Loving God - Loving our Community
What do you rely on? What do you trust? Where do you plant your feet? What do you hold fast to in the storm?
Every day of Advent during the build up to Christmas we’re taking stock, checking our footing, taking our bearings and exploring five core truths we learn from the story of Christmas.
The first week of Advent was God is Real.
The second week of Advent: God is Good.
The third week of Advent: God is Alive.
The fourth week of Advent: God wins.
Christmas... God Involves
We reach the Heart of Christmas with a small child born into a dark time.
A child given the name Jesus - 'God saves'.
A child given the name Emmanuel - 'God with us'.
A child who will show that God is Real, that God is Good, that God is Alive, that God Wins and that God Involves You in this amazing story, this hope-filled adventure.
Today is Christmas.
May God bless you today with his rich love!
Thursday, Christmas Eve, One Day until Christmas
God could do it all alone, but he doesn't. He involves us. He calls us to join in.
At that first Christmas, God involved Mary and Joseph, the shepherds, the wise men...
During his life Jesus involved his friends and followers, men and women, young and old, rich and poor, broken and whole...
Throughout the centuries, he has involved more and more people, calling them to join his mission of love and justice.
He involves us today in sharing his kindness and generosity and peace and hope.
How is God involving you today?
Wednesday, Day Four of Week Four, Two Days until Christmas
God wins. And his victory isn't crushing, his victory is lifegiving, healthgiving, hopegiving.
His victory heals. His victory inspires. His victory reassures.
His victory encourages.
If you're feeling crushed right now, you need the fruitful peace that comes from his victory.
Open your heart, and invite him in. Let him bring life into the desert places.
Tuesday, Day Three of Week Four, Three Days until Christmas
Let's put today's point in Jesus's own words in the gospel of Luke, as translated into modern English in 'The Messsage':
'Jesus came to Nazareth where he had been reared. As he always did on the Sabbath, he went to the meeting place. When he stood up to read, he was handed the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. Unrolling the scroll, he found the place where it was written,
"God’s Spirit is on me;
he’s chosen me to preach the Message of good news to the poor,
Sent me to announce pardon to prisoners and
recovery of sight to the blind,
To set the burdened and battered free,
to announce, “This is God’s year to act!”
He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the assistant, and sat down. Every eye in the place was on him, intent. Then he started in, “You’ve just heard Scripture make history. It came true just now in this place.”'
Jesus wins over everything.
Sickness, despair, boredom, addiction, you name it, Jesus has come to set you free.
If you're burdened and battered, bound or bruised, he's come to heal and give hope.
What do you need to be released from today?
Monday, Day Two of Week Four, four days until Christmas
There's a saying "it's always darkest before dawn". It's one of those sayings that's just not true - the darkest bit is right in the middle of the night. But it kind of feels true. In any dark situation, it feels like you're just one light away from new hope, and you might know that hope is coming, but it can feel so far away.
Well, on this darkest day we have the good news for you.
Hang in there - Christmas is coming, and no one can cancel it.
Sunday, Day One of Week Four, five days until Christmas
But not the way we do.
God wins with the birth of a baby, who will grow to be a man who heals the lepers and talks to excluded women and touches the untouchable and loves the collaborators and forgives the guilty and teaches the losers and and and and
and then takes his place on a throne of rough-hewn wood on a hill outside the city, with a crown made of twisted thorns, and who gives up his life to give us life and and
and whose power is demonstrated by his rise from the tomb, leaving an empty slab, and perplexed and delighted followers and and
and who leaves them with his life inside them to become his ambassadors in every corner of the world.
That's how God wins.
Saturday, Day Seven of Week Three, six days until Christmas
The star didn't lead the wise men to a scroll or a message or a tablet or a statue.
The star led the wise men to a baby. A crying, breathing, feeding, gurgling, growing baby.
In Jesus's life, we find what it means to be truly alive.
Love, inclusion, challenge, purpose, hope.
What true life do you need right now?
Ask the living God, who is alive and present and with you now, for it.
Friday, Day Six of Week Three, seven days until Christmas
God is Alive.
And because God is alive, this isn't all about something ancient.
It's about something now.
How does it make you feel to know that God is with you *now*, here in 2020?
Thursday, Day Five of Week Three, eight days until Christmas
God is alive, and he freely gives life, overflowing, abundant life to all who will receive it. And that life isn't mundane, dull, tedious trudgery, it's better than anything you have ever known.
