Wednesday, 25 December 2013

He is Born

“He is Born”
Luke 2:8-14
Jesus’ birthday is celebrated this day and will be celebrated with gifts
special meals, lights and  decorations and family gatherings. But why do we celebrate Jesus’ birthday so differently from other birthdays? When it is time to honour one whose was born that day we don’t remember them only as a baby, but the current year they have now reached. Yet when we celebrate Jesus’ birth on Christmas we remember the baby and not the man, the Saviour. This is partly due to the fact that the baby was cute and his birth was unlike others. He was born of the Holy Spirit and in a stable far from where his parents were from. He was born to Mary and Joseph and laid in a manger. He did not even have a proper bed.
            His first visitors were not family members but shepherds who were told of his birth by angels and their noisy singing in the middle of the night. Yet these shepherds did not hesitate to go and see the baby. They went and found the place where the family was staying that night-out behind a hotel in a warm barn. They went to see the baby just to worship him.
            But what do we do as we celebrate Jesus’ birth? We buy gifts not for him or in his name, but to each other and often loading up credit cards for the simple reason of buying. We aren’t formally called by angels to worship Jesus but the number of people who gather to worship on Christmas Eve/ Day is certainly not the same as it once was. Is it because it is more important to share in the gift exchange instead of the Gift?
            Jesus was born for a reason. To teach, live, preach, heal and die for us all. Yet do we want to remember this at Christmas? Not really- it is the sad part of his life- he dies for us and we don’t really want to acknowledge this when it is so much more fun to acknowledge Jesus as a baby just beginning his life on earth.
            Take the time to reflect on Jesus-baby, child, man and Son of God as you celebrate Jesus in your life.

Loving and giving God  we thank you that you love us and give to us Jesus a baby who grows to be and become our Saviour through faith. Help us to remember Jesus not only as the baby in the manger, but as Jesus the Risen Saviour. Amen.

Merry Christmas to all!
Take the time to reflect on Jesus the baby and Jesus the Saviour. How easy it is to worship the infant born for us this day, and difficult to realize his life’s purpose was for us.
May the Christ of Christmas be with you.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

GOD 2.0...He was- God’s Son and that he came from and is God

“Call Him Immanuel”
Isaiah 7:14
            God with us! This is an amazing thought- Jesus came to earth as God’s Son born the human way. Jesus had an earthly human mother- Mary and he was actually born and lived a human life. He experienced life as human with its celebrations and times of loss; with its hope and fear, and with every day occurrence and routine.  He lived amongst people for 33 years and in that time he touched people, healed with compassion and fed the hungry and sought to see and understand the human condition. But he never forgot who He was- God’s Son and that he came from and is God.
But why do we honour this newborn child? This Son of God and human baby? Prior to Jesus’ birth in a stable it had always been God over us, above us, and before us. God was experienced on a mountain, in a temple and in clouds. But never was God with us before. God wanted to draw near to His creation and to enable people to choose to follow Him even though sin had entered. Jesus left heaven and his mission was to save the human race. In order to do this God became flesh as Jesus an infant who would grow up and teach us the way to be reconciled and made new. Jesus came to know what it was like to be human- God with us- and he knew what sin caused others to do and say. It was Jesus who gave himself as the person who would save his people. But He was also God and would rise again.
Jesus came down from heaven and lived amongst people teaching, preaching and healing as the spirit lead him. And through his life’s mission he fulfilled the prophecy of the one who would save his people.
Jesus still does save his people and picks them up and enables them to navigate through this life a little easier and a little more confident. This is because Jesus is with us- always.

God of grace and love you gave to us Jesus to come in flesh and dwell amongst people. Jesus is God with us- and for this gift we are grateful. For through Jesus’ life on earth we learn how to live and love others. Yet we also know when we have failed to do what you ask. Forgive us and enable us to know You- as Creator, as Immanuel as Spirit. Enable us to find the real Spirit of Christmas in the blessings of Jesus. Amen.

