The Wondrous Story

A 25 Day Advent Reading Guide

The Wondrous Story is about a baby born. Seemingly, on the surface, a baby born as other babies are born. But beneath, above, and around this story is anything but normal. What child is this? God has broken into the world. Advent. God has come to reclaim his creation. He has come to reconcile all things unto himself. It starts with a baby, born in inauspicious circumstances. That baby is the Son of God. It is this story that changes everything. It is the story that all the other stories lead up to and all stories after hinge upon. Our salvation, the great reclamation project of creation, does not come through an idea or some way of thinking or a formula, but by the acts of the Creator God passed along to us in this story. A story that should capture us, a story that is to experience. God has woven himself into his creation in order to save his creation. The baby born. God has come. Christ Jesus, son of God. Immanuel, he is with us. Isaiah 64:1, “Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains would tremble before you!” The prophet’s cry has been answered. God did rend the heavens. The mountains did tremble before him. A baby was born.

December 1
John 1:1-3, Colossians 1:15-20, Colossians 2:9-10

Christ Jesus is the firstborn over all creation, he is the image of the invisible God, he is the fullness of God in bodily form. The fullness of God dwells in him. In Jesus, and through him, all things were created. He is the head of the church, those who believe, and the beginning of the resurrection. He is over all in authority. He is King and Lord. His blood shed on the cross is the avenue of reconciliation and all things being made new.

Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the new-born King;
Peace on earth and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!”

Joyful, all ye nations, rise, 
Join the triumph of the skies; 
With th’ angelic host proclaim, 
“Christ is born in Bethlehem.” 
Hark! the herald angels sing, 
“Glory to the new-born King!
(from Hark! the Herald Angels Sing)

 

December 2
Isaiah 9:6, Matthew 1:25, Hebrews 2:5-18

Here is a wonderful mystery: In finding Christmas you find a baby. Fully man and fully God. This is the paradox of our faith. God shared our humanity in flesh and blood, fully human in every way. God was born. God lived this life. He was tempted. God also died. He was crucified. He was resurrected, that is our future. It begins with this wonderful mystery of a baby being born and, for some remarkable reason, the whole world rejoices.

O Holy Night
The stars are brightly shining
It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth
Long lay the world in sin and error-pining
Till he appeared and the soul felt it’s worth
The thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices
For yonder brinks a new and glorious morn
(from O Holy Night)

 

December 3
Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:22-23, John 1:14, 18

Jesus is Immanuel, God with us. He is God in flesh. In the partaking of Communion, we use the physical elements of the bread and the cup, very symbolic of the true physical life of Christ. The culmination of the Old Testament, the blessing of God to the world as given though Abraham, God’s intervention for his creation, came as this baby. God as a man. Who would do something like this but our God? God is not distant from us. God did not send his creation away and leave it to itself in its sin. He is determined to be with us. Jesus came to us to save us. He came to save you.

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.
O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny
From depths of Hell Thy people save
And give them victory o’er the grave
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.
(from O Come O Come Emmanuel)

 

December 4
John 3:16, Titus 3:4, 1 John 4:9-10, Romans 8:38-39

The incarnation, God with us, is a miracle of love. Why else would God do what he did? In his incredible, unfathomable love, God sent us Jesus as our savior and redeemer. The birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus are the greatest moments of history. History leads to it. History flows from it. The avenue of all of this is the great love of God. Love drives it. Love has recipients. Love makes a way. For God so loved the world…

Go tell it on the mountain
Over the hills and everywhere
Go tell it on the mountain
Our Jesus Christ is born
(from Go Tell it on the Mountain)

 

December 5
Philippians 2:5-11, Matthew 20:28

The action of the love of God in giving us Jesus is an action of humility and obedience on the part of Jesus. Jesus came in human likeness. He came to be our servant. In appearance as a man, he was obedient to the ultimate purpose of his coming, death on a cross. In his servant life, he is exalted above all things. Every creature will acknowledge that he is Lord over all.

