Advent Devotional Day 27: “Chip Off the Old Block”

December 27, 2018

During the month of December, I’ve prepared a series of daily devotionals to help my church get ready for and celebrate Christmas. I created a booklet (if you’d like a copy, let me know), but I’ll also post devotionals each day on my blog.

Devotional Text: Matthew 1:20-24

The movie Elf, starring Will Ferrell, has recently become a beloved holiday favorite. It tells the story of Buddy, a human child who grows up among Santa’s elves in the North Pole. Buddy becomes a hero in his own right, but I want to take a moment to appreciate an unsung hero of this story: Papa Elf, played by Bob Newhart. He is the adoptive father to Buddy.  

Think about it: Buddy becomes the person he is, and is able to do the heroic things that he does, in part because of the role that Papa Elf played in his life.

If that’s true of Buddy the Elf, don’t you think it’s true of Jesus, too?

Before we answer that, let’s think through the mystery of the Incarnation: Jesus didn’t emerge from the womb on that first Christmas endowed with superhuman knowledge, power, and wisdom, fully equipped from birth to be Messiah and Son of God. On the contrary, after the 12-year-old Jesus visits the temple in Jerusalem in Luke chapter 2, Luke writes that Jesus “increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor.” While he was without sin, Jesus grew physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

That’s why, by the way, I never understood the line in “Away in the Manger” about “the little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes.” He was as helpless and vulnerable as any baby, needing the love and care of his parents. Of course Jesus cried! Why wouldn’t he cry?

The point is, Jesus grew into the person that he did in part because of Joseph—his love, his example, his instruction, his discipline. Jesus wasn’t simply a “chip off the old block” because he was like his heavenly Father—although he was that, too—but also because he was like his earthly father, Joseph.

In fact, every time Jesus spoke of God as a loving Father—for example, in the Parable of the Prodigal Son—he did so in part because of his experience of Joseph as a loving father. I can only imagine that God chose Joseph to be Jesus’ father because he was the greatest earthly father who ever lived!

To say the least, this challenges me to think more soberly about my role as a parent. How about you? 

If you have a child, have you ever considered that God chose you to be that child’s parent? What an awesome responsibility! But if God chose you, that means he’s also giving you the grace to be successful at it!

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