Jesus is sometimes described as “heaven’s child” He is also the Son of God, Son of Man and Saviour. What is the significance of Jesus being heaven’s child for you? Does Jesus being born of a human mother and conceived of the Holy Spirit enable you to draw closer to God? Why?

Friday, 13 December 2013

Jesus sleeping in a feed trough

“Lying in a Manger”
Luke 1:26 to 2:40
            As we continue our journey in Advent, we take the time to reflect on the Christmas story according to Luke. How many times have you looked at the nativity scene this year? Our family has one which I made out of pre-stamped images on fabric and sewed and stuffed appropriately.  A stable was constructed out of cereal boxes and in it the children would play with the Mary and Joseph, shepherds and animals. But to them Jesus was just supposed to go in the hay before they went to bed on Christmas Evening. Today this nativity scene is still set up and although the children do not play with it as they once did, it still is an important part of their Christmas celebration.
The nativity scene is manufactured in many kids of media including everything from plastic, wood, resin, glass and paper. But what does this nativity scene really show and what does it mean for those who are looking to find meaning in the world through Christ?
For some people it is the essential decoration that holds a prominent position in the household. For others there is no nativity scene found near the Christmas tree or in any part of the home. And yet even for others, this scene is outside the home so that others driving by will know that they believe in Jesus as the Christ of Christmas. But have you really looked into that nativity scene to see what occurred that night in Bethlehem?
It is not something quaint and nice and pleasant. This young woman gave birth in a stable a place where animals were kept at night. She was very young and was not ready for this birth to happen then. She used whatever she could to wrap him up and because she did not want the baby to be cold or get sick, she placed him in the feed trough of the barn animals. Comforting and quaint? I hardly think this is even close to what we experience today when giving birth to babies. We want the most sterile space possible in order that there is no infections gathered and scattered. But Mary had little choice in the matter of where she would give birth. Only God knew.
The words, ‘lying in a manger’ should challenge our thinking. The God of the ages and upon whom all hope and fear is placed lies in a feed trough. This baby is in a stable. Do you find this comforting or disturbing?
These four words tell us a story of love and hope. They state that there is a testament in wood and straw and that it contains more truth than would fit into volumes of books. In these words, we find answers to questions of life and faith. The scene was a promised sign to the shepherds and it was a billboard for the Christ child’s earthly parents. It was Joseph a carpenter who delivered this baby in to the world. What did he know about newborn babies? And how did the shepherds know about this infant?  The angels told them to find him in a stable lying in a manger.
Each time you see a nativity scene, remember that it was not a pleasant place to give birth. For Mary and Joseph who were alone, it was scary, dark and lonely. Their first child was born in a community of strangers in a smelly stable. They were alone until the shepherds found them and worshiped the infant- king. But they had fulfilled their promise to God and Jesus was healthy and safe.

God of love you give to us Jesus an infant who was born to live, die and rise again all for our sake. Make us wise with the wisdom of understanding the depth of your love for us as you invite us again to that stable to worship. Enable us to find the real Spirit of Christmas in the blessings of Jesus. Amen.

A hymn:  Away in a manger, no crib for a bed, the little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head
The stars in the bright sky looked down where he lay, the little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay.
How does realizing that the birthplace of Jesus was a stable and not a hospital? What does this mean for you when you look at that stable and see the infant Jesus sleeping in a feed trough? 

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Christmas spirit has nothing to do with the trees, lights, poinsettias and decorations.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013
By Rev Cathy

