The Weekly Word - A Devotion for the Week of December 28
“The Savior — yes, the Messiah, the Lord — has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” …After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished… (Luke 2:11-12 & 17-18)
We might recall a time -- perhaps long ago when we were children -- when Christmas astonished us. The colorful lights and the sparkling decorations, the candy canes and the sugar cookies and the jubilant carols, the giddy anticipation of what we might find under the tree on Christmas morning – all of it filled us with an innocent wonder and joy.
We might even remember our amazement upon first hearing the story of Jesus’ birth. We pictured the dim stable, smelled the sweet scent of hay, heard the stirring of the barn animals as a mother wrapped the Baby – God Himself – snugly in a blanket and laid Him in a makeshift cradle.
But then years passed. We matured into adults, and with adulthood came many responsibilities: a job, bills to pay, a household to manage, children to raise, aging parents to care for, errands to run, laundry to fold, gifts to purchase and wrap. Christmas lost a bit of its sparkle as our to-do list grew longer and our credit card bills grew larger. We found ourselves more anxious, more distracted, less astonished.
Amid the hustle of our daily lives, God slipped into the margins. We’d heard the story of Jesus’ birth year after year – a story that, over time, became so familiar, it became routine. Ordinary. We didn’t have the time or energy to contemplate the mystery of our Savior’s coming. We were too busy to be astonished.
We have a unique opportunity this year. The pandemic has forced us to slow down. It’s forced us to alter our traditions and change our plans. Rather than traveling to spend Christmas with extended family or celebrating with a crowd, many of us are staying put and hunkering down, keeping Christmas small and simple in our own homes. And while this change in plans might be the cause of some disappointment and sorrow, it also presents us with the chance to enjoy a precious gift: the time and space to reflect on the gift of Immanuel – God with us.
This year, in these unusual circumstances, God invites us to return to and renew our astonishment over the gift of Him.
May we enjoy this unique opportunity for rich communion and quiet intimacy with Jesus. May we be like little children, reveling in the joy and wonder of this day. May we, like all who heard the shepherds’ news 2,000 years ago, be amazed. Born a tiny baby in a quiet barn, our Savior – God Himself – chose to come to us and to be with us.
May we be astonished.
Gracious God, thank You for helping me see the unique gifts in this challenging Christmas season. That You desire more than anything to be with me is indeed a beautiful and astonishing gift. Amen.