Day 41. Tidings of comfort and joy: Jesus is coming again

Jesus came into the world – and then He left. When He told His disciples He would be leaving to return to the Father, they were filled with sorrow (John 16:6). Jesus reassures them, however, by telling them that their sorrow would be replaced by joy when they see Him again, probably referring to His resurrection. As in the Isaiah 66 passage, the image of childbirth is used here to illustrate God’s life-giving action, and now reminds us of Jesus’ own supernatural birth through the power of God.

For us too, when we finally see Jesus face to face, we will forget the sorrows of life in a sin-sick world, and rejoice in the presence of our Savior. “In that day you will ask [as in “question”] nothing of me.” Until then, through the gift of the Holy Spirit, “whatever” we “ask” (as in “petition”) the Father in the name of Jesus, we will receive. Pray that we, the members and leaders of Town North, will find joy in the assurance of Jesus’ second coming, and that until that time we will fervently petition the Father in Jesus’ name for His life-giving power to work in places of need – “that [our] joy may be full.”

John 16:20-24

“Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. 21 When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. 22 So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. 23 In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. 24 Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.

“Once in Royal David’s City,” vss.1, 4, 5

Once in royal David’s city stood a lowly cattle shed,
Where a mother laid her baby in a manger for his bed:
Mary was that mother mild, Jesus Christ her little child.

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.

Not in that poor lowly stable, with the oxen standing by,
We shall see him; but in heaven, set at God’s right hand on high;
When like stars his children crowned all in white shall wait around.

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Day 40. Tidings of comfort and joy: the most joyous birth

When a baby is born – especially an anticipated, longed-for child – joy is the natural response. As the angel Gabriel told Zechariah about his son, John, “And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth” (Lk 1:14). How much more, then, do we rejoice at the birth of our Savior! No wonder that John, still in his mother’s womb, “leaped for joy” when a pregnant Mary visited Elizabeth (Lk 1:44). The wise men “rejoiced exceedingly with great joy” when they saw that the star led them to Jesus (Matt. 2:10). As the angel told the shepherds in today’s passage, the birth of Jesus, “Christ the Lord,” would be “a great joy . . . for all the people” (v. 10). In light of this news, “a multitude of the heavenly host” praised God – as did the shepherds, after they saw Jesus for themselves.

The more we recognize our need for a Savior, the more joyfully we can acknowledge Jesus as Christ the Lord, who came to earth as a baby because we need Him. Pray that we at Town North will find great joy as we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus, our Savior and Lord, and that we will join the heavenly host and the shepherds in praising God for Jesus.

Luke 2:8-20

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

“Joy to the World! The Lord Is Come,” vss. 1, 4

Joy to the world! the Lord is come:
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven, and heaven and nature sing.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of his righteousness,
And wonders of his love,
And wonders of his love,
And wonders, wonders of his love.

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Day 39. Tidings of comfort and joy: comfort for mourners leads to joy

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matt. 5:4). Because God comforts us, our mourning will turn to joy (see Is. 49:13, 51:3; Jer. 31:13; Jn 16:20). But to receive His comfort, we must confess our need for it, our inability to comfort ourselves. We are like crying babies in need of their mothers’ comfort through holding and feeding. (This is a humbling thought, but if our Savior could humble himself to become a baby on our behalf, we can admit our infant-like dependence on Him.)

Today’s passage reassured the exiles that God would give a mourning Israel a new life as a nation — a birth without “labor” on her part — and reminds us that God will satisfy all of our needs, no matter how humble. Zion (another name for the new Jerusalem) is our “mother” too (see Gal. 5:26), and God is our Father. For what do you mourn today? Pray that we at Town North will receive the comfort God provides for his children in need, so that we too will be able to “rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad for her . . . rejoice with her in joy” as we remember and rejoice in the birth of Jesus Christ this Christmas.

Is. 66:7-13

7 “Before she was in labor
she gave birth;
before her pain came upon her
she delivered a son.
8 Who has heard such a thing?
Who has seen such things?
Shall a land be born in one day?
Shall a nation be brought forth in one moment?
For as soon as Zion was in labor
she brought forth her children.
9 Shall I bring to the point of birth and not cause to bring forth?”
says the Lord;
“shall I, who cause to bring forth, shut the womb?”
says your God.

10 “Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad for her,
all you who love her;
rejoice with her in joy,
all you who mourn over her;
11 that you may nurse and be satisfied
from her consoling breast;
that you may drink deeply with delight
from her glorious abundance.”

12 For thus says the Lord:
“Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river,
and the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream;
and you shall nurse, you shall be carried upon her hip,
and bounced upon her knees.
13 As one whom his mother comforts,
so I will comfort you;
you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.

“God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen,” vs. 1
God rest you merry, gentlemen, let nothing you dismay,
Remember, Christ, our Savior was born on Christmas day,
To save us all from Satan’s power when we were gone astray;
O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy,
O tidings of comfort and joy.

