Tag Archives: advent

Better Than Santa | Bible Gleanings [Advent Edition] – December 4-5, 2021

Santa Claus is slightly judgmental. He only brings presents to good boys and girls. Those who misbehave are on the naughty list and will receive only coal in their stockings. As J. Frederick Coots and Haven Gillespie wrote in Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town, “He’s making a list, he’s checking it twice, he’s gonna find out who’s naughty or nice.” Only youngsters most deserving of gifts can expect to find presents underneath the tree.

Jesus is the polar opposite of Santa: He gives the greatest gift to those who are the least deserving. He came to grant salvation and eternal life to evil people, not good people. As He Himself said, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32). Furthermore, He came to erase your name from the “naughty list” and write it in His book, the “Lamb’s book of life” (Revelation 21:27). 

The fact that shepherds were the first to hear the good news of Jesus’ birth embodies Christ’s mission to save the undeserving. The glad tidings were announced by the exalted angels of heaven, not to kings or emperors, but to some of the most insignificant people in Judean society. Luke wrote, “And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them” (Luke 2:8-9a). Shepherds were thought to be insignificant and contemptible. Jews considered them to be unclean, deceitful, and uneducated. Nonetheless, they were the first to hear the wonderful news that the Savior had been born.

The Gospels reinforce the idea that Jesus came for the low-ranking people of the world. The first disciples were fishermen. Jesus healed social outcasts: lepers, paralytics, and the demon-possessed. He ate with tax collectors and sinners. He cared for widows and the sexually immoral. There’s no question about it—Jesus came to save the least qualified.

You don’t have to be outstandingly competent to receive His gift of eternal life. The Lord Jesus will grant salvation to you, no matter who you are or what you have done. Eternal life can be yours even if you are sexually immoral, idolatrous, adulterous, greedy, or addicted (1 Cor. 6:9-11). Jesus is the significant Savior who came for insignificant people. That is why Jesus is better than Santa. If you want to learn more about the significance of Jesus’ coming to earth, check out my new Christmas devotional on Amazon: “Let Earth Receive Her King: 25 Daily Advent Devotions.”


Bible Gleanings is a weekend devotional column, written for the Murray Ledger & Times in Calloway County, Kentucky. In the event that the column is not posted online, it is be posted for reading here.

Brandon is the founder and main contributor to Brandon’s Desk, the blog with biblical resources from his ministry. He is proud to be the pastor of the family of believers at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, Kentucky. He and his wife Dakota live there with their three dogs, Susie (Jack Russell), Aries (English Shepherd), and Dot (Bluetick Beagle).

Heaven’s Christmas Celebration | Bible Gleanings [Advent Edition] – November 27-28, 2021

Thanksgiving is behind us and that means Christmastime is near. Christmas is the grandest and greatest celebration of the year. Unlike other holidays, Christmas has its own decorations, music, foods, traditions, characters, and colors. It is even a worldwide phenomenon, with thousands of cultures across the globe anticipating Christmas Day. How did Christmas become so extravagant and why is it celebrated?

It may seem surprising, but Jesus did not issue a command to celebrate His birthday with holiday carols and hot cocoa. Instead, most modern-day Christmas traditions originated in Europe and parts of the ancient world which were predominantly pagan. During the winter solstice, the Romans honored the god of agriculture during Saturnalia by feasting and exchanging gifts. To appease the wrath of Oden, the Germans adorned their trees with fruit and candles. Other such polytheistic cultures “decked the halls” with greenery during winter because their sun god was ill and needed wreaths and garland to cheer him up.

It appears that early Christians celebrated Christmas to protest such paganism. They “Christianized” the symbols and customs, giving them Christological meanings. They even adopted the Roman holiday commemorating the birthday of the god, Mirtha, which was observed on December 25. Instead of complaining about the pagan festivities of their society, they simply replaced them with new meaning.

According to historical accounts, Christians also out-celebrated pagans because, in their eyes, Jesus was far more deserving of praise than the gods of wood and stone worshipped by their society. They were proclaiming a bold message by celebrating Christmas: only the Lord Jesus Christ is worthy of worship.

Apparently, the angels in heaven agree. Heaven erupted in acclamation and praise when Jesus was born: “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God” (Luke 2:13). Once the angel announced that Christ had come (Luke 2:9-12), myriads of angels joined him in the celebration. Heaven’s exuberant joy at Christ’s coming couldn’t possibly be expressed by only one angel—it took millions. So, the early Christians weren’t the first to celebrate Christmas—heaven was.

Heaven had a jubilee that blessed Christmas morn’ because Jesus deserves the highest praise, honor, and glory. And that is why many Christians have observed Christmas for centuries—Jesus is worth celebrating. This season offers a unique opportunity to glorify Jesus and boldly declare that He alone deserves our allegiance, affection, and adoration. Charles Wesley’s famous hymn, “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” invites you to joyfully celebrate with the heavenly host:

Joyful, all ye nations rise,

Join the triumph of the skies;

With angelic host proclaim, “Christ is born in Bethlehem!”

