Chapter 158 [day 280]: Wednesday 23 December
EMMANUEL—GOD IS WITH US
Good morning everyone
Today, 23 December is exactly 9 months to the day since the first lockdown was imposed which we expected would last a few weeks before life would return to normal. But June came and the nation was in the same situation and disappointments included having to cancel planned holidays. Now, just two days before Christmas Day, our lives would normally have been busy and hectic, dashing about finalising arrangements for getting together with family and friends, or maybe even some last-minute shopping. But from what many of you have been telling us, most of you had already decided a few weeks ago that you would be spending Christmas on your own. But remember: Emmanuel = God is with us (Matt.1:23)
The news over the recent days has left many deeply disappointed. Many are weary of the way this virus has disrupted our lives so significantly this year. And now many are facing disappointment that Christmas plans are cancelled and prospects for post-Christmas and new year look bleak with another national lockdown looming on top of the travel and trade chaos that could follow Brexit. We don’t cope well when our expectations crumble and dreams are laid aside, but even before we found ourselves caught up in a global pandemic, this experience of disappointment was a normal part of life. But remember: Emmanuel = God is with us (Matt.1:23)
Two of the main men in the story of Jesus’ birth, as recorded in Luke and Matthew’s gospels, clearly had expectations and disappointments. Zechariah’s expectation that he and his wife Elizabeth would have a baby seems to have waned as the years passed and there was no pregnancy. His priestly expectation that God would send a Saviour for his people had perhaps weakened given that God had been silent for 400 years. (Luke 1:8-25)
‘Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Emmanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’ (Matt.1:23)
Joseph is anticipating his marriage to Mary and no doubt had great expectations of starting a family with her and settling down to happy domesticity in Nazareth. Then comes the shock of Mary’s pregnancy and his dreams are shattered. How could she have betrayed him like this? He could seek vengeance, but he loves her and decides to do the honourable thing and arrange to divorce her quietly. (Matt.1:18-25)
One of the aspects of the Bible is that it does not airbrush out human emotions, reactions and frailties. People are presented as real, not idolised and made to look good. So, when God chooses to send his Son Jesus into the world, to be born as a baby in a particular time and place, the people caught up in this momentous event are ordinary folk, with the usual mix of expectations and disappointments just as we experience.
This is how God expresses his love for us, he comes to be with us, right in the midst of all our experiences. Zechariah and Joseph’s worlds were turned upside down as they were caught up in God’s plan of salvation, in the unique event of the incarnation. But we too are caught up in God’s plan of salvation for today. Are we ready for our expectations and disappointments to be turned around as we see God working in us and through us to bring the blessings of Jesus to those around us?
May the celebration of Christmas this year, however small that may be, reassure us all that God is still at work and he is with us.
Remember: Emmanuel = God is with us (Matt.1:23)
In the words of our Hymnalong today - O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel
· The Met Office is predicting the best time to see the ‘Star of Bethlehem’ in the evening sky should be tomorrow evening, Christmas Eve
· As announced last Sunday morning, we are not planning any services in the Chapel until Sunday 17 January at the earliest, although further lockdown restrictions could push that date back.
· Kids Club Kampala have sent a video message thanking Falcon Lodge Chapel for our support during 2020 >>> watch here.
· After 280 days and 158 emails, not to mention preparing 40 consecutive virtual and/or live Sunday services, we have decided we need a short break, so this will be our last email for the next 3 weeks. The number ‘40’ is also Biblically significant – the Israelites wandered for 40 years in the wilderness, whilst Moses, Elijah and Jesus each fasted in the desert for 40 days.
° How do you know Santa has to be a man? No woman is ever going to wear the same outfit year after year.
° Good King Wenceslas phones for a pizza. The salesgirl asks him, 'Do you want your usual? Deep pan, crisp and even?'
° Alex was five; all his Christmas presents were always signed, 'from Father Christmas.' A little while after he had opened all his presents on Christmas morning, he was looking quite down in the mouth. 'What's the matter’ his dad asked. 'Ummm' replied Alex slowly, 'I really hoped that you and Mummy would give me something for Christmas.'
° Mummy, can I please have a cat for Christmas?: Answer: No. You'll have turkey like the rest of us.
° What's the most popular Christmas wine? Answer: 'I don't like Brussels sprouts'
What A Girl Wants for Christmas -
The Santa Claus at the shopping mall was very surprised when Emily, a young lady aged about 20 years old, walked up and sat on his lap. Now, we all know that Santa doesn't usually take requests from adults, but she smiled very nicely at him, so he asked her, 'What do you want for Christmas?'
'Something for my mother, please,' replied Emily sweetly.
'Something for your mother? Well, that's very loving and thoughtful of you,' smiled Santa. 'What would you like me to bring her?'
Without hesitation, Emily answered quickly, 'A son-in-law!'
Wishing you the love, joy, peace and hope that only Jesus brings, and remember: Emmanuel = God is with us (Matt.1:23)