A DEVOTIONAL THOUGHT by Barbara Latter
Do you ever think back to your childhood Christmases? Were you excited as the Christmas tree was decked out, lights and candles appeared and, best of all, presents began appearing under the tree? Do you remember looking at the tags to see who was the recipient of the biggest (and therefore it must be the best) gift? Did you taunt your siblings if it happened to be yours?
Yes, as children we think biggest must be best. It is only later we realize that little gifts can have big impacts.
One December, my aunt asked me to measure my hand against my cousin’s, who was three years older. I assumed she intended to buy me a new pair of gloves for the cold Minnesota winter. Imagine my surprise when on Christmas Eve I received a very small box. Inside was a gold ring with my initials engraved on it. I still have that ring. It reminds me of the first time I realized that special gifts can be contained in small packages.
I’ve often thought of the smallness of the very first Christmas. The Messiah’s earthly parents were from Nazareth, an obscure town not even mentioned in the Old Testament. The birthplace of record was a small, seemingly insignificant town. The prophet Micah described Bethlehem as “too little to be among the clans of Judah” (Micah 5:2, ESV). The birthing room was a tiny, cramped stable where the weary travelers lodged among the animals. It was a small space in a small place.
The Messiah Himself was small. After 400 years of waiting for a mighty prince, was it difficult to accept that this Infant was the Promised One?
Yes, that first Christmas occurred in smallness.
But then the Gift appears: God the Son, sent by God the Father and conceived of the Holy Spirit. It was the greatest gift ever given, wrapped in angel song and the light of a shining star. And suddenly there is an explosion of joy as the angel greets the shepherds with the beautiful message: “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” (Luke 2:10, ESV)
Christmas 2020 may seem very small to most of us. We miss all the stuff of Christmases past. Nothing is like how we have usually celebrated, and we cannot imagine how we can be joyful while all around us is chaos, changing directives and no family gatherings.
Our Christmas doesn’t have to be small.
The joy that filled the skies on Christ’s birthday is for all people. That’s us!
We don’t conjure up joy in ourselves; it is God’s gift to us by the Holy Spirit.
In Nehemiah we read, “And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Neh: 8:10 ESV).
And Paul’s message to the Romans resonates in our hearts today: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope” (Rom. 15:13, ESV).
We access this joy, hope and peace through reading and meditating on scripture and consistency in prayer. This year, without the press of the usual shopping, events and rehearsals, we have more time for me to reflect on the significant spiritual aspects of Advent and Christmas. I am dwelling in the wonderful tools for study that the staff at PGCC are providing through the email devotionals, Stations of Advent and The Christmas Code daily booklet. In addition there are some lovely thought-provoking Advent reading plans on my smart phone Bible apps.
Your Christmas joy does not need to be small. I encourage you to find Christmas joy in ways you’ve never experienced before. Boost your Christmas joy by asking God to illumine your heart and mind with new insights. Spread the Christmas joy by showing kindness everywhere you go. And smile, even if you don’t feel like it! Even when wearing a mask, your eyes can emit joy to someone you pass in the grocery aisle.
Above all, keep your mind centered on the amazing, miraculous Gift that came to us on that first Christmas. That alone makes this a BIG Christmas.