Category Archives: Advent Devotions
says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and cry to her
that she has served her term,
that her penalty is paid,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
double for all her sins.
A voice cries out:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all people shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
A voice says, “Cry out!”
And I said, “What shall I cry?”
All people are grass,
their constancy is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
when the breath of the Lord blows upon it;
surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades;
but the word of our God will stand forever.
Get you up to a high mountain,
O Zion, herald of good tidings;
lift up your voice with strength,
O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings,
lift it up, do not fear;
say to the cities of Judah,
“Here is your God!”
See, the Lord God comes with might,
and his arm rules for him;
his reward is with him,
and his recompense before him.
He will feed his flock like a shepherd;
he will gather the lambs in his arms,
and carry them in his bosom,
and gently lead the mother sheep.
Advent is a season in our Christian calendar year that calls us to prepare our hearts and minds for the coming of the Messiah. In our preparation, something happens in us. We begin to dust off the stories of the faith that remind us of the importance of Jesus’s birth and the anticipation of his coming again. Some of these stories are full of beauty and some are filled with heartache. We remember that God is not fully done shaping our journey, and during the Advent season we quiet ourselves and ponder the truth of that.
But what is interesting about today’s passage is that it calls us to be a little less introspective as we journey through Advent. In fact, it calls us to do the exact opposite of quiet reflection. “Cry out!” says the Lord to the prophet. Tell the people that the Lord is coming to feed his flock and gather them in his arms, like a mother does with her newborn child.
This news is not for us alone; God will gather his whole flock. The passage reminds us of God’s restorative mission in the world and in our lives.
As we begin our Advent journey this year, let us first be reminded that we are children of God and that Jesus will come to make us new. Let us also remember that this journey is not only for ourselves; instead, we are called to invite others to join us. It is a time that we “cry out” because we have good news to share. Jesus is coming! Prepare your hearts and minds, remember the stories of God’s faithfulness, and bring people along with you on the journey. Jesus is coming to hold us all in his arms.
Prayer: God, give us the courage to cry out to all people and share the good news of your coming. Amen.
Benito Aguilera is a pastor in Holland, Michigan, who will be planting an English-speaking Hispanic church in 2018.
Welcome to Advent and the RCA’s Advent devotions series. Advent is a time of waiting, of preparing our hearts as the celebration of Jesus’s birth approaches.
This year’s devotions were written by Hispanic leaders in the RCA and come in both English and Spanish. The days follow the Revised Common Lectionary texts.
By Doyle DeGraw
We live in a day of much distrust. In recent Gallup polls, 70 to 80 percent of us don’t trust the government to do what is right. Distrust is often rooted in fear. When fear becomes the narrative of a person or a community, the potential for a cycle of pain and hurt becomes inevitable. When fear is embedded in a story, it is unhealthy for individuals and their relationships.
Relationships that are based on fear are characterized by pain, humiliation, desperation, shame, fear of rejection, and abandonment. When we are afraid, we do not feel safe. When we don’t feel safe, we don’t trust. When we don’t trust, we avoid pain, especially in relationships that breed or enhance the fear we feel.
When writing to Titus, the apostle Paul describes a remedy to this infection. In verse 3, he describes the reality of the past, identifying lifestyles of selfishness that are fear-based and irrational, lifestyles infected with lies and distortions that show up in emotions, passions, and lusts rooted in fear. Then he describes the present reality: the appearance of a Savior who invades the culture with the antidote to fear. That antidote is love, mercy, and grace, which draw people together.
What things change because of the coming of Jesus? He saves us. Despite our fear and lack of trust, and despite our foolish, stubborn self-sufficiency, he frees us from malice and envy toward him and one another by washing us with a rebirth through the Holy Spirit. The effect is threefold: it brings forgiveness of past sins, it offers a quality of life never known before, and it gives an inheritance of hope for a different future—one that redeems the past and present. Jesus does a spiritual renovation by the generous pouring out of his Holy Spirit!
The good news of Advent is a Savior, who by his death and resurrection prescribes a remedy for fear. Instead of focusing on fear, through the Savior we are enabled to focus our resources on doing good and living in harmony with the law of love, a law which is healthy for everyone!
No wonder that, as the Savior’s birth was announced, the angel declared to the shepherds, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all people” (Luke 2:10, NIV).
Prayer: Jesus, you preached freedom for prisoners, and we are shackled by the past and present without it. Come, Lord Jesus, and cast out every fear. Perfect us in love for the sake of your kingdom!
Doyle DeGraw is pastor of Crossroads Church in Stony Brook, New York. The 2016 Advent devotions were written by RCA church planters and parent churches.
By Tom Elenbaas
All around the world, people commute to work or manage daily living in communities aching for grace.
In this passage, I hear promises that cause my heart to ache, longing for a harvest of grain, for ripe grapes to become new wine, and for a level path with boulders removed to make safe passage possible. We long to raise the festival banner, turn up the music, and sing, shout, and dance! But our mouths are dry, our tongues caked in the dust of drought. We see only cracked earth and fields parched, brown with death. We stumble through crooked pathways in the darkness.
“Listen,” it seems Isaiah is saying to those shouting from the walls. “Cry out—without quitting—and do not let the God of goodness sleep through your pain. Remind God of the promises he made to you—of new wine, new grain, and new grapes in the splendor of his house.”
This is an invitation into a new reality despite the difficulty of the day. Whether we are brick-makers in the baking sun of Egypt or sons and daughters slaving today in a consumer culture of our own appetites, here is the promise of a new city. One translation says, “Pass through, pass through the gates!” (NIV), while another says, “Go out through your gates … Go out! Prepare the way for the rest of your people to return!” (NIRV). Both are true. There is an invitation to us to both enter the gates of gladness from wherever we are in the kingdoms of emptiness and to go out, removing boulders and obstacles for others, raising a banner that proclaims, “This is the place of life!” Come, Lord Jesus. Come, Savior. Come, Redeemer, so that we will be called “Sought After” and “the City No Longer Deserted” (v. 12, NIV).
Prayer: God of promise, keep your promises to us who are waiting and longing for your coming again!
Tom Elenbaas is senior pastor of Harbor Churches in Hudsonville, Michigan. The 2016 Advent devotions were written by RCA church planters and parent churches.