If you’ve spent time in church (or with my grandmother) at Christmastime, you’ve heard at least parts of the Christmas story. Most of us own a manger scene, complete with Joseph and Mary, three shepherds, an angel and some cows or sheep, and of course a baby Jesus wrapped in a tiny blanket. We know about the angels appearing to the shepherds and the star that shone bright; the wise men that came bearing gifts, one of which would reappear during the burial process of the same baby boy they were rejoicing over. I want to encourage you to re-read the story, not from a Christmas book, but rather search the scriptures and ask God to show you something new this year as we take a tour together of the manger scene.
Why shepherds? Shepherds were not seen as important people; not politically, not economically. They lived among sheep. They ate with their sheep, slept among their sheep, they taught their sheep to obey commands and they protected their sheep at all costs, even at the risk of their own lives. Just as Jesus came to earth through a very humble birth, the news of His arrival was first presented to a very humble group. God works through humble hearts and simple situations. Christ walked among His people. He ate with them, slept among them, taught them His commands and gave His own life to protect them. He was the ultimate shepherd. What better companions to have displayed in manger scenes for centuries to come than the very men that represent what Christ is for all of humanity?
Study Psalm 23:1-6
Mary . . .
Why Mary? She wasn’t rich. She wasn’t heir to a throne. There wasn’t any part of her that would suggest that she should bring a king into the world. I smile as I think about the people that God has used to do some of the most courageous things that we read about in our Bibles. She was humble, she was willing. Read Luke 2:19. I cannot begin to imagine what she was pondering. She held in her arms the sweetest, most precious gift that the world would ever reject. The journey ahead of her would be one like no other mother in history until then or since has ever had to face. Her son; the little boy that was birthed in a lowly manger, peering up at her with the clearest of eyes, latching hold of her finger as he pierced her heart with his infant perfection; she would one day watch as he was mocked and beaten. She would watch him flinch under the cattails attached to a whip. She would see his body collapse in pain, no longer able to carry the cross he so undeservingly was sentenced to. She would be there as he called out to God for the forgiveness of the very men who were putting Him to death. And she would watch her beloved baby boy draw in His last breath before giving up everything He had on a dark, gloomy hill as He swallowed up man’s sin once and for all. I don’t know that any other woman alive could have endured what she did. In the eyes of her culture she was plain, she was ordinary. But God chose her because she was stunningly extraordinary, just like you. How does God desire to use you? Allow Him to reveal a plan for your life.
You . . .
If you look very closely into any manger scene you can find yourself. You’re in there!! We are all there among the smelly sheep. We are in the heart of baby Jesus. God knew you before you ever were. He knew you would one day walk on Earth as His child and He had a purpose for you. He also knew that your purpose would require the sacrifice of His Son. When was the last time you thanked God for the manger scene and what it means for your life? Spend time in prayer today praising God for the birth of His Son and take time to read about the life and ministry of Jesus in the Gospels.
Prophecy is important. It shows God’s absolute control over all of history in that if God said that it will happen, it is going to happen. We can lean on these prophecies for understanding of God’s word and the perfection of His timing and look to them for hope when faced with our future. The greatest hope that we have is our hope in Jesus Christ, and yes, that was prophesied. We can follow the prophecies in the Bible that foretold the events that would occur in the lifetime of Jesus; prophecies that tell of His birth, His life, His death, His resurrection.
This week, we will spend time looking up the fulfilled prophecies from Jesus’ time here on earth. Match the Old Testament scripture with the prophecy being foretold and the scripture that shows the fulfillment. At the end of each day, take a moment to write down what hope we can draw from these passages and say a prayer of thanksgiving for that hope.
Prophecy: Isaiah 60:3, Genesis 3:15, Isaiah 7:14, Micah 5:2, Genesis 12:3
Prophecy: Isaiah 6:9-10, Zechariah 9:9, Isaiah 53:4, Isaiah 11:2
Prophecy: Isaiah 53:12, Exodus 12:46, Psalms 69:21, Zechariah 13:7
Prophecy: Psalm 24:7-10, Psalm 110:1, Psalm 16:10, Psalm 2:8
Monday: Isaiah 9:1-6
In our gloom and despair, we fear that our sorrows and troubles will never end. We can take comfort in this certainty: although the Lord may not always take us around our troubles, if we follow him wholeheartedly, he will lead us safely through them. And our troubles are short-lived. We are given a hope far beyond what we deserve. In a time of great darkness, God promised to send a light who would shine on everyone living in the shadow of death. He is both Counselor and Mighty God. This message of hope was fulfilled in the birth of Christ and the establishment of his eternal kingdom. He came to deliver all people from their slavery to sin.
