Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Manger Scene

Children are always delightful at Carol Services and those who came to ours from the Toddler Group were no different. They had the ability to really enter into the story of Christmas and believe themselves part of it, rocking the baby Jesus to sleep whilst the inevitable "Away in a manger" was being sung.

During the meeting we had given out battery operated tea lights which we invited the congregation to switch on during the singing of Silent Night, when they sang what they felt was a signficant line in the carol. This was obviously a bit above the heads of 3 year olds but they found their own way to respond. Spontaneously as the carol progressed and more lights came on, one by one the Toddlers brought their lights forward and placed them in front of the manger.

It was one of those "Ah" moments but in another a case of "and a little child shall lead them" Having received light from Christ, what better thing to do with it than to give it back to him, so that others might see him? What better thing to do with the new life we are given in Christ than to give it back to him for him to use for his glory and his kingdom.

Not without can I remain,
Nor my heart's deep urge restrain,
Trembling 'neath my love and pain,
I come, dear Son of God.
Now I bow me at thy stall,
Giftless, yet I give thee all;
Thou art Lord, and I am thrall
To thee, O Son of God!

(Arch Wiggins)

God bless


Sunday, 19 December 2010

What the judge says

For the last few months TV viewing on Saturday evenings for many has either been the X Factor or Strictly Come Dancing. When we have been in on a Saturday night, I have to say that I cannot bear the X Factor but my husband quite likes Strictly.

For weeks the former MP Ann Widdicombe was a contestant and a truly awful dancer. However the public kept voting for her, because in their view she was so entertaining. Fortunately by the time the contest was hotting up and all the other dancers in the competition were seriously good, Ann was voted off. The judges had always been pretty scathing about her abilities as a dancer even though they may have thought she was a good sport and liked her as a person. But in their eyes what matters in a dancing competition is the quality of the dancing and they as expert ballroom dancers themselves know what the standard is.

Many people have lots to say about Jesus Christ. In his earthly life he was accused of being a blasphemer, a traitor, a drunk and more than a bit barmy. That was public opinion and eventually the public voted him off and chose Barabbas. But the person that is perfectly qualified to judge who Jesus is, the validity of his claims and the quality of his life is God himself.

The writer to the Hebrews writes about God's judgement on Jesus.

"For which of the angels did God every say, "You are my Son; today I have become your father." Or again, "I will be his Fatehr and he will be my Son"? And again, when God brings his fristborn into the world, he says, "Let all God's angels worship him." In speaking of the angels he says, "He makes his angels winds, his servants flames of fire." But about the Son he says, "Your throne, O God, will last forever and ever and righteousness will be the sceptre of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; there God, your God has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy." (Hebrews 1:5-9)

God has declared Jesus the winner, the one to be acclaimed as Lord of above all and invites us to worship him.

God bless


Friday, 17 December 2010


We have been carolling today in our local service station. One of the people who had to appear through the door was the actress and comedienne Dawn French and yes she did put something in the box! My husband's claim to fame will now be that he has met Dawn French, albeit that the only words shared were, "Thank you very much, Happy Christmas.

Actually Dawn did not make an appearance, she was probably just answering the call of nature and trying to avoid too much attention. However she will be officially appearing I am sure on TV over Christmas, even if it is just in re-runs of Vicar of Dibley Christmas specials.

When Jesus made his appearance on earth, it wasn't in a grand debut on a West End Stage but in a backwater town, which could barely find room for him. Not many people recognised him as a celebrity or someone worth taking any notice of.

Yet this was a deliberate appearance. Titus 2:11 says "For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men."

In the world of showbusiness the plea is always for something new, something different. In the world of faith, when Jesus appeared, something unique and amazing was displayed to the world.

When asked what made Christianity unique and different to all other world religions, CS Lewis, replied, "That's easy. It's grace."

He left his father's throne above
So free, so infinite his grace
Emptied himself of all but love
And bled for Adam's helpless race
Tis mercy all immense and free
For O my God, it found out me.

