December 25, 2016 • Life for Leaders
For surely it is not angels [Jesus] helps, but Abraham’s descendants. For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.
Today is, as you know, Christmas day. For millions of people around the world, it is a day of celebration and rejoicing.
It is for me, too, though this will be an unusual Christmas for my family and me. As I shared in last Wednesday’s devotion, my mother died three weeks ago. So, this will be the first Christmas in 59 years that I will not be with my mother.
I will miss my mom for all sorts of reasons. Among them, is her love for Christmas. She threw herself into celebrating the birth of Jesus, whether by taking weeks to set up her elaborate Christmas village, or wearing Christmas sweaters, or creating joyful events for families at church, or filling our “socks” with all sorts of goodies. (Yes, my mother always referred to Christmas stockings as “socks.”) For the last thirty years, since the death of my dad in 1986, my mom and I shared a special Christmas tradition. At some point on Christmas day we would find a private moment and share together with tears how much we missed my dad. This year, that won’t happen. (I’m glad that my mom and my dad are together now. I just wish they were here with us.)
If you’ve lost a loved one, you know that the holidays can be particularly painful. You feel the gnawing emptiness of loss more around Thanksgiving and Christmas than during other times of the year. Yet, the loss we feel in this season can actually lead us into a deeper celebration of the good news of Christmas.
In this holiday, we celebrate Emmanuel, God with us, the Word of God made flesh in Jesus. God didn’t just look down upon us with mercy, but actually became one of us. Hebrews 2:17 clarifies that Jesus became like us, in fact, becoming “fully human in every way,” though, as Hebrews 4:14-15 notes, without sin. The Incarnation makes possible the salvation we receive through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
But the Incarnation also means that Jesus understands what it is like to be us. Jesus was “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isa 53:3, KJV). For example, it’s likely that Jesus experienced the death of his earthly father, Joseph, since Joseph appears nowhere in the gospel accounts of Jesus’s life after his birth and boyhood. So, at Christmas we celebrate the amazing truth that God has become human, that God understands our experience, both our joys and our sorrows. When I grieve the loss of my parents today, I have in Jesus someone who gets it . . . who gets me, and who is with me, Emmanuel.
So, today I will rejoice and be glad. And I will weep and be sad. And I will thank God for becoming fully human in Jesus, thus understanding all that I am feeling and thinking this day. And I will thank him for the eternal life that we have because of Jesus, something my mom and dad know in a way I can only imagine.
May the Lord bless you today with his presence, peace, and joy! Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online Bible commentary: The Creation Has Become Subject to Evil (Hebrews 2:14–3:6)
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.
Mark I understand. I turned 50 this year and lost both of my parents within 11 months of each other at age 9. I still miss them. May His love comfort you.
A song to Jesus
Born in a lowly manger
Love came down to our human race
To live a life of no pomp or wealth
To die on a Cross He knew me well
My Savior came that Christmas day
And in my heart He is here to stay
For nothing can ever take His place
A love so pure and full of His grace.
My wish this Christmas is for our world
To know the Lord not just His birth.
For in Him I ask to live this life
That He has ordained and paid the price.
My Messiah came to save us all
He loved us then, He took the fall.
He loves us now so we must live
Gratefully content He loves us still
That baby born so long ago walks on this earth today to show
The Lion of Judah will never fail
He showed us love and it will prevail!
From my heart to our world His words I pen to say Happy birthday Jesus this Christmas day!
Mark, This post brought a tear to my eye as a result of hearing of your mother’s passing. I have a friend who is very sick this season and it has made me more sensitive to losses. Another friend reminded me that when Prince William went to the Queen during a painful time in his life, the Queen told the young prince that the absence of love is always grief. I hope the experience of love will be a great comfort to you during this great loss.
A dear fulltime-worker brother in our sister Church just announced the “Promotion to Glory” of his dear wife on Christmas Eve, succumbing to cancer; they are in their 50’s.
Many thanks, Mark, for your comforting and encouraging message on this Christmas Day; I’ll prayerfully forward it to him (Dexter).
In appreciation of your e-ministry that reaches throughout the world, I hope you enjoy a small Christmas gift sent to your office, with love from Malaysia.