Category Archives: Advent Devotions
By Enrique Cuevas-Castillo
When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then it was said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.”
The Lord has done great things for us,
and we rejoiced.
Restore our fortunes, O Lord,
like the watercourses in the Negeb.
May those who sow in tears
reap with shouts of joy.
Those who go out weeping,
bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy,
carrying their sheaves.
The psalmist reminds us that, although we live with the joy of the Lord, and his mercies are new each morning, tears are also a reality in the life of the believer. Jesus never promised a life free of affliction and tears, but he did promise us a life that is victorious over problems: “I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!” (John 16:33). So what can we do when we are faced with painful situations?
I grew up thinking that money was used for two things: saving or spending. I either put my money in my piggy bank or I bought material goods. As an adult, I have realized that there is a third option: investing the money to obtain returns. God encourages us to carry out this third option with our tears and our pain. He doesn’t want us to keep back or avoid our tears, nor does he want us to squander them. Instead, God wants us to invest them by offering them in prayer to him so that they produce returns of joy, of character, and of maturity in our life.
Have you ever viewed tears as an investment? We have a God to whom we can pour out our tears, our frustrations, and our pain because he understands us and transforms us through them. These days of Advent remind us that we have a God who became flesh, who came into this world and experienced suffering, affliction, and pain. Advent also reminds us that this affliction gives a return of salvation and eternal life for those who believe.
Just as the return doesn’t happen overnight, the tears that we pray before God will take time to bear the fruit of joy, character, and hope. But we are assured that, by sowing our tears in Christ, we will reap the fruit of justice with rejoicing.
Prayer: Holy Father, I remember and give you thanks for sending Jesus, your beloved Son, the man of sorrows. Through him, you justified and took away the iniquities of your people. Through your Holy Spirit, help us to pour out our tears and sadness in your presence, knowing that you understand us, console us, and strengthen us. Amen.
Enrique Cuevas-Castillo is pastor of Iglesia Alas de Aguila, an RCA church plant in Allendale, Michigan.
For I the Lord love justice,
I hate robbery and wrongdoing;
I will faithfully give them their recompense,
and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.
Their descendants shall be known among the nations,
and their offspring among the peoples;
all who see them shall acknowledge
that they are a people whom the Lord has blessed.
I will greatly rejoice in the Lord,
my whole being shall exult in my God;
for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation,
he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
For as the earth brings forth its shoots,
and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up,
so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise
to spring up before all the nations.
People and history are filled with layers upon layers of complexity. In the face of that complexity, we can easily ignore two of the deepest truths that Advent attests to.
First, humanity is deeply broken and in desperate need of a Savior. We live in and are a part of a sinful world, a world of broken relationships with God and neighbor. This is true for all people, in all times and all places. Second, the work of God through the incarnation of Jesus Christ is both greater and more mysterious than we want to admit. The Word became flesh to save us and now through the power of the Holy Spirit, the Word becomes flesh in us, in order to restore us and equip us for the continued work of redeeming all of creation back to God.
This Scripture passage paints a rich portrait of people coming together through the redemptive power of the gospel. In this biblical account we see the living God causing “righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations” (v. 11). Rather than conforming to the patterns of this world, Advent invites Christians into a new perspective that encourages each person to joyfully embrace their own culture and at the same time celebrate the cultural differences of other sisters and brothers in Christ.
In a broken world often marked by tribalism and suffering, the gospel offers expressions of unity through praise and hope for oneness without sameness. In the kingdom of God, diversity within God’s people is not just a nice commodity for contemporary Christianity. Instead, multicultural worshiping communities serve as a faithful witness of the living image of God to the whole world.
Prayer: Living God, continue to renew and transform us during this Advent season. Teach us your ways and remind us to praise you in our rejoicing and even in our grieving. Transform and conform us more into the likeness of your son, Jesus Christ, in order that the Word may become flesh in us. Amen.
Carlos Corro is pastor of Imago Church, a church plant in Visalia, California, and president of the RCA Council for Hispanic Ministries.
because the Lord has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and release to the prisoners;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
to provide for those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a garland instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, to display his glory.
they shall build up the ancient ruins,
they shall raise up the former devastations;
they shall repair the ruined cities,
the devastations of many generations.
For many people, Advent is one of the most exciting times of the year. Families that are scattered come together to celebrate. The atmosphere is full of lights, songs, and festivities. And even though this is the case for many families, there are other realities that many people face. There are people who are alone, who are not able to visit or be visited by family members. There are people who are desperate, and depression comes. For these people, Advent can be a burden, a reminder that their lives don’t seem to measure up.
