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Advent devotional-2012

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  • 1. 2012 ADVENT DEVOTIONAL BY JANET DENISONGIFTS THECHRISTMAS OF
  • 2. ABOUT THE AUTHORJanet Denison is an author, Bible teacher and speaker. You are invited to join those whoenjoy Janet’s weekly blog posts. Subscribe free of charge at www.janetdenison.com.Janet is the author of Content To Be Good, Called To Be Godly and recently publishedher first children’s book. Felix Navidad is a Christmas story about a boy and his donkey,and their exciting Christmas adventure. The book is written to teach children ages 3-8,that the greatest gifts are often what they can do for others.ABOUT DENISON FORUM ON TRUTH AND CULTUREJames C. Denison, Ph.D., is a cultural apologist, building a bridge between faith andculture by engaging contemporary issues with biblical truth. He founded the DenisonForum on Truth and Culture in February 2009. Since that time, he has spoken to over100,000 people. He is the author of seven books, including his most recent, RadicalIslam: What You Need to Know.Dr. Denison writes a cultural commentary available at www.denisonforum.org. Hisfree daily commentary is distributed around the world to over 25,000 subscribers in 90countries. He writes for The Dallas Morning News, contributing weekly to the “TexasFaith Forum,” and is a guest columnist for The Christian Post. He has also taught worldreligions for 25 years with four seminaries. He has spoken in China, Cuba, Brazil,Australia, Europe, Israel, Greece, Egypt, Bangladesh, and Turkey and served as ashort-term missionary to East Malaysia, in Southeast Asia. He also leads frequent studytours in Israel, Greece, and Europe.
  • 3. GIFTS- - - ---------- - - - - - - - - - - - ------------------------- --------------------------- THE 2012 ADVENT DEVOTIONAL OF CHRISTMAS- - - ---------- - - - - - - - - - - - ------------------------- --------------------------- Christmas changed the world—then the world changed Christmas. While our culture sees Christmas as a holiday, it is still possible to celebrate the holiday as a holy day. The Advent season is a time to prepare spiritually to celebrate the birth of the Savior and receive the transforming gifts he came to bring. It is important, in the midst of all that the holiday season has become, to stop and spend quiet time, each day, in the Lord’s presence. This guide is written to help you dedicate time every day for that purpose. Christ changed everything when he chose to leave his heavenly throne for a humble manger. The purpose of this Advent book is to help you remember and receive the life-changing gifts his birth provided. May this Christmas be a season of worship for you, because that baby in the manger is once again the king on his heavenly throne. Our ministry wishes you a blessed Christmas season, filled with his joy and peace.
  • 4. GIFTS------- - - - - - - - - - - - - --------------------------------------------- THE OF 2012 ADVENT DEVOTIONALCHRISTMAS------- - - - - - - - - - - - - --------------------------------------------- SUN DAY, DECEMB ER 2, 2012 Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. Luke 1:1-2 Luke begins his gospel by assuring the readers that the Christmas story was much morethan a story. People of Luke’s day were interested in knowing the details of Jesus’ life, so many hadtried to “draw up an account.” Luke wants to be certain his readers understand a crucial point. He isrecording the memories of those who were eyewitnesses to the first Christmas, and to Jesus’ life. Notonly is Luke giving us those first-hand accounts, he also makes sure we understand that theseindividuals have gone on to serve Jesus and preach his word. Why is the Christmas story read most often from the gospel of Luke? Many theologiansbelieve that Luke, a doctor, had been the only person with whom Mary felt comfortable enough todiscuss the details of Christ’s birth. Luke may have spoken with the only “eyewitness” to that firstChristmas, and because of that, we have the Christmas story. This year, as you read the familiar story, picture an elderly Mary quietly remembering thebirth of her son, God’s son, and all that had taken place before and after. Then understand that, asthe Spirit led, Luke wrote down what God wanted us to know about Christmas. Allow yourself,through Scripture, to become an “eyewitness” to those moments. And then be a servant of the word.Share the real story of Christmas with everyone you can this year. Preach Christmas with your words,with God’s character and God’s priorities, and through the power of his Holy Spirit. Because of Luke,we can know that Christmas is more than a story and more than a season. Who will betterunderstand the Christmas story this year because of you? TODAY’S GIFT - - - - - - ------------------------- --------- G o d’s p e r fe c t wo rd - - - - - - ------------------------- ---------
  • 5. GIFTS------- - - - - - - - - - - - ------------------------------------------------ THE 2012 ADVENT DEVOTIONAL OF------- - - - - - - - - - - - ----------------------------------------------- CHRISTMAS MON DAY, DECEMB ER 3, 201 2Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, inthe spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. Luke 1:16-17 Zechariah was standing in the temple at the altar of incense when an angel appeared. Theangel was bringing great news. Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth would have a son and name himJohn. The angel told Zechariah that his son would be great in the sight of the Lord. John would belike the prophet Elijah, sharing the same calling—to turn the hearts of the people back to God. Johnthe Baptist would preach to the people of the coming Messiah so they would be spiritually preparedto meet Jesus. The word repentance literally means to “turn away from” – and repentance would benecessary for the people to meet their Messiah. The people of John’s day would need to turn awayfrom many of the religious traditions they knew if they were to walk towards God’s new covenant,salvation through faith in his Son. Those who accepted the wisdom of John’s preaching would berighteous and prepared for the Lord. So what did John preach? He said, “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance” (Luke 3:8).John told the people that the characteristics of their life should indicate their walk with God. He toldthem, “One more powerful than I will come” (Luke 3:16). John didn’t want the people to beimpressed with his life—he wanted them to know Jesus. Do our lives direct others toward God? John the Baptist is an important part of the Christmas story and his message is stillimportant today. People need to turn back to the Lord their God, repent, and live with the wisdom ofa righteous life. The people who listened to John’s message were ready to meet Jesus and helpedothers do the same. Take some time to repent from much that this holiday has become, so you and those thatknow you experience Christmas as more than a holiday. May Christmas be a holy day. TODAY’S GIFT - - - - - - ------------------------- --------- Th e wi s do m to l i ve a ri g hte ous li fe - - - - - - ------------------------- ---------
