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Fourth Sunday of Advent

SUNDAY, December 18
Matthew 7:7-11

Asking, Seeking, Knocking (A.S.K.) speaks to how we should pray—with persistence, consistency, determination, confidence, and hope. These steps are an ascending scale. To ask is to inquire. We move on to seeking, which is searching and discovering. Then we proceed to knocking, which is an aggressive pursuit, a continuous hammering. The promise is that these questing-ones receive (present tense), find, and have doors opened. We pray always, not just when we are in need of rescue or healing. Because of who God is, we need not doubt what we receive or be suspicious of what we find, or fear the open door. What earthly fathers give pales in comparison to what our heavenly Father gives! We are assured that he will give in his way, in his time, and with generosity. 

Lord, we can receive only what is given to us from heaven. We thank you that every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from you, our Father. Thank you for the gift of Christ. Amen




MONDAY, December 19
Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19

Asaph understands. He knows Yahweh is Israel’s Shepherd who leads Israel and is also its enthroned King, ruling not just Israel but all creation. He acclaims that he is the Lord and God Almighty with power to do all he wills. He realizes that salvation belongs to the Lord alone.

That is why Asaph is also perplexed. All that being true, why then are his people so shamed and mournful? It is as if God fumes at their very prayers. “How long, O Lord?” is a disconsolate lament rising to the Lord in times of trouble. They yearn for restoration and to receive the shining light of his favor.

This restoration is coming. The One who sits on God’s right hand will restore. The One called the Son of man is coming.

The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace. Amen.


A Sign Is Given

TUESDAY, December 20
Isaiah 7:10-16

King Ahaz was surrounded by enemies. Israel’s future was doomed. The Lord had already assured him that their efforts would come to nothing. Ahaz was unconvinced, so the Lord offered him a sign. Ahaz again turned this down. But God is going to give him a sign regardless. The immediate sign is the birth of child called Immanuel, God with us. “Yes, God is with you, Ahaz, whether you believe it or not.” In Matthew 1:22-23 we see this final fulfillment in Jesus.

We are accustomed to hearing “Immanuel, God with us.” But what if God is against us, or indifferent to us, or absent from us? Why do we presume that he is “with us”? The assuring sign of his imminent presence and an assured future is Jesus himself, God who has come to dwell with us!

Almighty God, we have seen your glory in the face of Jesus, full of grace and truth. Thank you that you gave us this sign while we were still sinners. Amen. 



For All the Peoples

WEDNESDAY, December 21
Matthew 12:15-21

Aware that the Pharisees were plotting to kill him, Jesus withdraws rather than war with them. Matthew references Isaiah 41:1-4 as a messianic prophecy now fulfilled in Jesus. According to this prophecy, the Messiah will embody six qualities: 1) merciful (v. 15)—he healed them all; 2) humble (v. 16)—he warned them not to tell; 3) chosen (v. 18)—the Beloved is chosen to bring justice to the nations through the anointing of the Holy Spirit; 4) quiet (v. 19)—he will not cry out in the streets; 5) empathetic (v. 20)—a bruised reed he will not break nor a smoldering wick will he put out; he empathizes with our weaknesses (Hebrews 4:15); 6) inclusive (v. 21)—the Messiah’s reign will extend to all the peoples. Jesus is our hope, and through him justice is not only proclaimed but is finally victorious!

Jesus, you are certainly our Servant/Savior and also our example to follow through the power of the Holy Spirit. May we, by your grace, embody these qualities. Amen!


Belonging to Christ

Romans 1:1-7

Paul proclaims “the gospel of God” (v. 1). The first few verses tell us what this gospel is all about: Jesus, promised by the Scriptures, a descendant of David, the empowered Son of God. Then Paul reaches out to the Roman Christians, Jews and Gentiles alike. “You too are called to belong to Jesus Christ!” Calling has many aspects to it, but we are “called to belong” (v. 6, NIV). Perhaps a sense of belonging is the cry of our age. “All the lonely people, where do they all belong?” Well, they belong to Christ.

Our world suffers from fragmentation and isolation. “Called,” or belonging to, speaks of Christ’s embrace, love, and unconditional acceptance. We in fact belong to Christ not because of enslavement
but because we give our whole selves over to him, as he has to us. 

Thank you, Lord, for giving us grace and apostleship. It is our humble privilege to be loved by you and called your people. Amen. 



My Lord and My Savior

Luke 1:46-55

Mary magnifies the Lord. She captures the essence of God: he is the Lord, he is the Savior. The Lord is sovereign, powerful, and authoritative. He is her savior. Soteri mou. My savior. Yes, he is the Savior of all humankind, of the cosmos, but of me too. Too often we shy away from calling him “my Lord, my Savior,” preferring to abstract him to “Lord of all.” Yet as God fills our lives and comes to us, we move to the personal. An assent that he is, is not enough. For salvation to come, one must finally say, “my.”

Mary names the helpless, the humble, and the hungry as those for whom the mighty One advocates. As my Savior is also my Lord, our world’s categories of success are overturned. With the babe in her womb, there is revolution in the air—moral, social, and economic. 

We rejoice, O Lord God our Savior, that we in your grace and mercy, are descendants of Abraham forever! Amen.

At the Name of Jesus

Matthew 1:18-25

The promise of Messiah is finally to be fulfilled. It does not happen by mere divine fiat. It wends its way through sinful, fallible human beings Mary and Joseph. Mary has already declared, “Be it unto me…” Now it is Joseph’s turn. He too hears the Word and is faithfully obedient. The Gospel of Luke emphasizes the humble obedience of Mary. Matthew highlights the obedience of Joseph.

Consider the names of our Lord given here. Jesus, which means “Savior.” This derives from the Hebrew name “Joshua-Jehovah is salvation.” He will save his people from their sins. Who are his people? Potentially all who respond in faith. The word “Christ” means “anointed,” the Greek equivalent of Messiah. He is Jesus the Messiah. Jesus is his human name; Christ or Messiah is his title. Then comes Immanuel, God with us, his relation to us. 

Lord, when we wake up, may we too do all you command us to do in humble faith and obedience. Amen.



About the Author

  • Brad Hill

    I served as a Covenant missionary with my wife, Ruth, in the DR Congo for 19 years. I have also served numerous churches as lead pastor or as interim, and as adjunct faculty for North Park and Fuller. I earned an MDiv from North Park Theological Seminary and a DMiss from Western Seminary. We have two daughters, Rachel and Rebecca, and five grandkids. We currently live near Seattle and attend Midway Covenant Church.

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