Advent 2015

Advent 2015, Day 1


Advent 2015 is here and offers us once more an opportunity to set aside the distractions of holiday shopping, gift wrapping and tree decorating and to focus instead on the arrival of God’s Son. Our family has a long-standing tradition of celebrating this season starting on the first of the month and ending on Christmas day. Each year the theme is different, such as “24 Things on God’s Christmas Wish List” or “24 Ancestors in the Line of Christ” or “24 Miraculous Births in the Bible” to name just a few. This year is no different. The theme for 2015 (drum roll, please) is…”Parenting Jesus.”



In Deuteronomy 4:9 Moses commanded God’s people, “Be careful never to forget what you have seen the Lord do for you. Do not let these things escape from your mind as long as you live! And be sure to pass them on to your children and grandchildren.” (NLT)


This year we are going to look at how Mary and Joseph fulfilled that command. How did they pass on their faith in the Lord to their son? What lessons are there for us? As we look at this topic, consider how you yourself are passing on your faith to those who follow you – your children, your nieces and nephews, your grandchildren. Ask God what you can to do to remind them of all God has done for you.


See you here tomorrow!


Advent 2015: Day 2


In Matthew 1:20-31, Jesus’ father Joseph had just learned his wife-to-be was pregnant, and this child, Joseph knew, was not his. After thirty years of counseling people facing crisis pregnancies, I can easily imagine some of the emotions he may have experienced in those first hours: shock, anger, betrayal, grief. Read More Advent 2015: Day 2


Advent 2015 – Day 3



Every first-time parent desires to do a good job. They read books on child-rearing, many seek advice from experienced parents. Joseph received a message telling him his son would be the Messiah, and Mary too learned that their child would grow up to sit on the throne of David. What steps did Mary take to prepare for parenting this special child? Read More Advent 2015 – Day 3


Advent 2015: Day 4


Eight days after Jesus was born, Joseph circumcised his son, and just over a month later, he and Mary carried their infant son to the Temple in Jerusalem to dedicate him to the Lord. You’ll find this account in Luke 2:22-24, but the tradition of dedicating a child to the Lord stretched back around 2000 years to the time of Moses. Read More Advent 2015: Day 4


Advent 2015: Day 5


In fulfillment of the Law of Moses, Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the Temple and dedicated him to the Lord. What they did was a routine act of obedience, but what happened next was far from routine. Read More Advent 2015: Day 5


Advent 2015: Day 6

Joseph received a second message from an angel. This time he learned that King Herod wanted to kill Joseph’s infant son. In Matthew 2:13-15, we see how Joseph immediately rose from his bed, woke Mary and began packing. Mary raced to pick up their child. Darkness still dominated the landscape as they crept out of town before dawn, before soldiers arrived. Read More Advent 2015: Day 6


Advent 2015: Day 7


Today’s verses may seem insignificant, but the principle underlying them is huge. When Mary and Joseph returned from Egypt, they settled once again in Nazareth, far to the north of Judea, but at least once a year they traveled to Jerusalem as a family. In Luke 2:41-42, we read that it was their custom to head to Jerusalem every year. Mary and Joseph had already dedicated Jesus to the Lord, but they also followed through by taking him regularly to synagogue and to Passover celebrations. Read More Advent 2015: Day 7


Advent 2015: Day 8


On one of those annual trips to Jerusalem, Jesus wandered off. At least that is how Mary and Joseph perceived it. Jesus knew where he was headed so there was no “wandering” at all. Read More Advent 2015: Day 8


Advent 2015: Day 9


Luke 2:19 tells us that at the time of Jesus’ birth, Mary treasured up inside her heart all the amazing events that occurred at that time. After the trip to Jerusalem, Mary did it again. She privately pondered the words spoken by her son.