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Day 38. Tidings of comfort and joy: Comfort in the rule of our Good Shepherd

What is your favorite source of comfort? In my household, at least, comfort is often found in books, hot baths, “comfort food,” and a small blue blanket with a doggy head. A shepherd’s rod and staff probably would not make our top ten list, even if they did belong to God. Yet in Psalm 23, David tells us he found comfort in the rod and staff of the Lord, his Shepherd. As he walked even “through the valley of the shadow of death,” he had no cause to fear because his loving Lord protected him with his rod, and kept him in line with his staff. Note that this description of the Lord as shepherd hints at Jesus, our Good Shepherd, who “will rule [the nations] with a rod of iron” (Rev. 19:15: the Greek words there for “rule” and “rod” are the same as those for ‘shepherd” and “rod” in Ps. 23 in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament).

Many people find comfort in the 23rd Psalm’s promises of God’s present and future provision and protection. Use today’s prayer time to seek His comfort through these familiar words. Pray that we, the members and leaders of Town North, will find comfort in following our Shepherd who leads and rules, and that we too will be comforted by His rod and staff.

Ps. 23

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
3 He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.

4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

“Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus,” vss. 1, 4

Come, thou long expected Jesus, born to set thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us, let us find our rest in thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation, hope of all the earth thou art
Dear desire of every nation, joy of every longing heart.

Born thy people to deliver, born a child and yet a king,
Born to reign in us forever, now thy gracious kingdom bring.
By thine own eternal Spirit rule in all our hearts alone;
By thine all sufficient merit, raise us to thy glorious throne.

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Day 37. Tidings of comfort and joy: God’s coming is comfort for exiles

What is the source of comfort for those in exile? The Lord who has not abandoned them. In Isaiah 40, the prophet is told to “speak tenderly to Jerusalem” (i.e. the Israelites) and to tell her that her times of strife and punishment are over: not because they are going home, but because God is coming to them – the “highway” of v. 3 is for God, not for the exiles to return to the land of their inheritance. This passage, a common Advent text, tells of the Lord coming to His people, foreshadowing His coming in Jesus Christ. The “good news” of verse 9 is the presence of the Lord: “Behold your God!” And so His incarnation in Jesus is good news for us.

“Behold, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for him” – yet his strong, powerful ruling arm is also his tender, gathering and carrying arm, as he takes care of His flock, especially the most vulnerable members (“the lambs” and “those that are with young”). Pray that we at Town North will take comfort in the knowledge that through Christ, God has come to us as both a strong and loving Shepherd; pray that this Advent season, we will “prepare the way of the Lord” for His coming more fully in our own hearts and lives.

Is. 40:1-5, 9-11

1 Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and cry to her
that her warfare is ended,
that her iniquity is pardoned,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
double for all her sins.

3 A voice cries:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
4 Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
5 And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all flesh shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
. . .
9 Get you up to a high mountain,
O Zion, herald of good news;
lift up your voice with strength,
O Jerusalem, herald of good news;
lift it up, fear not;
say to the cities of Judah,
“Behold your God!”

10 Behold, the Lord God comes with might,
and his arm rules for him;
behold, his reward is with him,
and his recompense before him.
11 He will tend his flock like a shepherd;
he will gather the lambs in his arms;
he will carry them in his bosom,
and gently lead those that are with young.

“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” vss. 1, 4

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 Day-spring, from on high, and cheer us by thy drawing nigh;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night, and death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

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WEEK 9 – TIDINGS OF COMFORT AND JOY

“God rest you merry, gentlemen, let nothing you dismay.” Note the placement of the first comma: these are not “merry gentlemen,” but those who needed assurance. Assurance of what? Salvation has come through Jesus Christ: “remember Christ our Savior was born on Christmas Day, to save us all from Satan’s power when we were gone astray.” For the first week of Advent, we will prepare for Christ’s coming (and second coming) with “tidings of comfort and joy.”

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Day 36. Thanksgiving: Give thanks in all circumstances

Thankfulness is not just reserved for the good times. The nation of Judah thanked God as they marched into battle and Paul and Silas thanked God as they prayed and sang hymns while chained in prison. Paul also exhorted the Thessalonians to give thanks in all circumstances. When was the last time you thanked God for a trying time? This week when you get to that time in your prayers when you are giving thanks be sure to include the trials and hardships. If for no other reason than “this is God’s will for you” and he is right there with you.

I Thessalonians 5:16-18

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Now Thank We all Our God (vss. 1, 3)

Now thank we all our God with heart and hands and voices,
who wondrous things has done, in whom his world rejoices;
who from our mother’s arms, has blest us on our way,
with countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.

All thanks and praise to God the Father now be given,
the Son, and him who reigns with them in highest heaven-
the one eternal God, whom earth and heaven adore;
for thus it was, is now, and shall be evermore.

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