Prince George is baptised

The baptism of Prince George at the Chapel Royal in St James’ Palace was a very special occasion for his parents, William and Catherine. Prince George will one day be King and the Supreme Governor of the Church of England. In the presence of a select group of family and friends, including the Queen and Prince Philip, William and Catherine professed their own faith and promised to bring George up in the Christian Faith. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, baptised Prince George with water from the River Jordan.

The Archbishop told the parents and godparents that they had a “simple task”, to: “Make sure he knows who Jesus is. Speak of him, read stories about him. Introduce him in prayer. Help him to grow and flourish into the person God has created and called him to be.” He said that the baptism service was centred on “Jesus, who calls each of us to take a journey.” He added that the Prince would share the life of Christ with others, which would be “both very costly and infinitely rewarding”, and concluded: “With Christ and his love as our centre, all the needs we meet are faced, all the hopes we have are shaped, and all the possibilities of our life’s journey are fulfilled.”

All parents want their children to enjoy a happy and fulfilled life. We want our children and grandchildren to enjoy God’s creation unspoilt, to have a good education and not to be over-burdened by debt. The most important thing we can pass on to our children, however, is an example of moral integrity and living faith. Being a parent is very demanding, especially for those who are bringing up children on their own. We are all conscious of failing in many ways, but talking to them about God and Jesus, and praying with them, is so important.

The Bible encourages parents to teach their children the principles of God’s truth, “Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are away on a journey, when you are lying down and when you are getting up again.” King Solomon, who had many children, encouraged them to remember his teaching, “My child, never forget the things I have taught you. Store my commands in your heart, for they will give you a long and satisfying life.” Let’s pray that Prince George, and many other children, will know Jesus and his love as the centre of their lives.

God is with us in our loneliness

In 1963 the Post Office ran an advertising campaign using the slogan, “Someone, somewhere, wants a letter from you – just a few lines make all the difference!” The television advert showed a person who lived on their own hearing the postman passing and going to their hallway to see if a letter had arrived for them, but no letter had come. They returned to their chair looking sad.

Loneliness is a significant problem for many people today even though social media is widely used. Loneliness is sadness because we have no friends and company. Many older people are lonely. 51% of people aged 75 or over live alone. 5 million older people say television is their main company. 11% of older people have contact with their family less than once a month.

God understands our loneliness and is concerned about it. At the beginning of history he realised that it was not good for man to be alone. He created the first woman who was in every way the equal of man. God established marriage for human companionship and mutual help. Jesus experienced profound loneliness when he was dying on the cross. He cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.” One of the great promises he made to his disciples as he sent them out into the world was “I will be with you always.”

In 1858 John Paton and his young wife set out from Scotland to be missionaries in the remote New Hebrides in the South Seas. The people of the small island they settled on were fierce cannibals. Early in 1859 John’s wife and their 5 week old son died of a fever. Suffering from the same fever John buried them.

He wrote, “I built the grave round and round with coral blocks, and covered the top with beautiful white coral, broken small as gravel; and that spot became my sacred and much-frequented shrine, during all the following months and years when I laboured on for the salvation of those savage Islanders amidst difficulties, dangers and deaths. When Tanna turns to the Lord and is won for Christ, men in after days will find the memory of that spot still green, where with ceaseless prayers and tears I claimed that land for God in which I had ‘buried my dead’ with faith and hope. But for Jesus, and the fellowship he gave me there, I must have gone mad and died beside that lonely grave.”

God is the strength of my heart

As a result of advances in medical knowledge people in Britain are living longer than ever before. Many are also enjoying a higher quality of life than previous generations have known. But the increasing number of people is also creating big challenges, especially in providing care for elderly people. The increasing costs of quality long term care do not seem to be sustainable.

Throughout our lives we all need care and God has provided the family as the primary place of care. A new born baby is totally dependent on the loving care of its parents, especially its mother. Without her care a baby would die. When children are growing up they need the loving care of their parents to provide a secure environment in which they can thrive and develop. Children who do not have that security and love often experience serious problems in later life. God has also ordained marriage as a relationship in which love and security can be found. The traditional marriage vows express this well as mutual promises are made, “to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love honour and cherish, till God separates us by death.”

When problems arise in the family it is important for the wider family and the community to care. In his letter James writes, “religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress.” It seems that in the ancient world, as in today’s world, it was often the husband who died first and the wife who needed to be cared for. When my mother and my wife’s mother and father needed care in their latter years it was a privilege, and a challenge, to be able to open our home to them as they came to live with us.

Whatever our age it is important to remember the living God, who sent his Son, Jesus, into this world to give us hope. In Psalm 73 the writer expresses his faith in God, “Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterwards you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion for ever.”

Jesus gives us hope and real life

Divers continue to search for the bodies of those who died when a boat carrying migrants from Eritrea and Somalia sank off the Mediterranean island of Lampedusa last week. The official death toll stands at 194, and 200 people are still missing. 155 people survived when the boat carrying them sank in deep water just 1000 metres from the island. Every year tens of thousands of migrants attempt the perilous crossing from North Africa to Italian islands. In the past two decades 20,000 people from Africa and the Middle East have lost their lives trying to reach southern Europe. In 2011, at the height of the Arab uprisings, 1500 died in one year.

The people who board over-crowded and unseaworthy boats pay large sums to unscrupulous criminal gangs who earn their living through people trafficking. The migrants are desperate. Many are fleeing from countries where there is conflict and persecution. They are willing to spend all they have, and even risk their and their children’s lives, in order to escape poverty and turmoil and find a place of safety and peace.

How do we respond to the plight of these people? Today in European countries, like Britain, immigration is a big issue. The Bible makes it clear that God cares deeply for the plight of migrant people and understands their needs. In the Old Testament there are many examples of people leaving their own countries and going to another. Abraham left his country and his family and went to the land of Canaan. He lived there all his life, but the only land he ever owned was the plot he bought to bury his wife Sarah. In a time of famine Jacob and his family went to Egypt. Later they became slaves there and suffered greatly under hard taskmasters until God brought them out and gave them their own land.

Soon after he was born Jesus was taken by his parents to Egypt because King Herod was determined to kill the new born king. He only returned to Nazareth after Herod has died and it was safe to do so. Jesus is a compassionate Saviour who is “touched with the feeling of our infirmities.” He understands our needs because he has been where we are. He came into this world to give us hope and real life. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”