The Holy Gift of Love
A devotional by Karen Marstaller
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased.” – Luke 2:14 (ESV)
During this time of year, Christmas carols are heard all around us.
Our hearts are often softened when hearing “Oh Little Town of Bethlehem” or “Joy to the World”. But this year I’m hearing, “Gloria in Excelsis Deo.” Glory be to God on high. The song, written in 1862 by James Chadwick, is titled, “Angels We Have Heard on High.” It is a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ as seen through the eyes of some shepherds.
On a quiet Judean hillside in the darkness of night, a sudden light pierced the sky. Four hundred years of silence were swept away by an angel’s appearance before the frightened men. The message was a simple one. “Fear Not,” the shepherds were told in Luke 2:10 (ESV).
Of course, they needed reassurance. Blinding light surrounded them. A heavenly choir sang. These were simple, lowly men who smelled like the sheep they tended. They were men of the outdoors, fighting for the health and growth of their flocks. Bright lights and an angelic chorus had never happened before.
In a heartbeat, the shepherds left their flocks and raced into Bethlehem to see The Lamb of God (Jesus). Their excitement was palpable. Their journey led them to a barn, an animal pen, and to two dusty, weary travelers, and to a Baby (Jesus). It had to be hard to understand that the infant they encountered was the One of whom the angels sang in verse 11, but the message the shepherds had received was irrefutable. Luke 2:11 (ESV) tells us their announcement to the shepherds, “Unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
The angel went on to describe the newborn King. Exactly as the angel had declared, there was the baby wrapped in swaddling cloth and lying in a manger. The Son of God. The Son of Man. A helpless infant in a feeding trough.
Jesus left His throne in Heaven to become like us, born just as we are. Weak and vulnerable. Dependent on a mother’s milk to sustain Him. Needing to be washed. Needing to sleep. Needing to be fed. Needing loving arms around Him to keep His tiny body warm. Cold. In an animal pen. Our Lord Jesus came with His love in order to share our human experience.
From the foundation of the world, God had planned this moment in history. God knew we needed a Savior, a perfect sacrifice for our sins, so that we could come freely to Him as His beloved sons and daughters.
He’d known it all along, since way before the beginning, even before Genesis. God knew that humankind would sin and ruin this perfect world He’d created, yet He still spoke the world into existence. His voice created light, dry land, water, animals, and food. Crowning creation, God reached down to fashion a man out of the very clay on which He stood, knowing that what He created meant that His only Son would be sacrificed for the sins of mankind.
And on that night in an obscure village, Jesus was born, part of the same clay as us. Fully God and fully man. His birth changed everything. Even our calendars reflect Christ's momentous birth: B.C. became A.D. ("Anno Domini"), which is Latin for the year of our Lord. History is hinged on the day when a virgin gave birth to the Son of God, but Jesus came for more than that. He came to save us from ourselves, to teach us how to live life abundantly, and to bring us into His family.
So, in joyful preparation for the season of God’s Love in a manger, we sing, “Gloria!” We lift our hearts to Heaven in humble gratitude, and we worship Christ our Messiah, the Savior of the world, and the Lord of our lives.
“Fear Not!” Emmanuel has come and He is with us. “Gloria!”
Let’s Pray: Dear Holy Heavenly Father, thank You for loving us. Thank You for sending Your Son, Jesus, to become one of us, and then to become our Savior. Thank You for setting us free from sin. Please help us to be filled with wonder as we contemplate Your divine love and care for us. We pray in the Mighty Name of Jesus. Amen.
Note from Alexis:
Karen’s devotional reminds me of this song, “Here With Us” by Joy Williams. Listen to it here.
During this time of quarantine, Karen enjoys reading, writing, and connecting with friends and family via phone calls, texts, emails, blogs, live-streams, and video conferencing.
She is grateful that the Lord has provided so many ways for humankind to stay in community, even when we are all hunkering down in our homes.
Karen says, “In this unprecedented time, we know that He has prepared us for such a time as this! To God be all the glory!”
You can reach Karen by emailing her at this address: firstname.lastname@example.org
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