By the time Jesus was 12 years old, he without doubt had heard about the events surrounding his birth. Even if Mary had never spoken to her son about those events, we can be certain that in a small town like Bethlehem or Nazareth, others would talk. What yenta would not whisper about the young girl in Nazareth who missed her wedding celebration because she got pregnant? Read More Advent 2015: Day 9


Advent 2015: Day 10


Luke twice records that Mary pondered extraordinary events in her heart. Instead of seeking the advice of other mothers, she went off by herself and sat quietly with her own thoughts, sorting the fragments like broken potsherds. How did all the pieces fit together? Read More Advent 2015: Day 10


Advent 2015: Day 11


Secrets are hard to keep in a small town, but there was one huge secret in Nazareth: Joseph knew he was not the biological father of his oldest son.

Read More Advent 2015: Day 11


Advent 2015: Day 12


Most of us remember the story of Jesus turning the water into wine, but what does this event reveal about his mother, Mary? Today as you read John 2:1-11, pause before you rush to the climax of the story. Look at the event from Mary’s perspective.

Read More Advent 2015: Day 12


Advent 2015: Day 13


Jesus attended the wedding in Cana along with his mother and his disciples. As we noted yesterday, Mary quietly approached Jesus, drew him aside, and whispered in his ear, “They have no wine left.”


Read More Advent 2015: Day 13


Advent 2015: Day 14


Here we are again with the next devotional in this Advent series on “Parenting Jesus.”


After the wedding celebration in Cana described in John chapter 2, Jesus went down to Capernaum with his mother, his brothers and his disciples. This is the apostle John’s first mention of Jesus’ brothers. Often I forget that Jesus had brothers. We tend to think of him as an only child, but we know from Matthew 13:55 that there were at least seven children in the family. Taking the whole family to Capernaum for a few days required no small effort!


Why did the family go along? This period marked the beginning of Jesus public ministry. Was Mary like any proud mother or father who eagerly attends her child’s first football game, piano recital or school play? Did Mary simply want to be on hand for the “grand opening,” to see Jesus begin his work?


Or did Mary remember old Zacharias quoting the prophecy in Isaiah 9, a promise that Jesus would now fulfill in Capernaum, in the land of Zebulun? Read Matthew 4:13-17. Did Mary have a stark premonition that this time period was the beginning not only of Jesus’ ministry but also of the opposition that her son would face? She knew that she could no longer hold on to him as she had when he was 12 years old. She could no longer protect him from those events that would one day pierce her heart. But she still wanted to be there to support her son.


We all want to protect those we care about, especially when they enter into dangerous territory. Will you again place those you love in God’s hands and ask him to protect them from harm today?



Advent 2015: Day 15


Ready for another Advent devotional in this series on “Parenting Jesus”?


In a small town, neighbors all know each other’s business. And Nazareth was no different. Everyone knew not only Jesus but his father and mother. Luke, in chapter 4, describes what it was like when Jesus returned to his home town. He taught in the synagogue and everyone praised him. Praised him, that is, until the day he read the prophecy from Isaiah and announced that the prophet’s words were being fulfilled that day.


Those sitting in front of Jesus were stunned. “How can this be? Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” Mark quotes them as saying, “Where did he get all his wisdom and the power to perform miracles? He is just the carpenter, the son of Mary.” (Mark 6:1-3) The obvious implication is: He certainly did not get those qualities from his parents. In other words, in the court of public opinion, Jesus was just from ordinary stock. Joseph had no fine education like Gamaliel; Jesus’ father was no great orator like Paul. Mary had no super powers. They were plain, everyday, small town folk. Maybe Joseph, perhaps Mary, felt unqualified for the huge task of raising God’s son.


If you are a parent, do you ever face times when you feel inadequate? Do you look around at others with more education, more patience or more wisdom than you possess, someone who could do a better job parenting your children? What about the rest of us? Do we ever feel we are inadequate for a task that lies before us?


As you go about your activities at home or at work today, remember God’s promises in Phil. 1:6 and in 1 Thess. 5:24: “He who began a good work in you will continue his work until it is finally finished,” and “Faithful is he who has called you. He will bring it to pass.” Don’t forget to rely on him today for all you need to accomplish your work!


Advent 2015: Day 16


Thanks for continuing with me on this journey through my Advent series on “Parenting Jesus.”


