As you read each passage, pray for God’s help. Ask yourself:
- What does God reveal about Himself?
- How is your own heart revealed?
- How does this passage underline the wonder of God’s love for us in Jesus Christ, and your own need of Christ as Saviour and Lord?
- Turn these truths into prayer and praise.
18 December Mt 2:1-12
Herod had been appointed king by the Romans, but he was not a Jew and was bitterly resented by the Jewish people. News of one who was “born king of the Jews” (v.2) inflamed his paranoia. In fact, Herod’s kingdom, and all like it, are not simply threatened by the coming of Jesus; they are doomed (Rev 11:15). The tyrants shall fall, to be replaced by the Shepherd King (v.6). And because the Lord is our Shepherd, we shall have all we need. Do I welcome news of a new King, or am I threatened by it?
19 December Mt 2:1-12
Jesus “will save His people from their sins” (1:21). But who are His people? Matthew shows that they include Gentiles as well as Jews. The Gentile women in 1:5 have already pointed to this. Now the Magi from the East (2:1) confirm that the nations will come to the light of Christ. Compare Matthew’s ending: 28:19. Note that Herod jealously guarded his territory but lost everything; the Magi brought their worship and found great joy (v.10). Which will you do? Compare 16:25.
20 December Mt 2:13-18
“He humbled Himself …” (Php 2:8) The Lord of Glory became a refugee. Yet out of seeming defeat, God was writing the story of our salvation, already foreshadowed in the Exodus (v.15). The tyranny of sin brought more pain (vv.16-18), as it always does. Yet there is hope. Matthew quotes Jeremiah (v.18) to remind us that the slaughter of Israel’s children by the Assyrians and Babylonians was followed by God’s deliverance (Jer 31:15-17). So it will be in Jesus. Salvation, not sin, has the last word.
21 December Mt 2:19-23
On returning from Egypt, Joseph settled his family in Nazareth, a place widely despised at that time (Jn 1:46). Jesus grew up on the wrong side of the tracks. To be called “a Nazarene” (v.23) was indeed to be “despised and rejected by mankind” in fulfilment of prophecy (Isa 53:2-3). The Son of God left His Father’s glory … for Nazareth … for ME. And am I now unwilling to be despised and rejected for Him?
22 December Mt 3:1-12
We move on some 25 years, and John the Baptist is calling people to prepare for the coming of God’s Messiah. “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near” (v.2). It’s time to change the way we think, how we act, what we value, and to demonstrate our repentance by the washing of baptism (v.6). Why the urgency? Because God’s rule will lay an axe to all who do not produce good fruit (vv.7-10). Are you ready to meet God? Where in your life do the roads need straightening out (v.3)?
23 December Mt 3:13-17
We may be as surprised by Jesus’ baptism as John was (vv.13-14). Surely Jesus didn’t need to repent? No, but He identified with us in taking the sinner’s place symbolically, as later He would bear our sins in the terrible reality of the cross. And as John’s baptism was a YES to God’s rule, so Jesus committed Himself to the Father’s will, whatever the cost. This “fulfilled all righteousness” (v.15), and the Father joyfully affirmed His Son, pouring out the Holy Spirit on Jesus to sustain Him in His mission (v.17).
24 December Mt 4:1-11
Jesus experienced the kind of testing Israel had faced as God’s “son” during the 40 years in the wilderness (v.1: note that God, not Satan, was in control – that should comfort us). Israel turned from God, but Jesus is God’s obedient Son, who loves the Father’s word (vv.4,7,10). He obeyed God in our place and as our representative. Thus He was able to be our Saviour, carrying our sins on the cross because He had none of His own. Further, because of these temptations, Jesus can understand and help us in our temptations (Heb 2:18; 4:15). Pray for that help, and be thankful.