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Reverend Paul Collings BTh (Hons) - - - paul.collings@methodist.org.uk - - - 01392 206229 - - - 07941 880768

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We are a community of faith seeking to discover the face of Jesus Christ in our Church, in our Community and in our Commitment.

Saturday 31 December 2022

New Years Eve


Philippians 3:13-14 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,  press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

So here we are at the time that marks both an ending and a beginning. 

In Malcolm Gladwell’s excellent book, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference he writes,  “If you want to bring a fundamental change in people's belief and behaviour...you need to create a community around them, where those new beliefs can be practiced and expressed and nurtured.” 


I feel this is the essence of Paul’s exaltation to the Church in Phillipi. Gladwell also goes on to say, “Look at the world around you. It may seem like an immovable, implacable place. It is not. With the slightest push—in just the right place—it can be tipped”


Eugene Peterson paraphrases verse 14 as “By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.”


As verse 13 notes, Paul's focus is on forward momentum, not prior mistakes. A person cannot move ahead if their thoughts and vision are focused on the past.


Responding to tipping point moments can evoke a combination of fear, bravado, greed, but also wonder, and worship. The Christian response to such moment of change is to see  and fully embrace the widening the potential for compassion, through living  sufficiently, and sharing burdens. At this New Years Eve tipping point there can be hope without fear so long as discover that little step and move forward in faith.


Heavenly Father,
At midnight,
When the old year dies,
And the new comes bounding in,
I draw strength from knowing
That in the next twelve months
The snows will go
The buds will burst
The heat will rise
The leaves will fly,
That all these things will happen
According to Your schedule
And in Your time;
That there is order in Your universe,
And that I am part of it. Amen



Friday 30 December 2022

Christmas


Having looked at the various characters in the Nativity Narrative we conclude the series with looking into the mirror of the incarnation. And just like when we look into a physical mirror we see ourselves as we really are. Perhaps, that well loved Christmas verse of Christina Rossetti, is what we see of ourselves when we humble ourselves as we base upon the Christ-child.

What can I give him?

Poor as I am

If I were a shepherd

I would give a lamb

If I were a wise man

I would do my part

But what I can I give him

Give him my heart

Give him my heart


As we fully engage with the Nativity scene, do we see the reality of Christ’s incarnation.


Martin, the Cobbler, is Leo Tolstoy’s story about a lonely shoemaker who is promised in a dream that Christ will come to visit his shop. The next day Martin rises early, gets his shop ready, prepares a meal and waits. The only one who showed up in the morning was an old beggar who came by and asked for rest. Martin gave him a room he had prepared for his divine guest. The only one to show up in the afternoon was an old lady with a heavy load of wood. She was hungry and asks for food. He gave her the food he had prepared for his divine guest. As evening came, a lost boy wandered by. Martin took him home, afraid all the while he would miss the Christ. That night in his prayers he asks the Lord, “Where were You? I waited all day for You.”


The Lord said to Martin:


“Three times I came to your friendly door,

Three times my shadow was on your floor.

I was a beggar with bruised feet.

I was the woman you gave to eat.

I was the homeless child on the street.”


Watch out! Christ may be closer than you can imagine.


God of surprises you call us

from the narrowness of our traditions

to new ways of being church,

from the captivities of our culture

to creative witness for justice,

from the smallness of our horizons

to the bigness of your vision.

Clear the way in us, your people,

that we might call others to freedom and renewed faith.


Jesus, wounded healer, you call us

from preoccupation with our own histories

and hurts to daily tasks of peacemaking,

from privilege to pilgrimage,

from insularity to inclusive community.

Clear the way in us, your people,

that we might call others to wholeness and integrity.


Holy, transforming Spirit, you call us

from fear to faithfulness,

from clutter to clarity,

from a desire to control to deeper trust,

from the refusal to love to a readiness to risk.

Clear the way in us, your people,

that we might all know the beauty and power

and danger of the gospel. Amen


Thursday 29 December 2022

Christmas


“There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshipped there with fasting and prayer night and day. At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.” Luke 3:36-68

The Christmas season celebrates the birth of a child but the Gospels include many venerable figures like Simeon, Elizabeth, Zechariah and, today, Anna. These people remind me of the fullness of life and wisdom that enrich human experience. I pray that young and old alike may people may benefit from each other's company.


