Christmas Advent Reflection #1: Jesus Came to Rescue Us From Our Sin
 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (ESV)
Jesus’ birth didn’t happen without explanation. The Gospels that tell of Jesus’ birth all tell us that there were several times when God sent angelic messengers to explain what would happen and what Jesus’ birth meant. This was needed. God intervened in people’s lives to help them to see what God was doing and bring people to a place of willingness to act according to God’s plan. An angel told Mary what would happen to her. An angel announced to Mary’s relative that she would bear a son who would be the one who would announce the Messiah’s coming. In today’s passage we are reading about how an angel appeared to Joseph to tell him that his betrothed wife was carrying the Messiah.In the passage, we see why God sent Jesus into the world. We see this in the name that was chosen for the baby- Jesus. The name Jesus is from the ancient Hebrew, Yeshua. Today, the name is Joshua. It was a common name at the time. But the name had a meaning- it meant, God Saves.What does it mean that God saves? To save someone is to rescue someone from danger. Here the angel tells Joseph that Jesus would “save his people from their sins”. In other words, the danger here is the sin that is active in the world and in the lives of people. There are people that God is claiming that are his own, but they are in bondage and in danger because of their sins.By being born into the world, God was engaging his rescue plan. The rescue was needed since the fall of Adam and Eve in the garden. God sent a rescuer. This is good news. It means that God has not left us as human beings alone to figure things out. It means that God has made a way to do what we could not do ourselves- rescue us from sin and death.
Christmas Advent Reflection #2: Preparing for the Coming of the King
 As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, “Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way,  the voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,’”  John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. (ESV)
Jesus’ arrival was predicted by several prophets in the Old Testament. While the prophets did not reveal the exact time and way, they did promise that God’s anointed servant would come. Isaiah also predicted that a messenger would come before Christ would come to prepare the way.Recently, my family read a devotion written by Pastor John Piper. In the reflection, Piper wrote something interesting- advent is meant to do what John the Baptist did for the early believers. John the Baptist prepared people’s hearts for the arrival of the Messiah. He did it by calling people to repent and be baptized. This baptism wasn’t the same kind of baptism that we practice in churches today, it was a baptism that symbolized repentance. The person was turning away from sin and turning back to God.Why is repenting the way we prepare for Christmas? The Piper writes that the joy of Christmas must come after the sorrow of sin. The reason for this is that unless we know the depths and sorrow of our dangerous condition, we cannot understand the joy of the coming of a Savior. Unless we understand our sin, we cannot understand the happiness of forgiveness.Take some time today to reflect and review your life. What are you looking forward to during this Christmas season? Are you looking forward to Christ and His presence? What are things that are holding you back from a deeper relationship with Christ?
Christmas Advent Reflection #3: Jesus Came to Give Peace
 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest,and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (ESV)
As we continue with today’s meditation, we read of another announcement by angelic beings. This one is made to the shepherds who were watching their sheep in the fields outside Bethlehem. In this case, the angelic announcement was accompanied by heavenly worship. The angels praised God as they watched the Father’s plan unfold in the Son of God being born on earth. The angels were in awe that God would love the world so much that God would become one with mankind.What would make someone rejoice? What would make someone express praise? Someone would express joy when they see a great deed done. They would express that joy to the one doing the action. In this case, the angels praised God for God’s greatness. That makes sense since God is always great. But there’s another thing the angels expressed. They expressed joy that peace was being declared to people that God was pleased with. Jesus came to bring peace between God and people.It’s often helpful to remind ourselves that Jesus was not born into a time and a place of great peace. Jesus was born to a land of great political upheaval and violence was present. Earthly powers were also looking for a way to destroy Jesus in order to maintain their power and influence. But in the midst of this uncertainty- Christ came. He came not just to preach peace to people who would hear and believe the message of peace between humanity and God. But he came to be the source of it. For everyone who puts their faith and trust in Jesus Christ and what Jesus has done, there is a promise of forgiveness of sins, reconciliation with God and eternal life.
Christmas Advent Reflection #4: Jesus Came to be One with Us
 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:  “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). (ESV)
One of the greatest gifts and promises given in Scripture is that God promises to be with us. This joy is something that can be forgotten very easily. Consider what it means. It means that God is with you. The Psalmist in Psalm 62 writes about God’s character- “that power belongs to God, and that to you, O Lord, belongs steadfast love.” (Psalm 62:11b-12a). The one that is with you is both strong and kind. He is strong enough to defend the weak and the broken. He is faithful to those who call upon him.This past Sunday, my family watched a sermon online from another church and both of us were struck by how the people in the church genuinely expressed gratitude for the simple blessing of waking up that morning. There was a sense of God’s presence in their lives.Have you lost the wonder of God’s presence? For the one who loves God, there is no greater gift that can be given than to be in the presence of God Almighty. This was what Jesus did when he was born in Bethlehem. To give us a taste of that peace in this life that God has not abandoned us. He is Immanuel: God with us.
Christmas Advent Reflection #5: Jesus Came to Set us Free From Slavery to the Devil
 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil,  and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. (ESV)
When it comes down to the Devil, there are often two opposite but unbiblical reactions to the discussion. On one hand, there are those who dismiss the idea of the Devil. They would categorize the Devil on the same level with elves, fairies and other made up entities to explain what people cannot understand. On the other hand, there are those who are terrified and frozen with fear because they are afraid of what the Devil could do to them.The Biblical witness acknowledges the existence of the spiritual realm. Within this spiritual realm exists God’s chief opponent- the Devil. He seeks to draw people away from God and harm God by harming God’s people. The Bible acknowledges the Devil’s power to tempt, to accuse, to deceive and to cause harm. However, the Bible repeatedly reveals that the Devil’s power is not from himself, but only what God allows him to do. At the presence of God, the Devil must flee.The passage today tells us that Jesus “partook” of flesh and blood. It means that this was something that Jesus had in common with people. The second person of the Trinity shared in the struggles of having a body. This means that Jesus dealt with the same weaknesses that we dealt with. He dealt with hunger, fatigue, pain, suffering and even death. Jesus went through those experiences to share that in common with human beings. What was Jesus’ purpose? He did this in order to defeat the destroy the one who has power over death, and deliver (rescue) those who were slaves because of their fear of death. But how are we slaves to the Devil and how does Jesus set us free?From what we know of Scripture, only God has power over death. What does the writer of Hebrews mean that the devil has power over death? Like a prosecutor in a courtroom, Satan’s power is the power to accuse and indict. Satan us that we will never be free from our sin and holds us in bondage. We will die and then face judgment.Jesus sets us free because he disarms Satan’s accusations. Although Satan’s accusations have a measure of truth, Jesus disarms Satan by taking the punishment we deserved upon himself. He did what we could not do. He lived the sinless life and gave us his record of righteousness. Consider the freedom you have this Advent season. Consider the hope that you have today.