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Chris (email link at the bottom of each page)

Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel

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2 Samuel 7:1–5, 8–16 • Psalm 88(89): 2–5, 27,29 • Luke1:67–79

John’s father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke this prophecy:

‘Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, for he has visited his people, he has come to their rescue and he has raised up for us a power for salvation in the House of his servant David even as he proclaimed, by the mouth of his holy prophets from ancient times, that he would save us from our enemies and from the hands of all who hate us.  Thus he shows mercy to our ancestors, thus he remembers his holy covenant, the oath he swore to our father Abraham that he would grant us, free from fear, to be delivered from the hands of our enemies, to serve him in holiness and virtue in his presence, all our days.  And you, little child, you shall be called Prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare the way for him.  To give his people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, this by the tender mercy of our God who from on high will bring the rising Sun to visit us, to give light to those who live in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace.’

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The Magnificat

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1 Samuel 1:24–28 - 1 Samuel 2:1, 4–8 - Luke 1:46–56

Mary said: ‘My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord and my spirit exults in God my saviour; because he has looked upon his lowly handmaid.  Yes, from this day forward all generations will call me blessed, for the Almighty has done great things for me.  Holy is his name, and his mercy reaches from age to age for those who fear him.

‘He has shown the power of his arm, he has routed the proud of heart.  He has pulled down princes from their thrones and exalted the lowly.  The hungry he has filled with good things, the rich sent empty away.  He has come to the help of Israel his servant, mindful of his mercy – according to the promise he made to our ancestors – of his mercy to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’  Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months and then went back home.


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Fourth Sunday of Advent

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How shall we prepare ourselves to welcome Jesus as our King this Christmas? A king can rule only when the people give him authority to reign over them.  Jesus will be our king only if we invite him to rule over us by placing our whole lives under him, leaving no area of our lives outside his kingship and holding nothing back from him. We must make the decision to follow him, obey him and serve him with all of our hearts. Do you want Jesus to reign in your life?  What areas of your life do you wish to place under his kingship?

Use these precious days before Christmas to ask the Holy Spirit to show you any areas that you need to place under his rule.  Jesus is coming. Welcome him with great joy! Jesus longs to be your king. Invite him to reign over your life!

Jesus was born to deliver us from the dominion of darkness and to transfer us into the kingdom of light (see Col 1:13).  He inaugurated the kingdom of God: 'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand' (Matt 4:17).  Using many parables he teaches us about the kingdom of God.  He insists that only the docile and humble can receive the kingdom:

Jesus you were born to be my Saviour and my King I invite you to be my King and to rule over my whole life.


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John the Baptist

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Isaiah 45:6-8, 18, 21-25 • Psalm 84(85):9-14 • Luke 7:19-23

  

John the Baptist was one of the greatest men who ever lived and figured prominently in the period immediately preceding the ministry of Jesus. Not only had John foretold the coming of Jesus (Matt. 3:11f.), he had recognised him, pointed him out to others (John 1:29) and baptised him (Matt. 3:13-17). John had faithfully and fearlessly prepared the way for Jesus. Yet, in today's Gospel, John poses a question that seems tinged with doubt and indecision: Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another? (v. 19). What were John's expectations of the Messiah?

Both the language and imagery of John's preaching conjure up a wrathful figure coming forth in judgement, scattering fire and destruction in his wake (see, eg, Luke 3:7-9, 15-17). Yet, as he languished in prison, he heard rumours of quite a different kind of activity by Jesus healings of various kinds, casting out of evil spirits and even the dead raised to life. As John served the prison sentence earned for fearlessly denouncing Herod, was he perhaps disappointed or disillusioned because the Messiah had not responded with a similar counterblast of judgement?

At the commencement of his ministry, in his home-town synagogue, Jesus had proclaimed the inauguration of God's kingdom (Luke 4:16ff). He had quoted from the prophet Isaiah, but gone only so far as to proclaim 'the year of the Lord's favour (Luke 4:19 NIV) and had not proceeded to announce the day of vengeance of our God’ (Isa. 61:2b). Jesus came as Saviour; the time was not yet ripe for him to assume his role of Judge. John was impatient for judgement, but Jesus was patient for salvation.

Jesus later uses the parable of the Fig Tree to explain God's gracious, patient waiting, but also his ultimate and inevitable judgement (Luke 13:6-9). More than two thousand years later, the judgement envisaged by John has still not come. The fig tree still stands – and the Master watches hopefully for it to bear fruit. To those who hear the good news today, the Holy Spirit continues to warn, 'Today, when you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts' (Heb. 3:7-8). Have we embraced the good news in faith and allowed it to bear fruit in our lives? We dare not postpone our response of faith and obedience. 

