Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Christmas 2013

Christmas again? How does it come around so quickly? And how is it there still seems so much pressure?

I wonder. Are you looking back with nostalgia to the warmth and excitement of those Christmases of your childhood? Or maybe you are much too busy creating the mystery and thrill of Christmas for your own children?

Yes, we know there is so much commercialism and partying associated with Christmas and, for many, it is a pagan festival, the Christ of Christmas forgotten or  unknown.

Even so, I hope we may not ever become cynical about Christmas, for it is a time for us to remember and spread abroad the wonderful story of Jesus. It is Christ-mas.

I love to tell the children the Bible story; of the Babe,  lying in a manger, because there was no room in the inn; the child sent from heaven, announced by angels, described by the prophet as Wonderful, Prince of Peace and given the name Jesus because he is come to save his people from their sins.

I  encourage the children to identify with the little ones of Bethlehem, watching in awe as so many strangers crowd into their little town. Some might have stayed in their homes as they were all in need of a place to sleep.

With our houses full,  might we children have been sent up onto the roof? But doubtless  we would have been too excited to sleep. We might even have seen Joseph and Mary, he so anxious and she so weary, - but there is no room. We can’t help.

Maybe, in the early hours of the morning we are wakened to hear excited voices, and leaning over the parapet of the roof, we could hear the shepherds sharing the wonderful news of the angel’s message and how they had actually found it all to be true. Yes, they had seen him, this very special babe, lying in a manger, just like the angel said.

Having heard that,  would we have quietly gone back to sleep? Did you, when, as a child, you thought you had heard Father Christmas? I don’t think so. I’m sure those children would soon have been creeping into the stable, or cave, or whatever it was (having asked their parents first – we have to emphasise that.)

Sometimes we end the nativity play with the children too gathering around the manger with their toys or lambs, perhaps  singing

          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 have I give him – give my  heart.

But this can’t be the end of the story. You see, by the time the wise men arrived it says the star was over the house where the family were. After all, who would allow a mother with a new born babe to continue to live in a stable?

I’m sure those children, having seen the holy Baby and heard the wonderful story would have begged their mothers, ‘Couldn’t they come and stay with us? We can make room. Please? Please?’

Somebody made room for that holy family, and today that is what God is asking of us. In all the joy and celebration and partying, will we make room for Jesus?

Instead of nostalgia and regrets for the Christmases of long ago, I am so thankful that Jesus is willing to come and share our hearts and homes, and yes, our Christmas too. 

Monday, 2 December 2013


‘I am delighting myself in the Lord, and he is giving me the desires of my heart.’ That is not exactly what it says in the Bible, but it is my response of faith to David’s words in Psalm 37:4, ‘Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart,’ and I am doing what God told Joshua to do, to have God’s word in my mouth and in my heart.

It is many years ago since I learned the importance of speaking out these words of faith and my life was transformed, but it was a simple question from a friend that caused me to look back, to remember and to do some revision too. And so, here I am, sharing with you.

‘You don’t mind living alone, do you?’ was the question. ‘No’ I assured her. ‘I am content.’

Recently widowed, she could not accept that she was meant to spend the rest of her life alone. I have another friend, gregarious by nature, who finds great suffering in her singleness. So is it just the way I am made that I find contentment in my single state?

Memory takes me back to the remote highlands of New Guinea. I had always lived with my parents, and if they were away I would stay with my sister. I was expecting Mr Right, for God was calling me to the mission field and I was sure he would not expect me to go alone. Had he not given me assurance that he would bring someone into my life?

In the end I set out, yes, alone, but sure I would meet someone out there. When John, from New Zealand, came to our remote mission station it seemed like a fairy tale romance, but when he walked, or flew out of my life three months later I was left, broken hearted and desolate.

It was then that I was challenged by God, to have his word in my mouth; not to say, ‘Why won’t you heal me?’ but ‘You are the Lord who is healing me,’ and especially these wonderful words, ‘I am delighting myself in the Lord and he is giving me the desires of my heart.’ I spoke them in faith and in simple obedience, and little by little I found a joy and contentment in my circumstances so that when, a couple of years later, a colleague came, all aglow, to announce her engagement, I was not only delighted for her, but I realised that her joy was not any greater than my own in my present circumstances.

God was giving me the desires of my heart as I worked amongst the Enga people, known now as the ‘little children’s mother.’ It was another ten years before, my work abroad completed, God gave me a wonderful husband. I had 22 fruitful and joyful years with Joel before he preceded me to heaven and once more I am returned to walking alone.

I am so thankful that I had learned to be content as a singleton, for if we are looking to a husband to make our lives complete this will put a terrible strain on a marriage. But it is not easy to be alone, and the older we get the more it seems we are in need of company. After all, it was our Creator himself who said, ‘it is not good for man to be alone.’

But I’ve got my very special verse, and yes, I still have need to speak it out. I am delighting myself in the Lord and he is giving me the desires of my heart.’ In every need I am proving God, and I believe I have a very special privilege to pray for and sympathise with and encourage those who are finding it hard to walk this path of singleness.