I always thought December was Christmas month. But no, shops are filled with Christmas goodies at the beginning of October and by the time December arrives, no one will want to hear The Holly and the Ivy again. Then, of course, there are different types of Christmas: Christians remembering the birth of our Lord with nativity plays and carol services, others decking their houses with Christmas wreaths, entertaining and being entertained, and thinking about their yearly attendance at church, and yet others having a whale of a time with no thought at all of what lies behind all the celebration.
We are all used to a comfortable and happy Christmas, but some of us have lost loved ones during the year. Many years ago, my Mum died on Christmas day, and this year my dearly loved son passed into the presence of his Lord just weeks after Christmas. There are many Christians grieving and I think of them all, Covid has been cruel and unexpected this year. And then, my thoughts go to the millions who live below the breadline: there will be no Christmas stockings or sweets in those homes. How about the persecuted church? The end times are rapidly approaching, we read of Christians in hiding, being flogged, martyred for their faith. I wonder if I could bear it, and I pray for them.
But as I think of Christmas and the coming of our Lord as an infant, to be despised and rejected, to be followed by vast crowds who flocked to hear his stories which they couldn’t understand, to see him perform miracles and to bring their sick and dying to be healed, to accomplish his mission of giving humanity another chance of being accepted as children of God, of bearing the excruciating pain of crucifixion and then a pain I cannot begin to imagine, our Lord’s suffering when his Father turned his back on him, I am overwhelmed by the plan of Almighty God, and can only ask, What is man, that you are mindful of him?
As I plan for Christmas which we will spend in our apartment with one of our daughters and son-in-law, and our carer, I think of the rapid increase in evil in the last days that Jesus told us about when he said, “iniquity shall abound.” He also said, “In my Father’s house are many mansions… I go to prepare a place for you… and I will come again and take you to myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” Yes, our Lord came once as suffering servant. He is coming again with all the hosts of Heaven, radiant with the glory he had with the Father before the world was, when the dead in Christ shall rise to meet him in the air, and every eye shall see him, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. The Day of the Lord is coming. What a wonderful day for us, Christians!
Wishing you a blessed Christmas
PS: See Menu > CHRISTMAS, for music, children’s play (Praise Him: see menu > music) and poems. I have added more carols to the SET.
“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” is an old English proverb which originated in 1659. It could be applied to today’s workaholics. Human nature has been the same from time immemorial.
I am a workaholic. One of the last things I do at night is to write a TO DO list for the following day. I never complete it – it is rather like a wish list – and things like order Christmas cards online to be delivered on 1 December get put off until 1 December… I have an excuse: I’m 84 and things I used to do in a flash, now take much longer and aren’t improved by arthritic fingers. I understand an elderly relative of 90 saying “this year I won’t be sending Christmas cards.”
What do I do in the day? I get up at 6, have yoghurt and orange juice, answer mail, and read some news. Then I say my prayers, have a shower and get started. We are blessed in having a live-in carer who does everything for us. In the afternoon I usually sleep for an hour because, if I don’t, I cant work and have some recreation until midnight when I sign off and shut down after reading some theology, presently John Stott, 2 passages from the Old testament and one from the New.
What do I do for recreation? Ten minutes everyday learning German on Duolingo, I always have a book to read in the odd half hours, my preference being stories written by foreigners who have settled in France or Italy and converted tumbled-down properties into delightful homes. I look at BritBox with John over supper – BBC and ITV – and have just finished Jane Austen’s EMMA which was lovely. We also have Netflix with which I found it increasingly difficult to find programmes that I approved of and wanted to watch. Now that we have been vaccinated against COVID, we plan to walk in the lovely gardens in our retirement complex. We have just come out of complete isolation except for family visits. For a year and a half we only left our apartment once.
So am I a dull old girl? No, time has simply flown and I have so much to do, writing music, blogs, revising John’s writings for his website-to-be, an enormous job. But the days are the same 24/7. Even on the Sabbath I find myself pulling the donkey out of the ditch. But no more. The Lord God created the world and on the 7th day he rested. The Sabbath was holy. Jesus, when the crowds were pressing on him and his disciples, “took them apart for a while.” Sundays are going to be different. Things I normally do on Sunday, like filling daily doses into medicine boxes and ordering online a long list of household and food products will be done on Saturday. And I shall keep the Sabbath as nearly as I can. If you are a Christian workaholic, try this too. God’s commands are for our benefit.
