The Sunday after Christmas is usually marked as family Sunday. We are called to reflect on relationships within the family, husbands and wives, children and parents, fathers and children.
In the creation act we notice that God had created male and female in his own image and therefore one has to recognize that men and women are equal in God’s sight. In the letter to Colossians Paul address the whole community and tells them to consider their relationships with one another.
First and foremost he calls them as God’s chosen people, Holy and dearly loved. Because they were a chosen people that privilege also brought along with it certain responsibilities. They were to clothe themselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Compassion is something that comes out of our innermost being and moves us to action when we see someone else suffering. If we have this quality then we would understand each others pains.
Secondly, he talks about having kindness which is an act of providing something beneficial to another person. This is to be followed by humility or a humble attitude mixed with gentleness in contrast with being harsh with one another. Finally he talks about patience, a word which describes emotional calm in the face of provocation or misfortune without complaint or irritation.
Paul then calls for bearing with one another and forgiving one another. Forgiveness is the essence of any long term relationship and Paul reminds us that we too are to forgive as Christ has forgiven us. Above all Paul asks them to put on love which binds families together in unity. All this may be easier said than done.
So how is Paul suggesting that we practice this? He suggests that the message of Christ should dwell richly within us as we teach and admonish one another. So, the key point that he is making is that God’s word should dwell in us richly. Families need to read God’s word together so that God will speak to us and direct our paths.
The Word of God is like a double edged sword and as we meditate on it, it will penetrate between bone and marrow and reveal areas in our lives which are sinful and which we ourselves may not be aware of. He also encourages the community to sing psalms, hymns and songs from the Spirit singing to God with gratitude in our hearts. By this he means that we are to be constantly in communion with God through prayer.
Praying together as a family will help the family to be bound together in God’s love and walk according to his word. Paul also exhorts the people of God that whatever they did in word or deed they should do it all in the name of Jesus giving thanks to God our Father through him.
Within the family an attitude of gratitude is very important. As a family we are to give thanks to God for everything that happens to us. We should have a cheerful spirit rather than one of complaining about everything.
Paul than talks about relationship between husbands and wives, says, ‘Wives submit yourselves to your husbands as is fitting in the Lord.’ To submit literally means to “place under” or to “subject oneself” or to “submit voluntarily.”
What does this term mean? Women tend to disagree with submitting. However the second part of the verse says, “as is fitting in the Lord.” In other words Paul is saying that just as Christ submitted to God, so also members of the congregation are to submit to one another including husbands and wives.
The exhortation to submit is balanced with instruction to the husbands to love their wives and not to be harsh with them. The love that is talked about is the sacrificial love of Christ on the cross.
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First of all, let me take this opportunity to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a very happy new year. We live in a time where there is unrest around the world. Around the globe, the US President has been impeached; Britain has had its polls and faces Brexit; France is going through a lot of violence due to its pension policy; Hongkong has been under prolonged protest; Syria continues to be bombarded by cluster bombs; terrorist attacks continue in Afghanistan; Israel and Palestine continue the fight.
In our own country, Kashmir hasn’t returned to normalcy and many states are undergoing violent protests in reaction to the Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens. Violence and rapes seem to be showing their ugly head frequently. Our economy is going through a downward slide. Under all these circumstances how can the birth of a child two thousand years ago make a difference?
John’s gospel gives us the answer as to how the birth of Jesus offers us hope under these circumstances. John reminds us that “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.”
John reminds us that Jesus was there right from the beginning with Father and the Holy Spirit and participated in the act of creation. Not only does he participate in the act of creation but he is the one who sustains it. Because Jesus is the creator, everyone is accountable to him, we all need to give account to him on the final day.
Jesus the living word of God, brings life and light. He is the one who offers human beings life abundant in his world, and life eternal in the world to come. The coming of Jesus in human flesh offers us new life to be a new creation where we can leave our sinful lives behind and celebrate this new life that he offers us.
Jesus is also the light of the world. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it/ understood it. In other words, we have not grasped what it means for Jesus to be the light. Jesus calls each one of us to move out from darkness into the light. We can hide our dark deeds from everyone but we cannot hide it from God. God calls us to repent of our sinful ways and walk into the light.
When Jesus came into this world as the light and life there were two types of responses. One was of rejection. Jesus came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. The Jewish people in whose midst he was born as a Jew did not receive him. They rejected him and eventually had him crucified. They rejected the light when it came into their midst.
