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Monday, December 23, 2013

Advent Day 20: And the Light Became Flesh

Meditation (3-5 Minutes)
Begin by being still before God.  Read John 3:17-21 and meditate on the words.

John 3:16-21 (NIV)
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.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.  Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.  This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.  Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.  But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.

1)    Be still and know he is God. 

2)    For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son.  Enjoy God’s love.

3)    Whoever believes in him will have eternal life.  Anticipate an eternal life with God. 

4)    God sent his son to save the world through him.  Ponder the wonder of God’s grace.

5)    Light has come into the world.  Think about the Light of Christmas.

6)    Whoever lives by truth comes into the light.  Are you living by truth?

7)    Are you living by the Light of Christmas?

Prayer (5-10 Minutes)

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

2)    Requests of the Christ Child (Appendix 1):
a)    Ask God to help you walk in truth:
i)    Throughout your day.
ii)    Throughout your life.
iii)    Through all eternity.
b)    Ask God to give you the light to notice and enjoy his world today. 
c)    Appendix 1: Pray and update.

3)    Gifts from the Christ Child (Appendix 2):
a)    Praise God for creating the world.  (List in Appendix 2.) 
i)    Praise him for his beautiful creations. 
ii)    Thank him for turning on the lights so we could see them.
iii)    Thank Him for the moon, stars, sun, and the heavens. 
iv)    Praise Him for the flowers and the trees. 
v)    Ask Him to help you to notice them all day. 
b)    Praise God for Christmas.  (List in Appendix 2.)
i)    For the gift of his son.
ii)    For the privilege of worshipping the Christ Child.
iii)    For the fun we have at Christmas.
c)    Praise God for loving us enough to send us the Light.  List in Appendix 2.

4)    Gifts to the Christ Child (Appendix 3):
a)    Offer God your awareness today:
i)    Of the beauty around you. 
ii)    Of his truth.
iii)    Of his light, lighting your way. 
b)    Offer God your willingness today.
i)    To be delighted with his gifts.
ii)    To enjoy the Spirit of Christmas.
iii)    To walk in truth.
iv)    To bask in his light.
c)    Appendix 3: Pray and update.

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

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

Bible Study (10-15 Minutes)

From the beginning, God offered us light.  God said, “Let there be light.”  We look around in wonder at his creation.  We are grateful that he created light first.  Without light, the beauty would be a waste.  We would not be able to see the colors in the flowers, sunsets, mountains, and rainbows.  Everywhere we look, God has given us things to see and enjoy through his light. 

Instead of enjoying the light God offered, man rebelled.  The first rebellion was in the Garden of Eden.  Adam and Eve just could not be happy with the gifts God gave them.  The rebellion has continued throughout history.  For our own good, God gave us the Ten Commandments.  We were unwilling to follow them.  He sent prophets, whom we ignored.  Occasionally, he even spoke directly to us.  We just kept right on being our own worst enemy. 

God saw our darkness.  Once again, God said, “Let there be light.’  This time, the Light became flesh. 

Background Scripture

Read Genesis 1:1-2.   Describe the earth in the beginning.  What was it like?  How does that compare to life without Christ?  (Write your answers in your journal.)

Read Genesis 1:3-5:  The world was dark and God created light.  What did he say about this light?  How does God say, “Let there be light” in the lives of people?  (Write your answers in the journal.)

Read Genesis 1:6-10:  What did God create on the second day?  What did he say about it?  (Write your answers in the journal.)

Read Genesis 1:11-13.  God created fruits and vegetables.  He could have made everything the same but he gave us a wide variety to choose form.  He saw that it was good.  Think about your favorite fruits and vegetables.  Why do you suppose God went to the trouble to make them so different and interesting?  (Write your answer in your journal.)

Read Genesis 1:14-19:  God had already created light.  Even in light, he created variety.  What was the purpose of the lights in the sky?  (Write your answer in your journal.) 

Read Genesis 1:20-25.  God filled the water and the skies.  He created birds and fish of all sizes, shapes, and colors.  He filled the land with animals.  Think of the fun he had as he stretched the giraffe’s neck and painted the stripes on zebras.  He enjoyed his creations.  Who could blame him?  How could you not enjoy watching monkeys?  Again, why do you think he created such a variety?  Whom was he creating this for?  (Write your answers in your journal.)

