About three years ago I bought these slices of wood so I could make a Jesse Tree, which is like an advent ornament calendar that is connected to the promises and coming of Jesus. But I am slow because I wanted to choose my own stories and moments to highlight from scripture. I’ve been drawing out ideas randomly for a while but then I met a friend who has been doing this for a while and Soooo…re-inspired by my friends Jennifer and Don Love, and their website intentionaltraditions.com (they sell these if you don’t want to make your own!), I decided to try to re-em”bark” (hee-hee) on my plan to paint this symbolic representation of the entire story of redemption. I planned to write a devotional based on the specific scriptures I found that has kid-sized (with built in questions and answers) and grown-up reflections for when we are spending time alone with Jesus. Below is our first devotional that goes along with the sun ornament. It’s the first one because it’s the only one I have had time to write out nine days into December (it’s fine. I’ll write the rest over the next three years!) Oh and anytime you see the teal blue color streak it means God spoke a covenant. So without further explanation let’s go!
Creation. Word. Light. Life Water. Breath. It’s a good place to start.
Created By His Word (Kid-Sized Version)
Genesis 1: 1-26; Isaiah 9: 2; Psalm 104 (for older kids read all the scripture, for younger, just read below);
Do you know what existed before God? (answer: Nothing.) He was the beginning of it all and He is the source of all life. Listen:
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. 3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day. Gen. 1:1-5
God created everything! How did He create it? (answer: He said it! He spoke it!) What was the first thing He created (v.3)? (answer: Light!) When Jesus was sent to the world to die for us and show us the kingdom of God, do you know what He was called? See if you can figure it out from this scripture spoken about Jesus before He was even born:
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. Isaiah 9:2
“You, Lord, are my lamp; the Lord turns my darkness into light.” 2 Samuel 22:29
Jesus was the Light of the world. Listen.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcomeit. 6 There was a man sent from God whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. 9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. John 1:1-9
Who was coming into the world? Jesus! Jesus was so different than the darkness, that just being around Him brought light to those who would listen to Him. He wasn’t actually “light” like the sun, but He showed the world the darkness of our minds and hearts. We were spiritually lost in disobedience and distrust. He showed us that we needed to be reborn as children of God. How is Jesus like light? Just like you need a light to see at night, Jesus is the light that helps us see our deep need for God inside us. Jesus helps us not trip or get off track. With Him we see the path (John 12:35). He helps us not be afraid of the dark.
But it gets even better! Jesus also said that we could have this light in us! Listen.
- You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill [that] cannot be hidden. Matthew 5:14
- For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light. Ephesians 5:8
- You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. 1Thessalonians 5:5
- But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 1 Peter 2:9
If light comes from God, how do we become the light of the world? (Answer: He comes into our hearts by the Holy Spirit and shines from inside us!) If you have never asked Jesus to come into your heart, forgive your sins, give you His Holy Spirit and shine His light in and through you, you can ask Him tonight. Would anyone like to do that? Let’s ask the light of Jesus to shine in our hearts and make us a new creation.
Father God, Creator of All Things, Thank you for sending Jesus to be the light of the world. Will you shine a light into my heart so I can see how much I need you? I want to be able to see you clearly. Help me see how much you love me. I want to know your love. Will you shine on the bad things too and take out of my heart the things that do not please you? Fill me with your light, Jesus, with your Spirit, so that I can love you well and live united with you in this dark world without fear. Let your light automatically shine in me- just from being in your presence-so others are drawn to your light too. In Jesus Name, Amen
Created By His Word (Grown up Version)
Genesis 1:1-26; Psalm 104; John 1:1-10
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. 3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. Genesis 1:1-2
This is how the world started—The earth was without form and empty and dark. Complete darkness. Pitch black, moonless, starless obscurity hovered over the face of the deep. And here is how we meet the Holy Spirit in Scripture, HOVERING over the face of the waters. This was the vantage point and posture of God just before the moment of creation—hovering; surveying the lack; observing the emptiness. Imagine for a moment what it would have been like to see the Holy Spirit hovering over deep waters full of nothing—no life, no movement, no land, no sun, just dead water.
And God said “Let there be light. And there was.” And with His Word, the world was sparked into brilliant being. Not only that, but Jesus, the message of God personified was also there.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made. John 1:1-5
The Word brought life and that life was the light of men. The Word that was God, and also with God, was the sound in all this darkness, birthing unfathomable pure brightness, all the more luminous in comparison to the darkness that predicated it. The light shone in the darkness and the dark could not overcome it. Utter darkness instantly transformed into pure light.
