I sat in my mother’s suburban as a young 8 year old girl during the “winter” days in Texas. Music always filled the space in that SUV, a cassette tape always in motion spilling out emotion that I would cling to as a girl and claim my own. Some of that musical emotion would come from albums like Madonna, Debbie Gibson, Paula Abdul or soundtracks of the movie Beaches. I loved music. I still do.
As we drove around town running errands and preparing for our Christmas celebration, I specifically remember one cassette tape which I looked forward to playing every December: our beloved Amy Grant Christmas album. To this day there is one song that swirls in my memory and conjures up recollections and ponderings of just who I believed God was at such a young age.
The Song: Immanuel God With Us
The Advent Scripture: Our reading for today from The Voice:
Suit yourself. The Lord will give you a proof-sign anyway: See, a young maiden will conceive. She will give birth to a son and name Him Immanuel, that is, “God with us.” (Isaiah 7:14 The Voice)
Immanuel...God with US. ~The very Creator of the Universe sits on His royal throne in all authority--holy and set apart YES ~He is also the loving Father desiring a relationship WITH US. Sending His son Jesus to the world 2000 years ago He became our God WITH US. ~The Very God Most High, with power unfathomable who orchestrates the happenings of every inch of the Universe... YES ~He is also our Forgiving God who sent that baby Jesus to earth to die on the cross FOR US so that we might live WITH HIM--experience eternal abundance life here on earth and eternal fulfillment in heaven.
Though it would be many years before I learned to live out my faith and recognize Jesus as my King, a sense that God was always with me lingered and protected my heart. Just as we talked about yesterday, I love the continuity of God’s word between the Old Testament and the New Testament. What God proclaimed of old was fulfilled. He does what He promises to do...
Announcement to Mary
Six months later in Nazareth, a city in the rural province of Galilee, the heavenly messenger Gabriel made another appearance. This time the messenger was sent by God to meet with a virgin named Mary, who was engaged to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David himself. The messenger entered her home.
Messenger: Greetings! You are favored, and the Lord is with you! [Among all women on the earth, you have been blessed.] The heavenly messenger’s words baffled Mary, and she wondered what type of greeting this was. Messenger: Mary, don’t be afraid. You have found favor with God.(Luke 1:26-30 The Voice)
Mary most likely a sensitive female--sat pondering this glorious announcement. Stunned? Humbled? (yes!)Do you think she sat for a bit with a heart stirring of Awe and Wonder that the long awaited Savior would be her son!?
Let us not leave out Joseph...
Announcement to Joseph about birth of Jesus, Immanuel God With Us
Years and years ago, Isaiah, a prophet of Israel, foretold the story of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus:
A virgin will conceive and bear a Son, and His name will be Immanuel(which is a Hebrew name that means “God with us”). (Matthew 1:23 The Voice)
Do you think Mary and Joseph sat for hours together recounting every word the Angel proclaimed about the birth of the Messiah? Comparing notes? Praying, Praising Him. Recalling Scripture that was being fulfilled with in their very own humble lives.
In the heavenly announcements of the Savior's birth with in the Gospels, several names of God are revealed to the parents of Jesus and introduced to us:
Son of God
Son of the Most High
Immanuel--God with Us.
Through these name revelations, God enlightens us to two amazing facets of His character and nature through His name:
Jesus- God Saves---What HE does
Immanuel--God with us...who He IS.
God, in all His power and authority does not just sit High above in the heavenlys with His grand plans in charge of the world. He is also WITH US. Jesus came down to pay the price on the cross FOR US.
I wonder if there is someone who needs to know that God is with HER. God is FOR HER...not against HER. God loves Her. God sent His son Jesus...Immanuel for HER. God forgives Her when she loves Jesus as her Lord, Savior and Immanuel. I wonder if there is someone here who is experiencing joy and happiness in her life. And she needs to be reminded that every good and perfect gift is from above. (James 1:17) Her Immanuel...God who is with her.
