Listen to this devotional:
Listen while you read: "Lo How A Rose"1 (Lyrics)
Galatians 4:4a – But when the time was right, God sent his Son, and a woman gave birth to him. (CEV)
It was a bitterly cold Christmas Day morning 50 years ago. The plan was to load up our re-purposed delivery (camper) van with our two little ones and all the gear they required, along with Christmas gifts, and head out on the three-hour drive to my parents' home to have a late breakfast with them and spend a few days of family time together.
I went out to start the van about fifteen minutes before our 6 a.m. planned departure time so that it could warm up for us. I turned the key in the ignition. Nothing. I tried again. And again. Nothing. The battery was dead.
What to do? We had another vehicle, but it was too small for everything we were taking, was not gassed up, and had a heater that produced very little heat. I was able to manoeuvre the car close enough to the van that my jumper cables just reached. Alas! In my anxiety, I hooked things up incorrectly and the dead battery was now a "cooked" battery.
What to do? When I had gassed up the van the day before, I'd had a pleasant visit with the local gas station owner. I knew him well because he not only looked after our vehicles, but also was very active in the parents' group that supported Scouting in our suburban community. The church in which I ministered was the sponsor and host of the Cub, Scout, and Venturer groups, and I was their chaplain. So, I knew what his plan was for Christmas Day morning, and he knew our plan. I also knew where he lived — just a few doors down the street from our church building. So, I drove over to his house (yes, he was already up and I knew that he would be), knocked on his door, and explained my predicament to him.
His response was instinctive and immediate. He would go right away to the service station and connect the quick charger to the appropriate battery. Then, back at home, he would be with his family for their gift opening and some breakfast. By that time, the battery would be operational, and he would bring it to our house and install it. This he did. Two-plus hours late, but assured of a reliable vehicle, we were on our way to my parents' home, arriving in time for brunch.
I share this story because it seems to me that it illustrates a couple of themes that are inherent in the story of Jesus' birth.
The first theme is the obvious one. This man offered our family a gift of extreme hospitality. I knew to the core of my being how Joseph and Mary must have felt when they finally found a place in Bethlehem where they could rest and where their baby could be born.
The subtler theme, it seems to me, is connected with the core meaning of Jesus' birth. In God's own way and in God's good time, God reaches out to us in love. That has the potential to create community in which people are enabled to reach out with care and love to their neighbours and to the wider world. When someone "knocks on your door", are you ready to respond with love and care? That's getting into the Christmas spirit.
Prayer: Loving God, we marvel that You reach out to us with love and care. We commit to doing our best to relate to other people in the way that You relate to us. Amen.