Pandemic blues seem to have hit millions of people over the last couple of years. We read of couples who were in love falling out of it and being locked in with their former partners, of children not being able to go to school, and mothers home schooling while working online, of an increase in suicides and drug addiction, abuse and other things. It is not a pretty picture. Yet some people have taken the time, saved by working online, to be positive. One woman lost half of herself through dieting and healthy eating - no more snacking on fast foods lounging in front of the TV. Millions of others have started learning a musical instrument, piano, singing, guitar and drums are apparently the most popular. There are many online sites where you can do it without paying a cent. And of course, there are any number of world languages that you can learn in a fun way on Duolingo for free. Years ago, I completed the French course, and being very rusty now, considered doing it again. However, having German speaking members of my family am probably signing up for the German course. Too much of my spare time is spent on world politics, so a change to learning German will be good. The world is becoming increasingly evil: constraints are disappearing. and things never thought or spoken of before, are now written about. The Bible foretold the increase in evil at the end times which, I believe, we are witnessing now. The pandemic has also brought our mortality to mind: we fear Covid. So many we know, or love, have died. A strange and fearful disease. I know an old man who has cancer and diabetes and survived Covid and another healthy, young doctor, who died. Christians are blest indeed. We know where we are going. We are going to Heaven where God dwells in glory, and where some of our loved ones already are. If you are not a Christian, please use this time to buy a Bible and John Stotts famous book, BASIC CHRISTIANITY to help you understand it. It is your investment for eternity.
Don’t try and find this quote from Larry King! There are so many! But I remember watching him on TV and hearing him say, ”I love interviewing children under four because they tell the truth, and people over 80 because they no longer care what they say.”
We are often tempted to tell a white lie because we don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings, we feel that the end justifies the means.
My Dad was not like that! When I was sixteen, I bought a dress. It had a black bodice and a full skirt with huge red cabbage roses on it. It spun out when I twirled around. I thought I looked dazzling! My Dad looked at me and said, “A good-looking girl looks better in something simple.”
People don’t trust car salesmen, estates agents, politicians or the media, and for good reason because many of them have given their jobs a very bad name. The phrase, buyer beware, must not be forgotten! Truth is daily becoming a rare commodity.
Jesus Christ told the truth and it made him a controversial figure. The elite of his day hated him so much that in the end they crucified him.
The Pharisees, Sadducees and lawyers of the time did not understand Jesus Christ at all. They peppered him with questions. Of this group, let’s consider the Pharisees. They criticized Jesus, but he, in turn, criticized them even more! They had no inkling that they were speaking to God Incarnate. The Pharisees based their lives on two things: Scripture and Tradition. Scripture was the LAW which Moses had received from God. Tradition was oral and had been handed down from their elders. It enabled them to circumvent Scripture and the Law. In other words, in the Pharisees’ minds, these were co-equal. Christ said Scripture was the standard, nothing else. The Pharisees, with the notable exceptions of Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, grew increasingly furious, and planned Christ’s death. forcing Pilate’s hand to execute our Lord.
John, in his gospel writes:”… we beheld his glory….full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14). Jesus Christ was the epitome of truth.
God bless you
Ps A book I can recommend is John Stott’s acclaimed BUT I SAY TO YOU…CHRIST THE CONTROVERSIALIST
When God created people in his image, he did not create puppets. He gave us the wonderful gift of freewill. Throughout our lives, we are faced with choices, choices that will affect our daily lives and our eternal destiny
Everyone wants a happy life. They want enough money to live comfortably. Some people want to become very rich, and some are prepared to do anything to achieve this- we just have to look at corrupt politicians and see how the citizens of their countries live in abject poverty while they wallow in their ill-gotten gains.
In order to achieve the kind of life one desires, one has to think carefully about a choice of career. My great love was ballet, and I was doing very well until my mother felt my sister and I had had enough, and stopped our classes. When I was 14, I persuaded my mother to let me start ballet again. Just before my first class with a well-known teacher, I started doing bar exercises holding on to my bedroom cupboard. Next thing I was screaming on the floor with a damaged knee. I would never be able to dance again. You see, God had a plan for me - and it wasn’t ballet. I turned my attention to my second love, the piano. I was doing very well on the eisteddford circuit and saw myself as a concert pianist… But in my final year at school, a young theological student came to preach. He went to the wrong vestry and when I arrived to put the books out for the choir, he was sitting in a corner reading. I was most embarrassed. However, after the service I said to my mother, I am going to marry him! So, I became a minister’s wife, played organs and trained choirs. I also taught piano because we were poor in our two pastorates.
