CHRISTMAS REFLECTION BY ANNE HOLMES

This post by kathylarkman was originally published at GRACE PLACE

What wonderful readings and carols we have heard and sung tonight about the birth of Jesus Christ, the son of God, the Lord of heaven, born as a human being. We have heard about the activity that surrounded the first Christmas, the events that happened. We often get swept up with the activity of Christmas and so I would like to just share some thoughts with you to help us think about the meaning of Christmas and realign our focus to the amazing love and grace that God has showed to us.

Let’s Pray…..Heavenly Father, would you help us in our understanding of your word tonight. Would you help us to see and hear clearly and to come to know you a little more, in Jesus name, Amen.

If you have a bible handy, you might want to follow the reading. I’m going to read from 1John 1:1-4 (Look towards the end of NT nestled between 1&2 Peter and Jude.)

 1 John 1:1-4 The Incarnation of the Word of Life

1That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. 2The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. 3We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 4We write this to make our joy complete.

Well, you might be thinking that isn’t very Christmassy, what’s happened to all the angels and Shepherds and the baby Jesus? What I’ve just shared with you tells us what the activity of Christmas means, it tells us of God’s plan of salvation which is the real meaning of Christmas.

1 John 1 starts with the words…. ‘That which was from the beginning’…..now where have we read that recently?  Yes, for those of you who have been following our bible studies you will recognise those words from Genesis chapter 1. For those of you who know your bible well, you will know that those words ‘in the beginning’ also appear in the gospel of John ch 1

So, Jesus was already there in the beginning! He didn’t suddenly appear at Christmas. He has been with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit for all eternity. John gives testimony and validates the historic event of the birth of Jesus when he says ‘we saw Him with our eyes and touched Him with our hands’.

God has chosen to reveal Himself to us in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ, who is the same eternal God in human flesh. The only way that we can come to God or know God is through Jesus Christ. Jesus said “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”(John 14:6)

Salvation by grace.

John talks about Jesus as the ‘Word’. He says the Word of Life was with the father from the beginning, and in v2 ‘The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us’. He isn’t saying Jesus has life or gives life, but that HE IS LIFE. Jesus is eternal life. Jesus is salvation and he offers it to me and to you, to those who accept and believe in Him. V3 then goes on to tell us that when we have received Eternal Life, in turn, that will lead us to a deepening and true fellowship with God and other believers.

The other day I was in the car half listening to the radio. They were chatting about the most talked about subject of the year Covid 19, how it’s been a depressing and difficult year etc and now Christmas was coming and how we must ‘save Christmas’ I thought to myself, Oh wow, they’ve got that the wrong way round. We can’t save Christmas, Christmas saved us! Christmas is the celebration of the incarnate God, sending Jesus to earth to save us, to rescue us from his wrath and judgement. That was his plan from the beginning.

Dear sisters, the chief reason we were created was to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, or to glorify God BY enjoying Him forever. Or to put it another way, the reason we were created was for the greatest glory of God in the greatest happiness of His people. And, if you have accepted Jesus as your Lord and Saviour, your whole reason for being is to have a relationship with your Lord, The King of the Universe, the Creator of all things, your brother, friend, prophet and priest. To be in fellowship with Him. It is with God that your happiness is to be found this Christmas and beyond, in season and out-of-season, in good times and bad, when COVID is raging and when COVID is tamed. In life, in death – Jesus is our hope, our reason for being. That’s why we celebrate Christmas. God incarnate coming to earth, to carry out His eternal rescue mission for those who are perishing apart from Him. We celebrate Christmas because He came to save us.

For those who don’t know Jesus as Lord and Saviour, or for those who want to love Him more, why don’t you pray along with me now?

Heavenly Father, your word tells us that you have been there from the beginning, and your eternal plan was always to come to earth, to be born of the virgin Mary, to forgive our sins and to rescue us. Oh Lord, help us to recognise that Christmas time is to help us reflect on your life-saving message. That the God of all Glory and sovereign power, humbled Himself to come to earth and died on the cross so that our sins might be forgiven, and that we might be with you forever. Glory to God in the highest. Amen.

