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The birth of Jesus

Rev Romeo PedroDear Friends

Centuries of hope in God’s promise have come to fulfilment when the Messiah was born!

Luke’s account of Jesus’ birth (Gospel) begins by placing the event during the reign of Caesar Augustus. Luke very deliberately points out that it is during the rule of Augustus, the “saviour, god and peace-maker”, that Jesus the Christ, the long-awaited Saviour and Messiah, the Son of God and Prince of Peace, enters human history.

Typical of Luke’s Gospel, it is the shepherds of Bethlehem — among the poorest and most disregarded of Jewish society who become the first messengers of the Gospel.  From the Christmas story in Luke’s Gospel, we have a romantic image of shepherds as gentle, peaceful figures. But that manger scene image is a far cry from the reality: The shepherds of Biblical times were tough, earthy characters who fearlessly used their clubs to defend their flocks from wolves and other wild animals. They had even less patience for the pompous scribes and Pharisees who treated them as second and third-class citizens, barring these ill-bred rustics from the synagogue and courts.

And yet it was to shepherds that God first revealed the birth of the Messiah. The shepherds’ vision on the Bethlehem hillside proclaims to all people of every place and generation that Christ comes for the sake of all of humankind.

It was while they were busy doing the ordinary work of their lives – that the angels appeared to them.

She is rather small! Petite, soft-spoken and sophisticated. But in my mind, she towers above everyone else. Her name is Chrissie Olivier.

We were going through a very tough time as a family during the last three years of my senior school education and it affected me deeply. I found catharsis in creative writing. I envisioned a better life and the words kept flowing onto every paper I set my hands to.

I also felt increasingly isolated from my peers.

The only place I felt safe and able to express myself without fear of being rejected was in her class.

She touched me on my shoulder and looked me in my eyes and then she said: “You are so gifted. You must not stop writing. Your English is so good!” She was my English teacher in the late 1980’s.

This woman – so small in stature – lifted this heavily depressed soul from the dungeons of self-pity and isolation. She gave me permission to be me … and she believed in me! I will always be grateful to her.

You see – she did not do anything extraordinary! She simply did the ordinary well. In that moment this ordinary teacher was used by God to do an extraordinary thing. She did nothing more than live her life with faithfulness and love, but God used the small seeds of her daily routine to change a life forever.

In that moment, I came to believe that no matter where you live and no matter what circumstance you find yourself in, God can reach into your life and give your life purpose and meaning.

As we celebrate the birth of Jesus – friend of the lowly and the marginalized, the one who identifies with the poor, the one who used the side-lined shepherds to be his mouthpiece, and the one who equips the voiceless to herald Good News for all – it is my prayer that we shall be a Chrissie Olivier to those around us. My prayer is that we shall do the best we can in our ordinary day-to-day lives and work to build others up and propel them into a life of peace, hope, joy and love.

Wishing you a blessed Christmas

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Love and Marriage

Our family have just celebrated the wedding of son Christopher to Marie and with that fresh in mind I wanted to share something of the day with you and an adapted version of the sermon based on Song of Solomon Chapter 8, verse 6 to 7 in the hope that some of it might resonate with you.

Many people have questioned why Song of Solomon is included in the Bible because it is not very specific about using the God word (or the word of God)

But I’m content with that because if we accept that everything that speaks of truth and love and generosity and goodness is of God, then perhaps we don’t need to label everything as being ‘of God’ in order to make it so – sometimes the simplest and purest of things can speak of God in their own right.

So to me this is a part of the Bible to take seriously because it speaks of the purity of love that can be experienced between two people.

Much has been said about how the book might be an analogy of something else but my belief is that it is a book of poetry – of love poetry – and to be honest – it is unashamedly sensual. (Chapter 8, verses 6 to 7 are quite tame in comparison!)

The book doesn’t seem to tell the story of any particular man and woman, therefore in many ways it can stand for any man and woman. Here are the words of a great poet who has chosen to write about the simplicity and the greatness, the gentleness and strength of love between two people and their relationship with the world around them.

Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm;

The passage starts with reminders of the symbols of marriage – at one time the seal would have been worn on a chord hanging around the neck – over the position of where the heart would be, or worn as a ring on the finger.

These symbols are important in that they are reminders of the promises made to each other. They are not symbols which ‘guard’ but they are reminders that there are times when love for each other needs to be guarded, protected and nurtured. Not in the possessive sense, but in the sense that this love is special and needs to be worked at and treasured.

There will be times when love for each other and love for God are clearly in the public eye but there will need to be other times when you hide away together and recommit time and energy and honesty to ‘taking stock’ of how your love is growing.

for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave.

Love is a powerful thing but to say “Love is as strong as death”? what can it mean?

I believe there is an element of sacrifice in love which is true and for me, as a Christian it is about modelling our lives on that of Jesus Christ.

As a Christian preacher with a message of Good News I have to declare that:  “It links in my heart with the life and ministry of Jesus here, whose covenant love for his people was strong enough to endure the death of the cross, fierce enough to despise the shame all the way to the grave. It would also be tragic to miss the super-fulfilment of the resurrection: that Jesus’s covenant love was so tenacious, so strongly and fiercely righteous, that it could not be held down by death and rose victorious over it. This covenant of love is an eternal seal that not even death can break.” (Zach J. Hoag – Huff Post)

It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame.
Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot sweep it away.

There will of course be occasions when the fire of love dies down and reduces to just a few glowing embers.

I used to love watching Ray Mears TV programme ‘Survival’ – out of fashion now – slightly taken over by Bear Grills perhaps. Lighting fires with no matches – just flints. Cooking things he caught. Making shelters from saplings and wood. One night he lights a fire which blazes & brings warmth and enables him to cook but eventually as he slept it died out and by the morning was cold.
But we watched as Ray picked up what appeared to be a small cold log & looking carefully, turned it over, finding the right area, he blew gently and the blackened log glowed red and after adding dry kindling and twigs to the glowing area before long there was a fire roaring in the middle of the forest clearing again.

If one were to give all the wealth of one’s house for love, it would be utterly scorned.

Basically – the value of the love you share for each other is worth more than the value of your house (Or your rent!)

And finally, on the days when you feel you do all of this on your own – you will remember the words of Psalm 121: I lift up my eyes to the mountains – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.

(Bible quotations from New International Version)

Deacon Richard Beckett