Advent Devotional: Day 19

Advent 2021
Day 19: Thursday, December 16, 2021

Opening Prayer

“Most merciful God, who so loved the world as to give thine only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life: Grant unto us, we humbly pray thee, the precious gift of faith, that we may know that the Son of God is come, and may have power to overcome the world and gain a blessed immortality; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” (Methodist Book of Worship, 1965)

Scripture Reading

Matthew 25:1-13

“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.

“At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’

“Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’

“ ‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’

10 “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.

11 “Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’

12 “But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’

13 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.

The Great Tradition

“The wise virgins are those who, embracing the time available to them, were prepared at the first onset of the coming of the Lord. But the foolish were those who were lax and unmindful. They troubled themselves only over present matters and, forgetting what God said, did not direct their efforts toward hope for resurrection.” (Hillary of Poitiers)

Prayer of Confession

“Lord, so often we have tended to take the salvation you came to bring the world for granted and we have forgotten the price you paid that we might have eternal life. Forgive us, Lord, and where there are those who need to hear the Good News, send us; and where there are those who need your ministry, lead us to their side. In the holy name of Christ we pray. Amen.” (James R. Wilson)


We sometimes forget that the season of Advent is a time of repentance. That is how the early church thought of it. We often think of repentance as purely a Lenten emphasis. That is because we focus primarily on the first coming (advent) of our Lord. However, if you have been keeping up with these Advent devotions, you have no doubt noticed the number of Scriptural texts that focus on the Lord’s return, (second advent), on being ready for “the Day of the Lord, etc. Today’s text is no exception.

Perhaps you have heard the saying, “Don’t be so heavenly-minded that you are no earthly good.” But those Christians who have made the greatest impact throughout Christian history are those who have been so heavenly-minded that they couldn’t help but be earthly good. That’s because they took the words of Scripture seriously. When our Lord calls us to “watch,” he is not commanding us to sit on the top of a mountain and think spiritual thoughts. While we do want to have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16) and let our hearts and minds dwell in heaven (Colossians 3:1-2), that doesn’t mean we never leave our proverbial (or literal) prayer closets.

Instead, we faithfully watch and wait for the Lord by bearing witness and serving in his name. That is why hospitals, schools, orphanages, and a whole array of evangelistic, mercy, and justice ministries have been around for as long as the church. And yes, we worship, pray, read and study Scripture, enjoy the fellowship of the saints and more. It’s a both/and form of discipleship and not an either/or. Therefore, let us be like the wise virgins who were prepared for the bridegroom’s return. Let us be like the wise man who built his house upon the rock who (Matthew 7), according to Jesus, not only listened to the words of Jesus, but also obeyed them.

Walking Points

  • Are you drawn more to a contemplative life or an action-oriented life? In what settings do you feel closest to the Lord? Why do you think that is?
  • If you are more contemplative, how can you stretch yourself and find ways to bear witness for Christ and serve in his name? If you are more action-oriented, in what ways do you find time alone with God to renew your mind and rest your soul?
  • How are both ways faithful expressions of watching and waiting for the Lord?
  • Pray for God to lead and empower you to pursue this important balance.

Advent Devotional: Day 17

Advent 2021
Day 17: Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Opening Prayer

“Thank you, my God, for the Good News which awaits my coming to you today, and always. Thank you for the grace and mercy which promise to set me free of all the sins and disappointments of life which hinder me on my journey toward your kingdom.” (Rueben Job)

Scripture Reading

Matthew 24:32-44

36 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37 As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39 and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.

42 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 43 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.

The Great Tradition

“All who listen to the depths of the gospel and live it so completely that none of it remains veiled from them care very little about whether the end of the world will come suddenly and all at once or gradually and little by little. Instead, they bear in mind only that each individual’s end or death will arrive on a day and hour unknown to him and that upon each one of us “the day of the Lord will come like a thief.” It is important therefore to be vigilant, whether in the evening (that is, in one’s youth) or in the middle of the night (that is, at human life’s darkest hour) or when the cock crows (at full maturity) or in the morning (when one is well advanced in old age). When God the Word comes and brings an end to the progress of this life, he will gather up the one who gave “no sleep to his eyes nor slumber to his eyelids”10 and kept the commandment of the One who said, “Be vigilant at all times.” (Origen)

Prayer of Confession

“Almighty God, we who are aware of your power made known to us in the Babe of Bethlehem, realize that we ought to prepare the way for your coming into the lives of others. You have given us the task of witnessing to the hope for renewal that you hold out to all, but we confess that we have not always taken up our responsibility. Forgive us for our shortcomings, Lord, and encourage us as we try to proclaim the good news that Christ came into the world that everyone might have life, and have it abundantly. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.” (H. Burnham Kirkland)


There was a day when biblical texts like today’s Scripture unnerved me. The thought of Jesus returning in the middle of this sentence was more than I could handle. But why? What could a Christian desire more than to be in the immediate and unveiled presence of his or her Lord? And yet, when I was in college, I wanted Jesus to return, but only AFTER I graduated, then AFTER I got married, then AFTER my children were born, etc. I feel silly even typing that sentence out.

