EP Express 2022 Advent Devotionals - Week 1
Updated: Nov 30, 2022
Dear brothers and sisters
Greetings in our Lord’s Name. The Presbyterian Express is very excited to share with you a series of Advent devotion readings written by our very own ministers and preachers. The devotions run from Mondays to Fridays, starting on 1st Dec and ending on 24th Dec. They will be sent out in 3 weekly batches.
May you be blessed as you walk with the Lord and during this Christmas season.
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
Elder Phoa Luh Sy
ADVENT DEVOTION DAY 1 – 1st Dec 2022
Title: Timeless Hope in Hopeless Times
Passage: Isaiah 9:1-7; Matthew 4:12-17
Do you know what is the Collins Dictionary Word of the Year for 2022? It is “permacrisis” – a term that describes “an extended period of instability and insecurity” due to the pandemic, geopolitical conflicts, climate change, escalating inflation and looming recession. “Permacrisis” reflects the gloomy outlook as we come to the end of the year and wonder how much worse it may get.
However, throughout biblical and world history, God’s people had been subjected to “permacrisis” in one way or another. Consider the “permacrisis” in the days of the prophet Isaiah. Those were days of anguish, darkness and oppression. Yet in Isaiah 9:1-7, he prophesied that God would bring about the shining of light, increase of joy, liberation from oppression and restoration of peace. Ultimately, when Jesus Christ started His public ministry by quoting this passage in Matthew 4:12-17, He described Himself as the messianic fulfillment of what had been prophesied. Because of what Christ has done for us through His life, ministry, death and resurrection, we have light in darkness, joy in gloom, liberation from sin and peace with God. Even in “permacrisis”, we have “permahope” in Christ!
Therefore, my brothers and sisters, what is the “permacrisis” that you are going through right now that needs “permahope”? The youth may encounter uncertainties for the next stage of their education. The elderly may suffer from rapidly deteriorating health. The rest face cost-of-living pressures. The Austrian psychiatrist Viktor Frankl survived the Nazi concentration camp during the Holocaust and made an insightful observation. He saw that whether a prisoner survived the ordeal was not just merely dependent on the external conditions, but whether he had hope in the future – the moment a prisoner lost hope, he would not survive. Hope is crucial for human survival; as a theological virtue together with faith and love (cf. 1 Corinthians 13:13), hope is crucial for spiritual vitality.
The Reformer John Calvin wrote, “We should ask God to increase our hope when it is small, awaken it when it is dormant, confirm it when it is wavering, strengthen it when it is weak, and raise it up when it is overthrown.” Therefore, it is in “permacrisis” that we continue our liturgical tradition to light the Advent candle of hope. It is in “permacrisis” that we are invited to hold on to Christ as our “permahope” – our “Timeless Hope in Hopeless Times”. Amen.
Loving God, You want us to give thanks for all things,
to fear nothing except losing You,
and to lay all our cares on You,
knowing that You care for us.
Protect us from faithless fears and worldly anxieties,
and grant that no clouds in this mortal life
may hide from us the light of your immortal love
shown to us in Your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
(From the Book of Common Worship)
Rev Darryl Chan
Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church
ADVENT DEVOTION DAY 2 – 2nd Dec 2022
Title: Devotion to God
Passage: Joshua 23:6–11
In this Advent season let us be united in our devotion to God for His saving grace proffered to us in Christ Jesus as we glean from this passage in Joshua who reminded the Israelites that the Lord their God is, first and foremost, devoted to them.
In verses 6 and 7, Joshua gave prominence to the written Word of God, putting emphasis on the need to be very strong and very careful to obey God’s Holy Word.
Being devoted to God’s Word would keep them, as well as us, from accepting and being negatively influenced by the bad counsel of the pagan world.
Therefore, in their acknowledgment and response to God’s devotedness to them, the people were to respond by being devoted to Him with the following guidelines laid out by Joshua:
• They were to be very strong ‘to keep and to do’ all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, turning aside from it neither to the right hand nor to the left (v 6)
• They were to continue to ‘cling to the Lord’, as they had been doing. (v 8)
• Their obedience to God was not to spring from a sense of duty but rather from their undivided love for the Lord. (v 11)
The lesson for us is that devotion to God should not be considered optional. Rather, it must spring forth out of deep gratitude in our hearts towards God’s faithfulness.
And what constitutes sincere devotion boils down to a matter of the heart.
Let us, then, spur one another on to deepen our devotion to God as we reflect on the birth of our Saviour and as we look forward to His return.
