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December 2023: Looking at the First Advent

Dear Reader,

The theme for December’s devotions is “The First Advent.” While we do not know what month our Savior’s birth took place, tradition has accepted the month of December. This month’s devotions will not major on the exact time of Christ’s birth, but will consider the Biblical significance and importance of His great condescension. The word “Advent” has been defined as the arrival of a notable person. There has never been a more notable Person, and His arrival in history, and the subsequent work of redemption He accomplished, is the single most important event of all time and eternity. May the Lord bless as we consider the First Advent of our Lord and Savior!

Preacher Steve

December 1

Genesis 3

Sin had entered the human family. Nothing would ever be the same. The perfection they had enjoyed, the unbroken fellowship daily with the Creator and the sensation of complete innocence was now gone. Standing before their offended God, Adam and Eve heard the pronouncement of Divine judgment, the curse placed upon them for their disobedience. In that dread moment, however, the Lord gave a ray of blessed hope in the first announcement of good news in the presence of the sinful pair, the announcement of a coming Savior. To the serpent the Lord said, “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” Four thousand years would pass before that promise would see fulfillment, when the virgin Mary would bring forth her firstborn Son and lay Him in a manger. Here was the “Seed” of the woman, the virgin born Messiah, Who would crush the serpent’s head through His death, burial and resurrection. Through that great redemptive work, the Lord Jesus would offer deliverance to all who suffered the same deception as did Eve, the mother of all living. It is through His great sacrifice of Himself that the payment for sin was made and pardon made available to all that trust in Him.

What exactly is the First Advent? It refers to the coming of the Messiah promised in Genesis 3:15. The First Advent concerns the God that created all things becoming flesh and dwelling among us, becoming flesh so that through that flesh He could die for our sins. There is something else that needs to be understood. The fact that it is called the First Advent denotes that there will be a Second Advent, or a Second Coming. Because He came to die in our stead, and after that sacrificial death ascended back to heaven, we have the hope given in His promise, “…if I go…I will come again….” (John 14:3) Praise God! There will be a Second Advent, but for now we are concentrating on His First Advent. Let’s pray that through this month, our understanding of His great condescension will be enlarged, and that we will ever be made to see the importance of His birth. Amen!

December 2

Matthew 1:1-17

“Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” (Genesis 12:1-3) Just over two thousand years passed from the promise of a Messiah God had made in the Garden of Eden to the call of Abraham. In this call, He gave more information as to the Person of the coming Anointed One; He would be a descendant of Abraham, Abraham’s “Seed.”

Through the “Seed” of the “Friend of God,” (James 2:23) the world has been blessed, just as was promised in Genesis 12:3. Some might question this blessing, but that would be only those who have not come to know the “Seed,” the Lord Jesus Christ. He has brought salvation, making it available to all. It is only through Him that the world can know a right standing with God, eternal peace and everlasting life. That is what the angels were saying on the night of His entrance into the world at the First Advent; “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” (Luke 2:14) Blessed Savior, we lift our praise and adoration to You for the great gift of eternal salvation You have blessed us with. Truly, through Your First Advent, You have offered this great blessing to all the world, and through You “all the families of the earth” have been blessed. Amen!

December 3

Matthew 22:41-46

The prophecy of the coming Messiah was clear. He would be a Son of the great king of Israel, David. (See 2 Samual 7:12-13; Isaiah 11:1-10) The Jews knew this well. In fact, repeatedly during the earthly ministry of Christ, He was referred to as “Son of David.” In fact, look at the following passages; Matthew 1:1; 9:27; 12:23:15:2; 20:30 just to note a few.

Yesterday we read part of the first chapter of the Book of Matthew. Here the genealogy of the Messiah is given, tracing His human ancestry back to King David and to the patriarch, Abraham. The Jews that knew these prophesies were excitedly awaiting the coming of the great Messiah King that would free their nation from its subjection to Rome and restore the glories of the kingdom that had been gone for so long. They did not know or understand that the purpose of His First Advent was not for the Jewish people only, but for all the “nations of the earth.” It was foreordained that the Son of David would come that His deliverance might be available to all. That deliverance would not come through the exploits of a mighty warrior king, but from the lowly, humble Savior, Whose death on Calvary would offer peace to all who would place faith and trust in Him. His First Advent was not for the purpose of seeking a throne. It was that he might seek an altar where sins could be atoned and where the gift of eternal life could be purchased. That altar was His Cross. Praise God Almighty for the Great King Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ.

