Devotions, Week of January 18 – 23

Invitation to Peace 

This is a time of turmoil for many of us, with the ongoing spread of the virus, the unresolved racial disparities and unrest, and the division of our nation as we inaugurate a new president.  In the midst of the loud, sometimes frantic inner and outer voices, what does it look like us to turn our attention and affection to God and to give him our full allegiance, today, tomorrow and into the future?  And how can we find peace and be agents of peace among our loved ones, our neighbors, our community? 

We need new lenses to see Christ as our Prince of Peace, and clear eyes that can reflect his character through us.  He invites us to rest and patiently waits for us to return to him and receive his rest, his protection, and his strength.   

Monday  

Read Isaiah 30:15-18 

15 For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel:
In returning and rest you shall be saved;
    in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.
But you refused 16 and said,
“No! We will flee upon horses”— therefore you shall flee!
and, “We will ride upon swift steeds”— therefore your pursuers shall be swift!
17 A thousand shall flee at the threat of one,
    at the threat of five you shall flee,
until you are left like a flagstaff on the top of a mountain,
    like a signal on a hill. 

18 Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you;
    therefore he will rise up to show mercy to you.
For the Lord is a God of justice;
    blessed are all those who wait for him.” 

In my first read of this, I wanted to skip over the part about God’s people choosing to flee instead of staying and the resulting fear that overcame them.  But doesn’t this describe us?  We are invited to rest in God to find our salvation and our strength and yet we instead choose to get caught up in saving ourselves in our own strength.  And this leads to angst, fear, and feelings of being overwhelmed.  BUT…God waits and continues to extend His offer to be gracious, to shower us with His mercy and justice. 

How might your heart, mind, and body be caught up in fleeing from God’s rest? 

Where is Jesus’ presence in your life?  What is he inviting you to right now? 

What does God’s grace, mercy, and justice look like for you today? 

Gracious God, in these times when our fear overwhelms us and we are compelled to flee, help us to find all we need in you.  We ask that you will quiet our hearts and bring rest to our minds.  Replace the fear that clouds our view and fill us with your grace and mercy that we might lean into you, trust you, and participate in your justice.  In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

Tuesday

Read Matthew 6:31-33 

31 Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32 For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” 

During this time of anxiety and uncertainty, we can become tethered to our worry and feel controlled by the big and little concerns that we each face.  Jesus invites us to tether ourselves to him and his rule and let our devotion to and trust in him guide us in peace. 

How do you remember that you are tethered to Christ? 

What most captures your attention during the day and causes you to feel adrift and untethered? 

What might Jesus be saying to you in the midst of your anxiety? 

Gracious God, these are troubled times as wave upon wave of grief and loss and confusion wash over us.  Our only hope is you, present with us and without fear. Help us to experience your peace-filled presence and seek your kingdom, being your agents of love and peace.  As it says in 2 Chronicles 20:12, we don’t know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”  In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

Wednesday

Read Psalm 27:1-3 

“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? 

When evildoers assail me to devour my flesh—
my adversaries and foes— they shall stumble and fall. 

Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear;
though war rise up against me, yet I will be confident.” 

The psalmist David had many opportunities in his life to trust God in adverse circumstances.  Sometimes his enemies attacked him from the outside.  Other times it was his internal enemies that rose up and overtook him.  We may feel like we are battling enemies – big and small, internal and external – but our God is our light, our salvation, and our stronghold and we can find our confidence in him. 

What are you battling today? 

What role is fear playing in how you are responding to it? 

What would it look like to lean into God as your light, your salvation, and your stronghold?  What images does this description of God stir in you? 

Gracious God, help us to be tethered to the truth that you are our light, our salvation, and our stronghold.  We entrust our day to you, in the confidence that whatever happens, you remain the same, and we do not need to fear. Renew our confidence in you that we might invite others to embrace you.  In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

Thursday

Read Psalm 27:4 

One thing I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after:
to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple.” 

