Advent 2021 – Day 1
With Christmas less than a month away, it is time to begin another series of Advent devotionals designed to prepare our hearts for the arrival of the infant in Bethlehem.
Advent marks a season of self-examination and soul preparation, and thus the theme for this year is “Preparation.” Over the next weeks, we will look at how God carefully assembled a world for us, how Jesus is active right now preparing a place for us in heaven, and along the way, what our role is in getting ready for Christ’s return.
How would you feel if you walked into the throne room of Buckingham Palace? How would you react? What major decisions have been made in that place by former monarchs? How have those decisions impacted human history?
Psalm 103:19 says “The Lord has prepared the heavens as his throne; from there he rules over everything.”
Have you ever considered that God could have made his throne on Earth where we could see him seated there each day? However, seeing is not the same as believing. Sometimes, observing the same object day after day causes our eyes to glaze over. We take it for granted. We assume it will always be there. We can ignore its significance.
Walk outside today. Look up at the sky as it stretches from one side of the earth to the other. Thick clouds only add to the pageantry. You are seeing God’s throne. It is immense. It is beyond our reach. God prepared that throne for himself and surrounded it with heavenly beings. Every person on earth stands below and must feel small by comparison.
If God spent time preparing this world for us, then we must also ready ourselves to enter his world. The first step in our own “preparation” for Christmas begins with humility, recognizing the greatness of our God.
Return tomorrow to learn more about our newest theme!
Advent 2021 – Day 2
Welcome back for the second of our Advent devotionals on this year’s theme of “Preparation.”
When I was a child, one of my older brothers loved to make model airplane kits. Every Christmas there was a new kit under the tree. The pieces came already formed. All he had to do was follow the instructions and glue the pieces together. But then he painted the sides and fine details. He added decals to make each plane look distinct and realistic.
In Genesis chapter 1, we see how much preparation God put into creating a world for us. He had no ready-made kit. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” He separated light from darkness, he divided the waters from the dry land. He designed a garden full of plants and trees. He added the sun, moon and stars. He filled the ocean with fish, the skies with birds, and the land with animals. And by the time he made man? All was ready for Adam and Eve to enjoy.
God prepared every detail and was pleased with his work. Where my brother assembled his plastic plane kits for his personal pleasure to display in his bedroom, our God created this world as a gift for his people. The Lord did not need sun and moon, or trees and animals in order to have glory. He already had glory. He prepared these things for his pleasure and for ours.
Take some time now to thank him for the world he prepared for you thousands upon thousands of years ago. You see, the second step in our soul-preparation should be to fill our hearts with gratitude.
Advent 2021 – Day 3
Glad to see you have returned for a third day as we tackle the Advent theme of “Preparation.”
Our family always remembers the year that my young daughter Prisca opened a Christmas package to discover she had received a package of light bulbs. Her face said it all: Disappointment combined with confusion. Little did she know that the light bulbs were a vital part of my preparation for her real gift, an Easy Bake oven, a gift yet to be unwrapped.
How sad it would be to receive an Easy Bake oven without a light bulb to make it work. Or imagine finding a remote-control drone under the tree but no batteries to operate it! How does a child thank Mom and Dad for such a gift when the youngster can’t use it?
In the same way, God did more than simply create the world. He made preparations for that world and then he also made plans for supplying it with all it needed to operate. The “batteries” and “bulbs” included rain and sunshine to keep things growing.
As Psalm 147:8 says, “He covers the heavens with clouds, prepares rain for the earth, and makes the grass grow in mountain pastures.”
Take a walk outside today. Pretend you are Adam or Eve. How does our world today look different from the one they first saw in Eden? God’s ongoing cycle of nature tells us the Lord is still actively at work preparing for our care and nurture!
As surely as the sun comes up each morning, our God is faithful and will provide all you need. A third lesson for us on heart preparation? Praise, for his faithful on-going care.
Advent 2021 – Day 4
Welcome to the fourth of these Advent devotionals on “Preparation.” Perhaps you want to invite a friend to join you on this journey.
