Advent Day 18: Miraculous Motherhood

Advent Day 18: Miraculous Motherhood

Key Scripture: Luke 1:26-38

Not long after the angel Gabriel visited Zechariah in the temple, he made another important visit. This time, he came to a young Jewish girl named Mary (“Jew” was the name for God’s people who lived in the southern kingdom of Judah). Mary lived in the small town of Nazareth and was engaged to Joseph–a man from King David’s family. Mary was not royal, rich, or famous. She was simple, ordinary, and young. But Mary knew the promises God had made to her people. She believed God’s Word and was faithfully waiting for the coming Savior and King.

When Gabriel appeared to Mary, she was startled, but he told her not to fear because she was “highly favored.” God loved Mary, and his special grace was on her. Gabriel told Mary she was going to have a baby boy who would be named Jesus. He went on to tell her that this baby was the promised Shepherd King from David’s family who would one day rule and reign forever!

Mary was confused. How she could have a baby? She and Joseph were not yet married, and she had never been with any man in a way that would make a baby possible. Gabriel explained that this baby would not come into existence through a human man but through the power of the Holy Spirit. Mary’s pregnancy would be a miracle, and baby Jesus would be Son of God! He would be holy–not born with a sinful heart like all other human beings. It sounded absolutely impossible, but Mary knew nothing was impossible for her strong God. She believed the Word of the Lord to her from Gabriel, and she was glad for his will to be done through her.

Not long after the angel’s announcement, Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth (who was pregnant with Jesus’s cousin John). When Mary arrived, baby John kicked joyfully inside Elizabeth! Even before his birth, John recognized the Messiah. Mary’s heart was so full of joy that she burst out in a song of praise to God, thanking him for providing a Savior for those in need of salvation. Mary praised God for using simple, ordinary people like her as part of his big plan. She gave God glory for remembering the promises he had made to Abraham so many years ago. Mary understood that it was through this son of Abraham, now growing in her womb, that God was going to bless people from every nation on earth.

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Main Point: The angel told Mary she was going to have a baby named Jesus. This baby would be from the Holy Spirit. He would be the Son of God and the King from David’s family who would save God’s people and rule forever.

Christ Connection: To some degree, Mary understood that Jesus was the Messiah and the fulfillment of God’s promises to Abraham (Luke1:46-47, 54-55; Isaiah 7:14).

Advent Day 17: His Name is John

Advent Day 17: His Name is John

Key Scripture: Luke 1:13-17, 76-79

Although God had spoken to his people through prophets for many years, a time came when God went silent. He didn’t speak to his people again for four hundred years! During this time, some of God’s people returned from exile to the promised land. Although they had been allowed to return from slavery and rebuild the temple, Israel and Judah were still under the control of foreign nations. No king from David’s family was on the throne. In fact, there was no sign of the promised Messiah (another named for the Shepherd King from David’s family who would save God’s people). Was God going to keep his promises to Abraham and David? Many of his people weren’t sure anymore.

But one ordinary day, the long silence was broken by an angel named Gabriel. Gabriel appeared to a priest named Zechariah as he was working in the temple. The angel told Zechariah that he and his wife Elizabeth (who were old and had no children) would have a son named John! John would have God’s Spirit in him before he was even born. He would grow up to be a great prophet of God who would proclaim an important message. John would tell God’s people to turn away from their sin and get ready because the one God had promised for so long was finally here. John would prepare the way for the Messiah!

Zechariah could not believe what this angel was telling him! He asked for a sign, so he could know it was true. Because Zechariah doubted God’s Word with his mouth, the angel closed his mouth. This was his sign: Zechariah would not be able to speak until the birth of his son. When the baby was born, some relatives and neighbors thought he should be named after his father. Zechariah wrote on a tablet, “His name is John.” and immediately his mouth was opened. Full of joy, Zechariah praised the Lord for being a God who remembers his people! God’s promises were coming true!

John grew up to be somewhat strange. He lived in the wilderness, wearing clothes made of camel’s hair, and eating locusts and honey. But John was considered great by God because he recognized and pointed people to the promised Savior. When John saw the Shepherd King coming toward him, he said, “Look! There He is! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”

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Main Point: After four hundred years of silence, God sent John the Baptist as a prophet to get God’s people ready for the Messiah–the Shepherd King from David’s family who would save God’s people.

