Listen to this devotional:
Listen while you read: "The First Nowell"1 (Lyrics)
Charles Dickens, author of A Christmas Carol, once visited Kingston, Ontario, Canada, where I live, on his way to Montreal to act in a play. At that time in the 1850s, Kingston was the capital of Canada.
Kingston is a charming, nineteenth-century town, and Christmas here is serious business. Streets are decorated with lights and wreaths; there are skaters on the Market Square and sledding on the old Fort Henry hill. Images of our old limestone buildings are made into pewter ornaments to hang on Christmas trees — and new ones appear every year.
Awhile back, I was hired as a greeter by the local credit union, wearing an old-fashioned outfit with a floor-length dress and a frilly apron. I had a plate of cookies to hand out and a book of nursery rhymes to read to children. I was also to help out with any problems that members might be having. The whole establishment was Christmased to the hilt: wrapped presents under a heavily decorated big tree; a miniature depiction of an English village with little porcelain figurines of carolers; everything shiny, ornamented, and beribboned; and me sitting in the centre, smiling and welcoming. Given a comfy chair in a warm room, I would occasionally nod off a bit, wire-rimmed glasses slipping down off my nose.
One day, fighting off just such a snooze, I dimly heard the creak of the old front door open, and a woman commenting, "How lifelike she looks!" Oh, my goodness!
I quickly rose to my feet and said, "Good morning!" just as though I hadn't been caught napping.
"Eeeeeeek!" the woman responded, paling and backing away. For a moment I thought that she might be going to faint.
"What's the matter?" I said, not sure what to do. "Can I help?"
"I thought you were part of the decorations," she said weakly. "One of those stuffed dummies, you know?" It was hardly a compliment, but it was the job that I'd been hired for.
Ah, physical reality! In these days of animatronics and computer-generated graphics, it isn't easy to tell the living from the stuffed, truth from falsehood, reality from fantasy. With the constant advance of high tech, any reality at all can be confusing, hard to find, and often difficult to understand. Change and decay in all around I see, the old hymn complains.
Ephesians 2:4-6 – But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved). (NKJV)
Paul assures all of us who believe, that we live in a clearer, brighter reality than the old one that we inhabited before we came to know God. Looking back on it, we can see that we were dead in our sin, but Christ brought us alive — no longer stuffed dummies! This higher reality, lit by the light of eternity, is perfect, just, and understandable. Someone said, Believing is seeing. Let's praise the Lord!
Prayer: Dear heavenly Father, how grateful we are that Your promise is clear and unmistakable concerning the spiritual existence that we have been granted when we came to believe. Thank You for sending Your Son as a human being to be our salvation, and Your Spirit to enable us to take, with You, the often-painful path which is our present reality, knowing that You have gone this way before us and that You walk with us today. Help us to discern Your truth in all our attitudes and activities. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.