Looking for that special gift for that special someone? Start here!

The days leading up to Christmas are often consumed by finding the perfect gift. Companies send out gift guides via email and snail mail to aid in the process. It all leads up to Christmas day when the presents are gathered under the tree and then the wrapping is ripped to shreds. A smile, a thank you, or a shriek of joy are signs that the quest for the perfect present was a success. And if it wasn’t, that’s why gift receipts are included. The whole thing is kind of madness! Oh and what does it all have to do with Christmas anyway?

There actually is some correlation. The 25 days leading up to Christmas form a season in traditional denominations called Advent. Advent is Latin for “to come”. It speaks to the period of waiting for something special to arrive or happen. The anticipation of giving or getting the perfect present kind of mimics this season of waiting for something great to be opened upon the world.

The first advent lasted much longer than 25 days and the present that arrived was truly perfect. First century Israel was abuzz with excitement as it waited for the Messiah to come. The prophecies from the Hebrew scripture pointed to a time like theirs and many people were claiming to be the Christ only to be proved wrong by a failed political uprising or rebellion. It was in this environment of anticipation that Jesus was born. He is that special gift and you are that special someone! These devotionals are focused on the gifts that we’ve received in the Christmas stories of the New Testament. I hope each day’s reading and prayer time is a gift for your soul that builds your excitement for the true reason we celebrate Christmas. The gift of God with us. The gift of Jesus our lord and savior.

Prayer Candle

We have had a candlelight Christmas Eve service for many years but this year is different. Since we won’t be able to gather and sing Silent Night with our candles lit (and no one’s hair will catch on fire this year!) we’ll pray with a candle for each of the 25 days of Advent. Simply light your candle when you start reading each day’s devotional and blow it out after you pray through the Go With God Prayer prompt at the end of each devotional. As the candle melts away you’ll get to see a physical representation of your time spent in reading and prayer this month!


Lastly, this gift guide can be a gift to many if you share it with co-workers, family and friends. Share insights or pictures of your quiet time spot on social media. Let’s spread the greatest gift as we learn about the gifts that Advent has brought! These make great family devotionals!


December 1: Gift of Presence

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. – Isaiah 7:14

Most kids would be quick to tell you that Christmas is their favorite holiday. When asked why, the answer is simple, “Presents!” But God had something more in mind when he planned what we now call Christmas. He gave us the gift of presence. Immanuel means “God with us.” It has always been God’s dream to not be far and distant but near, intimate, visible and involved.

The birth of the messiah would make the gift of God’s presence very real. In all of the religions of the world it’s like God is on a mountain and people have to climb the mountain to get to God. But in Christianity, God’s plan with our Immanuel was to come down from the mountain and be with us; even be one of us. His physical presence on the earth for some 30 years changed the whole world. His presence through the Holy Spirit continues to change lives and can be the gift of presence you need most this holiday season.

Go With God: Light your candle and pray for the presence of Jesus to be the thing you treasure most. Ask him to walk with you as you go about your day.


December 2: Gift of Light

In him was life, and the life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. – John 1:4-5

So that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:  

“The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,

the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light,

and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death,

on them a light has dawned.” – Matthew 4:14-16

Lights are a big part of our Christmas celebrations. We put lights on our homes and lights on Christmas trees. The light that Jesus brought into the world shines brighter than even the gaudiest Christmas displays! His light is a light that cannot be overcome by darkness.

As if to prove this, he was raised in a dark place. The land of Galilee was a backwoods area in Israel that had no power or appeal. God didn’t shine a light in the darkness like a spotlight. He put his son in that darkness to shine forth like a sunrise. He turned night into day with the presence of Jesus.

We still live in a world where darkness has a foothold (Ephesians 6:12). The darkness can get you down: whether that’s the actual darkness of winter where the sun sets at 5:30pm or the darkness of sin that casts a shadow on our world. Let Jesus be your light. The world needs him to dawn again and your life is a perfect place to display the Son-rise!

Go With God: As you light your candle and pray today, look at the light. Think about how it reveals and chases away shadows and how fragile the small flame is. Ask God to make the light that Jesus shines forth from you to be strong and warm this season.


December 3: Gift of Creation

For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. – Romans 8:19

And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger… – Luke 2:7

In the beginning, God called all of his creation good. The birds of the air, the “creeping things,” and the animals of the field were all good in the eyes of God. I love nativity scenes. They remind us that God’s inglorious entry into the world came in an animal stall, lying in a feeding trough, surrounded by ox and lamb (or so the song goes). 