Christ Connection: John prepared the way for Jesus Christ, the Son of David and Son of God (John 1:29; Matthew 11:7-11).

Advent Day 16: New Hearts, New Hope

Advent Day 16: New Hearts, New Hope

Key Scripture: Ezekiel 36:26-28; Jeremiah 31:31-33

Like Isaiah, other prophets warned God’s people that he would punish their idolatry through terrible attacks from foreign nations if they did not repent. Everything God warned about through the prophets happened. The nations of Assyria and Babylon invaded the land with brutal attacks. Many of God’s people were carried away into exile to be slaves in these foreign lands.

Things seemed rather hopeless. The temple where God once lived among his people was burned down. The city of Jerusalem was in ruins. No king from David’s family was ruling on the throne. Many of God’s people were far from home–separated from each other and their land. Years ago, God had given his people the law, written on tablets of stone. They had promised to obey it but failed miserably. God’s people rejected his Word and worshipped idols. God gave them many chances to return to him and obey, but they couldn’t do it. They didn’t want God. The prophet Jeremiah said their hearts were sick with sin.

But God is faithful to keep his promises even when his people fail. Through the prophets, God promised to bring a group of his people out of slavery and back to their land. Then, God made a new promise to Israel and Judah. He promised to take care of their sin problem by giving them brand new hearts!

God was going to take out their sin-sick hearts and replace them with new, clean hearts. The law that had been written on tablets of stone would now be written on new hearts. God was also going to send his Spirit to live inside his people. With new hearts and God’s Spirit inside them, the people would finally want to obey God! They would finally have the power needed to keep his commandments.

And there’s more! God promised to forgive the sins of his children once and for all. How could a holy God, who must punish evil, forgive all those sins forever and ever? He could do it through the death of a perfect Lamb–a human Lamb whose blood would pay the full price for sin.

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Main Point: God promised to give his children clean, new hearts, so they could obey his Word and bring him glory. He promised to forgive their sins, so they could live with him forever.

Christ Connection: Jesus Christ died once to pay the full price for human sin. Because his blood was shed, God forgives his children and gives them new hearts (Hebrews 10:11-18; Matthew 26:27-28).

Advent Day 15: The Suffering Lamb

Advent Day 15: The Suffering Lamb

Key Scripture: Isaiah 53:2-6, 10-11

God told Isaiah a young plant would shoot up from the stump of David’s family tree. This meant a new baby would one day be born into Abraham and David’s big family. This baby would grow up to be the promised Shepherd King who would rule forever on David’s throne and make the world right and good again.

God told Isaiah the Shepherd King would not look the way people might expect him to look. He would not be rich and powerful like most kings. He would not be handsome and strong like David. Many of God’s people would actually hate and reject him. They would not recognize him or understand the work he had come to do.

Before the Shepherd King would sit on David’s throne, he was going to war against the lying snake from the garden. This battle would hurt him terribly. The Shepherd King would do nothing wrong, but he would be beaten and killed on a cross. Why? Well, sin had caused God’s people to run far away from him, like lost sheep wandering away from their shepherd. If a holy God was going to live with his children on Earth, the price for sin had to be paid. And it had to be paid with blood.

For years, God had provided lambs for his people to sacrifice as a way to make payment for their sin. The lambs were killed and their blood was offered to God by the priests in the temple. The lambs died, so the people could live. But new lambs had to be killed again and again, day after day. The blood of animals was never enough to pay for human sin completely. God’s people needed a sinless human to become their perfect lamb and pay for their sin.

God was telling Isaiah that the promised Shepherd King from David’s family would willingly become the Lamb for God’s people! Without fighting back, God’s human Lamb would suffer, bleed, and die a terrible death to pay for sin once and for all. The Lamb would die, so God’s people could live.

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Main Point: The Shepherd King would have no sin. He would be the perfect Lamb who would suffer and die to pay the price for human sin.

Christ Connection: Jesus Christ is the Shepherd King who became the Lamb (1 Peter 2:22-25).