The psalmist David’s deepest desire is to live in the presence of God every day.  It is there that he wraps himself up in our Lord’s beauty and comes with a desire to know and understand more of him.  With the presence of the Lord living in us, we are invited to make this intimacy with God that which we seek after as well. 

How are you cultivating an awareness that you are in the presence of God? 

What do you find beautiful about the Lord? 

What do you desire God to do today? 

Gracious God, thank you for your presence in our lives, whether we are aware of it or not.  Make it our desire to find you in all we do, to encounter and soak in your beauty and continue to seek you.  As we inquire in your presence, reveal your truth to us that we may reflect your character to the world around us.  In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

Friday

Read Psalm 27:5-6  

For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble;
he will conceal me under the cover of his tent;
    he will set me high on a rock.
6 Now my head is lifted up above my enemies all around me,
and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make melody to the Lord.” 

In our times with God, we are strengthened not just for today, but for the unexpected troubles in the future.  The confidence and trust in Him that we build as we turn to the Lord and behold his beauty and seek him in our daily lives becomes a protection and place of worship in the times of difficulty.   

When has God’s faithfulness and protection in the past allowed you to trust him in the midst of present difficulties? 

How do you cultivate worship and joy in your life when you are experiencing trouble? 

How is God lifting you up above the difficulties that surround you? 

Gracious God, thank you for the confidence that you instill in us that carries us in times of uncertainty.  We ask for your protection and shelter during this time, not just for us, for all who feel exposed and vulnerable.  Help us to be agents of your protection as we share with others the security and peace that we experience in you.  In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

 

Saturday 

Read Psalm 27:7-10  

Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud,
    be gracious to me and answer me!
8 “Come,” my heart says, “seek his face!”
    Your face, Lord, do I seek.
9     Do not hide your face from me.
Do not turn your servant away in anger,
    you who have been my help.
Do not cast me off, do not forsake me,
    O God of my salvation!
10 If my father and mother forsake me,
    the Lord will take me up.” 

We find in the psalmist’s words a back and forth of confidence in God’s protective presence while at the same time a plea for God’s continued attention.  Every day we are invited to trust God more deeply or more widely, and we prayerfully ask God again to continue to be gracious to us and answer us in the present time. 

What is David asking of God in these verses?  How do they resonate with the cry of your heart? 

Where do you need God to answer you? 

For whom can you be God’s agent of presence and protection? 

Gracious God, we thank you that you invite us to a relationship with you that is dynamic and allows us to be vulnerable before you with our emotions and doubts without the fear that you will forsake us.  We ask that you would meet us where we are at and build in us the resilience that never grows tired of seeking your face.  In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

 

Devotions, Week of January 11- 15 

Monday 

In 2 Chronicles 20:5-12, King Jehoshaphat prays to God on behalf of his people.  He reminds God of His faithfulness and appeals to God’s faithful judgment.  At the end of his prayer, in vs. 12, the king says, We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”  If you skip down to verse 15, God assures the people, saying, “Do not fear or be dismayed at this great multitude; for the battle is not yours but God’s.” 

As we enter this new year, where are your eyes focused?  

Are there thoughts or emotions that are clouding your view of Jesus? 

What might Jesus be saying to you in this moment? 

God of Love, Fighter of our Battles – we pray that you will provide what we need in this new year.  We don’t know what is before us but help us to focus our eyes on you.  Remind us that you invite us to not fear or be dismayed.  Help us to reach out to one another in love creatively and intentionally that we might reflect the love of your followers.  In Your Name, Amen. 

Tuesday 

Isaiah 55:1-3   

“Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters;
and you that have no money, come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.
2 Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
    and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good,
    and delight yourselves in rich food.
3 Incline your ear, and come to me; listen, so that you may live.
I will make with you an everlasting covenant,
    my steadfast, sure love for David.” 

For many of us spending more time at home than usual, it is easy to be distracted by the many sources of information and other things that grab our attention.  It can leave us feeling anxious, angry, untethered, even empty.  In this time, God invites us to come to Him for that which will satisfy and fill us with hope, meaning, and contentment.  

