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Peace

What is Peace?

Peace is not the absence of conflict, but rather the awareness of the sufficiency of God in every circumstance. Peace is found as we rest and rely on Him. Worry and anxiety often come as we take our eyes off our all-sufficient God. We can have peace even in times of trouble.

What is Peace?

Peace is not the absence of conflict, but rather the awareness of the sufficiency of God in every circumstance. Peace is found as we rest and rely on Him. Worry and anxiety often come as we take our eyes off our all-sufficient God. We can have peace even in times of trouble.

  1. Jesus cared about the disciple’s lack of peace when he told them he was leaving. Read John 14:1-7 and talk about what Jesus said.
  2. Read Philippians 4:6-7. Peace is often associated with anxiety and worry. In what areas of your life do you need to grow in having peace?
  3. Peace is a battle of the heart and mind, according to John 14:27. Spend time with a close friend this week praying for God’s peace for them and for you.

Best Use

A good conversation about helping peace grow in your own life and in your relationship

Advance Prep

A Bible

Step One

Read Romans 15:13 together.

Step Two

Discuss the following questions:

  • What would our home be like if there were more peace?
  • What might we be doing that is hindering God from filling our lives with peace?
  • Are we willing to work to remove those obstacles that may be hindering from God filling us with peace?
  • What is one thing we can agree upon that is an immediate step for us to allow God to fill us with His peace?

Step Three

Talk through the acronym below. How could you use this acronym to rely on God for more peace?
P – Pause. Slow things down.
E – Eliminate. What needs to be cut out?
A – Allow. Make room to be filled with God’s peace. Romans 15:13
C – Challenge. Challenge the things that disrupt peace in your life.
E – Enter. Enter into the peace that Jesus offers. John 14:27

Step Four

Share with each other if there is a certain letter of the acronym that stands out the most; an area that you want to ask God to help you with. Take a photo of this with your phone or write it onto an index card to look at every day this week to assist as you cooperate with God to develop the fruit of peace.

Best Use

A family time activity to talk about peace

Advance Prep

A Bible, balloon, and a hairdryer

Step One

Read John 16:33. Jesus is telling His followers that there will be trouble but that we can trust Him for peace because He is in control.

Step Two

Blow up a balloon and tie it off. Have someone hold the balloon stem below the knot and tell them the objective is for them to hold the balloon very tightly and keep it still while the hair dryer or family member blows air on it. They will not be very successful. Tell them to hold on tight to try to control the balloon so it stays “peaceful in the storm.”

Step Three

Now, have someone hold the balloon by gripping the top of it. Try blowing the balloon now. (Blowing on it should not be able to affect the balloon.) This illustration represents the peace that God can bring when we allow Him to be in control. The circumstances may not change, but who we are trusting for peace does.

Step Four

Peace greatly involves letting go of control and allowing God to be our ultimate peace. As a family, we can create an aroma of peace in our home as we team up with God and seek peace in Him.

Step Five

Allow each person to share one thing that they feel worried or “not-at-peace” about. Pray together specifically for those items shared. Thank God that He is in control and ask that He would give peace in each situation.

Best Use

An activity with older children/teens used to discover and understand peace from a Biblical perspective

Advance Prep

A Bible or device that has a Bible, paper, and something to write with

Step One

What comes to mind when you hear the word peace? Does peace always have to do with the absence of war or conflict?

Step Two

Read Philippians 4:6-7. God does not desire that we are worried or anxious about anything. The spiritual fruit of peace is the opposite of worry. Peace comes from God. We can tap into the peace that passes all understanding through prayer.

Step Three

Have each person make a list of things that cause him or her anxiety or worry. Discuss each one and the reasons behind them. It is important to not dismiss anything from a person’s list, which could be easy to do if one does not have the same worry or anxiety.

Step Four

Take turns praying for one another’s worries, asking God to bring peace to that area of each other’s lives.

