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An Advent Prayer: The Sacrificial Tenderness of Jesus

Dec 22, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering. Isa. 53:1-4 (NIV)

     Dear Lord Jesus, your manger was a veritable garden of grace, for there the Father very planted you as the tender shoot of Isaiah’s vision. Hallelujah, you are root of life that has broken through the dry ground of our fallen world and hearts.

     I am truly in awe, this morning, at the sacrificial tenderness of your incarnation. You created beauty, yet you became the one with “no beauty,” for us. You took the vileness and ugliness of my sin, that I might become pure and beautiful in you. O holy merciful mystery. Though you have always enjoyed the delight of the Godhead, you became the despised one—the rejected one for us, for me. What wondrous love is this, indeed?

     You—the fountain of pleasures, whose laughter fills heaven, whose joy is our strength; you became the man of suffering and sorrows for us—for me. And though you didn’t remain a “tender shoot,” you have retained all tenderness. In taking up your cross, you took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows; you bore our guilt and exhausted our judgment—once and for all. What a wonderful, merciful, tender Savior you are.

     O to esteem and love you, as you deserve, Lord Jesus. May your tenderness grow in my heart and be real to my family. So very Amen I pray, in your beautiful and grace-full name. 

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A Prayer for the 4th Sunday of Advent

Dec 21, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     When they [the Magi] saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. Matt. 2:10-11 (NIV)

     Dear Lord Jesus, whether magicians or kings, astrologers or otherwise: and whether there were three, seven, or twelve of them, it makes zero difference. The Magi were wise men, and they show us the way of true wisdom, because they lead us to the incarnation of Wisdom itself—to you Lord Jesus.

     It would take an eternity of eternities to begin to show you the worship you deserve for becoming wisdom from God for us—that is, “our righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1 Cor. 1:30). Because of you, we are alive, forgiven, and free. Because of you we are welcome, wanted, and enjoyed by the three-times holy God of eternity.

     Though the Magi came to you, you are the real seeker in the story. Promises of your coming and an irrepressible calling; a providential star and a Spirit-generated joy—how we praise you for drawing men and women to yourself from every period of history, every family of humanity, and every segment of society. Come Herod or high water, those you’ve come to save will come to you, Lord Jesus.

     On this fourth Sunday of Advent, we declare our awe of you and our love for you, Lord Jesus. Open the eyes of our hearts to behold even more of your beauty; expand the chambers of our hearts to make room even more of your grace and glory. Free us to be generous and joyful as the Magi. Free us to love as you love us; to forgive as you have forgiven us; and to pursue others as you so faithfully seek us. So very Amen we pray, in your trustworthy and worship-worthy name. 

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An Advent Prayer: When Your Inner-Ache Intensifies

Dec 20, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     He [God] has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors. Luke 1:51-55 (NIV)

Dear heavenly Father, I awoke today with a deep ache in my heart—an ache that makes Mary’s prayer timely and encouraging. I am grateful beyond measure that you are a God who remembers to be merciful. With the gift of Jesus, you remembered all the promises you made to Abraham and to his descendants, which includes me. I’m humbled and overwhelmed.

You promised Abraham you’d take him to a land of your choosing to make of him a nation for great blessing. Israel became the “national womb” for the Messiah—through whom you are redeeming a family from every race, tribe, tongue and people group (Gen. 12-17). No one can fulfill these promises but you.

Like Mary, Abraham could not have begun to imagine how all of this would play out. But the promises you made to Abraham, and the prayer the Spirit prayed through Mary, all find their fulfillment in your Son, Jesus. I praise you for your memory and your mercy, Father. Both of these answer to the deep ache in my heart today.

Father, thank you for remembering your promise to complete your good work in me, and in your world. I am so ready to be made completely like Jesus. I am so ready to live in a world of no more brokenness, sin, and death; no more mourning, crying and pain; no more fractured relationships and unfulfilled longings, and no more “not yet and not enough”; no more tensions, conflicts, and stress.

Until that Day, thank you for being the Father of mercies and God of all comfort. Thank you for promising, and delivering, new mercies every morning, including this one. So very Amen I pray, with the faith of Abraham and the humility of Mary, in Jesus’ loving name.

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An Advent Prayer: Worship Replacing Whining

Dec 19, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir. Gal. 4:4-7 (NIV)

     Dear Lord Jesus, though the immediate circumstances surrounding your birthing experience were less than ideal, everything happened just as you, our Father, and the Holy Spirit planned. “Doing all things well” didn’t just start happening after your resurrection.

     “When the time had fully come” you came, not a day early and not a day late. As humbling as it was to be born under the ceiling of a stable, being born under the weight of the law was an incomparably greater burden. Yet that’s exactly why you came into the world—to fulfill every demand of the law for us—by your life of perfect obedience and to exhaust it’s judgment against us—by your death for us upon the cross. You are our substitute to trust long before you are our model to follow. Hallelujah so many times over!

