Room For Jesus

Jesus was not born into a royal household or aristocratic family in keeping with his title or position. He was born in a stinking cattle shed to an ordinary Jewish family and laid upon the straw in an animal feeding trough. No one knows the true location where the King of heaven was born but perhaps the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem may just mark the spot where once stood that lowly cattle shed. When Mary gave birth to the Christ Child there was no NHS or Private medical health care in those bleak days. No electric lights or central heating could warm and bring comfort to Mary on that first Christmas night and yet the glory of God was seen, as the most important child to ever be born came into the world.

The story is told by the old theologian of the time a stately Christian gentleman visited the Church of the nativity. ‘He came to a great wall, and in the wall there was a door so low that he had to stoop to enter it; and through the door, and on the other side of the wall, there was the church. Beneath the high alter is the cave, and when the pilgrim descends into it he finds a little cavern about fourteen yards long and four yards wide’. Is this the place where Jesus was born? Well the tourist information may tell you it is so. We will never know, however the symbolic image that is portrayed sends a clear message to us all. In order to enter in and see Jesus every person regardless of status or position must stoop low and bow down to enter in.

I have never had the privilege of touring the significant sites mentioned in the life story of Jesus and the historic letters in the Bible. Perhaps one day I will be blessed with the opportunity of doing so, however, the Word creates images and impressions in our minds of the locations and what it would have been like to live in the times of Jesus. The great divide between the wealthy and the poor that we see in our society was even more marked, but life would have been hard for the working class family of which Jesus was part. Joseph, his earthly father, was a carpenter and is thought to have died young, which meant Jesus had to start work early in life and run the family business.

I say these things to help us see that, although the glory of God was revealed and seen in Jesus at that first Christmas, he lived and worked hard in a climate more difficult than ours today. He lived under Roman rule and had to provide for Mary and the other siblings as an ordinary family. Jesus lived at the coalface of life and had to make it work before he began his miraculous ministry at the age of thirty.

We as followers of Jesus are not called to develop empires for ourselves or to try to make our name great. We are called to follow Christ and most of the time we express His glory by serving in the routine of life. The true glory of Christ this Christmas will not come to you through the tinsel and the tree, but through stooping in humility and by bowing in worship as you make room for Jesus. Let Jesus fill the ordinary with His life and power because it will make Christmas extraordinary for you and your family.

A Sensible Christmas

I suppose that money or the lack of it is the fulcrum point of Christmas in today’s society, and could cause more heartache than anything else. The world has successfully managed to brainwash individuals to meet the unspoken demands of those around and near to them with money they do not earn, especially in these restrained financial times, as values are distorted by the pressure of compliance with a materialistic culture.

The church as well as the secular community faces deprivation during this uncertain financial era, as we face Brexit, as the money market struggles to regain balance amidst a topsy-nervy humanity. We preach a gospel of moderation in a profligate age because there is an inversion to natural common sense and morality.

Spring meadow flowers are often trodden underfoot as cows smell water, and that appears to be what is happening today amongst the banking fraternity. The scent of profit destroys the landscape of ordered intelligence, as temperance is eschewed in favour of excess.  There seems to be an alarming thirst that needs quenching irrespective of the advice they are given or an example of self-control expected.

How do we, as the church, respond to this financial crisis, and deal with unemployment and restricted and diminishing funds? What do we do when all around us seems to be falling apart and we struggle to keep our families in necessary provisions and meet daily needs? What is it about money that causes many people problems? It is not just the lack of it, but how we use it that is important. We need a right perspective on an ordered financial life. The Bible has the answer, as it has in many ways about most things.

I suggest that we should work as hard as we can to earn as much as we can, do not get into debt, budget wisely, save for the future, and give consistently to charity to save covetousness. Follow God’s well-ordered plan and although you may never be rich, you will be wealthy in the real values of life.

Much gift spending at Advent is panic buying as people feel compelled to give because of guilt that is created by peer pressure that forces compliance with the norm. “What will they think if I don’t give a gift?” Does it really matter what they think, friendship does not consist of financial bestowment but faithful conferral of time and presence. Are you available, not are you rich?

It has been said that “The easiest way for your children to learn about money is for you not to have any.”[1]    Whichever way, money will govern our lives from the cradle to the grave, it is best therefore to gain a true perspective of it. It was Margaret Thatcher who said: “No one would have remembered the Good Samaritan if he’d only had good intentions. He had money as well.[2]

In a subtle way “Benefits make a man a slave”[3] as society invisibly ties ligatures around us with tantalizing offers that weave a web of materialism into the receptive fabric of our soul. “In civilised society it is the building of possessions that is the snare.”[4]   We mistakenly call things “mine” and not “His” and God is excluded from our accounts. The word of God tells us to lay up treasure in heaven not possessions on earth.[5]   “He who loves silver will not be satisfied with silver; nor he who loves abundance, with increase.”[6]

The importance is undeniable, the value high, the stress considerable in modern society. The secret of rich people living in today’s world is to “have everything but possess nothing.” [7] Abraham is a true example of this philosophy. The offering up of Isaac was a revelation of his soul. “Everything is safe which we commit to him, and nothing is really safe which is not committed.”[8] It is expedient to give all things into his hand, including our money. Happy, blessed and a wise Christmas.

 


[1] Katherine Whitehorn (1926) British journalist. How to Survive Children

[2] Margaret Thatcher (1925) British politician and Prime Minister. Television interview, 1980

[3] Arabic proverb

[4] Shade of His Hand by Oswald Chambers page 63 pub by Marshall Morgan & Scott

[5] Matthew 6:20

[6] Ecc 5:10

[7]The Blessedness of Possessing Nothing by A. W. Tozer in Leadership Magazine Spring 1981 pg. 95

[8] Ibid. Page 96