In my experience, plants seldom flower exactly when they are supposed to. But this year, my Christmas Flowering Cactus is spot on.
In the beginning there was nothing but darkness. But God was there, in the darkness. God didn’t like the darkness, so he said, “Let there be light,” and there was light, amazing, incredible, light. Light that lets you see and understand. And God saw that the light was good, very good indeed. Next God created the water, the sky and the land. Plants and trees, sun, moon and stars, fish and animals. Then God created people, just like you and me. And God said it was all good, very, very good. God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. So all the people lived in the light, and in understanding with God.
Time passed. People changed and became selfish, wanting their own way. They became unkind, greedy, violent, cruel. And they didn’t like God seeing everything they did. So they turned away from the light of God and their hearts became full of darkness. They did hateful things in the shadows, thinking that the darkness would hide them and that God wouldn’t see.
But God did see. He could see that His wonderful world wasn’t good anymore. And He wanted to do something about it. So He made plans to bring the light back. For a long time He planned. For hundreds of years He planned. And sometimes He let his friends in on the secret, just a little. Isaiah was one of His friends. Isaiah said that one day in the future, “The people walking in darkness and living in shadow would see a great light.”
So hundreds of years later, when the time was just right, the true light, that could give light and understanding to everyone, came into the world. His name was Jesus. He was God’s own son, a part of God himself, come to earth to shine His light into the darkness. When the angels spread light across the hillside, the shepherds hurried to Bethlehem to see the new baby in the manger. When the wise men followed the light of the star, they came and gave gifts to the brand new baby king. Jesus grew up knowing he was the light of the world. He said “While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” And, “Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Another time He said, ” I have come into the world as a light, so that no-one who believes in me should stay in darkness.”
But people still didn’t like the light, because it showed up the bad things they did, so they tried to put out the light, by killing Jesus on the cross. But God’s light could not be turned off, and could not be extinguished. Jesus didn’t stay dead! He came back from the dead, and walked around with his friends, and once he even cooked breakfast for them. Before He went back to heaven to be with Father God, He handed the job of carrying the light on to His followers – and that’s us, you and me! The apostle Paul said, “You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. So live as children of light.” Another time he said ” We are all sons and daughters of the light, we do not belong to the darkness.” In one of his letters, Peter said, “You are a chosen people, belonging to God, so you can praise Him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”
Now we who are Christians carry that light, because, “God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness’, made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in Jesus Christ.” Some of us think we are only little lights, and some of us may think we are bigger lights, but we are not asked to carry the light on our own. Just like a string of fairy lights, we are joined together, you, me, and all who follow Jesus. We need the power of electricity to light each bulb in a string of fairy lights, and if we ask him to, God’s Holy Spirit gives each of us the power to shine out for Jesus in our little bit of the world. Batteries, or a power cable in our string of lights are useless, if we don’t choose to plug in and switch on. And it’s no good if we don’t choose to plug into God, and be switched on by God’s Holy Spirit. Each of us can be a little light for Jesus, and
joined together we can be a big light for Jesus.
Bible references (some slightly paraphrased!): Genesis 1:1-3, Isaiah 9:2, John 1:9, John 8:12, John 9:5, John 12:46, 2 Corinthians 4:6, Ephesians 5:8, 1 Thessalonians 5:5, 1 Peter 2:9, 1 John:5
One hundred years ago today, five days before the end of the Great War to end all wars, my Great-Uncle, Private Charles Henry Nicholls died, fighting in France. He was a soldier in the 4th (City of London) Battalion (Royal Fusiliers), and took part in the One Hundred Days Offensive, the final campaign of the war before the Armistice on 11th November 1918.
I obviously never knew him, but I honour him now, and all the other men who gave up their lives in the fight for peace.
They hoped then it was the War to end all wars, but many wars have been fought since, and many more lives lost. Will we never learn?
Yesterday it snowed some more, but once again not as much as was forecast. It was still very cold, -3C, and if it still wasn’t ‘deep and crisp and even’, the earth was certainly ‘hard as iron, and water like a stone’. I defrosted the bird bath every time I had a hot drink, and the birds were very grateful. Mr and Mrs Blackbird took it in turns, and kept coming back for more. A pair of magpies stopped by, and a small flock of four starlings bickered and chattered as they filled their beaks. Some great-tits, blue-tits and long-tailed-tailed-tits flicked around from bush to bush and tree to tree, along with a tiny wren, but they didn’t join the drink queue. Most of the birds sped off as soon as they saw me with my camera, but Mr and Mrs Blackbird posed beautifully. The birds were obviously finding enough to eat, as they were only interested in the water, and largely ignored the scraps I put out. The dog happily finished those bits off later!
It snowed last night, not deep or crisp or even, but definitely snow, sprinkled across the garden like icing sugar. Although it was bright and sunny this morning it snowed some more, soft fat flakes drifting and dropping aimlessly. This afternoon it grew colder, and the snow fell like tiny hard crystals whirling madly in a biting, easterly wind. Some of the longer spikes of grass are still standing tall, but most of the lawn and flowerbeds are covered with a thin lacy blanket of snow. A few small, half-open daffodil buds, have been stopped in their tracks, as winter has returned with a vengeance. Tiny pendulous snowdrops stand straight, while pink and white hellebore flower-heads are heavily laden, bowing down to almost touch the icy cold earth. I’ve defrosted the bird bath three times today, and have been rewarded with the sight of blackbirds and pigeons grabbing a quick drink, and I spotted a wren on the trellis, and a squirrel high up in the oak tree. Despite the bitter cold, there is still life in my garden. We may not have had the snow we were expecting, but there are a few days yet of snow and below zero temperatures forecast, so who knows…..
Today I feel like a tortoise. All I want to do is pull my head in and hibernate. With a nice thick shell, and a bundle of warm hay to snuggle into, I think I’ll feel safe from everyone that wants to have a piece of me.
But no. I must get up and face the day. I cannot remain hidden away, isolated and alone. So as I go out into this new and scary day, I ask God to be my shield and defender. With Him I am safe, and with Him I can face whatever the world throws at me.
I have a number of friends going through tough times, uncertain times and incredibly sad times. And this morning I heard a song in my head, the tune and words singing inside me, so intense that I couldn’t keep them in, and the song just bubbled out. So if you too are going through hard times, uncertain times or sad times, I offer you the words of this song straight from the heart of God. I don’t remember if fully, and you will have to imagine the tune, but it went something like this:
My peace I give you, a peace beyond understanding. I give it to you freely, but you must reach out and take it. Then I will hold you safe despite the all-encompassing confusion and tumult. The world around may still be a furious tempest, but do not be afraid, you can be secure within the calm of the eye of the storm. So just reach out and take my peace, then although the turmoil and whirlwind still rage, you will be kept safe from harm.