December 4

Genesis 12:1- 13:4

The city of Rome was a marvel in its day, a modern city that ruled a vast kingdom. Surely this would be the city that would present to the world the Messiah, the Son of David, the King of Kings. One might have suspected that Babylon, or Persia might have brought forth the Messiah that would someday rule the world. But no, the Messiah would not come from these majestic kingdoms, but from the lowly land of Israel. Nor would He descend from one of the great kings such as Nebuchadnezzar, Cyrus or Alexander. Of course, we will see that He is the Son of the great king, David, but even he began as a lowly shepherd. The Messiah would come from the lowly land of Israel, a descendant of the nomadic herdsman, Abraham.

In His humanity, the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, was of lowly birth, but as was prophesied in the Old Testament, He is the only begotten Son of God, very God Incarnate. Through His lowly birth, His human ancestry, the Lord Jesus can associate with the lowest of mankind. None are so lowly as not to be capable of being reached by the Savior, none are so poor, none so destitute of material goods. Even the Savior said of Himself, “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.” (Matthew 8:19) Beloved, Jesus came as a lowly, humble servant, born in what seemed an insignificant land that He might be the Savior of all, both small and great. Because of the lowly circumstances of His becoming flesh, He is able, willing and longing to associate with all humanity. Praise the Lord for His great condescension! Amen

December 5

Genesis 49:9-12

When God called Abraham from the land of the Chaldees, He promised the patriarch a land of his own, a land that would be for his descendants. He promised Abraham that his descendants would become a great nation, with numbers as the sand of the sea and the stars of the sky. The most important promise given was that through Abraham’s “Seed,” all of humanity would be blessed. That “Seed” is the Lord Jesus Christ, the Promised Messiah.

Jacob, Abraham’s grandson, was the father of the twelve sons that became the fathers of the twelve tribes of Israel. In Genesis 49, Jacob was nearing the time of death, so he called his sons to him to tell them what would befall them in the last days. When speaking to Judah, Jacob made an interesting prophecy; “Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise: thy hand shall be in the neck of thine enemies; thy father’s children shall bow down before thee. Judah is a lion’s whelp: from the prey, my son, thou art gone up: he stooped down, he couched as a lion, and as an old lion; who shall rouse him up? The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering for the people be. Binding his foal unto the vine, and his ass’s colt unto the choice vine; he washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes: His eyes shall be red with wine, and his teeth white with milk.” Most agree that “Shiloh” is a reference to the coming Messiah. This prophecy of the Messiah tells us that He would be of the tribe of Judah, and that He would be a King. Remember, the wise men came looking for Him that was to be the “King of the Jews.” That King is Jesus, and His First Advent was the advent of a King. The King!

December 6

2 Samuel 7:12-16

From Jacob’s prophecy, we learned that the Messiah would be of the tribe of Judah. Here we find that He would be a son of David. “…I will set up thy seed after thee….” Saul was Israel’s first king, but because of his sin and rebellion, the Lord took the kingdom from him and gave it to David. Saul was of the tribe of Benjamin, but David was of Judah. While God took the kingdom from the tribe of Benjamin, He promised never to take the kingly crown from the family of David. As you read the promises God made to David, it is clear that these promises are yet to see fulfillment. His sons did reign after him, beginning with Solomon, but the Son prophesied in this Old Testament passage is yet to be crowned.

As we will see as we continue to examine the First Advent, much of the story of the birth of Christ surrounds events and circumstances that came to be because of this very prophecy made to King David. Thus far we have learned that the Messiah would be a descendant of Abraham, and of the Tribe of Judah. Now we have found that He was to be a son of David, and the rightful heir to David’s throne. It will be interesting as we continue to examine the First Advent to observe how God worked behind the scenes to bring to pass the fulfillment of Divine promises concerning the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ.

December 7

Isaiah 7:14

Why the virgin birth? It’s really fairly simple. Look in Genesis 5. “This is the book of the generations of Adam.” Beginning in Verse 1, and running down through the rest of the chapter, descendants of Adam are listed right up until Noah and his three sons. This particular line of Adam’s family, and there were doubtless many more lines that could have been followed, was traced because of its connection of Noah, the builder of the great ark that God used to spare humanity from the destruction of the flood. All these listed had several things in common, being of the same family tree. They all had one thing in common, along with all of Adam’s descendants; that one thing was sin. It might have been said of one, “He has Adam’s temperament.” Of another it might have been noted, “His features make you think so much of his grandfather, Adam.” There is one thing that could have been said about all, “He certainly has Adam’s sin nature.” It could have been said for Adam handed down his sin to all of his progeny.

