Advent Tree Family Devotions – December 18

Crown 

Matthew 27:29; John 19:2; Psalms 8:5; 2 Timothy 4:8; James 1:12; Revelation 4:4-11; 14:14

Distinctive head ornaments have been used as rewards for prowess, and as signs of authority and dominion, for millennia.  Laurel wreaths were given in Greece and Rome to victorious athletes and conquering generals.  The word “Laureate” used in such terms as “Nobel Laureate” refers to have received the laurel wreath.  Chieftains in barbarian tribes typically wore a distinctive helmet, which served in battle to identify the ruler and inspire the troops by his presence.  In an English coronation over 1000 years ago, the king was given a helmet, not a traditional crown.   The Jewish kings David and Joash, and many non-Jewish kings in the Old Testament, had decorative crowns of gold and precious stones.  Both beautiful and visible to all around, crowns set the wearer apart, and worldly authority itself is communicated by the word “Crown”. 

Jesus, Creator and Ruler of all the Universe, wore only one crown during His earthly sojourn, a crown of thorns (στέφανον ἐξ ἀκανθῶν – stephanon (crown) ez akanthon (thorn)).  This wreath was either woven out of the Syrian Christ-thorn (zizyphus – spina-christi), or the Christ-thorn (paliurus spina-christi), both of which have long, sharp, stiff thorns.  Rather than reward or glory, this revealed contempt, mockery, and shame. 

In the Bible, crowns are also used to signify victory. Christians will receive a crown of life to signify their victory over death, and a crown of righteousness to signify their victory over sin, both a result of Christ’s work.  The ultimate destiny of followers of Jesus is to rule with Him in unimaginable glory over the new heaven and the new earth, serving Him forever. 

Men throughout history have killed and died for crowns of gold and precious stones, and the temporary riches and power over others that they entail.  Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon, Qin Shi Huang in China, Julius Caesar in Rome, Shaka in Zululand,  Hitler in Germany, Stalin in the USSR, Pol Pot in Cambodia, and many others caused untold suffering with their dreams of glory. Yet they died, and their empires with them.  But those who know and love the Lord bring goodness and mercy to others in this life, and themselves receive perfect, everlasting life in the world to come. 

In our lives, it is so tempting to strive for the crowns of fame, money, power and success.  We fritter our moments in petty conflicts, trivial insults, and imagined wrongs.  Even the heartbreaking real tragedies that we all eventually face pale in comparison to the abundant life which is available to us now, and the magnificent eternity that we have ahead.  Christ is the greatest gift, freely available to each person, if we only believe.  Comfort, love and peace are in His right hand, and power, purpose, and victory in His left.  He is our King, so let us rejoice in Him.

 We Three Kings

We three kings of Orient are:
Bearing gifts we traverse afar –
Field and fountain, moor and mountain –
Following yonder star

Chorus

O Star of wonder, star of night,
Star with royal beauty bright,
Westward leading, still proceeding,
Guide us to thy Perfect Light.

Born a King on Bethlehem’s plain:
Gold I bring to crown Him again,
King forever, ceasing never,
Over us all to rein

Chorus

Frankincense to offer have I,
Incense owns a Deity nigh;
Pray’r and praising, all men raising,
Worship Him, God most high.
Chorus

Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume,
Breathes of life of gathering gloom –
Sorrow’ng, sighing, bleeding, dying,
Sealed in the stone-cold tomb

Chorus

Glorious now behold Him arise:
King and God and Sacrifice;
Alleluia, Alleluia!
Earth to heav’n replies.

Chorus

Enjoy a light-hearted Christian Christmas romance, A Cup of Crisp at Christmas

Advent Tree Family Devotions – December 17

Seven Pointed Star

Revelation 5:12-13; Acts 1:8; Romans 8:18; 1 Corinthians 2:14-16; Philippians 3:7-8, 4:7-8; Revelation 2:4-5

The number seven has had many different meanings over the centuries. The heptagram, or seven pointed star, is considered a sacred symbol in the Wiccan tradition and a symbol of magical power in other pagan beliefs. The Navajo tribal police use a heptagonal badge. Alchemists throughout the Middle Ages used the seven-pointed star to symbolize the seven planets in our solar system known at that time.

