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An Advent Prayer: Knowing and Treasuring Jesus

Dec 11, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. Luke 2:16-19 (NIV)

     Dear Lord Jesus, this Scripture is crammed so full of holy mystery and immeasurable grace. You, the very God who created and sustains all things, who feeds birds and clothes the fields—you drew nourishment from a young maiden’s breast. And Mary “treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart”—and well she should.

    But “hurrying off” like a shepherd to tell others about you has always been easier for me than sitting still and letting you tell me about yourself. It’s always been easier for me to talk than to listen, to stay busy than to relax, to be “productive” than to be meditative. I confess this as sin, Jesus, for knowing about you isn’t the same as knowing you intimately. An informed mind is not the same thing as an enflamed heart.

     Lord Jesus, to know you is eternal life, and I do know you, but I want to know you so much better. Thank you for everything you’ve already accomplished for us through your life, death, and resurrection; and for everything you’re presently doing as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, constant Intercessor and loving Advocate; and everything you will be to us in the new heaven and new earth—Bridegroom to Bride. There’s so much to treasure—so much to ponder.

    May the gospel totally rearrange all the price tags in my life, Jesus. May the gospel slow me, settle me, and center me; that I might exclaim with Paul, “To live is Christ, and to die is gain… indeed, I consider all things as rubbish compared to the surpassing excellency of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” So very Amen I pray, in your peerless and praise-worthy name.

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An Advent Prayer for Our Children and Grandchildren

Dec 10, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace. Luke 1:76-79 (NIV)

     Dear heavenly Father, it’s easy to forget the other child of promise you sent as an important part of the Advent story—John the Baptist, the forerunner of the Messiah and friend of the Bridegroom. His birth and life are such a testimony to the way, the gospel.

     Grant us John’s joy of growing small in the world’s eye, that Jesus might be greater in the world’s gaze. And grant us the joy of John’s parents, Elizabeth and Zechariah, who only wanted what you wanted for their son. May the same be true as we consider the lives of our children and our grandchildren.

    What more could we want for our kids than for them to love Jesus more than anything or anyone else in the world? What other story would we write for them, than a story of serving you with everything they have and are?

     Father, we lift our children and grandchildren to you. For those who don’t know you, please bring them to a saving knowledge of Jesus. Make the gospel beautiful and irresistible to them. For those who do know you, take them into even greater intimacy with yourself. Don’t let their affection for Jesus grow cool, or their passion for your kingdom grow weak.

     Our prayer for our children and grandchildren is the same one we offer for ourselves: Father, guide our hearts deeper into the habits of the gospel, and guide our feet more surely onto paths of peace. Free us to live and love well between the two Advents of Jesus—loving mercy, doing justice, and walking humbly with you. So very Amen we pray, in Jesus’ holy and loving name.  

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An Advent Prayer: When Things Seem Impossible

Dec 09, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     ”How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.” “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her. Luke 1:34-38 (NIV)

Dear heavenly Father, the one thing I share in common with Mary is incredulity over the mind-boggling, heart-encouraging promises you have made in connection with the birth of Jesus. I too say, “How will this be?” And I hear you answer back, from the Scriptures and the history of redemption, “Nothing is impossible with God.”

Everything you’ve promised, with regard to Jesus, will come to pass. Including the redeeming Jesus’ bride from every nation, tribe, people, and language; and the renewal of this broken world into the new heaven and new earth. But (hallelujah) it also includes your plans for each of your children. Just as surely as you placed the life of Jesus in Mary, you have done the same for us. Though in an entirely different way than Mary, we too are “pregnant with glory” (Rom. 8:18-27).

One Day I will love perfectly, with the kindness and compassion of Jesus. I will only think and see with the wisdom and eyes of heaven. I will fully embrace the will of God as my favorite bread and utter delight.

One Day I will never be selfish, petty, or defensive again. I will never get my feelings hurt, insist on being right, or demand more. I will think of others more highly and more often than myself. I won’t keep a record of anybody’s wrongs, and will only, and forever, be an encourager. I will be free, so very free and whole.

To all of these promises I find myself saying, “How will this be, since I’m still so very much not like Jesus?” And you answer back so grace-fully, “Things impossible with man are possible with God.” To which I say and pray, “May it be as you have promised in the gospel, holy and faithful Father. I am yours and your servant.” So very Amen I pray in Jesus’ exalted name.

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An Advent Prayer: God’s Generosity and Our Stubbornness

Dec 08, 2014 | Scotty Smith

      “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 he said, “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Isa. 7:11-14  (NIV)

     Dear heavenly Father, what an outrageously generous God you are. This Scripture contrasts the beauty of your love with the ugly of our stubbornness. I praise you for your relentless commitment to bless most unworthy, unbelieving, ungrateful people, like me. Truly, Advent is the arrival of irrepressible grace.

