Everyday epiphanies

Today is the twelfth day of Christmas- ‘The Rules’ state that the Christmas tree must be down & away by today! Ours is still standing as I write. It always feels like a pleasure to decorate the house for Christmas, & such a chore to pack it all away again.

Today, is also known as Epiphany- when we celebrate the coming of the Wise Men to visit Jesus (Many very patient children across the globe don’t get their Christmas gifts until today!)

Epiphany also means a moment of sudden understanding or revelation-an intuitive grasp of reality through something simple,yet striking.

Many of our days consist of ordinary things- school runs, homeworks, dirty laundry, hoovering up Christmas’ aftermath, taking rubbish to the dump.

Christmas is a celebration of Jesus, God the Son, stepping down from heaven into our ordinariness. If, in our ordinary day-to day life, our hearts are grateful for God, & and all He has done, then our days will be punctuated by extraordinary God-moments, ‘everyday epiphanies

‘Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world’
(Sarah Ban Breathnach)

In these ordinary moments we can communicate with God & listen for His gentle whispers:
‘Earth’s crammed with heaven, and every common bush afire with God; but only he who sees, takes off his shoes. The rest sit round it & pluck blackberries’
(Elizabeth Barrett Browning)

God’s fingerprints are all around us, if we open the eyes of our hearts & really see. Some evenings the brushstrokes of our Creator are visible across the sky at sunset – displayed in orange brilliance. As the sun sinks in the West, the moon glows in the navy sky & stars appear one by one.

The night sky is as beautiful tonight as it was over two thousand years ago when those astronomers gazed at a new star. Those Magi followed the star to the One who scattered stars into space, yet became an ‘ordinary’ baby that we might have the sure hope of eternal life in His extraordinary heaven.

‘Led by the light of faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.’
(Cappeau)

Tonight, God doesn’t want wise men & women to follow the stars. Rather, He wants us to shine like stars in the universe (Phil 2:15)

To shine for Him.

To twinkle just where we are.

So that others might see the Light of the world in us & grasp His reality in their ordinary daily lives.

(Though our lives can never be truly ‘ordinary’ again, once we have been touched by the Star-Scatterer’s nail-scarred hands)

‘As with gladness, men of old
Did the guiding star behold
As with joy they hailed its light
Leading onward, beaming bright
So, most glorious Lord, may we
Evermore be led to Thee.
(William Dix 1867)

‘Look for Christ & you will find Him & with Him everything else’
(CS Lewis)

Blessings,

Ruth x

Tis the season…our souls {should} feel their worth

My favourite Christmas carol used to be ‘In the bleak mid winter’ Now it’s ‘O Holy night’ (& apparently it’s the most popular favourite carol in the UK)

It seems a shame that carols are confined to December.It’s a pity to pack them away with the decorations till next year, since there’s such deep truth contained in them:
‘O Holy Night
The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Saviour’s birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.’
(Cappeau)

I’ve sang this carol many times, but I’ve never really noticed this line before:
‘Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.’

The soul felt its worth.

Our soul is our spiritual, immortal essence, our God-made core, sealed with His image.

God formed us:
‘The Lord looks down from heaven and sees the whole human race. From his throne he observes all who live on the earth. He made their hearts, so he understands everything they do.’
(Psalms 33:13-15 NLT)

God placed eternity within us:
‘Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.’
(Ecclesiastes 3:11 NLT)

At exactly the right moment, during that Holy Night,
‘when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.’
(Galatians 4:4-5 ESV)

The Christmas story is part of God’s Grand Plan, conceived in eternity past- to redeem our souls.

What is your soul worth? What lengths & depths did your Creator God go to reach you?

Our Eternal God Almighty became a helpless baby.

He left the dazzling glory of heaven to be born into squalor.

He stepped out of the realms of eternity to enter the confines of time.

He lived & bled & died…. for our souls.

As Max Lucado wrote, ‘God did something extraordinary. Stepping from the throne, he removed his robe of light & clothed himself in skin’

That same Yahweh God ‘the Creator of the heavens, who stretches them out, who spreads out the earth with all that springs from it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it’ (Isaiah 42:5) entered our world as one of us.

