As we anticipate the celebration of Christmas, there is a spirit of expectation, anticipation and preparation~ it is a challenge not to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of this wondrous holiday!
We need to be intentional about taking time to reflect on the amazing reality of what Christmas means for mankind.
The next four weeks are considered the weeks of Advent (which means "coming" or "arrival") and our focus is the celebration of the birth of Jesus in his first Advent, and the anticipation of his second Advent. For each of us personally, advent also symbolizes our own spiritual journey, celebrating what Jesus has done in our lives and expectation of more love, power, joy, peace, etc from His Spirit.
Advent Wreath: The symbol of Advent is the evergreen wreath which represents eternal life and four candles which remind us the Jesus is the light of the world (John 8:12). Each Sunday light the Advent wreath, one candle on the first week, two candles on the second week, three candles the third week, then four candles the fourth week. Traditionally, purple candles are used for the royalty of Christ, or blue candles for hope, but you can use any color. I use red (representing Jesus' sacrifice on the cross) and green (symbolizing life/growing). Place a white candle in the center of the wreath, which will be lit on Christmas Eve/Day representing the birth of Christ.
Advent theme for 2013: Preparing for the arrival of Jesus.
Looking at four different people from the Nativity account in Scripture, we will see how each prepared for the arrival of Jesus. Each week, I will write a devotional and there will be a family activity you can do throughout the week.
Week one: Mary says "YES" to God (Luke 1:26-38)
Read the Scripture passage Luke 1:26-38: It may be something you have read over & over. As you read it, receive it as if it is the first time you have read it. Engage your senses. What do you see? Hear? Smell? Feel? Touch? Taste? What would it have been like to see the angel Gabriel? What do you think Mary was feeling? What do you notice about Mary? How does she respond? What do you think is going on in heaven? All of heaven has been anticipating this moment in history...
Devotional: All of history is pointing to this time in Luke 1.
Isaiah prophesied to this event in Isaiah 7:14, "Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son and will call Him Immanuel (meaning God with us)." Mary says "Yes" to God and what He spoke over her life. Mary a teenage girl responded with belief to all the angel spoke. Mary surrendered her future into God's loving hands.
Mary didn't know the full cost of what that "Yes" would mean for her life. The cultural climate in that day was a brutal, hostile government, the most murderous and most powerful empire the world has ever seen and this is the time that Jesus chose to enter into the stream of humanity. And God chose this young girl from a nowhere town of Nazareth for his first Advent.
Mary didn't do anything to receive God's favor on her life. She loved God and walked with HIm and the angel calls her "highly favored" (verse 28) & " found favor with God" (verse 30). God chose to place the HOPE of the world in this teenage girl and He chooses to place the HOPE of the world in us too~ all of us who say "Yes" to Him. We don't earn His favor, we just receive it~ no amount of work on our part will grant us favor with God. The ones who say "Yes" to God are the ones on whom God's favor rests.
Mary's response unveils her heart towards God. "I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered, "May it be to me as you have said, " Luke 1:38. This young girl had settled a heart issue with God. She believed and trust Him completely. We see Mary agree with God. and she didn't even know what she was saying "yes" to.
Mary chose the life of a "bond-servant" to Christ (verse 38) when she responds, "I am the Lord's bond- servant"..... As a faithful servant, her life would never be the same again. A bond-servant served because of the love he/she had for the Master. The bond-servant gladly lived in the resources, the schedule, and the property of the Master, since he/she had none of his/her own. Mary was a beautiful display of what a bond-servant looks like. Paul later calls himself a "bond-servant" of the Lord.
The Lord is looking for a culture of "yeses"~ a generation who will stand firm in what God is doing and He is saying, not being moved by the culture around them.
No one knows the cost for you to say "Yes" to following Jesus, but Paul's words are true, "But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ," Philippians 3:7. The cost doesn't compare to walking in freedom, joy, peace, wholeness of abiding in Him.
Cheer on the Mary's in your life~ those who have counted the cost and say "Yes" to whatever God is calling them to do.
The cry of my heart is this: Lord, even before you ask, my answer is YES!
**Next week, Advent week 2: Joseph prepares a NAME (destiny & identity)
Activity: Advent Prayer Calendar:
Print off a December 2013 blank calendar. "Pray in Color" each block with someone's name and pray for them during the month of December. (This is my December 2012 calendar which I kept up all year, so I would pray for that person/family/group on that day each month.) Pray in Color is a book we have used to be creative in our prayer time with the kids, teens and adults at the Omaha Hub.