God bless


Thursday, 16 December 2010

Upstairs Downstairs

One of my Christmas presents last year was the DVD set of the original series of Upstairs Downstairs. This year the series is to be revised, this time set in the 1930's.

The drama contrasts the lives of the rich and priviledged family who live upstairs and their servants who work in relative poverty downstairs. The lines of demarkation between the classes were clearly defined. Some characters accepted this divide, whilst others like Thomas the chauffer longed to escape his humble lot and had ambition to rise in wealth and status. Rarely was there any idea that those upstairs might choose to go "downstairs" There was an episode where one of the upstairs characters got involved in helping at a soup kitchen and became instrumental in rescuing a former maid from starvation but there was no suggestion that this character exchange places with the unfortunate maid or that the family would volutarily give up their wealth and position in order for others to become rich. It was unthinkable.

And in many ways who could blame them. My mother was born in 1920 and grew up in a family where times were extremely hard. I learned from her, that there is nothing romantic about being poor. I remember her telling me that it was not so much going without things that was so tough, but the humiliation of having to go to the shop and beg for charity, of being ridiculed by teachers at school for her clothes and the assumption that because she was poor she would be a servant or a factory worker until she was married. As it happened she became a Salvation Army officer, which didn't improve her bank balance but widened her horizons beyond all expectations.

At Christmas we celebrate the unthinkable. We acknowledge the sacrifice of our Lord, who for our sakes made the journey from Upstairs to Downstairs. Paul says,"For you know that the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich." What Christ did was not a romantic gesture. Jesus gave up more than the comfort of heaven when he came to earth, he knew the humiliation of poverty and the understanding of a persons true potential that poverty often cloaks.

Warren Wiersbe writes, "He united himself to mankind and took on himself a human body, left a throne to become a servant and laid aside all possessions. His ultimate experience of poverty was when he was made sin for us on the cross. Hell is eternal poverty and on the cross Jesus Christ became the poorest of the poor."

God bless


Monday, 13 December 2010

Dirty work?

A few years ago whilst I was still involved in a Prison Chaplaincy team, one of the lads in our discussion group asked, “Why did God send an angel to tell Joseph to marry Mary? Why didn’t he do his own dirty work?”

It immediately occurred to us that rather than seeing the responsibility of telling Joseph the good news that it was OK to marry Mary and that Jesus was the Saviour as “dirty work” they would possibly have been as eager as children wanting to be chosen for a special part in the nativity play.

God does not always reveal the truth of the gospel directly to people. In fact he mainly relinquishes the task of telling the good news to us. He could retain the pleasure for himself but instead allows us the joy of passing on the news.

God bless


Saturday, 11 December 2010

Brengle: The Angels Song of Peace

"The first note of their song was “Glory to God in the highest. They put heavenly things first. God was foremost in their thought, then his glory; afterwards they sang, “Peace on earth and goodwill toward men……. The Christmas song of the angels, sung over the sleepy little town of Bethlehem, becomes a guide to us in these days. Our chief business is to give glory to God, to put him first in our lives, to have a divine jealousy for his honour. This spirit of seeking God’s glory first will make us fight sin. We will hate sin because it robs God of his own, of his right and his glory in man…….
This spirit will lead us out to warfare for God. He who possesses it cannot sit still while the Devil has his own way and while God is robbed and wronged. It leads him to go out and plead with men, exhort men, command men, compel men to turn from their evil ways to give up sin, to yield their hearts to God and to love and serve him.
This spirit makes sacrifice a joy and service a delight. Everything that man with this spirit has is at God’s disposal; he gives his whole life for the glory of his Lord. He only wishes he had a thousand lives and could live a thousand years to fight God’s battles.
O blessed is the man that is so filled with this spirit of heaven that he puts heavenly things first and sings on earth while the angels sing in heaven; Glory to God in the highest.” Samuel Logan Brengle (Love Slaves Ch5 pg 43-44)

God bless


Friday, 10 December 2010

Learning from angels

Hebrews 1:6 says “And when God brings his firstborn into the world he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him.”

