Thought for the Month (December 2013)
Well this is our last major festival as ministers here! This is our 18th Christmas and I am asking, "Do I have anything new to say?" The story is so familiar; a baby born into an ordinary working family, a journey, shepherds, wise men, a king whose behaviour would not have passed a parliamentary committee, all in all a gripping story that is repeated each year and yet never fails to stir us.
Christmas marks the biggest divide in history [BC and AD] and it reminds us that all of history is His story. If we are followers of Jesus it is also our story. When I look back to Christmas 1996, I realise I am more excited about the Christmas message now than I was then. Together we have lived out the message of Christmas over the past seventeen years and we have seen God at work in our own lives, in our churches and in the world around us.
The challenge of the Christmas story is always to go deeper. Virtually everyone in this country celebrates Christmas but for many it is only skin-deep guided by parties and Christmas adverts, for others it is a very important time when family and friends come together but still the true significance is missed. For Christians Jesus must be at the heart of all we do. Without Jesus it is a merely a winter celebration and we owe it to Him to remind the world that "Jesus is the reason for the season." However, we cannot do that unless Jesus gets priority in our lives.
I challenge you to get out the diary and make sure Jesus gets your priority this Christmas. Don't fit Jesus around the parties and presents, but fit the parties and presents around Jesus. Read or listen quietly to the Christmas story at the beginning of Luke's and Matthew's Gospels and then try the first 18 verses of John's Gospel, "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us." Don't analyse the words, just allow yourselves to get excited about what God did then and what He wants to do now through you and me.
At Christmas we celebrate God getting involved in human history, but also God getting involved in our lives, yours and mine. When men are working in a hole in the road you often used to see a sign, "Beware, men at work." Well the Christmas story should have a sign over it, "Beware, God at work."
For Christians, Christmas is an opportunity to see God at work, firstly in our own lives and then in the lives of others. Christmas still offers a good opportunity to invite friends and family to church. Tunbridge Wells are having a traditional Nine Lessons and Carols on 15th December and a more upbeat celebration on 22nd. Hawkenbury offer you a Christmas anthology on 15th December and a more serious Gospel at Christmas on 22nd, as well as carol singing on 18th, whereas Rusthall focus on a children's nativity on 15th. Then, of course, each church offers worship on Christmas morning. These are not just opportunities for us to worship but also opportunities to invite others. Think about your friends and family, and pray that God will show you which service to invite them to. Also put a Christian message on your Christmas card. The world that we live in might be increasingly secular, but remember that you are a Christian.
Finally, at Christmas we also remember that there is a wider world out there, one that we cannot ignore. This year Karen and I would like to focus on our brothers and sisters in Christ who have none of the freedoms we have in this country and in many cases have suffered grievously for their faith. The large Christian community in Syria have been much on our minds as they not only suffer the ravages of civil war along with everyone else, but also the increasing persecution from Islamist groups who are becoming dominant within the rebel forces. Please pray for and give generously to our brothers and sisters in Christ this Christmas time. Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for Me."
Remember also that you are precious to our Lord, and we pray for God's blessing upon you, your families and friends this at this Christmas time.
Rev. Bob and Rev. Karen Street
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