Saturday, November 30, 2013

Advent: Week 1

Skill Level: Beginner
Skills Attained: Telling the Christmas Story
Supplies:
  • Wreath
  • Candles: 3 purple, 1 rose, 1 white
  • Bible
  • Jesse Tree Ornaments (or pictures)
  • Chocolate/Candy (optional)
As I mentioned in my previous post, I want to take time to celebrate Advent this year and reflect upon the reason why we celebrate the season. My oldest son has entered the "why phase", and he asks questions like, "why are we putting up a Christmas tree?" or " why do we hang a wreath?". Embarrassingly enough, I don't know why we observe many of the Christmas traditions. So, I intend to investigate some of these questions over the next four weeks and share my findings with you through the "Christmas Question of the Week".

In addition to answering a weekly Christmas tradition question, I will also provide a daily reading. This corresponds closely to many Jesse Tree devotionals you can find online, but I have added my own spice to it. Using a Jesse Tree format, we will learn about who Jesus is by reading Bible stories that tell about Jesus' ancestry and life.

    Whether you have celebrated Advent your entire life or you have never thought about who Jesus is, I hope you learn something new about the Christmas story and gain deeper meaning to why we celebrate Christmas.


    Christmas Question of the Week

    Each week, I will attempt to answer a question about why we celebrate a particular Christmas tradition. I don't intend to answer all of the questions in my posts over the next few weeks, but I do hope to answer a few of the questions.
     

    Why do we exchange presents? 

    The Christmas morning gift exchange is probably my most favorite Christmas tradition. As a young girl, I remember searching the house during the month of December trying to discover my mom's hiding place for all the unwrapped presents. I would get up Christmas morning before the sun would rise and then sit in front of the brightly lit tree with the pile of presents underneath it waiting for the rest of the family to wake. As a child, the gift exchange was primarily about me: what presents did I get?

    Now, as an adult, I find just as much joy -- if not more joy -- in giving gifts as I do in receiving them. I like trying to think of the perfect gift for each one of my family members. I enjoy being creative and making a few of the gifts. And, I love seeing the expression on the recipient's face when they open the present. The reason I love the gift exchange is because I genuinely love the people receiving the gifts. But, it's much deeper than that...

    The Bible tells us that "we love because he [God] first loved us" [1 John 4:19]. The motivation for my love for others is because I know that God loved me first. He didn't love me after I did something good. He didn't love me more because I helped someone else. He loved me first; therefore, I love others. I love as a response to God's love for me.

    How do I know that God loves me? God sent His only Son to this world so that I (you) can have a relationship with Him. Not only did Jesus live among us, but He did so perfectly. And at the end of His life, He died as a sacrifice for you and me. 1 John 4:10 sums it up well: "In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins." Propitiation means that Jesus sacrificed himself to take away our sins.

    God gave us the ultimate gift over 2000 years ago when He sent His one and only Son to this earth. So as I exchange gifts with friends, family, and neighbors, I think about the gift God gave me: Jesus. The gifts I give are simply a reflection of God's love.

    Advent Week 1 Daily Devotional

    Each day throughout Advent, my family will take a few minutes to read a passage from the Bible and talk about what it means. During this time, we will light our Advent "wreath". During the first week,  one purple candle will be lit each day during this time. The schedule below details the daily passage as well as a short description and application question. Most of this is based upon the Jesse Tree, which includes a clear, succinct overview of Jesus's ancestry and life in the Bible. Even if you don't have Jesse Tree ornaments, you can use pictures or different items around your house to represent the symbol for the day.

    Day 1 (December 1st)



    Day 1: Branch from Stump
    Symbol: Branch from Stump
    Scripture: Isaiah 11:1, Matthew 1:1-17
    Explanation:  God has had a plan since before the beginning of time. Before Jesus, a man named Jesse had a son named David. David grew up to be the king of Israel. Many generations after David, Jesus was born into the same family line. Many people anticipated and were anxiously waiting the coming of a leader, a king, a savior. But God had an even bigger plan in mind than providing a king over Israel. Jesus came to reign as The King over the entire world. 
    Question:  If you're anything like me, I get so excited about the anticipation of Christmas! The food. The presents. The music. How much of your excitement is centered on the arrival of Jesus? What ways can you refocus your attention on Christ's coming?


