Showing posts from December, 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 bec…

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.

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 Israeli…

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.  L…

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…

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
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 disapp…

Young adult summer reading suggestions 2015

Below are a few young adult books that I've enjoyed this year.  I apologise that the suggestions are a bit light on the fantasy and science fiction.  I will try to branch out in 2016.

The Protected by Claire Zorn (2014) 

If you haven't read Claire's earlier book 'The sky so heavy' I highly recommend that (you can read a review here).  This book is really different to her first book. It tells the story of a girl whose older sister has died in a car accident 12 months earlier.  Hannah didn't really get on with her sister so is dealing with the guilt of this but also the impact on her family of her sister's death.  It's a powerful, well written story that deals with big ideas but gives hope in the midst of it all.

Are you seeing me?  by Darren Groth (2014)

Nineteen year old Justine is sole carer for her disabled twin brother Perry after her father has died a year earlier of cancer.  Her mother (who left them as young children) lives in Canada and so Justine…

Summer Reading 2015

Somehow this year I've managed to do quite a bit of reading and I thought I'd share some of my somewhat eclectic list with you.

The Night Guest by Fiona McFarlane (2013)

This was one of my favourite books of 2015.  Ruth is recently widowed after many years of marriage and her sons are all grown.  One day Frida arrives at the front door announcing that she has been sent by the government to look after Ruth.  At first Ruth is very pleased with Frida because she is good company and looks after her.  But then things start to go haywire.  Ruth grew up in Fiji and a lot of her memories take her back to her childhood as a missionary child.  This is a beautifully written book, thought provoking and mysterious.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (2014)

Recommended to me by a friend on Facebook, I read this book in a few days.  As many people know I really enjoy dystopian books (like The Hunger Games) but I also like post apocalyptic books - imagining what the world would be like …

Advent Challenge Day 11

Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God John 1:12

OK.  Today I've officially hit the wall.  I have too many things to do in a short amount of time, very little energy and very little motivation.  My pantry has a fruit fly plague, my kitchen has that icky feeling of not having been cleaned properly for a while.  Kids are grumpy and annoying me and each other.  I haven't got my Christmas shopping done yet and I'm starting to not care (which is dangerous because come Christmas Day someone will miss out and then I'll feel bad).

My children's bedrooms are also a mess but who has time to worry about that at the moment?!  The good news is that despite having a messy room and not being particularly pleasant (because they're tired after too many events and late nights), my kids are still my kids.  Their status hasn't changed because of their ineptitude with housework.

The reminder that today…

Advent Challenge Day 10

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.  John 1:10-11

Last week I didn't recognise a woman who is the mother of one of my son's friends.  I introduced myself to her, saying 'Hi, I'm Jenny.  Nice to meet you'.   She said, 'Oh! I talked to you for ages at your son's party in June'.  Um, awkward. Recognising people is not always easy.  
Why didn't the world recognise Jesus?  He certainly wasn't what the Jews, God's own chosen people, had been hoping for.  He was born as a baby.  He died on a cross, a humiliating and shameful death. His lifestyle wasn't something we'd all aspire to.  He challenged people to give up things they liked.   
Tim Chester writes, 'Light has come into the darkness, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil' (John 3:19).  People love darkness.  They don…

Advent Challenge Day 9

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world John 1:9

Sometimes God is portrayed as somehow being so other worldly that we can't ever really know him. However, here we're reminded that Jesus came to us.  He came into our world.  We don't need to dig around trying to discover what God is like.  We don't need to sit around staring at the skies searching for who God is.

Each Christmas we're reminded that Jesus came into the world as a baby.  I know babies.  They're not all that mysterious.  They're precious and wonderful (and yes, sometimes quite mysterious when they don't sleep for days on end) but not unusual or out of the ordinary.   It's worth pondering on the 'ordinariness' of Jesus, who through the whole universe was created, coming into the world as a human being. He didn't come in a wavy, mystical form.  He came as a baby.  A person.  Just like you and me.

I like pondering this because I think it means tha…

Advent Challenge Day 8

There was a man sent from God whose name was John.  He came as witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe,  He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light John 1:6-8

John (the Evangelist, writer of the gospel) introduces us to John the Baptist (Jesus' cousin who was a few months older than Jesus) in these verse.  At first many of John the Baptist's followers thought that he was THE one.  At first we might think the same looking at these verses.
But John quickly points out that John the Baptist was a witness.  A witness to the light.  The story isn't about John the Baptist.  He was the warm up act.  The introduction.  
We too are witnesses.  If you know Jesus for yourself, you have seen the impact of his work in your life.  The difference that knowing him makes. The freedom and peace that comes from knowing the creator of the universe who gives light and hope in a dark world. 
How are you going at being a 'witne…

Advent Challenge Day 7

The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it John 1:5

As Jesus lay dying on the cross, darkness covered the earth.  His friends were confused and bewildered.  He had promised so much, yet here he was dying.  If this was the end of the story, I'd be feeling pretty ripped off too.  I would think that darkness had indeed overcome.

