Feeling Christmassy – Advent readings

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For the past 7 years I have written daily Advent readings for our church. For me the process of writing them always reminds me how Christmas is the written on every page of the Bible. It has been more than 10 years now since I had a Northern Hemisphere cold Christmas so these notes for me and getting them finished, rather than the drop in temperature and the shrinking daylight, are now my trigger that Christmas is fast approaching.

I’ll post them daily on my Facebook page and also the Church page, but if you are itching for your own copy you can download this year’s notes here

Advent 2015

I hope that they help you feel Christmassy this year.

 

The Movement of Christmas

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I associate the build up to Christmas with movement – hustle and bustle, busyness. Rushing to the shops to make sure that you have everything you need, trying to get to the post office to post cards in time for the international delivery dates (sorry didn’t make that one!). Going from one social gathering to the other. Always moving. But there is one movement that we often neglect at this time of year – that coming near, or drawing close. While the movements we follow at Christmas are usually frenetic and whirlwind like the movement of the first Christmas was one of coming close.

The primary movement, the first steps of Christmas are God Himself coming towards us:

Matthew 1:23 “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”–which means, “God with us.”

I love how the Message version describes God with us:

John 1:14  The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, Generous inside and out, true from start to finish. (The Message)

Literally Jesus came and moved in with us. How amazing, how humbling! God made the first move towards us in our sin.

1 John 4:19 We love because he first loved us.

What is our response to this movement of God?  Honestly if you look at most of us at Christmas our response is not coming near to Him, but in going – mostly going in circles chasing other things. At the first Christmas there were two main responses – the Shepherds and the Magi came to Jesus to worship while Herod went to kill.

I ask myself this Christmas, fully acknowledging the presence of my growing to-do list, which movement will I choose this Christmas? Will I choose to come towards God as He has toward me, or will I choose to go on going? What will be my movement this Christmas?

Today I’m taking part in the One Word at a Time Blog Carnival – the word is ‘Come” (Actually just discovered that I’m behind the times & this weeks word should have been Down! – Sorry 🙂 ) and also in Winsome Wednesday – click the links to have a nosy around!

 

Looking Forward to Our Saviour

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 I’m not sure if you are someone who looks forward to Christmas or not? The pressure to get everything done means that by the time Christmas Day arrives we are often exhausted. I struggle with Christmas here in South Africa – I miss family and the cold weather. But it is not the family we gather with, the presents we buy or the meal we eat that really represents Christmas –  it is all about Jesus.

John 1:1-14 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. 6 There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. 9 The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God– 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. 14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

When Jesus came the world did not recognize Him – even though he was close up and personal. I don’t understand why – for some like Herod to acknowledge Him as Lord was inconvenient for his plan of world domination – others just simply did get Him. I don’t want to rush through Christmas this year and miss out on Jesus. To help with that I have put together a simple set of Advent Bible notes to help my church count down to Christmas. Each day has a short reading so it won’t take up to much time – the notes start from this Sunday (27th Nov). Please feel free to download it and join with us as we get ourselves ready to celebrate our Savior’s coming to rescue us. Advent 2011

(If you struggle to download the PDF email me at traceysoko@hotmail.com and I can email them to you directly)

The shocking wonder of Christmas

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When I think about Jesus at Christmas I am in awe and wonder that the Son of God voluntarily became a vulnerable baby, that he voluntarily gave up his majesty and power so that he could live amongst us and then die a horrible death to pay the penalty for mankind’s sin. Martin Luther said it so much better than I can:

The mystery of the humanity of Christ, that He sunk Himself into our flesh, is beyond all human understanding.

This is the wonder of Christmas – that Jesus loved us enough to make himself vulnerable. He did have to – it was a choice he made because without him doing so we would have no way of restoring out relationship with God. How amazing for Mary and Joseph to hold the Saviour of the world in their arms, to protect him from Herod’s wrath and to nurture him so that he could grow up to die of us. I wonder did they understand what lay ahead for this wee baby held in Joseph’s calloused carpenter’s hands.

