Grow Deep: Revealing Jesus Edition, Week 3
Week 3: December 17-23
“Shout aloud and sing for joy, people of Zion, for great is the Holy One of Israel among you.” - Isaiah 12:6
As I flipped through a stack of “junk” mail, an oversized postcard caught my eye:
FIND JOY! Nothing says the holidays like a new pair of shoes. Whether you're looking for something cozy, festive or functional … the right pair of shoes can bring great JOY this season! Spread holiday cheer … with everyone's favorite brands.
As followers of Jesus, we recognize that our JOY is a gift from God. JOY is the gladness of heart that results from knowing that God is with us! Good tidings of GREAT JOY were proclaimed by the angels when Jesus was born!
But, perhaps the postcard’s message should not be immediately dismissed. Perhaps a new pair of shoes could be a tangible reminder to live with JOY this Advent.
… a good pair of walking shoes makes all the difference when hiking through difficult terrain. In Nehemiah, we are reminded that the JOY of the Lord is our strength. His strength makes the difference as we go through the trials of life.
… some shoes are festive! Remember that a festive Miriam danced for JOY after the Israelites crossed the Red Sea! In Philippians, God commands us to be festive by saying, “Rejoice in the Lord always! I will say it again: Rejoice!!”
… the night of Jesus’ birth found Mary and Joseph in surroundings which could be considered “cozy” (as the postcard suggests), but more realistically were overcrowded, smelly, and uncomfortable (an old pair of shoes??). Still, God promised that the Savior of the World would be born. And behold, GREAT JOY came wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.
… that a new pair of shoes, as the postcard claims, can help to “spread holiday cheer.” Wearing our new shoes, we serve others in need as a tangible act of the JOY we have received through faith in Christ Jesus. Our beautiful feet become messengers that spread the JOY of the Gospel this season.
So, put on your shiny new “JOY shoes” this Advent season and find the peace and JOY a thriving, personal relationship with our Savior guarantees. Then, with all creation, you will sing “Joy to the World” when Jesus returns!
Sunday, December 17
Read: Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11
The prophet Isaiah brings good news to the captives, to proclaim freedom and God's everlasting covenant with them. They rejoiced in the Lord; we rejoice in the Lord as we wait for His coming in this Advent season. Waiting is the work of Advent.
Refection: This morning in worship, our children sang with joy about the hope of the Savior who is to come and for whom we wait. How do you respond to waiting? Do you prepare or fret? Do you rejoice or become impatient? Choose to rejoice today by praying or singing the words of this familiar Advent song: “Hark, the glad sound! The Savior comes, the Savior promised long. Let every heart prepare a throne and every voice a song.”
For the Family: How does God’s love make us strong and lift us up? The prophet says, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me.” The prophet goes on to say that God sent him to preach the good news of God’s love to others and to comfort those who are sad. How is our calling as Christians still the same today?
Monday, December 18
Read: Isaiah 52: 7-10
The messenger brings good news--the news of God's redemption for His people. Our joy is in the Gospel message. Jesus has come to save us from our sins, and He is coming again. The seed of joy is planted in our hearts through faith when we believe that Jesus came to earth to save us from our sins. As our faith grows, the joy of the Lord becomes a deep and abiding presence in our lives, and we are compelled to share the Gospel with others!
Reflection: Ask God to show you an opportunity to be the beautiful feet that share the Good News of salvation this week! Invite a friend or family member to come to a Christmas worship service with you.
For the Family: Feet are not something most people would describe as beautiful. Yet, the prophet says, “How beautiful upon the mountain are the feet of him who brings good news.” What good news is being proclaimed? How do you think the people of Jerusalem felt when they heard this news? How is this good news for us? Why can our feet also be described as beautiful?
Tuesday, December 19
Read: 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
Paul tells us to rejoice always, to pray continually, and to give thanks in all circumstances. Joy is an attitude of contentment given by the Holy Spirit and is based on the hope we have in Christ through faith.
Reflection: How does Paul tell us we are to respond to God’s call on our lives? Gratitude for Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross fosters a spirit of rejoicing, prayer, and thankfulness. What will you do today to express your gratitude to your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ?
For the Family: How can we have joy in ALL circumstances? How can an attitude of thanksgiving, even in difficult circumstances, encourage us to experience joy? Take time this week to thank God for giving you His joy through Jesus!
Wednesday, December 20
Read: Habakkuk 3:17-18
These verses are near the end of a prayer by the prophet Habakkuk. After referencing the coming desolation, Habakkuk turns to expressions of joy! His joy comes as the result of his confidence in and commitment to his Lord. His joy was the product of his trust and confidence in God. Habakkuk chose to focus on God and what God had done for him instead of his circumstances.
Reflection: Joy is the feeling of contentment in any circumstance, the gladness of heart that comes with knowing God is with us and our salvation is secure. Choose joy today by confessing any thoughts or difficult circumstances that are causing you to be anxious.
For the Family: Have you ever had a really bad day? Was it difficult to feel joy that day? As followers of Christ, we are to focus on Him rather than our circumstances. How can you give your bad days to Christ and experience joy every day?
Thursday, December 21
Read: Nehemiah 8:9-12
The people were gathered to hear Ezra recite the words of God's law to them. They were in mourning over their sin. Nehemiah encourages them by telling them they were forgiven and should go to their homes celebrating with joy. God is the source of all joy, and strength comes from a relationship with Him. We are His children, and we are forgiven! We have received God’s free gift of salvation! This news results in joy or gladness of heart that is always with us, even through the trials of life.
Reflection: How does Ezra describe the joy of the Lord? Think of a time when God gave you strength and joy when your circumstances were difficult. Share your story with a loved one or friend? Joy is meant to be shared.
For the Family: Why do you think the people who came to hear Ezra cried as they heard the reading of the Law? To what does the Law draw our attention? The people who heard Ezra were filled with joy because he assured them they were forgiven. How can we experience this kind of joy today?
Friday, December 22
Read: Zephaniah 3:14-20
What a beautiful word picture of God's heart ... Zephaniah tells us that we have good reason to be joyful. God is with us, always; He is our source of forgiveness and salvation; He rejoices over us because He loves us; His love calms our fears and fills us with His peace; He sings over us! We are the joy of His heart!
Reflection: Respond to God’s great love by singing or praying “Joy to the World” (Psalm 98) as we wait for Him to come again. “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.” (Psalm 150:6)
For the Family: How does Zephaniah assure us of God’s unrelenting love for us? This passage is a two-fold prophesy, meaning it had a direct meaning for Israel, but it also has meaning for us today. How does this passage point us to Jesus?
Saturday, December 23
Read: Luke 1:26-38, 46-55
The Angel Gabriel comes to a young virgin and announces that she will be the mother of the Savior of the World. Mary receives the news with a sense of "wonder" and is perplexed. Still, she accepts what the angel has to say. Her declaration of faith is in her response: "Here I am ... the Lord's servant. Let it be to me according to your word." Filled with joy in God, she magnifies and praises Him in song. At the heart of her joy is trust. Mary’s song demonstrates her complete faith and trust in God.
Reflection: What verses from Mary’s song challenge you in your own faith walk? Write your own song of praise for what God has done for you in the season of waiting.
For the Family: Mary was an ordinary girl who was engaged to be married to an ordinary guy, when suddenly her life was turned upside down with the Angel Gabriel’s news. How do you think Mary felt when she first heard the news? How can Mary’s faith and integrity be a model for us?