Thank you for your participation in Willow’s Advent devotionals

Thank you for participating in the daily Advent devotionals. We hope over the course of the last few weeks, the Christmas story came alive in your heart and that you experienced a deeper understanding of the depth of God’s love for you—that He would send His only Son to earth—for you.

Engaging with Scripture is one of the most catalytic things you can do as a believer to become more Christ centered. As we enter 2012, it is our prayer that you set aside time every day to meet with God and grow closer to Him. Make it a priority in your life to be intentional about letting God speak to you through His Word.

Thank you for your participation in Willow’s Advent devotionals

Thank you for participating in the daily Advent devotionals. We hope over the course of the last few weeks, the Christmas story came alive in your heart and that you experienced a deeper understanding of the depth of God’s love for you—that He would send His only Son to earth—for you.

Engaging with Scripture is one of the most catalytic things you can do as a believer to become more Christ centered. As we enter 2012, it is our prayer that you set aside time every day to meet with God and grow closer to Him. Make it a priority in your life to be intentional about letting God speak to you through His Word.

Advent Day 25: A Christmas Prayer

Dear Heavenly Father,

I am so grateful for the gift of Jesus and thank You for the time I have today to reflect on His birth in a lowly manger that night so long ago.
Help me share the excitement of the angels as I proclaim the news of Jesus to my family, friends, and those You place in my path.
Help me remember to be grateful for each and every blessing You have given me—whether big or small.
Help me remember Your promise of eternal life and choose to be joyful even when life gets hard.
Guard my heart and continually purify me from thoughts and temptations that do not come from You.
Help me show Your love through my words, thoughts, and actions.
Help me remember the joy of Christmas morning each and every day this coming year.
Amen

1 Thessalonians 5:23
May God Himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Advent Day 24: The Angels Declare His Glory


Can you imagine what it was like to be one of the angels on that night so long ago? After all the anticipation, they received the news that the long-awaited Messiah had finally come. A buzz of excitement must have filled the heavens when they realized they had been chosen to be the first to spread the news. This was the momentous event they had eagerly anticipated their entire existence. This is one of the definitive roles for which they were created—to go down to earth and burst forth in song, lighting up the heavens with their indescribable, divinely reflected glory so that everyone would pay attention. They could hardly contain their excitement as they rushed to take their places in the sky and erupt with joyous praise.

Reflect on the angels’ declaration below and ask God how you can share the good news of Christ’s birth this year with the same excitement.

Luke 2:13–14
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel,
praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests.”

Advent Day 23: The Birth of Jesus

Christmas is almost here. Do you remember the goal of Advent from day 1 of this devotional series? You were encouraged to slow down and be counter cultural this season. To take time each day to reflect on the Savior who was born so that you might live.

Today spend time reading the account of Christ’s birth. Despite its likely familiarity, don’t rush through the story. Take your time in the Scriptures—marvel at Mary’s obedience, share the wonder of the shepherds, rejoice with the angels—and celebrate the birth of the Christ child, the gracious gift of an outrageously loving God.
Read Luke 1:26–38 and 2:1–20.

Advent Day 22: O Little Town of Bethlehem

How many times over the years have you sung the Christmas carol “O Little Town of Bethlehem”—more than you can count, or only a few? This year as you sing the words, let them sink in. Hear the story of salvation. Jesus was born to cast out our sin and enter into our lives. He is alive and desires an active relationship with us. He wants to abide with us in our hearts, to make us pure. There is no greater gift that has ever been given. Sing this beloved song with a deep sense of gratitude this year.

O little town of Bethlehem
How still we see thee lie
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight

For Christ is born of Mary
And gathered all above
While mortals sleep, the angels keep
Their watch of wondering love
O morning stars together
Proclaim the holy birth
And praises sing to God the King
And Peace to men on earth

How silently, how silently
The wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His heaven.
No ear may his His coming,
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive him still,
The dear Christ enters in.

O holy Child of Bethlehem
Descend to us, we pray
Cast out our sin and enter in
Be born to us today
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell
O come to us, abide with us
Our Lord Emmanuel

Listen to “O Little Town of Bethlehem.”

Advent Day 21: The Grinch in You

Galatians 5:16–17
So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.

