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Posts Tagged ‘angels’

I wonder if any of you tend to feel a little low at this time of year, despite all those lovely Christmas celebrations and gatherings with family and friends. This is something I have often experienced, especially if my year has been particularly busy or particularly draining in some way.

I remember how my special ‘soul friend’ Joy used to encourage me at such times to listen to my body and take note of what it was telling me. Perhaps I needed physical rest. Perhaps mental relaxation. Perhaps a lifting of emotional burdens—those I carried for others as well as my own. Perhaps I needed spiritual refreshment. Or perhaps it was all of the above. Some of us keep going, don’t we, always tackling that next job or seeing things we feel we should do? No wonder we can end up a little exhausted and spent as our year draws to a close.

So, each year around this time, I try to step back a little and view my year past from a distance, so to speak. Yes, there were those many things I could have done better. And yes, there were those opportunities I did not fully grasp or take up at all, for some reason. Yet there were also those times when I did listen and do what I sensed God was calling me to do. There were those many rewarding moments when I spoke somewhere and sensed God used me in the process, when I completed writing or editing a manuscript after much effort, when I wrote blogs that touched others, when I was able to bless others by serving them in some way. What a relief, however, to know God longs to reach out to me with forgiveness and compassion, despite those apparent failures of mine, and also delights to celebrate and rejoice with me in my successes and achievements!

Whatever has happened this past year then, I can be at peace. And I can stay in that place of peace too as I step into whatever God has for me in the new year. After all, God’s heart in sending Jesus Christ to us was indeed to give us deep peace, not only in our lives here and now but also concerning the life to come. In Zechariah’s song in Luke 1:76-79, we see that John the Baptist’s role was to prepare the way for Jesus through calling the people to repent and receive God’s mercy—that mercy that would culminate in sending Jesus, the ‘rising sun’ to us from heaven:

 … to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.”

Then there are also the angels’ wonderful words of declaration to the shepherds, speaking out hope and peace for us all:

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.” Luke 2:14

As we contemplate the year that has passed then, may we each sense God’s favour and peace deep in our hearts. And in the new year to come, may our feet easily find that path of peace God has for each one of us to take.

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This past week, we celebrated another birthday in our family—our second oldest granddaughter Olivia turned fifteen. This time around, we decided we would have an afternoon tea together instead of our usual dinner, which Olivia seemed happy about—except for one thing. That would mean she could not have her favourite meal ever that Nanna has always made for her birthday.

‘Um, do you think Mac and Cheese would be okay to have at an afternoon tea?’ she asked her mum when told of our arrangements.

Yep, the humble old Macaroni and Cheese dish I learnt to make in Domestic Science classes way back in the early sixties (!) has always been Olivia’s choice of birthday food. It is nothing special at all. Just macaroni and … um … well … cheese … with a layer of breadcrumbs and some white sauce holding it all together. Comfort food personified—and so cheap too.

So what to do? We could hardly have it for afternoon tea. But then I had an idea. I could make some for her anyway and present it to her as a special gift to take home and eat all by herself to her heart’s delight! It might not be quite the same as when freshly made, but I was sure that would be no problem to Olivia.

As I stood in our kitchen cooking this exotic dish, the memories of learning to make it myself in Brisbane when twelve or thirteen came flooding back—and also memories of our granddaughter’s eyes lighting up whenever she spied it on the dinner table. Simple, heart-warming memories of a simple, humble dish. Each year when I would ask Olivia what she wanted for her birthday dinner, I would roll my eyes at her choice and we would laugh together, but she never wavered.

It’s the simple things that can often mean the most, don’t you think? This past week, I decided to put up our Christmas tree and also set out our little nativity scene. Now our nativity scene is very humble indeed. Some of the figures who should be there are missing altogether, while one wise man has a broken arm. There is even an angel with only one wing! But as I set it out, there was something heart-warming about remembering the simple yet profound truth of Christmas—that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was born into our world as a humble child in humble surroundings to a humble couple. And that humble event has changed everything.

Then one morning this week, I read the following:

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. 2 Corinthians 8:9

It’s that love and grace of the Lord Jesus Christ that makes all the difference, isn’t it? When I come back to this basic truth, all the complexities of the world around me and the things I worry about on a daily basis seem to fade into the background. So this Christmas, may we not get carried away with all the hustle and bustle and commercialism around us. Instead, let’s remember the simple yet profound event at the centre of it all—and be so thankful.

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Jo 17I wonder if you can remember what you were afraid of most as a child. Our little grandson can become quite fearful when a certain character appears in the TV show ‘Peter Rabbit’. Whenever Mr Tod the fox turns up, Zain has been known to run and hide under the table! Now we try to reassure him and remind him how Peter Rabbit always gets away from Mr Tod—and Mr McGregor, for that matter! But Zain still takes some convincing.

I wonder what things make you fearful now you have grown up a little. Perhaps it’s heights or crowds or enclosed spaces or flying. Or perhaps it’s speaking in public, which apparently is the most common phobia adults experience. To be exposed to possible embarrassment, shame and even ridicule is just too much for many people.

My husband, who has been a minister for many years, well remembers the first time he spoke in public in his late teens. It was in the days of open air preaching and, one Sunday evening, he found himself standing on a street corner about to begin. But alas, after a few words, his mind went blank. He stumbled along until, thankfully, someone rescued him. Yet he summoned the courage to try again soon after—and, over the years, he has now given hundreds of sermons and college lectures.

In recent years, I have spoken many times as well, both in local church ministry and then as an author. I love it, but this year, I gave myself a ‘semi-sabbatical’. Then, somewhat to my surprise, when asked to speak again, I found myself feeling a little fearful. Could I still do it? Would God continue to use me in this way? Would what I say be understood and well received?

Then one day, I found myself reading the account of the resurrection in Matthew 28. Here we read that when Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to the tomb where Jesus’ body had been laid, an angel appeared in the midst of a violent earthquake and rolled the stone away. The guards were so freaked out that they ‘became like dead men’ (4). But the angel seems to have ignored them, instead addressing the two women:

Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Matthew 28:6-7

But that is not all. As the women hurried away to tell the disciples, suddenly Jesus met them as well and spoke to them:

Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me. Matthew 28:10

I love how, in the midst of such a cataclysmic event, the first thing both Jesus and the angel did was to reach out and reassure the women, urging them not to be afraid. And surely that is still Jesus’ heart for us today—man, woman or child? Whatever fear battle we are facing in our lives, our powerful and loving Lord is right there with us, urging us to trust him and not be afraid. And I’m so glad of that.

The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me? Hebrews 13:6

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