Great Plains Daily Devotional for 12/23/2020

Today please be in prayer for

Lincoln New Hope UMC
Prairie Home, NE UMC
Blue River District
Lincoln New Visions Community - Calvary
Lincoln New Visions UMC - Southminster
Lincoln New Visions UMC - St James
Blue River District
Lincoln Saint Paul UMC
Blue River District
Lincoln Saint Paul UMC
University of Nebraska, Lincoln
Blue River District

Today's Lectionary Text

What is this fragrance softly stealing?
Shepherds! It sets my heart astir!
Never was sweetness so appealing
Never were flowers of spring so fair! 
What is this fragrance softly stealing?
Shepherds! It sets my heart astir!

-17th-century French traditional Noël (carol)

Today's Devotional

It’s a lovely old French carol that is little known in America.  In later verses it tells the story of the birth of Jesus as it is laid out in Luke’s gospel.  It speaks of the wonder, the radiance, the sound, and the fragrance of that night.

There are fragrances that permeate Advent for all of us.  What is the fragrance you most associate with this season of preparation?  The scent of evergreen?  Or is it the rich smell of spices used in holiday baking?  When I think of the preparations for Christmas in my childhood, I recall the fragrance of peppernuts or sugar cookies, fresh from the oven.
This year, many of us are coming to associate other fragrances – not so pleasant as those in our memories – with all aspects of our lives, including this season of preparation.  The scent of bleach and antiseptic sprays just don’t say Baby Jesus to us!

Yet those happy memory fragrances don’t specifically say Baby Jesus, either.  They speak of traditions close to home.  The smells that really speak of the birth of Jesus are the earthy scents of a stable – cows, a donkey, sheep, straw, and dung. 

And yet – there was another fragrance that surrounded the birth of Jesus.  I am sure that the fragrance Mary breathed in was that wonderful new baby scent that every infant has.  And, perhaps, since this was the Son of God, there was the very smell of heaven, of God’s presence about that child.

What fragrances surround you right now?  Perhaps they are the ordinary smells of an ordinary day – but this time of year they can take on a life of their own.  We can get bound up in expectations for the holiday season that are not realistic.  Yet they give us a sense that something good is about to happen.  And something good IS about to happen.

Each year, as we prepare our homes – and, I hope, our hearts – to welcome Baby Jesus into the world once more, we are also preparing for the return of Jesus and the completion of God’s realm.  Long before the birth of Jesus, the prophet Isaiah proclaimed in chapter 60, verses 1-3, “Arise! Shine! Your light has come, the Lord’s glory has come upon you.  Though darkness covers the earth, and gloom the nations, the Lord will shine upon you; God’s glory will appear over you.  Nations will come to your light and kings to your dawning radiance.”  When Jesus returns God’s grace and peace will be over us all – and we will know such sweet fragrance!
                                                                                                -Robbie Fall, Retired Elder
                                                                                                Hutchinson, KS

Prayer for Reflection

As we draw near to the celebration of Christmas, Lord, remind us that the sweet fragrances of our holiday were not the reality of that night so long ago.  Yet in a world filled with fear and turmoil, something good happened that night.  Remind us, as well, that something good still happens each time we welcome your Son into the world – and that when Jesus returns your realm will be complete.  Come, Lord Jesus.


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