Categories
Bible Insights

The Eighth Day

Baby Jesus in the Temple

Luke 2:21–24

He was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived. (Luke 2:21)

The shepherds arrived shortly after Jesus’s birth to see the child the angel had told them about. Our story picks up eight days later, when it’s time to circumcise him.

We’re left to consider what happened in the days between these two events. Is this a private time for Mary and Joseph to spend adapting to the needs of a newborn and learning to care for him?

Do they spend time in awe, marveling at baby Jesus, contemplating who he will become, and considering what he will do?

I suspect they do, but they may also have some unexpected guests show up too.

Remember, when the shepherds leave, they tell others about their experience, spreading the news of Jesus’s arrival around town. Based on their testimony, I wonder how many curious people stop by to see baby Jesus.

As a result, Mary, Joseph, and Jesus could have seen a steady stream of visitors. Did any of these guests show up with food or gifts for the family?

Since they’re away from home and staying with farm animals, Mary and Joseph could certainly use any help they might receive.

When their baby is eight days old, it’s time to circumcise him. They name him Jesus. This is what the angel told Joseph in his dream, and it aligns with what Gabriel told Mary when he appeared to her.

It’s significant that God independently told both Mary and Joseph the same thing: to name their son Jesus. This fact helps confirm for them that they both heard from God.

They go to the temple for the purification ceremony prescribed by Moses. There they consecrate the baby to God (Exodus 13:2) and offer a sacrifice (Exodus 13:12 and Leviticus 12:8).

Though this seems most appropriate for Jesus, this isn’t unique to him. This ceremony is prescribed for everyone by the law of Moses.

Since the temple is in Jerusalem and they’re in Bethlehem, Mary and Joseph must travel there. The Bible doesn’t say how long this journey takes them, but modern maps show these two towns to be about 5.5 miles (9 km) apart.

Under normal conditions, this trip would take about two hours by foot. But remember, Mary has just given birth, so they will certainly go at a slower pace.

Again, we don’t know if they travel by foot or if Mary has a donkey to ride. Regardless, she (or Joseph) holds baby Jesus the entire trip.

Imagine clutching an eight-day-old baby, trying to keep him comfortable and not jostle him along the way. Traveling to the temple, as commanded by God, is not just a simple walk.

How can we model Mary and Joseph’s obedience to God?

What is God telling us to do right now?

Who can we help today by delivering a meal, offering a gift, or providing encouragement?

Prayer: Heavenly Father, as we celebrate Jesus’s first few days on earth, may we be mindful of what he came to do and who we are through him.

[This devotional is taken from the December 27 reading from The Advent of Jesus.]

Celebrate Christmas in a fresh way with The Advent of Jesus. It’s a forty-day devotional that prepares our hearts to celebrate the arrival of Jesus in an engaging read. Begin your Advent journey now and gain a greater sense of wonder for the season.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Categories
Christian Living

Celebrate Christmas Eve

Anticipating the Arrival of Baby Jesus

I don’t really think of Christmas Eve as a holiday as much as the prelude to one. Yet there is—or should be—a spiritual reason to celebrate Christmas Eve.

Anticipating Christmas

As a child I looked forward to Christmas Day with much excitement. On Christmas Eve I found it hard to fall asleep. I was too excited to quiet my racing expectations for the next day.

Not only did I struggle to fall asleep on Christmas Eve, sometimes I woke too early the next morning. My parents would wearily tell me to go back to sleep for a few more hours.

Yet despite my struggles to sleep that night and stay in bed until the morning light, Christmas Day would come and with it the presents I so looked forward to opening.

As such I didn’t celebrate Christmas Eve as much as endure it. It was something to patiently undergo so I could embrace Christmas presents the next day.

The Greatest Gift

Yes, I knew the reason for Christmas was to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Yet the allure of opening gifts pushed the true reason for the holiday aside.

We are right to celebrate Christmas as a reminder of the baby born in Bethlehem who came to earth to save us for the punishment our sins deserve. And we can celebrate Christmas Eve as a prelude to Christmas Day.

Without first having Christmas Eve, we would never get to Christmas Day.

We celebrate Christmas Day as a reminder of Jesus coming to earth as a baby to save us. Yet one day of celebration doesn’t seem enough. That’s why we can celebrate Christmas Eve in anticipation of the blessed baby’s arrival the next day.

Thank You Jesus

We rightly see Jesus’s gift of salvation—set in motion at his birth—as the greatest gift that has ever been given and the greatest gift that ever will be given. With this we say, “Thank you, Jesus, for coming to earth to save us!”

We celebrate this—or we should celebrate this—on Christmas Day. And when we celebrate Christmas Eve, we can begin one day early our remembrance of Jesus and what he came to earth to do.