Read Genesis 1:26-27.  God made man in his image and let us rule over everything he had made.  This world was for us.  What do you imagine the image of God is like?  How are we like him?  What does that mean our potential is?  (Write your answers in your journal.)

Read Genesis 1:28.  God had already created a wonderland.  And yet, he did one more thing.  What was that?  Why do you think he did this?  (Write your answers in your journal.)

You know the rest of the story.  What kind of life did God plan for Adam and Eve in paradise?  Did they live happily ever after?  (Write your answers in the journal.) 

Read Jeremiah 50:6.  Adam and Eve are not the only ones who struggled.  What happened to us?  (Write your answer in your journal.) 

Read John 1:14.  We are God’s creations, created in his image.  God continually sent us light.  We continually choose darkness.  What did God finally do?  (Write your answer in your journal.) 

Read John 14:6-7.  Who is Jesus?  (Write your answer in your journal.)

Read John 10:10.  Why did he come to earth?  (Write your answer in your journal.) 

The Aquarium

My late friend and mentor, Steve, told me this story many years ago.  I dedicate this devotion to his memory.  Steve shared this story when I was going through a “crisis of belief.”  I have retold it so many times that I no longer know what parts are his and what parts are mine.  I have no idea where this story originated.  If anyone knows its origin, please let me know. 

A young boy dreamed of owning an aquarium.  He visited fish stores.  He read books about fish.  “I want an aquarium for Christmas,” he announced.

“You are too young.  This is too big responsibility at your age,” his parents insisted.

“Please.  I promise to take care of it,” he begged repeatedly. 

On Christmas morning, he received his aquarium.  With it came the basic supplies.  There was also a gift certificate for him to purchase the fish and anything else that he thought he needed.  That morning, this little boy saw no other gifts.  His dream had come true. 

Lovingly, he washed out the aquarium.  He found a table to put it on and set up the equipment.  His aquarium had a light.  He turned it on.  How he loved this light.  He went to the store and looked at everything.  He picked many different colored rocks.  He chose trees and bushes to put in his aquarium.  He bought houses, toys, and even a swing set.  

He went home and set up his aquarium.  He carefully laid the rocks.  He used the different colors to create roads and trails.  They looked good to him.  He set up the house.  He put the swing set with the slide right beside the house.  He put the trees and bushes around beautifully.  All looked perfect for his fish.  He filled the aquarium with water.  He made sure the temperature was just right.  He turned on the pump so the oxygen level would allow his fish to breath.  He loved everything about this world he had created.

Finally, the time came to buy the fish.  He went to the store.  There were so many beautiful choices.  He picked out the most colorful fish.  Excitedly, he rushed home and put the fish in the aquarium.  He watched.  He could not wait to see them swing on the swing.  He imagined their joy as they slid down the slide.  He looked forward to them traveling the roads he had created.  He waited for them to take shelter and comfort in the beautiful homes.  Surely, one of them would stop to notice the trees and bushes. 

He stared in shock as the fish just swam around in circles.  They did not enjoy the world he had made for them.  They ignored the roads.  They swam right past the swing set.  They did not seem to notice the bushes and trees.  None of the fish cared about the homes or sought their comfort. 

Some of the fish fought with each other.  The little boy could not understand why they were fighting.  There was plenty of room for all of them.  He had kept his promise to care for them.  They had enough food, water, and oxygen.  The little boy tried making the light brighter.  It made no difference.  They did not see the light. 

As the little boy stared at the world he had created, tears began rolling down his face.  How he loved these fish.  “Mommy, I wish I could be a fish just for a little while.  I want to go inside the aquarium and teach them how to enjoy their world.  I want to show them the roads.  I want to point out the beauty of the bushes and trees.  I want to teach them the fun of playing on the swings and slides.  I want to offer them the comfort and safety of the home.” 

The little boy longed to talk to them.  “Don’t you know I will take care of you?  I’ll give you everything you need.  You don’t have to fight.”  Sadly, this little boy was not God.  It was not within his power to become a fish and teach his fish how to have the abundant life he dreamed for them. 