About 35 years ago, when my children were still very young, I wanted a way to help Tim, Prisca and John grasp the true meaning of Christmas. The world around them distracted them from a humble stable in Bethlehem. Stores were decorated with trees and toys, people lined up to get photos with Santa and his elves, grocery aisles blared Christmas music about reindeer.
How could I prepare my sons and daughter for the advent of Jesus’ birth? How could I ready them to obey the Lord?
That is when I first began this yearly tradition of preparing 24 Advent devotionals that built a wave of anticipation, a wave that crested on December 25th. In 1 Chron. 29:1-20, the people of God brought gifts to build God’s Temple. They presented their gifts freely and wholeheartedly. It was almost like Christmas!
King David’s heart also filled with joy, but in verse 18, he asked God for one more thing: “O Lord, the God of our ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, prepare your people to always want to obey you. See to it that their love for you never changes.”
God has been answering that prayer for thousands of years. God sent his Son to earth that he might show us how to obey the Father. But we have work to do at our end also. As Christmas approaches this year, read the entire chapter from 1 Chronicles. Will your heart be ready to obey him?
Advent 2021 – Day 5
How are your preparations for Christmas coming? Are gifts bought and wrapped? Today we are looking at one more way to prepare our hearts for the holiday.
Early in our marriage, my husband and I had many friends who enjoyed decoupage, applying multiple layers of glue to paper or fabric on wood. That first Christmas, Gene and I received a large number of these wall plaques. The problem was that we had a very small apartment with even less space for decorations. We finally designated a special spot on one wall where we displayed the “Decoupage of the Month” plaque.
These days, I live in an apartment again. I do not have lots of things sitting around that I need to polish or dust. Most everything serves a purpose.
In 2 Chron. 29:18,19, King Hezekiah rededicated the Temple and its utensils for the service of the Lord. The Levites carefully followed all God’s instructions and cleansed the Temple, tossing out anything that did not belong there. Everything that remained had a purpose.
Then the Levites went to King Hezekiah and gave him this report: “We have cleansed the entire Temple of the Lord, the altar of burnt offering with all its utensils, and the table of the Bread of the Presence with all its utensils…They are now in front of the altar of the Lord, purified and ready for use (prepared).”
When God purifies us, his goal is not just to have us sit around on display but for us to be used. Freshly washed diapers smell sweet and clean, but they are not meant to sit in a drawer or display on a wall. They are ready to be used. In a similar way, Advent is a time for preparation so that we may be ready for God to use us for his purposes. Take time today and ask God to cleanse you but also to show you where he can use you.
Advent 2021 – Day 6
Surprise! Another day of Advent has come and another devotional thought awaits you here!
Thirty years ago, my family made plans to come to Pennsylvania for Christmas. My father and mother would drive up from Virginia, my brother David and his family planned to fly in from California, and my brother Robert would come too. The only person missing would be my oldest brother Richard who was serving as a missionary in Greece.
Gene and I prepared a surprise for Mom and Dad. As our Christmas gift to them, we bought tickets for Richard to fly in from Greece so he could complete the family gathering.
At the time, that trip felt like an unnecessary extravagance, but only later did we see in hindsight what God knew all along. That Christmas would be the last time our nuclear family was ever in one place. A year later, my mother Joan died unexpectedly. David was in hospital in California and unable to attend the funeral. How thankful I was that God gifted us with that last family reunion at Christmas!
Proverbs 16:1 says, “We can make our own plans, but the Lord gives the right answer.” We can plan, we can prepare, but ultimately, God is in control. His plans will always be bigger than our own.
What are your plans for the holidays? Be prepared for surprises, and not just the ones you plan!
Advent 2021 – Day 7
Welcome back for another Advent devotional about preparing our hearts for Christmas!
Can you imagine buying all the boxes and wrapping paper and bows for Christmas but forgetting to buy the gifts to go with them? Or preparing for a huge family gathering and forgetting to send out invitations to guests? Something appears to be out of order.
Recently, I took a flight to Texas to see my son and his family. The cabin crew did the usual announcements about emergency exits and donning life jackets. They reminded us, that in the case of an emergency, oxygen masks would drop down. “In this event, parents should first put on their own masks and only then assist their children with their masks.” Priorities.
