From the NAB: Advent Devotionals Wk. 3

From the NAB: Advent Devotionals Wk. 3

December 23, 2019

The North American Baptist Conference is publishing a devotional for each day of this Advent season.  We are pleased to share the devotionals from this past week.  Please visit the Conference website for additional details by visiting www.nabconference.org/articles
Originally published by the North American Baptist Conference. 
 

Introduction
From the beginning of Genesis to the end of John’s revelation, the names used to describe, worship, or talk about God are varied, but each of them is a window into the different characteristics and facets of His person.  Advent is a celebration of the arrival of the Messiah, who, against all expectations, was born of a virgin from a small town in Judea. Beginning December 1 and running through Christmas Day, we will be sharing short devotionals that examine the different names and titles that God has taken for Himself throughout Scripture.
 

Advent Day 15 (12/15/19): Prince of Peace
by Michael Benson

When Gideon realized that it was the angel of the Lord, he cried out, “Oh, Sovereign Lord, I’m doomed! I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face!”

“It is all right,” the Lord replied. “Do not be afraid. You will not die.” And Gideon built an altar to the Lord there and named it Yahweh-Shalom (which means “the Lord is peace”). The altar remains in Ophrah in the land of the clan of Abiezer to this day. (Judges 6:22–24 NLT)

When Gideon realized it was the angel of the Lord who was instructing him to rescue Israel from the Midianites, he responded first in fear and then in worship, building an altar to Yahweh-Shalom. It might seem odd to set up an altar to the God of peace before going off to battle, but Gideon’s concept of peace was likely much broader than simply the absence of conflict. In all likelihood he understood peace—shalom—to encompass much more: wholeness, well-being, harmony, the way God intended things to be. Gideon certainly had his doubts about his own worthiness for being chosen for this great mission, but he ultimately trusted in Yahweh-Shalom to make all things right.
Read full devotional.


Advent Day 16 (12/16/19): Man of Sorrow
by Michael Benson

My servant grew up in the LORD’s presence like a tender green shoot,
like a root in dry ground.
There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance,
nothing to attract us to him.
He was despised and rejected—
a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.
We turned our backs on him and looked the other way.
He was despised, and we did not care.
Yet it was our weaknesses he carried;
it was our sorrows that weighed him down.
And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God,
a punishment for his own sins! (Isaiah 53:2–4 NLT)

When the movie O Brother, Where Art Thou? was released in 2000, it quickly garnered attention from both film and music critics. The soundtrack released with the movie was such a crucial component of the film that all of the songs were recorded before shooting even began on the movie. Though it was full of memorable bluegrass, blues, and folk songs, the soundtrack’s most catchy and award-winning tune was “I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow.” The lyrics tell the story of a man who has suffered many a trial and tribulation and who will soon depart on a train, leaving behind his home, friends, and wife, with the expectation of never being reunited with any of them this side of the grave. Quite a few versions of this song have been recorded since it was first published more than a hundred years ago, and because we can all associate with the sorrows of life that permeate the lyrics, this melancholic tune continues to strike a chord with many even today.
Read full devotional.


Advent Day 17 (12/17/19): Servant
by Michael Benson

Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:6–11 NIV)

In the introduction to a few of his letters, Paul refers to himself as a servant of Christ. This same word for servant—doulou in Greek—is used in Philippians 2 to describe Jesus. The way that Paul uses this word in these two verses, as well as elsewhere, is in the context of a bondservant, one who has given himself up wholly to another’s will. Paul is not the originator of this concept; it comes from Exodus, where God, in laying out the Law for the Israelites, instructs His people to free their Hebrew servants in their seventh year of service, unless they choose to remain a servant under their current master, in which case the master “shall take him to the door or the doorpost and pierce his ear with an awl. Then he will be his servant for life” (Exodus 21:6).
Read full devotional.


Advent Day 18 (12/18/19): Christ
by Michael Benson

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:8–12 ESV)

We don’t know much of what the shepherds were thinking when they were visited by a host of angels who told them the Christ was newly born and resting in a manger in the city of Bethlehem. It could be they were unfamiliar with the prophecies from centuries past that spoke of the arrival of the Messiah and were curious what kind of child warranted an angelic birth announcement. Maybe they understood the Messiah to be a savior and were thinking about the roughly sixty years of Roman rule they had so far endured, seeing this birth as the beginning of Israel getting out from under Rome’s thumb and re-establishing the Kingdom of Israel. Perhaps they were intimately familiar with the Scriptures and connected this birth of a Savior in the city of David to the Anointed One in Daniel 9 who would “bring in everlasting righteousness” (Daniel 9:24).
Read full devotional.


Advent Day 19 (12/19/19): Rabbi
by Michael Benson

Out of the stump of David’s family will grow a shoot—

yes, a new Branch bearing fruit from the old root.

And the Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—

    the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,

the Spirit of counsel and might,

the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.

He will delight in obeying the Lord.

He will not judge by appearance

    nor make a decision based on hearsay. (Isaiah 11:1–3 NLT)

Jesus, this new branch growing out of the stump of David’s family, holds a distinct advantage as a rabbi over any other religious instructor of His era or any other. Where they are only able to share about what they have gleaned about God from a lifetime of lectures, readings, and discussions, Jesus can simply share about Himself. The Swiss theologian Karl Barth once said, “Jesus does not give recipes that show the way to God as other teachers of religion do. He is Himself the way.”
Read full devotional.


Advent Day 20 (12/20/19): Word
by Michael Benson

God sent a man, John the Baptist, to tell about the light so that everyone might believe because of his testimony. John himself was not the light; he was simply a witness to tell about the light. The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God. So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son. (John 1:6–14 NLT)

When John describes Jesus as the Word made human, there are a few things going on. His Greek readers may have understood that John’s use of the word Logos—Word, but also Logic—for Jesus was intended to convey that He is the source of all of creation and the source of order in the midst of chaos. His Jewish readers may have taken this idea a step further and connected the Word with Genesis 1, where God spoke creation into being, especially since John begins his gospel connecting the Word to the beginning of all things. In fact, F. F. Bruce notes in his book The Gospel of John, “The ‘word of God’ in the Old Testament denotes God in action, especially in creation, revelation, and deliverance.”
Read full devotional.


Advent Day 21 (12/14/19): Son of Man
by Michael Benson

As my vision continued that night, I saw someone like a son of man coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient One and was led into his presence. He was given authority, honor, and sovereignty over all the nations of the world, so that people of every race and nation and language would obey him. His rule is eternal—it will never end. His kingdom will never be destroyed. (Daniel 7:13–14 NLT)

When Jesus talks about Himself or refers to His deeds or ministry, He refers to Himself as Son of Man more often than anything else. On first glance, it appears this is simply an awkward method of saying that He is human, as if He was a child still learning the nuances of language. Instead, for those with ears to hear, Jesus is alluding to something grander than the phrase seems to imply. He is making a direct connection between Himself and this vision from Daniel 7.
Read full devotional.