Merry Christmas!

I’ve been a bit quiet again for the last week or so. I’ve been busy getting organised for Christmas and I’ve been tired (got my energy back now though 😊). I kept thinking about writing different things but never quite getting round to it. Or starting draft posts and not finishing them.

I love Christmas! It’s probably the big kid in me 😊. It’s definitely different now that we don’t have little ones waking us up all excited at the crack of dawn (these days I’m first awake and probably the most excited 😂) but I love it all the same.

On Sunday at church we were encouraged to reflect on the first Christmas and what it would actually have been like to be there. I can’t help but wonder what it was like from Mary’s perspective. Pregnancy (especially the first time) is a strange experience anyway. It’s kind of like having a little alien growing inside you. How weird would it be to be pregnant as a virgin? I imagine that could be pretty terrifying at times. I wonder if she had morning sickness or worse all day sickness like I had with my son?

Then to have to take a long and uncomfortable journey to a distant town just days before giving birth. No option to phone ahead or book a nice hotel online. No fancy air-conditioned car to travel in. Instead a bumpy ride on a donkey – her back must have been aching!

Arriving in Bethlehem there were no hotel rooms left and they ended up slumming it in a stable or at least a room with animals in it. Imagine the smells; the moist, warm air from the animals’ bodies and breath. No proper bed to lie on while giving birth. Just some prickly straw and an audience of animals. No midwife or doctor on hand. No pain relief or water baths. Just her husband-to-be who probably had little experience of delivering babies.

All the same it must have been an awesome experience. To carry the Saviour of the world inside of her and to look into his little face when he was born. I’m sure, like most mothers, all the pain and difficulties were forgotten and love overtook her in that moment.

One of my favourite Christmas songs is Mary did you know? I love thinking about the words written to Mary and the tune is beautiful too.

Mary did you know that your baby boy would one day walk on water?
Mary did you know that your baby boy would save our sons and daughters?
Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you’ve delivered, will soon deliver you

Mary did you know that your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will calm a storm with his hand?
Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
When you kiss your little baby, you kiss the face of God

Mary did you know? Mary did you know? Mary did you know? Mary did you know? Mary did you know? Mary did you know?The blind will see, the deaf will hear, the dead will live again
The lame will leap, the dumb will speak, the praises of the lamb

Mary did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary did you know that your baby boy would one day rule the nations?
Did you know that your baby boy is heaven’s perfect lamb?
That sleeping child you’re holding is the great I am

Source: LyricFind

Mary did you know? Mary did you know? Mary did you know? Mary did you know? Mary did you know? Mary did you know? Oh Mary did you know?

Songwriters: Buddy Greene / Mark Lowry

Mary, Did You Know? lyrics © Warner Chappell Music, Inc, Universal Music Publishing Group, Capitol Christian Music Group

I will write again soon but for now I just wanted to wish you all a very Merry Christmas! I hope you’re having a blessed day. 😊

Mini Moral Dilemas

I took a trip to ASDA today to buy some cute star stickers for a game I wanted to play with the kids in my relaxation class. I bought three packs and paid for them in cash (a whole £3). On arriving at the class location I started opening the packs, to make the game preparation easier, only to discover that in fact there was an extra pack stuck to the back of one of the ones I had purchased.

The stickers in question!

What to do? Why is it even a question? I had taken (though unwittingly) four packs of stickers from the shop and only paid for three. That’s stealing right? But they only cost £1 each (hardly worth the fuel money to go back to the shop) and it wasn’t my fault that they were stuck together, right? Right? Okay maybe not.

Don’t worry I’ve already decided to take them back tomorrow. I know I’ll get weird looks from the shop assistants because 1) something similar happened to me once before and the staff were really gobsmacked that I returned the item; 2) many people would likely think – ‘well that’s a bonus’ and hold on to them; 3) hmm, I had a third reason but now I’ve forgotten what it was 😂.

This small scenario got me thinking though. How many things do I do that are morally questionable just because they’re not particularly hurting anyone? Like maybe when I park at a meter and don’t pay ‘cause I know I’ll only be a few minutes or take a pen home from work that doesn’t belong to me and never bother to return it – I mean it’s only a pen right? Don’t get me wrong I haven’t polished my halo and resolved never to do anything morally questionable again – I can tell you right now that there’s a high chance that I’ll park at a meter without paying before the week is out.

Should I act differently to the majority because I’m a Christian? What if someone has a really good reason for doing something questionable like taking medicine for their sick child because they couldn’t afford it? I think I’d do that for my child. It’s a can of worms when you start thinking about it but I guess I’m interested in your thoughts on this.

Is it just me or do people see certain ‘misdemeanours’ as totally excusable?

Is there ‘a line’ somewhere that says for example that it’s okay to steal something if you didn’t mean to or if it’s not worth much?

