Advent Devotional #1: A Riches to Rags Story

van_hornthorst_adoration_children_800x583During Advent we remember and celebrate Jesus’s first coming when “the Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons of God.”(C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity). We also look forward to our Lord’s second coming when He fully establishes His peaceable kingdom.

To grasp more fully the magnitude of Advent, we want to digest over the next month one verse: 2 Corinthians 8:9. It reads: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” I would encourage you to memorize and meditate upon this verse.

In J.I. Packer’s spiritual classic, Knowing God, he reminds us that this is the key text in all the New Testament for rightly understanding the incarnation. Reading this verse is comparable to the experience of stepping suddenly into a deep pool while wading in a stream. He writes: “Here is stated not only the fact of the incarnation but also its meaning. The taking of manhood by the Son is not only a marvel of nature, but a wonder of grace.”

Everybody loves a rags to riches story. Think about Cinderella—here’s a young woman who’s literally dressed in rags, belittled and treated harshly. Her life takes a turn into remarkable fortune: she is dressed in a royal gown and made exquisitely beautiful by her fairy godmother; she becomes the focus of the prince’s affections; and she unexpectedly achieves the riches of profound admiration and love after a long period of obscurity and neglect. How inspiring and moving are all rags to riches stories.

The story of Advent is even more inspiring and moving because it starts with riches and then moves to rags so that those of us who are dressed in the spiritual rags of our own self-righteousness (Isaiah 64:4) might personally experience and enjoy the spiritual riches of our Lord.

During Advent, we recall why the eternally rich God became poor in His incarnation and humiliation for us. The Apostle Paul speaks very succinctly: Jesus became poor so that we might possess an experiential knowledge of His grace (8:9a).

What is grace? It is undeserved favor from an unobligated giver.

Do you personally know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ? How important is it to you? How much do you value it? In the light of such grace, how can we who believe it be content to be anything less than His gracious and generous people?

Verse 9 moves us toward generosity by debunking the notion that giving less away and keeping more for ourselves will provide more happiness and fulfillment. It shows that God’s purpose in sending His Son was to create gracious, joyful, and generous givers.

The degree to which we personally experience God’s generosity and grace in Christ will be the degree to which we are open-hearted and open-handed with others with all of His resources – time, talents, and treasures.

E. Stanley Jones, a missionary to India, reminds us what the Lord’s grace does in our lives: “Grace binds you with far stronger cords than the cords of duty or obligation can bind you. Grace is free, but when once you take it, you are bound forever to the Giver and bound to catch the spirit of the Giver. Like produces like. Grace makes you gracious, the Giver makes you give” (Joni Eareckson Tada, Diamonds in the Dust).

Why not pray the following for yourself and your family this Advent?

Lord, make us more like You.

Make us givers rather than takers in our relationships.

Cause us to marvel at Your grace and generosity lavished on us

at Jesus’ cradle, cross, and empty tomb.

Transform us into gracious and generous people by Your Spirit.

For we pray in Jesus’ name, AMEN.

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