Jesse Tree Advent Devotions

Let these devotions, structured around the Jesse Tree theme, guide you through Advent to Christmas.

Because the length of Advent varies from year to year depending on where Christmas falls, you may not need to use all of the devotions. If the first day of Advent is after November 27, simply skip a few devotions as you go along. We suggest beginning with the Isaiah 11:1-2 devotion regardless of the date because the passage gives context for the Jesse Tree. Similarly, we encourage you to keep Luke 2:6-21 on Christmas Day because that devotion celebrates the birth of Jesus.

These devotions were written by members of First Reformed Church in Lynden, Washington, for the December 1998 issue of the Church Herald, with the exception of November 28 and December 3, 7, 12, 13, and 17, and 18. 

Related resources:

November 27
Isaiah 11:1-2

In these verses Isaiah prophesies the lineage of Jesse with the eventual coming of Christ. What plan does God have for each of us?

No matter who we are, we are put on this earth to glorify God and to use our God-given gifts to fulfill God's plan. Are we trusting God and continually glorifying him when we unexpectedly run into a closed door or extreme difficulties? We all have our ideas as to what we think is the best plan for us, but life isn't always what we think is best. I didn't plan or ask to have a physically and mentally challenged daughter with Rett syndrome. How was Tanna going to be instrumental in God's master plan? Tanna now is 16 years old and I can see the plan unfolding. She has taught me to trust in our loving God and rely on him for strength. He has met every need of Tanna's and mine. She has been instrumental in drawing out and using the gifts from many people who are willing to share them with her.

What are your gifts? Are you using them to fulfill God's plan? No matter how big or small you are you have been blessed with gifts. Is God asking you to reach out and share your gifts this Advent season? Listen and trust, and God's master plan for your destiny and lineage will be fulfilled.

Karla Vander Ploeg

November 28
Habakkuk 2:1-4

A lot has changed since the time of Habakkuk, but his cry out to God in this passage still rings true for us today. When we see proud and corrupt people put in positions of power, we feel frustrated. We don't understand why they are rewarded while righteous, humble people suffer.

So we follow Habakkuk’s lead and march up to the rampart. If we wait at the watchpost, maybe God will notice us, we think. Maybe God will take heed and hear us as we cry out: “Things here are a mess, God! People—good people—are suffering. Yet people­ who ignore you and act selfishly have power. And you expect us to live by faith? We’ll just wait here until you give us a satisfying answer. Or better yet, until you do something about it.”

So we stand boldly with Habakkuk, waiting.

God answers us with a vision of the end, when God will come in glory with justice, rattling the earth, halting the moon, and rescuing Christ-followers. God tells Habakkuk to write that vision on a billboard so people, consumed with their busy lives, will see it as they speed past.

It’s our job to stand up at the watchpost and hold this sign, proclaim it, and call others to wait with the same boldness that we and Habakkuk have.

Grace Claus

November 29
Genesis 1:26-31

A number of years ago, as a flight attendant onboard a late-night trip in northern Canada, the captain chimed for me to come to the cockpit.When I opened the door, he pointed at the window in front of him. There in the sky was the most beautiful display of northern lights I had ever seen. I sat down on the rear jump seat and looked out as the pilots discussed this awesome sight. The captain turned to me and said, "You know, it's nights like this I wonder how people can say there is no God." He then expounded for several minutes on how and why he believed in God and creation. I still remember the thrill I felt sitting in that cockpit in the middle of the night listening to him tell about his faith and his belief in the Lord.

Many times in our travels, whether it be flying or driving through the mountains or by the seashore, I sing silently (or boisterously if I'm alone), Oh Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder consider all the worlds thy hand has made, I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder, thy power throughout the universe displayed. Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to thee, how great thou art, how great thou art!

I am so thankful for the story of creation in Genesis 1 and trust that God will help us to see the beauty of his creation today. Whether it's in a sunrise, a sunset, or in the pouring rain, let's remember to thank our God for his magnificent handiwork.

