THE LUCADO

CHRISTMAS DEVOTIONAL

LIFE LESSONS

Inspirational Applications for Living Your Faith

e: Slow Down and Pond er

Week

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Exper ien c e t h i s Ch r i s t mas se a so n l i ke ne v e r b e f or e wi t h this si x- week d e v ot i on a l f r om

Max Lucado
Let one of America’s most-loved pastors guide you on a memorable journey to the manger. Sit beside the babe. Know what it was like. Be inspired to live out your faith for Him.

Week Three: Slow Down and Ponder
Day 1: I'll Move In
Then the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus." Luke 1:46-48

Situation in Luke 1:1-80 Scholars have suggested that these events took place around 6 B.C. during the rule of Herod the Great. God carefully set the stage for the coming of Jesus into the world.

Observation The events leading up to Jesus’ birth can be summarized by the angel’s words: “God can do anything!”

Inspiration Some things only a mom can do. Only a mother can powder a baby’s behind with one hand and hold the phone with the other. Only a mom can discern which teen is entering the door just by the sound of the key in the lock. Only a mom can spend a day wiping noses, laundering enough socks for the Yankees, balancing a checkbook down to $1.27, and still mean it when she thanks God for her kids. Only a mom.

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Some things only a mom can fix. Like Hamburger Helper without the hamburger. Like the cabinet door her husband couldn’t and his bruised ego when he found out that she could. Broken shoelace? Broken heart? Breaking out on your face? Breaking up with your sweetheart? Moms can handle that. Some things only a mom can fix. Some things only a mom can know. The time it takes to drive from piano lesson to Little League practice? She knows. How many pizzas you need for a middle school sleepover? Mom knows. How many Weight Watcher points are left in the day and days are left in the semester? Mom can tell you. She knows. We men usually don’t. The kids are usually clueless. Moms are a breed apart. The rest of us can only wonder, only ponder. . . . If we’ve ever wondered such thoughts about mothers, how much more have we wondered them about the most famous mother of all: Mary. To bear a baby is one thing, but to carry God? What is that like? The virgin birth is more, much more, than a Christmas story; it is a picture of how close Christ will come to you. The first stop on his itinerary was a womb. Where will God go to touch the world? Look deep within Mary for an answer. Better still, look deep within yourself. What he did with Mary, he offers to us! He issues a Mary-level invitation to all his children. “If you’ll let me, I’ll move in!” Proliferating throughout Scripture is a preposition that leaves no doubt—the preposition in. Jesus lives in his children.

(Adapted from Next Door Savior by Max Lucado)

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Application What dreams do you have for this Christmas? Not what gifts do you hope to get, but how do you want this season to be special, memorable, meaningful? Ask God to show you how to make this holiday deeply significant. Remember, the birth of Jesus reminds us that God can do anything—and He loves to fulfill good dreams.

Exploration God’s Ability—Joshua 3:5; Job 42:2; Psalm 77:14; Daniel 4:3; Matthew 19:26; Romans 16:25, 26; Ephesians 3:20.

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Day 2: Take Some Unhurried Time
Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! Psalm 46:10

Situation in Psalms 45:1—46:11 God’s strength provides safety, security, and peace. His power guarantees ultimate victory.

Observation Nothing occurs beyond the reach of God’s power. Awareness of God’s power provides believers with both rest and encouragement.

Inspiration Christmas is just around the corner . . . and America is in a hurry. The value of time has skyrocketed. Scarcity determines the value of any commodity, and time that once seemed abundant now is going to the highest bidder. “Time,” according to pollster Louis Harris, “may have become the most precious commodity in the land.” A 1965 testimony before a Senate subcommittee claimed the future looked bright for free time in America. The report predicted that by 1985, Americans would be working twenty-two hours a week and would be able to retire at age thirty-eight. The reason? The

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computer age would usher in a gleaming array of advances that would do our work for us while stabilizing our economy. Consider the household, the report suggested. Microwaves, quick-fix foods, and food processors would pave the way into the carefree future. And the office? Well, you know that old stencil machine? It’ll be replaced by a copier. And the files? Computers are the files of the future. And that electric typewriter? Don’t get too attached to it; a computer will do its work, too. And now, years later, we have everything the report promised. The computers are byting, the TIVOs are recording, the fax machines are faxing. Yet the clocks are still ticking, and people are still running—especially during the yuletide season. The truth is, our average amount of leisure time has shrunk 37 percent since 1973. The average work week has increased from forty-one to forty-seven hours. (And, for many of you, fortyseven hours would be a calm week.) Why didn’t the forecast come true? What did the committee overlook? The report's authors misjudged the appetite of the consumer. As the individualism of the sixties led to the materialism of the eighties, the free time gained for us by technology didn’t make us relax; it made us run. Gadgets provided more time . . . more time meant more potential money . . . more potential money meant more time needed . . . and round and round it went. Lives grew louder as demands became greater. And as demands became greater, lives grew emptier. “I’ve got so many irons in the fire, I can’t keep any of them hot,” complained one young father. Can you relate?

