Redeemer 2019 Advent Devotional Guide
Christmas is upon us once again! And I’m sure you have been preparing by breaking out old sweaters, perusing amazon for gifts, drinking cold weather beverages, putting up decorations, and playing Christmas music. It is amazing how many people in America celebrate Christmas because this holiday is all about the virgin birth of Jesus. But not everyone who celebrates is a Christian and far too often the beauty of Christmas is overshadowed by the materialism, consumerism, and greed that can accompany this holiday. But Christmas is a time for followers of Jesus to be distinct from the culture around us by reflecting on the significance of Christ’s birth, and truly preparing to celebrate His Advent.
“Advent” means “coming” or “arrival.” The Advent season (the four weeks leading up to Christmas day) is a time for Christ’s Church to eagerly wait and anticipate the coming of God’s Messiah, and to rejoice and worship Jesus as we remember that He humbly came to this earth as a baby so that He could save His people from their sins. He came as a long-awaited light in the darkness surrounding God’s people. The Israelites had been expectantly hoping and waiting for God’s Messiah to come to this earth to rescue them and to fully establish God’s Kingdom on the earth. They had experienced great suffering through judgment and exile and longed for deliverance. Their prophets had proclaimed the future coming of God’s special servant who would save His people, and they waited with eager anticipation.
Advent is a time for Christ’s Church today to identify with the hopes and longings of Israel in the time leading up to Christ’s birth. This will help prepare our hearts and minds to accurately reflect on the significance of Christ’s first Advent, to truly celebrate His birth on Christmas day, and to look forward to His second Advent (Jesus’ return) when He will set everything right and fully establish the Kingdom of God.
But we currently live in the “in between time” of Christ’s first Advent and His second Advent. We know the hope that we have through faith in Christ, but we still deal with the effects of sin. We know that Jesus brings peace between us and God, and us and other people, but we still experience relational strife and difficulties. We know that fullness of joy is only found in Him, but we still tend to look for happiness in places other than Jesus. We know that fullness of life in Christ is ours now because of God's great love and grace toward us, but sometimes our daily experience of that life leaves something to be desired. The realities of living in between Christ’s Advents make it that much more significant that Jesus came as our Immanuel, which means “God is with us” (Matt. 1:22-23). God pursues His people to dwell with them through all of the ups and downs of life.
Redeemer is offering this Advent devotional guide to encourage people to reflect on the significance of Jesus’ birth and its continual meaning for us today. To do this we will focus on the four themes of hope, peace, love, and joy, emphasizing how Christ’s birth, death, and resurrection brings us each of these things. We will post a devotional each week that will include some reflection questions, some questions or suggestions to encourage response, a prayer, and a hymn that we would encourage you to listen to and reflect on the lyrics. There are many great Advent guides out there and we don’t claim this one to be better than those. So, feel free to supplement this guide with other resources. We also hope that this guide can come alongside your normal ways of celebrating Advent with your family and friends. Our one goal is that we can help you to prepare your heart and mind to truly rejoice that Christ has come, and to hopefully and expectantly look forward to the day when Christ will return!
Romans 15:4, 13—For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope…May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
The reality that human beings are daily fueled by hope is greatly revealed during the Christmas season. As soon as Halloween is over people are already looking forward to, talking about, and planning for Christmas (some even do this before Halloween—you know who you are). We look forward to the presents, the family time, the Christmas parties, the lights, and the music with the hope that it will all be as magical as the Hallmark movies promise. We have these desires and expectations built up in our mind and want reality to live up to our ideals. And while hope is on full display this time of year, when we take a step back we see that humans by nature are filled with, and fueled by, hope all of the time.
We are forward looking and forward thinking people. We desire for our lives to turn out positively in exactly the right way. Our desires for the future fuel us in the present the way the promise of presents fuels kid’s hopes up until Christmas morning. But a significant downside of humanity’s hopefulness is that there are no guarantees that we will receive what we hope for you. We may be able to have reasonable confidence in our hopes for the future, but our hope is often just wishful thinking. We wish that the future will turn out a particular way, but we don't know. And while this is true for most things in life, for those who serve “the God of hope,” we have much greater confidence for a bright future.
