Mandy Baker Johnson

Living without Shadows

Tag: Christmas

One of Those Moments

I’ve just had one of those moments.

Christmas. Emmanuel. God with us.

God with us.

That means something.

This is not all there is. (Thank God.)

This year has been the toughest I’ve ever known personally.

It has been twelve months of struggling with mental health issues, significant loss and deep grief.

Brexit, Trump, politics, the world generally going bonkers and no way to get off.

It feels so overwhelming as to render me completely numb.

I’m so fragmented nothing feels real. Not always even sure on the surface that God is there, but occasionally catch glimpses of His handiwork and know that He must be here…. somewhere.

Let this truth sink in: God with us. Jesus chose to come to this crazy, sick, evil, twisted, despairing world. God with us. He came to bring peace. His peace reigning in our hearts regardless of what is going on around or within us. Peace with God.

Because He came that first Christmas, I have a Safe Place to run to and hide. Jesus is my Strong Tower where I and every part of me is safe and loved and known and wanted and comforted.

 

Not Just For Christmas

I was knocked out by some familiar words this afternoon:

Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth PEACE to men on
whom His FAVOUR rests.
Luke 2:14

Every Christmas I’ve skimmed over this short song the angels sang thinking, ‘That’s nice.’

But this is incredible news.

God is so crazy about us that the only way He could show us what He’s like and invite us into a relationship with Him was to come to earth Himself. In Jesus, God became man (human mum, God dad), and spent His whole life showing us what God is like. Upshot of that is: we know God is nice and He likes us. He loves us passionately.

When Jesus was born, God offered peace to us.

Peace. Wow. Only recently have I discovered the seven-fold blessing of God’s peace:

*peace*
*completeness*
*wholeness*
*harmony*
*welfare*
*prosperity*
*tranquillity*

This is God’s heart for us. Roy Godwin, in his book The Way of Blessing, asks what it would look like if this peace was evident in our home, family, street, church? It took me all of a second to realise the difference it would make – and ever since, I’ve been speaking out this blessing over the people I love and live near.

When Jesus was born, God was saying His favour rests on us. We are a blessed people. We all love a hero, whether it’s Jack ReacherJames Bond or Katniss Everdeen. Jesus is the ultimate hero. He is God, come to earth so that we can know what God is like. More than that, He became the Way for us to come into relationship with God ourselves by dying and then rising again. He took all the wrong stuff that we think, say and do, and served the death sentence that was ours, so that when we accept what He’s done, the Father will look at us and see the perfection and beauty of Jesus.

This is awesome news that makes me want to yell WOOO HOOOOO! It’s not just for Christmas, it’s for now 🙂

One Of Us

‘The Word became flesh and lived among us’ – what does that actually mean?

Jesus became human and moved onto the estate.

Jesus was once the single cell of a fertilised egg – fully God and fully human.

As an embryo, Jesus didn’t just take up space in Mary’s womb, He was her Son.

Jesus was a real baby, born into the human race, with grandparents and a family tree. Just like me.

But Jesus is 100% God. Not like me.

Imagine God breathing air with lungs He had created….

One of His most precious names is Emmanuel – God with us. This is what we celebrate at Christmas, it’s all about Jesus and the wonder of God becoming man and walking among us. Jesus had friends and people who didn’t like Him; He was a son, a big brother, a cousin, an uncle.

Christmas can be so stressful – squeezing in time to write cards, buy and wrap presents, going out for Christmas dinners and drinks with work colleagues, friends and family, trying to keep an eye on the budget and seeing how far you can stretch your finances – by the time you get to the day itself you can end up feeling a bit frazzled. For many people, it’s fun to spend time with family. For others, there are family tensions to contend with, or loneliness, or worse.

Jesus knew all about family life. He was part of Mary and Joseph’s family. He had siblings. And it wasn’t all plain sailing. His family disbelieved and rejected Him, they thought He had mental issues, and they tried to manipulate and control Him.