There’s a message for humanity in every nativity scene. Christ didn’t just come to save people. He came to save the world. All of creation suffers under the penalty of sin! The trees groan under the weight of man’s iniquity. God’s next act will not just make humans right with him, but everything will be made right. Advent means arrival. It’s about waiting for what God has in store. Even creation waits for God to finish his work in the world.

Go With God: Pray about creation care. Traditional Christmas activities put a strain on our environment. Ask God to show you how to honor all of creation as you go about your holiday traditions.


December 4: Gift of Wisdom

And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever. – Daniel 12:3

One of our flawed holiday traditions is the three wise men. The bible never says there were three wise men, just that they brought three gifts. There is another tradition about the wise men from the east that is very intriguing. Some believe that they were descendants of an order started by the prophet Daniel. After all, Daniel predicted the exact time that Jesus would come through the interpretation of dreams. (Daniel 2) 

Could it be that Daniel was shown the nature of the “star” that would show the way to Jesus in Bethlehem and that he made it so this secret knowledge would be passed on through generations of Persian wise men? The wise men did more than bring gifts. They proved their wisdom by tricking Herod so that the baby Jesus could be flighted away and saved. They also made the birth of the Messiah an event where east and west met so that Jesus could truly be the king of the whole world.

Go With God: Pray for wisdom. This holiday season, in particular, requires great wisdom. We need wisdom to stay safe and healthy. We need wisdom to keep relationships strong despite extra difficulty. We need wisdom to make good choices. God knows all and he can give you wisdom if you ask.


December 5: Gift of Gold

And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. – Matthew 2:11

And over his head they put the charge against him, which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” – Matthew 27:37

The gifts of the wise men tell us the nature of this child. Gold is for a king. The wise men knew that this infant was destined to be a king. What a rare combination of wisdom and humility they must have possessed to see royalty in the eyes of a young child!

We still need Jesus as our king today. There are so many things competing to rule our lives. Worshipping Jesus as king is our intentional way of choosing the best ruler. We don’t need to default to being ruled by stress, money, other people’s opinions, addiction or sin – things that will certainly rule if we let them. We have king Jesus. We just need the wisdom and humility to let him reign.

Go With God: Talk to God about the things that want to rule your life. Get detailed about the temptations that they present. Proclaim your allegiance to King Jesus and his Kingdom.


December 6: Gift of Frankincense

And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. – Matthew 2:11

Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. – Hebrews 7:25-26

Frankincense is for a priest. At the temple altar priests would mix strongly scented herbs like frankincense with the burnt sacrifices and the oil in their lamps. The smoke arose to the heavens symbolizing the peoples’ prayers going up to God as a pleasing aroma to God.

Jesus did not just come to rule as a king but to be our priest who would intercede with God to take away the guilt of our sin. The temple and the priesthood reinforced the fact that our sin disqualifies us from being with God or even having a holy God listen to our prayers. But Jesus came to be an eternal priest for us. His sacrifice is a pleasing aroma to God so that we can experience his presence and have confidence that our prayers are heard.

Go With God: Focus on the wisps of the candle as you pray. Imagine your prayers making it all the way to Jesus and Jesus whispering them in the ear of an all-powerful and all-loving God.


December 7: Gift of Myrrh

And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. – Matthew 2:11

…and with his wounds we are healed. – Isaiah 53:5

Myrrh is for a healer. Myrrh was a healing balm used to soothe injuries and speed recovery. Jesus would be a king, a priest, and a healer.

Isaiah told us this some 700 years before the first Christmas, and he gives us insight into how Jesus would heal. He would be a wounded healer. In fact, his wounds would be the source of our healing! As Christians, we strive to be like Christ. We are wounded healers too. And we need to remember both parts of that descriptor.

We are wounded. All of us carry around the inevitable wounds of living in a sinful world. But those wounds do not define us. They actually make us better healers and helpers as we draw upon our experiences to help those going through similar trials. So we are also healers. When we try to help people without the vulnerability or recognizing our own wounds our help isn’t as helpful as it can be. But when we recognize our imperfections our help is often well received; soothing injuries and speeding recovery. Even though we are wounded we can and should seek to help others heal.

Go With God: Pray through the wounds you’ve experienced. This may be painful so be cautious. Ask God to show you how he can make those scars into healing balm for those who are hurting in your life.


December 8: Gift of the Word

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. – John 1:1

I remember getting my first bible on my 12th birthday. Unfortunately, not many 12 year olds would be overjoyed to receive a bible but I was thrilled. Duct tape helped that bible get me through high school and college and eventually I gave it to a teen in India.

