Advent is right around the corner. It begins on December 3, and it will be here before you know it.
If you’ve thought of shifting your devotional life for the Christmas season, read on. Like many churches that put their sermon series aside, individual Christians can find great blessing in focusing on Jesus’s birth.
Bible Studies, Not Devotionals
There are no shortage of Advent devotional offerings, with scores of new volumes published each year. Some of these are excellent. (Some, of course are not.) But even good devotional books are no substitute for personal Bible study.
When you study the Bible on your own, you encounter God’s word directly. You’re not relying on an author or teacher to tell you what the Bible means; you’re reading and thinking and searching and praying yourself. Will that take longer? Of course! But wrestling with difficult and glorious truths on your own is worth it. The commands and promises and works of God will sink down more deeply into your soul—taking root both to form and strengthen you—if you uncover them yourself.
This is not a screed against devotional books, just a plea not to rely on them.
Four Bible Studies
If you’d like to mix up your Scripture study for Advent, I have four plans listed below. There’s nothing monumental in the plans themselves; I’ve simply listed some relevant sections of the Bible that could be covered in the listed time period.
If you’ve never studied the Bible before, let me suggest some resources before you begin. It’s our aim at Knowable Word to help ordinary people learn to study the Bible, so we’ve written much about the three primary areas of Bible study: Observation, Interpretation, and Application. Start here to see an overview of this OIA method, and read the details here. We’ve collected some worksheets that you may want to use on our Resources page.
I’ve planned each of these studies to take four weeks. (So even though Advent is not technically four weeks, these plans take you from November 27 through Christmas Eve.)
A Study in Matthew
Matthew gives two chapters to the birth and early days of Jesus.
- Week 1 (November 27 through December 3): Matthew 1:1–17
- Week 2 (December 4 through December 10): Matthew 1:18–25
- Week 3 (December 11 through December 17): Matthew 2:1–12
- Week 4 (December 18 through December 24): Matthew 2:13–23
A Study in Luke
This study takes you from the beginning of Luke’s gospel through the second chapter, when Jesus is twelve years old.
- Week 1 (November 27 through December 3): Luke 1:1–38
- Week 2 (December 4 through December 10): Luke 1:39–80
- Week 3 (December 11 through December 17): Luke 2:1–24
- Week 4 (December 18 through December 24): Luke 2:25–52
Compare the Gospels
Each gospel writer begins his book differently. Matthew and Luke include narrative about Jesus’s birth, but Mark and John do not. In this study, you’ll compare how each of the gospels begin.
- Week 1 (November 27 through December 3): Matthew 1–2
- Week 2 (December 4 through December 10): Mark 1
- Week 3 (December 11 through December 17): Luke 1:1–2:20
- Week 4 (December 18 through December 24): John 1
Read Isaiah and Luke
Here is an option to read long portions of the Bible instead of studying small portions. Isaiah is full of messages about how the coming king/servant/anointed one will redeem Israel and the world. Luke writes about how Jesus was rejected by Israel and is offered to the Gentiles. They make a great Advent pairing.
- Week 1 (November 27 through December 3): Isaiah 1–17, Luke 1–6
- Week 2 (December 4 through December 10): Isaiah 18–33, Luke 7–12
- Week 3 (December 11 through December 17): Isaiah 34–50, Luke 13–18
- Week 4 (December 18 through December 24): Isaiah 51–66, Luke 19–24
Whether or not you use one of these plans—whether or not you change your devotions for Advent at all—I hope your celebration of the Savior’s birth is full of joy and wonder. As you ponder the One who gave his life to bring sinners to God, give yourself to reading and studying the Bible. This is how we see the magnitude of our need and the fullness of God’s provision. This is how we fight against sin, how we repent and believe. This is the revelation of God, and this is life.