Today’s devotional is offered by Yancey Washington.
In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.'” Acts 20.35
When I think of “joy” in connection with Christmas, my thoughts immediately go to my childhood Christmases in Tarboro, North Carolina. Though I grew up in Oxford (living with my mother, father and sister, literally next door to my father’s parents) every Christmas our family went to Tarboro to spend the holiday with my mother’s family. Christmas was always fun! I remember the excitement of Christmas Eve: being too keyed up to go to sleep, certain I could hear Santa’s sleigh and the reindeer on the tin roof above and outside the second story bedroom in which I slept, and listening to the courthouse clock a few blocks east of my grandparent’s home chime the hours until I could no longer stay awake. My grandparents lived in the same house where my grandfather was born in 1909. The home was built just before the Civil War. My mother had grown up there with her parents, brother, sister, grandmother and great-aunt Isabel (“Aunt Bell”). Though I missed knowing my great-grandmother and Aunt Bell by many years, rooms in the house were still known as theirs.
Santa left presents for me, my sister and cousins around the fireplace in “Aunt Bell’s living room,” and the Christmas Tree in “Grandmother’s living room” was where the family exchanged presents. I still have the Radioshack walkie-talkies my grandfather gave my cousin and me thirty (30) years ago. It was fun to get presents as a child, but especially in retrospect, I think the most fun and “joyous” part was being surrounded by loving family, celebrating the holiday.
Acts 20:35 quotes Jesus stating, “It is more blessed to give than receive.” I think it takes more than a child’s maturity to understand this, and I distinctly remember the first Christmas I was more excited about a gift that I was giving than anything I hoped to get. The gift wasn’t large or expensive, but a small blue frame for a picture of my mother and her father sailing. As an older child, it was a joy to have been able to save my own money and buy that gift for my mother.
As an adult, I know and understand that the presents we give each other are just tokens of the ultimate gift that God gave to mankind by sending his son Jesus Christ and the gift that Jesus gave in becoming the atonement for our sins. When I think of “joy” at Christmas, I think of Mary’s joy. Luke 1:46-47, “… My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.” It is a blessing to take the time to think about how much I have to be joyful about and specifically focus on the great joy that comes and should come from God’s gift to us all. I wish you a peaceful Christmas in which you find and take opportunities, small and large, to focus on joy.
Prayer: Loving God, help us to discover a deeper Joy that presents can provide this Christmas. Amen.