I’m not a big risk taker and I certainly don’t like to make myself uncomfortable. Actually I’m such a wimp I had to pop a balloon! So to voluntarily give up the grandeur and majesty of heaven’s throne room to live as a carpenter’s son, to be rejected by religious leaders, to surrender to whippings and crucifixion is unthinkable and shocking to me. But that is what Jesus did. We get sidetracked at Christmas time with the traditional Nativity plays about the cute wee baby Jesus surrounded by barn animals and wee lambs, when in fact the reality and the full story is shocking. Perhaps that’s why John skips over the Nativity story just summing it up:

John 1:14  The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighbourhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, Generous inside and out, true from start to finish. (The Message)

Paul also writes a sort of Nativity to the Philippian Church:

Philippians 2:5-11  Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:  6  Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,  7  but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  8  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death– even death on a cross!  9  Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,  10  that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,  11  and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father 

So as we approach Christmas Day may we not be distracted by the apparent cuteness of the Nativity scene, but may be shocked and awed by the love of a Saviour who would give up so much and put himself through so much so that we could be rescued from the consequences of sin.

Happy Christmas – what an awesome Saviour!

(If you want to read some more posts on how awesome Jesus is please jump over to Rachel Olsen’s Devotion Carnival)

Kissing the face of God

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poster image of baby in the womb

As Christmas approaches, at a far faster speed than I prepared for, my mind keeps turning to the people involved in the first Christmas. I have had a song stuck in my head from last weekend when Kingdom Dancers danced to ‘Mary Did You Know’. I have been fascinated by this line:

And when you kiss your little boy
You’ve kissed the face of God

How amazing Christmas is – that Jesus came into the world as an ordinary man, welcomed by very ordinary people.

 14The Word became flesh and blood,
      and moved into the neighborhood.
   We saw the glory with our own eyes,
      the one-of-a-kind glory,
      like Father, like Son,
   Generous inside and out,
      true from start to finish.

John 1.14 (Message)

How amazing that these ordinary people obeyed and saw God for themselves – Mary, engaged to the carpenter Joseph, the shepherds doing their job, the pagan astrologers following a hunch. God choose to send his son to an ordinary family struggling to make ends meet, to live as an immigrant for his first years, and to have fishermen as his best friends.

Thank God that he reveals himself to the ordinary. I pray that the everydayness of my ordinary life will be interrupted by a glimpse of God this Christmas.

Feeling Christmasy?

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’36 Days to Christmas” is painted with shoe polish on the back window of a local taxi. Does that send you into a panic? Conversations such as ‘Have you started your Christmas shopping yet?’, or ‘Who is coming to Christmas lunch?’ are happening all around. In October the Christmas goodies already appeared in the shops. Magazine articles are appearing, urging us to buy our meat this month before the prices go up. We are given recipes of what to good four weeks in advance so help with the frazzle and instructions on making a centre pice using only a coat hanger, an old sock and some chewing gum. The message is pressure, pressure, pressure. Make this year bigger and better, but on a budget.

I struggle to get the Christmasy feeling ever since I started having Christmas in the Southern hemisphere – singing Christmas Carols on the beach feels just wrong when you are used to singing them in the freezing cold and seeing your breath & the steam rise off people’s hats. A full roast turkey feels a bit ridiculous when you are in shorts and t-shirts. I often tell my husband that they only place I feel is suitable for Carols is the walk in freezers at the supermarket – there amongst the frozen turkeys I can feel Christmasy, until I look down and see my flip-flops.

So what makes Christmas Christmasy for you? It is lovely to spend time together, to eat and gift lovely gifts but is that really Christmas? Does it really matter whether we feel in a festive mood or not? The best Christmases I have had have been when the electricity has been out, or the budget so low that it was just a simple get together.

Amongst the business of the season and the pressure I find it helpful to focus on the real reason for Christmas:

Matthew 1:18-23 This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. 20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 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.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”–which means, “God with us.”

By spending time coming up to Christmas focusing on the Christmas story we can help keep ourselves on the right track, appreciating the real Christmas. For the past couple of years I have been writing simple Advent readings for my church, just to help orientate our focus towards Jesus, the Saviour of the World. If you like you can down load of copy of this years notes, A Walk Through the Nativity, and join us as we take a journey through the nativity story. Reading again the Christmas story really makes me feel Christmasy – a feeling of awe and wonder that the Son of God would give his life so He could be my Saviour.