Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Warmest greetings in the name of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ!
As we enter the season of Advent, the Presbyterian Express team joyfully presents to you a series of Advent Daily Devotionals. They are written by contributors from various EP churches, and they reflect on the manifold dimensions of Advent, and its rich implications on our lives.
The devotions run from Mondays to Fridays, starting on 4th Dec and ending on 22nd Dec. They will be sent out in weekly batches, with 3 batches in total. They will be uploaded on Sunday, before the start of the week.
May God’s word speak to us afresh about Jesus, the Word made flesh! O come let us adore Him!
Pr Lionel Neo Presbyterian Express
ADVENT DEVOTION DAY 11 – 18th Dec 2023
Title: Joseph, The Forgotten Man of Christmas
Passage: Matthew 1:18-25
Matthew 1:18-25 (ESV)
18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
23 "Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel" (which means, God with us).
24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.
Joseph is usually not the first name that pops up when celebrating Christmas. But the Bible did not forget him!
Angel Gabriel had announced to Mary she would be with child from the Holy Spirit, without the help of a man. The child was the long-awaited One that history was pointing to (Matthew 1:1). A promise that God fulfilled to Abraham and David (Genesis 12:3, 2 Samuel 7:12-13).
But Mary’s unexpected, supernatural pregnancy posed a problem for husband-to-be, Joseph. And he wanted to call off their engagement. This was like a divorce (for engagement was as good as marriage), even though they did not live together. Humanly speaking, this would jeopardize God’s promise to David that one of his descendants would establish an everlasting kingdom.
Likely Joseph was just as shocked that his fiancée would conceive a child by the Holy Spirit. Unheard of. Unprecedented. Difficult to accept. But perhaps Joseph knew Mary enough not to thoughtlessly dismiss what she told him. Yet, he could not prove her claim.
He then resolved within himself to divorce her without humiliating her publicly, “being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame” He seemed to agonize over the decision (v 20), not hasty to just settle with a quick divorce.
At that point, God sent an angel to Joseph in a dream. The angel addressed him as “son of David,” emphasizing his direct line to David. And the angel assured him Mary was not unfaithful (v 20). Because God, through the Spirit, made possible the conception of the baby. The child of Mary was to be named Jesus. For he came “to save his people from their sins.”
Joseph sensitively handled the situation with Mary. He understood the heart of the Old Testament divorce law and so did not seek out a quick solution. All these prepare him for his ready obedience to God: “When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.” (vs 24,25).
Like Joseph, let us resolve to place an unwavering confidence in God’s work. Let us align ourselves with God’s will, even when we cannot yet see the whole picture or fully understand it.
Dear Lord, I can celebrate the Gift of Christmas because Joseph obeyed You even when he could not see or understand completely. Grant me a heart like his – a trusting submission. In Your Name, Amen.
Michael and Soo Li, Yong
Living Praise Presbyterian Church
ADVENT DEVOTION DAY 12 – 19th Dec 2023
Passage: Luke 2:1-7
Title: It could have happened in Nazareth!
The prophecy concerning where the Messiah was to be born was given by the prophet Micah some 700 years earlier.
Micah 5:2 – “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, although you are small among the tribes of Judah, from you will come forth for Me one who will be ruler over Israel. His origins are from of old, from ancient days.”
Micah prophesied that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. Under normal circumstances, Jesus would be born in Nazareth because that was where Mary and Joseph lived. But because Caesar Augustus decided to issue a decree for a census to be taken for taxation purposes, everyone had to go to back to their own hometown to register.
Since Joseph was from the line of King David and David’s hometown was Bethlehem, Joseph and Mary had to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem. It was a 9-mile journey down south and it took 3 days. Think about it – the travelling could have expedited the baby’s arrival and Jesus could have been borne somewhere between Nazareth and Bethlehem, but under God’s direction, everything fell nicely into place.
In the end, Jesus was not born in Nazareth but Bethlehem! God was quietly at work through the freewill decisions of individuals. He could use even a pagan ruler to accomplish his plans. The Roman Empire was a great empire then, the superpower of their time. And Caesar Augustus was the most powerful man on earth. When he decided to take the census, it was solely to pursue his own agenda.
Though it seems Caesar Augustus was calling the shots when he issued the decree, and Joseph and Mary might be lamenting over the inconvenience of having to travel when the latter was heavily pregnant, God was actually directing the actions so that the prophecy made 700 years earlier, concerning the Messiah’s birthplace in Bethlehem, could be fulfilled.
This same sovereign God is at work in our lives right now. We may be facing challenges and inconveniences which we see as disruptions to our otherwise peaceful lives. How do we respond?
Do we embrace those obstacles as they come, waiting on the Lord to see what he is going to do and how we can fit into his overall plan? Do we trust him to work silently behind the scenes, even mysteriously and supernaturally so that he will make everything beautiful in his own perfect timing and will? Prayer
Gracious heavenly Father, help us to walk by faith and not by sight. Even when we do not understand the circumstances we are in, help us not to lose heart but to hold fast the name of Jesus. And may you continue to work out your very good purposes in our lives, beyond what we can ask or imagine. Amen.
Rev Lee Kien Seng
True Way Presbyterian Church
ADVENT DEVOTION DAY 13 – 20th Dec 2023
Title: God Will Keep His Promises
Passage: Luke 1:26 – 33
“Advent”, as a noun, means “coming”. Specifically, in the liturgical calendar, it is the season where we look back to Jesus’ first coming with gratefulness and thanksgiving – and it is also the season where we look forward, anticipating and longing for the second coming of our Lord Jesus.
