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Advent 2016 Devotional—Intro And First Sunday Of Advent

Advent 2016 Devotional—Intro and First Sunday of Advent

“Good News For All The People”—Daily Reflections for Advent 2016

INTRODUCTION

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord.”
Luke 2:10-11

Hold the phone! Stop the presses! I’ve got good news for you this Christmas! I mean really good, honest, exciting, astonishing good news! Yes, I know sometimes people come to us saying: “I have good news and I have bad news, which do you want to hear first?” But this is good news without any shred of bad! And it isn’t only good news, it’s good news of great joy! The kind of good news that sets people’s feet to dancing. And what’s more, it’s good news for everyone. Good news not just for the good people, for the lucky people, the people who have it together. It really is for everyone! But don’t take it from me. It was God’s Christmas angel delivering the message: “I bring you good news of great joy for all the people.”

Lest you think this good news is just some kind of holiday hype, it’s news straight from God. It’s news about something that has happened, an actual, factual event in time and space that changes everything. God Himself entered our world as the Babe of Bethlehem in order to reconcile the whole world to Himself. It is good news, not good advice, not good teaching, not a good plan or a good formula.

People often hear about good news from God and think it’s about living the Golden Rule, or trying to be a good person, or turning their lives around. While those are good things, they are not God’s good news. The good news is not what we do but, rather, what God has done.

Religion of whatever variety, says: “Be good and God will love and accept you.” God’s good news says that you’re already loved, already accepted! Believe the good news and give thanks!

This devotional booklet is prepared to assist you in celebrating God’s wondrous good news. Each day’s reading concludes with a few reflection questions and a spiritual practice, The Daily God Hunt. We pray that this devotional will help you each day during Advent to ponder, savor, and be in awe of God’s astounding good news of great joy!

A SPIRITUAL PRACTICE FOR ADVENT

THE DAILY GOD HUNT

Each Advent and Lent we like to recommend different spiritual practices to assist readers in their spiritual journeys. People often tell us that these various spiritual practices add to their reading and reflecting on the daily writings. Spiritual practices have a way of moving what we know in our head into our hearts.

This Advent we are recommending “The Daily God Hunt” as a daily spiritual practice for each day through Christmas. You might find this to be a practice that you would like to continue throughout the New Year.

I learned “The Daily God Hunt” in David and Karen Mains’ book, Daring to Dream Again. Some people hunt for treasure, some hunt for gold or other treasure. In The Daily God Hunt we go hunting each day for God. We know that God is always and everywhere present to us; The Daily God Hunt is a way of being present to Him. It can help us come alive to the God in whom we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28).

Here’s how you do The Daily God Hunt:

  1. Begin the day talking to God and telling Him that you are going to be hunting for Him throughout the day.
  2. Next, enter the day with eyes wide open to God’s promised presence with you, hunting for Him in any of one or more of the following ways:
    • Obvious answer to prayer
    • God showing Himself in His creation (sunrise, snowfall, colorful flower, exquisite design of a leaf, etc.)
    • God being present to you in another person (Christmas greeting from a friend, a neighbor’s kind words, thoughtful gesture from a stranger, etc.)
    • God helping you to do His work in the world
    • Any evidence of God’s love and care for you
    • Any other kind of God Sightings…
  3. At the end of each day, take a few moments to reflect back on your day and note any God Sightings you had. You might want to keep an Advent God Sighting Journal to record these God moments. This can also be a meaningful activity for a family, couple, or friends.
  4. Take a moment to thank God for these experiences of His presence with you.
  5. You can double your delight by sharing your God Sighting with others. Your God Sighting might be an encouragement to them.
  6. It is likely that by practicing The Daily God Hunt you will experience more and more of God’s presence with you.

Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means, “God is with us.”
Matthew 1:23

And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
Matthew 28:20

November 27th
THE FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord.”
Luke 2:10-11

It was in the little village of Bethlehem (Hebrew: Beit Lehem, House of Bread), that the Bread of Heaven was born into our lives. Bethlehem was a wide spot in a road atop a limestone cliff that could be seen for miles. The surrounding hills, stingy with vegetation, were pocked with natural caves used for storerooms, stables, and even mangers.

This ancient settlement was originally called Ephrath (Genesis 35:16), and to this day a nearby pillar marks the place where Rachel died in childbirth. It was also here that Ruth gleaned the fields and where she married Boaz (Ruth 2), becoming the mother of Obed, the father of Jesse, the father of David, Israel’s greatest king. This is where David tended his father’s sheep (1 Samuel 17:15), and where the prophet Samuel anointed him to be king over the people (1 Samuel 16:4-13). In time the world will call this little town the “City of David”, and prophets will point to it as the place of Messiah’s birth:

But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah,
who are one of the little clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to rule in Israel,
whose origin is from of old,
from ancient days (Micah 5:2).

Travel to Bethlehem today and you will see in the valley, under the white limestone cliffs, what has long been called “Shepherds’ Fields”. There you can see ancient churches marking the place where shepherds heard the good news of great joy for all the people. A tower stood in Shepherds’ Fields known as Migdal Eder, “Tower of the Flock”. This tower helps us to know that the Christmas shepherds were keeping watch over sheep destined for temple sacrifice.

Alfred Edersheim, a nineteenth century Jewish scholar and convert to Christianity, in his magisterial work, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, shows that the sheep in Shepherds Fields around Migdal Eder were sheep to be offered as sacrifice. Remarkably, it was seven hundred years earlier that the prophet Micah foretold the Kingdom of God would be revealed at Migdal Eder, the Tower of the Flock:

And you, O tower of the flock,
hill of daughter Zion,
to you it shall come,
the former dominion shall come,
the sovereignty of daughter Jerusalem (Micah 4:8).

Embedded deep in Jewish tradition was the expectation that the Son of David, Messiah, would be announced at Migdal Eder. For instance, the ancient Targum of Pseudo-Jonathan (Aramaic paraphrase of the Old Testament) identified Migdal Eder as the place where Messiah would be made known: “In this place the king Messiah in the end of days will be manifested.”

Jerome, the Church Father, and translator of the Bible into Latin, lived in Bethlehem and wrote that from the cave where Jesus was born it was “a short distance down the hill to the tower of Eder, that is, ‘of the flock’…where shepherds keeping watch by night were privileged to hear the words: ‘Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good will toward men.’” (Jerome, Letter 108 to Eustochium 10)

In keeping with ancient prophecy it was to shepherds tending sheep at Migdal Eder that God’s good news of great joy was announced. It was to them that “the glory of the Lord shone around them and they were terrified” (Luke 2:9). The glory of God, the visible manifestation of His presence on earth, had not been seen since the destruction of the old temple (Ezekiel 10:4-19). Significantly, God reveals His glory not to religious or political dignitaries in Jerusalem or Rome, but to poor shepherds watching their sheep. Hear God’s first words to them on that first Christmas, as God’s first words to you this Christmas: “Do not be afraid…”. Do not be afraid for what is happening in the world! Do not be afraid for what is happening in your life. God has good news for you that changes everything. It is good news of great joy for everyone!

PONDERINGS

  • Why do you think God wanted shepherds to be the very first to hear His good news?
  • What do you hear God saying to you when He commands: “Do not be afraid”?

THE DAILY GOD HUNT: Reflect on where you found God today.

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