The kingdom of this world
Is become the kingdom of our Lord
And of His Christ, and of His Christ
And He shall reign forever and ever
And He shall reign forever and ever
King of Kings, and Lord of Lords
King of Kings, and Lord of Lords
(from the Hallelujah Chorus)

 

December 6
Isaiah 9:2, John 1:5-13, John 8:12, John 12:35-36, 46

The world is lost in the darkness of its fall. The world in blinded by the enemy. But God in flesh is the light come into the dark and lost world. Jesus shines brightly. His light is a light that presents a new way, a way back to the Father and a new way of living. It is a light that those who believe will begin to live in, ourselves shining forth in this dark world.

Light of the world, Savior is born
Our King Emmanuel
Jesus is Lord, we will rejoice
He has come to save us
O Come let us adore Him,
O Come let us adore Him,
O Come let us adore Him Christ the Lord
(from Emmanuel)

 

December 7
Genesis 12:1-3, Luke 2:10-11

Jesus is the good news that causes great joy for all people. Jesus himself is the good news as he is the proclamation of the Gospel. For whoever would believe in him has found the joy of salvation and life everlasting. It is for all the people. This joy wells up in the revelation of forgiveness and freedom from sin and the new life given. This is the promised fulfillment to Abram that the whole world, all the people on the earth, would be blessed through him. Jesus should always continually be the good news of great joy to us.

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
let every heart prepare him room,
Joy to the earth, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove ;
The glories of His righteousness,
(from Joy to the World)

 

December 8
Micah 5:2, Matthew 2:3-6, Luke 2:4-7

On the surface, the birth of Jesus was ordinary. We know that it was not, for the Son of God had come into the world. But the circumstances of his birth are telling. Jesus was not born into those of financial or political standing. No preference here, no easier path given. In way of social class, Joseph and Mary were ordinary folks. This speaks to the mission of Jesus. The good news of great joy is for all people, for whoever would believe. Jesus often worked in ministry on the fringes of society, as the Gospel gathers outward in. His birth signifies this. He was born in a town that was not prestigious, born in a place where animals may have been kept. No pomp and circumstance. This savior is for everyone, for all the people.

Away in a manger,
No crib for His bed
The little Lord Jesus
Laid down His sweet head
The stars in the bright sky
Looked down where He lay
The little Lord Jesus
Asleep on the hay
(from Away in a Manger)

 

December 9
Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:18-19, 23, Luke 1:34-35

Our faith starts with a confession. We believe and we confess, often more than we can explain. We do not insist on comprehending everything. How can a virgin be with child? The Holy Spirit will overshadow her. We accept this. The birth of Jesus is wrapped in the miraculous. Prophesies foretell hundreds of years before. A virgin giving birth. Angels rejoice. Certainly the life of Jesus, his resurrection, all entwined with the miraculous. Do you believe? If so, you believe in the miraculous. The miracle of God in flesh. The miracle of the good news of salvation. We believe.   

Silent night, holy night
All is calm, all is bright
‘Round yon virgin Mother and Child
Holy infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace
Silent night, holy night
Son of God, oh, love’s pure light
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace
Jesus, Lord at Thy birth
Jesus, Lord at Thy birth
Jesus, Lord at Thy birth
(from Silent Night)

 

December 10
Isaiah 9:1-7

The coming of the Messiah was foretold by the prophets. Isaiah was the great prophet calling people to a new hope. This passage can be simplified to one word: Hope. To see these words come alive in a lost and dark world takes prophetic imagination. Can this really be? Can this be a true way to live? Is this really possible? The prophet foretells of an alternative way for a world bent on destruction. Jesus will be all the things the prophet names and describes. He is those things here and now. Can you see it? Does it strike your heart? We are to strive to live it in the midst of this dark world.

