Dear ACP Family,
Advent is a season of preparing for Christ’s coming – preparing our hearts, minds, and lives to receive him. “Prepare him room,” as the carol says. We make space in our lives to listen for the Holy Spirit’s voice. We repent and turn from our sins. We remember what Jesus has done and who He calls us to be.
Advent is also a season of waiting. A now-and-not-yet time where we have the promise of Jesus’ arrival but await His full presence with us. This waiting is twofold. We wait for the season of Christmas where we celebrate Jesus’ birth, and we also wait expectantly for His Second Coming. That’s why you’ll hear so many texts about Jesus’ return read during Advent. Jesus came once before and is coming again, our promised God with us.
We offer this Advent devotional as a resource to you, your family, or your small group. It is intentionally flexible, to be used daily or weekly as best fits your time. For each week you will find two Bible texts, a short reflection, and seven questions for discussion or action. Some families might like to answer one question every day after dinner; some small groups might like to discuss all seven at once. The series closes with a final devotion for Christmas Day so that no matter where in the world you happen to be, our church family can celebrate as one.
You can find each week's devotional here on the website, or download the entire series of devotionals here.
However you use this devotional, we pray that it serves as a spiritual tool in this time of waiting, helping you prepare your hearts to receive Emmanuel, God-With-Us.
Scott, Tim, Billy, Emily, and Linda
PEACE – Advent Week 2
“For a child has been born for us,
a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders;
and he is named
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,
‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!’
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.’”
One of my favorite family traditions during the season of Advent is to set up various Nativity scenes. I say “various” because we have either purchased or received as gifts from friends where we have lived crèches and nativity figurines from different ethnic groups around the world.
We unwrap the ceramic or wooden figurines carefully and set them up in different places in our home as a way of remembering not only the different places around the world where we’ve lived and served, but also as a way of remembering that our savior came for all the peoples of the world.
One of my favorite Advent texts is from Isaiah 9, where we read of a leader who will come as the “Prince of Peace.” As we’re putting up the nativity scenes, we often play Handel’s Messiah and I am deeply moved whenever I hear Handel’s interpretation of Isaiah 9:6. We Christians believe that God’s wonderful peace has come to us in Jesus Christ. Paul even dares to assert that “he is our peace.”
We also remember the good news declared by the angels, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” Have you ever wondered who God favors? The shepherds go to Bethlehem to see “this thing” that has taken place… What has happened is that God has come to us in Jesus, “full of grace and truth.” Unbelievably, we read that Jesus died for the sins of the world, that in fact “this thing” is that God has brought the hope of healing peace for all people in Jesus.
And so in Advent we hear again John the Baptist and other prophets who call us to repent and “Prepare the way of the Lord.” We are called to turn from our destructive and divisive ways to prepare for when all shall be as God intends, and that the shalom, the wholeness, the vitality and flourishing that God intends will touch the lives of all people.
As we begin our New Year in the church calendar reflecting on what it means for us to “Seek the shalom of the city…” (Jeremiah 29:7), I invite you to consider the ways in which you can enter into the peace of Christ in your own life in the coming weeks as we remember, celebrate, and anticipate the Lord’s coming, and how God’s Shalom can come through your thoughts, words and actions into the lives of those around you.
Ask & Act
1. Do you have a crèche (or two) at home? Notice its details. What is depicted and why? Anything left out that you would want to include?
2. Check out some of the Nativity scenes from around the world below. (You can find others online.) How do these different images reflect how Christ comes to us and all God’s people?
3. Listen to Handel’s Messiah and how it beautifully interprets Isaiah 9:6. What does it mean to you that “unto us” a son is given “and the government shall be upon his shoulder and his name shall be called, ‘Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace’”?
4. Note how the text from Luke is about the experience of the shepherds, some of the poorest people in society. Why do you think they were the first to be told of the news of the birth of the Christ?
5. Why do you think this is important to the Gospel writer? How might this be relevant to us?
6. The Old Testament lesson reveals one who will be the “Prince of Peace.” What ways can we prepare for the coming of Him who is our peace?
7. Repentance is not a word we use much these days. Why not? How do we facilitate a season of repentance in the midst of this frenetic holiday season? The practice of examen can be a way of reviewing our daily living, finding God in the midst of it, and inviting repentance. Do the examen as part of your daily devotions this week.