Advent . It is the anticipation of the coming or the arrival of the coming King. In the most graceful ways, our King has already come and accomplished what was foretold He would do. For all the other longings that plague our world today, we know that He is coming again [soon!] to set all things right.
In my home church, our Advent series has focused on the topics of Advent through the eyes of the book of Revelation rather than the typical Christmas texts from Luke and Matthew. Every week I find myself on my knees and in tears because of His majesty and holiness in these Revelatory passages. It’s been absolutely beautiful to look at Jesus each week with different pictures of His character and status in Scripture, all with the backdrop of the manger in our minds and hearts. Even our Middle School and High School students have been digging in to these passages and it's been astounding to see God's Spirit speak to and minister to our students out of this book written by the apostle John. Our students have been able to read these passages, understand more of who God is, and then worship Him in response to their experience of Him.
For Christmas break, I created a small Advent devotional for our students and their families, and thought I would post the devotional here. There are passages to read, group questions, personal questions, and response opportunities for you to utilize.
There are four days for each topic and passage of Advent from the book of Revelation, coupled with a passage of the traditional Christmas narrative. This devotional is specific to our students at Rockharbor, and though could be incorporated into any time with Jesus.
This Advent series has brought me to my knees (and to tears) many times. I just can’t wait to see Him face-to-face. I love Him so much; He truly is the One who wipes every tear from our eyes and who has completed the work on our behalf. I pray this devotional reminds you of the things you already know about the character of our God and reignites your heart to know Him more. Come, Lord Jesus, come.
All that to say, I hope all of you have a wonderfully Merry Christmas and that you and your families experience the hope, peace, joy, and love that He has brought, brings, and will eventually complete on this earth.
DAY 1… HOPE: REVELATION 1:1-20
Read these passages:
Discuss Together (or consider on your own):
-A.W. Tozer said that our view of God is the most important thing about us. Why do you think that is the case?
-During Advent, we often look at the idea of a Promised Messiah to remind us that the nation of Israel was waiting for the advent or “arrival” of the one who was going to save them. If we knew that the Messiah was supposed to come, but had not yet come, how would that change your view of God? Since the Messiah has come, what does that show you about God’s character?
-We also look at the baby in the manger during Advent. If all we saw was this view of the baby, how limited would our understanding of God be? What does this show you about God’s character in good ways? What would you miss out on if that was all you ever knew about Jesus (say you only went to church on Christmas and that’s all you knew of Jesus)?
-When we read who Jesus is in Revelation 1, it’s after He has defeated sin/death and rose again, and was exalted by God the Father. What are some adjectives that the Bible uses to describe Him in Revelation 1?
-Since we see Jesus as the Messiah, as the baby, and in His glorified state in Revelation 1, how does this help us see God better? What do all of these things show about God’s character?
-How does knowing more about God’s character bring hope to our daily lives? How does it show that He is the Hope of the World?
-In what ways does my view of God compare to this picture of Him in Scripture?
-How do I live my life in a way that reflects the reality of Jesus’ authority? If I don’t, what needs to change?
-John had an encounter with Jesus. What was Jesus’ command? In what ways do you need to hear that command for yourself today?
-Spend time alone in your room listening to some worship songs. Take at least 15 minutes to just rest in God’s presence and worship Him for all that He is: Promised Messiah, Baby come to Earth, and the One who is the Alpha and Omega, who holds the keys to death and Hades! Tell Him out loud who He is to you and what you have seen Him do in your life. (I encourage you to set a timer for at least 15 minutes… don’t just give up at 5 min and be done! I’ll bet when you really get to hang out with Him in His presence you will want to go way past 15 min!)
DAY 2… PEACE: REVELATION 2-3
Read these passages:
The letters in Revelation 2-3 are to the seven churches that existed at that time. Jesus has some strong words to say to these churches, some of them encouraging, and some of them challenging.
-As you’re reading the Revelation passage, underline any time that Jesus calls them out on the things they are doing wrong as a church. Some of them are pretty intense!
-Then, highlight any points of encouragement that Jesus has for them—including positive things they are doing, as well as the sections for “the one who overcomes.”
-When you read the Matthew passage, underline any names that you have heard before or are familiar to you. This is the lineage of Jesus! Highlight the names Jacob, Judah, David, and Joseph. All these people were waiting for the Promised Messiah to come (along with the rest of Israel), and it was prophesied that He would come from “the line of David” and the “tribe of Judah.”
Discuss Together (or consider on your own):
-Why would Jesus need to write such strong words to the churches?
-What do you think Jesus would say to us at RHMV? What do you think He would say to the Church in America today?