The baby in the manger is God the Son:
‘He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.’
(Hebrews 1:3 ESV)

‘He came to us that we might come to Him’ wrote Deitrich Bonhoeffer

This is the good news proclaimed by angels that will cause great joy for all people (Luke2)

‘For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.’
(Luke 19:10 ESV)

‘For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.’
(John 3:17 NIV)

‘For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?’
(Matthew 16:26 ESV)

‘How shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?’
(Hebrews 2:3 ESV)

Billy Graham writes about our soul’s worth in ‘The Value of your Soul

He also wrote:
‘God does not change-
And neither does His love.
He loved you before you were born..
He loves you now…
And He will love you forever’

Can you feel your worth?

Can you sense this great hope?

Will you respond in worship?

‘A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn

Fall on your knees
O hear the angels’ voices
O night divine
O night when Christ was born
(Cappeau)

Blessings,

Ruthx

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Behold!

‘Let the wonder never cease’

Behold: gaze on a remarkable thing

Wonder:a feeling of amazement & admiration, surprising curiosity

‘For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor,
Mighty God,
Everlasting Father,
Prince of Peace.’
(Isaiah 9:6 NIV)

‘His name is God With Us and we believe He is.’
(Emily P Freeman)

‘The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.
We have seen his glory,
the glory of the one and only Son,
who came from the Father,
full of grace and truth.’
(John 1:14 NIV)

‘He was created of a mother whom he created.
He was carried by hands that he formed.
He cried in the manger in wordless infancy,
he the Word,
without whom all human eloquence is mute.’
(Augustine)

‘God is in the manger’
(Bonhoeffer)

‘In our world too, a stable once had something inside it that was bigger than our whole world.
(CS Lewis -Chronicles of Narnia)

‘He is before all things,
and in him all things hold together.’
(Colossians 1:17 NIV)

‘But the baby in her womb
He was the maker of the moon
He was the Author of the faith
That could make the mountains move’
(Andrew Peterson)

‘As he sleeps upon the hay he holds the moon and stars in place
Though born an infant, he remains the sovereign God of endless days’
(Bob Kauflin)

‘Mary did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary did you know that your baby boy would one day rule the nations?
Did you know that your baby boy is heaven’s perfect lamb?
That sleeping child you’re holding is the great I am’
(Buddy Greene / Mark Lowry)

‘Mild he lays his glory by,
Born that man no more may die:
Born to raise the son of earth,
Born to give them second birth.
Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the new-born King”
(Mendelssohn )

‘The Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons of God.’
(C.S.Lewis-Mere Christianity)

‘Surely this is our God;
we trusted in him, and he saved us.
This is the Lord, we trusted in him;
let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.’
(Isaiah 25:9 NIV)

‘Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!’
(2 Corinthians 9:15 NIV)

Come,let us adore Him!

Blessings,

Ruth x

Neither Merry nor Bright

Tis the season…that God is close to the broken hearted

For the myriad of hurting hearts this Christmas.

The Christmas lights were turned off in St George’s Square Glasgow on 24th December 2014 as a mark of respect to those who tragically lost their lives there when a lorry careered into a crowd.

Christmas lights have went out in homes, hearts & lives across the globe- extinguished by loss, grief, terrorism, cancer,sickness & suicide.

Anguish has been painfully, indelibly etched on the broadsheet & tabloid pages carrying news from Yemen to Myanmar & everywhere in between & beyond.

This month I’ve sat across a desk from too many people for whom Christmas is not the most wonderful time of year but rather the most difficult, dreaded time of the year.

I’ve stared into eyes brimming with tears for as long as I could bear –
Hearing the deafening silence that trails behind grief.
Sensing the ongoing heartbreak & unimaginable loss.
Feeling the palpable pain of an aching void left behind.

I’ve been reminded of the words from Les Miserables:
‘There’s a grief that can’t be spoken.
There’s a pain goes on and on.
Empty chairs at empty tables
Now my friends are dead and gone.’

For many this Christmas there are empty chairs & places in their homes and hearts.

For them, Christmas accentuates winter of the heart & soul.

Like in Narnia – it seems that it’s always winter & never {truly} Christmas again.

There’s no merry & bright.
No wonderful ,white Christmas.
No magic & sparkle.

Yet, it was into darkness like this- indeed because of darkness like this, that God sent His Son- as Imanuel- God with us.

Jesus, the Word of God, God the Son entered our world as a baby in the manger.

