Advent Devotional: Introduction

By Bruce Benedict & Elliot Grudem  /  

The shepherds had an angel, The wise men had a star,
But what have I, a little child, To guide me home from far, Where glad stars sing together, And singing angels are?—
Those Shepherds through the lonely night Sat watching by their sheep,
Until they saw the heavenly host
Who neither tire nor sleep,
All singing ‘Glory, glory’ In festival they keep.
Christ watches me, His little lamb, Cares for me day and night,
That I may be His own in heaven: So angels clad in white
Shall sing their ‘Glory, glory,’ For my sake in the height.
— Christina Rosetti, from “A Christmas Carol: For My Godchildren”

a brief on the church season of advent

The celebration of the season of Advent (which begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas day) dates back to the fourth century. It is a time that focuses our attention on Jesus Christ’s birth and ministry as well as his Second Coming when he will return to redeem all of creation and rule with all power and authority. Since we can’t anticipate the day or the hour of Christ’s return, we are filled with both a sense of joyful expectation and humble reverence, with our spiritual focus being on lives of prayer and preparation. The church has used the season of Advent (which means “coming” or “arrival”) to focus and reflect on the particular themes of John the Baptist’s preparation for the ministry of Christ, the annunciation to Mary that she would be the mother of Jesus, Christ’s entry into Jerusalem, and the final judgment. Throughout the season we are constantly reminded that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world.

Historically, the primary sanctuary color of Advent is purple, the color of royalty, to welcome the coming of the King. This points to the important connection between Jesus’ birth and death. The nativity and the Incarnation cannot be separated from the crucifixion and the Atonement.

One way that many mark the time of this season is with the Advent wreath. The evergreens help to symbolize the new and everlasting life brought through Jesus Christ. The wreath consists of five candles; four candles around the wreath and one white candle in the center. One candle is lit the first Sunday of Advent, two are lit the second Sunday, and so on. The light progressively reminds us that Jesus is the light of the world that comes into the darkness of our lives to bring newness, life, and hope (Isa 42:6). Each of the candles usually has a special theme and color. For us the first candle is the Prophecy candle; the second is the Bethlehem candle; the third is the Angels candle, the fourth is the Shepherd candle; and the center white candle is the Christ candle, lit on Christmas. As we move through the weeks of advent we will examine more fully the stories connected to each candle basking in the light of his face shining upon us. 

prelude to this devotional

When the Heavens start singing, we’d better pay attention...

Christ’s birth was a slow burn across the ancient horizons. For 400 years, since the prophet Malachi anticipated the rise of his healing wings across the sky (Mal 4:2), the deep silence of space had been empty of all signs of a redemptive melody. The Magi (Matthew 2), seeing the first stirrings of creation’s new birth, began making preparations for their historic journey... to attend this, the opening overture of the New Covenant.

The Birth of Jesus, God’s Son, is truly the greatest feat and noblest symphony the heavens or earth have ever witnessed. Never have the heavens or earth displayed such a skillful harmony as in the time of Jesus’ birth. In the coming weeks we will explore the riches of this narrative through a few key themes which in chorus help to illuminate the manager scene.

First, we will examine the background story. We will do some research into the family of Jesus, and see what the many quotes from the Old Testament reveal to us. Second, we will get to know some of the major players who traveled long distances to be present for the big event. Who were they? And what were they doing? Third, we will explore the songs about Christ’s birth. Why were there so many of them? What do they have to tell us about singing praises to our Lord during this time of year? Fourth, we will explore the darker underbelly of the Christmas story. Long before Jesus’ pilgrimage to the sufferings of the cruel cross, his story was fraught with sorrow and struggle. This reminds us that in the yearly glamour of tinsel, Hollywood blockbusters, and freshly wrapped presents we still long for the greater glory of Jesus’ return. 

how to use this devotional

We designed this devotional as a way to help you, Christ’s worshiping community, think about Advent themes during the entire month—not just on the four Sundays leading up to Christmas.

Each individual devotion contains a passage of Scripture, a brief reflection on that passage, sample prayers to guide the prayers of children and adults, and hymns to sing together to give voice to your praises and longings.

The devotional was designed to be read in community. So, whether you have a large family or live alone, we encourage you to find one or two (or more) others and go through these devotions together during a time of family devotions, after a meal, or over the phone. Read the Scriptures and pray together. And sing the songs together as well. (If you can’t read music, you can find many of the tunes either on iTunes or by doing an online search of the hymn’s title.) 

Advent Devotional Guide Download

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Compilation and Text
Bruce Benedict

Elliot Grudem

Ladye Jane Vickers

Amelia Reynolds

PO Box 10095 | Raleigh, NC 27605
919-546-0515 |