category: Advent

2023 Advent Devotion: Day 23

Monday, December 25

Luke 1:46b-55; 1 Samuel 1:1-18; Hebrews 9:1-14

Welcome Christmas! Today we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. This is a day of joy and a day of majesty. It is our day to magnify His great and holy name. Glory to God!

As you conclude the 2023 Advent devotional with this entry for December 25, I invite you to reflect on a few key themes that may get overlooked in the narrative of Jesus’s birth: power, position, and humility.

First, power. When we think of the lineage of the “King of Kings,” we assume something akin to royal blood. Yet, Mary was anything but a powerful, wealthy, or ostentatious member of her community. She held no privileged station. There was no hubris in her. Instead, Mary professed, “My spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me . . . he has scattered the proud . . . he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate” (Luke 1:46-55). Mary marvels at the unexpected mercy God has shown her by choosing her to be the mother to Jesus.

Position, like power, means little to our God. His message about rich and poor, strong and weak, gluttonous and hungry reappears so many times in the Bible, including in the story of another baby’s birth. Remember Hannah who was the childless second wife of Elkanah, who was mocked by others for being barren? Pushed to tears and downhearted, Hannah poured out her soul in prayer: “Lord Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life” (1 Samuel 1:11). Her prayer granted, Hannah gave birth to Samuel who would become a prophet. Hannah made good on her promise to hand over her son so that he might serve a merciful God.

To continue the theme, it makes little difference to our God whether we worship in ornate, grandiose structures or in the most modest of settings. After all, Jesus the Messiah was born under the stars and laid in a simple Bethlehem manger because there was no room for Mary in town. There could have been no humbler a setting for a birth that would change the course of human history. The physical sanctuaries in which we pray, the symbols we recognize, and the ceremonies we follow are no remedy to sin. Jesus, the baby born in Bethlehem, would ultimately enter “the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption” (Hebrews 9:12). Indeed, he would teach us that the path to God’s plan follows “the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands” (Hebrews 9:11).

Gardner-Webb family, celebrate this Christmas knowing that the circumstances of our Savior’s birth matter. Celebrate this Christmas knowing that our God favors the humble servant.

Dr. William M. Downs
Gardner-Webb University President

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