Hope. Love. Joy. Peace.
We hear these 4 words throughout the year. They come up in our conversations. They’re expressed in prayer. They’re spoken in tones of expectation and eagerness. They bring comfort and encouragement.
Hope – Love – Joy – Peace.
Other times these same words remain a mocking echo within the walls of our pain and fear. Our bleak circumstances seem to reveal only the lack of hope, love, joy and peace in our lives and in our world.
With the arrival of Advent, hope, love, joy, and peace come alive with renewed meaning and divine significance. Amid both the cheer and heartache the holiday season can bring, these 4 words are wrapped up in the person of Jesus Christ and His birth into our world.
Advent is a time of preparation and anticipation. A time to allow the truths of Scripture to reach into the darkest parts of us. A time of waiting, for the Light of the world to shatter the darkness, our darkness. A time to worship and give thanks, in the waiting of Advent.
For our King is coming.
It is my hope and prayer that this season of Advent would be a time of Christ-centered wonder, gratitude, and renewed faith in Jesus, whose birth we celebrate and whose future return we await and long for.
I am honored and delighted to walk through the days of Advent with you!
Grace and peace.
Overview of the Advent Journal
- Each entry will include a brief devotional, Scripture readings, and a prayer.
- Feel free to read the content personally or share it aloud with your family.
Each week will focus on a specific theme of Advent.
Week 1 – Hope
Sunday, December 2nd
Isaiah 61:1-3 I Acts 13:32-35
The wonder that captivates us at Christmas is intimately connected to God’s plan present throughout Scripture. In the Old Testament, we meet Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, David, Ruth, Rahab and others who are wrapped up in God’s grand plan. This plan holds the weight of eternity, as all creation waits for the promised Savior to be revealed. At Christmas, the Messiah, Jesus Christ, enters our world.
In celebrating Advent, we don’t simply celebrate Christmas in a reflective or sentimental manner. In adoration, we look back at the breakthrough of God’s Son into our lost world; but in anticipation, we also look forward to Christ’s glorious return. We celebrate the fulfilled promise of Christ’s holy birth, and we wait for the promise of His return to be fulfilled. Like Israel, we live in anticipation of our Messiah’s coming.
Heavenly Father, just as You have kept your promise to Israel in sending Jesus, You will keep Your promise in sending Your Son back. Our hope rests in You, and as we read the Scriptures and reflect on your faithfulness in our own lives, we know that You can be trusted. We praise You, Lord, for the glory of your Name is wrapped up in every promise You make.
Tuesday, December 4th
Longing for Jesus
Luke 2:25-35 | Luke 21:7-9; 25-28
In the gospel of Luke, we meet Simeon. For decades, this God-fearing man has been waiting for the promised Messiah. By the word of the Holy Spirit, Simeon knows he will not die before he sees his Savior. Beyond wishful thinking, Simeon’s hope is deeply rooted in the person of Christ. As Mary and Joseph approach the temple with baby Jesus, Simeon’s pent up hope and anticipation release in passionate praise. Holding Jesus in his arms, Simeon rejoices as his faith is turned to sight. What he has longed for and believed in is now before his eyes.
Simeon declares that the Messiah – the comfort for the Jews and the light for the Gentiles – has come. “Jesus Christ is the consolation of the Father’s open arms to Jew and Gentile.”* Simeon’s longing was set on the arrival of the promised Messiah; and in holding Christ, Simeon sees the One who would satisfy the longing of every human heart, both Jew and Gentile.
Heavenly Father, as Simeon longed for Christ’s coming, so we long for Christ’s return. We rejoice and wait in anticipation, for just as Simeon’s faith was made sight, so one day, we will also lift up our eyes and see our redemption come. One day, we will see our Savior face to face.
*John Piper, “Preparing to Receive Christ: Looking for the Consolation of Israel.” Online Sermon, 21 December 1986.
Thursday, December 6th
Luke 1:26-38 | Heb. 11:8-12
From the opening lines of Scripture, we see the Triune God – Father, Son & Holy Spirit – working in the midst of emptiness and impossibility. Abraham and Sarah come on the scene, and it is through this couple that God chooses to raise up the nation of Israel. However, with Sarah beyond her childbearing years, God’s promise to create a nation from their offspring does not look hopeful. But these circumstances are fertile ground for God to move as only He can – in the realm of the impossible. From emptiness, God creates the world and from barrenness, God creates a nation.
In Luke, we face another impossibility as the angel Gabriel comes to Mary and announces she will be the mother of the Messiah. “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” Mary asks. Again, God’s plan is veiled in hopeless circumstances, but as it was for Abraham and Sarah, so it will be for Mary. The promises of God cannot fail, and His word will not return void. This time, God Himself steps onto the scene and is birthed through the impossible.
