Focal verse

“To you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger” (Luke 2:11-12).


We found the cat in our garage one morning. She must have snuck in to get away from the cold, and in the early morning my son heard the scratching on our door. Once both children saw her, they were enamored. Our neighborhood is not unfamiliar with random cats but hadn’t seen this one before. She looked young. After chasing her around the house and cuddling with her, we left her outside. As we came and went throughout the day, she remained close to our house.

The next day she greeted us again, and we decided to take her to the veterinarian. Like many wild cats, she needed some attention and medicine, but we committed to seeing her to health and to making her part of our family.

I, especially, had no intention of adding another pet to our home. But sometimes unexpected gifts come knocking, and all we can do is accept them with open arms. As a family we’re learning to care for this newest addition—pills, creams and all.

The Advent season is packed with unexpected gifts, and we should open our homes and hearts to receive them. Like Mary, we can trust in the goodness of God. Like Joseph, we can listen to our dreams and the angels among us. Like the magi, we can offer what we have. Like the angels, we can sing and share our joy. Like the shepherds, we can keep watch for the beauty before us.

This season, as we wait for the baby born in a manger, reflect on the unexpected gifts in your life: the morning quiet before everyone is awake; decorating cookies and delivering them to neighbors; sitting under the light of the Christmas tree; volunteering at a local soup kitchen or nursing home; reading the story of Jesus’ birth as a family and pondering this story in your heart.

However you honor this time, remember that Jesus was born for you and your family. He came into the world so all would know the saving grace of God’s love for all the world.


  • Take part in random acts of kindness. Leave a bigger tip at a restaurant or coffee shop. Leave encouraging notes around town. Drop cookies off with neighbors or teachers. Leave treats for postal workers.
  • Read a chapter from the Gospel of Luke each day to immerse your family in Jesus’ life.
  • Read ‘Twas the Season of Advent: Devotions and Stories for the Christmas Season (Zonderkidz, 2021), a great family Advent devotional to study together each day.

Prayer practice

Drive around to see the Christmas lights and nativity displays in your town. Before or after, pray together: Light of the World, thank you for shining your love on us. Help us be beacons of hope for the world. Comfort us. Guide us. And send us forth to tell others of the good news of Jesus’ birth. 

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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