The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel – which means, “God with us.”
Tis the season to be jolly! Fa-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la!!!!! It’s officially one of my favorite times of year, Christmas time! A time for shopping, good sales, family gatherings, gift giving, good food, sweet treats, fun times, friendships, Christmas movies on the Lifetime and Hallmark channel, white elephant gift exchanges….Yep, it’s Christmas! I love this time of year because some people tend to become friendlier and more giving. It’s a time to bless others by making dreams come true and granting those young and old their heart’s desires. It’s a time to enjoy all of the Holiday music, receive annual Christmas cards, see how much children have grown since last year. It’s a time when some take lengthy time off from work, travel to see family and friends, and enjoy Christmas plays. Yep, it’s Christmas time!
My Sunday School class started a new study “Preparing My Heart for Advent” and our church is focusing on Advent for the Sunday sermons in December. As I read through the Sunday School book I was quickly reminded Jesus is really the reason for the season and all of the stuff I mentioned above really doesn’t matter. It is all great and an added bonus, but this season is also a time to pause and reflect on the best gift any of us could ever receive, Jesus Christ. Yep, it’s Christmas time! After studying and hearing a sermon on one of our most famous Christmas carols, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” I was inspired to focus the December Feevotionals on the true meaning of the season, Jesus Christ.
In the church this season is referred to as the Advent season. “The Latin word for advent means ‘the coming’. It is much more than a one-day celebration on December 25th. It’s a month to be still and remember the God of our past, present, and future. Advent is a time to celebrate Jesus’ coming to earth, His coming to reign in our hearts, and His future second coming, when we will be raised to His glorious throne to live with Him forever.” (Ann Marie Stewart)
The first portion of our Christmas carol says:
O come, O come Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel
That mourn in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.
This portion of the song is asking for Immanuel, God with us, to come and ransom captive Israel. When we look back over a majority of the Old Testament God’s chosen nation, Israel, was constantly in conflict with serving God, serving gods, and serving their flesh and sinful ways. There are multiple stories of Israel getting so far away from God with their sinful ways that His wrath was upon them. On so many occasions in the Old Testament God wanted to completely destroy Israel and wipe them off the face of this earth. The Israelites were truly a people held in captivity. When I look at the Israelites we, Christians and non-Christians are no different from them in 2013. We tend to be held in captivity by a variety of things: our thoughts, debt, poor financial choices, unforgiveness, unfruitful relationships, holding on to people and things God does not desire for our lives, drug addictions, alcohol addictions, bad habits, sexual sins and addictions, crime, trusting man instead of God, desire to control everything, putting people and things before God and making people and things idols instead of God, abuse we’ve encountered, divorce, our parents, and the secrets we hold. These are just a few but there is so much more. We all have something we battle with. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. (Romans 3:23) We overcome one area of our life and up pops another area to work on. We will never be a perfect people. Each day we all have to renew our minds daily to develop the mind of Christ and to be conformed into His image and His likeness. It is a process we all have to go through until we leave this earth.
This is why we need Jesus! God sent His son here on this earth to be the ransom for our sins. “Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28) What is a ransom? According to dictionary.com a ransom is the redemption of a prisoner, the sum or price paid, or a means of deliverance or rescue from punishment for sin. Whatever you have dealt with in the past or you are dealing with now Jesus came to set you free from the captivity of your sins. As long as you have Jesus you no longer have to be held in prison to those things that may have had you in bondage for so long. I love this song by Tosha Cobbs, “There is power in the name of Jesus to break every chain.” Jesus is the ransom for our sins. He paid the price at the cross.
There is a hymn I came across by Charles Wesley, “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus”.
Come, Thou long expected Jesus,
Born to set thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s Strength and Consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.
Born thy people to deliver,
Born a child and yet a King.
Born to reign in us forever,
Now Thy gracious Kingdom bring.
By Thine own eternal Spirit,
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By Thine all-sufficient merit,
Raise us to thy glorious throne.
This Advent season as you sing “O come, O come Emmanuel, And ransom captive Israel”, I encourage you to remember Immanuel, the God that is with us. As you write out your Christmas list of names and what gift you will give to each person make a Christmas list for yourself. What do you really want for Christmas this year? I’m not talking about tangible items. Examine your spiritual house. What is holding you captive? What sins and bondage do you need God to free you from this Advent/Christmas season? After you make your list I encourage you to go into prayer and tell God what you need to be set free from. Repent for your sins and ask Him to forgive you. This is why God sent His son in the flesh so that you could freely ask him for the forgiveness of sins. God will forgive you and deliver you. You be the Christmas miracle by allowing God to do a work in you this season. Don’t look to the material things to heal your soul, but look to the healer. Jesus was placed on this earth to set you free and “who the son sets free is truly free in deed.” (John 8:36) Remember there is POWER in the name of Jesus to break every chain! Be blessed and be encouraged! Happy Advent!
Heavenly Father, we thank you for this advent season. We thank you for this time to remember that Jesus is the reason for the season. We thank you for sending your son Jesus to set us free from captivity. Help us to examine our hearts today. Reveal to us those things that we are in bondage to. Show us every stronghold, every action, and everything in our lives that is not pleasing to you. Give us the strength to accept your revelation and the courage to pursue you to break free everything that has us bound. Father, we call on Jesus to break every chain. We ask for your forgiveness of these sins and our desire is to repent and to turn from every way that is not pleasing to you. Show us what we need to do to renew our minds daily so that we can be more like you each day. This Advent season we want to be the Christmas miracle as you renew a right spirit in us. Lord, we thank you for making us whole, we thank you for second chances and we thank you for new beginnings. We ask all of these things in your precious son Jesus name. Amen
~Written by Felicia McKnight~
True Worship by Clay in God’s Hands