It was essential that the Messiah be born of a virgin. God had spoken of that all the way back in the Garden of Eden when He spoke of the “seed of the woman.” (Genesis 3:15) Christ had to be born of a virgin, or else He would have carried the sin of Adam just like all of Adam’s other descendants. The Lord Jesus’ birth, His virgin birth, assured that He was not contaminated by Adam’s sin. His birth was a genuine birth, but it was a miraculous birth. As the “seed of the woman,” the Lord Jesus was sinless, and as a sinless Lamb, He was able to be the acceptable sacrifice for sin. He is the spotless “Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.” Amen!

December 8

Micah 5:2

Everyone living had a birth, and that birth took place at a given location. Some were born at home, others in hospitals. I was born at the Haywood County Hospital in Waynesville. Lynn was born in Rock Hill, South Carolina. All of our children were born in Asheville. Jesus was born in Bethlehem, in the land of Israel.

Bethlehem was not a major metropolitan area. It was a small village located about 6 miles from Jerusalem. Although it was a small village, it saw its share of people passing through on the way to the Holy City, especially during times of feast days in Israel.

Was it significant that Jesus be born in Bethlehem? Actually, it was most significant. Bethlehem was called the city of David in the Gospel of Luke, for it was his hometown. When the Lord sent Samuel to anoint David to be the next king of Israel after Saul, he traveled to Bethlehem. That’s where Jesse, David’s father, and his family lived. It was there, outside the village, that David tended Jesse’s sheep. Just like the shepherds found in the story of the birth of Christ, David spent hours outside Bethlehem as a shepherd, no doubt meditating, praying and singing songs of worship to the Lord. So, centuries before the birth of the Messiah, it was prophesied that He would be born in Bethlehem of Judea. This will help explain some of the facts presented to us in the New Testament account of the birth of Jesus and the circumstances surrounding that birth. This prophecy of Micah, which saw literal fulfillment centuries later, is just another proof that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, our Savior.

December 9

Luke 1:5-25

Four hundred years of silence from heaven was about to be shattered with glorious sounds. That inter-testament era between the Book of Malachi and Matthew had witnessed no Divine revelations. God had been silent, but that period of silence was over. There was good news to be shared with the world, and it began with an angelic visit to a Jewish priest as he was ministering before the Lord at the altar of incense.

“Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts.” (Malachi 3:1) This was one of the final messages from the Lord before the years of silence between the Old and New Testament. Zacharias and Elisabeth were chosen of God to bring this “messenger,” this forerunner in to the world. Jesus spoke of John the Baptist saying, “For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before my face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.” (Matthew 11:10)

These were exciting days, the days leading up to the First Advent. Heaven’s silence ended, revelations from the Lord once again being given and a world ripe for the coming Messiah, the dawning days of the New Testament were spelling hope for a sin-cursed world. That hope still sounds forth today. As we near the observance of the Lord’s birth, let’s meditate on God’s goodness and grace that brought us hope through First Advent.

December 10

Luke 1:26-27

Matthew’s Gospel points out that one of the ancient prophecies of the coming Messiah was that “He shall be called a Nazarene.” (Matthew 2:22) That exact prophecy is not found in any of the Old Testament writings, but it obviously was a prophecy known to the Jewish readers that would be reading Matthew’s writings. A “Nazarene” is not to be confused with a “Nazarite.” The Nazarite was one who had taken the Nazarite vow. This vow is discussed in Numbers 6. A “Nazarene” was one who dwelt in the city of Nazareth. This is just another example of the lowly, humble life of the Lord Jesus in His First Advent.

Nazareth was a small village in Israel located about 64 miles north of Jerusalem. The inhabitants of this small village were poor subjects of Rome who were not very highly thought of even among their own people. When Philip said to Nathanael, “We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph,” Nathanael’s response was, “Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?” As you can see, Nazareth did not have the best reputation among the Jews, but it was from that tiny, poverty stricken village the Messiah would come.

The First Advent was so different from any plan that would have been devised by man. Man’s version of the First Advent would have witnessed the coming Messiah entering the world in a glorious, jaw dropping manner. The city of His introduction to the world would have been one of the seven wonders, like that of Babylon. The family would have been royal, demanding the utmost respect from the upper echelons of society. He certainly would never have come through a Nazareth, birthed by a poor couple who were merely servants to a cruel task master like Rome. But, Nazareth it was, and there could have been no greater plan, for this was the plan of the Almighty. Just the fact the Jesus was connected to Nazareth offers all of the world, both the poor and the rich, hope. When the angel made his appearance in Nazareth, an exciting era was about to begin. It was the dawning days of the First Advent; days of joy and hope for all mankind. Amen!