I like Origen’s take on this verse very much. He wrote, “All who listen to the depths of the gospel and live it so completely that none of it remains veiled from them care very little about whether the end of the world will come suddenly and all at once or gradually and little by little.” The truth is, we will each stand before the Lord, whether he returns tonight while we’re sleeping or not. Thus, we are to faithfully live each day as though it was our last, making the most of the time given us… never being presumptuous (and mistaken) about a guaranteed tomorrow.

However, we should not miss the point of our Lord’s warning. Because we do not know when our Lord will return, we had better make sure we are presently in a right relationship with him. I don’t know if it’s ignorance or arrogance to assume one will have ample time to make a deathbed confession to get one’s “fire and life insurance.” Moreover, even if a person received notice that today was their last, if they didn’t care about Christ and the things of God enough to trust and follow him before, what makes them think they will be able to muster the sincerity of a true confession later?

Therefore, Jesus says, “keep watch,” for we do not know when he will return. We want to be ready to meet him whenever our Father in heaven decides. Besides that, true and abundant life begins here and now. Knowing Christ isn’t only eternal life, but is also the only way to become all God created, redeemed, and calls us to be here and now. Since that is true, why in the world would we wait? And on a dramatic, yet serious note, why would we try to play the odds of turning to Christ in faith and repentance five minutes before we stand before him? I have a better idea: why not enjoy the fulness of life he offers you right now.

Walking Points

  • Are you presently in a saving relationship with God through Christ? Do you know what that phrase means? Share your story or any questions you may have about those two questions with a mature Christian friend.
  • How do you react to reading Christ’s words comparing his return with a thief in the night? What is he saying by using that comparison?
  • What does it mean to “keep watch,” as Jesus put it? Why should a Christian even care about Christ’s return?

Advent Devotional: Day 16

Advent 2021
Day 16: Monday, December 13, 2021

Opening Prayer

“O God, who has set before us the great hope that thy kingdom shall come on earth, and has taught us to pray for its coming: Make us ever ready to thank thee for the signs of its dawning, and to pray and work for that perfect day when thy will shall be done on earth as it is in heaven; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” (Methodist Book of Worship, 1965)

Scripture Reading

Matthew 11:7-15

As John’s disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swayed by the wind? If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings’ palaces. Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 This is the one about whom it is written:

“ ‘I will send my messenger ahead of you,

who will prepare your way before you.’ 

11 Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 12 From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence, and violent people have been raiding it. 13 For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. 14 And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come. 15 Whoever has ears, let them hear.

The Great Tradition

“There are several views about the meaning of this verse. Most likely, this is a reference to Jesus’ opponents. Jesus was explaining that as his Kingdom advanced, attacks against it by violent people would increase. He referred not to just one type of opposition, but to opposition in general. John the Baptist, as herald of the arrival of the Kingdom of Heaven, was already experiencing the attacks of evil men (Herod) against God’s Kingdom. The conflict had begun.”

Prayer of Confession

“Lord, we wait for a new heaven and a new earth where righteousness will reign, but we confess we have not been leading lives of holiness and godliness. We know that your Son came into the world to show us the way, but while we sing ‘Joy to the world, the Lord is come,’ we have failed to be faithful disciples. Forgive us we pray, and through your Holy Spirit enable us so to live that we might help your kingdom to come, and your will be done here on earth. Amen.”


One of the emphases of my ministry is to call followers of Christ to “extend the Kingdom of God into every sphere of life.” The word “extend” means to stretch, lengthen, prolong, continue, expand, enlarge, offer, put forth, give, impart, and present, just to name a few. While each of those words is similar, each represents a slightly different emphasis which is key in understanding our Christian mission.

