News & Updates
Church Front
Advent Reflections

Advent Reflections

Introduction to the Reflections

Try to find a quiet place and then take a few moments to be still. Read and digest the Bible Passage for the day very slowly a couple of times. What is the key word or phrase that stands out for you? Read through the Reflection and consider what other ideas might be raised by those verses. Conclude your time with prayer, perhaps using the suggested Prayer or your own variant.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Reflections 24-12-21

The Word became flesh; he came to dwell among us, and we saw his glory, such glory as befits the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth. (John 1: 14 NEB).

 

Family photos are fascinating! We can see likenesses of parents in their children, but we can’t always define what they are. Something of Mum or Dad lives in their offspring.

 

In John 1:14 we are told that God’s Word – the Agent of His creation, and His Way of relating to the world – became human, but still reflected God’s essence. He was full of grace and truth.

 

Three key issues stand out in this verse. Firstly, God stepped into human history when He took on flesh and blood, and made His dwelling among us. The Greek word for ‘dwell’ means living as in a tent or tabernacle. This is intended to remind us of the days of Moses when God’s people lived in tents in the wilderness for 40 years, and throughout their journey they were accompanied by God’s Presence in the Tabernacle which was filled with the glory of God. At that time God was teaching His people that He was holy and unapproachable. They were not allowed to look on Him, but He was there with them on the way. Now, in Jesus, God was with His people in a physical way. “- - we have seen with our eyes - - we have looked at and our hands have touched.” (1 John 1:1).

The second issue that stands out is the uniqueness of Jesus “the only Son”. His purpose was “to bring many sons to glory” (Hebrews 2:10), but Jesus was the only Son who had a pre-existence - “The Word became flesh”. He lived with the Father before He became a human being.

And thirdly, Jesus bears the Father’s likeness and reflects His glory. Again this wording is to make us think back to the Tabernacle where the glory of God was evident. Now it is to be seen in the man Jesus.

Because Jesus became fully human He is able to understand our weaknesses (Hebrews 4:15) and to represent us in His death and resurrection. He was truly in the world and not apart from it, but at the same time He was able to show us what the Father is like. “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14: 9).

By being part of our humanity Jesus is able to save us. The Son of God became the Son of Man so that the sons and daughters of man could become sons and daughters of God.

Prayer: Loving Father, thank you for sending your Son to earth, so that we can become your sons and daughters. Amen.

=============================================================================================================================================
Reflections 23-12-21

Everyone speaks well of Demetrius; truth itself speaks well of him. And we add our testimony, and you know that what we say is true. I have so much to tell you, but I do not want to do it with pen and ink. I hope to see you soon, and then we will talk personally. Peace be with you. All your friends send greetings. Greet all our friends personally. (3 John: 12-15 TEV)

When you can set aside some time, prayerfully reflect on your life. Try to express it as a map and note the major junctions. What happened at those crossroads to take you in one direction rather than another? Was it a significant person? Maybe it was someone with whom you had an ongoing friendship, or perhaps it was someone whom God brought across your path just for that moment.

What was the impact of those people on your life? Did they challenge you; or encourage you? And how did they do it? Did they inspire you or confront you with their words or with their character and example? We hear a lot about ‘mentors’ these days, and the media expect high-profile personalities to be ‘role-models’. A recent survey found that young people frequently choose their role models from the celebrity culture. We all need role models but we must choose them wisely!

Demetrius was an outstanding role model. This was appreciated by John and recognised by everyone in his community. The presence of Jesus Christ in his life was clear to all. Here was a man that they could learn from and be inspired by. Here was someone that they could learn to emulate.

Of course Jesus alone should be the ultimate focus of our attention – we need to “fix our eyes on Him” (Hebrews 12:2), and become “fully mature with the fullness of Christ himself” (Ephesians 4:13). However God has also graciously provided human role models to challenge inspire and encourage us. And what’s more He uses us (usually without our awareness) to challenge inspire and encourage others.

Prayer: Loving Father, thank you for each person you have used to direct my path and shape my character. I am available to be like Demetrius to make a positive difference in other people’s lives. Amen.

