“He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud
in their inmost thoughts.
Have you every felt out of your depth?
Been in that place where you look around and wonder why am I hear?
How can I compete with that/them?
In our competitive and commercial world that we now inhabit there seems to be a real sense of one-up-manship. Let me give you an example.
A number of years ago John Lewis realised an advert that got everyone talking - it seemed to sum up the Christmas feeling and everyone was in awe of this advert. It then seemed to me that next year everyone was doing it - Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, Aldi, you name it everyone was trying to have the best Christmas advert on telly.
Now don’t get me wrong - I actually do love the Christmas adverts - especially those that are done well and evoke something within us…but it just seems that we are all getting a little bit carried away.
This year however, Iceland’s entry in the Christmas advert race, actually got banned. It was banned because it was deemed too political because it was do with the destruction of rainforests and the loss of so many Orangutan’s in the production of Palm Oil which Iceland have now banned from all its products. Now obviously part of their motivation was to get you to buy their more ethical and environmentally sourced products but it was refreshing to see a company thinking about more than themselves.
If you have not seen it - google it!
Christmas should be about thinking of others first, being humble and seeking to bless others rather than ourselves. After all isn’t that what Jesus did, when He humbled Himself and came to earth as a tiny baby? Isn’t that what Jesus taught us as he preached the Good News, and isn’t that what his sacrificial death showed us?
So today, why don’t you see who you can bless?
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened,
and I will give you rest.”
Are you busy yet?
Has Christmas caught you unawares or left you feeling like you we had more hours in a day, more days in the week. or simply that we could just turn the clock back to November?
Well, I don’t know about you, but that is how I am feeling today. Swamped would be a good word to describe it. Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas and I love all the plays,
It is one of my favourite times of the year…but it also seems to be incredible full and burdened. But when I read these few verses I suddenly realised what I was missing.In all the flurry of Christmas I had not stopped to hear the words of Jesus as much as I should have.
I have been doing it by my strength and my will and my determination.
But Jesus says - when you are weary and burdened come and find rest in my presence.
Christmas should actually be a time of rest - a time of reflection - a time to reconnect to the one true story that really matters
Jesus is moving in, coming to live with us - coming to save us.
So today whatever is in your day, make sure you take some time to stop, read the words of Jesus and talk to him in prayer.
Go on - try it I dare you….it will make a difference.
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.
Many years ago God called a man named Abram (later changed to Abraham) to leave his home and go, with his wife and nephew, to a place that would be shown to him as he travelled. He was led to the land which we know as Israel today. He was also told that his descendants would become so many that, like the stars, it would be impossible to count them. This was the beginning of the Jewish nation, whom God called his own special people. God would bless Abraham and his descendants all the time they put God first in their lives.
Three times in the book of Genesis we read that the blessings were not to be confined to the Jewish people only, but through Abraham’s offspring all the nations of the world would be blessed.
Over time the Jewish people came to think of God as belonging to them and only them. They had to learn that the Gentiles (that’s you and me) are also special to God and that He loves us all the same.
About 2000 years ago a baby was born. His parents were told by an angel that they were to give Him the name of Jesus because He would save the people from their sins (Matthew 1v21) This baby was one of the descendants of Abraham and He wants to bless everyone.
The true people of God are those who acknowledge that they need their sings forgiven and accept the salvations that the Christ Child came to give.
Will you do that today?
“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.
We have seen his glory.”
Do you have a favourite moment in a movie? Maybe the moment Gandalf and the riders of Rohan appear on the ridge to save Helm’s Deep in The Two Towers. Or maybe the end of An Officer and a Gentlemen when Zack, in full military uniform carries Paula out of the factory. Or the moment Luke Skywalker destroys the Death Star in Star Wars: A New Hope.
The Bible is jam-packed with dramatic moments, burning bushes, pillars of fire, Angelic rescues, fire from heaven, and battles against all human odds. But it also has many significant quiet moments when God speaks through the little things.
