Saturday, 30 November 2019

The Angels of Jesus’ Birth

The Angels of Jesus’ Birth

                As we will soon begin Advent (December 1) we are
called to get ready, to prepare to anticipate again an event that changed the course of world history- Jesus’ birth. As we prepare for this celebration filled with family gatherings, traditions and sharing of stories, we must remember the story of Jesus’ birth and that angels played a significant role. But what/ or who are angels?
                Angels are see throughout the Bible and are called by a variety of names including cherubim, seraphim and living creatures. Sometimes they are described as men, often in bright garments. They appear guarding Eden, waging war, rescuing Peter from prison, worshiping God and even rebelling against God. They are mysterious servants of God who serve as messengers. They warned people of Sodom and Gorrah; rescued those who are faithful Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and they often instructed people as to what to do next. One key role is that they share messages from heaven to earth and this is why they play such a pivotal role in the story of Jesus’ birth.
                The Christmas story is filled with angels including the archangel Gabriel. Gabriel’s message to those key individuals who served God was simply that it was time for the Messiah to arrive.  Zacharias and his wife Elizabeth are told that they would have a child in their older age. This boy would fulfill Malachi’s prophecy from God that He would send an Elijah0like figure who would prepare the way for the Redeemer. But when Zechariah understood the physical realities he and his wife would experience, he questioned all of this. And so Gabriel told him that he would be mute until the child, who was to be named John was born. This occurred and John became John the Baptist who came to “prepare the way of the Lord.”
                As we prepare our way for the celebration of Jesus’ birth are we questioning why we put so much effort into the holiday? Are we questioning the rationale for the expense, for the time and energy? Zechariah questioned the angel and he was unable to speak until John was born do we question the season or are we grateful that people do care and give for the sake of others?
                What is it we are questioning about Advent and Christ’s birth? How will we find answers? Asking questions of others is not a wasted effort, but only a better way to understand who we are in relationship with others and with God. As we enter in Advent ask yourself what is most important for this celebration for you and your family? What is not needed or desired? And also ask how and when you will hear the Jesus’ birth story? When will you hear that the infant Jesus was placed in a manger?  Remember Gabriel and Zechariah and ask the questions of faith which you have- pray and seek answers- be open to receiving God’s answer!
PRAYER: Holy God show us what it means to prepare and welcome Christ in our midst as an infant. You call us to excitement for the season but we ask that you would help us to question what is best for us to know you and grow in our understanding of Jesus in the manger.  We ask this in faith and with hope. Amen.

Inspired by Bill Crowder, “Windows on Christmas: Biblical Perspectives on the Birth of Jesus” Our Daily Bred Ministries, 2019

Wednesday, 20 November 2019

King of Kings

King of Kings

                This is the last Sunday of this church year as we
begin Advent on December 1. With Advent we start of the waiting time before we celebrate Jesus’ birth and then this leads us to the year-long focus of learning about Christ’s love and joy and discovering who he is for ourselves.
                But before we start Advent what if we were to ask a simple question, ”Who is Jesus and why do we worship him?” How do we understand Jesus who is known by so many names- Joseph and Mary’s son, Son of Man, Son of God, wonderful counselor, almighty God, Prince of Peace, I AM, Alpha and Omega- …?
Jesus is more than the baby in the feed trough, the one who died on the cross and the Christ who breathed the Spirit upon the disciples after his resurrection. Jesus is the teacher, healer, miracle worker, preacher and the one who evoked anger and made the leaders of the time anxious about who he was and could be. Yet he willingly gave himself for us after much struggle and uncertainty of what was to happen next.  Who is this Jesus?
                In John, Jesus calls himself, the gate, the way-truth-life, the good shepherd, bread of life, light of the world, resurrection and the life and through these expressions he is stating his connection with God, the great I AM, Yahweh, the one who was, is and will be. It is helpful to understand God as Trinity- Father, Son and Spirit- or creator, redeemer and Sustainer because Jesus is God and God enabled the Son to live a human life. 
                People have different relationships with God yet at the same time know the Spirit is with us no matter what we do or where we go. All we are asked to do is believe.       As we anticipate this Reign of Christ Sunday are we willing to acknowledge Christ’s Crown as king of kings and the cross of death and resurrection? Are we willing to look at that cross and deny who Jesus is for us?     We should be singing, “Crown him with many crowns,” each day because it is through Him alone that we are able to know him as Saviour, Lord, and King.  Let us rejoice in this!
God we thank you for who you are- Father/Son/Spirit; Creator/Redeemer/ Sustainer. Help us to know that we are your faithful people and strive to lift you up as the one who reigns forevermore. Be with us as we affirm our faith, understand our commitment to your church and live each day as the redeemed people of Christ Jesus. Amen.