6 By the word of the Lord the heavens were made,
their starry host by the breath of his mouth.
7 He gathers the waters of the sea into jars;
he puts the deep into storehouses.
8 Let all the earth fear the Lord;
let all the people of the world revere him.
9 For he spoke, and it came to be;
he commanded, and it stood firm. Psalm 33
This Word went out into the void but did not return void. It accomplished what He intended. Newness. Life. Created works of art. And from the middle of empty formless waters the heavens and earth were drawn out.
6 And God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” 7 And God made the expanse and separated the waters that were under the expanse from the waters that were above the expanse. And it was so. 8 And God called the expanse Heaven…9 And God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. 10 God called the dry land Earth,and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas.
Creation was born out of water by the Word of God and Spirit of God. And the Word made flesh has also promised us this Living Water which hovers over our emptiness and deadness and fills us with new life and new creation. John 7:38-39
38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.
We need to be filled constantly to overflowing with this Living Water. Then He creates and recreates and reconstitutes life through us.
Everything good and perfect gift comes from above from the Father through Jesus (James 1:17). We are born through His Word made flesh, firstfruits of the soil that he created, formed by God (Genesis 2:6-7), somehow different from the rest of the world. We are breathing and alive only because He breathed into us, now flowing with the Living Water of the Spirit of God, constantly filling, flowing out, and refilling us like a fresh spring, Living Water wells of life, unlike those described by Peter who are
… springs without water and mists driven by a storm… For they mouth empty, boastful words …they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. 2 Peter 2:17-19; 2 Peter 3:5
Just as they deliberately forget, we will intentionally remember. God’s word can bring new creations out of water by water. He calls dead things back to life. That same Word is living and active in us to the core speaks and calls out new life in the world around us, into hearts that are deliberately forgetting, into brokenness, into pain, into the empty places. We thirst for this Living Water.
You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you;
I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you…
3 Because your love is better than life,
my lips will glorify you.
4 I will praise you as long as I live,
and in your name I will lift up my hands.
5 I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods;
with singing lips my mouth will praise you. Psalm 63
We thirst and we are filled. (Psalm 42: 1-2, 7)When we thirst, he gives the Water freely (Isaiah 55:1) We are satisfied and all we can do is ask for more (Psalm 116:13)! Deep calls to deep. So we drink again and again and live filled to overflow—to pour out to make room for more of Him. We sing for Him. We dance for Him. We write and draw and paint for Him. We run in the path of His command for He has set us free and broadened our understanding (Psalm 119:32). Our obedience is the natural response to really understanding His love and faithfulness. Filled with His Spirit and His Word, His message of hope, now we flow outward in praise and His power out to lives around us, declaring the new things God will do in others, drawing them to the source of all this sweetness (Isaiah 43:19ff). Now we flow in God’s power to love and obey Him in full reliance, submission, and surrender like Jesus did (22:42)—to be formed by Water from the soil all over again, with the power supplied to let the Word of Christ grow in us. Now we have His power to live worthy of the calling He has placed on us. We have power for worship in purity and honesty before Him. We have power for witness to the nations. We have power to call out creation in multiple languages, in an explosion of artistry, in the fullness of all He allows us to express to Him, unashamed to share all that He sparks in us.
The same Spirit, who is described as Living Water (John 7:38-39), Fire (Matthew 3:11, Acts 2), and Wind (John 3), the facilitator of all creation, the one who surveys the empty deep of our hearts, hovers over us. He desires to flood every corner of our cavernous hearts with light, and fill us to overflowing with the creative, soul-drenching, life-giving, satisfying Living Water. He longs to speak and create new things in us and through us, breathe life into our bodies and hearts (Isaiah 42: 5), and set us on fire with the very power that raised Jesus from the dead (Romans 8:11). Though we see death, we shall see the light of Life! (Isaiah 53:11). And we prophecy and call it out.
Let. There. Be. Light!
