December 13 – December 19, 2016


18Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way.  When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.  19Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly.  20But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.  21She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”  22All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 23“Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.”  24When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, 25but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.

Matthew 1:18-25

Reading Scripture to Know:

  • What is happening/being said? (Observation)
  • Why is this happening/being said? (Interpretation)
  • What does the rest of Scripture say about it? (Evaluation)
  • What does it mean? (Understanding)
  • What does it mean for us? (Application)

Reading Scripture to Grow:

  • What words or phrases stand out to you? Why?
  • Where do you hear the voice of God in this Scripture?
  • How do you see the character of God reflected in this Scripture?
  • How does this Scripture reveal God?
  • How does this Scripture expose humanity and its need for God?
  • How does this Scripture speak to what is happening in your life?
  • How does this Scripture speak to what is happening in our world?
  • What might God want to communicate to you (us) this week through this Scripture?

Reflection: An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream…

I am always interested by angelic visitations in Scripture.  After all, angelic visits are not too common in our day and age… Or are they?  The writer of the book of Hebrews reminds us to “show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it” (Hebrews 13:2).

Though the appearance of the angel and the heavenly host to the shepherds was an awe-inspiring event, angels did not always manifest in bright shining light and loud pronouncements of their intentions.  Often, angels were indistinguishable from normal, everyday people.  In fact, the word for angel in the Hebrew and the Greek simply means messenger.

We have gotten so used to seeing angels depicted as chubby little children, or winged creatures, or women with halos.  And there are indeed some truly terrifying creatures God has at his disposal (read Isaiah 6, Ezekiel 1, Ezekiel 10, or Revelation 4, for instance!).  Yet an angel is simply a heavenly being sent to dispatch a message from God, and do not necessarily look any different than we do.

What messengers might God be placing in your path this week?  Could God even send a heavenly messenger to you in such a manner that you are “entertaining angels unawares” (Hebrews 13:2, KJV).  Or is there a more “earthly” angel God is using to speak to you today?  However God might be speaking to you, whomever God might use, be attentive and receptive to God’s messages to you.  God is always seeking to communicate with you.  Are you ready to listen and respond?

Daily Readings: 

  • Tuesday, December 13– 1 Samuel 15
  • Wednesday, December 14 – 1 Samuel 16
  • Thursday, December 15 – 1 Samuel 17
  • Friday, December 16 – 1 Samuel 18
  • Saturday, December 17 – 1 Samuel 19
  • Sunday, December 18 – 1 Samuel 20
  • Monday, December 19 –  1 Samuel 21


Prayer Focus: She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.

What does it mean to be saved of your sins?  Does it mean more than forgiveness?  Yes, forgiveness is a vital aspect of God’s saving work.  However, salvation also involves being delivered from our sins, to be saved from the power of sin.  Through salvation, God wants to empower you to live free from the sinfulness – the very attitudes and actions that go against God’s will for us – that once (or even now) plague you.  Pray that God will (as Charles Wesley wrote) “break the power of canceled sin” in your life.  Ask God to purify you and plant true love for God and neighbor into your heart, mind, and soul.

Meditation Focus:  They shall name him Emmanuel, which means, “God is with us.”

How is God with you today?  How do you know God’s presence?  For those of us who follow God through Jesus Christ, and who are aware that the Holy Spirit is active in our lives, the presence of God might be hard to define.  However, as my youth minister once asked our youth group years ago, wouldn’t we know it if God’s presence left us?  Does it not make that great of a difference and palpable impression upon us?  This week, take extra care to attend to God’s presence.  When you feel or sense the presence of God in a particular way, stop and remain still and silent in that holy time and space for a minute or two.  Learn to cultivate a greater awareness of the presence of the One who is always with us.

Journaling Focus: Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly.

When have you had the opportunity to do something good when doing the opposite would have been socially acceptable?  Or when have you had the opportunity to act compassionately or mercifully even when it was the difficult thing to do?  We speak of our rights so much in society that we often forget that, as Christians, God calls us to sacrifice our rights for what is good.  Joseph was well within his rights to dismiss Mary either quietly or loudly.  But he did what was good and loved her with a godly love.  Write about a time when you acted like Joseph or when someone acted towards you in a Joseph-like way.  How did it affect you?  Did it change the outcome of some stressful situation?  How might you continue to be merciful and compassionate, even when it means sacrificing your rights or your pride for what is good?

Breath Prayer: Father, may we be with you.

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