Let us be very strong in keeping and applying God’s Word in our lives, and continue to cling on to God not out of a sense of duty, but rather, out of our sincere love for Him.
Gracious Heavenly Father, we thank You for Your unfailing love and undying faithfulness. In this Advent season, help us build a strong devotional life in You. Help us to be devoted to Your Word and to live out Your teachings daily.
Stir our hearts to love You with all our strength, mind and soul, and spur us to experience the depth of Your love as we express Your love to the people around us.
In Christ name we pray. Amen!
Rev Daniel Lee
All Saints Presbyterian Church
ADVENT DEVOTION DAY 3 – 5th Dec 2022
Title: Celebrating Christmas Differently
Passage: Micah 5:1-5a
In Micah 5:1, the city of Jerusalem was being called upon to assemble the armies to confront the enemies of Israel. However, Bethlehem was too small to rise up to the occasion. Yet God often chooses to use the SMALL and DESPISED things of the world to accomplish the GREAT and GLORIOUS purposes of His kingdom.
The story was told of a one-note musician who took his seat in the orchestra with the other musicians, arranged his score, and tuned his instrument. On the arrival of the conductor, the music began with the conductor skillfully bringing in one group of musicians and then another. After a long time, the crucial moment arrived — it was time for him to play that ONE NOTE. The conductor turned to him, and his one note was played beautifully. Once more the orchestra continued playing and the one-note musician simply sat quietly throughout the rest of the concert.
One note only! You may protest. Yes, ONE NOTE ONLY, and it could be that our part in God’s kingdom may be a very small note only. But even that is very vital!
Bethlehem had only one note to play in the orchestration of God’s redemptive plan, but it was an important one!
It was in Bethlehem that Boaz and Ruth had a son named Obed who would be the grandfather of King David. “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for Me one who is to be Ruler in Israel…” (Micah 5:2)
700 years later, this prophecy led the wise men to the birthplace of our Lord Jesus. Joseph was a carpenter, and Mary was a peasant girl. Yet they were the ones God chose to parent His One and Only Son.
Phillips Brooks once said, “It is while you are patiently toiling at the little tasks of life that the meaning and shape of the great whole of life dawns on you.”
For most of their lives, Mary and Joseph simply went about the mundane little jobs of daily life, living SMALL lives in SMALL towns. But in the process, they protected, nurtured, and raised up the only Hope of all the World.
Perhaps the problem with many people today is: We are too big to become small enough to be used of God.
Are you making the mistake of rejecting “little” opportunities, because you’re looking for some ‘big’ responsibility to fall into your lap?
We would do well to note the advice of F.B. Meyer, “Do not wait to do a great thing.
The opportunity may never come. But since little things are constantly claiming your attention, do them for a great motive – for the glory of God.”
The mindset of the world is such that
- the strong will always win and the weak will always lose
- the well-qualified, better-looking person would do a better job than the less-qualified, not-good-looking person
- the bigger our army and resources, the greater will be our victory.
God works differently from the ways of the world: “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:27-29)
So, let us celebrate this and every Christmas differently with a mindset that
- does not despise the days of small things
- is prepared to be the one-note musician
- understands God often chooses humble and obedient people to accomplish His great purposes.
Dearest God, amidst the trappings and festivities of Christmas, help us to remember the reason for the season. Help us to respond to Your indescribable gift of love with a grateful heart and a willing spirit to serve You where You have placed us, recognizing that no service is too small or insignificant in the economy of Your vast and glorious kingdom. We love You and thank You in Jesus’ name, AMEN.
Rev Dr Steven Gan
Amazing Grace Presbyterian Church
ADVENT DEVOTION DAY 4 – 6th Dec 2022
Title: How Jesus’ Family History Gives Us Hope
Passage: Matthew 1:1-18
The Gospel of Matthew begins with a genealogy or a family history. To the contemporary reader, this may seem a strange way to begin a narrative. But if we take a closer look, we will see how this family history brims with a message of hope and grace amidst the darkness of our lives.
1. Jesus is God’s Promised King
Jesus is identified in Matthew 1:1 as the “Messiah” or the Anointed One, a special title for God’s chosen King. He is also identified as the “Son of David”. In Isaiah 9:6-7, Isaiah prophesied that a Son will be given and amongst many titles, He will be called “Mighty God” (cf. Isaiah 9:6). We are further told that “of the greatness of His government and peace there will be no end (cf. Isaiah 9:7a). Jesus is this promised Son who will “reign on David’s throne” forever (cf. Isaiah 9:7b), bringing us under His lordship in perfect peace. In submission to Jesus, we find rest from the tumult of our sinful rebellion and restoration to our highest purpose – to glorify and enjoy God forever.