Violet Laidman

November 30
Genesis 3:1-19

Adam and Eve both failed God and were held accountable. Sin is an obstacle that must be overcome or we, like Adam and Eve, will suffer God's accountability. Jesus has provided a means of accounting for our sins. True belief in him, his death on the cross and resurrection, and asking for forgiveness is all that is needed to compensate for our sins.

Satan is the villain. Who is the judge and jury? God is the one we must satisfy. He has made this easy for everyone. Focus on God and his simple rules that were exemplified by Jesus during his life on earth. This is the direction that we must travel to reach the kingdom of heaven.

Adam and Eve didn't get a second chance on earth to regain paradise. God has given us the opportunity to choose paradise through belief in his Son. This Advent season, check the choices you have made.

Ron Green

December 1
Genesis 6:11-14, 7:17–8:3, 9:8-13

At the time when Noah was nearly 600 years old, God told him to build an ark. It was to be built large enough to hold Noah, his family, and a male and female of every creature. God promised that those in the ark would be kept safe.

After the rain stopped and the land was dry, Noah's family and every creature left the ark. Once again God made a promise. He said he would never again send a flood to destroy the world. As a sign of this promise, he put a rainbow in the clouds.

Do we have the faith of Noah to do what God asks of us, and believe his promises? Or are we drowning in fear, guilt, and discouragement? He promises he has "plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope" (Jeremiah 29:11).

I experienced God's promises during a near head-on collision. My car was in the center lane waiting to make a left turn when I realized a car going 90-100 miles an hour was headed straight toward me. I could not turn yet, and I could not re-enter the lane I came from. Miraculously, my car moved into the lane next to me as the other car sped past my door. My foot was still on the brake and I felt the wheel turn through my hands. God increased my faith with his promise that "he will command his guard you in all your ways" (Psalm 91:11).

This Advent season, we look forward to celebrating a special promise God made to us, the birth of his only Son, our Savior from sin, our peace, our hope. Trust God! Experience his promises!

Claudia Vogel

December 2
Genesis 12:1-7

My son-in-law recently accepted a position 2,200 miles across the United States. My daughter, her husband, and their three children prepared to move to their new home. It took a number of days to sort, discard, organize, and plan this move, but when moving day arrived, so did a huge moving van and five husky men to box, wrap, and load their entire household. Moving for my children meant leaving behind a loved church, community, and grandma, an emotional tug-of-war, to be sure, but one made as easy as possible by a large support system and modern conveniences. Can we begin to fathom Abraham's move?

The Lord said go so Abram departed. What a monumental journey to an unknown land (without the aid of a moving van). Abram was a wealthy man and likely traveled with a large caravan of camels, sheep, goats, and servants, as well as all of their personal items. He and Sarai traveled through a country devastated by famine. They had to care for the needs of their livestock as well as themselves. Not having access to a modern motel, they would have been pleased to find a desert oasis. Blisters, sunburn, hunger, thirst, and exhaustion would have been their lot. Do you suppose anyone grumbled? Under these adverse conditions would we have been as apt to stop at Bethel, as Abraham did, to build an altar to God? What an enduring faith! What a man of God!

Today, ask God to help you be faithful under pressure.

Helen Taylor

December 3
Genesis 15: 1-6

Star light, star bright,
The first star I see tonight;
I wish I may, I wish I might,
Have the wish I wish tonight.

Many children learn this little nursery rhyme when they are very young. They look up into the sky, find the first star they see, and make a wish, hoping it will come true. I imagine that some wishes come true and others do not. Can you imagine this scene with Abraham? In a vision, God leads Abraham outside and says, "Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them." Then he tells Abraham, "So shall your descendants be." It was then that Abraham knew he did not have to wish on a star to have his dreams come true. All he needed to do was look toward heaven and seek the word, will, and face of God and believe and trust that God knew what was best.