Tuesday: Ephesians 5:8-14
As children of light, our actions should reflect our faith. We should live above reproach morally so that we will reflect God's goodness to others. Jesus stresses this truth in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapter 5. Take time to read it today.
While it is important to avoid the unfruitful works of darkness, we must go even further. Paul instructs us to expose these works, because our silence may be interpreted as approval. God needs people who will take a stand for what is right. Christians must lovingly speak out for what is true and right.
Wednesday: John 1:4, 5
"The darkness did not comprehend it" means that the darkness of evil never has and never will overcome or extinguish God's light. Jesus Christ is the Creator of life and His life brings light to mankind. In his light, we see ourselves as we really are; sinners in need of a Savior. When we follow Jesus, the true Light, we can avoid walking blindly and falling into sin. He lights the path ahead of us so we can know how to live. He removes the darkness of sin from our lives. Have you allowed the light of Christ to shine into your life? Let Christ guide your life, and you'll never need to stumble in darkness. Pray and ask God to show you areas of your life that need to be exposed. Ask Him to forgive you for sins hidden in the darkness.
Thursday: John 3:19-21
Many people don't want their lives exposed to God's light because they are afraid of what will be revealed. They don't want to be changed. Don't be surprised when these same people are threatened by your desire to obey God and do what is right, because they are afraid that the light in you may expose some of the darkness in their lives. Rather than giving into discouragement, keep praying that they will come to see how much better it is to live in light than in darkness.
Friday: John 12:35, 36
Jesus said he would be with them in person for only a short time, and they should take advantage of His presence while they had it. Like a light shining in a dark place, He would point out the way they should walk. If they walked in His light, they would become sons of light, revealing the truth and pointing people to God. As Christians, we are to be Christ's light bearers, letting His light shine through us. How brightly is your light shining? Can others see Christ in your actions?
Look at your own life. Is your light off or on? Stowed away in storage, occasionally used, or often available for others? What are some practical ways you can share the light of Jesus more often as you go through your daily life?
Stewardship: The Purpose of Prosperity; God prospers me not to raise my standard of living, but to raise my standard of giving.
Monday: 2 Corinthians 8:7, 8
The Corinthian believers were great at many things….they were great in their faith, their speech was excellent, they were knowledgeable and displayed great diligence. Paul wanted them to be great givers too. Giving is a response to love and here he is speaking, not through authority, but as an encourager. He is testing their sincerity. Would you pass the test?
Tuesday: Greedy Troubles
A couple weeks ago, we learned that the antidote for materialism is giving. If we aren’t giving as we are commanded to do, there is more room for our hearts to grow cold about the subject.
Proverbs 28:25 says “A greedy man stirs up dissension, but he who trusts in the Lord will prosper.”
Greed is overwhelming and causes trouble. Look up the following verses about relationships destroyed by greed.
Wednesday: The Reason for Wealth
Why would God ever make anyone wealthy? The more you have, the more you want, right? Generosity is a hard pill to swallow but not as much for the poor as the wealthy. Oftentimes it is through our most blessed times that it is hardest for us to give. But God blesses us with the intention that we in turn, bless others.
Thursday: Blessing Others
Regardless of your financial situation, God desires for us to actively seek ways to bless others. This can include our tithes, our extra giving, time, talents, and belongings.
Look up the following verses to learn about people in the Bible who were generous with their money, their belongings, and even their own tomb!
Friday: Test the Tithes
Last week we were issued a challenge to test God’s faithfulness in our lives by participating in Test the Tithes.
Each family is challenged to begin tithing or continue tithing in the month of December. The purpose is to show faithfulness to giving according to scripture and to combat the materialism of this season. This is not an authoritarian mandate for money, but rather an encouragement to test God and experience the blessings He has promised to those who will give according to His word.
December is here and now is the time to place your faith and trust in God’s hands. He cares about the sparrow, how much more must He care about you?
Riverview Family Devotion Guides
Family devotion guides are provided to help reinforce the "Big Idea" that is studied in Sunday School and presented in the Pastor's message each week.