Interestingly, the 1984 NIV translation of our Scripture emphasizes God’s Kingdom as “advancing.” This has a military ring to it. Jesus adds that forceful (violent, NIV 2011) people lay hold of this forcefully advancing Kingdom. My NIV footnote says,

They enter the kingdom and become Christ’s disciples. To do this takes spiritual courage, vigor, power, and determination because of ever-increasing persecution.”

John Piper says advancing the Kingdom of God in such a way requires a “wartime mentality.” The Kingdom of heaven is forcefully advancing yet the kingdom of darkness actively resists it. As people seeking godliness, we are daily fighting for our lives and for the lives of those we love and who’ve been entrusted to our care. The world, the flesh, and the devil are formidable adversaries. If we do not maintain a wartime mentality, being ever vigilant and standing firm in our faith, then we, and those we love, will suffer the ravages of war, the consequences of our poor preparation.

Therefore, we must fight the good fight of faith. We must enter the battle through the narrow gate, for wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life and only a few find it (Matthew 7:13-14). This narrow gate is Jesus himself. Living life as his disciple means entering into new life through him and traveling the “Kingdom road” he has set before us, regardless of how narrow and hard it is. Peter says many will leave this Kingdom road and wander off because they love the wages of wickedness (2 Peter 2:15), which results in death (Romans 6:23). The battle rages all around us, but we must stand firm in our faith, or we will not stand at all (Isaiah 7:9).

Standing firm takes a wartime mentality. We cannot assume we are ever safe from attack. We must be ever watchful and on our guard. We are called, commanded, and expected to fight, persevere, press on, and stand firm. But we are never asked to do this in our strength, but the Lord’s.

The wonderful paradox of Scripture is that while we persevere, our hope is not in ourselves. Our hope is in the Lord. The battle is ultimately his.

Forceful people lay hold of the Kingdom of God, which our Lord causes to advance in and through his power. Therefore, we work through his power (Colossians 1:29). God’s Kingdom advances as faithful followers of Christ represent their King in every sphere of their lives, even in enemy-occupied territory. 

Such faithful witness will not be easy. After all, it is a war. There will be a cost which we’re commanded to consider before we enter the fray. The enemy shoots his fiery darts at us daily (Ephesians 6:16). He hides and waits to devour us (1 Peter 5:8). The world sends out its false teachers to lead us astray (2 Peter 2:1ff). 

In John 17, Jesus does not pray to take us out of such a world, but all throughout Scripture our Lord promises to never leave us nor forsake us. More than that, he fights on our behalf. And in so doing, he advances his Kingdom. Don’t you want to be a part of such a glorious Kingdom? Don’t you want to know such a glorious King?

Walking Points

  • What are ways unbelievers resist the Kingdom of God? What are ways believers resist the Kingdom of God?
  • How have you been guilty of resisting God in your life? What were some of the reasons you did so?
  • What are three practical ways you can “stand firm in the faith” in the various spheres of your life – home, work, community, etc.?

Advent Devotional: Day 12

Advent 2021
Day 12: Thursday, December 9, 2021

Opening Prayer

“Blessed Lord, who caused all Holy Scripture to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and the comfort of your holy Word we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.” (Book of Common Prayer 2019)

Scripture Reading

Psalm 37:1-9

Do not fret because of those who are evil

or be envious of those who do wrong;

for like the grass they will soon wither,

like green plants they will soon die away.

Trust in the Lord and do good;

dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.

Take delight in the Lord,

and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord;

trust in him and he will do this:

He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,

your vindication like the noonday sun.

Be still before the Lord

and wait patiently for him;

do not fret when people succeed in their ways,

when they carry out their wicked schemes.

Refrain from anger and turn from wrath;

do not fret—it leads only to evil.

For those who are evil will be destroyed,

but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land.

The Great Tradition

The “land” here indicates the heart of the listener and his soul. We are ordered, therefore, to indwell this land, that is, not to stray far from it, not to run to and fro, far and near, but to dwell and to stand firm within the bounds of our spirits and to consider the land very carefully and to become its tiller just as Noah was and to plant in it the vine and till the land that is within us, “to renew the fallowed ground of our spirits and sow not among the thorns.” Namely, let us purge our spirit from faults, and let us refine rough and harsh ways with the gentleness and the imitation of Christ, and thus finally we may feed from its wealth. (Origen)

Prayer of Confession

“O God, we give you thanks for the gift of love which you have bestowed upon us with the coming of your Son, Jesus Christ, whose birth we are preparing to celebrate. We know that nothing can separate us from your love, for your love is stronger than all the forces of evil. Forgive us, therefore, when we doubt the power of your love, and trust instead in the power of might, the weapons of war and destruction. Strengthen our convictions and make us instruments of your peace. Amen.” (H. Burnham Kirkland)


I love the order of this Psalm.

