Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Read: [Meditate on the scripture of the week.]
Reflect: [Use this devotional thought for a moment of reflection. Today’s devotional is written by Karen Houghton.]
Christmas can bring into sharp focus the brokenness of our human condition more than any other season. Why you ask? Because holidays bring relationships together. The expectation (or responsibility) of being together can create stress, cause guilt, and trigger discord. The holidays can mean deep sorrow for missing loved ones, bitterness from families that have come apart, poignant moments for those who are sick, and acute loneliness – regardless of whether or not you are surrounded by people. We work to juggle expectations, finances, blended families, schedules, and somewhere in there, waiting for us, is Jesus.
He is the strong, quiet eye of the holiday storm. The one we are made to be in relationship with, and the one who provides peace and strength as we work to build community with each other. As Christians, our love for one another should prove to the world that we are His (John 13:35). True, deep community where we can sit and love each other in our brokenness and despite our brokenness is a priceless treasure that God wishes for each of us, and Jesus has made possible. I love the beginning of Isaiah 40.
“Comfort, oh comfort my people, says your God. Speak softly and tenderly to Jerusalem, but also make it very clear that she has served her sentence, that her sin is taken care of – forgiven!” Isaiah 40:1-2, MSG
This is how God calls us to love. Comfort my people He says. Speak softly and tenderly. Remind each other that we are forgiven. Jesus has conquered our sin! Our relationship with Him is whole. Therefore our relationships with each other can be healed. This is the true joy of Christmas.
Friends, real community is hard. It takes effort. It requires vulnerability. You will get hurt. You will make mistakes. But experiencing community within a body of believers and extending that to others is the most real place to gain intimacy with Jesus, and all the joy and peace that His birth, death, and resurrection promises us.