I’d love to hear what you would do; and no judgement here by the way – I mean I just stole a pack of stickers.

Known

Known

To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is what it means to be loved by God.
Timothy Keller

Isn’t this what everyone wants? To be fully known and loved in spite of your faults and failures. To be known and valued and loved for who you are.  It’s definitely what I want. That’s why the title attracted me to this devotional by Tauren Wells and that in turn lead me to this song.

I love these words:

Known
It’s so unusual it’s frightening

You see right through the mess inside me
And you call me out to pull me in
You tell me I can start again
And I don’t need to keep on hiding

I’m fully known and loved by You
You won’t let go no matter what I do
And it’s not one or the other
It’s hard truth and ridiculous grace
To be known fully known and loved by You
I’m fully known and loved by You

It’s so like You to keep pursuing
It’s so like me to go astray
But You guard my heart with Your truth
A kind of love that’s bullet proof
And I surrender to Your kindness

How real, how wide
How rich, how high is Your heart
I cannot find the reasons why
You give me so much

It’s so unusual it’s frightening
I’m fully known and loved by You

So the devotional was meant to last 5 days but it was a particularly good one and I couldn’t put it down so I finished it off in a couple of sessions.  I could relate to so much of what was said.  I’m going to quote quite a few chunks from it in this post as he’s much better with words than I am and I couldn’t put it any better.

He starts off by talking about the fact that so many of us hide who we really are.

I’ve come to the unfortunate realization that there is a version of Christianity that many of us have bought into that has trained us to be professional pretenders.

You know it’s not even deliberate sometimes but just that culturally we don’t open up, we don’t share our hearts, we’re not honest about the parts of life that suck.  When we’re asked how we are at church we don the ‘good Christian mask’ and tell everyone we’re fine or worse quote scriptures that really mean nothing to us since it’s not really where we’re at.  If you’ve been following my blog from my first post Who Am I Really? you’ll know that I’ve been there.

It’s funny ’cause at church last Sunday a woman I’d never spoken to before made a point of coming over to tell me that I was known and loved by God.  It sounds a bit trite when I just say it like that but it felt meaningful and made me emotional at the time.  I really needed that reassurance again.  Sometimes I wonder if all our professional pretending at church actually turns real people off and means they don’t hang about.  You know if you feel like you can’t live up to the level of perfectionism that many Christians seem to have or everything in your life doesn’t feel blessed or wonderful; when life is tough and you’re struggling – why would you hang around people who don’t get what that feels like?

Another thing that lady reminded me of is that God loved me before I did anything for Him and still loves me even if I’m doing nothing.  I’ve always been pretty active at church so I think maybe subconsciously it’s like I felt I was earning God’s love or something?  I know that’s ridiculous really, no one can do enough to earn God’s love.  I guess I’ve always been a ‘people pleaser’ and I really need to make sure I’m not projecting human expectations and characteristics on to God.  In the devotional I was reminded again that God loves us simply because we’re his kids, full stop.  We don’t need to DO anything.

I’m realizing that who we are known by trumps what we are known for. With God, we are not loved based on reputation; we are loved based on relationship.

Over the last year or so I’ve realised that so many relationships I’ve had at church have been very shallow.  Those people haven’t really known me and I haven’t known them either.  Neither have we really loved each other, if we had we’d have been in contact outside of church.  We’d have taken more than a passing interest in each other’s lives.  We’d have been there when we were needed and lifted each other up when we fell down.  It’s easy to have polite conversations on a Sunday and never go any deeper, never really care who comes or goes.  I don’t think that’s what I want in a church.  I want to be treated differently to that but I know I need to treat others differently too.

Relational poverty is one of the greatest challenges our culture faces today. These days we tend to have followers but not friends, likes but not love, comments but not conversations, crowds but not companions, churches but not communities. Our society has popularized a new kind of relational experience—one that gives us a broader network of ‘contacts’ but lessens the importance of having deep, meaningful connections with others. The priority on ‘I, me, mine’ has eclipsed any sense of ‘us, we, ours,’ and the result is that people feel more alone than ever before. Our time has been dubbed the ‘age of loneliness.’ In fact, it’s been estimated that one in five Americans suffer from chronic loneliness.

This is so sad but so true.  Too many of us are surrounded by people, people who are supposed to be our brothers and sisters, and yet we’re lonely.  There are too many people in our churches who have no real friends, people who are even sidelined by other Christians.  I don’t like it.  How can we change this?  I genuinely want to know.  Maybe in time I’ll get some inspiration on this but in the meantime I don’t have any answers so if you do please feel free to leave a comment.  As the song says ‘it’s so unusual it’s frightening’ but I’m so thankful that whatever I’ve done or not done I’m fully known and loved by my Papa, Abba, Father God.