Category Archives: Advent Devotional 2020

December 12

Saturday, December 12

When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.

Matthew 1:24-25

Joseph obeyed. Not a lot of hoopla or fanfare. He woke up and did what the angel commanded. A few words come to my mind after studying this passage.

Faith. Like Mary, Joseph by faith trusted what the angel said. The angel appeared to Mary when she was awake; Joseph’s vision was in a dream. There was no dialogue between Joseph and the angel. God confirmed in Joseph’s heart the truth of the visit so that there was no doubt. Joseph still could have disobeyed, like Jonah did when he ran from God, but he didn’t. Joseph simply trusted God’s words from the angel and obeyed.

Submission. Joseph in humility submitted himself to God’s plan and God’s words. He wasn’t prepared for this. He didn’t plan to be the adopted father of Jesus. There was no training course, no models to look to. He simply gave his life to follow the will of God, fully and completely without reservation.

Fear and shame. He was afraid to divorce, afraid for her and himself for what people would say when they heard. He was also afraid to keep her, because people would gossip more if they stayed together even though she was pregnant. The unfounded shame would be evident. He could avoid more shame by divorcing Mary, but he didn’t. Joseph did not let fear and shame rule his life.

“Joseph illustrates the capacity for difficult obedience that flows from the knowledge that Jesus is our Immanuel, God with us, to bless us” (Doriani). The triune God of the universe planned to work through Joseph, and he asked Joseph to trust him. God asks each of us to trust him as well. God wants to work through you and me. Are you willing by faith to let him use you?

December 11

Friday, December 11

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

One of my favorite phrases and concepts in the New Testament is Immanuel – God with us. God’s promise to be with his people, to be their God, is as old as Genesis, and will stretch to the end of time, as we will see in Revelation. In fact, this promise is at the heart of all that God wants to do, as we will see throughout the Bible.

God’s presence with his people began in the garden, when God had close fellowship with Adam and Eve. That fellowship was broken by sin, so God established a covenant with his people. The heart of covenant in Genesis 17 is that God would be our God, and we would be his people.

The promise of God’s presence continued in the instructions for the tabernacle, when God promised to dwell among his people (Exodus 29:45). God’s presence was one of the blessing of obedience in the giving of the law. And I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people (Leviticus 26:12).

God’s people sinned against him greatly in the time of the prophets, so God withdrew his presence from his people, as illustrated in Ezekiel 11. Through the prophets, God looks forward to the future when his dwelling place will be restored among his people (Ezekiel 37:27-28; Zechariah 2:10).

Paul understood that through the Holy Spirit, God can now dwell with his church corporately, and in believers individually. He quotes Leviticus 26 and Ezekiel 37 to communicate that God’s dwelling place is now with us personally. He dwells with every believer and the church in a close and intimate way.

The final goal will be our greatest joy – God’s dwelling with man! And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God” (Revelation 21:3). The coming of Jesus, Immanuel, assures us that God will fulfill his promise. Rejoice in God’s presence with you today, or ask him to be with you now, if you have never humbled yourself before God.

December 10

Thursday, December 10

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

Promises, promises. We have all had promises made to us. Parents, friends, advertising, doctors all make promises of different kinds. No one is able to keep all their promises to us, just as we can’t keep all our promises to others. Disappointment results.

God keeps all his promises.

Think about that for a minute. God keeps all his promises.

A number of times in Matthew 1-2 we see phrases like this phrase we find here in verse 22: this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken. Let’s look at this short phrase and see what it means for us this Christmas.

In the very first verse of Hebrews, the author writes this: Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets (Hebrews 1:1). Throughout the Old Testament God spoke words to all the people listed in the genealogy in Matthew 1, and many more people besides. The whole Old Testament contains God speaking to his people and revealing to them who he is and what he is going to do.

The Old Testament is more than God speaking to people, it points forward to what God will reveal in the New Testament, through Jesus. St. Augustine said it this way: “The new is in the old concealed; the old is in the new revealed.” The Bible is one book in two parts. Through prophecy, God speaks in the Old Testament about what he plans to do. In the New Testament he reveals those plans in the person of Jesus Christ.

Hebrews 1:2 gives the contrast to 1:1: but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world (Hebrews 1:2). Jesus is God’s word to us, his spoken, final word in the form of a man. Jesus is God’s promises fulfilled. Jesus is God’s “YES” to everything that he has said he will do (see 2 Corinthians 1:20). Praise God for his promises fulfilled to us through Immanuel, God with us!

