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December 28 , 2002
Column #1,113

A Christmas Devotional

     My wife and I love to begin our day with a reading of Scripture and prayer, or by combining that with a devotional that deepens our understanding of God's purpose in our lives.

     This Christmas season, we have been deeply moved by "The Christ of Christmas: Readings for Advent" by Calvin Miller, author of 25 books and a popular speaker. Normally in this column, I provide my perspective on the ethics and religion of our culture, drawing no more than a sentence or two from any source.

     On Christmas Eve, however, I was so moved by the reading for that day which is elegantly written to contrast the glitzy materialism of Christmas with what should be its focus, that I am quoting Calvin Miller's commentary in full. It begins with Matthew 2:7-8:

     "Herod secretly summoned the wise men and learned from them the time when the star appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, `Go and search carefully for the child. When you find Him, report back to me so that I too can go and worship Him.'

     The devotional opens: 

     "How glorious the Christmas story might have been if Herod had really meant what he said. If Herod had fallen down and begun to worship the infant King, his whole future would have been glorious. But he didn't. He had no appetite for worship, no hunger for the divine visitation of God.

     "The kingdom of God has long thrived on those who have a desire to worship and adore. Yet we so easily grow devious in this business of worship, especially at Christmas. Christmas is a season of high worship attendance. Everyone goes to church at this holy season. But are not their hearts distracted? Are their minds clearly focused on the Son of God?

     "The glitzy materialism that has come to characterize Christmas makes Herods of us all. We may pretend to show interest in the Savior, but the season comes upon us like a frenzied neurosis, a materialism of fury. We `shop till we drop.' We see a hundred secular television Christmas movies for every one we see about Jesus. We spend and spend and spend. As Wordsworth said in his "Composed on Westminster Bridge" -

     "`Buying and spending, we lay waste our powers.'

     "Who could be king to Herod? Herod did not want to have a king. He wanted to be one. He did not really want to have a God; he wanted to be a god. Can this be said of us at Christmas? It may be that the infant Christ has been replaced by our secular adoration at Christmas. The creche is too much in the way of the shopping mall to get our serious attention in December.

     "It has been said that anything which is more important than God to us is our god. Herod already had a god. It brought him little joy, but he was the only god he had time for, and thus he worshiped at a very low altar - the altar of his own ego.

     "What God crowns your altar this Christmas Eve? Where do you worship? Whom do you worship? A baby was born, and He came to change your destiny. He was give to you so your worship might rise higher than the adoration of your own materialistic ego," Miller writes.

     "Serve that baby, who after He became a man said,`If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me" (Matthew 16:24).

     The author recommends an additional reading of Psalm 138: 1-5, one verse of which is "When I called, you answered me, you made me bold and stouthearted."

     The Commentary concludes: 

     "Why not open up right now with a level of worship and praise Herod never found? He missed much by not knowing this feeling, this freedom, this festival we own and get to enjoy.  

     "On this day - this wonderful expectant day before the most extraordinary of days - let us roll out our praise a welcome place for the King of kings."

     May I suggest that you give yourself and your loved ones "The Christ of Christmas" next year? This little devotional, beautifully illustrated with classic paintings, is the perfect Christmas gift .

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