December 23, 2020 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Ephesians 2:19 (NRSV)
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God.
Christmas is a time for kindred families to gather and celebrate, even if we have to do it virtually this year. But Christmas is also a time to reach beyond the borders of our families, to share God’s love with our brothers and sisters in Christ. We may have to do this virtually in COVIDtime, but we can be creative as we extend love and grace to those who need it.
Today’s devotion is part of the series Keeping Christmas Well.
In the previous devotion, we saw that Ebenezer Scrooge’s transformation led him to a new appreciation for and engagement with his family. Keeping Christmas well, I suggested, includes sharing life with our kindred families, not just at Christmastime, but throughout the year.
Yet, I recognized that some of us are not able to be with our own families, even during the holidays, especially in the midst of a global pandemic. In times like these, we can find comfort and joy as “members of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19).
I want to share with you three different snapshots of the family of God at Christmas. All of these come from my own experience. I expect that you could add your own stories to these. Perhaps my stories will even inspire you to become more deeply engaged with your Christian family, not just at Christmastime but also throughout the year.
The first snapshot comes from around 1972. My dad had been out of work for more than a year. My parents had used up most of their savings and had little left for Christmas presents for me and my three siblings. We knew that this Christmas would be different from what we had experienced in the past and we felt sad about this. However, a couple of days before Christmas, some of my parents’ friends from church showed up at our house with stacks of Christmas gifts. Many had my name on them, which was surprise #1. Surprise #2 came on Christmas morning when I unwrapped these gifts and found things that I really wanted. Perhaps more importantly, for the first time in my life, I experienced the exceptional love of the family of God.
The second snapshot comes from around 2000. I was pastor of Irvine Presbyterian Church at that time. As Christmas approached, several church members became concerned about those in our congregation who didn’t have family with whom to gather on Christmas Day. So these members arranged it so that families in the church opened their homes to those who would otherwise be alone on Christmas. Individual families and the family of God were all mixed up in joyful community that year and in the years that followed as well.
The final snapshot also comes from my time at Irvine Pres. For years, many church members put on a festive Christmas party for children in an orphanage in Mexico. The congregation contributed gifts that included both fun toys and necessities like clothing and school items. Those of us who were unable to go to the party prayed specifically for one child to whom we gave a gift. I knew folks at church for whom the Christmas party in Tijuana was the highlight of their own holiday celebrations.
Christmas is surely a time to get together, even virtually, with our relatives to enjoy seasonal delights. But it also is a time to join with our sisters and brothers in Christ, to celebrate the fact that the birth of Christ was part of God’s plan to form us into a family. It’s a time for generosity that includes and extends beyond our kindred families.
You can keep Christmas well by reaching out with God’s love to your sisters and brothers in Christ, both in the holiday season and throughout the year.
Have you experienced something like the snapshots I described above?
How can we, as the family of God, be more of a family together—not just at Christmastime but throughout the year?
Pray about how you can extend the love of Christ to someone who needs it today. Then, act on what God stirs up in your heart.
Heavenly Father, thank you for making us members of your household, your family. Thank you for our brothers and sisters in Christ, for the privilege of sharing life with them. Help us, Lord, to live truly as your family, to open our lives, our homes, and our hearts to each other throughout the year. And if we can’t be physically together, help us to find other ways of giving your love away to those who need it. Amen.
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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: Your Fellow Citizenship
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is the Executive Director of Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he is the principal writer of Life for Leaders and the program lead of the Third Third Initiative. Previously, Mark was the senior pastor of a church in Southern California and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. Mark has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,000 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 has taught 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.
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