Advent Day 14: Roots and a Shoot

Advent Day 14: Roots and a Shoot

Key Scripture: Isaiah 11:1-2, 6-10

The people of God continued to disobey him by worshipping idols. During this time, God spoke to his people through men called prophets. God gave the prophet a message, and the prophet gave that message to the people. Many of the prophets warned Israel about the judgment God would bring if they didn’t stop worshipping idols. The prophets urged God’s sinful children to come back to him before it was too late.

A man named Isaiah was one of God’s prophets. He warned that God was going to use foreign nations to punish his people for continually disobeying him. Israel and Judah would be attacked by their enemies. Some of God’s people would be carried away from the land to be slaves in foreign nations, and others would die.

The prophets spoke messages that were sad and hard to hear. They reminded the people that God must punish sin because he is holy and good. But the prophets also spoke messages of hope, reminding God’s people that he would keep the promises he had made to their fathers because he is merciful and faithful.

God’s punishment for human evil would be kind of like an ax, cutting down a forest of trees. Much would be lost, but not everything. God gave Isaiah a message of hope: The stump of one “family tree” in Judah would sprout a shoot of new life and grow again.

The name of King David’s father was Jesse. God promised that a branch of new life was going to shoot up from “the stump of Jesse.” Now, Isaiah wasn’t talking about an actual stump and branch. He was using these things as word pictures to help God’s people understand that God would keep the promise he made to David. A king coming from David’s family roots would sit on the throne forever!

The final King to sit on David’s throne will have God’s Spirit on him. He will love and obey God perfectly. One day, he will bring total peace on Earth, making all things right and good again. With this King in charge, there will be no more fighting, tears, sin or death. People from every nation in the world will finally see God’s glory and be brought together to dwell with him in true rest from their enemies.

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Main Point: God used foreign nations to punish his disobedient people, but he promised that a perfect King from David’s family was coming to make all things right and sit on the throne forever.

Christ Connection: Jesus Christ is the promised King who came from Jesse and David’s family (Acts 13:22-23).

Advent Day 13: A House for Glory

Advent Day 13: A House for Glory

Key Scripture: 1 Kings 6:11-14; 8:10-13

God chose David’s son Solomon to build the temple, a house where God would live with his people. Before David died, he reminded the future king Solomon to stay close to God and always obey his Word. For God’s glory to live with Israel, it was very important for Israel’s human king to love and obey the one, true King.  

Solomon built God’s temple in the city of Jerusalem. The temple was absolutely beautiful! The walls inside were made of wood from cedar trees. Images of flowers and fruit were carved into the wooden walls, as if to remind the people of the beautiful garden where God had once lived with the first humans he created.

When the temple was finished, the ark of the covenant (a beautiful wooden chest covered in gold) that held the Ten Commandments was brought inside. God’s glory filled the temple in a thick cloud. God was coming to live with his people again! Solomon prayed, thanking God for keeping his promises. He asked God to live among the Israelites in the temple forever and help them obey his commands. He wanted the whole world to know God and be blessed like Israel. 

Things started well but ended badly. Solomon disobeyed the Lord by worshipping fake gods called idols, and many of his sons did the same when they ruled as king. The nation of Israel split into two separate kingdoms—Israel in the north and Judah in the south. God disciplined his people by sending foreign nations to invade their land and carry them away as slaves. God’s glory left the temple, and it was destroyed by the nation of Babylon.

But God had not forgotten his promises to Abraham and David. Years later, he brought some of his people out of slavery and back to their land again. The temple in Jerusalem was eventually rebuilt, though it was never the same. God’s glory never again returned to the temple in a cloud, but many years later it returned in a baby. This baby was dedicated in the temple in Jerusalem. He learned and taught God’s Word there. He helped God’s people see that he is the true temple of God–the place where the fullness of God’s glory dwells and would one day dwell with his people forever.

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Main Point: King Solomon built the temple as a house for God’s glory, but the Israelites worshipped idols. God punished his people for their sin, and they were carried away as slaves to other nations. God’s glory left the temple, and it was destroyed.

Christ Connection: Jesus is the true temple of God, the place where God’s glory lives (John 1:14; John 2:18-22; Colossians 1:19).