December 9

Wednesday, December 9

She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.
Matthew 1:21

If you think it was difficult for Joseph to trust what the angel said in verse 20 (yesterday), imagine how much more difficult it was for Joseph to trust what the angel said in this verse!

Joseph could get immediate answers and make immediate decisions as a result of what the angel said to him in verse 20. Joseph could go talk to Mary, and Mary could confirm that the angel visited her as well. Joseph could change his mind and not divorce Mary because of what he learned. His faith could be verified pretty quickly.

Even the first phrase in this verse would be verified in a few months. The baby would come, and Joseph would see that he had a son. After he was born, he could name him Jesus. This could all be very quickly verified, within a matter of months.

But what did the angel mean by the words, he will save his people from their sins? No person could do that, could he? The Jewish people had a temple and a sacrificial system. Sacrifices had to be offered daily, weekly and yearly for sins. These sacrifices didn’t take care of sins completely, because they had to be continually offered. God never said anything about a human sacrifice, did he? How could a person save his people from their sins?

One man, Adam, brought sin into the world. Could one man save from sin? Yes! Joseph would not immediately fathom the meaning of the angel’s words. Through the next 33 years, Joseph would come to learn what the angel meant. His son would live a sinless life, die a sacrificial death, and rise again to defeat sin and death. Thank God for giving Joseph enough faith to believe even though he could not see and understand.

December 8

Tuesday, December 8

But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying,
“Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.”

Matthew 1:20

We don’t usually focus on this angelic visit at Christmas time. The usual focus is on the angel’s visit to Mary, told in Luke. This, though, is an equally important visit from an angel. God rewarded Joseph’s attitude of waiting to seek the correct decision with a visit from an angel. This angel gave Joseph some amazing news, which we will focus on today and tomorrow.

The angel first spoke to him as Joseph, son of David. Although Joseph wasn’t the biological father of Jesus, Jesus’ adoption into their family would make Jesus an heir of David. God miraculously brought Jesus into the right family. Joseph made Jesus a descendant of David, as God had planned.

Then the angel said, things are not as they seem. Just as God made the initiative to intercede in Mary’s life with a miraculous conception, so God intercedes with Joseph through the angel. God had to intercede with Joseph so that Joseph would in fact take Jesus in as his adopted son. Joseph was fearful to keep Mary until he heard this news.

It was miraculous news! Mary’s baby is not the result of sin. God has intervened. The Holy Spirit had brought about Mary‘s pregnancy, it was not the result of sin! Joseph need not fear what happened to Mary. Joseph need not fear ending his relationship with Mary. Joseph must fear and trust God, because the Holy Spirit has done a miraculous work in Mary!

There was no other situation in the history of the world with which Joseph could compare what was happening to him. All he could do was, in humility, trust the Holy Spirit and the angel’s words. Just like Mary, that’s what Joseph did. It seems like trust in the face of insurmountable odds is the most difficult trust to have. But that’s what God called Joseph to do – trust in God. God calls us to trust him in the same way. Are you willing to depend on God by faith?

December 7

Monday, December 7

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

Matthew 1:1

Today we get insight into Joseph, the adopting father of Jesus. In Matthew, the story of the origin of Jesus is told from the perspective of Joseph. Joseph was not Jesus’ biological father. Jesus didn’t have a human father; he was the Son of God. Joseph, though, still had a critical role in the life of Jesus as his adoptive father.

It’s important to clarify the first century engagement and marriage customs. Joseph and Mary, by our standards, were engaged but not yet married officially. In verse 24 we see that Joseph later took Mary as his wife. At this point they were not yet married, but engagement was as serious and as binding in that culture as marriage, requiring a kind of divorce to end the engagement.

We need to understand that Joseph kept the law. He obeyed the Old Testament law, which told him to do something more severe than mere divorce, but Roman law would not permit stoning. Joseph was a just man, he followed and kept what the law prescribed in the case of sexual immorality.

Yet, Joseph was unwilling to put Mary to shame. A public divorce, known to all, would embarrass, humiliate and shame Mary, and Joseph would not do such a thing to her. He loved and cared for her. Although he felt like he had to do what the law required, Joseph’s compassion led him to seek out another, more private option.

Joseph loved and obeyed God, yet he wasn’t a legalist. He understood that God did not delight in punishing his people, rather God wanted to give the people a path for obedience. Joseph wanted to patiently seek what was best to do in regard to Mary. He had no idea that an angel would speak to him in a dream, because he did not yet know the amazing role God had for him for such a time as this.

