Listen to this devotional:
Listen while you read: "God Rest You Merry Gentlemen"1 (Lyrics)
Ezekiel 36:26 – A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. (NRSV)
December means Christmas movies. The Hallmark Channel probably makes their whole year's profit on this one month when it shows a constant stream of holiday-themed films.
Yes, the plots are predictable. Hometown girl returns because of family emergency or disappointment elsewhere. She discovers a guy whom she had loved previously but with whom there had been a devastating ending. Awkward entanglements ensue in which the two find themselves drawn into some noble work, such as saving the family business or upholding a threatened tradition. They resist one another. One begins to have his or her heart warmed by some unintended moment of intimacy. The process of mutual heartwarming begins. Eventually, they both realize their attraction, affection, and desire for one another. They live happily ever after.
The casts may vary. The settings shift. The details alter. But in the end, these are stories about people finding true love and drawing close together. We have a word for it — heartwarming. You know, "the heartwarming story of Sue and Bill…" There's a lot of heartwarming that takes place in December.
Maybe we need heartwarming. Maybe we have grown too cold of heart like those icy characters in the movies who have to discover vulnerability and openness and intimacy for the story to work out.
Ezekiel recounts the story of how God's children had done something similar. They had degraded God's name before the nations. They had turned their hearts towards idols. They had forgotten their true love. God had, in turn, cast them away among the nations so that they would learn to appreciate "home". God had removed their special places and services so that they would value again their threatened traditions. God had done all of this, not out of malice or spite, but so that they might come to see and appreciate and value all that they had had.
God said, "I will remove your stony heart and give you a living and loving heart." Yes, it is something like a Hallmark movie. God calls us "home" and promises a heartwarming welcome. We return "home" and find the love that was missing elsewhere. Our icy hearts melt in the warmth and glow of God's love.
Let's ask God to enter our hearts and transform them with greater love and grace as we approach the celebration of the nativity of Christ.
Prayer: Gracious God, Your love is more wonderful than we deserve. We know that we have sought love and meaning and value elsewhere; our attempts have been awkward and self-conscious; our spirits have been guarded and cold. By Your power and presence, transform us. Give us living and loving hearts that are open to all Your children. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.