Step Five

During the next week check in with one another either at dinner or through a text message asking if they are worried or anxious about anything. Pray for one another on the spot or through text based on their response.

Parents

For families with children, an optional Preschool and Elementary Reward System is available to use as a teaching aid to encourage your kids to live out each character trait.

Click here to request a reward system or pick one up at the Bethel Kids desk.

Joy

What is Joy?

Joy comes from the Lord in good times and bad. It is a deep sense of well-being that is not determined by our circumstances. Gratitude and joy go hand in hand as we focus on Him and all that He has done for us.

What is Joy?

Joy comes from the Lord in good times and bad. It is a deep sense of well-being that is not determined by our circumstances. Gratitude and joy go hand in hand as we focus on Him and all that He has done for us.

  1. Nehemiah 8:10 tells us that the joy of the Lord is our strength. How is God’s joy different than human happiness?
  2. Read Psalm 126:3. What do you rejoice in, that God has done for you?
  3. How has God’s joy made a difference in your life recently (see John 15:11)?
  4. Read Hebrews 12:2-3. In what ways can you reflect the joy of Jesus to others this week?

Best Use

A fun challenge to help couples discover how to nurture more joy in their lives and relationship.

Advance Prep

A Bible, two glass jars labeled with each spouse’s name and a bag of cotton balls.

The Reason

Joy is a gift we receive from God and a gift we can give to others. We become a better spouse by embracing and displaying the gift of joyfulness.

The Start

Read the words of Jesus in John 15:11. What is the source of our joy and what is it supposed to look like? Pray for each other that God would help you both grow in joy and choose joy.

The Challenge

See who can show the most joy in the next week. Try to catch each other choosing joy. Place a cotton ball in the jar for each time you see the Holy Spirit working in
them as they choose joy. Follow these simple rules:

  1. Both of you must diligently watch for joy in the other person. The best part of the challenge is catching each other doing something well.
  2. No faking joy, that is just bad form.
  3. You may not point out to the other person when you choose joy. They must notice without being told.
  4. No stealing cotton balls or withholding a cotton ball that is deserved.

The Source

Every morning, and as often as you remember, ask God to grow the fruit of joy in you. “Lord, I want Your joy to be in me and I desire that joy be evident in my choices and my attitude no matter the circumstance.”

The Prize

Agree upon a significant prize before you begin. The person with the most cotton balls at the end of the week wins. But in reality you both win as the challenge causes your marriage to grow in joy.

After the Challenge

Continue to seek the Lord to develop joy in your life. Feel free to start the challenge again and again.

Best Use

A family time activity exploring the difference between happiness and joy.

Advance Prep

Food coloring, a clear glass of water, cooking oil, a spoon, and a Bible.

Step One

Read John 15:11 and discuss the difference between joy and happiness. Joy is a gift from God that doesn’t change with circumstances. Happiness is often in response to happenings.

Step Two

Pour a couple of drops of food coloring in the cup of water and stir with the spoon. The food coloring colors the entire cup of water. The color in the water is just like the joy we have from God when we ask Him to come into our lives. Our joy is found in Him and what He has done for us.

Step Three

Discuss some things that seem to make you happy (e.g. winning a game, a good grade, a special treat, etc.). Happiness is good but temporary. Pour some oil into the glass of colored water. Notice how the oil just stays on the surface. The oil is like happiness. It is only temporary and is just on the surface. Would you rather have joy or happiness?

Step Four

Talk through the following questions:

  • What reasons do we have to be joyful?
  • Do others see joy in us even when we face disappointments?

Step Five

Conclude your time together with a family laugh party. Try to make each other laugh. (Consider tickles and watching funny videos, etc.) As the laughter starts it can quickly spread, getting bigger and louder. As we experience God’s joy it grows deeper and stronger in our lives and is contagious, spreading to others.

Pray

Ask God to help each member of your family connect to God’s joy in good times and in hard times.

