Advent: December 23: The Light of the Whole World

Luke 2

Light does not just give us the ability to see and help us to grow things, light fuels our souls. God made us this way! Exposure to light increases our brain’s release of serotonin when it cues special areas in our eyes, which is a hormone that boosts mood and helps make you happy. This is a chemical reaction that happens in our brains because we NEED light, and God knew we needed it. And, He knew that if we had it and we were outside in His Creation, we would see Him around us.

Jesus is called the “Light of the World” because He acts as light to our souls. He is the only light for our world, no alternatives. He is the only one that we need. He opens our eyes and helps us to see true joy and happiness is found only in Him. He is always there, always available even when we are in the dark, and, one day, when He returns, He will fill the whole world with His light for all time.

John Piper wrote: “If you follow him now, you will have him as your light in advance of that great day. True, he will reveal your sins. Which is a precious gift — like the fortunate early diagnosis of a deadly cancer. But even more, he will reveal all that is beautiful. He will be the light in which you see God — the light in which you see the history of redemption and the work of salvation.

He will be the light in which you see mountains and valleys and oceans and rivers and trees and animals and people. Nothing will be the same again when you have him as your light. Everything looks different in the light of Christ. Yes, even earthquakes and tsunamis and suffering and death. Until his light fills the earth as the waters cover the sea — until it banishes sin and sickness and pain and earthquakes to the outer darkness — until then, even now, his light will help you bear the sorrows of darkness.”

SEE GOD AROUND YOU

Go outside today (hopefully the sun is shining) with a friend and some chalk. Have your partner strike a pose so that their shadow is on the ground. Outline their shadow with the chalk.

Why does a shadow form?

Come back to that same area 15 minutes later. What happened to the outline if you stay in the same place?

Now, hold up something transparent (that you can see through), like a glass or a window. Outline with the chalk.

How is this different than the shadow of your friend?

APPLICATION

Ask God to draw you out of darkness into His marvelous light. Ask Him to show you His goodness, His nature, and His promises, so that you can finally see. Ask Him to save you so that you can be in His light for all time.

As Him to move THROUGH you. Don’t be like a shadow that blocks His light from coming through. Be as transparent as a stained-glass window, allowing God’s light to shine through you so that others can see Him too.

Advent: December 22: He’s Here!

Luke 1-2

Despite the stereotype we give donkeys, they are actually quite intelligent hard workers with exceptional memories. They remember good and bad experiences well for many years to come, and they prioritize their behavior based on survival. Therefore, they are not always seen as the most obedient animal because of their stubbornness, but deep down, they know that you could be leading them into a bad situation that they do not care for.

During Bible times, horses were seen as symbols of war while donkeys were often used to take peace treaties, symbols of service, to show hopes for salvation. The donkey has often shown up in our nativity scenes and Bible stories on Christmas as Joseph and Mary’s mode of transportation to Bethlehem. However, it is never stated in the scripture. We are not really sure HOW they got there, but it could have been by foot, a camel, or a donkey.

However, God did show us multiple times that He would take something lowly, common, and unacceptable to a king, and use it for His glory. So, whether or not a donkey was a part of the birth story, it most definitely was a part of Jesus’ story when he arrived to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Crowds were there to greet Him as their king, but yet, instead of arriving on a war horse, He arrived on a donkey demonstrating that He came for peace, redemption, and salvation.

These were a sign that fulfilled the prophecy in Zechariah 9:9, “Rejoice with all your heart, people of Zion! Shout in triumph, people of Jerusalem! Look! Your King is coming to you: He is righteous and victorious. He is humble and rides on a donkey, on a colt…”

SEE GOD AROUND YOU

Peace is something we all desire, but it is not something that we often achieve. Many times, it is because we busy our minds with things of this world, and do not focus on the grand plan that the Lord has set out before us. Sometimes we need to refocus on the peace Jesus has brought to us through His redemptive salvation.

Go outside with a journal and pencil and find a quiet place to sit. Sit there in silence for 10 minutes. Pay careful attention to the sights, sounds, smells, and feelings that you notice while you are there. Write down your observations.

