Advent

Here are a collection of readings and discussions for you to use during Advent.  If you wish to copy these, they are copyright to the Cleveland Uniting Church so please contact the office in this regard.  Our thanks go to Mrs Betty McKay who compiled these insights.

Readings, guided reflections & prayers for Advent 2015
Throughout Advent, we recall our hope and expectation in the coming of Jesus — past, present and future.

Monday November 23, 2015
GOD’S PROMISE     READ Jeremiah 33. 1-11
REFLECT on the times when you have received God’s forgiveness and were aware of Him giving you a new start in your relationship with Him or with another person
PRAY O Lord, I thank you for the forgiveness of my sins. I thank you for the joy I know when your promises are realised in my life. I thank you for the re-lit candle of my hope. Prevent me O Lord from disappointing you in any failure to love and trust you. As Scripture tells me your steadfast love endures forever. I praise and thank you. Amen.

Tuesday November 24 2015
GOD IN CONTROL      READ Zechariah 14. 4-9
IDENTIFY in your life the times when you have known flood, earthquake, fire or bereavement destroy what was — and yet from the ashes of despair, hope and new life has been given to you by God.
PRAY O God, we thank you for being beside us when all about us seems to be crumbling. We thank you for Scripture, which tells us of your power over nations and calamities. We thank you for your power to heal and rebuild that which is broken and to give light and hope to us. Death and destruction has no power over you. We thank and praise you. Amen.

Wednesday November 25 2015    GOD AS GUIDE         READ Psalm 25. 1-10

ACKNOWLEDGE a time when you needed God’s help to show you what you should do. How did you relate to Him as you waited for this guidance?
PRAY O God of light, show me your way throughout all my days. Lead me from my sinful path that I may follow only your way. Thank you for your steadfast love. Amen.

Thursday November 26 2015

GOD — ALL ENCOMPASSING       READ Jeremiah 33. 12-16

RECALL an instance when restrictions were imposed on people’s movements or style of worship, but those barriers where later removed
PRAY O embracing God, let not my attitude limit people’s freedom to worship you in diverse ways Show us how to respect the diversity in theological understanding and in ways of worshipping you. Allow us to be receptive to what is new, always seeking to worship you more fully from our heart, mind and spirit. Amen.

Friday November 27 2015
GOD AS COMFORTER     READ 1 Thessalonians 3. 9-13
REMEMBER a time when you felt despondent — aware of not doing God’s will in loving another as you should, but on going to church was assured of God’s forgiveness, took comfort from that and left inspired to give out joy and love to all.
PRAY O loving God, I thank you for your love that comes to me through your people. Embrace I pray those families which need love and care at this time. Amen.

Saturday November 28th 2015
GOD AS SOURCE OF HOPE     READ Luke 21. 20-28
PAUSE AND FOCUS on current situations that threaten lives and cause distress. See where efforts of others are as God’s life and hope to those in fear or distress.
PRAY O Lord God, open world leaders’ eyes to see where people live in fear. May nations show your compassion and love that hope and a new start to life may replace times of terror and devastation. Amen.

Sunday November 29 2015 — First Sunday of Advent
GOD AS SAVIOUR     READ Luke 21. 29-36
BE THANKFUL, appreciating the good life you live — a good place of shelter, food, time for coffee, socialising and freedom of worship. What if you were to lose all through flood, disaster or loss of earnings? What would be left?
PRAY O Saviour God, we thank you for your Word, the good news found in Scripture and proclaimed, words which etched on my heart will remain to give me hope no matter what happens to me, even if I were to die. Help me to stay close to you in good and bad times. Amen.

Monday November 30 2015
GOD — CHALLENGER AND REDEEMER
READ Malachi 3: 1-4
BE CHALLENGED in this season of Advent. Are we ready for the coming of the Lord who has, will take away our sins yet desires to find us ready for Him? Who or what has been God’s messenger to you? Was it God speaking through Scripture, the work of the Holy Spirit or another ambassador?
PRAY Holy God, let us hear you speaking to us and give us the will and courage to be more Christ like. Amen.

