December 2 – “But you, Bethlehem … out of you will come a Ruler”

Read: Micah 5:2

Time and Place are important to God and man. God’s prophecy seeks fulfillment in the territory of space and time. The Bible is not an ingenious literary invention created to give shape to the human imagination. The Bible is biographical, historical, and descriptive. It is inspired commentary on God’s interaction with mankind.

Bethlehem is just as real as Kansas City or Chicago or Des Moines. The birth of Christ took place in a relatively small and insignificant village. But it happened. It’s not a fairy tale staged in never, never land. In the fullness of time God entered our world and His creation. The Incarnate One was born in a little Palestinian village. The Savior of the world did not need the world’s power or publicity to make an impact. The angelic host was real, not ornamental. They praised God with real music heard by ordinary shepherds. The characters from Mary to Herod are not actors in a performance but people like you and me living in the real world.

Prayer: Father God, help us to appreciate what is real and what is important. We know you didn’t come to impress but to save. We accept your rule in our lives right where we live. We acknowledge that you are King of kings and Lord of lords in the place where you have put us. May the reality of Christ’s presence be felt in our community, in our homes, as it was in Bethlehem. Amen.

December 1 – “When the time had fully come God sent his Son”

Read: Galatians 3:26-4:7

History is much more than a collection of random facts and a chain reaction of events. History is shaped by God. Who we are depends on a relationship with a real life historical person, Christ Jesus. Because of the salvation Christ offers, we are no longer slaves to sin. The Lord of history has made a way for our salvation. God, in Christ, entered into human life fully so that we might fully know our Heavenly Father.

Our thoughtful, Biblical celebration of Christmas helps us understand the substance of personal life. As we consider the grand scale of history we find our attention on a single subject, Jesus Christ. Apart from Christ, our ordinary lives lack purpose. If we don’t see ourselves as image-bearers of God, what defines our self worth? Without the Lord of history the confusion, frustration, and burdens of life penetrate and shape our self-understanding. Christmas is a reminder of what counts in life. It is a time of spiritual renewal when we re-examine the meaning and the practice of our faith in Christ.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for sending your Son to make us your children. Thank you for freeing us from sin and slavery and bringing us into your family. With the Spirit of your Son in our hearts we call you our Father, Amen.

Doug Webster is my friend and mentor and in the late 1980’s I had the privilege of serving as Administrative Pastor at Evangelical Community Church (ECC) in Bloomington, Indiana during his tenure as Senior Pastor. These devotionals were originally prepared for ECC and Doug has graciously allowed me to revise and post them. Doug is now Professor of Pastoral Theology and Preaching at Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Alabama.