to help others through hard times, the same way God was there for me when I needed Him. Remember, in your daily life you can talk with Him about anything. He is always with you and wants to hear about your day, both the good things and the frustrations.
Prayer: Hey God, sometimes I get caught up in my own world and lose sight of you. Help me to be reminded of your presence throughout the day. Amen.
Tuesday, January 2 - Can You Imagine?
But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. -Luke 2:14
Just after midnight, on September 1, 1973, I gave birth for the first time. A baby boy. Michael (mich-a-el; like unto God). I was twenty-one-and-a-half years old, and for me, labor and delivery was like my first ride on a roller-coaster. I was terrified from beginning to end, but so exhilarated once it was over, I wanted to get right back in line and go again!
I realize, comparing childbirth to a roller-coaster ride doesn’t exactly tell the whole story, but Michael’s birth was a wondrous event. And as those first weeks of his life unfolded, and our first Christmas together approached, I found myself wondering more and more about what it had been like for Mary to give birth to Jesus. Was she frightened? When she first set eyes on her newborn son, was she any more overwhelmed with love and awe than I was? Was she any more delighted by every little wriggle and yawn? Did knowing she had been chosen by the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to bring forth Israel’s Messiah alleviate any misgivings she may have had about her ability to be a good mother, a wise parent, to the Son of God? They say, she wasn’t even out of her teens.
And what about the baby, Jesus? Was his divinity evident from the start? Did he glow? Were his tiny eyes already brimming with compassion? Was he truly the most beautiful baby ever born?
We all begin as such tiny bundles of helplessness. I imagine most parents and grandparents, gazing down at their newborn infant for the first time, feel a certain shiver of the miraculous; but comparing our experience to Mary’s is like comparing childbirth to a roller-coaster. “A multitude of the heavenly host, praising God…” Really? We cannot fathom such a vivid, profound encounter with the Divine. Try as we might, our imaginings can only see “as through a glass dimly.”
But we know Mary brought forth her son, and called his name Jesus. She held Him in her arms, gazed into His eyes, swaddled Him, loved Him, and treasured every moment. And from this, all humanity has been eternally blessed. Without resorting to rational explanations – hard work, coincidence, natural consequence – we can know God, through Christ; and celebrate the awesome beneficence of the Holy Spirit moving in and through our lives, day after day, year after year, through all the ups and downs of life.
Prayer: God Almighty, keep me open to the creative power of Your love this Christmas season. Grant me a constant awareness of your infinite blessing. Teach me to contemplate, not with my head, but in my heart, the transformational gift of Your Son, my Savior, Jesus the Christ. Amen.
Wednesday, January 3 - Just Say Yes
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. -Romans 6:23
There was a time in my life when I would hear the word “Grace” and connect it, in my mind, to an ethereal state of being - of floating in the clouds above the debasement of this world. It was not until my adult life in the church that I heard over and over again that “Grace” is the free gift from God of eternal life. The FREE gift. The fact that I could not attain eternal life from my own actions, no matter how benevolent, did not sink in until my adult life in the Church. I always knew that eternal life was attainable through Jesus, who is the Christ; but thanks be to God that He loves us to such an extent, He would hand this gift freely to us. All we are to do is accept the gift and love Him willingly…with all our heart, mind, and strength. Blessed be the Lord!
Each day we are presented with blessings and challenges. We are blessed by the amazing things our children do and say. We are challenged by the events we hear on the news and the pessimistic proclamations made by people around us, including family and friends, sometimes. Each day we have to make a conscious decision not to disengage from our dependence on God and our need to stay in relationship with Jesus. If I react to challenges in life by making decisions without acknowledging God’s will, then I am living in sin. I am not accepting freely God’s gift to us.
Jesus is the link between our limited life here on earth and our eternal peace with the Father. All we need to do is know and understand what Jesus did for us by dying on the cross, and express our gratitude to Jesus each and every day for opening the path to eternal salvation. Knowing the sacrifice of Jesus allows our sinful selves to experience humility and therefore be able to accept the gift of eternal life from God. Jesus inhibits our pride from spurning the gift given to us freely. We would not have Jesus in our lives had he not been born in a humble manger, to a woman who said, “Yes, my Lord.” Advent is the time to celebrate the coming of Jesus, the Christ, so that we can ultimately say “yes” to the grace of God, the gift of God… the greatest Christmas gift we could ever receive.
