Weekly Reflection (NEW!)
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Please read Titus 2:11-3:8 in your Bible.
Last summer my family took an extended vacation. We went to visit family, both immediate and extended. We drove to Kansas City, Missouri, Virginia Beach, Virginia, and Atlanta, Georgia. We visited many homes. The odd thing was that even though this was in July and August in every house I entered I encountered Christmas decorations. Perhaps I saw just one wall hanging or maybe a knick-knack on a shelf. Maybe these trinkets had been forgotten when the boxes were all packed and stowed away. Maybe they had been set out for sentimental or aesthetic reasons. I didn't ask. I thought it might be in poor taste to ask my host, "Hey, why do you have this Christmas stuff out?"
You've all heard the sentiment, right? "Why can't it be like Christmas all year round?" During Advent and the Christmas season, people seem to sigh when they say this. They seem to be resigned to the fact that it could never really happen. They go on about their shopping wondering what to get for the friends, the relatives, the spouse, the kids, the brothers and sisters, the parents, the co-workers, and the boss. They try to remember what they got them last year. They try to remember what they received. They want to keep the gift giving on the same level-an equality in price range-often making giving and receiving into a tit-for-tat exchange.
On this same summer vacation, I did experience the spirit of Christmas as the forgotten decorations looked on. My brother-in-law, Frank, bought a new boat. It's really nice, but so was his old boat. He called my brother and said (right out of the blue), "I want to give you my old boat." My brother, Gary, responded, "You mean you want to sell me your boat." "No," Frank said, "I'm giving it to you." And that's exactly what he did.
I can truly say that my whole family was excited. Frank was beaming. Gary was excited. The rest of us were just happy to be present to witness such a pure act of gift giving without even an occasion to prompt it-without even expecting anything in return. It was just like Christmas morning.
Maybe that's why those Christmas decorations were all out in the middle of a very hot summer. Their owners had left them out to remind them of the gift given on Christmas morning. God through the birth of God's son, Jesus says to us, "I want to give you my love by giving you myself." We often then respond, "You mean you want us to earn your love if we are good enough, or if we love you first." "No," God says, "I'm giving it to you." And that is exactly what God did. God, then, freely loves us as a proud Daddy loving his children, and we are content to bathe in the light of that love.
Pray that at this time of year God's Spirit would pervade your life with the gift of Christmas: God with us-loving us-through Jesus Christ so that you in turn would share that love now and throughout the year.
This is it for the year 2000. These weekly devotions will begin again in early January. Have a Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year! Remember me in your prayers and I will keep all of you in mine.