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When I was ten years old, my mother enrolled me in piano lessons. Now, many youngsters excel at the keyboard. Not me. Spending thirty minutes every afternoon tethered to a piano bench felt like a torture just one level away from swallowing broken glass. The metronome inspected each second with glacial slowness before it was allowed to pass. Some of the music, though, I learned to enjoy. I hammered the staccatos. I belabored the crescendos. The thundering finishes I kettle-drummed. But there was one instruction in the music I could never obey to my teacher’s satisfaction: The rest. The zigzagged command to do nothing. Nothing! What sense does that make? Why sit at the piano and pause when you can pound? “Because,” my teacher patiently explained, “music is always sweeter after a rest.” It didn’t make sense to me at age ten. But now, a few decades later, the words ring with wisdom—divine wisdom. To truly appreciate the good life God has given us, we must slow down. In the same way, to truly enjoy this Advent season, we have to pause, rest, and like Mary, spend some unhurried time meditating on this incredible Savior of ours. This Christmas, let's make the most of the precious time we have.

(Adapted from The Applause of Heaven by Max Lucado)

Application Are you already weary as December 25 approaches? Turn your thoughts to the Prince of Peace, and relax. The world can feel overwhelming at times—especially at

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Christmas—but remember that God has everything under control. You really do have time to take a breath.

Exploration God’s Strength for Us—Exodus 15:2; 2 Samuel 22:33; Psalm 28:8; 73:26; 81:1; 89:21.

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Day 3: Quarry the Word
This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Joshua 1:8

Situation in Joshua 1:1—2:24 The story of Joshua began after the death of Moses. God appointed Joshua to lead the Israelites across the Jordan River into the land of Canaan.

Observation The Lord instructed Joshua to remember what was written in the Book of the Law. Wisdom and success come from meditating on its truth and obeying its commands.

Inspiration Have you ever taken to the time to compare Mary's words in Luke 1:46-55—what we often call "the Magnificat"—with those spoken many centuries before by Hannah, as recorded in 1 Samuel 2:1-10? Clearly, Mary had read them. Many, many times. And just as clearly, in her short life Mary had become a woman of the Word. This thoughtful young lady was intimately familiar with the story of Scripture—and what's more, she had allowed it to penetrate her heart. Could the Lord have chosen her to create a home for His Son in her clan, in part because she had created a home for His Word in her heart?

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I think it's likely. So why not follow her example this holiday season? When we go to the Word of God for comfort, the words pierce like a surgeon’s scalpel, both cutting and healing. The Word of God cuts to the very place where thoughts and attitudes come together, at the juncture of soul and spirit, providing a healing that can be obtained in no other way on earth. The Bible was provided for us as a vehicle to carry us so that we might be able to see Jesus Christ. If you want to grow in the Word of God, become a person with a chisel and quarry the Word—look, explore, seek. Let the Word become your Word, and you will grow. I challenge you as Christmas rapidly approaches to rediscover the Bible in your own life . . . to regain the same hunger and enthusiasm you felt when you first heard the name of Jesus!

(Adapted from The Inspirational Bible)

Application Knowing, studying, and meditating on the Word of God is critical if you are to grow in your relationship with Jesus Christ. If you have skimped on regular time with the Bible this Christmas season, ask yourself what changes you can make to your schedule to make time in God's Word a priority.

Exploration

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Importance of the Scriptures—Psalm 119:1–8; John 10:35; Acts 18:24; Romans 15:4; Hebrews 4:12; 1 Peter 1:23–25.

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Day 4: The Best Present of All
"Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion! For behold, I am coming and I will dwell in your midst," says the LORD. Zechariah 2:10

Situation in Zechariah 1:1—6:8 The exiles returned from Babylon to rebuild the temple. Enemies, however, thwarted and stalled the project. Zechariah motivated the people and encouraged them to resume their work.

Observation God provides the strength we need to accomplish great deeds for Him. When opportunities present themselves, seek His guidance and then be strong to do what He calls you to do.

