Jesse Tree Advent Devotional – Day 23

Day 23: Angels Proclaim the Arrival of Christ

Picture / Ornament: Angel

Scripture: Luke 2:8-14 Hebrews 1:1-4

Song: Angels We Have Heard on High

God used angels in many of the stories we have read about. Angels are God’s messengers. God spoke to Abraham through His angels. Jacob saw a vision of angels ascending and descending on the ladder to heaven. God sent angels to go before the Israelites and to defend the Israelites during their battles. Mary and Joseph both heard from God’s angels.

Imagine you were one of those shepherds out in a field taking care of your sheep. It was an ordinary night when suddenly a great light appeared before you and you heard an angel speaking to you. What would you think? What would you do? Would you be afraid?

Apparently, these shepherds were afraid because the angel told them not to be afraid. This angel was not here to condemn them or to tell them about something terrible that was about to happen. No, this angel had good news for them, good news of great joy! Today in Bethlehem a new baby had been born.

Have your parents ever had a special meeting with you to tell you some important news?

I remember a very special Christmas fourteen years ago when my husband and I told our three children that we had some important news for them. It was the day after Christmas and our children had already opened all of their gifts. They were confused. What was going on? Was something wrong? No, something was very right! I was expecting a baby! Our family was going to have a new baby, but our new baby wasn’t like this new baby that the angel told the shepherds about.

This baby that was born in Bethlehem was the long-awaited Savior who had come to save the world! This baby was unlike any baby who had ever been born or any baby who would ever be born. This baby was totally GOD and totally MAN in one! This baby was God in human flesh who had come to live among men.

God used these angels to be His messengers, to tell the good news to these shepherds. God wanted the shepherds to recognize the baby when they saw Him. This very special baby, God’s only Son, had been born in a very simple place, a stable. This very special baby had been wrapped in very simple cloths, swaddling cloths, and laid in a very simple bed, an animal feeding trough full of hay called a manger. These very special messengers, angels, had told very simple men, shepherds, the good news of the Savior come into the world.

Today is a perfect day to thank God for sending His very special messengers to tell this good news about a very special baby named Jesus who came to bring peace on earth and good will to men. Remember … Christmas is all about Jesus!

Jesse Tree Advent Devotional – Day 22

Day 22: The Star

Picture / Ornament: Star

Scripture: Matthew 2:1-12; Numbers 24:17; Revelation 22:16

Song: O Holy Night

Another Song: Oh What a Glorious Night!

I, for one, have a hard time being patient. I like my food to be ready quickly, my websites to load instantly, and my house to be cleaned spotless in a flash. How about you? How do you feel when you have to wait a long time for something?

This spring we bought four tiny chicks in the hopes of getting fresh eggs. After waiting for four months, there were still no eggs! Week after week, we’d check their coop, looking for eggs. No eggs! Finally, after almost six months, we got our first egg and now we get eggs every day! Three years ago, we planted a little apple tree. Every summer we go out to see if there are any apples beginning to grow, but even after three years … no apples! To this day, we’re still waiting for it to give us apples.

God grows our faith by causing us to wait for Him. Day by day, season by season, year by year we have to wait for things, all kinds of things. We have to trust that some day those chickens will lay eggs and some day that apple tree will bear apples. We have to trust that God will keep His promises in His perfect timing.

Likewise, the Israelite people had to wait for their Savior to arrive. In fact, they had to wait around 400 years from the time of the last prophet Malachi until Jesus Christ was born. Some people call this time the “400 years of silence.” In spite of God’s silence, God was still speaking through His written word and God was still at work, bringing about the right time and place for His Son to be born.

There was a special group of men living east of Israel, wise men who had studied the scriptures and wanted to worship the Savior King. God had not only given these wise men His written word, but He also gave them a special sign, a star, that appeared in the sky at just the right time and in just the right place to guide them to Jesus.

It’s especially amazing that God sent them a star, because Jesus called Himself the “bright morning star.” (Revelation 22:16) Hundreds of years before Jesus lived on earth, it had been foretold that “a star shall come out of Jacob.” (Numbers 24:17) Not only, did God give a star in the sky to shine the way for the wise men, but God sent His own Son to be that prophesied star.

Stars guide people as they travel in the dark. Stars give light in the darkest night. Jesus isn’t an actual star in the heavens, but Jesus is our guide and our light.

Today is a perfect day to thank God for His perfect timing in sending Jesus to be our guide and our light.

