Advent 2020



As we prepare for a very different Christmas this year, here is an opportunity to prepare ourselves spiritually by reading some verses from the Bible each day and reflecting on some questions. 
If you would like a printed version of this you can download from here.


Saturday 28th November – John 1.6-9, 19-28


There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. 

He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe.

He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.


Now this was John's testimony when the Jews of Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was.

He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, "I am not the Christ."

They asked him, "Then who are you? Are you Elijah?"

He said, "I am not." "Are you the Prophet?" He answered, "No."

Finally they said, "Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?"

John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet,

"I am the voice of one calling in the desert, `Make straight the way for the Lord.'"

Now some Pharisees who had been sent questioned him, "Why then do you baptise if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?"

"I baptise with water," John replied, "but among you stands one you do not know.

He is the one who comes after me, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie."


Who did John the Baptist claim to be?


Why did God send him?


You might like to think how you can follow John’s example today.



Sunday 29th November – John 1.29-34


The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said,

"Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

This is the one I meant when I said,

`A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.'

I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptising with water was that he might be revealed to Israel."

Then John gave this testimony:

"I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him.

I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptise with water told me, `The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptise with the Holy Spirit.'

I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God."


What did John say that Jesus had come to do?


What convinced John that Jesus was the Son of God?


You might like to read the story of Passover and reflect on John calling Jesus “the Lamb of God” – look at Exodus 12, Isaiah 53.6-7, 1 Corinthians 5.7.


Monday 30th November – John 1.35-42


The next day John was there again with two of his disciples.

When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, "Look, the Lamb of God!"

When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus.

Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, "What do you want?"

They said, "Rabbi" (which means Teacher), "where are you staying?"

"Come," he replied, "and you will see."

So they went and saw where he was staying, and spent that day with him.

It was about the tenth hour.

Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus.

The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him,

"We have found the Messiah" (that is, the Christ).

And he brought him to Jesus.

Jesus looked at him and said, "You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas" (which, when translated, is Peter).


When Andrew heard John’s words, what two things did he do?


On this St Andrew’s Day, who you can introduce to Jesus?


You might like to imagine what it was like for Andrew spending a full day with Jesus.  Why not ask Jesus to spend today with you?

Tuesday 1st December – John 1.1-5


In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

He was with God in the beginning.

Through him all things were made;

without him nothing was made that has been made.

In him was life, and that life was the light of men.

The light shines in the darkness,

but the darkness has not understood (or overcome) it.


What do these verses tell us about the identity of the child born in Bethlehem?


What are your favourite things in all creation?  Who deserves the praise?


You might like to compare the opening words of John’s gospel with the opening verses of Genesis 1; and Paul’s words in Colossians 1.15-17.


Wednesday 2nd December – John 1.10-13


He was in the world, and though the world was made through him,

the world did not recognise him.

He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.

Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name,

he gave the right to become children of God –

children born not of natural descent,

nor of human decision or a husband's will,

but born of God.


How do you think God felt when Jesus was not welcomed in His own world?


What wonderful promise does God make to those who do recognise and receive Jesus?


You might like to sing ‘O little town of Bethlehem’ and reflect on the words of verse 3.


Thursday 3rd December – John 1.14-18


The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.

We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John testifies concerning him. He cries out, saying, "This was he of whom I said, `He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.'"

From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another.

For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, has made him known.


What has Jesus revealed to us about God? 


What blessings have you received recently that you might thank God for?


You might like to take time to ‘count your blessings and name them every one’, giving thanks and praise to the God of grace for all His goodness and love.


Friday 4th December – Genesis 3.8-15


Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden.

But the LORD God called to the man, "Where are you?"

He answered, "I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid."

And he said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?"

The man said, "The woman you put here with me – she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it."

Then the LORD God said to the woman, "What is this you have done?" The woman said, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate."

So the LORD God said to the serpent, "Because you have done this, "Cursed are you above all the livestock and all the wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel."


Why was it necessary for God to send a Saviour?


How will the offspring of the woman ultimately deal with the problem of human sin?


You might like to compare this story with how Jesus dealt with temptation (Luke 4.1-12) and ask who you are more like.  See also Hebrews 4.14-16.


Saturday 5th December – Genesis 22.15-18


The angel of the LORD called to Abraham from heaven a second time and said,

"I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son,

I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore.

Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies,

and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me."


God chose to bless Abraham and Sarah and to give them a son in their old age; and to bless their descendants, the children of Israel. 


What was God’s ultimate purpose?  Have a look at John 3.16.


How would Abraham’s offspring play a crucial role? 


You might like to read Matthew 1.1-17 to see a summary of how God’s plan unfolded.



Sunday 6th December – Luke 1.5-15


In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron.

Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord's commandments and regulations blamelessly.

But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren; and they were both well along in years.

Once when Zechariah's division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God,

he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense.

