Wishing you a very happy Christmas as we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Saviour. I hope you can make it to one of our Christmas services.
Even though Christmas comes around every year, I never tire of the narrative and continue to be amazed at God’s love and the lengths he went to, to send a Saviour to all humankind.
This week, I am reflecting on the virgin birth. I understand why it can be an obstacle for some people in coming to faith, but studying it has actually strengthened mine. In my studies I’ve learned that humans have been laying claim to virgin births since time began. A virgin rollcall might include Romulus and Remus, twin founders of Rome, born of the virgin Rhea Silvia. In ancient Egypt, Ra (the Sun) was born of a virgin mother, Net; Horus was the son of the virgin Isis. The Phrygo-Roman god, Attis, was born of a virgin, Nana, on December 25. It resonates because he went on to be killed and was resurrected. In ancient Greece, Persephone was the virgin mother of Jason. And Plato’s mother, Perictione, was a virgin. The list goes on. Hinduism, Buddhism and ancient China all have their share of them.
Regardless, the virgin Mary giving birth to the saviour of the world is different. It’s a historical fact known all over the world and celebrated over 2000 years after it happened. This was part of God’s plan for Salvation through faith in Jesus and I pray many more will come to saving faith in him this Christmas.
I’m not deterred by some people’s lack of faith, because we have a God who is able to bring something out of nothing. He calls things into being by his mighty word, and he creates new life even in the most barren and unlikely places. Remember God made Sarai to conceive in her old age, and Elizabeth also. It was not too hard for the Holy Spirit to come upon Mary and create new life in her.
May he do that for us in a spiritual sense. May the Holy Spirit come upon you afresh this Christmas and fill you with new life and hope. May you rejoice that Christ is in you.
May God bless you this Christmas and always.
We had a wonderful gathering yesterday at our Community Carols and Lunch event. About 30 guests were waited on and served by about 30 Peninsula Grammar staff participating in their “Hands for the Community” initiative. After collecting Roast Chickens which Woolworths Mount Eliza generously donated, the staff prepared a lunch fit for Kings and Queens. Big thanks to John Welsh who organised the food for this event, including puddings donated by Lions Club. We give sincere thanks to all who came along, and especially thank the Peninsula staff who served above and beyond expectations and put on a great concert. It was a great day for all.
This Sunday, I hope you will join us for worship. We will reflect on Jesus as being the light of the world. He was sent into the world to cast out darkness: to point people to God, to call people to repentance for their sins, and to empower his followers to do good works that bring glory to God.
As followers of Jesus, we are called to live in accordance with God’s standards. As we do so, we too become the light of the world, pointing others to God’s greatness.
This week, I hope we will be encouraged to confront spiritual darkness through faith in Jesus, and shine brightly for him as we go about our daily lives. May we “Arise, and shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you." (Isaiah 60:1).
Love and Light,
Christmas is approaching fast! It’s a hectic time of year. I don’t know about you, but I’m finding it hard to fit it all in! I chose to wake up extra early today to try fit more into my day. Before getting out of bed I asked the Lord what he wanted to say to me today. He said, “Be Still”. He didn't mean for me to lay in bed longer, rather, I am to trust him with the things I'm pushing to make happen.
In Hebrew "be still" means to let go, stop striving, slacken and let drop. It was a reminder for me to loosen my grip on some circumstances and outcomes and trust God who is sovereign over both. The last time he gave me that instruction was earlier this year when I sold my family home. Today God is reminding me to trust him in the purchase of the new one. As I wait for the loan approval, I will “Be Still”, and trust God to bring about his good plans. If you are waiting for something, I encourage you to trust in God as you wait for him.
Advent is a time for waiting. We remember how God's people awaited Christ's first coming and now we await his second. This Sunday we look back and see how all God's promises were fulfilled in the past. We remember that Isaiah prophesied that one would come as a "voice crying in the wilderness; “Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight”. John the Baptist fulfilled that prophecy. (See Isaiah 40, Matthew 3). John’s role was to prepare the way for the King’s advent. He preached a call to repentance from sin and baptised with water. He said the one coming would baptise with the Holy Spirit.
