Monday, 28 December 2015

Christmas Makes or Breaks You

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him            (Matthew 2:3)

Herod the Great?  We would never have heard of this king, with his building works, his ten wives and his swimming pools – but for his involvement in the events surrounding the birth of Jesus Christ.  The news of the event rocked this paranoid man.  Another King….?


The wise men had created a stir on arrival in Jerusalem.  Who was this King that they had travelled so far to see?  The debate has gone on ever since.  Other religious leaders have come and gone…. but somehow the human race will not let Jesus alone, in films, books and arguments.  What do YOU make of Him?


Herod was disturbed.  His own title, ‘King of the Jews’ was a hard-won honour.  Here then, in this visit from eastern strangers, was a threat.  A similar complaint features in Acts 17:7 – “They are acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.”


Herod made his own mind up with frenzied determination – in the killing of all male babies under two in the region…. He might not have done so had he known that within a few months he himself would be dead.  The fact is that, whatever private little empire you try to build around yourself, you are going to have to part with it one day.  Christmas says, “Decide now for the King of all the ages; you won’t regret it!”

THOUGHT:  What makes a ‘real’ Christmas?  The world today is only too aware of thousands at the present time, for whom Christmas resembles that of Bethlehem under Herod’s murder of her children.  


Monday, 21 December 2015

The Connecting Point of Everything

“You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus”      (Luke 1:31)

This is God’s style – to entrust the beginning of the greatest episode of all civilisation to a peasant girl, living in an obscure middle-east township that no one had ever heard of.  The birth of Jesus is the one happening big enough to make sense of events on the only one of all the planets to be inhabited!  We call this event the Incarnation - God becoming human in space and time.

1. The Incarnation connects with our confused History.  True history doesn’t consist of the rise and fall of nations, in the fragments of collapsed dreams or in a meaningless cycle of births and deaths, but in the coming of a King and a kingdom that will outlast all others (v. 33).

2. The Incarnation connects with our sinful Humanity.  From Luke 1 onwards emerged the God-Man, Jesus, who would teach, heal, love and die in his bid to reclaim every human being in the world - so creating out of His followers a new humanity that would live for ever.

3. The Incarnation connects with our true Home.   It is only because of that Birth – and all that followed from it – that the Bible ends as it does with Eden restored as our true Home, and with the banishment of the evil and conflicts that have plagued civilisation.

4. The Incarnation connects with our final Hope.   No, this world was not a strange cosmic accident!  It’s here as a school, a training ground where we can come to know God in Jesus Christ and so look forward to the New Heaven and New Earth that are surely coming.


Sunday, 13 December 2015

Make Way for the King!

In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near”     (Matthew 3:1-2) 

There had not been a real prophet in Israel for centuries.  The Roman eagle flew over everything, and such religion as there was had become dessicated and lifeless.  And then this wild man from the desert arrived!  John the Baptist bore the stamp of true God-given originality, with:


For all of thirty years he had been preparing in a desert existence for this one task – to fulfil the prophecy of Isaiah 40:3 – to ‘prepare the way for the Lord.’  As the fiery announcer of Jesus, people had heard nothing like this for centuries, and they flocked to hear him.


There it was – “Repent!”  Here lay the true authority of a prophet.  John had no need to stump the length and breadth of the country.  People came out to HIM in the desert.  And repentance isn’t simply feeling sorry.  The big question is “Do you intend to stop doing it?  If so, you’ve repented!”


“Yes,” says John. “I baptise you with water – but I’m not the important one!”  The coming One, he said, will baptise you with the reality, of which the water could only be symbolical.

Learn from this Jesus-centred individual.  Men and women with such a focus have the ability to stir great numbers of people.


Sunday, 6 December 2015

Christ is Going to Appear

We wait for the blessed hope – the glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ   (Titus 2:13)

Here is a clear affirmation of Christ as God.  True, the original New Testament Greek could technically mean, ‘the appearing of our great God (the Father) and our Saviour Jesus Christ’ – but nowhere in the New Testament is God the Father ever said to ‘appear.’  Every one of the ten ‘appearing’ references are of Jesus.  Certainly this is how the Greek church leaders of early Christian history understood the passage – and I guess that their Greek was better than ours!

Actually the reference HAS to be to Christ, because the sentence runs straight on to describe his sacrificial death (v. 14).

So Jesus Christ, our Saviour and our God, will ‘appear’ at the end of the age.  He came first, in the ‘grace of God’ (v. 11), at Bethlehem.  That first coming was humble, localised – and witnessed only by a few.  The Second Coming will be different.  It will be ‘glorious’ and it will be universal.

You will witness it, whether or not you wish it.  Think of it.  Generals, dictators and terrorists will all see the Coming.  So will the stars of sports, screen and stage.  So will atheists, and devotees of every religion and belief-system going.  And – whether we wish it or not  – we will bow to His authority; either joyfully as one of ‘his very own’ (v.14) or in crushing judgment that will consign us to outer darkness.

About the present ‘leasehold’ of humanity’s stay on earth, Stephen Neill has written, ‘We know, without a shadow of doubt, that one day it will run out.’ 

Make the most of this day of choosing, and of ‘grace’ (v. 11).  It won’t last for ever.