December 11

Luke 1:28-29

The words of Verse 28 constitute the beginning of what is called “The Annunciation.” The young virgin, Mary, was addressed by Gabriel who had been sent from God. The first words of the Annunciation were fitting, “Fear not….” Of course Mary was frightened. The presence of the angel would have frightened anyone, but the message was not just for the young woman. This is the message of the First Advent, “Fear not, the Messiah is coming.”

“Fear not, Mary: for thou has found favor with God.” The Greek word translated “favor” was translated “grace” 130 times in the New Testament. How had Mary been “favored” by God? She had been chosen by the Almighty to be the vessel through which the Messiah would be presented to the world. One of the prevalent thoughts among young women in Israel in those days was the possibility that they might be the mother of the Messiah. Mary was chosen to be just that.

Mary, just a poor young girl living in an insignificant village in a land that was a subject territory of a country that ruled the then known world, was chosen to bring Messiah into that world to bring it hope. Beloved, this is the message of the First Advent; a message of hope in an otherwise utterly hopeless world. Just imagine this young virgin standing outside this poor village hearing this great message from heaven. That message of hope still reverberates through the world today. We don’t have to be crippled with fear. God loves us, and Jesus came into this world to be our Messiah, our Savior. Praise the name of our God that we, too, have found such great “favor” with God! Amen!

December 12

Luke 1:31-33

Read these verses carefully for in them you can see the miraculous power of Almighty God involved in the First Advent. The fact that Mary would conceive and bring forth a Son would be an unquestionable miracle. This Child would be called “The Son of the Highest,” while at the same time being referred to as a Son of King David. Here is the miracle of the humanity of our Lord Jesus while at the same time being very God incarnate. As the Son of David, He would be given David’s throne, and His reign would be “for ever.” This would be an event like no other in the history of the world. It would be the birth of the Messiah. God the Son was about to enter into the world that He created, becoming man so that fallen sons and daughters of men might be brought to Him through faith in His great work of salvation.

Both Advents are in view in these verses. The First Advent can be seen in these words, “…thou shalt bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus.” His blessed Name means Savior. In the First Advent, our Lord condescended to this earth to be our Savior. His very incarnation was for that purpose, that He might have a body that could become our sacrificial Lamb. The Second Advent can be seen in the prophecy that followed; “…and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.” Blessed truth! Blessed truths found in the great announcements of both Advents. Amen!

December 13

Luke 1:34-38

“How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?” Mary knew that what was being told her was humanly impossible; that a virgin would give brith to a child. It wasn’t that she was questioning giving birth to a son, but the means through which that birth would take place was simply perplexing. This was a reasonable question, one that many are still perplexed about to this very day.

The answer to this question was simple, yet tremendously profound. It was an answer requiring faith; faith on Mary’s part, and faith on our part. “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.” The state of Mary’s virginity would be unchanged, but she would bear a Son. She would continue being “espoused” to Joseph, but she would remain a virgin until after the birth of the Lord Jesus. Mary’s question had an answer. “For with God nothing shall be impossible.”

This is the answer that explains the question Mary posed, “How shall this be…?” This is the answer to any who are questioning the doctrine of the virgin birth of the Lord Jesus. A person might say, “That’s not possible that a virgin would bring forth a child.” And, that statement is true. It is not possible, but “…with God nothing shall be impossible.” That’s true about the virgin birth, but it is also true about so much more. How could it be possible that all this universe was created and not just evolved into being? “…with God nothing shall be impossible.” How is it possible that One would rise from the dead to never die again?” “…with God nothing shall be impossible.” How is it possible that…” All things are possible with God! Can you believe that? Can you have faith in that? If so, you are blessed! Amen!

December 14

Luke 1:39-41

Mary was experiencing something that none had ever experienced. There had been many young women that found themselves in her physical condition, but not under these circumstances. Don’t you imagine she was fearful, dreading the day when her condition could no longer be hidden. She probably felt alone in these early days with no one to talk to, none to confide in that would understand her position. There was one that would, and Mary found herself going to the hill country of Juda to visit Elisabeth. This dear lady would certainly understand, for she was experiencing a miraculous birth in her life also. Her and her husband were well advanced in years, never having children and passed the age to do so, but now found themselves expecting a miraculous birth of their own. Elisabeth was carrying he who would be the messenger, the herald of the Messiah.

