Editor’s note: Today’s devotion is slightly adapted from the Ministry Message that accompanies one of CTA’s Christmas themes, O Holy Night. This theme features a variety of meaningful Christmas gifts for volunteers, staff members, and worshippers. Check it out today!
With your group, sing or listen to the Christmas carol “O Holy Night,” both stanza 1 and the chorus:
“O holy night!
The stars are brightly shining;
It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth!
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till he appear’d and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!”
“Fall on your knees!
Oh, hear the angel voices!
Oh, night divine,
Oh, night when Christ was born,
Oh, night divine!”
(Placide Cappeau, 1847)
(Translated by John Sullivan Dwight, 1855)
As you think about Christmastime, does the word thrilling come to mind—as in “a thrill of hope”?
For many, perhaps most of us, I dare say not. Exhausting? Maybe. Challenging? Perhaps. Expensive? Likely. Fun? I hope so, at least in part. But thrilling? Maybe not so much.
We usually reserve thrilling for other things, things like these:
- Arriving at the top of Mount Kilimanjaro after two years of planning and preparation
- Winning a gold medal in the Winter Olympics
- Finally getting the promotion we have been slogging toward for a decade
- A honeymoon in Tahiti—or a second honeymoon there
- The birth of our first children—twins!
But Christmas? Thrilling? Maybe not.
But right now, just this minute, I invite you to close your eyes and think of Christmas. (Pause.) Now strip away the shopping mall. (Pause.) Strip away the parties you would rather not attend. (Pause.) Strip away the credit card challenges. (Pause.) Strip away your bamboozlement over what to buy for Aunt Esmeralda this year. (Pause.) Strip away all the trappings human beings have affixed to the season, everything that adds to the frenetic pace, the worry, the sense of obligation. (Pause.)
And now, with all those things laid aside for a moment, consider the core, the heart of Christmas that remains:
And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger (Luke 2:7 KJV).
Imagine that scene. It was dark outside the stable. It was night. In the stillness, Mary gave birth, and as she did, her Baby’s cry pierced through the darkness. That cry was a cry of hope, for that Baby—our Lord Jesus—brought limitless hope into our warring, tumultuous, dying world.
Christ appeared! The Savior came! He came into the world God so loved—a world obsessed with trinkets, a world ravaged by hatred. God himself came into our mess to share our pain, to heal our hatreds, to free our souls for meaning, to make it possible for you—yes, you!—to live forever as a friend of God, an heir of heaven.
Baby Jesus was born on that holy night. He was born . . . to die. To die for you and for me. He died to pay the debt we owed a holy God, a debt bigger by far than all the balances ever owed MasterCard, Visa, and American Express combined. A debt of sin. And by dying, our Lord Jesus retired that debt. All of it. Every penny.
Now that truth brings a thrill of hope. The weary world—and all the weary shoppers and weary store clerks and weary food-service employees and weary law enforcement officers and weary delivery truck drivers and weary parents and grandparents—each and every one of us can rejoice. It was a holy night—a unique night, a night like no other. And now, because of that holy night, we live in a new day, a “new and glorious morn” just as the carol promises!
So go ahead! Let a thrill of hope wash over you! Fall on your knees—at least, in your imagination. Hear the angel voices! Hear the Baby Savior cry. And as you do, remember that God once wrapped himself up in swaddling clothes and gave himself to you.
Best. Christmas. Gift. Ever.
Let’s pray together:
Lord Jesus, the holy night of your birth made possible a new morning, an endless, glorious morning, for our world—for us! The darkness of fear, of sin, of death, can never extinguish the light of that new day.
A thrill of hope rises in our hearts when we realize that now, in you, our guilt is gone! Now, in you, we have peace with God! And now, in you, the best is yet to come!
Give us a truly merry Christmas, dear Savior, knowing we are yours and you are ours forever! Amen.
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