Below are a few of the Christmas posts I’ve written. I hope they can help you set your mind on Jesus during this Advent season.
(This devotion is day four of a 30-Day Thanksgiving Challenge. Each day includes a daily reading that will be accompanied by a post on this blog.)
I grew up on the classic books, The Berenstain Bears. Since I’m forcing my toddler to relive many of my experiences, including my favorite childhood books and shows, we’ve watched episodes of The Berenstain Bears online. One of my favorites is “Say Please and Thank You.” Brother and Sister Bear (the children) forget to say “please” and “thank you,” but they don’t realize it until they see it in others. They do favors for their friends, but feel unappreciated when those friends never say thank you.
After rising earlier in the morning than we wanted, identity questions invade our mind as we look in the mirror, think about the upcoming day (or breakfast), and decide what to wear. Do I want my clothes to be the casual me, the dressed-up me, the outdoorsy-me, the stylish-me, or the “life beat me down so I didn’t care” me? We don’t realize we’re thinking in terms of identity, but the questions of “Who am I? Who do I want to be? How do others view me?” shape us all day long.
“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” 2 Corinthians 8:9
Paul puts together two seemingly opposed descriptions. The believers in Macedonia live in “extreme poverty” and yet have an abundance of joy. Their pockets and houses might be empty but their hearts are overflowing.
The Ascension of Jesus has become a forgotten doctrine in most churches. We think of Jesus in terms of his past work at the manger, cross, or empty tomb but neglect his ongoing work from the throne. Jesus has not kicked up his feet to enjoy the retired life until his return. Reclaiming our understanding of the ascension helps us answer what Jesus is doing right now, and why his reign gives us rest.
We each have a story that includes a past, present, and a future. The Bible also tells a story; a narrative of historical events full of significance for all of humanity.
As those united to Jesus, we are made participants in God’s story and cast as characters in the drama of redemptive history. The resurrection of Jesus is one of those climactic moments in both Jesus’ life and the Bible’s story of God redeeming a people and restoring His corrupted creation. When we think of Jesus’ resurrection we should consider the past accomplishment, the present effects, and the future realities dawning upon us. As participants of the story through union with Christ, we must see how the resurrection rewrites our past, remakes us in the present, and reshapes our future.
Like any good narrative, the Bible uses literary devices such as metaphors, double-meanings, paradoxes, and irony. The New Testament authors often used irony to draw out the difference between how mankind sees things and how God sees things. Irony shows the sharp contrast between expectations and realities as well as between intent and effect. A third way authors employ irony is to highlight something the readers know that the characters in the story would have been unaware of. In Colossians 2:13-15 Paul provides at least four ironies tied to the cross of Jesus Christ.
There are some interesting parallels between Jesus’ conversation with the woman at the well in John 4 about water and his dialogue about bread with Jews following him in John 6. Reading the two together echoes John’s key themes for us. Here are some of the parallels in the accounts.
John’s purpose for writing the gospel: “these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ” (John 20:31).
John’s background for his book: “the framework for Jesus’ understanding of his own mission is shaped by the Scriptures mediated by the Jews” (D. A. Carson).
John’s 2 questions for the reader to wrestle with: 1) Who is Jesus? 2) What do I do with his words/teachings?
When we really think about the Incarnation (God taking on flesh), it should stir wonder in us. In The God Who Became Human, Graham Cole summarizes his hope for the reader.