Jesus was the one prophesied to come after John and he fulfilled all the prophecies written about the long-awaited Messiah; the Son of God. Jesus said, he would send the Holy Spirit to continue on his work and we know he did that in a powerful way on the day of Pentecost. This was a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies such as Joel 2:28, 29 which says “After all of this I will pour out my Spirit on all kinds of people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your elderly will have revelatory dreams; your young men will see prophetic visions. Even on male and female servants I will pour out my Spirit in those days”.
As we look back and see God's words fulfilled in the past, we can trust him for our now and future. We can choose to bring our lives under his reign, and receive the promised Holy Spirit to help us hear from God, speak and live his truth, and continue his work in his way, and his time. He will bring his good plans to pass. We can trust in him for that.
Have a great week.
Hope to see you at Munchies.
This Advent season we want to focus on Christ; His first coming, and second coming, and all that means for humankind. To help us focus on Christ, we will look at some of the names of Jesus in Scripture. There are at least two hundred names, titles, or descriptions for Jesus, but we will only look at 12 over the coming month or so (Carrying this theme beyond Christmas day and into the new year).
In the lead up, you may like to reflect on the following names, and consider which one’s are most meaningful to you today?
Jesus: Read Matthew 1:21
Immanuel: Read Isaiah 7:14 and Matthew 1:23
Messiah: Read Mark 8:29
Light of the World: Read John 8:12
Savior: Read John 4:42
The Word: Read John 1:1 and Revelation 19:13
Lamb of God: Read John 1:29
First Born of Every Creature: Read Colossians 1:15
Good Shepherd: Read John 10:11
Alpha and Omega: Read Revelation 22:13
Wonderful Counsellor: Read Isaiah 9:6
The Christ: Read Matthew 16:16
Holy One: Read Mark 1:24
Lord: Read Romans 10:9
Friend: Read Matthew 11:19, John 15:14-15
Son of Man: Read Daniel 7:13, Matthew 9:6, 12:40
Ancient of Days: Read Daniel 7:9
Servant: Read Matthew 12:18
King: Read Zechariah 9:9
Prince of Peace: Read Isaiah 9:6
Bright and Morning Star: Read Revelation 22:16
Bread of Life: Read John 6:35
The Mighty God: Read Isaiah 9:6
Son of David: Read Jeremiah 33:17 and Matthew 20:30
Unspeakable Gift: Read 2 Corinthians 9:15
This Sunday we celebrate the feast of “Christ the King” in accordance with Church tradition. While I think it’s good that we spend the last Sunday of the liturgical year remembering Christ is King, this is something I hope we all focus on every single day of the year! Daily, we need to bring our lives under Christ’s reign and worship Him as Lord and King over-all.
I encourage you to reflect on Christ as King of your life this week and ask yourself: Do I recognise Christ as our king and allow him to reign in my heart? Do I follow his example of humble service and selflessness in all my relationships, and leadership roles (in my family, community, or workplace?).
In a world that values money, power, and success, we need to represent Christ’s Kingdom which is reigned by love. He leads with humility, not arrogance, and serves for the well-being of others, not for personal gain. This is the kind of “upside down” leadership that our world desperately needs.
This week’s gospel reading (Matthew 25:31-46) presents a powerful image of Christ as both king and judge. He separates the sheep from the goats, not based on their wealth, status, or achievements, but on their acts of love and mercy. This is what we will be judged on. So, let us all seek to be more like our King who identifies himself with the hungry, thirsty, stranger, naked, sick, and imprisoned, and recognise his presence in all people no matter what their status is in this world’s systems.
Let’s choose to honour Christ as our King and surrender ourselves to live under His loving rule every day, not just this coming Sunday. Let him guide us to acts of kindness, compassion, and love. And let’s choose to be a community that serves the least among us, recognising the presence of our King in everyone we meet.
In Jesus’ name, and for the sake of his Kingdom.