      Because you lived and died in our place, we’re no longer slaves, but daughters and sons of the living and loving God—with the full rights thereof. We’ve been perfectly forgiven and robed in your righteousness, sealed with the Spirit and given a new family; prayed for every moment and will inherit the earth. And one Day—one blessed Day, we will see you as you are, and we will be made like you. No abacus, group of accountants, or room full of computers can possibly calculate the riches of grace that we’ve been given in you.

     Forgive us when our whining trumps our worship; when our grumbling is more pronounced than our gratitude; when our awareness of what we don’t have in the world is more compelling than what we do have in you. During the remainder of Advent, free us to love as we are loved and forgive as we’ve been forgiven; and to welcome the outsider and serve our families with your servant love. So very Amen we pray, in your tender and triumphant name.

 

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An Advent Prayer: The Weakness, Paradox, and Glory of Jesus’ Birth

Dec 18, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion—to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified. Isa. 61:1-3 (NIV)

     Dear Lord Jesus, I am so thankful you came to fulfill everything mentioned in these hope-saturated words from Isaiah; and I’m in awe, once again, as I reflect on your humble entrance into our world. The contrast between your birthing and calling is staggering.

     Though Mary nursed you, she depended on you for her next breath and her eternal salvation. Though vulnerable and needing her comfort as a newborn, it was you who came to comfort all who mourn. O, holy and profound mystery—a newborn child has come to make all things new.

     Even as a babe, the Spirit of the Sovereign Lord was on you—for you are the Sovereign Lord—the King of Kings and Lord of Lords—the one by whom all oppression will be stopped, all chains will be broken, all injustice will give way to justice. We praise, bless, and adore you, Lord Jesus.

     By you, mourning is transformed into gladness, broken hearts become whole hearts, despairing hearts become delight-full hearts—we, the disfavored, become the favored of the Lord. Who possibly could’ve seen, known, and believed such a thing—given the circumstances of your birth?

     But the meekness of your birth was a sure hint of the weakness of your death. As surely as you were placed in an unlikely crib, you were nailed to an undeserved cross. Hail the incarnate deity—born that we no more may die, died that we may truly live! We worship you, O, glorious and grace-full Lord Jesus. Use us—use me today, as a conduit of your tender mercies and eternal encouragement. So very Amen I pray, in your kind and triumphant name. 

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An Advent Prayer: A Christmas As Big As the New Heaven and New Earth

Dec 17, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     See, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create, for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy. I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people; the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more. Isa. 65:17-19 (NIV)

     Dear heavenly Father, I love meditating through the Servant Songs of Isaiah during Advent, because they remind me that the birth of Jesus wasn’t a “merry little” event. Christmas represents the fulfillment of promises of immeasurable, irrepressible, indescribable proportions and delight. I praise you that every Christmas is colossal—irrespective of the economy or our discretionary spending.

     With the first coming of Jesus, you inaugurated your plan to create a new heaven and new earth, from the stuff of this very broken world—a New Creation world in which you will find great delight. Though it will take the second Advent of Jesus, your kingdom has come, and it will come in fullness. I praise you for your generosity, tenacity, and felicity in doing all that you do, mighty and merciful Father.

     And you’ve promised to redeem a people from every race, tribe, tongue, and people group to populate that eternal world of peace and joy—a people in whom you find great delight and over whom you will rejoice forever. The gospel really is that big and that good. You’ve used stars, sand, and dust to describe the mathematics of your mercy. Free me from my unbelief, grace-full and loving Father.

     Because you have sent Jesus to us and for us, we live with the blessed assurance that all of our sins have been wiped away, and the glorious hope that all of our tears, likewise, will one Day be wiped away. Until that Day, free us to engage in your commitment to make all things new, where you have placed us, and wherever you might send us. So very Amen I pray, with great joy and freshly fueled hope, in Jesus’ exalted name.

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An Advent Prayer: Jesus Is the King We Always Wanted

Dec 16, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish and uphold it with justice and righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this. Isa. 9:7 (NIV)

Dear Lord Jesus, your righteousness is our surety and your sovereignty is our sanity. Hallelujah, many times over. How could we have possibly imagined that your humble Advent entrance through a stable would lead to the stable-ization of the universe, and that your cradle would eventually rock our peace-less world?

Truly, there’s only one government and one peace sufficient to meet the needs of our sinful hearts and broken world. You are already installed as “the ruler of kings on earth” (Rev. 1:5) and of everything else. King David’s throne has become a throne of grace, from which you are actively ruling the world with your truth and grace. Joy to the world, indeed!

Indeed, you are zealously working all things together after the counsel of your will. You—the Lamb of God, the Lord of Lords, and the Lamp of the New Jerusalem—are working in all things, for your glory and for our good. No one and nothing can derail, deter, or distract you from bringing to completion your good work of redemption and restoration.