‘The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.'(John 1:14 NIV)

Or as Eugene Petersen paraphrased this verse:
‘The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.’ (John 1:14 MSG)

I also love the deep truth of this paraphrase:
‘He pitched His tent in the darkness of our valley’
(Geoff Thomas)

God came down to be where we are.

Bringing:
Love to the unloveliness of this fallen planet
Hope in hopelessness
Everlasting light in deep darkness
Comfort to those who mourn
Healing to broken hearts & lives
Freedom to captives bound in sin.

‘Christmas means Jesus came down & got involved in suffering. He hears your cries’
(Tim Keller )

‘The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.’
‭‭(Psalm‬ ‭34:18‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

‘When Love came down to earth
And made His home with men,
The hopeless found a hope,
The sinner found a friend.
Not to the powerful
But to the poor He came,
And humble, hungry hearts
Were satisfied again.

What joy, what peace has come to us!
What hope, what help, what love!’
(Stuart Townend)

When you strip away the trimmings & decorations, Santa & the reindeers, the indulgence of over eating & over spending…

When you listen for the still small voice of God…

When you follow the shepherds & the wise men to the stable …

There you’ll find the heart beat of Christmas- Jesus, God the Son- the reason for the season.

At Christmastime, you may find Jesus rejoicing with those who rejoice – at family gatherings & social events.

But I think you’ll be more likely to find Him mourning with those who mourn, drawing alongside the marginalised, the broken & the needy.

During His time on earth, he was familiar with sorrow. He knew the reality of grief & loss. The shortest verse in the Bible simply states,
‘Jesus wept'(John 11:35)

‘Yes he walked my road, and He felt my pain,
Joys and sorrows that I know so well;’
(From the squalor of a borrowed stable-Stuart Townend)

He knows us. He loves us, & He cares deeply about us. The One who scattered the stars at creation’s dawn is also a Collector of tears:
‘You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.’
(Psalms 56:8 NLT)

Even through tears, at this time,at the heart of Christmas you’ll find Jesus. In Jesus you’ll find the hope & comfort you desperately need.

He says ‘Come to Me’

This Christmas, Jesus is not lying in a Christmas card stable. He is not sitting at a Pinterest perfect Christmas dinner oblivious to your need. Rather, He’s reaching down & reaching out – to your hurting heart.

He’s waiting for you – to come to Him.

Jesus said,“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”(Matthew 11:28 NIV)

He’s asking, “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28-30 MSG)

‘While God may not deliver us from pain & suffering, He’ll walk with us through it’ (Tullian Tchvijan- It is finished)

God is with us:

In our pain
In our grief
In our sorrows
In our darkness
In our trials
In our triumphs
In our daily lives

When the lights are switched off at Christmas, only Jesus can colour to our hearts & lives-for He is the great light of the world

‘The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. ‘(Isaiah 9:2 NIV)

Blessings,

Ruthx

Tis the season…to give {& receive} gifts

Tis the season…to shop till you drop,grab a coffee to go, then shop some more!

Of course we started exchanging presents as a reminder of the gifts of gold,frankincense & myrrh presented to Jesus. But at times we go Totally Over The Top. I mean,what do we give our nearest & dearest who have everything they want-& more?

I walked under the canopy of lights in Victoria Square on then through the Christmas market to get inspiration. St George’s market was shut but a red sparkly bow adorned the entrance- making the whole building look like a present.

There are daily emails bombarding my inbox with all sorts of gift ideas- including Boots star buys that I’m tempted to buy for myself!

While we endeavour to give great gifts, God is the ultimate Gift-Giver:
‘Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.’
(James 1:17 NIV)

‘God’s gifts put men’s best dreams to shame’
(Elizabeth Barrett Browning)

The Greatest Gift came in unexpected wrapping. All the fullness of God- His grace & goodness, majesty & might, bundled in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

The Greatest Gift-
The Hope of the world:
Planned by God,
Foretold by prophets.
Sent by Love,
Under a starlit sky,
Surrounded by angel song,
Wrapped in grace from above.

‘Once in our world, a Stable had something in it that was bigger than our whole world.’
(C.S. Lewis)

As we grow older our Christmas wish list gets shorter & we find that the things we want aren’t things. Sometimes the best gift we can give to others is our time.

Someone once wrote that love can be spelt T-I-M-E. Jesus loved us so much that He gave up eternity to spend time on earth.

