I always find this day a strange day. After all the build-up to Christmas, all the festivities on the day, the food, the booze, the t.v. and most importantly of all the opportunity to worship with others the Lord Jesus Christ, I find that today is something of a non-entity. Every fibre of my being wants to be up and about working or at least pottering and yet I`m expected to sit and do nothing.
Wikipedia describes today as a day traditionally set aside for wealthy people to give a boxed gift to their servants, but as fewer and fewer people have servants these days the original meaning has been lost and forgotten. Consequently, it is a day remembered only for the obscene amount of retail activity as the sale season begins less than 48 hours after the Christmas shopping has finished, AND ALL OF THIS IN A TIME OF RECESSION !!!
Normally Alison and I manage to relax on boxing day if only by being incredibly lazy and putting ourselves down in front of the tv watching some mindless film. However, we have had Alison’s Mum staying with us over Christmas so we have spent a lot of time trying to keep her company. Today, Alison had to go to work and I had already arranged to go and see the football at Alfreton Town with Rebecca, so Freda was set up with a recording of her favourite ballet “The Nutcracker Suite”. When both Alison and I got back we simply sat talking with her about past times and so we relaxed in that way.
Also this afternoon, just to show what a mixed day it was, I took a difficult phone call about a distressing pastoral situation within my circuit. I found this quite upsetting and I am trying not to take it personally as a betrayal of trust. It goes to show that even on a national holiday such as today, I still have to be concerned about my people. This is what many fail to understand; it is hard to `switch off` when you truly care about a body of people. It means you take time at a more relaxed pace whenever you can but you are prepared to pick up the pace when necessary. That is Ministry.
And so its been a mixed day, enjoyable in parts, frustrating in others, and downright angering in others, but in so many ways this is life isn`t it ? God never promised any one of us that life would be a bed of roses and often it is anything but. This life can be absolute rubbish at times but at others pure enjoyment and awesome. And this is the world that our Lord Jesus stepped into; not a sanitised perfect world, nor an absolutely evil world but a world which contains a mixture and variety of situations, emotions, responses and so on. Praise God that He was prepared to come out of the glory of Heaven into such a world as this.
Miracles ? You want to see miracles in order to believe ? We`ve just celebrated the greatest miracle of all, the love of God becoming incarnate in the stable, leading to the mixing with societies outcasts as well as leaders, and ultimately leading to the cross to die for you and I. Maybe Boxing Day is a day of reflection over that miracle.
I pray that as you reflect on the last few days with all of its happenings, you will come to the same view as I do………………..that God is truly to be praised. Hallelujah !!!
One of the `blessings` of this line of work is that there is always “just one more” job to be done. I`ve switched the computer off three times now and even told colleagues that I won`t be switching it on again until after Christmas. However, thats not the way it goes……………………..
I`ve come back online simply to wish everyone a very happy and blessed Christmas. I know I`ll see some of you shortly at Bethel, some at Stonebroom at midnight and some tomorrow at Swanwick, but to everyone in the Borders Mission Circuit (the best circuit in the Nottingham and Derby District) and to all my online readers may I wish you all a very blessed, peaceful and joyful Christmas.
As we remember the Holy Family who became refugees in a foreign land let us think this year of all those displaced away from their natural homes, those on the streets of our cities and towns, those in fear of going back to their own countries etc. There are many refugees in this country and world for whom Christmas is not easy. Let us pray they recieve the comfort of the Christ child.
As we remember the horror and evil of Herod in the Christmas story, let us recall those caught up in violence and prejudice this year, the ongoing conflicts and those engaged in them, the tension of the Korean border and we pray for peace and safety, expecially remembering our troops serving in foreign fields.
As we remember the joyous wonder of the shepherds let us give thanks for the miracle of the incarnation and the awesomeness of our Lord and Saviours birth in the stable. Let us never forget the sheer depth of love that brought him out of Heaven with all its riches and lory, into the dark, smelly stable with its poverty and dirt, and let us give thanks that he was prepared to do that for us all.
Don`t lets reduce Christmas simply to a round of eating, drinking and partying, but let us remember that in the middle of it all is a TRUE cause for celebration; Jesus Christ himself.
