An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them. Luke 2:9
I wonder why God chose to announce Jesus’s birth to the shepherds. The angels could have appeared to the priests in the temple a couple miles from Bethlehem. Or to some townsfolk who were devout Jews. Instead he chose the open field where a group of bottom dwelling sheep herders huddled by a fire. The angel appeared and the glory of the Lord shone around them…not just the angel and choirs but God’s own glory shines in brilliant light. God’s glory is present with these outcasts, these low-lifes, these men sleeping under the stars outside of town. God’s message---good news for ALL people…our Savior is born! These lonely, isolated, rough shepherds get to be a part of Jesus’s humble beginning. They get to share this experience for the rest of their lives. They go from terrified men to praising testimonies of the good news! God with them changed them as well! Let’s ask God to shine his glory on our hearts and build courage and purpose in us just as he did with the shepherds.
Father, thank you for choosing the least of these through out your life and ministry. It’s encouraging to know that it’s not only the perfect and put together who get to experience your glory. The everyday people, the obscure, ordinary. Us. Lord, we need a Savior as much today as the nation of Israel needed back then. We ask that you’d shine your glory light into our souls and that we’d shine your love and compassion in this world.
Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid… Matthew 1:20
I’ve never really taken the time to take Joseph’s perspective. He’s a grown man whose teenage wife-to-be is scandalously pregnant. To make things worse, she’s saying God got her pregnant. In his “kindness”, he plans to divorce her quietly rather than making a big deal in their tiny village of Nazareth. (Not sure small-town life is ever quietly done…pretty sure all would know and talk anyway). Joseph must be hurt, upset and think Mary has gone CRA-zy! Then the angel appears to him in a dream to tell him not to be afraid of joining his life with Mary's and that the baby is indeed from God. When he wakes up, Joseph is a changed man. I wonder how his view of Mary changed in that moment, from loose lunatic to chosen mother of God’s own Son. I bet he is in awe of her position and respects her more for it. He instantly, courageously obeys the angel’s message, takes Mary to be his wife, no more doubts. He accepts this new shared adventure with Mary. He submits to the interruption of God in their life plans. Up until this point, I imagine he had a life path laid out before them in Nazareth…carpentry, small village life, kids, family, obscurity. In the blink of an eye that cozy plan is upended and they spend the next years running from murderous kings, hiding out in Egypt, and finally years later back to their home town where few would believe their story. Joseph becomes Jesus’s earthly protector. From here on out he follows each call of the angel in his dreams. I want to be more like Joseph, able to flex when God interrupts my plans and rise to the challenge of whatever He calls me to because he is with me as he was with Joseph.
Thank you, Emmanuel, for your presence with Joseph, for appearing to him just how he needed and changing his heart. Thank you for meeting us where we are as well. We pray that you’d help us to be more like Joseph today, to allow your life interruptions to mold us into your people. Oh, Father, help us to trust you even when we don’t understand all the details that lay before us.
The Holy Spirit will come upon 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. Luke 1:35
Mary, a poor teenage girl from a village far from anywhere important. God sends an angel to her to announce the most defining moment of her life. She is to mother the Son of God! The angel's words "The Holy Spirit will come upon you" and "overshadow you" have always seemed mysterious to me. I really don't know what they mean except that by the creative life-giving power of God, cells inside Mary began to divide and cleave and grow into God. When I was pregnant with my three kids, I loved getting to feel them move inside me. I loved imagining what they would be like and how life would go for them. Can you imagine knowing that for nine months, God himself is growing inside you. That it is God who is kicking you in the ribs, God who makes you crave ice cream and have a crazy sense of smell. The very bump that brings ridicule and judgement in her community is really her growing God belly. Now, we are not going to be pregnant with God, but what if we allowed him to interrupt our lives with his call and basked in his perpetual Presence as Mary did? How would that change your self-worth, your inner monologue, your responses to your family and community? It would sure change me, grow my confidence, and give me a peace that is solid despite the struggles of each day. I wish I could sit and chat with Mary and listen to her reflections on life with Jesus.
Lord, thank you for coming as a fragile baby, for taking on our humanity, for understanding us. We pray that you'd help us submit to your interruptions in our lives. Help us to let you fill us with your Spirit in re-make us into your children. May your Holy Spirit overflow us and ignite us with a passion for your life and purpose and glory. Help us to be more like Mary today.
Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people and God himself will be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. Revelation 21:3
Near the end of the book of Revelation, John sees the new heaven and the new earth. The old order of things has passed away and God is making all things new. From his throne, God calls out the words of our verse today. I hear echoes of our past devotion in this verse. God first dwelt with the people in the tabernacle, meeting with Moses there. The next sentence reminds me of our belonging to God and his belonging to us. Throughout this month, when I’ve turned my mind to “God and I belong to each other,” peace and calm and confidence wash over me. Our worth lies in that belonging no matter how poorly or well we perform in our daily tasks. The last two sentences of this verse take my thoughts back to Jesus with the shamed and forgotten. His compassion pours out to us. Oh, how I long for God to wipe every tear from our eyes and end death and grief and broken hearts. This season is yet to come. We are in still in what C.S. Lewis referred to as the Shadowlands, a valley mixed with painful grief and great joy. I am thankful that as we continue in this valley, we are not alone. Emmanuel understands our pain. He lived it. He offers us his compassion and love and grace and power. His presence is our peace and sure foundation.
Emmanuel, thank you for a glimpse at the new order of life! And thank you that while we wait in our tears and suffering, that you are with us. Thank you for understanding our pain and grief. We pray that you’d fill us with your joy and peace despite the circumstances that surround us.
And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. Matthew 28:20
Jesus’s last words to his disciples: I AM WITH YOU ALWAYS. Emmanuel until the end and beyond. He gives them their assignment…go and make disciples, baptizing them, and teaching them. I imagine their excitement for their purpose and mission, but terrified as well. They just witnessed Jesus’s death at the hands of the Jews and Romans. If I had been on that mountain with them, I think I’d have felt a bit like Moses when God threatened to not continue with them. Like, “Hang on a minute. I cannot do this without you here, without your power, courage, and presence.” Jesus knows the hearts of people. He knew what Moses needed way back when, he knows what his disciples need, and he knows today what you and I need…his presence. One thing has stuck with me in this study…when God is WITH a person or group, there is mighty power shown. This promise extends to us…to the very end of the age. Jesus is WITH us through the Holy Spirit! His power and might and wisdom and compassion are all available to us in what he has called us to…working, mothering, ministering, caring for parents, teaching. Whatever our call, God is WITH us! Let’s ask him to come into all the dimensions of our lives and display his perpetual Presence.
Lord Jesus, thank you for not leaving us alone to carry on the purpose you’ve given to us. Thank you for the power of your presence in our lives. We pray that we would be consciously aware of you with us in each moment. Help us to believe in the power of your Presence. In the calls you’ve given to us, help us to trust you to provide what we need and lean not on our own understanding. Thank you for being our Emmanuel.
I can’t believe we are only a week away from Christmas now. As we get closer to Christmas, we will look at Jesus’ birth and spend a day focusing on how God was present with Mary, Joseph, and then the angels. For today, let’s reflect on this month of Emmanuel so far. How has focusing on God being with us encouraged, challenged, or grown you? Personally, I need constant reminders of the one concept God is teaching me—like writing a devotional everyday! Even still, I forget he is WITH me, Emmanuel. When I stop and think of all the stories we’ve studied and the misfits of people God showed himself present to, my heart warms with God’s presence with me. I can still see Jesus gazing down at me wanting to know what I want him to do for me from Saturday’s devotional. I feel a deep security in knowing that I belong to God and He belongs to me. Take time today to look back over the month of devotions and reflect on how Emmanuel is WITH you. Feel free to share your reflections in the comments!
“What do you you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. Mark 10:51
As Jesus and his disciples are leaving Jericho, a blind man named Bartimaeus shouts for Jesus to help him. He does not relent despite the crowds hushing him. Even more, he calls out to Jesus for mercy. Jesus stops and calls for him. The very people who’d shushed him must have led him before the Lord. He cannot see Jesus. I imagine him standing there awkwardly and in expectation of a miracle. Then comes the question that stills my heart. “What do you want me to do for you?” Bart wants to see. Because of Jesus’s power and Bart’s faith, his eyes are opened! His first sight…his Savior, full of joy and compassion and power! A Bible study leader asked us a few years back to close our eyes and imagine Jesus looking down at us, cupping our chin in his hands and asking this very same question: What do you want me to do for you? My instant response was healing for my dad who’s battled Multiple Sclerosis for 26 years. Then my heart ached as I imagined Jesus still gazing at me. My dad is still sick, despite decades of prayers. My second response: Jesus, I want your comfort, your peace, your healing of this ache that lumps in my throat, and for the ability to trust you when I don’t like your response. I wish it were always as simple as it was in Mark 10, but Jesus continues to meet me in my heart ache. How would you answer Jesus today if he lifted your chin to his eyes and asked you to share your biggest desire? Sometimes the process of the conversation reveals the depths of our heart’s needs.
Jesus, thank you for knowing our hearts, for knowing what we need, and yet asking us anyway. Lord, we pray that you’d help us to stand before you honestly and ask for our deepest desire. Guide us in our response to your answer. Thank you that you pour out compassion on us. Thank you for meeting us in this place of vulnerable need. Increase our faith to believe you as Bartimaeus did.
