Thursday, 24 December 2015

Joyy to the worldd!


I have been pondering the word all this last week, and now The Day has come, not of course the actual day but the Day when we remember that Joy has come into the world.

Joy: a way to live:

And I know it in my mind and I speak it with my lips but sometimes, often, I just don't feel that joy in my heart. I CHOOSE joy, but I don't necessarily feel contentment or happiness or gladness or...
"delight, great pleasure, joyfulness, jubilation, triumph, exultation,rejoicing, happiness, gladness, glee, exhilaration, ebullience,exuberance, elation, euphoria, bliss, ecstasy, transports of delight,
rapture, radiance..."

This comes only occasionally. But it comes when Joy breaks through into our poor hurting world, when prayers are answered, miracles happen and I see the touch of God.

So here I am, Christmas Day, feeling all kinds of emotions which are not just pure joy, but one thing I know and feel: I am thankful.

I am thankful to be here surrounded by my family: Cat, Jonny, my beautiful-inside-and-out daughter-in-law Adele and my solid, grounded, caring, soon-to-be-son-in-law Andy; my lovely borrowed daughter Mags, and her delightful partner Louis; and funny Faith, generous and caring.  

And I am thankful to be in beautiful New Zealand, the surf rolling gently onto the shore beneath our balcony, the sun bright and the air clear...

And I am thankful to God's great gifts, for the gift of life and love and the eternal promises of Jesus, indeed the greatest gift of all.

And in the thankfulness, a tiny seed of joy begins to bubble deep inside me....

Friday, 18 December 2015

Joy foretold

I puzzle.

Gabriel comes to Mary and tells her she will have a son. How wonderful. Here is a girl, engaged to be married, wondering about the children she will have and she hears that her first born will be a BOY.
She will have done her duty by her husband with that one first birth.
And not just any boy, but someone who will grow up special and honoured. The son of the Most High and Holy God. Someone who will be king as David was. Someone who will rule over the entire house of Jacob, her betrothed’s family. Someone whose kingdom will last forever.
And she asks how? How will this happen?

And I wonder why this is not counted as doubt. When Zechariah asks how he will know, really know the angel’s words are true, he is struck dumb. And surely that is some sort of consequence, or punishment, for his apparent disbelief when he asks how an impossible thing can happen without just accepting that God can do anything whenever and however he want.

And I wonder what it means that Mary asks how it will happen? For surely she should expect to have children, she who is engaged to be married. Is this angel’s visit surely not just giving her news of what she can anticipate for her life?

But no. For the greeting of the angel is one that has been foretold, the words from God for just such a time as this.
This is the sign of Ahaz, from the Lord himself: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”  Isaiah 7:14
This is no ordinary conception, no ordinary baby, will be no ordinary birth... for this is what has been destined from the  beginning, when man fell into sin and there was only one way out...THIS.


Fix your eyes upon Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who, for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

The joy.
This joy at Christmas is not just that of the mother in her newborn.
This joy I barely understand, the joy of the Christ, coming to save his people.
The exultation of knowing that his actions redeem us all.
That celebration of delight in defeating sin’s cruel grip on us, his brothers and sisters.
Joy in family. Joy in community. Joy beyond measure.

Joy. Not just for Christmas, but for Always.

Sunday, 13 December 2015


In peace
I will lie down and sleep;
for you alone, O Lord,
make me dwell in safety.
Psalm 4:8

of the child
who is Christ the King.

as he lies down and sleeps
for His Father makes him dwell in safety.


Thursday, 10 December 2015

Angels. Bringers of peace for troubled hearts. Beckoning to adventure.

The appearance of an angel does not normally inspire peace in the heart of those who encounter him. To the contrary, an angel causes fear and confusion. His appearance is, after all, outside the normal sphere of human activity.

Zechariah was one such. In the dark and gloom of the Holy of Holies, the Innermost Presence of the Mighty One, something so strange and supernatural occurred that he was gripped by.fear.  Unable to move, he cowered in front of a mighty being, glowing with unaccustomed light. Did he wonder if it was God himself appearing? for no one can see His face and live.