  • Verse 1 – Do not fret…
  • Verse 3 – Trust in the Lord and do good…
  • Verse 4 – Take delight in the Lord…
  • Verse 5 – Commit your way to the Lord; Trust in him…
  • Verse 7 – Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him…
  • Verses 7-8 – Do not fret and refrain from anger…
  • Verse 9 – Hope in the Lord…

How can you abstain from fretting and becoming angry and, instead, hope in the Lord? The Psalmist’s answer is, trust in him, take delight in him, commit your way to him, be still before him, and wait patiently for him. Each of these should be meditated upon. In fact, plan on doing that before the sun goes down today. Take one of these verses and ponder its significance and application in your life.

For example, what changes would have to be made in your life to “trust in the Lord and do good,” and to “dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture” (verse 3)? It never occurred to me what Origen said about the land being the heart and soul of the listener. He then directs us to nurture this land. We should tend the soil of our heart and soul and not stray into other lands where such attention will no longer be maintained and thus, allow weeds to grow. I can’t help but think of Jesus’ parables of the Sower and the Weeds found in Matthew 13:1-30.

Another question to ask God about this text, perhaps an even better one, would be to ask what blessings would flow into your life by “trusting, doing, dwelling, and enjoying” in this way. Moreover, what blessings would flow from your life into the lives of others because you are tending the garden of your heart and soul and enjoying its fruit? That’s a lot for us to think about and that’s just skating along the surface of only one part of one verse. So, let me encourage you to spend some time on these verses today and prayerfully discern which of them God is using to speak to you at this time and place in your life.

Walking Points

  • Today’s “walking points” application is to do what I’ve already suggested. Read and reread these verses and prayerfully consider them. Which of these jumps off the page at you? Pray over it. What images come to mind as you read these words? What thoughts?
  • After you spend time doing that, spend a few moments reading some study notes on the verse from your Study Bible or a reliable online source. Sometimes the notes and commentary will explain historical details that will help you better understand the text. Sometimes they will assist you in applying these truths in your life in ways you may not have thought of.
  • But most importantly, pray for the Spirit of the Living God to speak to you as you meditate upon his Word. Pray for him to lead and empower you to hear and obey. And don’t forget, the time you spend with God will draw you into a deeper and closer relationship with him. And that’s the best part!

Advent Devotional: Day 11

Advent 2021
Day 11: Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Opening Prayer

“Almighty God, who in thy providence hast made all ages a preparation for the kingdom of thy Son: We beseech thee to make ready our hearts for the brightness of thy glory and the fulness of thy blessing in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” (Methodist Book of Worship, 1965)

Scripture Reading

Revelation 1:17-2:7

17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. 18 I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.

19 “Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later. 20 The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lampstands is this: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.

“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write:

These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands. I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.

Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.

Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.

The Great Tradition

“You have sinned, yet you still can be reconciled. You have someone to whom you can make satisfaction, yes, and one who wills it. If you doubt that this is true, consider what the Spirit says to the churches. He charges the Ephesians with “having abandoned charity.” He reproaches the Thyatirenes with fornication and “eating food sacrificed to idols.” He accuses the Sardians of “works that are not complete.”8 He censures the people of Pergamos for teaching false doctrines. He upbraids the Laodiceans for “placing their trust in riches.”10 And yet he warns them all to repent—even adding threats. But he would not threaten the impenitent if he failed to pardon the penitent.” (Tertullian)

Prayer of Confession

“It shames us to admit to you, compassionate God, our many sins and shortcomings that prevent us from living in covenant with you. We are truly sorry for these, and ask for your mercy, your forgiveness, your grace, and your Spirit to cleanse and purify us. Make us ready for the new life that results whenever you come. In the spirit of advent and the name of the coming Christ we pray. Amen.” Paul Laughlin


I like the words from Tertullian in today’s reading from The Great Tradition. He writes, “But [Jesus] would not threaten the impenitent if he failed to pardon the penitent.” In other words, our Lord Jesus would not call his bride, the church, to repent if he did not love her and desire to forgive her. In our day, we do not tend to receive a call to repentance as an act of love, but of judgment. Yet Christians understand (or, ought to understand) that it is because we are loved that we are called to repent, to turn away from the wrong path and return to the right one. Such was the case with the church at Ephesus.

