But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. — Galatians 4:4-5

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s LOVE has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. — Romans 5:1-5, ESV

“Does anyone really know what Christmas is all about?”
— Charlie Brown, A Charlie Brown Christmas

I think we’d all agree that the last couple of Christmases have been different. For all of the hope, peace, joy and love that the season brings there has been much in the way of despair, strife, sadness and hate. For Kathy and I, it has been different, too. Yesterday I went to a funeral of one my former parishioners and it was the anniversary of the homegoing of one of Kathy’s clients (who happened to be the wife of a good friend).

Yesterday was a mixture of feelings; it was a beautiful day and the drive through the Georgia countryside to get to the church was peaceful. Traveled some new roads and some roads I had not been on in a while. Lots of memories came rushing in – some happy, some sad. Getting to the church, I was pleased to see some familar faces and especially in seeing a young man that I had mentored years ago and receiving a warm hug. I was saddened to see those mourning the passing of a loved one and I was angered that death causes so much pain. The funeral sermon was one of the best I have heard and its theme was “focus on the important – faith and family”. I found myself nodding in agreement.

As I have grown older, I have spent more time pondering Christmas and its meaning. One of my favorite things is to wake up early Christmas morning, turn on the tree lights and music and sit with a cup of coffee (or tea) and just enjoy the stillness – I have long been the first one up in the house; the reason is the major change. One of the problems for me is that Christmas doesn’t last long enough; sure we have a lot of build-up but the actual event is rather anti-climatic.

But that is far different from that first Christmas; yes, there was a lot of buildup (and 400 years of “silence”) but the event itself was anything but anti-climatic! It is the event that splits history, it is the event that happened in the “fullness of time” and it is the event that signaled our redemption and adoption. The redemption of the cross starts at the manger.

I have included the Romans passage in each of these Advent devotions. I see it as a Christmas scripture since it speaks of Hope, Peace, Joy and Love. All of this come in and through Jesus. Despite our sufferings, despite our despair, despite strife, sadness and hate, we have Jesus, whom God sent forth and of whom angels and shepherds sing. This is the good news – this is what Christmas is all about. Focus on the important, take it to heart and go tell it on the mountains: Jesus Christ, our Hope, our Peace, our Joy and our Love, is born!

Merry Christmas,
Steve Pierce

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Christmas Memories: Lights

Christmas Memories

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. – Isaiah 9:2 ESV

I will make You as a light for the nations, that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth. – Isaiah 49:6b ESV

Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. – Matthew 5:16 ESV

I have always loved the lights of Christmas. Even though I have mostly outgrown the need to wake up early on Christmas morning, I still love getting up and just watching the lights on the tree in the stillness of the morning. Each year, Kathy and I find several occasions to go out and look for places to see Christmas lights.

One of my Christmas memories is of Dad loading all four kids into the car to look at lights and to search for Santa. Of course, this gave Mom a chance to finish wrapping presents :-). But we enjoyed the ride and the search. We always made it back home in time to be in bed well before Santa made his arrival.

It is again a season of lights. Not just for those who celebrate Christmas but for Jews who celebrate Hanukkah, with the candles of the menorah, and for Hindus who celebrate Tihar, the festival of lights. The Jews celebrate the power of God to do miracles in saving His people and the Hindus seek to call a goddess to bring wealth into the new year.

For followers of Jesus, the season is not so much the past or the future as it is about the now. Scripture shows us a contrast between the darkness and the Light and it is about His work in our NOW. We have seen Him and light shines on us. We seek Him and we find Him, the Light that fills the dark empty places of our lives. He was, and is and always shall be. He is the Miracle of our past and He is the One who brings true, eternal wealth into each of our years.

And He came for ALL – Jesus is the Light for the Nations! The task has been left to us to take the story of His salvation to the ends of the earth, completing Isaiah’s prophecy. As Christians, “little Christs”, we are to be lights that shine int the darkness wherever we are.

May the Light shine in your lives this Christmas and always!

Be well,
Steve Pierce

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