Hello, friends! Today we begin the last week of Advent, and I hope you have been able to spend time as mother and daughter this season, purposefully opening your hearts as you prepare a way for Jesus.
When we think of Bible stories during Advent, we often hear of Elizabeth (Luke 1:13-15) and Mary (Luke 1:30-32), who in the Advent season, beautifully model for us what it means to wait in hope and joy-filled expectation.
What about Jonah? Do you remember the Old Testament prophet that ran away from God and ended up in the belly of a whale?
Jonah may not be a likely choice for Advent study, but he actually has a lot to share with us about waiting during this season of preparation. Waiting patiently. Waiting not so patiently.
Remember God told Jonah to go and preach repentance and ashes to the people of Nineveh. During Jonah’s time, Nineveh was the capital of ancient Assyria, a superpower of the age. Originally built by Nimrod (Genesis 10:11), it was located east of the Tigris River in a very fertile plain and would have been quite the desirable place to live. We know this bustling city was huge, a three-day journey in breadth with over 120,000 people (Jonah 3:3, Jonah 4:11). And guess what? This massive ancient metropolis was brimming with unbelievers.
Photo credit: Looklex.com
God told Jonah to pack his little suitcase, travel to Nineveh and tell all those heathens to repent—or the city would be destroyed.
Unsurprisingly, Jonah made a run for it. He hopped a boat and headed for Tarshish (near Gilbraltar). This was geographically about as far as he could go in the opposite direction of where God instructed.
He must have breathed a hearty sigh of relief as he saw Joppa port shrink into the distance. We know Jonah did not make it too far before the Lord stopped his exodus. As the ship sailed, a storm blew up. In order to accommodate the harsh winds and battering storm, sailors needed to lighten the load of the ship.
Into this chaos of waves and wind, baling and wailing, the captain must have shouted orders as goods and cargo were tossed overboard. Jonah told them to throw him off the ship, and the storm would stop. Can you imagine? Goodness, there must have been some protesting, but after a time, they did as Jonah asked and threw him into the sea.
As Jonah predicted, the storm stopped, and the ship sailed away in peace. What was to come of Jonah?
Now the Lord had arranged for a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was inside the fish for three days and three nights.
Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from inside the fish. He said,
“I cried out to the Lord in my great trouble,
and he answered me.
I called to you from the land of the dead,
and Lord, you heard me!
You threw me into the ocean depths,
and I sank down to the heart of the sea.
The mighty waters engulfed me;
I was buried beneath your wild and stormy waves.
We can relate to Jonah as he cried out to God in despair, wanting desperately to be heard—and God did hear him. After three days, the Lord ordered the fish to spit Jonah out onto the beach.
Then, he told Jonah again, “Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh, and deliver the message I have given you” (Jonah 3:2). Wisely, Jonah obeyed.
He traveled to the capital city and preached to the crowds. “Forty days from now Nineveh will be destroyed!” The people believed God’s message and repented (Jonah 3:1-5).
Like many of us, Jonah had expectations about what he should do with his life. Also, like many of us, Jonah did not always respond to God’s call with immediate action and joy. Sometimes, we want to run in the opposite direction instead answering the One who has already prepared a way for us.
In the midst of the strongest, most terrifying storms, we are left with nothing but complete dependence on our Creator. In those moments, we surrender to the peace that passes all understanding and accept that we are not equipped for life. We are equipped for grace. When we repent of our sins, God ushers us into His sweet, merciful grace.
But Jesus replied, “Only an evil, adulterous generation would demand a miraculous sign; but the only sign I will give them is the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights.
“The people of Nineveh will stand up against this generation on judgment day and condemn it, for they repented of their sins at the preaching of Jonah. Now someone greater than Jonah is here—but you refuse to repent.”
~ Matthew 12:39-41
This is what John the Baptist meant when he urged us to “prepare the way of the Lord, make His paths straight” (Matthew 3:1).
Jonah turned back to God and ultimately turned back to Nineveh where he pleaded with the people there to turn back to God as well. The same God of mercy who had drawn near to Jonah and won his heart now wanted to draw near to the unworthy city of Nineveh.
He calls to you, too, friends. God wants each of us to believe. Advent is an opportunity to prepare a way, make ready your heart for the One who has already made a way for you.
God will not abandon you.
He will not forsake you.
He wants to bless you with the mercy and grace.
The book of Jonah teaches us who have accepted God’s mercy that we are to extend God’s lavish love to everyone. This is the lesson I leave you with as we begin the last week of Advent. Extend the grace, love and mercy God has shown you to others. Make each day purposeful as you await the advent of Christ.
An Activity for Mom & Me
Quick note: Remember, as with all Girls of Grace Bible studies, this Advent series includes a weekly Mom & Me activity. These are fun activities meant to be enjoyable and inclusive for all family members, which are designed to help you dig a little deeper into the weekly devotion in a fun way. While this element of Bible study is completely optional, it is sure to be entertaining and memorable, so I encourage you to make time for these activities if at all possible.
Preparing a Way: Christmas Card Prayers
This is your last week to finish those Jesse Trees. Remember you can always use the free ornament template (found in posts for Part 1 and Part 3). Be creative and have fun!
As a twist to your Jesse Trees this week, consider making an ornament of repentance. This does not have to be a written confession. God knows our hearts. However, with intention and purpose, pray over your repentance ornaments. Ask God’s forgiveness and tuck those ornaments into your trees as a visual reminder of His never-ending grace and mercy.
Christmas Card Prayers
Friends, there is power in prayer. In fact, we are instructed to pray (Matthew 6, Luke 11:1-12). Your Mom & Me Activity this week is a fun way to incorporate your Christmas cards into your regular family prayer life all year long. Special thanks to my friend, Tracy Steel, for sharing this idea with the mamas and daughters at our Team Grace retreat in October. I loved the idea and thought it was a perfect way for us to end our mom and daughter Advent study while encouraging each of you to continue preparing a way long for Christ after this Christmas season ends.
The idea is really simple. How many of us wonder what to do with Christmas cards after the holidays? Do you stick them in a drawer, pack them away or toss them out with the torn Christmas wrap? This year, I challenge you to tuck each card into a binder with page protectors.
Photo credit: Tracy Steel
Each week in the New Year, take a Christmas card out of your binder and spend time actively praying for that entire family. What a gift!
Thank you so much for spending time with my daughters and me during this Advent devotional series. I fervently hope and pray each of you have been blessed by your time together. I also pray you all embrace the advent of Christ, preparing a way for Him in your hearts every day of the year. Merry Christmas!
“ ~ John R. Brokhoff
~ John R. Brokhoff