It is the same for us today. Starry-eyed, we may focus on wishes and dreams, but when we look to the heavens and stand in awe of the stars in the sky, we are reminded that God put each star in its place. God uses stars in many ways. God used a star to lead the way to the baby Jesus; Paul, in his letter to the Philippians, reminds us that as God's children we are to shine like stars in the world.

So look to the heavens, see the stars, and give thanks that God in his artistic design put something in the sky to remind us of radiance, beauty, direction, and all of our brothers and sisters who are our descendants.

My wish is that we may come to know God more deeply as we reflect on the night sky full of stars.

Kirsty DePree

December 4
Genesis 21:1-7

Waiting. It seems that I spend a great deal of time waiting. Waiting for appointments, waiting at airports, waiting for a vacation. In many ways, my life has been measured by the wait. Waiting to leave home, waiting to graduate, waiting for tomorrow or next week or next year to come.

My husband and I experienced the wait of Abraham and Sarah. Eight years of marriage and no children. Much time spent waiting at the doctor's office, waiting each month, and waiting in prayer. It was difficult to watch friends begin their families and to answer the questions posed by family and friends, especially because there seemed to be no clear reasons why we had not conceived. Then came the jubilation of the unexpected; we were going to have a child! A new period of waiting began. Preparing for the future took on an entirely different focus, and after more months of waiting, our son was born.

Nothing has yet to compare to that experience of waiting for our child. It was a time of pain, of growth, and finally one of laughter. Now we wait for news of the Messiah. We wait with expectation of the good news, the miraculous birth of a Son named Jesus. We laugh knowing the joy of the filled manger.

Dawn Kroontje

December 5
Genesis 22:1-14

Isaac was puzzled when Abraham said that God would provide an offering for worship. A ram caught tightly in the thicket became God's intended sacrifice.

Abraham followed God's directions, intending to use his son as the sacrifice for worship. He faithfully followed as God directed him. God rewarded his faith by showing him a new way.

Personally, God has led us in pastoral ministry through various circumstances. Some have been desert experiences of difficulty and trial. Others have been welcome springs of oases for growth and fulfillment of service to God's people.

In each experience we have discerned the thread of God's faithful, providential care. At times we, like Abraham, started out on ventures and journeys, not knowing the direction they would take or the provision God would make for us. When God sees our willingness to follow his directions, he provides "rams in the thicket" so we can serve him.

This is a picture of Jesus when he became the substitute for us. Sent into the world he gave his life as a sacrificial offering for our sins. Caught in the thicket of humanity he was there to die for the sins of the world. Jesus became the necessary sacrifice so we are as free to live as Isaac was when the ram was offered in his place. The Lamb of God was the "ram in the thicket," there for us in our deepest needs.

Connie and Eric Schulze

December 6
Genesis 28:10-22

In today's passage we see Jacob taking a rest on his journey to Haran. During his rest, God confirmed to Jacob the Abrahamic covenant and added a promise to Jacob that he would be with Jacob wherever he would go. What a great promise! Not only did that promise apply to Jacob then, but it also applies to all of us now. This is telling us that God will be with us in every situation we are in and in every place that we go.

As Christians we already know and believe that God is with us in every moment of our lives. However, knowing and remembering are two different things; many of us tend to forget that God is with us during every moment of our lives. This is evident as we look at our lives over even just a short period of time. This is evident in our passage as well; Jacob forgot that God was with him. Once he realized God was there, Jacob announced the place as the house of God and set up a pillar and consecrated it. This is showing us that our homes, and the places we are, should be seen and remembered as the house of God, because we are the dwelling place of God.

Ryan Hubby

December 7
Genesis 37:1-36

The story of Joseph and his brothers is not the Bible’s only story of betrayal and denial.

