A Devotion for the Seventh Day of Christmas on December 31, 2017
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5
In 1979 the American Embassy in Iran was overrun and those who lived there were taken hostage. The first contact the West had with the hostages was at Christmas that year. Some clergy were allowed to go in and conduct religious services. William Sloane Coffin was one of those. Two armed students met him at the Embassy, led him to a room and left him there. Eventually, they returned with four of the hostages, Marines who had been assigned to guard the Embassy. Coffin passed out books of Christmas carols, and played the piano while they sang. Afterwards, he passed around his Bible and let each person read a part of the Christmas story.
As he spoke to the men, he told them that the Holy Family had been rejected, abandoned, and isolated in a barn. But God’s love changed that barn into a holy place. “This will not be your most joyful Christmas, but it could be your most meaningful one.”
Asking everyone to join hands, he invited the Iranian guards to join hands with them. To his surprise, they did. Standing in the circle Coffin prayed that “they might experience a moment of grace when, in the sight of God, there be neither American nor Iranian, neither captive and captor . . . but that their hearts would be big enough to receive the Christ Child, and that one day they might gather around the manger as one family.”
Coffin said he could see one of the Iranian guards was crying, trying to fight back the tears. “I began to weep, too, because after all, that is why God gave us tears. To wash away all bitterness, the sorrow, and the anger.”
Jesus was born into a world that needed light. In that light, in that love . . . bitterness, sorrow and anger can wash away. Tomorrow begins a new year, a fresh canvas to be painted on with our actions, thoughts, commitments, compassion and our love. It is a year where we can be people who live in the confidence there is one who washes away bitterness, sorrow and anger . . . One who brings us new life. May the New Year be a joy and a gift to you.
Prayer: God of Christmas, may we remember that the light you sent in Christ came into the world to stay . . . To light our journeys, illumine our darkness and lead us to life in you. Be with us in this New Year in all we encounter and in all we face. May we trust in the power of your light and the joy of your presence. Amen.
Additional Advent & Christmastide Devotions can be found by clicking here: Advent & Christmastide Devotions