December 14, 2021 • Life for Leaders
A Free Gift for You!
Yes, I know that, especially in this time of year, when organizations offer you a free gift, it’s usually a strategy for getting you to support them financially. But we really want to give you a free gift, no strings or expectations attached.
If you’ve been reading Life for Leaders for a while, you may recall that I did a series of Christmas devotions called “Keeping Christmas Well.” These fourteen devotions were, of course, based on Scripture. But I found rich illustrative material in Charles Dickens’s classic portrayal of Ebenezer Scrooge. It was said of Scrooge in the end of A Christmas Carol that he “knew how to keep Christmas well.” I think we have much to learn from Scrooge and Scripture.
Anyway, we have gathered those devotions and put them together in a beautiful PDF, which you can read digitally or print out, if you prefer. We want to give this Keeping Christmas Well: Living in Light of the Incarnation of Christ devotional guide to you and all of our Life for Leaders readers as a way of thanking you and enriching your celebration of Christmas. In order to download the guide, please visit this link. You’ll see that we call the guide a “product” because someday we’ll sell it. But, for now, you can get if for free by clicking on the “Download Now” button and entering your name and email. (The response will thank you for subscribing, but don’t worry, you’re already subscribed to Life for Leaders.)
My prayer for you is that you will, indeed, like Ebenezer Scrooge, keep Christmas well this year!
Scripture – Luke 1:39-45 (NRSV)
In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”
By all means let Advent be for you a season of quiet reflection and prayer. Get in touch with your hopes as you wait for the Savior. But, following the lead of the baby in Elizabeth’s womb and Mary’s response in Luke 1, may your Advent also be a time of rejoicing as you look forward to the celebration of Christmas.
Today’s devotion is part of the series Following Jesus Today.
For the most part, Advent is a serious season in the Christian year. It’s a time for waiting and hoping for the coming of the Savior. In Advent we reflect more than rejoice; we contemplate more than celebrate.
The solemnity of Advent is captured by the main traditional color for the season, which is purple in some traditions or royal blue in other traditions. Both of these colors are meant to convey a feeling of quiet seriousness. So, when liturgical churches display Advent wreaths in worship, the central white candle is the celebrative Christ candle, lit on Christmas Eve. Around that candle are the darker purple (or blue) candles. (The photo of the Advent wreath is from Irvine Presbyterian Church, where I was a pastor for 16 years.)
But, in many churches, you’ll also see a pink candle along with the purple or blue ones. That can come as a bit of a surprise if you’re not used to Advent traditions. In churches that customarily observe Advent, the third Sunday of Advent is meant to be a joyful time, a time for celebrating the happiness of new life.
The biblical basis for the gladness of the third Sunday is found in our Scripture passage for today’s devotion. When Mary went to visit her relative Elizabeth, she offered a greeting. At that very moment, Elizabeth’s child “leaped in her womb” (Luke 1:41). Elizabeth intuitively sensed the meaning of this leap, explaining to Mary, “as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy” (1:44). Or, as we would say, the child jumped for joy! In response, Mary began praising God, saying, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior” (1:46-47). The joyfulness of Elizabeth’s child was contagious.
The pink candle in the Advent wreath represents joy and gladness, and also the new lives growing in Elizabeth and Mary. This candle reminds us that Advent, while a serious season in the liturgical year, is not without moments of joy. Yes, the greatest joy is yet to come, when we light the Christ candle and celebrate the birth of the Savior. But, even in our waiting, we experience times of joy. As we hope for the future coming of Christ, we rejoice through the power of the Spirit. As it says in Romans 15:13: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
So, by all means let Advent be for you a season of quiet reflection and prayer. Get in touch with your hopes as you wait for the Savior. But, following the lead of the baby in Elizabeth’s womb and Mary’s response, may your Advent also be a time of rejoicing as we look forward to the celebration of Christmas.
For most of us, the season of Advent also includes various celebrations of Christmas. What aspects of your own Christmas celebration give you joy?
Do you think it’s possible to combine seriousness and joy, quiet reflection and laughter? If so, how? If not, why not?
How do you understand the relationship between hope and joy, as found in Romans 15:13, for example?
There are many different ways to observe Advent in your individual life or in the life of your family. If you’re looking for ideas, you can find several in my “Welcome to Advent” article.
Gracious God, thank you for the season of Advent. It’s good for my soul to reflect on the comings of Christ, to prepare for a deeper and truer celebration of Christmas.
Though this is a serious time, Lord, it is also a time for rejoicing. New life is coming. Hope is beginning to dawn. Jesus is coming to make his blessing flow far as the curse is found. And so we rejoice in expectation and hope. The Savior will be born. And he will come again to establish the kingdom forever. Amen.
P.S. from Mark
What I’ve said about Advent colors and Advent wreaths is true for many more traditional churches (Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, etc.). Though, increasingly, less liturgical churches are beginning to observe Advent in their own way. You can learn more about this in an article I wrote called, “Welcome to Advent.” It’s important to realize that Advent colors and themes, however biblically based, are not derived from Scripture in a way that precludes variety and innovation. Many churches, for example, use an Advent wreath with all white candles. Some churches employ traditional colors, either purple or blue, but do not include a pink candle. None of this should be worrying to us. In things like how we observe Advent, there should be freedom. Moreover, by paying attention to what others do, we have the chance to grow in our experience of the deeper realities of Advent. There’s always more to be learned.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Overflowing with Hope
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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.