Tuesday December 1 2015
GOD SURPRISES     READ Luke 1. 5-25
REJOICE by the memory of a time when God surprised you — a time when God lifted up your lagging spirit. Zechariah was just going about his daily chores when God uplifted him.
PRAY God of surprises, we pray for those who work long hours and feel bound by its monotony. Surprise them we pray with words with words of hope and cheer. Amen.

Wednesday December 2 2015
GOD’S WORK IN THE WORLD     READ Luke 1. 37-67
RECALL a person who lived a humble life yet years after is remembered or who is making such an impact of others lives will be remembered and honoured.
PRAY O Lord, hear my prayer for church and civil leaders. That justice and blessings may come to all people. Particularly bless, I pray, those who serve you in faraway places and indeed close by who show your love, justice and compassion to those in need – people whose good deeds are known only by the recipients and you. Amen.

Thursday December 3 2015
GOD IS HERE AND IS YET TO COME     READ Luke 1. 68-79
PONDER on what Advent means. Think about a time when you were, or maybe still are, despondent. What joy, or touch, uplifted you — gave you, or gives you, hope for what may be?
PRAY O Lord, stay with me when my life, my destiny, waxes and wanes through joy and hope, pain and sorrow. Let the candle of hope, which you keep forever burning, always be seen by me. Keep my faith strong, I pray, always aware that you are with me and ahead of me. Amen.

Friday December 4 2015
GOD OF YESTERDAY AND TODAY     READ Philippians 1. 3-11
REMEMBER old friends or church groups from whom you had to depart and you miss. Remember those who have stood beside you in good and bad times. Ask yourself was it their faith in Jesus and his love to you through them that causes you to yearn for them today.
PRAY O lord, I thank you for the privilege and joy that I knew in those times. Hear my prayer of thankfulness for me being allowed to be in their company and to know their love of you and me. Bless I pray those people keeping their love of you and all they meet alive. Amen.

Saturday December 5 2015
GOD DESERVING PRAISE AND HONOUR     READ Psalm 126
REJOICE as you focus on today’s blessing. You may care to write them down, and give thanks to God. Maybe there have been some tough moments faced today or yesterday. We are reminded by the psalmist, and indeed during Advent time that when Jesus comes there is hope and blessing and joy.
PRAY O Lord, come quickly to those who today have wept. Let your presence, your love, your grace be known to them. I thank you, praise you, for past deliverance from my dark moments. I thank you for giving us hope with the assurance of your coming and being with us in times of our sadness or joy. Amen.

Sunday December 6 2015 — Second Sunday of Advent
GOD’S LOVE OF THE WHOLE WORLD     READ Luke 3. 1-6
IDENTIFY a difference in the focus of John’s preaching as we can see it here when compared with that of Jesus as you know that to be. John’s message went out to civil leaders of the time as well as to those leaders in the synagogue. It went from the wilderness to the more settled places. All people were to heed his call for repentance.
PONDER on leaders — Abbott, Putin, Obama, Isis leaders, the Pope, Moderators and church leaders — and their relationship to the common people.
CONSIDER what John the Baptist would proclaim to them that from their power or servitude our world would have its rough roads made smooth and all see the salvation of God.
PRAY O Lord, we pray that you will enable world leaders to make the rough roads smooth for its citizens. May wars cease. May I be seen by you to be your faithful servant showing through my life, my love of you, and love of those with whom I come into contact. Amen.

Monday December 7 2015
GOD’S WORK IN THE WORLD     READ Zephaniah 3. 1-5, 8-13
PICTURE Zephaniah, God’s prophet living in Jerusalem and seeing god’s people adopting the pagan ways of their Assyrian leaders stood there and prophesised that because of their chosen life style they would be doomed, punished by God. When God found them repentant, humbled and then seeking Him, then would He take away their fear, their suffering and restore to them their previously known blessings. Because of the pull of present day society are God’s children, are you tempted and sometimes swayed to worship false gods in a worship of money, feasting, modern technical devices etc. instead of listening to the Word of God to lead you in His ways and supply you with your blessings which may include money, feasting and use of modern technology? In this Advent time — who or what do we want most at Christmas time — is it the presence of the Lord Jesus?
PRAY O Lord help us to worship only you. Amen.