2. Jesus fulfills God’s Promises According to God’s Plan
Jesus is also identified in Matthew 1:1 as the “Son of Abraham”. We are reminded here of God’s promises to Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3 of a promised land, a promised people, and promised blessing through him, extending to the nations. Jesus is the offspring (cf. Genesis 22:18) through whom these great promises come. It is through Jesus that we have the hope of the New Creation, the hope of being God’s redeemed people, and the hope of restored relationships with God and one another.
And notice the sinful people and the sordid stories that lie underneath this genealogy. Abraham tried to give his wife away to Pharoah and Isaac followed in his footsteps. Jacob was a liar. Judah committed incest with Tamar. David committed adultery with Bathsheba and betrayed Uriah to his death. Solomon turned to foreign wives and false gods. The line of kings failed, leading eventually to exile. This genealogy does not contain a pantheon of heroes, but a series of sinners. Yet despite sin and failure, God by His sovereign grace preserved the line that would lead to the birth of our Saviour and King Jesus Christ, our Messiah who came not for the ‘righteous’ but for sinners.
This Advent and Christmas season, let us take refuge anew in King Jesus to find hope amidst our sorrows, and healing for our sin-tainted hearts.
We thank You that we do not suffer in this world as one who is hopeless, but as one who has a loving King. Thank You for freeing us from sin’s power and penalty at the cross. Because of Your resurrection, we know for sure that all of God’s promises are “Yes” in You. Because You live, we have a real hope and future. Amen.
Pr Kenneth Teo
Living Praise Presbyterian Church
ADVENT DEVOTION DAY 5 – 7th Dec 2022
Title: O Me of Little Faith!
Passage: Matthew 14:22-33; James 1:6-8
As an avid angler, the sea is a symbol of recreation and relaxation for me. But for most Biblical characters, the sea spelled danger. The Galilean sea for example could transform from peaceful calmness to deadly turbulence in an instant. Thus, even seasoned fishermen treated the vast expanse of water with profound respect.
With this as a backdrop, Matthew recounted how he witnessed Jesus walking on the surface of the sea while it was buffeted by strong winds, and how even Peter tried to do the same! His account was vivid, with the exchange of words between them clearly recorded. It must have been a powerful experience for Matthew.
Peter asked Jesus for the ability to walk on water. Jesus acceded by beckoning him. To everyone’s surprise, Peter began mimicking Christ’s feat! But when fear struck, he began to sink and cried out for help. Jesus then held on to him and both climbed safely into the boat. At this juncture, Christ uttered his famous rebuke, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
James wrote these words in his pastoral letter: “But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.” (James 1:6-8) I wonder if James had in his mind the picture of Peter on that fateful night, who first asked of the Lord the power to walk on water, but later doubted and more than wetted his feet.
In recent times, the Holy Spirit has reminded me of my little faith, my tendency to doubt, even after I prayed to God. It seemed like I could never lean with enough confidence on God’s character or His gracious promises. At one moment, I would tell myself that all would be fine since God would sovereignly achieve good for those who love Him. Yet in the next moment, I would experience uncertainty and fears all over again. I was clearly double-minded.
My spirit cried out in desperation, “O Lord, please save me of my little faith!” And I said sorry for my doubts. In His mercy (and patience towards me), I often experienced God’s strengthening of my waning faith. I reckon until Christ comes again, I will continue to struggle between faith and doubt. But I will do two things: I will keep asking for the fortification of my soul, and I will look earnestly to His coming again, so that I may be thoroughly cured of my double-mindedness.
Dear Jesus, Your servant looks earnestly to Your glorious return, so that my fickle heart may be fully satisfied with Your constant brilliance. Yet in the mean time, may Your Holy Spirit exert His mighty power in my faint heart, to assure me of Christ’s love, and keep me fearless and doubtless whenever I pray.
Rev Lam Kuo Yung
Katong Presbyterian Church
ADVENT DEVOTION DAY 6 – 8th Dec 2022
Title: Only Jesus Can Save Me!
Passage: Matthew 1:21
“She (Mary) will bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)
This announcement made by the angel of the Lord is often read and preached at Christmas services because it was an announcement that changed the world completely. This Jesus the angel spoke of brought new hope and great joy to the people suffering the consequence of sin on earth.
