A Note from Alyssa: A few weeks ago Jessica contacted us and asked if she could write an advent devotional series for GLOW. Of course I said, “Of course!” Today, we are excited to share it with you. There are five parts to the devotional – Accept, Celebrate, Embrace, Expect, and Retreat. I have broken them into a 5-day series, but you can divide and conquer however you would like. Each section has recommended scripture to read as well as Jessica’s thoughts on the topic at hand. Grab a cup of coffee, snuggle up with a blanket and turn on your Christmas tree lights and read Jessica’s thoughts below.
Day 1 – Accept
Scripture: Psalm 37:4-5, Psalm 138, Jeremiah 29:11-13, Isaiah 26:3, Isaiah 30:21, Luke 1:26-38
“For nothing will be impossible with God. And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” Luke 1:37-38
So often we sit in turmoil as we wonder what God has for us. We ponder about our purpose and calling and beg God for specific directions about our jobs, future spouses, children, and homes. But are we willing to listen and accept His answer when it comes? He longs to lavish His faithful and unchanging love on us no matter the season. His grace is sufficient, no matter the situation. When we quiet our hearts and minds, we find that His loving arms are open and His guidance and peace are there for the taking.
Mary found favor with God and He chose her for what may have been the greatest privilege in history- to bear His Son. Upon hearing this proclamation, Mary quickly accepted God’s calling with little to no doubt of His faithfulness to provide or take care of her, His chosen vessel. She did not allow room for discouragement or lies to creep in and thwart her obedience, but rather accepted His perfect plan with humility.
We claim that we want to know God’s plan for us and understand His will. But oftentimes, we want a road map for our lives more than we want Him. He is the giver of all good things. His love never fails and His ways are good. We can get so caught up in the logistics of daily life that we miss what He has for us today. Our lives are so much more than what “big thing” we do for Him or that “big moment” we are waiting for. His desire for us is to know Him, be loved by Him and make Him known. When we accept this truth in the light of who He is, we see that He will not leave us or forsake us, for He is in even the most minute details. We can lay our desires and plans before His feet and accept His ways knowing that He is faithful to lead us and guide us in even the most uncertain of times, for nothing will be impossible with God.
Day 2 – Celebrate
Scripture: Psalm 100, Matthew 5:16, Luke 1:46-55, 2:14,19, Hebrews 13:5
“Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into His presence with singing!” Psalm 100:1
When was the last time you truly celebrated? Maybe you danced the night away at a wedding or talked for hours with friends at dinner. Maybe you leapt with joy at the announcement of a pregnancy or jumped with delight when you finally landed that promotion. Is it hard for you to think of a time when you sincerely celebrated the work of the Lord in your life? Maybe there has not been much to praise because difficult situations have gone from bad to worse. Does that mean our God is not good? Certainly not! Our Lord is constantly working behind the scenes, orchestrating our lives and allowing us to walk in the light of His grace upon grace, and friends, that alone can be celebrated.
He lavishes His love upon us in ways big and small-whether through provision of a new job or a long-awaited spouse, or flowers on the table and a warm hug from a friend. When we purpose to make room for His presence and acknowledge Him for who He is, we have no choice but to praise Him. But how do we praise Him and celebrate Him when we cannot see His goodness? How do we praise Him when the noise of the world, the enemy and our flesh crowd our minds and hearts? We can find the strength to praise Him when we cultivate a heart of gratitude. When Mary’s life was changed completely, she praised the Father with a heart full of thanksgiving for His enduring love and faithfulness. She dug into the depths of her soul, acknowledging His goodness not only to her, but to her ancestors and her people.
When we choose to feed an attitude of grace and thankfulness, the world notices. When we celebrate our Father with our mouths, thoughts, and hearts, the world sees that He is worthy of all praise, not for what He has done and what He can give us, but for who He is. So let us continue to offer up a sacrifice of praise, knowing that He is worth celebrating and loving with all of our lives.
Day 3 – Embrace
Scripture: Isaiah 1:18, 41:10, 43:16-21, John 3:27,30, 10:10, and 14:6, Philippians 3:14
“Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 43:18
Our God never changes; He is and always will be. While God never changes, He is always doing something new within us, rebirthing and rearranging the little nooks and crannies that we prefer to stay the same. No matter the season, as long as we have breath in our lungs, God is moving and working within us to make us more like Him. Change is often painful, because there are paradigm shifts occurring inside our hearts and minds. We hold on to what is familiar because we are afraid of the startling possibilities that a new season could bring. The only way we can truly welcome this reformation is to cling to the One who never changes.