=============================================================================================================================================
Reflections 22-12-21

I sent a brief letter to the church, but proud Diotrephes, who loves to push himself forward as the leader of the Christians there, does not admit my authority over him and refuses to listen to me. When I come I will tell you some of the things he is doing, and what wicked things he is saying about me and what insulting language he is using. He not only refuses to welcome the missionary travellers himself, but tells others not to, and when they do he tries to put them out of the church.

(3 John: 9-11 Living Bible).

Lord Acton’s adage that “power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely” is borne out in the church as well as in political circles. The example of Diotrephes here is one we should note – and avoid!

Diotrephes was rejecting legitimate authority, he was involved in malicious gossip, and he was determined that everybody else should follow his unloving example. These all followed from his desire to push himself forward as the leader. Isn’t it true that pride and vanity lie at the heart of most conflicts in the local church?

John would certainly remember when he and his brother made their push for power with Jesus (Mark 10:35-45), and the anger that was stirred up among the other disciples. He would remember too the gentle rebuke of Jesus as He explained how things were different in His Kingdom where earthly values were turned upside-down.

John plans to go and visit the church in the near future and deal with the problems face-to-face (v14). He is not going to get into a war of angry words on paper. A lot of issues could be solved if people followed John’s firm but gracious approach.

Do we recognise the temptation we have to denigrate others in order to promote ourselves? Often it is not blatant. There can be the subtle putting down of others, or the slight exaggeration in our own favour. Jesus, ‘who did not come to be served but to serve’ guides us towards a better way.

Prayer: Lord Jesus please fill me with your Spirit of truth and grace in all my relationships. Amen.

==========================================================================================================================================
Reflections 21-12-21

Dear friend, you are doing a good work for God in taking care of the travelling teachers and missionaries who are passing through. They have told the church here of your friendship and your loving deeds. I am glad when you send them on their way with a generous gift. They are travelling for the Lord and accept neither food, clothing, shelter, nor money from those who are not Christians, even though they have preached to them. So we ourselves should take care of them in order that we may become partners with them in the Lord’s work. (3 John: 5-8).

In our culture we have made hospitality something professional: we call it the ‘hospitality industry’. Trained staff welcome visitors for a price, and guests expect to receive the service that they have paid for.

In John’s time however, itinerant teachers and preachers were a key part of the young church and it was a sacred duty to offer them hospitality. There were occasionally some false teachers and frauds, and John was adamant that there should be no welcome for them (2 John:7-11) but he was determined that the believers should appreciate the enormous blessings of genuine hospitality.

The New Testament exhorts Christians to be generous in their hospitality. Christian leaders are to be “lovers of hospitality” (Titus 1:8) and followers of Jesus are to “be eager to practise hospitality” (Romans 12:13). We are to be positive – proactive – in caring for the stranger.

This is counter-cultural for us today because in the news and on social media we are encouraged to fear and to shun strangers. Our society sends the message that they are not welcome here! But as Christians we will follow the example and lifestyle of Gaius. John could tell the he was walking in the truth because his generous open heart led to an open home and an open hand.

Prayer: Father, at this time, while many welcome friends and family, may we also generously entertain strangers in Your Name. Amen.

===========================================================================================================================================
Reflections 20-12-21

From: John, the Elder. To: Dear Gaius, whom I truly love.

Dear friend, I am praying that all is well with you and that your body is as healthy as I know your soul is. It gave me great joy when some believers came and testified to your faithfulness to the truth, telling how you continue to walk in it. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. (3 John:1-4)

The name Gaius was very popular in the Roman Empire in the first century, and four characters bear that name in the New Testament. The root of the name comes from the word meaning ‘happiness’. This was very appropriate in his case because the news about Gaius that reached John on the Christian grapevine filled him with “great joy”.

John’s joy resulted from first-hand reports that the Holy Spirit was transforming the life of his dear friend so that it was bearing fruit. People could recognise that his soul was “getting along well”, because they could see how it was working out in his everyday life. Gaius was reported to be “walking in the truth”, a phrase in the New Testament used to mean the practical living out of faith.

Gaius had obviously allowed Christian truth to govern his actions and shape his character. We would say he was a man of integrity: the faith he professed and the lifestyle he lived were consistent. There was no contradiction between belief and behaviour.