Jesus began by telling the Ephesians that he had seen their good works and knew they had persevered when it wasn’t easy to do so. They did not put up with wickedness and, furthermore, weeded out false teachers who were leading people astray. He said, “You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary” (vv. 2-4). Can you even dream of being commended for your faithfulness by our Lord? I cannot imagine being able to stand under the weight of awe I would feel hearing such words. Thoughts and feelings of unworthiness would flood my soul. Yet here is our Lord doing just that, extolling the Ephesians for their good works. But he wasn’t done addressing them.

He next revealed that they should not be resting on their laurels, for he was not pleased with a great shortcoming of theirs. He said in verses 4-5, “You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen!” Going through the motions of mere religion is not the same thing as enjoying the union of a deep relationship with Christ and bearing its fruit. Orthodox belief and pharisaical obedience are not the same thing as loving God with all one’s heart, soul, mind, and strength. But please don’t misunderstand – believing right things about Jesus is crucial and obedience to him is absolutely vital. But the former ought to lead to greater and deeper love for Christ while the latter should be the result of that loving relationship. The Ephesians, it appears, had drifted from the foundational love for Christ they once had. Furthermore, it was negatively impacting the way they were treating one another. To this, Jesus commanded, “Repent!”

Do you have ears to hear when Jesus addresses you like that? Being able to receive such a rebuke from Jesus is painful. When his Holy Spirit brings conviction for sin in my life, I feel like curling up in a corner, the grief is so strong. Yet it’s a life-giving word and we are all the better for hearing it and responding as the Spirit of the risen Lord commands. To those who are obedient to the words of Jesus, he proclaims, “To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God” (v. 7). It is Jesus who saves us through his death and resurrection. Moreover, there is no repentance possible if his Spirit is not animating our thoughts, words, and deeds. And still, the fruit of saving faith is manifested in and through the good works for which we were graciously and lovingly created (Ephesians 2:10). Therefore, such works are expected by his covenant children, the church.

Walking Points

  • How do you think you would react if Jesus commended you for your faithfulness? What emotions would you experience?
  • How do you usually respond to Christ’s call in your life to repent of your sinful thoughts, words, deeds, desires, and attitudes? Is there a pattern of stages you go through? Explain.
  • How can you continue to grow in your love for Christ so that it doesn’t become stale and stagnant? Share your thoughts with a friend and pray for one another.

Our Providential Hope: Advent Devotional, Day 10

I was unable to write a devotional today in the usual format, so please forgive this devotional “rerun” from last year’s Advent season.

God’s Providential Hope
Mark 1:1-8

Four Hundred Years

Four hundred long years had passed since Israel last heard from a prophet – from God himself. Four hundred years of silence. But now, there was one who spoke from the wilderness. His purpose? To declare the arrival of God’s promised one, the Messiah – the one who would rescue God’s people.

How warmly welcomed that good news must have been, especially since Israel was under Roman rule. To finally be delivered from that oppression must have been the best news. The prophet John’s calling was to prepare the way for this mighty Deliverer by announcing his arrival. It was Jesus himself, just a few verses later (Mark 1:15), who would declare that his new Kingdom was now at hand. But how would a person become a citizen of this Kingdom? By repenting and believing God’s good news. God’s gracious and providential hope was still available after such a long time had passed. God never forgot his promises.

And Yet

And yet the good news of God’s Kingdom was not welcomed as good news. God’s Deliverer was not embraced as such. We know from the life, ministry, and teaching of Jesus, that he and the Kingdom he ushered in were not what the people of his day had in mind. Jesus didn’t fit the expectations many had for the Messiah. He didn’t seem to say and do what the people had hoped he would say and do.

Still, he was God’s providential hope for his people. Their only hope. Israel needed to be rescued from something far greater than Rome. The Son of God, Jesus Christ, was willing and able to save his people once-and-for-all.  But not many of his people were willing to be saved on his terms. Their hopes and dreams took the shape of temporal desire – to understandably be out from under the thumb of Roman rule. They allowed the good to become the enemy of the best.

What are your expectations of Jesus? Are your hopes temporal only? Or, are your hopes filtered through an eternal perspective?

In-Between Living

Advent is the liturgical time of year in which we more fully and formally remember that we live between the two appearances of our Lord, Jesus Christ. His first arrival, which we celebrate during the seasons of Advent and Christmas, ushered in God’s Kingdom – his rule and reign in our lives. Our focus during this time of year helps us better reflect upon who Jesus is and why he came. It also gives us space to think about how we ought to live in light of his return.