I pray that Christmas will be for you all a very special time and a time when special memories are made; a time when you and your l
oved ones will feel the peace of Jesus. God bless you all.
P.S. as I write this the Norad website tells me that Santa is over the Philippines at the moment, flying over Zamboanga !!!!!! Thought you`d like to know………………..
I don`t know if this is true or not, but it touched my heart when a friend sent it to me in an e-mail today. I pass it onto you gladly and pray God will touch your heart also………….
I sat, with two friends, in the picture window of a quaint restaurant just off the corner of the town square. The food and the company were both especially good that day.
As we talked, my attention was drawn outside, across the street. There, walking into town, was a man who appeared to be carrying all his worldly goods on his back. He was carrying, a well-worn sign that read, ‘I will work for food.’ My heart sank.I brought him to
the attention of my friends and noticed that others around us had stopped eating to focus on him. Heads moved in a mixture of sadness and disbelief.
We continued with our meal, but his image lingered in my mind. We finished our meal and went our separate ways. I had errands to do and quickly set out to accomplish them. I glanced toward the town square, looking somewhat halfheartedly for the strange visitor. I was fearful, knowing that seeing him again would call some response. I drove through town and saw nothing of him. I made some purchases at a store and got back in my car. Deep within me, the Spirit of God kept speaking to me: ‘Don’t go back to the office until you’ve at least driven once more around the square.’
Then with some hesitancy, I headed back into town. As I turned the square’s third corner, I saw him. He was standing on the steps of the church, going through his sack. I stopped and looked; feeling both compelled to speak to him, yet wanting to drive on. The empty parking space on the corner seemed to be a sign from God: an invitation to park. I pulled in, got out and approached the
town’s newest visitor. ‘Looking for the pastor?’ I asked. ‘Not really,’ he replied, ‘just resting.’
‘Have you eaten today?’
‘Oh, I ate something early this morning.’
‘Would you like to have lunch with me?’
‘Do you have some work I could do for you?’
‘No work,’ I replied ‘I commute here to work from the city, but I would like to take you to lunch.’
‘Sure,’ he replied with a smile. As he began to gather his things, I asked some surface questions. “Where you headed?’
St. Louis ‘
‘Where you from?’
‘Oh, all over; mostly Florida ..’
‘How long you been walking?’ ‘Fourteen years,’ came the reply.
I knew I had met someone unusual. We sat across from each other in the same restaurant I had left earlier. His face was weathered
slightly beyond his 38 years. His eyes were dark yet clear, and he spoke with an eloquence and articulation that was startling. He
removed his jacket to reveal a bright red T-shirt that said, ‘Jesus is The Never Ending Story.’ Then Daniel’s story began to unfold. He had seen rough times early in life. He’d made some wrong choices and reaped the consequences. Fourteen years earlier, while backpacking across the country, he had stopped on the beach in Daytona… He tried to hire on with some men who were putting up a large tent and some equipment. A concert, he thought. He was hired, but the tent would not house a concert but revival services, and in those services he saw life more clearly. He gave his life over to God
‘Nothing’s been the same since,’ he said, ‘I felt the Lord telling me to keep walking, and so I did, some 14 years now.’
‘Ever think of stopping?’ I asked.
‘Oh, once in a while, when it seems to get the best of me But God has given me this calling. I give out Bibles That’s what’s in my sack. I work to buy food and Bibles, and I give them out when His Spirit leads.’ I sat amazed. My homeless friend was not homeless. He was on a mission and lived this way by choice. The question burned inside for a moment and then I asked: ‘What’s it like?’
‘To walk into a town carrying all your things on your back and to show your sign?’
‘Oh, it was humiliating at first. People would stare and make comments. Once someone tossed a piece of half-eaten bread and made a
gesture that certainly didn’t make me feel welcome. But then it became humbling to realize that God was using me to touch lives and change people’s concepts of other folks like me.’
My concept was changing, too. We finished our dessert and gathered his things.
Just outside the door, he paused He turned to me and said, ‘Come Ye blessed of my Father and inherit the kingdom I’ve prepared for you. For when I was hungry you gave me food, when I was thirsty you gave me drink, a stranger and you took me in. I felt as if we were on holy ground. ‘Could you use another Bible?’ I asked.