The God of the Bible, who alone is God, made all things, including the seven pointed star. Christians have used this symbol to refer to the seven days of Creation, and to God’s perfection. The seven pointed star is known as the emblem of the seven characteristics of Christ as recorded in Revelation.

Power…riches…wisdom…might…honor…glory…and blessing. These seven attributes are inherent in Jesus who was slain for us. In the final days, every created thing, whether animals, people, or anything else, in heaven and earth will sing of our blessed Lord and His marvelous acts. We will recognize His glory, and respond in the only way appropriate…in praise.

One of the great mysteries of the Gospel, and the greatest joy to all true believers, is that in the most real sense, we get Christ in us, in the person of His Spirit, when we come to know Him. Thus we have all of these amazing attributes of the Son of God. Christians have the mind of Christ, the power of Christ, the peace of Christ, and the glory of Christ.

As followers of Jesus, we have everything we could ever wish for already, because we have Him. During this Advent season, when wishes and plans fill our thoughts, let’s remember that we already have everything that is valuable in the universe. Money, possessions, esteem, beauty, and every other thing for which man strives is only good insofar as we use it to serve Him. Getting these things for our own selfish purposes is a curse, not a blessing.

During your time of devotion today, think for a few minutes about what it means to have Christ in us. Do we have the joy of Christ in our own lives? If so, how can we share it with others? If not, let us return to our First Love (Revelation 2:4-5).

Angels from the Realms of Glory

Angels from the realms of glory,
Wing your flight o’er all the earth;
Ye who sang creation’s story,
Now proclaim Messiah’s birth:
Come and worship,
Come and worship,
Worship Christ, the newborn King!

Shepherds, in the fields abiding,
Watching o’er your flocks by night,
God with man is now residing,
Yonder shines the infant Light;
Come and worship,
Come and worship,
Worship Christ, the newborn King!

Sages, leave your contemplations,
Brighter visions beam afar;
Seek the great desire of nations,
Ye have seen the Infant’s star;
Come and worship,
Come and worship,
Worship Christ, the newborn King!

Saints before the altar bending,
Watching long in hope and fear,
Suddenly the Lord, descending,
In His temple shall appear:
Come and worship,
Come and worship,
Worship Christ, the newborn King!

Enjoy a light-hearted Christian Christmas romance, A Cup of Crisp at Christmas

Advent Tree Family Devotions – December 16

Grapes

Genesis 9:20; Proverbs 31:6-7; Luke 20:9-18; John 15:1-11; 1 Timothy 5:23

Grapes have been a staple of life since the beginning of civilization.  Details of grape production are found on hieroglyphics of the 4th Egyptian dynasty (2400 BC).  Hunter-gatherer societies were lightly populated and often able to find clean fresh water in the environment.  Once agriculture came into widespread use, previously nomadic peoples settled down.  Surface water sources rapidly became contaminated with waste from humans and animals, but subterranean water accessible by wells was sometimes available.  People drank wine, free of the disease-causing germs found in water, as a regular part of their diet.  Wine was thought to have medicinal properties, and its effects on the brain were well known.  Raw grapes and raisins were other important products. 

Viticulture was an important activity in the Holy Land throughout the Canaanite era, the Judges and Kings, and the Roman era.  Under Muslim rule, many vineyards were destroyed and grape production went into decline, but was renewed in modern times.  The conditions are favorable, boasting bright sunshine, heavy dew at night in the late summer, and gentle hillsides.  Growers in Palestine built high stone walls and watchtowers around vineyards to protect the produce from animals and thieves.  They also included a wine press, cut out of solid rock and lined with mortar.   Ancient underground wine cellars kept the wine in jars at about 20 degrees Celsius, but the climate was mild enough to prevent freezing.  Grapevines need constant pruning and several years of cultivation before they begin to bear fruit.  The work was hard but the rewards were great…abundant wine was a sign of affluence in ancient Israel, and a gift suitable for kings.

