Thursday, December 24, 2015

Advent Challenge Christmas Eve

In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was with God and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made, without him nothing was made that has been made.  In him was life.  And that life was the light of all mankind.  The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.  

There was a man from God whose name was John.  He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so through him all might believe.  He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.  The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.  He was in the world and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognise him.  He came to that which was his own but his own did not receive him.  

Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believe in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.  Children not of natural descent nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.  

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.  We have seen his glory.  The glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.  

John testified concerning him.  He cried out, saying 'This is the one I spoke about when I said, "He who comes after me has surpassed me, because he was before me."'  Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given.  For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.  

No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in the closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.  John 1:1-18.

Happy Christmas Eve!  Thank you for joining me on my Advent 'degrump' journey.  I've found it helpful to think each day about a short passage of Scripture and then try and convey my thoughts to you.  I apologise that I have dropped the ball towards the end.  The lack of wifi on our holiday stumped me!  

As I reflect on the last few weeks, what I am I left with from this time?
- spending time thinking hard about a short passage of Scripture for a period of time is a helpful process.  I feel like I have learnt a lot from mulling over the same verses for a few weeks.

- If accept and receive the truth of Jesus, we are in God's family.  I hope that this provides comfort to you if spending time with your family is hurtful or brings up disappointments and grief.  

- the more we know our Old Testament the more confidence we can have in the gospel accounts of Jesus' life.  The ideas of Jesus being the Word (reminiscent of God speaking back in creation, God's law being the right path to follow), Jesus' arrival announces God's dwelling with all people (not just his chosen people).

- Jesus brings light, truth, restoration and hope in a way that no other prophet could before.  And in a way that nothing else has since.  

- if we get to know Jesus, we are going to know God himself.  This is a pretty massive claim and worth taking notice of.  I'm going to keep reading John (slowly) in 2016 and see where these claims of John chapter 1 take me.  I hope it is encouraging and refreshes me as I seek to live each day trusting in Jesus.

Thanks if you've made it to the end with me!  I do hope that it has helped you too and that this Christmas is a special one when you get time to remember the incredible grace of God in sending his son so that we can know him, the one who is in control of all things, the one who we can trust, without fear of what lies ahead.  

Monday, December 21, 2015

Advent Challenge Day 20

"For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ" John 1:17

If you've ever looked at the Old Testament laws that God gave the Israelites you really do wonder about how anyone was meant to not break any of them.  Keeping things up to God's standard was a full time job and even then you had to spend a lot of time sacrificing animals to make up for all the laws you didn't keep.

Often people wonder if this is the same God that we follow today.  He is.  He showed his standards and expectations through the law that he gave Moses.  He showed how unattainable it is to meet his standards.  

This verse in John reminds us of Jesus' role.  It was to bring grace and truth.  It was to make us acceptable before God despite our inability to ever match up to God's perfect standards.  In Jesus' sacrifice on the cross, we are freed from the need to make endless sacrifices.  

Jesus brought grace and truth.  He brought freedom and rest.  

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Advent Challenge Day 19

Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. John 1:16

Over the past few days our family has been watching 'Star Wars' together in preparation to see the new movie. It's one those classic series where if you've seen all the movies you pick up the clues given at different points in the movies about who people are and their significance to one another. (Annoying for those who haven't seen it before I might add!)

Reading this verse is a little bit like that. It's one of those 'if you've read the story up to now you'll get what's going on' moments. Here John says that God already showed his chosen people the Israelites grace by choosing to dwell with them but now in the arrival of Jesus we have ALL (that word again-a reminder this is for all people) been given a grace that replaces that already given.  We all have the opportunity to have God dwell with us.

Why is this grace? Why is it a gift? Neither the Israelites or us have done anything much that would impress God to have him want to be with us. Yet even in our imperfection and mess and often consistent ignoring of God, he still wants to know us, be with us, restore the brokenness. Only he can do it. And he did it for us in sending Jesus. We need to sit up and take notice of John's words because we have to actually accept and hold onto this gift.