Advent Day 12: Shepherd King

Advent Day 12: Shepherd King

Key Scripture: 2 Samuel 7:1-13

After forty years in the wilderness, God brought the Israelites into the land he had promised them. Now that they were living in the land, God’s people wanted a human king like the nations around them. They rejected God as their ruler and protector because they wanted a king they could see to go out and fight their battles. God warned his people that a human king wasn’t best for them, but they kept on demanding. So, God gave them what they wanted.

God chose a man named Saul to be king over Israel, but Saul didn’t obey some very important rules God had given him. He didn’t submit himself to God as the true King, so the kingship was taken from him. God chose a young shepherd boy named David to be Israel’s second king. David was “a man after God’s own heart.” This means David loved God and worshipped him alone. But David still had a sin problem. In fact, he sinned in some big, terrible ways. But David confessed his sin and turned back to God.

When David became king of Israel, God was living among His people in a tent called the tabernacle. The tabernacle is where the tablets of stone given to Moses were kept. It was where God’s glory lived. Men called priests worked in the tabernacle. The priests helped the people worship God by offering the blood of animals to him as a way to pay for their sin.  

David wanted God’s glory to live in a real building, not a tent. He wanted to build a house for God called the temple. But the timing wasn’t yet right. Instead, God promised to make David a house (which means a big family of kings) and a kingdom that would last forever! God promised that a king from David’s family would always sit on Israel’s throne.

God kept His promise. Many years later, a child from David’s family was born a king. Like David, he was also a shepherd. He called himself “The Good Shepherd” because, unlike the other kings from David’s family, he had no sin. This Good Shepherd King gave up his life to save the sheep—God’s people. He was the only one able to save humans from sin and rule on David’s throne forever.

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Main Point: David was a shepherd boy chosen by God to be king over his people. David’s heart was fully devoted to the one, true God. God promised David a kingdom that would last forever.

Christ Connection: Jesus is the sinless Son of David. He is the Shepherd King who laid down His life for the sheep and will one day reign forever (Luke 1:31-33; John 10:11).

Advent Day 11: The Glorious Law

Advent Day 11: The Glorious Law

Key Scripture: Exodus 24:12, 15-18; 31:18

God used Moses to lead the Israelites out of slavery, across the Red Sea, and into the wilderness. God had set his people free, so they could have a relationship with him. He was planning to live with his special people and lead them to the land he had promised to give their father Abraham. God was going to bless the Israelites, so they could show his glory to all people on Earth. But for sinful people to live with a holy God, there must be rules. Because God had set them free, the Israelites needed to know how God expected them to live.  

God called Moses to meet him at the top of a mountain called Sinai. God’s awesome glory was seen at Mount Sinai. The people at the base of the mountain saw thunder and lightning, fire and smoke. This reminded them that God is perfect and good. He cannot live in the presence of sin. His people must be holy like he is holy.

Moses met God at the top of the mountain. God gave him the Ten Commandments and all the law, written on tablets of stone with his own finger! These rules showed the people God’s perfect nature. The law reminded the people that they didn’t have to work to earn God’s love. He already loved them! Because God had loved them first, the law commanded the people to love God and worship him only.  It told them to love other people in the same way they loved themselves. God promised to live with his people and bless them if they obeyed his law. The people promised to obey.

Sadly, though, God’s people did not keep their promise. Before Moses even came down from Mount Sinai, they had disobeyed by creating a golden calf to worship. You see, the law showed the people how they were supposed to live, but it didn’t have the power to help them obey it. God’s people needed more than the law. They needed a rescuer to keep the law perfectly in their place and then give them the power they needed to obey.

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Main Point: God gave his people the law, written on tablets of stone. The law showed them how sinners are to live in relationship with a holy God. Because of their sinful hearts, God’s people could not keep his law. It showed them their need for a rescuer.

Christ Connection: Jesus Christ is the rescuer who kept God’s law perfectly in the place of God’s people (Galatians 3:21-26; Matthew 5:17-18).