Tuesday December 8 2015
GOD CHALLENGES     READ Acts 19. 21-40
RECALL stories of recent times when social injustice was seen to exist in the use of underpaid workers producing merchandise or foods for our use .Recall the squalid working conditions provided by some overseas manufacturers of clothing or growers of food items produced for the overseas market. What has been your response or the known response by Australian importers in an effort to curb unethical practices? Should you do more when it comes to choosing brands when purchasing overseas manufactured or produced foodstuffs so as to curb the operations of money makers who operate in unethical ways?
PRAY O Lord, may the unethical use of poor people by the greed of money hungry manufacturers come to an end. May all working people know justice in conditions of employment and salary. Guide me in ways to respond to unfair trading practices. Amen.

Wednesday December 9 2015
GOD OF SALVATION     READ Isaiah 12. 2-6
REMEMBER a time when you were aware that you hadn’t loved your neighbour or a friend you met as you should have done. God had every right to be angry with you and make your life miserable. Did He do so? We are hearing today about young lives being ended by suicide and some recent ones the result of the lack of appropriate, timely treatment and understanding. Consider ways to bring the gospel of salvation to this vulnerable hurting group. Be on the alert for friends or relatives showing suicidal tendencies. Could love from you and affirmation of their worth help them to want to live? One may be your grandchild or child or just one you meet. Remember that many older people having lost friends, physical abilities, independence or a sense of worth need to know the God of understanding and salvation. Can you prepare yourself and be the channel through which God can let the gospel be known by your caring, your doing or praying?
PRAY O God, who would have every person aware of your saving grace your love and the hope you offer to any who come to you, show me how best to serve you in making you known to my friends. Amen.

Thursday December 10 2015
GOD OF HOPE     READ Zephaniah 3. 14-20
RECALL the Easter events-Jesus agony, His anguish, His death, and His resurrection. How did you feel on Easter Day? Maybe memories of lost ones caused sadness or was it a day of pure joy? We wait in Advent for the coming of the Lord, a recall of His birth. Zephaniah the prophet foretold of the consequences of sinful Judah and yet from God’s love and activity he predicts that joy will come and urges the people to rejoice. We too are people of hope, resurrection hope that God has given to us.
PRAY O Lord God, come to me when death draws near. Take me with your love and mercy home, and as I walk on the human road, be you beside me to take away any darkness and give me hope. Amen.

Friday December 11 2015
GOD REASSURING     READ Philippians 4. 4-7
RECALL present day happenings that cause sadness and hurt in the church , in Australia, overseas and indeed in your life. Write them down if you wish.
REMEMBER that Paul wrote the letter to the Philippians while he was in prison, possibly in Rome. His much loved church at Philippi was struggling with internal unrest. Their messenger to Paul fell ill as soon as he had reached Rome. In spite of Paul’s imprisonment and knowledge of the church difficulties, Paul urges all to rejoice — “Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice”. Paul says to the church not to be anxious, but to present their concerns to God who is near, listening and will grant them peace to their mind and heart in Christ Jesus. Paul guides the church to look for all that is honourable, good, real blessings to church and to all about. (Suggestion: write down some of the good things seen in church, in Australia, overseas and indeed in your life.) God’s peace is available to bless all who turn to him in times of anxiety and when all is well.
PRAY O Lord, when I am anxious have me turn to you for the peace I need. When I am overjoyed with the good things about me have me turn to you in thankfulness. Find me at all times rejoicing in your presence: in times of difficulty showing my trust in you, and also when all is well. Hold me tight when I am seen to be falling and direct my paths in the ways of your choosing. In this Advent time keep my eyes, my heart, my mind, my whole being alert to your coming rejoicing and praising you at all times. Amen

Saturday December 12 2015
GOD THE REVIVER     READ Psalm 85.1-2, 8-13
LOOK within and about you identifying times when the church, country and maybe you have acted in unjust ways. Consider how a wrong action could be put right.
PRAY O God of steadfast love and faithfulness guide me, the church, the nations how to amend our behaviour towards any who has received unjust treatment. Fill us O Lord with your compassion, and your love that peace from justice in human relationships may exist in local and national relationships. May the new relationship bring glory to you and peace, love and joy to humankind? Amen.

