Mark 14:36

THE INDESCRIBABLE WONDER  

(November 29, 2020) Dr Jim McClure, straight shooting theologian, reflects on the full significance of next month’s spiritual highlight…

Christmas is quickly approaching.  Having grown up in in Ireland and then ministering in England, I was used to having Christmas as a mid-winter celebration and, I must admit, I miss that kind of Christmas atmosphere! But wherever we live, as Christians the most important thing we associate with Christmas is the birth of Jesus! Images readily spring to mind…

  • The newborn baby lying in a stable manger.
  • Mary and Joseph and the shepherds gazing in awe at the newborn child.
  • The visit of the wise men to the infant Jesus (although their timing was actually off by a couple of years)
  • Christmas carols playing a part in reinforcing this scenario.

A festival!
The surprising thing is that in the early church Christmas was not celebrated as a festival. I don’t mean that the first Christians didn’t believe that Jesus, God’s Son, was born in a stable in Bethlehem. Of course, they did. But in the first couple of centuries Christmas, as a festival, did not exist. In the early writings of Christians, there are no references to celebrating of Jesus’ birth while there are many references to celebrating his atoning death and glorious resurrection.  For example, about 20 years after the ascension of Jesus, Paul wrote to the Christians in Corinth, ‘Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival’ (1 Corinthians 5:7-8).

Why then was the birth of Jesus not also celebrated as a festival?  I’m sure that part of the reason was that no one was really sure of the exact date on which Jesus was born although after a few centuries the church, with some rather strange reasoning, settled on two possible dates – December 25 and January 6 – although both dates are probably wrong!

Eventually, almost 300 years after Jesus was born, people began actively to celebrate
his birth in mid-winter. (more…)

TAKE UP YOUR CROSS!

(April 23, 2019) Carol Round shares an after Easter reflection…

‘I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me’ wrote Paul in Galatians 2:20 (ESV).

Can you feel his pain? With eyes closed, can you imagine the sounds, sights and smells of that bleak Friday, when our Saviour and Lord was nailed to the cross, not for his transgressions, but for ours?

Have you ever sat quietly, considering what he did for you and become overwhelmed by the thoughts of his sacrifice? Did you ever ask why he willingly gave up his life for yours?

Not my will, but yours
‘And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Take this cup away from me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what you will”’ (Mark 14:36).

Jesus’ words, as well as his actions, the night before his crucifixion reveal a life of obedience. He knew the pain he would face, not just physically, but emotionally, mentally and spiritually. He accepted willingly the cross he would bear for all mankind.

What Paul understood
The apostle Paul understood the sacrifice made by his Saviour. However, it took a mighty act of God –being struck blind on the road to Damascus – to open the eyes of this persecutor of Christ’s followers.

After Paul’s life-changing experience on that dusty road, he was baptized and instructed in the Christian faith. The most determined of the apostles, Paul suffered brutal physical pain, persecution, and eventually martyrdom. What was Paul’s secret to enduring a lifetime of hardship for the sake of the gospel?

We can do all things
Paul’s secret can be ours, too. In Philippians 4:13TLB, he says, ‘. . . for I can do everything God asks me to with the help of Christ who gives me the strength and power.’ (more…)