Christmas is a time of year when we are bombarded by messages of “more.” Media tells us we need to buy all kinds of shiny, new toys. We won’t be fulfilled or happy in life until we own the latest and greatest version of this or that. It doesn’t matter how old you are, there is always some new thing you must have, that will revolutionize your life. On television, in billboards, on the radio, and in stores we are enticed to spend more and own more, to keep up with the rest of society or simply because we deserve it.

This time of full-tilt sales and advertisements is a good time to talk about greed. Most of us don’t like to think about the heart behind greed. It’s that ugly, little green monster that somewhat resembles the Grinch who stole Christmas. It’s the voice that tells us, “Everyone else has one, why shouldn’t you?” or “But it’s such a great deal—even if you don’t really need it, how can you pass it up?” Satan much prefers we ignore that little green monster and not acknowledge greed—because it’s so much more effective to subtly tempt us when we’re not on the lookout for it.

But Scripture cautions us against greed, against being consumed by needing more. Our sinful natures are distracted and tempted by this need for more things—things that ultimately break, get lost, or go out of fashion. Contrary to following our sinful nature, when we walk in the Spirit, we are able to more easily resist these temptations, to be on the lookout for the “greed monster” that keeps trying to creep into our hearts. We remember that the riches of the earth will be left here on earth. And we are focused on the things of the Spirit, the things that last.

In the midst of all the messages of “more,” stop and invite God to shift your perspective, and make a commitment to ruthlessly eradicate all traces of greed from your life.

Go Deeper
Arm yourself against the “greed monster” by reading the following Scripture passages.
Proverbs 15:27
Isaiah 57:16–18
Mark 7:21–23
Luke 12:14–15
Ephesians 4:18–20

Advent Day 20: Letting Go

Letting Go

When we hold on to idols or sin patterns in our lives with tightly clenched fists, we can close ourselves off from letting God work in our lives. Sometimes the act of letting go needs to be tangible for us to truly understand how we can let God lead us.

Engage in the following exercise to help you let go of any sin patterns that are keeping your heart from being pure before God this year.

Action
On a sheet of paper, write down all the things in your life you are holding on to that might be hindering your walk with God—sins, vices, idols. Reflect on this passage as you write.

Psalm 139:23–24
Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.

Hold the paper out in front of you in both hands. As you pray the following prayer, clench the paper tightly to represent your reluctance to let go. When you are ready, release the paper and open your hands out to God.

God, I hold up all that I am holding on to that is keeping me from You.

Help me loosen my grip on my sin and idols and relinquish them to You.

Thank You for taking all my sin and for forgiving me. Help me keep my hands open to You and the work You want to do in my life.

Advent Day 19: Brokenness and Healing

Scripture tells us we are all sinful and in need of a Savior. Each of us carries hurt, pain, and even secret sins we keep locked up inside our hearts. Many of us are coming to terms with our fragmented identity and fears around intimacy. For others, our wounds are still buried deep beneath layers of denial and self-deception.

God is not surprised by any of this. Hebrews 4:13 tells us that “nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight.” These broken parts of us are not something we need to hide from God. He doesn’t want us to come to Him pretending everything is wonderful. He accepts us and loves us just as we are—broken, hurting, and in need of His loving embrace.

Meditate on the following quote today. Ask God to show you what parts of your brokenness He wants to heal this year.

The event of Christ is the only event in human history that promises relocation and centering, meaning and purpose. This promise and its fulfillment evoke passionate and heartfelt praise and thanks, especially for those aware of their own brokenness and the healing which Christ brings into their lives.
—Robert Webber, The New Worship Awakening: What’s Old Is New Again

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Advent Day 18: Season of Forgiveness

As we continue to look at purity, consider whether any seeds of un-forgiveness have taken root in your heart. Un-forgiveness can be like a weed, growing quickly and causing us to become bitter and angry. Choosing to forgive is not an easy process, and often we find it necessary to go back and forgive again after we thought we had moved on. Spend some time in God’s Word today discovering what He says about forgiveness.

Colossians 3:13
Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

Matthew 18:21–22
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive someone who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”

Luke 6:37
Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.

Matthew 6:14–16
For if you forgive others when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Mark 11:25
And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.

Is there someone in your life you need to forgive? What better time than Christmas to extend forgiveness and experience peace? Ask God to help you let go of the hurt, pain, and anger associated with your un-forgiveness and take a step toward those you need to forgive.

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