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Christmas Devotional

Christmas Devotional 2021

Christmas Devotional 2021

When my first daughter was born, my parents were outside the hospital room eagerly awaiting her entrance into the world. As soon as she arrived, I ran out and told them that their grandchild was born. I announced this news to them first in order to honour and respect them. Had I announced it to someone else first, they might have been hurt. The announcement of a birth is important and must be done carefully. In the Christmas story, God decides to announce Christ’s birth to shepherds first. Why?

First, God announces Christ’s birth to shepherds to show what kind of king Jesus is. We first announce the birth of our children to those with whom are closest. This fact was even more true with kings in antiquity. In the ancient world, newly born kings were a threat and those with ambition for power often tried to kill them. So, royals had to be very careful when announcing the birth of a child. Often, a birth was only revealed to family and close friends until it was certain that the child was safe.

God reveals the birth of his Son first to shepherds. In doing so, he bestows upon these shepherds an honour normally reserved for family and close friends. This fact demonstrates that Jesus identifies himself most closely with these shepherds. He is not only the king, but the shepherd king. In the Old Testament, a shepherd is a frequent image for God’s care over us. A shepherd protects, feeds, disciplines, and takes care of his sheep. Jesus is the Good Shepherd; he feeds us, protects us, and lays down his life for us. Ultimately, he died to give eternal life to all who believe. We must learn to stay close to Him; otherwise, we are sheep without a shepherd.

Second, God announces Christ’s birth to shepherds first to show that his heart is with the lowly and downtrodden. In the ancient world, shepherds had the lowest possible social status. They were in some respects lower than slaves. They had no permanent home; they were from the country; they were seen as uncouth and unintelligent. But God gives to shepherds the great honour of hearing Christ’s birth first.

In announcing his Son’s birth to shepherds, God shows that a new era has begun, an era in which the first shall be last and the last shall be first. Our king identifies with a shepherd. He is not impressed with our wealth, our prestige, or our status. Rather, his concern is for how well we love one another. As a good shepherd loves, protects, and ultimately sacrifices for his flock, so also, the true followers of the Shepherd king must learn to love, protect, and make sacrifices for others. The story of Christmas teaches us that greatness is not defined by fame, wealth, or popularity but by how well we love and care for our neighbour. Let us follow the great example of our Shepherd King!

Rev. Dr. Zachary Kail
Pastor of the Greek Evangelical Church of Larnaca, Cyprus

Christmas Devotional 2020

Christmas Devotional 2020

The Covid-19 Pandemic has wreaked havoc on this world leaving chaos in its wake. The latest casualties are our normal Christmas tradition. This year, carols will not be sung on the street corners. Churches will not be filled. Normal holiday gatherings will be limited.  While this scenario is unfortunate and disappointing, it can help us gain a clearer portrait of what it meant for the Son of God to enter our world.

In the eighth chapter of the Gospel according to St. Matthew, Jesus encounters a leper. This leper accosts Christ and humbly asks: “Lord if you are willing, make me clean!” Christ approaches the leper, extends his hand to touch him, and says “I am willing, be clean!” The Leper is healed and joyfully goes to the Temple to show himself before the priest to confirm his healing. What can this moving story teach us about the truth of Christmas?

The healing of the leper was not merely an act of compassion; it was a picture of how Christ, the Son of God, enters this world.  Like the leper, this world is unclean – full of disease, death, and evil. The Covid-19 pandemic has reminded us of this fact. As the pandemic hits closer to home, we see more and more that, like the leper in our story, this world is unclean. Into this unclean world, Christ enters. The pure enters the impure; the infinite touches the finite; the eternal God becomes flesh and dwells among us.

But Christ does not merely approach the leper, he extends his hand and touches him. Cruelly, but necessarily, human contact was prohibited for lepers. According to Old Testament Law, anyone who touched an unclean leper became himself unclean. And yet, Jesus touches the leper. Why would Christ, pure and holy, risk becoming unclean by touching a leper? He wished to show us the purpose for which he entered this world – to take upon himself the impurity, evil, and death of this world.  We see this most clearly in his crucifixion. The holy Son of God is crucified as a common criminal. The sinless one dies for the sins of the world.  The truth of Christmas is that God’s only begotten Son entered this world so that he could bear its burden.

The result of Christ touching the leper is that the leper is instantly healed. Christ takes upon himself the leper’s uncleanliness so that the leper becomes clean. By bearing the pain, brokenness, and evil of this world, Jesus offers us a way to be clean. To all who trust in him, Christ offers everlasting life in his presence.  The eternal Son of God identified with this broken and unclean world in order to cleanse it from sin death. And, as he was resurrected from the dead, pure and full of life, so also, we too have the hope of resurrection. He died to make us clean; he lives to offer us salvation.

This strange Christmas season, let us remember the Son of God who entered this unclean world in order to cleanse its impurities. Let us, like the leper, seek salvation only from him. And, above all, let us humbly thank him for the gift of eternal life in his presence.

Rev. Dr Zachary Kail
Pastor of the Greek Evangelical Church of Larnaca
Member of the AAAF Board and Church Representative

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