Countdown to Christmas – Reflections for Advent 2020

Readings, reflections and prayers for every day of Advent 2020

These appear as videos in the North Springfield Baptist Church Facebook Group and in the YouTube channel for North Springfield Baptist Church Chelmsford UK. You can link to the channel here

Here are the readings, reflections and prayers in text form.

SUNDAY 29 November Song of Songs 2:8-13
8 Listen! My beloved! Look! Here he comes, leaping across the mountains, bounding over the hills.
9 My beloved is like a gazelle or a young stag. Look! There he stands behind our wall, gazing through the windows, peering through the lattice.
10 My beloved spoke and said to me,
‘Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, come with me.
11 See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone.
12 Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come,
the cooing of doves is heard in our land.
13 The fig-tree forms its early fruit; the blossoming vines spread their fragrance.
Arise, come, my darling; my beautiful one, come with me.’

The Old Testament portrays God’s chosen people of Israel as a Bride, with God as her Bridegroom. The Song of Songs (sometimes called The Song of Solomon) is a beautiful poem describing the love between man and wife and the Jewish people interpreted it as an allegory of the love God has for his people.
So the Jews were eagerly anticipating the arrival of their Messiah and Saviour in the same way as an engaged couple look forward to the day of their wedding. In Advent we look forward to celebrating the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ, and at the same time to the Day of his Return in glory, in the same way as we anticipate a marriage.
2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling-place is now among the people. (Revelation 20:2-3)

Prayer: Lord, give us the same excitement about Christmas as every couple has over their wedding. Help us to grasp the hope which Advent promises. AMEN
Monday 30 November Genesis 3:14-15
14 So the LORD God said to the snake, ‘Because you have done this,
‘Cursed are you above all livestock and all wild animals!
You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life.
15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.’

In the Old Testament, the story of salvation begins with the need for salvation, the Fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. From there God’s masterplan unfolded with the call of the Patriarchs and the rescue of the Hebrew slaves from Egypt and his covenant with the nation of Israel at Mount Sinai. The covenant was renewed with King David and ultimately fulfilled in the birth, life, death, resurrection and exaltation of the Lord Jesus Christ.

We will appreciate Christmas best when we see it as the culmination of God’s cosmic masterplan of salvation. And we see that plan was in place from the very beginning, from God’s curse on the serpent in the Garden of Eden. The offspring of Eve (older translations use the word “seed”) who will crush the serpent’s head will be the Lord Jesus Christ himself.

Prayer: Thank you Lord for your wonderful masterplan of salvation. Thank you for Jesus our Saviour. Help us to grasp the hope which Advent promises. AMEN.
Tuesday 1 December Genesis 12:1-3
The LORD had said to Abram, ‘Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.
2 ‘I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you;
I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.
3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.’

God’s wonderful salvation began to unfold through the life of just one man called Abram (later given the new name of Abraham). God did indeed prosper Abraham and bless him with a great name and a whole nation of descendants in the Promised Land. But the promise that “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” was only fulfilled generations later through the greatest of Abraham’s descendants, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Abraham received all those blessings because he obeyed God’s call to set out on a dangerous journey to a new as yet unknown country, and that at the age of 75! And then Abraham put his trust in God. “Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.” He sets us an inspiring example.
Trust and obey, for there’s no other way,
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey

Prayer: Lord, help us to trust and obey you with the same faith and courage as Abraham showed. Help us to grasp the hope which Advent promises. AMEN.
Wednesday 2 December Exodus 19:3-6
3 Then Moses went up to God, and the LORD called to him from the mountain and said, ‘This is what you are to say to the descendants of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: 4 “You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5 Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, 6 you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”
All God’s promises to Abraham and the Patriarchs were continued in the miraculous events of the Exodus. God rescued Abraham’s descendants from slavery in Egypt by many miracles, culminating in the Crossing of the Red Sea. And then God made a covenant with that nation of Israel, to make them out of all the earth a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. They became his treasured possession. So the blessings of God’s wonderful salvation were poured out on that chosen people.
God gave all these blessings to Israel as gifts of his grace. In return they were obliged to keep the commandments and offer the sacrifices laid out in the Law of Moses. God called Israel to worship him alone, but instead throughout their history they failed to trust him and rebelled against him. That is why they needed a Saviour.