Prayer: God Almighty, lead us to a state of mind each day to where we say “yes” to you and accept your free gift of eternal life. Help us to focus our words and actions so that they reflect your will. Make us aware of moments when we are drifting off to our own decisions without consulting your Word, without praying to you for guidance. In your holy, precious name we pray. Amen.
Thursday, January 4 - First Things First
Don’t worry about anything. Instead, tell God about everything. Ask and pray. Give thanks to him. Then God’s peace will watch over your hearts and your minds because you belong to Christ Jesus. God’s peace can never be completely understood. -Philippians 4:6-7
There are many times in an individual’s life when peace is not as evident as one would like it to be. Hurrying to work during rush-hour, receiving a below-average grade on an exam, worrying about a certain individual, dropping some food on the floor of a crowded space, witnessing Americans serving in war - this list is just a small portion of the things that make peace seem un-reachable. When these things happen, I have found that searching for God is often last on my list.
As a college student, I seem to have what I like to call a “Worry List,” an endless list of assignments and tasks to be finished by the end of the week, every week. I find myself caught up in everyday life and stressed over school work, day after day. It is difficult for me to find peace in this time of stress, anxiety and worry.
This happens in every stage of life. We all have days when we struggle to find peace and relaxation from our worries. Most of us have active prayer lives that are put on a back burner when peace seems so out of reach. But if we listen and apply scripture, specifically Philippians 4:6-7, we will notice remarkable change throughout our everyday lives.
Scripture tells us to pray and have conversations with God, give thanks to God for everything and know that we belong to him. We have been saved in Christ Jesus. The peace that God gives will never be understood, because he works for our good every single day. When we ask and pray, God knows what we are going through and will supply peace and comfort in times of hurt and worry. When we put God in front of our stress and worries, he will provide peace when we need it most.
So, the next time we make our “Worry List” or “To-Do List,” we are stuck in traffic, or we know our peace will suffer, look to God first. Engage in conversation and pray that we may find peace amidst all our worries and stressors. Through talking to our Savior, we will find peace in ways never imagined.
Prayer: God first we come to you in thankfulness and praise. For you are faithful, loving, kind, and slow to anger. Grant your peace that passes all understanding in all the circumstances of our lives where we have yet to rest in you. Amen.
Friday, January 5 - Jesus the Light
In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. The Word was with God in the beginning. Everything came into being through the Word, and without the Word nothing came into being. What came into being through the Word was life, and the life was the light for all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness doesn’t extinguish the light. -John 1:1-5
Picture these images; light escaping a cracked door in a dark hallway, a sun beam slicing through the cloudy sky, light shining through a stained glass window, the sunrise breaking through the dawn. There is something magnificent about light breaking through the darkness. The images that form in our minds are captivating and beautiful. Deep within who we are we know that there is something astounding that happens when light breaks through the darkness.
This is what happened that very first Christmas. Jesus broke through Heaven and came to Earth, shattering the barrier between the Heaven and Earth; between us and God. God put on flesh to be with us; to experience our humanness and to overcome our iniquities.
It wasn’t just the first Christmas that Christ came shining light in the darkness. Jesus, comes moment after moment shining light into our darkest places. The light of Christ exposes the truth about who we are and the truth of the grace offered to us. Scripture says Jesus came to give life and give it abundantly. It says Christ came not to condemn the world, but that it might be saved through Him.
May you be reminded that the darkness of this world will never overpower the light of Christ. May you, carrying the Holy Spirit within you, seek to be a beacon of light in the darkness.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, we are called to be children of the light. Through your gift of Jesus, we have seen the example of what it means to fulfill this call. For the ways in which we have tried to shut out the darkness, we are sorry. Help us see light in this dark world. Show us how to be the light. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.