  • 6. GIFTS------- - - - - - - - - - - - - --------------------------------------------- THE OF 2012 ADVENT DEVOTIONALCHRISTMAS------- - - - - - - - - - - - - --------------------------------------------- TUESDAY, DECEMB ER 4, 20 1 2 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end. Luke 1:32-33 All of Christian history is linked theologically to these statements by the angel Gabriel,spoken to Mary. Luke makes certain his readers understand that from the beginning, Jesus was theSon of God. Gabriel told Mary she was highly favored by God and he was with her. Mary would havea son and name him Jesus. He would be great and be known as the Son of the Most High. Jesuswould be given the throne of David and he would reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdomwould never end. In other words, Mary would be the mother of the long-awaited Messiah. Maryasked the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” Luke includes Mary’s question because hewants his readers to know with certainty that Jesus was not just a man, he was God—from thebeginning. Luke had to face people every day who were comfortable believing that Jesus was just agood man or an important teacher. You and I know people who limit Christ in the same way.Scripture does not offer that option. C.S. Lewis said the Bible only gave us three options for Jesus: hewas a liar, a lunatic, or the Lord. Gabriel called him the Son of the Most High. He said Jesus would be given the throne ofDavid, indicating that he would be king over the house of Jacob, God’s children. But unlike David, hisreign will last forever. His kingdom will never end. Jesus would be the last king the Jewish people would have because he was the last kingthe Jewish people—and everyone else—would ever need. It is amazing to think of Jesus as a tinynewborn king. The Christmas story cannot be understood scientifically, for the birth of Jesus was theresult of God’s work. The fact we can’t explain the Virgin Birth makes it all the more sacred. God hasalways been in the business of doing things that only he can do. Examine your own heart and mind. Has Jesus become something less to you than he wasborn to be? He was the Son of the Most High—he still is. TODAY’S GIFT - - - - - - ------------------------- --------- A k i ng - - - - - - ------------------------- ---------
  • 7. GIFTS------- - - - - - - - - - - - ------------------------------------------------ THE 2012 ADVENT DEVOTIONAL OF------- - - - - - - - - - - - ----------------------------------------------- CHRISTMAS WEDN ESDAY, DECEMB ER 5, 20 1 2 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” Luke 1:35 How was a virgin able to conceive a child? Because the Holy Spirit, the same creativepower that spoke the world into being, came upon Mary and “overshadowed” her. The word forovershadow is the same word used to describe the cloud that descended on the tabernacle during thetime of Moses; it also describes the cloud present on the Mount of Transfiguration. The word carrieswith it the sense of the holy, powerful presence of God. Luke uses this term because he most likelyneeded to address the same question our world asks today: How was the conception of Christpossible? People have always doubted the Christmas story and some always will. When the topic comes up this year, will you be able to explain why you believe the biblicalaccount of Christmas? Most people, even many Christians, don’t fully comprehend the power of theMost High. That power created the heavens and the earth. That power parted the Red Sea and theJordan River. That power brought down the walls of Jericho and the fire from heaven. And that samepower created, within the womb of Mary, Himself. God became a man and his name was Jesus. The same Holy Spirit that overshadowed Mary indwells Christians today. As you walkthrough this day, understand your potential to impact every room you enter. Not because of who youare, but because of who God is within you. Mary was just an ordinary person, too, and she gave birthto the Son of God because of the Holy Spirit. What amazing thing would the Holy Spirit do throughyou this Christmas? TODAY’S GIFT - - - - - - ------------------------- --------- Th e i n dwe l l i ng p owe r o f the Hol y S p irit - - - - - - ------------------------- ---------
  • 8. GIFTS------- - - - - - - - - - - - - --------------------------------------------- THE OF 2012 ADVENT DEVOTIONALCHRISTMAS------- - - - - - - - - - - - - --------------------------------------------- TH UR SDAY, DECEMB ER 6, 20 1 2 For nothing is impossible with God. Luke 1:37 There is enough time to do everything God wants you to do today. Christmas is a season oflists, errands, social occasions and charity commitments. There are people to shop for and people inyour way while you shop. The lines are long, the prices are steep, and the world defines enough as“just one more thing.” I wonder if Christmas often makes Jesus sad. It wasn’t supposed to become a huge stress.Does your schedule look like God planned it or like Satan did? Almost everyone wishes Christmas wasdifferent. And almost everyone wishes they knew what to do to change it. And almost no one thinksthey can. But they are wrong. The great truth of Scripture is this: Nothing is impossible with God. A central theme of the Christmas story is found in this one verse. It is possible to makeyour holiday season a holy season. Christmas changed the world, and then the world changedChristmas. Christians ought to take the season back and help the world remember what this holidaywas supposed to be. The key to today’s verse is found in the way it ends. The reason you think Christmas “iswhat it is” is because you think your wishes are outnumbered by the world’s agendas. Many thingsare impossible for you. Nothing is impossible with God. The question is: Will you walk this day “withGod”? TODAY’S GIFT - - - - - - ------------------------- --------- Po s s i b i l i ti e s - - - - - - ------------------------- ---------