You know, child of God, there will always be someone you can confide in when you have that need. The Lord will see to that. For Mary it was Elisabeth. For you it may be your mother, or father, or a trusted brother or sister. It may be a pastor or a Sunday School teacher. Your help might come through a senior church member to whom you have grown particularly close. But always remember this, believer, you will always have access to God’s throne, and you will always be able to confide in Him your deepest concerns, fears and questions. The Blessed Holy Spirit will always be near to comfort and to guide, and our blessed Savior will never leave you nor forsake you.

Elisabeth did comfort Mary. “Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.” She said this before Mary had ever told her of her condition, of the angelic visit and of the child she was carrying. Even Elisabeth’s unborn child recognized Him that he would some thirty years later introduce to the world, and he leaped in his mother’s womb in jubilation and praise of the Messiah.

Before we leave these verses, please note Elisabeth’s final statement to Mary; “…blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord.” Isn’t that true for all who believe. There will be a performance of those things promised. Our duty is to believe. Do you believe?

December 15

Luke 1:46-55

Have you ever broken forth in praise to the Lord for His goodness, His blessings on your life? Mary does here in what is called “The Magnificat.” After meeting with Elisabeth and hearing her testimony of John leaping in her womb, and of her blessing the Lord for Mary’s unborn child, Mary broke forth in praise to God for His Divine favor in her life. All of her fear and dread was replaced with joy and adoration, with praise and enthusiasm for God’s great provisions and blessings.

We are still considering the First Advent, and these verses are important in this study. They are important for they provide the emotion, the excitement and thrill of the First Advent of our Lord. They “magnify the Lord” for His great provisions for mankind in the sending forth of His Son. Like Mary, our spirits can rejoice in the Lord God our Savior, for He regarded our low estate and provided Him that would deliver us from sin and grant us His eternal salvation.

This Christmas season we should contemplate what the Lord has done for us, what He has provided through His incarnation, His death and resurrection. Like Mary our hearts should be filled with praise and adoration causing us to spontaneously sing and shout His praises. Mary was overwhelmed with the goodness of God, and so should we be. Amen!

December 16

Luke 1:56-64

Gabriel had appeared to Zacharias informing him of the coming birth of a son, even instructing him as to the child’s name; “…and thou shalt call his name John.” In that day, it was customary for children to carry on family names. This is why when Elisabeth informed her neighbors and cousins that he was to be named John they were astonished; “There is none of thy kindred that is called by this name.” This simply wasn’t normal for a child not to carry his father’s name. Actually, there was nothing normal about the birth of John, or of anything else that was going on surrounding the First Advent of Christ.

God was breaking the norm with the birth of Christ. The norm was sin and suffering, bondage and servitude to the deceiver. Jesus came to offer a change to all that. The birth of John was not the norm, and the birth of the Lord Jesus was certainly not the norm. Speaking of the which, the Lord Jesus is still in the business of offering a change to what has to be considered the normal circumstances the majority are facing in this life. He said, “Behold, I make all things new.” (Revelation 21:5) Paul wrote, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God….” (2 Corinthians 5:17) That is what is so exciting about the First Advent. It is the offer and possibility of a new start, a new life and a new hope in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Think just for a moment, child of God, what the world is facing right now. Things aren’t very hopeful just now. Most are living rather sad lives. Jesus came to give new life, life that is worth living. His First Advent was expressly for that purpose. Jesus said, “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10) Here, in His own words, the Lord Jesus explained the purpose of His condescension, and this is a message we must share with all.

December 17

Luke 1:65-80

One cannot think about the First Advent of our Lord without considering John the Baptist. According to Luke 1:36, John was a relative of Mary. Elisabeth is called Mary’s cousin, which according to Fausset can mean any relation either by birth or by marriage. Did John have any connection with Jesus in their early years? If Mary visited Elisabeth before the birth of our Lord, did she visit her after His birth? We have no answers for these question, but one can imagine that there was some contact between the two in their early years. Whatever the case, the Lord used John to introduce Christ to the world and to prepare them for His coming.

You and I are living in those days leading up to the Second Advent of the Lord Jesus. He will first come for His Church in what has been called the “Rapture,” or the “catching up.” (See 1Corinthians 15:51-57 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18) Seven years later, after the Tribulation Period, He will return to judge the nations and to set up His kingdom on this earth. (See Revelation 19:11-21) Like John had a special calling in his life to prepare people for the First Advent, the saved today have the duty of seeking to prepare people for the Second Advent. This we do by witnesses to others around us, praying for the salvation of their souls, and in living obedient lives for Christ before them.

As we are looking back on His birth, may the Lord help us to look ahead for His Second Coming. May He help us to be prepared for that coming ourselves, and seek to see others prepared by being saved and serving our Lord. Amen!

