Family 5

John 15:15

With the holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas our sons’ girlfriends are learning all the family traditions. They are picking up on the personalities of our relatives and beginning to understand the relationships between the family members. An outsider, someone who is not part of our family, has no need to understand all these things.

While speaking to his disciples before his arrest and crucifixion Jesus lets them know where they stand with him. What name is taken away from the disciples? What are they now? Why is this?

The disciples followed Jesus in his ministry. They learned from him. They assisted him in the things that he did. In some ways they were like servants to him. At the very least they were students.

As the ministry of Jesus drew to an end, as he neared the end of his time on earth, he explained a change that had come about with his disciples. They were no longer pupils. They were no longer servants.

Instead, these devoted followers, these believers, were now friends to Jesus. They had learned everything Jesus had to teach. They understood things now. Although Jesus uses the term “friends” these followers were very much like family to Jesus.

We who believe in Jesus, who accept and believe that the child we celebrate at Christmas is truly our Savior and king, are people who are brought in to a deeper relationship with Christ. We no longer live in the darkness of ignorance and unbelief. We live in the light of God’s love.

We are friends to Jesus. We are more than friends; we are part of the family of our loving Savior. The celebration of Christmas is a time to share joy and love with family. Now that family includes Jesus.

As we enjoy Christmas we must be certain to make God, our heavenly Father, and Christ our king part of the joyous celebration. We are all part of one big family now.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How will you make Christ part of Christmas?

This is the last 10/2 Grow Daily Devotion for 2011. We wish all of you a joyous Christmas filled with the love of family and the love of God. The daily devotions will return on January 2, 2012. – Roger and Peggy

Family 4

John 1:11-13

My nephew and his wife adopted a child a few years back. The boy’s biological mother was unable to care for the child so she gave him up for adoption. Now the little boy has a safe and loving home.

Such a story is not unusual to most people. Adoptions happen all the time. They are a wonderful opportunity to provide a warm and loving home to a child in need, a child who otherwise may have a life of struggles and challenges.

While the Gospel of John does not have the traditional Christmas story we are accustomed to hearing during Advent, what the Gospel writer says fits well in the Christmas season. What is said of Jesus? How did most people respond to the arrival of Jesus? What does Jesus offer to those who believe?

Mary and Joseph and Jesus began as a family in humble surroundings, the baby being placed in a feed trough – a manger – because there was no room for the baby anywhere else. Shepherds were told about the miraculous birth and were invited to see their Savior. Magi traveled from far off countries to honor the child because they recognized him as a king.

In spite of all that surrounded that special birth, in spite of the signs from heaven, not everyone accepted the fact that Jesus was the Son of God. Not everyone recognized the baby as the king God had sent. Even as Jesus grew and began his ministry not everyone accepted what he had to say.

Jesus was rejected by many of the people, the people he had come to save.

But if we believe in all that Jesus is, if we believe he is the Son of God, if we believe the baby was our Savior and king, then we are invited in to the family of God, the family that Jesus is part of. When we recognize Jesus for all that he is – Mighty God, Prince of Peace – we are adopted into a new family. We may not be related to Jesus in the same way that Joseph, Mary, and his brothers and sisters were but we are part of this great family of love.

Let us learn to celebrate the family that we have been brought into, the family of Jesus. It is a family of great love and grace.

DAILY CHALLENGE: What will remind you that you are part of Jesus’ family?

Family 3

Matthew 12:46-50

The other night we had our church family Christmas dinner and program. Instead of the traditional event that featured the youngest children in the church singing songs and acting out the Christmas story, representatives from every Sunday school class gave short presentations of stories, readings and song. It truly was a church-wide program and it highlighted the fact that we are all part of one larger family – the family of God in the church.

Jesus was part of a family. Most people know that Jesus was part of a small family with Joseph as his father and Mary as his mother. But we have also seen that Jesus had brothers and sisters as part of his family. Now, in Matthew, we see a visit from Mary and his brothers. How did Jesus respond when told that his family was asking to see him? Who are Jesus’ mother and brothers?

At first glance this story can be seen as a slight to his earthly family. Jesus seems to be ignoring his mother and brothers who have come to see him about some matter.

