The ultimate gift

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 Wednesday night 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’s 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, wrapped in swaddling clothes,lying in a manger

‘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?



Neither merry nor bright

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, 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.

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 )

‘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 believe 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)



Promises in the storm

The Met. Office have issued an Amber weather warning for tomorrow. Hurricane Ophelia will hit Ireland as a post-tropical cyclone with hurricane-force winds. It’s the farthest East in the Atlantic a hurricane has ever travelled & the worst storm in Ireland for 60 yrs!

We’ve witnessed the destruction brought by Hurricane Harvey in Texas & devastation on the Caribbean islands brought by Hurricane Irma.

Yet today, the air is warm & the sea is still- the calm before the storm.

This summer, Caris & I watched Life of Pi. Torrential rain & colossal waves sank the ship Pi was on board.

The Gospels describe storms on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus’ reaction to the storm was different on each occasion. While His disciples were afraid, He was in control.
On one occasion He was asleep in the boat while the storm raged (Mark 4:35-41) When His terrified disciples woke Him, He commanded the furious squall to still (And it did)

During another storm, He walked on the water to join His frightened disciples. (John 6:19) Then commanded the wind & waves to cease (And they did!)

Another time He walked on water, He invited Peter to join Him on the waves (Matt 14:25)

In life, dark clouds can cloud over our sunshine. Storms can rise up unexpectedly & suddenly on still waters & halcyon days.Storms can invade our peace.

I’m reading a book just now called ‘The Hardest Peace‘ written by Kara Tippetts. It’s about how she found God’s peace in ‘life’s hard’ For Kara, the storm was advanced breast cancer. For each of us, the storms we face will be different. Different yet difficult.

And at different times God will work in different ways.

As someone wise once noted, at times God in His sovereign power will calm the storm. At other times God in His wisdom calms His child.

Even ‘when we can’t trace His hand, we can trust His heart’

He is with us in the storm. Even when we don’t feel like He’s there, He is closer than we think!

We can trust our Father God:
‘He who forms the mountains, who creates the wind, and who reveals his thoughts to mankind, who turns dawn to darkness, and treads on the heights of the earth— the LORD God Almighty is his name.’
(Amos 4:13 NIV)

When we are tossed in the middle of a storm & when we can’t grasp what going on, we can hold onto His promises:

*’Don’t fret or worry.Instead of worrying, pray.
Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns.
Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down.
It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.’
(Philippians 4:6-7 MSG)

*’And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.’
(Philippians 4:19 NIV)

*’You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the LORD himself, is the Rock eternal.’
(Isaiah 26:3-4 NIV)

*Jesus said “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
(John 14:27 NIV)

What promises can you cling onto today?

Listen to:
Praise you in the storm– Casting Crowns
Trust in You– Laura Daigle

Ruth x