Judah isn’t the last person who values money over a close relationship—think of Judas, who betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. And Reuben isn’t alone in his cowardice. Think of Peter on the night that Jesus was arrested: he too was too ashamed to stand up in defense of the innocent. Nor is Joseph the only person to end up alone in the pit of despair. Jesus himself knows what it’s like to be betrayed, ignored, and left for dead. He knows all about being at the bottom of a dark pit when you don’t deserve it.

The incredible thing is that whichever brother we’re most like—the traitor, the coward, or the one at the bottom of the pit—Jesus Christ loves us. If we’re the Judahs or the Reubens, we are forgiven.  And if we’re the Josephs, the ones deep down in the dark pit, Christ himself is there with us, holding us close and loving us.

Grace Claus

December 8
Deuteronomy 5:1-22

Several years ago while attending the thirty-year reunion of my high school graduating class, a close friend (now a college professor) whom I had not seen in over twenty years confided that he was an alcoholic, divorced from his wife, and had little or no contact with his children. He then asked, "Why is it that everything in your life has gone so well?"

At the time, I did not have an appropriate answer. Since then I often have reflected upon that question and have analyzed my life and that of my friend, who in the 1950s had invited me to attend meetings of the youth group at his church. My answer to that question now is that my faith in the Lord continued to grow and I have maintained the personal commitment made to the Lord upon joining the church. I have attempted to maintain a lifestyle based upon the Ten Commandments and to serve as a role model for my children, demonstrating a strong commitment to Christian values. During Advent I reaffirm my commitment to the Lord's teachings and ask for the strength of character to turn away from the instant gratification espoused by today's secular society.

Bob Lorence

December 9
Joshua 2:1-21

In the story about Rahab a rope is significant as the means of salvation or deliverance. A rope is used to allow the Israelite spies to escape. A scarlet rope or cord hanging from Rahab's upper window also signifies salvation for Rahab and her family when Jericho is destroyed.

Some years ago in Yellowstone Park an elderly couple found our family alongside the road with car trouble. The elderly husband towed our car to their campsite. There we were given food and a place to sleep for the night. In the morning he towed us several miles down steep curving hills to a town where our car was repaired and we were again on our way. The tow rope saved us.

That rope we first see when Rahab responds in faith to the God of Israel can also be seen as the line by which God continued to bring forth his plan of salvation through Jesus Christ. In Matthew 1:5 Rahab is referred to as the mother of Boaz. That would place her in the line that included King David and finally our Savior, our Messiah.

The rope is a fitting symbol of God's saving works, to save lives, to deliver the needy, yes, to bring salvation to a lost world.

Bernie Brower

December 10
Ruth 1:15–2:3

As guests at a wedding earlier this year we were especially moved by the theme of the message: "You are entering holy ground." We were even more moved when the young couple removed their shoes to enter the holy ground of matrimony. Doesn't the season of Advent call us, too, to prepare ourselves for something uniquely special, uniquely holy?

The verses from Ruth can assist us in this preparation for celebrating the remarkable holy event of Christ's birth. As Christmas brings a breathing spell, a pause, so does Ruth, a story with a happy ending, an Old Testament book that does not include wars, killings, hundreds of laws, disobedience, or even inexplicable miracles. And is it coincidental (defined by one writer as God working anonymously) that this wonderful story occurs in Bethlehem, hundreds of years before the birth of our Redeemer in that same city?

Here, in Ruth, we have a gentile woman who converted to Judaism and subsequently became part of the lineage of Joseph the father of Jesus, as well as the great-grandmother of David, "a man after God's own heart." Doesn't Ruth also present many of those qualities that we constantly strive toward? Certainly she is resolute, a woman of sincere conviction. She is loyal, humble, industrious, respectful of others, comfortable in her poverty, and accepting of leftovers, the gleanings of grain.

Might we too pause to humble ourselves during this Advent season, to remind ourselves that we are re-entering holy ground, a season in which we celebrate the birth of our Lord in Bethlehem, the same city where Ruth made clear decisions, a thousand years earlier, to live and to serve.