‘For God so loved the world that He gave His One & Only Son’
(John 3:16)

‘Thou who wast rich beyond all splendour,
All for love’s sake becamest poor;
Thrones for a manger didst surrender,
Sapphire-paved courts for stable floor.
Thou who wast rich beyond all splendour,
All for love’s sake becamest poor.’
(Frank Houghton)

He came to earth & became flesh, so that we can be adopted into the family of God through faith. The Gift of God means that we can become children of God.

‘The Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons of God.’
(C.S.Lewis-Mere Christianity)

‘Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God’
(John 1:12 NIV)

‘See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.’
(1 John 3:1 NIV)

God’s gift is a long lasting, never-ending present-eternal life.

‘For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.’
(Romans 6:23 NIV)

God’s gifts can be found in unexpected places in our lives-in the dark, difficult days:
‘God said “I will give you hidden treasures, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who summons you by name.
I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the Lord, do all these things.”
(Isaiah 45:3, 7 NIV)

Going forward through the darkness into the light, His Presence is the greatest present.

Christmas is:
when God reached down,
when God became one of us,
with us in this journey of life.

Isaiah foretold this crucial aspect of the incarnation:
‘All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’)
(Isaiah 7:14 NLT)

‘His name is God With Us and we believe He is.’
(Emily P Freeman)

‘Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!’
(2 Corinthians 9:15 NIV)

This Christmastime, if you haven’t already done so, will you accept this ultimate gift from God – the Gift of Himself, for now & forever?

Blessings,

Ruthx

Shine!

On these short days before Christmas,the early darkness accentuates the light:

*Twinkling Starlight
*Mellow Moonlight
*Flickering Candlelight
*Sparkling Christmas lights
*Shining Car lights
*Beaming Torch light
*Glowing Firelight

Light also beams through the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. Light dispelling darkness is a bright theme shining in God’s epic story.

‘In the beginning,at the dawn of time, God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light’ (Genesis 1:3 NIV)

And,at the setting of time, in the eternal city of God,’the city has no need of sun or moon, for the glory of God illuminates the city, and the Lamb is its light. (Revelation 21:23 NLT)

These words are an echo of Isaiah’s prophecy written hundreds of years before:
‘The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory. Your sun will never set again, and your moon will wane no more; the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end. ‘(Isaiah 60:19, 20 NIV)

Life-Giving Loving Light is the essence of our God:
‘You’re a fountain of cascading light, and you open our eyes to light. (Psalm 36:9 MSG)

God’s gifts of grace & blessings on our lives are also portrayed as light:’Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light.’
(James 1:16 MSG)

In between today & 25th Dec we will be reminded by mini wise men in nativity plays that bright starlight led VIPs from the East to the manger- to worship the Jesus, the Light of the world.

Yet, as we step into December our social calendars fill up, & the pace of daily life speeds up to keep up with our schedule, we can fail to appreciate the difference that this Light sent from Heaven has made in our hearts, our home & our world.

Even we who are Christians {followers of the Life-Giving Light} can be tainted by our postmodern world’s mangled view of Christmas. We can fail to grasp the enormity of the truth that this Baby beamed from the translucent Light of Heaven was born to defeat & dispel darkness.

‘The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.'(John 1:5 NLT)

In the opening chapter of Dr Luke’s Gospel, Zechariah burst into song after months of silence. He concluded:
‘Through the heartfelt mercies of our God, God’s Sunrise will break in upon us, Shining on those in the darkness, those sitting in the shadow of death, Then showing us the way, one foot at a time, down the path of peace. (Luke 1:78&79 MSG)

Three decades later, Jesus proclaimed, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12 NIV)

He said, ‘I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in me will no longer remain in the dark.’ (John 12:46 NLT)

If we trust in Jesus, the Ultimate Source of light, we become light-bearers in this dark world for Him:
Jesus said,“Believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light.” (John 12:36 NIV)

‘For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.’ (Ephesians 5:8-11 NIV)

Paul urged Jesus’ followers (like us) to ‘Shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life’ (Philippians 2:15-NIV) & ‘Carry the light-giving message into the universe’
(Phil 2:15-The Message)

Jesus the Light of the world said,“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colours in the world.” (Matthew 5:14 MSG)

For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ. We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.’
(2 Corinthians 4:6, 7 NLT)

If we have trusted Him as the only True Light to shine &redeem the darkness of sin in our lives, then the all powerful Life-Giving, Loving Light of God’s Spirit lives at the core of our messy lives!

