Home Church Devotional 12/24/2020
These devotionals were written during the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic when area churches were not allowed to meet for fear of spreading the coronavirus. They were used in place of a full sermon as my family and I gathered for worship and communion.
Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child. While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, “Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.” So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger. When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart. The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them. Luke 2:1-20 (NASB)
In our country, a census happens only once every ten years. Our census is intended to provide information to distribute tax dollars to fund roads and define school districts, among various other needs. This past census most of us did not have to leave the house or even answer the door to be counted! We could simply go online or fill out the form that was mailed to us. But things were very different for Joseph and Mary. This census was decreed, among other reasons, to fund the vast and massive Roman Empire. Joseph and Mary were required to travel the 90 miles to the hometown of Joseph, to be registered for the census – a long, dangerous journey, likely taken on the back of a donkey – all while Mary is pregnant. This journey would lead the couple to the place foretold by the prophets as the birthplace of the coming Messiah – Bethlehem.
Bethlehem is most noted as the City of David, king David, the beloved king of Israel, a man said to be after God’s own heart and the one whom God has promised to establish an eternal throne. Bethlehem is also known for the meaning of its name – “House of Bread,” and many associated this meaning with the importance of Jesus being born in Bethlehem. In his gospel account, John records seven “I Am” statements made by Jesus. In John 6:35 Jesus says, “I am the Bread of Life.” Because of this statement many point to the fact that the “Bread of Life” was born in the “House of Bread.” While Jesus has indeed come to give us life, there more here than meets the eye.
There is deep significance here because Jesus truly is the “bread who came down out of heaven” to provide all we need for day-to-day living – the necessities of life. Bread itself is the very symbol of our most basic needs and Jesus came that we might have life and life abundantly! Bread is more than just the symbol of our physical needs, for Jesus came that we might be whole, complete and useful in the kingdom. Our wholeness includes the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual parts of our life and Jesus came to fulfill all those needs.
But there is something still deeper happening in this little town of Bethlehem. Luke tells us that there are shepherds nearby watching over their flocks at night. Why would there be there be shepherds in the fields at night? While there is a deeper discussion to be had here, we need to be aware of the most important detail, these shepherds are in the fields because it is lambing season. They are there to protect the ewe as she delivers her newborn and to protect the newborn in its earliest stages of life. Predators just love a helpless ewe or newborn lamb!! You see, Bethlehem is the place where lambs for the temple sacrifice are bred, born and raised.
Herein lies the deepest symbol and most significant aspect of Luke’s account of the birth of Jesus. It is not just the daily sacrifice for which these lambs have been bred and raised for, no, these lambs are Passover lambs! In John 1:29&35, John the Baptist sees and points to Jesus as he proclaims, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” The real significance of the birth in Bethlehem is because Jesus was destined to become OUR Passover lamb, the One who would take OUR sin away.
As we gather together with our families may you always find Christ in every season of life. Jesus came to see to our physical needs as the bread of life; He is our hope of life as we gaze upon the beauty of the evergreen tree. Jesus came to provide for our emotional needs bringing peace as the Light of the World; may you be reminded He is the True Light as the strands of lights twinkle in your home. Jesus came to provide for our emotional needs as the True Vine where we find joy in living with Him; may the wreath that adorns your door or table bring you joy as you ponder eternity with Jesus. Finally, Jesus came to resolve our spiritual needs as the Lamb of God, showing His love for us all by taking away our sin; may the carefully hung candy canes remind you of His shed blood and your cleansing found only in Christ Jesus.
Tonight, we light the 5th candle of our Advent wreath, the white candle representing Christ, the Light of the World. Joined by the candles of hope, peace, joy and love the fullness of Christ is now represented as all five candles shine the light of Christ in a world growing ever darker. May His light shine into your world, tonight and forever more.
Father of Light, we give you thanks for the gift of Your Son, Jesus Christ. He is truly the gift that keeps on giving throughout our lifetime, for in Him we find wholeness, completeness and our usefulness in the kingdom. May the Light of Your Son draw us ever closer to Your side. In Christ name we pray, Amen.
May you find health, happiness and the fullness of Christ this Christmas season and in the year ahead.
Amen and Amen.