And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.

Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense.

When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear.

But the angel said to him: "Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John.

He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth,

for he will be great in the sight of the Lord.”


What similarities do you notice between the stories of Zechariah and Elizabeth and Abraham and Sarah? 


Has God ever surprised you with an unexpected answer to prayer?


You might like to consider where this event took place – in the temple in Jerusalem, in the Holy Place, in front of the thick curtain barring entry to the Most Holy Place.  What did God send Jesus to accomplish?  See Luke 23.44-46.


Monday 7th December – Luke 1.15-22


“He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth.

Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God.

And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous – to make ready a people prepared for the Lord."

Zechariah asked the angel, "How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years."

The angel answered, "I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news.

And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their proper time."

Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple.

When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realised he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak.


How did the angel Gabriel describe the role of John the Baptist?


Why did Zechariah find it all too hard to believe?


You might like to read the final verses of the Old Testament – Malachi 4.5-6 and reflect on 400 years of silence from heaven, broken by Gabriel’s message.


Tuesday 8th December – Isaiah 7.14


Therefore the Lord your God will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel, which means “God with us”.


Why is the virgin birth so important?


What is the significance of this name given to the child? 


You might like to think about “God with us” in your daily life.  What difference does it make to you today knowing that “the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1.14)?


Wednesday 9th December – Luke 1.26-33, 38


In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee,

to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary.

The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you."

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.

But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favour with God.

You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.

He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.

The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David,

and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end."

"I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have said." Then the angel left her.


What did the angel Gabriel tell Mary that God wanted her to do?


Mary was willing to do as she was asked.  Are you willing to let God use you to do amazing – or very ordinary – things, for Him?


You might like to listen to the song ‘Be born in me’.

Thursday 10th December – Isaiah 9.6-7

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.

And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end.

He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.

The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.


Which elements of Isaiah’s prophecy were echoed by the angel Gabriel when he spoke to Mary (see yesterday’s reading from Luke 1.26-33)?


What does this tell us about who Jesus is?


You might like to look up 2 Samuel 7 and read God’s promises to King David to give to his descendant an everlasting kingdom.


Friday 11th December – Luke 1.34-37


"How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?"

The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.

Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month.

For nothing is impossible with God."


How did the angel explain the virgin birth to Mary?


What evidence did he give her that God can do what is humanly impossible? 


You might like to think of someone who is facing a situation that seems impossible to resolve – why not pray for them and ask God to intervene?

Saturday 12th December – Luke 1.23-25, 39-45, 56

When Zechariah’s time of service was completed, he returned home.

After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion.

"The Lord has done this for me," she said. "In these days he has shown his favour and taken away my disgrace among the people."


At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea,

where she entered Zechariah's home and greeted Elizabeth.

When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.

In a loud voice she exclaimed: "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!

But why am I so favoured, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?

As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.

Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!"


Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.


In what ways were Elizabeth and Mary able to identify with each other and to share one another’s joy?


Notice how long Elizabeth spent in seclusion or self-isolation and then how long she and Mary spent together.  What are the benefits to us of spending time alone as well as with family and friends?


You might like to make a conscious decision: next time you hear someone else’s good news, take a moment to really celebrate with them.

Sunday 13th December – Luke 1.46-55

And Mary said: "My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,

for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.

From now on all generations will call me blessed,

for the Mighty One has done great things for me – holy is his name.

His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation.

He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.

He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble.

He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.

He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful

to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as he said to our fathers."


Notice how Mary’s song begins with her own personal thanks for what God has done for her before widening out to praise God for all He has done for His people.  Why not spend some time in prayer following Mary’s example?


You might like to compare Mary’s song with Hannah’s song in 1 Samuel 2.

Monday 14th December – Luke 1.57-66


When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son.

Her neighbours and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy.

On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah,

but his mother spoke up and said, "No! He is to be called John."

They said to her, "There is no one among your relatives who has that name."

Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child.

He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone's astonishment he wrote, "His name is John."

Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue was loosed, and he began to speak, praising God.

The neighbours were all filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things.

Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, "What then is this child going to be?" For the Lord's hand was with him.


The name ‘John’ means ‘gift from God’ or ‘the LORD is gracious’. 

Why was this such an appropriate name for this child?


You might like to imagine: if you hadn’t been able to speak for nearly a year, what would be the first things you would say on getting your voice back?



Tuesday 15th December – Luke 1.67-80


His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied:

"Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people.

He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David

(as he said through his holy prophets of long ago),

salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us –

to show mercy to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant,

the oath he swore to our father Abraham:

to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear

in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.

And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,

to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins,

because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven

to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace."


What does Zechariah praise and thank God for?


How does he describe the role of his son John the Baptist?


You might like to reflect on how long God had been planning and preparing for the coming of the Christ; and the promises and prophecies that tell us this.