The Messenger brought peace. "Don't be afraid, Zechariah." Fear could go, for God knew Zechariah by name. The message was for him and no other.
The Messenger brought hope: peace in the future. For Zechariah could have peace with God, now knowing, after so many years and tears, that God had heard his cries.
God listened.
God AGREED with Zechariah.
God promised.
Zechariah no longer had to be afraid.

Nor did Mary. What was she doing when Gabriel appeared to her? Walking home from the market; baking bread; perhaps sweeping the house, squinting to get the dirt out of dark corners when light came in and shattered her peace. "“Don’t be afraid! God is pleased with you..." "

So Mary said, "Yes, I see it all now: I’m the Lord’s maid, ready to serve.
Let it be with me just as you say."
And peace entered her heart.

Joseph, too. (Oh, so many angels, so very busy with the Good News of the Saviour.) A good and kind man, compassionate for an unfortunate girl, wanting to just send her away quietly without the disgrace and punishment her unwed pregnancy deserved. BUT GOD sent an angel in a dream. This angel, too, brought the promise of peace: Joseph should not be afraid to marry Mary for she was pure and godly.  Surely Joseph clung to this message, facing condemnation and ridicule for marrying the girl pregnant with a child not his own. For who would believe in an angelic visitation on the word of a girl?

So many angels. So much fear. So much promised peace.

And when we have peace, we have hope. Hope to sustain us on the adventure of life. Tom Herring, Jonny's good friend, writes:
"The toil of a difficult journey is certainly eased when shared with good friends.
What makes an adventure?  A key element that makes adventures fun, is the fact that they have an end. The sense of achievement we feel that we managed to survive, that we had what it took to see it to the end, is what makes good memories. There are probably not many people who would enjoy spending the rest of their life fighting for survival in a remote jungle. The best part of getting lost, is when you find your way home.
The great adventure  I believe that for all of us, life is supposed to be an epic adventure – one full of fun and discovery. My wife likes to say that ‘we were born for a life full of risk and full of play’. We made this a foundation of our relationship, and now aim to build our family on it. It guides our decisions, as we choose to embrace risk and savour the unknown.
But sometimes life doesn’t seem like a good adventure. It can become a frightening, unenjoyable journey. All of us can feel overwhelmed by challenges and difficulties, or confused about what to do in certain situations, perhaps with no one to turn to for help. Sometimes life can simply be boring.
I think that one of the main reasons life becomes this way, is when we no longer expect good things to happen.
How to Illuminate the darkness  To live an adventure, for the sense of fun and delight in the journey to remain, we need hope. Expecting good things is like turning on a torch that illuminates the path before us, no matter how dark or difficult it becomes. It enables us to stand up and continue our journey, and remember that we’re headed somewhere great.
How to get hope   Despite what many think, hope isn’t based on circumstances. It isn’t a personality trait, like being optimistic. It is an underlying certainty that what lies around the corner, is good – even when there’s nothing promising on the horizon.
This may sound like wishful thinking or foolishness. How can I expect something great in my life if there is no rational reason for it to happen?
Expecting positive things to happen terrifies most of us to the core, because it sets us up to fail. I’ll only be disappointed, We think. The truth is though, is that little good can happen in our lives without the presence of hope. It creates an enabling environment inside of us, where new things can grow. Instead of being crushed by our circumstances and remaining stagnant, it enables us to push on, and overcome, like in every good adventure.
‘But I’ve had a hard life, nothing good ever happens to me’, some people say. If that’s you, learning to believe that good things are on the way is even more necessary. To move on and start enjoying the journey, hope is essential – no matter how terrifying it may be. Otherwise the cycle of lack and struggle is likely only to continue.
If you want life to be an adventure rather than drudgery, dare to believe good things are on their way for you. By nurturing that kind of belief, you will find yourself going about life in a very different way. You will keep fighting and taking risks, pushing through adversity, getting stronger, becoming wiser, and most of all, each day you will become younger and more filled with life."
And we think of the angel stories and we accept the peace they offer but we fail to engage with the incredible adventure of faith laid out before us: Zechariah facing ridicule, Mary facing scorn and even death, Joseph facing...scorn and ridicule... This is peace, when we step out on the adventure which God sets before us even in the face of scorn and ridicule.  For when we are not afraid, we have peace...

