“Devotion” is the theological focus for the month of December. Surprisingly, the word appears rather infrequently in the most literal translations of the Bible. This does not, however, account for the presence of the concept of devotion more broadly found throughout Scripture. In older translations, such as the KJV, devotion features prominently. The Old Testament usage of this concept is usually associated with acts of consecration and dedication, where an object or person is set aside for a particular usage. In Leviticus, the language around this type of ritual is incredibly stern.
“Nevertheless, no devoted offering that a man may devote to the Lord of all that he has, both man and beast, or the field of his possession, shall be sold or redeemed; every devoted offering is most holy to the Lord” Leviticus 27:28 (NKJV).
Devotion entails a sacred dedication to something or someone. In the Nativity Story, this dedication is manifested by a number of characters. First and foremost, devotion is manifested by God, who demonstrates His faithfulness (or devotion) to Israel and humanity by taking on human flesh to save His people and the world. This devotion to the covenant promises made to Israel stands as an ageless testimony to God and God’s commitment to honor His word.
Deuteronomy 7:9 speaks to this: “Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps the covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandment, to a thousand generations.”
In the Hebrew context, devotion included the consecration of an object or of your very personhood to a calling or a divine purpose. It was God’s expectation of His people to be holy (set apart) and solely devoted to Him. God was devoted to His people and God expected His people to be devoted to him.
“No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money” (Luke 16:13, ESV).
We find similar examples of devotion in the figures of Mary and Joseph, who both in their own ways respond to God’s call with obedient devotion. Think of the bravery and dedication it took for Mary to willingly bear the Son of God has her child. Imagine the challenges and dangers this posed to her own safety and reputation, particularly as a woman. In responding to God’s call, we see a humble and holy answer from Mary: “Let it be done to me according to your word.” Joseph likewise demonstrates devotion in responding to God’s call upon his life, which certainly came at a cost to himself and his reputation, particularly given the questions about Mary’s conception taking place prior to their marriage. Finally, we can consider the birth of Christ, which became the prelude to a life of devotion, as the penultimate representation of an individual who would totally and absolutely commit himself to God and the plan of salvation for humanity.
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship” (Romans 12:1).