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Advent Calendar:
Celebrating Meeting Jesus

* Day 1 * Day 2 * Day 3 * Day 4 * Day 5 * Day 6 * Day 7 * Day 8 * Day 9 * Days 10-15 * Days 16-25


December 1: Mary, the mother of Jesus

In his book THE JESUS I NEVER KNEW, Philip Yancey wrote: "Often a work of God comes with two edges, great joy and great pain..."

That was true for Mary, the teenage Jewish girl who heard from an angel that she had found favor with God. This favor did not mean she would have an easy life. The angel also said that Mary would be having a child while remaining a virgin until after the baby's birth. The angel told her that her baby would be a son, named Jesus, and that although lowly born he would reign over a never-ending kingdom.

At this time in her young life, Mary was pledged to marry a man named Joseph. This kind of arranged marriage was stronger than choice, more than being engaged, and a commitment to one man as long as either would live. To become pregnant by someone other than Joseph, and before their marriage, was legitimate grounds for Joseph to publicly charge Mary for being unfaithful, and to divorce her.

If all this went through Mary's mind while the angel spoke his message, her response did not include a request for protection from negative public opinion. She asked how she could have a baby since she was still a virgin. The angel gave a non-scientific answer. The power of the Holy Spirit would overshadow her.

In confirmation, the angel also said that Mary's older relative, Elizabeth, who had been married but childless for years, was now pregnant. "For nothing is impossible with God," the angel said.

As you might imagine, people who didn't get the message firsthand tended not to believe Mary, so she learned to keep much to herself and ponder memories and events in her heart.

Mary's son was born to profoundly change the lives of those who met him.

(For more, read Matthew chapter 1 and/or Luke chapter 1.
You might also be interested in more on angels and dealing with controversy)
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December 2: Joseph, the carpenter father

Don't you think it's fair to say that Joseph's life didn't turn out the way he thought it would?

Scripture says that Joseph was a righteous man. He was engaged to be married to Mary according to Jewish customs. But something strange was going on.

Mary had left Nazareth for the hill country of Judea to visit with her older relative, Elizabeth, and her priest husband Zechariah. Elizabeth and Zechariah were both descendants of Aaron, Moses's brother. They were upright in the Lord's sight, but they had never been able to have children. And now Zechariah couldn't speak, and Elizabeth was pregnant.

Three months later, when Mary returned to Nazareth, Joseph saw that she was clearly pregnant. Thinking that Mary had been with someone else, Joseph was upset and faced hard choices. He had the right to publicly divorce her. But that would expose Mary to public disgrace. Joseph thought he would break up with her quietly.

Before Joseph had done anything about Mary, in a dream the angel of the Lord told Joseph that Mary had NOT been unfaithful to him, no matter how it looked. The angel said Mary had become pregnant in a totally unique way, through the Holy Spirit. The angel also told Joseph that the son Mary bore would save his people from their sins. Joseph woke up then, and believed the message of the dream. So despite appearances, Joseph took Mary home as his pledged wife-to-be. But they were not intimate until after Jesus was born. By then, Caesar Augustus had commanded a census of the complete Roman Empire, and Joseph and Mary had left Nazareth to go register in Bethlehem of Judea, the home town of Joseph's ancestor, King David.

By the time the local king Herod "the Great" ordered the infants killed, Joseph once again had followed instructions he received in a dream. He saved his son's life by leaving Israel immediately that night, moving his family to Egypt.

Later, back to Israel and Nazareth in Galilee, Joseph continued raising Jesus according to the Jewish Scriptures. Both Joseph and Mary were anxious when they couldn't find twelve year old Jesus who had stayed behind in Jerusalem after the Feast of the Passover. They were astonished to find him asking questions of the teachers of the temple, and didn't understand why he thought they should know he'd be in the temple, his Father's house. Joseph taught Jesus the skills of being a carpenter.