The parallels of the grape vine to the life of a believer are profuse.  Jesus directs the times and environments in which we live.  He plants us in fertile soil in the right location. He feeds and waters us physically, as well as with the sunshine of His Word and His Living Water.  He builds high walls of protection around us and keeps watch over us, with His heavenly angels, against enemies.    He prunes us relentlessly so that we will produce the most, best fruit.  As grapes are harvested and pressed to produce wine, so the fruits of Christians are squeezed and crushed, the Greek word refers to tribulation, in His service.   During the Incarnation, Jesus Himself underwent all of these things as we do.

Many common items such as grapes remind us powerfully of the work of God in us.    In His perfect wisdom, He has written His Word so that despite our feeble, fallen bodies, we can remember His love.  The toxic pace of the modern world can’t take away these reminders, but can make us forget their meaning.  How easily we are overwhelmed with activities and material stuff, and how despite how much we have and do, we always want more.  Let us live with less, and thereby gain Christ, and the abundant life He provides.  

Enjoy a light-hearted Christian Christmas romance, A Cup of Crisp at Christmas 

Advent Tree Family Devotions – December 15

Shamrock

John 14:1-12; Colossians 1:15-20; Matthew 28:18; Hebrews 1

The shamrock is one of the best known symbols of the Trinity. Legend tells us that St. Patrick used the shamrock to explain his belief in the Holy Trinity to the High King of Ireland about 464 A.D. The astonished monarch was angry because he felt the idea of three persons existing as one was absurd. St. Patrick stooped and plucked a sprig of shamrock which he presented to the king saying “Here is a perfect leaf with three perfect parts.” At first the king frowned and then smiled with acceptance. From that time on, the shamrock has been used to explain the Trinity.

The second person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ, is fully God, and is also fully man.  Jesus tells us in the book of John that He is the only way to God the Father, but also that once we see Him, we have seen the Father also.  He is in the Father and the Father in Him in a way that it is impossible, with our sin-scarred understanding, to apprehend. 

Jesus is the Creator of the Universe and everything in it.  He is also the reason everything was created.  In another great mystery, Colossians teaches us that Jesus holds all things together.  One can only imagine His power holding each atom together; protons, electrons, and neutrons, in Creation.  If He “let go”, existence as we know it would instantly stop. 

Jesus is the Supreme Authority.  Every authority in every walk of life… government, business, law, medicine, education…, every person in the Universe, and every angel in heaven, will be held accountable by Him for their actions.  Christians, their sins washed away by Jesus’ blood, will account for their good works, or lack thereof.  Those who don’t know Jesus will be judged for all of their deeds, and face eternal separation from Him for their iniquities.

Jesus is the Source of everything Good in the Universe.   He is the fount of all glory, beauty, and power, flooding forth in rivers of peace, joy and love.  His words are absolutely and eternally true, and His person, character and works endure forever.  As the Creator of Time, Jesus is outside of it.  Jesus is the focal point for all existence.  The universe does not revolve around each of us, but around Him. 

Are there special gifts you can make or share with others in your family, in your church? Maybe a decoration for the tree of a friend would be the perfect gift. A shamrock with the Legend of St. Patrick would be good to share. As you make it, and as you give it, remember the second person of the Trinity, consider His attributes, and celebrate your peace and joy in Him. 

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

God rest ye merry, gentlemen
Let nothing you dismay
Remember, Christ, our Saviour
Was born on Christmas day
To save us all from Satan’s power
When we were gone astray
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

From God our Heavenly Father
A blessed Angel came;
And unto certain Shepherds
Brought tidings of the same:
How that in Bethlehem was born
The Son of God by Name.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

The shepherds at those tidings
Rejoiced much in mind,
And left their flocks a-feeding
In tempest, storm and wind:
And went to Bethlehem straightway
This blessed Babe to find.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

But when to Bethlehem they came
Whereat this Infant lay,
They found Him in a manger,
Where oxen feed on hay;
His Mother Mary kneeling down,
Unto the Lord did pray.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

Now to the Lord sing praises,
All you within this place,
And with true love and brotherhood
Each other now embrace;
This holy tide of Christmas
All other doth deface.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

Enjoy a light-hearted Christian Christmas romance, A Cup of Crisp at Christmas