Grace 5

Luke 1:49-50

Christmas is a time of tradition and specific activities. We have certain trees we put up in certain rooms of our house. We have certain decorations we put on the trees and around the house. We have special programs at church and at school that we attend.

And beneath our Christmas tree is the small figurine of Jesus lying in a manger. It is set out when we put up the tree and begin decorating, and it remains there until the tree comes down. There may be times when presents and packages obscure our ability to see it, but it is always there.

It is a constant reminder of the purpose for celebrating Christmas. Christmas is all about the celebration of the gift of Jesus, the gift of salvation and grace from God.

When Mary learned that she would be the one who would bear the child of God, the Savior of nations, she rejoiced and sang praises to God. What did Mary recognize? What gift has God given to the generations?

In her holy joy Mary saw the working of God in the Christmas story. She saw that what God had done was a great thing. He had provided a way of forgiveness for all mankind. He sent His only Son to be the reconciliation between sinful man and the holy God.

As we celebrate Christmas we can so easily be distracted from the holiness of the occasion. We can allow the giving of gifts, the parties, the shopping, and the spending of money to get in the way of what is truly important. But at the heart of the holiday is the birth of Jesus.

And that birth was an expression of God’s mercy and love, not just for Mary and Joseph, not just for the people of Israel at that time, but a gift of grace for all generations of those who will accept the gift of Christ.

Let us not allow the activities of Christmas or the traditions of the holiday to get in the way of our gratitude to God. Let us recognize the tremendous love God has shown us through the baby given to save the world.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you keep Jesus at the center of your Christmas?

This concludes our 10-2 Grow daily devotions for the 2010 calendar year. We will resume the 10-2 Grow on January 3. From all of us, we wish each of you a happy and blessed Christmas.

Grace 4

Matthew 1:22-23

For me one of the best parts of Christmas is the celebrations that go on over the holidays. I love to get together with family and have those times of frivolity and games, of laughter, good food, and companionship. It is good to catch up with distant kin and old friends.

But in time the holiday must end and we must face the bleak cold of winter that still remains. We must return to our homes and say good-bye to friends and family until the holidays come around again.

We can often take the same approach to the meaning of Christmas. Once everything is put away, all the gifts have been opened and the wrapping paper and boxes cleaned up, we can forget about the holiday. But the gift of Jesus is an eternal gift. What was prophesied? What title was to be given to the child?

An angel informed Mary and Joseph that they would be parents. Mary would give birth to a child. And this alone would be reason enough to celebrate. They could look forward to the many years of watching the child grow to manhood, the many years of his struggles and success as a person.

But they also had more reason to celebrate. This was no ordinary child. He was God in human form. He was to be called “Immanuel.” He was God living among us. And that would never end.

As we say good-bye to the holidays this year let us remember that the love of God does not go away when the decorations come down. Jesus is God with us, not just then, but now and forever. The gift of God’s grace is an eternal and everlasting gift. God is with us always.

As we enjoy the Christmas season this year let us keep the memory of this gift alive in our hearts at all times. Let us forever remember that God is with us, not just in the laughter and happiness of the day, but in the love that surrounds us every day.

DAILY CHALLENGE: What can remind you that God is with you always?

Grace 3

Luke 1:30-33

When our second child was born my wife looked at him and said that he would either grow up to be a musician or a preacher. I didn’t think much of what she said; at the time I hadn’t even entered into the ministry yet. But I always remembered what she had said.

Today our son is a talented musician playing in the school band and lately playing guitar with others in his own band. He has also begun playing at the opening of our church service and is very involved in worship.

When Mary was visited by an angel to announce that she would be the one who would bring forth the child of God the angel explained what would happen. Why was Mary chosen? What name was to be given the child? What will happen?

God had great plans for Mary and for His Son. God knew what the world needed. We needed a chance, an opportunity, to connect with God. We needed mercy and grace from God so that we might have salvation and everlasting life.

The only way to achieve that was for God to send a part of Himself to be among us. This child was given the very specific name of “Jesus,” which translates into “the Lord saves.” The very name told of what he would do.

