We stand at the door of another new year, and 2014 beckons encouragingly. Remember last year, when we did the same, and we decided to make resolutions to be a better person? Treat others patiently and with respect, go to church, read the bible and pray more, eat less or maybe more wisely, be an encourager, and give to good causes? These are all good resolutions, but I wonder how many we kept?
I am glad we have a God of the second chance, and how we need it. We mess up so easily and so often, it seems we never can get it right from one year to the next. So does it do any good to try? Of course it does, and we should never stop, as long as we realise that there are some things we cannot do on our own. Many of the things we resolve to do, come from the heart, and there is only one place we can make progress. That’s when we trust it with God, and don’t go back to do it by ourselves. Remember the failures from last year? Well how about trying a new approach this year by including Jesus in our plans for the coming year?
My guess is that if we are spared to stand at the gateway of 2015, we will be able to look back with a sense that we did the right thing by involving the great Creator in our plans. I think he would approve, so starting now, determine to have a Happy New Year 2015!!
There are times when our head spins and we don’t know if we are coming or going. That happens a lot, and to many people, so if you experience this birling sensation, you are not alone. Don’t worry, there is no cure, so don’t stress yourself by looking for one. The disease of ‘coming or going’ is incurable, at least for now.
We are in this state during the year, but never so much as at New Year time, and it’s the same every year. You know exactly what I mean, right? It seems that everything we decide to do has two sides. the good or bad, the better or best, the ‘what ifs’ of life hit us when we don’t go looking for them. It’s that time again. It’s getting closer to Hogmanay, and here we are doing it again, as if we didn’t learn from last year.
All those chances we had to do something better, or right, or just different than we muddled through last year, are here to haunt us again it seems. We go into another year with the same questions. Will we make a better fist of it this time? Can we succeed where we failed, or achieve that reconciliation that has eluded for so long, or maybe find that special prince(ss) among the low life that seem to live in the pond we inhabit? These are no small things, and we are right to want them put right, but are we willing to put in the time and effort to get the healing process started?
So, as we stand on the threshold of 2014, not knowing if we are comin’ or goin’, don’t just make a resolution in your head to make things better, have a change of heart instead, and without looking over your shoulder at what has happened last year, determine to make that wrong right, make the call of reconciliation, and find that Godly friend who might also be looking for you. Who knows where that might lead? Then we will know where we are going in 2014! Happy New Year!!
That’s it! All over for another year. The wrapping paper torn from the gifts is in the bin. The turkey is half eaten, and all the time you took to arrange and buy those special gifts for the important people in your life, is in the past. So long to get here, and over in a day. I suppose the real question becomes, is it all worth the effort?
Christmas, with all its rush and bustle is not for the faint hearted, but it is good to see the look on a child’s face when they get their gifts. Today’s special present that caused so much happiness will soon become tomorrow’s old dated game or toy. Christmas is great, and I love it, but it seems to be gone so quickly, and all you are left with, is the fond memory, and the still to be finished turkey which will become a curry, or sandwiches.
So, it’s over. Or is it? Take a step back and think what Christmas really is all about. It’s not the gifts or the food, good as they are, the clue is in the word Christmas, and the verse which says Jesus came into the world as “Immanuel, God WITH us”, so it’s not just for a day. It’s a lifetime thing, and beyond that into eternity. As Christians we do our Lord, and our faith a disservice by thinking Christmas is a day on the calendar. It’s more than that. It’s a lifestyle choice. It’s a mindset, and a change of heart. Yes, our Christmas should last all year, until the next time we celebrate His birthday again. You don’t ignore your children between birthdays, so why should we do that with Jesus?
It just leaves me to say, Happy All Year Christmas my friends.
I love Christmas, with the glitter, tinsel, artificial trees all lit up, santa in the mall, the smell of cinnamon candles, and the laughter of children, wide eyed at the wonder and magic of gifts received for no other reason than the love of parents, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters and loved ones. Then there is the best part for me. The gathering around the family table to enjoy the traditional dinner of turkey and all the trimmings. That’s my Christmas, but sadly, it is not the Christmas of many. But above and before all of this festive fun, is the realisation that the reason for the season is the virgin birth of the Saviour of the World into a lowly stable manger in Bethlehem, as prophesied.
Then there is the other side of Christmas, mainly peddled by businesses who want your money, and for those 30 pieces of silver, promise a good time, in fact the best time you ever had by maxing out your credit card. Christmas has become something else. The media in the UK, and in our other ‘civilised’ western cultures, warn against hedonism. Of course they don’t call it that, so they give out other more PC warnings which are for your own benefit.
Police having to increase their patrols, on the lookout for drivers who take a chance and drink to excess before getting behind the wheel, putting their own lives at risk but also those younger innocents. The medical profession warning about the risks of spiked drinks, especially putting young party women, out for a good time ‘at risk’, and all that entails. Domestic violence hits a high, due to increased alcohol intake. Young drunken men and girls, out for a ‘good time’ at all and any cost, without a thought for the consequences to them or any others.
