Day twelve – Jo Willis (Hope City Sheffield)
What’s struck me recently is that the underpinning of the Christmas story is the incredible trust God puts in the hands of those who he created. Jesus, not born in the privilege of the palace but the simplicity of the stable, in the hands of two young and scared first time parents doesn’t quite paint the picture we would expect about the saviour of the world, but that’s just it, nothing about how God redeemed humanity was ‘as expected’. God entrusted mankind with a saviour, who would change history forever. And we get an opportunity to be a part of the story.
Day eleven – Tebo Mpanza (Hope City Birmingham)
You and I have been around for a good minute now. We know PREACHING. We love a good WORD. In Acts chapter 2, we find just that. A group of believers were meeting together in one place, and the bible says in verse 2-4 that, “Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the room. Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them and they were filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages.” You can imagine the commotion. In the midst of that Peter gets up to preach. A message that you and I wouldn’t soon forget. As incredibly articulate and inspiring as that word he preached that day was, I am mostly enthralled by his demeanour. The bible says that he, “STOOD UP!” Before him was a crowd. Assumption. Doubt. Judgement. Before him were pre-conceived ideas. – Whenever somebody stands up to do something bold, something great, historic, its never easy. When was the last time you stood up for something you believe in? Let’s be a people this Christmas season that stand up in the commotion of people’s lives with a message of hope and freedom. For me, it wasn’t in what he said, but in who he was. He became THE ROCK. If not us…???!!?!?! If not now… ???!!??!?! WE THE PEOPLE.
Day ten – Siobhan Bullock (Hope City Frankfurt)
It was the midwife’s visit, after baby number 3. The tirade of emotion was unintentional, but my husband was working away and the whole world was busy! Slightly bemused, she talked about personal life philosophy. Somehow it frustrated me more. Postnatal, living in suburbia and part of the best church. Yet the purpose of God ached within me. I wanted my children to know the adventure of the faith life, to live in a bigger world, to know God’s purpose. “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. Isa9:6 NIV The birth of a baby marks a new season of life and is packed with the purposes of God. Mary becoming the mother of Jesus propelled her into the call of God, far beyond what she could have imagined. Joseph clearly had his own plans altered by the birth of this baby. As we approach the Christmas weekend be sure that baby Jesus came with great purpose – ‘the government will be on his shoulders’. But know also as you celebrate this baby, His birth brought God’s purpose for you. There’s no frustration or discontentment in the plans of God, there is fulfilment and the goodness of heaven. “But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.” Luke 2:10 God’s purpose for you remains and it is good news as you allow God to unfold His best plans for you.
Day nine – Gosia Denham (Hope City Leeds)
Too easy to be Troubled Two weeks to go and I only had enough money to buy about the 3rd of the hampers we aimed for. Things were getting a bit tense. I felt the wave of anxiety coming over me. It is too easy to be troubled, especially late at night when the brain decides to remind you of every memory, unresolved issue and the things you should have said or done, not forgetting the worries about the things you still need to do! We were not designed to live like this, to live with anxiety and fear. I love the words of reassurance the Angel Gabriel offers to Mary. Luke 1:28 – 30 says: “The angel went to her (Mary) and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you.” Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favour with God.”We are highly favoured; the Lord is with us and we have found favour with God. Coming to my senses one night I remembered that I am not to be anxious about anything. I remembered that He is with me and I am His favourite. So, I prayed instead. The very next day God was showing off His favour over my life: I got a letter from Ikea confirming they are going to give us all the boxes for free; two random people I have never met before brought hamper food to the door; SKY confirmed they will bring 14 people to help us pack the hampers; I got over £1000 given through Local Giving and this was just the beginning. Instead of getting troubled, stressed, fearful, anxious and worried, talk to God – He will remind you that He is with you and you are His favourite and not only that – He can’t wait to show off His favour all over your life!! It’s too easy to be troubled, so pray instead!!
