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Christmas Eve: a letter to Paul

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From Hilary, a 21st century pilgrim on the same journey that you took, towards Jesus- the light of the world.
To Paul, with thanks for your inspiration, your honesty about who you were and who you began to be, and the struggles, challenges and learning you faced on that journey.

I've been wondering why you never mention the events surrounding the birth of Jesus in your letters.
Would you be surprised if you visited us this evening, and saw how much Christmas means, and how it is celebrated all over the world?
I wonder if you would be frustrated that we had turned it into such a tradition- you never had much time for traditions, especially if they took our eyes off the truth of who Jesus was.
Your gaze looked forward, rather than backwards, eagerly anticipating when Jesus would be revealed to the whole world as the King. You wrote about how every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord- and if those knees are not bowed in worship, they will be bowed trembling at …

Joy

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
                                       Luke 2: 8-12

When the angels appeared to those Bethlehem shepherds, they were terrified. The promise of joy must have seemed unlikely, but the call of the angels spurred them into action and they hurried off to Bethlehem to find out more for themselves. Paul knew all about the seismic effects of God interrupting your life, turning upside down your plans and presenting you with news that seemed terrifying rather than exciting. And yet, just as the shepherds di…

Perseverance

At Christmas time, our homes are full of sparkling tinsel and lights, the music playing all around us is upbeat and joyful, and we wish each other good things- peace, joy and hope. But we know that January life requires more than a sprinkle of fairy dust and a naive wish that all will be OK. We only have to read the news to remember that we live in difficult and challenging times. As we look around at the communities we live in, and even to our own families, it is perhaps not a surprise that international relations reflect the same distrust, posturing, greed and violence that is simply a part of being human. To live well in this broken world, and to be people who can bring healing to it, we need to learn how to not let the challenges defeat us but to find resilience and strength of character.

Paul writes about where this character is birthed:

We boast in the hope of the glory of God.
Not only so, but we glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;
persev…

Freedom!

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.                              Galatians 5:1 What does Paul mean by writing about freedom? We know that his decision to follow Christ seemed to lead to less freedom, not more. He had been a Roman citizen, able to travel freely around the Mediterranean world and welcome in synagogues and courts. Now, he was having to be smuggled out of cities by the back door, was arrested on charges of trouble making and ended his life in prison. On the surface, he appears to have forfeited his freedom. Paul knew that external circumstances are often outside of our control. We have no say over when and where we are born, what colour our skin is or what privileges we are entitled to. We cannot choose how others treat us, we often have no control over the ways in which our bodies fail us, our savings are lost, the workplace disappoints us. What we can control is how we respond. St…

Rooted in love

Paul's personal journey to Jesus was not an easy one. Intellectually, emotionally and spiritually he had to let go of some of the ideas and beliefs that he had relied on, and learn new truths about God. As he writes his letters to fledging communities who are also learning what it means to follow Jesus, we hear him explaining again some of the lessons he had to learn- and was probably still in the process of learning.

He had realised that God loved him as simply as a Father loves a child- not because he had been born into the right tribe, not because he had learned the lessons the Rabbis taught better than anyone else, not because he was good or clever or kept the rules. He writes to the Ephesians of this love- how it is the foundation of our life in Christ, how it gives us roots which anchor us in times of uncertainty, and nourish us to produce lives of fruitfulness.

Peace- Advent Sunday 3

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People of God: return! You are called to be God’s own From the mountains announce the good news God comes in justice and peace, To all who follow His ways. You are God’s children. Lord, make us one in the peace of Christ Today and for ever.

The message of Christmas is God's call

The Christmas story tells of the extraordinary actions of God who loves His people so much that He was prepared to enter our human history- as a baby. John's gospel doesn't include any of the details we've become familiar with- the donkey, manger, shepherds or kings- but instead meditates on the perhaps unfamiliar truth of this incredible act of God becoming man:


The Life-Light was the real thing:
Every person entering Life
he brings into Light.
He was in the world,
the world was there through him,
and yet the world didn’t even notice.
He came to his own people,
but they didn’t want him.
But whoever did want him,
who believed he was who he claimed
and would do what he said,
He made to be their true selves,
their child-of-God selves.
These are the God-begotten,
not blood-begotten,
not flesh-begotten,
not sex-begotten.
14 The Word became flesh and blood,
and moved into the neighborhood.
We saw the glory with our own eyes,
the one-of-a-kind glory,
like Father, like Son,
Generous inside and out,
true…