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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Eyes of the Christ Child

Day 2: The Eyes of the Christ Child

Meditation (3-5 Minutes)

Begin by being still before God. Read Isaiah 9:6 and meditate on the words.

Isa 9:6 (NIV)
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

1) Be still and know he is God.

2) Think about Jesus as a child.
a) What can you imagine him doing?
b) Do you think he enjoyed getting and receiving gifts?
c) How do you think the Christ Child would experience Christmas?
d) View this Christmas through the eyes of the Christ Child.

3) Let him be your Wonderful Counselor.
a) Surrender your problems.
b) Seek his wisdom.

4) Let him be your Mighty God.
a) Feel his power.
b) Surrender to his power.
c) Claim his power.

5) Let him be your Everlasting Father.
a) Bask in his love.
b) Feel his arms around you.

6) Let him be your Prince of Peace.
a) Release all contentious thoughts or worries.
b) Experience his peace.

1) Ask God to speak to you during this worship time.

2) Requests of the Christ Child

a) Pray specifically for those that need to experience Christmas through the eyes of the Christ Child.
i) Specifically name those in emotional or physical pain.
ii) Specifically name the non-Christians in your life.
iii) Add them to the list.

b) Prayerfully update the list with new requests and any answers from God.

c) Praise God for his answers.

3) Gifts from the Christ Child
a) Praise God for his blessings.
b) Update the list.

4) Gifts to the Christ Child
a) Ask God to give you his spirit as you give gifts to others.
b) Prayerfully, update the list.

5) Ask God for knowledge of his will for you and the power to carry it out.

6) Ask the Holy Spirit to interpret the scriptures you are about to read.

Bible Study

Jesus came to earth as a baby. Like other babies, people gave him gifts and celebrated his birth. As far as we know, he had to learn to walk, talk, and dress himself. He grew up loved by his earthly mother and father. As an adult, Jesus loved children. He instructed us to let children be our teachers.

Background Scripture
Matthew 9:13-15, Mark 10:13-16, and Luke 18:15-17: Read the background scripture carefully. Jesus took time to be with children. How did he treat these children? What did he do for them?

What lesson was Jesus trying to teach his pious and impatient disciples?

The Faith of a Child
Lauren is eight years old. “I can’t wait for Christmas. It is my first Christmas as a Christian.” Earlier this year, Lauren asked Jesus to be a part of her life. “I was baptized,” she excitedly told me.

Lauren lives in a Godly home. She has been in church all of her life. Jesus has always been part of her life in some way. I questioned her further. “You already knew about Jesus. Why is this Christmas different?”

“Christmas has to be different because everything is different now. Jesus is my friend. I need him this year because two of my other friends moved away. Jesus will never move away.”

“What do you do with Jesus?” I asked.

“I talk to him. My brother is sick so I ask God to help him. My Daddy needs a job. I tell Jesus.”

“What is your favorite part of Christmas?” I asked.

“Church is fun at Christmas. I love singing the Christmas Carols. I get to go upfront and light a candle.” I asked about her favorite Christmas service. “Christmas Eve,” she said. “We turn off the lights and light candles.”

“What about the Bible? Do you have favorite verse?” I prompted.

Without hesitation, she answered, “Genesis 1:1. I can say it. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. This was the first verse I memorized. It reminds me that God made me. My favorite verse in the New Testament is John 3:16. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” I wondered if she understood and asked her about it. “This tells me I will live forever with Jesus.”

Read John 3:16 and Genesis 1:1.

Since Lauren is just eight, I knew there had to be more to Christmas for her. “What about gifts?” I quizzed. “What was your favorite gift?”

Her face lit up. “I love gifts. When I was three, I got a toy car that fit over my legs. I sat the ground and pretended to drive. It had a steering wheel and a gearshift. Driving this car made me feel like a grown up. When I got older, what I liked changed. I gave that toy car to a girl in my church. Now I like Barbie Christmas gifts. Wearing a Barbie nightgown makes me feel pretty. I want a new Barbie for Christmas.”

“Lauren, why do you think we celebrate Christmas?” I was expecting her to say we celebrated the birth of Jesus. Her answer was better.