How do you answer the question in verse 2?  What distracts you? 

What are God’s words of invitation in this passage?   

What invitation do you need to accept with gratitude today? 

Gracious God, we lift our lives up to you, knowing that you are the only one who can satisfy our deepest needs.  We relinquish to you the habits and practices that distract us from finding our fulfillment in you and being a source of your love to those around us.  Help us to receive your invitation today.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen. 

Wednesday 

Isaiah 55:8-9 

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
     nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.
9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
     so are my ways higher than your ways
     and my thoughts than your thoughts. 

 During times of discomfort and difficulty, our minds want to make sense of it all, so that we can gain back our equilibrium.  This can lead us to conclusions that bring comfort to us, but may not be sourced in the heart of God.  As we continue in this season that is impossible to understand, we remember that God is at work in ways that we can’t comprehend, and we trust him in that. 

 What is difficult for you to understand during this time? 

 Are there conclusions you have drawn in order to make sense of what we are experiencing?  What are those conclusions based in? 

 Is there an area of confusion that you can entrust to the Lord today? 

 Gracious God, as we continue in this season of isolation, our restless hearts and minds want to make sense of it.  Help us to lean into you, believing that your understanding is far beyond ours.  Comfort us and lead us that we might focus on what is ours to do, knowing that your ways are far above what we see.  In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

 Thursday 

Isaiah 55:10-11 

10 For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
     and do not return there until they have watered the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
     giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, 
11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
     it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
     and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” 

This is a continuation of the passage from yesterday and reminds us of God’s irresistable intentions in the world.  It is impossible for us to see it clearly, especially during times of difficulty, but we are invited to join God in his work in the world, even when we do not completely understand. 

Where have you been blessed in seeing the consistency of the seasons these days? 

When you think about the promises of God during this time, what do you wish to humbly lay before him? 

What is the gift God desires to give to the world through you? 

Gracious God, we thank you for the rhythm of the year that demonstrates your consistency and intentions.  Help us trust you, believing you are accomplishing what you have purpose in this time, and participate in your work in the world.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Friday 

Isaiah 55:12-13 

12 For you shall go out in joy,
     and be led back in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you
     shall burst into song,
     and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
13 Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress;
     instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle;
and it shall be to the Lord for a memorial,
     for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.” 

What a passage of hope as God leads this people in joy, peace, and worship.  We participate with nature in praise to God as we faithfully discern and do what is ours to do.  And graciously, God causes the fruit of our lives to be strong and life-giving. 

With what emotions are you going about your day? 

Where do you see nature celebrating God? 

Where would you like to see God produce good fruit?  What is yours to do in participation with his work? 

Gracious God, thank you for the joy and hope that this passage expresses.  This seems in contrast to the ways many of us are feeling.  Help us to restore our hope in you as we watch for you at work in our world and give us willing hearts to join you.  In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

 

Devotional, January 4 – 9th 

Monday 

Psalm 139: 1-6 

Lord, you have searched me and known me.
2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
    you discern my thoughts from far away.
3 You search out my path and my lying down,
    and are acquainted with all my ways.
4 Even before a word is on my tongue,
    O Lord, you know it completely.
5 You hem me in, behind and before,
    and lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
    it is so high that I cannot attain it.” 

What a comforting truth it is that the God of all creation knows us intimately and has his hand upon us.  Perhaps we are starting this new year feeling disconnected from the people we love, and it is good to remember that God is with us and cares deeply about our lives. 

How have you experienced God hemming you in this week? 

Is there something you want to say to God this morning, understanding that he knows already? 

What emotions are stirred in you as you acknowledge that God is acquainted with all your ways?   

Gracious God, you know us better than we know ourselves.  Free us from our attempts to hide anything from you.  Thank you that you know us and that your love does not falter.  Help us to feel your hand of grace and mercy today and surrender to your guidance.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen. 

