Posted on: 9th December 2019
“When Herod realised that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious.”
In 2009, a new tradition began in our household around Christmas. The day we put the tree up (there is still a lengthy and annual discussion around the right time to do this!), we watch ‘The Nativity.’ Partly because my wife was brought up in Coventry and has happy memories of the Cathedral. Partly because the true meaning of Christmas is summed up so beautifully. But mostly because Mr Poppy is hilarious. But it is the character of Gordon Shakespeare that I want to reflect on today.
Each year, the local newspaper prints a review of the nativity productions that take place. Every year, Mr Shakespeare looks for a new angle on the traditional story, a perspective that no one has before considered. In Nativity 1, he looks at Herod. This week our verse to consider is Matthew 2:16. If you were to read the full verse, the response to Herod’s fury was a tragedy to any family that had bore a child during that period. Traditions suggests this number could have been as many as 64,000 but the lower estimate would be between 8 to 20 innocent children murdered.
Herod was the King of the Jews, a title given by the Romans who gave him his power and authority. His desire to remain king led him to this act of brutality. Compare this to the words he spoke to the magi when they first arrived, in verse 8. “Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.” Herod was given the gift of welcoming the Son of God into the world, but he did not receive this gift well.
My challenge for you this year is to ask how you will respond to the coming of Jesus into the world. For some, Jesus is an unnecessary addition to a time for family, friends and celebration. For others, the message of Jesus challenges our way of living and leads to negative responses. And for others, Christmas is a time to celebrate the saviour of the world. Take time this year to consider your response of Jesus.
Posted on: 2nd December 2019
“She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
What do you look forward to the most at Christmas? I love talking to people about their traditions and habits. For some, they begin the season on November the 1st, the day after Halloween. The end of the celebration brings a 54-day anticipation of celebrating the ‘Light of the World’. For others, 25th November marks a month to go and is a legitimate mark for beginning to prepare. But the 1st December and the opening of the first advent calendar surely is the latest someone would choose to begin the anticipation.
In the gospel of Matthew, the writer begins by giving the build up to Jesus. He marks the significance of his birth to Mary, recording the genealogy from Abraham and from King David. This was a significant marker for those who were expecting the Messiah, because it fulfilled many of the prophecies that in the books of the prophets.
Three characters drew my attention this week as I read the ancestral list. Please take time this week to read Matthew 1, and let me know who stands out for you. For me, it was the mention of the female characters, Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Uriah’s wife. I encourage you to have a look at the stories of these characters. For me, their stories speak of good coming from bad and God’s redemption of taking something broken and turning it in to something beautiful.
Whatever your tradition in the build up to Christmas, can I encourage you to consider the message of salvation and forgiveness that comes because Jesus came. He is the reason for the season.
Posted on: 14th January 2019
“And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.”
Do you have the gift?
What is your gift? We have just gone through the Christmas season where gifts have been given and received. Did you get what you want? Did you get what you need? Did you get a gift that you thought you needed, but realised that it wasn’t what you thought it was going to be?
My favourite present is still partly unopened on the coffee table in my living room. It is a jar containing 58 pieces of paper. It is the most special gift I have ever received. On each piece of paper there is a statement that begins, “I love you because…” Every time I read one of the statements, I feel like a giant, a hero and a champion. Every word written by my wife and children is an encouragement that I am loved for being me.
In Romans 12:8, Paul describes encouragement as a spiritual gift. This doesn’t mean that only certain people can do it, but it makes it clear that God is into encouragement enough to empower people to do it through his Spirit. As a school, our mission statement acknowledges that the Holy Spirit is inspirer. Do you have the gift of encouragement? Maybe you don’t know the gift that God has entrusted to you. Maybe 2019 is your year of discovery and development.
Proverbs 18:20-21 says, “Wise words satisfy like a good meal; the right words bring satisfaction. The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences.”
When we meet up in our houses this week, we are challenged to come together as a team, working together towards a goal. I have been part of enough teams to know that encouraging others is a far better team dynamic than criticism.
This week, take time to encourage others. If you feel it comes naturally to you then maybe you have identified a gift. Gifts are for giving, so give the gift of encouragement this week.
Posted on: 17th December 2018
“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.”
What is the greatest gift you have ever received? When you got it, did it fulfil everything you hoped it would? My son really wanted a step counter last year. I found it at the back of the card drawer last week, unused. Frustratingly, he has asked for a step counter again this year.
As I grew up there was one gift I always wanted – Subbuteo. Last year I managed to fulfil my childhood ambition. I didn’t get it directly, I bought it for my son. Having played it only three times this year I can confirm that it wasn’t the life changing gift I had built it up to be.
Scholars and religious leaders had read the books of the prophets and were waiting in expectation for the Messiah to be born. Thirty years after the birth of Jesus, one of those scholars had questions that he was afraid to ask in the open, so he came to Jesus at night. His name was Nicodemus. I love the conversation he had with Jesus. He approaches Jesus and says “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no-one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.”
Jesus’ response is exceptional and is definitely worth reading over the festive period. In John chapter 3 verse 16, Jesus announces himself as the greatest gift ever. Imagine a gift that begins today and last for eternity.
“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.”
In preparation for Christmas celebrations, please consider the words of Jesus. If believing in him can lead to eternal life, as well as life to the full here, isn’t that the greatest gift ever given. If a gift like that was offered to you, how would you respond?
Posted on: 4th December 2017
“Therefore Israel will be abandoned until the time when she who is in labour bears a son, and the rest of his brothers rest of his brothers return to join the Israelites. He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God.”
Did you know that Christmas is coming? – Of course, what a silly question, we can’t miss it!
Twinkling Lights, advent calendars, shopping mayhem! Maybe this weekend you have decorated your tree? Maybe you have bought a wreath for your door? Many things happen at this time of year that remind us it’s nearly Christmas.
But, are you ready for CHRISTmas?
Christmas isn’t just about the lights, the chocolates, the trees. Christmas all began because of a baby, a baby we know as Jesus Christ and Christ is right at the centre of Christmas – it’s called CHRISTmas. At the end of the Old Testament in Micah, the news of a promised ruler from Bethlehem is spoken, they call him His Majesty. And there are many names for Christ, many that we will consider over this Christmas time. But the one we will come back to again and again is Christ and the ADVENTure we can have in getting to know more about who He is.