“We celebrate God’s gift to us. Christmas reminds me of a song I sing in church. This song says that we do not have to go looking for the gift of Christmas. Jesus is the gift that comes to us.” In what way does Lauren have the eyes of the Christ Child?

Luke 18:17: How are we to receive the kingdom of God?

A footnote to Lauren’s story is that her brother got well and her father found a job.

Application (5-10 Minutes)

1) Making It Personal
a) Name and pray for your favorite Christmas celebration.
b) Write your favorite Bible verse.
c) What was your favorite Christmas gift? Thank God for it.
d) Think of a child that you know well. Pick someone who is sweet, innocent, and bright with the joy of a child.
e) How will this child react to life today?
f) What areas of your life need the eyes of the Christ Child?
g) Ask God to help you have a childlike spirit throughout the day.

2) Praying Continuously (1 Thessalonians 5:17):
a) Stop and briefly pray when you feel strong emotions (i.e. impatience, anger, excitement, frustration, or joy).
b) As you feel each of these emotions, ask yourself this question: “If I were experiencing this with the faith of a child, how would I be reacting?”
c) Ask for the faith of a child.

Ending the Day

a) Thank God for the children in your life.
b) Did you have the eyes of the Christ Child today?
c) Confess if necessary.
d) Ask God for the eyes of the Christ Child.

Godly Fellowship At Christmas

Day 1: Godly Fellowship At Christmas

Morning Meditation (3-5 Minutes)

Begin by being still before God. Read Psalms 46:20 and meditate on the words.

Psalms 46:10 (NIV) Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.

• Be Still.
o Clear your mind.
o Breathe deeply.
o Sit quietly.

• Know He is God.
o Feel his presence.
o Let his presence envelop you.

• He is exalted among the nations and on the earth.
o Feel his power.
o Surrender to his power.
o Claim his power.

Prayer (5-10 Minutes)

Ask God to speak to you during this devotional time.
Requests of the Christ Child

• Pray for the Christmas season.
o Pray for the Christmas worship services and celebrations in the community.
o Pray for your church and your Christmas celebrations.
o Pray for our Nation during this holiday period.
o List any specific events/concerns that need continued prayers.

• Pray for needs.
o Pray specifically for the people in your lives.
o Pray for your church.
o Tell God your concerns and needs.
o List any specific requests that need continued prayers.

Gifts from the Christ Child
• Think about your blessings this Christmas.
• Praise God for his blessings.
• List your top three blessings.

Gifts to the Christ Child
• Ask God to help develop that gifts given to anyone is a gift to the Christ Child.
• Ask God what gifts he wants you to give this Christmas.
• Prayerfully, fill it any gifts you plan to purchase between now and Christmas.

Ask for knowledge of his will for you this Christmas and the power to carry it out.

Ask the Holy Spirit to interpret the scriptures you are about to read.

Morning Bible Study (10-15 Minutes)

Christmas is a time for fellowship. We fellowship with God, families, friends, and our church. God tells us, “It is not good for you to be alone.” (Genesis 2:18) Healthy loving hearts need fellowship. If we fellowship with God and open our eyes and look around, God will send us people with whom to have deep and intimate fellowship. We read his word to learn about Godly fellowship.

Background Scripture
The background Scripture is Luke 1:1-56. Open your Bibles to the familiar passage. Today’s devotion studies the fellowship between the two Godly women God chose to begin the very first Christmas. We will study how Mary and Elizabeth fellowshipped with God and each other. We will study the following aspects of their fellowship: Love, the Holy Spirit, God the Father, and Jesus Christ.

God chose two very unlikely women. Elizabeth was too old to have a child. Mary was too young and innocent to have a child. They were both a “disgrace” by their world’s standards. Elizabeth’s disgrace had been her barrenness. Mary’s disgrace was that she became pregnant before she married.

Our Holy God loves to do the unexpected. The world judged them unworthy. God judged them most worthy. He chose Elizabeth to bear the son that would tell the world about the Christ Child. He chose Mary to bear His son.