Tuesday 

Psalm 139:7-12 
“Where can I go from your spirit?
    Or where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there;
    if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
9 If I take the wings of the morning
    and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
    and your right hand shall hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
    and the light around me become night,”
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
    the night is as bright as the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.” 

David recognized that God was close to him, no matter where he found himself.  Near or far, God was present.  Light or dark, God’s presence was sure and unwavering.  We may have a number of different thoughts and emotions during this time, and we can be assured that God is with us in all of them. 

What 3 words describe your thoughts and feelings today?  How are these different since the same time last week? 

Where do you see God in your present state? 

How can you be present with someone in your life who is experiencing reality differently than you?  What can you do for them?  

Gracious God – thank you for your nearness to us.  Even as we each respond differently to the daily news, you are present with us with your comfort and guidance.  Help us to look to you, to not be overwhelmed by fear, and to see those around us with your eyes, that we might serve others as best we can during this time.  In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

Wednesday 

Psalm 139:13-18 

For it was you who formed my inward parts;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
    Wonderful are your works;
that I know very well.
15     My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
    intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes beheld my unformed substance.
In your book were written
    all the days that were formed for me,
    when none of them as yet existed.
17 How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
18 I try to count them—they are more than the sand;
    I come to the end—I am still with you. 

David acknowledges that God has been with us every step of the way.  God’s knowledge of us goes before our own self-knowledge and as we come before our all-knowing God, we discover more of who He is and who we are.  Nothing we are is a surprise to him.  We can honor our bodies, minds, and spirits because they are a wonderful work of a God who created us beautifully and with delight. 

What phrase in this passage do you find difficult to believed and why? 

How do you honor your body, mind, and spirit as a creation of God? 

What do you desire to say to God about His handiwork displayed in you? 

Gracious God, we believe in these words of David, that you indeed know us and have created us in fearful and wonderful ways.  With gratitude we thank you that you continue to create us in every day that we live as you guide us and turn your thoughts toward us.  These are wonderful promises that are difficult to comprehend.  Thank you for your presence that never leaves us.  In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

Thursday 

Psalm 139:19-22 

“O that you would kill the wicked, O God,
    and that the bloodthirsty would depart from me—
20 those who speak of you maliciously,
    and lift themselves up against you for evil!
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord?
    And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?
22 I hate them with perfect hatred;
    I count them my enemies.” 

These verses seem a bit disconnected from the rest of this song of meditation.  The psalmist is acknowledging that if God knows him intimately, he also knows the wicked and is acquainted with their ways.  David wants to assure himself before God that he will look on wickedness with the same eyes as God, and align himself with God’s righteousness.   

How do your habits and attitudes reflect a life that resists wickedness of all kinds? 

How would you imagine God responding to David’s desire that the wicked be killed? 

How can your heart reflect God’s heart for the wicked? 

Gracious God – we are reminded that you are acquainted with the ways of all, including the wicked.  Thank you that because of Christ, we are called to love our enemies, as we seek to reflect you.  Help us to put into practice ways that help us discern wickedness and align our allegiances with you.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.    

Friday 

Psalm 139:23-24  

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my thoughts.
24 See if there is any wicked way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting.” 

These verses are tucked into the same stanza in the psalm as the verses from yesterday.  David acknowledges that God knows everything about him, including wickedness, and yet he invites God to examine his life.  God knows all about each of us, but in surrendering ourselves to him, we are inviting him to show us the ways in our lives that need God’s loving transformation. 

As you echo these words of the psalmist, what area of your life comes to mind?   

Is there an attitude, recurring thought, or behavior that needs God’s transformation? 

What might happen this week if you make the prayer in these verses your prayer this week? 

Gracious God, we are aware of and grateful for your grace and mercy and open ourselves up to you, asking that you point out in us those areas of our lives that we need to surrender to you.  We invite you to show us the things that you already know about us, but that we may be blind to.  May we see and confess and follow you more fully this week.  In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

 

North Sound Church Advent Devotional   by Pastor Nancy Eckardt (nancye@northsoundchurch.com) 

December 20 – 24 – The Love We Are Waiting For  

How do you know you are loved?  How do those in your context know that they are loved by you?  This week we focus on love – just what we are waiting for, and just what we need.  Love that is without fear; love that goes the distance and more to restore relationships with God and humanity.  Love that is freely offered by God and embodied in Christ, for us, regardless of our cultural or religious standing.  