December 18

Matthew 1:1-2, 6, 16-17

A most significant prophecy of the Messiah was that He was to be a descendant of Abraham, and also of King David. This fact was emphasized all through the Old Testament. Although Jesus was a wonderful teacher, healer and leader, if He had no connection to Abraham and David, He would not have been qualified to have been the promised Messiah. This is the emphasis of Matthew 1 as can be seen in the first verse; “The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.”

An important observation must be made concerning the Lord Jesus. He is “the Son of David, the son of Abraham,” but He is also the “Son of God.” (Luke 1:35) As the Son of God, His entrance into this world was through the virgin birth, but the family through which He came was a family connected directly to both Abraham and King David. Jesus was both God and man; God the Son, and the Son of the Virgin Mary.

As the Messiah, the Lord Jesus came into this world to be the Savior, the Savior of Israel, and the Savior of all humanity. His salvation would require His death on the Cross as the Substitutionary Lamb of God, and it required His resurrection from the dead physically. In accomplishing this, He has offered His free salvation to all, both Jew and Gentile. If you are reading these words, and as yet have not trusted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, why not do so this very day. This is the true meaning of Christmas, the birth of the Christ Child, and it is the greatest gift you could ever receive. Amen!

December 19

Matthew 1:18-19

These verses may seem difficult to understand when we endeavor to interpret them in light of today’s customs. The “espousal” in Biblical times was similar to today’s marriage engagement, but was much more binding. In fact, to sever this “espousal” relationship between a man and woman there had to be an official divorce. This can be seen in the phrase, “put her away.” Jesus used the term “put away” in Matthew 5:31 referring to the dissolving of a marriage through divorce. When it is said that Joseph was “minded to put her away,” the thought expressed is that he was considering officially divorcing Mary when she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.

Notice that Joseph was “minded to put her away privily.” The reason for this was that if he had done so publicly, Mary would have been subject to being found guilty of infidelity and condemned to death by stoning. (Note Deuteronomy 22:23-24) Joseph is said to have been a “just man,” something that is not said of many in the Bible. His justness and his care for Mary must have caused great turmoil in his mind. If he brought charges against her publicly, she was in danger of death by stoning. If he continued with the espousal, Joseph must have known the stigma that would have been associated with that decision. In considering Joseph’s predicament, try putting yourself in his position in that day.

The human element in the First Advent is important to consider. What God asked of Mary and Joseph was most difficult. They lived in a small village among family and friends. How many of those do you suppose believed Mary when she explained her being “found with child” before her marriage with Jospeh was completed? Was there rumors? Was there condemnation? Absolutely! Even in Jesus’ adulthood, there was a statement made by His adversaries that could have implied that He was born of a questionable situation. (See John 8:41) Whether or not that was their implication, of a certainty there were many in Nazareth that talked about the young woman carrying a child before being fully married. This was a difficult thing for this young woman to face, but it was God’s call in her life.

Know this, child of God, not everything asked of us by our Lord is easy. Some things required can be difficult, and even uncomfortable, but our Lord always knows what is best. Our duty is to be obedient to Him and His Word. Joseph and Mary were obedient to the Lord, and they were blessed for their obedience. Let’s trust in our Lord and seek to be obedient to His will for our lives. Such is the path of blessings for God’s children.

December 20

Matthew 1:20-25

The angels were busy in the days of the First Advent. There had to be preparation for the birth of John the Baptist. Mary had to be confronted and informed of the Lord’s will for her life. Joseph had to be stopped from making a tragic mistake concerning putting away Mary when she was found with child. They are called “ministering spirits” in Hebrews 1:14, and they were certainly busily ministering in these important days.

The angel assured Joseph of Mary’s purity and of God’s will for her life, and then gave him commandments concerning his responsibility surrounding the birth of the Lord. “…take unto thee Mary thy wife.” This would be Jospeh’s first duty, that of taking Mary to be his wife. He would take upon himself all of the responsibilities of being her husband, of caring for her and assuring that her needs were supplied. This would also mean that he would assume the responsibility of raising the child in her womb. The angel assured Joseph that he need not fear to do so, but implied that he would be assuming completely the role of both husband and father.

Joseph was also assigned the task of naming the child that was to be born; “…and thou shalt call his name Jesus.” Did Joseph understand all of the implications of that name, which means “Savior?” Was he aware of the fact that the child Mary was carrying was indeed the Messiah, the One that would offer salvation to Israel and to all mankind? Did he realize that Jesus would be the fulfillment of the promises made to Eve in Genesis 3:15, and to Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3? Probably not, but he certainly understood that there was definitely something different and very special about the One whose birth was a miracle ordained by God. Joseph was called upon to perform a most important task, and in doing so earned himself a place among God’s heroes of the Bible.