It was really great that his wholehearted lifestyle brought joy to the ageing apostle John. But it would do more than that! Think what a compelling witness a life like that would be to the not-yet-Christians in his community. And imagine what an encouragement he would be to his fellow believers.

Prayer: Lord Jesus thank you that you came to show us what a truly integrated human life looks like. Please grow more of your character in me; and may all I think and do and say reflect that inner change. Amen.

===========================================================================================================================================
Reflections 17-12-21

Watch out for the false leaders – and there are many of them around – who don’t believe that Jesus Christ came to earth as a human being with a body like ours. Such people are against the truth and against Christ. Beware of being like them, and losing the prize that you and I have been working so hard to get. See to it that you win your full reward from the Lord. If you wander beyond the teaching of Christ, you will leave God behind; while if you are loyal to Christ’s teachings, you will have God too. Then you will have both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to teach you, and he doesn’t believe what Christ taught, don’t even invite him into your home. Don’t encourage him in any way. If you do, you will be a partner with him in his wickedness. (2 John 7-11 Living Bible).

If you have a pound coin in your possession it could be worthless! According to the Royal Mint there are millions of forgeries in circulation. How are we to know if we have one of them? How can we tell the forgery from the real? There are all sorts of fakes in life, and the way to be able to spot the counterfeit is to be very familiar with the genuine.

The Apostle John was concerned for the young churches in his pastoral care. At that particular time in history – when there were few eyewitnesses to Jesus’ ministry still alive, and when the Bible had not yet been compiled – it was vital that the churches received true sound teaching. John wants them to become so familiar with what is true that they would recognise when something false comes along and be able to reject it.

Notice here that John is not referring to people who have different views or values. In any vibrant Christian community of course there will be differences of opinion and outlook. Each of us is responsible for growing in maturity in our faith (Ephesians 4:15) so it is inevitable that there will be people at different stages of development. There will be different levels of understanding. John is not encouraging small-minded intolerance of anyone with whom we have a disagreement!

What John is warning about is deceiving teachers who deny the basic truths of the Gospel, especially the identity of Jesus as the Word of God becoming human and dwelling with us (John 1:14). The truth of Christmas is not negotiable!

Prayer: Father please help us to be increasingly familiar with the genuine so that the fake will be exposed. Amen. 

==========================================================================================================================================
Reflections 16-12-21

 

Now I want to urgently remind you, dear friends, of the old rule God gave us right from the beginning, that we should love one another. If we love God, we will do whatever He tells us to. And He has told us from the beginning to love each other. (2 John 5-6 Living Bible).

In his first letter John emphasised the great truth that “God is Love” (1 John 4:8; 16). This expresses the very essence of His character. Jesus, the Son of God, demonstrated this love in many practical ways throughout His life, “And having loved His own He loved them to the end.” (John 13:1) Then Jesus made it clear to His disciples that love must be the essential characteristic of their way of life. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13: 34) It is not complicated, but it is the most demanding of commandments!

So, how can we love like God and like his Son? Have we been given an instruction that we can’t possibly obey? In our own strength we cannot do it, but “the fruit of the Spirit is love . . .” (Galatians 5:22). Archbishop William Temple explained it like this: “It is no good giving me a play like ‘Hamlet’ and telling me to write a play like that. Shakespeare could do it – I can’t. And it’s no good showing me a life like the life of Jesus and telling me to live a life like that. Jesus could do it – I can’t. But if the genius of Shakespeare could come and live in me, then I could write plays like his. And if the Spirit of Jesus Christ could come into me, then I could live a life like His.”

Jesus promised, “The Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things - - - “(John 14:26). Later the Apostle Paul encouraged the Roman Christians with the truth, “God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit whom He has given us.” (Romans 5:5) The Holy Spirit enables us to obey the command to love each other.

Prayer: God of love, please grow more of your love in me. Amen.

===========================================================================================================================================
Reflections 15-12-21

My dear congregation, I, your pastor, love you in very truth. And I’m not alone – everyone who knows the Truth that has taken up residency in us loves you.

Let grace, mercy and peace be with us in truth, and love from God the Father, and from Jesus Christ, Son of the Father.