Monday

Read Luke 2:8 

In this passage, Luke demonstrates that the good tidings of Jesus’ birth were accessible to and even initiated with shepherds, ones who ranked low on the scale of power and privilege.  They weren’t expecting much but a quiet night with their sheep, hopefully free from predator attacks.   

Where do you place yourself on the spectrum of power and privilege? 

How does your sense of value in culture impact your preparation for Jesus’ birth? 

Suggested Songs: 

The First Noel (Sleeping at Last) 

O Come All Ye Faithful 

Tuesday

Read Luke 2:9-11 

Into their quiet and dark night, where their only fear was animals, a bright light shone and an angel appeared before them.  They were accustomed to animals, but this fear brought on by the angel caused a fear deeper than they had experienced before.  But the angel’s intent was not to instill fear into them, but invite them into a celebration of love because a Savior, the Messiah, Christ – God Himself had entered the world and they were worth knowing about it. 

What emotions do you experience in anticipating the appearance of Christ and why? 

How do you imagine God’s love in His appearance? 

Suggested Songs: 

Love Has Come (Amy Grant) 

Wednesday

Read Luke 2:12-14 

Not only did the angel bring good news, but he invited them and showed them the way to go and see this newborn King.  Our great Emmanuel, the one infinitely more worthy of the names that Caesar insisted on being called, could be found in the humbleness of a manger in a stable.   

How do you respond to the reality that our good and perfect God was born in a humble stable? 

How does the context of Christ’s birth speak to the good tidings proclaimed to the shepherds and extended to us as well? 

Suggested Songs: 

It Came Upon a Midnight Clear/Glorious (Onaje Jefferson) 

O Come, O Come Emmanuel 

Thursday

Read Luke 2:15 

The shepherds had a choice – to stay with their flocks and imagine what it would be like to see the newborn King of Love or to actually go and encounter him.  We have the opportunity in our lives to imagine a better, deeper encounter with Christ or to actually move toward him in new and powerful ways that undo us. 

What are you longing for this Christmas? 

How is God speaking in your longings, inviting you to encounter Christ in new ways? 

Suggested Songs –  

O Come, Let Us Adore Him 

All the World Awaits (Chris Tomin) 

 

Christmas Day – Here is the One We are Waiting For!

Luke 2:16-18 

16 So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. 17 When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them.” 

Christ – our Hope, our Peace, our Joy, and our Love –  has come to us humbly as a baby, dependent on other humans to care for him, vulnerable in a world of danger.  God made Himself one of us that He might draw us to Himself in love.  Jesus came to earth over 2,000 years and He continues to come to us with all He is surrounding us.  Just like the shepherds, as we encounter Jesus, our lives will forever be changed and we will be proclaimers of the good news as well. 

Come Lord Jesus!  Move in our hearts we pray! 

 

Third Week of Advent – December 13th – 19th – The Joy We Are Waiting For  (Luke 1:39-56) 

As we enter into the 3rd week of Advent, with the continued restrictions that make our normal seasonal celebrations impossible, we are invited to experience joy.  It isn’t a feeling that requires us to grit our teeth or ignore the loss we are experiencing this December, but rather to acknowledge the reality of time and at the same time, cultivate a joy that is attached to and enlivened by God Incarnate.  God came to earth in the form of a newborn child and God continues to come to us through the Spirit, promising to never leave us.  In this we can find joy in the midst of whatever circumstances we are experiencing. 

Monday –  

Read Luke 1:39-45 

Early in her pregnancy, Mary went to visit Elizabeth, who for different reasons, was also surprised to be expecting a child.  Both women were participating in the work of God in the world and despite the hardship of being a teenage single mom or one in later years, they found joy as participants in what God was doing in the world. 

