Advent Devotional: Missional & Messianic* By T.D. Proffitt**
The Christian Calendar, like the Jewish calendar, has special times or seasons. For Christians, the first is a time of introspection and preparation for Easter, Lent; the second is Easter, the third is Pentecost, which Christians share with Jews; the last is Advent, appearance, arrival, to prepare us for Christmas. What follows is a devotional for Advent. Enjoy, reflect, prepare, anticipate. You and your family might want to discuss each day’s devotional.
Although there are Advent devotionals in print, this devotional distinguishes itself from those by not only being Christological but also missional.
December 1 – “I have gotten a man from the LORD.” – Genesis 4:1
The Hebrew reads, “I have gotten a man, the LORD.” The original Scofield Reference Bible note reads, “even the LORD.” Walter C. Kaiser takes LORD as an appositive to “man,” as does the International Standard Version Bible.
Advent, like Eve, looks forward to the arrival of the God-man Messiah whom we celebrate. While we celebrate his first arrival, we also look forward to his Second Arrival, not as a baby, but as the royal ruler to whom “every knee should bow and tongue shall swear” that “Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father” (Isaiah 45:23, Philippians 2:11). Although the English of Philippians reads “Lord,” Isaiah has God say that “every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear.” Therefore, Jesus Christ is LORD, YHWH. And this God says missionally, “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth.”
As we look forward to Christmas, let us also look forward to the day when all the earth shall acknowledge Jesus’ rule. May that soon come to pass, O LORD.
December 2 – For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given … his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace … the zeal of the LORD of Armies will perform this.” – Isaiah 9:7
Can you hear Handel’s “Messiah” quote this? I can. This Son is to bring order, justice, and judgment. This verse is Trinitarian: Counselor (Holy Spirit, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Son). No wonder there is an “increase of government and peace.” Advent reminds us to look forward to world-wide peace under Messiah’s royal rule. One of mission’s purposes is to promote the Prince of Peace around the world because missionaries are God’s ambassadors.
December 3 – Therefore, the Lord Himself will give you a sign, Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name God-is-with-us.” – Isaiah 7:14
God is with us. What a thought! That the Holy God should want to be with us, an unholy people! Such grace Advent reminds us of. Why should God do this? Because He loves the world so much that He gave His Son. The missionary enterprise is to go where no man has gone before, to the unreached and tell them that in Jesus of Bethlehem God is with them if they will but accept that. God is with us on mission. Will you join Him on mission? He wants us to be with Him.
December 4 – And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary of whom was born Jesus, who is called the LORD’s Anointed.” – Matthew 1:16
No doubt both Joseph and Mary looked forward to Jesus’ birth. An angel had said that he would be the Lord’s anointed Savior of Israel. What anticipation they must have felt. What excitement as well as
trepidation. Do you share their feelings? Much of the world does not, even if anticipating Christmas.
Little is said of Joseph at Christmas. The focus is on Mary and the Child. Yet we read here that Joseph was “just” and caring and private. He was also confused. How could Mary be pregnant? This angel had to calm his fears (Matthew 1:30). What confuses you this Advent Season? Do you need an assuring word from God? If so, God may assure you through a dream. But more likely through His Word. Be alert to God’s Advent Answer to your needs.
December 5 – When “His mother Mary was engaged to Joseph” – Matthew 1:18
Mary is well-known world-wide, certainly better known than Joseph. Indeed, she has been the subject of fine art and European Medieval Gothic cathedrals were built in her honor. There are shrines to the virgin worldwide.
Like Joseph, she, too, was perplexed and fearful. Yet she could rejoice in God (Luke 1:47). She had been blessed (Luke 1:48-49). She recognized she had a role to play in God’s plan. Do you, too, recognize your role in God’s plan?
Modern missions do not build monuments to Mary. Modern missions proclaim with Mary that God has regarded our low estate, that He has kept faith with His promises in history to send a redeemer, Jesus, Mary’s Son.
December 6 – And it came to pass … that Joseph also went up from Galilee … unto the City of David … [and] that while they were there … she gave birth and she brought forth her firstborn child … and laid him in a food trough.” – Luke 2:1-7
Luke tells us that Caesar’s tax program caused the young couple to go to Bethlehem so that the Messiah might be born in keeping with prophecy (Micah 5:2). Luke tells us that God choreographs history, even our history. This Advent, look back over your life to see how God has choreographed it, just as God choreographed Jesus’ birth. Did you miss any cues? He directs the course of history in order that people and people groups might believe in Jesus and become His disciples, His followers. How’s your followership?
December 7 – And there were in the same neighborhood, shepherds … and behold, the Angel of the Lord came up to them … and they were quite fearful.” – Luke 2:2-9
The shepherds may or may not have been caring for sacrificial sheep, but once again there is fear. Shepherds were at the bottom of society. Yet here they receive an angelic announcement from God Himself (v. 10). They are even serenaded (v. 13).
In the 1950s, on a stream in the jungles of Ecuador, five missionaries were martyred at the end of spears. As they were dying, their murderers heard a rustle in the treetops and then a chorus and music welcoming the martyrs into glory (End of the Spearbook, not the movie). Missionary work can be fearful indeed.