God let Joseph struggle with this decision before he spoke to him. What impact does your relationship with God have on your big and small decisions? God often lets us struggle with decisions before he reveals a better way. Wait, test your plans against God’s will, and honor God as Joseph did, even in uncertain times.

December 6

Sunday, December 6

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

Matthew 1:1

This week we will be working through Matt. 1:18-25 as we consider what one person has called the origin of Jesus. Read Matthew 1:18-25 each day this week and ask God to be magnified in your life.

Surprise, Mary’s pregnant! There are certainly many variations of how Mary could get pregnant, but this is the most extreme. From Joseph’s perspective, all his assumptions were negative – Mary must have done something wrong to get pregnant. We will look at Joseph’s response tomorrow in the next verse, but today let’s think about the conception of Jesus.

Jesus’ birth or origin teaches us two incredibly important truths about Jesus, truths that are so important that we could not receive salvation from God without them. First, the virgin birth shows us that Jesus is fully a man, a human being, yet without sin. Mary was born with a sin nature, just like everyone else who has ever been born after Adam and Eve. Because Jesus was born of Mary, but by the agency of the Holy Spirit, Jesus is “guarded from sin.” The Holy Spirit interceded in a miraculous way and caused Mary to be pregnant. Because of the work of the Holy Spirit, Jesus the holy Son of God is incarnated or invested with a human nature, but not a sinful nature. Jesus is fully a man.

Second, Jesus had to be fully a man, but also Jesus had to be fully God to pay the penalty for our sins. Jesus is the pre-existent Son of God, who lived on earth as a man, ascended into heaven, and continues to sit at the right hand of God. This was part of God’s promise which is spelled out for us in places like Leviticus 26:12 – And I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people. God walked among us in the person of Jesus.

Jesus came as a baby and lived as a man to understand and empathize with our weaknesses, and to be a sinless sacrifice for us (see 2 Corinthians 5:21, Hebrews 2:14-18). Jesus is God incarnate, come as a man, with the power to destroy sin and death and hell and Satan (1 Corinthians 15:21-28, 54-57). Praise God for sending his Son to be a man!

December 5

Saturday, December 5

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

Matthew 1:1

I never really thought there was much in this last verse of the passage that we are looking at this week. It seemed to me that Matthew was just summarizing for us what he said over the first sixteen verses in order to bring this section to a close, and that’s all. Often, though, a summary can bring to light what is hidden in all the details. Matthew does that here.

Matthew highlights here three important eras and points in history: Abraham to David, David to the exile, the exile to Christ. Frederick Dale Bruner helpfully suggests that we look at this history like the shape of the letter “N.” Just like the shape of the letter N, history heads upward from Abraham to David, then it heads downward from David to the Babylonian exile, and then it heads upward again to Jesus.

Jesus came just at the right time, when history was made new. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law (Galatians 4:4). Douglas Sean O’Donnell said that God designed history around the coming of Jesus. Everything, even the direction that history was heading, pointed toward Jesus.

The time when Jesus came was a dark, hopeless period in history. The Jews had not heard from God for over 400 hundred years. Then God invaded time in an entirely unique, special and planned way. Just as each name leads to the next in this list, so time moved forward to its appointed climax in Jesus.

We are in a similarly hopeless time, it seems. Time is moving forward to a purposeful end, the coming of Jesus again. As we reflect back over this genealogy, we see that God was moving and working, bringing history to its appointed new beginning in Jesus. We can have hope, because in a dark and difficult time to ours, God was still at work.

Where are you at in your genealogy? What is your influence on eternity and future generations through Jesus? Pray and reflect. Ask God to help you love God, love others, and serve the world more faithfully, for future generations.

December 4

Friday, December 4

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

Matthew 1:1

Is there anything in your family that is passed down from generation to generation? Maybe it’s a wedding dress, a piece of furniture, a house, or a work of art. In a family, only the heir receives these things that are passed down. In the Old Testament, covenants, which are agreements between God and people, were passed down. These concepts are important and help give meaning to this genealogy.

One of God’s first covenants was with Abraham: Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:1–3).

Paul also called it, in a broad sense, “the gospel” (Galatians 3:8). This “gospel” is further specified by the Davidic Covenant, the promise made in 2 Samuel 7:12, 13, where David is promised that one of his descendants would establish a forever kingdom: When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.

The promises made by God to bless all nations and peoples through the kingdom of God are all fulfilled in Jesus. When Matthew states that Jesus is the son of Abraham and of David, he is saying that Jesus is their heir in the family line. Jesus receives the promises made to Abraham and David.

