Many people like to give their houses a good clean before putting up Christmas trees and Christmas decorations. The rituals associated with decorating our houses for Christmas go back many years and vary from family to family, but often, these are accompanied by the winter equivalent of the ‘spring clean’!
Decorations and trees are often kept in the loft, and so there is a sense of unearthing these treasures once again and dealing with any dust and damage done to them in the previous eleven months.
Our lives can often feel dusty and dirty, but the good news is we have a God who specialises in cleaning! The Message version of Ps 51 says, ‘Scrub away my guilt, soak out my sins in your laundry’ and goes on to say, ‘Soak me in your laundry and I’ll come out clean, scrub me and I’ll have a snow-white life.’ We can be grateful for the blessing of being clean and purified by God. (1 Jn 1:9)
At Christmas-time, the Royal Mail in the UK delivers many cards and parcels, and they are simply one of the many companies working to get presents from A to B! It can be a frustrating time, waiting for deliveries (I am rarely home and so it is often a logistical nightmare trying to arrange collection of parcels, often leading to much frustration!), and sometimes parcels don’t arrive on time.
On the whole, though, I’m grateful for our postal and delivery services which do a fantastic job, often in very unpleasant weather. When we talk about God as our Deliverer, though, we are not really thinking of this kind of delivery. Nor are we talking about the kind of delivery we hope politicians may give on their manifesto promises! Deliverance is all about being rescued and set free.
Christmas reminds us that the Son of God came to set us free (Gal 5:1). Paul says, ‘In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.’ (Eph 3:12) Because God delivers us from sin, the penalties of sin and the punishments for sin, we can now know freedom and confidence. Frequently in the Old Testament (particularly in the book of Judges), we are told that God raised up a deliverer for His people (see Judges 3:9,15; also 2 Kings 13:5). We can now rejoice in the Deliverer sent by God to rescue all people!
There were some heart-warming stories of the emergency services rescuing people from the floods which happened in our area in November. When disasters happen – be they fires, floods or sudden illness – we are very grateful for all who work to save and rescue, often risking their own lives to rescue us.
Our carol service this year is called ‘God’s Great Rescue Plan’, because Christmas is a story of rescue. We often don’t think of it this way, because we don’t really see the peril we’re in. We can be spiritually blind to our needs, thinking that life is simply about the here and now. But God’s word tells us that we’ve all sinned and fallen short of God’s glory (Rom 3:23) and that we are dead in transgressions and sins (Eph 2:1). We’re in a desperate situation and we can’t get out of this mess by ourselves.
The blessing of Christmas is that God has sent us a Rescuer, a Saviour. The very name ‘Jesus’ tells us this: He was to be called Jesus ‘because he will save his people from their sins.’ (Matt 1:21) Every time we say that name, we are acknowledging the blessing of a Saviour!
In Jesus, we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins (Col 1:14). One of the greatest blessings we can ever have is to know that there is no condemnation now for us because we have been forgiven, cleansed and set right with God.
So often, we are aware of our failings, the many times we let ourselves down, our friends and family, and God. We mess up on such a regular basis that we can feel there is no point trying again. Despair can wrap its tentacles around our hearts and we can feel there is no hope for change. But the good news of the gospel is that God forgives all our sins and removes all the barriers between us and God and therefore gives us power to forgive and be forgiven. As the psalmist said by faith, ‘with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you.’ (Ps 130:4)
Forgiveness sets us free. Now that’s a blessing worth singing about!
Yesterday we got to celebrate Betty’s 90th birthday! She is an inspiration to us, radiating faith and positive gratitude every week. We pray God’s continued blessings on her and her family.
A surprise is ‘an unexpected or astonishing event or fact’. God frequently deals with us in unexpected or astonishing ways, but this is largely because of the difference between His thoughts and ways and ours (see Is 55:8-9). Because He is God, He knows everything and therefore nothing can take Him by surprise! As Castings Crowns sing,
‘When I’m lost in the mystery,
To You my future is a memory
Cause You’re already there,
You’re already there.
Standing at the end of my life
Waiting on the other side
And You’re already there
You’re already there.’ (‘Already There’, Casting Crowns)
God’s omniscience is a blessing to us. It means we know nothing can happen to us that will take God by surprise. All the chaos of our lives is actually part of God’s picture-perfect plan and we can be sure that He is working for our good in every situation. (Rom 8:28) It may well not look like this at the time (I can imagine Joseph wondering how fleeing to Egypt from a murderous king could be part of God’s plan), but far from being terrifying, God’s omniscience provides a framework of stability for our lives.