(For more info, see Matthew 1 and Luke 1-2, plus some history on Herod "the Great", with more info on him at December 6.)
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December 3: Angels and shepherds

Shepherds were living out in the fields near Bethlehem, doing the nightly usual
      - some dozing off,
      - others guarding their sleeping sheep.

Suddenly, an incredible light with incredible beings appeared in the sky. Being Jewish, these shepherds had heard stories that Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and even Ezekiel had seen angels with special messages from the Lord God. So after a time of shock, soon these shepherds realized that the beings they saw were angels from God.

Then they heard them speak.

"Don't panic! This news is SO good. Today in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you. He is Messiah, Christ, the Lord.

Here's how you will recognize him when you find and see him. He's a baby, wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in a manger!"

Then the light disappeared back into heaven, and the shepherds left the sheep and searched all the mangers around town.

Only one of them had a baby in it...

The whole experience was amazing. All the shepherds knew what they had seen and heard. They told others about the man, woman, and baby they had found and seen. No matter how incredible it might seem to others, they kept telling all they had seen and heard. Who would have thought these men, field-working shepherds no less, would be some of the first to thank and praise God for including them in the Lord's plan.

(for more, read Luke 2)
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December 4: Simeon and Anna

Almost 6 weeks after Jesus was born, his parents took him to the temple in Jerusalem, where according to the Law (Lev. 12), their first born son would be circumcised in consecration to the Lord, and they would offer a pair of doves or two young pigeons as their sacrifice.

While they stood in the Temple courts for this ceremony, Simeon, a devout Jew, saw them and recognized the baby as "God's salvation." Physically, Simeon lived in Jerusalem and the Roman Empire. Spiritually, Simeon believed and trusted the Lord's promise to send a consolation of Israel. And some time earlier, the Holy Spirit had revealed to Simeon that he would not die before seeing the Lord's Messiah. Simeon probably didn't know why the Holy Spirit moved him to go to the temple courts that day. But he went, and when Joseph and Mary brought Jesus to be circumcised, Simeon took the baby into his arms and praised the Lord.

"For my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of all people,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel."
This only sounds as though it was easy to recognize the baby Jesus as anyone special. Luke wrote that the parents marveled at Simeon's recognition. After Simeon blessed the parents, he told Mary
"This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel,
and to be a sign that will be spoken against,
so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.
And a sword will pierce your own soul, too."
Hearing Simeon, Anna, a very old widow of the tribe of Asher, came up to them. Her husband had only lived a short time after they were married, and apparently she had had no family to take care of her. Otherwise homeless, Anna's residence became the temple of the Lord. She never left the temple, and her life's work became worshiping the Lord in His temple night and day, with fasting and praying. She joined Simeon in thanking the Lord for the infant, Jesus. Anna knew a network of other people who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem, so she spread the word to them about the child she had seen.

How did you know, Simeon? Where is your proof, Anna? For anyone to acknowledge that God approved Mary and Joseph or their situation seems to have been the exception, not the rule. They were poor, overlookable, and nothing special to most observers.

But God's ways are not man's ways.

(for more information, read Luke 2: 21-39 and more on the Second Temple Period, 536 BC to 70 AD and Archaeology and the Temple)

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December 5: Visiting dignitaries from the East

Sometime within two years of Jesus' birth, and while the bright star was still shining, a group of men, scientists from the East, came to Jerusalem looking for Jesus. They had reasoned that the unusually bright star over Israel indicated the birth of someone very important, and somehow (not by Jewish scripture, so by revelation?) they knew this baby was born king of the Jews. (Matthew 2:2) They were seekers, astronomers, magi, and they wanted to worship that little boy. Following the star had led them to Israel, but their scientific method led them only so far. They hadn't been able to find the baby. So they started asking around Jerusalem, the capital city.

When King Herod heard the visiting dignitaries were looking for the King of the Jews, and they didn't mean him, he was really upset. He had spent most of his life insuring that HIS power kept increasing, even if he had to have other strong people investigated, then murdered.

