Note: I’ve changed the order of readings this week, putting the Gospel reading on the 3rd day, closer to Christmas day. Because this final week of Advent is always a busy time I’ve only included devotions for 4 days, ending with Christmas Day. Also, I’d suggest that, instead of entering solitude for the readings for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you invite family and/or friends to join you in prayer with the Scripture. Hence there are no reflective words for those days.
DAY 1 (4th week)
PREPARE TO LISTEN
Light a candle and pray: The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. (John 1:5)
Request for Presence: Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, so that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. (Psalm 90:14)
READ Isaiah 7:10-16
Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz, saying, Ask a sign of the LORD your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven. But Ahaz said, I will not ask, and I will not put the LORD to the test. Then Isaiah said: “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary mortals, that you weary my God also? Therefore the LORD himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel. He shall eat curds and honey by the time he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. For before the child knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land before whose two kings you are in dread will be deserted.
SOME BACKGROUND INFORMATION
The Assyrian army was rapidly advancing on Jerusalem when the prophet appeared before King Ahaz. The Northern Kingdom of Israel had already been defeated by them and taken into captivity. The Southern Kingdom of Judah lived in fear of the same fate. Isaiah was sent to give the assurance they would be kept safe. God offers to give King Ahaz a sign (something visible to see) to bolster confidence in God. Sheol is the term the Hebrews used for the place of the dead. They had no concept of hell as we understand and use the word today.
Ahaz wanted to sound spiritually in tune with God. He piously claimed to Isaiah, ‘I will not ask, and I will not put the LORD to the test.’ He knew Moses’ Law that warned against putting God to the test (Deuteronomy 6:16). But, if God asks you to do so, it seems we should be willing to ‘break’ an ancient law! Ahaz refused to obey God and thus was warned he’d experience punishment. God then promised a sign anyway. ‘Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.’ God with us! Ahaz missed the experience of God’s comforting assurance entirely. We, however can experience it even today.
In a time of fear and pessimism, God sent his prophet to lighten the mood and instill hope. The king refused it. The hope is still there today if you’re willing to take it. Are you?
RESPOND TO JESUS IN PRAYER.
God-With-Us, help me today to hold fast to the truth of your ever near presence even though things around me seem so bleak and hopeless. You are still Immanuel. Thank you. Amen.
BE SILENT AND STILL (for as long as you want). Simply be in the presence of Jesus, who loves you, regardless.