How bright appears the morning star,
With mercy beaming from afar!
The host of Heav’n rejoices!
O righteous Branch! O Jesse’s Rod!
Thou Son of man, and Son of God!
We too will lift our voices
Jesus! Jesus! Holy, holy! yet most lowly!
Draw Thou near us:
Great Emmanuel! stoop and hear us!
Rejoice, ye heav’ns, thou earth, reply!
With praise, ye sinners, fill the sky!
For this His incarnation!
Incarnate God, put forth Thy power,
Ride on, ride on, great Conqueror,
Till all know Thy salvation.
Amen, amen! Alleluia, alleluia!
Praise be given
Evermore, by earth and Heaven.
(from How Bright Appears the Morning Star)

 

December 11
Matthew 1:21, Luke 2:11, 21, John 1:29, Philippians 2:9-11

His name will be Jesus. He will save the people from their sins. He is the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God, the lamb of God. He is the fulfillment of all things of old. It is in his name we are saved, it is in his name we pray, it is in his name we are healed. At his name everything will bow down, all tongues will confess that he is Lord.

What child is this
Who lay to rest
On Mary’s lap is sleeping
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet
While shepherds watch are keeping
This, this is Christ the King
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing
Haste, haste to bring him laud
The Babe, the Son of Mary
(from What Child is This?)

 

December 12
Isaiah 9:6

Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. The child that was born, the one who was given to us, is all of these things. Meditate on what each of these mean. He is to be wonderful to each of us. He is to be our counselor, leading us in all aspects of life in wisdom. The might of his power is to be evident in us, seeing his will prevail. We are to find assurance that he is our father, leading us into everlasting life. His peace is to be in us, grounding us as we navigate this life right now. Allow him to be all that he is, in you and for you.

The people that in darkness walked
Have seen a wondrous light,
A light that beamed afar,
The bright and morning star,
And those that dwelt in death’s dark vale
Have felt their joy increase,
Their constant theme shall be,
“All hail the Prince of Peace.”
Wonderful, Counselor!
The everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace,
Wonderful, Counselor!
The everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace.
As men rejoice when they divide
The spoils which they have gained,
So shall it ever be,
When Christ shall set them free.
For He shall break the shoulder’s staff,
The rod of the oppressed,
And every battle won,
As victors we shall rest.
(from The People that in Darkness Walked)

 

December 13
Luke 1:26-38

Mary holds a special place to us. The mother of Jesus. She received the word from God through the angelic messenger. She was highly favored. In spite of her troubling and her fear, in spite of the ramifications of pregnancy outside of marriage, Mary trusted in God and received the direction for her life that God gave her. She trusted that this miraculous event could happen. She trusted in who the child was foretold to be. We must trust God this much with our lives.

Mary did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary did you know that your baby boy would one day rule the nations?
Did you know that your baby boy is heaven’s perfect lamb?
That sleeping child you’re holding is the great I am
(from Mary Did You Know?)

 

December 14
Luke 1:46-55

Mary sang. A new song sprung up from her inmost being. Trust in God will do this. Trust in God will ultimately bring assurance and peace, even if his word can be troubling and unsettling. This paradox is the life of faith. We live by faith, stepping at times into the unknown, trusting all the while that the God who leads us is the God of all things. The trust you have in God should consistently bring forth a new song from your inmost being.

My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
(from Mary’s song, Luke 1)

 

December 15
Matthew 1:18-24

We really do not know too much about Joseph. We know his lineage. We know of his betrothal to Mary and that they did marry. We know he was with Jesus as a child. But beyond that, not much else. But as Mary received the word of God, so did Joseph. Mary was found to be pregnant before the angel visited Jospeh. In this, he was a good man, and did not intend to publicly disgrace her.  After the angelic visit, Joseph did what the Lord commanded. The life of faith is a life of obedience. Obedience to God, his will, and his ways. Obedience should mark our lives as we strive to follow Jesus.