The prophet Isaiah has a word for people who are suffering. He prophesies about the coming of the Messiah. The anointing upon the Savior will accomplish several things. The Savior will come to bring hope to a world that is hopeless. He will bring good news to those who are sick, sad, depressed, and alone. His promise is as his name says: Emmanuel, God with us. And as he leaves this earth his promise stands, and he declares, “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).
In this season, let us be sure to share this good news with people who need it most. Let us share the Lord’s favor, let us comfort those who mourn, and let us celebrate that God is with us.
Prayer: Lord, thank you for coming to this earth and shining your light upon us. Help us remember the good news of the gospel, and help us have compassion for those who still need to know you. Amen.
Rodrigo Cano is pastor of Communidad Cristiana de Grand Rapids, an RCA church plant in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
By Ricardo Velázquez
The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,
“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way;
the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,’”
John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
These words are meant to catch our attention. Whether it’s a film, a show, a new store, or a whole shopping center, the words are meant to excite us and let us know that there is something for us in the future. Because Christmas decorations get displayed as early as September, the excitement of “Coming soon!” can get lost among the usual signs of the yearly Christmas celebration, its commercialism, and its busyness. Another year of celebrating the “season” can come and go very quickly.
In the Gospel of Mark, though, the message of “Coming soon!” comes through loud and clear. And the meaning of the season is also proclaimed: Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
Mark reminds us that Jesus didn’t just appear; instead, he was announced by someone who had been chosen long before and was given the privilege of making people aware of what was “coming soon!” That person was John the Baptist, a man whose clothing style and eating habits definitely were not his focus. He helped people realize the sin within them and their need to repent. John made it clear that neither he nor his lifestyle nor his actions were the answer, but that someone was to come soon and would make a difference in their lives through the Holy Spirit. John’s announcement excited people and made them aware, and when Jesus came, lives were changed.
Now it’s our privilege to announce Jesus. This Advent, let us shift our focus from our clothing and feasts to the exciting message of the gospel. Let us bear witness to Jesus and prepare the way for what the Holy Spirit can do in those around us. Their lives may be changed not only for a season but also for eternity.
Prayer: Lord, let us be the voices that speak your love to this world that needs you greatly. Let us be the voices that share the exciting message of salvation in you. Let us be the voices that echo the work of the Holy Spirit in us. Let us be the voices that announce that you are coming soon! Amen.
Ricardo Velázquez supports the areas of strategic leadership development, Hispanic ministries, and Next Generation Engagement for the RCA.
By Karla Moreno Camacho
2 Peter 3:14-15
Therefore, beloved, while you are waiting for these things, strive to be found by him at peace, without spot or blemish; and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation. So also our beloved brother Paul wrote to you according to the wisdom given him.
The Advent season can be full of preoccupations and worries. We are reminded daily that we live in a dysfunctional, broken, and selfish world that’s full of evil. As we long for things to be set right, we may get discouraged and continue to feel anxious about the state of the world and of our lives.
But today’s passage of Scripture encourages us to live a life of peace. Instead of wrapping ourselves with worry, we should stay committed to Christ during difficult times. Even when we try to live in the peace of Christ, we might find ourselves stressed rather than calm. So we should listen to the words of Peter and be encouraged that that the glorious day, when we will be glorified together with Christ our Savior, is drawing near.
Peter also tells us to be without spot or blemish. Being spotless doesn’t mean that we are perfect but that we are being transformed into the image of Christ each day, as long as we remain in relationship with him. It fills me with hope to know that I am not perfect and can give all the credit to Christ as I walk this path of transformation.
Someday, when Christ returns and the transformation of our world and of ourselves takes place in its fullness, we will no longer live with anxiety. What is broken will be restored. Come soon, Lord Jesus!
Prayer: Jesus, as I wait for your coming, give me your peace. Purify my heart and make me spotless. Amen.
Karla Camacho is an elder at Iglesia Nueva Esperanza, an RCA church plant in Mesa, Arizona. She is also a member of the Commission on Race and Ethnicity, a facilitator for a women’s leadership collaborative, and a seminarian at Western Theological Seminary.
By Richard Caballero
2 Peter 3:8-13
But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day. The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed.
Since all these things are to be dissolved in this way, what sort of persons ought you to be in leading lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set ablaze and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire? But, in accordance with his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home.
Advent is my favorite time of the year. I love to sing Christmas carols and decorate the house with ornaments. I get excited to see the preparations in the church weeks before—the pageants, the choirs, and the groups of excited children rehearsing to recreate what took place on that beautiful night in the small village of Bethlehem. All the enthusiasm and preparation of Advent gives the impression that we are longing for Christmas to arrive. Christmas Day is the fulfillment of the most glorious and marvelous act in history: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life” (John 3:16). And that act should awaken in our hearts feelings of longing and expectation for the one who has already come and who has promised to return.
