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Short Acrostic Reflections for Advent

First Sunday in Advent. Matt.2:1-11
A – Appointment. The wise men studied the heavens and saw the sign of the birth of a special kind of King. They each in turn decided to go and find and pay homage to this King.

We all have an appointment with God, sooner or later. Isa. 2 “Come, let
us go up to the mountain of the Lord, ….” At this place we will be judged and taught at the same time. My understanding along with a chappie called Moltmann is that He will come again to be part of his creation descending to live among us.

There will be some who like Herod will fear this day. We like the wise men will have the opportunity to meet with the King of Creation. We as Christians should be excited by the prospect of this meeting because it heralds in a better world. Although like the rest of creation we are flawed we have nothing to fear because of the:-
A- Atonement. John 1:29. Rom.3:25. Through the blood sacrifice of Jesus we are At-one-ment with God. Our sins have been cancelled out by the atoning sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross.


A Reflection on the Song of Mary

During Advent I will be posting a number of reflections as we prepare to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. This the first and will be followed by shorter reflections posted on each and every Sunday in Advent. Starting tomorrow.

Luke 1:46-55

Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord.”

One of my hobbies is bird watching and I have spent many a pleasant hour in a hide watching the antics of birds on lakes, in woodland or on the sea shore. Binoculars are a must because they magnify what we look at. When we see objects enlarged a whole new world opens up. What was a drab little ‘brown job’ to our natural eyes is revealed as a creature of beauty through binoculars. It’s the same when we look down a microscope. Sometimes its scary when a mite looks like an arachnid spider!

Mary’s soul acted like a lens and magnified the Lord. It revealed a whole new world for her. She saw God in a whole new way. Very often we view God through the wrong end of the binoculars. We make God smaller. It is easier to ignore him that way.

But Mary marveled at what was revealed to her and she declared that God held the place of greatest prominence and importance in her life.

1. Look at who He is.
Luke 1:46-49
In obedience she recognizes Gods supreme authority
In v.47 her spirit rejoices in GOD MY SAVIOUR recognizing God’s supreme divinity.

In v49 for the MIGHTY ONE has done great things for me.

She recognizes God’s supreme power. Making the impossible possible. Through her the birth of Jesus will bring about the salvation of mankind.

HOLY is his name. Mary recognizes God’s supreme purity & perfection.

2. Look at what He does.

In v50 Mary sees through the lens of her soul that His MERCY extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation.

No matter how far we have strayed from God he will show us his love, compassion and mercy. And this is for all time. How often do we feel unworthy? Guilty? At such times we must recall that because God came down to live with us and to experience all that life can throw at us, and more, he understands and extends his arm of love in forgiveness and compassion. No matter what state you or I are in, if we fear God we are loved by Him.

v51 Mary acknowledges that He has performed MIGHTY DEEDS with his arm…

Literally, “He has showed strength with his arm.”

In an act of irresistible power in creation God spoke and the elements yielded and obeyed Him. When God spoke Mary became pregnant with Jesus in a seemingly medically impossible way.

He is still showing His mighty deeds; saving, transforming, healing, grace for suffering, answering prayers, protecting. We should all spend time thanking God for the ‘miracles’ we have seen or experienced in our own life. And if we need a miracle right now pray for one for He makes the ‘impossible possible’.

v 51b Mary acknowledges His Justice: He has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. 52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. 53 He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.

She now sees that the baby Jesus that she is to give birth to will bring about moral, social and economic revolutions. I believe the only way to prevent wars, deal with climate change, global economic downturns and social injustice is to apply Christian principles to bring about a global moral, social and economic revolution. Such a revolution is urgently needed in today’s world. What do you think?

Ultimately Mary recognizes that God will make everything right.

Mary remembers he is FAITHFUL promise-keeper: 54 He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful 55 to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as he said to our fathers.

In other words the coming of Jesus is the fulfillment of all that was promised in the Old Testament.

Mary’s praise magnified God, giving Him the most prominent place in her life because of who He is and what He does.