Background - Elizabeth
Read Luke 1:5-7. Elizabeth had been married for many years to Zechariah. Both Zechariah and Elizabeth were descendents of priests. They lived blameless lives. Zechariah was faithful to his priestly calling. Their religion taught them that children were blessings from God. People assumed the inability to have children was a sign of God’s punishment. Elizabeth and Zechariah were most likely the subject of gossip and/or questions. How do you think Elizabeth felt about being barren?

Read Luke 1:25: Elizabeth desperately wanted children. She pleaded with God and had faith he would answer. She waited and most likely held her breath each month. She probably felt shame and disgrace over her barrenness as the years progressed. Miraculously, God finally answered her prayers. How does she feel now?

Read Luke 1:16-17: God had planned her blessing for years. He gave more than she asked. Her child was special. What was her son’s purpose?

Background - Mary
Mary was a young woman with the same dreams that other young women had. She was faithful to God. We see from her questions to the angel that she was intelligent, confident, and faithful. She was a woman of honor and purity. Mary was engaged to a kind Jewish man named Joseph. She expected to follow in the footsteps of the faithful people that had taught her how to live and love.

Read Luke 1:29-31 and Luke 1:12-13: Again, God does the unexpected. An angel named Gabriel appeared to her, changing her plans. Gabriel had been very busy. He had also visited Zachariah, announcing Elizabeth’s pregnancy. What would your reaction be to a visit from an angel? Not surprising, Gabriel frightened both Zachariah and Mary. We can only hope Gabriel does not take our reactions personally. He seems to be used to the reactions because he had his response ready.

Read Luke 1:34: Gabriel told Mary that she was going to bear the son of God. Mary’s parents had obviously told her the “facts of life.” Why was Mary confused?

Read Luke 1:38: In the end, she humbly accepted the will of God. She even rejoiced in the news. What was her answer?

One can only imagine the conversation with Mary’s mother. “An angel said what?” Mary must have been tempted to ask Gabriel to come back and explain this situation to her mother. We do know that Mary left her home in a hurry. (Luke 1:39)

Read Luke 1:43-44: Mary went straight to Elizabeth’s house. Here we have one of the most beautiful demonstrations of love that is recorded in the Bible. These women shared their faith and joy. They quoted scripture and worshipped God as they talked. They encouraged one another. Elizabeth rejoiced at Mary’s arrival. What did she say to Mary?

Baby John was not going to be left out. What did he do?

Holy Spirit
Read Luke 1:41-42: True Godly fellowship includes the Holy Spirit. Elizabeth was “filled with the Holy Spirit.” Because the Holy Sprit was a part of their relationship, Elizabeth understood the situation before Mary even told her.

God, The Father
Read Luke 1:46-47: True fellowship includes worship of the Holy Father. Mary and Elizabeth praised God together as they sang and quoted scriptures. “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God, my savor.” Enjoy the words of their worship service.

Read Luke 1:42: The final piece of true fellowship is Jesus Christ. Jesus was the point of Mary and Elizabeth’s fellowship. What were Elizabeth’s words to Mary?

Application (5-10 Minutes)

1) Making It Personal
a) List the people with whom you will fellowship the most this Christmas. (write your answer)
b) Whom do you love? (write your answer)
c) With whom do you share Godly fellowship? Which relationships include the presence of the Holy Spirit, worship of God the Father, and the love of Jesus Christ? (write your answer)
d) Which relationships need improvement? (write your answer)
e) Ask God to help you improve your relationships.
f) What can you do to improve your relationships? (write your answer)
g) If you are lonely and need more fellowship, write a letter asking God to meet your needs. Ask God to send you one new person today. (write your answer)

2) Praying Continuously (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
a) Pray for those closest to you at lunch, dinner, and at bedtime:
b) Tell at least one friend how important they are to you.
c) Look for his answers throughout the day.

Ending Each Day With God

a) Ask God to help you with your fellowship with him and those closest to you.
b) How was your fellowship on this 1st day of the Christmas season?
c) Confess your failures and claim your victories.
d) Decide to apologize the next day, if necessary.
e) Praise God for his fellowship this Christmas.