Prayer: Lord, you chose the nation of Israel and now you have chosen the followers of Jesus. Help us to know what it means to be your treasured possession, a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. Help us to grasp the hope which Advent promises. AMEN.
Thursday 3 December Deuteronomy 18:15-19
15 The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him. 16 For this is what you asked of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said, ‘Let us not hear the voice of the LORD our God nor see this great fire any more, or we will die.’
17 The LORD said to me: ‘What they say is good. 18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites, and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him. 19 I myself will call to account anyone who does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name.
When we think about what kind of Messiah and Saviour the Jews are expecting, we usually remember great King David. But there were also other promises in the Old Testament. This one speaks of God sending another prophet like Moses had been, representing God and speaking as God’s messenger to his chosen people. And when Jesus came he fulfilled that prophesy in some ways even more than the promise of a king like David.
Jesus brought words of prophecy, messages demonstrating divine knowledge and warnings of impending judgment. Like the Old Testament prophets he called for justice and righteousness, demanding repentance. Like Elijah and Elisha, Jesus worked miracles revealing God’s love and power. And Jesus was destined to be rejected by God’s chosen people, as all the prophets were.
Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is not without honour except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.’ (Mark 6:4)
“In any case, I must press on today and tomorrow and the next day—for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!” (Luke 13:33)

Prayer: Father God, you sent your Son Jesus as your messenger to the world, to be the light in the darkness and to reveal your truth. Help us to listen to him and to obey everything he has taught us. Help us to grasp the hope which Advent promises. AMEN.
Friday 4 December 2 Samuel 7:11-16
‘ “The LORD declares to you that the LORD himself will establish a house for you: 12 when your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever. 14 I will be his father, and he shall be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with a rod wielded by men, with floggings inflicted by human hands. 15 But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. 16 Your house and your kingdom shall endure for ever before me; your throne shall be established for ever.” ’
God’s wonderful masterplan of salvation continued to be worked out in the nation of Israel as they took possession of the Promised Land in the time of Joshua. And God’s promises were renewed to King David, ultimately to be fulfilled in one of David’s offspring. It is that descendant who will have an everlasting kingdom and an eternal throne. The Israelites would wait another thousand years for that promised Saviour to appear.
Only 33 years after his birth, at the climax of his ministry, when Jesus arrived in Jerusalem in triumph the crowds recognised him as great David’s greatest son. ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’ ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ‘Hosanna in the highest heaven!’ They announced to the city, ‘This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.’
Seven days later Jesus was crucified.

Prayer: Father God, the Israelites were clinging to your promises of a Saviour for a thousand years. Help us to be patient when we are hoping for you to act in our lives. Help us to grasp the hope which Advent promises. AMEN
Saturday 5 December Isaiah 40:9-11
9 You who bring good news to Zion, go up on a high mountain.
You who bring good news to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout,
lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, ‘Here is your God!’
10 See, the Sovereign LORD comes with power, and he rules with a mighty arm. See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him.
11 He tends his flock like a shepherd: he gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.

In the centuries after King David, the nation of Israel wandered away from God and into conflict with the surrounding nations. Of all the prophets, Isaiah held out the hope that God would come with mighty acts and rescue his people. He reminds Israel that God still cares for Israel as a loving shepherd leads and cares for his flock. And the day will come when the messengers will be able to proclaim the good news, God is here!
Sometimes all our busy celebrations of Christmas wear us out so that we cannot appreciate properly the Good News of the birth of our Saviour. This year will be very strange and challenging for different reasons, as we find new ways to celebrate together and to remember the real meaning of Christmas.

Prayer: Father God, help us in the busyness of this very strange season to remember that the most important thing about Christmas is the Good News we have to share, “Your God is here!” Help us to grasp the hope which Advent promises. AMEN.

SUNDAY 6 December Luke 1:13-17
13 But the angel said to him: ‘Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. 14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. 16 He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.’
This season of Advent looks forward to the birth of Jesus but it also reminds us that God sent a messenger to prepare the way for the arrival of Jesus the Messiah. John the Baptist was also a miracle baby in many ways. His ministry would be an essential part of God’s plan by calling people to repentance so that they would recognise Jesus as Messiah and Son of God when he came. Supremely, John came to announce the arrival of Jesus.
‘I baptise you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing-floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.’ 18 And with many other words John exhorted the people and proclaimed the good news to them. (Luke 3:16-18)

Prayer: Lord, help us by our words and actions to prepare the way for other people to hear the Good News of Jesus. Help us in the busyness of this season to experience your peace which Advent promises. AMEN
Monday 7 December Isaiah 11:1-5
A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
2 The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him— the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the LORD— 3 and he will delight in the fear of the LORD. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; 4 but with righteousness he will judge the needy,
with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.
He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked. 5 Righteousness will be his belt
and faithfulness the sash round his waist.