How often do we look at God through the wrong end of binoculars; making Him seem small and far away. Let us bring God closer to us this Christmas by magnifying him with the lens of your soul. Let us make him bigger in our lives. Let us give Him the place of highest prominence in our lives. When we do so a whole new world opens up before us causing us to rejoice in all circumstances and enjoy His pleasure, because of the glorious miracle of the birth, life and death of Jesus.

A Prayer.

Lord Jesus, this Christmas as we sing the familiar carols, hear the familiar readings and ponder on familiar mysteries, give us the grace to magnify you and give us the gift of pure worship – that ability which Mary had of attributing to you your true worth, your full value, your inestimable greatness.

Teach us to be reverent; yet teach us how to express the love that burns within our hearts as we think of your goodness to us – that you have come to be our light in darkness, our hope in despair, our strength in weakness, our shelter in the storm – yes, and our eternal saviour.


A Call to Revolution

Luke1: 46-56 has become one of the great hymns of the church known as the Magnificat. I remember having to chant it quite regularly as a Choir Boy in my youth. It is saturated in Old Testament: and is especially akin to Hannah’s song of praise in 1Samual 2:1-10 for which Mary’s song could be understood as prophetic affirmation. As we approach Advent let us examine this song.

The Magnificat is one of the most beautiful songs of the Christian faith. William Barclay writes: “There’s a loveliness in the Magnificat but in that loveliness there’s dynamite.” For in its Prophetic message there is a call to revolution. It’s revolutionary because the world’s values are turned upside down. I read that in the last days of British India a Christian community was sometimes visited by the police because of its known sympathies with Indian nationalism. The then archbishop of Canterbury, William Temple, warned the church leader not to include the Magnificat in his church services, telling him, “It’s a most revolutionary canticle!”

Jesus, the ultimate revolutionary, completely reverses all human values. What Mary was prophesying about her unborn son is terrifying to the establishment, whoever and wherever they are. They cannot hear these words gladly. We may attempt instead to spiritualize these verses, but deep down we all know that Jesus has come to instigate the kind of revolution we still need today!

Marty’s song inspired by the Holy Spirit speaks prophetically of three of the revolutions of God.

  1. He scatters the proud in the plans of the heart. He casts down the mighty. A moral and political revolution.

“(God), the Mighty One … has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their innermost thoughts.” Just think of what God had done over the previous millennia. Right back in the formative days of civilisation, the early Babylonians, in their proud hearts, had tried to dethrone God by symbolically building the Tower of Babel. But God thwarted their pathetic scheming by confusing their language, resulting in their being scattered over the earth.

Many centuries later the God [the Lord] had to deal with the stubborn Pharaoh when he tried to prevent the young Israelite nation from regaining its freedom. Even a series of plagues failed to break this cruel man’s determination to hold on to his source of cheap labour. Ultimately he met his “Waterloo” in the waters of the Red Sea. It’s true to say “Man proposes but God disposes!” Psalm 2 asks “Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? … The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them” (1,3).

We see man’s arrogance rearing its ugly head in Daniel where the statue in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream is brought crashing down by the rock “not cut with human hands” (2:34), symbolising the kingdom of God. The proud king failed to learn his lesson and was brought down to the state of a brute animal, losing his sanity until he repented (ch 4). His son, Belshazzer, too, “was weighed in the scales and found wanting,” losing his throne and his life (ch 5). And so the human story goes on, illustrating Mary’s words, “He (God) has brought down rulers from their thrones.”

He always has the last word – still in the 20 & 21st century. In our lifetime we’ve seen many dictators arrogantly strutting the world stage but eventually they are discredited and topple from power. The Lord God scatters the proud and the mighty in the imagination of their hearts! He brings about political revolution.

The coming of Jesus into our own individual lives means the death of pride. Let us ask ourselves how often pride has prevented us from seeing ourselves as the main obstacle to developing relationships, to learning, of giving rather than taking and to growing closer to God . How often are we proud of things because ‘We did it our way.’ Christ enables a man to see himself as he really is. It is the deathblow to pride and the birth of selflessness. The moral and social revolution has begun in our own lives.

