The greatest story ever told

The story of Jesus is the greatest story ever told. Joseph and Mary were a young couple living in the small Galilean town of Nazareth. Joseph was about 18 years old and was the village carpenter. He was very much in love with Mary, who was about 14 years old, and their families had agreed that they should marry. One day, before they had married, God sent the angel Gabriel to tell Mary that she had found favour in God’s sight and was going to conceive a very special son. She would conceive through the power of the Holy Spirit and the child would be the Son of God. Mary humbly responded, “I am the Lord’s servant, may it be to me as you have said.”

When Mary told Joseph she had conceived a child he was shocked and thought she must have been unfaithful to him. He decided to divorce her quietly to try to protect her from public disgrace. But an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” So, Joseph did what the angel had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.

When the time drew near for the baby to be born Joseph and Mary had to travel 80 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem to register in a Roman census. So it was in Bethlehem that their first-born son was born. An angel of the Lord announced the birth to some shepherds, ordinary working men, living in the nearby fields, “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people, a Saviour has been born to you, he is Christ the Lord.” The shepherds went to see the baby and returned to their fields glorifying and praising God.

Later, Wise Men from the east, probably Persia, came in search of the child. They had followed a special star which signified the birth of a King. When they arrived at the house where Joseph and Mary and the child were staying they were overjoyed. They bowed down and worshipped him and presented gifts of gold, incense and myrrh. The shepherds and Wise Men show us that the birth of Jesus is reason for us all to wonder and worship him.

My God, how wonderful you are!

The Spring has come. After the dark, and very wet, days of winter we are enjoying bright, sunny, blue sky days. The snowdrops, daffodils and crocuses are blooming. People are out walking and cycling. Our spirits are lifted as we look forward to the long, warm days of summer. Seeing nature coming to life reminds us of the God of creation. Long ago David wrote, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”

God is light. His first creative command was, “Let there be light!” God’s character is pure and good and true. In him there is no darkness at all. He is transparent. He has wonderfully revealed his character and gracious purposes for the people of this world in Jesus Christ, his eternal Son. He calls us out of the moral and spiritual darkness of this world “to walk in the light, as he is in the light.”

God is the Giver of life. Through the winter months his creation has lain dormant, but now it is stirring to life again. God is the source of all life and has made this little planet on which we live abound with life. Earth stands out in stark contrast to all we know of the vast universe around us. It seems that Earth is one of God’s special creations. Jesus came into this world that we “may have life and have it to the full.”

God is beautiful and the source of all beauty. He has wonderfully adorned his creation with beauty. The hills and the valleys, the flowers and the trees, the animals, the fish and the birds, the great variety of people from all nations, reveal the mind of God, who “makes everything beautiful in its time.” Atheistic societies build ugly concrete blocks and force people into their “one size fits all” mould. Our secular society seems to promote things which degrade and demean people who have been created in the image of God.

God created us to love and worship him. One hymn writer reminds us how wonderful God is. “How beautiful, how beautiful, the sight of Thee must be, thine endless wisdom, boundless power, and aweful purity. Yet I may love Thee too, O Lord, almighty as Thou art, for Thou has stooped to ask of me the love of my poor heart. Father of Jesus, love’s reward, what rapture will it be, prostrate before they throne to lie and ever gaze on Thee.”

The heavens declare the glory of God

The Voyager-1 spacecraft has become the first manmade object to leave the Solar System. Voyager was launched on 5 September 1977 to study the outer planets. It completed this task in 1989 and has just kept going. It is now 12 billion miles from earth. It takes 17 hours for radio signals from Voyager to reach earth. Voyager is now moving on to explore interstellar space. It will not approach another star for nearly 40,000 years, even though it is moving at 100,000mph. Transmissions from Voyager will stop in 10 years when its plutonium power sources are expected to run.

In December 1968 Apollo 8 was the first manned spacecraft to orbit the moon. The three astronauts were the first people to see the earth as a whole planet and were filled with awe. As they orbited the moon they read from Genesis, Chapter 1.

Bill Anders began, “We are now approaching lunar sunrise, and for all the people back on Earth, the crew of Apollo 8 has a message that we would like to send to you.’In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.’

Jim Lovell continued, “And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day. And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.”

Frank Borman concluded, “And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so. And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.’ And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas – and God bless all of you on the good Earth.”

Prince George is born

The birth of Prince George has been welcomed around the world. The joy of Kate and William in the safe arrival of their son has been plain for all to see. The birth of George has been a very public event, but the most important things have happened in private. A young couple, who are very much in love, have experienced first the wonder of conception and now of birth. A precious little life has been committed to their care and already George has felt the security of the warm embrace of his mother and father. They love him and will do everything they can to care for him and protect him. George is a precious gift from God to them.

Long ago King David reflected on the wonderful way in which God had created him. “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body.”

William and Kate, too, have marvelled at the way in which George has grown and developed within the protection of his mother’s womb. Every detail of who he is has been ordained by God – his little fingers and perfect nails and the similarities he bears, even as a baby, to his mother and father. The greatest thing about George is not his royal descent, but that he has been created in the image of God. He is unique human being who, like us all, has been created to live in daily fellowship with his Creator and to experience the love of the Saviour, Jesus Christ.

None of us can know what lies ahead of Prince George, but his little life is full of immense potential. King David recognised his dependence on God’s wisdom and guidance. “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious are your thoughts concerning me, O God! How vast is the sum of them!” We pray that at this very special time, and in all the days to come, William and Kate, and baby George, will know the wonder of God’s love for them and his care expressed in every detail of their lives.

Jesus Loves Little Children

A recent report has highlighted the increasing commercialisation and sexualisation of children. Manufacturers and retailers have been targeting children with advertising on television and the internet, and near schools. Food retailers and toy makers have recruited 330,000 children, some as young as 5, to take part in market research for their products. Most of the children have been paid and some schools are paid £4000 a year when their pupils take part in these surveys.

Jesus had a special concern for children. When mothers brought their children to him he blessed them and prayed for them. On one occasion he put a little child in front of the people and said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.”

Children are naturally trusting and believe what they are told by those they trust. They have a capacity for awe and wonder. When they are taught the truth about God and Jesus they respond with trust and love. Those of us who are older need to learn from them. We can be sceptical and cynical and lose the ability to be moved by the greatness of God and the wonder of the love of Jesus. If we are to know God and enter his kingdom we need to change and become like little children.

Jesus also gave a solemn warning about those who seek to corrupt and exploit little children. He said, “If anyone causes one of these little ones, who believe in me, to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”

Moral standards in our society are in freefall. This is reflected in many television programmes and on the internet. Parents and grandparents need to be more vigilant than ever in protecting their children from moral corruption. Governments are also responsible for protecting children from harm. God holds us all responsible for safeguarding children so that they can grow up free from exploitation by immoral and unprincipled people. We are keen to safeguard the environment for the good of our children. It is even more important that we safeguard their moral and spiritual development.