This is the day that makes dying worth living for.
I wish that this was the first Christmas that I heard the story of Jesus’s birth. I would like to receiving the story of the visit of the shepherds and the wise men as a new story. Then maybe I would be filled with the wonder and amazement that the story deserves.
It is thrilling and wonderful to read about the angel visiting Mary and telling her that she is to be the mother of the Messiah. I want to feel the anguish of Joseph; what should he do about Mary, this young maiden who he loves. He faces heartbreak. So stunning to read about the angels visiting the shepherds up on the hills, experiencing what up to when was an ordinary day. There is the story of the long dangerous journey of the wise men, following the star and getting lost in Herod’s palace before worshipping at the manger.
Then I realise that if I had never heard this story before , I would have missed out on many meaningful Christmases. Although I know how the story unfolds, it is still wonderful and miraculous. I can still be overwhelming by the significance of the message as I too worship at the manger.
Joseph, the surrogate father of Jesus has been in my mind a great deal this year. I find different years bring up different emphasises. Then I received an e-card. I’m not a lover of these but this one brought tears to my eyes. With the background of the carol ‘Little Donkey’, it depicted the journey to Bethlehem. I expect the couple were travelling alone as Mary’s out-of-wedlock condition would mean they were ostracised. One scene showed the couple huddled by a small fire alone way out in the desert.
As part of my Advent reading this year I’m reading of Joseph’s dilemma. A relatively old man he looked forward to love and a future with the young Mary. Then he discovered a supposed infidelity. An angel tried to explain and allay his fears. I imagine the subsequent visits of the shepherds and wise men would help to prove the angel’s words. What a tremendous responsibility he was given!
Do we continue to pray when there is no possibility of our prayers being answered. Did Elizabeth and Zechariah continue to pray when, because of their age, there was no chance of her ever having a baby. Then the miracle happened, John was born to Elizabeth. In modern jargon their prayers could be ‘clocked as a success.’
What about our prayers which we prayed so long ago that we have forgotten about them? Do we even remember what they were? Our God is outside time. The past, present and future are all the same to Him. We live moment by moment, not in the thoughts of eternity. Should we even continue when all hope is gone? Is there a time when we need to let go?
I have no idea what the answer is to the questions I’ve posed. I think the only thing we can do is pray to the God of answers and share them with him.
At least one national newspaper has announced that a four day week is being aimed for. That would mean four days a week working and three days off. My immediate thought was what will we do with the extra leisure time or will we get a second job? I remember my dad worked five and a half days a week with one Saturday in four away from the office. I’m sure many of you will have family members who worked even longer hours.
Will we use our leisure time wisely? Will we spend more time with the family, visiting and helping the sick, lonely and those in need.? Will we spend more time in prayer and with our Bibles? Or will we squander time? It is possible to have too much of a good thing. At the end of time we will have to answer for all our actions.
There were three ladies of a similar age; one was widowed, one married and another single. Their life experiences had been very different. One with her husband had lived in the limelight and one was a home bird. Their childhoods had been spent in different parts of the country. At first glance it seemed these ladies had nothing in common. The one unifying factor was their love for the Lord. They had all learned to love Him and serve Him in their different situations.
By this same standard we are sisters and brothers to Christians all round the world, whatever are peoples’ colour of skin, political situations, social standing or age. We are all one in Christ Jesus.
As I wake in the morning my mind is sometimes involved in a negative spiral. I worry about climate change, the pandemic, my own health and that of friends, how I will cope in the future. This morning my mind was drawn to the words of Philippians 4:8 words I needed to hear.
Whatever is true – the media often peddles lies, leaving us not knowing what to believe.
Whatever is noble, ‘turn my thoughts to noble actions, ministries of love.’
Whatever is right, through God’s conscience we know right from wrong, let us pursue it.
Whatever is pure – the sacrificial love of Jesus, love ‘so amazing, so divine.’
Whatever is lovely, God has given us creation, my sunrise this morning and the tracery of the snow laden branches.
Whatever is the pursuit of excellence and praiseworthiness will bring peace.
She could have had half the kingdom as a gift instead she had a bloody head; instead she had a bloody head. This was the head of one of the most important preachers ever – John the Baptist. The daughter of Herodias would have had a tragic upbringing. Brought up in the royal palace it is likely that she would have had no choice in her request for such a gift. In the first place she was forced to do an erotic dance in front of a group of drunken old men and then had to carry in the tragic trophy on a platter.
Thousands today have no choice in how they live their lives, their choices are dictated by others. This is especially true of Christians in oppressed countries. As ordinary people we may not have much power but we can pray for these people. God knows and God weeps.
Since the beginning of the pandemic more books than ever are being published. A number of these are Christian books and these are excellent and well worthy of a read. But they will never take the place of the Bible. Our reading cannot be either or; the Bible must be included in our reading.
As a published Christian writer myself I have a vested interest in these books, but if we only read about the Bible and not read the Bible itself, our Christian life will be stunted. Nothing can replace God’s Holy Scriptures. It must be admitted that God’s writing is far more powerful than ours can ever be. His words give eternal life. As King David said in the psalms ‘Your word have I written in my heart.
The other day a large section of the British Isles was affected by Storm Arwen. Many thousands were without power for an unacceptably long period. Their suffering must have been intense. Travel disruption was great. It was often not possible to get from A to B safely. A few people lost their lives, impacting their families and friends with grief and sadness.
My own suffering was tiny. My friend and I were visiting another friend in Kendal. We decided to visit parts of Lake Windermere. We were alright until we decided to return home. Then nearly every road we tried to travel along was blocked by fallen trees. Some had been moved off the road but being only two or three days after the storm it hadn’t been possible for them all to be cleared. At one time we drove over a live cable. We became three praying-hard ladies at that point.
The storm reminded me of life. The storms of life are sometimes so devastating that we are thrown off balance, unable to stand or cope. The winds of grief, persecution, illness and loneliness are almost too much to bear. Sometimes life is a live cable, almost ready to destroy at any time.
We do not need to fight the storm alone. We have a Master Road Clearer, a Storm Calmer and a Navigator. Jesus came to guide us through the storms of life.