Advent is not only a time of preparation for celebrating Christmas, but is also a time of expectant reflection for the second glorious coming of our great King. As Christians, we should long for that day to come. But in today’s passage of Scripture, Peter reminds us that the Lord does not delay his promise because he’s slow. Instead, there is a very powerful reason: God is patient, waiting until the last of his chosen people acknowledge him as their Lord and Savior.
In this time of Advent, we remember that Christ came and that Christ is coming. While we prepare to celebrate the origins of our redemption, we take advantage of each opportunity to announce with passion the good news of the gospel. Amen!
Prayer: Lord, help me to live like a true chosen one and give me the opportunity to share your gospel with someone today. In Jesus’s name, amen.
Richard Caballero is pastor of the Spanish-speaking congregation at Emmanuel Reformed Church in Paramount, California.
By Armando Becerra
Let me hear what God the Lord will speak,
for he will speak peace to his people,
to his faithful, to those who turn to him in their hearts.
Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him,
that his glory may dwell in our land.
Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet;
righteousness and peace will kiss each other.
Faithfulness will spring up from the ground,
and righteousness will look down from the sky.
The Lord will give what is good,
and our land will yield its increase.
Righteousness will go before him,
and will make a path for his steps.
Every year, my children wait anxiously for catalogs filled with new toys for the Christmas season. Each year, they spend hours and hours contemplating and writing down what they want. The list changes every day. They always choose one that that they think they have to have, no matter what. That becomes the toy of the year. Now I have a mission: to get that toy, no matter what.
Some years, I wait until the last minute. Then I find that all the toys have been sold, and there isn’t one for my children. Other years, as soon as they identify the toy they want, I buy it to make sure they will have it. Still, every year my children ask me, “Do you promise that you’re going to get it? Are you going to keep your promise?” They wait anxiously for me to say yes. “Listen to me,” I say. “Listen to what I’m going to tell you: I promise to do my part.” From the day they choose their toy until Christmas Day, it’s a time of frustration, waiting, distrust, anxiety, and impatience. The question on their minds is, “Will Dad be able to get what he promised us?”
We wonder the very same thing about God. Will he keep his promises? In Psalm 85:8, the psalmist says, “Let me hear what God the Lord will speak, for he will speak peace to his people.” One of the things that we can know for sure is that our God is not going to forget to fulfill his promises. We know that he will not wait until the last minute to find out that the store no longer has what he promised. We can rest assured that he will fulfill his promises. Nothing can prevent him from doing so. The psalmist says, “I will listen.” Let us pay attention to God’s words because if he has promised peace, then that peace will come even when it seems that we must wait for a long time.
Prayer: Lord, give me faith to trust in your promises and to wait for their fulfillment. Keep me faithful to you. Amen.
Armando Becerra is pastor of Rancho en Español (RCA) in Temecula, California.
By Eddy Alemán
Lord, you were favorable to your land;
you restored the fortunes of Jacob.
You forgave the iniquity of your people;
you pardoned all their sin.
In the season of Advent, we remember and celebrate the birth of Jesus who was born for us and for our salvation. That promise of salvation was something the people of Israel needed to hear at the time of this psalm. Psalm 85 was written after the return of the Jews from their captivity in Babylon, most likely during the time of Ezra and Nehemiah. After their arrival, however, they were also under some distress from their neighbors.
In the first two verses of this psalm we can see several things. First, God shows favor to the land and makes it acceptable and good for his people to live there. Second, God restores the fortunes of his people. This is a reference to his bringing them back from a place of captivity. Israel can now rejoice that God has set them free and has delivered them from the land and the hand of their enemy. Third, he forgives the iniquity of his people. We must be thankful that God’s forgiveness is not just a one-time thing. God is loving and forgiving toward us all the time, and in an ongoing manner. Without forgiveness we have no hope. Fourth, God covers the sins of his people. God chooses not to remember our sin. The blood of Jesus is powerful enough in one moment to fully cover all sin and unrighteousness. The removal of sin will bring the removal of God’s anger.
We must be thankful for God’s divine favor toward his people. We sometimes are quick to forget how good God has been to us. This psalm was written in the tension between God’s goodness and a difficult time. The best way to approach difficulty is by remembering how faithful God has been to us. This Advent, may we remember God’s goodness to us.
Prayer: Lord, today we remember your goodness. Thank you for showing your favor to our land, for restoring our fortunes, and for forgiving our sins.
Eddy Alemán is the director of strategic leadership development and coordinator of Hispanic ministries for the RCA.