The enduring mystery, wonder and JOY of Christmas

by the Reverend Canon Anne Moore

I came across this quotation recently. So many of my senses are involved in reading it that I found it quite delightful.

"Late on a sleepy, star-spangled night, those angels peeled back the sky just like you would tear open a sparkling Christmas present. Then, with light and joy pouring out of Heaven like water through a broken dam, they began to shout and sing the message that baby Jesus had been born. The world had a Saviour! The angels called it ‘Good News,’ and it was.”  (Larry Libby, "The Angels Called it Good News" in Christmas Stories for the Heart)

I think I like it because it reminds me of the King James Version of the Christmas story as Luke records it:

"And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord." (Luke 2:9-11)

Our little human brains can’t describe that night in the kind of precise adjectives that our computer-obsessed society is comfortable with. This is mysterious stuff! So we have to resort to pictures that aren’t as well defined. That shouldn’t be so surprising. After all we are dealing with a once-in-a-lifetime event—the birth of the Saviour of a world gone wrong. Those unschooled, illiterate shepherds did a fine job of getting their story across. I think it was more in the joy on their faces than in the communication through their words. Each time they told the story, to their families, to their friends, to anyone who would listen, that joy must have looked like a bonfire, rays of hope radiating from their whole beings. Good News! Sing it out!

The story hasn’t changed. When we tell it, do we express that same joy, wonder, certainty? Remember this joy doesn’t have to be limited to just Christmastime. The overflowing joy of knowing Christ’s presence in our lives was one of the themes of Jesus’ final teaching with his disciples the night before he died on the cross. He told them of his extravagant love for them—that he loved them as the Father loved Him (John 15:9). After sharing what this eternal relationship looks like, Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full” (v.11). What a promise! Through Jesus Christ our hearts can be filled with joy—real joy!

May you experience real joy this Christmas and always.
 

Simply yielding yields the best Kingdom results

I don’t know about you, but the seeming nonsensical simplicity of the Gospel message kept me from believing it for years. And for those of us ‘in the Kingdom’, the simplicity of capital-L Life can be difficult to grasp as well. God makes no promises it will be easy; we still share the planet with an enemy kingdom, after all.

We were designed to work, and work hard, in our own spheres of influence. Yet the work is not ours, it’s God’s, and only as we yield to Him can we effectively be and do what we were created to be and do. The Apostle Paul’s difficult but joyful adventures, misadventures and Kingdom assignments certainly underline that truth.

Kathie Walters, an international speaker who brings freedom to those who feel they have to ‘qualify’, excels at reminding us of simple Kingdom truths.

Simply Believe 
by Kathie Walters  [excerpted from The Story of The Ring: Simply Believe]

I am not at all into "working for Jesus." He doesn't want us to work for him. He wants us to yield to him, and he will work through us. It's much easier that way, and much more effective.

It's all him. 100%. We get to do the yielding – not the trying. Trying can be very trying. His right hand and His Holy arm have gotten the victory. Religious spirits always make us try and do what only God can do.

He (Jesus) is the one who is going to "present [us] faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy" (Jude 24). He (Jesus) is going to do that. It's his prerogative. Not your prayer partner, not your mom, not your pastor, not your husband or wife. You are his trophy. He is going to present you faultless. He is going to get all the glory because he did all the work.
Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; that being justified by His grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:5-7). 
Chill Out – Take a Break 

There is no striving and trying and working at it in the Spirit realm. Remember, your first calling is to enjoy God, and then out of that you can serve Him as you are led by the Spirit. It's funny, sometimes we will do anything except simply believe. We fast, pray, and so forth. But when it all comes down to it, it's simply trusting Him to do what He said He would do, "casting ALL your care upon Him, for He cares for you" (1 Peter 5:7).

“For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us” (2 Corinthians 1:20).

Safe within Your Love

If the world, your world, seems crazy right now, this is the book for you.

Hannah Whitall Smith (1832-1911) wrote from her own brokenness, pain, sorrow and loss into incredible peace, joy and ‘foundness’ in God alone.

Her husband had been one of the 19th century’s most celebrated evangelists. Tragedy thundered in via first the loss of a young daughter, later a son, and then public scandal which devastated her marriage.

A wise, discerning woman, Hannah aptly analyzed and examined the day’s religious movements which so mirror many today. Whether attempts to legislate purity or holiness, an over-emphasis on razzle-dazzle emotionalism, the promotion of success in the material world as opposed to spiritual victory over the world-bound soul—she found no truck with any of them.