  • 9. GIFTS------- - - - - - - - - - - - ------------------------------------------------ THE 2012 ADVENT DEVOTIONAL OF------- - - - - - - - - - - - ----------------------------------------------- CHRISTMAS FR IDAY, DECEMB ER 7, 201 2 My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior. Luke 1:47 The Magnificat, or Mary’s Song, begins with the words, “My soul glorifies the Lord.” Mary isunwed and pregnant in a society that stones unmarried women for that sin. Mary has no idea howJoseph or her own family will react. But other people are insignificant in this moment because shetrusts God. Her soul, the eternal part of her being that knows God, glorifies all that he is. Humanworries exist, but deep down her spirit knows that God will be her Savior. Blaise Pascal described a “God-shaped vacuum” that exists in all people until they fill thatvacuum with God. Mary’s soul was able to glorify the Lord because her soul was filled with hisPresence. Her circumstances were dire, but she rejoiced in the knowledge that God would save her.Amazingly, her unborn son would save her. Find time to go to that deep place within you that experiences the presence and power ofGod. Pause to give him glory and honor. Find the comfort that only God brings, because only Godcan. Then look to the one on his right, your Savior. That is Mary’s baby as he is today—glorified inheaven and waiting to return. Because of Christmas, you can “rejoice in God your Savior.” TODAY’S GIFT - - - - - - ------------------------- --------- J oy f u l ce r ta i nt y i n yo u r S avi or - - - - - - ------------------------- ---------
  • 10. GIFTS------- - - - - - - - - - - - - --------------------------------------------- THE OF 2012 ADVENT DEVOTIONALCHRISTMAS------- - - - - - - - - - - - - --------------------------------------------- SATUR DAY, DECEMB ER 8, 20 1 2 His mercy extends to those who fear him from generation to generation. Luke 1:50 By this time in the season you have probably been unhappy with someone or something.There may even be someone unhappy with you. Thank goodness for God’s mercy, because we are toooften less than he would want us to be. But his mercy is not promised to everyone in this verse, justto those who fear him. Every generation has people who fear God and people who don’t. What does the word “fear” mean in Scripture? Reverent awe. Respect. Honor and trust inthe character of God. Because of who God is, he has mercy for who you are and for who you are not. The word “mercy” in this verse embodies the great love and forgiveness that God extendsto his children. Can you remember a time when one of your children made a huge mistake and theywere surprised when you showed them mercy? You love them and you knew they would grow upand do better. God’s compassion never fails, and that is good news this time of year. Why does Godchoose to be merciful? Because he knows who you are going to grow up and be. One day you will beperfect. Perfection is not the goal this Christmas. Someone is going to cut into your line, probablywhen you are late and holding something heavy. Someone is going to be in a foul mood and snap atyou, not knowing you are in a foul mood, too. When you get in your car to go somewhere, so will atleast a thousand other people. And they probably won’t welcome you onto the freeway in front ofthem. This is a season for . . . mercy. Receive God’s mercy for your flaws and you will have the mercy you need for someoneelse’s. And don’t expect mercy from people who don’t fear God. They don’t have any of his mercy togive. Instead, share the gift of God’s mercy over and over again, regardless of how you are treated.And pray for the opportunity to help others learn how to receive God’s mercy for themselves. Christmas is a great time to share the love of Jesus. God loved you so much, he sharedJesus with you (John 3:16). TODAY’S GIFT - - - - - - ------------------------- --------- M e rc y - - - - - - ------------------------- ---------
  • 11. GIFTS------- - - - - - - - - - - - ------------------------------------------------ THE 2012 ADVENT DEVOTIONAL OF------- - - - - - - - - - - - ----------------------------------------------- CHRISTMAS SUN DAY, DECEMB ER 9, 2012 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. Luke 1:51-52 Mary, in her song, reminds us of four important things to remember at Christmastime: 1. The events in the Christmas story were God’s mighty deeds. The focus is not Mary, Joseph, the angels, the shepherds or the wise men. The focus is the power and purpose of God. God’s mighty arm created a tiny baby who came to save the world’s population for all time. 2. God has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. The Pharisees were proud because they knew a great deal about God. But these men didn’t recognize God when he stood in their midst. There are many in our churches today who know about God, but God knows their inmost thoughts. If he is not King of their life, they will be scattered—not gathered. 3. He brings down rulers from their thrones. Who are the “rulers” making news today? Because of Christmas, their thrones are temporary. Only God’s Kingdom will endure. 4. God lifts up the humble. Those who bow their heads before God are looking up. Those who admit their need of God will be lifted up by God. Which of these four points has the Holy Spirit spoken to you today? Are you as focused onGod this Christmas as you should be? You know the Christmas story, but do you know the baby in themanger personally? Jesus is God’s gift to you—but you must receive his salvation or it isn’t yours. How do you receive Jesus? Recognize that only his throne is eternal; all other authoritiesand powers are temporary, including yours. Humble yourself: Jesus knows your inmost thoughts andloves you anyway. All of us are sinners who need a Savior. Because of Christmas, we have one. Inprayer, ask God to forgive your sins and make Jesus the King of your life. You will receive the HolySpirit, God’s constant presence in your life, until you are one day constantly present in heaven. If this is the first Christmas you spend as a Christian, God has once again performed amighty deed. TODAY’S GIFT - - - - - - ------------------------- --------- S a l va ti o n - - - - - - ------------------------- ---------
  • 12. GIFTS------- - - - - - - - - - - - - --------------------------------------------- THE OF 2012 ADVENT DEVOTIONALCHRISTMAS------- - - - - - - - - - - - - --------------------------------------------- MON DAY, DECEMB ER 10, 20 1 2 He has helped his servant Israel remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as he said to our fathers. Luke 1:54-55 Two thousand years had passed since the Lord told the elderly Abraham he would be thefather of many nations. Almost a thousand years had passed since King David and King Solomon hadbeen the leaders of their nation. The Jewish people had not known many years of peace andprosperity since that time. And the nation had never again achieved the status in the world they hadenjoyed during King Solomon’s reign. Mary’s song recalls the promise that God made to Abraham, and looks forward to thepromised Messiah. The nation of Israel believed that God’s mercy would once again restore them topower and prosperity, as in the days of King David. Mary had no way to know that Abraham’sdescendants would be redefined by the baby she carried. The mercy of Jesus would be given toeveryone and his Kingdom was above any earthly throne. Christmas is a season of crowds—and Jesus died for each face in every crowd. Christmasis a season of joy because Christmas is a season for mercy. Every face you see today has an eternalfuture. Do they even know they have been invited to spend every moment of their eternity with thebaby in the manger? Will you pray for the opportunity to invite someone to become a descendant ofAbraham and live in a Kingdom? Will you look past the confusion and focus on a face in the crowd? Extend the mercy of Jesus—and give someone the chance to join Abraham’s family. TODAY’S GIFT - - - - - - ------------------------- --------- A n e te rna l f a m i l y - - - - - - ------------------------- ---------