As the old saying says, we are known by the company we keep! After leaving school, there is the possibility of trying all kinds of things and meeting different people. Not everyone has the blessing of a Christian upbringing, but everyone has a God-given moral sense and should stay away from things they feel are dubious and people they know are no good. It is our own choice and we reap the results of it. I had my school friends, 2 Jewish girls, one of whom I last saw at my wedding wearing a stunning brilliant red dress and large matching hat! I lost touch with her until she left a comment on my website many years later. She had led a very wealthy but tragic life and we corresponded for many years until she lost her final battle to cancer. She knew the Christian way, I think she was a secret disciple, and I look forward to meeting her again one day. Then I had my church friends, most of whom I saw for the last time at my wedding. But throughout my life my best friends have always been my family, and I thank the Lord for them all. I have been truly blessed in my friendships. I leave the final word on a choice of friends to the great leader, Joshua, who led the Israelites into the Promised Land.
“Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:14,15 NIV).
Marriage is a supremely important choice in our lives. The best place to find a spouse is in the church. Marriage is God-ordained. Do not think if you are considering the man of your dreams he will become a Christian. Unfortunately, this does not happen very often and causes problems in the marriage and with the children. Christians should remember that God has given us the gift of sound minds - and use them!
Circling back to the beginning, I think of my life now I am 84. Much of it has been spent helping John in his pastorates, academia and, finally, business. But I have also had what I consider as my career and am amazed at the way God has led me. I started writing poetry after our 4th baby was stillborn, and later was given the gift of composing Christian music. This has brought me unimaginable joy and satisfaction – much more than I could ever have attained if my earlier dreams had come true!
The greatest all-time preacher was, of course, Jesus Christ. His messages came directly from God.[i] He couched them in eloquent stories that puzzled the masses who listened.[ii] Thousands rushed about the countryside looking for him. They forgot to take food for the long trip home, and Jesus miraculously fed them.[iii] Who is this man? They asked. We know his family![iv] And yet we heard John the Baptist![v] Can this be the deliverer, promised by our Scriptures to save Israel from our Roman oppressors?[vi] Even his disciples in the sinking ship asked fearfully, who is this man, that even the winds and waves obey him? [vii]
Yet the elite hated him. Blinded by jealousy they tried to kill him. Even the local synagogue at Nazareth,[viii] charmed by his words, turned against him, throwing him out. But it was not only jealousy, their hatred ran deep because he exposed their actions and hypocrisy.[ix] Who gave you authority? they demanded.
Jesus never explained his stories to the masses. [x] But afterwards, he told his disciples what they meant. There were, however, some things they never understood when he took them away to quiet locations for these intimate talks. He told them about his coming crucifixion[xi], about the end times when he would return in glory,[xii] and what he would be doing in the meantime: I go to prepare a place for you.[xiii] He spoke of the coming of the Holy Spirit who would remind them of what he had said, so that not only they, but succeeding generations, would understand.[xiv]
Jesus preached to the Jews first but also foreshadowed the world-wide Christian community: healing of the centurion’s servant,[xv] the woman at the well in Samaria,[xvi] the healed maniac.[xvii] Jesus came to the Jews and to us, Gentiles, too!
[i] John 14:10 NIV
[ii] 46 Parables. The Good Samaritan. Luke 10:25-37 NIV
[iii] Jesus feeds the 5 thousand. Matthew 14:13-21 NIV
[iv] John 6:42 NIV
[v] John 1:19-34 NIV
[vi] The Jews expected their Messiah would shake off the Roman oppression and establish a kingdom on earth. Acts 1:6 NIV
[vii] Mark 4:41 NIV
[viii] Luke 4:14-21; 28-30 NIV
[ix] Mark 11:27-33 NIV
[x] Mark 4:34 NIV
[xi] Crucifixion Matthew 20:17-19 NIV
[xii] Second coming. Matthew 24:1-30 NIV
[xiii] Preparing a place. John 14:1-3 NIV
[xiv] The Holy Spirit. John 14:26 NIV
[xv] The Centurion’s servant. Luke 7:1-10 NIV
[xvi] Woman at the well. John 4:1-42 NIV
[xvii] The healed maniac. Mark 5:1-20 NIV
If you have nothing to say, why say it? Elusive ideas floated like the soap bubbles I tried to catch as a child. MY MATERNAL GRANDFATHER floated by, next to it CONSOLATION, and then a big one like a banner in the sky, GOD OF COMPASSION, but I could not reach it, jump as I tried, and trailing behind, a little one with JOY wobbling on it. It touched my hand and I caught it!
Though elusive, Joy, I thought, might be worth a try. “Hello Miss, I am conducting a poll: do you have joy in your life?” “No! my boyfriend’s left me!” And you, sir, what gives you joy?” “Making money! Can’t talk!” And you, madam?” “ Baking cakes!” I could see that.
