Sunday, December 6, 2009

A second Christmas message - Thank God for Jesus

This week was not a good one for me. A terrible motor vehicle crash in the northern part of my country resulted in multiple deaths, including two promising youngsters from an inner city neighbourhood. As I read the story my heart went out to the mother who must have tried so hard against difficult odds, to bring up her children to be achievers rather than the regular drop outs which sadly is often the case in that kind of circumstance. And those of us who are involved in promoting road safety, had to be scrambling trying to get the nation back on track to avoid more carnage, especially during the Christmas holidays. Also having just visited Russia, one cannot help but identify with the continued trials they are having, with so many dying in a night club this week. And the continued slaughtering of human beings continues unabated in Pakistan, in Somalia , and certainly in my country, is so distressing. Equally distressing this week was the revelation of corrupt cops caught providing security for known criminals and getting involved a fire fights in one rural area.

However, thank God, in the midst of this pathos, and madness, my West Indies cricket team, the performance of which, in recent times, has been quite embarrassing, turned in an encouraging performance against the redoubtable Aussies, and hopefully something better is just around the corner. Plus it is just very difficult to remain sad - even though some do because death or some other major issue bring back sad memories - as the Christmas season of joy and good will to all mankind comes to us with a rush. Christmas carols gives one such a emotional lift, as do the lights and the vibes, and yes the shopping for gifts, and the plans to be with family and friends. Christmas in Jamaica is just so special.

Then this morning, and during the week, the Lord sent a message to us and all mankind. The one this morning at church was very special. We celebrated as a church family, the witness of our patron Saint Andrew as in " St. Andrew Parish Church". The pastor reminded us of the turning point of Andrew's life, as he and another un-named disciple, were originally disciples of John the Baptist..." and then they saw Jesus". In the sense John's Gospel records in chap 1:36..." When he ( John) saw Jesus passing by, he said , ' Look the Lamb of God". And later on Jesus saw them following ans asked them what did they want, to which they asked him where was he staying. An answer which was followed by an encouragement to come and see. After which encounter, their lives were never the same again. So Rev. Franklyn Jackson, using the encounter as a point of departure, told us that we are to follow in the footsteps of Andrew and:

1. ...make Jesus the focus of our lives. Fix our eyes on Him...not on the pastor or by extension the Bishop. And therefore our attendance at church, our involvement in the life and witness of the church, our sharing of our time and money and talent, must be because of our love for Jesus. And not be given or withheld, because we like or dislike the Pastor. A very profound statement in light of how many of us are so easily upset with " fragile human beings" and thus lose our focus and withdraw our support for the church, or give that support commensurate with our love for the pastor.

2... not just see Jesus but stay with Him. And appreciate that Jesus is our forever friend and will never leave us or forsake us. Any leaving, is caused by us going on a different path and not the Lord going away.

3....not only to stay with Jesus, but to spend time with Him and to learn from Him. Spend time in the word. Spend time in prayer. Prioritise our lives to make time spent with Jesus the number one priority.

4..finally having come to Jesus, having fixed our eyes on Him having stayed with Him and learnt from Him, it is time to go out, like Andrew did and tell others about the Lord. Spread the Gospel. Engage in serious and personal evangelism. He even went on to suggest that my Church, situated in the middle of the capital city, could become the leading center for evangelism in this region. A very serious challenge to consider. Why evangelism? The Pastor made a very telling point. Among other things...inter alia.... Christmas will never come again, but advent, the heralding of the second and final coming of our Lord, to judge all mankind, will one day come again. So our job is to focus on advent and warn people to repent rather than place all our focus on Christmas.

This kind of call for action, especially at Christmas, having placed Advent and Christmas in the right perspective, is so timely for those of us who are wondering how will our country ever be rescued from the violence, the carelessness, the rampant immorality and the hopelessness which are so much a feature of everyday life in my country and in many parts of the world.

Secondly, the Lord, pointed out in a very deep meditation, that despite all the problems that we face, He is an Almighty God, and His supernatural powers are available to us who have faith and willingly give thanks to Him in all things.


" How many loaves do you have?" Mark 6:38

IN WORD It is a common human tendency to focus on what we lack. Whether we are looking at possessions or problems, we usually zero in on the downside and try to figure out what to do about it. We may have most of what we need towards a certain expense or be mostly pleased with a project. But that's not what we usually see. We ignore the ' most' and focus on the little bit that still needs fixing. Our dissatisfaction and want loom larger to us than all that God has already provided. We grow quite discontent with just a small element of imperfection. The glass for most of us is always half - or even only 10 percent - empty.

Jesus did not look at his circumstances this way, and he did not teach His disciples to do so either. He knew what he ha already been given, and He knew the God who promised to supply all our needs. When five thousand men and their families needed feeding, Jesus counted a small handful of fish and loaves - and gave thanks! He took what they had in hand and looked to heaven (41). And instead of focusing on the five thousand men and their families for whom there was mo available food, Jesus gave thanks for what they had. it wasn't much, but it was what God had provided. And God never falls short of meeting a need.

IN DEED Could it be that we often miss out on God;s supply because we focus so much on the need and so little on the what he has already given? Has Jesus given us a lesson here in praying for provision? There was no pleading, no reminding God of how many people are hungry or how little food there is, no prayers of anguish for the provision Jesus hoped would come but suspected might not. Jesus went through none of these rituals we go through when we see a great nee and a lack of resources. Resources are never insufficient when God is involved. So Jesus gave thanks. And the text is succinct and understated as it tells us in verse 42: " They all ate and were satisfied".

Could it be that we are missing the connection between the Pastor's challenge to focus on Jesus, and the challenge in the meditation to do the very same thing - at all times, but particularly so in times of need when the resources are seemingly insufficient. The fact is that on that first Christmas, God provided all the resources that we would ever need to live an abundant life in this universe. As with Jesus' subsequent death and resurrection, came the gift of the Holy Spirit to those who fear God, and believe in the sufficiency of the shed Blood of His Son. We need therefore to develop an attitude of thanksgiving at all times in all situations - whether seemingly insurmountable violence, challenging economic situations, difficult to change human behaviour on our roads, painful and distressing immorality in the nation - sex in basic schools is really the pits, especially when a mother, in response, and she is by no means peculiar, is reported to have said that : " dat a natural someting".

And an attitude of thanksgiving will always lead to praise, and so I spent some time this week meditating on, and accepting the words and thoughts expressed in one of my favourite hymns.

And found much peace, that comes with a true understanding of Christmas, in all of these messages. May you too find God's peace in this message and share it with others who are so desperately in need - the anxious parent, the nervous worker, the confused wife, those inflicted with a terminal illness, the hopeless youngster, the grieving family, the downcast leader, and the persecuted Christian.

Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation;

O my soul praise him who is thy health and salvation:

All ye who hear,

Now to his temple draw near,

Joining in glad adoration

Praise to the Lord, who o'er all things so wondrously reigneth,

Shieldeth thee gently from harm and when fainting sustaineth:

Has thou not seen

How they heart wishes have been granted in what he ordaineth?

Praise to the Lord who dost prosper thy work and defend thee;

Surely his goodness and mercy daily attend thee:

Ponder anew

What the Almighty can do,

If to the end he befriend thee.

Praise to the Lord! O let all that is in me adore him,

All that hath life and breath, come now with praises before him!

Let the Amen

Sound from his people again:

Gladly for ay we adore him.