     It was a time of local and international crisis, and King Ahaz had every opportunity to repent and rely on you. You sent Isaiah with words of wisdom and hope. But he refused. Feigning piety, King Ahaz remained addicted to his illusion of control and self-sufficiency.

     Father, as I read this story, I realize how much I’m like King Ahaz. Often I acknowledge you with my lips, but on the inside, I trust more in my Cub Scout kit of self-sufficiency. So I won’t throw any stones today at this wicked king. Rather, I grieve the illusion of control and competency.

     That’s why the promise of Immanuel is so precious to me. Father, you’ve proven yourself to be a God who is not only with me in Jesus, but a God who is so very much for me in Jesus. Your love for us in the gospel isn’t just unconditional; it’s contra-conditional, for you’ve met every condition necessary to redeem us and restore creation. Mercy without measure and grace without limit; love beyond imagining and peace surpassing understanding.

     Though I don’t have the Assyrian army outside my door threatening my existence, there are a few real challenges before me this Advent season. Father, by faith through grace, I purpose to rely on you for wisdom from above and grace for the moment. That you are with me and for me is enough. So very Amen I pray, in the trustworthy and triumphant name of Jesus

 

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A Prayer for the 2nd Sunday of Advent: The Day of No More Harm

Dec 07, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the cobra’s den, and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. Isa. 11:6-9 (NIV)

Dear Lord Jesus, since every promise God has made finds its “Yes!” in you, we worship and adore you, for securing the Day Isaiah describes in this heart-palpitating passage. And we express our intense longings for the arrival of that Day.

Oh, for the Day when all “tooth and claw” violence gives way to wolves frolicking with lambs; leopards and goats napping together; calves, lions, and young horses strolling through the new heaven and new earth as friends; cows and bears lunching together, rather than having one another for lunch; the Day when snakes will be pets rather than pests.

As much as we love the vision of shalom in the animal kingdom, a gazillion times over we long for the Day when we, the two-legged image-bearers of the living God, no longer harm one other in any way. No more marginalizing or minimizing one another; no more demeaning or dismissing, vilifying or idolizing one another; no more hating or hurting, ignoring or igniting one another in any way.

Hasten the Day when God’s glory will cover the earth like salt water covers the Pacific Ocean; the Day when knowing the Lord won’t be something we do, but who we are; the Day when we will finally and fully love one another as you love us, Lord Jesus.

Until that Day, keep us groaning and growing in grace. Grant us quick repentances when we love poorly. May the world recognize us as your disciples by the way we love one another. So very Amen we pray, in your powerful and patient name.

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An Advent Prayer: Abiding in God’s Full and Permanent Favor

Dec 06, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” Luke 2:13-14 (NIV)

     Dear heavenly Father, there’s no way to calculate the riches of this declaration. It’s more than we could ever hope or imagine, yet that for which we deeply long. You are at peace with us. We are your beloved children, upon whom your full and permanent favor rests. All of this is true because the gospel is true.

     Father, if unredeemed angels were in awe of such good news, how much more should we be staggered and astonished, humbled and grateful, liberated and transformed? By your Holy Spirit, enflame our hearts, stir our affections, and restore to us the joy of so great a salvation.

     We invest much of our lives seeking favor—wanting to be wanted, longing to be celebrated, and seeking to be acceptable. We look to spouses and kids, education and exercise, vocations and vacations—even to spiritual disciplines and ministry, to give us what you alone give us, so freely and fully in Jesus.

     And what a paradox, Father—the more we come alive to the riches of the gospel, the less we obsess about our own lives. We won’t end up thinking more of ourselves, or less of ourselves. We just think of ourselves less often. How liberating.

     Lord Jesus, may this old host of angels drive us into new worship of you this Advent season. O come let us adore you, indeed; for you have lived and died in our place—now raised for our justification, you will return for our glorification. Hallelujah what a Savior! Hallelujah, what a salvation! So very Amen we pray, in your holy and loving name. 

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An Advent Prayer: Bringing Our Fears to Jesus

Dec 05, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:8-12 (NIV)

Dear Lord Jesus, like bookends of grace, the heart-settling command, “Do not be afraid”, accompanies your birth and resurrection (Luke 2:10; Matt. 28:5). Ever since our first parents sinned, fear and hiding have, and been part and parcel of life; and I’ve helped keep the family tradition alive. At times, fear has more power over my life than your love; and though I already know myself to be clothed in your righteousness, I still reach into my closet for fig leaves.

I join shepherds in hurrying off to come to you, Jesus, for you alone bring the good news of great joy for which my heart longs every day. You alone can charm my fears and set this prisoner more fully free.

Because the gospel is true, I’ll tell you what you already know. My fears aren’t all that noble. I’m not really afraid of angelic hosts and I’m not afraid to die. I’m not even afraid of facing the final judgment, for your cross was my Judgment Day. You’ve exhausted God’s judgment against all my sins—past, present, and future. Hallelujah!