Awe and Wonder
God is with us...He will never leave us...a promise in Scripture. BUT, there is work to do in our part of the relationship:
Seeking Him daily
You will seek me and you will find me when you seek me with all your heart. I WILL be found by you. (Jeremiah 29:13, 14)
With Awe and Wonder may we seek Him daily in even the mundane. Instead of turning to a tub of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream to soothe our hurting heart, we turn to Jesus...Immanuel God WITH US to fill us up with His abounding love. If loneliness threatens our joy this Christmas season...feelings of loss, grief and despair... may we allow Immanuel to show us that He is ever with Us. When the busy-ness of end of the year stress at work, celebration preparation, shopping, cooking, entertaining keeps us focused on what we must do rather than WHO we must worship let us soak in His presence...focus on what is really important
May we live out this faith that God is With us and impart it on others as we give of ourselves, our time and our money to those who are in need...being the hands and feet and HUGS of Jesus...God WITH US.
~Father God, I love your name Immanuel (God with us) because...
~I am sorry for the times that I did not acknowledge You in my life...
~I need You with me today in these ways...
~Open my heart daily so I might be sensitive to Your presence in my life...
Leave a comment...let's chat! Be sure to check back tomorrow for Day 6!
Today we are going to take a stroll into the Old Testament and compare some interesting connections with the New Testament. The story of our Bible in it's entirety is something each of us need to practice often––taking, soaking and learning from both the Old Testament and the New Testament. For, the Old Testament foretells the joyous news of our coming Savior which we see in the Gospels. Every single word in the Old Testament scriptures points to Jesus. Not one iota is sluff or extra or extraneous to our reading as the Bible in it's whole. Though some may see the Old Testament as well...old and irrelevant, it is far from that. We see the full picture of just why our King came to this earth with in the pages of each chapter.
Today's Advent Reading from THE VOICE: Psalm 2:7
I am telling all of you the truth. I have heard the Eternal’s decree. He said clearly to me, “You are My son. Today I have become your Father. (Psalm 2:7)
Digging into the lineage of Jesus we see that the Shepherd King of Israel, David, plays a key roll in the prophesy rolled out with in Old Testament Scriptures which lead us to the coming of Messiah--Jesus. In this Psalm we read the glorious decree from on high where God proclaims Jesus as His SON. It is through King David that the proclamation, the prophesy is carried out. Today, join me in coupling a few Scriptures as we take a peek into the intimate relationship between Father and Son.
Let us quiet our heart to recognize the divine. We might even feel as if we are looking on from the outside...like watching a private exchange. This exchange feels other worldly to our earthly eyes––so pure and magnificent that it is difficult to wrap our mind around. When we pair the passage from Psalm 2 (see above) with these two Scriptures (see below) , we see further into the divine exchange in the pages of the New Testament. This serves to remind me that God never changes. His word is firm. He doesn't say one thing on one hand and many many centuries later (in the New Testament) change His mind.
For no heavenly messengers have ever heard God address them with these words of the psalms:
You are My Son. Today I have become Your Father.Or heard Him promise,
I will be to You a Father, and You will be My Son. (Hebrews 1:5 THE VOICE)
This passage echos Psalm 2 of our Advent reading. I can hear the sweet and proud tone of the Father affirm the Kingship of His son in the Gospel of Mark as Jesus emerges from baptismal waters...
But as Jesus was coming out of the waters, He looked up and saw the sky split open. The Spirit of God descended upon Him like a dove, and a voice echoed in the heavens. Voice: You are My Son, My beloved One, and I am very pleased with You. (Mark 1:10-11 THE VOICE)
Yes, in all of these Words we get a peek, a glimpse into the intricate, loving, glorious nature between the Father and Son. Part of me feels a bit jealous though. A thought runs through my mind and across my heart as I yearn for this same intimacy with my Heavenly Father––to be His daughter with which He is pleased.
Alas...this is the Awe and Wonder of Advent.
The Christmas story, the Advent points straight to the cross. Just as no words go with out purpose in the Old Testament, this Advent points straight to the cross. The coming of our Savior so that we too may join in on the divine, intimate relationship. Father to Son exchange...Father to Daughter exchange. Let us not forget. Let us not feel jealous of the peek behind the veil we just glimpsed with Psalm 2, Hebrews 1 and Mark 1. You and I are the reason for Advent and thus the cross because God desires us to take part in the divine exchange. A divine intimacy. The veil pulled back to reveal our role.
Our role in Advent: To take our place as sons and daughters of the Most High and not let a day go by where our life does not point straight to His glory.
~What thoughts go through your mind when you think about God and His consistent word? Does it interest you that the Old Testament and the New Testament go hand and hand, even when there are centuries of time between them? Our God never changes His mind!