Sunday December 13 2015 — Third Sunday of Advent
GOD OF JUSTICE     READ Luke 3. 7-18
REFLECT on William Barkley words, ‘whatever the message of John was, it was not a gospel. It was not good news: it was news of terror”. Was it good news for some people? If so, for whom? In this Advent period, can you see John’s preaching as something we need to heed today? Are we in danger of seeing church membership or regular attendance at a church itself as a guarantee of salvation? In John’s humility and in truth John directed his disciples to one greater than himself. The one to come in might and power would baptise doing more than could John. What was this, and is Christ’s activity, as foreseen by John present in today’s sacramental service of baptism?
PRAY Forgive me Lord when I do not respond to your call for justice, love and generosity to be given to those who are in need. In this Advent period, show me the way to direct more of my ministry in acts of generosity, in supporting justice and in showing your love to others less fortunate than I am. Take away any complacency that my church membership or that of my parents to a church can mislead me in believing those things grant salvation. “Oh Jesus, risen Lord, who taught us that all mankind will one day see you as you are, and every man be seen for what he is, help us and all men everywhere to give you the lordship of our life: that in our heart at home at work and play, that kingdom which must one day come in power and in judgement, may dawn in grace and mercy in us now for your tender mercy’s sake. Amen.” (Dick Williams)

Monday December 14 2015
GOD SURPRISES     READ Micah 5. 2-5a
BE PREPARED TO BE AMAZED Nowadays many people will suffer and strive so that their children may attend schools in high socio-economic areas and from such a background be more assured of good jobs and a future. God could have sent His Son, the one destined to be ruler and saviour of the world, to the best place in the world, but He chose to send Jesus to be born in the most humble of places in an insignificant town and to have as his mother a lady without wealth or significant status.
CONSIDER — do you, the church, government, and society nurture and pay equal attention to the poor people, the frail, the aged, the refugee as those identities do to the powerful and up-front people? Did Jesus honour, bless the outcast, the insignificant ones, the ones that the high society, the rulers of the day, reject or ignore? How can we Christians be more Christlike in our relationship with the rejected or mostly ignored people in our society or in our church?
PRAY O Lord, who embraces all people and treats people equally, guide me to see the potential in the lowly, the neglected ones, the poor, the frail, the aged, the refugee and in my relationship with them aid them to realise their potential and find respect and joy. Amen.

Tuesday Dec 15 2015
GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY     READ Hebrews 1. 1-14
CONSIDER that the writer of Hebrews defended the superiority of the Christian faith over all others. That Christ is superior to angels, prophets, great men as Moses and the Aaronic priesthood. Dr Keith Rowe would have us thinking of Jesus as the footprints of God within the culture and nationalities of our world. Where in the world, including nearby, can we see the footprints of Christ on earth? What leads you today to see the superiority of the Christian faith over all others?
PRAY O Lord help me to worship you in my thinking and action and forever, in spite of what may befall me , keeping my faith and trust in you as one with supreme power offering hope, love ,grace and mercy. May the footprints of my life on earth be a legacy of your love, grace, mercy and a statement of my faith in you as God over all throughout eternity. Amen.

Wednesday December 16 2015
GOD OF JUSTICE FOR ALL     READ Luke 1. 46b – 55
RECALL that each gospel has a symbol — an emblem found in stained glass windows and paintings .The one depicting the strong message from Luke is a calf, a sacrificial animal. Luke saw in Jesus the sacrifice for the entire world. Jesus life and ministry breaks down barriers between Jew and Greek, between rich and poor, between the saints and the sinners and in today’s reading we see God choosing a most unlikely person, a poor woman, one low in prestige, to bring into the world His most precious gift to the world, Jesus, the saviour of the world. Mary’s soul rejoices, magnifying her Lord and saviour.
CONSIDER the differences seen in our society between the rich and poor, the equality of women with men in matters of position, salary in the workforce, church and court. Consider whom God could have chosen to introduce Himself in His Son to the world in a regal fashion, pondering on why he may have chosen to introduce Jesus to the world through a humble, poor woman.
PRAY We pray that all people will know equality and justice. Save the wealthy from the love of luxury that changed hearts will respond to the needs of the less fortunate. Guide all that provision may be made for all to have the necessities of life that poverty and injustice will be no more. Clean me from any prejudices I have and as I prepare for the coming of Jesus, He who has come, is now here, but at the end time will come again. Let Him find my soul rejoicing in God my saviour and relating to all with love from a sense of justice and equality. Amen.

