2022 Advent Devotional – Immanuel, God is With Us is Now Available on Kindle

Advent Devotional 2021 – December 15th

PRAYER

Take a moment to become still, aware of God’s presence, and then pray:

O Emmanuel, God-with-us, You know intimately the trouble and heartache of our world and of our lives. Breathe the quiet calm of Your Spirit over us, and ready our hearts to listen. Silence every voice but Your voice so that we might hear words of life and love. Amen

REFLECTION

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.
Hebrews 5:7-9

Do you sometimes struggle with prayer? Are there times when it is difficult to find words to tell God what you are thinking or feeling? Have you found prayer hard over the past months of pandemic, isolation, Taliban, and world upheaval? Today’s scripture shows that Jesus knows struggles with prayer, and with that, has the ability to feel with us and to represent us before the throne of heaven.

This scripture speaks of the “days of his flesh” in which Jesus prayed, drawing attention to the human weakness He took on. As Jesus struggled to pray in dark Gethsemane, throwing Himself on the ground, sweating blood, He declared, “the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41). Jesus felt it! To be “flesh” is to be weak and to feel weak. Luke’s gospel calls Jesus’ praying in Gethsemane, agonia, (Greek: “agony”) as he faced the imminent trauma and terror of bearing the sin and guilt of the world. Jesus wanted to live but also wanted to obey the Father’s will. These were the days of His flesh that He took up for you and for me.

Scots theologian and preacher James Stalker describes Jesus’ heartbreak as He talked with His Father:

“How near to us He is! Never perhaps in his whole life did He so completely identify Himself with His poor brethren of mankind. For here He comes down to stand by our side not only when we have to encounter pain and misfortune, bereavement and death, but when we are enduring that pain which is beyond all pain, that horror in whose presence the brain reels, and faith and love, the eyes of life are put out.”

(James Stalker, The Trial and Death of Jesus Christ: A Devotional History of Our Lord’s Passion)

Today’s scripture remembers Jesus’ “loud cries and tears” and how they were heard “because of reverent submission.” And it was a noticeably transformative moment for Jesus to obediently pray, “not my will but yours be done.” Thus, “Jesus was clearly stronger and more serene when he left the garden even though his captors had forcefully bound him.” (Patrick Reardon, The Jesus We Missed) There is resolution for Jesus in praying His Father’s will, seen in His serenity all the way through His crucifixion the next day.

It is encouraging for all of us who struggle in prayer to know that our Savior also struggled, and that He wanted witnesses to that struggle. Mark’s gospel tells us about Jesus asking disciples to be with Him as He struggled: “They went to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, ‘Sit here while I pray.’ He took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be distressed and agitated. And he said to them, ‘I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and keep awake’” (Mark 14:32-34).

This is deliberate on Jesus’ part: the three disciples Jesus had invited to witness His glory on the Mount of Transfiguration were now invited to watch His struggle in prayer. So, as we sometimes struggle with prayer we can be assured that “we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). We can know that Jesus understands us and that He cares, and is mighty to help us.

WORSHIP

Think back over the past 24 hours and note when you experienced a “high” and a “low”. Share with God how the humanity of Jesus might speak to you in what you experienced.

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