When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” (Luke 2:15)
If there is one thing that has struck me afresh this year with Christmas, it is that it is a story of travellers. Of Mary and Joseph who would travel to Bethlehem to fulfil the prophesy of where the Messiah would be born. Of travelling Wise men following a star seeking a King. Even Angels travelling from Heaven to bring the good news. The shepherds leaving their flocks to go and seek the baby that the angel told them about. And of a God that would travel to earth to become a baby.
We are all travellers too. Travelling through life seeking an encounter with God. Maybe this Christmas you are seeking the joy that comes from Jesus. You might need from Him the peace that passes all understanding, the everlasting hope that only He can provide. Or maybe this year you wish for a fresh revelation of the love that Jesus has for you.
As we journey towards Christmas Day, and as each day we journey with God, may you find in Jesus what your heart needs.
Life is busy and often all go. But several times a day, I have an “enforced” rest. A time when I sit, holding my little baby in my arms for his bottle. It is in these precious times that we will look into each other’s eyes. I’ll whisper words of love to him, share dreams and hopes. It’s an intimate moment.
It reminds me in some ways of the traditional Maori greeting, the Hongi. This is the pressing of one’s nose and forehead to another person at an encounter, a time of greeting. The Hongi is the exchange of the ha, the breath of life. A sacred ritual that from its action causes two people to share breath.
For us Christians, this breath of life is the promise of Christ. That in our hardest times, in our times of weariness or waiting, in our times when we are acutely aware of our weakness, God is there with us. Sharing our breath, sharing our pain. But also bringing His Light, bringing His strength, bringing His Spirit.
This Christmas may we know the breath of Heaven anew. That God would bring His light to our darkness and would be forever near.
Breath of heaven
Hold me together
Be forever near me
Breath of heaven
Breath of heaven
Lighten my darkness
Pour over me your holiness
For you are holy
Breath of heaven
“Just then, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. For behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: Today in the City of David a Saviour has been born to you. He is Christ the Lord!” (Luke 2:9-11)
Great joy! That’s what the birth of Jesus brings! It is the unfolding of God’s plan for our redemption. For all people. Not just the wise, not just the nobility or the rich. All people. The hardworking shepherds on the outskirts of Bethlehem. It included them. The Wisemen from different lands, it included them. It includes all of us.
As we sing in our Kiwi carol Te Harinui, this is the great and glorious word! That God would come to earth to make a way for us to call Heaven home. To entrust us with the gift of His Son.
Te Harinui translates from Maori as “The Big Happy”. I couldn’t think of a more appropriate translation! Christmas is a time to celebrate, to remember with great joy God’s gift to us. This is definitely big Happy news!
‘Once in our world a stable had something in it that was bigger than our whole world.’ (C.S. Lewis)
I love words. If I could collect words as much as I apparently collect handbags I would! But sometimes our English language lets us down. It just doesn’t do justice to what we’re trying to convey.
In this second week of Advent I find that to be very much the case with the word peace. When we read that Jesus is the Prince of Peace, that the angels proclaimed at His birth “Peace on Earth” we can be forgiven for thinking of hippies doing the peace sign and assume it only means an end to war, an end to disturbance.
But it goes much deeper than that. The Hebrew word for peace is Shalom. And Shalom also means harmony, wholeness, completeness, prosperity, welfare and tranquillity.
I don’t know about you but I think I need quite a lot of that in my life! Yes to peace! Yes to wholeness! Yes to prosperity! And as my boys are soon to finish school for the summer, yes to some times of tranquillity in the weeks ahead!
So my friends, Shalom, Shalom to you and your household!
I’ve been feeling rather undone by Christmas this year. As I listen to carols playing I have found tears easily springing to my eyes. The familiar words so joyous, so glad have been wrecking havoc on my spirit. You see this year I got a little broken, my heart’s a little more fragile, a little more vulnerable. Grief has visited. Worry and fear have oft crouched at my door.
But my tears aren’t in sadness. They are a response to a deeper awareness of my need for Emmanuel – God with us. That I need the Prince of Peace in my every day living, all my days. The carols remind me, remind us of the hope, the joy, peace and love that is found in Christ. And as the carols sing of the promise of Jesus, I know that we live in the reality of that promise. That God is with us. That Jesus has come.
This year may have held its hard days, but they were not dark. For the promised Light of the World shone His light into my darkness. Brought joy when mine was gone. Jesus has displaced fear with His love, despair with His hope and left peace where there should have been none.
So while I may continue being a little teary this Christmas it is only because my heart is joining with the angels declaring “Glory to God in the highest!”
O little town of Bethlehem
How still we see thee lie
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight
I’m sure all of us hold many hopes for the future. Dreams for what we hope it holds. Hopes and desires for our families, for work, for our passions. We can also carry fears for the future. Of what could happen, fears of what we think lies ahead. It’s like a coin – two sides – hopes on one side, fears on the other.
It’s why I love the line in the carol “O little town of Bethlehem” which says
“The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.” A baby, born in the little town of Bethlehem, is the answer to all our hopes and fears. We can trust our thoughts of the future – whether they are hopes or fears to Jesus.
And when we entrust our hopes and fears to Him, we will find rest. We will find peace.
“Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from Him.” (Psalm 62:5)
The Christmas Season is upon us. Most of the season will be spent in preparation for the celebration of Christmas day. The purchasing of presents, the gathering of food, the decorating of our homes. Today in my household the furniture is being rearranged to make room for the Christmas tree to be put up.
As I prepare my home for Christmas, I can’t help but think how much this part of Christmas echoes the Israelites as they awaiting their Messiah. The waiting, the expectation, the hope.
Even though I am busy with my preparations, I feel the peace, the anticipation for Christmas Day and all its wonderful celebrations. I feel my heart begin to fill again with the joy of Christmas. The carols playing in the background begin the call to focus and remember the birth of Jesus.
This season may be frantic as our calendars fill up with events, but as we prepare our homes for Christmas let’s not forget that once a people waited too. Let’s remember also that this waiting foreshadows another day still to come, when Jesus comes again.
O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.
“Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” (Luke 1:45)
With the trend to Word Art, at Christmas time it is not unusual to see displays of the words joy, love, hope, peace. There is also another word that makes its appearance – believe. It’s included in the secular and the sacred. But while the secular attributes “believe” to be belief in the magic of Christmas or the Polar Express, the sacred is about belief in the true gift of Christmas – that of Jesus Christ.
With the versions (yes I have a couple) around my house they serve as a prompt to my faith. A reminder that I believe. Not just in the gift of Christmas with the birth of our Saviour, but to belief in God and all that He says is true.
A reminder that I believe that God is true to His promises.
A reminder that I believe that God is good, all the time.
A reminder that I believe that God is the Giver of good Gifts.
A reminder that I believe that God has plans for me and they are good.