Heavenly Father, your beloved Son is our “Impossible Hope.” Breaking past reasonable means and sensible strategies, Jesus entered our world by divine impossibility. Our hope is in You, and our praise belongs to You Lord, for in the midst of human impossibilities, You bring your perfect plan to life.
Week 2 – Love
Sunday, December 9th
Hebrews 2:14-18 | I John 4:7-19
In Jesus, we come face to face with the fullness of God’s love. Beyond a fraction and more than a portion, the limitless love of God takes on flesh and inhabits our humanity. The love of God is active and on display throughout the Old Testament, but it is at Christmas that the greatest expression of God’s love is revealed, through Jesus Christ.
Since God alone can embody the full perfection of His love, Jesus Christ enters our world fully God and fully man. This paradox is what we call the incarnation. While it takes center stage with the arrival of Christ, the incarnation of God is a defining reality for every season of our lives and is the foundation of hope throughout history. With the incarnation, “we come face to face with the unutterably glorious depth of the gospel: God has given us himself.”* The gift of perfect love is the Giver Himself. This is the center of our Christmas celebration and the hope of the world for all time.
Heavenly Father, we praise You for the gift of perfect love in Jesus Christ at Christmas. Because of the incarnation, we can walk daily with the joy of new life in You and the hope of life eternal with You in Heaven! (I John 5:11-12)
*Marcus Johnson & John Clark, The Incarnation of God. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2015), 69.
Tuesday, December 11th
In Awe of You
John 1:14-18 | Heb. 1:1-3
As Christmas draws near, manger scenes pop up in front yards and on church lawns. Mary and Joseph huddle within a stable, as shepherds and a handful of sheep approach the scene. Our gaze moves to the newborn in the manger. It is a familiar sight for many of us. But has it grown so familiar that we are no longer moved to worship this child? Has the baby sleeping peacefully in the hay merely become a heartwarming picture of Christmas?
The son born to the virgin Mary is the One who holds the Name above every name. The child in the manger is the One who spoke the galaxies into existence and knows every star by name. While settled in his mother’s arms, this newborn sustains all things by His word. The frail frame of this infant is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His Father. Clothed in our flesh, with eyes open and heart beating, God is with us!
Heavenly Father, lead us to worship Your Son as we reflect on His glorious and humble arrival into our world. Please forgive us and revive our hearts when the truths of Christmas become familiar or stale to us. May we be caught up in awe-filled praise as we celebrate the birth of Emmanuel – God with us!
Thursday, December 13th
His Glorious Descent
John 1:9-13 | Gal. 4:4-7
Love came down at Christmas. This phrase, the title of a poem and popular song, is often spoken this time of year. Though simply worded, it is loaded with transforming truth. In celebrating Christ’s birth at Christmas, we proclaim the arrival of Jesus Christ – the Word made flesh – into our world. God’s descent to us in the person of Christ reveals the humbling reality that we cannot reach Him. Leaving the purity and glory of Heaven, the Son of God comes to us, making it possible for us to be redeemed and brought into God’s family as sons and daughters.
This is the scandal of the Gospel and the glorious truth of Christmas. “We do not [pierce] his unapproachable light; he penetrates our unsearchable darkness… [the] infinite and eternal God storms space and time to confront us face to face in the face of Christ.”*
Heavenly Father, we can never thank You enough for sending your beloved Son into our lost world. We will never know a greater love than Jesus Christ. While we were consumed in sin and walking in darkness, Jesus came as the Light, that in believing in Him, we would be called children of God.
*Marcus Johnson & John Clark, The Incarnation of God. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2015), 127.
Week 3 – Joy
Sunday, December 16th
Abide With Us
Luke 1:31-33 | Rev. 21:1-5
Oh come to us, abide with us our Lord Emmanuel. This melody closes the familiar carol, “Oh Little Town of Bethlehem.” In a beautiful way, these words are both a declaration of what happens at Christmas and a prayer for the future presence of Emmanuel in our midst. With a spirit of thanksgiving, we celebrate the arrival of the Son of the Most High; and with a spirit of anticipation, we long for His return. In both cases, joy is rooted in the presence of God among us (Psalm 16:11).
Adam and Eve experienced the purity of God’s presence in Eden before sin entered the world. The Israelites experienced the healing holiness of God’s presence in the wilderness. At Christmas, God’s presence is clothed in human flesh. Emmanuel comes to abide with us. When God unveils the new Jerusalem, He promises to dwell again among His people. Oh the joy we will experience when Christ returns, and God walks again with His people!