“Possessing the Real Christmas Spirit”
Luke 1:26 to 2:40

            As we begin this Advent season of waiting and preparing and wondering about what is to come, it is important to take time to be quiet and read/ re-read the Christmas story. To read the story of Jesus’ birth enables us to search and discover the real Christmas Spirit. Just what is it? It is something in your heart that makes you warm and glowy, like a mother’s love for her child. You can’t buy it at any store and you cannot get it from anybody else. It’s in your heart.
When you read the story about Jesus’ birth you will soon realize that the Christmas spirit has nothing to do with the trees, lights, poinsettias and decorations. If you removed these as well as the food, presents, and music you will find that you would still celebrate Christ’s birth and experience this spirit. It is found when you put yourself into the story and reflect upon what the shepherds did to glorify God. To see Mary pondering Jesus’ birth and to wonder what Joseph thought about God’s Son now born and in a manger.
            The real Christmas Spirit is something we each search for- even those who have lived their entire lives as committed Christians. It is in that certain something that calls us to look more deeply into our thoughts and feelings and to see Christ not as a helpless infant, but the one who taught us to show our love in what we say and do. It is something that re/connects us with God in a new and renewed way and gives us hope for tomorrow.
            Depending upon your age and experiences ‘the best Christmas ever’ is often only a memory of one thing that happened when you were a child. But the best Christmas is really the one in which you are prepared and ready for- when Christ Jesus comes again and you are not worried about the tree, presents or anything else. Just feeling and knowing that Jesus is with you as you look to those whom you love and love you, as you remember those now with God and as you envision Christ in the room and sitting and being with you. How do you know if you have the Real Christmas Spirit?

Gracious God you are the Giver of the Perfect Gift in Jesus. Help us to search for Christ and to see ourselves in the story of His birth. Help us to listen again with new ears and understanding to what it means to love as Christ loved. Enable us to find the real Spirit of Christmas in the blessings of Jesus. Amen.

Each year people go through the actions of celebrating Christmas but are unsure of what it is all about. How will your Advent and Christmas preparations change in light of your renewed sense of finding the real Spirit of Christmas? 

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Emtpy Religion and Futile Prayers. Walk Humbly with the Lord and be Exalted

“Parable: Pharisee and Tax Collector”
Luke 18: 9-14

            How do you see yourself in the mirror? Is this reflection the same as what God sees in you? On when God is truly seen for who He is can we see ourselves for who we are. We must move in our perspectives- from self to God or in bigger words- egocentric to theocentric if we truly desire to follow God’s way. This is a truth presented in the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector.
            We read that in order to teach those listening who were confident in their righteousness and looked down on others Jesus told this story. Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: “God, I thank you that I am not like other men- robbers, evildoers, adulterers- or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, and give a tenth of all I get.’
The tax collector stood at a distance. He did not look up but beat his breast and said, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
            Jesus then said, “I tell you that this man rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.’
            We have heard of the ‘me’ generation where one inflates oneself over others in the way of self- serving pride. They have a superiority complex and a sense of entitlement which includes pride, selfishness and an attitude of superiority to others. We only think of this happening in recent years. Yet when Jesus spoke he knew there were people listening who were people who were confident of their own righteousness which extended to their relationship with God. This was because of their religious deeds and they were righteous before Him. And so he told the story of two men who were praying in the synagogue. The two men who approached God, the synagogue and even other pray-ers differently.
            The Pharisee wanted to be seen in all his fine clothes, knowledgeable presence and in voice. He comes across rich and powerful and a religious performer. The tax collector however is quiet before God, humbles himself and confesses his sin. He has no interest in comparing himself with anyone or anything apart from God. And it is he who went home justified. He was forgiven of sin and placed in a right relationship with God.
            The Pharisee’s religion was empty, his prayers futile and his boasting foolish. He needed to humble himself before God and see repentance. 
            Have you ever thought of looking at yourself and reflecting upon how others see you? What might God think of your actions words in the last few days? God cares about you and loves you. He wants the best for you and a part of this is knowing him through forgiveness of sins and feeling his presence.
            The tax collector’s reputation was scarred because of what he did. Yet his heart was made whole through his confession and forgiveness by God.
            Who are you like as you reflect upon yourself and our actions and words?

Loving God forgive me for I am a sinner. Take away any doubt, deceit and bring me into your truth and love. Hear my prayer….  Amen.

Jesus parable of the Pharisee and tax collector invites us to humble ourselves in prayer to God. What does this act of being humble mean to you?