  • 13. GIFTS------- - - - - - - - - - - - ------------------------------------------------ THE 2012 ADVENT DEVOTIONAL OF------- - - - - - - - - - - - ----------------------------------------------- CHRISTMAS TUESDAY, DECEMB ER 11, 20 1 2While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son.She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:6-7 There is a popular Christian song by Mandisa titled, “God Speaking.” The lyrics include thisline: “What could be stranger than God in a manger?” That is a great question to consider. Jesuscould have come to this earth in any number of ways. He chose to come in humility. Why? Jesus was the “the Son of the Most High,” whose kingdom would never end. He was theMessiah, the Savior. Wouldn’t it seem logical for him to step onto this planet in power and authority?What could be stranger than God in a manger? One of the most prevalent themes in the Christmas story is humility. A young peasant girlis chosen to be the mother of the Messiah. A carpenter is chosen to care for a child who is not hisown. Jesus is born in the small village of Bethlehem, a town so small it ran out of rooms at “the” inn.Jesus is born in a stable and placed in the animals’ feed trough. He is visited by shepherds, the lowestclass of workers in their culture. Three kings bow their knee to a boy. Years later, a man is nailed to across and buried in a borrowed grave. Why does God teach humility throughout the Christmas story and again at Easter? Are wemissing a great truth in our spiritual life today? (Christ Jesus) made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, and being madein human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and becameobedient to death – even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:7-8).Before the humility of the cross there was the humility of Christmas. The Creator God of the Universemade himself nothing and became a servant in human likeness. Easter is the continuation andconclusion of a life immersed in humility. What could be stranger than God in a manger? Truthfully—that any of us would considerourselves better than anyone else. St. Francis de Sales said, “He who stays not in his littleness, loseshis greatness.” May you have a “great” Christmas. TODAY’S GIFT - - - - - - ------------------------- --------- Hu m i l i t y - - - - - - ------------------------- ---------
  • 14. GIFTS------- - - - - - - - - - - - - --------------------------------------------- THE OF 2012 ADVENT DEVOTIONALCHRISTMAS------- - - - - - - - - - - - - --------------------------------------------- WEDN ESDAY, DECEMB ER 12, 2 0 1 2 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. Luke 2:8-9 No Christmas program or nativity set would be complete without a shepherd or two.Christmas plays usually depict the shepherds dressed in burlap and visiting the newborn baby Jesus.The men leave the manger scene so that they can share the good news with others, but their part inthe play is usually over at that point. Very few plays show the shepherds in the beginning, grippedwith terror. But they were. And we would have been as well. The shepherds saw the glory of theLord shining around them and were terrified. The shepherds lived in the field because there was never a moment that the sheep werenot in danger from predatory animals. Sheep need constant attention. They sleep about four hourseach day, which means they are awake for about twenty hours. Even when sheep sleep they do sostanding up, because instinctively they know they need to be ready to run. It was just a typical nightof watching over sleepless sheep when God interrupted the shepherds with his glory. The shepherds weren’t just startled—they were terrified. What did the glory of the Lordlook like? It seems there was a brilliant light that shone. Imagine that moment, in thatpre-electricity era. Complete darkness transformed by the glory of God. What did the angel looklike? And how did the angel sound? It seems strange to think about the Christmas story containingmoments of terror, but it did. The shepherds were terrified because of the greatness of God’s glory.Could it be that we have made God less than what Scripture teaches he is? Maybe one day we will be startled by the glory of the Lord. Scripture guarantees that theLord will appear again at a time when we do not expect him (Matthew 24:44). We might be goingabout the daily work of our lives, not expecting anything out of the ordinary. Or we might, like mostof Bethlehem that first Christmas, be sound asleep. The shepherds were privileged to see the glory ofthe Lord, but when Jesus returns the next time everyone will see his glory. May we live in such a waythat we, and those we know, will see Jesus and feel nothing but joy. TODAY’S GIFT - - - - - - ------------------------- --------- A S e co nd Co m i ng - - - - - - ------------------------- ---------
  • 15. GIFTS------- - - - - - - - - - - - ------------------------------------------------ THE 2012 ADVENT DEVOTIONAL OF------- - - - - - - - - - - - ----------------------------------------------- CHRISTMAS TH UR SDAY, DECEMB ER 13, 2 0 1 2 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” Luke 2:10 The shepherds experienced moments of terror when the glory of the Lord shone aroundthem. But those moments of terror were quickly followed by good news and great joy. The firstwords the angel spoke were words of comfort and words of command: “Do not be afraid.” Why doesGod command us not to be afraid when every day there are things we should fear? Last January our son was diagnosed with cancer and I wrestled with this “command.” Howdo you face your greatest fear in life and not be afraid? Christmas can’t be a happy time for everyone.Many people are facing this Christmas alone for the first time. Many unhappy family situations thatare usually manageable at other times are magnified and more painful during the Christmas season.Sometimes Christmas morning is about happy memories instead of happy realities. What does theangel say to you today? Hear the angel speak to you, right now, what God wants you to know: There is good news.There is great joy. And it isn’t just for some this Christmas—it is for all people. From the world’spoint of view, some Christmases are better than others. Some are happy and filled with children’sexcitement