Wednesday 16th December – Micah 5.1-5


Marshal your troops, O city of troops, for a siege is laid against us.

They will strike Israel's ruler on the cheek with a rod.

"But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah,

out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel,

whose origins are from of old, from ancient times."

Therefore Israel will be abandoned until the time when she who is in labour gives birth and the rest of his brothers return to join the Israelites.

He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God.

And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth.

And he will be their peace.


What does the prophet Micah tell us about the identity of the Christ?

What does he tell us about where he will be born?


You might like to look up 1 Samuel 16 and read the story of God sending Samuel to Bethlehem to anoint David the shepherd boy as King of Israel.

Thursday 17th December – Isaiah 9.1-2


Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress.

In the past God humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honour Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea, along the Jordan.

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light;

on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.


Notice in this passage a series of reversals of fortune, that we also see in Mary’s song (Luke 1.46-55) and Jesus’ beatitudes (Luke 6.20-26).  What does this teach us about the kingdom of God?


What does it mean that ‘a light has dawned’?


In these dark winter days, you might like to reflect: how you can help to shine God’s light in the darkness of our world today?


Friday 18th December – Luke 2.1-5


In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.

(This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.)

And everyone went to his own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.

He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.


How did God use the plans of the human authorities to accomplish his perfect plan, so that Jesus of Nazareth, the Galilean (Isaiah 9.1), would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5.2)?


You might like to spend some time praying for those in power and authority in our world today, for the leaders of nations, members of Parliament and local councillors and all their advisers – see 1 Timothy 2.2.


Saturday 19th December – Matthew 1.18-25


This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit.

Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.

She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."

All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had said through the prophet:

"The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel" which means, "God with us."

When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.

But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son.

And he gave him the name Jesus.


How did the angel reassure Joseph?


What is the significance of the name ‘Jesus’?


You might like to consider how, like Joseph, you can love and support those who have been called to make sacrifices to serve God.


Sunday 20th December – Luke 2.6-7


While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born,

and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son.

She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger,

because there was no room for them in the inn.


What do the circumstances and location of Jesus’ birth teach us?


What does the ordinariness and mess of the first Christmas say to us as we celebrate Christmas this year, perhaps in less than ideal circumstances?


You might like to look at John 1.10-13 and Philippians 2.5-11.


Monday 21st December – Luke 2.8-15


And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.

An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.

But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.

Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.

This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests."


What does it reveal about God’s mindset and intentions that the shepherds were the first to hear the news of Jesus’ birth?


What does the angel tell them about this child?


On this the shortest day and longest night of the year, you might like to imagine: a sudden bright light in the sky and the unbridled joy of the choir of angels.  Why not sing your own song of praise – Hark the herald angels sing, perhaps!


Tuesday 22nd December – Luke 2.16-20


When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.

When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.

But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.

The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.


What did the shepherds do and say?


How might we follow their example?


You might like to spend some time pondering what Mary pondered, how she felt as she reflected on the words of the angel before the conception and now at the birth of her baby son.  Have a listen to ‘Mary, did you know?’


Wednesday 23rd December – Matthew 2.1-8,16


After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked,

"Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?

We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him."

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.

When he had called together all the people's chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born.

"In Bethlehem in Judea," they replied, "for this is what the prophet has written:

"`But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.'"

Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared.

He sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him."


When Herod realised that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.


Compare and contrast the attitude and response of the Magi and of King Herod to the news of the birth of the king of the Jews.


What is your own response; and the response of other people you know?


You might like to read Exodus 1 and 2 and compare Herod with Pharaoh; and Jesus with Moses.


Thursday 24th December – Matthew 2.9-12


After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.

When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.

On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him.

Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.

And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.


What does it reveal about God’s mindset and intentions that He led these men from a distant land to meet His Son? (See also Luke 2.30-32; 24.45-48)


What is the significance of the gifts they offered?


You might like to consider what gift you could offer to Jesus today?

Have a listen to ‘In the bleak midwinter’ and especially the last verse.


Friday 25th December – John 1.14; Luke 2.10-11


The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.

We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.


But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.

Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.


‘Joy to the world! the Lord is come; let earth receive her King;

Let every heart prepare Him room, and heaven and nature sing.’


Who is the child whose birth we celebrate today?


Why has He come?


This Christmas Day, you might like to reflect on the names and titles given to Jesus and ask yourself if he really is your Saviour and Lord. 


May you know the true and lasting joy of Christmas – as you welcome the Christ, receive Him as your Saviour and serve Him as your King!



If you have enjoyed this approach to Bible reading you might like to get a copy of ‘Search the Scriptures’ edited by Alan M. Stibbs – a study guide to the Bible;

or to read some daily Bible reading notes such as ‘Explore’ from The Good Book Company, available in booklet form or by downloading the Explore App.


Please send any feedback to Graham at