    Day 2 (December 2nd)

     

    Day 2: Earth
    Symbol: Earth
    Scripture:  Genesis 1:1 - 2:3
    Explanation:  In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, and it. was. good. God made sweet smelling flowers, vibrantly colored fish, and beautiful landscapes. Everything was perfect. It turned out exactly the way He imagined.  He put us in charge of caring for and enjoying the beauty that He created.
    Question: What are some ways you can care for and enjoy God's creation?



    Day 3 (December 3rd)


    Day 3: Apple (with Snake)
    Symbol: Apple (with Snake)
    Scripture:  Genesis 2:4 - 3:24
    Explanation: In Day 2 we learned about God's perfect creation. Today we read about the creation and fall of man. Adam and Eve disobeyed God by eating fruit from the forbidden tree. Since this moment, evil entered the hearts of men -- not just Adam and Eve, but everyone. This disobedience (or sin) separates us from God. God is extremely loving, but He is also just. He still loves us, but there are consequences for our actions. God is holy and perfect, and He cannot be in the presence of sin. On our own, we will never be perfect. The Good News is that we don't have to be. Christ was perfect for us! (This is a little "teaser" for the end of the story. We will discuss this more throughout Advent.)
    Question: What are some ways that you have disobeyed God?

    Day 4 (December 4th)

     

    Day 4: Ark
    Symbol: Ark
    Scripture: Genesis 6:9 - 8:22
    Explanation:  All the sin in the world made God very sad. So, He asked a man named Noah to build an ark to house Noah's family as well as two of every kind of animal. As you can imagine, this was a big boat! Then, God sent rain...and more rain...and more rain until the entire earth flooded wiping out everything and everyone except those on the ark. After the flood, God made a promise to Noah. He promised not to send another flood that would destroy the entire earth, and He sealed that promise with a rainbow. The rainbow is a symbol to remind us that God always keeps His promises.
    Question: What promises has God kept for you?

    Day 5 (December 5th)


    Day 5: Field of Stars
    Symbol: Field of Stars
    Scripture: Genesis 15:1-6
    Explanation: Abraham was a man of God, but he still doubted God. God promised to do great things with Abraham and his family (alluding to Jesus being born in his family line), but Abraham didn't know how this would be accomplished without any children. God told Abraham to look toward heaven and promised Abraham as many offspring as stars in the sky. Sometimes God asks us to trust Him and to wait patiently for His timing.
    Question: What times in your life have you questioned God's faithfulness?

     Day 6 (December 6th)


    Day 6: Ram
    Symbol: Ram (This picture is for my UNC fans;)
    Scripture:  Genesis 22:1-19
    Explanation: Abraham had a son, Isaac. Abraham loved God and his son very much. One day, God asked Abraham to do a a very difficult and confusing thing. God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son. Abraham didn't know why God would ask him to do this, but he loved God so much that he knew he must obey. As Abraham was about to sacrifice Isaac, God sent a messenger to say, "WAIT! STOP!".  Instead of sacrificing Isaac, God provided a ram for Abraham to sacrifice instead. God knew his love for Him was genuine since Abraham was willing to give up his own son for Him.
    Question:  Is there anything in your life that you feel like God is asking you to give up, or "sacrifice", for His sake?

    Day 7 (December 7th)

    Day 7: Ladder

    Symbol: Ladder
    Scripture: Genesis 28:10-17
    Explanation:  Isaac had two sons, Jacob and Esau. Jacob didn't always make the best choices, and he treated is brother poorly. Instead of facing his troubles, he ran away. He then realized that he needed to return and face his family and brother. The night before he returned home, God spoke to Jacob in a dream. In the dream angels were climbing up and down a ladder into heaven. God was reminding Jacob of the promises he had made his father, Isaac, and his grandfather, Abraham (promising a ridiculously huge family...which includes Jesus in the family line). After that point, Jacob knew that he could never run away from God; God would always be with him.
    Question: Was there a time in your life that you tried running away from God? How do you know that God is always with you? 


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    All Advent Posts: