Daily devotionals featured on 103.5 KSUN by Associate Pastor Gill Robertson
In many Christian traditions, the four weeks leading up to Christmas are called Advent. This is a time when we look forward to celebrating God sending his son to be born right here on planet earth, still totally God, but also 100% human, one of us. For many of us our anticipation is mixed with excitement about family gatherings, fun holiday events, favorite Christmas foods, lights and decorations, and gifts. But if we’re in a season where we don’t have a lot to celebrate because our problems feel bigger than our joys, it’s especially helpful to remember that we’re celebrating Jesus’ birth. It’s hard not to feel joyful when you experience the miracle of the birth of a healthy baby. But when we celebrate Jesus’ birth, we are also celebrating the bigger picture of the life he lived, the death he died on our behalf in payment for our sins, and the relationship we can choose to enjoy with God because of his birth, death, and resurrection.
One of the ways some people and some churches celebrate advent is to use an Advent Wreath. There’s nothing Biblical or sacred about this, it’s just a fun tradition. But it can be a beautiful way to remind ourselves of some of the messages of the story of the first Christmas. An advent wreath has four candles around the edge. The idea is to light one candle the first Sunday in advent, two candles the second Sunday, and so on. There’s a 5th candle in the center of the wreath, which is lit on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning. I thought it would be fun to take the five mornings this week and talk about one advent candle each day. I realize that an Advent Wreath loses a certain something on the radio. If you’re listening at home, you could grab 5 candles and put 4 of them in a circle and the 5th one in the middle. If you’re listening in your car during your morning commute, I don’t recommend that. Whether you have candles or not, you can still follow along and let the candle flames flicker in your imagination.
So today we’re going to talk about the first candle in our advent wreath, the prophecy candle. This candle reminds us that God keeps his promises. 700 years before Jesus was born the Old Testament prophets foretold that God would send us a savior. This lets us know that Jesus’ birth wasn’t random; it wasn’t a last-minute thought or a desperate move on God’s part. He had planned to send his son all along.
This is from the book of Isaiah (an Old Testament prophet) 9:6-7. If you’ve heard the Messiah sung, it may be familiar to you.
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.
God kept this promise when his son Jesus was born the very first Christmas. This gives us confidence that the God who loves us enough to send his son to live and die for us will keep his other promises to us too. Promises like, “I will never leave you,” “I am with you always,” “I will strengthen you and help you.” He promises that he has new mercy for us every morning, that he will forgive our sins if we ask him to, that he will give us peace, that his love overcomes our fears, that he will comfort us, that he will give us wisdom and guidance.
God help us to have confidence in You. Help us trust and believe that you are faithful and keep all your promises to us, not necessarily how we want and when we want, but in your perfect ways and your perfect timing. Amen.
Good morning and Happy December Tuesday. This week, we’re talking about Advent and we’re pretending to light one of the candles in a traditional advent wreath each day. Yesterday we imagined we were lighting the prophecy candle and we remembered that God keeps his promises to us. Today we’re going to talk about the second candle in our virtual radio advent wreath, the Bethlehem candle. This candle reminds us that God fulfills his promises through ordinary people and in unexpected places. Bethlehem was pretty much nowhereville – just a little town about five miles away from the capital city of Israel, Jerusalem. It was the last place God’s people would expect their savior to be born. But little insignificant Bethlehem was God’s first choice for the birth of his son. It wasn’t an accident that Jesus was born there – God had revealed the location to the prophet Micah several hundred years before it happened.
This is a reading from the book of the prophet Micah 5:2-5
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.
3 Therefore he shall give them up until the time
when she who is in labor has given birth;
then the rest of his brothers shall return
to the people of Israel.
4 And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord,
in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great
to the ends of the earth.
5 And he shall be their peace.
As we go about our ordinary lives, isn’t it exciting to know that God can show up anywhere any time? If he can show up in Bethlehem, he can show up anywhere. And if he can show up hundreds of years after he gave his promises through his prophets, clearly he can show up any time. This Christmas, I pray you will experience the joy of Jesus showing up in an unexpected time or place – in a store, in your home, at work, on the street, driving in your car, in downtown Sun Prairie, or out on the farm. May you see evidence of his presence in restored relationships, in unexpected kindness or generosity, in resolution of a seemingly insurmountable problem, or in replacing despair with hope.