APPLICATION

Praise God that “He is Here!” and that God sent His Son to this Earth to bring peace. Pray and ask Him to speak to you in the quiet times you have with Him. Ask Him to bring you peace instead of chaos and to focus on what He has truly come to do here on this Earth- save His people and draw others close to Him. How has He called you to help Him deliver this message of peace to others?

Advent: December 21: Get Ready!

Nehemiah 8-10, Malachi 1,3,4, Ezra 7

I’m convinced that the Lord loves to make us wait for everything, but yet being patient for good things in expectancy is probably one of the hardest things we can do as human beings.

The world around us is enveloped in waiting…

Caterpillars go through metamorphosis inside the chrysalis for 2 weeks. During this time, the caterpillar liquefies and changes its DNA before transforming into a butterfly ready to make its grand arrival.

Elephants have a gestation period for nearly two years (that means that God is forming their little elephant baby inside the womb for 24 months)! Scientists believe this is because elephant’s brains are so large and require extra time to form in the womb.

Diamonds are formed over billions of years after carbon is subjected to intense heat and pressure 100 miles below the earth’s crust. Eventually, over years and years, they can be brought up to the earth’s surface through volcanic eruptions which take them up to the surface at 30 miles per hours.  If they weren’t taken up to the surface at that exact speed under those circumstances, they would be turned to graphite.

One thing is certain, in order for these phenomena to happen, everything has to be just right!

God’s rescue plan is much like that. He set the stage for years and years, making His mark, speaking through prophets, and preparing the way for the Messiah to come to save us. We had to wait for everything to be just right: for the family lineage to be correct, for the place to be spot on, and for the time to be the time appointed for His coming. They knew they had to be ready for this phenomenon to happen, even if they had to wait a bit for the prophecies to come true. After all, God places a lot of meaning in waiting.

SEE GOD AROUND YOU

Go outside and find a place where you have fertile soil. Place a hardy cold-weather seed a couple of inches below the soil. Just leave it there. Place a marker in the ground with a label of the seed that you planted. The seed won’t sprout any time soon, but if the conditions are just right in the Spring, the seed will come out of the dormant state and it will begin to sprout.

APPLICATION

Think about God’s story and all He is doing in your life. Is there anything that you are waiting on Him for? Are you expectant? Do you believe that God will come through? Like a seed buried below the cold winter soil waiting for Spring, pray that God will make the conditions right, in His timing, for His will to be done in your life.

Advent: December 20: God’s Messenger

Jonah 1-4; Hebrews 1:1-2

Storms at seas are a frequent part of life. Sailors know when the storms are coming well before they appear. The wind will begin to pick up speed and change direction, the sky may change color, and the clouds will change shape. These storms happen because of differences in air temperature coming from different directions. Warm air rises and cool air falls creating a difference in atmospheric pressure. If the pressure changes are large enough, they can form hurricanes as the winds begin to blow in a circular direction. One thing we know, a storm at sea is dangerous and life-threatening, especially if you are not expecting it.

As we have learned, God can control the elements. So, why would He send a dangerous storm to Jonah, the very person he commissioned to be a messenger for Him? One thing we often forget about God’s character is that He is completely Holy and cannot stand for disobedience and rebellion. Jonah had purposely disobeyed God, and this was God’s response to that choice. Sometimes, God may allow storms to come into our life because of the sin we have chosen.

Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the people of the world revere Him. Psalm 33:8

God is Holy, but God is also love. He offered Jonah grace and a change to repent through the big fish that came to rescue him. He indeed offered the same grace that Christ offers us on the cross. When we mess up and disobey God, we have an opportunity to ask God to save us and turn to Him instead of running away from Him. Just as sending the fish was part of the rescue plan for Jonah, God sending His Son was His great rescue plan for us.

For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16

SEE GOD AROUND YOU

Go outside and look at the sky. What’s the weather like today? Is a storm coming?  

Check the clouds: Do you see any clouds in the sky? Are the clouds wispy and straight or are they billowing and tall in the sky? Draw what you see. Which clouds do you think would indicate a storm is coming?

