Dec 272013

whats in a name For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)

Have you ever considered the importance of names throughout history? Alexander the Great wouldn’t sound quite as good as “Alex the quite good”, or William the Conqueror as “Bill, the chap who sometimes does quite well”. Silly examples, but I’m sure you understand what I mean.

Parents can sometimes take a long time choosing names for their children. So many names have meanings behind them and we wouldn’t want to inadvertently label our children with an inappropriate moniker that would cause embarrassment for the rest of their lives.

In biblical times, a name would have significant meaning. It would often define a person’s character.

On a few occasions we see God change the names of people in the bible. For example, Abram was re-named “Abraham” which meant ‘father of a multitude’. Jacob, whose name meant ‘supplanter’ (quite apt), after wrestling with the angel, had his name changed to ‘Israel’, meaning ‘he who prevails with God’.

Jesus famously changed the name of His disciple Simon, to Peter (meaning ‘rock’).

However, of all the names that have ever been, the most important is Jesus, whose name is…”above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come” (Ephesians 1:21b). And again in Philippians 2:9 it says “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name.

Our passage today is heavily associated with Christmas. There are 4 names for Jesus which we will look at over the next few weeks. We will then continue to look at the many other different names of Jesus, which all describe a different facet or characteristic of this wonderful man who has transformed history.

It is my prayer that over the following weeks we will discover new and wonderful things about Jesus. Come back each Friday to discover more.

Until next year, have a very happy and peaceful New Year.

 December 27, 2013  Posted by at 12:00 pm Name of Jesus No Responses »
Dec 202013

When has been the earliest reference to Christmas you have seen in the shops? For me, I think it has been as early as September!

With the usual Christmas frenzy in the media and in the shops at this time of year it can be so easy to get fed-up with the whole thing, especially as it can lead to a lot of stress and disharmony-the exact opposite of what it should be about. However, if you will forgive my play on words, we need to be careful not to throw the baby (Jesus) out with the bathwater.

There are a number of reasons given by Christians for not celebrating Christmas (apart from the rampant commercialism): Some say we shouldn’t celebrate Christmas because it is largely a pagan festival, with many pagan objects used as idols such as the Christmas tree, yule logs, mistletoe etc. Some would say that scripture doesn’t authorise it, even suggesting that some obscure passages forbid it.

In my opinion, to boycott Christmas altogether would alienate us further from society when, on the contrary, we should be building bridges to reach our society. We can choose to be negative and critical, or we can make a decision to be positive and use the season as a time to remember and communicate the birth of our saviour.

Let’s consider how we can sanctify the season and show by our lives what God has done for us by sending his son into the world to save mankind. We can represent our saviour in all kinds of ways during the Christmas season: not getting drunk or over-indulging ourselves with too much food; not grabbing presents or constantly thinking about what we can get, but instead being generous; we can contribute our time and our money to various excellent charities such as ‘Food-bank’ or ‘Surviving Christmas’; we can seek to be peace makers even when others (in many cases some of our closest family members) are looking for a fight.

Let’s determine to be a blessing to others this Christmas, in a small way reflecting our wonderful, generous God.

 December 20, 2013  Posted by at 11:39 am Christmas 2 Responses »
Dec 172013

jesus v santaThis is not a personal attack at Santa, honest! But just after I pressed ‘send’ on my last blog post, I discovered a link to a great podcast by John Piper on exactly the same subject as mine and of course he put it so much more eloquently than I could.

It’s only six minutes, so I have put a link to it here:

To briefly sum it up he said;

“It is mindboggling to me that any Christian would even contemplate such a trade, that we would divert attention away from the incarnation of the God of the universe into this world to save us and our children. … Not only is Santa Claus not true — and Jesus is very truth himself — but compared to Jesus, Santa is simply pitiful, and our kids should be helped to see this.”

· Santa offers only earthly things, nothing lasting…. Jesus offers eternal joy with the world thrown in (1 Corinthians 3:21–23).

· Santa offers goodies only on the condition of good works: “he knows when you have been bad or good, so be good for goodness’ sake.” That is a pure works religion….. Jesus offers himself all the gifts freely, by grace, for faith.

· Santa is make-believe….. Jesus is more real than the roof on your house.

· Santa only shows up once a year….. Jesus promises, “I will be with you always” (Matthew 28:20).

· Santa cannot solve our worst problem…… Jesus did solve our worst problem, our sin and our alienation from God. Santa can put some icing on the cake of the good life, but he cannot take a shattered life and rebuild it with hope forever. And our kids need to know that about Christmas.

· Santa is not relevant in many cultures of the world……. Jesus is the King of kings and Lord of lords over all the peoples of the world.

· Santa will be forgotten some day……. Jesus “is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).

There is no contest, Jesus wins ‘hands down’ Santa is simply irrelevant.

So my counsel is to give all your efforts to making your children as happy as they can possibly be with every kind of surprise that is rooted in the true meaning of Christmas. Let your decorations point to Jesus. Let your food point to Jesus. Let your games point to Jesus. Let your singing point to Jesus. Out-rejoice the world, out-give the world, out-decorate the world, and let it all point to Jesus.