Do you want life in all its fullness? Life to overflowing?
Because God is Real and Good, you can ask for it, and God will always breathe more of his powerful life into you.
Ask for it. God is only a breath away.
Wednesday, Day Four of Week Three, nine days until Christmas
You can start with a simple phrase like God is Alive, but it can take a lifetime to unpack it and live it.
Because God is alive, God is active, because God is active, God is interactive, because God is interactive, God is interested, because God is interested, God is involved, because God is involved, God is involved with *you*.
Do you know the warm touch of God's hand on your life?
Do you know the loving touch of God's hand on your heart?
At the Heart of Christmas is the message that the maker of the universe cares about *you*.
If you don't know it, get in touch and we can talk about it.
Tuesday, Day Three of Week Two, 10 days until Christmas
There's a passage in the old testament that talks about the different gods being like chiselled stones or scarecrows in a cucumber field.
But the living God is not manmade, in fact, it's the opposite way around. We're Godmade.
God isn't inert and inactive.
God is alive and moving right here right now.
How is God moving in and around you today?
What is the living God saying to you right now?
Monday, Day Two of Week Three, 11 days until Christmas
God is alive.
And God is life.
And God is the giver of life.
He breathes life into us.
And that life is real and good.
How do you feel about receiving the gift of life from the living God?
Sunday, Day One of Week Three, 12 Days until Christmas
There are stars up in the sky that you can look at and see, but I've got bad news for you... that star that you can see is long gone. The light that hits you is real, but it's actually long dead. The light you can see is from hundreds of millions of years ago, and the star has gone out since then.
There's a danger that as we read the bible, we can think that these stories are all stuck in the past, the light of long dead stars.
But the truth is that God is Alive now, here, this day, this place, where you're sitting reading this.
Here's a challenge for you:
Where have you seen God alive right now?
Saturday, Day Seven of Week Two, 13 days until Christmas
One last thing about goodness - goodness isn't just an 'is'.
Goodness is a 'does'.
Love isn't just about emotion, it's about action.
God is good and God does good.
And, again, you are made in God's image.
You are made to be good and do good.
What goodness do you need from God today?
What good can you do today?
Friday, Day Six of Week Two, 14 days until Christmas
Some might say that the phrase 'God is Good' doesn't do enough.
It's too simple, too plain.
Those people are completely right.
Spend some time today thinking about more words that you could use to describe God.
Tell them to someone.
Tell them to God.
Thursday, Day Five of Week Two, 15 days until Christmas
"But wait!" I hear some of you say. "If God is good, how come this world is such a mess? How come the news is so bad? How come people are so mean? What about earthquakes? Wasps? Viruses? Why did my cousin die? Why does everything feel so broken?"
You're not the first person to ask.
In fact, it's one of the most profound questions ever asked, asked throughout the centuries by every generation, and a question that doesn't get dealt with by a simple answer.
But for followers of Jesus the quest for understanding starts in a stable in Bethlehem, and an encounter with the light that shines in the darkness.
If you're wrestling with any of the hardest questions and need help, please message us through this page and we'll try to help in any way we can.
If you'd like a question to think about:
How do you wrestle with the hardest questions of life? Who helps you think through them?
Wednesday, Day Four of Week Two, 16 days until Christmas.
Today's is a truth about God.
And a truth about you.
Did you know that you were made in God's image?
God is good.
And God made you to reflect his goodness.
You were made good.
You were made to be good.
We all mess up along the way, but God wants to work within you so that you shine with his goodness.
That's why Jesus came at that first Christmas.
To show you that you have *value*.
To show you that God treasures *you*.
To show you that God wants you to *shine*.
God is good.
Did you know that you were made in that same image?
Tuesday, Day Three, Week Two, 17 days until Christmas.
Sometimes to understand a 'God is', it's also helpful to understand what 'God isn't'.
When we stand on the truth that 'God is good', we're remembering that God isn't bad.
God isn't mean.
God isn't fickle.
God isn't harsh.
God isn't cold.
God isn't stingy.
God isn't distant.
God isn't deceitful.
God is... good, in every way, in every situation, at every time.
And we see it especially in the story of Jesus, from start to finish, from Christmas to Easter, from cradle to grave... and beyond.