We believers in Christ Jesus, have been given a new name. We have been chosen. We are royal people, a holy priesthood, and set apart for a purpose (See 1 Peter 2:4-10). What should we do with what we have been called to do? As 1 Peter 2:9 says; “declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”
We will do that together this coming Sunday. I pray and trust you will join us for worship. I also hope many of you will stay on for the Annual Parish Meeting at 11am (after our Church service and brief morning tea). Personally, I’m excited for this meeting! I appreciate the amazing support and accountability we share together. I also welcome the opportunity to look back over the year that has passed, take stock and give thanks for the good things, reset for the future and envision the year ahead.
There is much to give thanks for, and even more to pray for, and work towards. I pray, over the coming year, we will be like the faithful stewards who multiplied the talents that the master had entrusted to them (Read Matthew 25:14-30). God, our master, has entrusted us with so much, and given each of us gifts/talents to use for His Kingdom purposes. We don’t need to be afraid to use them for His purposes, because God’s perfect love casts out all fear and he rewards our faithfulness.
I am grateful to all who use their gifts to serve so faithfully at Mount Eliza Anglican Church. Thank you for Taking the extra time to do the required levels of training and compliance checks. Your faithfulness to God and his people is truly appreciated. trust your ministry will be fruitful and bring real reward! May you hear God say; “Well done Good and faithful servant. Come share in your master’s happiness”.
I’m looking forward to the next 12 months (and more) as partners in God’s Kingdom work here. May our awesome God continue to reveal more and more reasons to declare His praises.
Love in Christ,
In the words of Former Airforce Chaplain, The Reverend Robert Paget; “Remembrance Day draws me back to the fact that our military personnel are just ordinary folk thrust into a world gone mad, a world were diplomacy has failed to resolve differences and governments have resorted to ‘sending in the troops’. It is these troops, often young people not long out of school, that carry a huge burden. Too often when the burden becomes too great, all they find around them is a vacuum. The role of Chaplain helps to fill this void.”
This Sunday, we acknowledge Defence Sunday following Remembrance Day rather than the week prior. This week we intentionally remember our Defence Force Chaplains and the important pastoral care work they do with our military personnel and veterans.
This Sunday, we also acknowledge and welcome among us, those who are involved with Legacy (an Australian charity that was established in 1923 to help families of those who have served for their Country).
Lest we forget!
When I was a little girl, I asked my nana what her favorite book in the bible was. She said "Lamentations", which I thought was strange. In my mind, Lamentations was a hard and boring book to read. It held little meaning for me.
As an adult who has experienced some more of life's ups and downs, I have come to appreciate it more. Today, I am reflecting on these words of lament, spoken in Israel's hardest times and I am encouraged to put hope in God: "Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." (Lamentation 3:22-23). It's good to be reminded to put our eyes on God and put our hope in Him, especially when times are tough. These words are specifically encouraging to Christians suffering in other parts of the world today where persecution and the real threat of being executed for one's faith exists.
This Sunday I will speak from Lamentations about the suffering of Christians all over the world. It is the beginning of Barnabas Aid's Suffering Church Action and Awareness Week. Children are likely to be present in the service, I won't go into much depth or detail of the suffering and deaths of many Christians. Rather, I include a link here for people who would like to read more.
Persecution Overview | Barnabas Aid
Bible Study Guide HERE
It may cause us sadness to think about these things, but it is important so that we learn to stand alongside our suffering Church family and make known their situation and demonstrate Christ’s love to them in prayer and practical actions.
I pray we all are encouraged to put our hope in God, and trust in his faithfulness, no matter what is going on in our lives. Bible discussion sheets will be available on Sunday if you'd like to discuss in small groups or reflect more at home.
Yours in Christ,
This week’s lectionary readings speak volumes into every arena of our lives. They were originally written in turbulent times; not much different to ours with our political agendas, wars in Israel and other places, and in a time when so few want to come into the Kingdom of God due to their own agendas and the lack of knowledge and love of God. So, as we come to read the parable of the wedding feast (Matthew 22) and Philippians chapter 4, let us open our hearts and ears to what God is saying to us today.
