Merry Christmas Eve!!! We have reached the end of our devotional and my favorite day of the Christmas season. I love the quiet reverence of Christmas Eve. The candles, the songs, the focus on Mary, Joseph, the angels and shepherds. Just as God pierced the darkness with his light of life at creation, he once again bursts forth in light at the birth of his son. It’s easy to miss, though. Most missed it when Christ was born. They were busily traveling for the census, hurriedly going on with their lives, looking for a political rescue. Let’s quiet down in chaos and open our hearts and minds to this tender moment when God’s Light breaks into our darkness with a newborn cry. Let’s put aside the consumer Christmas focus until tomorrow and today be in awe of our God! This song is another newer one to me and I love it! Here’s a link to a beautiful video of it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PpYzuSbkkwg
I’ve loved this journey of Emmanuel with you and am so thankful for each and everyone of you who took this journey through the Bible with me. Merry Christmas!
Father God, thank you for breaking into our darkness with your glorious light. We pray today that you’d help us to pause and focus on you, on our Savior, on Emmanuel, God with us. Thank you that we belong to you. Thank you that you pour your strength into us in our struggles. Thank you to that we are never alone. Today, help us to trust you and to rest in you, to celebrate your glorious salvation for us.
Emmanuel (Hallowed Manger Ground)
What hope we hold this starlit night
A King is born in Bethlehem
Our journey long, we seek the light
That leads to the hallowed manger ground
What fear we felt in the silent age
Four-hundred years can He be found
But broken by a baby's cry
Rejoice in the hallowed manger ground
God incarnate, here to dwell
Praise His name Emmanuel
The son of God, here born to bleed
A crown of thorns would pierce His brow
And we beheld this offering
Exalted now the King of kings
Praise God for the hallowed manger ground
God incarnate, here to dwell
Praise His name Emmanuel
Oh, praise His name Emmanuel
Oh, praise His name Emmanuel
By Chris Tomlin and Ed Cash
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.
“Neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” John 8:11
Just like yesterday, we have a story of a woman filled with shame being met with the compassion of Emmanuel. The teachers of the law drag a woman caught in the very act of adultery out before Jesus in order to trick him. They trap him between their laws and the Roman law. If he declares her worthy of stoning, he’ll have to answer to the Romans. If he doesn’t tell them to stone her, he’ll have to answer to the Jews for breaking the law. Instead, he bends down and writes in the dirt and says that those without sin should throw the first stone. When he looks up again, the mob is gone and the woman is left standing alone. He evaded their trap and could have gone on his way, but he chooses to interact with her. I imagine her standing in like a bedsheet or with a dress halfway hanging off her. Vulnerable, alone, scoffed at, used by the teachers to trick Jesus, utterly exposed. He looks up at her and talks with her. I imagine his eyes communicating a gleaming love and worth and value that she’s never experienced before. Compassion embodied. His response is grace and truth. He doesn’t comdemn her or condone her actions. He loves on her, showers grace, and shows her the way to proceed…leave the life of sin. How do you imagine her life changed after this horrible and grace-filled experience.
Jesus, thank you for loving us with your grace and not leaving us alone to deal with our messes. Thank you for defending us, for coming along side us. Help us to leave the life of sin that tries to pull at us. We pray for freedom from sin, grace in our condemning thoughts, and compassion in our brokenness. Thank you that with you is mighty power and that you are WITH us!
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!
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. Isaiah 40:11
Two days in a row of favorite verses. This one I consider my mama verse. Oh, how I love the sweet gentleness of our Savior described here. Our good shepherd does not beat his sheep into submission. He lifts them in his arms and carries them against his chest. I imagine the lamb resting its soft head against his chest and hearing the lulling thump-thump of his heart beat. I want to be that lamb. (insert a deep breath here). Then it continues. He gently leads us mamas (and papas) who have young. Gently. Don’t we need to be led gently? We are so hard on ourselves…okay at least I am. Opinions about mothering jab at us at every turn…sleeping, feeding, potty training, homework battles, screen time, the list goes on, but I’ll stop there cuz I don’t want to send any new mamas into a panic attack! Jesus knows us mamas and he knows our sweet (or sometimes not so sweet!) lambs. He gently leads us. Oh, how I need that today. Oh, how I am thankful that he knows my kiddos and their strengths and struggles. Rest in his leading you today, sweet mama. He’s got you and your people.
Father, thank you for being our gentle shepherd, caring for our babies and leading us mamas. We need your presence with us today. Thank you for continually reminding us this month of your being near us, with us, within us and of your mighty power. This mom-life can be overwhelming. We need you to guide us. Show us the way to go as we parent our kids, no matter what stage of life they are in.
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.