A 15-Day Christmas Devotional for an Untraditional Year

Terra Mattson, MA LMFT, LPC

Host of Living Wholehearted

Light in the darkness

And Mary said, ‘Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.’ And the angel departed from her.

—Luke 1:38

Christmastime reveals Immanuel, God with us.

Neuroscience teaches that empathy heals, but in a world lacking empathy (just check the latest news channel or social media feed), how do we tap into this healing power? How do we leave our own context to consider how others live? God himself modeled this very thing by leaving his heavenly throne to join humanity as Jesus Christ.

God models empathy and interrupts our singular way of understanding the world so that we can offer grace to a desperate world and experience healing.

God is always at work, especially in dark places. It takes a flicker of light to sharpen vision, like a candle in a dark room. On the eve of the first Christmas, times were tough for the Israelites, including Mary, Jesus’s mother.

Mary soon recognized God in all his mercy despite how different his plan was from her expectations. When God told Mary she would have a baby conceived of the Holy Spirit, Mary responded, “No word from God will ever fail. . . . May your word to me be fulfilled” (Luke 1:37–38 NIV). She trusted that God’s ways were beyond her comprehension. The unimaginable plan—God himself showing up in the world—would heal the Israelites and provide hope for all humanity.

Government oppression, poverty, racism, civil unrest, illness, fear, and despair ravaged the nation. The heaviness might have felt similar to our current state: people without hope, longing for peace and healing. That night, hope showed up. Jesus provided a glimmer of light to the Israelites two thousand years ago. He still lights our way today.

God’s plans look different from ours and come in ways we least expect.

The people of Israel thought the Messiah would be a mighty warrior, a king capable of conquering Roman rulers. Instead, the Messiah came as a lowly baby and grew into a gentle, humble servant. We often look for God to show up in big, anticipated ways; that small glimmer of light is often outside our immediate context and trickier to see, but he always shows up, amidst all our messiness, offering a healing relationship we can trust.

God will not abandon us. There is no experience too big for God.

This truth brings peace, despite a global pandemic.

The hope of the world is here.

Regardless of our context, our expectations, or our circumstances, God is with us; he knows us and sees us. He will finish what he started. There is no greater empathy, and no greater healing, than a God who entered the world for our salvation.

Peace be with you—the kind that only comes from the light of the world.

Guided Reflection

  1. Before the 2020 pandemic occurred, in what did you place your hope? Is anything on this list not providing a way out now? What Christmas “hopes” are you still counting on God for?
  2. What do you think it would have been like to expect the Messiah to come one way, only to experience the complete opposite reality? Oftentimes, God’s plan looks very different. Can you think of a time this was true for you? What would be different about your life if you received joy in the midst of your circumstances rather than getting it because of your circumstances?
  3. How can you be a “light of hope” in a dark world this Christmas?

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