Before I get into that, I do want to share on the deep and meaningful discussion I had with my indigenous gardener this morning. He raised the topic and asked how I was going to vote? I said, “I’m not yet decided as I don’t know enough to understand it all properly”. He said his grandmother is black as black, and his vote is “No”. He went on to give his reasons why and also made sure to say that the way people vote won’t separate him from his friends. I share that sentiment and want to again reassure our congregation that I will never seek to influence your vote; whether you vote yes or no, is none of my business. So, please be reassured that the acknowledgment of country we have on the welcome screen at Church has no political underlying agenda or overtones. We are simply seeking to be an inclusive, respectful church before God and seeking ways to implement the 11 new Safe Ministry Government standards in ways that honour God and love all people. I’m sure there are better ways to do that, so if you’d like to play a part in the planning of best ways forward, please speak to me about this.
Back to the scriptures… In Philippians, Paul describes a different reality alongside the violence and duplicity of the Roman empire of his day. He sought to encourage the small and struggling Christian congregation in the Roman colony of Philippi by reminding them to have faith in the powerful Lord who has defeated death. He exhorted them to have quiet minds, hopeful hearts, and joy-filled attitudes.
Today, in our own circumstances, Paul’s words encourage us to have the same peace, hope and joy. He reminds us to rejoice in the Lord always. And, this week I have experienced this afresh by drawing closer to the Lord in prayer. Being close to God is like being a joy-filled guest at a wedding feast, as Matthew 22 depicts. In the parable Jesus told: The father (God) invites all to enter His Kingdom (the wedding feast) but many will refuse and miss out on the wonderful experience. Only those who are glad to enjoy His company, honour His son and learn of His love, will experience the fulness of this Joy-filled experience.
We can all know this joy by accepting God’s generous invitation, coming into His kingdom, through and for His son, and experiencing His intimate love for ourselves – personally. There is no greater joy than spending time in the presence of God.
May we each experience this daily in our respective lives, and all together this coming Sunday.
God is with you and for you,
At a party last weekend, a group of us danced with a 98-year-old man who danced as if he were still young, doing the twist down to the ground and back up again. Knowing his age, I said to his daughter “I’m afraid we are going to kill him” (I’d hate for anything to happen to her old man). She replied “He’s an athlete. He was a gymnast”. I thought, “that was a long time ago”, so her response didn’t ease my concern, but I like it that she has that view of him.
How about you? No matter what your age, do you consider yourself an athlete? Have you got the endurance to go the distance?
In the scriptures there are several references to believers “Running the race”. These verses inspire us to compare life’s hurdles and difficulties to an athlete competing for victory. Even if you’ve never physically participated in a race, the image helps us understand the reality of life’s intense run toward a victorious finish. We are compelled to view ourselves as runners. And while each one of us has our own life’s course which unwinds with its own difficulties, distractions, joys, and sorrows, this metaphor proves to be one which we can all relate to. “Run the race” verses encourage us to recognise there is still more ahead, and we must not stop.
In Hebrews 12:1-2, it says; “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God”.
In 1 Corinthians 9:24, we are reminded that only one runner in a race is getting the prize. In Philippians 3:13-14, we are encouraged to press on toward the prize. In Galatians 5:7, Paul (the writer) chastises believers who once ran well but no longer follow the truth. And in 2 Timothy 4:7, Paul, nearing his personal race’s end, talks about finishing it.
Thus we are encouraged to have endurance (because life is a spiritual marathon, not a sprint), and to have perseverance to continue to lay aside every sin, needless burden, and distraction that weighs us down or causes us to stumble. We ought to lay aside anything that makes endurance difficult. We need to run light, and finish well like Jesus did and like Paul did.
So, let us all choose to run with endurance like an athlete (and continue to dance like that 98-year-old man). Let nothing hold us back from living life to the full. May we stay the course, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of faith who will someday give us the victor’s crown.
Thanks be to God who gives us the victory.