Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus!

“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” (Philippians 3:20-21)

The phrase “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus” is the first line of Charles Wesley’s famous Christmas Hymn that he published in 1744 in his hymnal “Hymns for the Nativity of our Lord”.

Come, thou long expected Jesus,
born to set thy people free;
from our fears and sins release us,
let us find our rest in thee.

It was an adapted from a poem he wrote while pondering Haggai 2:7 and agonising in prayer over the orphans and class divide in England. Wesley realised that the only hope our world has is found in the birth of Jesus. He also longed for Jesus’ return. The birth, the life, the Cross, the Resurrection, the Ascension and Return of Jesus need to be seen as the one unfolding plan of God that finds its culmination in Jesus’ Return.

As we celebrate the birth of Jesus and the dawn of a New Year may the focus and passion of our hearts be to see Jesus’ Second Coming. May we live radical lives of godliness as we await Jesus’ return which could be any day now.

In the words of 1 Peter 1:13,

“Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.”

The Wonderful Christmas Name

“You are to give him the name Jesus … they will call him Immanuel.”  (Matthew 1:21, 23)

The Hebrew people of the Old Testament and of the New Testament era had a beautiful approach to naming children.

Naming of children in western cultures today tends to be linked to family names or a search for the most unusual name. For example Gwenyth Paltrow choosing the name “Apple” for her daughter. Or George Lucas, of Star Wars fame, calling his daughter “Everest”.

But the Hebrews picked names that said something about the nature or destiny of their child, or the circumstances of the time. The name became a declaration of truth that would be evident in the child or lived out during their lifetime.

How wonderful that the angel delivered to Joseph the name and mission of the child to be born to Mary. “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins” (Matt.1:21). The child’s name was to be “Jesus”, meaning “Yahweh Saves”. This is a beautiful name of hope chosen by quite a few parents at that time in history. But more than this it was a statement of his life role. He was going to be the Saviour of the world! Jesus, the Messiah / Christ, who was actually ‘God come to Earth’ (Immanuel) and was the final answer to this world’s sin.

And so tomorrow we celebrate Christ-mas! – Which means the celebration of the coming of the Christ.

Baby, Beyond All Others

“Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.”   (John 1:3-4)

I grapple with the greatness of Jesus.

It doesn’t seem to matter how much I reflect or read about Jesus I am left with the feeling that my understanding of his true character and greatness is severely limited.

For this reason, I am very thankful for John chapter 1 which regularly stretches me to see Christ as God who also took human flesh and became one of us. “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” (v.14) “He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognise him” (v.10). That first Christmas, as God entered our world as a baby, went unrecognised by most. Another birth into a poor family, isolated from relatives, lodging in a barn. A birth out of wedlock where Mary was not supported by her mother and extended family. The joy of a baby’s birth dampened by difficult circumstances. But this humble beginning was the miraculous start of the earthly life of Jesus, the Messiah, the Saviour, fully God!

This Christmas may we have our understanding stretched and broadened as we seek to worship Jesus, the baby, that is beyond all, who became the rescuer of our fallen and damaged World. No matter what the year has been like may you find wonder and comfort in His birth and life!

Following Jesus, Leading His People

“We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is … to lead, do it diligently.” (Romans 12:6-8)

On Tuesday night we held our Church Family Annual General Meeting. As part of our meeting we affirmed God’s people for our church leadership. We have a great leadership team for 2018!

In our Core Leadership Team we have our Deacons and Elders. Our Elders, who are responsible for facilitating the church’s spiritual health and direction, are myself, Geoff Hinch, Chris Guppy and Toni Welch. Our new Diaconate, which is responsible for the administrative health of the church, is David Backhouse, Elaine Barklay, Peter Clark, Sam Hills, Brian Gollop, Malcolm McPhee and Gillian Seglenieks. At the first meeting of the new Diaconate the Church Secretary and Treasurer will be chosen.

Alongside our Deacons and Elders we also have those who lead the Ministries of the Church: Kerry Gailer (Children), Ross Gailer (Band), Fiona Doherty (Girls Brigade), CAP Money (Doug Barber), Life Group & Church Ministry (Geoff Hinch), ESL (Danielle Bell), Craft (Gaye Pearce), Prayer for Armidale (Ian Lockrey) and our Stewardship Committee (Sam Hills, Doug Barber, Bill Pitstock, David Backhouse, Pastor Andrew).

Then we have others who both serve the church and community in Service Ministries. Jesus calls us all to use our gifts for him. How are you enjoying the privilege of serving the Lord?

Hope on the Street

“At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table.” (Luke 16:20, From the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus)

Last week was a mind stretching and eye opening week of exploring the need of people on the streets in Sydney. The depressed and run down outer suburb of Willmot gave one picture of the despair that many poorer people feel, especially when combined with drug usage and mental ill-health. Wilmott was featured on the SBS documentary “Struggle Street”. This is an area of violence where public buses no longer run because of attacks on drivers. Mobile phone coverage is also poor because towers are vandalised. There is high truancy in schools and daily reporting of child abuse by the Primary School Principal. In the midst of this the Willmot Hub is a combined initiative of Christians reaching out with God’s love.

At Hope Street in Woolloomooloo we saw inner city homelessness. Again drug and mental health issues lead to people living “rough”. Unemployment and lack of aged care also contributes to the people on the street. Hope Street and Woolloomooloo Baptist are working alongside Wayside Chapel, Rough Edges and the Ozanam Learning Centre (St Vincent de Paul) in caring for the needs of the people. Hope Street is especially caring for prostitutes. Attending church with a transgender person was a new experience for me!

How does Jesus want us to reach out to the people in need in Armidale?

More next week!