-I want this to be very clear: Jesus loves the Church. It is His Bride, His Beloved. When Jesus confronts us, it’s because He loves us. In what ways do we need to do a better job at loving the Church? In what ways is He calling us to love Him better?
-When reading the Revelation passages, is there anything that Jesus is speaking to me in these passages about my relationship with Him? Is there anything I need to confess?
-When Jesus talked to the church at Laodicea in Revelation 3, He accused them of being neither hot nor cold, but lukewarm. Take a second to ask the Holy Spirit where you are at with Him. Wait a little on Him—He will speak. Grab a journal or a notebook piece of paper and write what you sense He is saying to you. If it starts to feel condemning, stop that voice, because there is no condemnation for those in Christ. He will speak kindly, yet firmly, to your heart. You will recognize it’s Him because it will be centered on His love, your good, and His glory. Write down what He says and then ask Him to shift those things in your heart, in your mind, and in your actions.
DAY 3… JOY: REVELATION 5
Read these passages:
-What are the emotions happening in the Revelation passage? Name them together.
-What are the actions happening in the Luke passage? Name them.
-What do the angels in Revelation 5 and the angels in Luke 2 do that is the same in both passages?
-What groups of people worship the Lamb (and the One on the Throne, the Father) in Revelation 5? Is there anyone left out in the whole universe in this passage? (the answer is NO!)
-In church, we watched a good chunk of the movie “The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe,” based on the books by C.S. Lewis, before we read this passage. If you’ve seen this movie, you’ll remember the actions and character of the lion, Aslan. How do we see God’s character in the portrayal of Aslan? What else do we learn about God’s character in the Revelation passage?
-How does the contrast of a Lion and a Lamb show more of who God is? How have you seen God’s character as the Lion and as the Lamb in your own life? What about in your family’s lives?
-When I see more of who God is in my life, what is my immediate response? Do I just say thanks and move on? Or does that help me to worship Him even better?
-What moments in my life have I been overwhelmed with God’s presence and it brought on JOY?
-Worship God through doing some kind of art-creative-thing, creating a picture inspired by either of these passages. Both of these passages have a strong undercurrent of JOY in WORSHIP, so ask the Holy Spirit to help you experience His joy as you create in worship. You can paint, draw, sketch, mold, etc.! Do something tangible with your hands to create something in worship-response to who He is.
-Other option: ask the Spirit to open your heart to more of the joy of the Lord. Then, feel free to run around your yard, your neighborhood, or just dance in your room because you are just so excited about who Jesus is. It might sound kind-of childish at first, but I promise you, the Joy of Jesus is WILD!
DAY 4… LOVE: REVELATION 21-22
Read these passages:
***When reading the Revelation passage, have one of you read it out loud, and the others close their eyes and imagine what all of it could look like. Even try to imagine your encounter with God has He wipes tears from your eyes and gets rid of pain, sorrow, and even death.***
-How is God’s incredible love on display in Revelation 21-22?
-In comparing Revelation 21 and Luke 2, how are the images that we see of God and of Jesus majorly different from each other? How do they depict the same aspects of His character?
-How do the characters in Luke 2 experience the fullness of God’s love? (I.e. Mary treasures things up in her heart, Simeon, Anna, the shepherds, etc.)
-How will the fullness of God’s love be on display when the New Heaven and the New Earth happen in Revelation 21-22?
-How have you experienced God’s love in these ways here and now?
-Ultimately, this is a picture of home. When you get home from a long day, what do you do? How do you feel welcomed in? What is waiting for you at home (if it is a safe place for you… I understand that some homes are very difficult and heart-breaking)? If home is not a place that you can rest, imagine the kind of home that your heart longs for. I deeply believe that this picture of the restoration of everything is what our hearts long for, and that everything we experience of God’s presence here on earth is just a tiny taste—breadcrumbs—of this picture. Take a moment to talk about how you experience God’s presence in your household, and then name what you are most looking forward to when God makes everything right again in Revelation 21-22.
-Am I convinced that God loves me, completely and unconditionally?
-Out of knowing God loves me, how can I better love those around me?
-Alone in your room or somewhere quiet, ask the Holy Spirit to show you more of the Love that God has for you. Then, start to bring your sadness, your fears, your worries, and your disappointment to Him. Name them out loud, then just settle and listen to Him speak to you. Sometimes it’s obvious words, and sometimes it’s just a very quiet impression that He leaves. God’s Word says that “perfect love drives out fear.” Let His perfect love drive out those things that you named before Him. Then, praise Him for the ways He loves you, and tell Him how much you love Him.