December 2019

Sunday 8th December: Advent 2: Matthew 3 1-2; 6-12

In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. But when John saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his place of baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?  Therefore produce fruit worthy of repentance. And do not presume 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 lies ready at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. I baptize you with water for repentance, but after me will come One more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in His hand to clear His threshing floor and to gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

People flocked to listen to John the Baptist as if he were the Messiah.  His message, though, was clear.  He was the messenger, pointing to the one who would come.  His message to the Pharisees and Sadducees was harsh.  ~They thought they were doing everything right, but they were only going through the motions.  John told them that they must live out their faith rather than just lay down the law.

We all need to repent and accept forgiveness.  How can we live out our faith better?

 

Sunday 15th December:  Advent 3: Matthew 11 2-11

Meanwhile, John heard in prison about the works of Christ, and he sent two of his disciples to ask Him, “Are You the One who was to come, or should we look for someone else?” Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see:  The blind receive sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and good news is preached to the poor.  Blessed is the one who does not fall away on account of Me.” As John’s disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swaying in the wind?  Otherwise, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? Look, those who wear fine clothing are found in kings’ palaces.  What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.  This is the one about whom it is written: ‘Behold, I will send My messenger ahead of You, who will prepare Your way before You.’ Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has risen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet even the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

John the Baptist, alone in prison, began to have doubts about himself and his preaching.  Was Jesus really the Messiah?  Had John’s preaching been in vain? Jesus was well established in his own ministry by this time, and his answer to John’s question was not a straight ‘yes’.  He wanted to help John re-kindle his own belief by observing what was happening around him in relation to the Old Testament prophecies.

Do you believe Jesus was the promised Messiah?  What convinces you?  How can you help to strengthen your belief?

 

22nd December: Advent 4: Matthew 1, 18-25

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged in marriage to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with Child through the Holy Spirit.  Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and was unwilling to disgrace her publicly, he resolved to divorce her quietly. But after he had pondered these things, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to embrace Mary as your wife, for the One conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.  She will give birth to a Son, and you are to give Him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had said through the prophet:  “Behold, the virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call Him Immanuel” (which means, “God with us”). When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him, and embraced Mary as his wife.  But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a Son. And he gave Him the name Jesus.

Joseph’s life was in turmoil.  He knew he was not the father of Mary’s forthcoming baby.  He may have felt betrayed, confused, angry – even trapped – all at once.  He wanted to protect Mary though from the gossip and huymiliation she would face.  Then God sent help – a message to allay Joseph’s fears.  Joseph followed the angel’s directions and all was well.

Sometimes we feel life is against us, but if we take our troubles to God he will answer – even if it is not in the way we expect.  All we need to do is to trust him and obey him.  Is something troubling you?  Take it to God in prayer, listen for his reply and obey.  All will be well.

                                  On Wednesday we celebrate the birth of Jesus.  God came to earth in                                                                                                                              human form to show us the answer to all our prayers.                                                                                                                                                     A very Happy Christmas to all our readers.

 

Sunday 29th December: Christmas 2: 13-23

When the Magi had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up!” he said. “Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the Child to kill Him.”  So he got up, took the Child and His mother by night, and withdrew to Egypt,  where he stayed until the death of Herod. This fulfilled what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called My Son.”  When Herod saw that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was filled with rage. Sending orders, he put to death all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, according to the time he had learned from the Magi. Then what was spoken through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:  “A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.” After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt.  “Get up!” he said. “Take the Child and His mother and go to the land of Israel, for those seeking the Child’s life are now dead.” So Joseph got up, took the Child and His mother, and went to the land of Israel.  But when he learned that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was spoken through the prophets: “He will be called a Nazarene.”

Joseph and Mary must have been feeling quite overwhelmed;  first by the birth of their baby in a stable, and then receiving visitors who seemed to know far more than they did about this baby, and what might happen to them if they stayed in Bethlehem.  They bravely followed the instruction of the angel and took a hazardous journey down to Egypt – not easy for anyone and certainly not for a tiny new-born baby.  But it was what God wanted, and eventually they were able to return to Nazareth in Galilee in their home country.  What faith they had – faith that despite some puzzling and difficult instructions, God would be looking after them, which is in fact what happened.

As this year draws to a close are you facing uncertainties in your life?  Does the way forward seem to be very difficult and way out of your comfort zone?  Take it to God in prayer – if that is indeed what his plan is for your life, have the courage of Joseph and Mary, trusting that God will be there for you all the way, and in due time you will discover how things really will work out for you.

A peaceful and God-filled New Year to you all

 




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