Where do you see God at work in your context? 

How is he inviting you to participate in his work? 

Suggested Songs: 

How Great Our Joy 

The Little Drummer Boy 

Tuesday –  

Read Luke 1:39-45 

When Mary entered the room, Elizabeth’s womb became a center of worship and joy, as the spirit of Christ revealed himself to the one who would prepare his way.  Although it may have been missed by those outside, God was present and working and bringing joy and meaning in the midst of difficult and confusing circumstances. 

Where do you need to see what God is doing in the midst of confusing circumstances? 

Where are you cultivating space to worship and find joy as you experience God? 

Suggested Songs: 

Breath of Heaven (Amy Grant) 

Waymaker (Michaell W. Smith) 

Wednesday –  

Read Luke 1:46-49 

I wonder if this encounter with Elizabeth was just the confirmation that Mary needed that God was at work within her body and spirit as the angel had said.  Caught up in the worship of Emmanuel, the child growing within her, she burst into a song of praise, putting into words the hope and joy that she had hidden in her heart. 

As you read this passage, what words stir joy in you? 

Where do you need to experience God’s favor? 

Suggested Songs: 

Away in a Manger 

God’s Favor (Daniel Lawrence and the Tri-City Singers) 

 Thursday –  

Read Luke 1: 50-55 

Mary’s focus turns from the favor that she is experiencing from God to the way that the birth of her child, the Son of God, would bring healing and restoration to the broken and level the path to God.  There are echoes of Isaiah’s prophetic words to “prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.  Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain be made low…” (Isaiah 40:3ff) 

Where do you see the work of restoration and healing in your context? 

How do you find joy in the work that God has invited you to?  What does that look like? 

Suggested songs: 

O Holy Night 

 I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day (Casting Crowns) 

Friday –  

Read Luke 1:56 

This passage closes with Mary staying with Elizabeth for 3 months.  Away from the critical eyes of friends and family, Mary was able to rest in the companionship of one who believed in the work of God and to share in the joy of being a part of God’s unfolding salvation and reconciliation for the world. 

Who do you have to share the journey with? 

How can you share in the work of God in another and find joy in their companionship? 

Suggested Songs: 

Be Thou My Vision (Audrey Assad) 

Did You Hear the Mountains Tremble? (Delirious) 

Saturday –  

This week we have followed Mary’s journey of coming to grips with a call that she didn’t expect and that exposed her to scrutiny and uncertainty.  Yet in the midst of the disruption of her life, she experienced the presence of God and embrace the reality that He was doing something in the world that was new and she was invited to be a part.  Letting go of the life she expected to live, she found joy in joining God’s mission.  We too are invited to look below the surface of our lives and see what God is doing in us, through us, and around us, and how we are invited to join God’s mission too. 

Today, spend time reading the whole passage, seeking to enter the story and discover what God might be saying to you today. 

Read through Luke 1:39-56 

Quietly stay present with what you read for 30 seconds. 

Read the passage again.  As you do, what word or phrase stirs you or sticks with you? 

After reading the passage, ponder that word or phrase for 1 minute.  After a minute, write down the word or phrase and share it with your companion if you are doing this with others.  Listen to one another without discussion. 

Read the passage again, and ask God, what is it in my life that needed to hear this word or phrase today? 

Spend 1 minute pondering what God might be inviting you to through this passage and the particular word or phrase you are holding. 

Write down the invitation and/or share it with your companion. 

Read the passage for the last time and as you do, rest in God with the invitation given to you.  Spend a minute, letting God continue to minister to you around this invitation. 

Close in prayer. 

Second Week of Advent: December 6 – 12th – The Peace We Are Waiting For  

This week, we look at Matthew 1:18-25, the story of Joseph as he learned of Mary’s pregnancy and was invited by God to participate in the bringing of peace, well-being, and flourishing to Mary and his new unconventional family.  We can learn from Joseph that walking in obedience to God can sometimes seem to take us off the expected path in order to bring others the peace that we have been waiting for this season. 