May we remember to celebrate Christmas Eve now with the same over-the-top excitement that we had as a child, looking forward to the day ahead.

Then it was presents. Now it’s a salute to the day of Jesus’s birth—the most significant day in all of history, throughout all time.

May we celebrate Christmas Eve with the same over-the-top excitement we had as a child, looking forward to Jesus’s birth on Christmas Day.

Thank you, Jesus!

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Bogged Down Reading the Bible?

10 Essential Bible Reading Tips, from Peter DeHaan

Get the Bible Reading Tip Sheet: “10 Tips to Turn Bible Reading from Drudgery to Delight.”

​Enter your info and receive the free Bible Reading Tip Sheet and be added to Peter’s email list.

Categories
Christian Living

Exploring the Church Calendar

Embrace Annual Cycles of Worship to Provide a Regular Rhythm to Our Faith Journey

Some churches follow a church calendar throughout the year to guide them into seasons of worship. This provides an annual rhythm to their embrace of God.

Other churches are less structured in their approach, focusing on two major biblical holidays: Christmas and Easter. Even so, it’s good to be aware of the traditional church calendar.

There is no single agreed upon calendar that all churches follow, with each applying their own unique approach.

Yet there are some general concepts that most church calendars follow. Note that church calendars don’t start on the first of the year but instead begin with Jesus’s birth.

Here’s a generic overview of the church calendar.

Advent

We call the time leading up to Christmas Advent. It begins on the fourth Sunday prior to Christmas, which yields differing starting dates each year.

Some churches, however, are flexible with the start of Advent. They begin on the first Sunday after Thanksgiving (in the United States) or the first Sunday in December.

Often—but not always—this coincides with the fourth Sunday prior to Christmas.

Christmas Day

On Christmas Day we celebrate the birth of Jesus who came to earth to save us. This date is one of tradition more so than the Savior’s actual birth. No one knows for sure, but spring is a more likely time.

Epiphany (the day)

Epiphany occurs twelve days after Christmas, traditionally marking the Magi’s arrival to visit baby Jesus.

Christmastide

Some churches call the time between Christmas Day and Epiphany Christmastide. Other practices end Christmastide on New Years Day.

Epiphany (the season)

Confusing our understanding of the church calendar, some churches celebrate the season of Epiphany, instead of just one day. It starts on the day of Epiphany and ends with the beginning of Lent.

Other churches, however, have a break in their church calendar celebrations, calling the time between the day of Epiphany and Lent as “Ordinary Time.”

Lent

The season of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, which is six weeks prior to Good Friday. Though we commonly think of Lent as lasting forty days, the reality is that they don’t count Sundays to make the numbers work.

The ending of Lent varies greatly. It can be on Good Friday, Maundy Thursday, the day before Easter, or the beginning of Holy Week.

What matters in all this, however, is that Lent moves us toward Jesus’s death for our sins and his resurrection from the grave.

Good Friday and Easter

Good Friday and Easter—more appropriately called Resurrection Sunday—celebrate Jesus and his all-important mission of coming to earth to save us.

On Good Friday Jesus died for us and the wrong things we did. He was buried in a tomb. On Resurrection Sunday he rose from the grave, proving his mastery over death.

Eastertide

The season after Jesus rose from the grave on Resurrection Sunday is called Eastertide.

For some church calendars, Eastertide lasts forty days and ends on Ascension Day, which occurs on Thursday, even though many churches celebrate it the following Sunday.

For other churches Eastertide lasts fifty days and ends on Pentecost.

Ascension Day

Forty days after Jesus rose from the dead, he ascended into heaven. We call this Ascension Day. This occurs on Thursday each year, but many churches celebrate it the following Sunday.

Pentecost

Fifty days after Resurrection Sunday (Easter), and ten days after Ascension Day, God sent the Holy Spirit to Jesus’s church to fill them and guide them, just as he promised.

Ordinary Time

Church calendars label the days between Pentecost and Advent as Ordinary Time. It is, in fact, an ordinary time. It’s the space on church calendars without any religious holidays or celebrations.

Some churches also observe a short season of Ordinary Time between the day of Epiphany and Lent.

Celebrate Jesus Throughout the Year

Whether your church calendar celebrates all these seasons and dates or focuses on Christmas and Easter, we should all celebrate Jesus throughout the year.

The first four devotional books in the Holiday Celebration Bible Study Series guide us in doing just that:

  1. The Advent of Jesus covers the season of Advent, Christmas Day, and ends on Epiphany.
  2. The Ministry of Jesus focuses on what Jesus did leading up to his death and resurrection, that is, his earthly ministry. It’s an ideal devotional for Ordinary Time, be it between Epiphany and Lent or between Pentecost and Advent.
  3. The Passion of Jesus covers the season of Lent and concludes on Good Friday (Eastertide).
  4. The Victory of Jesus begins on Resurrection Sunday (Easter) and goes through to Pentecost.