What have we, the civilised societies, done to the season of Christmas? It goes deeper than just being an expensive time of year. It goes to the heart of our humanity, by trading the baby in the manger for a lifestyle which is as far away from the meaning of Christmas as you can get. We have changed the definition of the word ‘party’ to a drunken orgy, instead of a celebration of goodness, based on the life and example of the Son of God. I ask again, what have we done with Christmas, and is it for our good?
It would be a very strange football stadium that was very quiet during a game. It would be odd for a party to be silent. What would we think of a karaoke club where no one joined in the singing? Can the church learn from this simple lesson? In each of these cases, the people attending are expressing themselves appropriate to their event.
Expressions give us away, whether we know it or not. It is hard to ignore an infectious laugh or grin, in fact these make us want to laugh or smile too. Our faces tell a story which we cannot hide or deny, and so it is with the places we go to. If we enjoy being at the football game, party, or karaoke it will show somewhere on us. Maybe on our faces, or by cheering or singing.
There are churches where you will hear ‘Amen’ or ‘Hallelujah’ or ‘Praise God’. You may even see hands raised in worship. These are expressions of joy at being in the presence of God. There are singing churches, where the singing is rousing, loud and praiseworthy to the King of Kings. Some singing churches have volume, some melody, and on occasion some have both! But one thing is sure, growing and thriving churches are not silent and expressionless. Sure, not everyone has a singing voice, but those would be in the minority and even these can sing when among those who can carry a tune, so what does a silent congregation mean? Maybe I should let you answer that one.
The first half of the average church service is usually given to praise and worship, and that is where we get to express ourselves. The music and songs can be old and traditional, or modern and contemporary, but the common goal is that we get to express our worship in an appropriate way. Music and song are universal. We all relate, and enjoy taking part when we can. So let me go back and ask the question again. What would you think of a silent church that didn’t express itself? Just asking.
Christmas is that time when old and young are faced with the question, do we believe in Santa Claus? This is an important question, especially when adults are in the company of small children. There is a magic to the season, mainly brought about by the commercial side that sees this as the best time of the year to make a profit. In fact, some small businesses rely on their takings in December to stay solvent! Christmas is important!
I wonder what Christmas means to you this year, and in years ahead what will stick in your mind? We have seen the death and burial of a great human of recent years, Nelson Mandela. There has been another shooting at a school in the USA with death and injury. Syria dominates the daily headlines with images of displaced citizens who need basics like warm clothing and food. These things are attention grabbing, and you may look back in years to come, and associate 2013 with some of these stories. But is that all there is to it?
The clue is in the name. CHRISTmas was, and still is the celebration of the simple birth of a baby in an animal feeding trough, who came from heaven to bridge the gap between God and man. Jesus was not just a ‘good man’ or a prophet as some think, but the embodiment of God in our own human form. He laughed, cried, was tempted, betrayed, hurt, bled, and felt just like us. How good was God’s plan to give us Jesus as a baby to grow up in a small town, as part of a poor family who would know the troubles of life? Some of His own brothers didn’t accept His claims and teachings as He went about doing good. He was not accepted in His own town, or with the church leaders. But knowing this, God still sent Him at Christmas time. On the face of it, it doesn’t seem like a good plan, but we know the end of the story and it didn’t end at Christmas, or when He was tempted, beaten and crucified for doing good. The story continued to His resurrection and ascension back to heaven, His earthly work completed.
So the question remains. Do you believe? Not in Santa, but in the reason for the season being Jesus Christ, who is the whole of CHRISTmas, wrapped up in a cold manger, in a draughty stable, surrounded by poverty, but announced and serenaded by angels? I mean believe it enough to see beyond the commercialised side of the month with its trappings of temporary happiness? If you can do that, you will have a very Happy and Blessed Christmas, with all the joy that the Christchild brings.
It’s a job I really don’t like, and my heart isn’t in it, but my head (you know that reasonable and logical part if you) knows the dreaded suitcase packing has to be done. So, it becomes a chore, and especially when you find that the suitcase isn’t big enough, plus the weight limit is too small for all the stuff you NEED to take with you. The airlines are all too eager to let you take extra weight, as long as you pay heavily for the privilege. Being a canny Scot, I don’t like paying for these so called ‘extras’, and I don’t think you do either!
Why is it easier to pack when you are going on holiday, but not so much when you leave? Don’t say anything. I already know the answer, even if I don’t want to admit it. Here’s a thought to throw out there. My suitcase is weighed down to the ounce by the airline, but I am not. In fact I will go a stage further and ask, why are really BIG people (who always seem to be sat next to me on those little airline seats) not weighed at check in? Or even sat altogether, so that they can experience the challenges of eating those in flight meals while your elbows are tucked uncomfortably in your pockets? Am I being mean? Maybe, but it’s one of those realities of economy flight travel. That was a diversion, but back to packing.