Day eight – David Stoner (Hope City Liverpool)
“Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”” Luke 2:11-12 You will find a baby. They’d been waiting for a Messiah, a saviour, a king. Angels announced to shepherds that the fulfilment of ancient promises was upon them and yet what they were to find was so unspecial in many ways: a stable not a palace; a baby in a manger not a king upon his throne. And yet nothing dulled their excitement or their worship or their declaration that ‘this is it’. All Christ’s potential was there in that baby. In fact, all our potential to be truly human in the way God intended was there in that child, ready to be revealed to us when Jesus fulfilled his call to bring salvation to the whole world. I’ve realised this; our future doesn’t arrive fully complete and fully formed. We can dream of a bigger, brighter future but we can feel so unspecial and look around and think our current situation looks so unspecial. Yet, the potential for your future is found right here & right now. I think you need to find the baby. Search out the child of promise in your midst. Look at what you have, who you have and who you are with the eyes of faith. You’ve not arrived at the fulfilment of every God-given dream but if you know Jesus, you know your future is secure and he’s promised to unfold his plans for your life. This season, celebrate the fact your saviour has come and allow yourself to start celebrating like you’ve already arrived at the fulfilment of dreams. Don’t say ‘is this it??’, start declaring ‘this is it!’
Day seven – Lisa Stoner (Hope City Liverpool)
What are you going to call the baby? This is a question that pregnant women across time and continents are frequently asked. Unlike many expectant parents though Mary and Joseph had no need to search through the baby names books. Joseph had been reassured that the child within his virgin fiancée was conceived by the Holy Spirit. At that time, the Angel of the Lord said: And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. (Matthew 1:21 NLT) This was no ordinary child and the name He was given carried huge significance. The name Jesus means The Lord Saves. He had been born to be the Saviour. Born to rescue. Born to deal with the destructive and isolating effects of sin once and for all. They named Him Jesus. It’s by faith in that name that the crippled man found healing. It’s because of that name that we can now have peace with God. It’s by repentance and faith in that name alone that people are saved. Today, you can call on that name. In His name your miracle can happen. In His name you can find peace. In his name you find your salvation. I pray in this Christmas season that you see Jesus more clearly than you have ever seen him. I pray that as you reach out, pray and act in His name, you will experience the power that is made available to those who put their confidence in Him.
Day six – Beth Blois (Hope City Sheffield)
I am absolutely loving this Christmas season, however I do seem to be drowning under a small, yet ever growing pile of lists!! Food to buy for the party, gifts for the family, napkins, wrapping paper, gifts to sort for the 16 secret santa gifts I seem to have this year, and it goes on! Within the midst of what seems to be a busy end to the year another thing on my list is to remain thankful! Psalm 7:17 “I will give to the Lord the thanks due to his righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the Lord, the Most High.” Lets be intentional with our thanks toward God as we close this year for all He has done, his faithfulness and unending goodness this year, instead of drowning in a list of things we don’t yet have, lets drown within what we have been given.
Day five – Emma Solanki (Hope City London)
Luke 1:45 “Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her.”The blessing of faith is two fold. Most obvious of course is the fulfilment of the promise – we all love this moment.But perhaps the greatest blessing of faith is the knowledge that we were a part of the miracle. Without our willingness, our prayers and our belief, it wouldn’t have ever happened. Mary’s joy came from this understanding that Jesus was being born through her; a miracle that would touch countless lives and impact billions. God wants to bless you not just with ridiculous outcomes but in the process of believing too. Often we want to skip past the journey to get straight to the destination but the journey is full of joy and reward. Embrace the season with thankfulness, praise and prayer. Whether you’re experiencing great success or hanging on in faith, know that you are truly blessed. God is faithful to complete all he has begun and you got to be a part of an awesome adventure of faith.
Day four – Andy Gorman (Hope City Accra)
Luke Ch1, verse 38, “I am he Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be as you have said.” This is the celebration season! It’s Christmas of course, and it’s our marvellous tradition to celebrate Jesus’ birth. Thinking though about the ‘actual’ birth through, and the events surrounding it… The reality is that at the time it wasn’t quite the celebration we know of today! What we call the Immaculate Conception, really meant that Mary and Joseph both received much shaming and gossip from their community – “No room in this inn for ‘you’”, might not have been as much about space, as more about cultural pressure imposed on those not following convention. It highlights to me, however, just how unconventional God really is! Despite her shameful reputation, Mary resolutely and quickly believed God. Despite God being unconventional and unusual, controversial even, she had faith He was really doing something marvellous. This is an inspirational example for us right now! That we wouldn’t simply conform to how things are normally done, religiously done, but we would humbly embrace the Word of God with faith, no matter how crazy and unconventional it sounds.