The prophet Isaiah gave the nation of Israel a number of beautiful pictures of the Saviour they were to expect, seven centuries before Jesus arrived. He would be a descendant of Jesse, the father of King David, great David’s greatest son.
The Messiah would come to bring God’s justice and righteousness to a sin-spoiled world, bringing salvation to people who are needy and poor. And he will accomplish these things by the power of God’s Holy Spirit who gives wisdom and knowledge and brings people to a proper fear and respect for God. This was the Messiah the Jews were expecting.

Prayer: Lord of righteousness, give us your Holy Spirit to help us to bring your justice on the earth. Help us in the busyness of this season to experience your peace which Advent promises. AMEN
Tuesday 8 December Isaiah 11:6-9
6 The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.
7 The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox. 8 The infant will play near the cobra’s den, and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest.
9 They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.

The Messiah will not only bring God’s righteousness but also God’s peace to our troubled world. Isaiah gives us this beautiful picture of what heaven might be like. The wolf living with the lamb, the leopard with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling all led by a little child. This (rather than any historical evidence) is mostly where we get the beautiful picture of all the animals gathering around baby Jesus in the manger in the stable. Suffering and death will be no more.

The pathway to this wonderful peace is very clear. Peace which overflows into the whole of creation will not come from the efforts of human beings. What we need is for every person, indeed very creature, everywhere on earth to be filled with the knowledge of the LORD as the water’s cover the sea.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, Prince of Peace, make us peacemakers in the earth and help us to help others to know you. Help us in the busyness of this season to experience your peace which Advent promises. AMEN.
Wednesday 9 December Isaiah 42:6-7
6 ‘I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people
and a light for the Gentiles,
7 to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison
and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.

The Messiah will bring God’s righteousness to the earth. He will bring healing to those who are blind, physically and spiritually. In God’s power, he will bring freedom for those who are marginalised and oppressed and set free those who are trapped by evil in any way. All these prophecies were fulfilled in Jesus’s ministry in miracles of healing and deliverance. Jesus’s death on the cross frees those who are held captive by sin and death and the devil.
All these blessings will not just be for the Jews. The Messiah will renew God’s covenant with Israel. But at the same time he will bring the light of God’s salvation to those who are not Jews as well. Salvation will be for all peoples everywhere.

Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, help us to spread your light in this dark world. Help us in the busyness of this season to experience your peace which Advent promises. AMEN.

Thursday 10 December Isaiah 60:1-3, 6
‘Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you.
2 See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples,
but the LORD rises upon you and his glory appears over you.
3 Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. 6 Herds of camels will cover your land, young camels of Midian and Ephah.
And all from Sheba will come, bearing gold and incense
and proclaiming the praise of the LORD.

Running away from God, the world is full of darkness. Light is safe, dark is dangerous. In the Bible, light brings joy and blessings and life, darkness represents sorrow and adversity and even death. A wise man once said, “There is no greater darkness than a soul that has lost its way.” That is true. If you turn your back to the light, all you can see is your own shadow. For the last 2000 years Christians and Churches have been lighting candles to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ the light of the world – sent so that we need no longer fear the darkness.

The Messiah will bring God’s light into the world which is overwhelmed by darkness. And this light will shine out on to all the nations, not just God’s chosen people. So even foreign kings will come to worship him, bringing gifts of gold and incense. Into this dark world God sent His only Son Jesus Christ to be the light of the world. To bring light to our darkness. To rescue us from the gloom and sadness and bring us joy and happiness. To set us free from our fears and give us peace and hope. To deliver us from ignorance and bring us knowledge and wisdom. To drive out sinister creeping evil and bring us goodness.

Prayer: Lord, prepare our hearts to seek you out and to worship you this Christmas, as the Wise Men did long ago. Help us in the busyness of this season to experience your peace which Advent promises. AMEN.
Friday 11 December Isaiah 40:1-5
Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins.
3 A voice of one calling: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way for the LORD;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
4 Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain.
5 And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all people will see it together. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.’