Remember … Christmas is all about Jesus!

Jesse Tree Advent Devotional – Day 21

Day 21: Return to the Promised Land

Picture / Ornament: Stone Wall

Scripture: Jeremiah 29:11-14; Isaiah 44:24-28; Ezra 1:1-5; Ezra 6:6-18;
Titus 2:11-14, Hebrews 9:27-28

Song: How Many Kings?

Bonus Video: That’s My King by S.M. Lockridge

God had spoken to His prophet Jeremiah while His people were in captivity in Babylon. God had told Jeremiah that His people would return to Israel after 70 years, and they did! God had even told the prophet Isaiah that He would redeem Israel using a king named Cyrus to rebuild Jerusalem and its temple … and He did! Just like God turned the heart of the Egyptian Pharaoh and the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar and the Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus, God turned the heart of the Persian King, Cyrus. God used King Cyrus, the king of a foreign land, to send the people back to the Promised Land of Israel and rebuild His temple in Jerusalem.

It took years for the temple in Jerusalem to be rebuilt because they faced opposition on all sides, yet the temple was rebuilt because God turned the heart of another Babylonian king named Darius. King Darius sent supplies to finish the temple and even supplies for the priests to make sacrifices to God. After the temple was rebuilt, the people celebrated and offered hundreds of animals.

Around the same time that the temple was being rebuilt, the prophet Zechariah spoke to the people. Zechariah had more prophecies about the coming Savior. Zechariah said that Israel’s long-awaited king would come humbly, riding the foal of a donkey (Zechariah 9:9), that He would be betrayed for thirty pieces of silver (Zechariah 11:12-13), and that those who pierced Him would mourn over Him (Zechariah 12:10). Do any of these sound familiar to you?

As you read the Bible, be on the lookout for verses that show the fulfillment of these prophecies, given hundreds of years before Jesus was born. Just like the faithful Israelites studied the prophecies so they would recognize the Messiah when He came, we, too, should study the Bible so we will be ready when the Messiah returns. Jesus is coming AGAIN! He will return one day to save those who are eagerly waiting for Him! What a glorious day that will be!

Today is a perfect day to thank God for the incredible hope we have in Jesus, our Savior!

Remember … Christmas is all about Jesus!

Jesse Tree Advent Devotional – Day 20

Day 20: The Exile

Picture / Ornament: Flames – Fiery Furnace

Scripture: 2 Kings 17:6-12; 2 Kings 25:8-11; Daniel 3:1-4:3

Song: O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

Another Song: Through It All

Another Song: Though You Slay Me

God sent many prophets to the people of Israel, not only to tell them about the coming Savior, but also to warn them. God warned them to follow Him rather than chasing after false gods.

Do your parents ever warn you? Don’t touch the hot stove. Don’t eat too many cookies. Don’t stay up too late at night. Your parents warn you because they love you and want for your good. Likewise, God warns us because He loves us and wants for our good.

Despite all of God’s warnings, the people continued to worship idols and they refused to follow God’s commands. What if you don’t obey your parents’ warnings? You might get burned, or you might get a stomachache, or you might fall asleep in the middle of math class. Or your parents might have to discipline you, so you will obey them next time.

Because God’s people did not obey Him, they were invaded by other nations and taken off as captives to foreign lands. Three Israelite young men named Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were taken from Israel to a land called Babylon where King Nebuchadnezzar ruled. Even though these three young men were taken to a foreign land and given foreign names – Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego – they continued to trust and follow the one true God.

When King Nebuchadnezzar made an enormous gold statue and demanded everyone worship it, these three young men refused. Even when King Nebuchadnezzar told them they would be cast into a burning fire, they still refused to worship this idol. They told the king, “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” (Daniel 3:17-18 ESV)

God was with these men in the fire. God protected them, and they were unharmed by the fire’s flames. Even King Nebuchadnezzar saw God’s great power and decreed that no one could speak evil against the Most High God. King Nebuchadnezzar himself said, “How great are His signs, how mighty are His wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom and His dominion endures from generation to generation.” (Daniel 4:3 ESV)

Once again God was using for good even those things which evil men mean for harm. We can always trust God. Even if Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah had perished that day, God would still have been with them, protecting their hearts and bringing them faithfully into His eternal kingdom.

Today is a perfect day to thank God for His everlasting Kingdom and His everlasting King, Jesus.

Remember … Christmas is all about Jesus.