There was also another type of response. These were the ones who received him and believed in his name. To these who believed in his name, he gave them the right to be the children of God. The choice is before us this morning either we accept him or reject him. Christmas is a fantastic opportunity to let the Christ child be truly born in us.
John culminates this section by stating “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” What are the implications as the word becoming flesh?
It affirms our humanity. We are made in the image of God and therefore whatever happens to us matters to God. Secondly, God became a human being through Jesus. He can identify all our sufferings, pain and trouble. Jesus himself went through the way to cross and therefore understands whatever we go through. Thirdly, we are reminded that Jesus is ‘Emmanuel, God with us.’
May we this Christmas celebrate the life that Jesus has come to offer. May God help us to move out of the darkness into the light. May we take courage that God is with us and he walks with us through all our difficult situations. Once again let me wish you all a very Merry Christmas. God bless you!
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We have come to the last Sunday of Advent and we will be celebrating Christmas within a few days. As we come closer to celebrating this birth, our theme for our meditation is, “Mary’s Son is ‘Emmanuel’, ‘God with us’”.
One of the key things that the birth of Christ shows to us is the coming of Jesus in human flesh. That is why John says, “The word became flesh and made his dwelling among us”. This incarnation of God among human beings is the greatest encouragement for us to know that God is deeply involved with us human beings.
This morning we will be looking at the birth of Jesus according to the gospel of Matthew. Matthew says, “This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit.”
Mary was engaged to Joseph but there was no sexual union between them, but she was found to be with child through the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus was born through a virgin because through this he was free from the sinful nature that passed on to all human beings through the sin of Adam. Because Jesus was born of a woman, he was a human being: but as the Son of God, he was born without any trace of human sin. Jesus is fully human and fully divine.
Joseph who was a righteous man wanted to divorce Mary when he knew that she was pregnant. Even though they were only engaged, Jewish law necessitated a divorce if one of the partners had been unfaithful. Joseph wanted to save Mary from shame and therefore wanted to divorce her quietly.
However, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and told him not to be afraid but to take Mary home as his wife because what was conceived in her was from the Holy Spirit. The angel also told Joseph that Mary would give birth to a son, and they were to give him the name Jesus, because he would save his people from their sins.
Names reflect the hopes and aspirations of the parents that the child will be. The name Jesus is the Greek form of the Hebrew name ‘Yeshua’ or ‘Joshua’ in English meaning “Yahweh is the salvation.”
Jesus will save the people of this world from their sins. This is the primary purpose for which Jesus came into this world. Through his life, death, resurrection and ascension, he offers us the forgiveness of sins and the hope of eternal life. God sent us this saviour because our greatest need is the forgiveness of sins.
Matthew also records the angel’s words saying, “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). As we approach Christmas, we are constantly reminded that the coming of the Jesus is primarily so that he will be with us.
We all go through many trials and troubles and sometimes we wonder whether there is anyone who understands what we are going through. The incarnation shows us that God is very much with us and he will sustain us.
Even when we walk through the darkest valley, God’s presence is with us. He has always been there and continues to stand with us and help us. May we during this Christmas season truly experience this living and loving presence of Jesus our Emmanuel.
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We have now come to the third Sunday in Advent and we have one more Sunday before we move into the week of Christmas. This morning we will be looking at the life of John the Baptist as a model for Christian ministers. When we look at the life of John the Baptist, there are several things that stand out about his life. He was a nameless prophet, a fearless prophet and a selfless prophet. His life was filled with exemplary courage, humility and selfless service to the one who had sent him.
John the Baptist is sent as the one to prepare the way for the Lord’s coming. John himself quotes the words of Isaiah the prophet and identifies himself as the messenger who was to prepare the way for the Lord’s coming. In the Isaianic text, the reference is to the Syrian desert through which the people of Judah would return from their exile in Babylon. However, John the Baptist appropriates it for himself and sees himself as the one who is preparing the way of the Lord in the wilderness.
John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. It was a single initiatory baptism indicating the beginning of a new commitment. The most likely precedent was a ritual cleansing by Gentiles on becoming a proselyte. But the shocking thing about this is that John is asking the Jews to undergo the same initiatory ritual required by the Gentile convert. John was clearly showing that it was not good enough to be born a Jew, but one had to be born of the Water and the Spirit. John acts as a model for us as he calls people to repent of their sins.
Christian ministers are likewise to challenge their people to repent of their sinful ways and turn back to God. No one can claim the right to salvation by stating they have been worshipping in this church or that they were born in a Christian family. The difference will come only when we repent of our sins.
