Thursday, December 21, 2023
"Christmas is coming" were words I loved to hear when I was a child, my kids loved to hear when they were children, and my grandchildren still love to hear today. Granted, a child's joy at Christmas may not necessarily be tied to Jesus' coming to earth but they are excited to know good gifts are coming soon. This is one of many reasons that Christmas is the season of anticipation for many children around the world.
For those caught in grief and persecution, like those Paul is addressing in our verses for today,  anticipation of coming good gifts is very much needed. In our friendships and fellowship groups as believers, the Christmas season can be a reminder of loved ones who are not present because of death or alienation and make the season emotionally difficult. These hurting people need a reason to believe and anticipate good things coming for them. So, Paul's words about Jesus coming for us to bring us to Himself in glory and to deal with all the injustices here on earth can be quite important.
Most essential for me to, these words of promise are connected to a vital ministry we can have in each others' lives:
"So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing."
God gave us each other to remind, encourage, and build up each other with anticipation for the good things God has ahead for each of us in Christ!  Let's be extra sensitive to those around us who may not be anticipating the joy of this season because of the loss and separation in their lives. Let's also pray for them, asking the Lord for words of genuine encouragement, help, and hope to share with them. For me, Paul's words to the Philippians are a great place to start:
Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again — rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon.
Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God's peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me — everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you. 
Loving Father, as the Holy Spirit pours Your love into my heart, * I want to share with others. I also ask that Holy Spirit guide me to people who need grace, comfort, reassurance, and hope during Christmas. I know Jesus promised to give me words to say, ^ so dear Father, I am asking for the Spirit's help to be attentive to their needs and speak helpful words to their hearts as I seek to avoid saying trite, simplistic, or hurtful things. Jesus, I thank You for giving us the ultimate reason to have hope and anticipate the future. Please use me to do Your will and bring Your grace to those whom You lead into my life. I ask this in the authority of the Son of God, Jesus, my Lord, and Savior. Amen.
Together in Christ is a daily devotional that focuses on what Scripture teaches about godly living in relationships.
'Together in Christ' is written by Phil Ware.
Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2007, 2013, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
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