“Think of what lies behind the gift.” My mother smiled as she spoke the words. She always did. I first heard them the day before my fourth Christmas. Presents had appeared in four separate piles under our Christmas tree. Beginning a habit I’ve never entirely broken, I fiddled with everything in my pile trying to guess the contents. When I finally developed the practice my mother encouraged, I realized she wanted to increase my pleasure. With the gift finally open in front of me I would sense a grandmother’s warmth, an aunt’s interest in my latest curiosities, a sibling’s sly delight at my surprise.

Isaiah offers a sweeping view of the gift we receive at the birth of a son. The prophet carefully develops the scene. To the people of his day, steeped in darkness and sorrow, he announces the coming of light and joy. He points to the birth of a child. With soaring phrases he proclaims this child will embody the life-nurturing names of the Messiah. Then, at the climax of his prophetic portrait, Isaiah focuses on what lies behind it all: “The zeal of the Lord of Hosts will do this.” Zeal is one of those thickly layered, rich, hard-to-capture biblical words. In Isaiah’s prophecy, it conveys single-minded, absolute devotion. What lies behind the gift of this child? What lies behind the gift is God’s relentless yearning. Behind is God’s stop-at-nothing desire to draw all to the saving ways of righteousness and peace.

As we hover on the edge of Jesus’ birth, may we look deeply enough to see the holy steadfastness that brings it to pass. In these next hours, behind any special worship service that moves us, any silence that nourishes us, any gathering that brings us joy, may we see God tirelessly reaching for us all.

God who sends a child, may we know deeply your unstoppable desire for us all. Amen.

Pray the Scriptures Using Audio Lectio
Read Luke 2:22-40

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Lectionary Week
December 21–27, 2020
Scripture Overview

As we celebrate the birth of our Savior, we do so with cries of praise to God. Isaiah delights and rejoices in God, who will bring reconciliation to all nations. Psalm 148 declares that all of creation praises the Lord, for creation knows who formed and sustains it. Paul explains to the Galatians that God sent Jesus to redeem us, and as a result we may now call out to God as God’s children. In the Gospel reading, Luke sets the story of Jesus within the history of the Israelites. Both Simeon and Anna are devout people, filled with the Holy Spirit. They have been praying for God to send the Redeemer, and God gives them insight to recognize him as Jesus. Praise be to God for this indescribable gift!

Questions and Suggestions for Reflection

Read Isaiah 61:10–62:3. How do you yearn for righteousness? How do the prophet’s words give you hope?
Read Psalm 148. Pause and consider the joy of God’s coming salvation for the whole world.
Read Galatians 4:4-7. Consider your identity as a child of God through Christ. What joy does this identity bring you?
Read Luke 2:22-40. How can you, like Anna, joyously proclaim the freedom and redemption Christ brings all of humanity?

Respond by posting a prayer.

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