Jesse Tree Advent Devotional – Day 19

Day 19: Prophecy of Bethlehem

Picture / Ornament: Town of Bethlehem

Scripture: Micah 5:2; Luke 2:1-7; 1 Peter 5:6-7

Song: O Little Town of Bethlehem

Micah, too, was a prophet of God. Micah told the people that their eternal king from everlasting to everlasting would be born in a little town called Bethlehem.

Do you remember when we learned about Ruth and Naomi a few days ago? Naomi and her husband were from Bethlehem, but they had gone to Moab to flee the famine. In Moab, Naomi’s husband and sons had died, so Naomi and her daughter-in-law Ruth returned to Bethlehem where Ruth married Boaz and they had baby Obed who fathered baby Jesse who fathered baby David. King David was from Bethlehem, too!

As the king, David had left Bethlehem. Many of his descendants also left Bethlehem. Bethlehem was not a large, powerful city like Jerusalem, but it was the city that God had chosen for their Eternal King to be born in. God wanted the people to recognize their Messiah when He came, so He had told them through Micah that their Eternal King would be born in Bethlehem.

Jesus’s earthly parents (Joseph and Mary) were from the line of David, but they lived in a town called Nazareth in an area of Israel called Galilee. When it came time for Mary to give birth to her baby, he couldn’t be born in Nazareth, right? He had to be born in Bethlehem. God had promised and God always keeps His promises. “Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.” (Proverbs 30:5 ESV) Don’t worry. God has a plan!

Shortly before Jesus was born, the Roman emperor Caesar Augustus ordered everyone to return to their hometown to be counted for a census, so Mary and Joseph returned to their hometown of Bethlehem. This reminds me of Proverbs 21:1, “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; He turns it wherever He will.” At just the right time and in just the right place, the humble Savior of the World was born – in a stable in a little town called Bethlehem.

Do you ever feel like the world is out of control? Do you ever think God doesn’t see you … or that He is too busy to answer your prayers … or that He doesn’t really care about you? Imagine how Mary felt when she was going to have a baby soon and she had to travel 90 miles for a census! Imagine how she felt when the baby was about to be born and they couldn’t find a place to stay!

God was at work then and God is at work now! You can trust God. Even when the world around you feels out of control, God is still in control. God sees you, hears you and cares about you. God promises to take care for you. God is working right now, right where you live.

Today is a perfect day to cast your cares on Him, trusting that He cares for you, just like He cared for Mary and Joseph and baby Jesus, the promised Savior who was born in Bethlehem. Remember … Christmas is all about Jesus.

Jesse Tree Advent Devotional – Day 18

Day 18: Prophecy of the New Covenant

Picture / Ornament: Heart with Writing on It

Scripture: Jeremiah 31:31-34; Hebrews 9:11-15; Acts 16:25-34

Song: Come Thou Long Expected Jesus

Isaiah wasn’t the only prophet that taught people what the Savior would be like. Jeremiah, too, was a prophet sent by God to teach His people. God told Jeremiah that one day He would make a new covenant with His people, writing His word on the hearts of men.

The Israelite people for thousands of years had demonstrated their faith in God by obeying God’s command to sacrifice animals. These sacrifices taught the people how dreadful it was to sin, but they also pointed to the ultimate sacrifice that Jesus would one day make for us, shedding His own blood on the cross.

When Paul and Silas were miraculously released from their chains while they were in a Roman prison, the jail keeper was so afraid! He thought he would be in HUGE trouble with the government for losing the prisoners. The jailer felt so hopeless that he was even going to take his own life, but Paul encouraged the jailer, telling him, “Do not harm yourself. We are all here!” The jailer was amazed that they had not run away. He had seen God’s power in the earthquake as well as Paul’s kindness in not escaping. The jailer wanted to know what he needed to do to be saved!

Have you ever wondered that? Have you ever thought about what you need to do to be saved? You may not be in a Roman jail, but you were born a slave to sin. We all were. We all need to be saved from the just penalty for our sin which is way worse than just going to jail.

How did Paul and Silas answer the jailer? They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, you and your household.” The jailer didn’t have to slaughter a sheep or a goat or a bull in order to be saved. The jailer had to trust in the Lord Jesus. And this offer was not only available to this adult male jailer, but to his wife and his children, too! Women and children, too, can be saved through their faith in Jesus.

