Sunday, December 18, 2011

Advent Tree: Week 4

Here we are at the final week of Advent (leaves are not pictured in order). I have really enjoyed diving into these stories. Most days the readings are a bit too long for Easton (age 3), but Eliana (age 10) is amazed at the way the whole Bible tells one big story!

John the Baptist (river with voice)
Jesus' Sermon (broken chains)
Good Shepherd (sheep and crook)
Door (open door)
True Vine (vine)
Bread of Life (broken loaf of bread)
Light of the World (sunrise)

You have probably figured out by now that the "Day #" does not correspond to the date of December, since advent starts four full weeks before Christmas. Don't worry about the date. Just keep on going until you're finished!

Day 22 - John the Baptist (river with voice) - Read Luke 3:2-6; 15-16; 21-22; Isaiah 42:1

Remember the baby that Zechariah and Elizabeth had? What was his name? His name was John.
What did God say he would become? A prophet who would prepare the people to meet God.
Well, when John grew up, that’s exactly what happened. He began preaching to people and warning them to stop disobeying God and do what pleases him. Many people thought that John must be the one they had all been waiting for – the Messiah, God’s anointed king. But he knew he was not the promised Messiah. He was just helping people get ready for his coming. John baptized people who were sorry for their sins in the Jordan river. Jesus, John’s cousin, had grown up, too, and he came to be baptized by John -- not because he had disobeyed, but to show that he was ready to do God’s work. When he came up from the water an amazing thing happened. The Holy Spirit came down upon him like a dove and God spoke from heaven. God told everyone that he was pleased with Jesus, that Jesus was the long-awaited king (see Psalm 2) , and that Jesus was the servant that Isaiah had promised would come (Isa 42:1)!

Day 23 - Jesus' Sermon at Capernaum (broken chains) - Read Isaiah 61:1-2 and Luke 4:14-21

After Jesus was baptized, he began teaching people everywhere about the kingdom of God. The first sermon we know about was in a Jewish synagogue. Do you remember when we talked about the scroll of Isaiah (and even looked at it on the internet?)? Picture this: when Jesus went up front to get ready to teach from the Bible, someone handed him that scroll – the scroll of Isaiah – the one that promised that he would come! Jesus rolled the scroll until he came to the part where Isaiah talked about the servant who would come to bring Israel back to God. Jesus read it to everyone, and then he announced that the promise had come true!
What did Isaiah say the servant would do? He would give good news to the poor, freedom for prisoners, sight to the blind, and freedom for the oppressed. Jesus had come to make all of God’s promises come true!

Day 24 - Good Shepherd (sheep and crook) - Read Ezekiel 34:1-6; 11-16; John 10:11-16

Isaiah and Jeremiah were not the only prophets in Israel. Ezekiel was another prophet who spoke to the Israelites during the time when they were taken away into Babylon (the time of Daniel). He warned the leaders that they were like bad shepherds who only thought of themselves and didn’t take care of the sheep. He promised that someday he would come to shepherd the people himself. The Jewish leaders must have been pretty surprised when Jesus announced to them that he was the good shepherd! That meant that they were the bad shepherds and that God planned to remove them as leaders over his people.
Jesus was the king like David.
Jesus was the servant promised by Isaiah.
Jesus was the good shepherd. Does this mean he is God himself? It would seem so! He is the kind of shepherd who takes care of each of us, making sure we are strong, healthy and safe.

Day 25 - Door (open door) - Read John 10:7-10; 14:6; Ps 118:19-24

What did Jesus call himself in our lesson yesterday? The good shepherd.
Jesus also called himself the “gate” or “door” through which the sheep may enter and be safe. He is the only door that we can enter to become part of the family of God. He is the only way to get close to God because he is the only one who can teach us to live in a way that pleases God. Remember when Jesus was baptized and God called down from heaven and said he was pleased with Jesus as his son? If we want to learn how to please God, the only way to do it is to learn to live like Jesus. People today talk about there being many different paths to a healthy spiritual life. The Bible says there is only one path, and it’s Jesus. Tomorrow we’ll learn about what it is like to do things his way.

Day 26 - True Vine (vine) - Read John 15: 1-4; Isaiah 5:7

When the prophet Isaiah talked about the big problems that Israel had obeying God, he used many different word pictures to help them understand. One time he said that they were like a vineyard – a field full of grape vines – which only produced sour grapes. God said he would need to destroy the vineyard and start over again. Jesus came to fulfill this promise, too. He said that he was the true vine, and that everyone who stayed connected to him would bear good grapes. And that’s really true! When we try to do good things on our own strength, without depending on Jesus, the things we do don’t turn out well. Our actions become selfish and our attitudes turn sour. We need to keep on trusting Jesus in everything we do. That will make us the kind of vineyard God wants to keep!

Day 27 - Bread of Life (broken loaf of bread) - Read John 6:48-51

Jesus used another word picture to tell his followers about who he was and what he came to do. He told them that he was the “bread of life.” He knew that his body would be broken, just like the bread they ate. And somehow his brokenness would bring life to everyone who trusted in him. When Israel was in the wilderness God gave his people manna to provide for their hunger. Now he was giving the life of his son to provide food for their spiritual needs. It sounded just as strange to them as it does to us. Eat Jesus? Jesus meant that they needed to take what he was giving them – his very self – and let him transform them from the inside out. They no longer needed to look anywhere else to find what they needed. It was all found in Jesus. And it’s the same today. Jesus is all we need to stay spiritually alive and close to God.

Day 28 - Light of the World (sunrise) - Read Isaiah 60:1-3; John 8:12 OR John 11:17-25; 33-44

Isaiah had told the people of Israel that one day a light would dawn and shine on everyone. All the darkness and sadness and confusion would be gone. Instead his light would brighten everything. Remember the star that shone brightly when Jesus was born? It was a hint of who Jesus really was. When Jesus was grown he announced that he was that light, and he proved it by giving sight to the blind and raising Lazarus from the dead.
Jesus is the true, anointed king! He rules over the whole world as the Messiah.
Jesus is the special servant! He came to bring us back to God.
Jesus is the snake crusher! He conquered death and sin. Death came into the world when the snake led Adam and Eve to disobey God. But now, in Jesus, we can live forever! His light shines in our hearts and shows us the way to live.

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