So, I'm catching up the Advent posts today. We've been doing them every night and the kids are doing great! They look forward to our time right after dinner. We sit down in front of the fire and read the new story for the night. Of course, the main highlight right now is whose turn it is to open and hang the ornament. But, they are learning and we are training those little hearts...
Day 5: Isaac and the Lamb
(Ornament: a lamb)
In my opinion, there are some very strange stories in the Bible. I would definitely classify this as one. Do you know the story of Abraham and his son Isaac? Just imagine this... You have waited and waited and waited to have a child. You are beyond the point of thinking it will ever happen and you suddenly learn you have a baby on the way. Not only have you pined for years for this child, but the child itself is a miracle because you are easily the age of a grandpa or even great-grandpa! One day, the Lord appears and tells you to take this precious child and sacrifice him on the altar. I don't know about you, but I think I would have run the other way (with said child in hand) and kept running.
But, not Abraham. Abraham had such faith in God that he would obey his direction. He took his son and they traveled to the altar and Abraham prepared his son to be the sacrifice. On the way, Isaac asks his father what will be the sacrifice as they didn't have an animal with them. Abraham's reply to his son, "God will provide". I know there have been times when I, myself, have answered questions my children have with answers more for the purpose of reassuring them than for actually giving them the facts. I wonder if this was the case with Abraham. Was this response a way of easing Isaac's mind or was it a true statement of Abraham's faith in God's provision?
Abraham gets all the way to the point of raising the knife when God intervenes, provides the lamb for sacrifice and saves Isaac. God commends Abraham for his faith.
The Bible is full of prophecy and foreshadowing and symbolism. Abraham was willing to give his Son, but God didn't ask that much of him in the end. However, many years later, God would do this Himself. He would finish the job and His Son would be killed. He provided the lamb, yet again, and this time, the Lamb was Jesus Christ.
Lord, thank you for your Son. Thank you for the gift of the lamb, Jesus Christ. Deepen my faith, Lord, that I might have the faith of Abraham even to the point of obeying you in the most difficult tasks.
Day 6: Jacob's Ladder
(Ornament: a ladder)
I have a recurring dream. I dream often that my college degree is being "called back" because I am short one course and I must return to my university to complete the course. What's the course? P.E.! If I have dreamed this one time, I have dreamed it 100 times. Silly, huh?
In the Bible, God spoke to several people through the dreams. One of these dreams is known to us as Jacob's Ladder. Jacob was Isaac's son. Remember Isaac? He was the son of Abraham. (Read above.) We are moving through the descendants of Abraham as we move towards the birth of the Christ Child.
Jacob had a dream one night. He had set out to another country to find a wife. On his journey, he felt lonely and tired. One night, as he settled in for sleep, he lay on the ground using a stone for a pillow and fell asleep. Now, I don't know about you, but I don't think I would sleep very soundly if I was sleeping on the ground and using a rock for a pillow. (Thank you, Lord, for the house over my head and my pillow!)
As Jacob falls into deep sleep, he dreams a strange and awesome dream. Jacob saw a ladder that reached all the way to the sky. Angels were going up and down the ladder and God was standing at the top. Jacob was told that many wonderful things would happen to him because God loved him. From Jacob's family, Jesus would come. Jacob awoke from the dream with the reassurance that God was with him on his journey and his life would never be the same again.
Lord, what an amazing and reassuring reminder that you are always with us. In our times of loneliness and despair, we are absolutely not alone. Help us to remember this, Lord, and to know that no matter what is going on around us or who has turned their back on us, You will never leave us or forsake us! We love you, Lord!
Day 7: Joseph's Coat of Many Colors
(Ornament: a colorful coat)
This is sibling rivalry at its best! Joseph was one of 12 sons and was the favorite of his father, Jacob. Joseph's brother knew that Joseph was the favorite and were very jealous of this affection. One day, Jacob presented Joseph with a beautiful coat. This only stirred the pot of jealousy and the brothers began plotting a way to get rid of Joseph, yes even to kill him. Read about the story here.
God, however, had grand plans for Joseph's life and saved him from death. Joseph encountered many troubles to get to the place where God would use him in a mighty way. The Bible tells us that God works all things for good for those who love him (Romans 8:28). Joseph had no way of knowing that one day he would be a great ruler in Egypt and when his brothers needed help, he would be the one to take care of them. He could have easily turned away, bitter from the mistreatment during his younger years, but instead, he chose to forgive them and to help them.
What can we learn from Joseph? God is always with us, even in our times of trouble when He might feel far away. God also calls us to be forgiving just as He has forgiven us our sins through His Son, Jesus Christ.
Lord, what an amazing feat it is, at times, to be forgiving. Help me to forgive those who need forgiveness so that I might not sin. Thank you for being with me in the hard times and molding me for Your purposes.
Day 8: Moses and the Ten Commandments
(Ornament: a tablet with numbers)
I'm sure that most people have heard of the ten commandments. Sometimes, they are viewed with a pessimism as if God is barking down orders and ready with his lightsaber to zap us when we break one. This is not the God I serve, however.
The Bible says that God is love. I know as a parent, it's important for me to set boundaries for my children and I do so out of my love for them and hopes that they will become Godly grownups.
I am not a rebellious person by nature. I'm actually a rule-following nerd, so I like rules. But, as I get older, I really like to pick and choose my rules. (As if I know what is best for me...) Just like a small child needs the guidance of parents, I need the guidance of my Heavenly Father who loves me beyond measure and knows what's best for me.
Father, help me to be obedient to Your Word. Thank you for the Bible. I long to be pleasing to you.
Day 9: Canaan, The Promised Land of Blessings
(Ornament: a cluster of grapes)
Have you ever seen a bunch of grapes so big and juicy that two men had to carry it? Read this! I can't imagine such abundance of grapes, figs, pomegranates and more as those found in Canaan, the promised land. We are reminded again, today, God keeps His promises! Sometimes, the timeline is adjusted due to our lack of obedience and faith, but He does not waver from what He has promised His children. Hallelujah!
Moses worked to free God's people from Pharaoh and it was not a simple feat, to say the least. Very soon after their departure from Egypt, the people turned away from God. This didn't change God's promises, yet increased the time it took to reach the land He had promised. Finally, when the people were close enough to step into the land, they still turned to their own ways, which resulted in 40 more years of wandering. However, God's promise was fulfilled when the people chose to return to being obedient. He had brought them to the place He promised and provided all their needs along the way, even in their times of disobedience and faithlessness, He was moving them towards the Promised Land.
I like to think the Promised Land could be a glimpse of heaven. The land was abundant in blessings and was theirs to have if they were only obedient and followed God. The result of their disobedience was an additional time in the desert, a time when many died. However, the few who lived made it to the Promised Land and from those people, would come King David, moving closer to the birth of Jesus.
Lord, it is so easy to trace your hand in the Bible, moving through the descendants and following your plan from Adam all the way to Jesus. However, sometimes we refuse to see the trace of your hand in our own lives. Help us to remember that we belong to You and You have everything we need. Praise be to you, Lord!