and laughter. Other Christmases are quiet and filled with memories. Some Christmasesinvolve difficulties and challenges. Our family’s greatest gift this year is the phrase, “cancer free.” That is our good news andwe have great joy because of it. We choose not to be afraid of possibilities because God has alreadytaken care of every worry. The good news of great joy is for everyone, especially you. Jesus came atChristmas, to bring everyone the same gifts: eternal joy, eternal happiness, eternal health andeternal family. Whatever your circumstances are this year, focus on the face of God and be reminded ofwhy we celebrate Christmas. It isn’t really about all the things the world has made it to be. It isabout the good news of great joy. The Christmas promise is for everyone who receives the Christmas baby as Lord and Savior.Picture the God of the universe handing you his Son, wrapped in swaddling clothes. Hear him say,“Don’t be afraid of anything, ever. I give you joy.” Choose to have a Merry Christmas – no matter what. TODAY’S GIFT - - - - - - ------------------------- --------- Go o d ne w s o f g re a t j oy - - - - - - ------------------------- ---------
  • 16. GIFTS------- - - - - - - - - - - - - --------------------------------------------- THE OF 2012 ADVENT DEVOTIONALCHRISTMAS------- - - - - - - - - - - - - --------------------------------------------- FR IDAY, DECEMB ER 14, 201 2 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests. Luke 2:14 To ascribe glory to God is to acknowledge his splendor, his majesty and his unlimitedgreatness. There is no one and no thing higher than God. Christmas is a great time to consider yourpersonal view of God. It is more common to focus on Jesus, who is God in human form. But that isn’twho Jesus is anymore. Consider the resurrected Christ, on his throne in heaven, seated at the right hand of God.Now consider the power of God, given to you through his Holy Spirit. The same power that parted theRed Sea, walked on water, and healed the sick, is the power every Christian has been given. Is yourview of God high enough? Is your praise and adoration of God adequate? Now, pause and take amoment from reading this devotional and give “glory to God in the highest.” ........................... Why is it important to give God glory? Because when you truly acknowledge the splendor,majesty and greatness of God, you are able to know his great love and compassion for you. Then youcan be filled with his presence and his power—his Holy Spirit—and you are able to experience hispeace. God’s peace transcends circumstance, because God’s peace is a gift to you from the highest. But God’s peace isn’t promised unconditionally. God’s peace is given to those on whom hisfavor rests. How do you find God’s favor? Proverbs says, “Let love and faithfulness never leave you;bind them around your neck. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man”(3:3-4). If you took the time to give God glory “in the highest,” then you found the path to his peace. If you walk through this busy day anointed with his peace, someone might ask you aboutyour sense of joy and calm. Be faithful and show God’s love outwardly today, walking with a goodname in the sight of God and man. And at the end of this day, you will likely have other reasons togive “glory to God in the highest.” - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - TODAY’S -GIFT - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - ----- -- G o d’s f avo r - - - - - - ------------------------- ---------
  • 17. GIFTS------- - - - - - - - - - - - ------------------------------------------------ THE 2012 ADVENT DEVOTIONAL OF------- - - - - - - - - - - - ----------------------------------------------- CHRISTMAS SATUR DAY, DECEMB ER 15, 2 0 1 2 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” Luke 2:15 The shepherds were surrounded by the glory of God. They angel spoke to them, tellingthem not to be afraid because there was good news of great joy. Then the angels returned to heaven.The shepherds, who had been surrounded by God’s glory, were left once again in the fields with theirsheep. The light that had shone around them was gone, and except for the moon and stars it wasdark. The shepherds did not question their experience with God. They did not wonder if they hadheard or understood correctly. And they did not wonder what to do next. The shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go.” God wanted the message of Christmas to beknown. There was more than one shepherd who experienced those moments of God’s glory. Theyhad each other to verify their miraculous experience, so they went to Bethlehem to find Jesus, for theMessiah had been born. God still wants the Christmas message to be known and believed. Why doesn’t he send hisangels every Christmas to announce the reality of Jesus? If someone could video the “glory of theLord,” wouldn’t everyone believe? But that is not the way God has chosen to work. The shepherdssaw the glory of the Lord, but most of Bethlehem was asleep and missed it. St. Thomas Aquinas wrote, “Angels mean messengers and ministers. Their function is toexecute the plan of divine providence, even in earthly things.” Jesus said to his disciples, “You willreceive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you. And you will be my witnesses” (Acts 1:8). Thereare still angels in the world today and people still experience their ministry. And there is still goodnews of great joy. But God’s children, through God’s Spirit, are his messengers and ministers, too. We havebeen called and gifted to share the good news, just as the shepherds did more than two thousandyears ago. Know with certainty that Jesus has come, and say to one another, “Let’s go.” Most ofBethlehem is still asleep and we have good news of great joy. TODAY’S GIFT - - - - - - ------------------------- --------- A message - - - - - - ------------------------- ---------
  • 18. GIFTS------- - - - - - - - - - - - - --------------------------------------------- THE OF 2012 ADVENT DEVOTIONALCHRISTMAS------- - - - - - - - - - - - - --------------------------------------------- SUN DAY, DECEMB ER 16, 201 2 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child. Luke 2:17 It is a Sunday morning during the Christmas season. Church halls will be a little morecrowded than usual today. People like to be in church this time of year. The music is beautiful, thesanctuary is decorated for the holiday, and church makes it is easier to remember what Christmastruly means. Sunday mornings are about worship. And today is about worshipping a tiny baby whowas and is God. The shepherds must have looked at the infant with wonder. Maybe they exchangedglances with each other and with Mary, questioning how a baby could be the Messiah. Buteverything was just as the angel had said it would be. Those burly men knew that the tiny baby theywere looking at was the “good news of great joy.” And they became the first people to bow beforeJesus and worship their new King. This morning, when the music begins, don’t just sing familiar songs, listen to familiarwords and enjoy favorite traditions. Spend some time in prayer and ask God to help you see what theshepherds saw. Worship isn’t just what you do at church today—it is the most important gift yougive your King every day. Thomas Carlyle once said, “Wonder is the basis of worship.” May yourworship this morning be filled with the same wonder the shepherds felt when they looked in amanger and found their King. TODAY’S GIFT - - - - - - ------------------------- --------- Wo r s hi p - - - - - - ------------------------- ---------