The word of God is the most amazing gift. I’m not just talking about bibles (although a good bible is a great present!) God has given us his word; like when you give someone your word, your promise. God has always kept his promise. He’s always worked his plan for our good in spite of all the bad we bring to the table. He doesn’t have to give us his word nor does he have to keep it. But Christmas reminds us that God will stop at nothing to keep his word. “The word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” What a gift!

Go With God: Pick a Psalm to pray through. Reading a verse and following it with prayer is a great way to combine reading the word and prayer.


December 9: Gift of Flesh

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. – John 1:14

As we read through the bible this year, there is a seeming contradiction between the earliest chapters and the rest of the book. When God makes humankind in his image he says that it is “very good.” Yet, almost every page after that declaration shows us that humankind is very bad! This dichotomy is often explained by emphasizing the goodness of our spirits but the failings of our flesh. Indeed, a threat to early Christianity was the gnostic belief of a stark separation of evil body and righteous soul going so far as to proclaim that Jesus couldn’t have actually come in flesh because of the corruption of flesh.

But orthodox Christians have always maintained that there is no separation of body and soul. Jesus’ birth is a flesh and blood entry into the corruption of the world. Our communion tradition is a flesh and blood reminder of his visceral death. And his bodily resurrection is a flesh and blood reminder that soul and body will be redeemed and glorified. What does this mean and why does this matter? It means that you matter. Your life in the flesh counts and because of Jesus, God still sees you as very good just the way you are.

Go With God: It’s easy for us to focus on our faults and shortcomings. Thank God today for your flesh. Think of the unique ways that he made you and praise him for the very good that you bring to our world.


December 10: Gift of Space

And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. – Luke 2:7

Jesus was born into a world that had no space for him. The census requirement for every man to register in his hometown caused Bethlehem to burst. So Joseph and his very pregnant wife, Mary, slept on the hay of an animal stall until birth pains awoke them and the savior was born.

Finding space for the savior is not just a problem isolated to the Bethlehem Budget Inn. We still have trouble making space for Jesus. Ironically, this season that celebrates his birth might be the most difficult time in our year to make space for him. Our schedules are thrown off by gatherings and gift getting. The days seem shorter as the sun sets earlier. We have to be intentional if we’re not going to repeat the same mistake of that Bethlehem bellhop who turned Joseph and Mary away.

Go With God: Pray through your schedule for the day, week and weeks ahead. Is there enough room for Jesus? Are you truly celebrating Jesus or just fulfilling holiday expectations? Ask God to give you space for Jesus in your life.


December 11: Gift of Humility 

And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. – Luke 2:7

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. – Philippian 2:5-8

We love rags to riches stories where people with humble beginnings rise to have impact greater than it would ever seem possible. There is no greater rags to riches story than the story of the baby born in a manger who grew up to change the whole world with his death. 

God could have had his son born to royalty. He could have had his son born in a time with indoor plumbing and iPhones. He could have even skipped the whole birth thing and just sent him down to rule as a king. But this was God’s plan: the savior of the world would be born to a young, struggling family in an animal barn in first century Israel which was under Roman occupation. The plan was humility. And it speaks loudly about what God values. He values humility over power. He’s the one who raises up and he raises up the humble.

Go With God: Pray for humility. How can you make yourself low and a servant so God can show his power in your life?


December 12: Gift of Vulnerability

Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” – Matthew 2:13

Jesus was not born into the easy life. As a young child he had a powerful and deranged king seeking to destroy him and even though he was the king of all creation he was completely powerless to stop this threat to his life. An Angel sounded the alarm and then Joseph and Mary fled to Egypt. He had no strength himself but had to completely rely on his parents to save his life.

There’s a great deal of irony in the flight to Egypt. Centuries earlier, Israel had escaped Egypt and its mad king pharaoh to enter the Promised Land. Now, Jesus is escaping a mad king in the Promised Land by fleeing to Egypt. Both the Exodus and Jesus’ flight to Egypt remind us of something so important: God is in control. Israel had no power to escape slavery in Egypt but God displayed his power in the plagues and the parting of the sea. Jesus had no power to survive this threat on his life but God made it so his parents could flee and he could survive.

Go With God: Society trains us to see vulnerability as weakness. But when we are vulnerable (woundable) we rely on God. What are your vulnerabilities? Ask God to show you his power in each of your perceived weaknesses.


