Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Disappointment at Christmas

It strikes me that much of the Christmas story is full of disappointment & unfulfilled expectations. A more sanitised version may be appropriate for children's retelling, but as adults have we settled for a watered down or selective version of events?

As we enter the Gospel narrative hopes & dreams are dashed left, right & centre.

Joseph discovers his beloved young bride is pregnant, and he is not the father.

Mary gives a quite remarkable answer to the angel Gabriel on the announcement of her pregnancy - "I am the Lord's servant, may it be as you have said"
- but no woman dreams of giving birth in a dingy manger, estranged from family.

Or what about Herod? He was disappointed by the potential arrival of a new king. So terrified that his power would be usurped, he ordered the brutal murder of hundreds/thousands of baby boys in a mad fury.

What about the parents of these children? What of their hopes & dreams for these beautiful, energetic little boys, just discovering this world & savagely removed from it?

The Christmas story is horrific. It is distasteful. Even offensive. And yet it is Good News. How?

Because into this dark, evil world full of disappointment a light was coming that could not be snuffed out... ever.

John grasps this as he writes from first hand experience of Jesus Christ "in Him was life and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not overpowered it."

Perhaps there are unmet expectations & great disappointments in your life at the moment. Perhaps horrific things have happened to you like that first Christmas.

Real hurt & disappointment is to be unveiled, not buried deep, but my prayer for you this year is that you would know the light of the world breaking into your darkness & obliterating it. He is waiting to come in, if you will but open the door & receive Him.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Mountain Mover

Are you standing in the dark shadow of a huge mountain?

Recently, I've observed that many of the young people & young adults with whom I spend my time, find themselves in dark & difficult places, facing huge & unmovable obstacles.

Perhaps its a struggling relationship... a challenging decision to be made with no obvious solution... a destructive habit or character flaw... limited work prospects... a financial burden... a physical disability or a mental health problem.

This mountain just will not move. For some they have stood in its shadow for so long that they have grown accustomed to the darkness.

These difficulties are not to be overlooked or belittled. We should never make molehills out of mountains. But only focusing on the mountain will not bring us hope, only despair.

If you find yourself here. You are not alone.
Can I encourage you to shift your attention from the size of your mountain to the power of the Mountain Mover? In this season of Advent, a dark time in which we wait for the "light to shine the darkness", may we learn to wait patiently on our Messiah's arrival.

Psalm 65:5-7
"God our Savior, You answer us with awesome and righteous deeds,
the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas,
who formed the mountains by Your power,
having armed Yourself with strength,
who stilled the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves,
and the turmoil of the nations."

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Seeking Applause

In his book What God Thinks When We Fail, Steven C. Roy tells a fictional story about a young violinist who lived in London many years ago. Although he was a superb musician, he was deathly afraid of large crowds, so he avoided giving concerts. But after enduring criticism for his unwillingness to give concerts, he finally agreed to perform in the largest concert hall in London.

The young violinist came onto the stage and sat alone on a stool. He put his violin under his chin and played for an hour and a half. No music in front of him, no orchestra behind him, no breaks—just an hour and a half of absolutely beautiful violin music. After ten minutes or so, many critics put down their pads and listened, like the rest …. After the performance, the crowd rose to its feet and began applauding wildly—and they wouldn't stop.
But the young violinist didn't acknowledge the applause. He just peered out into the audience as if he were looking for something—or someone. Finally he found what he was looking for. Relief came over his face, and he began to acknowledge the cheers.
After the concert, the critics met the young violinist backstage …. They said, "You were wonderful. But one question: Why did it take you so long to acknowledge the applause of the audience?"
The young violinist took a deep breath and answered, "You know I was really afraid of playing here. Yet this was something I knew I needed to do. Tonight, just before I came on stage, I received word that my master teacher was to be in the audience. Throughout the concert, I tried to look for him, but I could never find him. So after I finished playing, I started to look more intently. I was so eager to find my teacher that I couldn't even hear the applause. I just had to know what he thought of my playing. That was all that mattered. Finally, I found him high in the balcony. He was standing and applauding, with a big smile on his face. After seeing him, I was finally able to relax. I said to myself, 'If the master is pleased with what I have done, then everything else is okay.'"
So, whose applause matters most to you?