In questioning all the Jewish chief priests and scribes in Jerusalem, Herod found out that the King they were referring to was promised by Jewish prophets in the scriptures of the Old Testament.

He was to be born in Bethlehem of Judah. (The Bethlehem Prediction in Micah 5) [ more on Micah]
He would live during a certain time of Israel's history. (Messiah Revealed)
His birth and childhood were planned. (Messiah Revealed)
He would have job description titles, including King. (Messiah Revealed)
He would not be protected from suffering. (Messiah Revealed)

So Herod had a private audience with the strangers, gave them directions for finding the child, and asked them exactly when the star had first appeared. Then he told them to report in to him on their way back home. Herod said he would go worship the child after hearing from them.

When the wise men magi found Joseph's house near Jerusalem in Bethlehem and saw the baby, they bowed to worship him. Then they opened their treasures and gave him gifts of gold, incense, and myrrh. Some have suggested that these gifts would help pay for their flight to Egypt.

The Lord warned the magi in a dream not to go back to Herod, and they knew it was better to obey the Lord God than a human king. So, according to our pastor, they "dissed" Herod.

More prediction-requirements indentifying Messiah:
* The infancy events of Matthew 2 * Messiah Revealed
More on the wise men:
* Matthew 2 * Wise Men of Persia (Iran) * The Wise Men FAQ * Donna's Animated Story of the Magi
* Historical Christmas Magi * Biblical Magi * More on Baghdad * Significance of Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh
* Magi, the founders of first Christmas

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December 6: King Herod "the Great", King of the Jews

King Herod was concerned to hear that the King of the Jews had been born in Bethlehem. After all, HEROD was King of the Jews.

But just to be sure, after realizing that the Wise Men weren't returning with details, Herod had all Jewish male infants in Bethlehem - up to 2 years of age - killed. That's how he dealt with competition. He thought he had defied and defeated the scriptures. He thought his power to kill had just overcome any scriptural everlasting kingdom. He thought he had just eliminated any chance of ever meeting Jesus.

More on Herod:
"Today we want to talk to man the world calls, "Herod the Great". He steps out of the pages of the bible and of history so that we can better understand the part played at the birth of Jesus. Welcome, King Herod." - An Interview with Herod

"There had spread all over the East and old and established belief that it was fated for men coming from Judea at that time to rule the world." History of Herod

"Herod became known to Sextus Caesar, a relation of the great Caesar, who was now president of Syria..." History of King Herod

"Herod was an Idumaenean, from the Land of Edom, a desert region of nomads to the south of Judaea. His father was Antipater, who became a trusted procurator of Judaea, and his mother was Kupros, a woman of Arab descent..." How he became king

"Herod Archelaus was born in 23 BCE as the son of king Herod and his wife Malthace; he was full brother of Herod Antipas and a half brother of Philip..." The House of Herod (with map)

"... Herod is indeed, an unwelcomed Christmas guest; maybe that is why so many Biblical scholars question the authenticity of today’s story. They cannot accept that God would include such cruelty alongside the birth of the Prince of Peace. But is it such a contrast to the reality of our world..." Let's keep Herod in Christmas

"What loathsome disease did King Herod die of?" Herod's death


(for more information, read Matthew 2)

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December 7: From the past: Abraham, Moses, King David

To Abraham, the Lord God promised that he would be the father of a great nation - even when it looked like Abraham and Sarah would NEVER be able to have their own children. No matter how impossible it seemed, Abraham believed the Lord. And he obeyed Him. As a young man, Abram had completed the move from Ur to the promised land, after his father stopped short in Haran. Abram lived in tents on land that the Lord had promised would someday belong to him and his descendants. The Lord gave Abram a new name - Abraham. Abraham knew he didn't belong where he was born. In fact, Abraham admitted it - he was an alien and a stranger on earth no matter where he lived. When Abraham was old, he and Sarah finally had a son, Isaac. Later, when Abraham died, he was still living by faith about the descendants and land promised to him, but he had begun to see how other nations would be blessed through him. Abraham believed the Lord. Abraham believed the Lord's promises even before seeing them fulfilled.
(Gen 12:3) and (Hebrews 11:8-19)

