12 Days of Christmas at Renew Devotional!

 

Starting today, December 14th, we want to celebrate 12 Days of Christmas together!  We want to encourage you to spend this precious time with your family each day, starting today, and ending on Christmas day.  Simply read each passage from your own Bible (or read from a Bible app or BibleGateway.com), discuss the questions, and pray the prayer we have written for you or your own.  Hopefully, you will want to add to this and develop this into your own expanded daily devotional with your family, and even continue it after Christmas!  You are a blessing to us!  Enjoy!

 

Day 1, December 14th
Read: Luke 1:26-37
Learn: This story fits a pattern that God uses several times throughout the Old Testament to announce a birth.  The pattern has these 5 parts: 1) a Divine Appearance. 2) Fear. 3) A formal birth announcement. 4) Objection is Raised. 5) A Sign or Reassurance is given.  God uses this pattern with Ishmael, Isaac, Sampson, and now with Jesus.

Discuss:
-How does the passage you just read demonstrate the 5-step pattern God uses to announce a birth?

-Would you be afraid if an angel appeared to you?  Pretty much every one in the Bible was.

-Is Mary’s question in verse 34 fair? Is it a question of doubt or just logistics?

Go Further if you want: Can you find the 5-fold pattern in John’s Birth Announcement in Chapter 1 of Luke?

Pray:  God, thank you for being a God of order, and planning things just right for us to experience and see.  Help me to see how you are working in my life today and every day.  In Jesus Name I pray, amen.

 

Day 2, December 15th

Read: Luke 1:26-37 again

Learn: Sometimes reading a passage a second, third, or even fourth time or more can show you things you have never seen before.  A good habit to start is to read and reread a passage until things begin to open up that you have never seen; it also forces us to slow down and really consume the words we are reading.

Discuss:

-If you were in Mary’s shoes, how would you have reacted?

-Why do you think Jesus chose to be born into the world like this instead of just show up?

-Since God is powerful enough even to bring Jesus into the world this way, what does that tell you about His power?
-Look again at verse 37.  What do you think about that verse?  How is that important to you right now?

Go Further if you want:  Write down the things you need God to take control over, that you are not powerful enough to fix on your own.  Pray about these daily.

Pray: Father God, I need you to take control in my life.  Where I am weak, you are strong.  As we see in this story, and a thousand other stories, you are ultimately the most powerful.  Please work in my life today and help me in the areas I am weak (you might consider naming these areas).  In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

 

Day 3, December 16th

Read: Luke 1:38 & Luke 1:46-55

Learn: This passage is often called the Magnificat, which means magnifies.  This simply means to make greater or more superb. What Mary says here follows another pattern of praise, once again from the Old Testament.  As she magnifies and praises God, she is doing what many have done throughout time as they have seen God do amazing things.  The Magnificat has also been seen as a summary statement of the entire Gospel according to Luke.

Discuss:
-How hard is it to say what Mary said in verse 38?  What keeps us from being surrendered to this level?

-Where do you need to let God be your master in your life?  What are you still hanging on to to control?

-Read the Magnificat again.  Is it amazing to you that this is how Mary responds, knowing that being found pregnant and not fully married could be a death sentence for her?

-How do you feel after reading the Magnificat?

Go Further if you want:  Look up and read 1 Samuel 2.  Can you see the pattern that Hannah uses in this passage to celebrate the birth of her son?  How is it similar and how is it different from what Mary does here?

Pray: Father in Heaven, I praise Your Holy Name! I don’t come to you with any requests today, I just want to magnify your name.  I want to praise you for all that you have done in my life and for all that I know you will still do.  (now praise Him specifically for what He has done for you.  Look at the passage – what can you pray that Mary prayed?)

 

Day 4, December 17th

Read: Luke 1:36-45

Learn: The entire book of Luke is about the socially marginalized…the little people – that is the barren (like Elizabeth), the young (like Mary), the nobodies (like Shepherds), barn births (obviously Jesus), etc.  Especially in the first couple of chapters, the Bible student sees patterns and language emerging from the Old Testament (Septuagental Language).  The introduction of Elizabeth proves that God can work out birth miracles even in an old woman who yearned to have a baby…and of course, her baby, John the Baptist, would roll out the red carpet for Jesus.

Discuss:

-Why do you think Mary went to visit Elizabeth?
-Why did the baby leap inside of Elizabeth when Mary came in?