In a few words we are given a summary of the Prophetess Anna’s life – her name, her father’s name, her tribe and her long life as a widow. She is the only widow named in the Gospel of Luke. What stands out more than all of those is the quality of her life, especially her faith. There is no mention of her challenging life with all its losses. She is old but full of hope, speaking ‘to all who were looking forward for the redemption of Jerusalem’. She is a model of waiting, or recognising, of fasting, of prayer and of praise.


An old woman is given to us as a model of discipleship. She had moved beyond the past and looked to a new future. There was no looking back with regret with what life has brought her. She had grown strong and was filled with wisdom. Let our prayer draw strength from Anna as we seek to follow her fidelity in welcoming and presenting Jesus to those around us.


God of birth, God of light,

in this time of song and prayer and silence,

reawaken in us the awe of Christmas.

As we hear again the story of the prophetess Anna,

remind us that we are called to respond to you in unexpected ways. 

And as we move on from this season,

may we be willing to sing praises

for a young woman who said YES

and the birth that we have celebrated. Amen


Wednesday 28 December 2022

Christmas

  

God, you can now release your servant;
    release me in peace as you promised.
With my own eyes I’ve seen your salvation;
    it’s now out in the open for everyone to see:
A God-revealing light to the non-Jewish nations,
    and of glory for your people Israel. Luke :29-32

Simeon was one of those known as The Quiet in the Land, Jews who did not look for a military Messiah, and had no dreams of armies or power, but believed in a life of constant watchfulness and prayer until God should come. There is a double surprise here: the delight of Simeon at being able to welcome the Promised One; and the astonishment of Mary and Joseph at what was being said about their boy.

The Scripture readings in the season of Christmas often emphasise how the coming of Jesus was the end point of all the initiatives which God ever took in the interests of the people he had chosen. And today we’re reminded that much of this held for the whole non-Jewish world as well.

But we are warned not to be complacent. Jesus is not going to force himself on anybody. There will always be the choice – to accept him or to reject him.
That spirit of God who all along (according to Simeon) was master of events, has finally in our own day been sent even more directly into the world by the ascended Jesus.

In our prayer, we should rely on this Spirit to help us in our choices – and so to bring us to our true destiny.

Lord, may I too open my eyes in grateful amazement when I see your interventions in my life. Amend

Tuesday 27 December 2022

Christmas


Here is another part of the Nativity Narrative that I have discovered when reading it again. Zachariah the priest and bother-in-law of Mary had a visit from the Angel Gabriel with news that his wife Elizabeth would bear a son. This news was met with incredulity and doubt; this led to the Angel saying, "I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news.
  And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.” (Luke 1:19-20)

The two things I noticed were firstly, the Angel stood in the presence of God, and secondly Zachariah's doubt led to his enforced silence.


Zechariah, lived a dedicated and blameless life. He served on that day as a priest before God, as on any other day. He attended scrupulously to the rites of purification. But nothing prepared him for a direct encounter with God. He never thought that his hope of a child would be answered. This leads me to ponder, 'I a bit like you?’


How much do we live life by simply doing what needs to be done or what is expected of us? Can we own our lives more, claiming the grace of the moment? Can we address our God as if we know that God can hear us? Can we love our dear ones as if we might never see them again? Poor Zechariah, given a second chance, might have hugged the angel, because the encounter promised him ‘joy and gladness’.


Lord Jesus, 


Help us to see your truth as the only truth. When our flesh begins to pull away, God, pull us back with reminders of who you are and who you call us to be. Jesus, remind us each day that you are the way, you are the truth, and you are life. By your grace, we live freely in who you are, and may we always celebrate that and follow you. 


In Jesus’ name, Amen.


