Happy New Year! How was your Christmas?
These are typical phrases we've all heard over the past few days. I didn't experience a typical Christmas this year. Instead, I was on the sunny beaches of Faro, gazing into the Atlantic Ocean while reading How God Became King* and nibbling on some chargrilled chicken. Nothing like back home! But this wasn't the only difference I realised between the two different places. The other was that no one seemed to be bothered about one of the greatest events in history, the birth of the Messiah. I also found many similarities, not only between the two nations but things that are common all over the world.
One of the similarities is that in parts of the world where you're allowed to celebrate Christmas, once it's over, you have to wait until Good Friday and Easter Sunday before you hear the name of Christ again - that's if chocolate eggs and bunnies don't obscure the way! Over the past few years, I've realised that events that have a great Christian heritage are becoming more and more commercialised in this country. But there are still churches and individuals who put Christ back into Christmas in every opportunity they get. I want to encourage us all to not only put Christ back into Christmas but elevate Him to His rightful place every day. Jesus wasn't just born, and then crucified. He did live a life. Let us celebrate Jesus' life every day so that the greatest person in the whole of history - past, present and future - is known in our neighbourhood and the nations.
Let us reflect on the past year with hearts full of thanksgiving and praise, and expect great things for the year to come. Celebrate Jesus's life in January, February, March… right through to December. New Year resolutions are good, but allow the Spirit of God to be the one stirring your heart for the things new, let Him take the lead, and rely on the ever present strength of God.
Please continue to pray for Alpha, Alpha +, Devoted groups, community groups, a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit, signs and wonders and the advance of God's kingdom. Let the Word of God dwell in your hearts. If you haven't already, find a Bible reading plan and stick to it. Jubilee, there's so much to look forward to in 2017! The joy of the Lord is our Strength!
*How God Became King, Getting to the Heart of the Gospels. N.T. Wright.
In this book, the former Bishop of Durham looks at the four Gospels from a different angle and challenges our view of the Church in a concise and accessible way. I would highly recommend it.
It sounds too good to be true, but this has happened throughout history since the first church in Jerusalem was persecuted. Those scattered believers planted new churches in the places where they settled.
The age old question of whether Christmas gets earlier each year. Perhaps it points to something deeper than we think.