Devotional: Christmas Spirit of Joy
To help you and your family celebrate this season of Advent, we have included a scripture reading and a song with this devotional. We suggest reading the scripture before the devotional and singing the song after reading both.
Scripture Reading: 1 Peter 1:3-21
Song: Joy to the World
Christmas Spirit of Joy
For most people, Christmas is a special time of year. It is a wonderful opportunity to gather together with family and friends, enjoying fellowship and closeness while celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. The traditions and nostalgia associated with Christmas carry a sense of joy that seems to lift our spirits this time of year. But there are also things associated with Christmas that can bring feelings of grief, pain, and loss to the surface as well. Pastor Barry opened his sermon on Sunday with a story from several years ago about a woman in Philadelphia who was found guilty of stealing Christmas lawn ornaments and decorations from her neighbors. In a comment from one of the victims of this woman’s crime, it was stated that she stole more than their decorations; she stole their Christmas spirit. Perhaps none of you reading this have ever been the victim of Christmas décor theft, but I know that all of you are the victims of a broken and fallen world. For some of you, Christmas may not be what you wish it was. Last Christmas was dramatically different for most of us with the threat of COVID looming over like a dark cloud. As the virus has persisted, it appears that this Christmas will continue to exist under the effects of COVID, meaning that many family members and friends will be kept apart. Perhaps for some of you, the holidays bring back painful memories of lost loved ones. Perhaps there are some of you who are struggling with broken relationships, loneliness, and the reality that your Christmas carries a greater reminder of the reasons you have to be sorrowful than the reasons you have to be joyful.
I want to affirm those of you struggling this Christmas season, that it is good to mourn the brokenness of this world, whatever that may be, because our grief and sadness point us to something greater. God has placed in the heart of each of us the desire for something more than what we have here on earth. This is because He made us for something more - He made us to live in eternal paradise, in perfect fellowship with Him. Understanding that things are broken reminds us that this world is not our forever home. But I want to offer you hope for the present that comes from understanding the sacrifice of God through the birth, life, and death of Jesus Christ. Because of Jesus, we have a reason to celebrate in abundant joy, every day of the year, regardless of our circumstances.
In the sermon text from Sunday, it says in Genesis 22:9-10: “When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son.” It goes on to say in verse 12-13 that the angel of the Lord called to Abraham and said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me. And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son.” (ESV) Pastor Barry said in his sermon that the sacrifice God called Abraham to was a question of what he was willing to give up and entrust to the Lord. Abraham did not fully understand what God was going to do, but he had faith that he and his son would both return from the mount.
The faith that God called Abraham to is the same faith that He calls us to, but unlike Abraham, God has already provided us with a sacrificial lamb – His son, Jesus Christ. The one-time, legal and binding act of Christ on the cross means that we are reconciled to the Lord forever and have assurance that His promises to us are true. God wanted a relationship with you and I so much that He willingly sent His son to live the life we couldn’t and die the death we deserved so that we may know Him for all eternity. 1 Peter 1:8-9 says, “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (ESV) We only need to respond in faith to receive this precious, eternal, gift of love and mercy.
For those of you who are struggling with the holiday season this year, I want you to know that my heart aches with you for the promise of heaven. I long for a world free from the curse of sin where we can be in perfect and eternal fellowship with God and our brothers and sisters in Christ. But praise be to God that we do not have to wait for that day to find joy, for even in the midst of our circumstances, Christ has come and has paid the price for our sins with his life so that you and I may have hope! Hope of an eternal future with God, but hope in the here and now where we are reconciled to God and can have a personal, meaningful, and intimate relationship with Him who pursues us and desires us. Dear friends, my hope and prayer this Christmas season is that we may remember that nothing can steal our Christmas spirit when it is rooted in the joy, hope, and love of Jesus Christ.
Photo Credit: Gabby Tyson