Thought for the Month (December 2010)

As you read this, Christmas is less than a month away and you are probably beginning to see reminders of the Christmas story, Mary and Joseph, the shepherds and the three kings, and much less likely Simeon and Anna. Maybe you are asking whether the minister can say anything fresh this Christmas.

Well, come November, you might be pleased to know that I am asking the same question and yet I am amazed that each year the story of the birth of Jesus still speaks. It is multi-faceted and the particular facet I discovered this year is that you can probably find yourself in the Christmas story. It is full of characters whose situations are quite different.

When you take away the sentimental gloss from Mary and Joseph you quickly see what a desperate situation they were in. Mary was in the 9th month of (in the world's eyes) an illegitimate pregnancy and they had to go to Bethlehem, a journey of over 60 miles, at the whim of an occupying power. The Bible makes no mention of a donkey which probably means they had to walk. It would have been dark and cold when they arrived and they would have been tired and desperate given Mary's circumstances. Life had not been kind to this young couple as they searched with increasing panic for somewhere where Mary could have her baby. But an angel had visited them and told them not to fear and that God was in control. Perhaps some of you feel the road is hard and dark at the moment and you wonder how it is going to work out. Well, remember Mary and Joseph and hang on to your faith. It looked grim for them too.

Now the shepherds were very different. As far as we know they had heard nothing from God until that night. They were doing what they always did, look after the sheep. They would have had no expectations of meeting God and would have been totally bowled over by what happened. They were visited by an angel and then an army of angels and were told about the birth of Jesus. They had met God and they had to make a decision ignore or respond. Their response was simple, 'Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has told us about.' They responded and they met Jesus and they did it together. Never forget that we are individuals and we all have to make a decision for Jesus, but we are not alone and the people around us can help us in our decisions. We are part of a church and we are here to help each other. Remember the shepherds who went to see Jesus together.

Then there were the wise men. Now, unlike the shepherds, these men were searching for something in life. The star had appeared and they knew they were on to something but then they made a bad mistake. They could have followed the star and it would have taken them to Bethlehem but they decided that if they were looking for the King of the Jews, the answer must lie in Jerusalem. That decision put the baby Jesus and themselves in grave danger. But God guided them out of Jerusalem and the baby Jesus was saved. I (Bob) can relate to this story because I was searching for something in my life and I kept taking wrong turns but God brought me through and I discovered Jesus.

Simeon and Anna were different again. They were mature, not to say old, godly believers who were expecting Jesus. When they met Jesus their hearts rejoiced because they knew He was the Messiah, the one long expected. Maybe this is you. You have been serving faithfully in your church for years and years and you are waiting for something to happen, maybe growth in numbers or revival or an experience of the Holy Spirit and nothing much seems to change. Well, remember Simeon and Anna, they waited for years, they worshipped and kept the faith and then they saw what they had been waiting for, 'For my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared in the sight of all people.'

All these people discovered the baby Jesus. Perhaps you can relate to at least one of them and we pray that you might discover or rediscover the risen Lord Jesus this Christmas.

We wish you and your family much joy and peace.

With love, Bob and Karen

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Tunbridge Wells United Reformed Church