O come all ye faithful
Joyful and triumphant
O come ye o come ye
To Bethlehem
Come and behold Him
Born the King of angels
O come let us adore Him
O come let us adore Him
O come let us adore Him
Christ the Lord
(from O Come All Ye Faithful)

 

December 16
Luke 1:5-23, 39-45, 67-80

The story of Elizabeth, Zechariah and, John the Baptist are entwined with the story of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus. An angelic visitation, old age and barren, now conceived; a birth, and a song of praise. A prophet born who would prepare the way of the Lord. Once again, the miraculous so prevalent. Once again, God is up to things. He always is. The light makes its way and it always involves others. The light in us, paving a way for the Light in the world.     

Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,
because he has come to his people and redeemed them.
He has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of his servant David
(as he said through his holy prophets of long ago),
salvation from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us—
to show mercy to our ancestors
and to remember his holy covenant,
the oath he swore to our father Abraham:
to rescue us from the hand of our enemies,
 and to enable us to serve him without fear
in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
(from Zechariah’s song, Luke 1)

 

December 17
John 1:4-11, Luke 2:7, Matthew 8:20, John 15:18-21

The light has come into the world, but the world did not recognize him and has not received him. At his birth, there was no room for him in the inn. Even in his ministry, he had no sure place to lay his head. Both of these are highly symbolic of his rejection by his creation, the light that was not recognized. Both are prophetic of his crucifixion. The world did hate him. The wonderful story is bound up in persecution. For those of us who, in revelation, recognize him and see him as light, the same will be for us. As servants, we are no greater than our master. 

And our eyes at last shall see him
Through his own redeeming love;
For that child so dear and gentle
Is our Lord in heav’n above,
And he leads his children on
To the place where he is gone.
(from Once in Royal David’s City)

 

December 18
Luke 2:13-14

The angelic hosts are directly a part of this grand story. Angels speaking to Mary and Joseph and shepherds. Here we find a heavenly host of angels rejoicing in the birth of Jesus. The birth of our Savior set off a celebration of the heavens that reverberated through the cosmos to the far reaches of God’s magnificent creation. We are to be in consistent rejoicing for the good news of Jesus. Glory to God in the highest! Peace for you, for his favor rests on you!  

Now let us sing the Angel’s song
That rang so sweet and clear,
When heav’nly light and music fell
On earthly eye and ear;
To Him we sing, our Saviour King,
Who always deigns to hear:
“Glory to God, and peace on earth.”
He came to bring a glorious gift,
Good will to men; – and why?
Because He loved us, Jesus came
For us to live and die;
Then sweet and long, the Angels’ song,
Again we raise on high.
”Glory to God, and peace on earth.”
(from Now Let Us Sing The Angel’s Song)

 

December 19
Luke 2:8-20

The first to hear of the birth of Jesus were shepherds. Most likely of a lower class, the angel gave them the word of Jesus, and the host witnessed to them in revelation. Again, Jesus works from the outside in, the lowly are included and often first. The last shall be first. The good news of great joy for all the people was proclaimed to them. Do not be afraid! They sought and found the baby. The revelation brought action. It caused witness to what was seen. It caused glorifying and praising God. Isn’t this the life of one who hears and seeks? 

From God our Heavenly Father
A blessed Angel came;
And unto certain Shepherds
Brought tidings of the same:
How that in Bethlehem was born
The Son of God by Name.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy
“Fear not then,” said the Angel,
“Let nothing you affright,
This day is born a Saviour
Of a pure Virgin bright,
To free all those who trust in Him
From Satan’s power and might.”
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy
(from God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen)

 

December 20
Matthew 2:1-12

These wise men saw a sign in the stars. Incredibly, this is forbidden in the Law. But God works unconventionally at times. God worked into the lives of these wise men through the ways of their lives. This is another way of seeing how God came to save his creation. Unconventionally. Who would have thought that God would come as a person, in flesh? But as the shepherds responded, so did the wise men. They sought and found the toddler Jesus. They brought him gifts and worshipped. He is the ultimate gift to us. Our gift to him is our worship and the treasure of our lives: Our whole heart.

