Well, here we are again!
Christmas is nearly upon us. Excellent for some; stressful and upsetting for others, and mixed for many more! For many, it's a time of fun, partying and possibly hangovers. For others, it's a time where family get together and usually fall out by New Years Eve! Many see Christmas as a time of presents, wrapping paper, carols and Christmas trees. This year, to my despair, Charlotte threw out my Christmas tree lights that flashed and sang Slade and Cliff Richard tunes!
As a GP every year I'm reminded that this holiday period isn't always fun for everyone. For many it's a time of sorrow and grieving; a time of painfully reliving the past; a time of loneliness and heartache and occasionally a time of thinking 'enough is enough…I can't stand it anymore'.
The big question is this: What does Christmas mean for you and where do you go to find out? I have so loved reading once again the ancient records of Christmas as we see in the Bible. This amazing book records what Christmas really means. It tries to make sense of all our other ideas and challenges us to think through the miracle of Noel…a life changing, world turning, heaven breaking point in humanity's history!
And so as I was reading it again I noticed something that hadn't stuck out before. Tucked in the middle of Matthew's account of the wise men I noted that the all too familiar record of the Magi following a star like some antiquated sat-nav to where Jesus was to be born, is actually not what happened at all. Matthew tells us a different story. What we actually see is the threatened Herod, disturbed by the news of the Magi's astrological predictions of a coming Messiah, provoking him to ask the big question: 'Where will this Messiah be born?
The answer? "In Bethlehem in Judea," [the Magi] replied.
How did they know?..... "for this is what the prophet has written:
It wasn't a star that identified Jesus' birthplace but God speaking through the prophet Micah (Micah 5: 2,4) centuries before, recorded in a little book which we now call the Bible!
And what hit me quite refreshingly once again is how amazing this book which we often take for granted really is! The Apostle Paul had a very high view of the Bible. He said:
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness
2 Timothy 3:16
Voltaire once said 'Another century and there will not be a Bible on earth!'
Corrie Ten Boom, a lady of strong faith who survived the atrocities of the Holocaust, years later replied,
'Voltaire expected that within fifty years of his lifetime there would not be one Bible in the world. His house is now a distribution centre for Bibles in many languages.'
The wisdom of this world is always always on its way out. What our grandparents would take seriously some 50 years ago we laugh at today. As I unpack my new iPhone 7, I face the reality that others will laugh at in 10 years time or less depending on who I'm talking to!
Tim Keller puts it this way: 'what the educated and intellectuals of one generation believe will always be mercilessly ridiculed and discredited by the educated and intellectuals of the next generation' But hear this. The Bible has stood the test of time. Many have tried to ridicule it but it still keeps outselling all other books. Many have tried to stop the movement of this book around the world but people continue to risk their lives spreading its truth. Many have tried to quash its believers but they keep on growing and growing and spreading and spreading throughout the world.
Melvin Bragg wrote of the King James Bible,
'You may be a Christian. You may be anti-Christian, or of another religion, or none. You may be an atheist fundamentalist and think the bible is monstrous, a book to be dismissed or derided. But whoever you are the….. King James Bible has driven the making of [our] world over the last 400 years, often in the most unexpected ways'
And what amazes me about Christmas is John's great account of what happened. The Word became flesh. Wow! At Christmas the very wisdom and meaning of life, 'logos' itself, collides with the very person of God Himself in Jesus. What a thought, what a reality!
My point: this Christmas be amazed by the biblical story of God coming to us. Of a God who cares. Of a bible that brings life and truth to us and the world around. Read it with your kids. Be inspired. Let God the Holy Spirit bring you and your family to your knees in worship! Let the joy of Christmas speak through these age old, eternal pages! Never out of date, never irrelevant, always life giving, always joy bringing.
As Tozer once wrote:
The Bible is the written word of God, and because it is written it is confined and limited by the necessities of ink and paper and leather. The voice of God, however, is alive and free as the sovereign God is free. 'The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.' The life is in the speaking words. God's word in the Bible can have power only because it corresponds to God's Word in the universe. It is the present voice which makes the written word powerful. Otherwise it would lie locked in slumber within the covers of a book.
Merry Christmas from all of us at Jubilee!
I couldn’t possibly write an Elders’ letter this month without at least making reference to that amazing night in Madrid on June 1st and Liverpool FC’s historic sixth Champions League trophy. Non-football fans…please don’t switch off!