Advent Devotional

 

Tuesday, December 14

 

Symbol: The Wisdom of Solomon – Crown

Solomon followed his father David as king of Israel. He was remembered for many things, the great temple he built and its splendor, but mostly for his wisdom. He is credited for the wise sayings of the book of proverbs. His temple served as a place of worship for 350 years[1]. But Solomon was human and he was an oppressor even though he was a great administrator. Ultimately this character flaw led to the demise of his kingdom.

Questions for reflection:

How do we experience wisdom as different from knowledge?

Worship continues to be central to the lives of God’s people. Is it necessary to worship in a church building?

Prayer: Lord God, help us learn from our mistakes and those of others so that we stop repeating them. Thank you for the beautiful churches, cathedrals and temples of the world. Help us to respect them as holy places where you teach us your word and where we worship you.

 [1] Breckinridge, Marilyn S., Jesse Tree Devotions: A Family Activity for Advent, Minneapolis, Augsburg Publishing House, 1985.

 Monday, December 13

Reading:  1 Kings 18:36-39 –  36 At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: “LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. 37 Answer me, LORD; answer me, so these people will know that you, LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.”  38 Then the fire of the LORD fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.  39 When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The LORD—he is God! The LORD—he is God!”

Symbol: Altar The prophet Elijah is called by God to dispel the myths of false gods increasingly worshipped by the people through a period of drought and famine in Israel.  Elijah tried to remind the people about God’s promises. He entered a contest with Baal and God sent down fire to prove that he was true light[1]. A representation of the stone altar Elijah built used on today’s ornament is shown being consecrated by the Lord with fire. To read the full story, turn to 1 Kings 17:1-16, 18:17-46.

Questions for reflection: How do we begin to slip into old behaviors, maybe even worshipping modern day idols or perhaps growing away from God?

Prayer: Loving God, forgive us for serving idols of work, busy-ness and material concerns. Reignite our desire to keep you foremost in our lives. Call us to be faithful in our worship time with you.

[2] Breckinridge, Marilyn S., Jesse Tree Devotions: A Family Activity for Advent, Minneapolis, Augsburg Publishing House, 1985.

 

 

 

Sunday, December 12

Reading: I Kings 17:2-6 2 Then the word of the LORD came to Elijah: 3 “Leave here, turn eastward and hide in the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan. 4 You will drink from the brook, and I have directed the ravens to supply you with food there.”  5 So he did what the LORD had told him. He went to the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan, and stayed there. 6 The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook.

Symbol: Elijah and the Raven

The story of Elijah and the Raven teaches us about the interest that Christians from ancient times have had about the creatures of God’s kingdom. St. Francis of Assisi expressed this concern in his hymn “All Creatures of our God and King”. If we can learn to love life in all forms, than loving each other becomes easier. Conservation and ecological education are part of loving.

Questions for reflection:

How does the way we treat animals, our pets and younger children relate to how we treat other human beings?

Prayer: God, help us to remember that you loved not only humans but all creatures.

 

  
 Thursday, December 9
Reading:  Ruth 1:15-18, 2:5-17, 4:14.
15 “Look,” said Naomi, “your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her.”  16 But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” 18 When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her.
Symbol: Ruth and Boaz, Wheat
Ruth was a woman from the land of Moab who married an Israelite. You can read the whole story in Ruth 2:5-17, 4:14 about a young woman who surrenders her whole life to this new religion. When Ruth’s husband died, she remained faithful to his family. In fact she loved her mother-in-law so much that she followed her when she returned to her home in Bethlehem. She wanted to take care of her mother-in-law Naomi and worked in the wheat fields of a man named Boaz to get food for both of them. Later, she married Boaz. They had a son named Obed, the father of Jesse and grandfather of David. This story teaches us that no one is excluded from God’s love. Even a foreigner finds her way into Jesus’ family tree. Sometimes God uses those we least expect to accomplish his plans.
Questions for reflection:
Can we find people in our lives that serve as examples of what he means to be devoted to someone, not out of obligation but from love?
Are we able to learn to love others and God by examples set by family and friends in our lives like Ruth, the Moabite?
Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for Ruth, who had nothing to give except her love for her family and for You. Help us to reach out to others who may not fit in and are different from us.
 