To Moses, the Lord God said that he would raise up a Prophet from the midst of the brethren who would be like the Lord God. The Lord promised to put his own words into the Prophet's mouth, who would speak all the Lord would command him to say. Moses believed him.
(Deut 18:18)

To King David, the Lord God promised that his descendant would have an everlasting kingdom. David believed him.
2 Samuel 7:16 and Ezek 34:23, etc.

Some things these men had in common: Belief | Faith | Fulfillment | Prophet

Who has believed this message? Isaiah 53
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December 8: John, the baptiser

Zacharias had been older than normal for a first-time father when angel Gabriel told him that he and his wife Elizabeth would have a long awaited baby. (see Luke 1) The priest was incredulous. OK, he didn't recognize Gabriel and he wasn't sure Elizabeth could have a son after so many childless years. Because he didn't believe and wanted some proof, the angel emphasized the good news and told Zacharias he wouldn't speak at all until after he had his proof in the baby. Having been scorned while barren, Elizabeth was overjoyed to be pregnant and then to have a son. Luke 1:57ff says that after Zacharias acknowledged in writing that the baby's name was John as the angel had instructed, Zacharias got his voice back. With that experience, Zacharias had a new relationship with God and much to share with his son as John grew up.

Tiberias had been Caesar of the Roman Empire 15 years when the word of God came to the priest Zacarias' son John.

God gave John a very special mission.

* He let the people of Israel know that God's long promised Savior was coming very soon
* He warned them to get ready, and how to prepare.
* God told John what to look for in the promised Messiah

John was the first person to publicly point out Jesus as the one God had promised.

More on Tiberius Caesar, 14-37 AD

More on the Word of God | Messiah | People of Israel | Savior | Voice
, Bible Dictionary

(for more information, read Luke 3)

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December 9: John the Baptist told Andrew

John the Baptist was speaking and baptizing around Bethany when Jesus came to him to be baptized. That's when God revealed to John that Jesus, his cousin, was the one promised throughout scripture to be the Messiah.

Andrew, from Bethsaida, was one of John's students and when he heard John identify Jesus as the Lamb of God Andrew and another disciple of John's spent a day with Jesus. Hearing him talk, they realized that Jesus was the one the Jews had been waiting for, for centuries. Andrew chose to follow Jesus to see and learn more. Then Andrew went off to find his brother, Simon Peter, to tell him about Jesus. Simon also wanted to meet Jesus, so Andrew took him. Both brothers became disciples, then apostles, of Jesus. Disciples were kind of what's called an entourage or staff today. Andrew became a link to Jesus.

Andrew is known for introducing others to Jesus. One time, a crowd of people had listened to Jesus for a long time and Jesus knew they were hungry. He asked the disciples about getting food, and Andrew was the one who knew which boy in the crowd had food. Andrew brought the boy's five small barley loaves and two small fish to Jesus, who fed 5000 people with them.

John 12:20ff tells that Philip told Andrew about some Greeks who wanted to meet Jesus. Andrew told Jesus, who perhaps saw the believing Gentile response to him as a sign, and was troubled as he talked about his coming death.

Andrew was one of the disciples who asked Jesus privately how to recognize when the end of the age is coming. (Mark 13)

After Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection at Passover, Easter and before Pentecost, Andrew was one of the 11 apostles who met in an upper room with the women, Jesus' mother Mary, and Jesus's brothers to constantly pray.

Do you introduce others to Jesus? Do you want to be introduced to Jesus? Just ask.

(for more information, read John 1:28 ff, John 6:1-15, and more)

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