Inspiration How is it that the Magi, outsiders to the Hebrews' Bible, found the young Jesus in Bethlehem, while the Jewish seminary professors of Jerusalem, who knew exactly where the Messiah was to be born (Matthew 2:5-6), never made the short trip to the Christ Child? The fact is, it isn't enough simply to memorize Bible trivia. God's Word must become a part of us.

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As you celebrate the coming of the Savior this year, don’t make a decision, whether large or small, without sitting before God with open Bible, open heart, open ears, imitating the prayer of Samuel: “Speak, for Your servant hears” (1 Samuel 3:10). You have a Bible? Read it. You have a family of faith? Consult it. Perhaps some difficult issue troubles you this yuletide season. Well, others have asked your question. You aren’t the first to face your problem. Others have stood where you stand and wondered what you wonder. Seek their advice. “Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct” (Hebrews 13:7). Are you running low on money? Find a financial counselor. Wrestling with business ethics? Seek sage advice from a Christian businessperson. Battling seasonal decisions? Before you abandon your family and cash in your retirement, take time to get biblical advice. “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but he who heeds counsel is wise” (Proverbs 12:15). Since you live in the era after Messiah's birth—Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us, as close as a prayer—you don’t need to wear a special ephod or consult cultic stones. You have God’s family; ask Him to speak to you through it. You have your conscience; expect Him to speak to you through it. You have a heart for God? Heed it. In fact, that may be the very best Christmas present you can give to God.

(Adapted from Facing Your Giants by Max Lucado)

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Application Do you have some big decision you need to make as Christmas fast approaches? God promises His guidance to show you what He wants you to do, and then the strength to do it. Take advantage of both.

Exploration The Need for Vision—Proverbs 29:18. Faithfulness—2 Timothy 1:3-7.

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Day 5: Where Discontent Goes to Die
As he came from his mother’s womb, naked shall he return, to go as he came; and he shall take nothing from his labor which he may carry away in his hand. Ecclesiastes 5:15

Situation in Ecclesiastes 5:18—8:17 Although people cannot fully understand God’s plan, the author of Ecclesiastes insists that people can find and experience much of God’s goodness.

Observation In this passage, Solomon made it clear that wealth cannot buy happiness and that enjoying your work and life is a God-given gift.

Inspiration Take your seat in the chair, and look across the table at the psalmist David. Move the Santa centerpiece if you have to. He motions for you to lean forward. “I have a secret to tell you,” he whispers, “the secret of satisfaction: ‘The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want”’ (Psalm 23:1). David has found the pasture where discontent goes to die. It’s as if he is saying, “What I have in God is greater than what I don’t have in life.” You think you and I could learn to say the same? Especially when packages and presents, gifts and gizmos, ribbon and reindeer seem to be stacking up everywhere? Think for just a moment about the things you own. Think about the house you have, the car you drive, the money you’ve saved. Think about the jewelry you’ve

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inherited and the stocks you’ve traded and the clothes you’ve purchased. Think about all the presents accumulating under your tree (or that soon will be). Envision all your stuff— and then let me remind you of two biblical truths. First, your stuff isn’t yours. Ask any coroner. Ask any embalmer. Ask any funeral-home director. No one takes anything with him. When one of the wealthiest men in history, John D. Rockefeller, died, his accountant was asked, “How much did John D. leave?” The accountant’s reply? “All of it.” All that stuff—it’s not yours. And you know the second thing about all that stuff? It’s not you. Who you are has nothing to do with the clothes you wear or the car you drive. “And He said to them, ‘Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses”’ (Luke 12:15). Heaven does not know you as the fellow with the nice suit or the woman with the big house or the kid with the new bike. Heaven knows your heart. “For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). When God thinks of you, he may see your compassion, your devotion, your tenderness or quick mind, but he doesn’t think of your things. And when you think of you, you shouldn’t either. Define yourself by your stuff, and you’ll feel good when you have a lot and bad when you don’t. Contentment comes when we can honestly say with Paul: “I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:11, 12).

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Remember that Jesus came into this world in a stable. So as you prepare to celebrate His birthday, make sure you don't forget it.

(Adapted from Traveling Light by Max Lucado)

Application Make a list of your ten most valuable possessions. Now make a list of what God has given you, just in this past year (pre-Christmas!). What changes might you need to make in your attitude toward what God has given you and your earthly possessions? Take some time to answer.

Exploration Contentment—2 Corinthians 9:8; Philippians 4:10–13; 1 Timothy 6:6; Hebrews 13:5.

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Day 6: The Great Giver
Then the king said to Araunah, "No, but I will surely buy it from you for a price; nor will I offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God with that which costs me nothing." 2 Samuel 24:24

Situation in 2 Samuel 23:8—24:25 David’s reign brought great peace, prosperity, and military success. But when David and the people began to grow proud, God punished them for their sin.

