It hardly seems possible that Advent of 2014 has already arrived, although I have been preparing for it for several months. This year is a bit different for me, and thus for this devotional.
The elements of Christmas, my Christmas celebration will be opened day by day. The thoughts attached to the photos will be more on the personal side than years past, while still allowing the traditional framework to shine through.
Today is an introduction
For you it may be the lighting of the candle of Prophecy, or it may be hanging the first Jesse tree ornament. We will add the candles to the Advent log, and this essay will be the setting for our family to think about the coming holiday.
Elements of Christmas
This term might mean the communion bread and wine, but for the Advent theme Â it will be those things that we gather together for our meaning of Christmas.
We take some new symbols and add them to the ones handed to us, we bring expectations represented by gifts or decorations. The special foods, events, even certain ornaments we put on the tree… they all add up to elements of Christmas for us. Pieces of meaning that we weave together to give ourselves prompts for our thoughts about what matters most to us.
We didn’t think of Christmas… it was not man’s idea that God should be like us. Rather we had aspirations in the other direction. We wanted to be our own gods, make our own destiny, and extend that choice to all around us, if possible.
But God had other plans, and the element that best represents that is the manger, I think.
For most, the manger comes late in the story. we wait until the 24th of December, or at least the very last week. But today, it is this turnabout, this humbling of God, who sent his Son for a reconciliation with his creatures who wanted nothing to do with him.
That seems to make too strong a case for many a person’s taste. Â But from the time God sent prophets to foretell the Messiah, to his advent on the earth, repeatedly his creatures rejected, misunderstood, and were displeased with what God expressed of himself and his plans.
It took a revelation that began very slowly, revealed to a few here, then there, to bring us around to the joy and gladness that is encompassed in the appearance of our Savior.
So the first element of Christmas is a lowly feeding manger. The best beginning offered to the Son of God, chosen by His Father to begin the surprisingÂ process of returning peace and good will into the relationships that had no hope of restoration without it.
Immanuel brought hope.
God-indwelt flesh made the way.
It required the most extreme form of humility.
Today the first part of a “Merry Christmas” garland is pictured. It reveals the hope we have of celebrating and enjoying good things together.
Sometimes it is a struggle, and at other times it comes easily, but there is a joy within this center of the season. Our greatest expectations for a wonderful holiday season may be had when it is looked for within the building of bridges in relationships. If we seek to be at peace, focus on loving and kind actions, bringing strength to our relationships with one another, it is best reflecting the initiation that Jesus first began on that day of his birth. God wanted us to be in relationship with himself, and Â with each other in this way.
Our hearts can be merry because we can find cause to rejoice in finding what we thought was forever lost.
Away In A Manger
Light the first candle with conversation about the prophesied Messiah. What did people expect?
Read from Isaiah:
Isaiah 9:2, 6â€“7:
â€œThe people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned … For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on Davidâ€™s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish thisâ€