Check the wind: Do you feel the wind? What direction is it blowing? Is it strong and gusty or mild?

APPLICATION

Are you in a storm right now? Is it because of any intentional sin in your life or disobedience? If so, turn and face the cross and ask God to forgive you. He will rescue you. After all, this is why He sent Christ for us. He knew we needed some grace after all.

Advent: December 19: Daniel and the Scary Sleepover

Daniel 6

Imagine waking up at midnight and eating lunch, going to school, and playing with your friends. Nocturnal animals do this. These are animals that are awake and do most of their hunting at night, including bats, raccoons, pangolins, leopards, and owls. But why?

Lions will rest up to 21 hours per day and come out at night for a number of reasons. First, as predators, lions can sleep longer and harder because they do not have to constantly be on watch for predators. Second, they need to conserve their energy and stay out of the hot sun because of how few sweat glands they have. Third, they have excellent night vision and can successfully get closer to prey.

Lions are known for their beauty, strength, and fearlessness. In the ancient Near East, lion hunting was often a sport of kings to show their power. (Sad, I know). They would keep the lions in pits or cisterns. They may have used these for sport or to punish their enemies.

Daniel was thrown into the pit of lions and left there throughout the night because he refused to stop prying to God despite a decree that was put forth. Knowing what we know about lions and their nocturnal instinct to hunt and the fact that these carnivores (meat-eaters) were probably lacking their normal nutrition (being that they were in captivity and unable to hunt freely), these lions were more than likely ready for lunch. It was a sure death for anyone tossed inside.

Yet, God showed His power over even the mightiest creatures that roam the Earth. He shut their mouths and saved Daniel. God saw Him as innocent, and God was glorified because His power was shown. God continued to save His people, even when all seemed lost, and He will continue to do so until His rescue story is complete.

“Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed…”

Revelation 5:5

SEE GOD AROUND YOU

Nocturnal animal senses are fantastic for them to be able to find their prey in the dark. Go outside with a blind fold on, a friend, and an adult. Have your friend stay on one side of the yard and make a noise. Try to follow the sounds without peeking and use your sense of hearing. Were you able to get close?

APPLICATION

Think about Daniel’s impossible situation and how God used His power to save him. Think about all we have learned about God’s story so far. Will God win in the end? If so, how does that make you respond today? Can you rest in knowing God will take care of you?

Advent: December 18: Operation No More Tears

Isaiah 9, 11, 40, 50, 53, 55, 60

If you are up early enough to view a sunrise, you will most definitely take a moment and appreciate the beauty of it. But how is it that the sky changes colors so dramatically throughout the day? It is yet, another one of God’s creative uses for light to bring beauty to the world around us.

Remember how a rainbow is made? It uses the white light from the sun and water droplets to create a prism through which the light travels and bounces off of the side and separates the white light into all of its colors. Well, every ray of sunlight has these colors within the beams of white light that we see. And remember, perspective matters!

Air molecules through which the light travels are closer in size to blue and violet than the other colors, which is why when the sun is high, the sky appears blue. However, at sunrise, the beams of light take a much longer path and scatter along the way causing more of a red hue.

So, this is why at 3:00pm mountain time, you can view a nice blue hue over the Rocky Mountains and at the same time 5:00pm eastern time, you can view the rest of the beam of light (reds and oranges) over the Appalachian Mountains.

Scientists have proven that clean air provides the best pathway for these particles to travel. Therefore, when there are airborne pollutants that decrease air quality, it robs the sky of the beautiful array of hues it could wear. Unfortunately, many of these pollutants are caused by humans, our lifestyles, and our wastefulness. We are often robbing ourselves of beauty and joy because of how we choose to live.

Although sometimes the world around us seems broken, and beautiful sunrises get robbed of their colors, God has a plan for it all. He calls it “Operation No More Tears” and foretold this plan through Isaiah. He said the Savior would come, He would die, He would raise from the dead, and then He would return. When He does, every sunrise will be perfect, there will be no more tears, mountains will bow down, and the trees will dance in worship to Him.