Crowds began to follow Jesus everywhere he went. Mark 1:45 tells us that at times the number of people gathered around Jesus made it impossible for him to enter a town. Two chapters later in 3:20,21 – also recorded in Luke 8:19-21 – the large crowds of people demanded so much attention that Jesus had no time to eat. Finally his mother, accompanied by Jesus’ brothers, came looking for him.


Every good Jewish mother wants to be sure her child is eating well, and Mary was no different. She must have been concerned by the sheer number of people overwhelming the house where her son was teaching. They prevented her from entering and speaking directly to her son. Mary looked around. In the crowd she may have seen cripples and tax collectors, she recognized soldiers and Pharisees.


But, Mary saw others, those who cared for Jesus. According to Luke 8:1-3, we know that Mary Magdalene, Joanna the wife of Herod’s business manager, and other women were present, too, ministering to Jesus’ needs.


Someone carried a message to Jesus. Surely he would come out to speak to his own mother. But, no. Raising his eyes, he looked at Mary Magdalene, the woman who had once been controlled by seven demons. Now she sat at his feet quietly absorbing his teaching. He looked at Peter, James and John, rough spoken fishermen. They stood nearby. Pointing to them, he said, “These are my mother, my brothers…”


Mary had done a good job raising Jesus. She would never stop loving him, but now God was using others to care for her son. Are we willing to step aside and allow God to use others to care for those we love?


Advent 2015: Day17

Ready for another installment on this Advent series on “Parenting Jesus”?


Jesus told lots of parables about family life. There is the obvious story about the rebellious prodigal son, a gracious father and an angry elder brother, but you may remember also the story of the father who asked his two sons to work in the vineyard, where one son obeyed and the other did not. Even the story of poor old Lazarus speaks of family as the rich man begs Abraham to send someone from the grave to warn his living brothers.



Families that Jesus saw here on earth were often marked by conflict. Family life in the home of Mary and Joseph was no exception. His earthly brothers did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah; in John chapter 7, we read how they mocked him and doubted that he really was able to do miracles. How different this behavior was from the family life Jesus knew in Heaven! There, with his Heavenly Father, Jesus had experienced an amazing peace and unity of purpose. His relationship with his Father was not soiled by envy or anger.



Jesus told another story in Mt. 7:9-11. That story was of a father who gave his child good gifts: If the child asked for bread, the father would not give a stone. Was Jesus remembering Joseph who gave good gifts to his children? Did Jesus recall how Joseph paid a high price to protect the life of his firstborn? Or was Jesus thinking of his Heavenly Father who paid an even greater price by sacrificing the life of his only Son?



Look at your own family. Have you contributed to strife or have you been a peacemaker? Have you thrown stones or offered bread? What good gifts can you give those you love this Christmas?


Advent 2015: Day 18


Welcome back to day 18 in this Advent series on “Parenting Jesus”!


One of the holiest days in the Jewish calendar is the Day of Atonement. Once – only once – each year, the High Priest entered the Holiest Place and made atonement for the sins of the nation. This day was marked by solemn penitence and fasting. In contrast, five days later, the next celebration on the Jewish calendar was the most popular feast of the year, the Festival of Booths. This was a joyous celebration of the harvest, marked by bounteous amounts of food much like our Thanksgiving.


In John 7, Jesus’ brothers announced that they were heading to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Booths. What caused the brothers to travel many miles to celebrate the later festival when, given a choice, one might expect them to have gone to Jerusalem for the far more important event? Were they avoiding the serious business of atonement and instead opting for the fun of a harvest feast? Was this like celebrating the fun of Santa Claus without remembering the Christ of Christmas?


When Jesus said he was not planning to go along, the brothers scoffed, “If you really are doing the things you say you can do, then you should show yourself to the world!” Can you imagine Mary’s feelings as she listened to her younger sons mocking their older brother? Mary’s heart must have ripped in two when she saw that some of her children did not believe. But the story did not end there. Years later, Mary experienced joy when she saw her son James choose to follow Jesus and even go on to lead the church in Jerusalem.


Are there members of your family that are not following the Lord? Don’t give up praying. The last chapter has not yet been written!


Advent 2015: Day 19


Here we are together once again! Thanks for coming back for another in this Advent series on “Parenting Jesus.”


