Christmas is a special time here at Calvary. We have a rich tradition of special services, events, celebrations, decorations, and messages that help point people to Jesus. We are very excited to expand our celebration with opportunities for individuals, couples, and families to prepare your hearts to celebrate Jesus’ birth by participating in the season of Advent through messages and devotionals. We are providing two Advent devotionals to accompany our Sunday morning series: one for families with young children and one for teens and adults. Set aside a special devotional time each Sunday of Advent to read, meditate and worship. Advent tradition includes lighting three purple and one pink candle along with a white candle lit on Christmas Day.
May your hearts be filled with the hopeful and joyous expectation of Jesus this year!
Advent means “arrival” or “coming.” As God’s people expectantly waited for the Messiah’s first coming, we look back to it as well as look forward to His second coming. Read what our friends at The Bible Project* say about Advent and its meaning:
A Time of Hopeful Anticipation
For centuries, Christians around the world have used the four weeks leading up to Christmas to prepare for the celebration of Jesus’ birth. It’s a time when we observe His first coming while also looking forward to His second coming. In the four weeks of Advent, we meditate on hope, love, joy, and peace.
The Prince of Peace Arrives
The Hebrew Bible ends with God’s people still waiting expectantly for the Ultimate King—the Anointed One who would bring peace to the world. In the book of Isaiah, we read this prophecy about the long-awaited Messiah: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulders. And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
When Jesus was born, angels announced His arrival on Earth by declaring, "I bring you good tidings of great joy, which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a savior, who is Christ the Lord."
And Still We Wait
Jesus’ arrival activated the promises of God and the prophecies of the Hebrew Bible. The Gospel accounts declare Jesus to be God in human form, His son who came to earth to reconcile God’s people back to their covenant partnership with God. During Advent, we join in a centuries-long tradition and we wait. Just like God’s people eagerly awaited the arrival of the Messiah, we remember their hope and we still look forward to Jesus’ final return when He will reunite Heaven and Earth in the new creation. He is the ultimate King, who embodies God’s peace, joy, hope, and love and came to earth so that we might be united with God again.
Much of this devotional content is inspired by The Bible Project Advent Video Series.
HOPE - November 27
Light one purple candle.
“Hope does not disappoint.” - Romans 5:5
When you talk about the feeling of anticipating a future that is better than the present, you are talking about hope. Hope is incredibly powerful and has the ability to transcend any circumstance if it is focused on the right thing.
The Bible has a few words for hope, and at their roots, they all have the meaning of “to wait.” The question is, waiting for what? Most of the instances where we read about hope, the situation was dire and bleak. The hope was for redemption - to be saved from oppression, destruction, or despair. But as we continue to read scripture, we see that the hope of redemption was found in the person of God Himself. Psalm 130 says, “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits…O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with Him is plentiful redemption. And He will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.”
So, hope is a Person, and that is why hope does not disappoint, or as some translations say “does not put us to shame.” (Romans 5:5). Biblical hope is not about circumstances. It is about seeing the character of God and how God has been faithful in the past and will be faithful in the future.
Jesus is described as our “living hope” in 1 Peter 1:3. His resurrection from the grave is the manifestation of the hope of redemption that Israel had longed to see for thousands of years. Jesus’ resurrection motivates hope in us as well! When we put our faith in the Person and work of Jesus, we have hope that transcends all circumstances because Jesus is greater than any circumstance. We can look back at His work on the cross and the empty tomb and have hopeful anticipation for Him to keep His promise of coming back again to finally rescue humanity and all of creation from evil and death once and for all.
For Jesus to live, die, and rise again, He had to be born. So, what we really celebrate is the birth of the One who grew and died on a cross for our sin, and raise from the dead on the third day…forever becoming our Living Hope.
Reflection and prayer:
- Are you putting hope in a thing or circumstance to get you out of a hard time or struggle?
- Pray to Jesus - your Living Hope - and thank Him for giving you hope that does not disappoint.
LOVE - December 4
Light two purple candles.
“God is love.” - 1 John 4:8
Have you ever thought about how weird the word love is in the English language? We use it for everything. I love my wife, and I love tacos. But if my love of tacos was the same as the love for my wife, then I’m going to have an angry wife! So when we look in the Bible and read the word love, what does that mean? There are many words that get translated as love depending on the context, and each word has a specific meaning and application. When Jesus quotes the Old Testament saying, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself” what word is He using? To make things interesting, He’s actually quoting Hebrew, yet speaking in Aramaic, the common language of the day, and then the biblical writers wrote it in Greek. The Holy Spirit inspired the biblical writers and in looking at the timeless message of the Bible and the perfect person of Jesus in how He lived, they used the Greek word “agape” which is the highest, most perfect, most selfless form of love.
In Matthew 22:37-39, Jesus said the greatest commandment is to “Love (agape) the Lord your God…and you shall love (agape) your neighbor as yourself. What Jesus is saying here, and what His life and ministry reflected, is that your love for God will be expressed by your love for people, and vice versa. Loving God and loving people are absolutely inseparable. This also means that the love you express to God and others will be a willful decision - an action and choice - that will be selfless and generous. This type of love reflects the very nature of God Himself.
God is love, so that love had to be directed somewhere in a selfless way. God chose to send us Jesus, born as a tiny, helpless baby that first Christmas day. 1 John 4:9 says, “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent His only Son into the world, so that we might live through Him.”