Ron and Marty Snyder

December 11
1 Samuel 16:1-13

While everyone was watching Saul's reign sink, somewhere in Bethlehem God was getting an obscure young man ready to change the course of a nation.

Samuel was so human and very real.He was afraid of going against Saul. He was much like us, fearful of what the future might bring; but God knows and cares. He desires to lead us as we walk with him. He is a God of answers, of certainty, and a God who knows the future.

People view individuals differently from the way God views people. The system viewed David as one to be forgotten. Samuel, with God's direction, viewed David as one with value and worth.

David's anointing with oil is significant because it symbolizes David's anointing of the Holy Spirit. David shows us that his humility made him wonderfully distinctive. God rewards him for his humble heart.

Advent can be a season that focuses on the outward appearance, or we can allow our text to remind us that God notices the simple, God's solutions are often simple, and God's direction is sure.

David was an ordinary person. He was invited to be part of changing the future on an ordinary day. This is exactly how God loves to operate: humble people on ordinary days chosen to do special work!

Loren Van Woudenberg

December 12
2 Samuel 5:1-5

King and shepherd: the two seem like polar opposites. Kings sit on thrones. They wear expensive clothes and talk to important people. They are calculating and political and oversee whole nations. Shepherds, on the other hand, stand on the hillsides. They wear clothes that can get dirty and mostly talk to sheep. They are cautious and patient and oversee a single flock.

David, though, was both. He was a shepherd whom God chose to be king. A quick review of world leaders might suggest that a shepherd makes the best kind of king. A shepherd is humble and cares more about people than about power. David carried his shepherding spirit into his reign as king.

It’s an honor for David to be called “shepherd of my people Israel” and “ruler over Israel” because he’s not the only shepherd-king in Scripture. In John 10, Jesus calls himself the Good Shepherd, the one who knows all of his sheep and lays down his life for them. And he is also king, the one who will be victorious over the powers of sin, death, and evil.

Praise God that our king has the heart of a shepherd!

Grace Claus

December 13
1 Kings 18:17-24, 36-39

Can you imagine such a showdown between God and some other god today?

Say the other god is happiness—well-meaning, certainly, but not a path to salvation. Who would win in a competition between the Triune God and happiness? In theory, God. But in practice, we’re used to seeing the gods of the world win out. Popular Instagram accounts seem to depict lives filled with so much joy. Books written by financial gurus make them seem so much more secure than we are. Even the gods of minimalism make their disciples appear to be far more content with what they’ve been given than those of us who worship Christ are.

It leaves us wondering: Is God really powerful? Can God make me more joyful than happiness can? Does God hold my future more than a good 401(k) does? Is it possible to be satisfied in Jesus even if I haven’t thoughtful chosen every object in my home?

The answer is a hearty yes! It may not always seem like it, but the God we worship is the same God Elijah worshiped, the God who sent the water-logged altar up in flames. Let’s ask God with trust and conviction to show himself to us in such a display of power.

Grace Claus

December 14
Esther 4

"And if I perish, I perish." Esther went forward in faith. Will King Ahasuerus extend the golden scepter that was a symbol of acceptance to her?

She was reminded of God's providence in her situation when Mordecai said, "Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this." Wow! She was living a luxurious life as queen in the palace and suddenly she was put into this precarious position. However, she knew that she had a great and awesome God. She knew the power of prayer. She also knew the fear of facing the king and possibly death. Little did she know that she was paving the way for the coming of the world's savior by delivering the Hebrews from annihilation.

Have you ever wondered why God has placed you in your situation? Have you come up kicking and screaming that you really don't want to be where you are? Have you ever wondered why you were put in a high position of honor and trust?

Take a lesson from Esther. She displayed great faith in God. She knew the Father's heart and could accept it as his will. She believed in the power of prayer and fasting. She risked her life to be blessed.