Monday 

Read Matthew 1:18.  “18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit.” 

This story of Jesus’ birth, told from Joseph’s perspective, opens with a shocking revelation for Joseph and the death of a vision of flourishing in his future.  We know the end of the story, but we have to remember he didn’t. 

When have you experience the disruption of your sense of peace and well-being? 

Where are you experiencing disruption in your life this season? 

Suggested Songs –  

Look Up, Child (Lauren Daigle) 

Mary, Did You Know? (Pentatonix) 

 Tuesday 

Read Matthew 1:19 

19 And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. 

If we put ourselves in Joseph’s shoes, we could easily justify his decision to put an end to their engagement and move on with his life.  His doing it quietly seemed like a noble move, considering the consequences. 

Can you think of a time when you were hurt and felt like the only option was to walk away? 

How did the situation affect your sense of shalom – peace, well-being, flourishing? 

Suggested Songs –  

Called Me Higher (All the Sons and Daughters) 

Good, Good Father (Chris Tomlin) 

Wednesday 

Read Matthew 1:20-21 

 20 But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” 

What a surprise and invitation to faith that Joseph received from the angel, to step out of the certainty of his righteous convictions and provide shalom for the mother of Jesus, the Savior of the world.  

When have you experienced an invitation to step outside your sense of what was right and bring shalom to someone? 

Can you think of a time when you have needed someone to step out of their righteous zone and extend grace and peace to you?  What did that look like for you? 

Suggested Songs –  

Joy to the World 

O Come, O Come Emmanuel 

Thursday 

 22 Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 23 Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.” 

These verses remind us that the coming of Immanuel would be through unconventional means, means that violated the laws of the religious community.  In retrospect we can see and appreciate that God’s will was done on earth as it is in heaven. 

As you look back, when has God brought peace or shalom to your life through unconventional means? 

Where are you being invited to extend peace in ways outside the norm this Advent? 

Suggested Songs: 

Joseph’s Song (Michael Card) 

Lead Kindly Light (Audrey Assad) 

Friday 

 24 And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, 25 but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus. 

Joseph was a great example of what it meant to be righteous and faithful.  His sensitivity to God’s leading gave him the capacity to step into a very different story than he anticipated.  We are invited to cultivate that same sensitivity to God that gives us eyes to see what he is doing in the world and how he might desire to uniquely use us to be agents of shalom in the lives of those we love and those God brings our way. 

Are there places where you are resisting the invitation to expand your capacity to bring shalom to some outside your comfort zone? 

What would it look like to follow God in this circumstance? 

Suggested Song: 

 Oceans (Hillsong) 

I Will Follow (Chris Tomlin) 

Saturday 

Today, spend time reading the whole passage, seeking to enter the story and discover what God might be saying to you today. 

Read through Matthew 1:18-25 

Quietly stay present with what you read for 30 seconds. 

Read the passage again.  As you do, what word or phrase stirs you or sticks with you? 

After reading the passage, ponder that word or phrase for 1 minute.  After a minute, write down the word or phrase and share it with your companion if you are doing this with others.  Listen to one another without discussion. 

Read the passage again, and ask God, what is it in my life that needed to hear this word or phrase today? 

Spend 1 minute pondering what God might be inviting you to through this passage and the particular word or phrase you are holding. 

Write down the invitation and/or share it with your companion. 

Read the passage for the last time and as you do, rest in God with the invitation given to you.  Spend a minute, letting God continue to minister to you around this invitation. 

Close in prayer. 

1st Week of Advent:  Simeon and Anna – Hope 

As we long for hope this Advent season, we are reminded of the 2 saints, Simeon, and Anna, who waited in the temple for the redemption of the world to appear in the form of Emmanuel. Their longing turned to joy when they met JesusAlthough a baby, they were close enough to God to recognize that Jesus was the Messiah. This week we ponder hope and how it is found in Christ during this season. 

Luke 2:22-38 

Monday 

Luke 2:22-24 “22 When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), 24 and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.” 