Monday 26 December 2022

Christmas


Do you ever re-read a book that you have previously enjoyed and discover in the text something that you had missed the first time round. This is true of the nativity narrative. In Luke 1:37 we come across the words of Mary, "For nothing is impossible with God.” This paraphrased elsewhere as "Nothing, you see, is impossible with God.” Just like not seeing that particular thing on the first reading of the book so to our reading and seeing the truth about God's love seen in the birth of Jesus as one of us.

It is so true that as Helen Keller once said, "The most pathetic person in the world is someone who has sight, but has no vision."


What would we do if you really believed this verse? Would our lives look different than it does now? What if we believed that what God spoke to us could be possible?


That’s what Mary did in this verse. God had spoken a promise to her, told her something about her future, that she would be the mother of Jesus. Mary did an amazing thing when she heard the news. She listened to what the angel said. He told her that nothing is impossible with God.


Because Mary believed what the angel said, that nothing was impossible, she walked out the things God was calling her to do.


The same is true in our lives. If we choose to believe that the things that God tells us to do are possible, we will be able to walk them out. If we choose to believe in God’s possibility, we will see great things come to pass in our lives.


Choose to be like Mary and see that all things are possible with God.

God, who are the Most High Lord of all,

you have a surprising preference

for people who are small and humble

and who expect everything from you.

You chose Mary, the unassuming virgin from Nazareth,

to become the mother of your Son Jesus.


Through your Holy Spirit

make us aware of the poverty of our hearts,

that we may be open to you and welcome you,

be ready, like Mary, to serve you and your plans,

and expect everything from you.

Come to us and give yourself to us

through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Saturday 24 December 2022

Advent


The Shepherds: Energised by an Angel. 

Gabriel and all the angels “are in the service of your salvation,” wrote Origen, a third-century teacher of the church. In one homily, he imagines them in heaven, embracing this role at the moment of Jesus’ birth: “They say among themselves, ‘If he has put on mortal flesh, how can we remain doing nothing? Come, angels, let us all descend from heaven!’”


Gabriel isn’t named in the story of the Bethlehem shepherds who saw the angels descend in a blaze of light and sing out the “good news of great joy.” But it’s reasonable to suppose that he is “the angel of the Lord” who speaks the message and leads the chorus. Again, for Gabriel it’s another assignment to an unlikely place. Appearing over a field of sleeping sheep would be like a heavenly manifestation over the parking lot of a truck stop.


But what a response! Taking Gabriel at his word, the shepherds put aside fear and open their hearts to joy. Then they imitate the angels in two ways: They praise God, repeating the “glory!” of the heavenly choir (Luke 2:14,20), and they spread the news of Jesus’ birth (2:17). Together with the angels, these unlikely guys become the first evangelists in Luke’s Gospel.


When the skies grow dark and buildings fall, then hear us:

have mercy on us, Lord. 


When deceivers come and the nations rise in anger, then hear us:

have mercy on us, Lord. 


When famines begin,

and when the earth shakes to bring the future to birth, then hear us:

have mercy on us, Lord. 


When we take our stand to witness to your truth,

when our people are arrested and betrayed, then hear us:

have mercy on us, Lord. 


When the sun is darkened and the moon fails to give us light,

and when the stars fall from the sky, then hear us:

have mercy on us, Lord. 


When you come in your great power and glory with your angels from heaven: 

Then, Lord,

gather us from the four winds— 

from the ends of the earth,

to be with you for ever and ever. Amen.


Friday 23 December 2022

Advent


Mary: Praised by an Angel. 

Quite rightly, Advent and Christmas meditations often invite us to reflect on the humility of Christ, who put aside his glory to become flesh and dwell among us. But have you ever thought about the angels as models of humility?


Consider Gabriel’s visit to Mary. It takes place far from the Temple in Jerusalem, in an insignificant little town. He is sent to a young woman who stands way outside the circles of power and prestige. Still, Gabriel hastens to Nazareth with the same readiness he displayed in his missions to influential men. His eagerness here prompts us to ask: “Do I undertake humble, hidden works as enthusiastically as those that showcase my abilities and make me feel important?”


