Emmanuel – just for Christmas?

Scrolling through social media, here are some of the comments I have noticed as the year draws to a close:

snowy-field-nature-hd-wallpaper-2880x1800-49823

 

That’s all till next year – thank goodness summer’s coming.

Say good bye to December. Hello to giving your January a little boost. 

Leave a positive word I can carry into 2018.

 

If I asked the question ‘What one word describes how you feel as you enter a new year?’ I wonder what you would say? Some of my friends said:

Happy

Hopeful

Alive

Optimistic

Excited

Blessed

Expectant

Anticipation

If I’m honest, I have always struggled between Christmas and New Year. The excitement of Christmas has gone with the tree lights and the tinsel. Now the cold, dark nights of the long month of January loom ahead. I remember at school writing a poem about this time of year and visualising it as a snowy field – untrodden, white, unknown. The poem didn’t impress my teacher – but the sentiments described how I felt.

So we may be happy or hopeful or anxious or fearful – and we may have good reasons to be all of those things in the course of this New Year.

What a relief, then, that our adventure into 2018 does not depend on our feelings. The Christ-child we have just celebrated at Christmas was the One whose coming changed everything for us. He is Emmanuel – God with us. Pause and think about that for a moment. Let the wonder of it soak into your soul. God is with us.

GOD is with us.

God IS with us.

God is WITH us.

God is with US.

Paul Tripp, in his devotional ‘Come let us adore him’, says this: ‘My prayer is that as you live with the glory of a birth-of-Jesus mentality, it will cause you to carry with you the security of a child-of-God identity’.

That truth is what provides the security I need as I step into 2018, regardless of my feelings.

Happy New Year!

God is with us!

 

 

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Why did Jesus come? (part 5)

Advent 4Love bade me welcome

George Herbert, 15931633

Love bade me welcome: yet my soul drew back,
	Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
	From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
	If I lacked anything.

“A guest," I answered, “worthy to be here”:
	Love said, “You shall be he.”
“I, the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my dear,
	I cannot look on thee.”
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
	“Who made the eyes but I?”

“Truth, Lord; but I have marred them; let my shame
	Go where it doth deserve.”
“And know you not," says Love, “who bore the blame?”
	“My dear, then I will serve.”
“You must sit down," says Love, “and taste my meat.”
	So I did sit and eat.


Why did Jesus come? (part 4)

It’s the fourth Sunday of Advent and we are exploring the theme of why Jesus came.

Advent 4‘The Word became flesh and blood,
    and moved into the neighborhood.
We saw the glory with our own eyes,
    the one-of-a-kind glory,
    like Father, like Son,
Generous inside and out,
    true from start to finish.’

John 1:14 in The Message

Why did Jesus come? Because his Father sent him to be the Saviour of the world and in that supreme act of obedience to his Father, Jesus brought glory to God.

Not everyone recognised his glory. Some laughed; some mocked; some were suspicious; some were not interested.

‘But whoever did want him,
    who believed he was who he claimed
    and would do what he said,
He made to be their true selves,
    their child-of-God selves.
These are the God-begotten,
    not blood-begotten,
    not flesh-begotten,
    not sex-begotten.’

And as he makes us become our true selves, our ‘child-of-God selves’, he brings glory to God – the one-of-a-kind glory – and we get to be part of his amazing story.

O Come, All Ye Faithful! (John Francis Wade, 1751)

O come, all ye faithful, Joyful and triumphant,
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem;
Come and behold him, Born the King of angels;
O come, let us adore him, O come, let us adore him,
O Come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord.
God of God, Light of Light,
Lo! he abhors not the Virgin’s womb:
Very God, Begotten, not created;
Sing, choirs of angels, Sing in exultation,
Sing, all ye citizens of heaven above;
Glory to God In the highest;
See how the shepherds, Summoned to his cradle,
Leaving their flocks, draw nigh to gaze;
We too will thither Bend our joyful footsteps;
Child, for us sinners, Poor and in the manger,
We would embrace thee, with love and awe;
Who would not live thee, Loving us so dearly?
Yea, Lord, we greet thee, Born this happy morning;
Jesus, to thee be glory given; Word of the Father,
Now in flesh appearing;

Why did Jesus come? (part 3)

 

Advent 3Maybe you don’t feel like you need some light – or maybe you do. Most of us can readily agree that the world has become a dark place in many ways. We hear constantly of acts of terrorism, hurricanes, earthquakes, wars, violence, abuse, injustice, poverty, famine and many other things which cause the darkness of fear to descend on our hearts and minds.

John says in John 1:9: ‘The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.’ Is the world a darker place now than it was when Jesus was born as a baby in Bethlehem? Let’s not forget that he was born into the midst of violence, injustice, threats and poverty. King Herod planned to kill him if he could and, in an effort to do that, ordered all the baby boys to be killed. Joseph and Mary had to flee like refugees to Egypt in order to keep their baby safe. They were so poor that, when the time came for them to offer sacrifices at the temple, they offered a poor man’s offering – two turtle doves.

So how did Jesus’ coming bring light to the darkness then – and how does it do that for us today? John 1:5 says ‘The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.’ Just as the darkness is dispelled by a single candle in a dark room, so the coming of Jesus brought light into the darkness of our world.

And so it is today. At times it may seem like a faint flickering of a candle – but the darkness will not overcome it. The light will keep shining into our darkness – and one day it will extinguish the darkness – forever.