We are a people of promise – a people of God’s covenant. Consider the well-known passage in Genesis 12, where the Lord calls Abram to go from his country, and “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing . . . in you, all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:1 – 3). Through centuries of uncertainty, and turmoil, in spite of human disobedience – God held firm to His covenantal promise made to Abram, and through his line, approximately 2,000 years later, the great promise of God (greater and more important than the promise of land), our Lord Jesus, was born in Bethlehem, in Judea, in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn (Luke 2:7)
Today, we live in a world of increasing fragmentation and brokenness. In this world, which is increasingly adversarial and broken, promises seem to count for nothing. Sister sues brother, brother sues sister over property or wealth, business partners sue business partners over broken promises, while husband sues wife, and wife sues husband over devastated dreams and shattered promises.
To whom shall we turn to with our broken dreams, and shattered promises?
God is the promise keeper. And the proof of promise is our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, who came to demonstrate God’ love. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him”. (John 3:16 – 17)
This Christmas, will we bring our hurt and our pain, our broken dreams and shattered promises, to the feet of our Lord Jesus, to ask Him to forgive us, heal us, and give us His promises anew?
God our loving heavenly Father, to whom shall we turn to in a world of broken dreams and shattered promises? The world does not satisfy – to whom shall we turn to for lasting satisfaction?
Heavenly Father – you bid us come, taste and see that the Lord is good. (Ps 38:4). Have mercy on us, Lord. Heal our wounds, and mend our hearts – but more importantly, forgive us our sin, that we might experience your grace and forgiveness through the salvific sacrifice of your son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Rev Kelvin Chen
Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church
ADVENT DEVOTION DAY 14 – 21st Dec 2023
Title: The Promise of Christmas
Passage: Genesis 3:15
When our first pair of parents decided to rebel against God, their loving Creator and King, humanity lost everything good that He had made for us to enjoy. Instead of good, they began to experience the opposite - evil. Yet the goodness of God will not allow Him to see man perish forever. He pronounced judgement on sinful humanity but also promised to undo the evil that Satan caused. God would use the instrument of the "offspring" of the woman to accomplish this promise.
For many years in the Old Testament, people had been looking for this "offspring". A glimpse of him was seen in Abraham, the father of all nations (Gen 17:4-5). Then Isaac, the promised "offspring" (Gen 22:18). Following them was Moses, then David, and David's "offspring", whose kingdom God will establish forever and whom God declared would be His Son (2 Samuel 7:13-14).
But after each failure and death of these prospective "offspring", the people of the O.T. were left pining for the true "offspring" of the woman who would crush the head of the serpent and bring about God's promise of restoration and reversal of the effects of sin.
It was only at the first Christmas, about 2000 years ago, that it was revealed that the offspring of the woman was Jesus of Nazareth who would save His people from their sins (Matt 1:21). And in another part of the New Testament it says, "the Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil" (1 John 3:8b).
Hence, the hope of restoration from sin and its brokenness begins in Christ Jesus and is given to those who put our faith in Him. Not only will believers be restored to life by faith in this true "offspring" (John 5:24), but they will also be given the privilege to reign with Him and crush the serpent (Romans 16:20). We do so now by living godly lives and proclaiming the same gospel of Genesis 3:15 fulfilled in Christ Jesus. We also look forward to the day of this "offspring's" return, not in a form of a helpless baby, but the glorious King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Rev 19:16).
Heavenly Father, may this Christmas remind us of our only hope found in our Lord Jesus who has restored our relationship with you, and our greater hope of seeing the full restoration at His coming again. Amen.
Rev Ong Chee Hong
Toong Chai English Presbyterian Church
ADVENT DEVOTION DAY 15 – 22nd Dec 2023
Title: How Will You Respond?
Passage: Matthew 1:18-25
We have read and heard many times about the birth of Jesus.
Of how his birth had been prophesied in the Old Testament (e.g. in Isaiah 7:14). Of how slightly more than 2,000 years ago, Mary, a young woman from Nazareth, was informed by an angel named Gabriel that she would give birth to baby Jesus. At that time, Mary was engaged to be married to Joseph. The angel Gabriel visited Joseph and told him, "... do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit ... (and her son, Jesus,) will save his people from their sins.”
While Mary was pregnant, she and Joseph had to travel to their hometown Bethlehem because the Roman emperor had ordered for a census to be taken. When they arrived in Bethlehem, the inns were full. As Mary was ready to give birth, an innkeeper told Joseph that they could stay in his stable.
Mary went into labor, and gave birth to Jesus in the stable where he was laid in a manger.
From such humble circumstances, Jesus grew up and went on to do mighty deeds culminating in his death on the cross and resurrection.
Brothers and sisters, how should we respond to the birth of Jesus?
One response is to reject Jesus. Some may not believe what he has said. Others may feel that following him will be too costly and they will not pay the price.
Another response is lukewarm acceptance. While we believe in Jesus, we are half-hearted about it. Our conviction is less than stellar and we practice our faith based on convenience.
The final response is firm and unflinching commitment to Jesus. Such a person is convicted about the Christian faith and will stay the course with Jesus even in the midst of challenges, struggles and temptations. While that person is not perfect and will commit sins, he will turn to God for repentance and forgiveness. And while salvation is not based on works, he will exude good deeds as an outflow from his faith.
Brothers and sisters, how have you responded to Jesus so far? If it has not been ideal, then ask God to help you embrace him with your heart and soul.
Dear Father, in this Christmas season, may you draw us closer to Jesus, and love and obey him with our life. Amen.
Pr Lim Chung Wei
Orchard Road Presbyterian Church