P-December 14th

is for Peace.

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” –Luke 2:14

Activity: Write a family peace treaty. Everyone suggests one thing that they can do to help the whole family get along for the evening.

 

When we think of peace and Christmas we tend to think of hot cocoa and fireplaces. We think of looking out the window at a soft blanket of snow over the ground and twinkling stars outside. Christmas peace seems to us to be like a painting of a warm family in front of a Christmas tree.

But peace doesn’t mean quiet, it means to get along. Peace is the opposite of war. Sure, sometimes the two are connected. Like the difference between when you are riding in the back seat of the car during a road trip and fighting with your sibling versus a car trip when you might be reading a book. The second one is quieter, but it is not the lack of sound that makes it peace, it is the good state of the relationship.

We, by nature find ourselves fighting with God. His Word says to give to those in need, but we fight against that and want to hold on to what we call ours. His Word says to turn the other cheek when someone strikes us, we strongly disagree and would rather hit back. God’s word tells us how to live our lives, and instead of going along peacefully with what God says, we find ourselves struggling against God and wanting to do things our way.

If we are in combat with God by how we live, how can the angels proclaim peace? Because Jesus is bringing the peace. Jesus is a peace treaty sent by God, promising rest. When wars end, there is usually a peace treaty. A promise to stop fighting and work towards a repaired relationship. These treaties often note who is to blame for the start of the battle. In our relationship with God, we always start the fight. He wants what is good and perfect for us, but we selfishly want only what we want. By our sin, we war against God.

Peace treaties also contain the conditions, that is, what needs to happen to make peace work. In earthly battles, the group that starts the fight usually is asked to give money, or land, or other goods to the wronged party. But that is not what God’s peace asks for. The conditions for God’s peace ask for Jesus, not us, to do all the work, all the payment, all the repairing to make our peace last. Peace with God is offered through and made possible only through Jesus. As we look forward to Christmas, may we celebrate the bringer of peace, the Prince of Peace, Jesus, who was born in a manger, and would die on a cross to bring us peace.

PRAYER: Dear God, Thank you for Jesus, the Prince of Peace, who repairs our relationship with You. In Jesus’ name we pray, AMEN.

O-December 13th

is for Only.

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. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. -1 John 4:9-10

Activity: Find It! Go and find something in your house that is unique. What is it about what you found that makes it one of a kind, the ONLY one?

Sometimes when we hear the word “only” we think that there is not enough. Like when there is only one cookie. We think to ourselves, “Will I get it? That’s not enough for all of us. Am I going to have to share it?” When there is only so much of something, we worry that we might get left out.

Other times we hear the word only and we get excited because something might be exclusive. Maybe you have something rare and special like one of 10 special edition signed Patrick Mahomes jersies. When there are only so many of something it becomes special, rare, and valuable.

Today we read that God sent His only Son. But we are assured that He is enough. Jesus is not something that runs out. The Bible assures us that Jesus is more than enough for everyone, like the whole-wide world. So the “only” in, “God sent his only Son,” must mean that we are talking about the special, rare kind of only. John 4 tells us what this “one-of-a-kind”ness is. “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Jesus is the “only” way to heaven.

People try everything under the sun to earn their way into God’s favor and win a spot in heaven. Some people will try to be smart enough to show that they deserve to live in heaven. Some will try to be rich enough to buy their way into heaven. Some hope to be good enough to show their worth. But there is nothing we can do or be that can get us into heaven. None of that works.

On Christmas, God gave us the only thing that can actually help us. Jesus is the only way to heaven.

As we look forward to Christmas, we are excited to celebrating that special baby in the manger. The incredibly valuable baby who is the one and only way that you and I have hope for eternal life. The only Son of God, Jesus.

PRAYER: Dear God, Thank you for sending Jesus, so that we can know the only way to heaven. In Jesus’ name we pray. AMEN.

N-December 12th

is for Night.

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. -Luke 2:8

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. –1 Peter 2:9-10

Activity: Light a candle and turn off the lights. Notice the shadows that are cast by the candlelight. Next, find a flashlight (phone flashlight works just fine) and shine the flashlight onto the candle to cast a shadow on the wall. Notice that the candle casts a shadow but the flame does not. Light causes other things to cast a shadow, but light has no shadow. Jesus is the Light of the World. There is no darkness in Him.