Paul gets really excited when he writes about this in 2 Corinthians 1:20: For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. We get all the benefits of the promises made that are fulfilled in Jesus! We can say as well, Amen, glory to God for all that God is for us in Jesus this Christmas! We are heirs to all the promises of God, through Jesus, the ultimate heir.

December 3

Thursday, December 3

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

Matthew 1:1

Résumés are important for what they include, but also for what they don’t include. Jesus’ résumé is not the most ideal example of sterling heritage that would highlight the importance of Jesus. In fact, the résumé of Jesus is an example of many of the least likely people you would include.

First, we have a number of sons who were not the first-born in their family. Jacob, Judah, and David usurped the normal birth order to become leaders. We have five women listed, even though these genealogies normally included men only. Matthew seemed to include the least important women, while leaving out other important ones. Three or four of those women are foreigners, not Jewish people. There is a murderer (David) who had a son out of adultery, not to mention the situation of Tamar and the many wives of Solomon. This doesn’t even take into account all the wicked kings listed throughout.

What was Matthew thinking? What was God thinking to provide this heritage for Jesus? Consider what Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 1:27-31:

But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

God can choose and use whomever he wants to accomplish what he desires. God often chooses the foolish, weak and despised so that we can’t take the credit. God alone deserves the glory because it is all because of Christ that we are what we are, and we can do what we can do. Boast in the Lord that, in spite of yourself, your background, or your difficulties, God chose you and loves you, Christian!

December 2

Wednesday, December 2

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

Matthew 1:1

If you asked a Jewish person, who are two of the most important Old Testament people, many of them would say Abraham and David. Large sections of the Old Testament are devoted to each of these men, who were chosen by God for their roles in leading God’s people. These men are in the right bloodline that qualifies someone to be the Messiah. Each of these men pointed to someone greater.

Jesus is called the son of David nine times in Matthew, according Daniel Doriani. David was a great king, but he didn’t start out as a great man. He wasn’t the first-born son; in fact, he was number eight. Even his father had him out tending the flock when Samuel came looking for a king among his sons. It would be years after David was anointed by Samuel, years of running from Saul, before David finally became king.

The first century Jews were waiting for a king to come in the line of David to save them as a king would save a persecuted and captive people. What they didn’t realize though was, like David, Jesus would come in an unexpected way.

Abraham is the other prominent name listed at the start of this book of beginnings. He was the father of the Jewish people, but he started out as a pagan. Abraham worshipped other gods before God called him. It is important to remember that Jesus is in the line of Abraham. This would be critical to the résumé of a Jewish Messiah. It’s also important to remember that God’s promise to Abraham was that he would bless all the peoples of the earth.

And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing… and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed (Genesis 12:2–3 ESV).

There is more to these two men than meets the eye, just as there is more to Jesus than we first might think. Jesus the King saves his people in a much different way. Jesus the son of father Abraham is the Savior of people from every tribe and tongue and people and nation (Revelation 5:9). What a great Savior!

December 1

Tuesday, December 1

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

Matthew 1:1

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1) These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens. (Genesis 2:4) This is the book of the generations of Adam. When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. (Genesis 5:1)

Genesis is a book of beginnings, as you can see from the verses above. Matthew is a book of beginnings as well, because the word for genealogy has as its root the word genesis, beginnings. Matthew saw that his book (the genealogy/genesis of Jesus Christ) was a record of new beginnings, beginnings that were planned for from of old.

Genesis first begins with creation. This was obviously the beginning of heaven and earth. After the earth was created, there were still beginnings to be made. The first humans were created, Adam and Eve. When Adam and Eve sinned, they were expelled from the garden, but still beginnings were being started. They had children, the world was flooded, and Noah began again. Finally, God chose Abram to father his chosen people, another beginning.

All those beginnings, from Genesis on through Malachi, pointed toward the ultimate beginning to be found in Jesus Christ. All those people, from Abraham to Joseph and Mary, all pointed towards the baby Jesus and the new beginning that he would bring. Paul states it well in 2 Corinthians 5:17: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

When we trust in Jesus as our Lord and Savior, something new begins in us. We humbly submit, through repentance and confession, to the leadership of Jesus over our life, and he does something brand new in us. Think back in your own life. Who was instrumental in helping the work of Jesus to happen in you? How did it start? Are you the beginning of a spiritual genealogy in your family or friends? Or is today the day that God is going to start a new beginning in you?