We are not told that Jesus refused to speak to his family when they came looking for him. What we have is Jesus taking an opportunity to expand our view of who is part of his family.

Mary was indeed Jesus’ mother and his brothers are listed by name later in Matthew. We know who his mother and brothers are. But now Jesus points out that any person who does the will of God, our heavenly Father, is a brother or sister or mother to Jesus. Jesus is not excluding his earthly family; he is including all believers into his family.

We may look at our own situation at the holidays and feel that we want to spend time with family. We may plan to visit and exchange gifts with parents and siblings, possibly even cousins and uncles and aunts and others. We may be able to trace our family relations by blood as we consider our family.

But as we celebrate Christmas this year let us expand our view of our family. Jesus was given as God’s gift of love, and he came as part of an earthly family. But now we are included in the family that belongs to Christ. We are all part of one family under God.

DAILY CHALLENGE: Who needs to be part of your family?

Family 2

Matthew 13:55-56

With all the giving of gifts at Christmas, the many commercials and ads that urge buying the best and most expensive presents for others, the holiday often becomes a time of materialism. Christmas can become a celebration of possessions, a focus that takes us away from the gift of love from God.

But as time moves on, as we grow and mature, especially as we mature in our faith we can realize that the gifts – the things – of Christmas don’t have the appeal they once did. What becomes important is the time we spend together with the ones we love.

Although the focus of Advent and Christmas is often the baby in the manger, we must see that Jesus was part of a family. As Jesus was teaching in his hometown the people were amazed and in their amazement they wondered about this man they had known so many years. What questions did they ask? What family members are mentioned specifically?

In the amazement of the crowd, the questions they ask of each other, we see some details about the private life of Jesus. They mention his father, Joseph, someone we already know. They also talk about Mary, his mother. But now they talk about siblings to Jesus.

Listed by name are four brothers; James, Joseph, Simon and Judas. Although they are not named, sisters are mentioned and the words “all his sisters” seems to hint at three or more. Jesus was not alone in his life. He had brothers and sisters as he grew up.

Why is this important? I believe it is important for us to remember that our Lord and Savior was no stranger to the relationships we have in life. He had friends. He had parents. He had siblings. Jesus is completely able to understand whatever it is we go through in our lives because he experienced it too.

Christmas can be a celebration not just of gifts given and not just the greatest gift of Jesus, but also a celebration of time together with family. Jesus was the first child of a family, and that family has now grown to include each of us.

DAILY CHALLENGE: Who needs to be included in your Christmas?

Family 1

Luke 2:4-7

Christmas is more than just a pleasant holiday we celebrate each winter. It is a time of sharing together with family. It is a celebration of the holy family – Joseph, Mary, and Jesus – and as such is a celebration of all families.

We are familiar with the Christmas story – not just the story of angels and shepherds and wise men – but also the story of a family. Where did Joseph go? Why did he go there? Who was with him? What was their relationship? What happened in Bethlehem?

Jesus did not enter into this world through some mysterious way, suddenly appearing in the streets of Bethlehem or Jerusalem. He did not come to earth in a strange light or cloud of smoke. He came into the world as all people do, through human birth.

Both Joseph and Mary, descended from the line of David, were required by the ruler’s decree at that time to return to the town of their heritage, to Bethlehem. While they were there fulfilling their legal responsibility Mary gave birth to a child.

We see in this story the actions of a dedicated husband and father. Joseph is obeying the law of the land and returning to Bethlehem even though it was a hardship to him as he was in the company of his new wife already pregnant. We see a loving mother, Mary, wrapping her child in cloths – a tradition of that culture to ensure strong, straight legs – and giving him the most warm and comfortable bed she could find.

With the arrival of the baby Jesus we have a growing family. But there is an interesting word used that we often overlook. This was her “firstborn” child. It was not her only child. The implication is that other children would follow.

Jesus came into this world as part of a family; a family we will soon see will grow to include brothers and sisters. The gift of Christmas is Jesus, but it is also the gift of family and the love that exists between parent and child, brother and sister. Christmas is the celebration of God’s love that brings parents and children together in an all-encompassing love of one universal family.

DAILY CHALLENGE: What can you do to make the holiday about family love?