Read John 3:1-8 and Psalm 65, and Luke 2:1-5 (from King James Version of the Bible because this is a story that needs to be heard in the King James.)
When we married, Doris lived, with her parents, in the same house she was born in. Her Uncle Roy and Aunt Gladys lived across the road. Uncle Tad lived catty-cornered to the farm. Cagie and Dale lived just across the creek. In other words, you could have thrown a hand grenade and taken out most of her family. We married and I moved her away from that to Augusta, Georgia, a city we did not know among a people we did not know. It was hard.
We had been married about 4 years and Doris was expecting Josh. It was Sunday, Christmas Eve, and we decided after church that night, (Yep, back then we had church Sunday night, EVEN ON CHRISTMAS EVE) that we would drive through the night to be back in Gallatin, to be at her house on Christmas morning. So, about 9pm we loaded up the donkey, (actually it was a Chrysler Cordoba,) and headed out.
Let me pause here to say that those of you who know us know I hardly ever drive. Doris does all of the driving. She was driving the Chrysler Cordoba that Christmas Eve. She got to the eastern edge of Atlanta about midnight and was so tired, she woke me up. (I don’t drive. I sleep.) She asked me if I could drive for a while and of course, the loving and supportive husband that I am, I said yes. I started driving. She started sleeping. We made it to the WESTERN edge of Atlanta (about a 35-minute trip) and I was so sleepy. I decided to pull off at a rest stop and close my eyes for just a minute.) We both woke up about the same time, 6am Christmas morning, with the sun in our faces, the “Nashville 248 miles” sign just in front of us, and, in an instant, the wrath of Khan face on Doris. It was a Christmas Eve neither one of us has ever forgotten.
Can you imagine the Christmas Eve journey of Mary and Joseph? From Nazareth to Bethlehem is only 90 miles, but with no Chrysler Cordoba, it was a 3-day walk. No Holiday Inns or Motel 6s, they slept on the ground on their way. Now, on this last day, after 2 long days of travel, they loaded up the donkey to make the final, all-day trek into Bethlehem. It was a Christmas Eve that neither one of them would ever forget. Nor will we.
Tomorrow morning, because of that trip, men and women, boys and girls, sons and daughters, parents and grandparents, all over the world will wake up with the anticipation of home, family streaming through the door, gifts, and laughter, and sharing together the day that Jesus was born. In so many ways, Christmas Eve marks the last day of travel, the end of a journey, and the anticipation of what the next day will bring. Kids flying in from across the country. 2021 and another year of COVID drawing to a close. New brides and bridegrooms, celebrating with families for the first time as husband and wife. Widows sitting by the tree, as grandkids eagerly look for their presents, feeling the emptiness of that husband that was lost this year. All kinds of journeys end now it seems. Although New Years Day is the official calendar turner, Christmas Eve feels like the end of something, and Christmas to New Year, kind of a parenthetical pause.
For us, it marks the end of a 40 Day Adventure. We have read together. Fasted together. Prayed together, in anticipation of the end of Advent, and the arrival of the King. Good job. You finished the journey. Congratulations. Sometime today, several dozen people will read this last devotion, finish the Psalm and Scripture reading, pray the final prayer, and close the book with satisfaction on a real accomplishment, 40 Days of Celebrating the King. It’s no Bethlehem story but it can be something we will never forget.
So, at the end of these 40 days, let me say something about journeys and their conclusions. First, the end of every journey deserves a little reflection. When we pick up kids at the airport, the first question we ask is, “How was your trip?” When we call the friend we haven’t talked to since last Christmas we will start with, “How have you been?” Every trip, at its end, needs us to take a minute and think back. What did God say to you in these 40 days? How have you been changed by your time of devotions? Just pause for a minute and look back towards where you came from and remember what has happened along the way.
Second, every journey, at the conclusion, merits a little rest. Something is advertised as “the pause that refreshes.” I don’t remember what. I hope it’s not a toilet paper commercial or something like that. But it is a good idea. We need to stop the journey, get off the donkey or out of the Chrysler Cordoba, and just rest. (Better not do it on the side of the road.) Tomorrow can be that, a break in the normal stress and strain of life. But it has to happen on purpose. Take a little time, maybe today, and breathe a deep breath, and feel the spiritual, emotional, and even physical sabbath that God wants to give you at the end of these 40 days.