This grace for all.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Advent Challenge Days 17 & 18

The glory of the one and only Son who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.  John testified concerning him.  He cried out, saying, 'This is the one I spoke about when I said, "He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me"' John 1:14,15

"Jesus is the ultimate prophet not simply because he brings a better word.  Jesus is the greatest prophet because he himself is the message.  He doesn't simply pass on a message from God like every other prophet.  He is the message... The letter of Hebrews begins, 'In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son (Hebrews 1:1-2)" (Chester, 2015, p. 78).

More than ever this time of Advent has convinced me that I want to commit to really having a good look at John in 2016.  This introductory section has raised so many interesting ideas that I'm keen to follow them through the whole book.  Like a gripping introduction to a story, John has made me really interested in what lies ahead in the rest of his account of Jesus' life.  

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Advent Challenge Days 14, 15 & 16

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.  We have seen his glory... John 1:14

(I have to apologise for the compilation effort but in the midst of driving five hours to Wagga and back to go to my Master's graduation on Monday, I came down with a nasty cold and am writing this from the lounge.  Must be the end of term!)

God dwelling among us is a big deal.  It was a big enough deal when God chose a people for himself and made his presence known to the Israelites as they wandered the desert after the Exodus, as fire by night and a cloud by day (Exodus 13:21). Then when the Israelites stopped they set up a tabernacle for God to dwell in, among his people (Exodus 40:34-35).

But when God spoke to his people, he spoke through prophets like Moses.  Even then God in his full glory could not be seen by Moses.  Moses even asks God if he can see him.  God responds, 'But', he said, 'you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live' (Exodus 33:20).  

When John says in this verse that WE have seen his glory, he is talking about himself and the other disciples.  They have seen his GLORY.  They came face to face with God in a way that no one else has since sin entered the world.

Here we see the culmination of a long story.  A story of restoration.  A story of God making himself known to not just his own people, but the whole world.  And not just a glimpse or a passing by, but as one of us.  Incredible.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Advent Challenge Day 13

The word became flesh ... John 1:14

The fact that God became a human in the form of Jesus both messes with my head and is enormously comforting.  It's a hard truth to fully comprehend but it's also incredible.  That God would become one of us. One of his creation.  That God knows what it is like to be us. Tired.  Sad.  Excited.  Once again he shows us how much he values us that he became one of us so that we could know him.

Tim Chester writes, "Christianity is not a call to embrace a system of thought or a religion or a moral code.  It's the invitation to embrace a person-or rather to be embraced by a person.  It's the invitation to look to Jesus and see in him the kindness, glory, beauty, power and holiness of God."

Every time I read this verse I think of Colin's Buchanan's song.  Enjoy...

Advent Challenge Day 12

Children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or husband's will, but born of God
John 1:13

Fake Christmas Family from Google Images

In the lead up to Christmas, I find myself having lots of conversations with people about how they dread Christmas because it highlights the trickiness of family dynamics.  We are made to feel that we should be having quality family time together, yet for many of us, being forced together is like ripping open a painful wound on an annual basis. 

In yesterday's verse we were told that if we believe in Jesus' name we will be given the right to be called the children of God.  We're in God's family.  We've been adopted and made one of his. A few years ago friends of ours adopted a little boy.  The first time I heard this little boy call my friend 'Mum' I realised - yep, he really is one of their children.  He has a new surname, a new place in the world.  

By becoming one of God's children we have a new identity.  One not shaped by our messy or disappointing family.  

We've been looking at Romans this term at church. This verse from Romans 8 reminds us what we have been given by being brought into God's family.  

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.  The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.  And by him we cry, "Abba, Father".  The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children.  Now if we are children, then we are heirs-heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. 
Romans 8:14-17.

How will being a part of God's family help you as you navigate the ups and downs of the Christmas period with your family this year?