Mary’s neighbours see her as an ordinary person doing ordinary things, like drawing water and making hummus. What Gabriel sees is a woman who “comes forth like the dawn, as beautiful as the moon, as resplendent as the sun, as awe-inspiring as bannered troops” (Song of Songs 6:10). Mary reflects God perfectly, and the angel affirms it: Wow! Awesome! “Hail, favoured one!” (Luke 1:28).


As Gabriel receives Mary’s wholehearted yes, he knows that this young woman is on track to become the person that God wants her to be. Are we as quick to recognise, praise, and advance God’s work in others—especially if we think they are likely to surpass us?


Loving Lord,

this is the season for miracles

and we pray for one today.

Where there is sorrow,

we pray for your grace to light the darkness.

Where is despair,

we pray for your hope to light the darkness.

Where there is hatred,

we pray for your forgiveness to light the darkness.

Where there is war,

we pray for your love to light the darkness.

Where there is confusion,

we pray for your peace to light the darkness.

Where there is injustice,

we pray for your courage to light the darkness.

Where there is fear

we pray for your joy to light the darkness.


It is the season for miracles

and we pray for one today:

Come, Lord Jesus, may your light come into our world.


Thursday 22 December 2022

Advent


Angels don’t retire, and Gabriel is still an eager messenger. 

Today we see how Zechariah was Rebuked by an Angel. Angels see things from God’s point of view. Unlike us, they aren’t fooled by a person’s pious exterior or impressed by high position. Otherwise, Gabriel might have gone easier on the next person he visits, Zechariah, the future father of John the Baptist.


Gabriel himself is in a holy inner circle; he is one of “the seven angels who enter and serve before the Glory of the Lord” (Tobit 12:15). And Zechariah is a priest who serves at the Temple, where God reveals his glory on earth. When Gabriel comes to him, he is offering the evening incense just one doorway away from the Holy of Holies, which is entered by the high priest only once a year. Zechariah is as close to God’s presence as almost any mortal can get!


Suddenly, the angel who was so gentle and encouraging with Daniel turns severe. No praise, no “beloveds,” but a stern “I am Gabriel, who stand before God” (Luke 1:19). It’s not me you’re disbelieving, Gabriel implies, it’s the Master I serve, who authorised me to speak to you.


Does Gabriel then strike out at Zechariah or abandon him to his unbelief? That would be out of character. What he does instead should encourage us to trust the angels as our guides to a deeper life with God. Wisely, Gabriel pronounces a punishment that provides an opportunity for conversion: “You will be speechless and unable to talk until the day these things take place” (Luke 1:20).


The nine-month silent retreat brings Zechariah to a change of heart. After naming his infant son John, he breaks into a joyous prophecy about “the tender mercy of our God” and his plan “to shine on those who sit in darkness.” (Luke 1:78-79). Zechariah is a new man! And Gabriel, undoubtedly, is looking on with delight.


O Holy One,

we acknowledge that we have domesticated

and downsized you,

turned you into our own cuddly teddy bear.

But, along with our Sunday Notices,

you pass out hard hats

and roadside warnings

that we are entering a construction zone

in preparation

for the Baptist's announcement:

"Every mountain and hill be made low,

and the crooked shall be made straight."

Keep us safe, O Holy One.

Even now, the dynamite of the prophet's proclamation

is lodged in the granite of our hearts;

O Holy One, break us open.

Let the roadwork begin. Amen


Wednesday 21 December 2022

Advent


The angel Gabriel from heaven came.

Gabriel was the archangel who announced to the Virgin Mary that she had been chosen to bear the Son of God (Luke 1:27-38).


Because of this he has traditionally become associated with other message-bearing angels in the Bible: appearing to Zaccharias to tell him that his wife Elizabeth would have a son, to Joachim, the father of the Virgin Mary, and, in the Old Testament, to the mother of Samson, in the same role.


In paintings of the Annunciation he appears before the Virgin carrying a lily, his attribute, and sometimes with a scroll on which are written the words with which he greeted her in Saint Luke's Gospel.


Looking at Gabriel and his appearances to different people, we can glimpse something of God’s great love for us. We see how God continues to do us good by sending his angels to care for us and smooth our way to him. And all of this can help us to draw closer to God during Advent and beyond.