As we enter into the ‘activity’ of Christmas this year, can I leave you with something to ponder on…..will you save Christmas this year of will Chistmas save you?

Christmas craft from The Ark

Make your own donkey puppet

Here are two activities, beautifully demonstrated by Jo, if you didn’t see them the first time around in November’s Ark:

  • Create your nativity scene – and even better it’s edible!
  • Tell the story yourself once you’ve made these great camel and donkey puppets.

Have we forgotten the poor?

This post by Michael Shaw was originally published at Seventy Two

One of my former Deacons used to pray “break our hearts for what breaks yours”. I remember while prayer walking Devonport, where I minister, with him and seeing the poverty and knowing that it breaks the heart of God. A few days ago Carl Beech Tweeted “There are two conversions in the Christian life. Conversion to Christ and when God breaks your heart for the poor.”

Over the last few years the church (like much of society) has had a focus on gender and racial justice and issues on human sexuality, and quite rightly so, but in the process the issues of class have been forgotten. The working class have been forgotten by the church and not just the poorest. A point made eloquently by Canon Gary Jenkins in a recent blog post on the issue (https://www.psephizo.com/life-ministry/where-are-the-working-class/)

It is my experience that the church is becoming increasingly middle class, to the point where the working class feel that they don’t see people like themselves, not just in the pulpit but also in the pews.

This plays out in church planting. Most new churches are clone churches in areas of similar socio-demographic areas or in “student” areas. With very little church planting into deprived or marginal communities (estates or inner-city). You see this in books, conferences or festivals where most of the speakers/writers are from “successful” suburban churches or para-church organisations, very few from small or inner city churches, very few indigenous non-tertiary educated speakers or writers get the same profile.

So areas like Devonport are not just “de-churched” they have become unchurched, while there are 5,000 people here, there are only two small churches, one with under 10 regulars; if you found that in any other part of the world, you would call the people of Devonport an unreached people group. And yet we exist in the United Kingdom.

The wonderful poem in Philippians 2, which Paul uses to explain who Jesus was (so we could be like him), includes the wonderful phrase “When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human!” (MSG). As Red Letter Christians we focus on the words of Jesus, but sadly we don’t get many words of his in the Nativity account, but actions speak louder than words we are told! So what does the incarnation of Jesus teach us?

As we begin preparation for Jesus coming at Christmas, it is good to look at his first coming. Before he is even born he is an outcast, rejected by his own family and the people who do visit are not royal dignitaries, as befits a King, but dirty, smelly shepherds! They were considered not just working class, but an underclass, they were irreligious people who worked hard, broke the Sabbath and ate what they could (for a full explanation of the scandal of the Manger read David Instone-Brewer’s recent article in Christianity Magazine – http://www.biblecontexts.com/2020/11/the-first-christmasfamily-argument.html)

I wonder what would happen if some dirty, smelly shepherds turned up in most churches on a Sunday morning, how would they be treated?

The problem is most Christians have not been converted twice, just the once, they have not understood that when Jesus said he came to preach Good News to the poor, that he meant it, and that as followers we were meant to do the same. We have not understood that to reach the poorest, we can’t do that at arms-length, because Jesus didn’t do mission in that way, instead he incarnated the Gospel.

So what do we need? We need Christians to live, work and worship in marginal communities. Not for a few years but for decades. Incarnating the Gospel, being salt and light, living out the Kingdom of God among the poorest in our nation.

 

The post Have we forgotten the poor? appeared first on Seventy Two.

Daily message – 12 Dec 2020

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As Joseph realises Mary is pregnant, he’s faced with a choice. Follow God’s law or protect Mary. At least that seems like the choice he faces. In our 12th instalment of the online advent calendar we see human wisdom isn’t always enough.

— Advent 2020 with 💖 from Church on the Green