Just as we are called to live responsively to his first advent, we must also live expectantly toward his second. That is the time, as C.S. Lewis put it, “when the author walks on to the stage [and] the play is over.” Lewis adds,

“That will not be the time for choosing: it will be the time when we discover which side we really have chosen, whether we realized it before or not.”

Are you prepared for the coming of Jesus? How can you better prepare for that Day? Looking at and learning from his first advent informs how we are called and commanded to live in preparation for his second one. More than that, it is only as we repent of our sin and believe his gospel – the good news of his Kingdom – that we can enter the fullness of life he offers.

Walking Points

  • How do you understand the idea of living between the two advents of Jesus?
  • Does knowing Christ will return on “that day” make a difference in how you live your life today?
  • How are you bearing witness to the world that Christ has visited us once and one day will return in glory when there will be no mistaking his arrival?

Advent Devotional: Day 9

Advent 2021
Day 9: Monday, December 6, 2021

Opening Prayer

“O God, who in the days of old didst make thyself known to prophets and poets, and in the fulness of time didst reveal thyself in thy Son Jesus Christ: Help us to meditate upon the revelation of thyself which thou hast given, that thy constant love may become known to us, and that we may feel thy presence always with us; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” (Methodist Book of Worship, 1965)

Scripture Reading

Revelation 1:1-8

The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who testifies to everything he saw—that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.


To the seven churches in the province of Asia:

Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits l before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.

To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.

“Look, he is coming with the clouds,” u

and “every eye will see him,

even those who pierced him”;

and all peoples on earth “will mourn because of him.”

So shall it be! Amen.

I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”

The Great Tradition

In the same way the Lord applied to himself two Greek letters, the first and the last, as figures of the beginning and the end which are united in himself. For just as Alpha continues on until it reaches Omega and Omega completes the cycle back again to Alpha, so he meant to show us that in him is found the course of all things from the beginning to the end and from the end back to the beginning. Every divine dispensation should end in him through whom it first began, that is, in the Word made flesh. Accordingly, it should also end in the same way in which it first began. So truly in Christ are all things recalled to their beginning. (Tertullian)

Prayer of Confession

“Lord, in the everyday events of the holiday season so often we forget your message of hope and salvation for a lost and hurting world. Forgive us, Lord, and as this season progresses help us grow in our witness to your mercy and grace. Help us keep the pressures of the world in their proper place and help us share the true joy of Christmas. In Christ we pray. Amen.” (James Wilson)


The last book of the Bible is entitled, “Revelation,” which means an unveiling of something previously unknown. More than that, it is something that could not be known unless revealed by God. There is a sense in which we can generally know about God through nature. However, Christians believe all the Bible is the special revelation of God. In other words, it is only through Holy Scripture that we can learn more deeply about God and come to know him relationally.

We might learn without the Bible that two thousand years ago there existed an itinerant preacher named Jesus who was put to death by the Romans. But only through the revelation of God can we know that this same preacher was God incarnate who came to die for the sins of the world. Without revelation we would not know that God desires for us to have a relationship with him. We would not know this union with God can last beyond the grave. That is a small, though vitally important, amount of what we learn only through God’s special revelation.

All the Bible is God’s Word inscripturated, but only Christ is the Word of God made flesh (John 1:1). Jesus was a unique revelation in that he was truly God with us (Matthew 1:2-3). He is still God with us in and through the Person of his Holy Spirit. As the Son of God, Jesus, in his preincarnate state, has existed in all eternity with God the Father and the Holy Spirit. He is truly Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. As Alpha, all things were made and hold together in him (Colossians 1:17). Everything was made by him, for him, and through him (John 1:3, Colossians 1:15-16). As Omega he is the ultimate purpose for which everything has been made. Furthermore, his second advent will mark the end of all things as we know it. As the Apostle John says to those who will read the words found in Revelation, let’s do more than read the words about Jesus found in Scripture; let’s take them to heart.

Walking Points

  • We often think of the baby lying in a manger during the Christmas season. What thoughts do John’s words bring to your mind about Jesus in his first eight verses of Revelation?
  • Does understanding Jesus as “God with us” bring you comfort? Explain.
  • What emotions do you experience when you consider Jesus as Alpha and Omega? Why?
  • Reread Revelation 1:1-8. Write down everything John reveals about Jesus. Spend some time in prayerful contemplation about your list. Share your experience of encountering Jesus in this way with a friend.