In Luke 14:25-33, Jesus challenged the crowds following him to count the full expense of commitment. “Don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first getting estimates and then checking to see if there is enough money to pay the bills?…Or what king would ever dream of going to war without first sitting down with his counselors and discussing whether his army of ten thousand is strong enough to defeat the twenty thousand soldiers who are marching against him?”
Those words are still applicable today. We need to prepare for the high cost of following Christ. Thousands of believers around the world are paying for their faith with their lives.
Get your priorities right…first be prepared to pay the cost and then march forward!
Advent 2021 – Day 8
Will you be traveling over the holidays? Don’t forget to check in here each day while we continue with these Advent thoughts about preparing our hearts for Christmas.
Many years ago, before I was married, I worked in Mexico with Wycliffe Bible Translators. My father, a godly pastor, never really understood the work that I engaged in there until he traveled to visit me south of the border.
I wanted Dad to experience what indigenous life was like. I took Dad out to visit a friend in a small Aztec village. The people of the village, discovering that a pastor from the US was visiting, asked Dad to speak to their congregation. There, in a simple room with wood slats for walls, beneath the glow of gasoline lanterns and seated on a hard bench, my friend translated into Aztec my father’s words of truth. Dad talked of a river of life that flows from God to man. Sin is like a barrier that impedes those waters. Pride, anger, marital discord, and dishonesty, to mention only a few, all interrupt God’s Spirit from being able to flow through us.
John the Baptist knew about those barriers. In Matthew 3:3, he quoted Isaiah, saying “Listen! It’s the voice of someone shouting, ‘Clear the way through the wilderness for the Lord! Prepare a straight highway through the wasteland for our God!’”
Remove any obstacles on the road. As you approach Christmas this year, prepare your heart by asking God’s Spirit to identify any barriers within your soul.
Advent 2021 – Day 9
Are guests visiting for your holiday celebration? Take a moment before they arrive to read a brief Advent devotional so you will truly be prepared!
What steps do you take to get ready for guests? Planning a menu and setting the table. Making up guest beds, laying out towels, perhaps even putting a chocolate on the pillow. For my part, I always scrubbed, dusted, and tidied the house. My husband laughed and said we should invite guests to come more often!
In the same way, farmers work to prepare their soil before planting seeds. They know that putting in fertilizer and tilling the ground makes the seeds feel welcome and nurtured.
Hosea 10:12 says, “Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the Lord, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you.”
Is there a lesson in that verse for us as we prepare our hearts for Christmas? Do we need to break up old clods of dirt, loosening the grip that sinful habits have on us? Then let us sow the righteousness of God’s Word in our hearts. As we prepare in this way, God can bless us richly.
Advent 2021 – Day 10
You came back for another Advent devotional! Your being here encourages me but also tells me you are anxious to prepare your heart for Christmas.
Long ago, my husband Gene bought a unicycle at a yard sale. He wanted to learn to ride it but never put forth the effort. It sat in our attic, gathered dust, and eventually rusted. It disappeared when we downsized before our move to our retirement community.
In contrast, when our son John invested in a unicycle, he spent hours learning to ride it effortlessly. What made the difference? John was sincere about wanting to master the cycle. Because of his commitment, he succeeded and now he entertains others by performing at public events.
In John 5, Jesus approached a lame man lying by the pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem, but before Jesus healed him, first he asked the man, “Do you want to be healed?” In other words, “You have been lying here for 38 years, but are you really serious about being healed?” Instead of asking God for help, you see, the lame man had trusted in a legend of an angel who might cure his problem.
The prophet Samuel knew the importance of pursuing righteousness. In 1 Sam. 7:3, he told the people of Israel, “If you are really serious about wanting to return to the Lord, prepare yourselves by getting rid of your foreign gods,…determine to obey only the Lord, then he will save you.”
It is not enough to celebrate Christmas by putting up decorations and buying gifts. We have a role to play. Are we serious about preparing our hearts? Are we willing to get rid of anything that hinders us from following God. Take time today to examine your heart and discard whatever keeps you from obeying God.
Advent 2021 – Day 11
We are almost halfway through Advent! Christmas will be here in less than two weeks! Are you prepared for Jesus’ arrival? Here’s a somewhat lighter lesson for you.