December 21

Luke 2:1-5

Can God use a heathen emperor or king to accomplish His sovereign plans? He did several times in the Old Testament. He used Nebuchadnezzar, Cyrus and others in His plans for Israel, and He used the emperor Caesar Augustus in the days of the First Advent. It is an interesting thought to me that God was so using this unsaved Gentile emperor, and he was oblivious of this fact altogether.

The “taxing” mentioned was a census required by the emperor of all the subjects of his realm. This census was a registering of all the names of the people and could have required an accounting of all their possessions and holdings. Luke, in his meticulous style of writing, informs us of the exact time of this “taxing” which was during the time when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.

Why did the Lord impress upon Augustus to make this decree? The Messiah, the Son of Mary, was prophesied to be born in Bethlehem, the city of David. (Micah 5:2) Mary and Joseph lived in Nazareth, but while the Messiah would be called a Nazarene, He was to be born in Bethlehem. The journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem was long and difficult in that day, and one that probably would not have been attempted at all except of necessity. This brings a thought to my mind. There are times in my life that the Lord will allow difficulty and hardship to come my way as an act of providence to guide me to the place of God’s will for my life. During the days of Mary’s pregnancy, Joseph would never have taken the journey to Bethlehem with having to do so. Augustus’ decree provided the “necessity” that required the arduous trip. Necessity in our lives will often drives us to the path of God’s will. When it does, let’s walk that path obediently for His glory. Amen!

December 22

Luke 2:6-7

“…the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.” The days of waiting, of morning sickness, of rumors circulating in the small village of Nazareth and of the planning and talking of the coming birth were accomplished. So also were the days of traveling all the way from Nazareth to Bethlehem only to find there was no room in the inn. Because of this, a stable became the birthing room and an animal food trough became the bed that would cradle the darling Son of God, Mary’s child.

The days were accomplished that had been promised and prophesied for thousands of years; the Messiah had come, born of the virgin Mary. What a lowly birth! “And she…wrapped him in swaddling clothes….” One of my memories of the births of our children was them being wrapped in baby blankets after being weighed, washed and thoroughly checked out. Such wrapping secures the new born child, keeps it warm and helps in its transition from being warm and safe in its mother’s womb. It is said to help the baby feel restful and able to sleep, and is thought to help in preventing Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. In Biblical times, new born infants were wrapped in cloths rather than blankets. These were referred to as “swaddling clothes” or cloths.

This touches my heart. The Almighty Creator of all things small and great so humbled Himself so as to need “swaddling clothes” to keep Him warm and secure, to aid in His rest and sleep. He needed a mother to care for Him, to do for Him what He was incapable of doing Himself. This is the wonder of His condescension, of His lowly birth in order that He might enter this world in full association with His creation. Without the swaddling clothes, He would have gotten cold. He might have scratched Himself with the uncontrolled movement of newly formed arms and hands. Blessed Savior that so humbled Himself for us!

In His full association with humanity the Savior required being wrapped in “swaddling clothes.” There would be another wrapping of the body of the Son of Man one day. He would be taken down from a cross and prepared for burial, being anointed with oil and wrapped in a burial cloth. What great love compelled Him to be wrapped in swaddling clothes, and an even greater display of that love was seen when He was wrapped in burial cloths. In so doing, He became our Savior, capable of wrapping us in the garments of His perfect righteousness. What warmth! What security! What safety is ours who have been so wrapped in the swaddling clothes of His righteousness and gracious love!

December 23

Luke 2:8-14

Alfred Edersheim, in his book entitled Sketches of Jewish Social Life, pointed out that the shepherds of the Christmas story were tending flocks that were specifically bred and raised to be used for sacrifice in the Temple. He noted the following: “For, close by Bethlehem, on the road to Jerusalem, was a tower, known as Migdal Eder, the "watch-tower of the flock." For here was the station where shepherds watched their flocks destined for sacrifices in the Temple. So well known was this, that if animals were found as far from Jerusalem as Migdal Eder, and within that circuit on every side, the males were offered as burnt-offerings, the females as peace-offerings.”

It was to these special shepherds that were tending to lambs that would be used in Temple sacrifices that the angels appeared announcing the birth of the Lamb of God that would take away the sins of the world. The message was clear, “I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” This Saviour, the promised Messiah, had been spoken of repeatedly in Old Testament prophecies, and now the time for His appearing had come. It seems appropriate to me that these shepherds were chosen to receive this blessed message of hope and joy.