Day Three – Chris Denham (Hope City Leeds)
‘But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard.” (Luke 1:13) Here reads the first words of God’s messenger! Even before Mary receives her momentous visit or Joseph learns of the incredible nature of his future fatherhood. These are the first words that indicate Heaven’s Divine plan of redemption and salvation is about to roll into action. The words are spoken to Zechariah. Husband of Elizabeth. The promise: that they will have a son called John who will prepare the way for the Lord. But it’s not the prayer that is about to be answered that strikes me here. It’s the inclination of Heaven that is revealed in the response. We pray and God hears. Not only that, He hears and He acts. In fact, what it reminds us of, above all else, is that if Christmas is about anything, it’s about that God heard and He acted. He heard humanity’s cry for help. He heard the fatherless cry out for a father. He heard those lost in sin cry out for mercy. He heard and He acted. He took His only Son and He sent Him to us, to live as us, to be tempted as us, but to do what we couldn’t do… resist the devil, defeat sin, reign over death and bring life to all. This really is good news. This Christmas season… do not be afraid. Your prayer has been heard. Whatever the need. Whatever the problem. Your Saviour has come!
Day Two – Sats Solanki (Hope City London
The ultimate paradox; a mighty king who would save the world must first come as not even a child but an utterly helpless and dependant baby. We read so much about the final three years in the life of Jesus; the stories of healing, miracles and a new way of life, that we don’t stop to think about the magnitude of this incredible fact.
The person of Jesus who would achieve such massive chunks of destiny and change history forever, came to earth completely unable and ill equipped in his then present form to fulfil his assignment from God on planet Earth.
We’d all much prefer it if Jesus had arrived on a beasty chariot fuelled by (renewable energy) lightning bolts. It makes more sense to us and our image of the bigness of God. But he came as a BABY.
I think God is trying to show us something. He isn’t looking for human might or strength but willing hearts who are prepared to go on a journey of faith. We need to learn to be patient with ourselves as God is forming and developing us. Let’s celebrate the wins of this year without over analysing the losses – you’ll be surprised just how many there were.
If you’re anything like me, then you may not feel like you are where you thought you would be by the end of 2016. Whether that’s in family life, finance, your career or even in your soul; he’s not at all frustrated with your progress or tired of your lack. He’s completely full of faith about you and is celebrating over you today.
We often end up comparing our season of formation with someone else’s season of fruition. But at just the right time, everything God has put in you will come about to bless and impact the world you live in. Even Jesus spent 30 years simply growing up and working before he even started any sort of ministry. You’re almost certainly doing oh so much better than you think you are!! Enjoy the Christmas season!
Day One – Colin Blois (Hope City Sheffield)
Unsociable. Unreliable. Untrustworthy. Uneducated. Ceremonially unclean. A strange group to task as the first messengers of Jesus. In fact shepherds at the time of Jesus did not have a good reputation at all, their status did not even allow them to testify in the court of law. Yet it was these men that would become the first evangelists of the new chapter God was writing through Jesus.
There was clearly something that they had heard from the angel, something they had seen in that manger, something experienced in that stable, that gave even them, a group of insignificant shepherds the audacity to forget that their vocation actually made them voiceless. These shepherds, that society would so easily overlook became the first messengers of the Good Shepherd that society could not ignore.
Maybe their boldness to “spread the word widely” came from the fact that before it was carried by them, it brought a change in them. They weren’t given a message to carry to the subject, they themselves where the very subject of that message. “For unto you a child is born is born in the city of David a Saviour”. Their qualification to become the first messengers came not from their pedigree, performance or position but because they were the first to be transformed by that very message.
This is the incredible truth of Christmas. We have not been given a message to carry that has no relevance or power in our own lives. We carry something that has so radically, personally and powerfully changed our worlds that we cannot help sharing it with others. Romans 1:5 coins it beautifully “Through him we received both the generous gift of his life and the urgent task of passing it on”
The only qualification you need to “spread the word widely” to others is to have been deeply changed by it yourself. This Christmas you may feel overlooked, voiceless and without influence, but if your life has been changed by Jesus you carry the most potent message on the planet.
In Jesus your life has been restored, redeemed and made completely whole in Him, you have been established in His family and repurposed to carry out His biding on the planet, which is firstly to “spread the word widely”. Though they had not realised it, these three shepherds where the first to begin the mission to the “ends of the earth” which you and I will now bring to its fulfilment, and the good news in it all is that God only needs shepherds.