One holiday season, a newlywed friend of my mother’s called on the phone. The bride wanted advice on how to prepare chicken using her grandmother’s family recipe.
“What seems to be the problem?” my mother asked.
“Well, the first step says to put the chicken in a kettle.”
Perplexed, my mother asked again where the difficulty lay.
“Well, I can’t get the chicken in past the neck of the kettle!”
With admirable self-control, my mother waited until she got off the phone to burst out laughing. The bride had tried to squeeze the chicken in the only kind of kettle she knew of…a tea kettle!
2 Tim. 2:21 says, “If you keep yourself pure, you will be a special utensil for honorable use. Your life will be clean, and you will be ready for the Master to use you for every good work.”
By staying constantly vigilant and keeping our hearts clean, we can become a special utensil – perhaps a tea kettle? – to serve exactly the right function in God’s plan. And thus we have one more step in our preparation for Christmas: Stay alert, always ready for God to use us.
Advent 2021 – Day 12
Getting excited about opening those brightly colored Christmas packages hiding in the closet or under the tree? Take time to read one more Advent devotional before going about your day.
Did your parents teach you not to run with scissors? Did they warn you not to put your fingers in electrical sockets? Did they train you to brush your teeth? Did they make certain that you got inoculations for polio and measles? Those are all important lessons for safety and health. But teaching those who follow us to have faith in God is by far the most important lesson we can pass on to those we love.
In I Chron. 22:5,6, King David said, “‘My son Solomon is still young and inexperienced. And since the Temple to be built for the LORD must be a magnificent structure, famous and glorious throughout the world, I will begin making preparations for it now.” So David collected vast amounts of building materials before his death. Then David sent for his son Solomon and instructed him to “build a Temple for the LORD, the God of Israel to honor the name of the Lord.”
When we teach the next generation to seek God, we are beginning a project that may not be completed in our lifetime. David died long before Solomon completed the Temple. Those we love may be young and inexperienced, but, just as David taught his son Solomon to honor God, we ought to take time to prepare not only our own hearts but also build a foundation for others who will carry on after us, teaching those who follow us to honor the name of the Lord. How will you honor him today?
Advent 2021 – Day 13
Yesterday we saw that each of us has a responsibility not only to prepare our own hearts for the arrival of the baby in the stable but also to prepare those around us to seek God.
This year, with the help of my daughter, I was able to get all my shopping and gift wrapping done before the end of October. I had fun picking out a special gift for each person on my list, sometimes making the gifts myself. I can hardly wait for Christmas to arrive and to see the faces of those I love as they unwrap my packages. After weeks of shopping and baking and, yes, Advent preparation, many parents find great delight in watching their children discover what is hidden under the bows and gift wrap.
Parents have an important role to play in helping their children understand the true meaning of Christmas. In Luke 1:17, an angel predicted that John the Baptist would become “a man with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and he will cause those who are rebellious to accept the wisdom of the godly.” Imagine the weight of responsibility Zecharias must have felt, knowing his son John would be the forerunner for the Messiah!
Not every one of you reading these devotionals is a parent. Neither was John the Baptist. But we all have the same responsibility as John. We need to teach those around us to be ready for the return of the Lord. The first time, Jesus did not come decorated with bows and gift wrap, but his second coming will be full of glory. Advent offers a natural opportunity to prepare both ourselves and others for the reality of the coming kingdom.
Advent 2021 – Day 14
Back for more? Today we can add another helping to our plate as we celebrate our Advent theme of “Preparation.”
Who doesn’t like a Christmas feast with all the trimmings? Ham or turkey, stuffing, cranberry relish, mashed potatoes swimming in gravy, and pies for dessert. And someone pushing it at us, saying, “Have some more!”
We have already seen God’s example of preparing this world for us, and we have learned that our own hearts should respond with humility, gratitude and praise. Today’s thought is a little harder to swallow.
Ps. 23:5 says, “You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies.” Actually, this entire psalm is about God preparing a path for us. He leads us beside still waters, he restores us, he anoints us. But preparing a feast before our enemies? Does the Lord really prepare hard times for us?
Read the verse again. The Lord knows we will face conflicts and hard times. His contribution is a feast to sustain us in the midst of those difficult circumstances.