 
Wednesday, December 8 (Feast of the Immaculate Conception)
Reading: Numbers 13:17-23
 17 When Moses sent them to explore Canaan, he said, “Go up through the Negev and on into the hill country. 18 See what the land is like and whether the people who live there are strong or weak, few or many. 19 What kind of land do they live in? Is it good or bad? What kind of towns do they live in? Are they unwalled or fortified? 20 How is the soil? Is it fertile or poor? Are there trees in it or not? Do your best to bring back some of the fruit of the land.” (It was the season for the first ripe grapes.)  21 So they went up and explored the land from the Desert of Zin as far as Rehob, toward Lebo Hamath. 22 They went up through the Negev and came to Hebron, where Ahiman, Sheshai and Talmai, the descendants of Anak, lived. (Hebron had been built seven years before Zoan in Egypt.) 23 When they reached the Valley of Eshkol,[a] they cut off a branch bearing a single cluster of grapes. Two of them carried it on a pole between them, along with some pomegranates and figs.
Numbers 13:27
27 They gave Moses this account: “We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit.
Symbol: Going into the Promised Land
Today we hang a shofar on the Jesse Tree. God formed the nation of Israel from the twelve sons of Jacob. The Old Testament tells us their story. God raised leaders up from the Israel to bring his people back to him. Last week, and during this second week of Advent, we learn about some of the great leaders of Israel, including Joseph, Moses, Ruth, Samuel and David and Solomon. They are all in the family tree of Jesus as descendants of Jesse#.  God brings his people into the Promised Land through the leadership of Joshua. One day God will send one greater than Joshua who will lead God’s people into an ‘inheritance’ in God’s new creation.
Questions for Reflection:
Who are some of our Christian heroes today?
Can you think of modern-day leaders of the faith?
Prayer:
Oh God, we thank you for the people who have been leaders in faith all through the centuries. We especially pray for those whom we look to as leaders this day, helping us lead our lives as your people.
  
  
Tuesday, December 7
Reading: Numbers 6:22-27
 22 The LORD said to Moses, 23 “Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them:  24 “The LORD bless you and keep you; 25 the LORD make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; 26 the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.”’ 27 “So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.”
Symbol: The Priestly Blessing of Aaron
The Priestly blessing of Aaron is reflected in the sign of the hand with two fingers extended. Aaron, the brother of Moses was the high priest of Israel. He was responsible for the development of religious practices of his people. Forty years of mistakes and learning later, he and his people were ready to enter the land of Canaan#. The symbol for today’s devotion and suggestion for your own Jesse Tree ornament is significant for the idea of God expressed in the benediction offered by Aaron in today’s reading.
Questions for reflection:
What is the main purpose of the church on earth?
What value does religion hold in society today?
Prayer:
Almighty God, source and the goal of all life, remind us today that you still care for us as you did for Ancient Egypt, providing us blessings we so often forget.
 
 
 
Monday, December 6 (Feast of St. Nicholas)
Reading: Exodus 20: 22-23 “The Lord said to Moses, ‘Thus shall you speak to the Israelites: You have seen for yourselves that I have spoken to you from heaven. Do not make anything to rank with me; neither gods of silver nor gods of gold shall you make for yourselves.’”
 Symbol : Moses and the Law: Tablets
This ornament symbol depicts the tablets on which the commandments were written. You will find the story of Moses and the Ten Commandments in Exodus 19:1-20:26. God rescues his people from Egypt so that they might love, serve, and obey him as God. Man will always live in the kind of society he has constructed for himself, but while he can break moral laws, there are always consequences[1]. St. Paul reminds us that “as you sow, so shall you reap. God sends us one who, through his perfect obedience and faithfulness to God’s law and sacrificial death, rescues us and brings us under God’s rule. The people of Egypt never forgot the Exodus, the greatest happening in the Old Testament. The commandments in Exodus 20 serve as a pattern for living and serving in righteousness[2]. 
Questions for reflection:
Do our own families have rules for us to live by?
Which commandment is the most important?
Prayer:
We thank you Lord, for leaders like Moses who are able to break through barriers of injustice and lead people into a better society[3]. Thank you for showing us your will and how much we need Jesus in our lives as our Savior. We fall short of your will every day, and confess our sins to You, Thank you for sending Your Spirit to empower us to live a life for you[4]. 
 