-Why was Elizabeth so excited to see Mary?

-Read verse 56.  Why do you think Mary stayed for three months?

Go further if you want:  Read Luke 1:5-25.  How does this help you understand the story of Elizabeth better?  Compare and contrast how Zacharias and Mary responded to birth announcements.  Can you see the 5-fold birth pattern laid out in this passage for Elizabeth’s baby?

Pray:  God, I want to leap for joy when I come into your presence.  I pray that something changes inside of me, so that when I pray, or read my Bible, or hear about you, or talk about you, my soul will long for you and thirst for you in a land that is dry, desolate, and without water.

Day 5, December 18th

Read: Luke 1:57-80

Learn: This is a continuation and conclusion of the story told earlier in chapter one, of Zacharias and how he responded when the angel told him that he and his wife would be having a baby even in their old age.  Because of his doubt, Zacharias was unable to speak.  Here, we see his voice coming back after the birth of his son John, and how he proclaims God’s goodness through it all.  Once again, we see a well known praise formula being followed in Zacharias prophecy (v. 67-79), as well as a tie in with Sampson from Judges chapter 13 (Luke 1:80), and lastly, a typical response to God’s amazing works: 1) Fear (or reluctance). 2) Joyful Acceptance (or celebration). 3) Proclamation to others.

Discuss:

-Why do you think Zacharias was able to speak once he acknowledged his son’s name should be John?

-Why were the people around afraid after experiencing this?
-Look at Zacharias’ prophecy in verses 67-79, is this how you would respond to God if he made it so you couldn’t speak for months?  Why does he respond this way?

-What do you think about his prophecy?  Could this be something you agree with for yourself 100%?

Go further if you want:  Find where Zacharias and the neighbors and relatives from this passage respond with the fear, joyful acceptance, proclamation pattern.  Also read Judges chapter 13.  Compare and contrast this story with Sampson and his family.

Pray: Loving Father, thank you for salvation from my enemies and especially the greatest enemy- death.  Although we acknowledge that one day our lives on this earth will end, we who trust you and believe in you will live on forever with you. Take my fear and turn it into joy and let me proclaim it all day long to all who will hear. Thank you for your tender mercy…guide our feet into the way of peace today.

 

Day 6, December 19th

Read: Matthew 1:18-25

Learn: At the time Matthew is writing his Gospel, the church was still very Jewish.  The people were struggling with an identity crisis of how they fit with their new belief in Jesus and their Jewish heritage.  Because of this, there was a lot of in-house debate and tension.  Because of this audience, Matthew starts the story of Jesus with genealogy to show who Jesus was from their heritage as well as prophecies from the Old Testament that foretold who Jesus would be.

Discuss: 
-Why do you think Matthew gives a “shortened” version of the Birth Narrative compared to Luke?
-What do we learn about Joseph from this passage?
-The angel told Joseph that Jesus would save His people from their sins.  How did He do this?  What does it mean for you?

-Matthew 1:22-23 quotes Isaiah 7:14.  Read this section from Isaiah…why does Matthew quote this passage? Does it surprise you to see this detail written hundreds of years before Jesus was born?  What does that say to you?

 

Go further if you want:  So many people hate reading long, detailed, hard-to-pronounce genealogies in the Bible.  Most people skip them…but we shouldn’t.  God has these here for a reason, and although it is hard to grasp fully, we still find blessings in reading God’s inspired words that He wanted you to read.  Read Matthew 1:1-17.  Is there anything there that jumps out at you?

Pray: Lord, God, help me to not have an identity crisis when it comes to my life here on Earth, and my life as a believer in You.  Help me to see that my citizenship is truly in Heaven, and that while I am on this Earth, I will show the world how important Jesus is through my words and actions.  In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

 

Day 7, December 20th

Read: Luke 2:1-7

Learn: Luke alone sets the story of Jesus on the stage of world history.  Caesar Augustus had been celebrated in his time as being the “savior of the world”.  Although he may have thought this, and the people of that time may have even thought this, he wasn’t…but there was a real Savior of the world coming on the scene, and Luke wants us to know that Jesus is in fact that Savior.

Discuss:
-The census story here reminds us of what we learned previously about how genealogy is important to this story.  Joseph was of the house and family of David, so the little family is on their way to Bethlehem.  Why do you think Bethlehem was the right place for Jesus to be born instead of a big, bustling city?