Hark! the herald angels sing, “Glory to the new-born King!”


Bible Gleanings is a weekend devotional column, written for the Murray Ledger & Times in Calloway County, Kentucky. In the event that the column is not posted online, it is be posted for reading here.

Brandon is the founder and main contributor to Brandon’s Desk, the blog with biblical resources from his ministry. He is proud to be the pastor of the family of believers at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, Kentucky. He and his wife Dakota live there with their three dogs, Susie (Jack Russell), Aries (English Shepherd), and Dot (Bluetick Beagle).

Day 25: Christmas Day

“And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.”—Luke 2:6-7

Christmas Day has finally come! I pray that you and your family will enjoy a very merry Christmas and that you will truly worship the Lord Jesus on this day of His first advent. Thank you for reading these daily devotions—I hope they have been encouraging to you.


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Brandon is the founder and main contributor to Brandon’s Desk, the blog with biblical resources from his ministry. He is proud to be the pastor of the family of believers at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, Kentucky. He and his wife Dakota live there with their three dogs, Susie, Aries, and Dot.

Day 24: Jesus is Comin’ to Town

“Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay everyone for what he has done.”—Revelation 22:12

Children all over the world are waiting for Santa Claus to deliver lots of toys and goodies to their homes. The anticipation for Santa is so great that the children go to bed early and cookies and milk are left out for his enjoyment. There are even songs about Santa’s coming which dominate the radio waves: Here Comes Santa Claus and Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town. Little boys and girls are told that they’d better be on their best behavior because Santa is making a list and checking it twice. He’s “gonna find out who’s naught or nice.”

This expectation of Santa’s coming does not compare with the eagerness the Israelites had in waiting on the arrival of the Messiah. For thousands and thousands of years, they waited on the One who would bring them salvation by offering Himself as a substitute (Isaiah 53:4-6). They were waiting for their Savior to come, the One who would crush the head of Satan and reverse the curse of sin (Genesis 3:15-19). On Christmas day, He came to earth; He finally arrived. He was born in the likeness of men with a fleshly body—like you and I in every way, yet without sin (Philippians 2:5-8; Colossians 1:22; Hebrews 2:14, 17-18).

His first advent was humble, quiet, and observed by only His earthly parents, lowly shepherds, and a few bystanders. Now that He accomplished the work God sent Him to do, we are waiting on His second advent. He will come to earth a second time, but this time everyone will see it: “Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen” (Revelation 1:7). He will not come as a helpless babe, but as the King of kings and Lord of lords riding on a white horse to, “tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty” (Revelation 19:15). And you need not be concerned about whether or not you are on Jesus’ naughty or nice list—you need to be concerned about whether or not your name is found in the book of life (Revelation 20:15).

One glorious day, Jesus is comin’ to town. Have you made preparations for His second arrival? He is coming soon—it may be today, it may be Christmas, or it may be a hundred years from now. In any case, you must be ready—ready by trusting completely in Christ and His finished work for your salvation.


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Brandon is the founder and main contributor to Brandon’s Desk, the blog with biblical resources from his ministry. He is proud to be the pastor of the family of believers at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, Kentucky. He and his wife Dakota live there with their three dogs, Susie, Aries, and Dot.

Day 23: A New Creation

“The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ.” —Matthew 1:1a

Research shows that you like new things just because they are new.[1] Yes, we all prefer new things—not because they are better or improved, but simply because they are brand-new. This makes Christmas exhilarating for the majority of people since most will be giving and receiving lots of new things. Inside the stockings and under the tree are the latest gadgets, new toys, and fresh clothes. But more exhilarating is the fact that Jesus brought something new on Christmas day. And it is supremely more valuable than any physical gift: a new creation.

The Gospel of Matthew begins with a lengthy and seemingly unnecessary genealogy. To be sure, there are many wonderful things to glean from this genealogy—one is what is implied by the use of the word, “genealogy” in the opening verse. The word can be translated as, “genesis” which just means beginning. Matthew is indicating that the coming of Jesus ushers in a new beginning—the beginning of a new creation. Just as Genesis explains how God created the world, the Gospel of Matthew explains how Jesus came to make a new world—to undo the curse of sin and make all things new.

 He came to make you a new creation. As Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” His coming makes it possible for you to be a new person, to be born again. As it is exclaimed in Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, Jesus was, “born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth.” And when He returns to make all things right, He will make a new heaven and new earth.


[1] https://money.com/why-consumers-prefer-new-stuff-iphone/


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Brandon is the founder and main contributor to Brandon’s Desk, the blog with biblical resources from his ministry. He is proud to be the pastor of the family of believers at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, Kentucky. He and his wife Dakota live there with their three dogs, Susie, Aries, and Dot.

