Luke 2:8-19 New International Version (NIV)
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.
Good news for all - that is the message of Christmas.
That is the hope of Christmas.
In our reading the biggest invitation came to the most outcast of people. Shepherds.
I believe that all are welcome to come and meet Jesus in the Christmas story and in so much more.
I believe our destiny is not set.
I believe our future is not written.
I believe our choices not yet made.
No matter what path you have trod to get to here tonight, no matter what life journey you’ve been on….tonight you have a chance, like the shepherds to kneel before Jesus and praise him.
And that’s because ….Adoption into God kingdom is open to all. No mater how far you fall, or wander…or drift…
Redemption is there for everyone.
Because of Jesus.
A way is opened
And that gives us hope.
Christmas is indeed good news…our fears are gone and we can again discover the welcoming, loving acceptance of our creator - because of this tiny baby, who went on to show us the way of life lived to its fullest and most beautiful…a life lived following God’s plan.
And because of this tiny baby who then went on to pay the price, that way is open - that adoption is real.
And so today I invite you to accept Jesus into you life - and let his love transform you.
Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand. Then they knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him.
Then they led him away to crucify him.
As a life-long republican I am slightly sheepish when I say that I have been absolutely gripped by the Netflix wonder that is, “The Crown”! How true to real life it is I have no way of knowing but I have found the insight into the burdens and restrictions of royal life have softened my attitudes and given me a new appreciation of our sovereign. By watching her relationships with so many Prime Ministers over the years I find that I am immensely grateful for the continuity and wisdom she brings and which we need now more than ever! But I am also in awe of the costumes, palaces and incredible pomp and protocol that are part of every day life for our Queen, and which she enjoys (or endures) as part of her service for us.
At Christmas we sing about the baby King Jesus. We tell the story of how this royal baby was born, not in a palace, but an animal outhouse. We acknowledge the Kingly gifts brought by the wise men, but we often leave the royal connection in the Christmas story and don’t pick it up again until the very end of Jesus’ life, when it appears in the form of terrible torture and the very opposite of what this King of kings deserves. In their horrible mocking of Jesus, the roman soldiers pay lip service to the kind of tributes we still pay to our royals, except that his crown was piercing his head, and his sceptre was taken and used to hit him round the head. His royal robe stripped as he was led out not to greet the crowds on the balcony, but to the hill to die. What would possibly cause someone so royal and so important to endure such a travesty of his status?
Love- that is what made him do it. Love for you and love for me. This royal baby, so long awaited, grew to be a royal King who willingly gave up all the pomp and circumstance and went to a criminal’s death for us.
What a Christmas present! If you are wondering what you are worth this Christmas, consider the King who died for you.
4 Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. 6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.
Every week in our Little Sparklers toddler group I lead the singing. Every week we sing the old favourite, “Wind a Bobbin Up”, and every time we sing it I am reminded of the footage shown so often on the news of Nazanin Zighari- Radcliffe singing this simple song with her own toddler. Every time I send up a prayer for this poor young mother separated from her family and caught up in a nightmare of other people’s making.
When we read these words about Jesus it can sound as though he too was caught up in a nightmare of other peoples’ making- and yet nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus did not come to earth to be a powerless victim but to purposefully put himself in our place. He chose to be that perfect lamb sacrificing himself for us in our place, taking on himself our pain and brokenness. This can be hard to take in and understand- why would anyone do that for us, let alone the Son of God who had so much more to lose and seemingly nothing to gain? We read these words of a silent suffering servant and imagine tragedy and defeat when actually this was the moment of victory- God’s wonderful rescue plan happening under everyday peoples noses.
This Christmas perhaps you will join with me in praying for the release of Nazanin, but perhaps you will also discover a release for yourself in the Christmas baby that came to be your suffering, triumphant saviour?
Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, “Ask the Lord your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights.”
So we are drawing to the end of Advent…Christmas is almost here and hopefully you are ready (or almost!)
Many years ago there was a film called Bruce Almighty where God lets someone take His place (well just a small part of it) for a week. There is much that is good in this film but there is this one scene when Bruce is struggling with life, everything is going wrong and it feels if no one cares. Bruce is crying out to God for a sign, something to tell him what to do….and as he is driving there is sign after sign after sign all telling Bruce to stop. Bruce misses all of them and ends up crashing and in hospital.
He missed the signs from God because he was too busy complaining, he was too distracted to notice God.
Have you been too busy to notice God speaking this Advent?
Have you been distracted with the season to miss the reason?
Have you lost sight of Jesus in the shopping and celebrations?
The can I invite you to stop.
Pause - Look. And see the sign.
Come along and meet with God - there is still time to see the sign and look upon Jesus with wonder.