-There was no room for them in the inn.  In Greek, the word we find here is Kataluma, which really means upper room or guest room.  Most likely, Joseph went to stay with relatives, which he probably had in the town, but he was either too late to get a room because other family beat him there OR because they saw that Mary was very pregnant, and with them being only engaged, they did not want them in the house either for morality sake or because of the mess of her giving birth in the house.  The Bible does not give this detail, it is only opinion and conjecture, but why do you think there was no room for them?  Would you have made room?  If you were family in town staying in the Kataluma, and Mary and Joseph showed up, would you have given up your room for them (her being obviously ready to give birth) which would mean you would have slept in the barn or cave?
-Jesus is born, wrapped in cloths (still a practice done today), and laid in a manger, or feeding trough.  What do you think about that?  Is this what you would expect from God, the creator of the Universe, making his debut in human form as Jesus?  What does this tell you about our God?

Go further if you want: Our world seems to want to keep Jesus out of the house…out of the place of an honored guest, much less a resident.  The world rarely makes room for Him still.  This is a nice connection that Pastors and Preachers love to make, it isn’t unique here, but do you think this is part of the message God was trying to convey to us in how Jesus was brought into the world? Or, is it just good creative license to make a point?  Is your family making room for Him? Is He an Honored guest, or is He a resident?
-How could you make Him a daily part of your lives?

Pray:  Jesus, we want to make room for you.  Not just at Christmastime, but each day, hour, and minute from this day forward.  Help us to honor your presence daily in our home, car, workplace, school, where we play, laugh, and live.  In Jesus name, Amen.

 

Day 8, December 21st

Read: Luke 2:8-20

Learn:  Here we have the famous story of the beloved shepherds.  We learn several things from them and their miraculous experience.  One thing we should see is that God reveals to (and uses) simple people.  This is an on-going theme we see with God, and it is more evident in the book of Luke than anywhere else, which has that very clear theme of socially marginalized people being highlighted.  The fact that they are “staying out in the fields watching their flocks by night” gives us a clue that Jesus wasn’t actually born in the wintertime.  We also see this very famous line in verse 11, “for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”  Luke is the only Gospel writer that gives this detail.  I personally love the phrase, “for you a Savior”.  This story isn’t just about a Savior being born into the world, it is the story of a Savior being born into the world for YOU….so personal. 
After the Shepherds experience the multitudes of angels, they immediately know what to do, and they head out to find the family and Jesus.  Once again, we see fear, joyful acceptance, followed by a proclamation to others about what they have seen and experienced…a typical pattern when the supernatural and the natural worlds meet.  The shepherds proclaim to Mary and others what they have seen, and people wonder and are in amazement, while Mary treasures these things in her heart.  Verse 20 shows us that these simple shepherds were likely never the same.  Can you imagine?
Discuss: 
-Have you ever felt too useless or too unimportant for God to use you? Where do you think those thoughts came from/come from?  Is it true based on scripture?
-What do you treasure in your heart above all things?  What is most important to you?
-What would it take to treasure the story of Christ in your heart more than anything else?

-Fear, Joyful Acceptance, and Proclamation….have you ever had an experience or message communicated to you and this pattern was your response?
-Have you ever had a ‘verse 20’ experience?  What was it?
Go further if you want:  Read John 10:1-18.  It is interesting that Jesus refers to Himself as the Good Shepherd.  Is it significant that it is shepherds that experience the angelic host proclaiming and praising God and it is shepherds that Jesus identifies Himself with in this passage?  What could the significance be?

Pray:  Father, I want to treasure all the things of Christ in my heart every day.  I want to glorify you and praise you for all that I have heard and seen…just as the shepherds did, and countless other believers before me.  Although I am a simple person…not royalty or anything else, I pray that you will use me to proclaim all that we have seen and experienced in you.  In Jesus Name I pray…amen!
 