You don’t promise to do all things easy, but you always doing all things well. Forgive me when I get impatient with your timing, don’t enjoy all your providences, and second-guess your involvement. I’ve lived long enough to know you do some of your “best work” when I am actually feeling the absence of your presence.

As the gospel of your kingdom continues its transforming work in my life, may it advance through my life. Give me more joy than I’ve ever had before in loving and serving people. Intensify my hope in the Day you will return and finish making all things new. So very Amen I pray, in your mighty and merciful name.

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An Advent Prayer: Making Music in Our Hearts to Jesus

Dec 15, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. Luke 1:46-50 (NIV)

Dear Lord Jesus, I woke up today extremely thankful for the gift of music—especially the songs of Advent, and it’s a “no-brainer” why. Every Advent hymn, carol, and chorus—from your Word, in my hymnal, or on my iPod—fuels my hope and liberates my longings.

I praise you for igniting my heart to sing your praise. I praise you for giving me a reason to sing, Lord Jesus. I praise you for songwriters who capture what I feel, and give me the vehicle for expressing what I long to say to you.

Mary’s story is quite different from mine, and yet I join her Advent refrain today. I can sing her song. I’m compelled to sing her song, for you’ve been mindful of my humble, broken, sinful state, too. I have nothing to boast in but you, Lord Jesus. You came to me when I wasn’t seeking you, and you’re being formed in me as surely as you entered the world through Mary’s womb.

I’m a blessed man because you’ve done great things for me, and you continue to do so. Holy is your name, Lord Jesus. I have no concern for what any generation may say about me. It’s enough to know what you say about me: that I’m yours—forgiven, declared righteous, desired, enjoyed, and as already loved as I will be in the new heaven and new earth.

Your mercy has been extended to my generation, and to me personally. Therefore, my soul glorifies you, Lord Jesus, and my spirit rejoices in you—my God and my Savior. As the gospel goes deeper into my heart, free me from all fears, except the fear of the Lord. Indeed, I want to be filled and freed with by affectionate reverence for you—an awe so compelling I will live and love to your glory, with great joy. So very Amen I sing and pray, in your most glorious and grace-full name.

 

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A Prayer for the Third Sunday of Advent

Dec 14, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This was the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.'”) Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. John 1:14-16 (NIV)

Dear Lord Jesus, through there’s no Mary or manger, shepherds or angels in John’s account of your birth, but there is most definitely you. You’re are the only “star” on the horizon in this nativity scene, and how you shine.

We praise you for becoming flesh and “tabernacling” among us, in the fullness of time. Though equal to, yet distinct from the Father, you didn’t consider your glory something to be tightly grasped, or held onto selfishly. Rather, you emptied yourself by becoming a man—but not just any ordinary man, but a servant-man, the Servant of the Lord, the second Adam—our Savior.

In your thirty-three years of incarnate life, you accomplished everything necessary for the redemption of your beloved Bride, and the restoration of the world you love. We magnify and adore, worship and love you, Lord Jesus. What a wonderful, merciful Savior you are. You are so mighty to save and quick to redeem.

We should sing, “Joy to the World” year round, for you are presently ruling the world with your grace and truth—the grace and truth of which you are full. You are making the nations prove the wonders of your love, as the gospel runs from heart to heart and nation to nation.

From the fullness of your grace we keep receiving one blessing after another, and one blessing on top of another: The gift of your imputed righteousness, the perpetual favor of God, your steadfast intercession and advocacy, citizenship in heaven, the work of the Spirit in our lives—the assurance that one Day we will see you as you are, and we will be made like you. Hallelujah, many times over! Joy to the world, indeed! So very Amen we pray, in your near and exalted name.

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An Advent Prayer: The Blessing(s) of Immanuel

Dec 13, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Rom. 8:28-32 (NIV)

     Dear Lord Jesus—Immanuel, God with us and God so very much for us, I cannot read this favorite Scripture without thinking about Advent, and why you have come, and why you are coming again. The hopes and hurts, fears and tears of all my years are met right here in this passage. You are all we need, and way beyond all we can imagine.

     Lord Jesus, O, the peace I have that comes from knowing you are presently at work in all things for your glory and for our good—in the obvious and when I’m oblivious; in my laughter and in my losses; in the things I “get” and in the things which vex me; when I’m “feeling the love” and when I’m feeling very lonely; when the gospel is my greatest reality, and when I’m tempted to say with John the Baptist, “Are you the Messiah, or should we be looking for another?”

     There is no other Messiah, Savior, or Lord but you, Jesus; and absolutely nothing will separate me from your love, for I’ve been called according to the Father’s purpose—which will never fail or falter. He “foreknew” me and set his affection upon me before the world began; and he will continue to provide everything necessary to complete the work of the gospel in my life, in the whole family of God, and in the entire creation. Joy to the world, and to me, indeed! So very Amen I pray, in your merciful and mighty name.

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