At the beginning of the 6th Century BC the nation of Israel was overrun by the Babylonians. Jerusalem and the Temple were completely destroyed and the Israelites were taken into Exile. Isaiah prophesied Good News of God’s comfort to the Exiles. God will send them a saviour. But somebody else would come first.
Just as he foretold the coming of the Messiah, Isaiah also prophesied the arrival of a messenger, a forerunner who would prepare God’s people to receive their Saviour and recognise his glory when it was revealed. The last of the Old Testament prophets, John the Baptist came to call God’s people to repentance so that they would be ready to meet Jesus. “Prepare the way for the Lord.”

Lord, help us to help others to be ready to meet Jesus this Christmas. Help us in the busyness of this season to experience your peace which Advent promises. AMEN.

Saturday 12 December Malachi 3:1-6
‘I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,’ says the LORD Almighty.
2 But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. 3 He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the LORD will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, 4 and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the LORD, as in days gone by, as in former years.
The Jews had been waiting for hundreds of years for their Messiah to come and bring them the salvation God had promised. Indeed they were waiting for God himself to appear again at the Temple in Jerusalem. But they had forgotten God’s call on them to be “my treasured possession … a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” (Exodus 19:5-6) Even the Levites (the priests) had wandered away from God.
And the nation had ignored the many prophesies warning them that when God came it would be to cleanse and purify and refine his chosen people. So when Jesus the Son of God came to them, they were not ready to receive him.

Lord Jesus, help us welcome you not only as Saviour but also as Lord as you come to purify us. Help us in the busyness of this season to experience your peace which Advent promises. AMEN.
SUNDAY 13 December Isaiah 35:1-10
The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, 2 it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy. The glory of Lebanon will be given to it, the splendour of Carmel and Sharon; they will see the glory of the LORD, the splendour of our God.
3 Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way;
4 say to those with fearful hearts, ‘Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you.’
5 Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. 6 Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy.
Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert.
7 The burning sand will become a pool, the thirsty ground bubbling springs. In the haunts where jackals once lay, grass and reeds and papyrus will grow.
8 And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness;
it will be for those who walk on that Way. The unclean will not journey on it; wicked fools will not go about on it. 9 No lion will be there, nor any ravenous beast; they will not be found there.
But only the redeemed will walk there, 10and those the LORD has rescued will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.

This is the Good News of great joy which the Messiah, God’s Saviour, will bring into the world! Streams in the desert and the highway of salvation as God’s people return to him. Simply reflect on these words and receive that joy in your heart.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for your everlasting joy which replaces all sorrow and sighing! Help us to receive the joy which Advent brings. AMEN.
Monday 14 December Isaiah 61:1-3
The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners,
2 to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favour and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn, 3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendour.

Here is the passage which Jesus read for his first sermon in the synagogue in Nazareth. (See Luke 4:16-21) Some call this Jesus’s Nazareth Manifesto. Good News for the poor, binding up the broken-hearted, freedom for the captives and release from the darkness. Comfort for all those who are mourning and grieving and despairing.
These were the blessings of salvation the Messiah came to bring. After reading the passage, Jesus announced very simply, ‘Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.’ (Luke 4:21)

Prayer: Lord, bind up our broken hearts, set us free from sin and bring us out of darkness into your wonderful light. Help us to receive the joy which Advent brings. AMEN
Tuesday 15 December Isaiah 52:7-10
7 How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings,
who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’
8 Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices; together they shout for joy.
When the LORD returns to Zion, they will see it with their own eyes.
9 Burst into songs of joy together, you ruins of Jerusalem,
for the LORD has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem.
10 The LORD will lay bare his holy arm in the sight of all the nations,
and all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God.

For hundreds of years Israel was waiting for God to come among his people and act in power to bring them his wonderful salvation which the whole world will see. That would be a day of great joy. And our joy at the birth of our Saviour the Lord Jesus Christ should be no less.
But the Jews at the beginning of the first century had misunderstood God’s promises. They were waiting for a Messiah who would set them free from the occupying Roman army and make Israel great again. God’s plan of salvation would take a difference shape, but be even more wonderful.

Prayer: Lord, help us to anticipate the coming of Christ with the same excitement all the Jews would feel when their Saviour was revealed. Help us to receive the joy which Advent brings. AMEN
Wednesday 16 December Isaiah 25:6-9
6 On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine— the best of meats and the finest of wines.
7 On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples,
the sheet that covers all nations; 8he will swallow up death for ever.
The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove his people’s disgrace from all the earth. The LORD has spoken.
9 In that day they will say, ‘Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us. This is the LORD, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.’