The descent of the glory of God on the tabernacle in Exodus 40 was an example fo the former - an explosion of special effects. Matthew 1v23 is an example of the latter. Isaiah is quoted “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel.” No one saw or heard the cells combine at the conception of Jesus. Even Mary would have been unaware of the exact moment when it occurred.
Though the moment of conception passed unnoticed and the baby seemed so fragile, there is no drama to match this moment. Nothing speaks more powerfully of the determination of God’s love.
Our reading - John 1 uses the phrase “made his dwelling” is literally “tabernacled”. God pitched his tent among us in the person of His Son. All that the tabernacle symbolised is realised in Jesus. Here in human form is God’s intent to live among his people and welcome us into his presence.
And one day, as Jesus died - the ultimate sacrifice - the curtain dividing us from the Most Holy Place was torn in tow from top to bottom. The writer of Hebrews says that in Jesus we pass through the curtain into God’s presence (Hebrews 10v19-22). We do that now every time we pray and we will do that one day when we stand before God.
1 Corinthians 10v3-4
‘They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.’ 1 Corinthians 10: 3-4
A rock can be seen as a foundation: after all, Jesus says that we should build our house on the rock, the strong foundation, and not on the sand, the weaker foundation that can crumble more easily when a storm comes.
In this chapter, Paul writes about the Israelites who fled through the desert with Moses and how even though they ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink as the Corinthians, there were many who became drawn to other things, such as sexual immorality and idolatry. It is easy in this world to become focussed on the needs of everyday life, even if there isn’t anything inherently sinful about them but too often, we get drawn in to unsavoury behaviour and we move away from our ‘rock’.
Jesus should be at the centre of what we do and it is a challenge for me and many others to keep Jesus as our foundation: for him to drive our thoughts and actions in order to enrich the world around us. It often amuses me (and annoys me) how much better I feel when I have spent quality time with God and why I don’t do it more often, especially when time is spent on other worthless endeavours.
I admired a friend who I shared a room with for 2 weeks for his discipline: every morning, he would get up thirty minutes earlier than necessary to read his Bible and do some press-ups. As much as I wanted to sleep during that time, I couldn’t help but be challenged by one who clearly had God at his centre. It is a daily challenge for me and I hope it is something that we can all aspire to have this Christmas and in the future.
This is what the Lord says, “A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”
Yemen, Venezuela, Syria, Indonesia, the Rohingya Muslims in Bangladesh: just a few of the places where we see children suffering under extreme conditions today. Closer to home statistics reveal that in an average class in the UK a shocking nine out of 30 children are in poverty. We look at our television screens, we listen to the radio and we feel overwhelmed by the need. Like Rachel weeping for her children we are paralysed by the enormity of what we see and the feeling that we are helpless in the face of such adversity.
However, in the next verses of this passage Jeremiah tells us God commands us to “Restrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears for your work will be rewarded” and that ‘there is hope…your children will return to their own land.”
Let us not become victims of compassion fatigue and “become weary of doing good” (Galatians 6:9). Let us take time to remember this Christmas there is comfort and hope and it comes through a little child, a child born into poverty, Jesus. Let us continue to work and pray for justice here on earth in whatever ways we can so that the world’s children can know this hope, for in the words of Jesus himself “the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:14)
Genesis 18v25 Justice
Far be it from you to do such a thing—to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?”
Sometimes I want God to be angry. I want Him to judge. Sometimes I hear stories on the news that make me boil with outrage. After the body of a 12 year old African-American girl was found near his hometown, Tom Waits wrote the song ‘Georgia Lee’.
It’s a devastating song, with a very simple refrain: ‘Why wasn’t God watching? Why wasn’t God listening? Why wasn’t God there, for Georgia Lee?’. And there’s a righteousness in that anger that is shared by the writer of Psalm 94 ‘How long, Lord, will the wicked, how long will the wicked be jubilant?’.
And in this passage, it’s not as though the people of Sodom didn’t deserve judgment (though possibly not for the reason I was brought up to think). Ezekiel chapter 16 tells us their sin was that they were ‘arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy’.
