Only days now before we perhaps meet up again with family and friends and celebrate Christmas once more. Our newspapers and television screens (and computer monitors) inform us of many world events, most of them quite horrific, less frequently do we hear of good things happening. Nor do we find many people using the media to tell what will happen in the future, and most of what is said never happens anyway.
Not so with the Christmas story. Over many centuries the birth of a Saviour, the Son of God, was foretold in such amazing detail, and all was fulfilled when Jesus was born. Yet it is still a matter of personal faith to accept what happened in history as fact, and then for it to make a significant difference to our lives.
When we talk about Jesus as Saviour of the world, it does not mean that He is automatically Saviour of everyone in the world. It means that all that our Lord accomplished in dying on the cross is available to those who come in faith and accept – what He accomplished at Calvary is sufficient for all who will come in faith, believing.
Other good news on a personal level is that after chemotherapy for cancer it is now in remission and I have started on the road to recuperation. Praise the Lord!
Verse on the front cover
The Gospel of Luke describes the birth of Jesus Christ as follows: –
The Angels Announce Jesus to the Shepherds
‘Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
“Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”’
The birth of the Messiah had been foretold for several centuries and the above text starts off by recounting that the night started off much in the way that many a night had done over many a year past. But then God intervened by sending an Angel to proclaim the birth of the Son of God. The Angel starts by calming the situation, saying, “Do not be afraid”. Just imagine the moment – a dark night, probably stars and maybe some moonlight, and then the bright appearance of this Angel, accompanied by this voice as the Angel spoke! Enough to frighten any shepherd!!
Then we have the Angel’s message, bringing good news. ‘Born this day’; at God’s appointed time He sent His Son into the world. ‘The city of David’ here refers to Bethlehem as mentioned long ago by the prophets. ‘A Saviour’; a declaration of the purpose of Christ’s coming – ‘to save His people from their sins’. ‘You will find a Babe … lying in a manger’; the Angel told the shepherds where the birth had taken place, where they could go and find the Lord Jesus. Jesus may be found in a variety of places but to prayerfully read scripture asking for the assistance of the Holy Spirit to understand what is being read is a good place to seek the truth about the Saviour of the world.
Then there was ‘a multitude of the heavenly host’; numerous, if not countless, heavenly beings who brought praise and worship to God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This may well prompt us to give God the honour that is due to His name, to bring our thanks to Him for providing us Jesus, His Son, as our personal Saviour, who through sincere faith in Him gives us a way to escape from the power of sin through His death on the cross as a sacrifice for our sin, a sacrifice which was acceptable to God.
When reading my Bible the other day I came upon this verse – 1 Corinthians 16:15, having read it many times before, ‘Ye know the household of Stephanus …that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints.’ (AV), but I read and re-read it and the word ‘addicted’ seemed to stand out. Now this word is usually associated today with drugs, alcohol, cigarettes and chocolate etc. but here it took on an interesting significance for me. It would appear that some of the preachers who had been out and about preaching the good news of Jesus, how He died on the cross of Calvary to save us from our sin, on returning saw some followers of Jesus, as they saw them, comfortable at home. Paul is saying here that they also have been working hard, in giving hospitality to people, some maybe staying awhile in the house and others just passing through. They were ‘addicted’, or devoted to this, doing the work the Lord had called them to very well. Be charitable to them, don’t be critical.
People who are following Jesus are called to various lives of service, many working behind the scenes as it were, but all doing work for God. All are important to the spread of the gospel. Amongst the callings mentioned hospitality is one. I expect we all know people who have devotedly served Him in this way. Whatever our calling we can encourage one another in the Way.
A lovely story of hospitality is written in 2 Kings 4; as Elisha travelled a certain way a lady saw him several times and called him in and gave him something to eat. Then she saw that he was a holy man of God and suggested to her husband that they provide more for him by building a small room, and furnishing it quite simply. A bed for rest, a table for his food, and a candlestick for light. Elisha must have been very pleased and thankful for such hospitality. Having read this many times I often think of Jesus saying, “Come unto Me and rest” (bed); “I am the light of the world” (candlestick), “I am the bread of life” (table). And so much more could be said – the Word of God is full of wonderful things. Hallelujah!
Jesus said, “Most assuredly I say unto you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone, but if it dies it produces much fruit”. John 12:24.