And then, every journey at its conclusion is a time to restart. Yep, it is the nature of trips that they end at the beginning of the next one. We get off the cruise ship and start looking for the shuttle to the airport. We get out of the car and start planning the schedule of meals and present openings for the next 24 hours. We finish the first Christmas without that loved one, take a deep breath, and start into the next chapter of life. We end a journey, reflect, rest, and then start again. This one is no different. I’ll address that in a minute. For now, just know that God has brought you through 40 Days of disciplined devotions, not to stop, but to move on to the next level of connection and intimacy with Him. He wants you to restart.
So, today, congratulations on a trip well-traveled. I hope that God has said some things to you along the way. Enjoy the next few days. Read the Christmas story with your family. Thank God for His journey. And then, load up the Chrysler Cordoba and head out again. I hope I see you along the way.
“Oh God, Father of the Baby in the manger, remind us of the lessons we have learned on the journey this year. Slow us down so that we can enjoy You. And when the time is right, turn our hearts toward the next chapter You have for us. Thank You for Your Christmas Gift to us. Amen”
STEPS FOR THE NEXT TRIP:
On January 1 I am going to begin a 31-day new-start with God. It will be a little bit different than this one but I’m excited about some ideas I have to help us (read that…me) use the first month of the year as a time to intentionally put habits and helps in place to get closer to God and stronger in our faith in 2022.
Here’s what we will do:
Read the Bible every day from the You Version Chronological Bible app.
- Download the You Version App to your phone (get your 10-year-old grandson to help you) https://www.youversion.com/the-bible-app/ and under plans sign up for “The Bible Recap with Tara-Leigh Cobble.”
- Each day your Scripture will be there and a 5-minute devotional commentary will follow. In fact, you might want to start now her 6 introductory 6-minute podcasts. WARNING, don’t start the plan until January 1 so that you will be on track with the rest of us.
Begin a daily prayer and journaling time each day.
- Prepare a consistent place that is comfortable, has a good light, your Bible, high-lighters, and journaling material at hand. If you have access to music, have it there also. I’m going to recommend a worship song of the week each Monday for us to listen to.
- Plan now a consistent time. You may have to get up a little earlier or forgo ESPN when you get home in the evening but set aside 30-45 minutes in your schedule every day for 31 days. I’ll try to send the journaling page that I have developed for me. (I’ll get my 10-year-old grandson to help me.)
Plan each Monday to watch a brief video I will do to get is ready for the week. I think you can get that at www.branchesblog.com or I will post it on FaceBook.
And plan to read the blog each Friday on Branches Blog. I don’t imagine that the videos or blogs are life-changing but they keep us connected and develop a sense of community.
Here are the last two things, consider a daily fast for 31 days. Not complete, no eating fast, 😊 but giving up one thing to remind us that the journey is about Him and not about us. We are especially going to focus on that from January 7 to January 28 so, if you want to wait until then you can. And, for men only, consider joining me and my great friend, David Robertson for a 21 Day Challenge these first 21 days. Below is a note about that. (LADIES, share this with your spouse and encourage them to join us.)
Okay, that’s a lot of stuff. I’ll repeat it all Monday, but I wanted you to think about the NEXT journey. Again, Merry Christmas!
ARE YOU UP FOR A CHALLENGE?
How about a 100% free & virtual 21-Day Challenge? The Challenge is designed to jump-start positive change in any man’s life.
The Challenge starts the 1st of January, so it’s time to register and do the pre-work. I specifically want to invite you, or some men in your church or small group, to a special version of the Challenge called the Inner Circle. This is a limited-size group that takes the 21-Day Challenge to the next level.
RELAX, IT’S AS EASY AS 1-2-3….
- Step #1: Review the “Inner Circle” webpage & register at the bottom
- Step #2; Explore your Dashboard
- Step #3: Complete the 10-Step Countdown Launch Sequence by the 1st of January.
WATCH THE MY JOURNEY DISCIPLESHIP EXPERIENCE TRAILER
REVIEW & REGISTER AT THIS LINK:
QUESTIONS? GET A SAME-DAY RESPONSE BY EMAIL:
Let’s jump-start some positive change in YOUR life or the lives of some of your key influencers in your church!
Your Virtual Mentor,