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Friday, 23 December 2016

What do you See at CHRISTMAS?

What do you See at CHRISTMAS?

The light shone around them. The shepherds were terrified Luke 2:9
                What did the shepherds see in this moment of terror?
Bright lights against the darkness of night. One angel who spoke and then a large group who were singing to them as they shared the story of the birth of the Saviour in Bethlehem not too far from where they were.
                What else did the shepherds see? When they ran into Bethlehem they went to where the baby and his parents were- a stable out behind an inn. When they went into the stable they saw Him- Jesus. A baby wrapped up and kept warm in the hay found in the feed trough. Around the baby were animals of different kinds- cows, donkeys, and sheep. They watched and were seen by the shepherds.
What did Mary and Joseph see that night? They met innkeepers who had no room for them even though Mary was obviously in labour and needing to rest. One innkeeper did empathize with them and enabled them to make a place of rest in their stable. This young couple saw animals who did not mind their presence with them. They also saw and experienced the miracle and wonder of a baby being born.  They experienced God’s love in their arms and their love growing for each other and for God.
What else did Mary and Joseph see that night? Eager and excited shepherds who came into the manger and wanting to see their baby. They talked about angels and singing and how they were urged to go and see this baby. They were excited and filled with wonder. They stayed and saw the baby for a little while. The shepherds then left and were rejoicing in having seen the baby.

Today our Christmas celebrations remember the baby being born and we experience the sights of Christmas in different ways- the lights on houses, the Christmas tree decorated, poinsettias of different colours placed in homes and sanctuaries adding colour to the dull dark days of early winter. We also see the busyness of roads as people try to purchase the special gifts to give to other people. And we see packages wrapped up in bright colourful paper sometimes wrapped in bows and ribbons. We see children of all ages laughing and playing and people just sitting and resting and remembering. We see people of all backgrounds and experiences marveling at the Gift of God for all God’s people and we rejoice.
But what do you see this Christmas? What you see as we celebrate Christmas makes a difference in how you see the world.  Do you see the world potentially ready for peace or a world filled with sadness and depression? Do you see the world filled with divisions and hurtful people or do you see your world with hope in your eyes that next year will be better? Do you see sadness all around you with so many losses of people whom you loved or do you see the love that brings you closer together?  Where do you see the joy in Christ’s birth? The shepherds left the stable filled with joy.  Are you filled with joy because of Jesus’ birth or are you waiting for another Saviour? Jesus is the One promised by God to save us. There is no other required. He is the One whom we remember—let us see Jesus as he is at Christmas—a baby in a manger; the saviour of the world..
Let us pray:

 Holy God of grace and love, we praise you that through Jesus we do receive the gift of hope.  Open our hearts to know you and to love you as you love us- unconditionally. Enable us to believe that the baby the shepherds saw is your Son who fulfilled your promise to bring new life and new hope to all who would believe. Hear us we pray in the name of the Christ child, Jesus. Amen.

Thursday, 15 December 2016

CHRISTMAS HOPE?

CHRISTMAS HOPE?

And she laid Him in a manger for there was no
room at the inn. Luke 2:7
                How many times have we read this passage and wondered why Joseph and Mary had not planned ahead and reserved a hotel room or at least a bed and breakfast accommodation for one night? The census was a decree known through the land and Mary and Joseph knew that at some point they had to go to the town in which Joseph was born. This young couple had made a covenant to be together even though the baby she carried was not Joseph’s and she was nearing her delivery time. What a stressful situation they both faced! An unknown destination, a pending birth of their child and no clear plan as to where to stay.  No doubt they were feeling the stress of the journey with each movement of the donkey as they rode and walked towards Bethlehem.
                Night came as they were arriving in the village and there was no place to stay. Joseph was getting desperate for a place to stay. Mary had been having contractions and was in labour. Her time was soon to deliver. How could she under the circumstances be comfortable? Where would her baby be born? Her own family was far away and Joseph’s family were in the area but they could hardly receive them under the circumstances. Yet God provided a warm clean space- a barn outside of an inn full of animals of different kinds and from different places.
                What does Mary do with the newborn baby? She wraps him up in warm blankets and gently places him in a make shift crib. This crib was used only hours before to feed all the animals and now it is filled with a baby boy new to the world. Mary places this baby into the world where animals eat, and yet as she does this, the hope she has for this baby has just begun to be shared with the world.
                As we come to the time when we celebrate Jesus’ birth as a human baby boy to what extent have we placed our hope?  The Christmas hymn, “O Little Town of Bethlehem” is a favourite hymn of this wonderful season which celebrates the gifts of God to us in Jesus- hope, peace, joy and love. One of the lines we sing states, “the hopes and fears of all the years, are met in thee tonight.” Do we really believe that Christ came to give us hope not just for Christmas but for all the moments of our lives when we need to have something to look at beyond ourselves? Are we finding this hope when we remember Mary who gave birth and then placed this baby in a feeding trough?  Would you have done this when there were hungry animals around? Where do you place your hope?
                Without hope what are we? Without trusting in God’s gift to us in Jesus, do we have hope beyond ourselves?  Just what do you pray for and hope for as we continue to prepare for Christ’s birth in our lives?
Let us pray:

 Holy God of grace and love, we praise you that through Jesus we do receive the gift of hope. We pray O God that you would open our hearts to know you and to love you as you love us- unconditionally. Enable us to believe that the baby Mary placed in the manger is your Son who alone fulfilled your promise to bring new life and new hope to all who would believe. Hear us we pray in the name of the Christ child, Jesus. Amen.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Life, Death and Eternal Life

Life, Death and Eternal Life

                First, I apologize for not having a reflection for the
last few weeks. Our church has experienced the deaths of three people and with their deaths, there has been the need to comfort each other and to learn together about what this involves and means to those who are grieving.
                Secondly with one of the recently deceased being a family member I realized the impact of words which are shared as someone grieves and what really is helpful or not.
                Third, I am grateful for my strong foundation of faith. I have wondered sometimes, if you did not have faith in God, in the hope of the resurrection of Christ and the promise of eternal life, how do you cope with the death of loved ones?  How do you understand their impact on their lives and what do people hold on to as they grieve?
                The words of Psalm 23 have meaning for many people with its phrases of comfort and God leading them beside quiet waters. It is God who will restore our soul, our hope, our spirit when we experience the death of loved ones. Because of Christ’s resurrection there is life beyond what we experience here and we need to praise God for this. But do we?
                Sometimes when we celebrate a person’s life we speak only of their earthly existence but are we willing to talk about their faith- out loud and where by faith they are now? Why is it we shy away from admitting we are God’s children in life and in death? What are we afraid of?
                As we continue to grieve our loved one, I believe the words of the Psalmist which describes the banquet table being prepared for us so that we might feast on Gods blessings. We will also share this feasting table with those who don’t believe but God will anoint us and bless us even more. All because we believe and live for him.
                What to say to those who grieve? Hug, or say nothing. Words with no meaning are shallow and a waste of time. Listen to those who grieve they need to tell their story. They need to share about the one who has died whether you met them or not. The funeral is not about you nor is it for the deceased. It is to assist the family members of the deceased to cope with a new normal. A new life without the physical presence of their loved one takes time and hard work.
                May God bless you as you support those who grieve and you who are grieving the death of your loved ones- even after several years. God listens and knows where you are and what you do.
READING: Psalm 23

Prayer:  God of grace and love be with those who are grieving, lonely and afraid of beginning a new life with hope. Enable us to care and share our love as Christ also shared his love. In the name of our Saviour, we pray. Amen.