Heavenly Father, in Your presence is fullness of joy! From eternity past, You have been with us. In this present time, You live in us by your Holy Spirit. In the future, you will return to reign among us forever. Thank you Lord, for being present with your people throughout the ages.
Tuesday, December 18th
Reason to Rejoice
Luke 2:8-20 | I Peter 1:3-9
As the night deepened, calm came over the city. For a few hours, the noise of the foreigners flooding Bethlehem was hushed. The shepherds, embracing the quiet, anticipated a peaceful night. No sooner had their heavy eyelids given in to sleep than a piercing light flooded the field. Radiant white light replaced the soft yellow glow of their fire. An angel appeared before them with astonishing news.
Wiping the sleep from their eyes, the frightened shepherds listened as the angel proclaimed the birth of their promised Messiah. Their fear was replaced with joy as they ran to meet their Savior. The Promised One had come! With Bethlehem brimming with people, many would hear their joyous news. To strangers in the market, to their neighbors in the streets, they proclaimed the arrival of the Savior just as the angel had told them. For all they had seen and heard, they had a reason to rejoice!
Heavenly Father, may your abundant joy flood our lives this Christmas! Even if we have heard the news of your birth for many years, please renew our joy and wonder so that, like the shepherds, we will speak of your glorious arrival to all who enter our homes this season. We have a reason to rejoice; let us not keep this good news to ourselves.
Thursday, December 20th
Alive With Joy
Luke 1:39-56 | Luke 2:16-20
In Mary, we see the deep well of joy that comes not from a possession or a privilege but from the Person of Christ growing within her. In the company of her cousin Elizabeth, the woman who shares her joy of the impossible, Mary sings to the Lord. The young girl’s speechless awe explodes into joyful song as the reality sinks in – God’s Son lives within her!
We read of Mary’s deep joy once again following Christ’s birth. This time though, the young mother is filled with unspeakable joy and silent wonder as she holds her baby boy, her Savior. “The fullness of the Godhead rest[s] in her inexperienced arms, sleeping to the rhythm of her heart.”* In those moments, Mary is speechless in adoration yet fully alive with joy.
Heavenly Father, the combination of Mary’s expressive praise and uncontainable joy resonates with us as we consider our own experiences in your presence. At times, our joy is lifted up directly to Heaven in silent worship. Other times, our joy in You comes out as we dance and sing before You. Whether in silence or song, we, like Mary, are alive with joy!
*Beth Moore, Jesus: 90 Days with the One and Only. (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing, 2007), 39.
Week 4 – Peace
Sunday, December 23rd
Christmas Peace Part I
Luke 2:13-15 | John 14:25-27
And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong // And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”
The year is 1863. The Civil War rages as Christmas morning dawns. American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow struggles to focus on the minister’s sermon. His thoughts are miles away with his son, who has been wounded on the battlefield. The collision of Christmas joy this day and the stinging reality of war’s horrors so close to home leave Longfellow lost for words. Christmas is God’s proclamation of peace. The prophets foretold it, the angels proclaimed it; the very Prince of Peace came to make his home among men. And yet, death and disunity stain the joyful spirit and mock the hope of peace. As long as the terrors of war grip us, how can peace possibly reign … in our world, in our hearts?
Heavenly Father, we are grieved by the darkness that permeates our world because of sin. The harsh realities we face in our homes and in our world often keep us from resting in your peace. Please remind us daily of the peace You brought into the world at Christmas and the peace that remains with us by your Holy Spirit. Your peace is powerful and is present even in the darkest times; we do not need to be afraid.
Monday, December 24th
Christmas Peace Part II
The tension of war and peace that Longfellow lived through in 1863 exists today. The ominous question lingers still: How can peace possibly reign in a world riddled with abuse, hate, violence, and brokenness? As Longfellow struggles to complete his Christmas poem, he hears the ringing of the church bells nearby. Rather than a bothersome noise, the resonating sound brings comfort. In the tolling of the bells, Longfellow hears hope anew.
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail // The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.
The Prince of Peace born in Bethlehem is the same Prince of Peace who defeated death! Because Jesus is alive, His peace is active. By the Holy Spirit, Christ fills us with His peace, that we may not walk in fear but in confident anticipation of His return when evil will be wiped out forever.
Heavenly Father, we celebrate the arrival of the Prince of Peace at Christmas. You have empowered us to be ambassadors of your peace on the earth. May our words and actions towards others be characterized by your peace. We look forward to the day when all terror and violence will cease, and your peace will fill the earth.