Day 9, December 22nd

Read: Luke 2:21-38

Learn: This is not a typical “Christmas” passage to read.  Often, we are done telling the story after the shepherds head back home….but there is certainly more to the story.  This passage tells the story about Jesus being presented at the Temple eight days after He was born.  One thing that is so striking about this passage is the sacrifice that is made.  A typical sacrifice would have been a lamb, but there was an exclusion for really poor families to sacrifice doves instead.  This tells us very clearly that Mary and Joseph were poor.  It also tells us that the gifts from the Magi likely had not come yet since those gifts would have afforded them the opportunity to give a more appropriate sacrifice.  We also get to meet two very special people in this passage that often get overlooked: Simeon & Anna.  Both devout and both living to see Jesus.  Simeon says, “for my eyes have seen your salvation” in verse 30.  And in verse 31, he declares that this salvation had been planned for all people…once again, we see that theme of Luke coming through that salvation was for everyone who would believe, even the lowly, left-behind, and forgotten.  Simeon was certainly right when he prophesied in verse 34, that “this child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel and for a sign to be opposed.”  This was and is certainly the life of Jesus: the dividing line between those who rise and fall and something continually opposed throughout history by many.  Anna, an old widow, devoted every bit of herself to serving in the temple.  She knew that it was Jesus who would pay the price to set the captives free from sin and death (that is the definition of redemption)…and she proclaimed Jesus to all who were looking for this redemption.
Discuss: 

-Why do you suppose God planned for Jesus to be born into such a poor family?
-Would you have planned out His birth this way? Be honest, if you were planning the birth of the Messiah into the world, how would it have been similar and different than the story we have seen here?
-Why do you think Simeon was ready to die after he saw Jesus?

-How is Jesus opposed in this season?  Where was the first opposition in his life?

Go further if you want:  Redemption is the price paid to set the captives free. How would you define redemption in your own terms?  How would you explain redemption to someone who does not know Christ?  How could you use the idea of redeeming a coupon to tell your story?  Take turns discussing this and consider writing it down and then reading it to someone else.  How has Jesus redeemed you?

Pray:  Jesus, you could have been born in a mansion, in the royal house, in the lap of luxury – since that’s what you deserved.  But instead, you chose the most humble circumstances possible.  Help me to contemplate all that that means to me in my life and for what I value in this world.  Show me why this is a significant point for me not to miss today and every day.  Help me to recognize salvation as Simeon described it, and redemption as Anna talked about it.  Let these things be real to me today.  I pray this in Jesus name.

 

Day 10, December 23rd

Read:  Matthew 2:1-12

Learn:  The Magi are a key figure in the story of Christmas; however, there is probably no greater area of “made up” info than in this piece of the narrative.  Most of the time, we assume there were three; yet, we don’t know and the Bible does not say. Most assume there are three because there are three gifts, but there could have been more (some traditions say 12), and there could have been less.  The names of the Magi that are sometimes given are also not Biblical, but Melchior, Caspar, and Balthazar seem to have come into tradition hundreds of years after Jesus was born.  These Magi are often referred to as Kings as well….often in the songs we sing.  This likely comes from several scriptures in the Old Testament such as Isaiah 49:7; 60:1-6 & Psalm 72:11 which talk about Kings bowing down before Him.  The Bible itself does not call these people Kings…simply Magi.  This word comes from the original Greek, “Magos” or “Magus”.  There are many ways to interpret this role or position, and much larger discussions have been and could be had about the meaning behind it, but for sure, they were closely connected with the “science” of the stars and looking for meaning in them.  Once they “come into the house” (which further shows they were not in the original barn, rather, based on this text as well as what we see with Herod, they are showing up one to two years after Jesus is born) they fell to the ground and worshipped Jesus.  They present gifts, which often have been assigned additional meaning (Gold = a gift for Royalty, Frankincense = a gift for Deity, and Myrrh = a gift for embalming/burial). 

Discuss: 
-Once the Magi meet Jesus, God warns them not to return to Herod.  Verse 12 tells us they return to “their country by another way”.  This often happens to us.  We meet Jesus, and realize we can’t return to where we have been.  Have you experienced this?  What has it looked like?

-Do you think falling down and worshipping is a normal response when we come face to face with Jesus?  Is that easy? What gets in the way?

-Verse 10 says that when they saw the star, they “rejoiced exceedingly with great joy”.  Have you ever done this?  What would it look like?  What has it looked like?

Go further if you want:  The Magi take a very different approach than what most people take when dealing with Jesus.  Whereas they sought out Jesus and gave him their very best, most people today feel like God should look for us and then give us His very best.  Is this a fair conclusion?  Why do you think people feel this way?  Can you find scripture that backs up the consumeristic perspective that people have always had and still have when it comes to God?  How about when it comes to church?