Today we look at Daniel: Touched by an Angel. Gabriel is a messenger—all angels are. This is what the word for angel means in both Hebrew and Greek. His first assignment is to a man you’ll sympathise with if you’ve ever felt worried about your future or the fate of the world.


Essentially, the message that Gabriel brings Daniel is the one we need ourselves as we face turmoil in our own day: History is not a haphazard series of events. Whatever the dark headlines—terrorist attacks, natural disasters, economic upheavals—we’re in the hands of a loving and all-powerful God. Earthly regimes will rise and fall, and good people will suffer. But this is sure: At an hour no one knows, God will bring evil to an end and establish his eternal kingdom.


Daniel couldn’t foresee just how God’s kingdom would break into the world. But with the gifts that Gabriel brought him, he could live in peace and patient endurance, with a secure hope for the future. “Fear not, beloved,” Gabriel assured him, “you are safe. Take courage and be strong” (Daniel 10:19).


Christ the Lord, Son of the living God, light from light,

leads us into the light and reveals his holiness.

With confidence, let us make our prayer:

Come, Lord Jesus!


Light that never fades, dispel the mists about us,

awaken our faith from sleep.


Guard us from all harm today,

may your glory fill us with joy.


Give us unfailing gentleness at all times,

toward everyone we meet.


Come to create a new earth for us,

where there will be justice and peace. 

Tuesday 20 December 2022

Advent


Again in looking at Micah 5:2 we find the whole name of the place of Christ's birth was Bethlehem Ephrathah. Ephrathah, or Ephrath, is the ancient name for the town of Bethlehem and significantly means fruitful. 

We later find again in Jesus teaching the significance of the fruit that came out of this Little Town of Bethlehem when Jesus said, 'I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine-grower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing." John 15:1-5


The fruits of our Christian life are the work of God. Each of us can see the life and work of God in others - in ministry, in love, in commitment, courage, endurance, and ordinary daily kindness and compassion. Each of us, too, is gifted in some unique way. We can bear fruit for God in a way nobody else can. The tone of the gospel is different in everyone who spreads it. Prayer helps us recognise the fruits, develop them and offer them in the service of God and God's people.


The closeness of the relationship with ourselves and Jesus is like branch and tree. One gives life to the other and draws life from the other. A real relationship with Jesus is life-giving - it is loving, healing and challenging. It brings life to the soul and energy to the body. The relationship itself bears fruit and brings to each of us a loving and energetic quality of life.


Perhaps the last verse of O Little Town of Bethlehem by Phillips Brooks is an apt prayer for us today.


O holy Child of Bethlehem,

descend to us, we pray,

cast out our sin and enter in,

be born in us today.

We hear the Christmas angels

the great glad tidings tell;

O come to us, abide with us,

our Lord Immanuel!


Monday 19 December 2022

Advent


Its interesting that the  name Bethlehem, in Arabic means “House of Meat”, and in Hebrew “House of Bread” both seem significant when related to the place of the birth of Jesus, Son of God. These meanings almost seem prophetic and symbolic of his later teaching to his followers.

Years latter, the Rabbi Jesus  found himself amidst controversy. "The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" So Jesus said to them, "Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me." - John 6:52-59


We have often heard lovers saying 'I love you so much I could eat you' or 'your company is food and drink to me'. Jesus is not advocating cannibalism no more than lovers are. In today's Gospel it is very much saying ‘My love for you is real and not mere words’. We can really take this love into our hearts and be nourished by Him. He really is food for our being.


Jesus states that the bread that he will give is his flesh for the life of the world. He gives his flesh in the sacrifice of the Cross, an idea those listening to could not grasp and they would comprehend even less the giving of his flesh as food.


Jesus did not want the people simply to agree with him, to assent to his ideas. He wanted them to be drawn fully into the life of God, just as he was. He invites us to be consumed by God, to let go of our reservations and hesitations and to trust in the one who gives life.


The Hymn Writer George Currie Martin wrote


Your words to me are life and health;

they fortify my soul,

enable, guide, and teach my heart

to reach it's perfect goal.


