December 27, 2020

Presbyterians Today, PC(USA)
Advent Christmas Devotionals 2020
"Let Us Light Candles"
The 12 Days of Christmas
Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.  Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly.  But just when he had resolved to do 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 as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.  She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.” When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus. 

Matthew 1:18–25
Don't discard Christmas so quickly
There’s nothing that makes me sadder than seeing discarded Christmas trees thrown to the curb right after Dec. 25 has come and gone. Yet there they are, stripped of all their tinseled glory, proclaiming the fake news that Christmas is over. It isn’t. If anything, Christmas has just begun.

I’m not talking about being mindful of observing the 12 days of Christmas. While doing so is a great start (and a reason why I wanted to extend this year’s Advent devotional to include Christmastide), I’m talking about the challenge to keep Christmas in our hearts — always. We have just been given the most amazing gift — Jesus, God’s Son, to be by our sides through thick and thin, the ups and downs, the trials and the tribulations. Now it’s up to us to use the gift.

There’s no exchanging Jesus for something better, because there’s nothing better out there. There’s no putting Jesus on a shelf to collect dust, either. So, what will you do with this gift? How will you allow such a gift to change your life? For me, Christmastide is a perfect time to reflect on those questions.

The frenzied build up to the big day, Dec. 25, is over, and there’s stillness in the air that gives my racing mind permission to slow down. With all the “must-do’s” for the secular Christmas celebration — mask-wearing, last-minute trips to the store for eggnog or butter for cookie making — off of my list, my spirit can now breath in God’s Spirit.

Howard Thurman always saw Christmastime as a time for us to remember the graces of life. “It is important to seize upon the atmosphere during this period, to let it tutor our own spirits in kindness,” said Thurman.

When we are quick to discard the trees and pack away Christmas as the secular world tells us we ought to do, we are missing out on this precious, holy season that can indeed tutor our spirits in how to be the light-bearing children of God. But sometimes God whispers to us: “Don’t be so quick to discard something that has grown old or just doesn’t serve a purpose anymore. Don’t rush to move on. Linger a bit. Trust some more. Enjoy the Christmas lights. Let the significance of the gift of Emmanuel really sink in, for it is a gift that changes lives. Just ask Joseph.”

Pray
God of light, you who shines brighter than any string on the Christmas tree, help me to embrace this season of Christmastide. May these days be ones in which the gift of your Son truly enters into my heart, creating a new one that beats with more love. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

Go deeper
Keep the Christmas candle of love burning bright — make some cookies for a friend, cook a festive meal and deliver it to someone who might have celebrated Dec. 25 alone, or simply call someone you haven’t spoken to in a while.
Alpharetta Presbyterian Church
180 Academy Street, Alpharetta, GA 30009
770-751-0033 www.alpharettapres.com