Reading these four devotionals in this order provide a comprehensive understanding of Jesus’s life and mission as recorded in the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

Learn more about the Holiday Celebration Bible Study Series.

Holiday Celebration Bible Study Series, by Peter DeHaan

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Bogged Down Reading the Bible?

10 Essential Bible Reading Tips, from Peter DeHaan

Get the Bible Reading Tip Sheet: “10 Tips to Turn Bible Reading from Drudgery to Delight.”

​Enter your info and receive the free Bible Reading Tip Sheet and be added to Peter’s email list.

Categories
Peter DeHaan News

The Advent of Jesus Audiobook

New Format Now Available

The audiobook for The Advent of Jesus is now available. In addition to audiobook, it is also available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover formats. The audiobook is auto-narrated by Maxwell.

The Advent of Jesus is a holiday devotional for Christians who want to prepare their hearts to worship and celebrate with a new passion. Begin your Advent journey now and gain a greater sense of amazement for the season.

Audiobook Sample

Listen to a sample of the audiobook.

The Advent of Jesus is book one in the Holiday Celebration Bible Study Series.

The Advent of Jesus audiobook is now available from GooglePlay, Apple Books, and Kobo, with more outlets being added.

Get your copy of The Advent of Jesus today.

Book Trailer

Discover more about celebrating Jesus and his birth in Peter’s book, The Advent of Jesus. It is book one in the Holiday Celebration Bible Study Series.

Get your copy of The Advent of Jesus today.

Celebrate Christmas in a fresh way with The Advent of Jesus. It’s a forty-day devotional that prepares our hearts to celebrate the arrival of Jesus in an engaging read. Begin your Advent journey now and gain a greater sense of wonder for the season.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Categories
Visiting Churches

Advent Service: Discussion Questions for Church #59

One of the area’s megachurches has intrigued me for years. I once wanted to be part of it. Now I’m not sure. Our first visit came several years ago, long before the original 52 Churches project. Now we return for a fresh look.

It’s Advent and they have an Advent service.

Consider these seven discussion questions about Church 59.

1. As we drive to their facility, I pray for our time there, what we will learn, and what God wants to teach us.

Do we remember to pray before church? What is the focus of our prayers?

2. An usher hands me a bulletin. This isn’t an usher-and-bulletin church. The paper states “Advent Liturgy.” This certainly isn’t a liturgical congregation.

How can we engage in a service if it’s different than what we expect?

3. The subdued playing lacks the excitement I anticipated. They teach us a song in Latin. The timing befuddles me. The words perplex me.

When the music doesn’t click, how can we push through and worship God anyway?

4. I assume the liturgy, restrained playing, and song are something different they’re doing for Advent: changing the familiar into something with a mystical aura.

What can we do to breathe freshness into our adoration of Jesus?

5. During the greeting time we have brief interactions with those sitting around us. But, unable to move, we then stand writhing in awkward isolation while conversations abound around us.

How can we best greet those who need it most?

6. I suspect this Sunday’s teaching is typical and the rest of the service is not. Somber music pulls me down, while liturgy pushes me away. I must work to embrace all forms of worship.

How can we help people overcome barriers to encountering God?

7. “I loved the teaching,” I tell Candy, “but I don’t have the energy to try to plug into a large church.”

How can we help people plug into our church without making them work too hard?

[Read about Church 59 or start at the beginning of our journey.]

If you feel it’s time to move from the sidelines and get into the game, The More Than 52 Churches Workbook provides the plan to get you there.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Categories
Peter DeHaan News

New Book: The Advent of Jesus

Celebrate Christmas in a fresh, new way with this Advent devotional.

It’s easy to get caught up in the busyness of Christmas and miss its true meaning. Why not make this holiday season a special time for preparation to reflect on the Messiah’s birth?

The Advent of Jesus: A Devotional Celebrating the Coming Savior

In The Advent of Jesus: A Devotional Celebrating the Coming Savior, Peter DeHaan leads readers through a forty-day devotional that prepares our hearts to celebrate the arrival of Jesus in an engaging way.

In this Advent devotional, you will:

  • draw closer to Jesus
  • celebrate the season with a deeper, more biblical outlook
  • focus on the meaning behind the holiday
  • celebrate Jesus’s arrival throughout Advent and into Christmas
  • marvel over the birth of our Messiah

If you’ve been longing to grow closer to Jesus this holiday season, pick up this illuminating devotional that will guide you through Advent. Each day’s brief and impactful reading includes thought-provoking questions and a meaningful prayer.

The Advent of Jesus will prepare your heart to worship and celebrate with a new passion. Begin your Advent journey now and gain a greater sense of amazement for the season.

Get your copy of The Advent of Jesus today.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.