Best Use

An activity with older children/teens to discover joy from a Biblical perspective and understand it is possible to have joy regardless of circumstances

Advance Prep

A Bible or device that has a Bible and a dry erase marker

Step One

Ask everyone what comes to mind when they hear the word joy. Ask if there’s a difference between joy and happiness.

Step Two

Read James 1:2-4. Would a person be happy when they are going through a trial or hard time? (Not likely.) So how could they have joy? What does this passage say about trials or the testing of your faith?

Step Three

Joy is available regardless of circumstances. What are some tough things you or those you know have experienced in the last few years? Did you/they seem to have joy in the midst of those tough times?

Step Four

Joy is not something we can just muster up on our own. We must look to the source of joy in order to receive it and practice it throughout life. Read Romans 15:13. How is God described in these verses? What is God filling a person with?

Step Five

According to Romans 15:13, God is full of hope and is the one who can fill you with joy. Using a dry erase marker, write the word JOY on your bathroom mirror. Every time you see it on your mirror over the next few weeks, remember that God can offer you the gift of joy.

Parents

For families with children, an optional Preschool and Elementary Reward System is available to use as a teaching aid to encourage your kids to live out each character trait.

Click here to request a reward system or pick one up at the Bethel Kids desk.

The 9 – Love

What is Love?

Love is a choice, not a feeling or emotion. It is a choice to meet the needs of others. We can learn about love from the One who is love.

What is Love?

Love is a choice, not a feeling or emotion. It is a choice to meet the needs of others. We can learn about love from the One who is love.

1. Read John 13:34-35 and 1 John 4:7-12. How did Jesus love you?

2. What do these verses tell us about how God’s love changes us?

3. How practically has God’s love changed you?

4. What is one way in which you can show God’s love this week?

Best Use

A date night discussion to engage in constructive conversation about growing more love into your relationship.

Advance Prep

A Bible, pen, notebook, and two rubber bands.

Step One

Spend five minutes working together to create a list of songs that include the word “love” in the title or lyrics. Google lists thousands; you may search if you get stuck.

Step Two

Agree on one song from your list to sing together in a karaoke setting (e.g. Play the song on your mobile device while in the car and belt it out together)!

Step Three

Discuss whether the song gives a healthy image of love.

  • Does it portray love as something based on emotions or feelings?
  • Does it represent love as a commitment to the well-being of another without conditions?
  • Does it show love as self-sacrifice or as self-centeredness?

Step Four

Read 1 John 4:7-12 where love is mentioned about a dozen times. Share one practical way you can “love one another” like God has loved us (e.g. forgive quickly rather than giving the silent treatment, sacrifice my wants for your needs, initiate affection rather than waiting for you to do it, etc.).

Step Five

Put the rubber bands on your wrists. Hold hands and ask God to use these as a reminder to demonstrate love in practical ways this week.

Best Use

A family activity to talk about how love grows when we stay connected to God

Advance Prep

A Bible and a deflated balloon

Step One

Read Galatians 5:22-23. Start your family time by discussing that the fruit of the Spirit is something that you will be talking about over the next several weeks. This first week will be a focus on the first fruit, love.

Step Two

Give each person 30 seconds to name things they love…they can be as simple as Legos, individual family members by name, favorite foods, fun activities, etc.

Step Three

Hold up the deflated balloon and explain that it represents human love. It is nice, but could be much more by connecting to God’s love. When He breathes into our version of love (the deflated balloon), it becomes something much, much better.

Step Four

Read 1 John 4:16. Talk about some ways that you can “live in God” (e.g. spending time in His Word, talking to Him in prayer, obeying and trusting His commands, etc.). As each way is shared, blow a small amount into the balloon to inflate it. When we connect to God, He helps us make our love more like His.

Step Five

Play a game with the inflated balloon. Throw the balloon in the air and whoever catches it shares one way they can show love to someone else. For a more challenging game: Take turns tapping it into the air and see how long the family can keep it up by naming one way to show love to each other with each tap. Try not to run out of ideas or the balloon will fall to the floor.