Isn’t that GOOD news? Isn’t that the BEST news you’ve ever heard? Jesus’s death and resurrection changed everything! Jesus’s death and resurrection paid the price for our sin, so animals no longer have to be sacrificed! We no longer have to offer bulls and goats on an altar to be forgiven, because Jesus’s perfect blood was offered once forever to redeem us from our sins when we place our trust in Him.

Today is certainly the perfect day to be saved, to place your trust in Jesus, that His Word would be written on your heart.

Remember … Christmas is all about Jesus!

Jesse Tree Advent Devotional – Day 17

Day 17: Prophecy of the Suffering Servant 

Picture / Ornament: Cross of Nails 

Scripture: Isaiah 53:3-7; Hebrews 9:19-22; Romans 5:6-10; 1 Peter 2:19-24 

Song: It Came Upon a Midnight Clear 

Another Song: Man of Sorrows

Have you ever wanted something so badly, but it costs too much for you to buy? Maybe there was an expensive toy or outfit or trip that you really, really wanted, but even if you earned money washing cars and raking leaves and even if you put all your birthday money toward that thing you wanted, you could never save enough money to buy it.  

Well, it’s like that for us with God. God loves us so much, but our sin separates us from a Holy God. Remember Romans 6:23 that we read on Day 5? “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23 ESV) The cost of our sin is death. Do you know who paid that price for us?  

God wanted mankind to recognize the Messiah, so He sent prophets to write about Him. Isaiah wrote about the Messiah as the one who paid for our sin. You can read about Him in Isaiah 53.  

Isaiah described the Messiah as being despised and rejected, a man of sorrows and well acquainted with grief. Isaiah told us that the Messiah would be pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our sins, that His chastisement would bring us peace, and His wounds would bring us healing.  

Some of these words and phrases are hard for us understand. To put it more simply, Isaiah told us that the Messiah would be punished and pierced, not for his own sins, but for ours. The Messiah would be beaten and whipped, so that we could be healed and made whole. 

And that is just what happened to Jesus. Jesus was punished, pierced, beaten and whipped, nailed upon a cross, for my sins and yours. Jesus gave up His own life on the cross because of His great love for us. Jesus’s blood paid the price for our sin, so that we could be saved. 

As you think about the Christmas presents you’re hoping for, today is the perfect day to thank God for the GREATEST gift He could ever give, Jesus, the Suffering Servant, and to thank God for the high price Jesus paid with His death on the cross. 

Remember … Christmas is all about Jesus! 

Jesse Tree Advent Devotional – Day 16

Day 16Prophecy of the Good Shepherd 

Picture / Ornament: Shepherd’s Staff 

Scripture: Psalm 23; Isaiah 40:9-11; John 10:9-11, 27-30 

Song: Behold Our God 

Another Song: I am Jesus’ Little Lamb 

Another Song: King of Love My Shepherd Is 

Sheep need a good shepherd. They are easy targets for wolves because they are fearful. They are easily led astray because they are quick to follow one another. They are easily encumbered by their thick fleece. Sheep need a good shepherd to show them where to find fresh, safe food, water and shelter. Sheep need a good shepherd to protect them from stumbling or being harmed by a hungry predator.  

In Psalm 23, King David wrote about God as His loving shepherd. David himself had been a shepherd, faithfully taking care of his father’s sheep, so David understood well how important having a good shepherd was to the life of the sheep. How comforting to know that God Himself guides us, restores us, provides for us, comforts us and walks with us every single day like the very best shepherd! God, our good shepherd, promises that we will one day dwell with Him in His eternal home when we place our trust in His Only Son, Jesus Christ. 

Isaiah, too, described God as a shepherd, caring for His flock, gathering His lambs into His arms, carrying them close to Him and carefully leading those who are with young. Our Father is almighty, but He is also tender. God rules with everlasting power and love. 

As David and Isaiah described God our Father as the good shepherd, they were also pointing toward the son of God, Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us, who would one day be born as a baby in Bethlehem. Jesus, too, is our good shepherd. Jesus Himself laid down His own life for His sheep. Jesus knows how helpless we are. Jesus knows how easily we go astray. Jesus knows that we need a shepherd to guide us, restore us, provide for us and walk with us. 

Jesus told the people clearly “I and my Father are one.” (John 10:30) Jesus is our good shepherd. He came to give us eternal life. No one can snatch us out of His hand. Jesus will care for you with his mighty, loving hand. We can trust Him. 