  1. An economic revolution. “He has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.”

These are exactly the terms of the Beatitudes, the opening sentences of the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus condemned those who thought that, by their own actions, they merited God’s praise. In fact their so-called righteousness was fatally flawed; they were the “rich” who were sent empty away. God’s values are in reverse to those of this world. A non-Christian society is an acquisitive society where each man is out to amass as much as he can get. A truly Christian society is a society where no man dares to have too much while others have too little, where every man must get only to give away. Does such a society exist? Could this be the basis for a world wide economic revolution? As we indulge this Christmas let us give some thought to those who can’t indulge and let us share something of what we have with them so as to further this economic revolution.

  1. A Revolution of Mercy & Love. “He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants for ever, even as he said to our fathers.”

Mary’s Song is full of hope for mankind. The second part of this Prophetic Testament is an account of God’s mercy, love and faithfulness to “the humble.” Mary tells us why and how it happened and is still happening: Mary’s message is that the coming of Jesus into the world is the fulfilment of God’s promises. We who believe in Jesus are now the family of God, and can call Abraham our ancestor.

But the great covenant promise concerning redemption was made in its most explicit form to Abraham. This founding father of the nation of Israel went much through the same process as Mary in coming to a realisation of what God was going to do in and through him.

God made a tremendous statement to Abraham at the commencement of his journey: “I will make you into a great nation … and you will be a blessing … and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Gen 12:2) and it was reinforced years later. He called Abraham one night and said “Come out of your tent; stand here, look at the stars in the heavens: can you count them? Imagine that you are looking at the sand on the seashore: can you count the individual granules?” “Then he said to him, ’So shall your offspring be’” (15:5). The writer of the book of Genesis was inspired to write, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness” (15:6). The same words were quoted approvingly by the apostle Paul (Rom 4:3). For many years it seemed impossible that the promise would be fulfilled but eventually Isaac was born, and so the route map of salvation history was confirmed. Promises of His redemptive purposes were repeated in similar terms to Abraham’s immediate descendants and demonstrated by the Exodus deliverance. They are reiterated in the Psalms and the prophetic books. Of course many hundred of years elapsed and the Messiah hadn’t appeared. At the time when Mary was visiting Elizabeth the Jews and their land had been conquered and trodden down by the great Roman Empire. Had God forgotten his promises? Mary says “No! God is ’remembering to be merciful’ … He hasn’t forgotten!”

In Abraham’s case it was over a period of many years from his being called to leave his Chaldean homeland to emigrate to Canaan. Abraham’s spiritual pilgrimage was by no means straightforward, for he often stumbled in carrying out the vision God had given him. But God remains faithful to His promises. This comes out in the words used by Mary: “He has helped his servant.”

How reassuring for us, too, in our pilgrimage in our failures and falling short of God’s standards. C S Lewis said perceptively: “A Christian isn’t one who never goes wrong, but one who is enabled to repent and begin again after each stumble because of the inner working of Christ.” Because God loves us he continually forgives us when we fall short and helps to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves down and continue our journey.

God’s timing doesn’t coincide with our expectations. It’s foolish to judge God in terms of our calendars.
Mary was sure that God had remembered “to be merciful … even as he said to our fathers.” God never forgets, he cannot forget!

We may pass through wilderness experiences but the Magnificat is a powerful reminder not to despair. God is a covenant-keeping God. In the Incarnation, He has given the final proof that all His promises are sure, that He is faithful to everything He has ever promised. It is a revolution of mercy and love bringing about the redemption of his creation of which we are supremely part. We must play our part by being merciful, forgiving and showing sacrificial love to all. To reflect the love that Jesus demonstrated in his life, death and resurrection.

Mary’s song is her hearts cry at the wonder of all that God was going to do through the child she would bear. He would come to reconcile us to God and institute a revolution of radical love! We have been enlisted into this revolution of love by the sovereign decree of God who has called us, given us the gift of faith, and even now is working within us for His glory!

How do you participate in the revolution you ask? Surely, it sounds too high and lofty for daily life in the midst of job, family, and all of the rest that goes with this life. Hear and take heed of the words of John Wesley in “Revival and Revolution.”

John Wesley’s rule for Christian living: “Do All the Good You Can, By All the Means You Can, In All the Ways You Can, In All the Places You Can, At All the Times You Can, To All the People You Can, As long as Ever … You Can!”

