Focal verse

“Let all that you do be done in love” (1 Corinthians 16:14).


One word guides the way I teach Sunday school: love.

On the first day of class this year, I began with students’ highs and lows of that week. And then I pointed to the whiteboard and asked the kids to read the word they saw: “love.”

As a class, we talked about what love looks like and how loving others means listening to one another, sharing kind words and caring about those who are with us. Every time we gather, I said, love will be our guide.

As we’re all preparing for another Christmas season and engaged in Advent services, love feels like a good way to approach the next few weeks.

Parents are busy coordinating, organizing and running the day-to-day tasks of family life. On top of everyday living, the Advent and Christmas season brings more of everything: More gatherings with food and cookies. More parties and presents. More worship services and prayer. More family get-togethers. More concerts and practices. But when I look at my calendar and see the to-do list, I remember the word I want to focus on.

We don’t need one more thing to do this season; rather, we need the one thing that brings meaning into the season: love. It’s this love—of God, family and community—that brings light into the ever-darkening days this December. This love takes a seat at our tables when we gather for a meal and pray for our world. This love joins us at story time when we read of Mary, Joseph and the birth of Jesus. This love joins us when we sing carols at church or on neighborhood streets. This love shows up on the days we don’t feel merry and bright. This love comes to us when we don’t decorate or bake cookies or wrap gifts or attend worship. This love meets us in our grief and our doubts. This love comes to us in the manger, a baby with open arms for all.

This season, however you’re feeling, trust that God’s love is reaching for you.


  • Pick one thing to do this Advent to prepare for Christmas. Maybe it’s reading from a children’s Bible a few times a week or counting down with an Advent calendar. Do what works for your family in this season.
  • Read seasonal books together such as Little Mole’s Christmas Gift (Beaming Books, 2020) and The Birth of Jesus: A Christmas Pop-Up Book (Sparkhouse, 2016).
  • Sing Christmas carols and hymns together. Pick a verse from one of your favorites (our family has sung “The First Noel” or “Joy to the World,” for example) and use it as a prayer before meals.

Service opportunity

Make a basket of goodies for your mail carriers. Think about others who work extra hours this holiday season and surprise them with encouraging notes.


We pray for those working longer hours in this season.

We pray for all those who teach children.

We pray for new parents, expectant parents and those longing for children of their own.

We give thanks for church leaders, musicians and all who share their gifts with faith communities.

We give thanks for candlelight, homemade cookies and Christmas trees and decorations.

We give thanks for Jesus’ birth and for the God who loves this world so much.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayers. Amen.

Kimberly Knowle-Zeller
Kimberly Knowle-Zeller is an ordained ELCA pastor, mother of two, spouse of an ELCA pastor and co-author of The Beauty of Motherhood: Grace-Filled Devotions for the Early Years. She lives with her family in Cole Camp, Mo. Her website is

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