Thursday December 17 2015
GOD HONOURS THE HUMBLE     READ Luke 2.1-14
IMAGINE the conditions wherein the present day HRH Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, gave birth to her little babe with that of the humble and possibly dirty stable wherein Mary gave birth to Jesus. Compare the care the royal Dutchess received, the immediate fanfare, the witnesses, the great immediate heralding of the news of the birth to the world, the immediate joy and festivities that were celebrated. God introduced Jesus the saviour of the world to the world in a vastly different way. God chose Mary of humble birth, a poor Jewish lady, to bear and give birth to His Son to be called Jesus. God chose humble, rejected shepherds to be the first to see Jesus. He was found, star led as those shepherds were, in a stable. There had been, to the shepherds’ ears only, a fanfare, but it was celestial and sung by Gods angels. The world was in ignorance of Jesus birth, but the powerful Roman ruler in those parts was anxious to kill that babe once he heard rumour that this was no ordinary babe, but one that could topple him from his place of honour. Reflect on what Jesus life and ministry means to you.
PRAY As you God prepared a place in the heart of Mary to bear your Son, prepare in my heart a place for Jesus to eternally dwell, to be experienced by me to be a living hope for my eternal life, a present help in all places and in all conditions. Fill my soul with joy and thanksgiving in my worship of Jesus as my Lord and saviour. Amen.

Friday December 18 2015
GOD — REDEEMER — SANCTIFIER     READ Hebrews 10. 5-10
CONSIDER — God had allowed animal and bird sin offerings, but they were to be without blemish. That was a law of the Jewish nations. This was seen by the writer of Hebrews to be an unfinished work, not desired by God, nor an act that gave God pleasure. Those priests offering the sacrifices had to do so day by day, for humanity continued sinning. Standing and sitting had significance. Standing indicated an unfinished task. The priests stood. Jesus came and did God’s will offering His body as a remission for the sin of humanity. His death was for the sins of humanity to be forgiven. Redeemed, made pure, sanctified humanity could then be eternally in God’s Kingdom. That task done, humanity given the opportunity of eternal life, the risen Lord Jesus returned to sit at God’s side. What does God require of you when you do sin so that you may be found sinless when He comes. Confession and repentance is one thing, but what action by God in the name and promise of Jesus do you see as God’s activity to have you move on sinless. (1 John 1.9)
PRAY O Lord Jesus, my redeemer, my saviour — prepare my heart to receive you and the forgiveness you offer. May my life remain consecrated to you and my love of you, my worship of you, be a sign of my thankfulness for all that you have done in the past for me, do now and have in mind to do for me. Enable me to be a channel of your peace and in your name, a source of hope. Make yourself known O Lord to those who seek spirituality through false gods and unacceptable offerings. Come Lord Jesus, come. Amen.

Saturday December 19 2015
GOD IN CHRIST IS HOPE.     READ Psalm 80. 1-7
RECALL a difficult time when you needed help beyond which was available under the circumstances and you felt very much on your own and in need, so you prayed to God for help. Waiting for Him to answer prayer can be stressful and this possibly was the mood of the psalmist. In the psalmist case it could have been the defeat of Judah by the Assyrians that caused the writer anguish. We read this psalm a few days before Christmas, a few days before we celebrate the birth of Christ, the one who came as saviour to the world. In His humanity Jesus too had a moment when He wondered where God was and cried out, “My soul is in anguish” “why have you forsaken me?’ Jesus example of leaving all in God’s hands who indeed raised Him from His grave, finds a parallel in this psalm when the psalmist forgets his anguish and says, “let thy face shine, that we may be saved.”
PRAY As I live out my life on earth may I always be able to recall the hope that the presence of Jesus offers. Grant O Lord, your peace upon me when I feel alone or distressed. Remind me O lord when I forget that I abide in you and you in me and that you have promised never to leave me or forsake me. Allow me to wait in expectation of experiencing your love, grace and salvation. Let the good news of your salvation be proclaimed throughout the world. Amen.