21st December at 7:30pm - Blue Christmas - remembering loved ones who are missed.
22nd December at 7:00pm - Boogie Woogie Carols at the Coach and Horses
24th December at 4:30pm - Messy Chrstingle
24th December at 11:30pm Mid-night Communion
25th December 10:30am Christmas Morning Celebration
Dear brothers and sisters, be patient as you wait for the Lord’s return. Consider the farmers who patiently wait for the rains in the fall and in the spring. They eagerly look for the valuable harvest to ripen. You, too, must be patient. Take courage, for the coming of the Lord is near.
Don’t grumble about each other, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. For look—the Judge is standing at the door!
For examples of patience in suffering, dear brothers and sisters, look at the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.
Waiting. Wait a minute. Wait your turn. There will be a 40 minute wait. You’ll have to wait a few weeks for your referral letter to come though. You’ll need to wait for your name to come up to the top of the list. You’ll have to wait to see what the market is doing. You can wait here, hold the line, try again later?
How long will I have to wait before I have enough money to buy a house? For a successful interview? For my exam results? To see a consultant? To receive care for me / my family? To meet a life-long partner?
I am waiting - will I ever? See my Dad again? Be free of this pain? Have confidence? Have a baby? Be reconciled with my family?
Waiting can of course at times be little more than a frustration, but so often isn’t what really bothers us about waiting, in fact the fear of hearing news we wish were not true, and fear of never realising the hopes, dreams and desires of our souls? Fear of failure, fear of the unknown, fear of loss of what we have, or what we may never attain?
And of course our experience shows that if our waiting comes to an end, it can truly be a result of the deepest joy when our hope has been fulfilled, or the deepest brokenness and grief for when our dream has died.
This passage in James in the midst of ‘waiting’ can be a tough read - you could be forgiven for taking it as ‘Others have suffered worse than you - get on with it.’
But Jesus, in the beauty of this incredible story of birth, grows up to be a man who’s words and actions tell us that he dances with us in our joy, and weeps with us in our sadness.
It would be foolish to ever try to comprehend God’s plan for our lives, so we have to have faith to trust in His promises, in His plan for salvation.
Easier said than done? You bet! I tell you, if I were Joseph, Abraham, Sarah, Elizabeth, Job, Naomi, Esther.... there are plenty of points when I would have had a fair few things to say to God! And I say with some certainty, I don’t know that my character or faith would have survived many of the things they experienced.
Want to read more about what faithful
men and women of God have endured? Hebrews Ch 11 is a great passage.
Whatever you may be waiting for, know that you are not alone. God cares about you, He knows you, He promises to be with you. Take one day at a time.
When I am waiting, I go through the full spectrum of emotions and cognitive behaviours.
I also have very loving and patient friends. Let Jesus be the most loving friend you can share your waiting with, don’t try to shoulder it alone.
And Mary said:
“My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me--
holy is his name.
His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever,
just as he promised our ancestors.”
"Joseph, I have something really serious to tell you" said Mary. I was visited by Angels of the Lord and they told me that The Holy Spirit is within me and I will give birth to God's Son.
I told them that I was about to be married you, but they said the baby's mother had to be a virgin. Joseph was shocked, but as he was a righteous man, he did not want to expose her to public disgrace and thought he would divorce Mary quietly after the birth. Before he thought any further an Angel appeared before him in a dream and said "Joseph son of David do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, she has conceived from the Holy Spirit God's son who shall be called Jesus and he will save all people from their sins".
Joseph did as the Angel bid and took Mary to his home as his wife, but they did not live as husband and wife until the Jesus was born.
Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord their God.
He is the Maker of heaven and earth,
the sea, and everything in them--
he remains faithful forever.
He upholds the cause of the oppressed
and gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets prisoners free,
the Lord gives sight to the blind,
the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down,
the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the foreigner
and sustains the fatherless and the widow,
but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.
The Lord reigns forever,
your God, O Zion, for all generations.
Praise the Lord.
When you are walking to school, work, or walking the dog, do you look around you or are you in too much of a rush? Perhaps you are wrapped up in your own little world, thinking about yourself and your problems? If so, you may fail to see what is around you. Have you noticed on bushes and trees there is already a bud in the place where a leaf has just fallen off, waiting for Spring? (a lilac bush is a good place to start).
When did you last look at the stars, or the shapes of the clouds?
Do you watch nature programmes on t.v. and wonder who made it all? Who is in charge? Who keeps the plants from colliding? Who is big enough to create all the heavens and the earth with all their varieties of birds and animals, insects and flowers?
Would someone this big and powerful want to know about you and me? The answer is “Yes, he made us too”. He wants to help us, just as he helps a new chick break out of it’s shell. He wants to help us discover that we can have a new life in Jesus, a life full of strength to do the right thing, full of hope that the best is yet to be. If you would like his help to live a better, more caring life, you only have to ask Him. He loves you very much and cares deeply for and about you.