Seriously though, Joy is worth considering. It reminds me of a cartoon my daughter sent me: a man sitting on a chair plucking a harp. Underneath is a quote by Igor Stravinsky: Harpists spend 90% of their lives tuning their harps and 10% playing out of tune. People search for joy in all kinds of ways and some never find it. Their lives become rather like a Google search, an unending quest.
As a Christian, I turn to the Bible. It says a great deal about joy, an abstract noun, but much more about rejoice and rejoicing. The Bible is full of good news! There is much that we can learn about living a joyful and productive Christian life in the Bible which does not mention the word joy but joy results from it. Think of the joy of one’s conversion, of serving others, of following our Lord, of God’s help and peace in times of trouble.
In the Old Testament joy applies to God’s dealing with the Israelites, although Christians have taken many verses to heart. Here is a favourite.
“Do not grieve for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Neh 8:11 NIV).
Turning to the New Testament, it starts with the great joy of Jesus Christ’s birth and follows in his ministry, resurrection, ascension and second coming.
“The angel of the Lord came upon them and the glory of the Lord shone round about them…I bring you tiding of great joy which shall be to all people.” Luke 2:8,10
The wise men: “When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.” Matthew 2:10
Jesus walked many miles in the three years as he preached “Repent: for the Kingdom of God is at hand.” Matthew 4:17
“ …joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth more than over 99 just persons which need no repentance.” Luke 15:7.
Jesus spoke to his disciples about his death. He said: “Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will be turned to joy.” John 16:20 NIV “Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.” John 16:22 NIV.
After Jesus had told the parable of the vine and its branches, he said: “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” John 15:11 NIV.
In Hebrews we read of Jesus on the cross: “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Heb 12:2
Jesus appeared, that is after his resurrection, “to the 11 and them that were with him.” Luke 24:33. “And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said to them, Have ye here any meat.” Luke 24:41.
The Ascension of Jesus: “While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up to heaven. Then they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy.” Luke 24: 51, 52 NIV.
Jesus in Heaven: “To him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy…” Jude 1:24 NIV A wonderful Doxology!
The early church has much to say about Christian joy, how Christians felt, and how we can still feel today. It’s told in the books of Hebrews, Epistles and The Revelation.
After Pentecost “Every day they (Christians) continued to meet together in the Temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.” Acts 2:46 NIV. Some other translations say “with joy.”
And then trouble and persecutions struck the early church and have ever since. Staggering numbers of Christians die for their faith every year. In the early church it resulted in Christians fleeing Jerusalem and spreading the gospel in places where they settled. In 2 Cor 6:10 NIV we read, “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing: poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, yet possessing everything.” Other translations use “joy” and “always rejoicing.” And James writing to the dispersed Christians says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, when you face trials of many kinds.” James 1:2 NIV
Peter adds his voice in 1 Peter 4:13: “But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings, that when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding Joy. And Paul, writing to the Corinthian church says, “I have spoken to you with great frankness, I take great pride in you. I am greatly encouraged; in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds.” 2 Cor 4:7 NIV
And of course, the early church was dependent on the Holy Spirit. “For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Rom 14:17 NIV. Paul writes to the Galatians, “For the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Gal 5:22-23 NIV
This is what the apostle Peter said about joy.
“Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” 1 Peter 8,9 NIV
The joy of Christians is knowing that after death their souls are carried to Heaven to await the second coming of Christ in spectacular glory with all the hosts of heaven when their souls will be given new bodies, bodies suited to live in the new heaven and new earth created for them. No wonder our joy is inexpressible and glorious!
My father started a search for his lineage in the 1970s. There was no Google to help him, or heritage foundation, so he hired a noted searcher who started from the known, a Scottish farm near Castle Douglas. He went to the parish churches to find out who married whom. It went on and on until after some centuries he stopped at a labourer on a farm. His descendants owned the wealthy and prestigious farm that bred award-winning Clydesdale horses and cattle. As a boy, my father spent some holidays at the farm with his mother. My grandmother had been a missionary nurse and her mother-in-law disapproved of “her fine English ways.” In fact she was born in England but her parents were German political refugees.
My Scottish great-grandmother was a very strong-willed widow. She had 4 sons and had decided who they should marry. The sons were equally strong-willed so my grandfather became a Rhodesian pioneer, one disappeared to America, and two remained bachelors.
