December Devotional

I was once given a rake for Christmas. A rake. Perhaps the giver was saying “your yard is a mess. Do something about it!”

A rake hadn’t been on my wish list. I didn’t want a rake. But, in the years since, I have used the rake a lot, probably more than many other Christmas gifts I have received. My kids love jumping in leaf piles in fall.  I didn’t want a rake, but I needed one.

When kings and dignitaries arrive for a visit, their hosts want to make everything perfect for them. Preparations for the Japanese emperor’s visit to the United States began a year before he arrived. They included hour-long discussions over what everyone would wear, and his staff counted the number of steps he would take walking from one thing to another.

Jesus (the king of kings) was long expected, but when he arrived barely anyone wanted him. Jesus’ parents were displaced by their government. Like refugees, they arrived in a town that could provide no better hospitality for them than it could provide for the animals. The only public recognition he received was from some scruffy, smelly hill people. He survived an attempted political assassination. Later, he finally received the kind of gifts he deserved from Iraqi sorcerers who had traveled for months half way across the known world to see him.

Jesus was a gift that was unwanted. But he was desperately needed.

When Zechariah was made able to speak again after the birth of John the baptizer, he quotes from the prophecy of Isaiah (9:2) concerning the Messiah who will “give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, [and] guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:79 ESV). John says “The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him” (John 1:9-11 ESV). Darkness brings confusion, fear, foolishness, stumbling, and pain. Those who are in darkness need the light (Matt. 15:14). The world was in darkness and still is, but it refused the light. The darkness isn’t just in the world, it is inside of us (Matt. 6:23; Eph. 4:18-19). We don’t even know that Jesus is the gift we need.

God did not leave us in darkness (Eph. 5:8-9). He gave us the gift we needed and for which we didn’t even know to ask. By the power of his Spirit, he cleared away the darkness within us by the light of his Son. “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6 ESV) (See also Matt. 17:1-5.)

We have some small, empty gift boxes at home. I gave one to my son and when he opened it, I told him that I got him air for Christmas. (Don’t worry, I won’t just give him air for Christmas!) He thought that was very funny and has been giving air to many people since. Air is not a gift that most people want, but they certainly need it! You can only live for three minutes without it. Just as we need air and light, how much more do we need the gift of Jesus, through whom we live each second (Acts. 17:28; Col. 1:15-20; Gal. 2:20)!