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: 10th December 2018
“And she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.”
When I read in the gospels the story of the birth of Jesus, I read a verse like “Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem”, without stopping to consider the implication. Have you ever stopped to question how far that was, what the route was like or how long it would have taken? Let’s just say, it wasn’t close, easy or quick! Factor in the pregnancy and you must come to the conclusion that Mary knew what it was like to face adversity.
Compare this to the opening verses in the book of James 1:2, “Consider it pure joy when you face trials of many kinds.” I wonder if that is the sort of encouragement that spurred Mary on to the stable in Bethlehem. Interestingly, the book of James was written by Jesus’ brother, another son of Mary. I wonder if the story of Jesus’ birth as well as his death were in his mind as he wrote those words.
I heard a story once about a lump of rock that made me consider the meaning of James 1:2. In a busy museum there was a beautiful marble statue that people in their thousands would come and admire. The statue was magnificently crafted and showed the expertise of the sculptor. A marble tile from the floor looked up and grumbled at the statue, “It’s alright for you, everyone loves you and admires you. All I get is walked all over and trodden on each day.” The statue looked down at the tile and replied, “My friend, we were once the same but when the sculptor came at me with his tools, I allowed him to break me and shape me in the way he saw best. There were times when I wanted to crack and give in, but I trusted his workmanship.”
Maybe the reason Mary was able to face her adversity was because she clung to the promise in Isaiah 7:14, “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” During this season as advent, let us consider how we can be thankful for adversity, clinging to the promises we have been given.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.