Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Gifts & Giving

What a great run up to Christmas we’ve had at Kings this year - the Jonathan Veira concert 10 days ago, followed by the London Community Gospel Choir last Thursday, and then the King’s Carol Concert Sunday evening - brilliant! And every one of those events has witnessed a very clear (and in some cases loud!) telling of the gospel.

You hear quite a lot of folk this time of year saying how they don’t like Christmas and can’t wait for it to be over. Every now and again I come across Christians who say that they don’t celebrate Christmas because of the secularization. Shame. Granted, for many the real meaning of Christmas has been lost, and yes, there’s a lot of hype, overindulgence and overspending, but that’s no reason to lose sight of the very special-ness of Christmas.

I like Christmas! Obviously, as Christians this is a very significant season when we retell the story of Jesus’ birth through the singing of carols and the reading of the Gospels and those wonderful Old Testament prophecies about the coming Messiah. Then there’s all the gifts & giving. Yes I know that people overdo it, and yes, it can bring out greed and so on, but it’s good to give gifts! The Message puts it well: “You’ll not likely go wrong here if you keep remembering that our Master said, ‘You’re far happier giving than getting.’ ” Acts 20:35.
Speaking of gifts, I’ve been teaching lately on the first chapters of Genesis and amongst other things, pointing out that first promise of Jesus’ coming is way back in Genesis chapter 3, just after Adam’s fall: “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” ” (Genesis 3:15, NIV) A future offspring of Eve would crush satan’s head, whilst he himself would be bruised (crucified) in the process. Isn’t that an amazing expression of God’s grace, of his heart to redeem fallen mankind? Just moments after Adam’s rebellion we have God’s promise of a way back, through the gracious, undeserved gift of a Saviour - to be revealed in the fulness of time. Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given!

Have a great Christmas!


Sunday, 5 December 2010

Rock of help

I think it’s important to suitably mark & remember special days. I’m not thinking of Sunday observance - well Sunday is very much a work day for me anyway (and not the only one I hasten to add!). I’m thinking more of anniversaries that remind us of significant moments in our lives.
This week Angie and I celebrate 21 years here in Norwich, and I am incredibly grateful to God. I’m grateful that He brought us here, and for the way that He led us. As seems to be the norm in these things, it was not a particularly easy move - there were lots of uncertainties and challenges, and reasons not to come! But we set out, in the fog as it happens, uncertain as to exactly what lay ahead. The rest is history as they say, and God has been very good to us!

It was a Jewish custom to set up stones or monuments at significant moments, when God had helped or delivered them, by way of reminder. I guess they really didn’t want to ever forget what God had done (although of course they did) and it’s difficult to miss a big lump of stone. The idea was that every time you passed it or bumped into it, you’d be reminded.. “Oh yes, God did that...!” On one particular occasion when God routed the Philistines and brought the Ark of the Covenant (signifying God’s presence) back to Israel, it says in 1 Samuel 7:12, “Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far has the Lord helped us.”

Well, we haven’t set up any stones, but as I look at Kings, at the church family that God has gathered and used for the glory of Jesus both here in Norwich and across the nations, I am profoundly grateful for all the He has done - and for allowing us, by His grace to play a small part.
To quote a very old song: ‘Count your blessings, name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord has done’! Oh it’s true!
Ebenezer, “Thus far has the Lord helped us.”