Night can be a scary time. We sing songs like “Silent Night” but darkness and silence can make us feel alone and helpless. Many of us know what it feels like to be uncomfortable in the dark. That is why from a young age so many people have night lights in their room.

The years before Jesus’ birth must have felt like a long nighttime for God’s people. They had been taken from their homeland and sent far away. They prayed to God for the sun to come up on a new day when they might return to their land and worship their God in the temple.

John 1 calls Jesus, the Light that, “shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it (Jn 1:5).” Jesus coming into the world was like waking up to a superbright spotlight shining into your eyes. Though God’s followers had been praying for the Messiah, they could hardly handle how perfect He was. He was so perfect, so righteous that they wanted to send Him away, so that the darkness of their hearts might not have to be compared to His perfect light.

We, too, know that our lives are darkened by sin. And the light of Jesus only shows just how dark and broken we are in our sinfulness. The light of Jesus came to find our sin, but not to punish it, rather to take it away so that we can reflect His marvelous, perfect light.

PRAYER: Dear God, Thank you for the Light of the World, who brings us from the dark of night into the Light of Your salvation. In Jesus’ name we pray, AMEN.

M-December 11th

is for Mary.  

And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.” -Luke 1:46-50

Activity: Getting Close. Gather a bath towel, a hand towel, and a wash cloth. Beginning with the bath towel, see if your family can all fit on the towel without touching the floor or any other furniture. Then try the same with the other smaller cloths.

Mary is a fascinating character of scripture. She is, of course, the mother of Jesus. But what is mostly made known about her is that she was very, very ordinary. Mary was a young girl, from a small town, who was engaged to an ordinary man.

What makes Mary special is that God chose to live in her, as a baby, for 9 months. Of course after that she had a front row seat to watch Jesus, the all powerful God, grow up, to learn His first words and take His first steps. Mary is special because God chose to be so close to her.

Sometimes we think that we are too ordinary for God to want to be close to us. Maybe we feel like ordinary people from small towns. Maybe we see that there are people around us who are smarter, better looking, faster, or nicer than we are. What would God want with such an insignificant person like me?

Boy do I have good news for you! Just like Mary, God chooses to live in you too! Not because of how much of the Bible you have memorized. Not because of how often you hold the door for others, or because you are so helpful in the kitchen. God chooses to live in you because He loves you!

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you (1 Cor 6:19).” A temple is a place for God to live, and He has chosen to live with you. Through baptism He has called you His own and come to live with you.

When we read about Mary we think about how cool it is that God chose her. But as we read the Bible we see that, unbelievably, God choses you and me too.

PRAYER: Dear God. At Christmas we remember that you came to live with your people. Help us to also remember that you chose to live with us always. In Jesus’ name we pray, AMEN

L-December 10

is for Love.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” -John 3:16-17

Activity: Words of affirmation. Take some time to share what you love about the other people around the table.

We love all sorts of things. We love family, fast food, and nice clothes. We love songs that make us feel happy and teachers that help us learn. We know how to love, especially things and people that make our lives brighter.

But there are things that we don’t love. We don’t love going to the doctor for shots. We don’t love having to exercise, or doing lots of homework. We don’t love people who are mean to us or pick on us. We don’t love things that make our lives harder.

So basically, we love nice things that are nice to us, and we don’t love things that are not nice to us.

God so loved the world.”

In the beginning, God made the world and He said that it was good. It was the artistic work of His hands, His masterpiece of creation. He made beautiful flowers and fluffy clouds. He made flitting butterflies and juicy fruit. And all of it was good. And then He made His favorite part of all that He had made… Humans. God loved the world as He looked over it and declared, “it was very good!” (Gen 1:31).

But then things changed. Humans started sinning. First by disobeying God by eating a piece of fruit, but soon people started lying, stealing, and even killing one another. By Genesis 6, only a few pages into the Bible, we read that every thought of man was only evil, all the time.

God loved the world, but the world didn’t show much love for God. And we are the same way. Quite often the things that we want and love are all about ourselves, not others, and certainly not about our God.

So how does God treat a sinful world that does not love Him back. He sends His Son to save it. For some reason God still loves the sinful and broken world. He loves it so much that He sent Jesus to be born, to die, and to rise again as part of His plan to save the world that He so greatly loves.

