We have to accept that none of us knows the day on which Jesus was born. We do not know the date or the time. According to tradition, we follow the early Christian Church in choosing 25th December as the day we focus on remembering His birth. This day was selected because it coincided with all the pagan festivals and the early Christians wished to divert attention from those festivals and direct it instead to celebrating the incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Personally, I am glad that Christmas is celebrated in December. It is the darkest month of the year, when the days are short and the nights are long. The twinkling lights that illuminate shopping centers and homes attempt to defy this darkness. Remember that when Christ came into the world, Israel was suffering from real spiritual darkness. The religious leaders of the day were corrupt. The king was corrupt and the people had no voice. But the light came when Jesus was born. He came to bring light into this dark world. He came to destroy the forces of evil that enslave us in sin. In Jesus, light overcomes darkness.
And that is why Christians celebrate His coming at Christmas time. We rejoice that God became man to deliver us from darkness. He died in the place of sinners to bring us back to God. Now Jesus says to all who will listen, "I am the Light of the World. He who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life." (John 8:12). It is just as we sing it in the words of the carol:
Silent night, holy night
Son of God, Love's pure light
radiant beams from Thy holy face
with the dawn of redeeming grace.
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth
I trust and hope you will all have a good Christmas
Yours, in Christ
I am sure you will find the words in Zechariah 4:9-10 so apt for today, where God tells His people not to despise the day of small things.
Zechariah was speaking to people who were returning from exile; they were excited at the prospect of returning to their homeland. More than anything, they were hoping that they could get down to the work of restoring the temple. They had dreams of restoring it to its former glory.
Yet, progress was slow, and they weren’t allowed just yet to rebuild the temple. As much as God was pleased to allow them to return, the time was not yet right for the rebuilding to begin.
God’s people had to learn patience, and, more importantly, about God’s perfect timing.
We too live in days where, if we are honest, we feel we would like God to move faster. But even in these difficult days we see pockets of blessing. We have had such pockets of blessing as a church, and this encourages us to look forward, to recognise that God is at work even in these difficult times.
The day of big things may be coming, but as we wait, let’s not neglect the day of small things. Let us learn to be content, patient and faithful.
As the old hymn puts it,
Showers of blessing,
Showers of blessing we need;
Mercy-drops round us are falling,
But for the showers we plead.
Yours in Christ
I am hoping to resume our studies soon in the book of Acts, then to have a short break, and then a mini-series on the church. As I think ahead, I ask myself: what is the role of the Church? I have come up with a few thoughts.
The role of the Church is to bring glory to God, to demonstrate to people the power of God, in changed lives. To demonstrate to the community how redeemed people live; living together in harmony and love, promoting the Gospel, and for God’s people to be edified and enjoy fellowship with on another.
As I thought about these things, I realised the importance of each person play their part as we serve God by serving God’s people. We have been blessed and encouraged with workers in the Church. Some of these workers however are leaving, all for good reasons. This saddens us as we will miss their fellowship, yet also because they leave gaps that need to be filled. This presents an opportunity for new areas of service: Volunteers are currently needed in Children’s work, in the coffee morning, to join a rota for the laying out of communion bread and wine, Sunday morning refreshments, plus many more things.
Every workplace is a mission, and our service in the life of the local Church is an act of worship to the God who has called us. There is no hierarchy of Spiritual professions. When it comes to the Mission of God, the preach or Elder is no more important that the housewife of steward. God invites all His children to join Him in the service to the world. It is a challenge, yet it is a privilege.
Let us give Him our best,
When life is tiring, when family members are not saved, when bills are not being paid, when work is exhausting, when your health is failing, when your loved ones are hurt and when good friends leave, it’s very easy to be discouraged.
Discouragement is a thief. It steals your zeal, your joy, your peace and your contentment. If discouragement dwells long with you, its names will join. Its names are fatigue, despair, self-pity, depression, doubt and bitterness.
Someone once put it like this: “Discouragement is dis-satisfaction with the past, distaste for the present, and distrust for the future.” The problem with discouragement is that it can make us blind, even blaming others for not doing enough to find out what’s causing them discouragement, or just blaming others for one’s discouragement. This is where the devil creeps in, and feeds on the mind, leading to discontentment.
The Bible’s answer is always the same: “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith”.
The apostle Paul says in 2. Corinthians 1.3 that, “God is the Father of compassion and comfort.” He is the author and the source of all comfort, therefore only in him do we find peace and encouragement.
So how do we receive that comfort? It’s by faith. Yes, God can and does use his people to bring encouragement. He uses the ministry of His word, but trusting and believing is the beginning of comfort.
Through the reading and hearing of His word, being accompanied by the Holy Spirit is the answer to discontent.
Encouragement is something that belongs to you as a Christian. We have the word of God to teach us. We have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to warm our souls. We have the God of encouragement waiting to show us his mercy, so let us run the race with perseverance; the race marked out for us.
We hear a lot these days of self-esteem and self-confidence; people are very conscious of their appearance. This is not always helped by the trend of fashion and the pressure of keeping up appearances. Young people especially feel that pressure, where for many, the standards are just too high to reach.
There’s pressure to go on diets, buy expensive face cream, have surgery, colour your hair: the list goes on. And whilst it’s important to look after ourselves, how sad and damaging it is, that we are pressured to think so negatively about our own human body.
Psalm 139: “For I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”
In Ephesians 5.27, Paul likens the Church of Christ to a bride without spot or wrinkle. Does that mean that the body of Christ too has an impossible standard of perfection? If that were so, the body would have been written off as a lost cause long ago. What this means is that a beautifying process, which takes a lifetime to complete, is to transform us into the likeness of Jesus Christ, and being covered by the washing of the word.
As we hear and obey the Word of God, we are being cleansed and sanctified so that in the future we shall be glorified, when we shall see Him as He is. Throughout our lives, as we hear the Word of God, listen, and apply the Word to our lives, we are being refined and sanctified for the glory of that day.
May we be encouraged therefore to apply the Word of God to our hearts every day.
Whatever your view may be, the Coronation of King Charles III will be an historic moment in the life of our nation. It will be a time to reflect on our history and what it means to our institution. The crowning of the Monarch of our Nation, is based on Christian principles and Christian symbolism. It's an interesting tradition that reminds us of the greater Monarch, the Lord Jesus Christ; that's why I don't believe that the occasion should be ignored nor scorned, but it should be a prayerful time where people around the world would encounter the person of Jesus Christ and his call to serve others.
It's also an opportunity to obey the command that the Apostle Paul gives us, that praying for Kings and those in authority is good and pleasing to God ("who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth") 1 Tim. 2:1-4. We don't always like doing this, especially when we don't agree with their views, but Paul insists that it is crucial that we do, in order to live "Peaceful and quiet lives, in all Godliness and Holiness" 1 Tim. 2:2
Yours in Christ,