He said he preferred a certain translation. It traveled well and was not too heavy. It was also his personal favorite… ‘I’ve read
through it 14 times,’ he said.
‘I’m not sure we’ve got one of those, but let’s stop by our church and see’ I was able to find my new friend a Bible that would do well, and he seemed very grateful.
‘Where are you headed from here?’ I asked.
‘Well, I found this little map on the back of this amusement park coupon.’
‘Are you hoping to hire on there for a while?’
‘No, I just figure I should go there. I figure someone under that star right there needs a Bible, so that’s where I’m going next.’ He smiled, and the warmth of his spirit radiated the sincerity of his mission. I drove him back to the town-square where we’d met two
two hours earlier, and as we drove, it started raining. We parked and unloaded his things. ‘Would you sign my autograph book?’ he asked… ‘I like to keep messages from folks I meet.’
I wrote in his little book that his commitment to his calling had touched my life. I encouraged him to stay strong. And I left him with a verse of scripture from Jeremiah, ‘I know the plans I have for you, declared the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you; Plans to give you a future and a hope.’ ‘Thanks, man,’ he said. ‘I know we just met and we’re really just strangers, but I love you.’
‘I know,’ I said, ‘I love you, too.’ ‘The Lord is good!’
‘Yes, He is. How long has it been since someone hugged you?’ I asked.
A long time,’ he replied And so on the busy street corner in the drizzling rain, my new friend and I embraced, and I felt deep inside that I had been changed.. He put his things on his back,
his winning smile and said, ‘See you in the New Jerusalem.’ “‘I’ll be there!’ was my reply.
He began his journey again. He headed away with his sign dangling from his bedroll and pack of Bibles. He stopped, turned and said,
‘When you see something that makes you think of me, will you pray for me?’ ‘You bet,’ I shouted back, ‘God bless.’
‘God bless.’ And that was the last I saw of him. Late that evening as I left my office, the wind blew strong. The cold front had settled hard upon the town. I bundled up and hurried to my car. As I sat back and reached for the emergency brake, I saw them… a pair of well-worn brown work gloves neatly laid over the length of the handle. I picked them up and thought of my friend and wondered if his hands would stay warm that night without them.
Then I remembered his words: ‘If you see something that makes you think of me, will you pray for me?’ Today his gloves lie on my desk in my office. They help me to see the world and its people in a new way, and they help me remember those two hours with my unique friend and to pray for his ministry.
‘See you in the New Jerusalem,’ he said. Yes, Daniel, I know I will…
‘I shall pass this way but once. Therefore, any good that I can do or any kindness that I can show, let me do it now, for I shall not pass this way again`
It’s amazing how things come along to give mixed emotions. At about 5.00 p.m. this evening I opened an e-mail to find out that I hadn`t been accepted to carry the Olympic Torch; you can imagine how disappointed I was and then doubly so to find a young 20yr old lad who organises charity events on behalf of the fight against cancer was also turned down. I really thought that Iain would have been accepted, for he is an ab solute credit to his generation.
So it was with some disappointment that I made my way to The Station Hotel in Westhouses where the Chapel had arranged to sing carols in the pub. Don`t ever tell me that some older ladies and one man cannot do anything for the Gospel. They all turned out in force, met the villagers, sang carols, allowed me to speak and tell dodgy jokes and at the suggestion of the landlady a collection was taken up which raised £86 pounds. The Chapel have decided to give this money to our local Leonard Cheshire home in Alfreton.
Kevin and Tracey from the Station Hotel were magnificent in letting us go in in the first place, in providing soup and sandwiches and combined with the mince pies from the Chapel it all made for a glorious evening.
I linked the carols with a little of the nativity story and some jokes, but no sermon. It all went well. Some from the pub have said they will come to the Chapel carol service next week and Kevin and Tracey have invited us to join with them again in the Spring for another event, and later to have the Harvest festival in the pub.
To think I started out with disappointment I have to admit that I am now on a high; this sort of evangelism is what I was made for. After the evening I was asked by someone “why did you choose to go into the Church as a career” to which I replied that I didn`t choose it but I felt that God had chosen me ! I was then able to give my testimony in a low-key way.
Wow, Christmas has really started with a bang this year, and all because 7 elderly ladies wanted to share the love of Jesus.