Now that Christmas day has come and gone, we have lots to do.  Tossing out torn and shredded wrapping paper.  Tidying up the kitchen from stem to stern.  Sighing a whisper of relief that all went fairly well this time ’round!  Know what I mean?  No, you don’t.  Neither do we.  Not with blasted pandemic lockdowns shelving and nixing all our family gatherings!

Normally when holidays end, it’s off to the next one as far as planning and preparation goes.  Rarely look back.  When it’s over, it’s over.  Until I announce that it’s only 364 more days ’til Christmas.  All groan, hoping I’ll shut my big mouth.  Enough already!

But for Jesus’ mother, reflection time begins.  After all, Mary’s life becomes jam-packed.  Begins early, getting word that she’s pregnant when…well, you know.  Hoping that Joseph will stand by her.  He does, given time, good godly man that he is.

Mary then nests with older relatives, Elizabeth and Zechariah.  Near her term’s completion, it’s off to Bethlehem, an overcrowded town, offering only a back stable in which to bear and cradle her newborn son.

From there they journey to Jerusalem’s Temple to dedicate Jesus, where two elderly people speak one-for-the-book prophetic news.  Then, as if out-of-the-blue, they’re visited by curious characters from the East, who bring unexpected and precious gifts.

It’s after Christmas with activity still buzzing.  ‘But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart’ (Luke 2:19).  She doesn’t jump ahead, planning for the next whatever.  No, she stops, turning it all over in her mind.  Putting on her spiritual thinking cap.  Mulling it over.

That’s something for me.  To reflect on His birth a tad longer.  Reading Luke and Matthew’s birth accounts…at a snail’s pace.  Putting on the brakes.  Slowing down.  Not skipping ahead.  Letting this good news of Jesus percolate and seep through.  Even for an extra day or two.  I can do that.

Join me?  Would love the company!


Thank you, Lord God, for the gift of Jesus.  Amen.

HIM Numbers 17

My first ministry call is to a suburban New York City church with over 1500 members, including corporate executives and television actors on its roster, making this both a stirring and terrifying place.  Most of the time, I’m shakin’ in my boots as a lowly assistant pastor.

The senior minister possesses poise and personality, the likes of which I’ve never experienced before or since.  Charming and intimidating, all wrapped up in him.  Could sense him in a room long before you see him.  A true presence.  Him.

For the contingent of 4 ordained clergy, we have weekly staff meetings in my office at the far end of the church education building.  The senior pastor names them ‘rump sessions’, as if we’re reporting to the king.  Him.  We three (not kings!) give in-depth ministry updates, warned expressly to ‘never surprise the boss’.  Him.  After this gathering, we adjourn to the administration building where over 26 of us–myriad secretaries, financial officer, business manager, organist, choir director, a slew of custodians, and some I forget–all report to the head of staff.  Him.

So what does this have to do with Numbers 17, let alone Christmas?  Good question.  Numbers 17 shows us that Aaron is the only priest chosen by God whose wooden staff buds, blossoms and bears fruit overnight.  Next day, all Israel’s family leaders reclaim their own staff.  Just a stick.  Nothing more.  Only Aaron’s staff is unique.

Jesus is God’s chosen One to save us from our sin.  Him alone.  Society doesn’t want to hear this.  They posit many paths, all leading somewhere; but, unfortunately, unbeknownst to them, never to redemption.  All for naught, except the one staff that buds, blossoms and bears fruit.  At Christmas, we know who that staff symbolizes– Jesus, God’s only Son.  Him.

John 3:16–‘For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son…’  No fearsome and forbidding, shivery and quivery staff meetings.  No salvation by committee.  All we’ll ever need is found wrapped up in swaddling cloths in a manger in Bethlehem all those years ago.  He’s the one and only Him.  Jesus!

Merry Christmas!


Lord Jesus, thank you for being our best gift ever.  Amen.

GOOD AND GENEROUS Matthew 20: 1-28

We know that God is good, don’t we?  This Christmas season I’d like to remember exactly that.  Plus, that He’s generous.  He lives to give.  Not based on our merit, but all because of His love and mercy.  Jesus said–‘…the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many’ (Matt. 20:28).

Jesus gives, not only to a few, but to many then and there, here and now.  Christmas models the call to serve rather than be served, giving little thought of what comes back to us for a change.

Jesus’ parable of the vineyard workers exhibits God’s goodness and generosity.  The vineyard needs harvesting.  Breadwinners hang around looking for work.  Some sweat and slave all day long.  More eager beavers are required. They’re hired but plug away for only part of the day.  Finally, even more are brought on board for only an hour or so.

Do they receive proportional wages as I would give?  An hour’s wage for an hour’s work?  And no more?  Can’t count on my generosity!  Shockingly, the vineyard owner pays all the workers the same amount, regardless of time and toil.

Those who plug away and knock themselves out from dawn ’til sunset blow a gasket.  Seems most unfair.  A raw deal.  But the vineyard owner says this–‘Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me?  Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ (Matt. 20:15).  That zinger hits home.  My hardhearted teflon fails.  For God is both good and generous.

How about being some of both this Christmas?  I don’t mean only with money and things.  How about good and generous words of encouragement?  Listening to someone?  Reading the Christmas stories in your Bible?  Telling someone about the gift of Jesus?  Wishing some sour soul a ‘Merry Christmas’?

I’m sure you can think of lots more, can’t you?  Whatever they are, do them.  How generous of you…and me!


Thank you, Jesus, for being so good and generous to me.  Amen.


JOY! Ecclesiastes 9: 7-10

We attended a church for a few months that had friendly members and meaningful worship.  When holidays roll around, we notice that something’s missing.  As in nothing observed!  No Veteran’s Day.  No Easter.  No Thanksgiving.  And, to cap it all off, no Christmas!

I understand the reluctance to embrace a materialistic and pagan Christmas.  I agree.  But no carols, no Christmas Eve candlelight service, and no ‘Merry Christmas’ greetings to one another in church?   Joy seems somewhat banned and barred.  Whatever happened to ‘Keep Christ in Christmas’?

And why use a text from Ecclesiastes for this Christmas devotional?  Crazy me?  No comments, please!  After all, these Ecclesiastes’ verses speak of joy and relishing all of God’s gifts.  Simply reveling in everything.  Your spouse and family.  Friends and church family.  Vocation and avocations.

Not to win God’s approval.  No.  For that’s been given, which is the Christmas story, isn’t it?  ‘For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son…’ (John 3:16).  And Ecclesiastes 9:7–‘Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do.’

Cease buttering up God.  He doesn’t need it.  He’s given us His all when Jesus came to seek and save the lost.  The lost who become found in Him.  That’s you and me, by the way!  Heartfelt, ecstatic thanks most appreciated by the Lord.

This Christmas season, let’s have no end of joy.  Don’t let naysayers throw cold water on what’s obviously wonderful.  As in God giving us His only Son, approving of us, forgiving and loving us, all because of what Jesus did on the cross.  See what I mean?  Have joy?  Uncontained?  Of course!


For all the joy you bring to this world, we thank you, Lord Jesus.  Amen.