Even for us listening today, this announcement of Jesus’ mission and significance carries so much weight. While we live in an embattled and broken world, we need reminding that the curse of sin was removed by the blood of Jesus, death is defeated and eternal life is made possible.
There are two implications in this announcement:
1. Only Jesus can do the saving
Salvation is accomplished by Jesus alone. Therefore, when we preach the Gospel we must be careful to insist on Jesus alone for salvation.
2. There is hope for everyone
There is no differentiation between sinners - no one is more “saveable” than others.
Every sinner has the potential to be saved by Jesus alone.
This reminds me of my encounter with a gangster chief who three years ago, accepted the invitation to join our monthly fellowship organized for the unchurched Chinese speaking folks.
Gangsters are perceived to be people who go around threatening and harming people.
The experiences I had when I was a young boy convinced me that gangsters are “unsavable” people let alone a gangster chief whose name was feared even by the gangsters in Chinatown. Strangely, he attended the fellowship meeting quite regularly for about two years and heard the Gospel preached.
One day I received news that he was admitted to the hospital. I felt the urgency to ask him to surrender his life to Jesus. But I was afraid that I might offend him. So, I prayed very hard for wisdom and courage as I made my way to the hospital.
When I arrived at the ward, he was sitting on his bed looking as if he was waiting for me. To my surprise, he blurted out in a loud voice saying "Pastor, I am condemned, I cannot be saved (无药可救), only Jesus can save me!" I was shocked and asked, "Are you sure only Jesus can save you?" He said "Yes! Except for killing people and setting them on fire, I have done it all. Pastor, I deserve a thousand deaths (罪该万死)!”
On hearing his open admission that only Jesus could save him from his sins, my heart leapt with joy because only God could open the eyes of this gangster chief. I then lead him to pray for God's forgiveness and receive Jesus as his personal Lord and Saviour.
He prayed so loudly and enthusiastically that all the people in the ward heard every word of his prayer!
Apostle Paul declares in Romans 1: 16 “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
Dearly beloved brothers and sisters in Christ, the Gospel of Jesus Christ itself has the power to save every sinner, gangster chief or otherwise. Do not deny any pre-believer the opportunity. Be courageous to sow the seed.
In this Christmas season, let us not be ashamed of the Gospel. Let us celebrate Christmas by telling the Good News to all people especially those you think are “unsavable” or people whom you think will be offended. They may be desperately waiting for someone to tell them the Good News.
Our Father in heaven, thank You for Christmas.
Thank You for saving us from our sins and giving us a new life in Christ.
Grant us the courage to make known Your gospel to all people - nice neighbours or nasty gangsters, so that they may know that only Jesus can save their souls from hell and give them peace they desperately need.
In His name we pray. Amen!
Rev Vincent Lee
Toong Chai Presbyterian Church
ADVENT DEVOTION DAY 7 – 9th Dec 2022
Title: The Glory of God
Passage: John 1:1-18
The word “glory” is used 222 times in the Old Testament and 168 times in the New Testament.
What is the glory of God? In the human sense, glory is an aesthetic or material beauty that rests on the material of the earth (Psalm 37:20, Psalm 49:17). On the other hand, the glory of God is the beauty of His Spirit. It is the beauty that emanates from His character, from all that He is.
During this Advent, let us see God’s glory through His incarnation.
“The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
At Christmas, we celebrate the fact that God became human. It is not merely that He became a person, but it is the kind of person that He became. Think about it. He was born in a town that was marginal, and in a place where there was no proper place for Him to be born. He was born in a stable. That was humble, even by human standards.
Max Lucado says it this way, “... The One who knew it all, was not a know-it-all. The One who made the stars did not keep His head in them. The One who owns all the stuff of earth never strutted it. Never ...” That was because the purpose of His incarnation was not to show off but to show up.
In Jesus, God showed up. The One whom we call the Creator showed up looking no different from human beings created by Him. He came in a way that was just very normal, without any fanfare. He showed up not to remind us just how bad we are, and He did not show up to lord it over us. He came because God loves us. He came because He was on a rescue mission - to do something for us that we can never do for ourselves, which is to re-establish a right relationship between God and us.
What do we see in His incarnation? We see the HUMILITY of God! We see Someone who is willing to put aside all the trappings of what it means to be God in order to reach out to us. This is GLORIOUS! This is God’s glory!
Is the humility of God shown in and through us?
Lord, make us a servant, humble and meek. Amen.
Pr Herna Kong
Orchard Road Presbyterian Church