We are excited to share Day 2 of WL Advent with this devotion and song from Jean Watson.
Day 2 Devotion with Jean Watson:
Day 2 Song, “For Unto Us/Emmanuel,” with Jean Watson:
Associated Readings: Romans 10: 9-18 Resp. Ps. 19: 8-11 Matthew 4: 18-22 (Calling of the Fishermen)
When Isaiah prophesied about the coming Messiah in Isaiah 7:14, he called Him “Emmanuel” which means “God with us.” Isn’t it amazing that even Jesus’ name implies an encounter with God? The Christmas story goes on to show us that encounters with God often come in the places we least expect them.
Well, last year I was working on a new Christmas album in Nashville when I had my own unexpected encounter with the Lord. All the songs for the record were chosen, but we still had one open slot to fill. Though there were many beautiful carols we could have added to the project, my producer looked at me and said confidently, “You’re going to write the last song.”
“No way!” I said. “I don’t like writing – it’s too much work.” With that, I packed my bags and prepared for the long trip home to Michigan.
The next day, as I was driving north on I-65 north through Indiana, I kept thinking about what the producer had said. If I was to write a song, what would I want to say? I kept thinking about how, for so many people, Christmas is a time toremember the birth of Christ as a distant historical event. But Jesus’ very name declares so much more. The miracle of Christmas is the coming of the Son of God to be with us in this very moment! As the highway exits passed, words began to form in my mind…
Come all you weary ones and seek him
In a stable filled with hay you will find rest
You who are broken kneel beside him
There is healing in the holy baby’s breath
“Oh no, I’m writing a song!” I thought. By the time I had reached my destination, the body of the song “Unto Us (Emmanuel)” was complete. Two months later, the song I didn’t want to write was arranged, fully produced, and recorded with full band. Even in the composing of the music, God invited me to meet him right where I was – somewhere between Indianapolis and Kalamazoo!
The Lord goes to such great lengths to meet us right where we are – even in the dirty places of our lives. How significant it was that Jesus was born in a stable among the dirty and the most unworthy. A humble barn became a holy place simply because the Son of God was there.
I believe this Advent season can be more than just a time of preparing to celebrate Jesus birth. If we are willing, God can make it a time to encounter His presence right here, right now – in all our weakness, brokenness, fears, and failure. The Lord knows exactly what our hearts need whether it be healing, forgiveness, freedom, or perhaps fresh vision and direction
Could you a fresh touch of God’s love today? I know I could. Jesus is our Emmanuel! Today, may we be found waiting, watching, listening, and expecting to encounter His love where we need it the most.
What is Advent? By Robb Redman
Christmas is a fantastic season and there is every reason to pull out all the stops to celebrate the Incarnation, God “moving into the neighborhood.” (John 1:14, Message) But by starting our Christmas celebration right after Thanksgiving (or even earlier), we skip over Advent, the four Sundays prior to Christmas Eve. The mood and message of Advent is not opposed to the celebration of Christmas, but the season is clearly much more than just the run-up to Christmas. It is a season to experience God’s goodness and faithfulness more authentically from a different, and frankly, a deeper and more encouraging angle. And who couldn’t use that right now?
You see, the Advent message is the perfect one for pastors and worship leaders trying to serve God and his people during a time of a global pandemic. We’ve been telling our people since March in response to the pandemic that God is in control, but we’ve been saying it so long that we’ve run out ways to say it, and we’re wondering if people have started tuning us out. And some of us are starting to have doubts and questions of our own. With Christmas around the corner, what can encourage us and restore our hope and faith in God again? We need to be immersed in the reminder and reassurance of God’s sovereign plans and purposes if we’re going to lead with confidence. Which is why Advent is important now more than ever.
What is Advent? This year, first Sunday of Advent falls on November 29, so there are 26 days in the season. Advent is more than a pre-Christmas celebration of the birth of Jesus. Throughout the history of the Church, Advent has been about much more. The traditional mood and message of Advent includes three main themes:
- Israel’s yearning for deliverance and its hope and expectation of the appearing (Latin: advent) of the promised Messiah.
- God’s preparation for the coming of the Messiah through the announcements to Mary, Joseph, and Mary’s extended family.
- The Church’s longing for the return of Christ and the fulfillment of redemption at the day of the Lord.
The readings for Advent in the Protestant and Roman Catholic lectionaries reflect these three main themes of the season. During Advent we re-live and re-tell the important prophecies and stories that proclaim the God who keeps his promises. It is this “back story” of Israel’s experience and faith, and a specific Jewish family, that makes the news of Jesus’ birth truly gospel, really good news.
The hope and expectation of God’s covenant people for deliverance is found throughout the Old Testament prophets. They warned the people of imminent disaster resulting from disobedience to God through idolatry and faith in political alliances, but they also proclaimed God’s promise of deliverance and restoration. After the fall of Jerusalem, the prophets continued to hope in God, who would restore Israel and rule in righteousness through his Messiah. More than that, they saw the bigger picture of God’s redemptive purposes, his intended to defeat evil, sin and death itself, and restore all nations to a right relationship with him in the day of the Lord.
In the years leading up to Jesus’ birth, the plight of God’s people went from bad to worse. Israel was occupied, first by the Greeks and then the Romans. Worst of all, God seemed silent; four hundred years had passed since the last prophet, Malachi. The opening chapters of Matthew and Luke report that God was on the move, quietly and in the most inconspicuous ways, making preparations for the arrival of his Son, Jesus, through Mary and her family, and her fiancé, Joseph. The time had come, and God set in motion the events that would culminate in the birth of Jesus, the Incarnation. Paul tells us that “…when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law…” (Galatians 4:4)
Finally, hope of Israel and the first advent of Jesus serve to direct our attention to his second and more glorious coming. Advent reminds us that God’s plans and purposes will one day unfold on a global scale, and “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:10-11)
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Robb Redman is currently Professor of Theology and Ministry and Director of Ministry Programs at South College (TN). He also serves as Consulting Editor for Worship Leader magazine since its inception in 1992. He has previously served as an academic leader at Fuller Theological Seminary, A.W. Tozer Theological Seminary/Simpson University, Multnomah Biblical Seminary/Multnomah University, and South University. Ordained in the Christian & Missionary Alliance, he has pastored congregations in Oregon, California, Texas, and Georgia. He currently lives near Savannah, GA.