The angels therefore worshipped Jesus when he came, as the God-man into the world. They worship him though they do not know the joy of redemption. They know nothing of the shed blood of the cross being applied to them. How much more ought we to worship the Lord Jesus Christ, we, who were lost, hell-bound and hell-deserving, but who have been rescued because Jesus took upon himself the punishment that we deserve, and died on a cross? How much more should we fall on our faces and adore him?”
(RT Kendall Worshipping God pg 123-124)

The angels sing a glorious song
But not a song like mine
For I am washed in Jesus’ blood
And singing all the time

Singing glory, glory, glory
Glory be to God on high

(Edward Payson Hammond SASB 326)

God bless


Thursday, 9 December 2010

Have yourself a merry little Christmas and pick yourself a sentimental Bible verse!

I am always interested to hear what Christians quote as their favourite Bible verse. I have observed that most people quote verses that comfort them and they are often related to God being a source of strength during difficult circumstances. There is nothing wrong with that as such and like everyone else I have my favourite comfort blanket texts that I pull out when I am feeling a bit vulnerable.

Yet something niggles at me a bit about this because even people who do not profess to be born again often quote those same verses,for example, "The Lord is my Shepherd" or the love chapter from 1 Corinthians. I recently asked a Salvationist why they loved Jesus and their reply was that it was because he was always there for them. That is true but so is the NHS when we are sick and 24 hour Tesco's when we need a pint of milk! Do we not love Jesus for more than the fact that he is a reliable friend to whom we can off load our worries and whom we hope will solve our problems?

Sometimes whilst we're having ourselves a merry little Christmas, celebrating what a nice person Jesus is to have around, I worry that the relationship many people in the Church have with Jesus seems to by pass the whole point of the incarnation. How can we forget the fact that Jesus saved us from hell by going through hell for us?

Paul never did. Years after his conversion, his salvation was still at the forefront of his mind. He still couldn't get over the fact that the grace of the Lord was "poured out on me abundantly" If he had a favourite saying I wonder if it was this, "Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners of whom I am the worst."
(1 Timothy 1:15)

And whilst I am in full flow, it also concerns me that the favourite verses often quoted are those that help us feel safe and secure rather than ones which express our aspirations after holiness or the ones which urge us towards fulfilling our divine calling to reach the lost. I haven't heard many people say their favourite verse is "I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus." (Ph 1:14) or "Therefore since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves with the same attitude." (1 Pet 4:1)

I am sure that I am over stating my case but this is a plea to leave behind sentimentality. There is plenty that is sentimental about Christmas, there is nothing at all sentimental about the incarnation. Jesus did not come so we could quote gooey verses about him. He came into the world to save sinners and make them holy.

God bless


Wednesday, 8 December 2010

What if?

What if the incarnation hadn't happened?

“If the babe had not been laid in a manger, then the Man would not have been nailed to the tree, and the Lamb that was slain would not have taken his place on the everlasting throne.”

Bramwell Booth (Trumpets of the Lord p 360)

God bless


Tuesday, 7 December 2010


Luke 2:11 Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you. He is Christ the Lord.

Who is he in yonder stall
At whose feet the shepherds fall

Tis the Lord, O wondrous story
This the Lord the king of glory
At his feet we humbly fall
Crown him, crown him Lord of all

God bless


Monday, 6 December 2010


What did Jesus come to do?

"Jesus Christ came to make the great laws of God incarnate in human life; that is the miracle of God’s grace. We are to be written epistles “known and read by all men.” There is no allowance whatever in the New Testament for the man who says he is saved by grace but who does not produce the graceful goods. Jesus Christ by his Redemption can make our actual life in keeping with our religious profession."

(Oswald Chambers Daily Thoughts for disciples Dec 27th)

God bless


Saturday, 4 December 2010


Ephesians 2:4 “But because of his great love for us, God who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ, even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved.”

