6-7I’ve posted watchmen on your walls, Jerusalem. Day and night they keep at it, praying, calling out, reminding God to remember. They are to give him no peace until he does what he said, until he makes Jerusalem famous as the City of Praise.
8-9God has taken a solemn oath, an oath he means to keep: “Never again will I open your grain-filled barns to your enemies to loot and eat. Never again will foreigners drink the wine that you worked so hard to produce. No. The farmers who grow the food will eat the food and praise God for it. And those who make the wine will drink the wine in my holy courtyards.”
10-12Walk out of the gates. Get going! Get the road ready for the people. Build the highway. Get at it! Clear the debris, hoist high a flag, a signal to all peoples! Yes! God has broadcast to all the world: “Tell daughter Zion, ‘Look! Your Savior comes, Ready to do what he said he’d do, prepared to complete what he promised.’” Zion will be called new names: Holy People, God-Redeemed, Sought-Out, City-Not-Forsaken.
God rules: there’s something to shout over! On the double, mainlands and islands—celebrate!
2Bright clouds and storm clouds circle ’round him; Right and justice anchor his rule.
3Fire blazes out before him, Flaming high up the craggy mountains.
4His lightnings light up the world; Earth, wide-eyed, trembles in fear.
5The mountains take one look at God And melt, melt like wax before earth’s Lord.
6The heavens announce that he’ll set everything right, And everyone will see it happen—glorious!
7-8All who serve handcrafted gods will be sorry — And they were so proud of their ragamuffin gods!
On your knees, all you gods—worship him! And Zion, you listen and take heart!
Daughters of Zion, sing your hearts out: God has done it all, has set everything right.
9You, God, are High God of the cosmos, Far, far higher than any of the gods.
10God loves all who hate evil, And those who love him he keeps safe, Snatches them from the grip of the wicked.
11Light-seeds are planted in the souls of God’s people, Joy-seeds are planted in good heart-soil.
12So, God’s people, shout praise to God, Give thanks to our Holy God!
3-8It wasn’t so long ago that we ourselves were stupid and stubborn, dupes of sin, ordered every which way by our glands, going around with a chip on our shoulder, hated and hating back. But when God, our kind and loving Savior God, stepped in, he saved us from all that. It was all his doing; we had nothing to do with it. He gave us a good bath, and we came out of it new people, washed inside and out by the Holy Spirit. Our Savior Jesus poured out new life so generously. God’s gift has restored our relationship with him and given us back our lives. And there’s more life to come—an eternity of life! You can count on this.
1-5About that time Caesar Augustus ordered a census to be taken throughout the Empire. This was the first census when Quirinius was governor of Syria. Everyone had to travel to his own ancestral hometown to be accounted for. So Joseph went from the Galilean town of Nazareth up to Bethlehem in Judah, David’s town, for the census. As a descendant of David, he had to go there. He went with Mary, his fiancée, who was pregnant.
6-7While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. She gave birth to a son, her firstborn. She wrapped him in a blanket and laid him in a manger, because there was no room in the hostel.
An Event for Everyone
8-12There were sheepherders camping in the neighborhood. They had set night watches over their sheep. Suddenly, God’s angel stood among them and God’s glory blazed around them. They were terrified. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you’re to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger.”
13-14At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God’s praises:
Glory to God in the heavenly heights, Peace to all men and women on earth who please him.
15-18As the angel choir withdrew into heaven, the sheepherders talked it over. “Let’s get over to Bethlehem as fast as we can and see for ourselves what God has revealed to us.” They left, running, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. Seeing was believing. They told everyone they met what the angels had said about this child. All who heard the sheepherders were impressed.
19-20Mary kept all these things to herself, holding them dear, deep within herself. The sheepherders returned and let loose, glorifying and praising God for everything they had heard and seen. It turned out exactly the way they’d been told!
Whatever circumstance you find yourself in this Christmas eve, can you catch a glimpse of hope? Hope in Jesus; hope in things being made new; the gift of eternal hope.
Have you noticed your anticipation growing, fading, or shifting in some ways over our last 22 days? Can you connect to the gift of love about to be brought into the world?
Take a minute and place yourself in the scene of Jesus’ birth. See what you notice and talk with God about those noticings.
Father God, we thank You and praise You today for the miracle of Your Son’s birth. Thank You for bringing great JOY to the whole world! Thank You for giving us the assurance that because You came to us in the form of a human, we who believe in Jesus can know with absolute certainty that we’ll spend eternity with You. We thank You, Lord, for the many reasons we have been given a merry Christmas. And we rejoice for each blessing. New life. New love. A home. A job. New opportunities. Second chances. And more. We know, Lord, that You bring the sun and the moon and set the stars in motion. You tell the ocean where to stop and the snow when to start. And we thank You for the mighty gift of Your creation. Thank You, Father, for spiritual leaders and faith-filled friends who keep encouraging us when we are close to giving up. And although we have many reasons to rejoice today, Lord, we also know December 25th can be not-so-merry for a whole host of reasons. We pray for those who are experiencing loss during Advent: relational, financial, spiritual and physical. We pray for those who are coping with loving a prodigal and our friends and family members whose hearts are far from You. We pray for those dealing with unemployment and addictions and chronic sickness… and unending pain and frustrations of all kinds. Thank You, Lord, that You are The Wonderful Counselor and Prince of Peace, even in the midst of our not-so-merry circumstances. Finally, Lord, we ask You to grant us peace. Peace in our homes, peace in our churches, and peace in our hearts, when the world all around us spins out-of-control. Help us to stay focused on You, this Advent season and always. Thank You for loving the whole world enough to send the greatest gift, Your Son, so that we might truly have a very merry Christmas. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
~ Steph Raquel, from “A Christmas Prayer for the Merry… and Not-So-Merry”, Proverbs 31 Ministries
Pause and rest in God’s love. The Lord be with you!