Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Quick Word: Christmas Reflection 3

You can catch my quick word every Tuesday morning, just after six, on New Zealand's Rhema
What good wishes, Christmas reflections or printed verse do you expect to find on the Christmas cards you get this year?  Perhaps they will be sentimental, like 'May the beauty of Christmas be yours throughout the year.'  Maybe they will sound vaguely biblical, like ‘May the joy and peace of Christmas be with you today and always.'  There is bound to be one that features a snowy, winter landscape (even though we don’t get that here!), making mention of candle light, snowmen and mistletoe.  What there probably won’t be is a card saying ‘May Christmas remind you of what it is to be obedient to God.’

Obedience isn’t what I normally think of at Christmas!  Usually it’s joy and hope and peace. This is because, rightly, I focus on Jesus and all he means and brings at Christmas.  But as I look at the biblical accounts I’m reminded of how God asked two ordinary people, Mary and Joseph, to be part of some extraordinary events.  To love, care for and raise God’s only son.  And how did they respond? 

When Joseph was told by an angel to marry a pregnant Mary he “…did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife.” (Matthew 1 v 24).  When Mary was visited by an angel and told about Jesus she replied, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” (Luke 1 v 38).

The birth of Christ happened as it did because two ordinary people chose to be obedient to God.  Obedience isn’t a fashionable idea.  It certainly doesn’t have the cheerful ring of joy, hope or peace.  But I’m really thankful and inspired by the choices of Mary and Joseph.  We might think it was Christmas-card perfect and easy for them; but I doubt it was.  We might think that it brought only good things to their lives; but I doubt that it did.  But it brought the world a perfect Jesus, the maker of all good things.

Christmas is a joyful time of year, a time to remember the hope Jesus restored to us.  But maybe this year it can also be a time to reflect on what it means to be obedient to God.  To ‘do as the Lord commands’.  To be His servants.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Quick Word: Christmas Reflection 2

You can catch my quick word every Tuesday morning, just after six, on New Zealand's Rhema

I love to sing out loud and it’s not that rare to find me bobbing down the supermarket aisle singing along to whatever 80’s classic is being piped through the store sound system.  I also love Christmas carols, so I don’t mind the way malls start playing them from October – I just sing along festively for a few months!   Most of my favourite carols are the ones I grew up with so I’m strangely fond of that odd, slightly regga, Boney M version of ‘Mary’s Boy Child.’

Their version includes the words;
“Oh my Lord...
You sent your son to save us
Oh my Lord...
Your very self you gave us
Oh my Lord...
That sin may not enslave us and love may reign once more.”

I like this song because it reminds me that when Jesus was conceived it began the fulfilment of God’s big plan to save me from sin – to put the world to rights again.  A plan which I am, as a Christian, now a part of.  We hear this same message in Matthew when he tells us about Jesus’ birth.  He writes;

“As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
 Matthew 1 v 20 – 21

I am one of God’s people.  And Jesus saves me from my sins.  This is eternally true but also somehow true today, right now – through knowing God and aiming to be more like Jesus through the Holy Spirit I am able to be less sinful today then I would be otherwise.  Jesus saves me from having to live with the consequences of many sins – eternally, yes! – but also right here today.  I am in no way sin-less but I am less sinful then I would be without Jesus in my life.  He saves me from being the nasty, judgemental, vindictive and mean person I would be otherwise.

Jesus’ birth is not just a story for a book.  It’s not just something to remember once a year.  It is the start of a whole new me.  And, if you want, a whole new you.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Quick Word: Christmas Reflection 1

You can catch my quick word every Tuesday morning, just after six, on New Zealand's Rhema
I was trying to organise dinner with a friend this week and I think we’ve found a day we are both free - in March 2013!  What is it about this time of year that makes us all so busy?  I know it’s mostly end of year functions and work Christmas parties and holidays and gift shopping, but don’t you think it is funny that at the time of year when we should be reflecting on the incarnation of God - peace, joy and goodwill to all - we hardly have a moment free?!

Every Christmas I tell myself I’m going to think about the ‘reason behind the season’ more.  That I’m not going to let gift lists and social events crowd out time to pray in wonder at the fact that God came to earth, entrusted himself to us and started the path of our redemption.  But, as often as not, all that other stuff - Christmas cards and summer holiday preparations - seem to consume my time.  So this year I realised – it’s not enough to just say that I want to have Christ at the centre of my Christmas, I have to do something to enable that.  So, between now and Christmas day, I’m going to slowly work my way through the Christmas story as told in Matthew, taking time to reflect on a verse or two a day, slowly proceeding towards the birth of Christ himself just in time for the day on which we celebrate it.

If you struggle too to remember God’s greatest miracle, coming here to dwell as one of us, maybe you could use this month to do something intentional about it. It could be something as simple as putting your bible in a special place for the month, allowing it to get as much attention in the room as your Christmas tree.

As for me, I’ve started my month of reflection with these words from Matthew 1;

“This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. Joseph, her fiancĂ©, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly.”
-       Matthew 1 v 18 – 19

Who would have guessed where that story would lead – to the salvation of you and me.