Many years later through an inheritance, my father found his American cousin. She and her husband became very good friends of my parents on their trips to London, and John and I visited them in their home among the forests outside Princeton. I was most surprised to see a statuette of her father - it could have been my Dad!
And so I have something in common with Queen Elizabeth 11! She can trace her ancestors from Scottish royal houses and English ones from as early as the 7thc House of Wessex. Through Queen Victoria she is related to many royal houses in Europe – including Oldenburg in North Germany. Her husband, Prince Philip, was also a royal and was actually Queen Elizabeth’s third cousin.
All this leads me to think of our Lord’s lineage as told in the 4 Gospels. Matthew starts from Abraham and ends with Joseph, husband of Mary, and regarded as the father of Jesus. He could never have written “Son of God” because ancestry was required for the Roman Empire’s census. Mark has no list of ancestors but in his first chapter, tells of the baptism of Jesus by John in the Jordan and the voice that came from heaven: “You are my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Luke writes in 1:35, “the angel answered her and said, “The Holy Ghost shall come upon you, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow you: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of you shall be called the Son of God.” And then John, the great theologian, starts in 1:14 with this magnificent statement: “And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”
And what of my lineage and yours? It is of no consequence. Our eternal lineage, if we are Christians, shall be as the sons and daughters of God himself.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Here is a poem from A CHRISTIAN IN LONDON AND PARIS that you may like to read.
LONDON WOULDN’T BE LONDON
without the Queen
said a policewoman
in the Mall
what was happening
young and pretty
her filled eyes
how she felt
on our way
to see her
there she sat
dressed in green-
showed the artist
layer upon layer
and I realized
the awesome responsibility
that rests on monarchy
what is right
in the sight
of the Lord –
and on us too
Unless one happens to be the Queen of England or a person of great eminence or fame, when we die our lives reflect what the Psalmist said: “We spend our years as a tale that is told.” (Ps 90:9 KJV).
No matter how moral one thinks one is, everybody has sinned and broken God’s Laws. I wonder how many murderers have got away with their crimes? And then there are corrupt politicians rewriting history to suit their political party, banning books, burning Bibles. The Ten Commandments state God’s Laws, written on the conscience of humanity from the savage to the sophisticated. And never forget the little sins that we justify as not sins.
Christians live in faith and hope believing Jesus Christ is God’s Son who bore God’s punishment for us when he died at Calvary. Our confessed sins are forgiven and we will be raised to eternal life when Christ returns in great power and majesty.
My physiotherapist’s secretary, a young and healthy woman, was struck down with Coronavirus and spent 3 weeks in ICU on a ventilator. She said all night she heard people screaming, “I don’t want to die! “ Death is a truly fearsome thing without Jesus Christ.
What about really wicked people? Is there any hope for their redemption? Take Manasseh, King of Judah. He followed his father King Hezekiah who “did what was right in the sight of the Lord by doing everything that was wrong. (2 Chron 33:1-17).
He destroyed his father’s places of worship, he set up altars to all the host of heaven, dealt in witchcraft, had a personal medium, sacrificed his own children by “passing them through the fire,” and set up and worshipped a carved idol in the house of the Lord. Tragically the people of Judah followed him. Neither king nor people would listen to the Lord. As a result, the Lord sent the King of Assyria to attack Judah and he was taken away in chains.
In his affliction, he remembered the Lord and humbled himself in prayer. The Lord restored him to Jerusalem where he destroyed all the evil places he had set up, worshipped the Lord God and commanded his people to do the same.
Manasseh’s “tale that was told” is one of great wickedness forgiven by the Lord God when he repented. He will not stand condemned before God on Judgement Day, but will rise with those dead in Christ “to meet the Lord in the air” and live to serve the Lord eternally when he comes again.
Christ is risen! A blessed Easter
My little book, A CHRISTIAN IN LONDON AND PARIS, is in the USA Library of Congress because all books printed in the USA are there. Because of it, I had much to do with booksellers, libraries, Christian universities and theological colleges. John and I were also privileged to visit many leading Christian universities on two occasions.
Thus began my interest in all things American! The other day I was listening to a commentator who had been a top advocate and a Congressman, and he posed the question: “What will your legacy be? What would you like people to say about you at your funeral?” He then had this advice: “You had better start building your legacy now!” Sage words!
At our son’s Memorial, despite his many note-worthy achievements, his legacy was his Christian life and service. Despite being intensely busy, he always found time to help those in need and to speak about his Lord.
And what was Jesus Christ’s legacy? On his cross, defeating the Devil and death, he achieved the eternal salvation for everyone who believes in him. May our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, be the focus of my legacy and yours!
God bless you