2017 ended on a bit of a high for me because… wait for it… I was part of a flashmob. Yes, yes, this is indeed true, you can put any autograph/selfie requests to me in writing.
To put you all out of your misery and to explain the context (or rather, more importantly, to stop the fan mail #tongueincheek #noreally) this formed part of our church nativity entitled “A Good Looking Christmas”… complete with pop-up choir, pop-up Gabriel, pop-up Angels (yes, we had glow sticks), a pop-up Herod who received an appropriate and very impressive “boo” and a rather disgruntled Shepherd who had lost his sheep! (Fear not, they have been reunited and no sheep were harmed in the making of the production.) I can take none of the credit for this creativity, but it was fab!
The different characters with whom we are familiar with within the Christmas story all draw our attention to look to and consider the Lord Jesus, for he is at the centre of the story. Indeed without him we would have no Christmas. Certainly in today’s society we can get caught up with many other things other than the Lord Jesus at this time of year. Indeed as we sang “Look to the skies there’s celebration” a couple of weeks ago, this got me thinking about what we as Christians focus on, particularly when life is difficult or doesn’t go the way we perhaps expect. Undoubtedly these times can impact all of us, to a greater or lesser extent.
A number of weeks ago I was reading in Matthew 14 where Peter walks on water. This was a huge step of faith for Peter, he was doing something he probably thought would never happen – it must have been pretty exciting, he was one of the disciples after all! And perhaps that’s a situation you find yourself in… you’ve taken a step of faith, life has changed and it’s actually quite exciting. But then Peter sees the wind and the waves and he starts to sink. And perhaps that can happen to us as well… suddenly things happen in life and all we can see are the overwhelming circumstances, we take our eyes of Jesus and then we start to sink. I don’t think these always have to be “big” things – we are all God’s children and he cares about what is going on in each of our hearts. Indeed as Tim Challies puts it, “God does not insist our trouble rise to a certain degree or extent before he becomes [our] refuge and strength.”
However Peter doesn’t try and deal with the situation by himself, he cries out, “Lord, save me!” Then we read great words in verse 31, “Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him…” Jesus took Peter’s hand and there was no way he was letting go. Perhaps if it had been the other way round Peter might not have had the strength to hold on, but as I was reminded a couple of weeks ago in student devotions, we are held by the hand of the one who calls us and keeps us – Isaiah 46:2 says, “I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you…”
David was someone who often goes through what can only be described as an emotional roller coaster in many of the Psalms (which I believe should be a comfort to us all!) Recently I was reminded from Psalm 37:23 – 24 that the Lord guides our lives and “though [I] stumble , [I] will never fall, for the LORD holds me by the hand.” So often we forget the one who holds our hand, the one who has called us, the one who leads us, the one who fights for us and the one who carries us (Deuteronomy 1: 29 – 31) and our focus turns inwardly to our own circumstances and we let that overwhelm us. We need to learn a lesson from the Angels, shepherds and the wise men who all looked to the Lord Jesus. We need to cry out like Peter and let Jesus take our hand and for the independent, self-sufficient types amongst us, that does not always come easily.
As I close this final blog for 2017, I’ve just been reminded that Helen Roseveare, who was a missionary in Congo for many years, prayed each year that the Lord would give her a verse as her “verse of the year”. In light of what has gone before let’s keep “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith…” (Hebrews 12:2) in 2018.