But Jesus knew who He was. He was more than Mary’s son. He was more than the brother of James, Joses, Judas and Simon.

Jesus was the Son of God. And He had a purpose in life. He was headed for the cross so that He could defeat death and set us free from the fear of death. Jesus knew who He was and so He was able to be Himself and do what He was meant to do.

He offers that same assurance to us if we trust Him. For me, knowing who I am in Christ has literally changed my life. I am secure in knowing that I am loved and accepted. I love that Jesus was born into a human family so that I could be adopted into His Family. Amazing! There is confidence, peace and joy in knowing who you are.

When life kicks off, as it does from time-to-time, and I have a wobble, feeling rejected and worthless, I now repeat these five truths aloud to myself:

I believe that God is who He says He is.
I believe that God can do what He says He can do.
I believe that I am who God says I am.
I believe that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
I believe that God’s Word is alive and active in me.

Let’s celebrate JESUS this Christmas – He is so much more exciting than Santa and reindeer and tinsel and turkey and smellies. He is Son of God and Son of Man, willing to be our Emmanuel.

Renewed Daily - Recommendation Saturday

Barbie Swihart

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Christmas Party

I received an invitation to a party. Was it really meant for me? The people inviting me seemed certain they wanted me there. Not sure I should go, it’s not my thing, I don’t think I’d belong….

It was bitterly cold today and I couldn’t get warm. That party to which I was invited began looking like a good idea. Maybe I should go for a bit, just to get warm. I didn’t have to stay.

As soon as I walked through the doors, I was met with big smiles – not cheesy or weird, just friendly. I accepted some mulled wine and sat in a corner to people watch but someone joined me, chatting and drawing me in so that I wasn’t just watching but a part of what was happening.

We all moved through into a long room with a tall Christmas tree at one end and twinkling fairy lights strung from the ceiling. We sat at large round tables, still chatting, while being served a delicious, hot Christmas dinner with all the trimmings: turkey and stuffing, sprouts and pigs in blankets. This was followed by Christmas pudding or chocolate gateau with cream. We sang carols and laughed a lot.

In laughing till my sides ached at the ridiculously funny audience-participative nativity, I forgot that I didn’t think I belonged and simply enjoyed being part of this fun family atmosphere.

Food Bank Christmas BagsThere were even party bags to take away with important Christmassy food items: mince pies, chocolate coins, tinned soup, cheesy nibbles. We were each given a beautifully wrapped gift for Christmas. Tears blinded me for a moment when I unwrapped mine. It wasn’t some second-hand tat that had been set aside for someone like me, but was a decent gift that had been generously bought for someone like me. I’d done nothing to deserve it, I’d simply turned up and accepted all the love and generosity showered upon me.

Grace Church held our first Christmas Party for Social Hub users this afternoon. It was an absolute joy to be able to host Christmas dinner for some of the people who have used our food bank this year. It’s something the Social Hub team have been looking forward to for months, and to see our guests relaxing and enjoying themselves was really special.

As someone said in the pre-party prayertime, Jesus knows how to party. His enemies made snide comments behind His back and called Him a drunkard and a glutton. Not that He was ever greedy or got drunk, but He didn’t hesitate to spend time with people who were looked down on and called ‘sinners’. We wanted to be a little bit like Him.

Food Bank Christmas PresentsAs I gazed at all the presents and Christmassy food parcels to be given out, I was struck with the similarities between me and our guests.

I, too, have received an invitation to a party. I, too, have been welcomed in, and given a gift.

Jesus has invited me to a party that He has promised to host at the end of time. It’s a major event on His calendar – He died and came back to life to make sure this party will happen. And everyone is invited. For everyone who accepts His invitation, Jesus welcomes us. He brings us into His Kingdom and into His Family; in fact, His Dad adopts us and makes us His heirs. He provides for all of our needs and He sets us free to enjoy Him more and more. He has given us the most astounding gift of eternal, abundant life.

And that gift is something that we can start enjoying right now.

 

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