Step Six

Pray together asking God to help each of you stay connected to Him so that you will grow in love.

Best Use

An activity for a parent and teen to compare Biblical love with various things in the physical world

Advance Prep

A smartphone or computer with web access for each person, paper and pen/pencil for each person, and a favorite treat to award the winner

Step One

Gather at a table, living area or office in the home. Each participant will need a device to search online. You can use a family friendly search engine like kidrex.org for safety.

Step Two

Say, “Today we are going to have a contest to see who can list the most types of apples in three minutes. Use the agreed upon search engine to discover as many as you can. You must be able to show a picture of any apple you list if asked for proof.” Set a timer giving everyone three minutes to complete the task. Identify who won the contest and provide proof if needed. Award the treat to the winner. Ask the following questions…

  • What was your favorite apple and why?
  • What do all the apples have in common?
  • What was the most unique type of apple? Describe it.

Step Three

Now do the same activity WITHOUT a web search. Instead, open the Bible to 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. Using these hints, spend three minutes listing different expressions of love. Ask, “What do all these expressions of love have in common?” Examples may include “Not about self” and “Meetsanother’s need.”

Step Four

Have each person describe one way they can show love this week from the list in the 1 Corinthians passage.

Step Five

Finish your time praying together asking God to help each person show love in a variety of practical ways this week.

Parents

For families with children, an optional Preschool and Elementary Reward System is available to use as a teaching aid to encourage your kids to live out each character trait.

Click here to request a reward system or pick one up at the Bethel Kids desk.

December 24

Thursday, December 24

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).

Matthew 1:22-23

As we reflect over Matthew 1-2 today, on the day before we celebrate the birth of Jesus, let’s look over these four weeks.

Daniel Doriani helpfully describes for us each of the four parts of these chapters. In the genealogy in Matthew 1:1-17 we learned about the identity of Jesus. His résumé, from Abraham to his father Joseph, helps us to see the family line God preserved and maintained that led us to the one and only Son of God, who became a man for us and our salvation.

In Matthew 1:18-25, the birth of Jesus is described from the perspective of Joseph. Through the miraculous agency of the Holy Spirit, God himself was incarnated or made comprehensible with human, bodily form. God became a man to be Immanuel, God with us. God became like us so that we could become like him, a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17).

Matthew 2:1-12 tells us of the adoration of Jesus. People, foreigners who probably had no previous knowledge of a Messiah, traveled hundreds of miles, following a star. They remembered a prophecy, they saw it displayed in the sky, and they followed the light in hopes of seeing a king. They were completely overjoyed when they arrived, so much so that they fell on their knees and adored Jesus in worship and through gifts.

Finally, we saw in Matthew 2:13-23 the protection of Jesus. God’s plan for a Savior would not be thwarted through the acts of a king who hated God, just as all do who live in darkness. God saved his Son so that his Son could save his people – you and me.

Charles Wesley, the great hymnwriter, wrote words better than I could write to describe this Love Divine, All Loves Excelling. Let me finish with a quote from that hymn:

Love Divine, all love excelling,
Joy of heav’n, to earth come down;
Fix in us Thy humble dwelling,
All Thy faithful mercies crown…
Finish, then, Thy new creation;
Pure and spotless let us be;

Let us see Thy great salvation
Perfectly restored in Thee;
Changed from glory into glory
Till with Thee we take our place,
Till we cast our crowns before Thee,
Lost in wonder, love and praise.

December 23

Wednesday, December 23

But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” And he rose and took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee. And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, so that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, that he would be called a Nazarene.”

Matthew 2:19-23

This is our final fulfillment passage in Matthew 1-2. We have seen fulfillment in 1:22-23, 2:5-6, 2:15, 2:17-18, and finally here. Those passages were straightforward, but what does Matthew mean here?

