Thursday 24th Christmas Eve
Luke Ch 1 verse 11 – 13 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13 But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John.
Angelic visitations are not unusual occurrences in the Bible, but as we are in the season of Advent, I have chosen this passage to focus on.
Angels are primarily seen as God’s messengers, think of Gideon in Judges Ch 6 verse 12, or Hagar in Genesis Ch 16 verses 7 & 8, or Joseph in Matthew Ch 2 verse 13, to name but 3. They are the very mouthpieces of God and come to deliver his message to mortals, that when acted upon make significant differences, often at important times in the Biblical story.
Here the Angel proclaims that Zechariah’s wife would bear him a son who was to be called John. This John [the Baptist] went on to proclaim the coming of Jesus, who in turn proclaimed the arrival of the Kingdom of God, which ultimately proclaimed Salvation for everyone who would believe in Jesus.
Each Angelic visitation was the precursor to the recipient of the message doing or saying something that made a difference, but the thing to note is that the recipient had to do it, the Angel purely brought the message.
The New Testament is clear that we, the people of God in every generation, are called to bring the message of the love of God to those around us. It is not enough to say that we are awaiting an Angelic visitation, no it is there in black and white, the message has been given, and now is the time for us to become God’s mouthpieces, pointing others to God.
Dear Lord Jesus, lead us to those to whom you want us to share the message of good news with and guide our words that we may bring the light of Christ into the darkness of the human heart.
Friday 25th Christmas Day
Luke Ch 2 verse 10 ‘But the angel said to [the shepherds],’…I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people.’
There has been much to reflect on and ponder this last year regarding a pandemic which has preoccupied our thoughts and prayers. The long road ahead, in terms of thankfully seeing the rolling out of vaccines, gives us today a current and very topical example of a tangible hope which is bursting into what has been and still is such a dark time for us all. Just as these passports to health and immunity bring a light as the end of the tunnel in today’s world, so the coming of the baby Jesus was and is the best news the world could ever have received. His coming on that first Christmas brings eternal hope and Salvation for all who will receive Him. This is from God, a heaven-sent – world-changing hope which we celebrate today as the central event in world history – where God’s Son was given to eventually rescue mankind from sin and death. Our response though is critical: just as we will all, in turn, need to go and be vaccinated, each of us is called in our time to receive this ‘news of great joy’ for ourselves. So Happy Christmas to you – may you know His love, joy and peace today and every day in your hearts and homes.
Yea Lord we greet thee – Born this happy morning. Hallelujah.
Matthew 4:17 “From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.“
Many people believe that the Kingdom of heaven will happen in the future and that as a result there is time in which to pursue our selfish desires. I remember my time studying at university and how I preferred to go to the pub instead of preparing for exams.
I found studying hard, when really all I wanted to do was to live, and live now.
When I prayed, however, God made me feel He was with me anyway, which was much easier than working hard to achieve recognition from others. I had not needed to study or achieve anything that took months of tiring effort. All I did was to pray with respect and open my innermost thoughts and desires to His almighty listening ear.
Almighty and everlasting God, thank you for encouraging us to pray openly, as there is nothing we have done that is beyond your forgiveness. Help us to see that your love is unconditional, inexhaustible and here right now.
Mark Ch 2 verses 8 – 12 Jesus knew immediately what they were thinking, so he asked them, “Why do you question this in your hearts? Is it easier to say to the paralyzed man ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or ‘Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk’? So I will prove to you that the Son of Man has the authority on earth to forgive sins.” Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!” And the man jumped up, grabbed his mat, and walked out through the stunned onlookers. They were all amazed and praised God, exclaiming, “We’ve never seen anything like this before!”
In this passage, Jesus stuns the Religious Leaders of the day. They had been given prophetic warning that God was going to send a messiah but they weren’t expecting Jesus to take the form he’d come in. They were expecting a military leader. So when Jesus said to the paralyzed man your sins are forgiven to them this was blasphemous and only something God could do. According to the law, this was punishable by death. What these leaders understood, was that Jesus was claiming divine prerogatives, but their judgment was wrong. Jesus was not blaspheming and he was the son of God and in healing the paralyzed man proved it to them.
Jesus referred to himself as the son of man, in other words, he was fully human. Jesus’s other title son of God shows he was fully God. So he has the authority to forgive sins and heal, and as a man in human form, he can identify with us when we are suffering and in pain. He also understands our problems with sin and can help us overcome in these areas.
Dear Lord Jesus, I ask if anyone is suffering or in need at this moment in time, I ask will you help them in whatever area they’re struggling in and meet their need at this time.
Matthew 10: 13 “If the household is worthy, let your peace come upon it. But if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you.”
This can also be true of another person, not just a household.
Of course, if we think about when we make friends with someone, it is natural that the peace we have in our hearts should also come into that relationship and by extension, upon them. And of course, if we think about any of the times we have fallen out with someone, there is much turmoil in our feelings.
What is this verse saying to you – in this context? As I see it, there is advice to allow the process of a growing peace to become manifest, on others too if possible, but if not, then not stressing about it and just having peace with yourself if that is all which can be achieved.
Merciful Lord God, help us to sense the kindness in your words and to learn to accept your will and work with you; not keeping animosity in our hearts, which upsets us, but “the peace of God that RULES”.
John Ch 10 verse 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy, I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
Mark and I went out for a long walk today as it was sunny and took a picnic with us. We had an idea of our route but the map was a little unclear about 1 part. So we followed the various paths until we got to the edge of a wood. Across the clearly worn path into the wood was a newly erected fence and barbed wire. The sign said Keep out! Private property! CCTV is in operation! Clearly, there were signs that people were ignoring the fence but we felt we couldn’t and so we backtracked and re-routed
We felt quite indignant! We know the wood is private but people had walked through it for a long time.
It is an increasing trait with some landowners that they like to keep their land private! Others are more welcoming.
It made me think that Jesus is so much more welcoming of all people into his kingdom. There are no private property signs, no keep out signs. He is welcoming of all. He came into this world to save it! He wants the best for us. He wants us to have peace and joy in his presence. No matter where we are or what we are doing when you read this let’s always be welcoming in whatever way we are able to (in a safe way, of course!)
Psalm 146 verse 3 ‘Do not put your trust in princes, in mortal men, who cannot save…v5: Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob.’
I think we all know, especially with the unenviable task of managing the current crisis worldwide, that leaders and governments so often fail the people they were elected by. We should however not stop praying for those placed in authority over us. (Romans 13) It is good to call our leaders to account, but also to ask our Heavenly Father who is God the Lord and the Supreme Ruler, to bless and help those who have to make often difficult decisions on our behalf. Verse 5 is an important reminder for us to keep our focus and trust in the Living Lord, the God of Jacob who comes in the person of the Son, to be our Lord and Saviour. May He be the One we look to, whom we trust and who will save and help all who seek Him.
O Lord, in our giving and sharing this year, help us to make space for those in need and those who cannot help themselves. Come thou long-expected Jesus.