  • 19. GIFTS------- - - - - - - - - - - - ------------------------------------------------ THE 2012 ADVENT DEVOTIONAL OF------- - - - - - - - - - - - ----------------------------------------------- CHRISTMAS MON DAY, DECEMB ER 17, 20 1 2 And all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. Luke 2:18 Scripture says that “all who heard” what the shepherds said were “amazed.” The wordamazed means, astonished, astounded, awestruck or stunned. The people of Bethlehem wereprobably amazed not only at the message, but at the messengers. Shepherds would not have beenthe typical preachers of the day! Why would God write the Christmas story with such an unusual cast of characters?Because the people of that day weren’t expecting the Messiah to come for everyone—but he did.They were expecting the Messiah to make the nation of Israel a world power, but Jesus came to givepeople power to overcome the world. Rabbis and Pharisees were supposed to tell people what Godwas doing in the world—not shepherds. From that first angelic message to Mary, to the birth of Christ in a stable, to an audience ofshepherds and a visit from Magi, the Christmas story stresses the New Testament message: “For Godso loved the world” (John 3:16). Does that message still amaze you? The Creator God loves you, so hegave you Christmas. The Creator God loves everyone—that is the news that will amaze people today.Many have no concept that the highest, holiest love that exists is given to them, but Christmas provessuch love. A lot of people today think Christianity is for someone else. They think of our brand of faithas just one option. Christmas is a party that many people celebrate without the guest of honor. Ourjob is to be a shepherd. You don’t need eloquent words, you just need to look at the cast of charactersin the Christmas story and realize that anyone can share “the good news of great joy.” People expect preachers to say that Christmas is about Christ. But they are amazed whenthe shepherds of the world preach that message. You have the ability to amaze someone today withthe message of Christmas. “For God so loved the world he gave his one and only Son.” Will you prayand look for that opportunity to amaze someone with the gifts of Christmas? TODAY’S GIFT - - - - - - ------------------------- --------- A m a z i ng ne w s - - - - - - ------------------------- ---------
  • 20. GIFTS------- - - - - - - - - - - - - --------------------------------------------- THE OF 2012 ADVENT DEVOTIONALCHRISTMAS------- - - - - - - - - - - - - --------------------------------------------- TUESDAY, DECEMB ER 18, 20 1 2 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. Luke 2:19 We have two Christmas trees. The tree in the den is covered with ornaments our sonsmade in Sunday School, Mother’s Day Out, and public school. There are foil wrapped toilet paper rollsmade to look like candles. Our favorite ornaments contain the boys’ pictures, reminding us what theylooked like that Christmas. The tree in the living room is precious as well. There is an ornament thatsays, “Our first Christmas together,” dating back to 1980. The rest of the ornaments are reminders ofplaces we have vacationed or significant events over our 32 years of marriage. We call that tree our“memory tree.” I understand what Scripture means when it says, “Mary treasured up all these things andpondered them in her heart.” Christmas is a unique time of year when we remember moments wehave treasured over the years. We take the time to “ponder.” “Ponder” is a great word and a great thing to do. Christmas has become one of the mosthurried times of the year. It should be the exact opposite. It should be a time to ponder. The word“remember” is used more than 200 times in Scripture. God’s prophets frequently reminded thepeople that God asked them to “remember” what he had done. Jesus looked at his disciples in thatupper room and told them, and us today, to take the Lord’s Supper “in remembrance.” Mary treasured the events of Jesus’ birth. She thought deeply about all that took placeafter. She would need to remember all that God had done, in order to trust what God would allowafter those moments in the upper room. Christmas is a good time to remember. Take time to treasure with gratitude the joys ofpast seasons. Ponder what God is doing right now in your life. And take a moment to think aboutEaster. Slow down and make time to treasure the moments of Christmas, store them in your heart,and then ponder how God would use what you know to strengthen you for the days to come. TODAY’S GIFT - - - - - - ------------------------- --------- M e m o ri e s - - - - - - ------------------------- ---------
  • 21. GIFTS------- - - - - - - - - - - - ------------------------------------------------ THE 2012 ADVENT DEVOTIONAL OF------- - - - - - - - - - - - ----------------------------------------------- CHRISTMAS WEDN ESDAY, DECEMB ER 19, 2 0 1 2As it is written in the Law of the Lord, every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord, and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: a pair of doves or two young pigeons. Luke 2:23-24 These verses are often overlooked in the Christmas story, but they say so much about Mary,Joseph and Jesus. Mary and Joseph were followers of the Law, the teaching found in Genesis throughDeuteronomy, so they brought their newborn son to the temple. Jesus was about six weeks old, andit was time for him to be consecrated to the Lord. Every firstborn male, according to Jewish law,belonged to God. A baby was consecrated at the temple, an act of dedication to God. The parentswould then offer their sacrifice to “buy the baby back.” Scripture says that Jesus was “bought” with a pair of doves or two young pigeons. Theprice was based on a family’s ability to pay—so we know that Mary and Joseph were consideredpoor, otherwise the price would have been a larger animal. We no longer live under the requirements of the Old Testament Law. But we shouldconsider this moment in the New Testament Christmas story. Jesus would be raised by parents whowere obedient to God. Mary and Joseph took their most valuable possession, their newborn son, anddedicated him to God. A lot of time is spent each Christmas in choosing, buying and wrapping gifts to give others.What gift will you dedicate to God this Christmas, in honor of his Son? You can follow Mary andJoseph’s example. As they consecrated their son to God, you can promise to raise your children withgodly priorities. What gifts would God ask you to bring to his temple this year? Is there a sacrificial gift thathe would lead you to give? Pray, consecrate yourself to the Lord and, in obedience to his call, offerhim your gifts, “for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). TODAY’S GIFT - - - - - - ------------------------- --------- S a c ri fi c i a l g i v i ng - - - - - - ------------------------- ---------