Glenda Polinder

December 15
Isaiah 9:2-7

Look at a rose bush today. It doesn't seem very promising if you focus on how it looks right now: just a bunch of stems and twigs jutting out of barren ground. But we know the promise is there--just wait until spring. Then green shoots will appear, new growth, leaves, buds, and in the end, abundant beauty as the blooms reveal their faces to watching eyes. That bunch of stems and twigs will bring delight and fragrance and joy to the hearts of all who stop to enjoy the display well into the fall.

Isaiah tells us that "the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness--on them light has shined." Promise. Something that would come but was not evident just at that moment. "For a child has been born for us, a son given to us;...Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." What is your point of need today? God has given his promise. Where are you in the cycle of the rose? Stems and twigs? Tiny new shoots? Vigorous growth? Delicate new buds? Or are you at the point of exploding blooms, vibrant and alive, ready to shout to the world, "Look at what God has done in me!"?

All the stages are a necessary part of life. Look to God's promise and rest in his Son given to you. Let his light shine in your darkness. He loves you!

Lauree Burkett

December 16
Isaiah 11:6-9

It happened thirty-five years ago at a family campout in the redwoods of northern California. My family and I were spending the day at the gently flowing river that passed by the campground. Dad was asleep on the beach next to me; my older brother was playing in the water, while Mom was back at camp.

Suddenly Dad ran down to the water's edge and jumped in. Moments later he came up with my older brother on his shoulders. Dad set my brother down on the blanket and asked him, "What were you thinking as you sat there on the bottom of the river?"

My brother replied, "I knew everything would be OK; I knew you were coming."

What could possibly compel a six-year-old boy to have such peace during a seemingly hopeless situation? At that very moment all my brother had to rely on was the knowledge he had in his daddy. Dad was always there for us; he was and still is a leader, a provider, and somebody whose word can be trusted.

In Isaiah 11:6-9 we read of a time when God promises to bring such peace to this earth we can hardly imagine it. Take a moment to refocus and recapture that childlike faith in our Lord who promises us peace. If you find yourself sitting at the bottom of the deepest, darkest valley, take courage; Daddy's coming! If the pressures of this life--finances, health, or relationships--are stretched to the breaking point and have caused you to lose hope, lift your eyes to heaven, raise your hands in praise, and remember Daddy's coming.

Pat Green

December 17
Jonah 3:1-5

Let’s play a word association game: I say “Jonah.” You say, “_____.”

If you said “whale,” I don’t blame you. That’s the first thing that pops into my head, too. If you said “sackcloth,” bonus points for you! Because the story of Jonah doesn’t end in the belly of the fish. The story of Jonah is actually about calling the city of Nineveh to repentance, and that’s exactly what happens. The story doesn’t end until the people listen to Jonah’s message about God, repent of their wrongdoing, and turn to what’s right.

And their change only happens once Jonah listens to God, repents of his wrongdoing, and turns to what’s right—namely, bringing God’s message to Nineveh. It’s a good reminder that we’re capable of standing in the way of others’ obedience. Once we obey, they can, too.

Ask God to search your heart and point out the places where you need to confess that you haven’t been following God. Grieve your disobedience, and then get up and follow God.

Grace Claus

December 18
Daniel 6

Many of the turning points of history are marked by people whose faith was more important than the circumstances and situations in which they found themselves. Daniel was one of those people.

The center point of his life was his relationship with God. Three times a day--consistently, ritually, and, yes, religiously--Daniel set aside a portion of time for prayer and worship with God. His favorite place for prayer, as Scripture tells us, was the upper chamber of his house that had open windows facing west, toward Jerusalem. This direction toward Jerusalem was not a longing for what used to be, but rather pointed to the hope yet to be realized. A day would come when God's people would return there. Daniel's strength for the day came from his hope for tomorrow, the promise of God. God was leading him into promises yet to come.