They did find the “babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger,” and they looked upon the darling Lamb of God as the infant babe. What condescension! What grace! They gazed upon the great Creator of all things that had humbled Himself, entering into this world that He might become the Supreme Sacrifice for sins. In reality, the responsibilities of these special shepherds was quickly coming to a close, for just over thirty-three years later the Lamb would be slain for our sins. There would no longer be a need for their service, for no more sacrifices for sins would be required. Praise God for the Lamb!

December 24

Luke 2:15-21

Where do you suppose the shepherds carried the news of what they had seen, of Who they had seen lying in a manger? Wouldn’t you imagine that these shepherds that were responsible for raising sacrificial lambs would have taken their good news to the Temple? Who did they tell? Perhaps they told those that they carried their lambs to that would be sold to worshippers that had traveled to Jerusalem. They may have told those worshippers that had gathered in the Temple area searching for those perfect lambs. These shepherds had been blessed beyond measure with what they had been told and with Him that they had seen with their own eyes. I can almost hear them as they entered neighboring Jerusalem from their shepherd’s fields “praising God for all the things that had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.” These were joyous days! Important days! Foretold days of the Messiah! The Christ had come, born in a lowly stable and laid in a manger! The Christ that had been promised for centuries was now among His people! This was truly wonderful news that the shepherds shared.

Beloved, we have a wonderful message to share with the world. Our Christ has come. He came to a stable, in a lowly town just a few miles from the city of Jerusalem. He came to be raised in Nazareth that He might be called a Nazarene. As the Lamb of God He came, not just to be born in Bethlehem, but He came that years later He might be crucified outside the city of Jerusalem. As the “Saviour” announced by the angels, our Lord came that He might purchase salvation for all, and that that salvation might be offered to all. The message was “to all people…is born this day a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.”

On this eve of the celebration of the birth of our Savior, let’s reflect on His grace and goodness that compelled such a glorious condescension. Let’s worship the Christ of Bethlehem, the Christ of Calvary. May the Lord make this day a special day of worship and praise for us who know the Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. Share the good news of Christ’s birth with someone today, and the good news of His death, burial and resurrection. Let others know that He can be their Savior this very day! Amen!

December 25

Matthew 2:1-12

“Gold, frankincense and myrrh” was carried many miles by the wise men to be presented to He that was born “king of the Jews.” Their visit caused no small stir in Jerusalem, for the wicked king Herod was fearing the promised One that would come. He was looking for a king that would endeavor to free Israel from Rome, costing him his throne. This would cause the deaths of young children in Bethlehem, and the weeping and torment of many families at the hand of that wicked king. (See Matthew 2:13-18)

We don’t know how much time passed after the birth of the Savior until the visit of the wise men. Herod’s wicked decree to slay the male children of Bethlehem called for the death of all under that age of two. When the wise men found the Lord Jesus, the family was in a house rather than a stable. Perhaps close to two years had passed since the shepherds gazed upon the Babe in a manger, but we always include the visit of the wise men in the Christmas story. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a Christmas play that did not include tiny wise men carrying their gifts from afar.

The visit of the wise men is truly a part of the story of the birth of our Savior. These men were truly wise in their seeking of the Lord and in their response when they found Him. They “fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” I’m sure you have heard it said, “Wise men still seek Jesus.” Well, actually it has ever been the Lord that has done the seeking, the reaching out to lost humanity. True wisdom is seen when those who are sought respond in faith. The truly wise believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior, trusting in His great gift of salvation.

On this holy day, the day we celebrate the birth of the Lord Jesus, let’s worship and praise Him for the salvation He came to provide. Let’s praise Him for His lowly birth, and for the “glad tidings” that birth brings. Worship Him this day for His death on the Cross and for His glorious resurrection that made those “glad tidings” a reality in our lives.

Lord Jesus, we praise Your Holy Name today. Thank You for Your lowly birth, Your humble and holy life and for Your great sacrifice for our sins. We praise Your Name for the salvation You have provided, and for the eternal hope that salvation has brought us. Help us to share this good news with all, and bless us with Your presence and power as we endeavor to see others trust You as Savior and Lord. We ask you these things in that Holy Name, the Name our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen!

December 25 - 31

May I suggest that for the remainder of December reading through the Gospel of Luke. You should have read through the first two chapters already. Beginning with Chapter 3, if you read three chapters daily, and four on the last day of the month that should take you through the book. I hope the look at the First Advent has been a blessing, and Lynn and I are praying that Good News will enjoy a great year in 2024. Help us pray toward that end. God bless you all!


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