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Peace in unrest

Peace at Christmas
in a world of unrest
people leaving their homes
travelling far
looking for refuge.

in a world of unrest
Roman invaders ruling
with fear and terror
obedience essential.

Joseph, with Mary,
forces to travel far
in lawful obedience
to Bethlehem,
looking for refuge.

No room to stay
in any hostelry:
homeless, street-wandering,
asking, searching,
grateful for shelter.

In the noise
and bustle of a city
Mary trusts in her loving God
to keep them safe
in a world of unrest.

Peace comes to us
in anxious, trouble times,
as we travel through life
finding refuge
in His loving shelter.

Monday, 7 December 2015


in the calm of the night
my fears grow ever larger:
peace comes in the Word.

Friday, 4 December 2015

Hope arises

Zechariah hopes
faithfully serving
as he waits for the Messiah.

Elizabeth waits
anticipating John's birth
praising God's goodness.

Mary expectant
a miraculous promise
of fearful wonder.

Joseph still ponders
the angel's startling message
of reassurance.

Shepherds soon rejoice
in heaven's bright announcement
of the Saviour's birth.

Magi, wondering
at the strangeness of a star,
are called to journey.

These strange happenings
echo down the centuries
with undeniable truth.

The ageless story
brought to life in humble hearts
speaks eternal love.

Hope kindles again
in hearts laid low by darkness
this Christmas season.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Waiting for perfection

Hope. Hope for...
something better,
suffering's end,

We want perfection. We want no more pain, no more suffering, no more tears, no more problems, no troubles, no hindrances, no annoyances...

Perfection not available this side of heaven.
We hope, we long for it, because God "has also set eternity in the human heart". He puts questions in our mind about the past and the future. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God's work from beginning to end.

Psalm 42 puts it like this: "These are the things I go over and over, emptying out the pockets of my life.
I was always at the head of the worshiping crowd, right out in front, Leading them all,  eager to arrive and worship, Shouting praises, singing thanksgiving—celebrating, all of us, God’s feast!

Why are you down in the dumps, dear soul?
Why are you crying the blues?
Fix my eyes on God
soon I’ll be praising again.
He puts a smile on my face.
He’s my God.

When my soul is in the dumps, I rehearse
everything I know of you,
...God promises to love me all day,
sing songs all through the night!
My life is God’s prayer."

And so Louie Giglio reminds us of hope. Reminds us to fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfector of our faith...

We wait. We wait for perfection. We wait for eternity. We wait for the Promise of Eternal Life.

We wait for Jesus.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Hope builds

Hope in the midst of darkness.
Hope in the silence of centuries.
Hope in the season of anticipation.
Hope in the quietness of loving hearts.
Hope in the Light of the world.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

A mother's hope: Oh, could it be true?

This wonderful, unbelievable news
of a babe, as yet unstirring,
nestled in her barren womb:
Oh, could it be true?

Could she be a Sarah,
bearing an Isaac in old age?
Or childless Rebekah,
pregnant through her husband's prayers?
Oh, could it be true?

Would she be like Manoah's wife,
bearing another Samson,
leading Israel,
turning many back to God?
Oh, could it be true?

Would she, like Hannah,
give  birth to another Samuel
after many years of weeping?
Oh, could it be true?

Elizabeth paused, remembered.
She remembered God's faithfulness throughout the generations.
She remembered God.
She believed. And rejoiced.
No longer ashamed. No longer disgraced.

Yes, it would be true.

Luke 1:24 - 25