PRAYER: Dear God, Thank you for loving the world, and me, way more than we deserve. In Jesus’ name we pray, AMEN.

K-December 9th

is for King.

Behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”– Matthew 2:1b-2

Activity: Find a cardboard box and make a crown fit for a king. If you have a nativity scene, consider trying to make a crown to fit on, or rest near the baby Jesus.

In the year 1422, 9 month old Henry VI became the king of all of England. And then, a few months later, though there was some disagreement, he also became the king of France. At less than a year old, Henry VI was king of two of the greatest nations in all the world. Though he was the king, Henry wasn’t old enough to rule in England until he was 16; because what good is a baby-king?

When Jesus was born some wise men came from another country because they had read the words of the prophets which promised a great king. They had seen the sign of the promised king, the star in the eastern sky, and followed. But not everyone was happy to hear of the baby king. This newborn king was a problem for king Herod. He didn’t want anybody else to take his crown. So he tried to have baby Jesus killed.

Sometimes we don’t want Jesus to be king of our lives either. We like to think that we would do just fine as king of our own lives, deciding for ourselves when to love others and when to love ourselves first. Declaring that we can be good enough, even though we know our own goodness is not very good. In our efforts to be kings and queens of our own lives we make childish and foolish choices which show even more how much we need someone to save us.

Thirty some years after Jesus was born, there were other rulers who didn’t want to follow Jesus. They decided that God’s people, that God’s holy temple even, would be better off if Jesus was not around, so they found a way to have Jesus arrested and nailed on a cross. On the top of that cross was a sign that read, “King of the Jews.” It was put there to make fun of Jesus and those who thought He was a king, but it turns out that the sign was absolutely true.

Jesus rose from the dead and went up to heaven, and He now reigns as king, not from a castle on earth, but from a heavenly throne. Christmas is the celebration of The King who came for us. Who even as a baby, was doing everything that needed to be done, to save His people from their sin.

PRAYER: Dear God, Thank you for sending King Jesus, to save us from our sins. In Jesus’ name we pray, AMEN

J-December 8th

is for Joy

Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. –Psalm 51:11-12

Activity: Sing-a-long. Pick a happy song that your family enjoys singing. Maybe it is a Christmas carol, a VBS song, or something from a Disney movie. Sing it together. If you are really feeling joyful, dance along. Enjoy a moment celebrating God’s gifts of music and singing.

Joy is a wonderful emotion. We feel joy when we spend time with family, when we get to see our favorite movie, or when someone does something special for us. You might be surprised to find out that joy is different than plain-old happiness. The difference seems to be that happiness is a now feeling where joy is closely linked with peace. Feeling joyful means that you feel safe and loved, and that the world seems to be a good place.

The opposite of joy just might be danger. Maybe you have felt the knot-in-your-stomach feeling you get when you hear tornado sirens on a stormy evening. Or maybe the opposite of joy is heartache, perhaps you have felt the emptiness of a lost pet or saying goodbye to a family member that you don’t know if you will ever see again. Whatever the opposite of joy is, we don’t want it.

Psalm 51 cries to God, “Cast me not away from your presence.” These words remind us that being close to God, being close to His saving hand, gives us joy. Because God is the only one who can save us and take care of us.

Being close to God brings joy. This is why baby-in-the-belly John-the-Baptist leaps for joy when his mother meets Mary who had Jesus in her belly (Lk 1:44). This is why the shepherds had to go find the Baby Jesus, to see this “Good news of great joy that will be for all people, (Lk 2:10).” This is why the wisemen “Rejoiced exceedingly with great joy, (Mt 2:10)” when they met the Newborn King.

On Christmas, God gave the world the gift of joy. He showed His love by sending the Rescuer, who would save the whole world. Because of Jesus we know that we are saved from our sin, and safe in His care. We see that we are not forgotten but loved by the Creator of the world. And we rejoice that we have been given the gift of life forever with God.

PRAYER: Dear God, Thank you for the gift of joy, born to the world on Christmas. In Jesus’ name we pray, AMEN.

I-December 7th

is for Immanuel.         

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. -Isaiah 7:14

Activity: Hide and Seek. Kids go find a safe place to hide. After 30 seconds or so have a parent come seek you out. After everyone is found (or the seeker gives up) ask the following:

Have you ever run away or hid because you were in trouble? What brings you out of hiding?

