Tag Archives: advent

Let There Be Light

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light, on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.” Isaiah 9:2

Let there be light.

These words were the beginning of everything, the light came and God’s creative power was revealed in all its splendour for the first time.

They are some of the most powerful words in scripture – we cannot deny the power of light.

Sometimes its as comforting as a night light for a child, at others its a harsh glare of realisation.

In John’s gospel the account of Jesus coming to earth in human form begins with light.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.  In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

Light bids us to wait in hope for the day when the light will shine in all its fullness.

Christmas tells us that the Light of the World was and is willing to descend into the darkness of our humanity for our sake and will not be extinguished by it.

Tim Keller writes that:

“He is a light for us when all other lights go out.”

I pray that this Christmas, whatever darkness you may face, that you feel God’s presence with you as we remember that the God who formed the stars descended to us to come close – and to draw us closer to Him.

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God With Us

 

“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). Matthew 1:23

God with us.

They are words we hear often at this time of year. They are words I ended the first blog of this series with, in fact.

With familiarity, however, we can forget the wonder of the words.

No longer are we kept at arms length from God – held apart from Him by our sin – Jesus came to restore the relationship we lost when Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden so that we may one day walk with Him again.

Brian Zahnd writes:

“The lost beauty of God’s good creation is what is recovered in the Incarnation.”

The man who is God – bringing us and God together in a way that not even the prophet Isaiah could have imagined.

There is so much to marvel at the Christmas story; a virgin conceiving, angels visiting shepherds, and yet none of these things is more marvellous than God showing us in the most magnificent way possible, that He is with us through everything life throws at us because He has walked through this life before us.

When I was just becoming unwell with depression in my early teens, the idea that Jesus experienced human pain and cried human tears brought me a comfort I couldn’t articulate. And I sang a Graham Kendrick song that year at the carol service which has stayed with me ever since.

“And now a door is standing open before you
Casting its light into the darkness around
Stop for a moment, step inside
Tonight could be your Bethlehem

And nothing will ever be the same again
This night could change everything
Nothing will ever be the same again
Since the night he came”

At the time, I admit I thought that it meant that my life would never be the same again because depression had moved into my mind, but the reality is far greater, and full of hope.

Nothing would ever be the same again – but because Jesus came to be God with us in all we face.

2 Corinthians 4 speaks of this promise that we can cling to when all else fails; and whatever your Christmas looks like this year, whatever you are facing, hope is waiting because Jesus came to walk with us and His power to be within us.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair;  persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”

Chosen and Choosing

mary image.pngObedience doesn’t have a very good reputation.

It summons up the idea that we are giving up what we want for what someone else says.

And if you’re anything like me and somewhat of a control freak – obedience to someone else’s will isn’t a particularly attractive idea. I can hardly imagine the fear and the confusion that Mary felt at the Angel’s words.

So often when we read this narrative, we rush past Mary’s questions and confusion to her song of praise. At the beginning of Luke’s account we see however, that Mary is “greatly troubled” when the Angel appears to her. It seems though, that our translation doesn’t really do these words justice – it’s more than troubled – its a deep agitation and unease.

I’m not surprised.

I think I’d be pretty terrified if an Angel came to visit me – and the initial terror comes from just the words she is favoured in God’s eyes before  Mary is told she’s going to carry the Creator of the universe.

Both Mary’s troubled nature and her question are answered not with why Mary was the ideal candidate to carry the Son of God, but with the greatness of God.

The favour of God is as much of a calling as the job He gives. As Paula Gooder writes:

“It is truly wonderful to be beloved by God, but with this comes challenges beyond our imaginings.”

When people are chosen by God – there is the weight of the gospel in their calling.

The comfort the Angel offers amidst Mary’s trouble and confusion is not based the specifics of her calling – but that God has chosen her and that He will be with her.

Even with this assurance – I think I’d probably have a few more questions.

How is the Spirit going to make me pregnant?

How are my fiance, my community going to react?

This wasn’t a case of the odd shameful look in the street for an unwed pregnant teenager – the penalty for sex outside of marriage could be death.

And yet Mary’s response is one which not only demonstrates obedience – but faith.

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.”

It’s not blind obedience – it’s a trust in the plans of God.

Keller comments:

“Now she is not merely submitting her will but giving her heart joyfully. In the end faith always moves beyond mental assent and duty and will involve the whole self – mind, will, and emotions.”

This isn’t a reluctant agreement to God’s will in the way that I often acquiesce. This is a faith in God and His character that trusts in His goodness in the face of what could look like a dangerous plan.

It astounds me.

The calling God places on Mary’s life – to mother His son – is astounding.

And the call of God still astounds me.

He still calls the most unlikely to bear His word and His message.

And we have Mary’s choice.

But we have a greater assurance.

We can walk the first steps and trust that God will lead us home.

Because God himself walked the journey home through His Son, Jesus.

The question is – what’s our next step?

Christmas Trees and Family Trees

pexels-photoWe forget, I think, what a scandal the arrival of Jesus was.

Not only did He come to unmarried teenaged parents.

He came in poverty, instead of royalty.

It was the noises of a stable which welcomed Him, not an orchestra.

What has struck me this week, however, is those verses at the beginning of Matthew’s gospel which we all too often skip past.

The list of Jesus’ ancestors which, if I’m honest, I’ve never paid much attention to before.

It’s like a who’s who of the Old Testament – but not necessarily for the right reasons.

It’s astounding, not least because it contains women, but because it’s far from a tidy family tree.

There’s Jacob, who stole his brother’s birth right and had to flee.

Judah who slept with his daughter-in-law Tamar.

Bathsheba who the text notes had been Uriah’s wife – a reminder that even the royal King David’s story was marred by murder and adultery.

It’s not the pure and holy family that we might have chosen for the Son of God to be born in to.

And yet it tells us so much about the God we serve who would send a baby as His rescue plan for the world.

This God who defies all expectations and works through the meekest and most unlikely of men and women.

Through the worst of us, God reveals His grace in the most glorious of ways.

Our place in heaven isn’t dependant on our family tree. It isn’t dependant on us at all.

It’s dependant on a man born as a refugee baby who doesn’t let us down and doesn’t let us go.

Who waits for us to recognise Him as He calls our name and asks us if He can come and abide in us.

Ann Voskamp writes:

“Christ comes right to your Christmas tree and looks at your family tree and says, “I am your God, and I am one of you, and I’ll be the Gift, and I’ll take you. Take Me?””