a very Merry Christmas to you! At
least, I hope that’s OK. I
know in some places “Christmas” has been replaced by
“Winterfest” and that some people are concerned that if you use
the word “Merry” in the same sentence as Christmas it somehow
devalues a festival linked to the memory of Jesus birth.
course, meanings change with time, but back in the 15th
century, when the carol was probably
written, the Oxford
English Dictionary tells me that merry meant “pleasing” or
“delightful” rather than slightly inebriated.
So let me wish you a very pleasing or delightful Christmas.
this Christmas is, for me, a special one.
Special because it gives me a double celebration.
December 25 2004 lands on a Saturday – and that, in itself
makes it special.
me explain: Saturday is the day I go to church. It’s my day
of worship. I have
come to consider it, as Isaiah did, a day of delight (Isa 58:13-14).
I’ve found it a blessing as a day to rest and step aside from
the normal busyness of the week. And I’ve come to appreciate this
time more and more as I recognise God’s creative care in setting
aside a special time of worship (Gen 2:1-3), his saving care and even
his restorative care as we can take time to worship and revel in his
love. (Ex 20:8-12, Isa 56:17.)
was a time, as a child, when I would have dreaded Christmas day being
on a Sabbath. In fact, I
wasn’t to keen on the Sabbath itself.
It was a burden I didn’t need.
It stopped me doing all the fun things without giving me some
positive alternatives. I
didn’t need that.
I read in the Gospels how Jesus had fun on the Sabbath.
He healed a lame man and told him to break the Sabbath rules by
carrying home the bed he’d been lying on for years (John 5)
He rejoiced with his disciples as they walked through the corn
fields, enjoying nature and nibbling on the food as they went.
And when the disapproving religious leaders complain – he
doesn’t answer them directly, but simply says, “Hang on a minute
– if your worried about my disciples, what about King David that you
so greatly respect. He, as
a ceremonially unclean warrior, led his men of war into the tabernacle
and fed them on the showbread reserved only for the priests.
Loosen up. Enjoy
your day and your worship. The
Sabbath was made as a blessing for mankind, not a curse.
(A paraphrase of Mark 2:27-18)
that basis, this Christmas, I can happily quote the words of King
David, “This is the day the Lord has made.
Let us be glad and rejoice in it! (Psalm 118:24)
see, this Christmas, I can combine my day of rest and rejoicing with
the wonderful memory of the Christ child who was born for me.
I love a traditional carol service when a choir boy stands up
and reads from Isaiah 9:2, 6 (NIV)
people walking in darkness
seen a great light;
those living in the land of the shadow of death
light has dawned. . . .
to us a child is born,
us a son is given,
the government will be on his shoulders.
he will be called
Counselor, Mighty God,
Father, Prince of Peace.
Isn’t it amazing that the God who set aside a time for friendship
and fellowship with us right back on the first Sabbath of Creation
should continue that friendship to the degree of coming and being born
as a tiny child in a cave in Bethlehem.
A child that was hounded throughout his life.
Herod tried to kill him. Satan
tried to tempt him. The
Pharisees to trick him and eventually to kill him.
And yet, Isaiah tells us, he will be called Wonderful Counselor,
Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Sabbaths are different for me. There
is a bit less hustle and bustle. The
service holds a special meaning. The
carols. The Scriptures,
the Prayers. Normally the
extra involvement of the children – something I always enjoy.
And the wonder and happiness you see in those children’s
faces. A wonder and
excitement that can be there for everyone as we echo the words of the
disciple John, “The Word became a human being and, full of grace and
truth, lived among us.” And
John adds with great awe and privilege, “We saw his glory.”
will be the last time
you hear my voice, indeed hear this programme.
For seven years, at this point in each programme, I’ve tried
to inject a Voice of Hope into the often troubled news of the week.
It’s been a very rewarding experience for me.
Now life moves on. From
next week I will, once again, be in face to face contact with those I
share ministry with, rather than, as with you, via the ethereal world
of radio. It’s been a
privilege and an honour to share with you these seven years.
One day I hope to meet you – in a party and celebration much
bigger than any Christmas bash you’re likely to see.
Revelation 4 & 5 paints a picture of worship in heaven.
A time of rejoicing. A
time of praise. By the
time we get to the end of the book a time when pain, sin, suffering
and death are all finished. (Rev 21:4)
As I celebrate my Christmas Sabbath I look forward to such a
worship service. But to be
honest, I’ll be slightly lonely unless you choose to be there too.
At the end of John’s Gospel he tells us that he wrote his
account of Jesus life so that we can believe he is the Messiah, and
that trusting in him we can have life. (John 20:31)
This Christmas, and over the last seven years of this ministry,
I hope too that this is the message we can leave with you.
Jesus is our hope. Merry