Daily Bible Readings:
Monday, December 12. Read 2 Chronicles 28:19-20. 1) Why did God bring Ahaz low? 2) What instrument did he use to do this?
Tuesday, December 13. Read Isaiah 10:5-11. 1) What does God call Assyria? 2) What does verse 11 say the reason for God’s turning to Assyria is?
Wednesday, December 14. Read Matthew 12:38-39. 1) In the text for the sermon, Ahaz refuses to ask for a sign from God. What does Jesus say about looking for a sign? 2) What sign does Jesus say he will give them?
Thursday, December 15. Read Matthew 1:18-23. 1) What did the angel tell Joseph about Mary and what was about to happen in her life? 2) Compare the difference in this prophecy and what Isaiah told Ahaz in the sermon text.
Friday, December 16. Read Revelation 12:2-6. 1) Revelation is John’s great apocalyptic depiction of the war by God against ultimate evil. In this scene, what is the great red dragon attempting to do? 2) What role does the woman play in this scene, and who do you think she is in God’s mission?
Saturday, December 17. Read Isaiah 7:10-16. This is Sunday’s sermon text.
Prayer of the Week:
God, we have seen what happened to Ahaz the king because of the way that he sought to handle the threat of Assyria. What a contrast to the outcome of Mary’s life who gave herself to you. Amen.
Hymn of the Week:
O come, O come, Emmanuel
J. M. Neale (1851)
O come, O come, Immanuel,
and ransom captive Israel
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Immanuel
shall come to you, O Israel.
O come, O Branch of Jesse’s stem,
unto your own and rescue them!
From depths of hell your people save,
and give them victory o’er the grave. Refrain
O come, O Key of David, come
and open wide our heavenly home.
Make safe for us the heavenward road
and bar the way to death’s abode. Refrain
O come, O King of nations, bind
in one the hearts of all mankind.
Bid all our sad divisions cease
and be yourself our King of Peace. Refrain
Devotional Article of the Week:
The scene looks calm and bright, but what if my life doesn’t?
by Rubel Shelly
Scenes of gently falling snow. A self-assured man and serene woman looking at a sleeping infant. A baby so unique that — so the song tells us — “no crying he made.” Adoring shepherds. Calm animals in a warm glow of light. It is the traditional scene of Christmas that is reproduced this time of the year.
I can imagine that many a person might turn away from so peaceful and charming a sight this year. Life is complex and hard. There are anxieties. People are worried about taxes and healthcare, family crises and personal problems. It’s a far, far cry from that first tender Christmas. Or is it?
Move past the hype and look at the facts!
• Caesar Augustus required that everyone register in a census for the sake of a Roman taxation program — that people feared and resented.
• Mary was in the final month of a pregnancy — almost a hundred miles from home and without her mother or a physician or midwife.
• Joseph surely felt a combination of fear about Mary’s precarious state and irritation over having no better lodging for her than an animal shelter.
• Before that awkward night, both Joseph and Mary had been the objects of whispering and gossip in a shame culture on account of her pregnancy.
• Shepherds were there as well, but they were more confused than anything else because of what they were seeing and trying to interpret.
• There is no reason to think the cave-shelter where all this was happening was anything but smelly and noisy as usual — only punctuated on that night by the birth pangs of a young mother and the wailing of a newborn.
If you are being tempted to distance yourself from Christmas this year because of stress, finances, shame, family problems, or general life chaos, don’t! The message of Christmas is that God has come to be with us in all things human. Since so much of human experience is challenging, rest assured that God is eager to be with you in this less-than-the-best-of-times world.
God-presence is not judged by the absence of threatened or real troubles. It is a presence intended to counter the notion that anyone is alone in her trouble or in his crisis. It is a presence meant to supply hope and courage in dark times:
The virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means ‘God is with us.” (Matthew 1:23).