Today is Saturday, the 24th of December, 2022, in the fourth week of Advent.
May the peace of Christ dwell within you today and always!
Tomorrow is Christmas, and today is the last day of the Advent season. Beginning tomorrow, it will be Christmas season for, I believe, twelve days (there really are twelve days of Christmas), after which we will begin the season of Epiphany. I might not have the exactly right, as I am certainly no expert on the Church calendar.
Today will be moderately busy after a not-busy morning. This afternoon, some of us will attend a Christmas Eve service at Living Word Lutheran Church, in Grapevine. Then, at 6:00 PM CST, we will get on a Zoom call with R and J and open their Christmas presents while they open ours. We decided to do that tonight, so that we don’t have to worry about what time anyone wakes up tomorrow morning, and we will just have our Christmas together tomorrow.
The church is only having one service at 10:00 AM tomorrow, so I don’t know if I will make it to that one. I wish everyone who stumbles across this space of grace a Merry Christmas, or happy whatever you celebrate/observe at this time of year. May your days be filled with grace.
TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
You have dealt well with your servant, O LORD, according to your word. (Psalms 119:65 ESV)
This is one of those verses that resonates well with me. The Lord has dealt well with me, and I praise Him for this.
Lord God, our Father in heaven, you have sent us the Savior, who was born to bring great joy to all people. Glorify your name, we pray. Give the world the peace you alone can give, the peace that wells up in our hearts. Let your favor rest on us so that we may hold out under our sufferings on earth. We need your loving help to remain inwardly steadfast until everyone can be reached by the message, “Be strong in the grace of Jesus Christ.” Amen.
But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord" ...Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." Luke 2:10–11, 13–14, NIV
Today I am grateful:
- for that host of angels, singing, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests”
- for the peace that Christ, alone, can give, that dwells in our hearts
- for the Gospel message; help us to reach the world with it
- for that perfect love that casts out fear (1 John 4)
- for the generous acts of giving that permeate the season, all because of our “Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17)
"And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace." (Luke 1:76-79 ESV)
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. (1 John 4:18 NRSV)
And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
(Luke 2:7 NRSV)
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”
(John 3:16 NRSV)
Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.
(James 1:17 NRSV)
“Come, let us return to the LORD; for it is he who has torn, and he will heal us; he has struck down, and he will bind us up. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him. Let us know, let us press on to know the LORD; his appearing is as sure as the dawn; he will come to us like the showers, like the spring rains that water the earth.”
(Hosea 6:1-3 NRSV)
One of the things that makes Christmas so special is the infant; the baby Jesus. For some, I’m sure, the sentimentality of the season is overbearing. But let us consider it from another perspective.
Tonight and tomorrow morning, we will sing with the angels who appeared in the sky over the shepherds. We will celebrate the birth of the Savior of the world. Never mind when it actually happened. Why is that even important?
We celebrate the birth of a baby. Not just any baby, though. Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, God Almighty stepping down into humanity as a frail, vulnerable child.
And in this child it is easy to see that perfect love of which John speaks; the perfect love that casts out fear. Who could possibly be afraid of a baby?? Yes, we know that, in time, Jesus Christ will return as victor, and set things right. The “Day of the Lord” will not be a pretty sight. I shudder to consider that day. But, for now, we look at a baby, and we feel no fear, none whatsoever.
And here’s the thing. The love of God, the pure love of God, the perfect love of God does cast out fear. I am not able to love in that way. My love is imperfect; my love of God is far from perfect, as is my love for any human being. Even my love for my wife, my daughters, and my mother is far from perfect.
But God’s love is perfect. And if we truly embrace that love, there is absolutely no reason or cause for fear at all.
Why else would the most oft-repeated command in the Bible be some form of “fear not??”
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
(Romans 8:38-39 NRSV)
You know what is included in “anything else in all creation?”
My sin cannot separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord, because it is gone! It is erased! It is as though it never happened. Even the sins that I have yet to commit are erased and forgiven by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ!
There is nothing to fear in Christ Jesus. Perfect love casts out fear.
As I consider this, this morning, I realize how foolish we are. How chronically unbelieving we are, as human beings. A few days ago, I talked about the resurrection of Lazarus. I believe that this happened, according to the Biblical record. I do believe. I also believe in what I am writing today. Perfect love casts out fear.
Yet, why is it so difficult to live as though I believe these things? Why is my faith still so weak? Why do I still catch myself worrying over petty things, or even over things that may not be so petty? Do I believe that God has things well in hand? Do I believe that God loves us with a perfect love? Do I believe Romans 8:38-39??
Once again, I find myself in the shoes of the father of the demon-possessed boy in Mark 9.
“I believe; help my unbelief!”
Father, I believe. You know my heart. You know my flesh, too, and, according to Your Word, You remember that we are dust. Once again, I find great comfort in that particular passage, because I find myself floundering in faith, so often.
Your perfect love casts out fear. Help me to embrace that perfect love in my life. Help me to walk as though I believe this, and to walk without fear in my life. May Your Holy Spirit remind me daily, that Your perfect love casts out fear. May Your Spirit dwell within me in power and strength, giving me the faith to embrace the truth of what Jesus did for Lazarus, knowing that there is nothing that is too hard for You; there is no struggle in my life that is beyond Your strength; there is no difficulty that I could encounter that You cannot bring me through.
Thank You, Lord, for the baby Jesus, the perfect image of how we have nothing to fear. As we observe this Christmas, this “silent night, holy night,” may we participate in the dawn of redeeming grace, and know that perfect love that casts out fear. May we know it as deeply in our souls as is possible. Changer our lives, Father; change our hearts.
Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!
Grace and peace, friends.