Today is a perfect day to thank God for sending us our shepherd, Jesus, to guide us and care for us. 

Remember … Christmas is all about Jesus! 

Jesse Tree Advent Devotional – Day 15

Day 15: Prophecy of the Prince of Peace 

Picture / Ornament: Dove and Crown 

Scripture: Isaiah 9:6-7; John 14:27, John 16:33 

Song: Handel’s Messiah Hallelujah Chorus 

Another Song: Prince of Peace 

Isaiah prophesied about the future, telling us what the Savior would be like. Isaiah’s prophecies both helped people to recognize the coming Savior as well as helping us today to know more about God and His Son, Jesus Christ. Isaiah told us that the Savior would be called the Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father and the PRINCE of PEACE.  

You might see someone holding up two fingers and saying “Peace,” but what does peace really mean? Does peace just mean not being at war? Peace is a lot more than just not being in the middle of a war. As a country, America is at peace, but do most Americans have peace in their heart? 

When I was younger, I worried about all kinds of things! I worried there might be a car accident or a fire or that I might get sick. I worried that I’d get lost in the store or that my dog would get hit by a car. My heart and mind were not at peace. I didn’t know Jesus wanted to be my Savior and I didn’t know that God loved me. Do you ever feel worried or afraid? What do you worry about? 

Worry, fear and anxiety are the opposites of peace. When we trust Jesus, He will give us peace, but when we are trying to rule our own lives, we will struggle with fear and anxiety.  

We are not all-powerful or all-knowing or all-good… but God is! God is all-powerful, all-knowing and all-good, so we can trust in Him and have peace. 

Jesus came to bring peace to our hearts and minds and one day Jesus will return and bring peace to the nations. In our world there are still so many difficult problems. We live in a broken world. There are still accidents and fires. People still get sick. Children do get lost and dogs do get hit by cars. These things are all so sad and painful, but when we trust in Jesus, He can give us peace in the middle of those trials.  

We don’t have to worry about our future. We don’t have to worry about what might happen tomorrow or next week or a year from now. We can have peace because we can trust in Jesus, the Prince of Peace. 

Today is a perfect day to thank God for giving us peace in our hearts as we trust in His Son, Jesus. 

Remember … Christmas is all about Jesus! 

Jesse Tree Advent Devotional – Day 14

Day 14: Prophecy of a Shoot from the Stump of Jesse 

Picture / Ornament: Stump with a Fresh Shoot 

Scripture: Isaiah 11:1-5, 10; 1 Samuel 16:1-13; Revelation 5:1-6 

Song: Is He Worthy? 

Another Song: Righteous Branch

Do you know what will happen tomorrow? I mean, do you really know what will happen?  

The weather forecaster can predict rain, but he might be wrong. You might expect to go to school tomorrow, but you might wake up sick. Your mom might think she will go grocery shopping tomorrow, but your car might break down. 

There is one, though, who is completely sure of what will happen tomorrow, God.  

God knows for sure what will happen tomorrow … and next year … and a hundred years from now. God knows everything! God knows what you ate for breakfast this morning and God knows what you will eat for breakfast tomorrow. 

In times past, God sent His chosen servants to prophecy what will happen in the future. One of those prophets was named Isaiah. Isaiah prophesied in the land of Judah in the years shortly before King Josiah became king. God gave Isaiah wisdom about things to come hundreds of years in the future.  

One of Isaiah’s prophesies was that a shoot would grow from the stump of Jesse. Jesse was the father of King David, the ancestor of Jesus Christ, our Savior. Isaiah was right in his prophecies because God knows the future! In the next few days, we are going to be learning about more prophecies that Isaiah gave. Many of these prophecies were fulfilled when Jesus came to earth.  

God also gave the apostle John divine wisdom to see things that were to come. The apostle John lived at the same time as Jesus. John wrote the heavenly visions that God gave him in the book called Revelations. John saw a vision of a Lamb in heaven, the only one who is worthy, the one who has conquered, one who is the Lion of the tribe of Judah and the Root of David. (Revelation 5:5-6). That is Jesus, our perfect Savior, who conquered sin and death, who has defeated Satan, who is from the line of Judah, who is both the root of David and the shoot of Jesse. 

“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.” (Hebrews 1:1-2 ESV) 

Today is a perfect day to thank God for sending prophets in the past to speak to us and for sending His Son, from the stump of the Jesse and the root of David. 

Remember … Christmas is all about Jesus!