Advent Day 10: Redeemed by Blood

Advent Day 10: Redeemed by Blood

Key Scripture: Exodus 11:4-7; 12:3-7, 12-13

Jacob’s family, also known as the Israelites, grew very big while living in Egypt. Because Pharaoh was afraid they would take over completely, he made them slaves. The Egyptians forced the Israelites to work very hard and treated them badly for many years. But God had not forgotten his promises. God called an Israelite named Moses to lead his people out of slavery. Moses told Pharaoh to let God’s people go free, and Pharaoh said, “No!”

So, God sent plagues (which are really terrible things) to show Pharaoh he meant business. First, God turned the river to blood. Then, he sent frogs and bugs and hail and darkness all over the land. He made animals die and people break out with sores, but still, Pharaoh would not obey God and let his people go.

God was going to send one more plague—the worst one of all. The firstborn son of every family living in Egypt was going to die. Sin would bring death to every family, but God was going to show mercy to his people. He told the Israelites to kill a perfect lamb and rub its blood on the sides and top of their doors. When God saw the blood on the door, he would pass over that house. The firstborn sons in houses covered by blood would live because the lambs had died in their place.

On the night of the last plague, there was great sadness in Egypt. Many sons died, including Pharaoh’s son. Pharaoh finally gave in and let the Israelites leave Egypt. But it wasn’t long before he changed his mind and came charging after them with his army. The Israelites were camping by the Red Sea when they saw Pharaoh coming. Just when things seemed hopeless, God split the sea and made dry land appear, so his people could get across safely. Then, he made the waters come crashing back down on the Egyptian army.

God saved his people from death by the blood of lambs and set them free from slavery in Egypt. Sadly, though, God’s people were still slaves to their sinful hearts. But one day, many years later, God sent a better Lamb to set them free from sin forever by his blood.

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Main Point: Every firstborn son in Egypt was going to die because Pharaoh refused to obey the one, true God. The Israelite families each killed a lamb and put its blood on the doors of their homes. The sons living in the homes covered by blood lived because the lambs died in their place.

Christ Connection: Jesus Christ is our Passover Lamb! Because he died, we can live. We are set free from sin and death by trusting in him (John 1:29; 1 Corinthians 5:7-8).

Advent Day 9: Evil for Good

Advent Day 9: Evil for Good

Key Scripture: Genesis 45:4-8; 50:18-20

Jacob had twelve sons, but his favorite son was named Joseph. Jacob gave Joseph a special robe of many colors. This made Joseph’s brothers angry. They hated Joseph even more when he told them about his dreams. Joseph dreamed that his brothers would one day bow down to him! The brothers were so angry and full of hate toward Joseph that they sold him for silver to a group of travelers. Joseph was carried far away to the country of Egypt as a slave.

But God had not left Joseph. He was planning to use Joseph in a big way to keep the promises he had made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God helped Joseph tell people what their dreams meant. Joseph was able to explain the meaning of a dream for Pharaoh, the King of Egypt. He told Pharaoh there would be a terrible famine in the land. There wouldn’t be enough food for everyone to live. Pharaoh would need to save up a lot of food beforehand to keep them alive during the famine. Pharaoh put Joseph in charge of this very important job and made him a powerful ruler in Egypt!

Joseph stored up so much food in Egypt that people from other nations came to buy it during the famine, including Joseph’s brothers. When they arrived in Egypt, Joseph’s brothers didn’t recognize him. When Joseph told them who he was, his brothers were upset and afraid. They thought he might treat them badly like they had treated him. But Joseph told them not to fear. He knew the bad things his brothers had done were all part of God’s good plan. God had sent Joseph to Egypt and made him powerful so that Jacob’s family would not starve in the famine. God was taking care of his chosen people! When Jacob heard that his son Joseph was alive, he and all his family moved to Egypt where they had plenty of food to eat.

Many years later, there was another Son in Jacob’s family who was hated by his brothers. These brothers did terrible things to this Son as well. They sold him for silver and even had him killed. But God also used these evil actions as part of his good plan. He used these evil actions to save the world.

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Main Point: Joseph’s brothers treated him badly, but God used their evil actions for good. God sent Joseph to Egypt to save his family from starving in the famine.

Christ Connection: Jesus Christ was the Son from Jacob’s family who was hated and killed by his brothers, but God used these evil actions to save people from every nation on earth (Acts 2:22-24).