So for what fears do I need to obey the command “Do not be afraid”? I’ll start with “the fear of man.” At times, there are some people whose praise and disdain have more in-the-moment power over my heart than the gospel. It hurts to say it, but it’s true.

Then there’s the fear of redundancy—the fear of disappearing into a cloud of not mattering anymore. Jesus, even as I acknowledge this fear, I praise you for your non-condemning gaze. It’s not easy to confess such weakness. May the joy of being used by you never supersede the much greater joy of being known and loved by you.

Jesus, I have other fears which also need “gospel-charming”. I bring these to you today with joy, for though you were once a baby wrapped in cloths lying in a manger, now you’re a Savior outside an empty tomb. Thank you, thank you, thank you. So very Amen I pray, in your loving and liberating name.

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An Advent Prayer for Waiting and Repenting of Impatience

Dec 04, 2014 | Scotty Smith

Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. James 5:7-8

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness… 2 Pet. 3:9

Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him. Isa. 30:18

     Dear heavenly Father, the Advent theme of waiting confronts me in every context of life. Why am I in such a hurry? Why the rush? At just the right time, you sent Jesus. Not a day too early, not a day too late. But as for me, cars in front of me cannot move fast enough; FedEx, UPS, and mail can’t get to my house quick enough; restaurants can’t bring food to my table soon enough and Wi-Fi cannot be speedy enough.

     Worse, is how my impatience plays out in relationships. I finish people’s sentences; I fidget instead of linger; I launch instead of listen. Instead of a non-anxious presence, I often give the impression “Speak quick, ’cause I’m moving on.”

     Father, I repent. Have mercy on my busy, cluttered, in too-much-of-a-hurry self. According to you, the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself in love (Gal. 5:6); not meeting deadlines with time left over. People are forever; stuff is for the ash heap.

     Father, thank you for not being in a hurry; thank you for waiting to be gracious to us; thank you for not being slow about your promises. Thank you for being patient with my impatience. I lament my busyness and repent of my hurriedness. Help me recalibrate so that I might live and love at the pace of grace. I want to be the farmer who waits patiently for the harvest—the harvest guaranteed by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus

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An Advent Prayer: In the Presence of Jesus There Is Joy

Dec 03, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” Luke 1:39-45 (NIV)

     Dear Lord Jesus, too easily have I raced by this part of your nativity story—but what encouragement it brings me today. The image of John the Baptist leaping for joy in Elizabeth’s womb—just because he was in close proximity to you while you were in Mary’s womb, reminds me of another part of your story, thirty-three years later. On the night of your betrayal and arrest, just before going to the cross, you asked the Father to grant us the fullness of your joy (John 17:13). My only response to that is thank you, thank you, thank you; and let it be to me according to your prayer.

     I am so grateful to know that nothing has to change in my world and nobody has to be any different, for this prayer to be answered. I don’t need a different story, less suffering, or more guarantees; I don’t have to have a different personality, cooler church, or better health; live in a different era or even in a different neighborhood. The joy you give transcends (and transforms) tears, circumstances, and heartaches.

     Jesus, throughout Advent, I want to give you more worship than whining and more gratitude than grumbling. Just knowing you, or rather, being known and loved by you, makes me a man of incalculable riches. For “I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Who do I have in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but you are the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Psalm 73:23-26) So very Amen I pray, in your near and joy-full name.

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A Prayer for Filling Our Hearts with Jesus–the Lord of Advent

Dec 02, 2014 | Scotty Smith

     For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end.He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this. Isa. 9:6-7 (NIV)

Dear Lord Jesus, knowing that it’s possible to “do Christmas” and miss Advent, today I want to fill my heart, as full as possible, with you. You are the One who has come and is coming again. Isaiah’s words fuel my worship and shrink my worries. Hallelujah, so many times over.

Knowing the government of the whole world already rests on your shoulders fills me with a joy second only to knowing your shoulders fully bore the sin of the world, including mine. As this day begins, I gladly surrender to your reign of grace.

You are Wonderful Counselor—our righteousness, holiness and redemption (1 Cor. 1:30). In you are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col. 2:3). I look to you for knowledge of great mysteries, but also for wisdom about handling fresh disappointments, old hurts, and unfulfilled longings. You care so tenderly for your lambs.

You are Mighty God, creator and sustainer of the entire universe—the one for whom all things have been made and in whom all things are being summed up (Eph. 1:10).

Lord Jesus, to see you is to see the Father and to know you is to know the Father; in this sense you are Everlasting Father. We would never be able to cry, “Abba Father,” if you had not first cried, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”

Indeed, you paid the price of our peace and thus alone deserve the title Prince of Peace. Thank you for the wonder of your reconciling grace and power. Thank you for destroying hostilities, and for securing the Day of no more broken relationships, racism, or war of any kind. I long for the fullness of your peace, in my heart and in our world.

For your broad shoulders, big heart, and coming kingdom, I honor, praise and adore you, O blessed Messiah and Redeemer—Jesus. So very Amen I pray in your matchless and merciful name.

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