SEE GOD AROUND YOU

Go outside with a tall glass of milk, a flashlight, a dixie cup of water, a spoon.

  1. Pour the water in the milk and stir with a spoon.
  2. Put the light up to the milk. What color does it appear?
  3. Now, go someplace dark or wait until dark. Put the flashlight up to the milk.
  4. What colors do you see now? Why do you think this happened?

Paint your version of the most beautiful sunset you have seen.

APPLICATION

The sunrise is the perfect symbol of God’s hope and plan for this dark world. He has promised that no matter how much pain and how much loss you go through in this life, that He will rescue us and the sun will rise again. Ask God to give you hope, patience, and endurance while you wait on Him and His perfect rescue mission.

“In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. … The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

John 1:4-14

Advent: December 17: A Little Servant Girl and the Proud General

2 Kings 5

Over 70% of the earth is made of water. It is composed of oxygen and hydrogen. It can change form depending on the temperature, dissolve things, and help things to grow. We, as humans, cannot live without it.

Not only do we need water, we need clean water regularly not just to drink, but to also clean ourselves in. Many people rave about the healing properties of water. How it can boost our energy, decrease our stress, and help us remain free of disease.

The Bible, however, uses water symbolically throughout scripture. It is mentioned over 700 times in the Bible. One of the ways in which it is mentioned is spiritual cleansing.

Hebrews 10:22 states: Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from and evil conscious and our bodies washed with pure water.

This is what God was teaching Naaman. He was showing him that he not only needed to wash with water to clean his body from leprosy, but he needed to cleanse his heart from his sin.

SEE GOD AROUND YOU

Go outside and dig in the mud. Look at your hands and how dirty they are.

Then, go wash yourself under the hose. What happened to your hands?

APPLICATION

Think about when you washed your hands with the water. How is God calling you to wash yourself clean on the inside? Is there anything tainting your heart that you need to confess? Know that when you confess and allow Him to wash you clean, like Naaman, He forgives you and loves you.

Advent: December 16: The Good Shepherd

Psalm 51, 2 Samuel 7; Psalm 23

In the past couple years, I have become enamored with Babydoll Southdown Sheep. They are small, cute, cuddly, and very soft. They have a friendly personality, and they even have a permanent expression on their face that looks like a smile.

So, as every small landowner asks herself, I have been looking into what it would be like to be a shepherd. It turns out that being a shepherd is not an easy task, especially I our day in age. We have to buy the correct number of sheep for the correct about of pasture we have, decide what type of fencing and housing we will give them, and understand that we have to feed them grass, hay, mineral supplements, and water. Not only this, you have to think about rotating your pastures to avoid parasites and diseases, where to sell your sheep so you don’t become overcrowded, avoiding toxic plants, and guarding them from predators. Then, there is lambing season where you have to oversee the labor and delivery and post-partum care of the baby and mama. Then, de-worm, vaccinate, trim hooves, shear wool, and repeat.

Whew!

The rewarding part of shepherding is, the sheep. They know the shepherd, they love the shepherd, and the follow the shepherd’s voice. They know the shepherd has what is best for them in mind.

I then think about how Jesus is referred to as the “Good Shepherd” and we are his sheep. He cares for us, protects us, and makes sure we have all of our provisions, just as a shepherd does for the flock. Without the shepherd, we are prone to wonder, we are susceptible to the enemy, and we will struggle to find hope along the way in the midst of struggle.

Like sheep, we are a piece of work at times, but God smiles at us in joy. The more we come to know Him and His voice, the closer we follow Him and the brighter our hope and future becomes.

SEE GOD AROUND YOU

Put on a nice wool sweater and head outside with some cotton balls. Construct a 3-sided stable out of some sticks or wood. Use your cotton balls as sheep.

Put one cotton ball in the small stable you constructed. Think about what it would be like to live as a sheep alone in the cold, dark of winter.

Put 10 cotton balls in the small stable you constructed. Then, imagine you have a flock. You have others surrounding you to help, but you are still without direction.

Then, imagine a shepherd taking care of you, feeding you, and meeting your needs. Construct a fence, put in some water, and throw in some hay.