If being Jesus-focused is a killjoy for your Christmas, you don’t know him well.

 December 17, 2013  Posted by at 11:06 pm Christmas 1 Response »
Dec 122013

Does santa existIs Adrian having another ‘bah humbug’ moment? Is he fed up with Christmas already and now wants to ruin it for everyone else?

Actually, no. I’m looking forward to Christmas this year. Thinking about what to write in this blog has helped me focus on the important aspects of Christmas.

One of the less important aspects of Christmas that my wife and I decided to ditch as soon as we had children was to play along with the whole charade of pretending that Santa exists. As it happens, this decision was fairly easy to make: From an early age our daughter was petrified of Santa (in fact, anything dressed up in a costume). At children’s parties, the various giant cuddly characters that other children would run to, she would run screaming in the opposite direction from. She was terrified of the thought that some red-suited stranger was going to descend the chimney and wander around the house in the dead of night. This obviously made our decision easier, but we had determined to do it anyway.

This may seem cruel to you but I would like to set out our reasons below so that you can have an informed opinion:

As a Christian family, believing in God is very real. We don’t doubt that God exists. He has changed our lives and led and guided us over the years. We have many years of experiencing his goodness and nearness to us, through good times and bad. A child does not have this wealth of experience. They believe in Santa, they believe in God, almost the same thing to them. From the outset we wanted to differentiate between fairy tales and reality. Fairy tales are fun but we don’t ask our children to believe in them. On the surface, to a child, Santa and God can both seem quite similar. After all, Santa is omniscient (all knowing). Well, he certainly knows if you’ve been bad or good! He is omnipresent (everywhere at once), at least for one night of the year! He is an old man in the sky with a white beard who loves giving out presents. (Actually God is not like that but the popular conception is that He is). You get my point.

The fundamental difference and the heart of the gospel is that God knows we have all been bad. There is no-one good at all. Romans 3:23 states that “all have sinned and fallen short of God’s standard.” None of us deserve our gift of eternal life, and the reason we celebrate Christmas is because God provided the solution. The sacrifice that Jesus made by appearing as a baby in a stable and then going on to die a cruel death 33 years later has meant that we can be saved and receive the greatest gift of all-eternal life.

Showing our children the difference between a fictional Santa and the ever present reality of a loving heavenly father is fundamentally important. And there are other encouraging points as well; being truly thankful for gifts received from parents who love them rather than a gift from someone they have never met; in many cases, knowing that these gifts come from family members with limited resources will engender an appreciation of the gift given rather than presents received from a ‘bottomless sack’; and finally, knowing that God’s generosity is reflected by God’s people encourages a sense of willingness to help others and bless those less fortunate.

Whether you tell your children about Santa or not, let’s determine this Christmas to reflect on the greatest gift that has ever been given to us and imitate this grace and kindness by being generous and expressing our love to others.

Finally, on a lighter note. What do you call someone who’s scared of Santa? …………..Claustrophobic

 December 12, 2013  Posted by at 10:17 pm Christmas No Responses »
Dec 052013

god-came-downBy now the preparations and planning for Christmas have probably reached fever-pitch: so many things to think about, lists to write and things to do. It can be a time of great pressure but I hope also brings a sense of fun and expectation.

During December I am going to be writing some Christmas reflections, some thoughts to share with you that I hope will bless you. In all the busyness of this season, it is so important to take time out and reflect on what Christmas really is all about. (If I get time myself I may send a few extra blogs out on other days, not just Fridays, but we will see!).

One of the most amazing mysteries in the history of the world is that the God who made us, the creator, the one who spoke and stars were formed in a moment, should come to the earth and live as a man for about 33 years.

He could have come in so many ways; He could have come as a fully formed man (without the fragility of being a baby); He could have come as a king in a palace; He could have come with a perfect body which didn’t get tired and hungry. He could have appeared in any way He wanted to but He chose to come as a baby, born in a smelly cattle shed to an unmarried couple in a desperately poor third world country.

God Himself became a man. I have become very familiar with this fact over the years. Maybe you have too if, like me, you have been a Christian for a long time. I have been told this story since childhood many many times, not just at Christmas. But I never want to get used to the wonder of what this actually means. ‘God Himself became a man’. Perhaps this could be a reason why so many people don’t believe it; because it is simply too amazing to be true.

But why would God do this? The answer is woven throughout the bible and perfectly summed up in one of the most well known verses:

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)

Jesus came because He loves us, because He knew there was no other way. A perfect man had to die and so God became a man and lived a perfect life.

I don’t know whether you feel loved at Christmas or not. For some it can be a very lonely time, but even if you have nobody around you at Christmas, consider this when you look at a nativity scene: this is God in the manager and He is lying there because He loves you. Now that’s a great thought to start with.

 December 5, 2013  Posted by at 10:35 pm Christmas, The gospel 1 Response »