Monday, December 20, 2010: Incarnation?
Daily reading: Isaiah 7:10-16; 1 Corinthians 1:26-31
Incarnation is defined as “taking on flesh” or “becoming human.” What a radical idea it is that God is coming among us in the One envisioned by Isaiah: “the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.” The Kingdom of heaven comes to earth in the One named Immanuel; “God with us.” Because Christ comes to be among us, everything is turned upside down.The low and despised becomes that which is exalted. In your life, what difference does it make that God came among us in human flesh? Ask God to help you believe that God has entered our world to initiate a new creation even in the midst of our messy lives.
Tuesday, December 21, 2010: A Sign?
Daily reading: Isaiah 7:10-16 again; Luke 2:12-13
Through Isaiah, God gives Ahaz a sign, or a promise. In the original context, the promise is that a young woman will bear a child. This child will perpetuate David’s line (verse 14 most likely refers to Ahaz’s wife), continuing God’s promised line of leadership. The child’s name will be Immanuel, signaling that God will be with his people in a new way. Unlike so many of the kings before him, this child-king will develop a strong moral sense by the time he’s ready for solid food, implying that he will rule with righteousness. In Luke, we find the fulfillment of this sign of God. Can you more fully believe that God has entered into our world to forgive our sins and set us free from sin and death? If so, how would we live differently?
Wednesday, December 22, 2010: Who?
Daily reading: Matthew 1:18-25; Isaiah 61:1-3
In his narrative about Jesus’ birth, Matthew focuses on this question: “who is this child?” With this text’s connection to the genealogy before it, this child is placed within the context of David’s line and God’s promise of a great King to come. That Matthew intentionally uses the phrase “the genesis of Jesus” (verse 1) points to the reality that Jesus is part of God’s creation history. His birth has cosmic significance. In him a new creation has begun. Matthew answers this question by telling us the child’s name: Jesus, or “God saves.” The angel tells Joseph that this name points to the reality that this child will be God’s instrument to save “his people” from their sins. As the story unfolds, we’ll discover that this child is the promised, anointed One. Who is Jesus to you? Ask God to increase your understanding and experience of the anointed One, Jesus.
Thursday, December 23, 2010: Nature?
Daily reading: Matthew 1:18-25 again; Luke 1:27
Matthew also asks, “what is Jesus’ nature?” To answer, he points to the “virgin conception.” While belief in the virgin conception is a test of orthodoxy in many Christian circles today, it doesn’t seem to have been significant in the New Testament community. Only Matthew and Luke mention it. Apparently it became significant by the end of the second century, when the Apostle’s Creed was written. It explains how Jesus can be both fully God and fully man. We confess this idea every time we say the Apostles’ Creed. Incarnation; God in human flesh, in the One named Jesus. Can you grasp the incredible reality that God would come among us? Ask God to reveal more clearly to you the enormity of this reality every day.
Friday, December 24, 2010: Waiting?
Daily reading: Luke 2:1-20; Psalm 130:5
Advent is a season of waiting. Today the wait is over, at least partially. We believe that God came to be with us on this night more than 2,000 years ago! While Christmas announces God’s presence with us and the depth of God’s love for us, our rescue is not yet complete. We await that day when Jesus returns, when God’s work of reconciliation, redemption and recreation is completed – not by our efforts alone, but by God’s grace working in and through us. We live by faith in this tension and mystery, that the King of kings is here with us now, and will one day return to finish what he started. The King is here, and the King is coming. That’s a mystery. But God’s relentless love for you is not. What are you celebrating today? Ask God to fill you to overflowing with the good news of Christmas.
Saturday, December 25, 2010: Worship?
Daily reading: Matthew 2:1-8; Psalm 25:5
It’s Christmas Day, and we worship the one who came to us at Christmas. Even 2,000 years ago, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem and asked where this child was born so they could worship him. Centuries later, we are still asking the same kinds of questions. Who is he? Where is he? How can we worship him? Even Herod asked the same questions, although his motives were completely wrong. On this Christmas Day, stop and pause for just five minutes to consider how incredible God’s plan was, and is. Thank God for Jesus, and how his coming to us can change the way we live.
Sunday, December26, 2010: Rescue?
Daily reading: Daniel 6:27; 2 Timothy 4:18
On August 5, a copper and gold mine collapsed, trapping 33 miners 2,050 feet below the earth’s surface. For the first 17 days they had no contact with the surface, surviving on two spoonfuls of tuna, half a cookie and half a glass of milk every 48 hours. On day 17, a bore hole from the top finally reached them, bringing hope and joy to the miners below and their families above. On October 13, the world was riveted to televisions screens as the last miner was brought to the surface. And the whole world rejoiced. In a very real sense, the miners’ story is our story. Entombed by sin and death in this very dark and broken world, we wonder if there is hope for us. We may wonder if God really loves us, or if God has washed his cosmic hands of us and leave us to ourselves. That is the question that Christmas answers. Christmas announces a rescue operation. God loves you and me and all of this creation so deeply, so desperately, that God chose to drill down from heaven to reach us, to bring light and life to the darkness and deadness of this world. God is relentlessly pursuing us with unconditional, incomprehensible love.