We need to shine in the darkness & walk in the light! This means spending ourselves, to illuminate the darkness:
‘If you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.’ (Isaiah 58:10 NIV)

Light gives way to light. It only takes one candle to dispel the deep darkness of a cavern.

‘We are only the lightbulbs, & our job is just to remain screwed in!’ (Desmond Tutu)

‘So, Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you.’
(Isaiah 60:1, 2 NIV)

Blessings,

Ruth x

Tis the season …to make room

December starts with good intentions of organization & calm & cards posted on time. Yet as the month rolls on, it gains momentum like a giant snowball gathering more & more festive events & shopping.

I can identify with Bilbo Baggins who said, “I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.” (J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring)

Someone wise once said ‘Rest before you are tired’ And the Wisest of All created rest in the beginning.

We need to create margin, or white space as we approach this time of the year. Our diaries may be jam-packed already, but:

‘It’s in the white space- the in between moments of stillness- where the joy of Christmas is found’
(Rebecca Cooper)

‘White space is where the magic happens’
(no sidebar)

‘The quieter you become the more you can hear’ (Ram Dass)

In the middle of the mayhem & busyness attributed to Christmas celebrations, the  sound of silence can be deafening. Last month’s minute of silence on Remembrance Day felt much longer than  sixty seconds.

‘There are times when solitude is better than society, and silence is wiser than speech.’
(Charles Spurgeon)

Even in this season,‘We must also identify what gives us life, what recharges us and restores our capacity.’(Alli Worthington -Breaking Busy)

In the quiet, we can connect with God. We can make room to  marvel & wonder at the miracle of Christmas, that God is with us – Imanuel

How can we make room for God this Christmas?

*Read

In December I set aside my usual reading plan & start off each day reading from an Advent book

This year I’m reading The One True Gift by Tim Chester. Last year I read The One True Light by the same author.

The year before I read The Time is Now by Amy Orr-Ewing

*Pray

We can pray for our family,community & our broken world.

I love these little books to help us pray using God’s Words:

5 things to pray-
For those you love
For your church
For your world

*Listen

Listen to Christmas music.  I love traditional carols blended with contemporary worship:

A Christmas Offering-Casting Crowns
Adore– Chris Tomlin
A Hallelujah Christmas – Cloverton
How many kings-Downhere

*Explore

Wrap up warm & escape into the great outdoors to  breathe deeply, clear your mind,  & star gaze.  Creation is the ultimate whitespace- the best way to unplug  from the un-necessary & connect with the One who made it all!

Each day we have choices to make:

‘Each of us is an inn keeper who decides if there is room for Jesus’
(Neal Maxwell)

‘Let every heart prepare Him room’
(Joy to the world)

Blessings,

Ruth x

Love came down

God,
whose very essence is Love,
sent His Love down to our little planet
& wrapped Love in flesh & swaddling clothes.

Love walked earth’s dusty, well-trod paths.
Love grew and gave.
Love brought hope to the hurting,
total healing to the sick,
sunsets and rainbows to the blind,
walking & leaping to the lame.

Love gave, and kept on giving
to a world dying to know true Heaven-sent Love.

When Love’s God-appointed Day arrived,
Love gave Himself for us-
Love nailed to a cross,
yet held there by Love-
that we, the unlovely,
would know that we are
truly,
deeply loved by God.

But,
even brutal crucifixion could not kill Love,
for,
Love rose with the sunrise in the garden,
and returned to heaven in a cloud.

And Love is with us always-
Even to the end of the age.

*************

‘When Love came down to earth
And made His home with men,
The hopeless found a hope,
The sinner found a friend.
Not to the powerful
But to the poor He came,
And humble, hungry heartsWere satisfied again.

What joy, what peace has come to us!
What hope, what help, what love!’

(Stuart Townend)

Love has a name.Jesus
Love has a place.Our hearts
Love has a story
And it’s not finished yet
(Toby Mac)

‘God is love’
(1 John 4:16)

Blessings,

Ruthx

Twixmas

It’s that in between zone- no man’s land sandwiched (with turkey & ham left-overs) between Christmas & New Year. The old year hasn’t quite finished- the new year hasn’t yet begun. It feels like an extended weekend if you are off work- & a little disgruntling & disjointed if you are not!