Gracious God, help me never to presume upon your mercy and grace. Instead, teach me to respond with steadfast faith, fervent gratitude and wholehearted obedience

Chris

from Bible Alive

 

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Faith and Forgiveness

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Isaiah 35:1-10  Psalm 84(85):9–14  Luke 5:17–26


The paralysed man is healed, not because of his own faith, but through the faith of his friends. This fascinating incident highlights that a sure knowledge and experience of forgiveness is a fundamental human need which strikes at the very core of who we are. And who are we? We are persons created in the image and likeness of God, but fallen and wounded and in need of the bitter grace of sorrow and repentance, which leads to the sweet blessing of forgiveness.


The Pharisees have to be given credit for getting to the heart of the matter very quickly indeed. They figured that no mere human being could forgive sins and that this power and grace belonged to God alone (v. 21). Many centuries later William Blake captured this idea in the way that only a great man of letters can: “There is not one moral virtue that Jesus inculcated but Plato and Cicero did inculcate before him. What then did Christ inculcate? Forgiveness of sins. This alone is the Gospel, and this is the life and immortality brought to life by Jesus.”


There is a very real way in which forgiveness is our greatest need, and when we receive God’s forgiveness our greatest response is in turn to forgive those who sin against us. At the heart of receiving God’s forgiveness is taking hold of how great is God’s mercy towards us. God delights to forgive sins and rejoices when we turn to him in sorrow and repentance. Perhaps it is because in receiving God’s forgiveness we grasp reality and come in contact with the truth that it was because of our sin, our rebellion and our waywardness that God sent his only Son.

The cost of the grace of our forgiveness and reconciliation was brought about by nothing less than the cross of Jesus. Without the cross there would be no forgiveness. In forgiving us God sets us free, and we are invited to forgive others as we have been forgiven. This is why the cross is truly a sign of forgiveness and freedom. “When Christ’s hands were naıled to the cross, he also nailed your sins to the cross” (St Bernard of Clairvaux).

On this his feast-day, we leave the last word to the wise pastor St Ambrose: 


As often as the Lord’s blood is shed it is poured out for the forgiveness of sins; so I ought to receive it always, that my sins may always be forgiven.

Chris


from Bible Alive

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Jesus heals the sick

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Isaiah 25:6–10 • Psalm 22(23) • Matthew 15:29–37
 
A great crowd was brought to Jesus for healing and he healed them all.  Jesus is still able to heal broken lives, and we can be the ones to bring suffering people to him.
 
Who do you know who needs Christ’s healing touch?  You can bring them to Jesus through prayer or by explaining to them the reason for the hope that you have (1 Peter 3:15 – below).
 
Then let Christ do the healing . . .
 
Chris
 
But in your hearts set Christ apart as Lord.  Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you the reason for the hope that you have.  But do this with gentleness and respect.  
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The Root of Jesse

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Isaiah 11:1–11
 
1 And a rod will go forth from the root of Jesse, and a flower will ascend from his root.
2 And the Spirit of the Lord will rest upon him: the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and fortitude, the spirit of knowledge and piety.
3 And he will be filled with the spirit of the fear of the Lord. He will not judge according to the sight of the eyes, nor reprove according to the hearing of the ears.
4 Instead, he will judge the poor with justice, and he will reprove the meek of the earth with fairness. And he will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and he will slay the impious with the spirit of his lips.
5 And justice will be the belt around his waist. And faith will be the warrior's belt at his side.
6 The wolf will dwell with the lamb; and the leopard will lie down with the kid; the calf and the lion and the sheep will abide together; and a little boy will drive them.
7 The calf and the bear will feed together; their young ones will rest together. And the lion will eat straw like the ox.
8 And a breastfeeding infant will play above the lair of the asp. And a child who has been weaned will thrust his hand into the den of the king snake.
9 They will not harm, and they will not kill, on all my holy mountain. For the earth has been filled with the knowledge of the Lord, like the waters covering the sea.
10 In that day, the root of Jesse, who stands as a sign among the people, the same the Gentiles shall beseech, and his sepulcher will be glorious.
11 And this shall be in that day: the Lord will send forth his hand a second time to take possession of the remnant of his people who will be left behind: from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Ethiopia, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea.
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