Unlike Bethlehem, there is no specific prophecy about Nazareth in the Old Testament. The town of Nazareth is never even named in the Old Testament. Commentators like Douglas Sean O’Donnell see a clue in Isaiah 11:1. There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. Jesse was the father of David, and the shoot from Jesse is David and his lineage that leads to Jesus.
We started with a genealogy in Matthew 1, and Matthew brings us back to the genealogy in chapter 2. The résumé of Jesus is pivotal for Jesus. Matthew is pointing out that everything, including town in which Jesus eventually grew up, highlights the last qualification in Jesus’ birth and infancy. Let me explain.

The answer seems to be in the branch verse in Isaiah 11. The Hebrew word for branch is neser. In English we sometimes add the ending polis to a word to make the name of a city (Minneapolis, Indianapolis). In Hebrew you would add the ending eth. The City of the Branch would then be neser/eth, or Nazareth! Douglas Sean O’Donnell says it beautifully: “So, Matthew is saying that Jesus came from the city of David (Bethlehem) as well as from the people of David (Nazareth). Jesus is ‘the branch.’ Jesus is ‘the Son of David.’ The fact that he grew up in Nazareth as a Nazarene puts an exclamation point on this!”

God led Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem for the census, to Egypt for protection, and to Nazareth to raise the boy Jesus, all part of God’s plan to emphasize Jesus is the son of Abraham, the Son of David, and the Son of God. Rejoice in God’s wonderful plan for you and me!

December 22

Tuesday, December 22

Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: “A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.”

Matthew 2:16-18

This event, often called the slaughter of the innocents, is one of the most tragic events of Christmas. This passage highlights that life and death are part of the first Christmas. But just as the exiles returned to the promised land, so Jesus is ending our exile from God to bring us back home to him.

After the Wise Men tricked Herod, Herod was furious. Herod estimated when the star might have first appeared, then added a little time to determine which children to kill. He may have killed twenty to thirty innocent children in this horrible act. Jesus said, The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10). This is the plan of our enemy, illustrated for us through the anger and hatred of Herod.

But there is hope. “Matthew is saying that with the coming of Jesus, the time of the exile is coming to a close! He hinted at it in the last verse of the genealogy (1:17). Now he alludes to it through the prophets. The tears shed by the mothers in Bethlehem inaugurate the reign of the one who will shed tears of blood for the forgiveness of sin and who will eventually, in the restoration of all things, wipe every tear away (Revelation 21:4)” (Douglas Sean O’Donnell).

Bethlehem and Calvary are intimately connected. They are each a place where tremendous spiritual battles were fought. This illustrates that we need Christmas, as Daniel Doriani writes. Yes, Christmas is a time to celebrate the beautiful birth of the baby Jesus. Don’t forget that.

But we need Christmas. Christmas signals God’s decisive final action to defeat sin in this world and pay the penalty for our sins. Without Christmas there is no Calvary, no substitutionary sacrifice for our sins, no salvation, no hope. Christmas points out the serious nature of sin and the need for a Savior. Thank God for Christmas, we need it!

December 21

Monday, December 21

Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

Matthew 2:13-15

Matthew 2:13-23 is not a typical passage that we focus on at Christmas. Matthew sees it as very important, though, so he includes it in his telling of the Christmas story. We will consider what God has to teach us as we approach Christmas Day.

As Matthew sets the scene, the Wise Men had just departed to go home another way, because of a warning in a dream. Probably the very next day or night God warned Joseph in a similar way. Joseph and Mary were rightly afraid, and they fled to Egypt during the night to protect the Christ Child.

Sinful Herod was used by our enemy to try to defeat God’s plan by trying to kill Jesus, as we will see even more fully tomorrow as we look at the next few verses. Jesus would eventually grow to adulthood and die for our sins. God would win, not Satan. At this point, though, the baby Jesus needed to grow into a man to live a sinless life before he died a sacrificial death for our sins.

