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Art by Helen Chang

DECEMBER 18

The History

Nehemiah 9

Advent is like an alarm going off on our calendar, reminding us to zoom out and consider what really matters in our lives.

The danger of the small details of our days is that they can start to cannibalize our entire lives. We begin to believe we exist to rest, take vacations, sleep, eat, and work, instead of seeing all these things as the means to live out radical and significant stories with God.

Advent is a season to stop, take stock, and remember the main thing—to sit at the feet of Jesus and fall so in love again that you feel a burning urgency to give Him everything.

Read Nehemiah 9

Take a second to stop and pray. Remember that the stories of God and His people in these verses belong as much to you as they did to the people in Nehemiah’s time. This is your history.

Look back at verses 9-31. Make a list of God’s actions, man’s responses, and God’s responses to those. What themes stand out to you? Why do the people want to make a covenant with God in verse 38?

Our hearts often quickly forget all the ways that God has been gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. Name a few ways that God has shown His faithfulness to you.

Fast-forward hundreds of years. Take a second to imagine three kings crossing unknown lands because they had heard of a newborn baby wrapped in the arms of His teenage mom. They swore their allegiance to Christ while He was still an infant. They bowed and committed to Him, not to earn anything, but out of an overflow of hearts filled with awe and amazement at the grace of God in the form of a child.

The people in Nehemiah wanted to make a commitment of obedience to God, not to earn His love, but out of an overflow of trusting His steadfast love. It’s what we do in the moments when we are most in love—whisper promises and make vows. Our hearts are too full to hold back.

If you could travel through time and stand in that stable on that cold Christmas night, if you could behold the perfect love of God in the face of that child, what would you want to whisper to Him? What vows would you feel prompted to make out of a heart of wonder and adoration?

Don’t worry, you have nothing to lose. He knows that while your spirit is willing, your flesh is weak. You may fail, and that’s OK. His mercy never fails.