We are loved by a God who always keeps his promises. The Old Testament is rich with promises concerning our coming Messiah, and from the opening lines of Matthew, we begin to see those promises perfectly fulfilled, starting with the most intimate details of Jesus’ birth. Back in 2019, we invited you and your teenagers to join us for a 16-day Christmas devotional series centering around Messianic prophecies. This year we will round out that series with eight more posts, so you’ll have one for every day of the Christmas season.
We pray your heart will be encouraged and your faith strengthened as you and your teenagers meditate together on the game-changing truth that our God says what he means and means what he says. O Come Let Us Adore Him!
You’re probably old enough to know by now that relationships can be disappointing. And few pains cut as deep as hurt within a close relationship. The holidays can make this pain even worse. I know from personal experience, and I expect you do, too.
This is what sin does—it painfully ruins relationships.
Even before God speaks consequences over Adam and Eve for their sin in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:16-19), we already see them arguing and hiding from one another in their shame (Gen. 3:7,12-13). In the very next story, Cain murders his brother Abel in jealousy (Gen. 4). Throughout the narrative of the Old Testament, we see how sin mires family relationships.
And yet, hope always remains. In each story, God refuses to let sin thwart his good plan to bring Eden-blessings to this world through humanity. From the call to be fruitful and multiply in the Garden, to the promise to bless all nations through Abraham’s family, to the hope of the Promised Land where war will be no more, God makes a way toward blessing and fruitfulness in the midst of human sin and its consequences.
But a significant problem remains: All of those God chooses to help move the story forward ultimately fall short. It becomes apparent that humanity’s hope must be someone far greater than even Abraham, Moses, or David—even though they were champions of the faith.
By the time of the prophet Jeremiah, things are bad for Israel. Their sin is catching up with them as the nation faces threats from without and within. And yet, alongside the woes and warnings, God gives Jeremiah a message of hope:
Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness. (Jer. 23:5-6)
Humankind has become like a branch that produces fruit leading to pain and injustice, but God promises a Branch that will bear fruit that leads to life. The Messiah to come will be like a new Eden Tree. He will give life to God’s people so that all nations can be blessed, as God promised to Abraham. He will usher in a kingdom that surpasses even the Promised Land of Moses and the kingdom of David.
And while righteousness can mean moral goodness, a deeper sense of the Hebrew word speaks to relationships. Jeremiah is saying that alongside justice, the Messiah will bring right-ness to relationships—even to yours and mine.
But for this to happen, sin and its ruinous effects have to be dealt with. The Messiah must willingly die for the sin of this world and be raised again to new life in order to bring about lasting justice and righteousness.
This is what Jesus—the one who sits as the fulfillment of the Old Testament narrative—does for us in his death and resurrection. The Christmas birth narratives are designed to help us see Jesus as the true hope of God’s people: a new son of Adam, an appointed member of Abraham’s family, the promised king in the line of David. He’s come to do what no other human could: to rescue God’s people and bring God’s blessing to the world. For those united to Jesus, we also share in his death to sin and new resurrection life.
The apostle Paul puts it this way: “We have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” (2 Cor. 5:14b-15)
Because of the new life we have in Jesus, we have been given “the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:18), we’ve been made “ambassadors for Christ” (v. 20), and we have become “the righteousness of God” (v. 21). All of these speak to our calling and our hope as followers of Jesus: To be those who bring rightness to our relationships with God, others, and this world.
The mind-blowing good news of the gospel is that while Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment of Jeremiah’s hope, he invites us into his work of bringing wisdom, justice and righteousness to the world.
So, we don’t lose hope for ourselves or this world. Yes, sin can still frustrate our relationships and bring deep pain to the world—but Jesus has made a way for healing, redemption, and reconciliation. As those who trust in him, we are a part of his life-giving work.
One day, Jesus will return to make all things new. This New Creation is depicted in Revelation 21 and 22 as a garden city in which there is a tree of life, the leaves of which are “for the healing of the nations” (Rev. 22:2). No longer will anything be marred by the curse of sin. Rather, Jesus’ righteous rule will be complete as heaven and earth are united so that only blessing and abundance remain.
Questions for Reflection
How can the hope of the New Creation give us courage and strength to be ambassadors for Christ today?
Take a moment to reflect on where your sin has hurt a relationship. Is there something you can do today to bring healing, like praying for the Lord to change your heart, asking for forgiveness, or taking steps to right a wrong?
Where has someone else’s sin brought you pain? Have you shared this hurt with God and a trusted, wise person? What can you do today to move toward forgiveness and keep your heart from growing bitter?
Father God, thank you for being a God who relentlessly pursues goodness and life for your people, despite our sin. Jesus Messiah, thank you for holding me so close that you take my sin with you into your grave and share your resurrection life with me. Holy Spirit, please give me your wisdom and strength so that I might be a faithful ambassador of reconciliation, working righteousness and justice with wisdom in this world. Amen.
Click here for a downloadable pdf to share with your teenagers.
Click here for the entire series as it is posted.