Monday, December 4, 2017

The Arrival of the Underdog: An Advent Devotional

What follows is a devotional I wrote for the Royal Family Kids Camp of NW Iowa dinner and dessert auction. *

The Arrival of the Underdog

Christmas is coming. We are about to enter the season of the year we call Advent. The word “advent” comes from a Latin root, meaning “arrival.” So in this season we are awaiting the arrival—the advent—of Christ.

One of several Nativity scenes we have in our home...
During Advent, we hear the gospel stories about Jesus’ birth, often multiple times throughout the season, year after year. The story of the angel bringing the news to Mary that she would be giving birth to the Son of God. The story of the angels visiting the shepherds to tell them the good news of Jesus’ birth. The story of wise men, coming so far, seeking the newborn king. In Sunday School Christmas pageants, in candle-lit church services, in devotionals and picture books, we hear these stories again and again. And when I’m honest with myself, I know I’ve heard these stories so many times that they have lost a bit of their impact on me.

But when you really think about it, the birth of baby Jesus is an underdog story. Can you imagine it? Joseph and his pregnant bride-to-be, ordered to travel far from home by the occupying government, the Romans. When they arrive in Bethlehem, it’s time for that baby to come. And where do they find to lay the newborn? The feed trough for animals, because there was “no room for them in the inn.” Talk about a humble beginning! From the world’s perspective, who is this child? A nobody, born to an unwed mother far from her home, laying in a makeshift bassinette. An underdog.

But…that’s not the whole story for this child! Listen to how John’s gospel describes the Jesus’ coming…

John 1: 1-4, 9-14:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning.3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 
9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. 
 14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

The birth of Jesus is nothing less than the arrival of God the Son, wrapped up in human flesh. And it is this—the coming of the Son of God as fully human—that makes a way for all of us who believe in Him to become children of God. Jesus, born as an underdog…to be the champion, fighting—and winning!—for all the rest of us underdogs, slaves to our sin. And, because of the coming of the Son, we too have become the daughters and sons of the King. We are now a part of His royal family! That is what the Advent season is really about: looking forward to the coming of the King, and celebrating that we have been adopted into the family!


* Some of you who might read this blog fairly regularly probably know that I have been volunteering for the past few summers at a camp for kids in the foster care system. Royal Family Kids is a pretty fantastic organization, with hundreds of camps operating across North America. Our local Royal Family Kids Camp has been in operation for four years, and I've now joined the leadership team. Our camp is sponsored by a church, but really it's a community-supported organization, with many businesses, families, and individuals coming together to make this camp free for the kids to attend, and with no costs passed on to the volunteers who make our local camp happen. 

This past weekend we had our annual dinner and dessert auction, which is our primary fund-raising event for the year. The rest of the leadership team asked me to serve as emcee for the event, and I agreed. The most stressful part for me was offering devotions at the beginning of the evening! It was a fantastic night of fellowship, sharing stories of how camp is making a difference, and--yes--fundraising. I'm grateful for the support of so many people for this ministry; it's a privilege to serve!