From the Album 'These Christmas Lights' by Matt Redman.
Please note: the next blog post will be in January.
Despite the romantic films & compelling adverts, Christmas is not a harmonious time for many families.
Jesus came to bring peace to the earth: firstly, peace with God which leads to inner peace (see last post), then peace in relationships.
If we are filled with the peace of God, we have something to release into our environment. We have a choice of whether to allow disharmony around us to shape our reactions, or whether to be climate-changers who release what we carry into our situation.
Young’s literal translation of Matthew 16:19 reads:
I will give to thee the keys of the reign of the heavens,
and whatever you may bind upon the earth shall be having been bound in the heavens,
and whatever you may loose upon the earth shall be having been loosed in the heavens.
In other words, as children of God we have been commissioned to bring heaven to earth. And whatever has already been bound or loosed in heaven, we have the responsibility to bind or loose on earth.
On the cross Jesus won the victory over every malevolent force, and every division or separation between people, in order that they may become communities where the God of peace can make His home [Ephesians 2].
We have authority as the Lord’s representatives in our families, to bind the forces of contention & strife, stress and friction, & then to release His peace, in all its Christmas glory, over our households.
Take time to be quiet before the Lord and ask Him to fill you again with His peace. Then bind & loose according to the need in your family.
The Greek word for peace, ‘eirene’, and its Hebrew counterpart, ‘shalom’ occur in every book of the bible bar one. Together they provide an answer to just about every type of unrest in the modern world:
The core message of Christmas is not romantic or sentimental, it’s the powerful message of peace:
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace (eirene), good will toward men.
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 Counsellor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (shalom).
Whatever your circumstances it’s got you covered. Jesus came so we could have peace with God, peace within, & peace with others. And this gift of peace isn’t a commodity, or a sensation, it’s a person. Jesus is peace personified, and wants to flood our lives with Himself.
To receive this peace we first must be reconciled to God. To be in right relationship with Him is to fulfil our purpose & design.
You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.
[Augustine of Hippo 397 AD]
Jesus came to restore us to right relationship with God, and deal with the issues which prevent us living with internal peace.
You can find out how to find peace with God, and with yourself, in the Foundations Section of the website
Give yourself the best Christmas present ever: take the steps outlined in the linked pages & receive the gift of peace with God, and peace within.
My eyes swelled yesterday. For no apparent reason, & nothing serious, just enough blurry vision to abort the planned shopping trip.
Stuff happens. Unexpected crises, one-off irritations, or as in this case, the latest in a series of curved balls, throw us off track. I didn’t respond gracefully at first – the checklist dominated, & stress threatened.
Choosing an alternative activity, I began to type our Christmas letters (in large font). As I related the many blessings of the year, I began to see once again how very much we are loved.
Many years ago, on a Christian leadership course, a teacher spoke about the building blocks for faith being, in this order: God is, God is good, God is good to me personally, God is good to me personally all the time.
Simple. But we spend a lifetime discovering & rediscovering this amazing truth. God is good. And because He is good, we can say with Paul…
…we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him,
who have been called according to His purpose.
All things. Not just the blessings. Blurry eyes, missing parcels, mechanical break-down, family sickness, internet failure – whatever - all things work for our good.
I do not believe that God sends these difficulties – they are the consequence of living in a fallen world. But I do believe that He has promised to take these things, often purposed by the Evil One for our destruction, and turn them around for our ultimate good.
Walking in rest is a choice: the choice to be thankful for our many blessings, the choice to believe that God is good, & that He is working even in my present circumstances for my good.
Jen & Brian Johnson, Bethel Church
Listen to the track, then start to speak out your thanks – for the blessings and the issues in your life, because God is good!
There are many biblical references to the power of our words, for example:
The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life
The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.
In the Old Testament we read that the priests who carried the ark (signifying the presence – see last post) were given the specific responsibility of blessing the people:
This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them:
"The LORD bless you and keep you;
the LORD make His face shine on you and be gracious to you;
the LORD turn His face toward you and give you peace."
So they will put My Name on the Israelites, and I will bless them."
How about releasing the Lord’s goodness & favour over the gathering at the school nativity, the Christmas market or the office party? How about using every frustration and irritation in the next two weeks as an opportunity to bless?
BLESSING THROUGH MATERIAL THINGS
As well as our speech, blessing can also be transmitted through things. If something is a blessing, it is an instrument through which His favour flows.
For example, the wine taken in Communion is called the cup of blessing (1 Corinthians 10:16); thousands were fed by the loaves & fishes blessed by Jesus (Matthew 14:13-21), and Paul’s handkerchiefs were taken to the sick & they were healed (Acts 19:11,12).
Let’s take the stuff of Christmas & speak His blessing over it all, that it might be the means by which His love and favour might flow. Let’s make Christmas cards & Christmas trees, candles & mince-pies be a means of grace to others. Let’s invest faith in the things we do, so we don’t just check them off our lists, but release the kingdom through them.
Choose how to respond to the festival countdown – with stress or blessing.
The Ark of the Covenant was the place where the Presence of God rested. When it was carried by specially appointed priests, at the Lord’s instigation, great victories were won. When at rest, the Ark was laid in the Holy of Holies, where only the High Priest could enter, and that only once a year. The Presence was with Israel, but most of the time hidden from the eyes of ordinary people.
For David it wasn’t enough, he yearned for the Presence, knowing instinctively he was created for intimate relationship. He was a man ahead of his time, a prophet who brought the things of the future into his present. David set up a tabernacle where there was no Holy of Holies, everyone had access to the Ark of the Presence, and the result was a period of unparalleled praise and worship. It was a prophetic demonstration of a time coming when the Presence of God would be accessible to all.
THE MESSAGE OF CHRISTMAS
The circumstances of Jesus’ birth cry out to us that God comes to the ordinary in order to restore His original purpose. It’s not the tale of man’s efforts to claw his way up to an inaccessible God, but rather the desire of Almighty God to come and manifest His presence & glory in the commonplace.
Christmas is His fulfilment of the promise of old:
"My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest."
The message of Christmas is the key to rest.
Let’s make sure we don’t get so busy, we miss the whole point!
Take time today to be still, & ask Jesus whose name is Emmanuel, to meet you where you are.
All around us are urgent voices requiring we get with the programme: buy those presents & get them wrapped……What can I get Aunt Sally? Stock up for the seasonal feast …. I mustn’t forget the stuffing this year. Diary in school plays & carol services, Christmas fairs and office parties…..when can I fit in a visit to Uncle Jim? Decorate the house in the latest style…. like the one in the picture, I hope……. and so the list goes on.
Then there’s the media onslaught: 101 ways to have a perfect Christmas. And those media-driven images of perfection are beguiling: happy families feasting & playing games next to a roaring fire. Beautifully dressed rooms, creating a magical environment where anything can happen. Sentimental films evoking joy-filled lives..... Inspirational or aspirational, the effect is overwhelming.
TIME TO TAKE A REALITY CHECK
To avoid joining the stress-filled masses, it's good to take time to take stock of our expectations, & take steps to modify them:
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him,
who have been called according to his purpose.
Take time today to review your expectations, & take steps to manage them.
Then enjoy the season!
Bread for the Journey Blog
BREAD FOR THE JOURNEY
Reflections to help combat stress, and provide support for the journey into rest and inner peace.
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