All these things that were prophesied have come true. Jesus was great and called the Son of the Most High. And he reigns, not just over the house of Jacob, but over all the world.

And so we should see that the rest of the prophecy must be true as well. The kingdom of Jesus Christ will never end.

The celebration of Christmas can be a busy time, a time of excitement and joy, a time of fun and happiness. But it is fleeting. It may last a month or two, but in time the holiday seems to fade.

What we must remember is that the gift of God’s grace and love never ends. The gift of Christmas not only lasts throughout the year, but through all the years. The love of God, expressed in Jesus, is a love that never ends.

Let us celebrate the unending kingdom of Jesus this holiday. Let us recognize the eternal nature of God’s grace this year.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you remember the meaning of Christmas beyond the holiday season?

Grace 2

Jeremiah 33:14-16

Last year we gave our family the gift of a digital video camera. It was no surprise to anyone. We had planned to buy one.

To make it so we could get more of a gift for our money we even decided that the gift could wait until after Christmas. We took the money we had accumulated from gifts and the money set aside for the camera and went out a few days after Christmas. We bought a much better camera than we originally could afford because we got one that was on sale. The waiting paid off.

The prophet Jeremiah gives an indication of hope to the people of God. What does God hint at? From which important family will the promise emerge? What will this promise do?

The people of God, the Jewish people, were waiting for a salvation from the Lord for ages. They waited lifetime after lifetime for a Messiah to come. Their prophets foretold of this Savior’s arrival. He would be born in Israel, in the land of Judah. He would be a descendent of the House of David, a descendent of that great king.

And when he came he would bring righteousness. He would bring salvation.

Now we might see this prophecy and this story as something old and tired. The prophecy has been fulfilled. Why do we need to worry about it now?

Yes, Jesus has been sent to the world and the event happened two-thousand years ago. Yes, Jesus has brought righteousness and salvation. But have we accepted the truth of all this? Is this story one that rings true in our hearts?

We can so often be distracted from the immensity of God’s love. We can allow the traditions of our holidays to take us away from how profound the gift of Jesus is.

To truly celebrate Christmas let us turn our hearts and minds to the praise and worship of him who was sent to bring salvation. We may not be waiting for the Messiah in the same way the ancient Hebrews did, but we may not have turned our hearts over to the Christ-child the way we should. Let your waiting end and turn to worship the Savior this Christmas. It is not too late to worship God at this holiday season.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can the gift of God gain new life in your heart this year?

Grace 1

John 1:14

Sometimes when we give gifts at Christmas they serve as hints or indications as to what else may be expected. If, for example, we plan to give an electronic device as an important present, we might first have our children open a pack of batteries. In that way they have an indication of what is coming. They can anticipate a greater gift.

The gift of the baby Jesus was not the only gift we have received from God. It was the beginning, or indication of all the good blessings God has in store for us.

In today’s passage John sums up the very essence of the Christmas celebration. Who is “the Word?” What did the presence of Jesus show us? What did Jesus bring?

Although Christmas has become a hectic time of shopping and spending, a time where we get caught up in the music and the stores and all the events that make up the holidays, at its heart it is the celebration of the gift of Jesus. Jesus was “the Word” of God, the expression of God’s love. God’s love became flesh. Jesus – God – became a human being so that we might see the indication of what was coming.

In the appearing of Jesus, God in flesh, we were able to see the grace and glory of our heavenly Father. Through Jesus we can see how much God loves us and how much God cares for us.

This is the celebration of Christmas. We not only honor the gift of the baby, we celebrate the love that God has for us and how God has shown us that love.

The gift of Jesus was a gift of grace from God. It was an undeserved expression of compassion and forgiveness, from God to us. Let us not allow the superficial celebrations of the holidays overshadow what is at the heart of the season.

As we go through the Christmas pageants, as we attend the Christmas parties, as we work through our gift-giving and our times together as friends and family, may we keep our hearts and souls focused on the most precious gift of all. May we clearly see that Christmas is a time when we join with the shepherds and the wise men and worship, truly worship, the Lord.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you be certain to worship God this Christmas?