December 13: Gift of Worship

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,  “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” – Luke 2:13-14

These shepherds sleeping with their flocks got to experience the most amazing worship service ever. An angel awoke them with good news and then the skies erupted with an angel army singing the praises of God. How amazing would that be!

Sometimes we can view worship, whether it be personal in our homes or corporate at church as a task that we must fulfill. Worship is not an obligation. Worship is a gift. I think this will become so clear for us when the craziness that has kept us from meeting together and worshipping subsides.  We don’t have to worship. We get to worship. When we are excited about what God is doing, worship is a natural and joyous outflow of the goodness we see.

Go With God: Pray for eyes that can see all the good God is doing. Spend time worshipping him and praising him for his goodness. Bask in the peace of a God who loves you and is in control.


December 14: Gift of Surprise

And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” – Luke 1:18

And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.  And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. – Luke 1:30-31

The greatest miracle the world has ever seen began with very unexpected news. Surprise pregnancies sometimes bring joy and other times bring fear and great stress even in our world today. The story of Jesus begins with two surprise pregnancies. First, Zechariah and Elizabeth are speechless (pun intended) at the news that they will have a baby in their old age after years of being barren. Then Mary is told that she will carry the savior of the world despite the fact that she was a virgin. This led to some understandable questioning from Joseph!

In a year of surprises that maybe haven’t been so great (understatement?) it’s encouraging to see that God can use unexpected news for his good purposes. Imagine how unsettled Zechariah and Elizabeth, Joseph and Mary must have been as their worlds were turned upside down! But they trusted in God and he used these surprises to pull off something he’d been planning since the world began.

Go With God: Pray through the unexpected in your life. What unwelcome surprises has this year brought you? Ask God to show you how he’s working in the unexpected to impact the world.


December 15: Gift of Vocation

Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. – Mark 6:3

We don’t know much about the years between Jesus’ birth and the beginning of his ministry. This passage in Mark reveals that Joseph was a carpenter (or tekton – builder with stone and wood), and that Mary and Joseph had other children. We can infer that Jesus grew up with younger brothers and sisters around him and that he was trained as a carpenter since he did not graduate to rabbinical school but stayed in Nazareth. The lack of mention of Joseph in Jesus’ adult life also tells us he probably dealt with the loss of his father figure at some point and had to take on supporting the family with his vocation.

It’s amazing that the savior of the world had to work a day job. He wasn’t some privileged, silver spoon aristocrat with an easy life. He worked with wood and stone probably helping to build the Roman city of Tiberius. What if Jesus had never worked with his hands to make ends meat and support a family? He certainly wouldn’t be as relatable and we would probably use it as an excuse to devalue our own work. Instead, the mystery of Jesus’ life between Bethlehem and his baptism teaches us to value our work and to see our vocations as a blessing.

Go With God: Pray about your job. Thank God for the blessing of work. Confront negative feelings about work with gratitude.


December 16: Gift of Salvation

For my eyes have seen your salvation… Luke 2:30 (Simeon)

She began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem. – Luke 2:38 (Anna)

When Jesus is presented at the temple on the eighth day for circumcision according to the law, he is met by two people who were eagerly waiting for the messiah to come. Their words of blessing and hope strike a common theme: Salvation. Simeon praises God that his eyes could look upon salvation when they looked at the infant in his mother’s arms. Anna came over and spoke to all who would listen about the redemption that this child would bring. What an amazing trip to the temple for this young family! 

It’s easy for us to take gifts for granted. Something that we were excited to receive ends up on the shelf with other seldom used and underappreciated gifts. O that our salvation would never end up on the shelf! On our worst day, if we’re saved, we have this gift that outshines all of the bad. Our sins are completely removed (salvation!), our deserved penalty of death bought back and exchanged for life (redemption!). We can get through whatever life throws at us because we have what Simeon and Anna saw that day at the temple when they looked at Jesus: salvation.

Go With God: Pray about your salvation. What sins has Jesus taken away? What consequences have been removed? Praise God with joy that Jesus has taken sin and death and given you life.


December 17: Gift of Inheritance

So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations. – Matthew 1:17

Reading through the bible this year really ramped up our expectations for the New Testament to begin. And then it begins with a genealogy! Surely, Matthew could have figured out a more compelling way to start the story of the savior. But a closer examination of this genealogy reveals amazing details of God’s plan of salvation. This list is loaded with so much goodness that it could be its own set of 25 devotionals!