~Along with the theme of consistency. This Advent, with the whirling and swirling of busy-ness around us, how does knowing that God is unchanging effect how you will approach the season?
~Take some time exploring your role this Advent: to take your place as son or daughter of the Most High and point to God's glory everyday. How does the idea that you have an important role in Advent change your perspective?
Awe and Wonder:
We find great awe and wonder in this divine, intimate exchange between Holy Father and Son--God and Jesus. But the even greater awe and wonder is that there is not one bit of exclusivity in the divine relationship. All are welcome. The seemingly familiar Bible verse of John 3:16 which reminds us that in the coming of our Jesus that Christmas 2,000 years ago, God had each and everyone of us in mind. Who is it in your life that needs to know she is a daughter in this divine relationship? Who is it that needs to know that he is loved and accepted as a son of the Most High God? Will you commit to praying for them everyday this Advent full of Awe and Wonder?
Leave a comment...let's chat!
Also, if you are just joining us click HERE to catch up on all of the Advent Scriptures and devotions.
How did you do with the journaling and prayer prompts yesterday? Did you love it? Did you not love it but did them anyway? I hope so! Thank you for humoring me. :) Seriously, there is something to be said for using more than one of our senses (using our eyes and our hands) to interact with Scripture as we take time and effort to write out God's Word. Let's jump in today...this is a heavy one so get ready.
Today's Scripture reading: Genesis 3: 14-15
**From THE VOICE translation Advent Reading***
God (to the serpent): What you have done carries great consequences. Now you are cursed more than cattle or wild beasts. You will writhe on your belly forever, consuming the dust out of which man was made. I will make you and your brood enemies of the woman and all her children; The woman’s child will stomp your head, and you will strike his heel.
(to the woman) As a consequence of your actions, I will increase your suffering—the pain of childbirth And the sorrow of bringing forth the next generation. You will desire your husband; but rather than a companion, He will be the dominant partner.
Today's reading is another of those seemingly not-so-warm-and-fuzzy types of Scripture we would not expect from a cheerfully festive Advent reading. On the surface the words do not conjure up the spiritual concepts that we often attribute to Christmas. But, as we are seeking God's Awe and Wonder this Advent we've committed to looking past the seemingly familiar. We've decided to do things differently this year in order to embrace the sparkle, the fascination, the majesty of just what exactly Advent-the coming of our Lord Jesus- is all about. In Genesis 3 we see the fall of man (and woman!) as Adam and Eve let themselves slip away from obedience to God and followed the temptings of the Serpent (Satan). Oh the despair they felt! Oh the shame and guilt! Oh the longing to be back in that pure fellowship with God!
But OH! the Awe and Wonder which follows as generations of time pass by to add chapters of the STORY of the Gospel. The good news of the coming babe in a manger, the sought after King by many. Yes, thousands of years passed. Many lost hope and fell away from the faith. But God never stepped back from His promise: to redeem US––You and Me!–– back to that pure fellowship with God Almighty from the days of the garden of Eden.
In our Scripture reading for today we see our Almighty both banishing the Serpent (our enemy) and proclaiming JESUS' coming victory over sin. In one sentence God foretells this Gospel--the good news that Jesus will overcome––as well as proclaims Truth that we are subject to sin. Oh how we slip and fall into temptation daily, yes. But that is not the end of the story. This coming King, born in a lowly manger, is and will be victorious over the great enemy of our day. We know the end of the story...
I looked up and saw that heaven had opened. Suddenly, a white horse appeared. Its rider is called Faithful and True, and with righteousness He exercises judgment and wages war. His eyes burn like a flaming fire, and on His head are many crowns. His name was writtenbefore the creation of the world, and no one knew it except He Himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name He was known by is The Word of God. 14 And the armies of heaven, outfitted in fine linen, white and pure, were following behind Him on white steeds. (Revelation 19: 11-14 THE VOICE)
Will you join me in Awe and Wonder as we join the first book of the Bible, Genesis,with the final book, Revelation and worship alongside the angles and saints crying out...
And I heard what seemed to be an immense crowd speaking with one voice—it was like the sound of a roaring waterfall, like the sound of clashing thunder.