Good morning and welcome to Wednesday. This week we’re talking about the meaning of the candles in a traditional advent wreath. Today we’re talking about the third candle in our advent wreath, the shepherd candle. This candle reminds us of the good news of Christ’s birth that was spoken by an angel to some very surprised shepherds on a hillside outside Bethlehem. They found the baby Jesus just where the angel said he would be and couldn’t wait to go and share the good news of Jesus’ birth with everyone they knew!
This is a reading from the gospel of Luke 2:8-18
8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 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. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.
We don’t hear a whole lot of good news do we? Most news is about problems, natural disasters, crime, abuse, violence, and murder. But don’t you love hearing good news? The teacher of the year award, the encounters of racial reconciliation, successful humanitarian ventures, funds raised for worthy causes. All of these stories are encouraging, comforting, and full of hope for the world.
The night Jesus was born, the shepherds were the first to hear not just good news, but the best news ever! The wait was over. The Savior was born. God had kept his promises at long last. Isn’t it good to know that whatever bad news you may have received recently, we can always remind ourselves of the best news ever. Our savior has been born. Our savior has saved us from our sin by taking the punishment for us when he died. Whatever bad news we have to cope with, we have the comfort of knowing that Jesus is still with us – his Spirit is still with us to help us and guide us and strengthen us. And we have the best news ever that we get to live with God forever after we die, no more tears, no more sorrow, no more pain. I pray that this Christmas you will accept and enjoy celebrating the good news, the best news of Jesus’ birth, his active presence with us in our lives, and our eternal hope of life with him.
This week, we’re talking about traditional advent wreaths and the meaning of each of the four candles around the edge of the wreath and the fifth candle in the middle. Today we’re going to imagine we’re lighting the fourth candle in the advent wreath, the angel candle. Angels are God’s heavenly messengers, declaring God’s good news. So this candle reminds us that God wants everyone to know the good news about his Son. God sent an angel to an ordinary teenage girl, engaged, but not yet married, to tell her she would be Jesus’ mother. God sent angels to tell shepherds that Jesus was born, and the shepherds in turn told everyone they knew the good news. Jesus was sent to you and to me. Let’s share the good news message of Jesus’ birth with others!
26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you! 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be.30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”
35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.
When you get good news, don’t you want to share it? Don’t you run to your phone to call or text your family and friends, then to facebook to tell the world? I’m engaged, it’s a girl, my son won his soccer game, my daughter graduated, I got a new job! We just love sharing good news! For some reason, we find it harder to share the good news about Jesus. We don’t want to offend anyone, we don’t want to cross lines of political correctness, we don’t want to sound like religious freaks. Well the fourth candle reminds us to get over ourselves and share the good news. Jesus, our savior, is born. He offers forgiveness of sin, a clean slate, to all who ask. He loves us, he has our best interests in mind, and he wants us to trust him and follow him. That’s really good news. Who will you tell the good news today?
Good morning. It’s Friday! It’s almost Christmas (I have to admit, I personally LOVE Christmas)! This week we’ve been talking about the candles in a traditional advent wreath and what they mean. Monday through yesterday, we talked about the four candles around the edge. Today we get to talk about the one in the middle, the one we light on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning. This is the best of all the candles. It’s the Jesus candle!
Lighting this candle symbolizes God sending his son as the light of the world.
At the beginning of the gospel of John (1:9-14) we read:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.
9 The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Light is amazing. As soon as you turn on a light, darkness disappears. We have all sorts of common sayings about light. We talk about being kept in the dark, when we feel we’re not being told what’s going on; we say we have lightbulb moments when we get an idea; we metaphorically encourage people to hold things up to the light to see if they are true and right; and we tell people to let their light shine to encourage them to share their talents with the world.
So God uses a powerful metaphor to describe Jesus coming into the world. He says Jesus is the light of the world, the light that overcomes the darkness of sin an evil. Jesus is the light that shows us how to live, that lights the path for us to follow, that provides clear illumination when we are confused and overwhelmed, that overcomes our fear of darkness, the light that is available to all who will receive it.
This Christmas I pray you will receive Jesus as the light of your life, that you will celebrate his light in your life, and that you will share his glorious light with your family, your friends, your coworkers and neighbors, and with everyone you meet!
As Matthew says in his gospel, chapter 5:16:
Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.