Already, the arbitrary date in December on which we celebrate the most amazing birthday of all seems distant. Another Christmas Day is blurring into a memory.

Yet, the meaning of Christmas can be an ongoing daily reality:
‘For the grace of God has appeared bringing salvation of all people’
(Titus 2:11)

‘Love, holiness, judgement, affection, righteousness, grace & mercy- they’re all wrapped up in Jesus & we’re now all wrapped up in Him’
(Chris Tiegreen )

‘You are given love, and this love is so extreme , it will take you all eternity to begin to understand it’
(Edward T Welch)

Wow!How can we respond to the greatest Gift of all?

Belfast’s coat of arms has the motto Pro tanto quid retribuamus? which means, ‘What shall we give in return for so much?’

It’s an echo of Psalms 116:12:
‘What can I offer the LORD for all he has done for me?’

There can be no half-hearted response to God’s cornucopian grace:

‘Were the whole realm of nature mine
That were an offering far too small
Love so amazing, so divine
Demands my soul, my life, my all’
(Isaac Watts)

We are truly blessed & should be forever grateful to God -the One who so loved that He gave- sacrificially & eternally.

We should ‘Celebrate everyday the wonder of God sending His Son on a sacrificial mission of redeeming grace’ (Paul Tripp)

The angels played a central role in celebrating redemption’s story as they sang God’s message of grace , hope & goodwill. ‘Gloria in excelsius Deo’the celestial choir proclaimed – declaring the good news of great joy. Their songs filled the starry night with praise & the shepherd’s hearts with hope.

Eventually, the songs of goodwill ended. Silence fell on Bethlehem’s hillside as the shepherds ran to worship the baby, born as king, born to die.

So, what happens next?

‘When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and the princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flocks,

The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among people,
To make music in the heart.’
(Howard Thurman.)

Don’t let the joy of Christmas fade away.Let the Spirit of Christmas linger longer as the work of Christmas begins

‘The Lord has done great things for us& we are filled with joy!’
(Psalm 126:3)

Blessings,

Ruth x

Star-gazing

We live away from city lights & on a clear night stars shine clearly & brightly over our home. The Milky Way twinkles as it stretches across the darkness above our chimney.And during wintry early starts, we have the blessing of stars in the morning too!

Star gazing always makes me think big thoughts about our Great Big God.Tonight, I thought of how the star-scattering, life-giving Creator God came down to earth.

‘Lo,within a manger lies
He who built the starry skies’
(‘See amid the winter snow-Edward Caswall)

He left the glorious untainted splendour of heaven,
to be born as a baby,
to dwell on this earth.

‘God who is the Creator of the Universe, comes to us in smallness, weakness and hiddenness.’ (Henri Nouwen)

He came to be God with us- Imanuel.
A God with feelings and fingerprints.
A God to be where we are.

He was human & divine. ‘He became what he was not, but he ceased not to be what he was’ (JohnOwen)

And our Creator God marked this unique event by placing a new star in the sky as a sign.

‘He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name.’
‭‭(Psalm‬ ‭147:4‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

The Magi in the East saw the star:
‘When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.’
(Matthew‬ ‭2:10‬ ‭KJV‬‬)

Then they saw the baby:
‘On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.’
‭‭(Matthew‬ ‭2:11‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

I sang these words for the first timeon Christmas Eve:

‘Led by the light of faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
O’er the world a star is sweetly gleaming,
Now come the wisemen from out of the Orient land.
The King of kings lay thus lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friend.
He knows our need, our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!’
( O holy night-Cappeau)

Yet, apart from Mary & Joseph, the angels, a few shepherds & stargazers from the East, the rest of the planet Earth was totally unaware of the eternally significant event that unfolded one starry night in Bethlehem.

One Carol says, ‘How silently, how silently, the precious Gift is given’

And even on our {not so} silent nights, we can:
‘Look out past the stars, look to the One who put them there.’
(Keith Green)

As someone said ‘ Why wish upon a star when you can talk to the One who made them!’

Although we haven’t seen Jesus on earth, we can trust & believe:

‘Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory.’ (I Pet 1:8)

Blessings,

Ruth x