December 8 – For unto you is born this day a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. … the baby wrapped in cloth bands … in a feed trough.” – Luke 2:11-12
This was good news, joyful news for all the people, not just shepherds (v. 10), to which the shepherds gave heed (v. 15-16) and praise to God (v. 20); telling all “what they had heard and seen, exactly what witnesses and missionaries do. Are you adding your voice to the angelic mission like the shepherds did?
December 9 – And the Word became flesh and temporarily pitched his tent among us.” – John 1:14
John sees Jesus as the ultimate expression of God (cf. J.B. Phillips, “In the beginning, God expressed Himself.”) In so doing, God has the ultimate word at the Second Advent (Rev. 1:10-16). In becoming flesh, the Word, Jesus, identifies with us as He dwells among us in order that we may see His unique glory.
In like manner, the missionary must identify with people and culture in incarnational ministry. However, the missionary is not messiah, not God; so there are limits to incarnational missions. But the missionary must be born again, entering a culture and learning it afresh through enculturation. She or he must learn the language, share thoughts, listen to others, in order to “tell the old, old story of Jesus and His love.”
December 10 – And when they, [the magi], came into the house, they saw the young child [Jesus] with Mary His mother.” – Matthew 2:11
Jesus is a young child in a house, about 2 years old (v. 16). It is we, not Matthew or Luke, who put Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, sheep and shepherds, and three wise men together in a barn beneath a Christmas tree.
By so doing, we garble the Gospels. The missionary dare not garble the gospel if he or she is to be true to it.
December 11- And when eight days were up, for the circumcising of the child, his name was called “Jesus”. – Luke 2:21
Thus, St. Paul would write that “in the fulness of time, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law [of Moses]” (Gal. 4:4). This was such a time, and we must come to see time as God does. Furthermore, we not be scandalized by the historical, cultural, and religious or ethnic specificity of God’s timing.
Jesus was born a Jew in Roman-occupied Judea ruled by a puppet king, to rural parents from multi-ethnic Galilee. He was liminal, marginal, suspect. And soon fled for His life, a marked child (Matt. 2: 13-18).
Dec. 12 – And when [Herod] gathered together all the chief priests and scries … he demanded of them where the Lord’s Anointed One should be born. And they said, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet [Micah].’” – Matthew 2:4
Contrary to the Christmas play with the moving star and following “wise men,” it was Scripture, not the star that led the magi to Bethlehem. The star did point them to the house, however. Unlike the astrologer-wisemen, the missionary does not need a star to guide. Like the priests and scribes, missionaries and non-missionaries alike, need to consult Scripture for guidance concerning Messiah, God’s Anointed Ruler.
December 13 – And when they were come into the house, … they worshipped Him and opened their treasures: … gold, frankincense, myrrh.” – Matthew 2:11
The magi did not worship Mary, Joseph, or the donkey. They worshipped Jesus. From their three gifts, we get the idea of three “kings” and exchanging gifts at Christmas. We may not give gold, frankincense, or myrrh to Jesus, bet we can give Him ourselves. The wise still seek and worship Him. What gift do you give Jesus this Christmas?
Dec. 14 – And when they [the wisemen] departed, behold, the angel … [said], “Arise, and take the young child and His mother, and flee to Egypt.” … But when Herod was dead, … an angel appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, ‘Arise, and take the young child and his mother and go back to Israel.” – Matthew 2: 13, 19
Again, we see angelic visions. Although we in the West do not put much stock in such, Jesus has been appearing in dreams and visions to Muslims, Hindus, Mormons, and Jews in the 21st century, calling on them to follow Jesus as God’s Son and Savior (See the book, A Wind in the House of Islam and the DVD, More Than Dreams). Not all who see such Christophanies, as they are called, respond positively. How would you respond?
December 15 – And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem … Simeon; … waiting for the Consolation of Israel and it was revealed to him … that he should not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Anointed Ruler … then he took Him [Jesus] up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, ‘My eyes have seen your salvation … a light of revelation to the Gentiles and the glory of your people Israel’. ” – Luke 2:25-32
Here we learn that Jesus came for both Jew and non-Jew. He is God’s Anointed Ruler for all humanity. Consequently, missions must be global. No wonder both Joseph and Mary marveled at what they saw and heard (v. 33).
December 16 – Indeed, a sword will pierce through your soul also.” – Luke 2:35 –
This verse may well anticipate Jesus’ execution on a cross, which Mary witnessed. This is not the sort of prophecy a mother wants to hear. Thus, we see in these Christmas verses, something of the life and ministry of Jesus. Pause to reflect on what you know of Jesus’ life, ministry, death, burial, and resurrection. How would you feel, hearing this said of your child?
December 17 – God is love.” “For God loved the world so greatly that He sent His only begotten son that whoever puts their faith in Him, should not perish, but will live forever” – I John 4:8, John 3:16
Here is God’s reason for sending Jesus. God loves us, not just believers, but all of us human beings. His nature is to love us. But do we return that love?
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Here, too, should be our motive for giving Christmas gifts – love, not reciprocity; love, not competition; love, not displays of wealth. Just love for the other person. Likewise, love should motivate Christian mission; love of God, love of humanity. What motivates your mission in life?
