Happy Christmas!

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nativityFor unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:11

Thank you so much for following along with me on this journey into the main characters and themes of the Christmas story.

I am rejoicing today that it is a story that is not only wonderful in its content, but is also something that we can truly have confidence in. I am rejoicing for its basis in historical fact and the revelation it contains of God’s master plan; a plan to send to us a Saviour who was, and still is, Christ the Lord.

We have seen how it is a story in which God uses all kinds of people from many walks of life; the young and the old, the rich and the poor, both foreigners and people in their native land. We have seen how God uses many miraculous signs and methods to communicate to them, from ancient prophecy to message-bearing angels, from stars in the sky to dreams while people sleep. We have seen some glimpses of what God considers important; the places where we are born and live and the names that people are called. And we have seen how God can use the ordinary details of human existence for His purposes, whether as intimate as the birth of a child or as public and powerful as huge political empires.

It is a story that confirms over and over to us, in its many intricate details, that this child born to us is divine God in human flesh. It compels us to respond with praise and wonder.

May you have a very blessed Christmas and a wonderful year as you continue to walk with the awesome God whose story it is.

December 24th: Praise

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praiseAnd the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. Luke 2:20

The overwhelming response to the news of the birth of Christ throughout the Christmas story is one of praise. It is in Mary’s Magnificat (the Latin verb for ‘glorifies’) in which Mary gives a shout of exultation followed by a series of reasons why God is to be praised. It is in Zechariah’s prophecy which has become known as the Benedictus (the Latin word for ‘praise be’). It is in the Gloria that the angels sing to the shepherds: “Glory to God in the highest”. It is in the way that the powerful Magi fall down in front of the tiny infant and worship him. It is in the way that the shepherds return ‘glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen’.

And honestly, there is plenty to be praised! These worshippers tells us, each in their own unique and individual ways, that this baby means justice for the oppressed, a Saviour from sin, the reconciliation of God to his people, the possibility of serving God by living holy and righteous lives, light for those in darkness and death, peace on a troubled earth, good news for all people, a King whose reign is eternal and a Shepherd to protect and provide for his flock. And these are just a few things; if you read through the Magnificat or the Benedictus you will find more. Read through the Bible you will find even more!

It is a strong reminder that the only appropriate response to this overwhelming news of what God has done is our praise and worship. As we turn our praises to God, worship also has a way of transforming the worshipper; it takes us away from our current troubles and concerns and focusses our minds on the bigger picture. For the people in the Christmas story, this was not the end. Yet the challenges ahead, whether the safety of their new baby, the return to a dark and unwelcoming hillside or a long journey home, must have paled to insignificance as they praised God for what they had just seen and witnessed.

Father, we worship and adore you for this amazing story of how your Son entered our world, how He took on human flesh to be with us and to save us. May we sing with full and glad hearts of what you did all those years ago and for its continuing truth and relevance for us today. This Christmas, as we celebrate with family and friends, we acknowledge that our greatest celebration is in what you have done for us. In the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

My December devotionals project…

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Copley Square Christmas Tree

Let me just start by saying, I love Christmas. I love Christmas trees, and Christmas carols, and Christmas cookies, and Christmas movies, and pretty much everything about the whole experience. I become visibly excited when December finally arrives and I have a legitimate excuse to indulge in all the treats! But what I love most of all is the Christmas story- for a start, we wouldn’t have Christmas without it, and second, I love the invitation to immerse myself every year in a truly incredible but very real story of how God Himself entered our world. How he became one of us that he might walk among us, talk with us, share life with us. How he came so humbly to meet us where we are, just as we are, and to save us from the very worst of ourselves, the ugly parts that we would rather nobody knew about.

For many of us as adults, myself included, we are so familiar with the story of Christ’s birth that we can listen to it without really hearing it, sitting with glazed eyes as it’s read to us. It has also become so intertwined with dramatized versions, from school nativity plays to full scale movies, and with the images we see in art galleries and on Christmas cards, that we are no longer really clear what is actually contained in the Bible text, compared to what has been imagined or added for the purposes of artistic license over the centuries.

So I have set myself a project this December. I am going to attempt to explore the Christmas story with a fresh pair of eyes. I am going to revisit the key people and themes that we find in the gospel accounts of Matthew and Luke and ask God to reveal something new to me that I have never noticed before. What I hope will emerge is a series of advent devotionals like the advent calendars I enjoyed opening as a child; daily glimpses or ‘windows’ into the Christmas story.

I invite you to join me and take the opportunity that this wonderful time of year brings to immerse yourself in the magic, and in doing so, draw a little closer to the heart of the God whose story it is.