Every Wednesday morning I go to a Women's Bible Study at my church. Each year we focus on a different book of the Bible. In recent years, we have done Genesis and Matthew. This year is the Psalms. We start off with a small group time to discuss the passage, and then a whole group time when we listen to a lecture given by different women who are part of the Bible Study. I have been a leader of a small group for several years now. In addition to facilitating discussion time, once a year leaders are responsible for a devotional for the morning leader's meeting, focusing on the passage for that week. In years past I have 1) asked my mom to help me out in writing it 2) conveniently had a baby the week I was scheduled, so that I wouldn't have to do it 3) didn't lead so that I was off the hook. It always causes me a great deal of stress and apprehension as I contemplate what I will write, and if it will be any good. So on Sunday, after procrastinating for several months, I sat down with the Bible passage and just prayed that God would bless my time in His word, and that I would be able to write something that blessed the other leaders. This is what I shared with the women today, the passage was Psalm 106:
Each year as I enter the holiday season, it is sometimes hard to keep my focus on what it is really all about. For months I plan what gifts I will give my children, envisioning their joy on Christmas morning as they open up their presents. I set aside time for shopping and baking, and decorating. I carefully map out all the holiday parties on the calendar, so as to make time for all the celebrations. And in the middle of it all, under the wrapping paper, the cookies and ornaments, is a baby. The only reason we have to celebrate.
Without Jesus we would have no hope; all of our precious traditions and joyful celebrations would mean nothing. Like the Israelites dancing before a “lifeless god,” we would be celebrating—what? A tree? A happy feeling? An imaginary figure of generosity? No wonder people feel so empty around the holidays- they are banking on getting an emotional high from all of the external things that we have built into the day, and when it fails to deliver, they feel let down.
But what joy, real joy, we have during Christmas when we remember what the Lord has done for us. He sent us Jesus, the most wonderful present there ever was- so wonderful that no one can “fully declare his praise.” Because of Jesus who “stood in the breach,” the Lord’s wrath will not destroy us. With God’s grace we will not forget, as the Israelites forgot, all that He has done for us. He has answered the Psalmist’s prayer to save us, and now we have the opportunity to “give thanks to his holy name, and glory in his praise.“
Because of Jesus our celebrations at Christmas have a meaning. The gifts that we exchange echo the greatest gift there ever was. The joy that we feel is real because we know from what we have been saved. The carols that we sing state the truth of the gospel. The light of the candles shine brightly into the darkness, reminding us of the Light of the World. Even the sweetness of Christmas cookies proclaim the Lord’s goodness to us, as he rescued us from our bitter fate.
So as we go into this holiday season, use the wrapping paper, cookies, and ornaments, to remember what the Lord has done for us, what he has saved us from, and why we have a reason to celebrate. In the midst of the hustle and bustle, we can remember the Psalmist’s words “ Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.”