The list ends with this summary telling us that there were 3 sets of 14 generations. Some quick math shows us that 3 sets of 14 is also 6 sets of 7. Seven is the number of perfection in Hebrew numerology. If there have been 6 sets of 7 before Jesus then that makes Jesus the seventh seven! This points to his perfection but it reveals even more than that. He’s the firstborn of the 7th generation. His descendants (us!) are all a part of his perfection.

Matthew isn’t just giving us a lineage of the birth of Christ. Through the creativity of the Spirit he’s revealed that we have a place in the perfect line that extends from Jesus. We are the next generation in the line of God’s grace that goes all the way back to the beginning! What a glorious inheritance!

Go With God: Think about your spiritual heritage and praise God. Who reached out to you with the saving message of the gospel? Try to imagine who reached out to them and the person before them all the way back to Jesus. Praise God for your place in Christ’s lineage. Also pray that you could impact souls and keep the line going as you bear fruit with your life in Christ.


December 18: Gift of Heart

And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart. – Luke 2:51

Luke gives us one snapshot of Jesus as a boy. When he was 12, he stayed behind after a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and amazed the teachers of the law, calling the temple his Father’s house. When Mary doubled back after three days and found him, Luke tells us she treasured up all that had happened in her heart. (She had a habit of this, see Luke 2:19.)

I can’t imagine how much her heart must have sunk when she realized that Jesus was not with them. Can you imagine losing a child for 3 minutes let alone 3 days?! Yet, Luke tells us she treasured this in her heart. I think she sets an amazing example for us in dealing with troubling and stressful situations. Instead of freaking out we can stay in the moment and try our best to value the experience. We don’t need to label everything that happens to us as good or bad, difficult or easy. The label doesn’t change what’s happening but the way we approach life’s experiences can cause us to take to heart the lessons God wants us to learn without the stress that we often needlessly bring with us.

Go With God: Talk to God about what’s been stressing you out. Ask him to help you value the experience even if it’s difficult. Think about how God has gotten you through other stressful times and treasure his help in your life knowing he’s got you taken care of this time too.


December 19: Gift of Excitement

When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. – Luke 2:15-18

When we’re excited about something we don’t need to be told to talk about it. Big companies know that excitement about a product often leads to a ton of free advertising. When something impacts our life or works for us we have it in our nature to tell others about it. Think about the last time a diet worked for you and how much you talked about it!

Are you excitedly sharing the good news of Jesus? If not, it may be good to examine if something is keeping Jesus from impacting your life or if something is making it seem like Jesus doesn’t “work.” When we let Jesus make an impact and recognize the work he does in our hearts and lives then sharing about him like these shepherds is a natural reaction. Jesus hasn’t stopped working! But maybe we’ve stopped seeing the miracles that are right in front of our faces.

Go With God: Pray to see the miraculous work that God is doing in your life. Ask God to show you who needs to hear about Jesus. Ask for boldness and excitement to work together in your heart so you can share your faith with effortless joy.


December 20: Gift of Ages

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. – Matthew 1:1

This is how our New Testament begins and it is so much more amazing than it seems! The Old Testament of course, begins with the book of Genesis which is the Greek word for beginning. The word genesis is also the word used for genealogy. So the opening line of the New Testament could be read, “The book of Genesis of Jesus Christ…” Wow! That’s a bold statement.

It tells us two things that seem like opposites: God is doing a new thing in Jesus that he planned since before the beginning of time. Jesus is the newest oldest thing there is! Sometimes we can falsely think that people sinned in the garden so now we’re living in plan B instead of plan A. Or that the New Testament is God fixing his mistake. But nothing could be further from the truth. God’s plan was always Jesus. It might have looked different in a world without sin but the Genesis of Jesus has been around even longer than the Genesis of the Old Testament. God doesn’t make mistakes. God doesn’t need a do over.

That’s a comforting thought in a world filled with uncertainty. God certainly isn’t lacking certainty. He is sure about his plan and his grace has made it so you could be a part of it through the incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ.

Go With God: Spend some time meditating on the promises of God. What can you be sure about according to God’s word? Are there any promises you’ve been counting on that aren’t actually God’s promises? How do his actual promises bring you peace?


December 21: Gift of the Stump

There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,

and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.

And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him,

the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,

the Spirit of counsel and might,

the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. – Isaiah 11:1-2

And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, so that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, that he would be called a Nazarene. – Matthew 2:23

There are a few allusions to Jesus and a stump and its shoots or branches in the Old Testament that seem to be fulfilled by Jesus ending up in Nazareth. Nazareth sounds like the Hebrew for “Stump Town” and it has been postulated that the people of Nazareth were settlers from Judah (Bethlehem) who founded a city where they were waiting for the Messiah. They may have called themselves Stump Town as a reference to this passage of a shoot coming from the stump of Jesse (their ancestor and king David’s father from the tribe of Judah and town of Bethlehem). 