From the very beginning, Mary and Joseph taught Jesus to respect God’s commands. Like the author of Proverbs passing on wisdom to his son, Joseph recognized that his job was not merely to protect his children from harm but also to teach them the wisdom of God’s laws. Joseph was the spiritual leader of his family. As the writer of Hebrews later put it, “Obey your spiritual leaders and do what they say. Their work is to watch over your souls, and they are accountable to God.” (Hebrews 13:17) Joseph tended to the soul of his son.


Matthew 19:16-22 tells us that many years later Jesus met a rich young ruler who asked what he needed to do in order to inherit eternal life. Jesus explained that the man could receive eternal life by obeying all the commandments. “Which ones?” the man replied, as if he were standing an overladen buffet table.


Remembering what he had learned from his own father, Jesus responded by naming several of the most basic commandments…not to murder, not to commit adultery, not to steal, not to swear false witness. And, on the positive side, to honor his father and mother. Jesus asked nothing of the young ruler that he himself had not also done. Jesus took all of God’s laws seriously.


Do others see you taking God’s laws seriously? Have you taught your children, nieces, nephews and/or grandchildren to observe God’s commands? Mary and Joseph did.


Advent 2015: Day 20


Can it be only 5 days until Christmas?  Here is the next installment on this Advent series on “Parenting Jesus.”


Would you be embarrassed if your daughter were arrested for drunk driving? Would your face flame red if your son were arrested in a sex scandal? What if these events were plastered across the front page of the local newspaper or announced on the nightly news? Would you want to crawl in a hole and cover your head and die?


Everywhere Jesus went, everything he said, every miracle he performed reflected back on his parents. But have you also considered how every confrontation he had with scribes and Pharisees also reverberated in the life of his mother? People talked about him and surely Mary heard the gossip. After being rejected by the people in his hometown of Nazareth, Jesus left and moved from town to town, but Mary stayed behind in Nazareth. Day after day, she faced those townspeople who had wanted to throw her son over a cliff to his death. She had seen the fury in their eyes that day. After Jesus was gone, she saw her neighbors when she walked to market. She spoke with them in the streets of Nazareth. She met them in the synagogue each Sabbath. Being the mother of Jesus was not easy.


Now, Mary faced something far worse: Her son, the one on whom she had set her hopes, was dying on a cross, accused of blasphemy. His disciples had all abandoned him. But Mary did not retreat into the background. Instead, in John 19:25, we find her right in the middle of the events surrounding her son’s crucifixion. We see her standing at the foot of the cross in plain view of all the mocking crowd. Was she confused? Did she wonder how all those ancient prophecies would ever be fulfilled? Setting aside her own feelings, Mary continued to believe in her son even after he was arrested and condemned. Jesus’ mother stayed near him and offered support.


As parents we may find ourselves being the only ones standing by our child when all others have turned away. Which member of your family needs your support today?


Advent 2015: Day 21


As we are near the end of Advent and also the end of this series on “Parenting Jesus,” here is the latest thought to share with you.


John 19:25-27 presents a tender scene in the midst of Calvary horror. Mary is standing near the foot of the cross. Her son would die soon, but she would have to go on living. The city of Jerusalem was in a turmoil. Angry mobs screamed for the blood of her son. This city was not a safe place for the mother of Jesus. She could not look to her other sons for solace; they didn’t yet believe in Jesus. Who would look after Jesus’ mother?


Jesus looked down from the cross. He saw his mother weeping. Hadn’t Mary taught him to obey God’s commands, and didn’t one of those laws say “honor your father and mother”? In Jewish culture, people expected the oldest son to take responsibility by caring for a widowed mother. Now, even in the midst of his own raging pain, Jesus paused to fulfill that command to honor his earthly mother. He asked the disciple John to take over the role of oldest son and take Mary into his home.


As the mother of Jesus, Mary clearly deserved great honor. Many parents today don’t appear to merit such respect yet God commands us – all of us – to honor our parents. He offers no loopholes for child abuse or exceptions for parental neglect. So how does a person honor a father or mother who fell far short of God’s standard of parenting? We do the same things Jesus did: We honor those parents by obeying God.


