Advent 2019 – Day 1
Every year for over thirty years, our family has celebrated Advent with a series of 24 devotionals on a particular theme. Each year a new theme is chosen and this year is no different. So, without further adieu, the theme for 2019 is [drum roll, please] “Immanuel.”
Almost a thousand years before the birth of Christ, God promised Isaiah that a virgin would conceive a child and that child’s name would be “Immanuel.” (Is. 7:14). And when Mary gave birth to Jesus, the gospel of Matthew (1:23) pointed back to that prophecy and declared it fulfilled at last. “O come, O come, Immanuel, and ransom captive Israel” is one of the oldest Christmas carols, though in truth it is an Advent carol. God’s people looked forward to the coming of Immanuel, the time when “God would dwell with us.”
What does it mean for God to be with us? Come back tomorrow and each of the next 23 days and see what we learn about God’s amazing desire to be near His people. In the meantime, why not dig out a hymnal or Google the carol mentioned above and review the words? If you play an instrument, listen to this haunting chant that monks first sang in Latin during the 9th century. Contrast the mournful tune of the verses with the chorus, “Rejoice! Rejoice! Immanuel shall come!”
Advent 2019 – Day 2
Welcome back to the second in this Advent series on Immanuel, “God with us.” We begin by going back to the very Beginning, to the Garden of Eden. In the first two chapters of the Bible, God created an amazing garden for Adam and Eve. It was a delightful place, a good place to walk with a friend. And in Gen. 3:8, we find that God was strolling in the garden, looking for His friends.
Thus, the first thing we learn about “God with us” is that from the very start, God’s intention has always been to be with us. He created a perfect environment where God and man could be together forever. Adam was welcome to eat from the Tree of Eternal Life, but told not to sample fruit from the Tree that offered the knowledge of good and evil. However, Adam and Eve plucked fruit from the forbidden tree even before they tried the fruit of the first tree. And as a result of their disobedience, God cast them out of the Garden. Suddenly Adam and Eve knew the desolation of what it meant to live apart from God, to live “not” with Him.
Today, many people still live outside the Garden. They don’t know that, in Christ, they can have eternal life and experience anew that wonderful companionship of “God with us.” It is as if these people are walking through a farmers’ market and smelling the fresh apples and ripe pears but never tasting the sweet flesh of those fruits.
As we part today, consider going to your refrigerator and picking out a fresh crisp apple. Slice it, taste it, savor the sweetness and crispness. And think about our God’s original desire: to be with us.
Advent 2019 – Day 3
Thanks for coming back! Glad you can join us for the next of these 24 Advent devotionals on the theme “God with us.”
Yesterday we saw how from the very beginning, God wished to dwell near His people. Today we discover that His desire has never changed, even though Adam and Eve rebelled against Him and now lived in exile outside His garden. In Genesis 12, God made a promise to Abraham to go with him into a new land. After Abraham died, God made a similar promise to Abraham’s son, Isaac: “Do not be afraid, for I am with you…I will do this because of my promise to Abraham.” (26:24) And later to Isaac’s son, Jacob: “I am the God of your grandfather Abraham and the God of your father Isaac…I am with you, and I will protect you wherever you go.” (28:13,15)
When God makes a promise, He does not change His mind. And today, thousands of years later, His desire is still to enjoy the companionship of His children and their children. Looking back, I see how the Lord walked with both my grandfathers. He guided my father through a World War. And now He walks by my side.
Dig out a photo of your grandparents. Ask yourself how God has led your family over the past century, even when some of those family members were unaware of His presence. What legacy of faith will you leave for those who follow you? Will you teach them about the God who is with us?
Advent 2019 – Day 4
Welcome to the fourth devotional in this Advent series on “God With Us.” We’ve seen how God always intended to live in close proximity with His people, and that, even when they walked away from God, the Lord has never abandoned His people.
Have you ever struggled with a disobedient child and experienced the child pushing you away? Did that child reject your best efforts and prefer to stomp off to the isolation of his or her room? Too often, that child was me. Growing up in our home, I managed to spoil most every family photo with a pout. I preferred to sulk and refused to cooperate, but my parents never threw up their hands nor abandoned me.
Imagine how the Lord felt after rescuing His people from Egypt. He performed multiple miracles like plagues of lice, dust and gnats, He parted the Red Sea, and He provided His children with water and food in a wilderness – only to see His people rebel against Him. Yet, even then He did not withdraw His presence. In Exodus 13:21, we see Him continuing to accompany them in the desert, guiding them during the day with a pillar of cloud and providing light at night with a pillar of fire. He remained “with them” there for forty years.
Read Psalm 139:7-10 aloud and offer thanks to the Lord Immanuel who remains at our side no matter what lengths we go to in order to avoid Him.