We see this when looking at Romans 15:4-13. The things that God spoke to His people in the Old Testament were to both encourage them and give them endurance as they looked to the fulfillment of His promises when God’s Messiah came (Rom. 15:4). God gave them reason to look to the future with confident hope. But we see in Romans 15:9-12, and all throughout Scripture, that these hopeful promises were also extended to the Gentiles so that all people might know and worship the one true God and have eternal hope. And God, being faithful and good, delivered on every single promise when He sent Jesus to this earth (Rom. 15:8). He has always shown that those who place their hope in Him have confidence that He will do what He says He will do.
Jesus came to this earth as the answer to Israel’s hopes, and He is our “living hope” (1 Pet. 1:3) in the present. This is because “the God of hope” (Rom. 15:13) made good on His promises of hope and sent Christ to earth, who is our blessed hope (Titus 2:13), so that those who trust in Him and His work on the cross might lay hold of all the eternal blessings that are only found through faith in Him, which includes “the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27). The reality of the death and resurrection of Christ gives us this confident hope in this life and the next as 1 Corinthians 15 says. Because of these truths and the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit we can all “abound in hope” every single day and be filled “with all joy and peace in believing" (Rom. 15:13). Rather than think that we have to wait until we get to heaven for these things to be ours, we can experience abundant hope, joy, and peace here and now as we hold fast in faith to Jesus.
Because of what Christ has done for us in the past we have hope in the present that looks forward to the future with confidence in what the God of hope has promised us when Jesus returns. He is a good and faithful God who always fulfills His promises, so our hope is secure. This should bring comfort to our souls as we face every season of life. This Christmas season may be looking very bright and cheery for you. But the hope you have in Christ far outweighs throwing the perfect Christmas party or getting the best Christmas gift. This Christmas season may be looking very dark and gloomy for you. Loved family and friends may be absent from the Christmas festivities or circumstantial difficulties might be overshadowing the usual joy of the holiday. Know that the God of hope is with you in what may feel like a hopeless season. You can find joy and peace as you reflect on all the spiritual blessings that are yours in Christ (Eph. 1:3) and rest in God’s sure promises—promises that provide confident hope now for a bright future in and with Christ. The God of hope is with you in all of life’s moments to comfort and encourage you so that you may not just feel moments of hopefulness from time to time, but so you may abound in hope every day! He is faithful to fulfill His promises to you in Christ just as He always has!
1. What are some things you are currently hoping for?
2. What are hopes you have this Advent season for your family, friends, and community?
3. How do you find encouragement and hope as you read God’s word?
4. How does God being the “God of hope” and always fulfilling His promises bring you comfort and joy?
5. What are ways you may feel prone to live with hopelessness? How can you trust more in Jesus and rely on the power of the Holy Spirit to help you abound in hope?
6. How does the hope you have in Christ give you endurance in this life?
What are things in life you can tend to place your hope in more than Jesus? Prayerfully think through these things and write them down.
Considering these things, how can you move toward Christ in faith this season recognizing that only in Him do we have hope and all that we need? Come up with specific action steps and a way to implement them.
How can you move toward those around you who may be feeling lost or hopeless this season with the hope of the gospel? Pray that the Lord would show you people you can love in this way and intentionally pursue them.
Lord, we know that the reason we are hope-filled beings is because these desires are designed to point us to you. We thank you that you have addressed our hopeless situation by sending your Son Jesus to this earth to die on the cross for our sins. We profess that only through faith in Him do we have salvation and eternal hope that endures throughout every circumstance in life. We know that our hearts are prone to look for hope in places other than Jesus, and that the cares of life can cause us to feel hopeless at times. May we, by your Holy Spirit, trust and hope fully in Christ, abound in hope every day, and tell others about the God of hope who can do the same for them. Amen.
Come Thou Long Expected Jesus
Come, Thou long expected Jesus Born to set Thy people free; From our fears and sins release us, Let us find our rest in Thee. Israel's strength and consolation, Hope of all the earth Thou art; Dear desire of every nation, Joy of every longing heart.
Born Thy people to deliver, Born a child and yet a King, Born to reign in us forever, Now Thy gracious kingdom bring. By Thine own eternal Spirit Rule in all our hearts alone; By Thine all sufficient merit, Raise us to Thy glorious throne.