Have you lived your life in such a way that it honors God’s name and, thus by extension, your parents’ name? Have you taught those who follow you to do the same?


Advent 2015: Day 22

Thank you for returning so faithfully day after day! We are almost through this Advent series on “Parenting Jesus.”


Yesterday we saw that even while hanging on a cross, Jesus fulfilled a command he learned in his childhood – to honor his father and mother. He honored his mother when he made arrangements for her care after his death. As he did so, did Mary pause to remember the words of her own song, a song she sang before Jesus was ever born? As recorded in Luke 1:46-48, she said, “Oh, how I praise the Lord. How I rejoice in God my Savior! For he took notice of his lowly servant girl, and now generation after generation will call me blessed.” She felt honored then before her son was born and she felt honored now as she watched him die.


But Jesus was not only honoring his mother. Nailed to the cross and carrying the shame of the world upon his shoulders, Jesus was also honoring his heavenly Father. As members of the crowd stepped forward and spat upon Jesus’ naked flesh, when soldiers scoffed and offered him sour wine, Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive these people because they don’t know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)


By extending mercy and forgiveness, Jesus lifted up his life and offered it as a gift to his heavenly Father.


What gift will you offer to the Lord this Christmas to honor his name?


Advent 2015: Day 23


Welcome back for the next in this Advent series on “Parenting Jesus.” I hope you’ll return tomorrow for the last of the series!


Christmas is a celebration of Jesus’ birth. What great joy we experience as we celebrate Emanuel, “God with us.” With Christmas only two days away, with families gathering and gifts wrapped under the tree, this may seem like the wrong season of the year to remember the events of Jesus’ death. But in both cases, we celebrate “God with us.”


During the final week of Jesus’ life, everyone around him felt stunned. Despite all Jesus’ efforts to forewarn his disciples, a typhoon of emotions must have washed over Peter, James and John. The euphoria of the triumphal entry into Jerusalem disappeared as the somber events of the last supper unfolded. Then came the fear of the soldiers in the garden. The shame of the denial. The horror of the crucifixion. The confusion of the tomb.


After the burial of Jesus, a host of Marys gathered around the tomb. The gospel writers mention Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of Joseph, Mary the mother of James, and Mary the wife of Clopas, not to mention Mary the sister of Martha and Lazarus who lingered somewhere in the background. Not one of these Marys is identified as the mother of Jesus. Where was Jesus’ mother in those first days as the resurrection became known?


For over thirty years Mary the mother of Jesus had pondered all she learned. She didn’t need to seek her son at a tomb. Her faith was not shaken. The next time Mary appears, it is in Acts 1:14. She is in the Upper Room praying with the disciples…and Jesus’ brothers! In the midst of all the tumult, Mary’s other sons have at last come to believe!


What painful events are you facing in your life? Has your faith trembled or even threatened to shatter? This may be the very time when God is hardest at work in the lives of those we most love. “God is with us!”


Advent 2015: Day 24

Are you excited? It is Christmas Eve at last! Time to laugh around the table and open gifts by the tree. Are you in your own home or away visiting family? Here’s the last in this series on “Parenting Jesus.”

Over the past weeks, we have looked at many aspects of how Mary and Joseph parented Jesus. Mary sought God’s guidance in scripture as she prepared for Jesus’ birth. Joseph took God’s warnings about Herod seriously, acting on them at enormous personal sacrifice. Together he and Mary dedicated their son at the Temple and followed through by taking him regularly to the synagogue and Temple. Mary passed on stories of God’s amazing power. She modeled compassion. She taught her son to pray. She believed in him when everyone else turned away.

We began this series in Deuteronomy 4:9, with God’s command to remember all God has done and to pass those stories on to our children and grandchildren. We’ll close by returning to the same portion of scripture. In Deuteronomy 6:6,7, we read, “Commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are away on a journey, when you are lying down and when you are getting up.”

Don’t forget to celebrate this Christmas by giving those you love the most important gift of all: the knowledge of a God who is forever with us. Merry Christmas indeed!