Perhaps there is a depth in the fact that the gospel tells us that, "Mary gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger," and eating trough.


Lord, in this holy season of prayer and song and laughter,

we praise you for the great wonders you have sent us:

for shining star and angel's song,

for infant's cry in lowly manger.

We praise you for the Word made flesh in a little Child.

We behold his glory, and are bathed in its radiance.


Be with us as we sing the ironies of Christmas,

the incomprehensible comprehended,

the poetry made hard fact,

the helpless Babe who cracks the world asunder.

We kneel before you: shepherds, innkeepers, wise men.

Help us to rise bigger than we are. Amen.


Saturday 17 December 2022

Advent


But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old.  Micah 5:2

Many Old Testament passages point ahead to Jesus. We need to see that Jesus is the one “whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”


The early church pointed to Isaiah 1:3 as evidence for Jesus’ birth among animals: “The ox knows its master, the donkey its owner’s manger, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand.” Sadly, though animals witnessed Jesus’ birth and saw him lying in their manger (Luke 2:7), Israel’s leaders remained blind.


The early church also saw the coming of the Magi predicted in Isaiah 60: “Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn . . . camels of Midian and Ephah. And all from Sheba will come, bearing gold and incense and proclaiming the praise of the Lord.” Again Jerusalem missed it.


Bethlehem was small, but God often uses the little things of life to work out his plans. A great ruler from tiny Bethlehem was promised in Micah 5:2. Matthew 2:6 emphasises Beth­le­hem’s importance, declaring, “You, Bethlehem . . . are by no means least among the ­rulers of Judah.”


It is life-changing to realise that God is involved in the minute details of our lives. So be attentive. Where do you see God work­ing in your everyday life?


Thank you, God, for your work even in the everyday details of our lives. May we praise our Saviour from Bethlehem in all we do! Amen. 


Friday 16 December 2022

Advent


At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, to whom he was engaged, who was now expecting a child.

Luke 2:1-5


At the start of the Christmas story, Joseph believes that Mary has been unfaithful to him, and he initially plans to divorce from her. The Gospel of Matthew tells us that an angel appears to Joseph, convincing him to stay (Matthew 1:18-24). God has a role in the Christmas story for Joseph. He wants Joseph to stay with Mary and help her raise this child, the Messiah. God’s plans for Joseph are bigger than he can imagine at this one moment.


We can imagine this wasn’t an easy decision for Joseph – gossip and shame would have followed this young couple everywhere. But Joseph is faithful to this calling from God.


Mary and Joseph get word about the upcoming census and Joseph takes the risk of bringing Mary and their unborn son to Bethlehem. In the midst of a difficult to explain situation, Joseph sticks by Mary and leads her to Bethlehem, where the Christ child will soon be born.


As we think about this passage, Joseph’s example can inspire us to be faithful in our own relationship with God. It may be that God is asking us to do something difficult, or something that others won’t fully understand. But we trust that God knows what He is doing, and that He has given each of us a role to play in the story of salvation that He is writing.


Is God calling me to do something difficult? How can I be faithful to the work He wants me to do? What is the one step I can take today to be obedient to God’s call?


Lord,

Thank you for the example of Joseph, who obeyed Your will even when it wasn’t easy. Give me the courage this week to listen to Your voice, and follow in whatever direction You call me. Help me to trust that Your will is better than mine and provide all that I need to do the work You are asking me to do.

In Jesus’ Name – Amen.


Thursday 15 December 2022

Advent


Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has looked favourably on his people and redeemed them.  He has raised up a mighty saviour for us in the house of his servant David.

Luke 1:68-69


It is often said that “patience is a virtue.”  But when is it okay to give up patience?  After 10 minutes?  A year?  A decade?  A century???  The Israelites waited hundreds of years for God to raise up a mighty saviour.  Generations waited in hope. The Israelites did not give up on God’s promise.


After generations of waiting, Zechariah was visited by an angel of God who came with an astonishing message.  Your long wait is over.  Your hope is fulfilled.  The messiah is near.  God is entering the world in a new way that will fulfil hope and renew grace.  Imagine that.  Zechariah’s response to this astounding news is to shout a blessing.  What a blessing he was to receive.

