The Eleventh Day of Christmas: Christmas to the Church

I can’t imagine church without Christmas. I’ve been in church frequently from the time I was born, and a number of my favorite church memories have to do with Christmas.

One memory that still gets relived each year in my family is of when my oldest brother was home to visit with his new bride. My brother is 6’4”, and his wife is–well, I’m not sure of her exact height. I only know that she’s just the right size for her hair to be at the same level as my brother’s candle during a Christmas Eve service. I’m not sure if she felt something, or if it was the smell of hair burning that caught their attention, but younger brothers thrive on having things like that to tell about our older siblings. He has now successfully gone more than twenty years without lighting her on fire, but the story doesn’t go away. (By the way, I did not ask my brother’s permission to tell this publicly.)

Another memory is from years later when I was on staff at a church, and therefore was sitting on the platform able to see the whole, full sanctuary during our Christmas Eve service. I remember the richness of the entire evening, as a soloist sang “O Holy Night,” and then we all joined in on the hymns. When it was time to listen to the Scripture’s account of Jesus’ birth, I was gripped by the moment as everyone in the place stood in reverence for the words we were about to hear. Then, at the end of the service, to have everyone light their candles against the background of the darkness outside the sanctuary, it created a vivid memory that will remain imprinted on my mind. We were gathered there two millennia later, and on the other side of the world from Bethlehem, but still as people of the Messiah who was born there–just as millions of others of our brothers and sisters around the world were doing that same night.

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The Ninth Day of Christmas: Christmas According to Isaiah

It’s safe to say that Isaiah son of Amoz would be surprised to have his words included in a series of Christmas devotions being written by a Gentile Texan some 2,700 years after he lived. I wonder if he might go beyond being surprised and even issue me an old-style prophet’s rebuke, which he certainly knew how to do. The reason he might not see his inclusion here as an honor is because we Christians are often guilty of not listening to what he spent his life trying to say, because we think we already know the point. That is particularly true with the passages from Isaiah most important for us during these twelve days, those that get read and quoted during Christmas.

As I was getting ready to work on this series and spent some time looking at the traditional scripture readings for these twelve days, I was struck by how many of them come from Isaiah. For example, during the three year cycle of lectionary readings, the gospel of Mark never shows up. Four readings are from Matthew. John has six. And even Luke's eleven appearances share the lead for the most common source–with Isaiah.

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The Seventh Day of Christmas: Christmas According to John Wesley

Does Christmas have any real impact on how I will live in 2016? Now that we are a week into these twelve days of Christmas, and entering a new year tomorrow, what do these Christmas themes of adoration of our incarnate Messiah have to say about how we will live? Maybe considering the entire upcoming year can be too big to be very helpful. It's probably more meaningful to narrow the focus: how will Christmas shape how I will spend the first week of the new year? The point always has to do with right now, so, how will my desire to be one who adores Christ shape how I spend December 31 and New Year's Day?

If I want to consider how I will live today, tomorrow, next week, and next year in light of the fact that the Messiah has come and is here, the way we normally set goals and New Year's resolutions tends to fall a bit short of what we really need. So, here's an unconventional resolution I'm setting for myself in light of the magnitude of Christmas:

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