Listen to this devotional:
Listen while you read: "The First Nowell"1 (Lyrics)
Luke 2:5-6 – He took with him Mary, his fiancée, who was now obviously pregnant. And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. (NLT)
We were in a strange place and had no plans to spend our first Christmas there. Eight years had passed since I graduated high school, but now I felt God's call into full-time ministry. Obeying it would require furthering my education. I would have to attend college.
By this time in my life, I was married and had a ten-month-old daughter. Pulling up stakes and leaving everything and everyone behind was scary. So we left our home in South Carolina and headed for unknown territory: Graceville, Florida, a small town whose appearance and climate varied little from what we were accustomed to.
August found me back in a classroom but longing for December when we could return home for a week to celebrate Christmas with our family. My first semester breezed by. Before I realized it, we were loading the car for our drive to South Carolina. Eight hours later, we pulled into my parents' driveway.
Mom had been busy. Gifts bulged beneath the tree and spread out onto the living room floor. We received so many presents that we had to purchase a car-top carrier to store our luggage. When the week ended, we reluctantly packed our car, stuffed ourselves in between the gifts, and made our trek back to Florida.
Sure, we could have stayed in Florida and celebrated Christmas with our small family and perhaps a few friends, but we just couldn't bring ourselves to spend Christmas in a strange place — a place that was only our temporary residence. A tax census had forced Mary and Joseph to a strange place. Jesus had to experience what I hesitated to do.
Over the course of my life, I've spent Christmas in a number of strange places — places that weren't my real home — temporary places of residence. But I've discovered that Christmas isn't tied to a place but rather a person. When Jesus abides in my heart, it's Christmas all year long and anywhere that I happen to reside. I'll never celebrate Christmas in a strange place when I remember the true meaning of the season.
Welcome Christ into your life so that you'll never have to celebrate Christmas in a strange place.
Prayer: Father, we thank You that we can celebrate the true meaning of Christmas regardless of what our circumstances are. Amen.