THINK: Do you ever feel that because of your past failures or what you've been through that God could never use you for a great purpose? Jesus came to earth to relate to your pain so that you could relate to His purposes. Look back at the Old Testament passages that highlight the lives of Jesus' ancestors (see center column cross-references). You'll find that many of these individuals have major failures in their past (e.g., Judah, Rahab, Manasseh). In a way, they represent the variety of people who put their faith in God and become part of his family. (See 1:1-16, note.)
RESPOND: What does the title "Christ" refer to when connected to Jesus? (See 1:1 note.) What does it mean that Jesus was the "son of David"? (See 1:1 second note.) Why did Matthew list Jesus' ancestors in this way? (See 1:1-16 note.) Considering the variety of people in Jesus' family line, what does this tell you about God and the people He can use to serve His highest purposes? How can this provide comfort and encouragement to you? How can it motivate you to reach out to others who may seem far from God? What does the name Jesus mean and what is its significance in relation to Christ? (See 1:21 note.) What is the significance of Jesus being born of a virgin? (See 1:23 note.) Why did Jesus have to live and suffer as a human, and how does that relate to you?
PRAY: Give God thanks for His forgiveness and for the fact that the hurts and failures of your past do not have to stand in the way of God's ultimate plans for your life. If there is anything that is hindering your personal relationship with Jesus, confess it to Him and submit to His purposes.
ACT: Demonstrate God's love through an act of kindness or word of encouragement to someone who may seem spiritually distant or "unreachable." Perhaps you know of someone who is struggling with something that God has helped you through in the past. Pray for that individual and do something practical to help them. If you have the opportunity, let the person know that God loves them and you are praying that they discover God's plan for their life.
THINK: Have you ever gotten out of one tough situation only to encounter another one right away? Perhaps you feel that this is just life as usual for you? Jesus understands. He never promised that life would be easy. In fact, some of the people God uses the most are those who have been through the toughest trials. In addition, God's plans often take a course that you may never understand in this lifetime. But God expects you to trust Him. He is completely able to bring you through any challenge and circumstance. But God's protection often requires obedience to God's direction (see vv. 13-14, 19-22).
RESPOND: Who were the Magi? (See 2:1 note.) Who were the chief priests and teachers of the law? (See 2:4 note.) What lesson can you learn form Jesus' family's escape to Egypt? (See 2:13 note.) Why do you think God did not remove Herod immediately rather than to let Jesus begin his life as a refugee? Why might God allow you to face opposition or go through things you don't understand? How can the experience of Jesus family right after his birth help you to understand and cope with some of the problems, difficulties and opposition you might face? What can you learn from Joseph and Mary's actions and responses?
PRAY: Ask God to help you be sensitive to His direction and to trust Him when facing challenges, particularly those that seem to require a change in plans or direction. Thank Him for providing protection, even though you don't always understand His methods or reasons.
ACT: Think of a problem or tough situation you are currently facing. Instead of removing the apparent obstacle or opposition, could God be trying to give you guidance and direction to work through it? Perhaps He will lead you into an unexpected course of action? Ask God for wisdom. Then listen for His guidance and be prepared to act. Thank him for what He will teach you through the situation.