13th Sunday - 3rd Sunday in Advent




There is a message, a simple message, And it's a message for us all; There is a Saviour, and what a Saviour! There is a Saviour for us all.


Let's look at Jesus, for he's the Saviour, And he will answer when we call; Let's look at Jesus, for he's the Saviour, Yes, he's the Saviour for us all.


If you want pardon, then ask for pardon, And God's own pardon shall be yours; For those who seek him are sure to find him, And none who seek him Christ ignores.


Though you have failed him, and how you've failed him! Though you have failed him, God loves you; The proof is Jesus, so look at Jesus, And learn from Jesus God loves you.

John Gowans


On October 18th our granddaughter, Kara, gave birth to Arthur, a baby brother for 3-year-old sister, Autumn. Fortunately we were able to visit him briefly before the present lockdown began. Arthur is beautiful, but you would expect me to say that wouldn’t you?!

As I gently cradled him in my arms, I discovered again just how light new-born babies are. Those who have had the pleasure of holding babies will remember the experience.


Think of the beauty of holding a new-born baby and read again these familiar words of Scripture….


So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

(Luke 2 vv 4 – 7)


Isn’t this amazing? The most incredible event to happen in the history of the world, if not the entire universe, and it’s told in such plain and simple language. Our God is born into the world that he created and Luke describes it in some 92 words. Wow!


The message of Advent and Christmas is that “God is with us”.


It’s a very ‘simple’ but deeply profound message. The impact of it on us individually and on the whole world is staggering. God is with us. God born to be one with us. How easy is that to take in?


The Message paraphrase expresses John 1 verse 14 like this :

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.

Our God has been born as a helpless, light-weight baby, cradling in his mother’s arms and, in the words of Scripture, he has ‘moved into the neighbourhood.’


This is the beautiful and deep message of this glorious season.


One Solitary Life (Attributed to James Allen Francis.)


He was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant. He grew up in another village, where he worked in a carpenter shop until he was 30. Then, for three years, he was an itinerant preacher.

He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family or owned a home. He didn't go to college. He never lived in a big city. He never travelled 200 miles from the place where he was born. He did none of the things that usually accompany greatness. He had no credentials but himself. He was only 33 when the tide of public opinion turned against him. His friends ran away. One of them denied him. He was turned over to his enemies and went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed to a cross between two thieves. While he was dying, his executioners gambled for his garments, the only property he had on earth. When he was dead, he was laid in a borrowed grave, through the pity of a friend. Twenty centuries have come and gone, and today he is the central figure of the human race. I am well within the mark when I say that all the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the parliaments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned--put together--have not affected the life of man on this earth as much as that one, solitary life.


The classical composer Vivaldi wrote a piece of music which includes the Gloria. It is an uncomplicated prayer, the words of which are :


Glory to God in the highest

And peace to men of good will.

We praise you,

We bless you,

We adore you,

We glorify you.


We give you thanks

For your great glory.


Lord God, heavenly King

Almighty God and Father.


Lord Jesus Christ, only Son,


Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father, Who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.


Who takes away the sins of the world, hear our prayer.


Who sits at the right hand of the Father, have mercy on us.


For you alone are holy, You alone are the Lord, You alone are the most high, Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit, to the glory of God the Father,

Amen.


Titus 3 vv 4 – 8 remind us of this simple but profound truth : “But when the kindness and love of God our Saviour appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Saviour, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.”


During his earthly ministry the Lord Jesus Christ clearly explained to the people that God loved them and called them to a life of dedication. His message couldn’t be easier to understand :


As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. (Matthew 9 verse 9).”


Down the centuries people have made this straight-forward call more complicated by adding man-made rules about how we worship, what religious language we should use, what church life should look like and narrow denominational rules.

The Rev Frederick Faber tried to express something of this in his hymn :


There’s a wideness in God’s mercy Like the wideness of the sea; There’s a kindness in his justice Which is more than liberty. There is welcome for the sinner, And more graces for the good; There is mercy with the Saviour; There is healing in his blood.