Secondly, we learn from John’s life that it was a life of humility and selfless service. John lived a very austere life. He wore clothing of camel’s hair and had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. He also preached that after him will come one who is higher than him, the straps of whose sandal he was not worthy to untie. John showed that Jesus was to increase through his ministry and he was to decrease. This is also a model for Christian ministers who are to build up God’s name and God’s glory while we ourselves are to decrease. John also sets this as an example for us to be selfless.
Thirdly, we also see that John was a fearless prophet. John did not hesitate to confront king Herod. He had confronted him about his immoral life, as he was living with his brother Phillip’s wife. John had been saying, “It is not lawful for you to have her.” Herod wanted to kill John, but he was afraid of the people because they considered John a prophet.
On Herod’s birthday, the daughter of Herodias danced for the guests and pleased Herod so much that he promised her with an oath to give her whatever she asked. Prompted by her mother she said, “Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist.”
John was then beheaded and his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl. John was not worried about the consequences. He was a fearless prophet and he confronted evil. Christian ministers are likewise to have a prophetic voice. We are to confront that which is evil and be a prophetic voice in the community.
This morning as we meditate on the life of John the Baptist, may he truly teach us to preach the message of repentance, to live a life of simplicity, to humble ourselves, to lift the name of Jesus higher and to be a prophetic voice in the community. May God truly help us to be like John the Baptist.
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We are now in the Second Sunday in Advent and the theme for our meditation is that ‘Through Holy Scripture God gives us encouragement and hope.’
How does God’s word give us encouragement and hope? God’s word speaks to us as we read it and meditate on it. It is the primary means through which God speaks to his people.
When we speak with God we communicate to him through prayer. When God speaks to us he first and foremost speaks to us through his Word. God’s word is his instruction manual to us and therefore we are to read it daily in order to find direction for our lives and for encouragement and hope. God’s word guides and directs us in the midst of confusing and competing voices that we hear all round us.
In the passage that was read to us from the book of the prophet Isaiah, we notice three key things that God’s word does for the people of Judah who were in exile in Babylon. They had been there for seventy years and had served their due punishment and now God was going to comfort them.
The first aspect that we see about God’s word is – God’s word comforts us in the midst of difficult situations. The second aspect is – God’s word gives us a hope for a new beginning and finally God’s word endures forever.
The people of Judah were in exile in Babylon and now Yahweh was telling his prophet to Comfort his people because they had paid double for all their sins. The comforting is also intensive because the word ‘Comfort’ is repeated twice. It was now time for their homecoming. God was going to bring them back to Judah through the Syrian desert and restore them to their homeland. Their sins were paid for.
In the New Testament we see that Jesus has paid for al our sins with his very own blood and offers us comfort. He is the one who can release us from all our bondages, our sin and trials and comfort us. God’s word which was spoken to the people of Judah over 2500 years ago continues to speak to us and comfort us. God offers us this comfort to us even as he has sent the Holy Spirit, the Comforter to remain with us.
God’s word not only comforts us, it also gives us the hope of a new beginning. In the Isaianic passage the Syrian desert was to be smoothened out so that God could lead the exiles back to their country. He was going to remove all the obstacles from before them so that they could return to their land as the covenant people. The journey would be without any difficulties and the arriving at their destination was a certainty. God continues to remove obstacles on our way so that we can turn back to him and experience this new life that he offers us.
The voice speaking in Isaiah says that the glory of the Lord will be revealed and all people will see it together. In other words all this levelling and removing of obstacles would be the work of the Lord and people will see his glory through his marvelous acts as he did in the Exodus.
God continues to reveal his glory as he works in the life of the Church and intervenes in a supernatural way to accomplish his purpose. Since the promise of reaching their destination and the hope of a new beginning was from God it can be absolutely trusted. We are called to experience this new beginning as we come to him in repentance.
Finally, we see that God’s word endures forever. The voice says cry out, “All people are like grass, and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field…. The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.”
The people of Israel who had experienced Yahweh’s mighty saving acts made a golden calf within a month and worshipped it. We as followers of Christ are also fickle in our decisions and in our following. We have experienced God in marvelous ways, but our faithfulness is like the flowers of the field which is here on one day and gone the next as the wind blows over it.
However, God’s word endures forever because his word is backed up by his life. He will bring to pass whatever he has promised us because he is a faithful God. As much as we are encouraged by God’s enduring word we too are called to be faithful to him to the end of our lives. May we this morning draw encouragement and hope from his word and stay faithful to him.
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