December 18 – I loved Him and called my Son out of Egypt.” – Hosea 11:1
Matthew, in true Second Temple rabbinic practice, has applied Hosea 11:1 to Jesus (Matthew 2:15). Thus, he identifies Jesus with His people even as Jesus identified Himself with His church (Acts 9:4). When we attack God’s people Israel or His body, the church, we attack or curse God. And when we replace Him with Santa Claus, we make St. Nicolas, an Orthodox children’s priest, into an idol. Today, Turkey takes pride in St. Nicolas who originally lived in Anatolia. Pray that this pride will open Turkey to faith in Jesus and the gospel.
December 19 – Out of Egypt, I have called my Son” – Matthew 2:15
Egypt has been both friend and foe of Israel over the millennia. It gave hospitality to Abraham and Jeremiah, and sheltered Israel under Joseph and here shelters Jesus; but it also enslaved Israel under a pharaoh who didn’t know Joseph (Genesis 12 & Jeremiah 43; Genesis 36; Matthew 2, Exodus 18). Today, Coptic (lit. Egyptian) Christians are a Christian island in an Arab Muslim sea. Pray this Christmas season for their witness in their native land.
December 20 – Call His name Jesus [Joshua]; because He shall save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21) and he [Joseph] called His name Jesus [the LORD Saves].” – Matthew 1:25)
Joseph is obedient to the heavenly vision. Think of it, every time Joseph or Mary or one of Jesus’ subsequent siblings called His name, they shouted, “God saves.” Joseph is told what the world needs to know this Christmas: Through Jesus, God saves us from the presence, power, and consequences of our sin. How are you letting Him do that?
December 21 – And there was one Anna … a prophetess … about 84 years old [who] served God with fasting and prayer. … and spoke of Him to all that looked for redemption …” (Luke 2:36-38).
Perhaps you should fast and pray for the redemption of the world’s unreached peoples this Christmas season. Starting today.
December 22 – The beginning of the gospel of Jesus the Lord’s Anointed, the Son of God …” (Mark 1:1)
Mark’s Gospel does not mention Jesus’ birth, although it does mention Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. Mark’s Gospel is a gospel of power and power encounter. A baby in a feed trough in a caravan “motel” is hardly an example of power or power encounter. So, Mark begins his Gospel with Jesus’ baptism where Jesus is empowered by the Holy Spirit and declared by God to be God’s Son. Does a tiny Jesus doll in a manger under the tree rob Jesus of power, power a sick world needs?
December 23 – In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. … and the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.” – John 1:1, 14
The baby of Bethlehem was God clothed in humanity, the Almighty sharing our weaknesses, even as the missionary shares the life and weaknesses of those he or she serves with the gospel concerning the Word.
December 24 – For in Him [Jesus] all the fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily. – Colossians 2:9
No matter how you look at Jesus, as a baby in a manger, a preacher/prophet, or dying on a cross, God fully indwelt Him in human flesh. As such, He can identify with us for He was tempted like us, yet passed the test and did not yield to temptation (cf. Hebrews 4:15). This is good news, gospel, because pastors and missionaries are not above being tempted; and we do well not to idolize them. Missionary, how do you see yourself (cf. Romans 12:3)? Not a missionary? Then how do you see yourself (cf. Romans 12:3)?
December 25 – And there appeared a great wonder in the heavens, a woman clothed with the sun … and she being with child cried, travailing in birth … and she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations … and her child was caught up to God and His throne.” – Revelation/Apocalypse 12: 1-5
Ever wonder what the magi saw? If Colin R. Nicoll, Great Christ Comet, is correct, it was not a conjunction; it was what John describes in these verses: a comet descending through the constellation of Virgo (Virgin) with the constellation of Hydra (snake) representing Satan who seeks to kill Jesus (v. 4-5). Verse 4 is a meteor shower. Verse 6 refers to the Holy Family’s Flight into Egypt. Verse 5 may refer to the Ascension.
Had Satan succeeded, we would not be celebrating our redemption today; no manger scene, no gift exchange in imitation of wise men. We would likely be celebrating the solstice around a burning Yule log. Today, thank God for the missionaries and evangelists who took the gospel to you and your ancestors. Have a blessed Christmas as we await Messiah’s Second Advent (Revelation 19:11 – 12:6).
Copyright 2020 Proffitt Family Trust
*Thanks to Fritz Coelln of OLLI (Osher Life-long Learning Institute), California State University, Fullerton, Write Now instructor, for putting this on the Web. The views herein are those of the author, not those of OLLI.
**T.D. Proffitt is author/commentator of Missional and Messianic Bible Commentary, 3 volumes, Amazon KDP, 2020; and Tijuana: The History of a Mexican Metropolis, SDSU Press, reprint 2020. He writes for Global Prayer Digest, to be incorporated in 2021 into Mission Frontiers magazine with Joshua Project as Unreached People of the Day. This devotional was written without outside funding, unlike Tijuana, researched on an OAS grant at the Centro de Investigaciones Historicas, UABC, Baja California, Mexico.