We three kings of orient are, 
Bearing gifts we traverse afar
Field and fountain, moor and mountain, 
Following yonder star.
Born a King on Bethlehem’s plain,
Gold I bring to crown him again
King for ever, ceasing never 
Over us all to reign.
(from We Three Kings)

 

December 21
Matthew 2:13-18

Evil lurks in this wondrous story. The enemy does not give up easily. For where the light shines, darkness tries to overtake it. Such is our life and the world around us. This is our contention. Where birth of a baby who would save the world had come, so there the evil of the mass murder of babies countered it. This is a sober reminder of the tension we live in. It is a sober reminder of the seriousness of our sin. This is a world of great weeping and mourning. This is why Jesus has come. 

O ye beneath life’s crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow;
Look now, for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing;
Oh rest beside the weary road
And hear the angels sing.
For lo! the days are hastening on,
By prophets seen of old,
When with the ever-circling years
Shall come the time foretold,
When the new heaven and earth shall own
The Prince of Peace, their King,
And the whole world send back the song
Which now the angels sing.
(from It Came Upon a Midnight Clear)

 

December 22
Luke 2:21-40

Simeon and Anna, wise and devout. Waiting and expecting. Sure of the Lord and his coming work. Years before Peter proclaimed Jesus the Christ, Simeon and Anna saw it and knew it. They saw their salvation, light for the Gentiles and glory of the Jews, redemption for Jerusalem. They placed Jesus, at his consecration and the offering of sacrifice, into his mission. May you always see Jesus as your salvation and redemption. May he always be your way, your truth, and your life.  

Then let us all with one accord
Sing praises to our heavenly Lord
That hath made Heaven and earth of nought
And with his blood mankind has bought.
Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel
Born is the King of Israel!
(from The First Noel)

 

December 23
Romans 6:23, Ephesians 1:3-10, Ephesians 2:8-9

Jesus is given to us by our loving God.  He is our gift. His sacrifice was a gift. The gift we are given through him is eternal life. This is our reward for our faithfulness. He is faithful to us, we respond in faithfulness. This is the greatest gift that can be given. We have received it freely. We cannot earn it. We simply respond to it. It is the gift of God.

How silently, how silently
the wondrous gift is giv’n!
So God imparts to human hearts
the blessings of His heav’n.
No ear may hear His coming,
but in this world of sin,
where meek souls will receive Him still
the dear Christ enters in.
(from O Little Town of Bethlehem)

 

December 24
Matthew chapters 1 & 2, John 1:1-18

The Wondrous Story, bringing it together.

Angels we have heard on high
Sweetly singing o’er the plains
And the mountains in reply
Echoing their joyous strains
Come to Bethlehem and see
Him whose birth the angels sing,
Come, adore on bended knee,
Christ the Lord, the newborn King.
Gloria, in excelsis Deo
Gloria, in excelsis Deo
(from Angels We Have Heard on High)

 

December 25
Luke chapter 1, Luke 2:1-40 

The Wondrous Story, bringing it together.

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play
And mild and sweet their songs repeat
Of peace on earth good will to men
And the bells are ringing (peace on earth)
Like a choir they’re singing (peace on earth)
In my heart I hear them (peace on earth)
Peace on earth, good will to men
(from I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day)

 

A Look froward to Easter
Isaiah 61:1-3

Christmas leads to Easter. Manger to a cross to an empty tomb. God broke into our world, Jesus came to save us. For that to happen in full fulfillment, Jesus died. Sacrifice. But death could not hold him. Victorious in resurrection, the baby born is the resurrected Savior. We will leave our Christmas celebration and head toward our Easter celebration. The Church calendar reminds, keeps us in the rhythms of belief and faith.

In the old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine
A wondrous beauty I see;
For twas’ on that old cross Jesus suffered and died
To pardon and sanctify me.
(from The Old Rugged Cross)

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