Sunday December 20 2015 — Forth Sunday of Advent
GOD — A BLESSED TRINITY     READ Luke 1. 39-45
RECALL a time when your own faith strengthened when you heard another Christian relate an incident with their relationship with God. In the church I attend there is an opportunity for a member to tell the congregation about an incident that happened to them during the week in God’s relationship with them. Such usually ends with a statement of thanksgiving to God. The time slot is apt. These testimonies immediately precede the blessing of the money offerings, but follow its collection so that the stories become blessed also. In our reading today, Mary is aware that she is carrying God’s son whose name will be Jesus. She visits Elizabeth, whose pregnancy is further advanced. At this meeting, the babe Elizabeth is carrying in her womb leaps with joy. The Holy Spirit grants her the knowledge that Mary is the mother of the Lord, and Elizabeth marvels at that news — and is humbled by Mary’s presence. Mary shares her story about how she knew about her baby’s identity. It is a time of blessing and joy.
PRAY O Lord keep me alert to the voice of your Holy Spirit, that I may know your will for me. Allow me to listen to other Christians as they tell me their wondrous stories. Let there be found a sacredness of our telling and listening. Keep firm my faith that your promise will be fulfilled in my life. Amen.

CHRISTMAS SEASON READINGS:

Monday December 21 2015
GOD TO BE PRAISED      Read Psalm 148.
This psalm sees God’s creation as an oriental concept of the world in three
layers, the highest being the Heaven, the lower being the Earth and the
lowest is the underworld. The psalmist exalts praise to God to come from
all layers. “Let all praise God.” Heavenly choirs, earthly choirs and choirs
from the hurting, those suffering or in deep despair, all of God’s creation
has reason to sing God’s praise says the psalmist.
PONDER on what is written above – (thoughts from the Commentary of The
Interpreters’ Bible.)
IDENTIFY times when your soul “sings” as you see the beauty of God’s
creation. What is beautiful to you and is a blessing to you? Identify times
when it is difficult for you to sing songs of praise to God. What was, or is, it
that breaks through your despair, your dark times to restore you and enable
you to praise God?
PRAY O God, master artist, great physician, creator of all and saviour of all, forgive me when I fail to sing songs of praise to you. Reach out to support and guide me to see the beauty which is always about me.  Let me at all times and places be aware of your promises and your presence that all I say and do will glorify you. Amen.

Tuesday December 22nd 2015
GOD THE SAVIOUR    READ Isaiah 52:7-10
PONDER. God’s people in Israel had been taken away from their homes and indeed
the temple where they believed God dwelt and came to them. How could they,
as captured slaves in Babylon, sing God’s songs in that foreign land? There was no
temple or synagogue there. They had been separated from their temple leaders.
They lived with pagans and were under their rule.
God heard their cries of despair. He acted just as He had when their nation, God’s
chosen people, were slaves in Egypt. From there their ancestors had to flee in great
haste, and were in great peril of the mighty force of the Egyptians chasing after them,
wanting to recapture them and to return them to the place of their captivity. They
remembered that their walk to freedom had been a slow and painful walk, but God
had led them to Jerusalem, to their promised land. From that trek the Hebrew tribes
had became aware of God’s power and blessings when they obeyed Him, and in their
times of disobedience, the results of God’s wrath. They also could recall how He had
fed them and enabled them to proceed to eventually reach the Jordon and go to the
place where peace and prosperity lay ahead of them.
This time in Babylon, as they wistfully, and with longing, looked towards Jerusalem,
their freedom was to come more peacefully. God was to allow a more orderly walk to
Jerusalem. Now there was to be time for them to shake off the influence of the pagan,
false gods – time for them to recognise that their God is the one and true God, almighty
and powerful. Their God would lead them home to Jerusalem, redeem them, save
them and enable them to enter into a new life. Once again they would be able to
worship Him in freedom and sing their songs to glorify him, and live their lives under
God’s law as given to them through Moses.
ASK YOURSELF. How does your life style enslave you at times, and make worship
difficult? What influences enable you to worship in freedom?
PRAY. O God, true God of all creation, God of mercy and power, I pray that even
when I am low or depressed, set captive by the unpleasant things of life, enable me to
keep faith in you, my saviour. You are indeed my redeemer cradle me in your love,
a love and embrace that not even my death can cut. I praise and thank you for the
freedom I have to eternally worship you, the blessings that you shower upon me as I
walk along my life’s journey on earth. Amen.

