It is conventionally thought that the month of January is named after Janus, the Roman god of gates, beginnings and transitions. He is usually depicted as having two faces, since he looks to the future and to the past. In the UK as we look back to 2018 we probably recall the entanglements of the Brexit negotiations and as we look ahead to 2019 we may wonder how it’s all going to be resolved.
On coming to the house, [the Magi] saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. (Matthew 2:11 NIV)
It has been said that if the wise men were women they would have brought Mary and Jesus nappies, baby wipes and milk formula rather than the impractical gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. However impractical these gifts may seem to be they were of considerable significance, and what’s more, they were gifts not just for Christmas.
Christmas is all about timing.
Festive music in the supermarkets from late November seems too early; rushing around on the 24th of December for the present you forgot seems too late. Will those Christmas cards sent to Australia arrive in time? If you are travelling to be at home for Christmas, will you get there on time? Then there’s the Christmas dinner. Will the turkey be ready before the Queen’s message? Have the brussel sprouts been left on too long? How many hours does it take for a Christmas pudding to simmer?
a bruised reed he will not break,
and a faintly burning wick he will not quench;
he will faithfully bring forth justice.
(Isaiah 42:3 ESV)
Having exposed the deadness of idols by saying, “‘Behold, you are nothing’ (Isaiah 41:24)” and “‘Behold, they are all a delusion’ (v.29)” Isaiah now for the third time issues a dramatic summons, “‘Behold my servant’ (Isaiah 42:1)”. It is as if he is saying, you can see that idols are nothing, you can see that they are but a delusion; now take a look at my Servant.
“what is conceived in [Mary] is from the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 1:20 NIV)
“The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35 NIV)
Mary plays a prominent role in the birth narratives of Jesus evoking several Old Testament incidents, notably the miraculous births of Isaac “(Genesis 18:10-14)”, Samson “(Judges 13:2-5)”, and Samuel “(1 Samuel 1:1-20)”. Mary’s Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55) mirrors Hannah’s song “(1 Samuel 2:1-10)”, and the choice of the word ‘overshadow’ to describe the action of the Holy Spirit in the virgin conception echoes the cherubim overshadowing the Ark of the Covenant “(Exodus 25:20)”, the presence of God overshadowing the Tabernacle “(Exodus 40:35)” and the hovering of the Spirit over the waters of creation. “(Genesis 1:2)”.
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (Romans 12:18 NIV)
Abram was not perfect. He lied in Egypt about Sarai, his wife, and caused no end of distress by saying that she was his sister “(Genesis 12:10-20)”. Eventually they were thrown out of Egypt and Abram took his nephew Lot and all their flocks and herds to Canaan. “(Genesis 13:1-5)”. It is here that despite Abram’s faults, we see a generous and ethical side to his behaviour.
‘And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”’ (Matthew 3:17)
At the 1996 Atlanta Olympics Michael Johnson won the 200 hundred metres in a world record time of 19.32 seconds. About 3 months ago Johnson suffered a stroke and this week spoke about the experience and his recovery.
“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12 NIV)
When Christians think about the first prophecy in the Bible about Jesus’ work of salvation on the cross they are often drawn to Genesis 3:15, “‘he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.’” This is seen as a reference to the crucifixion where Satan struck Jesus’ heal by having him crucified, but Jesus crushed Satan’s head as it was his ultimate defeat. “(Colossians 2:15)”.
He will judge between the nations
and will settle disputes for many peoples.
They will beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
nor will they train for war anymore.(Isaiah 2:4 NIV)
Remember, remember the 11th of November.
Of course that’s not how the rhyme starts, but for 100 years now this nation has paused on 11th November (or the Sunday nearest to the 11th) to remember those who gave their lives in the ‘Great War’ of 1914-18, and the wars and conflicts that have taken place since.
