The Christmas season easily overwhelms, and meaning can be lost in the busyness. But a new Christmas devotional by Mark M. Yarbrough, Tidings of Comfort & Joy: 25 Devotions Leading to Christmas, reminds us why we celebrate with 25 short devotions to help focus December on Jesus.
Yarbrough—author of How to Read the Bible Like a Seminary Professor and Paul’s Utilization of Preformed Traditions in 1 Timothy—combines Scripture reflections, winsome stories, advent applications, and guided prayers, making Tidings of Comfort and Joy the resource you and your family may turn to each year to prepare your heart for the wonder and meaning of Christmas.
What are some of your favorite Christmas memories?
My best memories are family-oriented. My mother’s parents lived in southern Indiana, so as a family we usually traveled from Dallas to Indiana for Christmas. What a special time as my grandparents were always overjoyed to see us, and we them; so there was a lot of love happening during our entire stay. On Christmas Eve my grandfather would read the nativity story from Luke’s Gospel and then we would all sing carols. Of course, on Christmas morning, as a kid, I usually made out like a bandit, and my Dad would wonder if there was going to be enough room in the car for our return home. In addition, the weather was usually colder than in Dallas, so there were many times I got to enjoy snow as we traveled north. I am happy to say we still continue many of these traditions with my parents and my family in a similar fashion.
What was the experience like of writing a Christmas devotional?
It came easy for me since I am a Christmas freak! Evidently, it is in my blood. It is my most wonderful and favorite time of the year, so it didn’t take much to get me into the mood to write a book about Christmas. I just needed to nail down my format and Scripture topics, then I was off to the races. Even in my younger years when I was in a singing group, I pushed to cut a Christmas album because I loved the messages in the carols. The Christmas season lends itself so well to the telling of the gospel message from both the Old and New Testaments.
Why should Christians use Christmas devotionals?
For Christians, devotionals by design are meant to draw us closer to God and to reflect upon him and his Word, whether they be seasonal in content or daily throughout the year. Devotionals can help believers focus upon a certain idea, a certain passage of Scripture, or an emotion the author wishes to solicit. Devotionals are beneficial to the Christ-follower—but especially so at Christmas. After all, what better time is there to profess our faith and to be strengthened in the reason for our faith?
What sorts of insights into some of your Christmas passages struck as fresh when writing this book?
Several passages touched me anew as I wrote. December 25 (Gal 4:4–5) comes to mind. It was at just the right moment in time that Jesus came—not a minute too early or a minute too late. The anticipation of the next coming of Jesus is transformational. Also, I enjoyed writing “The Baruch Buzz” for December 19 and 20. It gave new excitement about the stories of Simeon and Anna from Luke 2:25–38. Finally, I was excited to tell the story on December 15 of the boy with five loaves and two fish from Mark 6:41–44. We usually don’t think of that as a Christmas story, but I tried to make it one for this devotional. However, each of the 25 Scriptures I selected from both the Old and the New Testament stand tall in telling the Christmas story. It is the old, old story that still has new ramifications for our lives today. That’s why I am thankful for Christmas.
How would you encourage families to incorporate this book into family traditions or devotions?
It would be my wish that the family would gather at some point in the day to read aloud the devotion for that day along with the suggested Scriptures and prayer. Of course, the age of the family members will determine the extent to which this is followed. However, I did try to incorporate an “Advent Application” each day in which all members of the family might participate. Many of these have been tested personally, and I know they are helpful. These suggestions could be repeated as desired. This book could be reread each December (almost afresh) as we might be hard-pressed to remember what was read a year ago. So put the book away with the decorations each year, but make sure it is handy at Christmastime.
How would you encourage pastors to handle teaching their congregations during Advent?
One way would be to encourage pastors to preach to the season. Devote the month of December to messages related to the birth of Christ. This gives reason to the season and to our faith. Offer special music for worship. Go caroling. Conduct a Christmas Eve family worship service. Have Christmas movie nights. Encourage the entire church community (Sunday School classes, AWANA, youth gatherings, etc.) to add emphasis to the birth of Christ and its meaning to our faith. Promote literature and Scripture to be read in the home. Use a devotional to be read daily during Advent; it is designed for this purpose. The secular world knows well how to capture the season for its benefit. Why shouldn’t the Church do the same and be proactive and talk about Jesus as much as it can?
What word of advice would you give to families looking to start Advent traditions?
I entered this world and into a family that was already steeped with Christmas traditions. I have watched the baton get passed from one generation to the next to the next. I don’t want to drop it either. However, I realize some families are not as fortunate—but as they say, the greatest journey begins with the first step. Any family can (and should) start with some worthy activity that they would like to perpetuate into the future, Lord willing. My advice is to start this Advent season with at least one activity. I would suggest gathering the entire family on Christmas Eve and read aloud Luke 2:1–20 and then sing a carol such as “Silent Night.” That’s a start, and starting is the hardest part. Then go grab the hot chocolate and cookies for everyone. This is how traditions and memories are made.
Hear from Mark Yarbrough on why people need Christmas devotionals—and what sets his apart:
Praise for Tidings of Comfort and Joy
This is a 5-star rated resource for Christmas! We laughed, learned, and worshiped as we made our way through Mark Yarbrough’s new Christmas devotional, Tidings of Comfort and Joy. Both of us are all about putting Jesus back into Christmas, and Mark has done a terrific job of helping individuals, couples, and families truly exalt Christ. Get this book and go through it. It will become a “Go-To” resource for Christmas both now and for the generations to come.
—Dennis and Barbara Rainey, cofounders of FamilyLife
Christmas begs us to reflect on the first advent of Jesus. In Tidings of Comfort and Joy, Mark Yarbrough skillfully leads us on a devotional journey to do just that. Listen up people: ponder the King’s presence on the planet. Read this book. Engage God’s Word. Submit to the desires of King Jesus this Christmas. When you do, you will remember that God changed the world—and that he daily longs to change yours as well.
—Tony Evans, senior pastor, Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship; president, The Urban Alternative
Mark M. Yarbrough is vice president for communications, associate academic dean, and assistant professor of Bible exposition at Dallas Theological Seminary. Read more about how Logos has impacted Dallas Theological Seminary in A Portable Library for Every Student: How Dallas Theological Seminary Equips the Next Generation.