[1] Anderson, Raymond and Georgene, The Jesse Tree: The Heritage of Jesus in Stories and Symbols of Advent for the Family, Philadelphia, Fortress Press, 1966.
[2] Lambert, Dean Meador, The Advent Jesse Tree: Devotions for Children and Adults to prepare for the coming of the Christ Child at Christmas, Nashville, Abingdon Press, 1988
[3] Anderson, Raymond and Georgene, The Jesse Tree: The Heritage of Jesus in Stories and Symbols of Advent for the Family, Philadelphia, Fortress Press, 1966.
[4] Breckinridge, Marilyn S., Jesse Tree Devotions: A Family Activity for Advent, Minneapolis, Augsburg Publishing House, 1985.
 
 
The Second Week in Advent
 
  
Sunday, December 5
Reading: Genesis 37:1-4
 1 Jacob lived in the land where his father had stayed, the land of Canaan.  2 This is the account of Jacob’s family line.  Joseph, a young man of seventeen, was tending the flocks with his brothers, the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives, and he brought their father a bad report about them.  3 Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made an ornate[a] robe for him. 4 When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.
During the seven years of plenty, when the land produced abundant crops, he husbanded all the food of these years of plenty that the land of Egypt was enjoying and stored it in the towns, placing in each town the crops of the fields around it. Joseph garnered grain in quantities like the sands of the sea, so vast that at last he stopped measuring it, for it was beyond measure.
Symbol: Joseph and the Coat
Joseph the favorite son of Jacob was cast out by his eleven brothers. The gift of a beautiful coat, a princely symbol, and dreams that Joseph had made his brothers jealousy turn to anger. The story in Genesis 37:1-36 tells of the brothers failed plan to kill Joseph and how they sold him into slavery instead. God used the failures of others for the good. He rescued Joseph whose faith in God’s providence allowed him to provide food for the Children of Israel, in a time of famine. Seventy people in all came to live in Egypt where Joseph had stored plenty of food. One day, like Joseph, Jesus would be rejected by Israel and placed on a cross. Yet, God would use this great evil to bring about the salvation of Israel and the world.
Questions for reflection:
Can we think of something that has happened in our life that seemed bad but then turned out for the good?
What are some causes for family feuds?
What comes from boasting?
If God loves and cares for us, why do troubles come?
Is there someone we need to forgive right now?
Prayer:
Dear Lord, sometimes we see the chaos and hurt around us and it is hard to understand your purposes. Help us to live together in peace. as we look for good in situations that seem hopeless, show us that you are working things together for our good.
  
  
Saturday, December 4
Reading: Genesis 28: 12-15  “Then he had a dream: a stairway rested on the ground, with its top reaching to the heavens; and God’s messengers were going up and down on it. And there was the Lord standing beside him and saying, ‘I, the Lord, am the God of your forefather Abraham and the God of Isaac; the land on which you are lying I will give to you and your descendants. These shall be as plentiful as the dust of the earth, and through them you shall spread out east and west, north and south. In you and your descendants all the nations of the earth shall find blessing. Know that I am with you; I will protect you wherever you go, and bring you back to this land. I will never leave you until I have done what I promised you.’”
Symbol: Ladder
Jacob and Esau, twins, were in a contest for leadership of Isaac’s extended family. Jacob had to leave his home because he had wronged his brother. In a dream, Jacob discovered that God still cared for him and when he awoke he exclaimed, “Truly, the Lord is in this spot, although I did not know it!” Because of God’s great love and tenderness, the miraculous ladder in Jacob’s dream reunited the earth to the divine. You can read the dramatic story of Jacob’s life and faith and how he became the father of a great people in Genesis 27:41-28:22. Like the ladder in Jacob’s dream, Jesus is an uninterrupted bridge between God and man.  Because of Jesus’ death, the gap between heaven and earth is bridged forever.  God kept his promise, and from Jacob a great nation was born, from his 12 sons came the people of Israel and the family tree of Christ.
Questions for reflection:
Have any of us ever thought we God speaking to us in a dream?
How does God usually speak to us today?
How does God encourage us to live for others?
When can we put stock in our dreams?
How can a person make his dream come true?
Prayer:
Put in our minds, dear Lord, noble thoughts and worthwhile desires.  We want to hear you when you speak to us. In our dreams, our thoughts, and our experiences, guide us through the words of the Bible and through believing people. By your spirit may we not only hear your word, but may we do it.
 
