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Posts Tagged ‘Christmas carols’

piano-1655558_1920I wonder if you have ever been thanked for something you truly had not even thought twice about—something that perhaps came easily to you or was almost automatic? This happened to me on two occasions recently—and, with each one, it had to do with playing the piano, something I have not done seriously for many years.

The first occurred just before I was due to accompany our Village choir for their Christmas presentation in the nearby nursing home. Before the program started, I decided to play some carols softly, more for my own sake than anything else, to get my fingers working. I did not think many were listening—but I was wrong. Later, as I was about to leave, a lady stopped me.

‘I truly enjoyed your soft playing before the choir came,’ she said with some emotion. ‘It was so beautiful—it made me cry!’

I was quite shocked—but also extremely humbled.  I had not really thought about those residents sitting patiently waiting—I was just running through some simple carols. Yet somehow God used my playing to bless one other person at least.

The second occurred a few days later at a Christmas gathering for our particular area of the Village, when a lady I had only vaguely seen in the distance prior to this approached me.

‘I want to thank you so much for playing those carols in your unit!’ she said. ‘My husband is not well at all and can barely get out of bed. But he wanted me to tell you how much he has enjoyed lying there, listening to you play. So thank you!’

This time, I was very shocked. I am always aware when I play my piano in our lounge area that nearby residents may hear me, but I did not think the sound would reach as far as the unit where this lady and her husband live. Yet in this case, what I thought might annoy someone intensely turned out to bless them deeply instead. Once again, I had underestimated God. Once again, even when I was not trying much at all and not producing any sort of polished performance, God used my playing to bless this sick man.

At first, these events almost made me feel guilty. I should have tried harder. I should have put more thought into my playing. But then I stepped back and decided instead simply to be grateful that something I could do relatively easily could bless others so much. And I remembered too my old music teachers of many years ago who schooled me so well in sight-reading and music theory. As a result of their efforts, I had much less trouble swapping from one key to another for each carol!

It’s kind of like the story of the loaves and fishes, don’t you think? An insignificant offering—yet the end result was something I bet that young boy whose lunch it was could never have envisaged (John 6). So in the new year, let’s continue to offer up and use our God-given gifts, even without thinking too much about them, and watch God do the rest!

Each one should use whatever gift he (or she) has received, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various ways. 1 Peter 4:10

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Jo 23There I was, half listening to the news on the car radio as I tried to think of simple Christmas presents for the grandchildren and work out my plan of attack once I reached the shopping centre. Yet, for one moment, I managed to register what the female politician on the radio was saying.

‘We need to stop this—we need an alternate narrative to offer these young people who are turning to terrorism,’ she was saying to those at some high level political assembly.

As I hunted for a car park, that intriguing phrase, ‘an alternate narrative’, kept echoing inside my head. What did it really mean? Would a simpler way of putting it be ‘a different story’ or ‘a different way of doing life’ or perhaps even ‘a better way of looking at things’?

I entered the huge shopping centre and was soon confronted with Christmas bargains and gifts suggestions everywhere. Christmas songs could be heard all over the centre. Christmas T-shirts bearing silly slogans with no connection to the real meaning of Christmas were on prominent display in one large store. I looked around in the centre of the shopping complex, thinking I might see a big nativity scene featured—but no. Only Santa on his throne in a large area set aside where children could be photographed with him. The previous day, I had been pleasantly surprised to find a manger scene set up in one unobtrusive spot, albeit in a rather toned down way, at a smaller shopping centre. But not here at this bigger centre situated in a more multicultural area.

Then it came to me. We already have an ‘alternate narrative’ to offer the young people this politician mentioned. We already have a different story to tell, a different way to offer of doing life. The very reason Jesus came to this earth and lived amongst us was to show us this and provide us with the way to find that life in God. This is the story of Christmas that we are about to celebrate. Yet so often it is nowhere to be heard or seen—or, if it is, it is present or shared in a way that will have very little impact, in order not to offend.

Yes, we have our Christmas carol events, but even with these, that ‘alternate narrative’ so often sounds somehow irrelevant and not quite true. We have our Christmas church services, but who of those young people that politician was talking about will be there? Instead, it seems to me it is up to each one of us who claims to live by that ‘alternate narrative’ to make a difference in this world throughout the whole year as often as we can and in whatever ways God has gifted us and given us the opportunity do so.

Yes, our world desperately needs this ‘alternate narrative’. It is already there and available. But it is so often ignored or not even heard. So I ask myself, am I prepared to write and speak about and live out that different story each day—that ‘alternate narrative’ of peace with God and through God, that old story of Jesus and his love? Are you?

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10b

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Just think about it for a moment. This week, we remember an absolutely mind-boggling, earth-shaking event that will never cease to impact our world. As we sing about the Christ child born in a manger, we are acknowledging the fact that our Almighty God, Creator of the universe, chose to come to earth and be born as one of us. As Philippians 4:6-7 tells us, Jesus ‘did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness’.

How glibly the words of those Christmas carols can roll off our tongues and how easily we take this huge act of love for granted! Without that baby born in Bethlehem, we would all be lost—literally. ‘She [Mary] will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins’, the angel told Joseph (Mt 1:21). Jesus, the Son of God and Saviour of the world, became Immanuel—God with us (Mt 1:23).

Out of love for us, God chose to send Jesus to reveal himself to us in human form. Jesus showed us what God the Father is like as he walked this earth, preaching the good news of salvation, healing the sick, driving out demons, raising the dead, teaching his disciples in word and deed how to live in the light of the new kingdom he came to establish. And when he died for us, he sent his Holy Spirit to be with us. Immanuel—God with us—forever.

One Christmas many years ago now, I was in a place of great indecision in my life, having taken on an exhausting job that did not fit me so well. I read again the beautiful words of Isaiah 9:6—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. I knew straight away I needed to cry out to God for all the guidance and resources I needed and that I could do that because Jesus had become flesh and understood all my dilemmas. And I knew that Immanuel, God with us, the Prince of Peace, would give me the peace I longed for.

Whether you are in a place of indecision or of peace in your life, may the words of Isaiah 9:6 speak to your heart today too, along with the following poem I wrote at that time:

Wonderful Counsellor, surround me with your wisdom.

My mind is tired, with indecision torn.

Where is the path prepared for me to follow?

I need you, Lord, to watch, to guide, to warn.

Almighty God, defend me with your power.

My weakness wins, my courage ebbs away.

O Holy One, great Lord of all creation,

For strength to stand secure I humbly pray.

Everlasting Father, how you love me!

I am your child, forgiven, forever free!

O hold me fast, transform me to your likeness,

Till men in me your face more clearly see.

Prince of Peace, bestow your calm assurance.

My heart is troubled, turmoil takes control.

O send your soothing Spirit to surround me.

Speak, Lord, till I am still within my soul!

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