Today we have grown increasingly impatient.


We want what we want right now.  That leaves little room for hope and trust that God will respond.  Have you ever given up hope in God?  In a world of quick responses, it is easy to give up on God when God doesn’t respond a quickly as Siri, Alexa, or Amazon Prime.  But what would it look like to be patient and not lose hope?


Reflect

Imagine what blessings God has in store when you surrender and practice patience like Zechariah. Practicing patience does not mean waiting a lifetime; it means being still and patient enough to await God’s wisdom which always comes.


Almighty God,

Grant me still patience in my busy life to look and to listen for You.  As You were present in the world in the Incarnation, be present with me, that I may know the joys and blessings that you offer this season.

Amen.


Wednesday 14 December 2022

Advent


 And Mary said:

“My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever,
just as he promised our ancestors.”


Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.

Luke 1:46-56


Mary’s song; known by many as the Magnificat, which is a Latin word meaning, “to magnify”. This beautiful song arose spontaneously from Mary after the words said by Elizabeth, “Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished.”


When I imagine Mary and Elizabeth in this moment, I see an almost visceral energy circulating around these two remarkable women, both pregnant with a promise that would not only change their own lives, but all of human history. Yet, it’s important to remember that Mary’s song was offered well before she had received what was promised. She did not wait to give thanks. She did not wait to tell of God’s goodness. She did not wait to share her joy.


It can feel vulnerable and risky to share our own stories before we have received what has been promised. We are tempted to wait to give thanks until we can be sure that what we heard whispered in our hearts was true after all. I have seen how doubt can at times be a healthy friend on the journey of seeking God, but when we allow doubt to close our hands in fear rather than open them in worship and awe, we are missing out on the joy of truly trusting in God.


Mary’s trust in God’s promise is a gift to us. When I read her song, I feel braver in my own faith. That is the power of joyful, genuine worship. It echos longer and reaches farther than we may ever know.


Have you ever worshiped God in the midst of unfinished stories and unfulfilled promises? Was the joy worth the risk of trusting?


Lord God,

We confess that we have not always believed what You have promised. We have not always chosen to take You at your word, and have missed out on the true joy and hope that comes from trusting You. May our hearts gain courage in the middle of our stories, worshiping You boldly so that our joy in Christ might be multiplied.

Amen.


Tuesday 13 December 2022

Advent


A few days later Mary hurried to the hill country of Judea, to the town where Zechariah lived. She entered the house and greeted Elizabeth. At the sound of Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth’s child leaped within her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Elizabeth gave a glad cry and exclaimed to Mary, “God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed.  Why am I so honoured, that the mother of my Lord should visit me? When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy.  You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.” 
Luke 1:39-45

For most new mothers it can be exciting when you find out that you’re going to have a child. You start thinking about who you are going to tell and when you are going to tell them. In today’s culture many parents wait a number of weeks before sharing this news with others. 


Now imagine young Mary. The angel Gabriel has told her that she is going to bring the Son of God into the world. Will she wait for a few months before she will tell anyone her news? Can she keep this a secret? How long will she wait?


“A few days later Mary hurried to the hill country of Judea.” (Luke 1:39)


Where would she go? Who will she tell? Who would believe her? Who would understand her?


She would go to a relative, Elizabeth, who “has become pregnant in her old age.” (vs. 36) Of course, Elizabeth would understand Mary because God has just given her a miraculous child at an old age. Elizabeth was carrying the child that would herald the King and Mary is carrying the King.


The Good News is that Jesus has come into the world at this season of Advent. Mary couldn’t wait to tell of the coming news of Jesus! Like Mary, we should be so moved by this that we are hurrying to tell others of Jesus too.


Reflect

How can you begin to share this good news with others?


Give us your spirit that we may wait

obediently and with discernment,

caringly and without passivity,

trustingly and without cynicism

honestly and without utopianism,


Grant that our wait may be appropriate to your coming

soon and very soon,

soon and not late,

late but not too late.


We wait while the world groans in eager. Amen