A theme of the Bible is that God’s people find ways to push God away. Because of our sin we recognize that we are not good. We also know that God is perfect. It makes it scary to think about what a perfect God might think about us and our sin.

One example of this is found in Adam and Eve. After they disobeyed God they felt ashamed and they hid. They hid because they didn’t want God to see their sin. They hid because they knew they had let God down.

We do this too. We hide from our parents when we have done something wrong. Maybe we hide because we don’t want to get in trouble, but maybe we also hide because we feel bad that what we have done has made mom and dad feel sad.

Do you know what God did when Adam and Eve hid from Him? He went to them and He found them. It was not hard for God to find them because He knows everything. He found them and He assured them that He still loved them. God wants to be with His people. There is no sin that is so bad as to make God not want to be with His people.

Immanuel means “God is with us.” Jesus being born in a manger lets us know that God still wants to be with His people. That even though the world is sinful, even though we are sinful, God still wants to be with us. Jesus came to earth, He surrounded Himself with people, He found their sin, then He took that sin to the cross to save His people.

God knows your sin, you can’t hide it from Him. But Jesus found your sin, and got rid of it at the cross, so that we can be with God forever. Immanuel, God is with us, yesterday, today, and forever.

PRAYER: Dear God, Thank you for Jesus, and for coming to earth to be with us. In Jesus’ name we pray, AMEN.

H-December 6th

 

is for Hope.                                                                              

Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. -2 Corinthians 1:9-10

 

Activity: Act it out. What might someone who has no hope look like? What might someone who has found great hope look like?

There are many times in the Bible when God’s people had no reason to hope. Especially after their kingdom was conquered and they were sent away to live in a foreign land. Their homes were gone, their families split up, their kings and armies were no more.

There was no reason for Israel to have hope.

Hope is having a reason to look forward to tomorrow. We put our hope in money that we might be able to buy the things we need and want. We put our hope in our favorite football team to win and have a fun and exciting year as they make their way towards the championship. We put our hope in our toys and jobs, that if we can have enough or earn enough, we can feel like we have accomplished it all. We put our hope in doctors, that when we get sick, they can restore our health.

But what happens when we don’t have money? When our football team is no good? What if our toys break and we lose our jobs? What if the doctor doesn’t know how to cure us? Where is our hope then?

When things look bad. When life feels like it couldn’t possibly get any worse. When there is not much about tomorrow to look forward to, we can look to God’s Word to read about the One who has been there time and time again for His people. “On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.”  God saved His people over and over; from Pharoh, from hunger and thirst, even from a giant. And by sending Jesus to earth, He would save them once and for all.

Through baptism, we too are God’s people. And our hope is in the LORD, because God sent Jesus to save us. To give us hope to look forward to a million tomorrows, as we spend eternity with the God who loves us.

PRAYER: Dear God, thank you for giving Your Son, who is our only hope. In Jesus’ name we pray, AMEN.

 

G-December 5th

Advent Through the Alphabet

is for Good News.                                 

 

And the angel said to [the shepherds], “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 in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” – Luke 2:10-14

 

When an angel appears, you listen. Angels tended to show up in the bible for one of two reasons, to do battle with God’s enemies, or to deliver a message. So when the angels appeared to the shepherds I imagine they were concerned about which way this conversation might go.

The shepherds knew (like we do) that they were full of sin. Like us, they recognized that the way they lived their lives might seem to say that they were not on “team God.” The bible teaches us that our sinfulness, our love of sin, make us enemies of God. That is bad news.

But that is not the message that the angels delivered. Instead they proclaimed peace, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news.”

The good news was that God was getting rid of our sin. He was doing the work to get rid of that which made us His enemies. By sending the baby Jesus to earth, God brought peace, not war. Jesus’ life and death would be exactly what each of us needs to be on God’s team.

The good news is that, for some reason, God loves you and me and the whole world so much that He sent His only Son. That whoever believes in Him will be at peace with God and never die, but instead will live with Him forever.

PRAYER: Dear God. Thank you for the peace that only comes from Jesus. In Jesus’ name we pray, AMEN.

ACTIVITY: Christmas cards are often used to share family news. They are also a great way to share the good news of Jesus! Find some paper and make a Christmas card or two to drop off at your neighbor’s house. Remember to share the good news that Jesus was born for them.