Joy of the Redeemed
The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, 2 it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy. The glory of Lebanon will be given to it, the splendour of Carmel and Sharon; they will see the glory of the Lord, the splendour of our God.
3 Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way; 4 say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you.”
5 Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. 6 Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy. Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert. 7 The burning sand will become a pool, the thirsty ground bubbling springs. In the haunts where jackals once lay, grass and reeds and papyrus will grow.
8 And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness; it will be for those who walk on that Way. The unclean will not journey on it; wicked fools will not go about on it. 9 No lion will be there, nor any ravenous beast; they will not be found there. But only the redeemed will walk there, 10 and those the Lord has rescued will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.
Reading the passage. Reflect on a verse that speaks to you. Read the passage again but in a different translation.
For those at morning service yesterday V 5 and 6 of this page have a link with what Jesus told John the Baptist’s disciples to tell John in Matthew 11 v 5 – “The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.”
If you want to dig deeper, I would recommend Isaiah for Everyone by John Goldingay.
This is a passage of hope, water bursting forth in the dessert.
As we walk the way of hope, let us reflect on how we can serve Jesus by serving others and be an encourager like Barnabas.
Last night David reminded us that Jesus came into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday on a donkey. He came in peace. A different type of King. He was born in a stable, a refugee in Egypt.
Thought for day – How can I bring hope to those I meet this week? How can I bring Justice to the poor?
Thank you - I would like to thank those who run the food bank, support new hope, help refugees, give advice at Citzens Advice, support Christians against poverty, Dave Luddington and others bringing help in Albania after the Earthquake.
Prayer (based on a prayer by Richard Foster)
O Lord hear the cry of the defenceless,
The men who are defeated by life.
The children who have no food to eat.
The homeless who have no place to sleep.
The prisoners who have no one who cares.
The women who are beaten and abused.
The elderly who are shoved aside.
Hear their cry.
Lord help me to care and bring hope.
After Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in the towns of Galilee.[a]
2 When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples3 to ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”
4 Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: 5 The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy[b] are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. 6 Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”
“Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”
For Jews the answer is that Jesus is not the Messiah and that we should expect someone else. Orthodox Jews in particular still believe that the Messiah is yet to come.
For Muslims the answer is that Jesus was a great prophet, but that Mohammed is the last and greatest prophet and messenger of God. The words of the Qu’ran specifically deny Jesus is the Son of God, but they do believe that Jesus will come again to fight the ‘False Messiah’ and establish peace on earth.
So, what do you believe? Most people would agree that Jesus was a great moral teacher. However, as C.S. Lewis pointed out in Mere Christianity “a man… who said the sort of things Jesus said would either be a lunatic..or…the Devil of Hell.”
Then, as now, people’s response to the question of who Jesus is varies, but biblically speaking there is no evidence that people regarded him as a great moral teacher. Their responses – hatred, terror, adoration - were far from mild approval. Here we see that even John the Baptist sent his disciples to check Jesus out.
Jesus responds, somewhat enigmatically “the blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor,” echoing some of the words from Isaiah 61. In Luke 4 Jesus tells those in the synagogue listening to him that this prophecy is fulfilled by him, causing outrage in his hometown of Nazareth.
We all have doubts at times. That’s what faith is about. The truth about Jesus cannot be proved through evidence in a scientific way: the writer of Hebrews tells us “faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” I used to agonise over this, wanting physical or intellectual evidence which would give me that assurance, but I have realised that it is I, like John the Baptist who have to make that approach in faith to God first. This Christmas let’s come afresh to Jesus, with our doubts, with our fears and let him reassure us as we walk humbly with him.
“Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire,” says the Lord Almighty. “Not a root or a branch will be left to them. But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays.
Are you afraid of the dark? Do you sleep with the light on? If you have spent the night “under the stars” camping, or on a sleep-out raising money for the homeless, or on night duty, you will probably have been very glad to see the sky lighten in the east, to watch the darkness recede and feel the chill of the night ebb away.
The Bible talks about another kind of darkness. The darkness that pervades the lives of human beings and exists in the world where the light and love of God is not known, or if it is, not allowed to be shown in any way.
We often wonder why there is so much wickedness in the world, why God doesn’t intervene and put a stop to it all. Well, one day he will.
But he did take steps to provide a way out of the darkness. He went his son Jesus to be the Light of, and to, the world. God is a gentleman, he does not force that light upon us. He asks us to make a choice. Will you wait for the day when God will destroy all that is evil and dark and that includes those who delight in evil, or will you let the Light of the World shine in your heart and life and bring you peace?