When Jesus walked the earth, He made no apologies for who He was. His entire identity was rooted in the fact that He embraced His Father’s purpose and plan for His life and for the kingdom. When God chooses us, He chooses not to allow us to continue in the life we are accustomed to, but rather to give us a new life in Him. Our temptation is to resist the change that the Lord has for us, gripping tightly the familiarity of our old ways. But when we make room for quiet reflection, He shows us that His ways have proven faithful and perfect. And because His love is steadfast, He will continue to be faithful when we surrender ourselves fully to Him. We learn to be held by Him when we let go of our plans and embrace His ways. In the midst of a world that tells us to choose our own path and listen to our deceitful hearts (Jeremiah 17:9), Jesus offers us His way- full of uncertainty yet brimming with hope.
Day 4 – Expect
Scripture: Jeremiah 33:3, Luke 1:26-55, Romans 8:24b-25, Ephesians 3:20-21, Hebrews 13:8
“Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.” Jeremiah 33:3
Expectations- they can be a force for change and improvement, or they can be a source of disappointment and anxiety. We hold ourselves and others to high expectations and then fall prey to deep discouragement when failure ensues. Unmet desires and hopes can fan the flames of bitterness, and before we know it, we are in despair and do not know why.
But expectation has another face with a more joyful connotation. What would happen if we prayed expectantly and believed that God is who He says He is? We could let go of our unmet desires and allow His Spirit to transform us as we eagerly await His answer. We could admit to Him the deepest yearnings of our hearts, knowing full well that He is already aware of them. To place our trust in something or someone is to be vulnerable. He knows our deepest thoughts and desires, but do we trust Him with them? When we lay ourselves bare in vulnerability, we acknowledge the risk involved in allowing someone else to see parts of us we prefer to keep covered. We accept the possibility of disappointment if our plans are not fulfilled.
The angel appeared to Mary with news that would change her entire life. She was laid before the Father with fear and vulnerability, unable to make excuses or allow her expectations to hinder her obedience. With the heart of a humble servant, she said yes. Carrying the Savior of the world would complicate her life and completely change everything, and she said yes. Her dreams of a quiet life with Joseph were rewritten, and her reputation ruined. And she said yes.
The only way Mary could have said yes without hesitation is if she knew that God Himself was for her. She had no one else to cling to and could do nothing but expect Him to come through for her. Every bit of His promise was fulfilled. The God who chose Mary also chooses us and stands for us. Why should we be surprised when He answers our prayers and exceeds our expectations? And if He does not answer our prayers in our way within our timing, He is still good. (Daniel 3:18) He is still worthy. For He is a God who fulfills His promises.
Day 5: Retreat
Scripture: Luke 1:45-56, 2:19, 5:16, John 15:4
“Abide in me, and I in you.” John 15:4
Imagine a cabin in the woods, tucked away from all disturbances. There is no cell phone service or internet to “check in” throughout the day. The snow falls quietly outside, and a fire kindles in the wood-burning fireplace. Nat King Cole croons softly, and the house smells of cinnamon and pine needles. The image invites rest and peace- a space to withdraw and breathe. Our minds are often so full of the clutter and the ever incomplete to do list. Figure out tonight’s dinner. Read the Bible. Encourage my husband. Buy groceries. Call my sister. And on and on it goes. Some of our minds are not only filled with to-do lists, but also the painful struggles of trials that weigh on our hearts. Jesus told us that in this world, we would have trouble, but to take heart, for He has overcome (John 16:33). Our lives are full of tasks that swallow us whole and quite literally choke the life out of us. But our Lord invites us to consider a different to-do list. Rest in my love. Abide with me. Listen to my voice. Receive my gifts. Be my hands and feet.
Mary was a young girl when the angel appeared to her with news that would forever alter the history of the world. She received this news with humility, although I imagine that her mind was full of doubts, fears, and insecurities. In that moment, Mary had a choice between fear or faith. She chose the latter, and because she did, we can know the peace that passes all understanding through her Son, Jesus Christ. The Scripture tells us that Mary stayed with her cousin Elizabeth for three months before returning home. In the midst of this vulnerable time, she sought rest with her heavenly Father. When we slow our hearts and minds and withdraw to be with Him, we see that He is our greatest gift, for He Himself is our peace (Ephesians 2:14). What a joy to know that He created us to need Him, and that when we come to Him, He will satisfy. Let us run to our Prince of Peace, knowing that He will give us rest and renew our hearts.
About the Author
Hey y’all! My name is Jessica Mathisen. I am a twenty-something newlywed living in Athens, Georgia. I work as a third grade teacher at a private Christ-centered school for inner-city kids. I love my Jesus, my husband, and my job. Oh, and my sweet little fur baby, Bailey. Most often I am found reading, writing, relaxing, or hanging out with friends and family. I love encouraging others to love Jesus right where they are.