It is significant that the family ran to Egypt, because that illustrates how God foreshadowed the events of Matthew 2 in the Old Testament exodus from Egypt, according to Douglas Sean O’Donnell. Israel itself in the Old Testament was called God’s son. Hosea 11:1, quoted partially above, reads this way: When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. God loved his people as a son, and he continues to love us as a son, in and through his one and only Son.

Jesus is the one and only Son who embodies the relationship the Father has with his children. Just as God called Israel his children out of Egypt, so he called his Son out of Egypt in this event. Jesus is the ultimate story of God bringing his people out of captivity into his promised land of a relationship with God and life with him forever. Thank you God for your rescue plan!

December 20

Sunday, December 20

And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.

Matthew 2:12

Protection. God protected his Son throughout his entire life, until his time was right. We have our first indication of this truth in this verse.

The Wise Men had gone through Jerusalem. They had met Herod and been given direction by him, both on where to go and to return news of the child back to Herod. After their visit, before they left Bethlehem, they slept the night.

It wasn’t a good night’s sleep. After a day of tremendous joy they experienced warning in their hearts. During the night, just as the angel visited Joseph, so he visited the Wise Men in their sleep. He warned them of Herod. Herod didn’t desire to worship the child. They may or may not have known Herod’s plan, but they learned in their dreams that Herod was not to be trusted.

The child was chief in their thoughts as they set out for their journey home by a different route. These Wise Men listened to spiritual direction from God. God had led them to follow the star and right to the child named Jesus. God had not let them down before, and he would not let them down now.

God had planned all this to happen, and nothing thwarts God’s plans. Paul tells us that Jesus came at the right time: But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law (Galatians 4:4). Mark says the same about the life of Jesus, the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel (Mark 1:15).

Paul, again, makes the same point about Jesus’ death and its purpose: For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:6–8).

God’s plan of salvation and glory is never thwarted. God always accomplishes exactly what he plans to do. What an encouraging truth!

December 19

Saturday, December 19

And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.

Matthew 2:11

If you read yesterday’s devotional, you will remember that we learned of the unbelieving Wise Men expressing believing trust in Jesus, by faith. J.C. Ryle says it this way, “We read of no greater faith than this in the whole volume of the Bible.” What is normal response to believing trust in Jesus? Worship and giving.

I love how Douglas Sean O’Donnell explains this passage:

“On Tuesday, January 6, twelve days after Christmas, the Western church celebrates Epiphany. The word epiphany comes from a Greek word that means “to manifest” or “to show,” and on this date the church has traditionally commemorated the visit of the magi and the “epiphany.” What epiphany? God’s manifestation to the Gentiles. God showed himself in the person of Christ to the Gentiles. That’s what that holiday is all about… on that day, before you pack away your Nativity set, celebrate by looking closely at this passage again and noticing how the whole scene is filled with scandal. We have a teenage mother, a child conceived out of wedlock, lowly and dirty and usually irreligious shepherds (as well as lowly and dirty and certainly irreligious animals) and then … the magi—a bunch of ‘Star-led Wisards,’ magicians of sorts, Gentile sinners. This scene depicts so perfectly the good news of the gospel of the kingdom. This good news is for all people, even the ‘least likely candidates for God’s love.’”

Those least deserving people – shepherds, Wise Men, and us – we have been given the gift of receiving this good news. We should rejoice as well and worship him. God has saved us eternally, saved us from so much, blessed us with so much grace. Let’s worship Jesus with heart and soul, body and mind.

Let’s also give to him, again and daily, ourselves. Let’s give to him what is valuable to us because we value Jesus more. I don’t know what that is for you, but when we are led to worship and adore Jesus, God leads us to return our worship through giving in joy.

December 18

Friday, December 18

When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.

