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December 2013

December 19, 2013

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Thoughts From The Cottage

 Dear Friends

 It is said that the church is declining numerically and in its influence in society. It is said that people are not interested in God anymore and thus the church has become irrelevant. It is said the Christian message and particularly the Bible is out of date. If that were true why do people want a Christian minister for a funeral, their wedding in church and their children blessed or baptised? If that were true why do people celebrate Christmas in such style and flock to churches for carol services, midnight communion and other such special services? It is because deep down in their psyche somewhere most people believe in the existence of God and his coming into the world as Jesus over 2000 years ago. The job of the church is to help people separate truth from myth in the Jesus story and enable people to reconnect with a God in a vibrant way that affects the whole of their life. This is our task this Christmas.

 The birth stories in the Bible make up a tiny proportion of the whole Bible but they are vital and are there for a purpose, as is every passage in the Bible. The story seems incredible and is indeed a miracle with many facets including God coming to earth, immaculate conception and Gentiles worshipping Jesus. So what do we actually know? The Old Testaments Prophets foretold the coming of a Messiah who would be the Saviour of the world and bring in the Kingdom of God on Earth. All Jews were looking forward to this day but it came in such a way that many missed it and many more dismissed it.

 The birth of Jesus can be located in history. The Bible tells us it was when Augustus was Emperor of Rome (27BC to 14AD) and when Quirinius was Governor of Syria, which included Judea, (6AD to 12 AD) furthermore we know from secular records that Quirinius’ first task was to conduct a census. At that time Herod Archelaus was Hebrew Ruler of Samaria and Judea. So this dates the birth of Jesus to 6/7AD. Now we can locate Jesus in history how do we treat the rest of the story? Ultimately the claim that Jesus is the Son Of God can only be self-authenticated by His own words and by our faith. Immaculate Conception (aka virgin birth) is a problem for many people but if we really believe in a God for whom nothing is impossible then immaculate conception presents no problems as a theoretical possibility. It’s practical importance is that it means that Jesus was born not out of human desire but out of divine desire and this is crucial, it was an act of God not of humans, John 3:16 puts it well.

 The choice of Mary and Joseph is significant as Mary was a virgin and Joseph was a descendant of King David, albeit far removed from royalty by then. The birth took place in a busy Bethlehem and in a stable because the inns were full. Actually that latter fact meant that they probably had a quieter night with more privacy than the inn would have given. The fact that the first visitors were shepherds whose job made them unclean and the second visitors were Gentile wise men is highly significant as it shows that Jesus, and hence God, is for all people and not just one race.Our task this Christmas is to faithfully and honestly proclaim the Christmas story and allow its message to come alive in our hearts and the hearts of all who hear it.

Ian

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