Day 22: Savior, Christ, and Lord

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” —Luke 2:11

There are many characters that we think about during Christmastime. And simply by hearing their names, we instantly think of who they are and what they do. When you hear of Santa, you think of a big-bellied, red-cheeked, jolly man who delivers gifts around the world to well-behaved children. When you hear the name Rudolph, you think of the bullied reindeer who was commissioned to guide Santa’s sleigh. Or when you hear about the Grinch on the radio, you think of a miserable and irritated man who sought to steal Christmas joy from others.

And when you hear the precious name of Jesus during this season, whether in the carols or the term Christmas itself (Christ-mas), you should be reminded of who He is and what He came to accomplish. In the announcement of Jesus’ birth, the angel told the shepherds three memorable things about Jesus and what He came to do—and they are found in the names and titles given to Jesus. He is Savior, Christ, and Lord.

Jesus is the Savior. Even His name, Jesus, conveys this truth. As the angel said to Matthew, “you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). He saves sinners from the power, penalty, and presence of sin. He delivers you from sin’s dominion (Romans 6:1-4). He eliminates sin’s penalty against you (Romans 6:23; Colossians 2:14). And He will one day remove the presence of sin from the earth as you commune eternally with Him in a new heaven and new earth (Revelation 21:1-22:5).

Jesus is also the Christ. He is the long-awaited Messiah, the One through whom God will accomplish His saving purposes. Christ is not Jesus’ last name—it is His messianic title. You need not turn to anyone else for deliverance from sin, for Jesus is the Christ—the chosen and anointed Savior. Like Peter, you can (and must) confess Him as, “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16).

And Jesus is Lord. He is the sovereign ruler and King of the universe. Nothing is outside of His rule and reign. As Isaiah the prophet declared many years before Christ’s birth: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders” (Isaiah 9:6a, NIV).

Remember—as great as these eternal benefits are, they can only be yours if you know Jesus as your Savior, Christ, and Lord. So, do you?


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Brandon is the founder and main contributor to Brandon’s Desk, the blog with biblical resources from his ministry. He is proud to be the pastor of the family of believers at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, Kentucky. He and his wife Dakota live there with their three dogs, Susie, Aries, and Dot.

Day 21: Gloria in Excelsis Deo!

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” —Luke 2:14

Everyone is familiar with the beautiful refrain of Angels We Have Heard on High which exclaims, “Gloria in excelsis Deo, Gloria in excelsis Deo.” Written by James Chadwick in the 1800’s, most of the carol’s lyrics are in English, with the exception of this well-known chorus. The phrase is the Latin rendition of what the angels declared during their heavenly jubilee as recorded in Luke’s Gospel: “Glory to God in the highest.” Also, in many other Christmas carols is the rest of the angelic doxology, “and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased.” The KJV translation is the most recognized: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

No phrase is more fitting to sing at Christmastime since it reminds us of what Christ made possible by His coming: glory to God and peace to men. The angels first declare that glory is to be given to God in the highest. This means that such glory is given to God who is in the highest (since He is the Most High) and it is to be given to Him in the highest degree. The birth of Christ in the Bethlehem and His corresponding work at Golgotha enables you to give glory to God in the highest degree, as you will do one day in His eternal presence if you have made Christ your Savior.

But His coming also brings peace to those with whom God is pleased to give it. The peace and well-being that God gives comes to those who please Him by turning from sin and trusting in Jesus for salvation. If you know the Savior who was born on Christmas day, you can experience peace with God (Romans 5:1), inward peace (Philippians 4:7), and peace with others (Ephesians 2:14-16). This time of year, no matter how busy or even lonely you may be, you can gleefully sing Gloria in excelsis Deo because Christ’s coming empowers you to glorify God and experience true peace.


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Brandon is the founder and main contributor to Brandon’s Desk, the blog with biblical resources from his ministry. He is proud to be the pastor of the family of believers at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, Kentucky. He and his wife Dakota live there with their three dogs, Susie, Aries, and Dot.

Day 20: Offspring of a Virgin’s Womb

“Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.” —Matthew 1:18

Larry King used to have a television program, Larry King Live, where he would interview different people and most often the topics were heated or controversial. One time a reporter asked him, “If you could only interview one person in history, who would it be?” Surprisingly, King replied, “Jesus Christ.”

“And if you could only ask Him one question, what would it be?”

“Were you really born of a virgin?” he said.

“Why would you ask that question?”

King replied, “Because that would define history for me.”

Larry King was right. If Jesus was divinely conceived and born of a virgin, then He’s the most important person in history. And this was the case, as Matthew explained, Mary was, “found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.” Matthew emphasized that Mary was pregnant before her marriage to Joseph was consummated because God had performed a miracle in her womb (Luke 1:35). Jesus was astoundingly and miraculously conceived, thus making His conception and birth unlike any other in history.