Safe Within Your Love, a compilation of Hannah Whitall Smith’s writings into a 40-day devotional by David Hazard, is sadly out-of-print. So while I try to convince the publishers to get it out there again, forthwith are some nuggets:

"Earthly cares are a heavenly discipline. But they are even better than a discipline. They are God’s chariots, sent to take the soul to its high places of triumph…. The dangerous ‘vehicle’ is the visible thing; the chariot of God is the invisible.”

"Some Christians think that the fruits which the Bible calls for are some form of outward religious work—such as holding more and more meetings, visiting the poor, conducting charitable works, and so forth. The Bible scarcely mentions these . . . but declares that the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23). A Christlike character must necessarily be the fruit of Christ’s indwelling.”

Editor and compiler David Hazard offers a reflection at the end of each short chapter. Here’s one gem:

"My Physician Father, I see it now…
For every one of my soul-sicknesses, you give me a ‘medicine’ for my healing.
For my pride and independence, you give one who likes to dominate. For my impatience, you send one who grates. For my criticalness, you give me one who is sorry indeed.
Today, I will receive your treatments . . . even if they sting.”

Be yourself with God

"When you pray, do not use a lot of meaningless words, as the pagans do, who think that their gods will hear them because their prayers are long. Do not be like them. Your Father already knows what you need before you ask him." (Matt. 6:5-15 TEV)

(the following reflection by Rick Warren)

God created you and so he wants you to be the real you. By being authentic when you speak to God, you worship him as your Creator.

For years I copied the prayers of other people. I noticed they used certain words and even a special tone of voice. I imitated all the religious clichés: "Lead, guide and direct us, O Lord." "Bless this food to the nourishment of our bodies." "Bless the gift and the giver."

In New Testament times, prayers were wordy, meaningless rituals. There was no spontaneity, no genuineness. But Jesus says don't get caught up in ritual prayer. You don't have to use fancy language. You can't impress God with fancy language, and you shouldn't be trying to impress other people either.

I love to hear new Christians pray―no pious pomposity. They haven't learned the clichés yet. They just say, "Hi, God. It's me." That's how you make contact with God. You just talk with your Heavenly Father about what's on your mind. Just pray your heart. Reveal yourself.

Imagine I walked in the door one evening and my kids said: "O, almighty procreator of our family. How wonderful thou art, who sovereignly deposits our allowance to us. Oh, the majesty of thy wonderful self! We beseech thee to come eat dinner with us." I'd check their temperatures to see if they were sick! I don't want to hear that. I want them to say, "Hey! Dad's home. Good to see you, Pop!"

I'm not saying to be flippant in prayer, but that's how you make contact with God. You just talk with Him in a genuine and heartfelt way.

(from Rick Warren's Purpose Driven Connection devotional)

What God Seeks

More than anything, God seeks our love.

God's great commandment is that we love Him, ultimately, with all our mind, heart, soul and strength. As we do, we fulfill all He requires of us (see John 14:15). And it is as we love Him that He orchestrates all things to work together for our good (see Rom. 8:28).

Beloved, loving God is not hard. We can fulfill any assignment – auto mechanic or housewife, doctor or college student – and still give great pleasure to our heavenly Father. We do not need ministry titles to love the Lord. Indeed, God measures the value of our lives by the depth of our love. This is what He requires of every true God seeker: to love Him where we're at.

Excerpted & adapted from Francis Frangipane's newest book on seeking God (currently untitled), due out in November

"The Furious Longing of God"

"The gospel is absurd and the life of Jesus is meaningless unless we believe that he lived, died, and rose again with but one purpose in mind: to make brand-new creations. Not to make people with better morals, but to create a community of prophets and professional lovers, men and women who would surrender to the mystery of the fire of the Spirit that burns within, who would live in ever greater fidelity to the omnipresent Word of God, who would enter into the center of it all, the very heart and mystery of Christ, into the center of the flame that consumes, purifies, and sets everything aglow with peace, joy, boldness, and extravagant, furious love.

"This, my friends, is what it really means to be a Christian. Our religion never begins with what we do for God. It always starts with what God has done for us, the great and wondrous things that God dreamed of and achieved for us in Christ Jesus."
―Brennan Manning, in The Furious Longing of God