There's a cliché that says, "When two immovable objects meet, something has to give." The story of Daniel 6 is a story of the conflict between two immutable, unmovable commitments. A law had been signed that couldn't be changed or revoked. It was now the "law of the Medes and Persians." This law required that worship only be directed toward the king and forbade the worship of other gods. According to the law, those convicted of worshiping other gods were to have an appointment with hungry lions. Those seeking to remove Daniel from his place in the king's court interrupted Daniel as he was worshiping God in his upper room. For Daniel, his relationship with God was immovable, more important than the circumstances or consequences of life and society. So immovable was Daniel's faith that even the lions could do him no harm.

The life of Daniel, a forerunner of Christ, provides us with an example of what a life deeply committed to a relationship with God means. It cannot be moved. The gates of hell cannot prevail against it. This experience is captured in Romans 8, which says, "If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else?...Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?...No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us."

What Jerusalem do you envision?

Larry Schuyler

December 19
Micah 5:1-5

North America is home to countless small towns and villages. Seemingly insignificant, these little towns lie hidden in the mountains, valleys, and plains across our great land. You know the towns I'm talking about, where the big news of the day is discussed in the local coffee shop, where teenagers complain that nothing important ever happens, and where old folks sit on their porches on warm summer evenings.

Our Lord chose a small village, Bethlehem, for the birthplace of our King. Similar to many of our small towns, Bethlehem was tiny and remote, quiet and obscure, yet our Lord chose such a place for our Savior to be born.

Some of us may be feeling unimportant and insignificant this Christmas. Remember, God often uses the smallest and most insignificant in order to further his kingdom. This year during Advent let us make sure to honor the King of all the ages, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, born in the tiny village of Bethlehem. Pause and reflect this Christmas season and let Christ be your rest and peace.

Terry Maier

December 20
Luke 1:5-25

Picture this couple. They have prayed. They have experienced the private and public pain from being childless. And now, here they are "old" and "well along in years" and expecting their first child.

Can't you see Elizabeth's face beaming while her matured figure is changing drastically? Imagine her laughter as she experiences the first flutters of life within. Both Zechariah and Elizabeth had hoped to experience the joy of childbirth and raising a family much earlier in their lives, but the timing of this birth was part of a greater plan.

We all have hopes and dreams. If you're anything like me, you also have a schedule that you'd like God to comply with and you go crazy when he doesn't. But when I find myself waiting and wanting, it becomes painfully clear to me where I have placed my hope. So often my hope is in my dream.

Zechariah and Elizabeth had no idea what God had in store for them. And even then in the midst of their pain, they were found obedient and upright in God's sight. Why? Because they knew where to place their hope. Their hope was in God.

Where have you placed your hope? If it's in Jesus, celebrate it! But if this is a painful season for you, allow Jesus to walk with you, lean on him, and let your hope rest in his peace.

Delayne Vander Haak

December 21
Matthew 3:1-6

John the Baptist went to prepare the way of the Lord. We need to live a life for God and model his way to our children, grandchildren, family, and friends. Like John, we too need to prepare the way of the Lord.

We are to bring up our children to love the Lord and want to worship him. With our grandchildren we need to read books and sing songs about Jesus to them.With our family and friends we need to let them see that we are followers of God and live a life for him. For everyone, we need to pray for them and with them.

Like John the Baptist, who considered himself unworthy to untie Jesus' sandals, we too feel unworthy to do what God calls us to do. We must all become leaders in our own way for God. There will always be greater leaders and some lesser leaders, but we need to pave the way and let everyone know that Jesus is coming again.

I want to leave the world someday having made a difference in someone's life. I hope that others may have seen that I was a follower of Jesus.

Prayer: Thank you, Jesus, for bringing leaders into our lives. Teach me to be a messenger for you and help prepare the way of the Lord.