O Holy Night (Placide Cappeau, 1847)

Oh holy night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth!
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till he appear’d and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!
Fall on your knees, Oh hear the angel voices.
Oh night divine, Oh night when Christ was born
Oh night divine, Oh night divine.
Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand;
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,
Here come the wise men from Orient land.
The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger,
In all our trials born to be our friend.
Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break, for the slave is our brother
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name.

 

 

Why did Jesus come? (part 2)

 

Advent 2

I have no sense of direction and, without the aid of Google Maps or something similar, I would easily get lost. If you can identify with that, you know the panic when you are on a strange road on the way to a place you have never been before, with a deadline to meet, and you lose your bearings, or Google Maps fails you. Without a guide, you actually have no way of getting to the place you need to be.

In real life, maybe most of us don’t feel lost most of the time. But there are times when we lose our bearings. Maybe life takes an unexpected turn because of a medical diagnosis. Or perhaps we come to a dead end due to the loss of a loved one. Whatever the circumstance, there are times in life when we feel lost. We are travelling a way we have never gone before and we have no map.

‘The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost,’ says Jesus in Luke 19:10. One of the reasons he came was to help us find our way – not only our way through the bends and twists of our lives, but also the way back to a connection with God. We were made for that, we are lost without it, and Jesus came so that he can help us navigate our way back into that safe place where we know that we are connected to him – for he is ‘the way, the truth and the life’. He gives direction to life and he gives meaning to life.

Once In Royal David’s City (Cecil Frances Alexander, 1848)

Once in royal David’s city,
Stood a lowly cattle shed,
Where a mother laid her Baby,
In a manger for His bed:
Mary was that mother mild,
Jesus Christ, her little Child.
He came down to earth from heaven,
Who is God and Lord of all,
And His shelter was a stable,
And His cradle was a stall:
With the poor, and mean, and lowly,
Lived on earth our Saviour holy.
For He is our childhood’s pattern;
Day by day, like us, He grew;
He was little, weak, and helpless,
Tears and smiles, like us He knew;
And He feeleth for our sadness,
And he shareth in our gladness.
And our eyes at last shall see Him,
Through His own redeeming love;
For that Child so dear and gentle,
Is our Lord in heaven above:
And He leads His children on,
To the place where He is gone.
Not in that poor lowly stable,
With the oxen standing by,
We shall see Him; but in heaven,
Set at God’s right hand on high;
Where like stars His children crowned
All in white shall wait around.

 

Why did Jesus come? (part 1)

Advent 1

Have you ever felt that your life was meaningless? or worthless? or going nowhere? Have you thought that there must be more to life than the life you’re living? Jesus came to bring us life to the full.

Jesus says ‘I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of‘ (John 10:10, The Message).

This is not just everlasting life – life in heaven when we die – this is a quality of life now, in the present, in our everyday life: a quality of life which is ‘abundant’ and which is ‘more and better’ than we have ever dreamed of.

It is also, as Alain Emerson says in his powerful book ‘Luminous Dark’ ‘much more than a spiritual buzz. Pursuing happiness alone, often what contemporary popular Christianity settles for, is a poor substitute. Jesus is inviting us into the reality of being ALIVE, fully ALIVE, through all the seasons of life.’

Joy To The World (Isaac Watts, 1719)

Joy to the world! the Lord is come;
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room, and heaven and nature sing,
and heaven and nature sing, and heaven, and heaven and nature sing.
Joy to the earth! the Savior reigns;
Let men their songs employ;
while fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy, Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.
No more let sins and sorrows grow,
nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessing flow far as the curse is found,
far as the curse is found, far as, far as the curse is found.
He rules the world with truth and grace,
and makes the nations prove
the glories of His righteousness, and wonders of His love,
and wonders of His love, and wonders, wonders of His love.

 

 

On becoming a grandparent (part 4)

In this final article, I’m exploring the wisdom of the Bible  i'm going to be a grandma

to find out what it has to say to grandparents.

One of the greatest privileges of grandparents is to pray for their grandchildren (and they can start  this well before they are born), but they also have a responsibility to teach their grandchildren what they have learned from God. I love this practical advice from Moses to the Israelites in Deuteronomy 4:

‘Just make sure you stay alert. Keep close watch over yourselves. Don’t forget anything of what you’ve seen. Don’t let your heart wander off. Stay vigilant as long as you live. Teach what you’ve seen and heard to your children and grandchildren.’

I can’t help but think this is what Timothy’s grandmother did, for Paul writes to him in II Timothy 1:5 :  ‘I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.’ 

The Bible describes grandchildren as a blessing, as we see in passages like this one in Psalm 128:5&6: ‘Enjoy the good life in Jerusalem every day of your life. And enjoy your grandchildren. Peace to Israel!’.

And in the book of Ruth, we see a picture of the blessing which grandchildren are to their grandparents, when Naomi’s daughter-in-law Ruth has her baby:

Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel! He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age, for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.” Then Naomi took the child and laid him on her lap and became his nurse.

But the Bible also illustrates how grandparents can bless their grandchildren. In Genesis 48, Joseph brings his two sons to the deathbed of his father, Jacob, who blesses them with this blessing:

“May the God before whom my fathers
    Abraham and Isaac walked faithfully,
the God who has been my shepherd
    all my life to this day,
the Angel who has delivered me from all harm
    —may he bless these boys.
May they be called by my name
    and the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac,
and may they increase greatly
    on the earth.”

If you are a grandparent, how can you bless your grandchildren?
If you are a parent, how can you see that your children are a blessing to your parents?