Worship Wednesdays

When I Think Upon Christmas

So Christmas is over for another year – we’ve ate too much, the kids new toys are all over the living room and there are still way too many sweeties hanging about the house! But what a Christmas it was! We were surrounded by love, spent quality time with our family, and enjoyed an absolutely lovely Christmas Eve morning celebrating the true meaning of Christmas with our church family. Some of the older girls from our kids church sang this and our Evie is still singing it about the house so I thought it would be nice to mark the close of Christmas and Worship Wednesday for 2017 with this lovely tune.

It’s a new song from the Hillsong Worship Christmas: The Peace Project album but it sounds like a classic Christmas song and has such a sweet melody. The opening lines have been playing over and over in my head…

When I think upon Christmas
Words can’t express
How our Father in heaven
Has sent us His best

He sent us HIS BEST – not something he had spare or something that he didn’t really think much of. That first Christmas he give us HIS BEST – he knew by giving us his Son there would be sacrifice and pain but it didn’t stop him because in order to bring peace he had to give us the gift of his love – all of it! The more I listen to the song and the more I think about the gift he has given us, the more it occurs to me how overwhelming the birth of that baby in a manger is! As the lyrics of this song tell us – when he sent us his Son he had us on his mind. He knew exactly what the world needed – you, me and every single person that would ever come to be. And you know the best part of the story?! It doesn’t need to be Christmas for us to accept the gift that Jesus came to this earth to offer us – the gift of Salvation is available 365 days a year!

 

Worship Wednesdays

Born is the King

Schools out, I have one more day of work and Michael Buble is on my TV singing Christmas songs in a smart suit with trees and stockings behind him… it’s officially Christmas! EEK!

This week has been a rollercoaster of emotion – I was very blessed to be given the opportunity to share my blog on UCB Ireland, we kicked off our Christmas celebrations with our Carol Service at church but there’s also been a lot of prayer and concern for friends and family who are currently sick and in hospital. As usual, I was going round in circles in my head thinking what to share with you for this Worship Wednesday.

Last year, our Christmas celebrations in church included this fab song and every time I hear it I think of my wee Evie who completely lost herself in song and dance. I wish I could share the video of her but there are other kids in it and I don’t have permission from their parents so I want to respect their privacy but anyone who saw it couldn’t help but be filled with the joy of Christmas. It’s got a lovely beat, a great message and I think it’s really uplifting so hopefully it will get you in the mood for Christmas if you’re not quite there yet.

If you aren’t yet planning to go along to church Christmas celebrations this Sunday I really would urge you to go along to a service near you. Anyone in the Belfast area would be more than welcome to join us at House of Worship on Christmas Eve at 11am. I saw the kids practising last week and it is going to be amazing – I actually cried just watching their rehearsal!

So lift up your voice, and sing out his praise

It’s Christmas!

Thoughts & Ponderings

The Gift

This time next week I’ll probably be snoozing on the sofa or enjoying some of my wee mummy’s Turkey & stuffing sandwiches for supper. I have a confession to make… I look forward to the perfectly made sandwiches more than the massive dinner with all the trimmings! (It’s all truly scrumptious though!) We’ll have spent the day with family – sharing presents and making memories. As Evie (age 5) pointed out to me tonight, as fun as all the food, games and pressies are – it’s all about Jesus’ birthday. Sometimes it is easy to forget that as we lose ourselves in the madness of prepping for Santa and let’s face it, the world is doing it’s best to take Christ out of Christmas – with their new “Happy Holiday” approach.

So what is the message of Christmas that we should be sharing with the world? We know the nativity story so well:

  • A young virgin mother visited by the angel Gabriel – who told her she would give birth to the son of God
  • Her partner, a descendant of King David’s struggled a little but then realised that he had a role to play and needed to be obedient to God’s plan for his family
  • After a long trip to Bethlehem, the baby boy, Jesus was born in a manger
  • He was visited by shepherds and wise men who brought expensive gifts
  • He fled to Egypt to escape King Herod who was threatened by the new “King”

It’s so detailed and so memorial but the thing that sticks in my mind isn’t something we read in Matthew or Luke, but the prophecy in Isaiah:

A child will be born for us.

A son will be given to us. (Isaiah 9:6) 

He was the gift, given to US – what a privilege. But why did God offer us such a special gift? It wasn’t so we could get the kids dressed up in Mary & Joseph costumes – as lovely and as important as it is to remember his humble and symbolic birth. We need to fast forward to his adulthood to really truly remember why we celebrate our gift from God on the 25th December every year.

Jesus brought us HOPE.

A hope of new and everlasting life. He was sent to earth for a reason – to be the light to the world. He presents to us an eternal life if we choose to trust in the Lord – and he secured our salvation when he died upon the cross.

He demonstrated true OBEDIENCE. 

As he walked through his life he was mistreated, mocked and scorned but he continued to follow his Father’s plan. Even in the most difficult and painful circumstances he bowed to his father’s will for his life. He never retaliated when he was mistreated, never sought revenge and continued his mission regardless of the abuse and questioning he received.

Jesus is LOVE.

