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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Daily Devotion for December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve



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lessons and scripture

Lord's Prayer

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.


"For Each New Morning"

For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food,
For love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.
I thank thee.
(From a poem by Ralph Waldo Emerson)

Prayer for Goodness (based on Psalm 1)

Heavenly Father, who has given us the gift of thy law, so that we might know our sin, and thy Son, that we might be forgiven where we fall short. Give me the grace to remember your holy Word, when my surroundings tempt me to confusion and weakness, that I might more nearly approach true obedience to your will. Help me to resist the arguments of the ungodly; let me not be deceived by false beauty; and let me never replace the truth which you have put into my heart with the clever words of men. Through Christ I pray,


Giotto painting of Christmas nativity

Christmas Eve Prayer

Lord Jesus, Light of the world,

John told the people to prepare
for you when you were very near.
As Christmas grows closer day by day,
help us to be ready to welcome you now.


Finally, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, let me think about these things. What I have learned and received, let me do; and the God of peace be with us all.


(Additional prayers may be found at Prayers for All Occasions.)
God be with you 'til we meet again.

Christmas Eve Star of Bethlehem

Psalm 97:5-9

The mountains melt like wax at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth.

The heavens declare his righteousness, and all the peoples see his glory.

Confounded be all who worship carved images and delight in false gods! Bow down before him, all you gods.

Zion hears and is glad, and the cities of Judah rejoice, because of your judgments, O Lord.

For you are the Lord, most high over all the earth; you are exalted far above all gods.

Blue Latin Cross

Luke 2:1-7 (New King James Version)

The Nativity

And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city.

Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child.

So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Notes on the Scripture

The most generally recognized date in Christian nations is December 25, when those who believe in Jesus Christ celebrate his birth. Even atheists, agnostics, and the spiritually apathetic join us in an nearly universal holiday; and lacking some major disruption of life as we know it, it will continue indefinitely into the future. All this, despite the (generally) accepted knowledge that we don't know when Jesus was born. Neither the Bible nor history give us an actual date.

Even worse, every attacker of Christianity rails on that "Christmas was actually a pagan holiday" and such. And again, they are correct, but only partially. We know, for example, that the Romans celebrated Saturnalia right around the time we celebrate Christmas. But their logic goes very wrong at this point: Christmas might be celebrated around the same time as a number of pagan festivals, but that doesn't mean Christmas is a pagan festival. In other words, so what? What is important is that we celebrate the birth of the Savior of mankind. If we decide to have a church service on the same day as some traditional Druid festival when they burned people in cages over fires, or the day when Aztecs cut out peoples' hearts to satiate their sun god, it means nothing.

Of course, the overlap of the dates is not totally coincidental. Late December is a natural time to celebrate the birth of creation. The 21st of December is the shortest day of the year. It is the peak of darkness. From then forward, the sun begins to regain its ascendency; winter, the time of cold and death, has been defeated; we are headed for the new life of spring. Christians are humans who live on the same earth as everyone else, and we celebrate the birth of Christ at a time of when there is a meaningful juncture of spiritual and natural renewal. If someone doesn't like it, they can celebrate Saturnalia or something; it's a free country!

I personally believe, like many others, that the Holy Spirit has worked in us to designate December 25 to celebrate Christ's birth. First off, celebrating Christ's birth is especially important because of His prenatal grace. Birthdays of holy figures always become more important when they were given grace at the time of their conception, because their birth represent the emergence of a figure that is already blessed. And Christians have agreed that the date to celebrate Christ's birth is December 25. Over the past 2000 years, popes, saints, prophets and patriarchs have uniformly agreed that spiritual revelation determined the date of Christmas. In other words, we celebrate Christmas on December 25 because God wants us to.

So when some atheist sarcastically tells you that Christmas is (or was) a pagan holiday, well, unfortunately, it was and still is — for him and many others. The unsaved souls of Western society now call their drunken, licentious, profit-driven midwinter holiday "Christmas". You need only see one advertisement of a shapely woman in a skimpy Santa dress (or dressed in nothing but a ribbon sitting under a Christmas tree), or feel that twang of regret when you hear the first tv commercial for Christmas shopping in the first week of November, to realize that we are celebrating two different holidays with the same name.

There really isn't anything you can (or should) do about the commercialization, or even paganizing, of Christmas in the public sphere. God's will be done. Teach your children what Christmas really means, celebrate the birth of Christ and share this joyous occasion with others. And be thankful, even the nonbelievers are mouthing the words "peace on earth, good will to men" while they fight over the last Tickle-Me Elmo doll.

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