  • 22. GIFTS------- - - - - - - - - - - - - --------------------------------------------- THE OF 2012 ADVENT DEVOTIONALCHRISTMAS------- - - - - - - - - - - - - --------------------------------------------- TH UR SDAY, DECEMB ER 20, 2 0 1 2 Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. Luke 2:25 Simeon is a favorite character in the Christmas story. Theologians speculate that he had aleadership role in the temple, possibly as a priest. Most describe him as elderly, although his age isn’tcertain. What is certain is his character. Luke tells us that Simeon was both righteous and devout. Inaddition, we know that the Holy Spirit was upon him. Simeon was right with God, devoted to Godand filled with God’s power and presence. And when he held the baby Jesus he recognized the face ofGod. Simeon had been waiting for the consolation of Israel, and now he held the Consoler in hisarms. He knew with certainty that his Messiah had been born. There are so many remarkablemoments in the Christmas story. But today, imagine what it would be like to hold the Son of God inyour arms. Now, take a moment and consider the fact that when you became a Christian, that babycame into your life and is always present with you, just as present with you as he was with Simeon. The Holy Spirit was upon Simeon, and he was able to recognize God’s presence. In the daysbefore Pentecost, that was the way the Holy Spirit worked. He came upon people, empowered themfor a purpose, and then was gone. Jesus told his disciples that he would die, but the Comforter—theHoly Spirit—would come to them in power. At Pentecost the Holy Spirit filled the believers andnever left them. And so it is today. Jesus is still visible today, whenever someone sees the presence of the Holy Spirit in abeliever. As you walk through your busy day, remember that you bring Jesus into every room, everyparty, every store, every gathering. The Holy Spirit is in you, but is his Presence “upon” you as well?When people see you today, will they see Jesus? Simeon was righteous and devout, so the Holy Spirit could use him to announce theMessiah’s birth. May the Holy Spirit make that same announcement through each of us today. Carrythe baby Jesus in your arms so people can see the face of God. TODAY’S GIFT - - - - - - ------------------------- --------- The Ho l y S p i ri t - - - - - - ------------------------- ---------
  • 23. GIFTS------- - - - - - - - - - - - ------------------------------------------------ THE 2012 ADVENT DEVOTIONAL OF------- - - - - - - - - - - - ----------------------------------------------- CHRISTMAS FR IDAY, DECEMB ER 21, 201 2 Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. Luke 2:29 Jesus is the Prince of Peace. Simeon recognized the Messiah, the consolation of Israel, andhe told God that with this knowledge he could now die in peace. The nation he loved had a Savior.God had promised Israel a Messiah and God had promised Simeon he would behold that Messiah.And God always keeps his promises. The peace of Christmas today is the same peace that Simeon wasgiven. God’s peace is not a feeling, it is the certainty of hope. God’s peace doesn’t come andgo—Christians choose whether or not to receive it and walk in it. Simeon knew God’s peace because he knew his Messiah. That is how you will know God’speace today. God will always keep his promises. He is not capable of anything but truth. Are youwalking in the certain hope of your salvation? Do the trials of this life fade away when you rememberthat your perfect, eternal life is a promise of God? It is easy to become overwhelmed this time of yearwith “light and momentary troubles” (2 Corinthians 4:17). Hear God speak to you from heaven andsay, “think about what I’ve promised you!” Peace is a promise. God’s peace is not circumstantial; in fact, sometimes the hardest ofcircumstances bring about the greatest sense of God’s peace. Peace is a promise—but it isn’t afeeling. God’s peace is a tangible and certain gift. Look into the face of Jesus as Simeon did andreceive your gift. TODAY’S GIFT - - - - - - ------------------------- --------- Pe a ce - - - - - - ------------------------- ---------
  • 24. GIFTS------- - - - - - - - - - - - - --------------------------------------------- THE OF 2012 ADVENT DEVOTIONALCHRISTMAS------- - - - - - - - - - - - - --------------------------------------------- SATUR DAY, DECEMB ER 22, 2 0 1 2 For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people; a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel. Luke 2:30-32 Today the multitudes are crowding into airports, shopping malls, restaurants and onto thehighways. Maybe people are crowding into your home, your schedule, and your plans. It is almostChristmas—and every face in every crowd has either received the gift of salvation or they haven’t. Simeon saw salvation when he saw Jesus. Through the power of the Holy Spirit he spokerevolutionary words. Salvation through Jesus was for all people, Gentiles and the people of Israel.Jesus was and is the “light of the world” (John 9:5). But Jesus taught his disciples that they were “thelight of the world” as well (Matthew 5:13). You know what Christmas really means. You know whythe holiday is a holy day. You can be a light today for all people. When the lines are long and the crowds are angry or frustrated, you can be different. Yoursmile will be noticed. Your joy will be contagious. Your peace will be coveted. Your kindness will beappreciated. And the Christ of Christmas will be glorified and revealed in your character anddemeanor. Walk in the light of your salvation. Pray for the opportunity to be “a light for revelation” toall people. Ask God for the chance to explain why you can celebrate Christmas even in the crowds.Maybe you will meet one of those faces at the door of your church tomorrow, or for a Christmas Eveservice on Monday. Jesus is the light of the world, through you. Shine brightly today in every crowd. TODAY’S GIFT - - - - - - ------------------------- --------- The l i g ht - - - - - - ------------------------- ---------