I can’t tell you how happy I am to learn that many members of your congregation are diligent in living out the Truth, exactly as commanded by the Father.

(2 John 1-4 Message).

Eugene Peterson’s Message translation helpfully clarifies who John is writing to at the start of his second letter. He is addressing a church congregation. John had met some of the members of the local Christian community and was overjoyed to find that they were walking in the truth (v4).

Truth is the dominant theme of these opening lines, in fact John mentions it 4 or 5 times (depending on which translation you are using) in the first 4 verses. By Truth, John is referring to God’s actions in history and their significance, and he is saying that we can ‘know’ this. And we ‘know’ the truth, not in the sense of knowing cold facts in an academic way, but experiencing the Truth living in us (v2) which is going to impact our lives and change us from the inside.

As we discuss things with our friends who are not yet Christians we find that they are not very concerned about theological ideas and the claims of Christianity. What they want to know is, “Does it work?” They want to see the Truth lived out in practical application. What impact is it having on daily life?

When we look at the life of Jesus we see repeatedly that His way of life and His actions gave credibility to the words that He spoke. And His words explained His actions. John challenges the idea that truth is a matter of opinion. It is absolute. And he expects the truth that we know to be reflected in how we live. Jesus came to bring us Truth and to demonstrate that it works in everyday life.

Prayer: Father thank you that Jesus proclaimed the truth and showed it in His daily life. Please help us to be like Him and do the same. Amen.

==============================================================================================================================================
Reflections 14-12-21

An angel of the LORD appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” - - - When Herod realised that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under. (Matthew 2:13, 16).

Herod was a jealous and brutal king. He was also very insecure and constantly feared that someone was going to usurp him. He had three of his own sons killed, as well as his wife and mother-in-law! When he was nearing the end of his life, he had all the notable men of Jerusalem put to death in the hippodrome. He was determined to eradicate any potential competition for his throne.

When the Magi did not return to report on the whereabouts of the recently born ‘King of the Jews’, Herod decided that he would kill all the boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under. He thought he was securing his kingship!

Herod’s plans to eliminate Jesus were foiled because Joseph obeyed the instructions of an angel in a dream, and took his family to safety in Egypt. Jesus spent his early years as a refugee in a foreign country. He knows what it is like to be a displaced youngster. According to UNHCR there are 26.4 million refugees in the world today; more than half of whom are children. At the heart of the Godhead is one who identifies with them: He knows what it is like.

Bethlehem was a fairly small settlement in the first century, and it is estimated that about 30 baby boys were killed by Herod’s soldiers. As we think of those grief-stricken families, we reflect how the fall of humanity and the proliferation of evil have caused so much anguish in the world. And God shares in our sufferings with us. Our Heavenly Father has seen His own Son most cruelly put to death, so He knows how to comfort those who mourn, and how to bind up the broken-hearted. The God who has come to us, bears our griefs and carries our sorrows.

Prayer: Loving Father thank you that you share in the suffering of your fallen world; and thank you that when your Kingdom comes there will be no more death or crying or pain. Amen. 

==========================================================================================================================================
Reflections 13-12-21

- - - and they will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God with us’)”. When Joseph woke up he did what the angel of the LORD had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

Luke’s Gospel tells us about Mary and her willingness to follow God’s plan, while Matthew tells us about Joseph and his readiness to obey. Without delay he fulfilled the second part of the betrothal agreement, which was the marriage ceremony, and when a boy was born he named him Jesus, as he had been instructed by the angel.

In that culture names were very significant and were taken to indicate what the parents thought the character or the function of the child would be. In this case the angel of the LORD had instructed that the boy should be called Jesus – meaning ‘YHWH saves’ – because He would save his people from their sins. (Joseph probably did not have a clue what the implications of that would be!)

Matthew’s Gospel also records two other names or titles for Jesus. One was “Messiah” – a Hebrew word meaning “Anointed One”. (The Greek translation of this word is “Christ”.) Matthew’s Jewish audience understood very well that this referred to the coming Saviour for whom the nation had been longing for generations – for centuries! They were expecting Him to deliver them from their enemies.

The other name, “Immanuel”, means “God with us”. Part of the Godhead took on human form in Jesus to share life with us. And because Jesus saves us from our sins we are no longer separated from God, and have Immanuel, God with us.

How significant those names are! Jesus the Anointed One – Jesus who Saves – Jesus, God with us. Here is the Good News in a nutshell!

Prayer: Loving Father thank you for sending Jesus to save us and to bring us into your Presence. May this Good News reach many more people this Christmas time. Amen. 

===========================================================================================================================================
Reflections 10-12-21

All this took place to fulfil what the LORD had said through the prophet, “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son . . . . “ (Matthew 1:22-23)

How will this be?” Mary asked the angel, “Since I am a virgin.” The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:34-35)

The prophet Isaiah (7:14) had foretold the miracle of the virgin birth. God’s Holy Spirit would overshadow Mary, conceiving in her Jesus who was thus both human and divine. Here is a beautiful example of the Trinity at work. God the Creator comes down to His creation through His Holy Spirit and the person of Jesus develops in a virgin’s womb. Since He was divine, Jesus fulfils the meaning of His name, “YHWH saves”. Since He was human He can identify completely with us and represent us in the Father’s presence. What an amazing plan of salvation!

But there is even more! After Jesus had died and risen again for us, and returned to His Father, He sent His Holy Spirit to fill His people. Just as the Holy Spirit had overshadowed Mary and brought about the presence of Jesus in her life, so we too can host Jesus in our lives – not in the literal way that Mary did of course - but allowing Him to live in us and transform us.

As Jesus lives in us He gives us the gifts of His Spirit like wisdom, knowledge, faith, etc. and enables the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, etc.) to grow in our lives. Are there any better gifts on offer this Christmas time?

Jesus dwelling in His people is something that He talked about with His disciples. “I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.” (John 14:20) It comes again in His prayer for them, “I in them and You in me.” (John 17:23) The Apostle Paul understood this reality when he wrote, “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:27) and, “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20)

Prayer: Loving Father thank you that as we celebrate the coming of Jesus we can rejoice that He now dwells in us. Amen.

==============================================================================================================================================
Reflections 09-12-21

 

After (Joseph) had considered this, an angel of the LORD appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, Son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:20-21).

I’m sure Mary would have told Joseph that her pregnancy was of divine origin, but how could he believe such an unlikely story! Joseph had to change his plans and chose the least bad of the three options before him. But God had a better plan!

When Joseph awoke after that night’s dream he must have been a changed man. The day before he was sad and angry and desolate; now he is embracing a new life! He had been addressed as ‘son of David’ – the only man in the New Testament to have that title apart from Jesus himself. And now he was going to be the legal father of the one who was to be the Saviour of his people. Because Joseph had been give the responsibility for naming Jesus, this meant that he was acknowledging Jesus as his son, and thus Jesus too became a son of David. Joseph was not the biological father of Jesus, but his role as his earthly father was crucial.

God still communicates with people today, and He uses means which are appropriate and accessible to the individual. For some He might use a dream or a vision or an angelic visit; for others He might use an insight from Scripture; for others, the wisdom of friends, or a time of meditation. The LORD is a God who speaks, who reveals Himself and His purposes to His people. Sometimes that might be in the crises of life – as it was with Joseph – or it might be in the humdrum routine of everyday busyness. Are we alert and ready to listen?

Prayer: Father I am busy with many things, please help me to hear Your voice and to make the right choices. Amen.

===========================================================================================================================================
Reflections
08-12-21

 

This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: his mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. (Matthew 1:18-19)

 

The betrothal had taken place and Mary and Joseph were pledged to one another in marriage. But things did not turn out as they had planned! Before they had sexual union Joseph learned that Mary was expecting a baby!!

 

Courting and marriage were different in those days. At that time, a young man and a young woman would be betrothed to each other for about a year before they actually got married. The betrothal would involve exchanging gifts and signing a prenuptial agreement which gave the man rights over the woman. To break those legal ties required a divorce. That then is what Joseph faced when he discovered that Mary was pregnant and he was not the father.

 

Imagine what Joseph was feeling. He was shocked, angry, hurt, disappointed, indignant, deflated. His plans for spending the rest of his life with Mary were shattered. In an instant his whole world was turned upside-down. What was he to do? He could go ahead and marry her, but that would be to condone her sin of adultery, making him impure before the Law and before God. He could demand a public divorce, but that would humiliate her publicly and could result in her death by stoning. He decided on a third option, a private divorce which would ensure his holiness before God while safeguarding her life.

 

We know what happens next in the story, but just stop and put yourself in Joseph’s shoes at this point. He is described as a “righteous man”, but he is wracked with grief. “Why? Why did she do it? Doesn’t she love me? O God why did you let her do it? Why, O God, Why?”

 

Prayer: Lord Jesus thank you that I can be honest with you about my deepest feelings.

Please help me to share my joys and my sorrows, my hopes and my fears with you at all times. Amen.

============================================================================================================================================
Reflections
07-12-21

 

This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham: Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar, Perez the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram, Ram the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon, Salmon the father of Boaz whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David. David was the father of Solomon, whose mother Bathsheba had been Uriah’s wife. (Matthew 1:1-6).

What happens when you come across a genealogy in the Bible? Do you mentally switch off? Who were Hezron and Ram and Nahshon anyway? They don’t mean anything to me! However, there are treasures hidden in this list that the original readers would have understood. Most genealogies of that time did not include women, but Matthew includes Mary the mother of Jesus and four others! And those four were unacceptable in Jewish society. Tamar tricked her father-in-law so that he would fulfil his legal obligation to her; Rahab was a prostitute, Ruth was a Moabite and excluded from the synagogue, and Bathsheba committed adultery.

Matthew is telling us that although Jesus was a descendant of key people in the nation’s history like Abraham and David, His roots and very DNA were in the outcasts, the wronged and the marginalised. As the Messiah, Jesus was anointed to save the rejects from the society as well as the respectable. Matthew is also preparing us for the unusual circumstances of Jesus’ birth – He was born to an unmarried woman!

The way Jesus arrives on planet earth shatters our expectations of how the King of Kings should come to His people. Yes, He is LORD of Lords, but He is also lowly and humble and one of us.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, as we prepare to celebrate your coming among us, open our eyes and our hearts to those on the margins of society. Amen.

============================================================================================================

Reflections 06-12-21

My people do not be afraid; people of Israel, do not be terrified. I will rescue you from that distant land, from the land where you are prisoners. You will come back home and live in peace; you will be secure, and no-one will make you afraid. I will come to you and save you. - - - I the LORD have spoken.” (Jeremiah 30:10-11).

One of the great and recurring themes of the Bible is that God is with His people. Most other religions recognise the power and remoteness of their god, but Judaism and Christianity are unique in recognising that God is near us – He is with us. When the Israelites were slaves in Egypt God heard their cries and appeared to Moses in the burning bush. He explained that He had “come down to deliver them from the Egyptians”. (Exodus 3:8). The people were aware of His presence as they crossed the Red Sea and journeyed through the wilderness, because the visible signs of His Presence (the pillar of cloud by day and of fire by night) were always there.

At other times too, we read of God drawing near to His people – sometimes in moments of crisis, and sometimes to encourage and support them. Isaiah prophesies the birth of a boy who would be born and would be called “Immanuel” which means “God with us”. (Isaiah 7:14).

Jeremiah is promising that God is coming near to His people to save them. Just as He had saved the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, so He would rescue His people from exile in Babylon. In the same way, the New Testament makes it clear that Immanuel was to be given the name Jesus “- because He will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21).

In our earthly journey, Jesus has promised to be with us always, “to the end of time” (Matthew 28:20). And then Jesus promised, “- - after I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to myself, so that you will be where I am.” (John 14:3).

Prayer: Father thank You for Your faithful promises to be near me now and to share the blessings of Your Presence throughout eternity. Amen


==============================================================================================================================================
Reflections
03-12-21

 

A terrible day is coming: no other day can compare with it – a time of distress for my people but they will survive.” The LORD Almighty says, “When that day comes, I will break the yoke that is round their necks and remove their chains, and they will no longer be the slaves of foreigners. Instead, they will serve me, the LORD their God, and a descendant of David, whom I will enthrone as King. My people, do not be afraid; people of Israel do not be terrified, I will rescue you - - (Jeremiah 30:7-10).

Jeremiah was not a prophet who pulled his punches! He warned the people of Judah that because of their continued evil practices and disobedience they would be taken into exile in Babylon. But now he assures them that God does not forget His Covenant Promises. The day of punishment will indeed be terrible, but there will also be a day of redemption and restoration.

When that day comes, the yoke of foreign bondage will removed, their prisoners’ chains will be broken, and they will be set free from slavery. And this would be much more than just a release from evil: it would be a freedom for great good. At last they would be set free to serve God and live under the rule of a descendant of King David.

The principle that God would send a king like David – God-fearing, faithful and just – crops up again and again in the Old Testament prophecies. So the people were waiting for a literal descendant of King David, but one who would be filled with divine power – the true Messiah.

The people did not know that they would have to wait for several centuries before the Messiah arrived in Bethlehem. And in the same way we do not know how long we will have to wait before the Messiah returns as King of Kings. But we do know that He will come again to bring in a perfect reign of peace and justice. Are we ready for that?

 

Prayer: Loving Father we pray, “O come, desire of nations”. And thank you that we can “Rejoice, rejoice,” because “Immanuel shall come”. Amen.

====================================================================================================

Reflections 02-12-21

 

So he (Balaam) uttered this prophecy, “The prophecy of Balaam son of Beor, the words of a man who can see clearly; who can hear what God is saying, and receive the knowledge that comes from the Most High. With staring eyes I see in a trance a vision from Almighty God. I look into the future and I see the nation of Israel. A king, like a bright star, will arise in that nation. A sceptre will rise out of Israel. (Numbers 24:15-17).

Balaam was one of those Old Testament characters who was not a Hebrew but was a man who feared YHWH, and had the gift of prophecy so that he could speak out what the LORD was telling him. He did this in spite of being pressured by the enemy King Balak to curse the Israelites!

Far from cursing them, Balaam announced this remarkable prophecy. He saw a person who was way in the future who would be a shining star – bringing light and fulfilling promises – and a sceptre (denoting kingship). At one level this was taken to refer to the great King David who would lead the nation of Israel into its days of glory. But now we can see a deeper and more significant fulfilment in Jesus, the much greater descendant of King David.

For us today, it is a prophetic word about the One who came as a baby to Bethlehem, and is to come as King of Kings. He will return to planet earth with all authority as a bright and shining star. A star led the Magi to Bethlehem: an even brighter star will lead us into the Kingdom of Heaven.

Prayer: Loving Father we pray that You will dispel ‘the long night’s lingering gloom’. Thank you for the promise that Immanuel is coming to be God with us. Amen.

======================================================================================================

Reflections 01-12-21

A shoot shall come out from the stock of Jesse, and a branch will grow out of his roots. The Spirit of the LORD shall rest on him, the Spirit of Wisdom and Understanding, the Spirit of Counsel and Might, the Spirit of Knowledge and reverential Awe of the LORD, and he will find pleasure in obeying Him. He will not judge by appearance or hearsay. He will judge the poor fairly and defend the rights of the helpless. - - - He will rule his people with justice and integrity. (Isaiah 11:1-5).

Jesse was the father of the shepherd boy David who became Israel’s greatest king. He lived in Bethlehem and it was there that a ‘shoot’ from Jesse’s ‘stock’ (a new branch from the old root) was born – Jesus the Messiah, a descendant of David.

These verses emphasise the importance of the Holy Spirit in the character and life of Jesus. In His first sermon in the synagogue at Nazareth, Jesus began with the words from this same prophet Isaiah, “The Spirit of the LORD is upon me.” (Luke 4:18). And here we can reflect on some of the particular gifts of the Holy Spirit – wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge and reverential awe.

God is pure wisdom, and Jesus was perfect wisdom in human form. The Old Testament confirms in several places that, “The fear (reverential awe) of the LORD is wisdom.” (e.g. Job 28:28). Only in Jesus did that reverence for the Father reach perfection. His wisdom gave Him understanding in the fullest sense; and also knowledge, for “He knew all people - - - for He Himself knew what was in everyone.” (John 2:24-25). That in turn gave Him counsel for when He spoke it was on the basis of true knowledge.

Prayer: Loving Father thank you that Your Holy Spirit, who inspired and equipped the LORD Jesus, is ready to inspire and equip us as we wait and watch in this time of Advent. Amen

================================================================================================================================================

Reflections
30-11-21

 

Then Moses said, “I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.” When the LORD saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then He said, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” He said further, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. (Exodus 3:3-6).

 

The Israelites were really suffering as slaves in Egypt because their taskmasters were cruel and heartless. So they cried out to God and He heard them. The LORD put in place an amazing rescue plan starting with the birth of Moses and ending with their arrival in the Promised Land. What had seemed hopeless ended up with great rejoicing in the land ‘flowing with milk and honey’.

 

This meeting at the burning bush is a pivotal point both for the Israelites and for the whole human race. The voice that called Moses was that of YHWH, the God who is Personal, All-powerful, and Eternal. From that moment the destiny of the Israelites changed for ever. There were still plenty of problems ahead of them – rivers to cross, enemies to defeat, food and water shortages to be dealt with, but now they had been rescued – they were set free and they were going to receive the Law, the Covenant and the Promises of God. And on their journey God was going to be with them every step of the way.

 

And what was true for them, the People of the Old Covenant, is just as true for us – the People of the New Covenant. Our God is well aware of our needs. He knows what enslaves us, and what our deficiencies are. That’s why He sent Jesus. This is one of the great truths of Advent: with God nothing is ultimately hopeless. And He is going with us, every step of the way.

 

 

Prayer: Loving Father, thank you for your plan to rescue your people and to equip them for their journey to the Promised Land. Amen

=====================================================================================================

Reflections 29-11-21

 

Isaiah says, “The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; the Gentiles will hope in Him.”

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

(Romans 15:12-13).

 

Advent is a season of hope, but it is also a time to journey, to reflect and to prepare. It is therefore quite a solemn time. Some churches will not have floral decorations now, and their clergy will be dressed in sombre purple. This is quite a contrast to the world which is covering itself with tinsel, glitter and flashing coloured lights, and is preparing to over-spend and over-indulge.

 

The Christian Church is thus being consciously counter-cultural at this time.

And that is good. We encourage the world to take time out, to pause and reflect on the event which changed human history for eternity. We want people to consider how they will respond to God’s amazing gift. We offer to the world the love and hope which has so generously been bestowed on us.

 

What’s more, we look forward with hope to the Kingdom which God Himself is preparing for us. It’s a Kingdom of righteousness, justice and peace, where tears have no place because the king of love has wiped them all away. That Kingdom began when a baby was born in poverty in Bethlehem. It will come in all its glorious fullness when that baby – now King of Kings and Lord of Lords – comes to reign supreme over all.

 

 

Prayer: Loving Father please fill us with your Holy Spirit so that this Advent will be a time when we prepare for the return of the Lord Jesus. Amen. 

 

Lent Reflections 12 – Thursday March 4th 2021

 

 

The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song. (Psalm 28:7).

 

Don’t be worry about tomorrow; it will have enough worries of its own. God will take care of your tomorrow. Live one day at a time. (Matthew 6:34).

 

When I am afraid, O LORD Almighty, I put my trust in you. I trust in God and I am not afraid; I praise him for what he has promised. What can a mere human being do to me?

(Psalm 56:3-4).

 

Remember, I will be with you and protect you wherever you go - - I will not leave you until I have done all that I have promised you. (Genesis 28:15).

 

 

 

I know what you need each day, even before you get out of bed.”

 

I will provide the strength you need to cope with everything, and the shield you need to protect you from attacks.”

 

Don’t worry about what might lie ahead of you on the road: concentrate on staying in touch with Me. My Power flows from Me to you along our open line of communication.”

 

Whenever you feel afraid, or start to panic, remember what I have promised: I will be with you and will protect you wherever you go.”

 

Don’t waste your energy on worrying! Try singing some joyful songs of praise.”

Copyright (c)2010 Aldeburgh Baptist Church