Yearning for Freedom in Advent

By Mark D. Roberts

November 29, 2021

Scripture – Luke 1:5 (NRSV)

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.

A Note from Mark

Dear Life for Leaders Reader,

Before we get to today’s devotion, I’d like to share a short note with you.

Today is “Giving Tuesday.” Nine years ago, several businesses and non-profit organizations decided to encourage charitable giving and other good works on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. Their idea caught on. Today, thousands of non-profits will be asking people to give to support their work. The De Pree Center is one of those organizations. (If you receive our “Faith. Work. Leadership.” newsletter, you may already have seen our De Pree Center request. Today, I’m adding a specific request to Life for Leaders readers.)

Before I ask for your help, I want to be very clear about a couple of things. First, it is an honor to serve you through Life for Leaders. I regularly thank the Lord for the gift of being able to study the Bible and share what God teaches me with you. Sometimes I’m amazed that this is a central part of my job. What a blessing!

Second, I want you to know that we at the De Pree Center are glad to be able to give away Life for Leaders without charging a subscription fee. That was true when I was the Executive Director, and it remains true now that Michaela O’Donnell is in charge. We often marvel at the fact that over 750,000 times each year, someone chooses to read Life for Leaders, either by opening the email or by visiting a page on our website. We love being able to offer Life for Leaders as a gift.

We’re able to do this, as you would imagine, because of the generosity of our financial supporters. The De Pree Center makes a modest amount of money from sales of resources and experiences, but mainly we depend on the financial support of people who believe in what we’re doing and want to invest in our work. We are glad to part of Fuller Seminary, but we do not receive financial support from the seminary. (By the way, we certainly encourage you to consider supporting Fuller. The seminary and its “FULLER NEXT” vision is amazing.)

So, today I’m asking you to consider supporting the De Pree Center financially. This could be a gift designated for Life for Leaders if that’s what you’d like to do. Or it could be a gift for the De Pree Center in general. Either would be wonderful. Click on this link if you’d like to support our work.

If you’d like to make a gift to the De Pree Center, please click here. Sometimes potential donors would like to speak with someone in leadership here. That’s great. Either Michaela or I would be glad to talk with you. Just email us to set up a time to talk: email Michaela; email Mark.

Thank you for allowing me to add this note to today’s devotion. And thank you, once again, for being one of our subscribers. I am so thankful for you and for the chance to serve you through Life for Leaders and the De Pree Center.

Now, I know you have a variety of worthy charitable possibilities. If this is not the year to support us, that’s fine. Let me encourage you to be generous in the way God is leading you. That’s the main thing. I trust that God will supply what we need to continue to serve him through Life for Leaders and other De Pree Center efforts. Honestly, I have been repeatedly amazed by God’s faithfulness and kindness to us over the past six and a half years!

Grace and Peace,

Mark Roberts

P.S. – If you want to support the De Pree Center’s mission, click here.



Jews in the last years B.C. yearned for freedom from political oppression. You and I may not experience that kind of oppression today, but we may also long for freedom, freedom from injustice, racism, addiction, anxiety, emptiness, debt, depression, or sickness. The season of Advent is a time to bring our longings before the Lord, to ask for the freedom that only Jesus can give us.

Today’s devotion is part of the series Following Jesus Today.


The Gospel of Luke provides a historical context for the events leading up to the birth of Jesus. It says in Luke 1:5, “In the time of Herod king of Judea.” This places the birth of Jesus sometime between 37 B.C., when Herod became king, and 4 B.C., when Herod died. (Yes, this does mean that Jesus was born somewhere around 6 B.C. The folks who originally set up the B.C./A.D. calendar divide got things wrong by a few years. Jesus wasn’t actually born before he was born, of course.)

When we see the name “Herod,” we might have some misgivings. We know from the Gospel of Matthew that Herod tried to kill Jesus and ended up killing many young children instead (Matthew 2:1-18). From this story alone we get a bad feeling about Herod.

Yes, he was someone who didn’t have qualms about murdering a bunch of innocent children if this would help secure his royal authority. But this observation doesn’t even begin to adequately portray the evil, narcissistic ways of King Herod. He routinely killed those who threatened his power, including his wife Mariamne and his sons Alexander and Aristobulus.

Herod was responsible for the re-building of the temple in Jerusalem, which became known as Herod’s Temple. For this, he gained some respect. Yet his mistreatment of his Jewish subjects was so severe that he was generally hated in spite of his accomplishments as a builder. Jewish scholar Solomon Zeitlin refers to Herod as “a malevolent maniac.” (Jewish Quarterly Review: 54:1).

So, to be a Jew during “the time of Herod king of Judea” was not a bowl of cherries. Of course, Herod wasn’t the only political problem for the Jews. He was king, after all, only under the authority of Rome, which had conquered Judea and kept it in line, mainly so Rome could collect abundant taxes from this captive people.

I am pointing out this history because it helps us to get inside the longings of the Jewish people prior to the birth of Jesus. Their experience of political and economic oppression was very real and very painful. They longed for God’s kingdom, not just as a theological construct, but as something that would set them free from harsh and abusive rulers.

Though many Christians in the world today find themselves in similar political situations, most readers of this devotion do not. We may be unhappy with the political climate in our country, but we aren’t experiencing anything like what Jews in the time of King Herod experienced on a daily basis. So, if we want to go deeper in our observance of Advent, we would do well to imagine the longings of the people among whom Jesus was born.

Perhaps you have powerful longings for freedom, not from a ruler like King Herod, but from other things that bind you: injustice, racism, addiction, anxiety, emptiness, debt, depression, or sickness. Advent is a time to bring your longings before the Lord, to cry out to God for freedom. As we sing in the Advent hymn by Charles Wesley, “Come, thou long expected Jesus, born to set thy people free; from our fears and sins release us, let us find our rest in thee.”


When you imagine what Jews under King Herod experienced, what thoughts and feelings come to you?

From what are you yearning to be free today?


Talk to the Lord about where you need freedom today. Don’t hold back. God is there for you. Just be honest.


Come, thou long expected Jesus, born to set thy people free;
from our fears and sins release us, let us find our rest in thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation, hope of all the earth thou art;
dear desire of every nation, joy of every longing heart.

Born thy people to deliver, born a child and yet a King,
born to reign in us forever, now thy gracious kingdom bring.
By thine own eternal spirit rule in all our hearts alone;
by thine all sufficient merit, raise us to thy glorious throne. Amen.

Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: The Heralding Voice

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Mark D. Roberts

Senior Strategist

Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders,...

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