‘When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.’ (John 19:30 NIV)
Steve Jobs co-founded Apple in his parents’ garage in 1976, was ousted in 1985, returned to rescue it from near bankruptcy in 1997, and by the time he died at age 56 in 2011, had built it into the world’s most valuable company, with a personal wealth estimated at $7 billion. He had helped to transform seven industries: personal computing, animated movies, music, phones, tablet computing, retail stores, and digital publishing.
‘…be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord’ (Ephesians 5:18–19 NIV)
When Christians offer their worship to God what is it that they are doing? Are they massaging the ego of a narcissistic deity who just wants to be adored? Are they trying to get on God’s good side so that he will bless them with lots of good things? Are they trying to impress God with how spiritual they are? Are they trying to earn God’s love?
Christian worship is none of these things.
So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27 NIV)
It finally happened this week, a woman fell to earth. Not that a woman fell out of a space shuttle or from the 20th floor of a tower block, this was television history. The first episode of the long awaited sci fi series, where the 13th incarnation of Doctor Who was a woman, aired.
“Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (Exodus 14:13–14 NIV)
The Exodus story is not simply about what the Israelites get out of, (their bondage to the Egyptians as their slave labour force), but how they get out of it, (crossing over the Red Sea by grace).
‘Listen for GOD’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track.’ (Proverbs 3:6 The Message)
My wife and I have recently moved home and as is usual on such occasions we had a clear-out of all the stuff we hadn’t used for ages. In the process we came across a poster from World War Two that belonged to one of our parents. It’s entitled ‘Morale – How to play your part’, and was approved by the Mayor of Hove and the two local MPs with the recommendation ‘Pin this up in your home, office or shelter.’
‘…God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves…and keeps us present before God.’ (Romans 8:26–27 The Message)
If I wanted to tell my wife that I love her I would probably say ‘I love you’. It’s not very original or imaginative and while it conveys how I feel in a succinct way it doesn’t get to the heart of what I’m feeling deep inside. That’s because I don’t always have the words to express the depth of feeling I have.
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14 NIV)
As I drive around I often see the symbol of a fish on the back of the car in front of me. It doesn’t mean that one of the driver’s hobbies is fishing; it’s there to indicate that they are a practicing Christian.
‘…hope does not disappoint’ (Romans 5:5 NKJV)
Being an England football supporter is a painful business. So often the England team only ‘flatters to deceive’. In the 1970 World Cup England were knocked out by West Germany after leading 2-0 and seemingly cruising to victory. In 1986 England were knocked out by Maradona’s infamous ‘hand of God’. In 1990 and the1996 European Championship England were beaten in the semi-final by Germany on penalties. The 2018 World Cup was no different. Some good performances and results led the country to believe that football is ‘coming home’ only to have our hope taken away again by another semi-final defeat. Thirty years of hurt has turned into over 50 years of pain for the wearied England fan. Our hopes are always being raised and then before you know it they are dashed.
‘Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.’ (1 Corinthians 12:27 NIV)
Are you a good communicator? We do not only communicate to one another by what we say or write, but also with the signals we make either consciously or unconsciously. Our body language can communicate to others far beyond simple words, whether they are spoken or written. For example someone attending a job interview can say to their prospective employer that they are comfortable and at ease with the interview, but their clenched hands and fidgeting on the chair communicate something else. A person can feign interest in what someone else is saying but their constant lack of eye contact gives the game away.
‘For the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.’ (Zephaniah 3:17 NLT)
Often the mother of a newly born baby will place her child in its cot and sing a lullaby over him or her. It’s a soothing song, which in some societies passes down cultural knowledge or tradition. It can also support the development of communication skills, but perhaps one of the most important uses of lullabies is as a sleep aid for infants.
I wonder have you ever thought of God singing over us?
‘May the favour of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us— yes, establish the work of our hands.’ (Psalm 90:17 NIV- UK)
Monday is not a very popular day of the week. The Bangles wished it could have been Sunday rather than Monday and for the Carpenters rainy days and Mondays always got them down.