1 Thessalonians 5:16 - Rejoice always!
Over the years, artists have painted the Christmas story with picturesque and peaceful strokes, with colors of brilliant blues and gentle golds. I have heard the Christmas story narrated by poets with hushed sounds and calming consonants. "Silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright." "O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie."
The Christmas cards we have sent were filled with messages of peace on earth and thoughts of love. That's the way we would like it to be, but it's not -- not for us, not for the original participants at Jesus' birth. If you look carefully, you will find very few people in our Christmas story escaped the heartrending and relentless realities of life. Most of them might have had a hard time rejoicing evermore.
Consider Zacharias, the future father of John the Baptizer. He was a priest of God. But he was also a priest who doubted the angel Gabriel's promise of a son. His doubt was so great that he was struck dumb for over nine months.
Then there's Elizabeth, his wife. She was no stranger to trouble. Had not people of her village and community talked about her childlessness for years? Perhaps they had assumed her barrenness was a punishment for some secret sin. She might have had a hard time rejoicing, too.
Take a quick look at the righteous carpenter from Nazareth, Joseph. He was engaged to a girl who was pregnant, and he knew the Child she carried was not his. Joseph might not have listed rejoicing as his favorite pastime.
Then there was Mary, the mother of our Lord. No doubt her reputation had been torn to shreds by razor sharp tongues that gathered daily at the town's well. Then, in an advanced state of pregnancy, she was compelled to travel a rough and rock strewn road. As the time came for her to deliver and give birth to the world's Savior, we might wonder if Mary was rejoicing.
At Epiphany, we watch the wise men come from the east. We see them journey many miles to present their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. They should have been shaking in their boots to ask King Herod where they might find the newborn King of the Jews.
I have given just a brief listing of the main characters of Christmas. As I look at these individuals who played a part in God's gracious plan of redemption, I do not see despondency or depression, doubt, denial, or discouragement. On the contrary, they seem able, in spite of what each of them faced, to rejoice evermore.
Before we move too far into the New Year, stop and take another peek into the stable. Look at these people, real people, not once-upon-a-time fairy tale folk, but real men and women with real dreams, real hopes, and real problems. See them.
See the way they rejoice. See them react differently than most people would, even in the face of the most fearful prospects. Their actions say they had something very special. They had something each of us need. They had a Savior -- not just a temporary Savior, but a Savior who was Immanuel, God with us.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, in this New Year may I always see and rejoice in the Savior who has come to save me. In Jesus' Name I pray. Amen.
Over Christmas, I found out Mrs. Winters' first-hour British literature class at Valley Lutheran in Saginaw, Michigan, regularly reads these devotions. Somebody suggested I give them a "shout-out," you know, a word of recognition. At first it sounded like a good idea, but then I thought where will it end? I would have to give a shout out to my new friend from the Special Forces, whose name and location I can't mention. And what kind of shout out would that be?
So, for all those reasons, I hope the young folks in Mrs. Winters' British lit class understand why I don't give then a shout-out for reading these devos. I hope they don't get offended when I say I am deeply honored and surprised that anything I have written has shown up in a literature class (excepting as an example of what not to do.)
God bless you all. In Christ, I am His servant and yours. - Pastor Klaus
In Christ I remain His servant and yours,
Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries