Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Gift that Keeps on Giving


Let’s face it, some Christmas gifts may have novelty value, but they aren't really of much use out of season. Gentlemen, would you wear that musical reindeer tie to work in the middle of July? Thought not. Ladies, what about those Christmas tree earrings? I don’t suppose they see the light of day anytime outside of December. Don’t even get me started on the pointless stuff that emerges from Christmas crackers. If I get another bag of marbles this year I’m going to lose my, er, well, you know.

At Christmas time we traditionally celebrate God’s greatest gift to humankind, Jesus Christ, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16). Those who accept the gift of Jesus by faith receive the Gift that Keeps on Giving. All year round and for eternity.  

Happy Christmas! 

* From December/January News & Views, West Lavington Parish Magazine. 

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Christmas wrapped up

O Father, what love is this?
You sent your only Son
forever wrapped in love
to take our bone and flesh
born of woman by the Spirit's power
and wrapped in swaddling bands
to suffer and die for us
the just for the unjust
that we might be wrapped
in his righteousness.
O Father, what love is this? 

Friday, December 13, 2013

Gravity


Last Friday evening Sarah and I headed for the newly opened Odeon Cinema in Trowbridge to catch the film Gravity. It's taken me until vow to write this up. The movie centres on astronauts Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) and their work aboard the Space Shuttle Explorer. The cinematography is stunning. In the opening sequence the astronauts are shown spacewalking as they maintain the shuttle. In the background the earth in all its sun-illuminated beauty stands out as an enormous blue globe against the star-punctuated blackness of space.

The astronauts look tiny and vulnerable as they float around in a dark ocean of inhospitable vastness. The sense of looming danger is justified. A cloud of debris smashes into the Explorer, ripping the shuttle apart, sending Stone and Kowalski careering into space. Their only hope is jet-pack their way to the International Space Station, some 60 miles away so they can board an escape module and return to earth. 

I won't spoil the plot, but although Stone manages to deploy an escape capsule, it seems that all is lost as the vessel's thrusters have no fuel. The astronaut faces a lonely death. Trying desperately to send out an SOS message, Stone manages to pick up a radio signal from earth, locating an Inuit Fisherman. He knows no English and cannot raise an alarm. Stone nevertheless strikes up a conversation with the man and asks him to pray for her, "No one will pray for my soul...Will you pray for me? I mean I'd pray for myself, but I've never prayed—nobody ever taught me how."

At that moment Stone begins to cry. In the weightlessness of space her tears form into tiny droplets of water and float around the capsule. It is a moment of poignant beauty in the film, as the astronaut contemplates death without hope. It made me reflect on Paul's words in Romans 10:14-15, where he asks, 
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 
Whether intentionally or not the film was a reminder of the urgency of the evangelistic task of the church. It's our mission to teach people to call upon the name of the Lord that they may be able to face death with hope in their hearts, (Romans 10:13). No one had taught Dr. Stone how to pray. Unless we do that, who will? 

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Advent: history, mystery and destiny

 
History

People may think that the Christmas story has about as much historical basis as Father Christmas, Raymond Briggs’ Snowman and Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer. But that isn’t the case. While we don’t know the exact date on which Jesus was born, the Gospel writers are careful to lay down clear historical markers. Caesar Augustus was Roman Emperor at the time, a chap named Qurinius was governing Syria and nasty old Herod ruled in Jerusalem as king of the Jews.  Jesus Christ was a real historical figure and there are references to his life and teaching outside the pages of the New Testament.

Besides, if the Gospel writers were trying to wrap Jesus in myth and legend, they went a funny way about it. Why say that as a baby he was laid in a manger, basically an animal’s feeding trough? Why record that despised shepherds were the first group of people to pay homage to the new born King? That’s a fine way to establish Jesus’ messianic credentials.

Mystery

Jesus was truly born of Mary in the town of Bethlehem and grew up to be a preacher and miracle worker the like of which the word had never seen before or since. Millions people are counted as his followers today.  What makes Jesus so special? Christians believe that he was the Son of God who became human to rescue human beings from sin; the wrong things that we all do. His very name ‘Jesus’ means the ‘Lord Saves’. He died on the Cross for the sins of the world. He rose again from the dead to give all who believe in him the hope of everlasting life. In the Son of God made flesh we see the mystery of God’s love for people like you and me.

Destiny

God made human beings that we might enjoy him and be with him for ever. Sin messed things up, but through faith in Jesus that destiny can be restored. That is why Christmas is such a joyful season, as we remember the Saviour’s birth. In the words of the angel of the Lord to the shepherds,
I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; who is Christ, the Lord.
* Christmas message for Phab Magazine.