Jan Bogaard

December 22
Luke 1:26-38

Do miracles occur today? In the past I often doubted whether miracles still happen. In the fifth month of my first pregnancy my husband was diagnosed with leukemia. The doctors at both the University of Washington Hospital and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center confidently agreed that we were very fortunate to have a child on the way and that we would never be able to bear other children. Leukemia and the strong and aggressive chemotherapy treatments would cause sterility in my husband.

Our daughter was born in 1983. My husband continued with chemotherapy. In October of 1984 I began to feel sick and weak. I was convinced I had some disease. With fear I went to the doctor. One day later he told me I was pregnant. My husband's oncologist was shocked. We were told that our child would have a one in ten greater chance of abnormalities than the general population. Our healthy baby boy was born on July 9, 1985.

Do I believe miracles can happen today? The answer is yes! My husband lived to see the birth of his second child and now is rejoicing in heaven with God, celebrating many of God's miracles.

Shawna Noteboom

December 23
Matthew 1:18-25

Scripture says Joseph was a "righteous man," not wanting to expose Mary to public disgrace upon discovering that she was with child before they came together. There is an issue of integrity here and treating others as God would have us treat them, but that is not the extraordinary part of the story. An angel of the Lord came to Joseph in his sleep and instructed him to take Mary as his wife anyway because the child inside her was of the Holy Spirit. In my mind I have tried to put myself in Joseph's spot, and I can't help but think that I might be more concerned about me and my reputation than trusting an angel that I heard in a dream. Yet Joseph was obedient to what he felt God calling him to do.

The lesson I learn from Joseph is obedience to God. God's plan was much bigger than Joseph could ever understand, yet he knew that because it was God's plan he should obey God and put his trust in him.

Our prayers can help us to trust in God and in his plans, not in our own. God's Spirit can help us to be obedient even when the plan doesn't make sense to us.

Ken Bayard

December 24
Luke 2:1-5

Webster's Dictionary defines journey as "any course or passage from one stage or experience to another."

In Luke 2 Joseph and Mary journeyed from Nazareth in Galilee to Bethlehem in Judea, which is approximately seventy-five miles. Today by interstate, we can travel seventy-five miles in a little over an hour.

For Joseph and Mary it would have been a three-day journey over dirt paths.

I'm sure Joseph and Mary had thousands of thoughts rushing through their minds during their three-day trip. This journey was more than just getting from Point A to Point B. As Webster's definition explains, a journey is "a passage from one...experience to another."

We also experience difficult times in our journey through life. We cannot always see or feel God working, and we become angry, hurting people. Like Mary and Joseph, we can experience feelings of great love for one another and toward God if we continue to trust in him and his word, no matter what! We must remain faithful and thankful to him for our lives.

Trust God today and experience his peace, whether you are a young child and this is your first encounter with Jesus or whether your hair is white with age.

Leona Jansma

December 25
Luke 2:6-21

Oh, how we love to celebrate birthdays, and today is no exception. Joy to the world, for today is Jesus' birthday! Today we hang a star on the Jesse tree, signifying that Christ is born. How fitting, for God our Father used a star as one of his birth announcements.

I love stars. There is something about how they twinkle and shine; something majestic about them, all pointing back to the Creator. God brings out the starry host one by one and calls them each by name. Because of His great power and mighty strength not one of them is missing.

Angels, magi, shepherds, and stars all proclaimed the Messiah's birth. As you hang the star on the tree, look at the five points of the star. Can you let each point represent something and as you reflect on each, can you offer up a prayer of thanksgiving and praise? S stands for Savior. Jesus is the name that God gave his Son, for he would save people from their sins. T is for The, quickly followed by A for Almighty. This Savior is also the Almighty, the one who was, who is, and who is to come. The creator of the stars is also the R for Redeemer; he who came once will come again to take all who love him to heaven forever.

This Savior, the light of the world, will also be the lamp of heaven, shining brighter than the sun.

D. Marc de Waard