Tag Archives: Christmas

A Family Devotion for Christmas Morning

Since Christmas is falling on a Sunday this year, many people will be staying home from church to open presents and spend time together as a family. I wrote this devotional for those from my church who are traveling or staying home. If you’ll be staying home this year I hope that you’ll use it on Christmas morning and be blessed by it as you worship the Lord!

Hiroshi Tabata (Japanese), "The Nativity," 1998. Source: http://issuu.com/acaaimagemagadmin/docs/96/5?e=5322867/5047821; http://issuu.com/acaaimagemagadmin/docs/97/12?e=5322867/5047825

Hiroshi Tabata, “The Nativity,” 1998.

This devotion can be done any time during Christmas Day; however, it should be done when you don’t need to rush, or there isn’t too much distraction from excitement of what may happen later in the day. I’ve written it assuming a family and friend setting, but those unfortunately alone for Christmas are also encouraged to use it.

1. Begin with an opening prayer. Take some time thanking God for sending His son. Ask Him to give you spiritual eyes to see the gloriousness of that first Christmas morning centuries ago, just like the shepherd got to see it with their own eyes.

2. Have someone read, or take turns reading, Luke 2:1-14.
Optional: Read Luke 1:26-38 and then Luke 2:1-14.

Why is the birth of Jesus “good news for all people”? It’s good to remind ourselves of this. Why do you think God sent the angel to appear to shepherds, and what do you think this says about God? Are there any other Bible passages it makes you think of?

3. Sing together “Joy to the World”
Whether your family is musical or not, there’s something beautiful about worshiping the Lord as a family. If you don’t want to sing A cappella but can’t play instruments, a good traditional instrumental track to sing along to can be found here. As you sing, remember that you are proclaiming good news and truth; this is not just a Christmas carol, but is worship!

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the world, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.

4. Read the rest of the story, Luke 2:15-20. Take some time imagining the scene the shepherds found when they found Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus as He lay in the manger. Try to smell the smells and hear the noises that might have been in the air. If you have children, ask them what else might have been there. Try to imagine seeing Jesus, and to feel the wonder and excitement that those shepherds felt when they found Him just as the angels told them they would.

5. Have someone read, or take turns reading, Matthew 2:1-11. Jesus would have been between 1-3 years old at this time. If you have children, explain what the three gifts were – frankincense and myrrh are very expensive perfume oils and could be used in worship, to put on wounds, or to sell to provide for the family. Ask your children: “what gift would you give to the infant Jesus?”

6. Ask each person what gift they can give Jesus now. Allow for time to think about it; perhaps Jesus is putting something on their heart – making a “wish list” for Himself! If someone can’t come up with anything, give them suggestions to help spur their creativity and ideas; It could be things such as doing a spiritual discipline, or by serving in the church or community, or by regularly giving money to a missionary or charitable organization, etc. For young children, it may be a chore they can do or a lonely peer at school, church, or daycare they can befriend, etc.

7. Close in prayer. Each person should spend some time praying out loud by thanking God the Father for the gift of Jesus, for the gift that Jesus gives us by giving us His life and the Holy Spirit in exchange for our sins, for the gifts they received (or will receive) today, along with other things; and by offering Jesus the gift they said they can give Him and asking for His help in giving it well.
Then, when everyone is done, finish by praying this prayer together*:

Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace:
by Your zeal may you establish your throne with justice and righteousness
and bring about endless peace on the earth. Amen!

*taken from Living the Christian Year, by Bobby Gross

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6 Truths about Jesus and 4 about Humans the Angel Tells Us

This past Sunday, being the last Sunday before Christmas, I preached on the the birth of Jesus, specifically the account of the angel announcing Jesus’ arrival to some shepherds near Bethlehem, and the shepherds going and finding everything as the angel had said they would.

Birth 06

As I was thinking about the passage, I asked myself: what does this narrative tell us about Jesus, and what does it tell us about ourselves? I came up with a list of things (which was probably bolstered by commentaries later, but I don’t remember now). It didn’t really fit in my sermon though, so I didn’t use it which is why each point isn’t fleshed out, but it’s worth pondering nonetheless.

Luke 2: 8-20

That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, 10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! 12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in highest heaven,
    and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

15 When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. 17 After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. 18 All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, 19 but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. 20 The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.

What does the angel’s proclamation say about Jesus?
1. He is good (since his arrival is good news)/his birth is a joyful occasion
2. His birth fulfills prophecy (Micah 5:2)
3. He is Saviour, Messiah (Anointed One), and Lord (master with absolute ownership rights)
4. He looked like a regular, average baby, that was differentiated only by where he was sleeping- in a manger
5. This is a great act of God (hence the angels praise him. Cf. Job 38:7 at creation, and here with new creation)
6. He is to be witnessed & witnessed about

What does it say about humans?
1. We are in need of saving/peace (eiréné = shalom)
2. We are worth Jesus going to such a great length (in the incarnation but also on the cross – Phil. 2!) to save us
3. All people matter (v. 10), including the “unclean” or disreputable or those on the social sidelines (like the shepherds who the angels appeared to)
4. We are called to witness Him & witness about Him

The more we witness Jesus in and around us, even in the mundane things (like He was a normal-looking baby), the more we will witness about Him – and it will be easier and even more natural to do so.

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Christmas Through the Lens of the Transfiguration

The stores had Christmas product on the shelves almost before they had cleared away the Halloween stuff.
Many of my neighbours have put up their Christmas lights and lawn decorations already.
My co-worker is already listening to Christmas music.

Christmas is coming.

And besides the festivity and commercialism of this holiday, it also celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ, ‘wrapped in swaddling clothes’ and, laying in a manger, “no crying he makes.”

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But the thing that I want to remember during the season is that Jesus was not just a man, but he is also God. For those who believe that seems a given; however, when I typically think of Jesus, in my mind I picture a guy standing there – with black hair and brown eyes and generally Middle-Eastern looking. He has a body, and he uses it in all the mundane ways that I do. But if that’s my only picture of Jesus, then it’s incomplete. Because there’s more to him than that.

And that’s why I want to remember the Transfiguration during this holiday season. The Transfiguration – when Jesus took three of his closest disciples up a mountain and metamorphosed (the same word in Greek) before their eyes: shining bright as the sun with his clothes becoming white as light. Not reflecting light, but revealing it. Giving his disciples a ‘glimpse behind the scenes’ to his true identity and confirming his disciple Peter’s proclamation six days earlier “you are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

pic-transfiguration

As I frame the Christmas season with the Transfiguration, then I keep in my mind Jesus’ purpose for coming and my celebration takes on a larger meaning to include his death and resurrection and return. And it helps to keep me grounded during the rush and busyness that comes with our modern, Western celebration of Christmas.

(I’ve written about the Transfiguration before – you can read it here)

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