Isaiah told God’s people to be ready to celebrate at a great feast. Every tear would be wiped away and God would destroy the last enemy, even death.
That great Messianic Banquet was foreshadowed every time when Jesus sat and ate a meal with anybody, from his disciples, to Matthew’s friends (Matthew 9:10-13) to Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10) to the homes of different Pharisees (Luke 7:36-40, Luke 14:1-24). Those times of table-fellowship demonstrated God’s welcome and forgiveness to sinners. The Last Supper foreshadowed this great feast which will ultimately be fulfilled in heaven at the Marriage Feast of the Lamb.
‘Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
7 Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory!
For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. …
9 Then the angel said to me, ‘Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!’ And he added, ‘These are the true words of God.’ (Revelation 19:6-7,9).
Prayer: We praise you Almighty God that through the death and resurrection of your beloved Son you have destroyed death for all who believe in him. Help us to receive the joy which Advent brings. AMEN
Thursday 17 December Zechariah 6:12-13
12 Tell him this is what the LORD Almighty says: “Here is the man whose name is the Branch, and he will branch out from his place and build the temple of the LORD. 13 It is he who will build the temple of the LORD, and he will be clothed with majesty and will sit and rule on his throne. And he will be a priest on his throne. And there will be harmony between the two.”
The Temple in Jerusalem was the place where God’s people could meet with God and worship God. It was the place where they could hear God speak. Through the system of sacrifices the Temple was the place where sin was dealt with. God’s Saviour would come and rebuild and purify God’s Temple.
When the Pharisees challenged his authority, Jesus said something unexpected which was actually a claim that he would fulfil this prophecy.
Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.’
They replied, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?’ But the temple he had spoken of was his body. (John 2:19-21).
Jesus himself was God’s new Temple. He was the person through whom people would meet with God. God would speak through him. And by his death on the cross, through him God would deal with the problem of sin forever. Jesus would be both priest and king ruling over all things, fulfilling all these promises in his own body. Bow down and worship, for this is your God.

Prayer: Almighty God, we praise you for your amazing masterplan of salvation. Help us to receive the joy which Advent brings. AMEN
Friday 18 December Isaiah 9:2-7
2 The people walking in darkness have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.
3 You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy;
they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest,
as warriors rejoice when dividing the plunder.
4 For as in the day of Midian’s defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor.
5 Every warrior’s boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood
will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire.
6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and for ever.
The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.

Wonderful counsellor – a figure of Wisdom, bringing God’s All-Knowing wisdom into the foolishness of the world.
Mighty God – a figure of Strength, bringing the Almighty power of God into the broken world in miracles of healing and deliverance.
Everlasting Father – a figure of Creation, the Creator stepping into his Creation to put right all the damage and hurt caused by human sin.
Prince of Peace – a figure of Salvation, bringing God’s love and joy and peace to all who put their trust in him.
For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given. Bow down and worship.

Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, we worship you, Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Help us to receive the joy which Advent brings. AMEN
Saturday 19 December Zephaniah 3:9-13
9 ‘Then I will purify the lips of the peoples, that all of them may call on the name of the LORD and serve him shoulder to shoulder.
10 From beyond the rivers of Cush my worshippers, my scattered people,
will bring me offerings.
11 On that day you, Jerusalem, will not be put to shame for all the wrongs you have done to me, because I will remove from you your arrogant boasters. Never again will you be haughty on my holy hill.
12 But I will leave within you the meek and humble. The remnant of Israel will trust in the name of the LORD. 13 They will do no wrong; they will tell no lies. A deceitful tongue will not be found in their mouths. They will eat and lie down and no one will make them afraid.’

In the Flood not everybody was saved, but only Noah’s family. In the Exodus only those who escaped slavery in Egypt through parting of the Red Sea entered into the Promised Land. After the Israelites were taken into Exile in Babylon, only a remnant returned.
In that day the remnant of Israel, the survivors of Jacob, will no longer rely on him who struck them down but will truly rely on the LORD, the Holy One of Israel.
A remnant will return, a remnant of Jacob will return to the Mighty God. Though your people be like the sand by the sea, Israel, only a remnant will return. (Isaiah 10:20-22)
Through the history of salvation, human beings failed to keep the covenants God created. But God kept for himself a faithful remnant who continued to put their trust in him. Not the people who were arrogant or deceitful but those who were meek and humble. Those who put their trust in God and truly relied on him. God’s salvation was prepared to be revealed for such as these.

