December 2018

2nd December: Advent 1: Luke 21: 25-36

There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea.  People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken.  At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.  When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”  He told them this parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees.  When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near.  Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near. “Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.  “Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap. For it will come on all those who live on the face of the whole earth.  Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.” ……….

The season of Advent begins today.  It is a time for looking forward.  First we are to prepare to celebrate the coming to earth of Jesus, which has changed millions of lives over the ages.  We are also to prepare for the Second Coming of Jesus, when the whole world as we know it will change for ever.  Jesus tells us to be on our guard against being distracted by the negative happenings in our world.  We are to pray so that we remain steadfast in our following of him.

Have a special time of prayer in Advent, asking God to guide us in our preparations for the future.

 

9th December: Advent 2: Luke 3: 1-6

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene—during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet: “A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. And all people will see God’s salvation.’ ”

Today we think of the preaching of John the Baptist who came to prepare the people for the coming of Jesus.  He called them to repent of their sins – to be sorry for the things which kept them from following God’s commands.  To prepare us to celebrate the birth of Jesus, and to meet him at his Second Coming, we too need to repent.

Spend a few minutes each evening reviewing the past day. Bring to God the mistakes you have made, the hasty or hurtful words you may have used and the time you have wasted or spent unwisely.  Tell God you are sorry and ask him to help you start again.

 

16th December: Advent 3: Luke 3: 7-18

John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?  Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The axe is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” “What should we do then?” the crowd asked. John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.” Even tax collectors came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?” “Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them. Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?” He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.” The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Messiah. John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” And with many other words John exhorted the people and proclaimed the good news to them.

John the Baptist was outlining the things for which people ought to repent.  Most of us thin we live reasonably good lives – we haven’t done anything dreadful, have we?!  Often, though, it is not the things we have done wrong, but the good we have omitted to do that we forget.

Each evening this week, look back at the past day.  Think of the good you could have done the encouragement or support you could have given, the gratitude you failed to show or the ways you could have helped someone – but you didn’t.  Pray that God will help you to be more sensitive to the needs of others.  That is Christian love.

 

23rd December: Advent 4: Luke 1: 39-45

At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth.  When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favoured, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfil his promises to her!”

Today, the Sunday before Christmas, we remember how Mary was called to be the mother of Jesus.  She was still a teenager when the angel visited her with that momentous challenge.  She was afraid and shocked.  First we see her humility – “How can this be?”  Then she expressed her obedience to God – “I am the Lord’s servant, may it be as you have said”

Sometimes God challenges us to do something in his service which we think is too hard. Can we give ourselves to him in humility and obedience – to serve others and our church?  Ask for his strength.

 

30th December:  Christmas 1:  Luke 1 v. 41-52

Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover.  When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom.  After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it.  Thinking he was in their company, they travelled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends.  When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him.  After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers.  When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.” “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”  But they did not understand what he was saying to them. Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart.  And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.

By law, Jesus became an adult at twelve years old.  He had travelled to the Temple, as was the custom to celebrate Passover with His parents for the first time as an adult.   He did what was normal for Jews  -  learn by asking question - and had lost all track of time!!. It may have been on that occasion that He began to discover who He was.  He was obviously engrossed in what He was doing and asking some deep-thinking questions.  Nevertheless, He returned home with His parents and was obedient to them.

Asking questions and discussing are good ways of learning more about our Christian Faith. Are there opportunities for you to join others in a similar activity at your Church?  If so, do you join in?   If not could you create such a group with some Christian friends?                  

 

 




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