Tag Archives: Living God’s Love

Peace for Christmas

So this is Christmas, and what have you done?
Another year over…

John Lennon’s song, like all the other seasonal tunes, is regularly played on the radio.  But Lennon’s lyric has a little more about it than many of the other offerings (e.g. Roy Wood’s “When the snowman brings the snow…” or the children’s favourite “Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer”).  It actually challenges us directly to take stock of our lives at Christmas time.  You won’t be surprised to know I think it’s a good challenge for us to consider.

But Christmas is too busy for us to think about the events of the year and the emotional impact they’ve had on us, isn’t it?  First of all there’s all the shopping to do, all the organising, wrapping, cooking, decorating and hosting.  Then, there’s all the clearing up, the falling out, the not-speaking and the thank-God-that’s-all-over-for-another-year-ing.  Finally, of course, there’s all the paying back the credit cards… which, depending on how extravagant we’ve been, may well bring us right back to where we are now!

The question, “How are you?” often elicits the response, “Fine, thanks … busy, but fine.”  Busy.  And the activity of the Christmas season only makes us busier, so stopping to reflect on the emotional journey of the last year is, quite frankly, just one more thing to do for which we do not have the time.  And here’s another one…

What have you done this year by way of pursuing a closer relationship with God?  (I put that in bold type to make sure you didn’t skip over it in your busy rush!)

The message of Christmas is clear: God chose to come close to us in Jesus.  It’s evidence that he is pursuing a closer relationship with all of us.  The Bible tells us, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14), and, “Jesus Christ … in very nature God … made himself nothing, being made in human likeness, … humbled himself…” (Philippians 2:6ff).  It is these verses (and others like them) which inspired one of the most famous and popular carols; “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing”:

Veiled in flesh the Godhead see!
Hail the incarnate Deity!
Pleased as man with man to dwell,
Jesus, our Immanuel.

My point is that if we stop even for a moment to consider just how far he has gone to reach out to us (Immanuel means “God with us”), it should surely cause us to respond with love and worship.  So how do our efforts to reach out to him measure up?

So this is Christmas, and what have you done…?  Praise God he still reaches out to us despite our laziness and reluctance to honour him!

Dad’s Taxi – a 21st Century Dilemma

I’m sure that many of you will know what it means to be “Dad’s Taxi.”  As my children have grown, this part of my identity has developed rapidly.  I’ve been driving my children around for years, of course, but it would appear to be true that the amount of driving does increase in proportion to the age of the child.  In one sense, it’s been fairly easy for me to accommodate my daughters’ increasing transport requirement because I work flexible hours.  However, my ability to be flexible presents its own unique problem – I have a serious gap in my arsenal of excuses!

Consider the parent who works nine-to-five, commutes a further hour at the beginning and end of every day and is afforded only four weeks annual leave.  The question, “It’s half-term; can you take me to the swimming pool / shopping centre on Wednesday lunchtime?” is fairly easily answered; “No – I’m at work!”  Whatever the request, such a parent has a fairly robust argument to employ if they are at all unsure about the wisdom of letting their child attend the function in question.

I don’t have that luxury.  So if I don’t want my children to go, for whatever reason, I can’t hide behind the convenient (albeit partially true) “I’m at work” excuse.  I have to give the proper reason. But actually, this is no bad thing.  After all, if I want them to forge relationships which are based on honesty, faithfulness and mutual respect, then I have to model that in my relationship with them.  So I have to be really clear in my own mind about what is good for my children.  I must make right judgments about allowing them to grow up at an appropriate speed and, above all, I must surely communicate my thinking with them in a way which doesn’t exasperate them (Eph 6:4) but which demonstrates my love.

So “Dad’s Taxi” is part of my identity, but it is inextricably related to my being “Dad.”  Indeed, if I were just “Taxi,” there would be something desperately wrong.  It is in my daughters’ best interests for me to be Dad first and Taxi second.  And that means I have to work out what it means to be a good dad.  So where do I look for guidance on this?

Christmas is coming when we celebrate the birth of Jesus of Nazareth.  He was brought up by Joseph (“a righteous man” – Matthew 1:19) as his own son, but the New Testament makes clear that Jesus was (and is) the Son of God.  He taught his disciples to call God “Our Father,” and the Apostle Paul wrote that, as we entrust our lives to Jesus, so we receive “the Spirit of sonship … by him we cry ‘Abba (Daddy), Father.’” (Romans 8:15)

I dare to suggest that, since God has revealed himself to be “Father,” in God’s world, surely the best way we can care for our children is to model that care on the Fatherhood of God.   And the best way of understanding the Fatherhood of God fully is surely from the perspective of a beloved child.  The joyful good news of Christmas is that we can experience this – “To those who received [Jesus] … he gave the right to become children of God,” (John 1:12).  So have you received him?  Or are you just Taxi?

Lenten Discipline

Here in St Albans Diocese we’re called to Live God’s Love.  This means three things:

  1. Going Deeper into God
  2. Transforming Community
  3. Making New Disciples

“Disciple” is a jargon word.  Most people quickly associate it with “the twelve.”  And dissociate it from themselves.  This is sad.  Jesus told the twelve (or the eleven, actually), to “make disciples,” so it is clear that the role of disciple does not stop with Peter, James and John et al.

A key feature of this disciple-making programme was the teaching of obedience to everything that Jesus had commanded his first disciples to do.  So, if we can get people to understand that they are called to be disciples too, we then have the tricky task of making sure that they also understand discipleship is about disciplined obedience to Jesus!  This is easier said than done, though I reckon the St Albans threefold vision is a pretty helpful summary of what that might look like.

In Jesus’ Little Africa this Lent, we’re looking at five aspects of the Christian life which support our disciplined obedience to Jesus; the Bible, Prayer, good Role Models, Church, and a life and attitude of Service to our King.  It’s my prayer that our investigation will start a fire of interest which will burn far longer than the season of Lent, becoming a veritable furnace in which our people will have the worldly dross burned off them and their faith purified to the glory of God.