But we know that Jesus came back to life.  It is his resurrection that gives us confidence when we read John's words at the start of his account.  Jesus is the light.  And the darkness of death did not overcome him.  When light shines, it doesn't matter how dark it is, the light will always been seen.

Even when life gets beyond what we can cope with and despite knowing that ultimately we all face death, if we trust in Jesus, the only one who can conquer death, the darkness won't overcome. That light will still shine.

'I have come into the world as a light', said Jesus, 'so that no one who believes in me  shoul…

Advent Challenge Day 6

And that life was the light of all people John 1:4

Growing up in India, going for a walk at night was a precarious thing.  There wasn't an overabundance of street lights (ie. none) so getting home by foot after a night out meant relying on torch light.  And it was precarious because footpaths weren't the norm either, yet large potholes and poo were!  If your torch was using up the last of its battery power it wasn't all that powerful and you could have a few near misses.

When God created the world he spoke, and through his word alone the first thing he created was light. In John's introduction of Jesus, John talks about Jesus being both the word and the light.   .

As a teenager I loved a song by Amy Grant (yes, sooo 1980's!)  'Thy word'.  It was based on a verse from Psalm 119:105 which says 'Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path'.

In Psalm 119 the writer talks about 'your word' as God's law - the law helped God's pe…

Advent Challenge Day 5

In him was life John 1:4

Earlier this week I was out on an end of year school picnic and we had to call an ambulance because one of my students dislocated his thumb.  It was ugly looking and he was in a lot of pain. While we waited for the ambulance we did what we could to keep him calm but we couldn't take the pain away. We were pleased to see the ambo when he arrived.  He gave us hope that we could help our student who wasn't having a very fun time.

John speaks into our world of death and hopelessness.  We desperately look around trying to find different ways to help ourselves, but ultimately we can't solve the big problems of life ourselves. John has already introduced us to 'The Word' and shown us that it was through the Word that the world was created.  Now he emphatically states that in him was LIFE.

Like when the ambo arrived, I shout a silent hurrah.  There is hope.  There is now someone on the scene who looks like they have power over the thing we fear m…

Advent Challenge Day 4

He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.

Today is a celebration day for me. Our students finished yesterday and today the staff celebrate the end of the year and reflect on all that we achieved this year. It's a fun day.

John does a bit of reflection himself in this verse. He reflects back in this passage on what Jesus' role was in creation. The world was created through him. Big concept that matters when you talk about Jesus' arrival on earth. If he made the world then maybe he has power to deal with some of the mess us humans have created.

Later in the gospel story we see Jesus performing miracles. He does this to show his power over creation. His power to restore, recreate. I particularly find the story of the woman who bled for decades particularly moving. She touched Jesus and she was healed. Or the blind beggar who begged Jesus to heal him because despite his blindness he could recognise Jesu…

Advent Challenge Day 3

And the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was God in the beginning.  John 1: 1-2
To be perfectly honest folks I'm pretty tired.  This is the last week my students are at school so we've had lots of end of year events, a few late nights.  The thing with a challenge is that you do it every day regardless of how you're feeling or how badly your brain is processing the deeper things of life!  
So how do you ponder these deep and complex truths at the start of John when you're tired?  You steal someone else's thoughts and reflect on those! Tim Chester's already done the hard yards.  
This is a verse that introduces us to the idea that the Word (Jesus) has always been with God.  There is one God but it is a Trinity.  Separate but the same God.  Confusing.  Yes!  But important when we look at the person of Jesus.
"Why does this matter?  It means that God can communicate in a way that is sure and true.  When we hear God's Word, we don't just hear…

Advent Challenge Day 2

I don't love shopping (I'm being polite-I actually find shopping centres a bit soul destroying) so if it's not online, chances are it won't get bought. Yesterday I had a bit of extra time after school because we had our Speech night so I braved the city and bought a couple of presents.  I felt noble.  I could have been reading or having a conversation!  
Today in our reading we're taken to the start of a kind of conversation.  Exciting.  I love a good chat! 
'In the beginning was the word'. I love words. I read a lot of them. I write a lot of them. I speak a lot and occasionally I even stop long enough to listen to words! In this verse is that we're being introduced by John to someone who is THE word. This phrase from John takes us back to the start of Genesis where God created the world by speaking. 
Words and speaking. They are things I'm familiar with. This is why trusting in Jesus is interesting to me. We get to hear his words in the gospels. I …

Advent Challenge Day 1

So I went on Facebook.  After a crazy exhausting weekend of late nights with a child involved in a huge schools spectacular, attending a training day for a camp I'm helping on, church, another training afternoon...I looked on Facebook.  And behold I looked and I saw all the beautiful Christmas trees and the lights and the decorations and the Christmas baking and then the general feelings of inadequacy and failure that Facebook seems to create in me.  One big #pinterestfail.
Taking on an Advent challenge is my attempt to carve out a small chunk of time to focus on what Christmas is really all about.  I still don't really know how that Christmas tree is going to get set up or how the presents will get bought or what we'll be eating for Christmas lunches.  I'm trying to move past all that and come out of December more encouraged by who Jesus is rather than just defeated by busyness.  
In our first reading we kick off with the very first words of John's gospel 'In…