Which, erm, doesn’t, actually, sound so bad, really, does it? They weren’t child murderers exactly, and there must be some good people amongst them? So, Abraham pleads with God for mercy, gradually whittling away at God’s anger so that God would be merciful if there were 50 righteous people living there, then 45, 40, 30, 20, 10 – you’ve got to admire his nerve! And God relents – he will show mercy because Abraham has persevered in prayer. But in the event, the city is destroyed; God’s mercy is shown to Lot and his family, but the crimes of the city do not go unpunished.
And Georgia Lee’s killer will face God’s judgment in the fullness of time. For God does care about the poor and the needy, much more than we do.
Is there any danger at all, that in celebrating this advent season I might become ‘overfed and unconcerned’?
God is on the side of the poor and the needy, am I?
Sarah said “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.”
When was the last time you really really laughed?
Lke a proper belly laugh, one that leaves you feeling totally different to before! It is good to laugh like that. And I am not talking about laughing a a funny video or laughing at someone else misfortune but a joyful laugh that comes when you are in good company, when you are moved to feel different.
Our reading today is the story of how Sarah, who at first didn’t believe God, discovers the greatest joy she had even know in giving birth to the son God had promised her. And this was the beginning of the a family that God planned to use to bless the whole earth not just with love and hope but with great joy and laughter too.
I don’t know how you see God, or the kind of character he might possess, but as I reflected on this I realised that sometimes we forget that God is a loving God who not only wishes to love and bless us, but at times He wants us to this same great joy and laughter that Sarah had all those years ago.
So today look for the joy in life, look for the small things that bring a smile, and maybe, just maybe you might also get to laugh a little too.
Matthew 2v2 Hope
Where is the one who has been born King of the Jews. We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.
The Jewish people had never had a king. God didn’t want them to have one because He wanted to be their king, but he eventually agreed.
The Jewish people soon discovered it wasn’t always to their advantage. They were heavily taxed or forced to work in strenuous building work.
However, they did have a very good king in David, “A man after God’s own heart” (1 Samuel 13v14) God promised David that he would always have a descendant on the throne. This was ultimately fulfilled in Jesus who reigns not just as King of the Jews but the whole world.
The prophets of the Old Testament talked about the ‘coming one’ who would be the Messiah, the Saviour of the World, the Hope of the Nation.
Unfortunately when He came that first Christmas very few people recognised Him. The Wise Men thought He would be in a palace which is why they called on Herod first. When they found the child in Bethlehem, as prophesied, they bowed down and worshipped Him.
The baby grew up, became a man, and died for the Salvation of the world. He is indeed the Hope of the Nations and ours too.
Do you recognise Him?
He wants to be your Saviour, Friend and Hope for the future.
At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.
At that time. What time? Is it, in the words of singer Andy Williams, the ‘most wonderful time of the year’? Time certainly seems at a premium now as we hurtle towards Christmas with a host of tasks, which seemingly need to be accomplished before we can fully enjoy the great day itself!
Just before that time in Mark’s Gospel John had been in the wilderness preaching a baptism for the forgiveness of sins. And for four hundred years before that time the people of Israel, meanwhile, had been in a spiritual wilderness, hearing nothing from God.
Suddenly Jesus appeared from Nazareth in Galilee, a place that appears from archeological excavation to have been no more than a poor, insignificant Jewish village. It’s no wonder that in John’s Gospel Nathaniel asks “Can anything good come from there?” when Philip invites him to meet Jesus.
At this time you may feel as if you are in a spiritual wilderness, either overwhelmed with the preparations for what has become a celebration of materialism or overcome by life’s circumstances. However, this is the time when we remember Jesus coming as Immanuel, God with us. Jesus tells all the disciples at the end of Matthew’s Gospel “surely I am with you”, both those who worshipped him AND those who doubted. Know that he is with you, even when you feel alone and doubtful, and expect to find him in the places - like Nazareth - which seem most unlikely.