 
 
Friday, December 3
Reading: Genesis 22: 11-12
11 But the angel of the LORD called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied.  12 “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”
Symbol: Ram
“Faith is the conviction that ‘the Lord will provide’ even when all evidence contradicts this conviction.”  Abraham loved God but he also loved his son. Ultimately he proved that he loved God enough to give up his son. In the New Testament we are shown that God loves us enough to give up his only son. You can read in Genesis 22:1-14 what Abraham did when pushed to the edge of despair.
Questions for reflection:
Do health and happiness make it any easier to believe in God?
Do you trust God only when things go well?
How does God encourage us to live for others?
How do we respond when challenged to believe as Abraham that God will provide?
Prayer:
What can I give him, poor as I am? If I were a shepherd, I would bring him a lamb; If I were a wise man, I would do my part, Yet, what can I give him? Give him my heart.
 
Thursday, December 2
Reading: Genesis 15:1-6
“He took him outside and said, ‘Look up at the sky and count the stars, if you can. Just so,’ he added, ‘shall your descendants be.’ Abram put his faith in the Lord, who credited it to him as an act of righteousness.”
Symbol: Camel
The history of God’s chosen begins with Abraham who was called by God to move his family to a new land. His faith and obedience were rewarded with an inheritance that we enjoy even today. When God saw Abraham was willing to leave his country without knowing where he was going, he made a promise that he would bless him and make his name great and that through him, he would bless his descendants and bring rescue to all the families of the earth. Jesus is born as the descendent  of Abraham, through whom all the people of the earth are blessed. You can learn more about Abraham’s great faith in God in Genesis 12:1-7, 13:2-18.
Questions for reflection:
Can a person’s decisions always be reasonable?
Should we ever limit our generosity?
How can we go out in faith today and serve God as we are called to?
Prayer:
Help us, O God, to count the need rather than the cost, in our actions for others. We pray that we will have the same faith to obey and that we will open our lives to your calling. Come, Emanuel, come.
 
 
 
Wednesday, December 1
Reading: Genesis 8:15-17
“Then God said to Noah: ‘Go out of the ark, together with your wife and sons and your sons’ wives. Bring out with you every living thing that is with you—all bodily creatures, be they birds or animals or creeping things of the earth—and let them abound on the earth, breeding and multiplying on it.”
Symbol: Noah’s Ark and the Rainbow
Noah is one of the ancestors in the family tree of our human race. The story of Noah reveals a world so full of evil that God decides to destroy all the people. Only Noah and his family were saved[1]. Noah’s construction of the ark shows how God inspires men to ingenious ways of preserving life even in times of cataclysm and destruction[2]. God continually cares for the well-being of the earth. You can read the entire account of Noah and the flood in Genesis 6:11-22, 7:1-8:22 and  9:8-13. God acts in both and judgment and rescue of those who trust in his promise and walk in his ways. After the flood, God made a promise to Noah that he would never destroy the world by flood again. We are reminded of this promise by the sign of a rainbow, evidence of God’s love for His creation.
Questions for reflection:
In what ways can man control floods today?
How would our day be different if we began each morning thanking God for giving us another new start?
Prayer:
We thank you, Lord, for the ability you have given mankind to share in your providential care by developing useful ways of preserving life. Holy, Gentle God, may our lives be holier and gentler this Advent season, because we have been saved by your mercy.
[1] Breckinridge, Marilyn S., Jesse Tree Devotions: A Family Activity for Advent, Minneapolis, Augsburg Publishing House, 1985.
[2] Anderson, Raymond and Georgene, The Jesse Tree: The Heritage of Jesus in Stories and Symbols of Advent for the Family, Philadelphia, Fortress Press, 1966.
 