Advent 2019 – Day 5
If you are joining us for the first time today, welcome! We are in the midst of a series of Advent devotionals on the theme of Immanuel, “God With Us.” You will find earlier thoughts in the series posted at my website, emilychase.com.
When my grandson Josiah was a toddler, one day he climbed out of the family car and shouted at the top of his voice, “Hi, God!” When asked why he was yelling, he replied that he wanted to be certain God could hear him. My daughter assured him that God was everywhere and there was no need to shout. For days after that, as Josiah walked around the house, my daughter heard him whispering softly to himself, “Hi, God!”
We can all learn from Josiah’s youthful example. In Jeremiah 1:7,8, the Lord said to the prophet, “Don’t say, ‘I’m too young, for you must go wherever I send you and say whatever I tell you. And don’t be afraid of the people, for I will be with you and will protect you. I, the Lord, have spoken!”
Young or old, we all need to be reminded that God walks near us. Take a moment today to say “Hi, God!” to the One who delights in hearing our voices.
PS: my daughter-in-law sent the following links for your enjoyment!
Advent 2019 – Day 6
Welcome back to the next in this 2019 Advent series on God’s promise to remain with us every hour of every day.
Have you ever experienced acute physical pain without knowing its source? Or the sudden death of a beloved family member? Our brains tell us the Lord is strong, that He is reliable, but when difficult circumstances arise, we often ask, Where is God?
For years I walked through our neighborhood daily. My route crossed a small stream twice. At the first bridge, I often paused to listen as the water burbled and tumbled over the stones in its way. God seemed to call me to slow down and listen to His voice. One day I realized that at the other end of my circuit, the current made no sound at the second bridge. What was the difference?
Obstacles. At the second bridge, no obstacles interrupted the water’s flow. The riverbed had no rocks or branches impeding the passage of the stream.
Is it possible that the obstacles you and I face in life are the very events that allow us to hear God’s voice most clearly? When we are most in need of the assurance that he is near, that is the very time when his voice speaks loudest?
Psalm 23:4 offers familiar words of assurance: “Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.” God is closest to us as we walk through difficulty.
Why not read the entire psalm before you go out to face the world today?
Advent 2019 – Day 7
Thanks for coming back. We are completing the first week of Advent and looking at the theme of “God With Us.”
Sometimes I feel discouraged as I look at the huge mountain of tasks to accomplish as Christmas approaches. Gifts to buy. House to decorate. Cards to mail. Cookies to bake. At the same time all the routine tasks like laundry, meals, and work still demand my time. And this year I face major spinal surgery…again. Sometimes I feel like giving up.
But I draw encouragement from Isaiah 41:10, “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you,” and in Is. 43:2, we read, “When you go through deep waters,I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown.”
Are you discouraged today? What difficulties do you face in the day ahead? God says to you, “I will be handling all of your problems today, so relax and have a great day!”
PS: here is one more musical link which ties in with our Advent theme. Enjoy!
O come, O come, Emmanuel – (Piano/Cello) – The Piano Guys
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Advent 2019 – Day 8
Welcome back to this Advent series on “God With Us.” Have you thought to invite a friend to join you in reading these daily devotionals?
Scripture is full of stories of people who tried to solve difficulties on their own terms. Abraham was old and his wife Sarah was barren, so they tried a human solution seeking out a surrogate mother. King David’s son Absalom wanted to be king and was willing to hurry God’s plan along by murdering his older brother and rebelling against his father. Jonah ran away from Nineveh because he wanted God to condemn the city. All those plans led to chaos and mayhem because they relied on human solutions.
When we face impossible situations at work or at home, it is good to remember the words of Psalm 22:11, “Do not stay so far from me, for trouble is near, and no one else can help me.” When trouble is near, we need to remember that God Himself is also near. He alone can lead us to a safe place.
Read the rest of that psalm and discover, “”O Lord, do not stay far away! You alone are my strength; come quickly to my aid!”
Advent 2019 – Day 9
During the Christmas season, the whole world seems to speed up, so I appreciate your taking time to return to pause and reflect on the real focus of this season. Here we are on the ninth day of this Advent celebration of “Immanuel – God With Us.”
As a counselor, I spend a lot of time listening to people. Some speak easily, pouring out their grief and hurt, looking for healing from past trauma. But occasionally I have a client who does not want to talk. I ask questions but get one word answers. I try to engage but they refuse to make eye-contact. I want to help, but their silence makes it hard to do so.
During this season, we are looking at the theme of God being with us, sitting beside us, anxious to hear our needs and concerns. In Psalm 116:1,2, the author tells us that, “I love the Lord because He hears my voice and my prayer for mercy. Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath.” What a beautiful picture of a father bending down on one knee in order to be near enough to hear the voice of his child! But what if the child never speaks?
What are your concerns today? What weighs heavy on your mind? Remember God is nearby waiting to hear from you.