Advent Day 23: The Gift of Peacemakers

December 19

Blessed are the peacemakers.
Matthew 5:9a (NIV)

Being a peacemaker is not an easy assignment. It’s a complete absence of pride. It means we have to apologize, smooth things over, and make amends — even if the other person or people involved in a conflict are unapologetic.

Jesus was the perfect example of a peacemaker. He calmed Martha when she was angry at her sister Mary. He defused a volatile scene when a woman accused of adultery was going to be stoned. Countless times Jesus acted as peacemaker when he or his apostles angered the Sadducees and Pharisees.

Being a peacemaker isn’t always about being the first to apologize when we’re part of a conflict. Sometimes a peacemaker isn’t part of a conflict at all; they’re just able to speak peace into a complicated situation.

Like all characteristics of a life lived for Christ, peace comes as a result of Christ’s birth and existence. Experiencing the gift of peace, and sharing that gift with others by being a peacemaker, is a direct reflection of the salvation Jesus came to bring.

For Today: Is there someone you should make peace with? If so, think of ways you can do that and commit to being a peacemaker.

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Advent Day 22: The Gift of Peace

December 18

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
John 14:27 (NIV)

The holiday season can evoke anxiety, and even fear. The world tells us we need to exceed expectations – throw the best dinner parties, have the most elegantly decorated homes, give the best gifts – and it causes stress. Rarely if ever during Christmastime does society encourage us to stop and be still.

Stillness and rest draw us closer to Jesus, and from him we receive the gift of peace. It isn’t peace brought on by fleeting things, rather it’s a peace that comes from knowing we’re preparing our hearts to celebrate Jesus’ birth. It’s a peace in knowing that nothing compares to the Utmost Gift given so many centuries ago. No gathering of people, in a home filled with gifts and wrapped in twinkling lights can compare to the heavenly hosts that stood beneath the brightest of stars to raise their voices and proclaim the Savior’s birth.

We’ve been given the gift of peace; it doesn’t go on sale and can’t be wrapped. It was delivered to us by the Father in the form of his Son.

For Today: Think of someone you know who might need encouragement today. Write them a note, send them an email, or give them a call. Above all, pray today and ask God to bless them with some time to stop and rest.

Advent Day 21: Choose Joy

December 17

Be joyful always.
I Thessalonians 5:16 (NIV)

Have you ever noticed how joyful children are? They get cranky when they’re tired or hungry or grounded, but for the most part, they rebound quickly. It’s because they don’t have the same worries and concerns that adults do. They’re inherently optimistic and aren’t bogged down by adult responsibilities.

Children are wonderful examples of 1 Thessalonians 5:16, and we would do well to emulate their joy.

As Jesus-followers, we have access to a joy that’s not shaken by circumstances. It’s a remnant of what Jesus has done in our lives, and it’s constant. It isn’t changed by the world. But like all aspects of our salvation, we’ve been given the choice to be joyful. The suggestion is that we gain perspective by flipping this scripture around. Instead of following scripture and saying, “Be joyful always,” we could choose to say, “Groan always.” We have the choice. We can groan if we want to over life’s difficulties, but scripture says to be joyful always, and nothing is a better directive than the word of God.

For Today: Christmas is less than a week away. Do you feel like you have too much to do, and not enough time? The good news is that there is still time for you to choose joy this Christmas. What do you need to decide to be joyful about today?

Advent Day 20: The Living Water Gives Joy

December 16

With joy you will draw waters from the wells of salvation.
Isaiah 12:3 (NIV)

The book of Isaiah, written about 700 years before the Messiah’s birth, is replete with prophecy of his arrival. Chapter 12 is only six verses long, but those verses paint a picture of what the life of a Jesus-follower looks like. They’re packed with praise over Jesus’ eventual coming, and encourage the believer to find joy in drawing from the well of salvation.

If salvation is a well, the reward of salvation – eternity, fellowship with God, grace, forgiveness, peace, life – is the water. The blessings that come from salvation are life-giving. One author offered this insight on Isaiah 12, “It is our duty by faith to draw water out of these wells, to take to ourselves the benefit and comfort that are treasured up for us in them.” The treasure of pure joy is the natural outcome of knowing Jesus as our life-sustaining Living Water.