I am thinking this is a bit like life and day to day living. We come into this world with only the essentials. Life, love and freedom, but during our time here, we gather all kinds of stuff. The older we get, the more we gather, but the truth is, at best we leave this life the way we came in, with no worldly goods. As a person of faith, the end of the journey is not one to be feared. We don’t have to pack for it, but we do get to take love right into the courts of heaven, and the freedom granted us in Jesus to walk those celestial streets. So, the message is clear. Don’t go through life thinking that the material things in life are important when your chariot is about to leave for Glory. In the meantime, be glad for the life, love and freedom!
Days like this come infrequently in Texas. It’s not just cold, with a gentle snowfall, but freezing ice covering everything. Tree branches bent to the ground under the weight, streets treacherous underfoot, and mobile phone and power towers that collapse under the sheer pressure of ice. As if that isn’t enough, houses are without power for many hours and horror of all horrors, the internet connections are overloaded as all those occasional users want to find out what is going on.
For those who have power, and therefore heat, ‘homes’ can appear from mere ‘houses’ where children stay in their jammies, food is a constant snack through the day, and fun is made from hand crafts and board games. Mums, usually governed by housework routines, join in the hilarity forgetting their chores, and Dads who didn’t make it to work, are having a great day with family, just kicking back and enjoying the homemade ‘cabin fever’.
Life will get back to some kind of normality in a day or so. Children will get back to school, mums to their usual routines, and dads to work. The board games will be back in their boxes, and meals will return to the non snack healthy and nutritious variety. Some would look back and see this as a wasted day, but what price can you put on family time, even if it is unhealthy, and not nutritious? How can you not benefit from the memories you make with the kids during times wrapped up, drinking cocoa, playing silly games around the Christmas tree, while carols are playing in the background?
There is plenty of time to do ‘routine’, so take these happy days gladly. In a few years time, these will be the little things that make big and happy memories. Guaranteed.
Hello my name is David and I have a problem, which I confess in front of my peers and betters. I am a blogaholic and liable to say things that offend. Obviously Abraham Lincoln was wrong when he said that we “can never please all of the people all of the time”. See, there I go again because even that great man recognised that you can’t please everybody, so why should I? Well that’s why I am in this therapy help group for hopeless cases.
How did I get here? Well, I will get to my feet, kick back my chair, step into the circle, and tell you my story. I have this sense of standing up for the underdog. I know it is wrong, and I am trying to correct myself and get into line with the majority who think it is best to ‘go with the flow’ and accept what is given as right and proper, but I still get spasms of sympathy for those who have no voice of their own, or worse still, whose voice has been diminished by political correctness.
Then there’s my dual personality. There are things I wouldn’t dare say about injustice in a real face to face conversation, but put me in front of a keyboard, linked to the blogosphere, and I will say things that are bugging me about society’s ills as I see them. I am working on this personality flaw too, and soon I hope to join the majority of silent people who don’t ever express their opinion, just in case it is seen as wrong in some over-sensitive hearts.
But my biggie, is opening my mouth and speaking or blogging without due care and attention. If I was a driver, I would be up before the judge, and thrown in with all those other criminal offenders who deserve to be there. So I throw myself on the collective mercy and wisdom of the group. You, society in general, can help me by letting me learn to be quiet about expressing my feelings for the underdog, the injustices of society, and my inability to keep everybody happy. Then I can pretend everything in the world is rosy. I am sorry this group was not available to Abraham Lincoln, because he would have benefitted greatly from your group therapy help. It is too late for Abe, but maybe there is hope for me after all.
Sometimes something old hits you again, but with more force, as if to impress within you ever deeper than before, of its truth and significance. The month of December, as it leads up to Christmas, is full of reminders of gifts and giving, but what do you think are some of the most important Blessings we can enjoy, not only in December but year after year?
These three ‘F’s go together in my mind, and they are linked unlike any others which might run round my brain at any given time. Sometimes I need a reminder of their importance amidst the hustle and bustle of December when we get busy, and can temporarily leave some other good thoughts behind. I am blessed among many to have such a good trust and Faith in God, my Family, Friends in general, and a ‘Friend of Friends’, all of whom make me feel loved, needed and special.
This is a simple thought, and I know I am not alone in having these three ‘F’s in my life, but I am thankful for them not only in December, but always. They say all good things come to an end, but that is only partly true. As I come to the end of another great holiday in Texas, I can’t believe how fast the time has gone, but I feel thankful that I can travel to be with them. On top of that are my old and new friends at Arlington First Nazarene, where worship is felt and the Word is preached with power. Everyone has played a part in making my stay memorable. But the cement that binds us all together is the common Faith in the saving grace of God. In the words of the Bill Gaither song: “I’m so glad I’m a part of the Family of God”.