The weeks leading up to Christmas are called Advent. Why? Because Advent means “coming” or “arrival.” Christmas is the season in which we celebrate the arrival of the turning point in God’s plan of redemption— the coming of His Son, Jesus Christ. In today’s culture, the Advent season is marked by the four Sundays preceding Christmas, with each assigned a particular theme: first, hope; second, love; third, joy; and fourth, peace. This month’s devotional study is structured around these four themes. Since in Scripture the four themes are intertwined, they’ll also be interwoven in our study. Together, we can prepare our hearts for the Christmas holy day, as well as better understand and celebrate the connections between Christmas and the gospel.
We begin our study with hope. Biblical hope is closely connected with faith (Heb. 11:1). Faith treats the future as if it were already accomplished because God has promised. With reference to Christmas, there are many promises that God has already kept (Messianic prophecies), and this strengthens our faith that He will keep the rest as well. That’s genuine hope!
In today’s reading, Jesus was doing healing miracles, but not yet claiming to be the Messiah because the timing was not yet right in God’s plan (vv. 15–16). Even so, the Pharisees were already plotting to kill Him (v. 14). Matthew chose this moment in his Gospel to remind readers that Jesus’ ministry fulfilled a prophecy of Isaiah (v. 17; Isa. 42:1–4). This prophecy describes God’s beloved Servant who would “proclaim justice to the nations” (v. 18) through meekness (v. 19), gentleness, and kindness (v. 20)—the kind of behavior seen in Jesus’ healings. His actions reveal His identity. No wonder “the nations will put their hope” in Him (v. 21)!
>> One way some families enjoy marking this holiday season is with an Advent calendar. Though we’re several days in, it’s not too late to get one (or make your own). Many versions are available online or at your local Christian bookstore.
Heavenly Father, as we enter the Advent season we ask that you prepare us to honor you with our celebrations. Make your promises ever-present in our minds and fill our hearts with the hope we have in Jesus.