 
 
Tuesday, November 30
Reading: Genesis 3:6-7
“The woman saw that the tree was good for food, pleasing to the eyes, and desirable for gaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.”
Symbol: Apple (the fall and the promise)
The whole story of Adam and Eve can be found in Genesis  3:1-24.  The man and woman rebel against God. As a result, humanity comes under the power of sin and sentence of death. The earth is cursed, but God promises that he will send one who will crush the serpent’s head and so destroy the power of sin and death (Gen. 3:15). In anticipation and hope God’s people wait for this one to be born. Since the beginning, man has exalted his will over God’s will. Sin makes us more beast-like than God-like[1]. Sin binds us to earth but the voice of God continually calls us heavenward.  The earth is fallen and broken and filled with pain, suffering and evil. We are deeply in need of a savior to come and rescue us. Christ is called the “second” or “new” Adam because he ushered in a new creation, forgiving sin and restoring humanity to God’s grace.
Questions for reflection:
Why is temptation so glamorous and enticing?
What are the consequences of  disobedience?
Why must some people “pay the price” for foolish actions while others don’t?
How do we know God still loves us?
Prayer:
For  our foolish thoughts and desires; for our words spoken in haste and passion,  for our failures in self-control: forgive us, Lord, and help us to mend our ways. Keep us strong when we are tempted to do wrong and teach us to watch over one another in love through Your Son, Jesus Christ.
[1] Anderson, Raymond and Georgene, The Jesse Tree: The Heritage of Jesus in Stories and Symbols of Advent for the Family, Philadelphia, Fortress Press, 1966.
 
 
 
 
Monday, November 29
Readings: Genesis 1:1-5; 14-19. and 24-28 
1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
 3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day . . . 14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. 16 God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. 17 God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, 18 to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day. . . .
 24 And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so. 25 God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.  26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals,[a] and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”  27 So God created mankind in his own image,  in the image of God he created them;male and female he created them. 28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
Symbol: Creation
David wrote: “Thou hast made him little less than God, and dost crown him with glory and honor. Thou hast given him dominion over the works of the hands. thou hast put all things under his feet . . .”, man is a reflection of God[1]. We learn through the Genesis 1 creation story (Genesis 1:1-31; Genesis 2:1-4 ) that without God we have no purpose and our lives are in darkness. God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are revealed as co-creators. Created in God’s image, we rejoice in the resources of His world, and ask for God’s help to be wise caretakers of the planet.[2]
Questions for reflection:
What did  the world look like in the beginning?
Was God there in the darkness?
Who is our Light?
Prayer:
O God, from whom all life has come, teach us to love and respect life in all its forms and shapes and colors. Help us to show Your Light, through our lives with all people.
 
 
 
Sunday, November 28
Reading: Isaiah 11:1-2
“But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom.”
 Symbol: The Jesse Tree
You can read the full story of Jesse in Isaiah 11:1-10 and of David in 1 Samuel 16:1-13. Jesse is the father of David, beginning a line of descendents that will lead to Jesus, the Messiah. The Jesse tree derives from this story, Jesse was the father of David who was anointed by the prophet to establish a royal family. A thousand years later Jesus was born in the royal line in Bethlehem, the ancient city of David. Because of this family tree the names of Jesse and David are often linked in poetry and song with Jesus, the anointed one”.
Questions for reflection:
What do we mean by “O come, O come, Emmanuel? Or When we pray “Come, Lord Jesus”?
How much of your family tree can you construct?
Prayer: O come thou rod of Jesse once again, and save the whole family of mankind. Help us this Advent season as we think about Jesus’ family tree. May we grow to love Him more and to love our own family as we prepare to celebrate Jesus’ birthday.
[1] Anderson, Raymond and Georgene, The Jesse Tree: The Heritage of Jesus in Stories and Symbols of Advent for the Family, Philadelphia, Fortress Press, 1966.
[2] Lambert, Dean Meador, The Advent Jesse Tree: Devotions for Children and Adults to prepare for the coming of the Christ Child at Christmas, Nashville, Abingdon Press, 1988


One thought on “Advent Devotional

  1. Pingback: A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse « Heartitude=Art+Soul

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s