At this time of year we have witnessed all over the countryside a great falling asleep. At the onset of Autumn with the decrease of the intensity of light and heat from the sun, the trees have closed down their leafy foliar factories and cast off their dead and empty premises. Like the trees and shrubs, many perennial herbs have retired from their verdant bodies into winter quarters underground in the form of roots, bulbs and underground stems. All these may have produced seeds, but one kind of plant, the annual, dies completely and only exists through the winter as seeds lying sleeping in the chilly earth. When a seed falls from an exhausted plant it carries with it everything needed to produce another generation of its kind. This is the message of the genes that God gave it when He created it. In Genesis 1:29.” God said, “Behold I have given you every herb bearing seed which is on the face of the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food.”
Let us look, then, into the marvel of a seed. Jesus pointed out in Matthew 13 that the grain of mustard seed, which indeed is the least of all seeds, when it is grown is greater than all the herbs and becomes a tree. The tiniest seed contains within it a living germ complete with root, shoot and a store of food sufficient to supply for the initial stage of its growth until the plant develops it own root and seed leaf. A seed is not dead but dormant and many seeds are able to stay alive for years before germinating. The seeds from a packet need moisture, air and warmth to awaken them to another generation’s growth.
So what happens to a seed through the winter? Some seeds need a period of severe cold, particularly tree seeds, examples of which have been found in tundra ice and survived to grow again. Horticulturists have found it necessary to keep tree seeds refrigerated before sowing them successfully again. Other tree seeds will only germinate after the passage of a forest fire which scorches the tough outer skin. Still others rely for good germination on the corrosive action of the acids in the stomachs of birds which swallow them and deposit them at their next site of growth.
Perhaps we can learn something from the many vicissitudes through which the seed in its dormancy passes. Jesus, the Son of God, the Corn of Wheat, which “must fall into the ground and die”, spent “three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” passing through the waters of death and also endured the fire of a righteous God’s judgement on the cross for our sins. These figures of suffering suggest the depth and intensity of the sufferings of Christ which He endured when He went into death. That Holy Sacrifice for our sin suffered beyond that which anything natural can compare. In death He faced the power of Satan and overcame it so that we should be saved from the bondage of death, and He rose from the dead to give us the life in which we can bear much fruit for God eternally.
At this time of year when we are occupied more with the birth of Jesus, let us not forget His sufferings and death for us, for it was for that He came.
“PASSAGE TO INDIA”
How would you like to take wings and fly off from November’s rain, wind and misty gloom, to some exotic climate and exciting culture, like Bangalore, south India, for example?
Well, that’s just what father and son; John and Jim Grindell did on 13th November. Not for some “get away from it all” holiday jaunt, but to be the principal speakers at a conference for nearly 100 Indian Christian Ministers. Some of the participants came from an area of India called Orissa, which has recently been the scene of much ethnic violence and hostility towards Christians and their churches. Many were killed by mobs of Hindu extremists, who burned down their homes and their churches. The men who attended the conference came from the refugee camp in which they are living. It was humbling to share with such brave men.
The city of Bangalore is a mass of contrasts, from the destitute beggars with their pathetic pleas, to the glass and chrome premises of almost all the multi-national companies, and the stores with every brand of designer goods imaginable. Described as “The Silicon Capital of India” with its multiplicity of Internet outlets and international call centres, Bangalore certainly cannot be described as primitive. Even the motorised rickshaw drivers were answering their cell-phones as they drove us through the manic traffic, steering with one hand, through the smog of pollution and multitude of modes of transport. Being good sprinters is a pre-requisite for crossing roads there!
Many of the men at the conference are leaders of very large churches in rural parts of India. I went on the Sunday to preach at the Koramangala Methodist Church with over 250 in the congregation. Jim preached at Hope Evangelical Church with over 150 members. We immediately felt at one with them in God’s big family of faith. The bible describes in this way, “All one in Christ Jesus!”
The churches at Wyche Free and Laleston, Bridgend (Jim’s home church) showed us their love and support for the venture by collecting over £1600 between them. This paid for the cost of the conference centre hire and a parcel of 10 good study books that each participant received at the end of the conference.
We hope we gave much more to them in terms of Biblical Instruction and practical advice during the intense five day gathering. We certainly received much from them. God willing we return next year and the year after to complete the whole study course. In the meantime, “My! It’s awful cold here!”
For anyone engaged in children’s work and wanting some free visual aids of most Bible stories and other Gospel presentations, try the website www.biblestorycards.co.uk.