Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘nativity scene’

Jo 12Recently, while strolling through our local shopping centre filled with glitzy Christmas decorations, I noticed a large, boxlike structure in the middle of the main walkway. What could it be? It seemed that whatever was in it was facing shoppers coming from the opposite direction. I went to look—and found a beautiful, big manger scene there, with Mary and Joseph, the shepherds and the wise men all grouped around the baby Jesus. Imagine that! Fancy seeing such a clear reminder of the true meaning of Christmas, right in the middle of all the commercialism the season brings with it!

Yet as I stood there, feeling thankful for such a reminder and grateful to those who had put it there (I think a group of local churches), I also realised this was not my initial response. Instead, I had felt deeply surprised—perhaps even shocked and fearful—that this nativity scene could be where it was. Was anyone really allowed to do such things these days? Who had given permission for this to go ahead? Would people be offended to be reminded about the religious aspect of Christmas?

Wow! As I stopped and reflected a little more, I was shocked all over again at these thoughts that had immediately popped unbidden into my mind. How could someone like me who has been a follower of Jesus for over fifty-five years end up being so easily be influenced by the culture around me and the prevailing anti-Christian stance in our society in general? How had I allowed fear and misgiving to be my first response in this instance, rather than joy and thankfulness?

What a challenge, right there in the middle of the shopping centre! At that point, I felt a determination rise up in me to honour that baby in the manger and to grasp every opportunity to share the true meaning of Christmas with others. I can write about God’s love via this blog and my Christmas letter. I can look for openings in everyday conversations to do that. I can pray for God’s love and grace to touch those around me. I can invite others to our special Christmas church services. I can be generous in my giving, not only to family and friends, but also to those in need—the homeless in nearby Parramatta via the gift bags our church arranges, others doing it tough in our community via our Christmas hampers, those affected by drought and fire, those with barely nothing in other parts of the world. I am allowed to do this! I can do this! I must do this!

This Christmas, whatever our society tells us, let’s all be determined, in God’s strength, to do what we can to share the love of God with others—that amazing love shown so clearly in the fact that God’s Son, Jesus Christ, humbled himself and became a man for us.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14

Let’s celebrate this Christmas with hope and joy in our hearts. And let’s be at peace too, as we pray for that peace to permeate our world more and more.

Read Full Post »

IMG_20181206_130821659I have decided I am a little technically challenged. First off, it was my almost failed recent effort at putting some train tracks together for our youngest granddaughter. But then came the challenge of assembling those free little cardboard cut-out Christmas images from a well-known supermarket chain for her! Somehow, I managed to put the snowman and the gingerbread house together. Then I tackled the tiny Santa sleigh, complete with its little striped cardboard gifts and strange-looking Christmas stocking. Hopefully the checkout person will have run out of such things next time I shop!

Maxine then decided these works of art would look good on our window ledge, so our neighbours could admire them. She arranged them neatly in a row, but then disappeared. I wondered where she was, but then spied her hiding under our lounge and holding something in her hand.

‘Oh, there you are!’ I said to her. ‘Are you okay?’

‘Yes, but I broke this!’

She held up the little sleigh I had created, now slightly squished—and minus the little cardboard gifts we had positioned in it.

‘Oh, don’t worry!’ I told her. ‘I can fix it. But where are the little gifts?’

I thought they were probably lost somewhere, but Maxine immediately pointed to the manger scene we had placed on a nearby table together on another day. On that occasion, when I had asked her to help me, she had clapped her hands and responded:

‘Oh yes—I love the baby Jesus!’

Now I saw she had carefully put that little cardboard cut-out stocking right in the baby Jesus’ hands and strategically placed the two striped gift boxes near Joseph and Mary, along with the snowman’s little pencil and Christmas gift wish list! My first instinct was to move them and put them back on the window ledge. After all, they did not really belong in our manger scene. But then I noticed Maxine’s trusting look and her matter-of-fact manner, which seemed to say to me, ‘Of course the gifts should be near the baby Jesus! It’s the natural place for them to be, isn’t it?’ So who was I to argue?

Later, as I gazed at our manger scene again, complete with Maxine’s additions, I sensed God pointing out to me what a simple yet profound thing Maxine had done. She had wanted to bring gifts to the baby Jesus—it was her own little way of honouring him. So this Christmas, how was I planning to honour Jesus? In the midst of buying for others, what gifts was I intending to offer him? Should it be more giving to those in real need, both here in our own country and overseas? Should it take the form of extra financial support for friends sharing Jesus with others? Should it be offering more of my time to help others? Or should it be something as simple as giving Jesus more space in my life each day to listen to him—and do what he says?

What will your gift to Jesus be this Christmas?

Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:11-12

Read Full Post »

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

Read Full Post »