At this point, Jesus is 40 days old, almost 7 weeksBeing committed Jews, Mary and Joseph performed the rites required by the law, the offering for Mary’s purification and the dedication of the 1st born son. In the process of following the law, they are about to be reminded that their son, the Son, is the Savior of the world. 

Have you experienced being surprised by hope in the midst of fulfilling your regular responsibilitiesWhat did that look like? 

What are you hoping for this Advent seasonWrite a prayer expressing your hopes to God. 

Suggested Songs: 

Heaven Come Down (Robert Seay Band) 

O Holy Night 

 Tuesday 

25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law. 

Simeon is described as one who was righteous, devout, hopeful, and Spirit-filled. During a time when the nation of Israel was swallowed up and made desolate by the Roman Empire, God guides Simeon to the temple, and because he is in touch with the Spirit, Simeon hears and obeys. 

Where do you hear God speaking hope into your life and community right nowAre there other voices that overpower God’s voice of hope? 

Write a prayer, lifting to God the thoughts, feelings, and messages you are hearing that seem to overpower his voice, and asking him to focus your heart to hear him. 

Suggested Song: 

The Hope of Christmas (Matthew West) 

Christ Alone, Cornerstone 

Wednesday 

 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying, 

29 “Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; 30 for my eyes have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” 

When was the last time you took a baby in your arm? Remember their smell (after they were changed, of course), and the sense of peace you haveSimeon sees this child, Jesus, and knows that this is the one they have been waiting for, the one who will reconcile Jews and Gentiles to God and to one another.  

Where do you find hope in your relationship with Jesus 

List some ways that you can share your hope with those around you? 

Suggested Songs: 

Look Up Now (Lauren Daigle) 

O Come, O Come Emmanuel 

Thursday 

33 And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed 35 so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.” 

Simeon’s prophecy over Jesus was that he would be a game-changer, one that lifted the layers of religious propriety that excluded many and reached into the very heart and motives of humankindThis is what the world needed then and now so that God’s will might be done on earth as in heavenAnd this gave Simeon hope. 

Where do you find your hopeHow does the Holy Spirit fill you with hope? 

What do you hear God inviting you to as you ponder your own sense of hopefulness? 

 Suggested Songs: 

New Every Morning (Audrey Assad) 

It Is Well (Kristene DiMarco) 

Friday 

36 There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 At that moment she came and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem. 

Anna dedicated her life to worship, prayer, fasting, and prophecyDuring her many years of commitment, she no doubt hoped beyond hope for the coming of the Messiah that would bring redemption to the worldSeeing the Christ-child renewed her hope and energy to share with all the good news of the coming Savior. 

When have you experienced hope become realityHow has that shaped your relationship with Jesus and with others? 

Write a prayer about a place in your life where you have been hoping for a long timeExpress how you are maintaining hope and how you might be struggling. 

Come Alive Dry Bones (Lauren Daigle) 

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing 

 Saturday 

To end the week, we will engage in the practice of Lectio DivinaThis practice of divine reading helps us to listen attentively to a passage in order to open ourselves to what God might want to say to usIn this exercise, avoid trying to analyze the passage but stay present with GodYou could do this with your spouse, your roommate, or a friend over the phone, and be encouraged by what the Holy Spirit says to you and your companion.  

Read through Luke 2:22-38 

Quietly stay present with what you read for 30 seconds. 

Read the passage againAs you do, what word or phrase stirs you or sticks with you? 

After reading the passage, ponder that word or phrase for 1 minuteAfter a minute, write down the word or phrase and share it with your companion if you are doing this with others 

Read the passage again, and ask God, what is it in my life that needed to hear this word or phrase today? 

Spend 1-minute pondering what God might be inviting you to through this passage and the particular word or phrase you are holding. 

Write down the invitation and/or share it with your companion. 

Read the passage for the last time and as you do, rest in God with the invitation given to youSpend a minute, letting God continue to minister to you around this invitation. 

Close in prayer.