Prayer: Lord, make us meek and humble, we pray. Help us to receive the joy which Advent brings. AMEN
SUNDAY 20 December Luke 1:26-38
26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, ‘Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you.’
29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favour with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants for ever; his kingdom will never end.’
34 ‘How will this be,’ Mary asked the angel, ‘since I am a virgin?’
35 The angel answered, ‘The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.’
38 ‘I am the Lord’s servant,’ Mary answered. ‘May your word to me be fulfilled.’ Then the angel left her.
God’s masterplan of salvation was ready to be revealed. The Son of God would be born as a descendant of great king David. All through the faith and obedience of a young woman called Mary.
But the incarnation of the Son of God would require a miracle – the Virgin Birth. Jesus’s ministry and death and resurrection were unique. So we are not surprised that the circumstances of his birth were unique as well.
Prayer: Father God, we praise you for your wonderful salvation revealed through your Son, Jesus Christ. Help us to receive your love this Christmas-time, we pray. AMEN.
Monday 21 December Luke 1:39-45
39 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40 where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favoured, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfil his promises to her!’
Those months after the angel’s visit must have been anxious times for Mary. There may have been times when she questioned what she had heard and wondered what was really happening to her. So she went to visit her relative Elizabeth.
Although she was much too old to conceive, Elizabeth was also expecting a miracle baby. And when Mary arrived, Elizabeth received miraculous confirmation through the Holy Spirit that Mary’s baby would indeed be not only her Lord but the Lord and Saviour of us all. The baby Elizabeth was carrying was of course John the Baptist, whose life’s work would be to point to Jesus as the Messiah, the Saviour, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. (John 1:29)

Prayer: Father God, as Mary believed the promise the angel brought, help us to believe you in all things. Help us to receive your love this Christmas-time, we pray. AMEN.
Tuesday 22 December Luke 1:46-55
46 And Mary said:
‘My soul glorifies the Lord 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
48 for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed, 49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me— holy is his name.
50 His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation.
51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful 55 to Abraham and his descendants for ever, just as he promised our ancestors.’

In this song of praise, sometimes called the Magnificat, Mary celebrates God’s wonderful plan of salvation. Keeping the promises made to Abraham almost two thousand years earlier, God would pour his blessings out on to those who were humble, poor and hungry.
Mary recognises that the marvellous salvation about to be revealed through her son Jesus was the culmination of God’s cosmic masterplan, revealed in the covenants made with Abraham and the Patriarchs, and with Moses and the Israelites, and renewed to King David. God’s mercy, faithfulness and loving kindness indeed extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation.

Prayer: Lord, show us how you want us to help those who are poor and disadvantaged and marginalised. Help us to receive your love this Christmas-time, we pray. AMEN.
Wednesday 23 December Matthew 1:18-23
18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: his mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.’
22 All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 ‘The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ (which means ‘God with us’).
The angel reveals to Joseph, separately from Mary, that her baby is indeed a miracle from God. God will be born as a human being, God with us fulfilling the prophecy in Isaiah 7:14. This baby’s life mission, revealed in his name, will be to save his people from their sins.
So we wait just two more nights to celebrate the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Prayer: Father God, as Joseph played his part in your masterplan of salvation, help us to serve you in every way we can. Help us to receive your love this Christmas-time, we pray. AMEN.
Thursday 24 December John 1:1-9
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
6 There was a man sent from God whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.
9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.

So John’s Gospel explains the mystery of the incarnation. From the very start of his Gospel, John tells us who the central character is. “The Word” (in Greek the Logos) was both with God and at the same time indeed God himself. This eternal person was the agent of creation and the source of all life and also the light of the world, the light which even the darkness of the world cannot extinguish.
Mary’s baby would be much more than an ordinary human child. That Word, that light, was going to come into the world. But not as a fully-grown adult, as the mythical Greek and Roman gods would sometimes take human form. The Word would be born as a tiny baby, Jesus of Nazareth “the Word without a word.” No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in the closest relationship with the Father, has made him known. (John 1:18)
Our God, heaven cannot hold Him, Nor earth sustain,
Heaven and earth shall flee away When He comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter A stable-place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

Prayer: Light of the world, shine into our darkness we pray. Help us to receive your love this Christmas-time, we pray. AMEN.
Christmas Morning Luke 2:1-7 and John 1:14
Luke 2:1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register.
4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

John 1:14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Father God, we praise you today for the birth of your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ. Help us to grasp the hope which he brings to the world. Help us in the busyness of this season to know your peace. Help us to experience your joy and to receive your love this Christmas time. AMEN.

All Bible readings are from
New International Version (Anglicised, 2011).

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