God’s love was for your life.
More so, 1 John 4:11 says, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” Love of God and love for people are absolutely inseparable.
Reflection and prayer:
- What is the relationship between your love for God and love for people? What does that look like in your day-to-day life?
- What is one way you can selflessly and generously show love to someone this week?
- Pray that God will increase your love for Him and for people around you, and that He would reveal practical ways you can practice that love.
JOY - December 11
Light two purple candles and one pink candle.
“And the angel said to them, 'Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people'.” - Luke 2:10
Think about some good things in life. What comes to mind? Maybe things like the beauty of nature, the bond of family, good food, the first time you laughed until you cried, or that one time you and your friend had that epic road trip adventure. We see the overview of this in the first pages of the Bible when God looks at His creation and calls it “very good” - that’s a joyful proclamation! And by the way, God looks at you and says the same thing. Zephaniah 3:17 says “The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness; He will quiet you by His love; He will exult over you with loud singing.” As God’s child and a part of His creation, He thinks you’re pretty great.
The Bible calls us to be people of joy. Joy is listed as a fruit of the Spirit at work in our lives in Galatians 5. Remember when we talked about hope a couple weeks ago and how hope is about a Person (Jesus) and that God’s past faithfulness gives us hope for the future? Joy and hope are very much two sides of the same coin. Even though life isn’t always joyful because of all the sorrow, struggle, pain, and death we see every day, we can still choose joy and resolve ourselves to have an attitude of joy because, like hope, joy is about God - not a circumstance. Our hope in God’s love and presence can give us joy no matter what we face.
As we think about Jesus and the Christmas season, Jesus is the great joy-giver. Jesus is all about joy, and His gospel (gospel literally means good news) is for all people. Jesus isn’t just for good people who have it all together. Jesus is for people who don’t have it all together…for people who are trying to just keep their heads above water…for people who aren’t sure of themselves and what they’re supposed to do…for people who are stuck in a place of sorrow or struggle. Jesus has come to help put you together, to put you on solid ground, to give you confidence, and to give you joy. Jesus doesn’t fix all the bad and hard things in life right now (but one day He will!), but He does change your heart and gives you the hope and joy you need to thrive in this life until He comes again.
Reflection and prayer:
- What are some good things in life that give you joy?
- What are some hard things in life that are stealing your joy?
- Have you put your faith and trust in Jesus as your Lord and Savior? If not, ask Jesus to forgive your sin, confess that He is Lord and Savior, and believe that He rose from the dead (Romans 10:8-10). If you have done this for the first time, please send a note to Pastor Ryan at RMoble[email protected] so we all can celebrate with you!
- If you have trusted Jesus as your Lord and Savior, tell your faith story with someone this week about how Jesus has changed your life and brought you joy!
PEACE - December 18
Light two purple candles, the pink candle, and the last purple candle.
“For unto us a child is born…and His name shall be called…Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6
One of the most beautiful words in the Hebrew language is the word Shalom. It is used often as a greeting, a blessing, and a prayer for others. It is commonly translated as the word peace, yet its most basic meaning is complete or whole. Shalom is really about something that is very complex with lots of pieces and moving parts that are in a state of completeness or wholeness. Think about a Lego set with hundreds or thousands of pieces. When the box is opened, all the pieces are separated into little bags. But after hours and hours of work, all of the pieces are put together and you’re looking at an amazing building, rocket ship or vehicle. They are now in a state of Shalom.
We think of peace mainly as being the absence of conflict. While that is part of it, that is not anywhere near the whole of it. Peace (Shalom) is the absence of conflict and also the presence of completeness, wholeness, well-being, and restoration. This is why peace is such hard work, especially in relationships. When kingdoms, or even people, stop fighting, they need to start healing, reconciling and working together for each other’s benefit. That is true peace.
Isaiah looked forward to a future King that would do the biggest and most important work of reconciliation ever; so much so that one of His names would be “Prince of Peace.” This future King is Jesus. After the angels in Luke 2 proclaimed Him as the joy-giver, they also proclaimed the peace He had to offer in verse 14: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased!” Later in His ministry, Jesus said to His followers, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you” (John 14:27). Just like our other Advent words - hope, love, joy - peace is not about a thing or circumstance, it is about a Person; it’s about Jesus.
Ephesians 2:14-17 says, “For He Himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in His flesh the dividing wall of hostility…reconciling us both to God in one body through the cross…and He came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near.” Jesus did the hard work ending the hostility, fixing what was broken, and restoring it to wholeness. The baby who was born and placed in the manger is the beautiful Prince of Peace.
Reflection and prayer:
- Is there a conflict in your life? Is it external (like with a relationship) or internal (in your heart)? Pray that Jesus would heal and restore the brokenness the conflict is bringing.
- Is there a broken part of our world or community that you could become a part of in Jesus’ name and help bring restoration and wholeness? Think of things like homelessness, human trafficking, broken families, poverty, etc. Ask God to show you how you can help bring Shalom to this world.
Light the white candle
“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over His kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.
But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.
“She will bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call His name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).
And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God jin the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased!”
Revelation 22:12-13,17, 20-21
“Behold, I am coming soon, bringing My recompense with Me, to repay everyone for what He has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”
The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.
He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!
The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you all. Amen.