But we make his love too narrow By false limits of our own; And we lose the tender shepherd In the judge upon the throne.


May God help us to be deeply grateful to Jesus for coming into our world as a helpless babe, and giving a call to all humanity to follow him in joy and simplicity.

OUR AWE-INSPIRING GOD (by Commissioner Harry Read)


Our human language reaches out to God

And seeks his awesome mystery to define,

But God is bigger than Earth’s measuring rod:

Our metric marks are human, not divine.


If light-years cannot measure outer space

What hopes have we to gauge infinity?

If time belongs but to the human race

How can we quantify eternity?


Our Jesus himself used mainly abstract words

Like Spirit, glory, heaven, grace and light;

Those open concepts logic never girds

But they are real enough to faith’s clear sight.


Our language gropes for truth and fails to find

A human standard for God’s heart and mind.


[This poem appears in Commissioner Read’s book Language of the Soul page 39. At the end of the poem the Commissioner adds the comment : “Just thanking God because of his desire to be known and loved by us.”]


Simply following Jesus presents a deep challenge ~ to love like him. To love God and to love each other is a powerful challenge, but God pours his Holy Spirit into our hearts and lives to give us the strength to do just that. A profound and beautiful challenge. Commissioner Phil Needham says this: “Loving with boundary-breaking breadth makes us look surprisingly and dangerously like a disciple of Jesus!”

Following Rabbi Jesus page 101


O God:

Enlarge my heart

that it may be big enough to receive the greatness of your love.

Stretch my heart

that it may take into it all those who with me around the world

believe in Jesus Christ

Stretch it

that it may take into it all those who do not know him,

but who are my responsibility because I know him.

And stretch it

that it may take in all those who are not lovely in my eyes,

and whose hands I do not want to touch;

through Jesus Christ, my Saviour, Amen.

{written by an African Christian}

The Rev Edmund Sears wrote this carol in 1849, during a time of personal melancholy, and with news of revolution in Europe and the USA war with Mexico fresh in his mind. The Rev Sears portrayed the world as dark, full of ‘sin and strife’, and not hearing the Christian message. A friend of the author commented that this song is remarkable for its focus not in Bethlehem, but in his own time and on the contemporary issue of war and peace.


There was once a poor peasant family, so poor that one day they found themselves with literally nothing left to eat for supper. So the wife sent the man out to fish, telling him that unless he caught something they would go hungry that night. The man fished and fished, and at last got a bite. It was a whopper, and after a hard struggle he eventually managed to land it. He was about to bring down his club when, to his astonishment, the fish spoke. “Don’t kill me!” it said. “If you throw me back I’ll grant you three wishes – whatever you ask.” Well the man thought this sounded marvellous, so he tossed the fish back in the water and rushed home to tell his wife.


“Where’s the supper then”? she shouted as she saw him running up empty-handed. “You lazy, good-for-nothing, didn’t you catch anything?” So her husband explained how he’d caught a talking fish, and thrown it back because it had told him it would grant him three wishes. “What a lot of nonsense!” his wife exclaimed. “You’re making it up because you couldn’t catch anything.” “I’m not!” he answered. “Here, I’ll prove it! I wish – I wish we had supper on the table” And at once – hey presto! – a meal appeared on their table.


“You stupid man!” cried his wife. “We’ve only got three wishes and you’ve wasted the first one already! Why, you could have asked for anything, a new home or whatever we liked!”

“Right then,” said her husband, and before she could stop him he went on, “I wish we had a new home.” And again, in an instant the house was transformed.


“You stupid, stupid man!” the wife shouted again. “Don’t say anything else! We could do much better than this house. I wish we had a palace fit for a king, no wait, for God himself to live in!”

And at once they found themselves standing in a dark, dirty, pokey little stable with a manger on the wall and straw on the floor.



Thank you for reading

Written by Paul M

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