Monday, 18 November 2019

I AM part 4

“I AM”

“I am the way, and the truth and the life”. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
John 14:6  

                Is there only one way to God? Christians and non- Christians have been arguing this since Jesus first uttered these words. But if Jesu s is merely one  But let us pause a moment here—Jesus is God as we understand God to be Father, SON and Spirit so this understanding that Jesus is only way to God is valid, because he is God. Jesus does not just say he speaks the truth, but his is the truth. He doesn’t say he can give life, but that he is the source of life itself. After all, he raised Lazarus to life and he too rose from death to life. Jesus does not say he is one pathway to God among many, but states I am the only way.
more religious teacher out of countless others, then his claim would be absurd. How does Jesus have a monopoly on the truth or even proclaim that his way is the only way to God. Why do Christians claim that the only way to the Father is through Jesus Christ?
                Jesus taught about who he was to the people all who listened in the synagogue. He also states that they have studied and scriptures diligently just as he has and these words teach about the Messiah. Yet those listening do not believe nor do they want to believe that these scriptures are written about Him. He then taught that if they did not believe that He is the messiah they would indeed die in sin.
                People knew who Jesus was because of the miracles he had performed, the healing of sick and of his teachings. Yet they still wanted more proof. And what did the Roman soldier say at the cross where Jesus died? Surely this was the Son of God.
                In kindness and love we who are Christians want to think that everyone will be present in heaven one day. Yet there are people who do not believe in life after death, nor heaven at all. But as Christians we believe because Jesus made this possible. Through his teachings and the stories recorded about his life on earth, we believe he is the Son of God, who came and died for us. But we must believe that He is the way to God, because He is God. No one else claimed this, because no one else could!
REFLECT:  When Jesus said “I am the way” he stated that he is the way to God, the way to live life and the way to fully understand our life’s purpose. Are we willing to trust Jesus as the way to knowing God and fully experiencing God’s love for us all. What does this mean for you as you seek Christ in your life?
May God bless us as we seek to know Christ Jesus as God’s Son, the “I AM”. Teach us and show us your way of life as we continue to love others in His name. Amen.
Reflections suggested through “I Am the Way: The Amazing Claims of Jesus” by Jack Kuhatscheck, ODB Ministries, 2018)

I AM part 3

“I AM”

“I am the resurrection and the life”. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die, and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.”  John 11:25-26  

                Jesus was a close friend to Martha and Mary and  Jesus then looked up and prayed to God the Father. In his prayer He thanked God for hearing his prayers so that others will benefit from knowing who he is. Jesus then called out loudly, “Lazarus, come out?” The man who had been dead came out with his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen around him. He told those watching take off the grave clothes and let him go.   Lazarus was alive and he did not need the binding of linen cloths holding him back from being alive. He was alive.
their brother Lazarus. After Lazarus died, Jesus tried to comfort Martha in her grief by assuring her that he would rise again. Martha believed that this would be true at the end of time, on the last day (v.24) But Jesus had something else in mind. Martha missed the reality that standing before her was Jesus, the one who gives life. Jesus then went to the tomb where Lazarus’ body had been for four days. He asked that the entrance stone of the tomb be removed.
                When a person dies their spirit lives on. Through faith we believe that they have been received by Christ and begin their eternal life. The earthly body can no longer function and so is buried in a special place to remember the individual. Jesus tells us that our earthly life is temporary; what is eternal ifs our lives with God if we believe in Him.
REFLECT:  Jesus raised Lazarus to life and by this he showed that he is lord of both the living and the dead. He is the one who raised Lazarus and he himself rose from death so that we might never die. What does this mean for you as you remember your loved ones?
Thank you God that Jesus rose from death so that we might live eternally. Help, guide and support us as we remember our loved ones who are now with you. Bless us we pray as we continue to tell Jesus’ story to others. We ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Reflections suggested through “I Am the Way: The Amazing Claims of Jesus” by Jack Kuhatscheck, ODB Ministries, 2018)

Sunday, 3 November 2019

I AM part 2

Wednesday, October 30, 2019
“I AM”
“I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come before me are the thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.”  John 10:7-10

                In Jesus’ time, sheep and shepherds were a common occurrence. In the Old Testament God is often referred to as the “Shepherd of Israel” as Psalm 23  would have been known. “The Lord is my shepherd”. So the image of Jesus being ‘the gate” to the sheepfold would have been relevant. People would have envisioned a sheep pen and would know that there is no gate- except the one the shepherd makes as he sleeps at the entrance in small pens. If a larger sheep pen was used a gate would be present but near the gate would be the place where the shepherd would stay and watch over the sheep entrusted to his care.
                “I am the gate.” Jesus states that he is the one and only way into the pen as a way of watching over the sheep; keeping them safe and secure. And because of this statement, Jesus says I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.
                How does knowing Jesus give us a life that is full? Because we know that in Jesus life is full both now and eternally in him and through him. Those sheep who know him will follow faithfully.  As we grow in our faith we follow his teachings, especially those related to loving God and loving others. But these teachings liberate us by transforming us into the loving, relationship people God intended us to be.
Jesus said “I am the gate’. What does this mean in light of other religions which claim they are the way to God? What does this mean to you personally? Does this image of Jesus the shepherd sitting as the gatekeeper cause you to wonder about your ‘abundant life’?
Holy God as you sent Jesus to save us from sin, he also came to give us a life more abundant then before. Enable us to fully understand this for ourselves- each day. Help us to truly live life and do so knowing that Jesus is the one who made it possible. Be with us, watch over us and continue to be our gate as you protect and guide us. Amen.
                Reflections suggested through “I Am the Way: The Amazing Claims of Jesus” by Jack Kuhatscheck,              ODB Ministries, 2018)