Think back to Jesus when he slept on Peter’s boat during the violent storm on the Sea of Galilee. Mark’s gospel says Jesus was asleep with his head on a pillow. Cushions were not the norm on fishing boats. They would get soggy, mildewed and stink of dead fish. But God, knowing Jesus was tired after a full day of preaching, provided his Son with a pillow before the storm ever hit.
Are you facing difficult circumstances this holiday season? Look around for the pillow God has prepared for you. And after you respond with gratitude and praise, add rest in his care to the preparations of your own heart.
Advent 2021 – Day 15
Was yesterday’s Advent thought harder to accept? I am glad you came back. Stick with us as we learn more about preparing our hearts for Christmas.
The angels sang in Bethlehem, “Peace on Earth and good will towards men,” but yesterday we saw that God prepares a feast for us in the presence of our enemies. No one likes the idea of facing conflict.
Jonah knew the Lord was gracious and merciful, but he also knew a thing or two about enemies. Jonah had seen people from Nineveh murder Hebrew women and children and burn their towns to the ground. The people of Nineveh were Israel’s archenemies. Thus, when God ordered Jonah to preach in Nineveh, Jonah ran in the opposite direction. The last thing Jonah wanted was to see Jehovah offer mercy to these ruthless people.
Yet there is plenty of evidence that God was at work preparing a path for Jonah. In Jonah 1:17, we learn, “Now the Lord had arranged for (prepared) a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was inside the fish for three days and three nights.” God had no intention of letting Jonah drown.
And in 4:6-8, “And the Lord God arranged for a leafy plant to grow there, and soon it spread its broad leaves over Jonah’s head, shading him from the sun. This eased his discomfort, and Jonah was very grateful for the plant. But God also arranged for a worm! The next morning at dawn the worm ate through the stem of the plant so that it withered away. And as the sun grew hot, God arranged for a scorching east wind to blow on Jonah. The sun beat down on his head until he grew faint and wished to die. ‘Death is certainly better than living like this!’ he exclaimed.”
Note how God prepared a whale, a plant, a worm and a wind to teach Jonah. What circumstances are you facing that appear to be negative? Could it be that God has a purpose behind them? Preparing our hearts for Christmas includes cultivating a teachable spirit.
Advent 2021 – Day 16
As we get ready for Christ’s arrival in another week, we also need to remember to prepare for the second advent of Christ. Welcome back as we expand on that idea with another Advent thought.
As a child, did you ever make a paper chain to count down the days until Christmas? Each day, you tore off one more link. You waited with great anticipation, knowing something special and exciting would be coming soon.
Isaiah 64:4 tells us that “since the world began, no ear has heard and no eye has seen a God like you, who prepares a path for those who wait for him!” In the next chapter (65:17), the Lord says “Look! I am creating new heavens and a new earth – so wonderful that no one will even think about the old ones anymore.”
And again in 1 Cor. 2:9, Paul quotes Isaiah saying, “That is what the Scriptures mean when they say, ‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.’” We can’t even imagine what God has planned on the road ahead of us!
Did you notice two small words in these verses that give us a hint about examining our own hearts as we get ready for Christ’s return? Isaiah says that God prepares a path for those who wait for him. And Paul uses the word love. As you go about your activities this day, examine your soul and ask if you are truly waiting for that special day when Jesus comes again. Then, prepare your heart by filling it with love for our Savior and others who cross your path today.
Advent 2021 – Day 17
What films do you and your family watch each year as Christmas approaches? Before you sit down in front of the TV, take a moment to read another Advent devotional.
If you have ever watched a Star Wars movie or been a Star Trek fan, the films may have amazed you with their visual effects created by the animation experts. You may look forward to even better graphics with the release of “Moonfall” next year. At the same time, you know all of this is fiction. When you walk out of the theater, life will go on the same as before.
The wrath of God is nothing like the “Wrath of Khan.” When we read the book of Revelation and hear about God’s judgments, the images within those pages seem like something from a sci-fi film. We have never seen events on the vast scale like those described in the book of Revelation. God’s judgment will be on full display as seven seals break, seven trumpets blow, and seven bowls of wrath pour out on mankind. These affect not merely Earth but involve cosmic events: The sun and the moon and stars will darken. And life will never be the same.