  • 25. GIFTS------- - - - - - - - - - - - ------------------------------------------------ THE 2012 ADVENT DEVOTIONAL OF------- - - - - - - - - - - - ----------------------------------------------- CHRISTMAS SUN DAY, DECEMB ER 23, 201 2 Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling andrising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” Luke 2:34-35 Today you will sing joyful Christmas carols and fellowship with people who share your lovefor the Lord. Being a member of God’s Church is a blessing, especially this time of year. The versestoday seem strange in light of the joy that Simeon, Joseph, and Mary must have felt that day at thetemple. But Simeon spoke words from God through the Holy Spirit. Only God would know that thewords needed to be spoken just to Mary. Joseph wasn’t included in this prophecy. Joseph wouldn’tbe there when the prophecy was fulfilled. Simeon told Mary that her baby would cause some in Israel to rise and others to fall. Jesuswould be spoken against and he would reveal people’s hearts, their true motivations. And then hetold Mary that a sword would pierce her soul as well. We know what Simeon meant by those wordsbecause we have heard the Easter story. Mary would understand thirty-three years later. By this time in the season you have probably been annoyed more than once by attempts toturn the holy season of Christmas into a worldly excuse to shop and party. While you sit in churchtoday, some will sleep in and some will sleep it off. You have probably heard stories about atheisticcomplaints and the need to exclude the mention of Christ’s name at Christmas. Do those thoughts“pierce your soul” today? Simeon said that Jesus would reveal the hearts of many people. Has the stress of theholiday revealed some things in your life that are less than godly? Have you remained quiet when theHoly Spirit was urging you to speak up? Have you celebrated Christmas like the world—or like theshepherds? Here is the good news. When you take your seat, before you sing, you have the chance tomake it right. Jesus still causes people to rise and fall. Today, he wants to forgive you anything youneed forgiveness for. And he wants to raise you up so you can celebrate Christmas with him. Don’t let worship begin until you have allowed God to pierce your soul, reveal your heart,and then cleanse you of all unrighteousness. Then, when you sing Joy To The World, you will meanevery word. TODAY’S GIFT - - - - - - ------------------------- --------- A cl e a n he a r t - - - - - - ------------------------- ---------
  • 26. GIFTS------- - - - - - - - - - - - - --------------------------------------------- THE OF 2012 ADVENT DEVOTIONALCHRISTMAS------- - - - - - - - - - - - - --------------------------------------------- MON DAY, DECEMB ER 24, 20 1 2 Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. Luke 2:38 Thousands of candles will be lit today. Thousands of sermons will be preached. In everyChristmas Eve service across the world, there will be people in the crowd who are there because theyare family or friends of Christians. In every service, there will be people who are not yet part of God’sfamily. They don’t understand that the child the preacher is talking about is their hope of redemp-tion. Most don’t realize their need of redemption. Jesus was born in the manger so that one day, hecould die on a cross. Christmas is about redemption. Anna, an elderly prophetess, spoke to Mary and Joseph after Simeon did. She was an84-year-old widow who never left the temple. When Anna approached the Holy Family, she gavethanks to God and told all who were looking that the baby in Mary’s arms was their redemption. Sherecognized the Messiah, too. As you sit in a Christmas Eve service today, look past your friends and family, or within yourfriends and family, and find the face that didn’t come to church because of Jesus. If that face is atyour dinner table, or you just wish was at your table, pray that this Christmas Eve will be about theirredemption. All of us know someone to pray for today. Make your prayers a birthday gift to Jesus.There is nothing the Lord wants more today than to redeem souls. Pray and walk in the Holy Spirit’s leadership and power. God will honor and bless yourprayers. There isn’t a more important gift to lay at the feet of Jesus than those Christmas prayers. TODAY’S GIFT - - - - - - ------------------------- --------- Re de m p ti o n - - - - - - ------------------------- ---------
  • 27. GIFTS------- - - - - - - - - - - - ------------------------------------------------ THE 2012 ADVENT DEVOTIONAL OF------- - - - - - - - - - - - ----------------------------------------------- CHRISTMAS TUESDAY, DECEMB ER 25, 20 1 2 And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men. Luke 2:52 Children grow up. Family dynamics change. If your children are young, enjoy theirlaughter today and the thrill of Christmas in their eyes. If your children are grown, enjoy the sweetmemories of past Christmases and give thanks that they have become adults. If you are missingchildren today, spend Christmas with God’s Son. And if your loved one is in heaven, know withcertainty that he or she is having the most joyful Christmas possible. The goal is for life to move forward towards heaven. God wants us to move forwardgrowing in wisdom as well as stature. We are to grow with God’s favor and with the favor of those wemeet. Christmas is a day—but the gifts of Christmas are eternal. Whatever your circumstances, spend the day celebrating the fact that the baby in themanger grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and men. As you look ahead to the NewYear, commit to grow as Jesus did. One day, we will celebrate forever with the baby, who grew upand is looking forward to having you “home.” Jesus was God’s perfect gift—and he still is. I hope you will receive all that Jesus was bornto give. May your Christmas be blessed with faith, hope and love—but God’s greatest gift is love. “For God so loved you that he gave you his one and only son.” Celebrate and receive the gifts of Christmas. May the Lord richly bless you and those you love, on this special day and throughout the New Year. TODAY’S GIFT - - - - - - ------------------------- --------- Chri s tm a s - - - - - - ------------------------- ---------
  • 28. - - - - - - ------------------------- --------- Other books available from Janet and Jim Denison- - - - - - ------------------------- ---------
  • 29. Content to Be Good, Called to Be GodlyWhat to Do When Your Life Is Full, But Your Soul Is Empty Felix Navidad! !
  • 30. Radical Islam What You Need To KnowWrestling With God God is not a Hobby The Fifth Great Awakening and the Future of America
  • 31. ENGAGE WITH US DAILY www.DenisonForum.org www.JanetDenison.com www.facebook.com/DenisonForum www.facebook.com/DrJimDenison www.facebook.com/JanetLDenison www.twitter.com/JimDenison www.twitter.com/Janet_Denison www.youtube.com/TruthandCulture www.vimeo.com/DenisonForumDenison Forum on Truth and Culture 17304 Preston Road, Suite 1060 Dallas, Texas 75252 214.705.3710 www.DenisonForum.org