Jesus is the God-man, born of Mary (the human side) and the Holy Spirit (the divine side). But His virginal conception was not just so that God could become a man, it was so that the nature of Jesus would be completely sinless. Had Jesus been conceived like the rest of us, He would have inherited the corruption and guilt of sin. He could not atone for sin if He were born into it. For the lamb of God to take away the sin of the world, He had to be a spotless lamb (John 1:29; 1 Peter 1:19). No wonder Charles Wesley penned these words in Hark! The Herald Angels Sing:

“Christ, by highest heaven adored,

Christ, the everlasting Lord,

late in time behold him come,

offspring of the Virgin’s womb:

veiled in flesh the Godhead see;

hail the incarnate Deity,

pleased with us in flesh to dwell,

Jesus, our Immanuel.”


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Brandon is the founder and main contributor to Brandon’s Desk, the blog with biblical resources from his ministry. He is proud to be the pastor of the family of believers at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, Kentucky. He and his wife Dakota live there with their three dogs, Susie, Aries, and Dot.

Day 19: Taking Christmas to Heart

“But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.” —Luke 2:19

There were many different responses to the birth of Christ the Lord. Heaven had a jubilee (Luke 2:13-14). Shepherds preached and proclaimed the good news (Luke 2:15-17). Others gathered around were filled with wonder (Luke 2:18) and the shepherds later glorified God (Luke 2:20). Mary, the mother of Jesus, however, had a very different response to the birth of her Savior-son. She did not dance, sing, or preach—she simply contemplated and meditated in her heart.

Luke moves from the public response of praise and wonder, to the private response of Mary and he says that she treasured what she heard from the shepherds. She “pondered” their proclamation in her heart. For nine months, she had incubated Jesus in her womb—now she was incubating thoughts about Him in her heart and mind. She was mulling over the significance of Christ’s entrance into the world—turning it over in her mind. Just as Jacob of old ruminated on meaning of Joseph’s dream (Genesis 37:11), she pondered the gravity that her Son was God in the flesh. As the prophet Daniel cogitated over the implications of his prophetic vision (Daniel 7:28), Mary thought deeply about the wonder that her child was also her Savior.

There is no indication that she was puzzled or confused about all of this. The angel Gabriel articulately explained the importance of her virginal conception and the supremacy of the Son she would bear (Luke 1:26-38). She was simply thinking deeply about the birth of Jesus Christ. Her contemplation was similar, perhaps, to the contemplation of a child over the phenomenon of Santa Claus and his ability to deliver toys to all children in the world.

Can you identify with Mary’s response this Christmas? Although it’s seemingly contradictory to do so during this busy holiday season, try to slow down and just think about the grandeur and significance of the birth of Christ. Amid the busyness of the season—cooking Christmas dinner, wrapping presents, and traveling—stop and think about the wonder of Christ’s birth. Ponder these things in your heart. Like Mary, take Christmas to heart by pondering its truths in your heart.


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Brandon is the founder and main contributor to Brandon’s Desk, the blog with biblical resources from his ministry. He is proud to be the pastor of the family of believers at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, Kentucky. He and his wife Dakota live there with their three dogs, Susie, Aries, and Dot.

Day 18: God with Us

“All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).” —Matthew 1:22-23

Many beloved Christmas carols contain references to Jesus as, “Immanuel” or “Emmanuel.” Hark! The Herald Angels Sing exuberantly says, “Pleased, as man, with men to dwell, Jesus, our Emmanuel!” It is even in the title of O Come, O Come Emmanuel. What does this familiar word mean? Is it another name for Jesus? The Gospel writer Matthew explains exactly what it means, as he stated that Jesus’ birth fulfilled yet another ancient prophecy.

Immanuel is a title for Jesus—Emmanuel is the Greek transliteration while Immanuel is the Hebrew transliteration (the spelling and language are the only differences). And Matthew said that the title means, “God with us.” This title expresses the wonder of Christ’s incarnation more than any other title for Jesus. Immanuel means that God has come in the flesh to dwell with man. As John the apostle declared, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

God the Creator took on the form of the created. The infinite God assumed a finite body. The Lord God omnipotent and omnipresent became a man with limitations. He came to be with us so that we could be with Him. Jesus brought God’s presence to man so man could be brought into God’s presence. That is what it means for Jesus to be our Immanuel. And this is eternally better than a once-a-year visit from Santa on Christmas Eve, for Christ came on Christmas day as a man so you could be with God eternally.


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Brandon is the founder and main contributor to Brandon’s Desk, the blog with biblical resources from his ministry. He is proud to be the pastor of the family of believers at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, Kentucky. He and his wife Dakota live there with their three dogs, Susie, Aries, and Dot.