Multitude(in unison): Praise the Lord! For the Lord our God, the All Powerful, reigns supreme. Now is the time for joy and happiness. He deserves all the glory we can give Him. For the wedding feast has begun; the marriage of the Lamb to His bride has commenced, and His bride has prepared herself for this glorious day.
Awe and Wonder:
So what is our part in THE STORY, the gospel story, the Advent? What do we do with all of this Scripture about sin, victory over sin and redemption?
Yes, a very churchy word but still valid and relevant. To repent is to claim our sin. To name our sin. To first ask for forgiveness––knowing that Jesus made us right with God on the cross. And then change our ways.
To worship God in Awe and Wonder this Advent is to prepare our hearts for His birth–––the celebration of His coming––by evaluating our behavior. Taking a hard look at our thoughts. Taking a deep look at our heart condition.
Then REPENT: turn away from the dark sin and toward the light of abundance and LIFE Jesus brought that night in the manger. The life fulfilled upon His death on the cross and resurrection from the dead three days later. Yes. The seemingly familiar of the season is to feel warm and fuzzy about the sweet, chubby babe in the manger. But the Awe and Wonder of Advent is victory over sin fulfilled as that sweet, chubby babe in the manger became our strong, majestic King and Savior.
Take some time to pray through some sin issues you have in your life. Ask God to reveal what needs recognition, forgiveness and repentance. Use your journal to write out this prayer and the repentance you are committing to as you seek after His Awe and Wonder today.
Iwould love to hear your thoughts on this.
Leave a comment...let's chat!
Check back in tomorrow for Day 4!
Read more from Sarah at LIVE IT OUT! Blog
Bold Declarations. During this Advent may we be bold. May we declare God's Awe and Wonder at every turn of our day. Something in me excites at the idea that I know what I believe. But, am I willing to boldly declare it?
~Declare it in my personal journal for my eyes (and Jesus!) to see.
~Declare it in my deep thoughts. The thoughts that drive my attitude and demeanor towards others.
~Declare it in my heart. The place, the root, where outpouring of faith begins.
~Declare it with my spoken words. This is tough. What will people think when they hear me speak bold declarations? Let's start with our personal space and hopefully it will spill out into your thoughts, your mind and your spoken word today.
Today's Reading: Psalm 104: 1-5
Today we are journaling through these five verses as we write out bold declarations of God's Awe and Wonder. It is my hope that the definition of exactly that, awe and wonder, will begin to etch on our hearts. May we develop a personal description of God's awe and wonder starting from His Holy Word in the book of Psalms.
In your journal write out each of the verses below. Yes. It will take time and attention. This is where the rubber meets the road in our journey. Do join in with your paper in pen, ok? For each verse there is a journal prompt...
**I will be using THE VOICE translation.***
Psalm 104: 1 Call Him good, my soul, and praise the Eternal. I am here to declare my affection for You, Eternal One, my God.You are indeed great—You who are wrapped in glory and dressed in greatness. Journal/Prayer prompt: Lord, today show me how to boldly declare my love and affection for You... ~Write words that come to mind of how He is "wrapped in glory and dressed in greatness." How has God shown you His glory lately?
Psalm 104:2 For covering, You choose light—Your clothes, sunset and moonrise. For a tent, You stretch out the heavens; for Your roof, You pitch the sky.
Journal/Prayer prompt: You, oh mighty Lord, created the heavenlies. You created the earth and beyond. I will sit in awe of your creative wonder today...
Psalm 104:3-4 Your upper chamber is built on beams that lie in the waters overhead, and the clouds, Your chariot; You are held aloft by the wind. You make Your messengers like the winds; the breeze whispers Your words,Your servants are like the fire and flame.
Journal/Prayer prompt: Father God, You are powerful and above all. Today I want to make You my highest priority...
I put You above all else and knock down anything or anyone that I put above You...
Psalm 104:5 You made the earth, and You made its frame stable forever.Never will it be shaken.
Journal/Prayer prompt: Lord, these things are uncertain in my life... I will hand over my burdens, my worry, of life's uncertainty and declare that I believe that Your kingdom will NEVER change...
Awe and Wonder:
How can you be bold in your declarations today? This can be lived out in many ways: how we serve others, how we worship, how we talk about why we love Jesus. What does this look like YOU today?
Leave a comment...let's chat!
Check back in tomorrow for Day 3. Hugs!
Read more from Sarah at LIVE IT OUT! Blog