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?

On becoming a grandparent (part 3)

The BBC recently ran an article entitled “Indulgent grandparents ‘bad for children’s health’.” i'm going to be a grandma

The article looked at the areas of diet and weight; physical exercise; and smoking.

Grandparents were accused of using food as an emotional tool; their grandchildren were perceived to be getting too little exercise while under their care; and smoking around the grandchildren became an area of conflict between grandparents and parents.

To be fair, the report focused on the potential influence of grandparents who were ‘significant – but not primary – caregivers’ in a child’s early years, so these are not grandparents like my friend in my previous blog who sees his grandchildren now and again and feels free to give them a treat (and who of us wouldn’t?).

Grandparents who are significant caregivers obviously have a greater involvement in their grandchildren’s lives – and therefore the potential to influence them more, whether for good or for bad.

In the article, actress Maureen Lipman said that being a mother could be “quite challenging”, but being a grandmother was “just pure pleasure”.

Which reminds me of an old saying that grandparents love grandparenting because they get to do all the fun things – and then hand the kids back to their parents.

How do you view this if you are a parent? or a grandparent?

On becoming a grandparent (part 2)

In June 2016, ‘The Guardian’ ran an article entitled ‘Ten Ways to be a Fabulous Grandparent’ – here is a summary of what it came up with:

  1. Don’t admit your fears                                 i'm going to be a grandma
  2. Don’t project
  3. Avoid jealousy
  4. Only offer what you can give
  5. Brush up on your skills
  6. Be clear about cash
  7. Break the rules – a bit
  8. Don’t spend a fortune
  9. Manage long distance
  10. Accept that you have no control

No. 7 reminds me of a friend who is a grandparent who looks after grandchildren from time to time. From my observation, grandparents in this category think that part of their role is to spoil the kids – to give them treats that they are not allowed at home. My friend’s philosophy is that, if the kids have ‘sweetie day’ once a week, he can decide to have a extra sweetie day when the kids are with him.

Fair enough? What do other grandparents think of these top ten tips?

And what do you think if you are a parent?


On becoming a grandparent (part 1)

When does a granny become a granny – at conception of the baby or on delivery of the baby?     i'm going to be a grandma

I feel like I am already a gran. (You will notice the name-changing here – my exact title has yet to be finally decided. Maybe ‘nana’ sounds best, after all.)

I already care fiercely for the new lives which are growing in the wombs of both my daughters.

I feel protective of my daughters in a different way than I have ever done before.

I can’t wait to meet these two little babies.

But, as I wait, I’m wondering: what is a grandparent? And what kind of a grandparent will I be? And what kind of a grandparent should I be?

For it is becoming clear to me that there are several different kinds of grandparents. And what kind I will be depends on several things: what kind of a person I am; what the needs of my grandchildren will be; what the needs of their parents are; and the time and energy and other resources which I have available at the time.

The dictionary defines a grandparent simply as ‘a parent of one’s father or mother’. That’s not awfully helpful.

‘Psychology Todaysuggests there are 5 types of grandparents. This is a summary of them:

1. Formal grandparent: follows what are believed to be the appropriate guidelines for the grandparenting role, which includes providing occasional services and maintaining an interest in the grandchild, but not becoming overly involved.

2. Fun seeker: emphasizes the leisure aspects of the role and primarily provides entertainment for the grandchild.

3. Surrogate parent: takes over the caretaking role with the child.

4. Reservoir of family wisdom (usually a grandfather): the head of the family who dispenses advice and resources but also controls the parent generation.

5. Distant figure: has infrequent contact with the grandchildren, appearing only on holidays and special occasions.

There are more and more grandparents who fall into category 3, due to things like illness, death and divorce.

So, if you are a grandparent, how do you see this? where do you fit in?

If you are a parent, what about your perspective? where do your parents fit in?