Heb. 11:7 tells us, “It was by faith that Noah prepared a large boat to save his family from the flood. He obeyed God, who warned him about things that had never happened before. By his faith Noah condemned the rest of the world, and he received the righteousness that comes by faith.”
Noah had never seen rain. He’d never seen a boat of the dimensions of the ark. He probably had never before seen even half of all the animals that soon walked onto the ark. Yet by faith, he prepared for future events he had never imagined.
As you get your heart ready for Christ’s arrival, remember that the most basic step is to cultivate faith in our powerful God.
Advent 2021 – Day 18
Only one week remains before Christmas arrives at our doorstep. My prayer is that these Advent devotional thoughts are helping you to get ready for that happy event.
My husband’s birthday arrived again in November. That morning, I looked at his photo and assured him that I loved him and wished him a joy-full day, his second birthday in heaven. I miss Gene but am convinced that he is far happier there in heaven than he ever could be here on earth. Since his death last year, the veil that hangs between this world and the spiritual world seems thinner than ever. I feel the reality of the spiritual world is just a breath away.
Romans 9:22 tells us that God has every right to exercise his judgment and his power. He is, after all, God, and we have all failed miserably in achieving his holy standards. But in his mercy, he has prepared a place in heaven for each of us who have chosen to follow Christ. Romans 9:23 tells us, “He does this to make the riches of his glory shine even brighter on those to whom he shows mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory.”
Thus far during this season, we have focused on what we need to do to get our hearts ready for Christmas. But today we see another of the blessings of being prepared. When Jesus left heaven for earth, he exchanged his divine glory for swaddling cloths. After he died and rose again, Jesus received back his glory. So too, we who are prepared in advance will shed our earthly clothes and don glorified bodies in heaven. That is something to look forward to! A prepared heart is full of hope.
Advent 2021 – Day 19
In less than a week, Christmas will arrive! I love the Advent season, but we all know that it is only the precursor of Christ’s birthday celebration.
From January 1st, we can count the exact number of days until December 25th. And if we forget, mall merchants are more than happy to remind us exactly how many shopping days remain before the holiday.
Sometimes we forget how long the nation of Israel waited for its Messiah to arrive. Over thousands of years, prophets spoke of the coming King. The prophecies of Malachi closed the Old Testament canon. Four hundred years passed before an angel appeared to Zecharias, announcing the birth of John the Baptist. Six more months passed before Mary learned she would give birth to Jesus. Three decades followed before Jesus began his ministry. It must have seemed to the nation of Israel that God was taking his time about getting to his destination.
God has given plenty of warning about his plans for judgment. He is already prepared with a specific date and plan for that day. Rev. 9:15 says, “Then the four angels who had been prepared for this hour and day and month and year were turned loose.” The next verse says that those angels will lead an army of 200 million troops! Imagine! God has everything planned right down to the hour!
The Lord is ready. Are we prepared to meet him? Take time today to look at your calendar and consider setting aside a specific hour, or even a whole day, to spend sitting in God’s presence.
Advent 2021 – Day 20
After all these days of Advent, we can finally shift our focus and look forward to some of the rewards of our preparation. Read on to see a portion of all God has prepared ahead for us!
When my husband Gene and I sold our home and moved to our retirement community, we did an immense amount of preparation. We painted walls of our house, replaced the carpet on the stairs, cleared out closets, and sorted through years of accumulated “stuff.” It was hard work and we felt exhausted.
But while we were busy at our end, the staff at the village was just as busy getting our apartment ready for our arrival. They too painted walls. Workers replaced a dark gray carpet with a lighter tone of beige. They hung curtains. The staff removed a pink, blue and gray kitchen vinyl that looked like an argyle sock and put down the simpler marble tile we had selected. An electrician moved a light switch. When we arrived, we reaped the pleasure resulting from all their work.
In John 14:2,3, Jesus explained to his bemused disciples that he was leaving, but with a purpose. He told them, “There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.”