Your challenge for today is to think of something that God isn't.
And to think of something that God is.
Monday, Day Two of Week Two - 18 days until Christmas
What's the first thing that comes into your mind when you hear someone say 'God is Good'?
(there's no 'right' answer - your answer is your answer!)
Sunday, Day One of Week Two - 19 days until Christmas
It's the second Sunday of Advent, so we're into the second week of exploring five truths at the Heart of Christmas - last week, God is Real, this week, God is Good!
God is Good.
We see in the story of Jesus the story of good.
Love, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, peace, hope, joy, compassion.
There's no shadow. There's no dark side. There's no bad days. There's no dirty secret.
God is Good.
God is Good.
God is Good.
Say it with me.
Sing it with me.
Shout it with me!
Saturday, Day Seven of Week One - 20 days until Christmas
The story of Christmas is the story of the real God getting involved in our real world in a real way, but sometimes the thought that God is real can leave us with even more questions. we mentioned one yesterday ('If God is real, what is God like?') and here's another challenging question for each of us:
What difference is that truth going to make to your life?
Friday, Day Six of Week One - 21 days until Christmas:
So I think the statement 'God is Real' invites two big questions - we've got one for today, and one for tomorrow.
Here's the first one: If God is real, what's he like?
Christians believe that's where Jesus comes in.
This is written early in the Gospel of John in one of those classic bits of the bible read out at Carol services: "So 'the Word' became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son." (John 1:14 NLT)
We believe that we know what God is like, because we know what Jesus was like: "full of unfailing love and faithfulness"
Full of unfailing love and faithfulness.
Full of unfailing love and faithfulness!!
How does that make you feel?
God is real, and God is good.
But God is Good is next week's truth.
We've got one more on 'God is Real' before we get to that one!
Thursday, Day Five of Week One - 22 days until Christmas
Imagine an alien planet. What does it look like? Make up some alien plants. What colour are they? Create some alien animals. How many snoofs do they have?
If you make something up, you can change it any way you want, can't you?
But God is Real, and unchangeable.
What you believe about a rock doesn't change the rock.
What you believe about God doesn't change what God is like.
And God is more real* than the rock mountain.
More real* than the chair you're about to sit on.
More real* than the grisly rain that's falling today.
How does it feel to know that you can't change God?
*we could have said 'as real as the rock mountain', but even the mountain can get worn down to dust and sand and get blown away on the wind.
That's never happening to God.
Wednesday, Day Four of Week One - 23 days until Christmas
God is Real. Robin Hood on the other hand... well...
Who's your favourite? The fox? The new one? The Australian one? The American one? The one with too many arrows? The classic one? You can write and rewrite the story of Robin - a nobleman, a farmer, a soldier... who travelled to the crusades, who fought on the continent, who brought back a Moorish friend, who lost his lands, who set out for revenge... so many variations... because it's a myth. It's a story made up to entertain and delight.
But the story of Jesus doesn't get new rewrites, when we celebrate Christmas we celebrate the ancient truth shared by all Christians that the God who made everything became one of us. Not a myth or a fairy tale, but a story embedded in history, grounded in geography, rooted in reality.
What does it mean to you that the story of Christmas and the story of Jesus is grounded in reality, over two thousand years ago, in villages that you can visit and on streets that you can walk?
Tuesday, Day Three of Week One - 24 days until Christmas
You can't see the wind, but you don't ever doubt it's real. In the Christmas story, we see lives shaped by God - sometimes directly, sometimes indirectly.
Today's question - when have you felt your life shaped by the invisible loving powerful breath of God?
Monday, Day Two of Week One - 25 Days until Christmas:
In the Gospel of John, the writer shares the idea that 'the word of God became flesh and dwelt among us'. How does it make you feel that the Maker of the Universe, who spoke the big bang into being and who created every star in the sky, chose to come and live as a human being, born in a shelter for animals, walking the paths of his country, eating, sleeping, (presumably pooing, even though the Bible doesn't mention that), laughing and crying, and even dying as one of us?
How does that make you feel about God?
How does it make you feel about yourself?
How does it make you feel about other people?
Sunday, Day One of Week One - 26 Days until Christmas:
Here are two questions to think about and share, maybe with your family, maybe with friends, maybe with your small group:
When have you most known God is real? What helps you know that God is real and with you?