Who’d have thought it? First Brexit, with Theresa replacing David, and then Donald Trump; truly an eventful year in politics, but not just in politics. Major earthquakes in Ecuador and Italy, the Brussels and Orlando shootings, the Zika virus sweeping South America, further North Korean nuclear tests, and ISIS destruction of the oldest Christian Monastery in Iraq. However, Britain did unexpectedly well in the Olympics and England almost lifted the T20 Cricket World Cup in India!
But just where, brothers and sisters, is our real focus as Christians, as disciples of our Lord Jesus? At this time of year, when the shops are so full of ‘tinsel’, our focus should be on the most momentous event in human history, the birth of Jesus, the Son of the living God. God Himself becoming incarnate, taking human flesh and breaking into His own created physical universe as the babe born at Bethlehem around Tabernacles time during the September of 3 BC. And with that intervention God brought to us all the promise and hope of eternal life, and an earth that will be renewed with justice righteousness, and peace.
As Joy and I take a short break in my former work place of Cyprus, looking at the still blue Mediterranean Sea, it seems difficult to believe that just a few hundred miles to the east there is still the fighting and suffering going on in Syria after five years. When will this all end? And it is not just the people of Syria enduring such turmoil. Indeed, when will it all end? At our present rate of concern and action from the international community, perhaps not for some while, but as Christians we have a sure hope that an end will come with peace for all of God’s creation. Our hope is in the Prince of Peace, once the babe of Bethlehem. Our recent Advent focus has not just been on our Lord Jesus’s first Advent but also on the promise of His second Advent, ‘Christ will come again’.
So here we are again, with Christmas almost upon us and I wonder what are your thoughts and feelings as we enter this month? Amidst all of the above turmoil is it one of excitement, dread, expectation, anticipation, joy?
December is such a busy month where it seems that there is so much more to do than in any other month. There are extra tasks including services, festivals, celebrations and all of these make extra demands on our time and sometimes limited energy, so please pray for all involved in our Churches, and especially for those working so hard at home as well to give us such a special time.
But Christmas, although busy, is a fun time for most of us. There can be fun in the extra entertaining, and of course in celebrating Christ’s birth as we give gifts to family and friends, reminding us of the Magi presenting their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the young child Jesus on the 25th of December 2 BC. But let us not forget the full story of Christmas and the words of the angels to the shepherds in their fields:
”I bring you news of great joy…to you is born this day a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord”…”And suddenly a multitude of the Heavenly host Praising God and saying,
Glory to God in the highest and on earth PEACE among men…” (Luke 2.10-14)
So at Christmas God sent His Son Jesus to be our Saviour, to set us free from our sin and rebellion against God, and to restore us to a right relationship with Him, and for us to know God’s Peace, both in our hearts and in our lives! That seems a pretty good Christmas gift to me!
Even at this busy time of year, how about taking some time out to meditate on some Scriptures referring to this wonderful gift to us of God’s Peace. Maybe we will then be better equipped to deal with the many extra pressures that come upon us, and able to quieten our hearts and minds to all the turmoil around.
In the New Testament there are 87 references to Peace and most of St Paul’s letters to the churches begin with the prayer, “Grace and PEACE from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be with you”. So here are just a few scriptures to get us started:-
Jesus said; “Peace I leave with you, my Peace I give to you….not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled neither let them be afraid” (John 14.27)
“And let the Peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called, and be thankful” (Col 3.15)
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the PEACE of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4.7)
So let us take some time out of our bustling lives to reflect upon these words and also to give God thanks for the many blessings, and especially for the blessings of peace and security, that we take for granted and enjoy in the ‘free world’.
In the words of the Carol,
Yet with the woes of sin and strife
The world has suffered long;
Beneath the angel–strain have rolled
Two thousand years of wrong;
And man, at war with man, hears not
The love-song which they bring;
O hush the noise, ye men of strife,
And hear the angels sing.
My prayer this Christmastide is that the God of Peace Himself will abide with and in us all.