God made an amazing world for Adam and Eve, but Jesus has prepared an even more amazing world for us after we leave this life. His promises are assured. He will come and get us. We will live with him forever!
Take a moment today and look around your living space. One day it will all be gone. Your collection of animated solar sun catchers, your massage recliner, your 4th – grade penmanship award hanging on the wall, even your Christmas stockings hung by the chimney with care. All of it will be gone. But none of it will matter if you have a place prepared for you in heaven!
Advent 2021 – Day 21
Looking forward to learning about some of the other joys of having a prepared heart? Here’s another Advent thought for my faithful readers.
When I worked as an adoption agency counselor, one of my tasks was to help with post-adoption support groups. These families had prepared a home for a child but often the parents struggled when their best intentions were met with outright defiance. Nor were the parents the only ones who struggled. One night I led the support group for biological children of the parents. “What was hardest about having your adoptive sibling join your family?” I asked.
Their answers surprised me. “He tried to steal my friends.” “I had to share my bedroom.” “She took my place sitting next to Mom at the dining table.” There was real grief and sadness at being displaced.
Mt. 25:31-34 speaks of the final Day of Judgment. The Son of Man will sit on his throne and separate the people like a shepherd separating his sheep from his goats. “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world.”
The twelve disciples argued on more than one occasion about who would get to sit next to Jesus on his right and left. But not one of us will feel displaced when our time comes. We all will enjoy the blessings God has prepared for us. We will be heirs in his kingdom! And, imagine this, we are the adoptees!
Advent 2021 – Day 22
We are almost there! Christmas is just around the corner! Hang on for the last three of these Advent devotionals on the theme of preparation.
Most everyone reading these devotionals has attended a wedding. Many of the women have been brides, walking down the aisle, dressed in a beautiful gown. Many of the men have been grooms, standing nervously at the front of the church, awaiting the first glimpse of their bride. And some of us have been parents and friends gazing with pride as the young woman approached. I remember the inexpressible joy of seeing my daughter and daughters-in-law walk down the aisle.
My father was a pastor. He loved standing at the front of the altar and watching the bride draw near. When he came home after performing a wedding, I remember as a child asking him how the bride looked. Dad would beam and say, “She was the most beautiful bride I’veever seen.” And he said the same thing every time!
In Rev. 21:2, the apostle John tells us of a similar vision: “And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully prepared, adorned for her husband.”
Her Husband is eager but he is not nervous. For thousands of years, he has anticipated this special day. He himself replaced her filthy rags (Is. 64:6) and instead offered her clothes of the finest linen, bright and clean (Rev. 19:8).
The bride could have refused to wear those clothes and opted for comfy jeans or even pjs, but instead, she chose to make herself ready for the wedding. Can you imagine the joy we will one day feel seeing our Lord waiting for us at the far end of the aisle?
Advent 2021 – Day 23
Tomorrow my children will be arriving to celebrate with me. I am eager to hug each grandchild. But let’s pause for another Advent devotional on “preparation.”
Have you ever received the red carpet treatment? I used to speak at conferences and retreats and schools hundreds of times each year. Sometimes the person introducing me would give me a big build up, saying what a wonderful person I was. (You can fool a few people some of the time, right?) But after I was introduced, I would often ask the people seated in the audience to all stand up. “Now raise your hands high, high in the air.” And they did. “Now take all your expectations of me off that top shelf, lean over, bend down and put them on the lowest shelf.” I didn’t want to have to live up to all the hype.
I wonder if John the Baptist ever felt the same way. In Malachi 3:1, the Lord said, “Look! I am sending my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. Then the Lord you are seeking will suddenly come to his Temple. The messenger of the covenant, whom you look for so eagerly, is surely coming.”
No doubt John the Baptist did not exactly fit the expectations of the people as a forerunner of the Messiah. With his camel hair robe and leather belt, he looked more like a wild animal than a holy prophet. But that didn’t stop him from proclaiming that Jesus, someone far greater than John, would soon be coming. And Jesus lived up to every bit of hype!
The messenger of the covenant, Christ himself, was eagerly awaited by the people. They looked forward to his arrival more than we look forward to Christmas. And we know he is surely coming again. Do you anticipate his coming eagerly as they did? Are you prepared?