Observation We must find our strength and security only in God and never in worldly possessions or earthly power.

Inspiration Giving epitomizes not only the spirit of Christmas, but in fact, it characterizes God’s whole creation. From the first page of Scripture, God is presented as a philanthropic Creator. He produces in pluralities: stars, plants, birds, and animals. Every gift arrives in bulk, multiples, and medleys. God begets Adam and Eve and tells them to follow suit: “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28). Scrooge didn’t create the world; God did. Psalm 104 celebrates this lavish creation with twenty-three verses of itemized blessings: the heavens and the earth, the waters and streams and trees and birds and goats and wine and oil and bread and people and lions. God is the source of “innumerable

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teeming things, living things both small and great. . . . These all wait for You, that You may give them their food in due season” (vv. 25, 27). And He does. God is the Great Giver. The Great Provider. The Fount of Every Blessing. Absolutely generous and utterly dependable. The resounding and recurring message of Scripture is clear: God owns it all. God shares it all. Trust him, not stuff!

(Adapted from Fearless by Max Lucado)

Application How have you seen people begin to "trust stuff" at Christmas time? How would you characterize your own attitude toward "stuff"? What can you give away this Christmas season that will make a difference in your life throughout the year?

Exploration Pride—Judges 7:2; 1 Samuel 2:3; Proverbs 18:11, 12; Jeremiah 9:23, 24; Zechariah 4:6; Romans 12:3; 1 Corinthians 4:6–10; 2 Corinthians 10:12; Galatians 6:3; Revelation 3:17.

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Day 7: Twenty-Five Questions for Mary
Consider what I say, and may the Lord give you understanding in all things. 2 Timothy 2:7

Situation in 2 Timothy 2:1-26 Christian believers in Timothy’s church had lost their focus on Christ. Paul knew that concentrating on Christ and ignoring personal annoyances would help Timothy’s problems.

Observation Christians, even those who face suffering, must focus on Jesus the Savior and avoid being distracted by worldly problems.

Inspiration Mary was a ponderer. When the shepherds arrived looking for baby Jesus in the manger, they excitedly told all who would listen about their angelic visitors and their joyful announcement of the Savior's birth in Bethlehem. Luke says, "Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart" (Luke 2:19). A few days later, when Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the temple for His dedication, another stranger, Simeon, spoke to them about the Messianic mission of their newborn son. Luke says that Mary "marveled at those things which were spoken of Him" (Luke 2:33).

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Twelve years later, when Mary and Joseph found their "lost" son in the temple courts, discussing the Bible with the day's top scholars, Luke says, "His mother kept all these things in her heart" (Luke 2:51). Mary was a ponderer. And I can't help but wonder what she might say if I could ask her a few questions about Her amazing Son. What was it like watching Him pray? How did He respond when He saw other kids giggling during the service at the synagogue? When He saw a rainbow, did He ever mention a flood? Did you ever feel awkward teaching Him how He created the world? Whe He saw a lamb being led to the slaughter, did He act differently? Did you ever see Him with a distant look on His face as if He were listening to someone you couldn't hear? He did He act at funerals? Did the thought ever occur to you that the God to whom you were praying was asleep under your own roof? Did you ever try to count the stars with Him . . . and succeed? Did He ever come home with a black eye? How did He act when He got His first haircut? Did He have any friends by the name of Judas? Did He do well in school? Did you ever scold Him? Did He ever have to ask a question about Scripture?

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What do you think He thought when He saw a prostitute offering to the highest bidder the body He made? Did He ever get angry when someone was dishonest with Him? Did you ever catch Him pensively looking at the flesh on His own arm while holding a clod of dirt? Did He ever wake up afraid? Who was His best friend? When someone referred to Satan, how did He act? Did you ever accidentally call Him Father? What did He and his cousin John talk about as kids? Did His brothers and sisters understand what was happening? Did you ever think, That's God eating my soup?

(Adapted from God Came Near by Max Lucado)

Application Spend some time pondering the greatness of your Savior. What would you ask Mary about Him, if you could?

Exploration Focus—Judges 15:18; Nehemiah 13:25–29; 2 Corinthians 11:3.

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Exper ien c e t h i s Ch r i s t mas se a so n l i ke ne v e r b e f or e wi t h this si x- week d e v ot i on a l f r om

Max Lucado
Let one of America’s most-loved pastors guide you on a memorable journey to the manger. Sit beside the babe. Know what it was like. Be inspired to live out your faith for Him.

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