He was the walking, talking perfect example of love…

“I’ve told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. this is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends.” (John 15:11-13 MSG) 

Jesus showed us how to find real HAPPINESS. 

If  we are willing to give our gifts and life to him, if we focus on spreading happiness in his name and we embrace him as our constant friend who will always be there by our side then in turn he will provide for all our needs…

“So I tell you to stop worrying about what you will eat, drink, or wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds. They don’t plant, harvest, or gather the harvest into barns. Yet, your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they? Can any of you add a single hour to your life by worrying? Don’t ever worry and say, ‘What are we going to eat?’ or ‘What are we going to drink?’ or ‘What are we going to wear?’ Everyone is concerned about these things, and your heavenly Father certainly knows you need all of them. But first, be concerned about his kingdom and what has his approval. Then all these things will be provided for you. So don’t ever worry about tomorrow. After all, tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matt 6:25-27, 31-34)

Worship Wednesdays

Oh Holy Night

We enjoyed a lovely morning at Evie’s Christmas performance this morning. She played the bells in one song and her cousin was a big star. It was brilliant seeing all those wee smiley faces singing about Jesus and the Christmas story. I pray that the schools in this wee country will always keep Christ in their Christmas celebrations as so much of the world is keen to move to a generic Happy Holiday approach. (I’ll not start on that rant today! Lol.)

I love Christmas concerts and Carol services – I’m super excited for the one our church has planned this Sunday night. My favourite Christmas song is Oh Holy Night – the lyrics, the music, the crescendo – it’s so Christmassy and perfectly sums up what it’s all about. I remember last December being blown away by an amazing version our church Worship team did – it made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. In the absence of a video of that performance, today for our Christmas themed Worship Wednesday I want to share this beautiful version by Tori Kelly…

 

Little life snippets

The First Christmas

During the week I shared the beautiful carol Noel, which focuses on the joyful ‘first’ Noel; the birth of Christ. The lyrics tell us…

“To the earth it gave great light”

Today, in contrast I want to talk a little about a ‘first Christmas‘ that can bring with it a dark feeling of sadness. This year, I have a number of close friends who are facing their first Christmas without a loved one and my heart breaks for them. I lost my lovely wee Granny very close to Christmas a number of years ago and that first Christmas without her was the toughest time for us all. As we remember the gift of Jesus we are encouraged to spread joy, love and peace. But for someone who is overwhelmed by grief it can be very difficult to ‘celebrate’.

If we take a look at one of the most symbolic and memorable teachings of Jesus; in the Sermon on the Mount he proclaimed…

“Blessed are those who mourn, they will be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4)

Being blessed is something far beyond “being happy” – I believe it to be more than a state of mind. We can experience joy and not be truly blessed but we also may have lost our joy and still be blessed. The meaning of the word blessed is something that provokes great debate (I won’t dwell on that) but my point is that joy, peace and love aren’t three things that must all be present at the one time. Imagine, sitting on the sofa with your best chum at a time of grief, when you have a severe lack of joy – their love and a simple arm around your shoulder can be a peaceful comfort but it won’t give you back your joy. Those who mourn can be assured that we have a constant friend who wants to be there for us and comfort us – to bring a peace and love like no other. The MSG version of Psalm 34:18 tells us…

“If your heart is broken, you’ll find God right there; if you’re kicked in the gut, he’ll help you catch your breath.” 

Having a relationship with God won’t take the pain away, we will still face heart break in life but he offers us a peace and comfort and he brings us hope of eternal life. I wasn’t a Christian at the time of my Granny’s death, but my brother was, and I remember seeing a peace in him amidst the sorrow that made no sense to me at the time. But it makes perfect sense to me now as I walk hand in hand with my constant friend through life and its challenges. 

The absence of loved ones will always be felt, but in time the ache in your heart will ease and you will be able to unlock the memories and recall Christmases past when you enjoyed happy times and traditions that can be passed on from generation to generation. So if you’re facing that “first Christmas” remember that while you may struggle to find your joy this year you can find a truly special love and peace if you choose to trust in him… 

“Don’t panic. I’m with you. There’s no need to fear for I’m your God. I’ll give you strength, I’ll help you. I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you.” (Isaiah 41:10)  

Worship Wednesdays

Noel

The trees are up, the shops are full of wacky jumpers and I heard Wham this morning on Radio 1 – that can mean only one thing…. it’s officially Christmas!

So Worship Wednesdays this month will of course be Christmas themed. At this time of year I normally reach for Mr Buble to get me in the festive mood but not this year. This year it’s all about Hillsong Worship’s Christmas: The Peace Project – I just can’t get enough of it and to be honest I can still picture me singing along to it well into the Spring. If you haven’t already made your Christmas album purchase I would totally recommend you add the Peace Project to your gift list. I know I’ll probably share most of the album (if not all of it) in the next few weeks but I thought this awesome take on the First Noel was a good place to start to share some Christmas joy.

In France the word Noel comes from the Latin natalis meaning birth – that’s what it’s all about isn’t it? Celebrating the birth of Christ, the Son of God – sent to bring salvation.

And to the earth it gave great light

And so it continued both day and night