Walking past a department store counter it caught my eye. How could it not – a beautiful delicate blue chevron patterned bag. Eye catching and gorgeous. And that was before I picked it up and appreciated the practicalities of the design. You will be relieved, if not surprised to know, that I put it back down again, not needing another one. But there was definitely something about the bag and what it represented – a mini break perhaps, or a tropical holiday, time out, relaxation. It was, I quite decided, the aspirational bag.
There’s a lot in life that can inspire or make us aspire to a better life. Bright pink running shoes that suggest running would be the best way to get fit. The beautifully bound journal that inspires you to find a quiet nook and write great works! The brightly coloured mug that begs to be filled with coffee and slowly enjoyed.
And then there is worship. Worship songs played at home or in the car or on the ipod (while running in pink shoes) that stir your spirit and move centre stage from background music to the your main focus. Worship that grabs hold of you and interrupts what you are doing to cause you to stop, pause and give glory to God.
The bag and the pink running shoes won’t transform my life. Yes, they can be tools of motivation but they aren’t transformational. They’ll get dirty or lose the new fresh appeal and probably be relegated to the bottom of the wardrobe. Worship though is transformational. The more we worship and magnify God, the more we glorify Him, the more we are changed – transformed into His image.
“And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)
For my children (and for me!), Christmas morning heralded the receiving of presents. Gorgeously wrapped presents under the tree so quickly unwrapped and the contents displayed. The morning was filled with excited oohs and aaahs and definitely the odd shriek or two. It is in this sharing of gifts that we are encouraged to remember the greatest gift of all – Jesus.
On that first Christmas morning, all those many years ago, Christmas heralded a gift, that for a time most of the world was oblivious to – grace. That first Christmas was the dawn of grace – God’s grace. And while it would take a further 33 years to outwork with Jesus’ life on earth and His crucifixion, death and resurrection, it had begun with His birth.
Grace – the unmerited favour of God. Undeserved and unearned. Through Jesus we receive God’s greatest act of grace – salvation and from it eternal life. How amazing, how wonderful. And once again I find myself turning to the words of a song to communicate the wonder of this gift of grace.
That gives what I don’t deserve
Gives me what Christ has earned
And lets me go free
That gives me the time to change
Washes away the stain
That once covered me
And all that I have
I lay at the feet
Of the Wonderful Saviour who loves me
Wonderful Grace, made possible by the birth of a precious baby – Son of God.
Today the season of Christmas seems to start just as the days in this part of the hemisphere are growing longer and warmer. Ironically malls and streets transform themselves into snowy, wintery scenes of Christmas Trees, Santa’s grotto and sleighs filled with presents. And with the decorations come the carols – “Rudolph the Red nosed reindeer”, “Sleigh bells ring”…”I’m dreaming of a white Christmas”.
Interspersed between these secular carols though, do come the traditional carols such as “O Holy Night” and “Joy to the World”. But these songs are more than just a nice story, a fairy tale – these Carols tell the story – the true story of Christmas.
A carol is a song of praise or joy. They have been sung in churches since the 13th Century. Delightful and happy as the carols like “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas” are, they can’t compete with the wonder, the majesty and the true joy that the Carols telling of Christ’s birth convey.
In “O Holy Night’ we catch a glimpse of the amazing wonder and joy that is indeed Christmas. A joy that goes beyond the tinsel, the gifts and all the trimmings and reaches into our souls. For it speaks of how with that first Christmas came hope for us all.
“Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope, the weary soul rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.”
Christmas is the celebration of the God’s amazing plan to come to rescue a world that was broken, hurt and lost. God sent His only Son as a demonstration of the amazing love that He has for each one of us. By His Grace, His unmerited and deserved favour, God paved the way home for us by this babe in a manger that we celebrate tonight. The Son of God – stepped from Heaven into our world – our realities – to bring us life! He came as a vulnerable baby to live amongst us.
As Max Lucado once wrote “This is the heart of the Christian message. God became a human. He was born in an ordinary stable to ordinary parents. But His was an extraordinary purpose…He came to take us to Heaven. Jesus’ desire was singular – to bring His children home“
Christmas is not just celebrating the birth of a baby. Christmas is celebrating how God came to earth to dwell among us as a man. It is one part of an incredible journey of reconciliation, hope and love by our God that had begun before time in the halls of Heaven. You see, this baby in the manger grew to become a man – but no ordinary man. He came to bring us life. He came to bring forgiveness. And ultimately He came to lay down His life for us and vanquish death by rising from the dead.
The wonder of Christmas that we celebrate, is not only the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, it is the knowledge that this baby is our Saviour and that He did indeed lay down His life for us, and He did indeed rise from the dead.
“The night the baby was born the Cross was already raised and the stone was rolled away” (Louie Giglio)
“Joy to the world, the Lord has come!”
“Glory to the newborn King!”
The carols that sing of our Saviour’s birth are indeed a song of praise!
Come, thou long expected Jesus,
born to set thy people free;
from our fears and sins release us,
let us find our rest in thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation,
hope of all the earth thou art;
dear desire of every nation,
joy of every longing heart.
Born thy people to deliver,
born a child and yet a King,
born to reign in us forever,
now thy gracious kingdom bring.
By thine own eternal spirit
rule in all our hearts alone;
by thine all sufficient merit,
raise us to thy glorious throne.