For Today: What is one responsibility you have that is mundane or difficult? How can you change your perspective today to find joy in even the most routine tasks?

Advent Day 19: From Sorrow to Joy

December 15

Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy.
Psalm 126:5 (NIV)

The holidays can be difficult for those who have suffered any form of loss. It’s a time that’s traditionally spent with the ones we love, but what do we do if the ones we love aren’t here? What if childhood hurts, addiction, anger, pride, or death have separated us from our people? How do we reconcile the pain we’re experiencing to celebrating the birth of the Messiah?

Psalm 56:8 says that God has recorded all of our tears on his scroll. Some translations say he has collected our tears in his bottle.  A God who keeps record of every one of our tears is a God who knows every detail of our lives.

God knows better than anyone that we’re hurting. Pain is the inevitable outcome of living in a fallen world. That’s why he sent Jesus to earth. Not to shine a light on our pain, but so the light of Jesus would overcome the pain-filled darkness. All the tears born from all the hurt have been overcome by the birth of Jesus. His life allows us to reap a harvest of joy from the tears sown in pain.

For Today: Is there a sorrow that is keeping you from experiencing the joy of Christmas? Take some time right now to pour out to God all of your pain so that he can help you walk through the next few days, and give you moments of joy in the midst of your sorrow.

Advent Day 18: Salvation’s Joy

December 14

Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everybody’s chains came loose. The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them, he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God – he and his whole family.
Acts 16: 26, 29, 34 (NIV)

After Paul commanding an evil spirit leave the body of a slave girl, her master became angry and presented Paul and Silas to the authorities, claiming they were “throwing the city into an uproar.” The men were stripped, beaten, and ordered to prison.

Scripture doesn’t detail how the jailer treated the men, but customs of the time tell us that he was probably brutal. His sole job was to keep the two in prison, so when an earthquake caused the prison doors to fly open, he was prepared to die.

Paul implored the jailer to spare his own life, and in a change of heart that can only come through conversion, the jailer took Paul and Silas to his home. He and every member of his family believed in Jesus as their Savior, and they were filled with joy.

The Lord can work in any situation, no matter how dire, to reach the lost. He will use the prayers and songs of his children – like he did with Paul and Silas – to touch the hardest of hearts. After witnessing the Lord’s presence in Paul and Silas’ lives, the jailer and his entire family were forever changed. They were filled with the light of Jesus, and filled with joy. That same joy fills our hearts today. It’s the evidence of Jesus in our lives, and it’s as unmistakable now as it was 2,000 years ago in that prison.

For Today: Did you or someone you know become a Jesus-follower in the midst of a dire situation? If so, how was God’s work during that difficult time an encouragement to you?

Advent Day 17: Songs of Joy

December 13

Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.
Psalm 100:2 (NIV)

Worshipping Jesus through music is a reoccurring theme in scripture. We do this every time we attend a church service and raise our voices in joyful song. Coming before the Lord with praise-filled songs is an act of worship. It’s the opportunity to set music to the cry of our hearts, a way for a congregation to sing joyfully the same worshipful prayer, at the same time. In unison our voices can rise to the heavens. Just as powerfully, the Lord hears the whispered music of a single person.

It has nothing to do with ability, and everything to do with worshipping Jesus with gladness and joy. We can easily do this at Christmastime when we sing songs that paint pictures of the Christ Child’s birth. O Holy Night says that when Christ appeared, “the soul felt its worth.” Waxing poetic, the third verse of Hark the Herald Angels Sing declares that Jesus was “born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth.”

Silent Night describes Jesus’ birth this way: “Silent night, holy night; Son of God, love’s pure light; radiant beams from thy holy face; with the dawn of redeeming grace. Jesus, Lord at the birth.”

Sing. Sing of the most joyous of occasions, with joy-filled abandon and reverence.

For Today: What is your favorite Christmas song? Why? If it evokes memories, what are those? Why were those times special for you?