Whether that is the case or not, it is amazing that God would choose for his son to be raised in a place called Stump Town. A stump is just a reminder of where a tree used to be. It tells us something has been chopped down. Indeed, Israel itself had been chopped and chopped until it was merely a stump by the time Jesus was born. But, sometimes a stump can be the source of new life; of a whole new tree. In the case of Israel, God grew his kingdom from the stump and caused his people to be born again from the branches of a cross that was rooted in the will and timing of God.

Go With God: How has God chopped and pruned your life? Ask God to show you how he wants to regrow you in Christ. Ask God to make your roots in him deep and to keep you connected even as he prunes.


December 22: Gift of Bread

“‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,

are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;

for from you shall come a ruler

who will shepherd my people Israel.’” – Matthew 2:6 (Micah 5:2)

The little town of Bethlehem in Judah was the chosen birthplace of Jesus. The minor prophet Micah foretold this centuries before Jesus was born. Even in Micah’s day it was a humble place and a home for shepherds. But that little shepherd town would become the birthplace for the good shepherd of our souls.

Bethlehem means “house of bread.” The baby born there would some 30 years later hold his last supper with his disciples in Jerusalem just a few miles away. That night he declared that the bread was his body. We take communion with bread as a church body because he told us to do this in remembrance. Thus the bread of his body has become a meal that unites the house of God every week.

Go With God: Thank God for the church. Think about the people in your life from church and spend time praying for them and thanking God for them.


December 23: Gift of Blood

“Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” – John 2:10

Before his ministry officially began, Jesus performed his first miracle as a wedding guest in Cana. He famously turned water to wine. And not just any wine, but the best wine, even shocking the host of the wedding. The host declared that they had saved the best for last.

This statement is about more than the crisis of running out of wine at a wedding. The host is revealing what God has done in sending Jesus. The plan was always that God would save the best for last. The plan was always for Jesus to be the bridegroom of the church. 

Three years later, at the last supper, Jesus spoke about wine. He related it to his blood that would be poured out as a covenant, a commitment, to save his people at the greatest cost. God had indeed saved the best for last and we remember it every time we take communion.

Go With God: Praise God for the last supper. We aren’t able to take communion together like normal this season but the body and blood have not stopped being broken and poured out so we could be saved. Praise God for his sacrifice that saves you from your sins.


December 24: Gift of Fulfillment

And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. – Hebrews 9:27-28

The season of Advent, the 25 days leading up to Christmas, and the presents of Christmas morning all serve to build anticipation and remind us of the atmosphere in Israel in the days before Jesus was born. Many were waiting eagerly for the savior that they saw in the prophecies of the Old Testament.

We are a people of Advent anticipation too. Because Jesus has promised to return again. Whether it happens before we die or not doesn’t matter. What matters is that Jesus died but didn’t stay dead and that he’s coming back to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. Are you eagerly waiting for him? Do you have anticipation and excitement when you think about meeting Jesus? Or are you filled with dread?

On the eve of Christmas let your heart be filled with the hope and anticipation of what’s next on God’s grand calendar. You won’t want to miss it!

Go With God: Spend time dreaming about eternity. What will it be like to meet Jesus and see God? Try to imagine life with no end, a world with no decay. Praise God for his desire to spend forever with us.


December 25: Gift of the Tree

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree” – Galatians 3:13

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree! How crazy a tradition! We bring the outside inside and decorate a tree. Maybe it’s best not to think about the tradition and instead focus on the meaning.

The tree, of course, is meant to remind us of the tree that Jesus died upon. Jesus hung from the cross and reversed the curse of sin and death. That barren tree became a tree of life and a doorway for the ephemeral to become eternal. This is why an evergreen is such a fitting symbol. It reminds us of the eternity that was born on that tree. 

Ultimately, Christmas isn’t about a baby that was born, grew up and died. That’s not a special story – that’s all of our stories! It’s about an eternal God taking on a mantle of flesh so that we could have life forever. It’s about new life and life that never ends. May your Christmas day reflect the eternal and may your soul be ever green!

Go With God: Praise God for the miracle of Christmas. Think through all the parts of the story and these devotionals. Spend special time this Christmas Day with the God who wants to spend eternity with you!


Merry Christmas!