Listen to this devotional:
Listen while you read: "While Shepherds Watched"1 (Lyrics)
2 Corinthians 5:21 – For our sake [God] made [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (ESV)
For a few years, American atheists promoted a "Christmas" message: "Keep the merry, dump the myth." This jarring promotion showed a picture of a laughing Santa, next to the suffering face of Jesus wearing a crown of thorns. It is quite poignant that they didn't attack the Christ Child, since that is what the merriment celebrates! No, they went right to the heart of the matter: Christ on the cross. You see for many people — apparently atheists included — it's easy and okay to celebrate the joy of Christmas with the Jolly ol' Man, the Elf on the Shelf, or Rudolf the Red-nosed Reindeer; there's no commitment to God or call for repentance; nothing is required! (But we do spend a lot of money trying to have a merry Christmas!) The atheists' promotion was revealing — they understood the implication of believing in the Baby in the manger — it's beautifully stated in the hymn, Hark! the herald angels sing: "Born to raise the sons of earth; born to give them second birth."
Atheists understand that the Baby grew up and died a terrible, bloody death on the cross. There isn't anything "merry" about that picture! You see, to truly celebrate the Saviour's birth, we must be willing to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him. Atheists, of course, are not willing to do this. But are we, who celebrate the Babe in the manger, willing to submit to the crucified and risen One when the trials and suffering of life come our way? Do we trust that God is in control and that nothing happens in our lives apart from the will of the Father? It is during these difficult times that we may be tempted to give up and ask, "Where are You, God?" or even "Is there a God?"
In October of 2013, my husband survived a traumatic brain injury. I can't imagine my family and me walking this path without the hope that God has a greater plan in mind. Admittedly, many days, I wanted to give up. Yet, where would I go? To whom would I turn? There is eternal hope in no one else!
Some of the fruit of our suffering has become evident: our family is closer, and we are grateful for the extra time to love one another. I also thank God for the body of Christ. For years now, we have been on the receiving end of love being poured out to us in a myriad of ways, all to show us Jesus-with-skin-on love! Over and over again, God has faithfully provided for us, teaching us that He is near and can be trusted.
Yes, the Christ Child is the reason for the season! His birth was for His death. His death was for our birth. In Him, we can find true Christmas joy!
Prayer: Dear Jesus, thank You for coming to earth to give us second birth. Help us to have merry hearts today, tomorrow, and in the coming New Year. Amen."