APPLICATION

How does it make you feel that you have the Good Shepherd watching over you? Do you follow God’s voice closely or are you prone to wander?

Advent: December 15: The Young Hero and the Horrible Giant

1 Samuel 17

When rocks travel along rivers and streams they collide with the bed (or bottom) and other rocks eventually causing them to resolve into smooth shapes through the processes of abrasion, collision, and erosion.

Once the rocks have lost all of their protrusions and rough edges, and settle on the bottom of a brook, it then becomes polished as sediment washes over it for decades.

These are the stones that David chose in that shallow brook in the valley. They were perfectly polished and perfected because of the gentle and steady flow of water over their surfaces. They were aerodynamic, swift, and accurate.

As he quickly selected these stones in faith, he selected one for Goliath and possibly 4 more for Goliath’s brothers. He was prepared to fight and prepared to be victorious because the hand of God was upon him.

God provided exactly what David needed to be able to conquer the giant and save His people because it was a part of his grand plan. He used David, the unlikely king and the skills he had as a mere shepherd to continue His story.

SEE GOD AROUND YOU

Go outside and find 5 smooth stones. Get some paint, a paintbrush, and some water. Paint on the 5 smooth stones the story of David. Then, try to tell the story by using the rocks you painted.

APPLICATION

Think about how God orchestrated the battle between David and Goliath. He placed them in a valley that was formed by the hand of God just perfectly so the stream ran through there at the right velocity and speed to produced perfect stones, just deep enough where David could quickly grab them. God used it all.

Think about things that you are good at and talents you may have. What are some ways you think God could use those talents and skills for His glory? Do you have faith, like David, that He will provide you the resources to complete what you need to complete? Do you believe God will be victorious over all of the struggles in the midst of the battle?

Advent: December 14: The Teeny, Weenie… True King

1 Samuel 16

Bees. Not the cuddliest animal, and certainly seen more as a nuisance for many people. They are creepy crawly, buzz around, and even sting. The fact is, no matter how much we may not like these small creatures, bees are one of the most valuable creatures on the face of the Earth to our survival. One third of our food supply is pollinated by bees, meaning they keep plants and crops alive, such as: almonds, apricots, avocados, blueberries, cantaloupes, cashews, coffee, cranberries, cucumbers, eggplants, grapes, kiwis, mangoes, okra, peaches, pears, peppers, strawberries, tangerines, walnuts, and watermelons. If bees didn’t exist, we couldn’t grow these things, and humankind would have difficulty existing. They are significant to our ecological health.  

God didn’t design bees to think about our needs as humans; he created this amazing ecological system so that we support each other’s survival. Bees are just going about their working business eating and supporting their hive and their queen bee. It is an intricate plan and design. So much so that every teeny, tiny creature exists for a reason.

Most people expect for things of most significance to be big, strong, and dominant. However, throughout God’s story, he always uses the teeny, tiny, weak, or the unexpected to accomplish a grand plan. When Samuel went to find the new King out of Jesse’s sons, he expected the strongest, tallest, and most handsome. However, God told Him to stop looking at the outward appearance and look at the heart.

God chose David to be King because He saw His heart. He was the weakling of the family, the tiny one, the one that had to watch over the flocks. But, He was significant in God’s big plan and story.

Then, more than a thousand years later, God sent the one true King from this family line in an unexpected way. He didn’t come as the strongest or the mightiest, but He came as a baby, in the most unlikely of places to save God’s people once and for all.

SEE GOD AROUND YOU

Go outside and look around with a magnifying glass. What can you see crawling around in the grass? Have your parents download the iNaturalist app and identify the species of plant of animal. Do some research. What significance do these little microscopic creatures and plants play in our big world?

APPLICATION

Think about why God chose David to be such a significant part of His story: because of His heart. What does it mean for you to have a heart for God? As you turn your heart towards God, how could He use you? Will He promote you to be a king, give you the knowledge to provide science with the newest discovery, or raise children to bring glory to Him? Pray that God will align your desires for your life with His will, and wait and see what He will do.

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