The Christmas story is one of the birth of a revolutionary; a revolutionary of love. What we celebrate has little to do with mangers, stables, and shepherds; these are but mere details of a most world-shattering birth, the defining moment in human history.

We need not be scholar, evangelist, missionary, pastor, or any other kind of full time dedicated worker of the Lord to participate in the revolution. We need only to be willing to reflect the heart’s cry of Mary, “My soul magnifies the Lord” and then live that out in each moment by moment interaction with the world around us.

Join the revolution, stay in the revolution, run the race to win. Amen.


Hope not Fear

My Father and I used to enjoy watching a comedy programme on TV entitled ‘It ain’t arf hot mum’. It featured a group of ENSA entertainers putting on shows  for troops stationed  in the Far East during the second world war. It was led by a Sergeant Major called Snudge. Of course being a comedy things always went wrong during shows but Snudge’s reply during the ensuing panic was to shout “Have no fear, Snudge is here!”

Today we are still in the grip of the Covid 19 pandemic.  The summer brought some relief but new surges of infections and death has reduced our confidence in the measures of dealing with it. There is a resurgence of fear and dismay for the future. But have no fear, God is here!

 I hear Isaiah shouting to us words from God:

Christians believe that Jesus is with us through all the vicissitudes’ of life. That through the strengthening power of the Holy Spirit we will prevail, without fear, but with hope because of the firm promises of Jesus.

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.’ Isa. 41:10.

Some may say, ‘Yes.  OK but my friend who is a Christian has got Covid and is seriously ill with it and in a Coma, or like me may say, ‘Why?’, when someone you know who is firm believer dies as a result of Covid infection.  Or, maybe, as a result of restrictions you have lost your source of income. We Christians are not exempt from contagion or loss of income, but we should not fear it because we know the Lord is with us and we stand on his promises. One of these is that Jesus promises he will be with his disciples (believers) always even to the end of the age. (Matt. 20:28). Jesus does not promise that we will be protected from infection o of any kind, or loss of a job, but we do read: ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten , that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life Jn.3:16 That is an amazing promise. All we have to do is believe in and trust Jesus – to believe that He is the way the truth and the life (Jn.14:6) and we are assured of life after life. A life free from pain and disease. It promises that whatever we experience in the here and now is of little consequence, except perhaps as a preparation, to a future life in eternity. And that should remove fear, uncertaincy and depression from in our lives and give us cause to be thankful and joyful. 

Nevertheless, every Christian needs to take note and act on the Proverb: ‘Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to the body and nourishment to your bones.’ Pvb.3:7-8.

The lockdowns and quarantines we are experiencing as a Nation remind me of when the Israelites were taken into exile to Babylon (2Kings.17).  Both righteous and unrighteous Israelites were in the exiled population.  Interestingly, these righteous individuals never lost their faith or trust  in God during their exile, they kept in touch and connected. It was through their prayers and continued righteousness in exile that God promised restoration.

“For I know the plans I have for you” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come to pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity”—Jer.29:11-13.

We Christians have a duty to pray for our nation and the world at this time. We are called to a life of hope, not fear. And so let us pray for a strengthening of our faith to live this life of hope. For hope and fear are at opposite ends of a pole.  In the midst of their exile many Israelites maintained this atmosphere of hope, that one day they would be restored to Zion, and continued to sincerely worship God.  

We read in Psalm 145:18 ‘The Lord is near to all who call upon him, to all who call upon him in truth.’

The Lord our God will restore us and heal our Land, but we need to take note of the exhortation in Psm. 33:12 ‘Blessed is the Nation where God is the Lord, the people he chose for his inheritance.’

We as a Nation need to turn our sights back onto God. A National Day of Prayer would be a start. At the very least a call for all Christians to come together as one body to pray, not necessarily in the same place or time, but regularly.

Let us be counted among the righteous in this time of exile, and let us pray the prayer: ‘Will you not revive us again that your people may rejoice in you? Show us your unfailing love, O Lord, and grant us your salvation. I will listen to what God the Lord will say; he promises peace to his people, his saints- but let them not return to folly.’ Psm.85:6-8