Toilet Tales

Richard at Beyond Relevance has a very interesting post on perspectives and toilet seats.

It’s aimed at church leaders but relevant to so many areas of life.

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Finding the magic of Christmas

nativity.jpgRemember staying awake half the night on Christmas Eve with that feeling of excitement turning your tummy inside out? You just knew that tomorrow was going to be the most exciting day of the year.

Remember that feeling, even if it were just for one day a year, that everything was right with the world?

You thought that Christmas would be like that every year, but something’s changed. The magic’s gone. Some people say that it’s just a day for the kids but you and I know that’s not true. There was something amazing about those early years celebrating Christmas and the good news is that you can experience that again.

If you’re wondering where that special Christmas feeling that you remember from years ago has gone, take time out this Christmas to put something special back into Christmas.

Take time to reconnect with the simple joys of Christmas. Decide now to really engage with those you love. Choose to see the wonder of the day. Choose to be in awe. Look at the magic in the face of a child at this time of year. Choose to reflect on the real meaning of Christmas without the commercial hype.

Why not read the true story of Christmas as found in the Bible. Take time to refocus on relationships and the simple joys of being with those you love without feeling the pressure of having to give more than you can afford.

We can choose to restore the wonder and the magic. We simply need to slow down long enough and to notice the many blessings that we’ve started taking for granted.

I hope that you rediscover the magic of Christmas this year.

There were sheepherders camping in the neighborhood. They had set night watches over their sheep. Suddenly, God’s angel stood among them and God’s glory blazed around them. They were terrified. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you’re to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger.”

At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God’s praises:

Glory to God in the heavenly heights,
Peace to all men and women on earth who please him.

As the angel choir withdrew into heaven, the sheepherders talked it over. “Let’s get over to Bethlehem as fast as we can and see for ourselves what God has revealed to us.” They left, running, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. Seeing was believing. They told everyone they met what the angels had said about this child. All who heard the sheepherders were impressed.

Mary kept all these things to herself, holding them dear, deep within herself. The sheepherders returned and let loose, glorifying and praising God for everything they had heard and seen. It turned out exactly the way they’d been told!

Luke 2:8-20

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Cancelling Christmas

It’s all too commercialised so let’s just cancel Christmas.

That seems to be the thinking for a growing number of people. They reckon that the true meaning of Christmas has been lost in the grab for gifts and the focus on the fat guy in the red suit.

There are certainly people who feel that Christians should just admit defeat on this one and pull out completely. They figure we should find another day of the year to celebrate the birth of Christ, unencumbered by all the extra baggage that Christmas has aquired. After all, we know that the 25th of December is unlikley to be the actual day that Jesus was born so why not pick another date for a holier celebration.

My regular Wednesday morning guest on 98.5 Sonshine FM is Ross Clifford who is the Principal of Morling College in New South Wales and current President of the Baptist Union of Australia. Each week we chat about a range of issues relating to spirituality and belief.

Yesterday we tackled the question of whether we should cancel Christmas or whether we should redeem the day. Should Christians still buy into all the extras that the season has attracted?

One of the interesting things that Ross reminds us is that the Christians originally chose December the 25th to ‘Christianise’ a pagan festival. We redeemed it from the pagans, should we now redeem it from commercialism?

Has Christmas really moved so far away from its original roots? An evening at one of the many carols evenings in every area would suggest that the true spirit of Christmas isn’t as far away as we might think.

If you’d like to hear what Ross had to say just press play on the audio player at the bottom of this post.

Feel free to comment but can I ask you to consider listening to the audio first to get a really good handle on what we were discussing?

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Why Christmas?

gift_1.jpgWhile you look forward to unwrapping your gifts this Christmas I thought I’d help you unwrap the real Christmas story.

We all enjoy giving and receiving gifts on Christmas Day but it’s important that we take time to remember what Christmas is really all about. It’s more than just the gifts and the jolly man in the red suit. It’s more than a ‘feeling’ or ‘spirit’ that makes us feel warm inside. It’s more than time with family enjoying good food and good times.

While it’s generally accepted that the 25th of December isn’t the actual date that Jesus was born, it’s the day that has been chosen for celebrating Jesus’ birthday. That means Christmas is really a big birthday party.

So why should we be invited to the birthday party? Jesus was born around 2000 years ago. Why do we still celebrate his birth?

Christians believe that Jesus is the Son of God. In fact, and this is where it gets tricky, according to the Bible, Jesus is actually God in human form so this is no ordinary birthday.

Here’s a little bit of the Christmas story from the Bible. This account is from a book of the Bible written by a guy named Luke.

At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, his fiancée, who was now obviously pregnant.

And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no vacancy for them.

That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. ‘Don’t be afraid!’ he said. ‘I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.’

Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,
‘Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.’
When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’

They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.

Aha! So that’s where the manger and the shepherds come in.

That’s pretty much the story of Christmas. God living among the people he created. It’s an amazing thought but it’s even more amazing when you thread the whole story of Jesus’ life together. After all, usually when we celebrate someone’s birthday we don’t just remember the day they were born, we celebrate who that person has become and what they’ve brought to the world.

If we’re still celebrating the life of someone born around 2000 years ago, we’ve got to assume that they lived a remarkable life. If you want to find out more about the remarkable life of Jesus, I’d encourage you to grab a Bible in an easy to read translation and then read one of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke or John) to find out about Jesus’ birth, life, death and resurrection.

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The Bishop of Harare

Bishop_Sebastian_Bakare.JPGZimbabwe is a landlocked country bordered by South Africa, Botswana, Zambia and Mozambique. The country is governed by President Robert Mugabe, who has been accused of massive violations of human rights.

Zimbabwe is currently experiencing chronic shortages in food and other essentials causing massive suffering throughout the population.

In Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe, there has been a large outbreak of cholera with hundreds of people dead and thousands more suffering from the disease.

The Rt Rev Dr. Sebastian Bakare is the current Anglican Bishop of the Diocese of Harare. Last month he received a prestigious peace award in Sweden for his committed work for human rights in a politically unstable Zimbabwe.

Bakare spoke of Zimbabwe to the media at the Lambeth Conference in Canterbury, England in July this year.

“The ruling system is so oppressive that it has denied the people their human rights, including religious freedom. My diocese continues to suffer persecution. We have been denied the freedom to worship.”

It was a pleasure to have him join me in the studio this morning during my programme on 98.5 Sonshine FM. He spoke about the persecution many have suffered and are continuing to suffer. You can hear what he had to say by clicking play on the audio player at the bottom of this post.

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