This Advent season, I focused on the descriptors of Jesus found in Matthew’s account of the Christmas events.
First Sunday of Advent: IMMANUEL
Today, we begin our annual anticipation of the coming of God-in-flesh—Immanuel—fully human, yet fully divine. “Made in every respect like us” (Hebrews 2:17), he had headaches and sore muscles, got hungry and tired, experienced sadness and disappointment, was rejected and misunderstood. Because he is Immanuel, he empathizes with our weaknesses (Hebrews 4:15), shares our pain and invites us into his kingdom.
He entered our world as “God with us” and left it with the promise that “I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20 NIV).
Author N. T. Wright said, “If he is to be Immanuel God-with-us, he must be with us where the pain is.”
I am comforted knowing that Jesus is with me where the pain is. How about you?
Second Sunday of Advent: KING
Sovereign ruler, majestic monarch, preeminent authority, absolute Lord.
But not as expected.
No pomp and circumstance. No public announcement or national holiday. No palace, throne, army, or servants.
A ruler born in a crude animal shelter. A sovereign relinquishing his power. A monarch entering the family of a common tradesman, attracting animal keepers and foreign stargazers.
From the beginning, Jesus didn’t fulfill expectations. His kingdom is not earthly (John 18:36 NIV). It’s a kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy (Romans 14:17), a place for outcasts, the marginalized, the poor, and the needy (Matthew 5). It started in a manger, grew in the dirt of Galilee, was celebrated on the foal of a donkey, and ushered in on a criminal’s cross.
This Advent, I’m focusing on letting Jesus keep doing the unexpected. I’m secure knowing he will reign over his kingdom forever with a scepter of justice (Hebrews 1:8).
Is he your king? Worship him today.
Third Sunday of Advent: SHEPHERD
Shepherd. But not those watching sheep on a hillside at night.
No, Matthew’s Advent account (quoting the prophet Micah) points to the true shepherd—Jesus, the baby in the manger.
The men were shepherds by profession. It’s what they did. But Jesus IS our shepherd—Jehovah-Raah (Psalm 23). It’s who he is and it’s how he rules.
Our Shepherd leads and loves us; protects, pastures, and provides; nourishes and nurtures. He searches and saves; defends and dies for us. And he comforts and heals us.
Amidst the carols and lights, I’m seeking the Shepherd who knows me (John 10:14) and calls me by name (John 10:11). I’m learning to recognize his voice so that I might follow him to the very end.
Is he your Shepherd? Follow him today.
Fourth Sunday of Advent: SON
Son of Mary and Joseph; Son of David; Son of Man; Son of God—Jesus, the baby we anticipate during Advent. This Son IS God.
He is the Firstborn Son: into the world (Hebrews 1:6), over all creation (Colossians 1:15), among many siblings (Romans 8:29), from the dead (Revelation 1:5). As such, he is heir of all things (Hebrews 1:2). He is preeminent, supreme, sovereign, and eternal.
God sent his Son—fully God and fully human—so that we can be adopted with the full rights and inheritance of the firstborn son (Galatians 4:4–7), becoming siblings and co-heirs with Jesus. This means we not only share in his blessings but also in his suffering (Romans 8:17).
This Advent, I’m humbled and sobered by what I receive as a “firstborn adopted son” of God, a co-heir with Jesus, THE SON.
He is God. Do you believe this?
Christmas Day: SAVIOR
Jesus. Greek for Joshua. Yeshua in Hebrew. It means “God is salvation.” Savior.
Today we celebrate his birth. How amazing that people all over the world, after all these years, still celebrate the birthday of this one man.
Of course, many only commemorate the “spirit of Christmas”—a sense of joy and generosity. But consider, no other person in history gets even that on their birthday.
Truly he is the greatest man that ever lived. And that is because he is not just any man. He is the Savior. His whole purpose in coming as a baby was to die and in dying, give us an avenue to eternity, release from the burden of wrongdoing, and direct access to God.
Today, I’m celebrating my Savior. Is he yours? Honor him today.
Nazarene. As in, from the town of Nazareth in Galilee. Jesus’s earthly hometown.
With common names like his, one’s home became an identifier. He was “Jesus of Nazareth” (Mark 1:24) or “the prophet from Nazareth” (Matthew 21:11).
Of Nazareth was not a great point of introduction since it was despised as a no-nothing town bordering foreign territory and not (yet) known for anyone famous. Its reputation could be summed up in the words of Nathanael, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” (John 1:46).
Yes! Someone truly good was raised in Nazareth. He apprenticed as a carpenter and studied to be a rabbi. From age 30 to 33, he walked throughout his nation doing good—healing, forgiving, inviting, loving. Then, he gave his life for his followers.
Because Jesus is totally good—without any speck of evil—I can let go of any hesitancy and trust him unreservedly.
Jesus, the Nazarene is truly good. Trust him today.
“O God, grant that we may desire you, and desiring you, seek you, and seeking you, find you, and finding you, be satisfied in you forever.” —Francis Xavier
The prophetic reference in Matthew 2:23 is unclear. Most scholars believe that Matthew is referring to Isaiah 11:1 (“A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.”) since the word for branch is nazir in Hebrew. Therefore, Isaiah is saying that a new branch (Jesus, the Nazarene) will grow from the line of King David (Jesse).