Listen to this devotional:
2 Thessalonians 3:17 – I, Paul write this greeting in my own hand, which is the distinguishing mark in all my letters. This is how I write. (NIV)
During the Christmas season, I appreciate the memories of simpler times when the warmth and charm of an old-fashioned greeting or handwritten letter was something to be cherished. Every year, I enjoy reading over many cards and personal correspondence I have saved from family and friends. But with today's instant methods of communication, it seems that the thoughtfulness of personal letter writing and the exchanging of Christmas cards has lost its appeal.
In contrast with our modern age of communication, I was surprised to learn that letter writing in ancient times was much more difficult than I had imagined. Using papyrus, biblical writers, such as the apostle Paul, did not have the luxury of writing on a smooth surface paper or the ease of scripting beautiful letters with a roller ball pen or marker. The ancient pen was usually made from a split reed or goose quill, and ink was a sticky substance composed of a mixture of carbon and glue. According to one article I read, to write just three syllables took about one minute; to produce 72 words required approximately one hour. Considering those conditions, great effort was made in preparing every letter.
With that understanding, I have a greater appreciation for Paul's "distinguishing mark" as he penned the words of today's Scripture. I can picture the joy of the churches who were the recipients of Paul's letters when they saw the unmistakable mark of his own handwriting, leaving no doubt that he was the author. Yet even more important was the distinguishing mark of the Holy Spirit who inspired Paul's letters. As a consequence, many people throughout the centuries have had the opportunity to know the Saviour, our Lord Jesus Christ.
The art of a personal letter is a valuable tool to convey our thoughts and faith. It has the potential to make our lives vividly real, long after we put the words into print. Though none of us can compare to the apostle Paul, nevertheless we each have the ability to comfort, encourage, and witness for Christ.
Let's think of ways that we might leave a distinguishing mark in the cards and letters that we write this Christmas season and throughout the New Year. Therefore, let us take every opportunity to share what the Holy Spirit has written on our hearts, for the glory of God.
Prayer: Father, thank You for the power of Your written Word handed down to us by Your faithful servants. May we take advantage in this Christmas season to share our faith by every means possible and to express Your love to those around us. We praise You for the precious gift of Your Son, Jesus Christ, the living Word whom we worship and adore, both now and forever. In His holy name, we pray. Amen.