God created a beautiful world for us.  He started with the heavens and the earth.  His spirit hovered over the waters.  Like the little boy, he created light.  How He must have grinned as he noticed how good it was.  Like the little boy dividing his world with his rocks, God separated our world between earth, sky, and water.  It was so good.  God created vegetation and it was good.  God created our seasons and gave us variety.  He gave us the beauty of the sun, stars, and moon.  It was good.  God created fish, wildlife, and animals for us to enjoy. 

God created us in the very image of God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.  He looked forward to our fellowship together.  God loved his creations.  He blessed them.  He was willing to take care of his world. 

Like the fish, we just swam around in circles.  We did not notice the beauty that God had given us.  We did not take delight in our world.  We hurt ourselves and others around us.  God’s world became a dangerous and difficult place to live. 
God knew the way.  He told us the way.  He gave us rules to live by.  The rules were for our own good.  They were the way to our peace, happiness, and long life.  We did not listen to him.  We lost our way.  We were like lost sheep.  Our shepherds on earth had led us so far astray.  We had even forgotten the places God had given us to find rest.  Like the fish, we fought.  There was plenty for everyone but we fought anyway.  We forgot how to play. 

The little boy could not come enter his aquarium and teach the fish how to live.  God could go to earth and become a man.  God did become a man.  The Light became flesh.  He came to show us his glory.  He came as the Son, full of grace and truth.  He taught us humility by coming as a baby.  His mother was a simple young woman.  His Father was God.  He wanted us to enjoy the world He created for us.  He came to show us the way, the truth, and the life.  He came so that we could have an abundant life.  He even simplified the 10 Commandments for us.  He gave us one simple commandment: To love. 

Luke 10:26-27 (NIV)
"'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" 

Do you know the Light this Christmas?  “The Light” starts by walking in truth.  The truth is that Jesus is our Savior.  He points the way to God.  We can decide to invite Jesus into our lives. 

Becoming a Christian is only the beginning of our abundant life.  Jesus taught us so much more.  He modeled our fellowship with the Father.  Jesus began his mornings alone with God.  He taught us to love by loving us.  He showed how to put others first by putting our needs ahead of his own.  He taught us humility by being humble.  He taught us forgiveness by forgiving his executioners.  Jesus taught us to enjoy each other by going to parties himself.  He taught us to have friends by being a friend.  He made time for his mother, family, friends, followers, and even children.  He established the church for us.  He left us the Holy Spirit so we would never be alone.  He offered us a way to live guilt free.  He comforts us, prays for us, and has prepared a room for us in heaven. 

This Christmas: If you have forgotten how to play, swing, or slide:- Follow the Light of Jesus. 

This Christmas: If you have stopped noticing the trees and bushes - Follow the Light of Jesus. 

This Christmas: If you cannot find the comfort of a true home - Follow the Light of Jesus. 

This Christmas: If your world is dark, turn on the lights - Follow the Light of Jesus. 

Application (5-10 Minutes)

1)    Making It Personal
a)    Do you enjoy the beauty of God’s world? 
b)    Do you have fun in God’s world? 
c)    In your journal, list everything fun about Christmas.  If you cannot think of anything, write a letter to God asking him to help you learn how to have fun. 
d)    In your journal, list everything beautiful about Christmas.  If you cannot think of anything, write a letter to God asking him to help you learn how to see the beauty of Christmas. 
e)    Review Appendix 2 and praise God for your blessings.

2)    Praying Continuously  (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
a)    Notice everything. 
i)    When you step outside, look up.  Praise him for the sky. 
ii)    Look for the sun and moon.  Praise him.
iii)    Look for flowers that bloom in the winter.  Praise him.
b)    If you pass a swing, take a moment and swing.  Praise him for swings.
c)    If there is water near by, walk down by the shore and pray. 
d)    If a child is playing, stop and watch. 
e)    Discipline your thoughts today. 
f)    Notice everything wonderful. 

3)    Ending The Day
a)    Did you enjoy God’s world today?  If not, confess and seek his Light.
b)    Did you enjoy Christmas today?  If not, confess and seek his Light. 
c)    Ask God to help you enjoy everything he has given you. 

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