As little children we would dream of Christmas morn
And all the gifts and toys we knew we’d find
But we never realised a baby born one blessed night
Gave us the greatest gift of our lives

We are the reason that he gave his life
We were the reason that he suffered and died
To a world that was lost he gave all he could give
To show us a reason to live

As the years went by we learned more about gifts
And giving of ourselves and what that means
On a dark and cloudy day a man hung crying in the rain
Because of love, because of love

I’ve finally found a reason for living
It’s in giving, every part of my heart to him,
In all that I do, in all that I say
I’ll be giving my all just for him
For him.

(by David Meece)

God bless


Friday, 3 December 2010


After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea….. (Matthew 2:1)

This year, weather permitting there will be people making Christmas journeys, travelling to see friends or for many going home for the celebration.

Christmas journey's also took place the first time around. Joseph and Mary left home and security, the shepherds did not have far to travel but they left their sheep without care and protection on the hillside. The wise men left their work in the hands of others and the comfort of their own culture.

But they all came to Bethlehem.

Bethlehem became the central point. It was where the Son of God was born, where he first chose the reveal himself to the world. At first it seems a strange place and we might think God didn't get his logistics right. But God had had Bethlehem in mind for a long time.

Micah 5:2 “But you Bethlehem Ephrathah though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”

The connection of Bethlehem with King David link it with promises of the Messiah and the name literally means "house of bread" How applicable for a baby who grew to describe himself as the bread of life to be born there.

Had the Son of God been born in the temple, he could have grown up as a Pharisee. There may have been room at a palace but that would have opened him up to the accusation that it is all very well for him to be spiritual he doesn't have to work for a living. The wise men could visit a humble house but a shepherd would not have been allowed anywhere near a palace. Neither were truly welcome at the temple.
As it was the place where Jesus was born was open to all. It wasn't just the location, shepherds belonged to the hills and wise men to universities but they were drawn together into a common bond by the child who they believed to be a king.

I have always loved this quote, “Bethlehem, the place where God was homeless but where all people are at home.”

E Stanely Jones wrote, “When the prodigal son was in the far country he “joined himself to a citizen of that country”; but he himself never became a citizen, he was never naturalized. He knew that it was not his homeland. He was out of joint, orphaned, estranged, starved and homesick. Only when he was in his Father’s arms, a member of his father’s household did he feel he was where he belonged. The only sickness is homesickness. A strange nostalgia is upon humanity and homesickness for God is responsible for most of our other sicknesses, mental, spiritual, physical corporate. God is my home. When I am in him I am at home. When I am out of him I am away from home. I am homesick.”

Let's use the Christmas time to pray again for the many prodigals who need to come home to God through Christ.

God bless


Thursday, 2 December 2010


Galatians 4:4 “When the time had fully come, God sent his son, born of a woman, born under law.”

"When we flow in the Spirit we reflect God’s timing: never too late, never too early, but always right on time."(RT Kendall)

“In our day, with family planning clinics offering convenient ways to correct “mistakes” that might disgrace a family name it is a point of fact, extremely improbable under existing conditions that Jesus would have been permitted to be born at all. Mary’s pregnancy, in poor circumstances and with the father unknown, would have been an obvious case for an abortion; and her talk of having conceived as a result of the intervention of the Holy Ghost would have pointed to the need for psychiatric treatment, and made the case for terminating her pregnancy even stronger. Thus our generation, needing a Saviour more, perhaps than any that has ever existed, would be too humane to allow one to be born.”

(Malcolm Muggeridge, quoted by Philip Yancy in The Jesus I never knew pg 30)

God bless


Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Advent Blogs

It is my hope to post each day during Advent. To kick off I would like to look for a few days at different questions concerning the coming of Christ with quotes from some of my favourite writers and preachers.
So here goes with

"How will this be, “Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34)

The birth of Jesus came about through supernatural means. His conception was miraculous. Mary was “found to be with child through the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 1v 18)
The relationship of his mother and earthly father was saved through an angel of the Lord becoming a miraculous marriage counsellor to Joseph. “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 1:20)The child will bring about the miracle of salvation. “You are to give him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)
This would be a miraculous fulfilment of Bible prophecy as recorded in Isaiah 7:14“The Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”

(From “The Supernatural power of Christ’s birth” by Ray Ellis Sermon Central)

God bless