Matthew 2:10

In Ecclesiastes Solomon wrote I commend joy… (8:15). If you have ever read Ecclesiastes that might surprise you. I believe from the Bible that joy is known and treasured and valued most by those who have also known and valued pain and sorrow and difficulty. The Preacher, Solomon, the author of Ecclesiastes, is an excellent example of this truth.

The Wise Men may have been similar people to Solomon. No one knows the life of the Wise Men. They seemed to be people who were waiting, searching, and often disappointed. They were looking for some reason to hope that was beyond themselves. As Pascal would say, they had this God-shaped hole in their hearts that they were trying to fill. Even on their trip they had made it as far as Jerusalem, only to be disappointed again for a time.

Then, as they left Jerusalem, they saw the star again. Their words are very difficult to translate because the English just doesn’t seem to capture their joy, maybe because words themselves cannot describe their joy! They had mega-great joyful joy! Remember who is mega-rejoicing and who is not. Pagan Babylonian astrologers are overjoyed at finding the star again, whereas no one else seems to care.

I cannot help but believe that these non-believers were by faith trusting in God, as the angels said and prophesied to the shepherds. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. (Luke 2:11) For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10–11) This was the best news they had ever heard. It was and is for all people. The Wise Men were overjoyed to find Jesus, see him, and believe in Jesus – how about you?

December 17

Thursday, December 17

Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him. ”After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was.

Matthew 2:7-9

Psalm 2 is a helpful place to start as we look at this passage. Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.” (Psalm 2:1–3) Why indeed!

From Herod in the first century to leaders in the 21st century, people plot to overthrow the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, yet he is still on his throne. Notice how Herod attempted to get rid of this king.

He first entertained the Wise Men’s questions with the answer he had obtained. Then he brought them in secretly. Why secretly? Herod didn’t want to let on that he was worried or angry. He pretended kindness and even delight at this news. Herod made it seem like he was happy, truly intrigued and excited to hear of this birth.

Herod also didn’t want the people to know. Plots must be kept secret to risk any type of accountability. The smaller the circle of knowledge, the easier it is to keep secret.

Notice what Herod said in verse 8: Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.

Every word but the last two in this sentence was the truth. He wanted them to search diligently, to find the baby, to bring him so that he could come.

Worship was not on Herod’s mind. Worship in the Greek language means to bow the knee or prostrate before someone. Herod would never bow to God or his Son Jesus.

Herod must have been somewhat convincing, because the Wise Men listened to him. God used Herod, even though Herod would never agree to be used by God. We see at the end of the passage that Herod didn’t succeed. God’s plan is not thwarted by deception.

God’s response to Herod, and to all who rage against him, is this: As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill. 7 I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. 8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession” (Psalm 2:6–8). Praise the sovereign Lord of all!

December 16

Wednesday, December 16

They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: ‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

Matthew 2:5-6

God had a plan, right down to the place where Jesus would be born.

The Magi, probably coming from Babylon, journeyed to Jerusalem, as the star led them. When they arrived in Jerusalem, they started to ask around – they didn’t know where to go next. They followed the star because of the prophecy in Number 24:17, but they didn’t know the place.

Micah, one of the prophets, prophesied about his birth. Micah wrote of the place where the ruler would be born, more than 700 years before he was born. Bethlehem was a small, unlikely place, but also an important place. Another unlikely ruler had been born in Bethlehem in the past, and that was David.

Micah 5:2 says it this way: But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days. Micah was merely announcing a plan that had been made in eternity past, proclaimed by Micah and reinforced by Matthew.

Jesus was born here not only to fulfill the prophecy, but also to show that he would be a ruler in the line of David, and not just any ruler, the final and greatest ruler. He would be born in the same city as the great ruler of the past, David.

The intricacy of God’s plan always amazes me! The founding of Bethlehem, the birth of David, the prophecy of Micah, the trip of the Wise Men following the movement of the star, and the knowledge of the religious leaders all were steps laid out by the Ancient of Days to testify to the greatness of Jesus. Praise God for his wonderful plan!