You, Lord, are my lamp; the Lord turns my darkness into light. (2 Samuel 22:29) God, your word will not return void. But fills the void with pure light. Light has no shadow. Your voice, your presence, your Word illuminates everything. It accomplishes everything you intend it to accomplish (Isaiah 55:11). We will go out in joy and be led forth in peace. So much so, that the mountains and hills will actually sing and clap their hands (Isaiah 55:12), creation anticipating its redemption (Romans 8:22-24). Even as we wait for it patiently, we call it out, announcing it ahead of time. Your sons and your daughters will prophecy (Joel 2:28; Acts 2:17)). Make way for the Kingdom of God. The already not yet kingdom—May your kingdom come! May your will done on earth as in heaven! (Matthew 6:10) Your culture here among us. Your life calling out life in and through us.
So Lord, just like you did at the dawn of creation, let your Spirit hover over the deep empty seas of our souls, searching the depths of our hearts, and spark new creations out of your Living Waters flowing in and through us. Will you continually remake us into new creations from and by the Living Water! We need this fresh because we live in a broken creation where anything not being brought back to life is being brought to death. Keep us vitally reliant on you. Your breath constantly renewing creation, Your life, the Light of man (John 1:1-5). For you, the Word, create by your word. You, the Light, will speak and call light out of darkness. Darkness will not overcome you. And you, Living Water, create in and through water all you desire in and through us. For from you and through you and for you are all things, for your glory (Romans 11:36)! Amen. You are our source. Without you we can do absolutely nothing (John 15:5). We yield again
We take your breath and we speak your word–calling out new life in you Jesus.
Questions for Journaling and/or Prayer:
1. What are the lifeless, dark, or chaotic things I am having to deal with right now?
2. Can you help me sense your presence encountering lifelessness, chaos, or darkness in my life and my family?
3. How are you wanting to speak light and life to those things? Show me how you are calling things into order and how I can move in alignment with that.
4. Would you hover over me and help me perceive the new creations are you calling out in me and the other people in my life?
5. What are you trying to create in the world and how can I be a part of your agenda?
1 Praise the Lord, my soul. Lord my God, you are very great; you are clothed with splendor and majesty.
2 The Lord wraps himself in light as with a garment;
he stretches out the heavens like a tent
3 and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters.
He makes the clouds his chariot
and rides on the wings of the wind.
4 He makes winds his messengers,
flames of fire his servants.
5 He set the earth on its foundations;
it can never be moved.
6 You covered it with the watery depths as with a garment;
the waters stood above the mountains.
7 But at your rebuke the waters fled,
at the sound of your thunder they took to flight;
8 they flowed over the mountains,
they went down into the valleys,
to the place you assigned for them.
9 You set a boundary they cannot cross;
never again will they cover the earth.
10 He makes springs pour water into the ravines;
it flows between the mountains.
11 They give water to all the beasts of the field;
the wild donkeys quench their thirst.
12 The birds of the sky nest by the waters;
they sing among the branches.
13 He waters the mountains from his upper chambers;
the land is satisfied by the fruit of his work.
14 He makes grass grow for the cattle,
and plants for people to cultivate—
bringing forth food from the earth:
15 wine that gladdens human hearts,
oil to make their faces shine,
and bread that sustains their hearts.
16 The trees of the Lord are well watered,
the cedars of Lebanon that he planted.
17 There the birds make their nests;
the stork has its home in the junipers.
18 The high mountains belong to the wild goats;
the crags are a refuge for the hyrax.
19 He made the moon to mark the seasons,
and the sun knows when to go down.
20 You bring darkness, it becomes night,
and all the beasts of the forest prowl.
21 The lions roar for their prey
and seek their food from God.
22 The sun rises, and they steal away;
they return and lie down in their dens.
23 Then people go out to their work,
to their labor until evening.
24 How many are your works, Lord!
In wisdom you made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.
25 There is the sea, vast and spacious,
teeming with creatures beyond number—
living things both large and small.
26 There the ships go to and fro,
and Leviathan, which you formed to frolic there.
27 All creatures look to you
to give them their food at the proper time.
28 When you give it to them,
they gather it up;
when you open your hand,
they are satisfied with good things.
29 When you hide your face,
they are terrified;
when you take away their breath,
they die and return to the dust.
30 When you send your Spirit,
they are created,
and you renew the face of the ground.
31 May the glory of the Lord endure forever;
may the Lord rejoice in his works—
32 he who looks at the earth, and it trembles,
who touches the mountains, and they smoke.
33 I will sing to the Lord all my life;
I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
34 May my meditation be pleasing to him,
as I rejoice in the Lord.
35 But may sinners vanish from the earth
and the wicked be no more.
Praise the Lord, my soul.
Praise the Lord.