So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. John 4: 40
For the next few days I want to focus on Jesus being with people throughout his life. He is our Emmanuel. God became human and fully understood the human struggle, our cares, our joys, our battles, our grief and pain. Next week, we’ll focus on the nativity, but now, I want us to see Emmanuel in action!
Jesus and the disciples journey from a feast in Jerusalem back to Galilee. Most Jews avoided the route they took since it passed through Samaria, their “enemy”. In John 4, we get a clear view into Jesus choosing to be with people who others didn’t see as worthy. When they first arrive in Samaria, the disciples leave Jesus at a well to go into town for food. Meanwhile Jesus talks with a lonely woman who came to draw water at the heat of the day. She is clearly choosing to avoid the towns women in her shame. We find out that she has had five husbands and in currently living with a man. Jesus doesn’t rebuke her or shame her. Instead he offers her eternal life and declares to this foreign, shame-filled woman that he is the Messiah, for the first time. She brings out the town to see him and they beg him to stay. Not only is the one conversation against cultural and religious regulations, he has compassion on this village and stays with them for two full days. Ladies, Jesus is not just for the seemingly perfect church ladies. He is with us in our messes, in our shame and regrets. He lifts our faces and joins with us in our loneliness. He seeks out those who others cast off. Let us open our broken places to him and allow him to fill us with his living water!
Lord Jesus, thank you for seeing us completely and still loving us immensely. You know all the messes of our lives just as you did the Samaritan woman and you love us anyway. Help us today to loosen our fears and let you heal our most broken places. I pray we’d find freedom from shame and hope for the path and purpose you have for each of us. Thank you for being with us today, no matter what!
God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at the break of day…The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Psalm 46:5,7
Can I just say that Psalm 46 has become my new favorite! If you have the time today, sit with the whole psalm. Emmanuel is all over it! I could talk about this psalm for days…so hard to narrow down a focus for us today. The context of this Psalm reminds me of the battle between king Hezekiah and the Assyrians from yesterday. Jerusalem is threatened. Daybreak was a common time of battle back then. The psalmist declares that God is within her. I know that this refers to Jerusalem, but it’s so rare to see “her” in the Bible. It just catches my attention and I want to put my name in here…anyone else with me, ladies?! With the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, I feel like we can indeed take this to mean us! God is within each of us! We will not fall. He will help us at the break of day! I struggle with anxiety and at times, my mornings can feel like an uphill battle, feeling overwhelmed and like I’m failing before I step out of bed. This verse is one I want to commit to memory and say on those tough days…God is within me! I will not fall! God will help me as the battles surround me! He is with me! He is my fortress! Let’s walk into this busy, often overwhelming and sweet season today with that confidence!
Father, Emmanuel, thank you for the power of your Holy Spirit in us like a river of life. Thank you that you keep us from falling, that you fight our battles with us and for us. Thank you that our souls are safe in your hands. We ask that you’d give us a peace that passes understanding in this hectic season. Help us to love on the people in our lives with your love and rest in the powerful stillness of your presence.
With him is only the arm of flesh, but with us is the LORD our God to help us and fight our battles. 2 Chronicles 32:8
King Hezekiah is one of the good kings of Judah who follows God’s way and destroys the alters and high places of false gods. The king of Assyria lays siege to the city of Jerusalem during Hezekiah’s reign. Hezekiah quickly sets to work, diligently getting the city ready for battle. When he assembles all his leaders and soldiers, he speaks these works to them. “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria and the vast army with him, for there is a greater power with us than with him.” Sound familiar? Again and again, we are reminded in the Old Testament that God fights his people’s battles. He is the one who brings the victory to his people, despite absurd odds. The people are told to have courage when their eyes scanned the vast army and fear crept in. The King of Assyria only has the strength of people on his side, but God is on the side of Judah! As the siege continues, the Assyrians fling insult after insult at God and try their best to terrify the people. Hezekiah and Isaiah pray together and the Lord answers mightily! The Word says that God sent and angel and annihilated all the fighting men, officers, and leaders of the Assyrian army. The king returns home in disgrace. God brought peace to Hezekiah and Judah. What can we take away from this story for our lives? Let’s be like Hezekiah and walk uprightly before the Lord. Let’s do the work before us…preparing for battle…and when life gets tough, let’s hit our knees together. Let’s cry out to our powerful Father to bring victory!
Lord, thank you that you are with us. In the struggles we face daily, we need you. Help us to walk rightly with you as Hezekiah did and to come to you first when trouble hits. Father, in you we have power greater than any enemy. Grow our faith to see that victory rests solely in your hands, not our own. Thank you for being with us always.
Hi. I'm Maggie. Current hats: Wife, mom, artist and starting this week, a devotional writer! Enthusiastic, creative, focused. I love chai tea lattes, and authentic conversations.