Pray:  Father, let me see what it would look like to rejoice exceedingly with great joy.  I want to rejoice like this when I think of you. I want this to be my reaction to the story of Jesus.  I want to give you my very best and expect nothing in return.  I want to give you and my church everything you have given me.  I want to be a worshipper….give me a heart of worship, and humility, each day.  And God, if there is anything that keeps me from following you completely, remove it today.  In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

 

Day 11, December 24th

Read: John 1:1-14

Learn:  Jesus was and is God.  The Bible makes it overtly clear that Jesus was God…no question.  So many try to pervert this idea with thoughts that Jesus was simply a good teacher, or prophet, but they are wrong.  In the beginning was the WORD, and the WORD was with God and the WORD was God!  Jesus has always been.  He was not created; instead, he was and is part of the triune God…that is one God, with three parts.  Although not a perfect analogy at all, we humans have multiple parts that make up the whole.  We have a body, a mind, intellect, spirit, soul, a will, consciousness, etc.  We could debate each of these, but we’d miss the point…which is simply, we are complex beings with lots of parts, yet we are “one”.  God is similar in that He is 3 parts – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit…all together = 1 God.  Jesus was and is the WORD, and the WORD became flesh, and dwelt among us.  This means, Jesus has always been, He is the very WORD of God, Creator, Sustainer, a light in the darkness…and He took on flesh…was born of a virgin, laid in a manger, just as He planned and told us about.  According to the gospel of John, this was the thrust of the Christmas Story.  We don’t see Angels, Magi, Shepherds, a barn, manger, or anything else that we see in Matthew and Luke.  Instead we see the amazing pronouncement, that JESUS IS GOD AND HE TOOK ON FLESH AND CAME TO DWELL AMONG US.  That is a great part of this Christmas Story we must not miss.

Discuss:
-How do you know Jesus was actually the Creator from this passage? What does it say?

-How was Jesus a light in the darkness?  What did that mean? What does that mean?

-In verse 5, it says “the darkness did not comprehend or better yet, overpower it”.  What does that mean in light of the Christmas Story you know?

-What does, “Full of Grace and Truth” mean in verse 14?
Go further if you want:  Compare and contrast the “birth of Jesus” story written here with the story in Luke.  Is this John’s Christmas Story?

Pray:  Father, I want to be your kid.  You promise in this passage (v.12) that as many as receive you, to them you have given the right to become the children of God…I want this for myself and my loved ones (name them).  I believe in you and in Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  I declare here and now that Jesus is the only begotten son, God in the flesh, who came for me.  Help me in any areas of unbelief.  Heal those places.  Dwell in my home and with the ones I love.  Help us to see you and experience you each and every day.  In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

 

Day 12, December 25th

Read: Romans 5:1-11

Learn:  Merry Christmas!  It is amazing to experience the story of Christmas as we have.  The Bible is so full and rich, and my hope is that you have seen things in this story that you have never seen before.  Ultimately, Christ came to fulfill, teach, heal, redeem, set free, ransom, give, save and more.  His story of Christmas is not complete without understanding why He came.  Books upon books have been written to try and explain it; the Bible itself tells the story from beginning to end.  Ultimately, Christ came for you.  He has come to make peace with you, to justify you…set you straight, to set you free from sin, and to make a way for you to be with Him…because if you surrender to Him, you are His kid, and He is your loving Dad who loved you more than life itself…so much so, He died for you.  This is the story of Christmas.  This passage in Romans, along with a thousand more similar to it, tell us the story about hope and salvation through God’s love in Christ Jesus.  There will always be an effort to make you forget that message, or at least get distracted from that message….remember, the devil doesn’t have to always destroy you, sometimes he just has to distract you.  “Herods” will always exist, with hard hearts, trying to destroy Christmas, we will have trials in this life, but take heart! Jesus has come and overcome….that is what “Peace on Earth” is all about (John 16:33).

Discuss:
-How has this Devotional changed the way you see Christmas?
-What difference does Christmas make to you and your family?
-How can you continue to be devoted (think devotional) to God each day in spending TAWG (Time Alone With God) every day individually? As a family? At Work/School?

-Have you accepted Christ as Savior AND King in YOUR life?  Please let us know if you have and if you are ready to take the next step!
Pray:  Father, thank you for Christmas. Thank you for Salvation. Thank you for rescuing me from your wrath through Jesus.  Thank you for reconciling me to yourself.  Thank you for hope.  Thank you for Christmas.  I love you, Lord.  In Jesus Name, Amen.

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