 
  Wednesday December 23 2015
GOD IS LIFE     Read Matthew 1:18-25
It is easy for us to forget Joseph’s part in the gospel story. He was betrothed, but not
married to Mary when she became pregnant with the Holy Child of God, the child of
the Holy Spirit. Mary was a virgin, a young woman, some say as young as 12. Joseph,
to whom she was betrothed, was an honourable and just man. On hearing that she
was pregnant he could have brought her to the Jewish court for punishment, if others
had not stoned her to death for her apparent adultery. He could have decided to
quietly divorce her, for while she had not lived with him, betrothal was considered as
binding until either she went to his house to live or travelled with him. While Joseph
was considering his options an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream telling
him not to fear having Mary as his wife for what is conceived in her is of God’s doing
being an action of the Holy Spirit. Joseph was also told to name the child Jesus which
means Emmanuel, “God is with us.” Joseph honoured the betrothal, took Mary to be
his wife but did have intercourse with her until after the birth of Jesus. By travelling
together Mary and Joseph confirmed the marriage. Joseph also did as the angel asked
and named Mary’s son Jesus.
PONDER on the trust and faith Joseph had as from the dream and the words of an
angel he heard of the planned miraculous conception. Jesus would be Mary’s son and
Son of God.
THINK Has some action of God personally amazed you from the activity of God’s Holy
Spirit, an activity that was unexpected yet strengthened your faith and made you
move in an unpredicted direction? Maybe this was a hope which you dreamed about,
but did not believe could happen. Maybe it was a miraculous answer to prayer.
Has someone predicted a path which you would take in serving the Lord, encouraged
you and enabled you to say “Yes ” to such a life changing direction? Some believe that
the prophet Isaiah, as found in Isaiah 7:14, was foretelling the birth of Jesus just the
way it did actually happen. Do you believe that Joseph was aware of that prophecy?
PRAY O Lord, help me to be ever alert to what you are saying to me. Grant me the
wisdom to hear what you are saying to me through the activity of your indwelling Holy
Spirit. May I have the strength and will to do as you would have me do, not for my
sake, but that I may follow more closely the way you would have me walk. May the
meditation from my heart, and what I say and do be pleasing to you, my Lord and
‘Saviour of the World’. Amen.

 
  
Thursday December 24th 2015 — Christmas Eve
Read Luke1:26-38
As God through His angel prepared Joseph for the coming birth of Jesus so the angel
Gabriel visited Mary, a virgin who was betrothed, but not yet married to Joseph.
Remember that betrothal was as a marriage, but until the couple had lived together or
had travelled together it was not seen as a marriage. Gabriel greeted Mary telling her
that she was not to be afraid. Her virginal state will be changed by divine influence and
she will bear a son who will be born as her son in the normal way, but he would also be
Son of God. He would, through heritage, be King of the house of David and Jacob
forever. Mary was the “favoured one” to bear the one who would be hailed as the
Saviour, Messiah and Lord (2.11). Mary queried how this could be. She was told that
the Holy Spirit will effect this and the power of God would over shadow her, therefore
the child to be born would be called holy, the Son of God. Mary was also told of the
pending birth of a son to the aging Elizabeth and Zechariah, for nothing was
impossible for God. Mary’s response was to affirm that she was a handmaid of the
Lord and as such, ” let it be to me according to your word.”
Think about the depth of faith possessed by this young woman who some
commentators say was only 12 years of age. Does this passage let you see how Jesus
is both Son of God and son of Mary? God coming to earth in human form was
seemingly a part of God’s plan for humanity. How has the humanity of Jesus helped
you in your relationship with God? Has it helped you in other ways?
If that is the case, identify when and how such is helpful to you.
PRAY O Lord, as I look on Mary as mother of Jesus, and the circumstances of His
conception with the acceptance of God’s plan by Mary, I ask for your strength to help
me answer your calling upon my life. Forgive me when I have failed to respond to your
calling upon me to do as you ask of me. May my future response to your voice given to
me by the activity of your indwelling Holy Spirit be as was Mary’s, “Let it be from me
according to you will” Amen