Monday, 24 December 2018

Child in a Manger

The angel said to Mary: "He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David." When we think of greatness, most highness and thrones, our minds immediately conjure up images of power and wealth. It's how our brains have been trained.
But that's not how God's mind works. When God thinks of greatness, most highness and thrones, he thinks of a tiny baby, sleeping in a manger because other people have been allowed the comfort of the guest room.
The striking humility of Jesus' birth, which we celebrate at Christmas, is not God taking an uncharacteristic break from his usual divine grandeur. It is articulate expression of what the creator of the universe is really like. As that tiny baby grew into a man, his style never changed. Jesus remained humble, and consistently sacrificed his own comfort for the benefit of others - right up to the agonising end.
Take a moment to reflect on that vulnerable child, lying in an animal's feed box, and wonder at the character of God. This is what God is like. And this is what God would like us to be like.
​Happy Christmas

Also by Robert Harrison
the life and loves of a disciple of Jesus

Thursday, 20 December 2018

Something's Coming

The run up to Christmas always carries with it a sense of anticipation. Something is coming. Christmas is coming. It can’t be dodged or avoided, and we need to be ready. When we were children, the anticipation of Christmas was exciting - there were parties and presents to look forward to, and there was nothing required of us but to contain our excitement. In adult life, the coming of Christmas is more complex. While we long for the innocent excitement of our childhood, we are all too aware that things need to be organised, presents need to be bought, cards need to be sent - the responsibility falls on us to be ready.
This sense of anticipation surrounds Christmas in other ways too. The traditional season of Advent focuses on the expectation of Jesus’ return as well as the expectation of his birth. Centuries before Jesus’ intriguing birth, prophets were telling their people that something was coming, God was hatching a plan and was about to do something significant.
There are numerous Old Testament expressions of this expectation, and in the centuries that followed there were countless theories about what exactly this ’something’ was which God was bringing about. Ancient Jews studied their scriptures and tried to predict God’s coming. With the same enthusiastic confidence many Christians today study the references to Jesus’ return. And try to work out what to expect.
However, when God did come - when he did do his thing - it wasn’t anything like what people were expecting. No-one was expecting a newborn child, lying in the manger of an ordinary home. No-one was expecting a bunch of shepherds and a handful of foreign mystics to be the first on the scene.
The adult Jesus reminds us that God still has more plan up his sleeve. There is another something which is coming - which we need to be ready for. But he advises us not to waste time speculating what that something will be like. God is the master fo the unexpected. We will know it when we see it, but it won’t be anything like anything we have imagined. We just have to be ready.

Just published:
by Robert Harrison
the life and loves of a disciple of Jesus

Thursday, 6 December 2018

99.6% Loving & Forgiving

We are all familiar with the world of advertising. Whether it is in print, sound or vision, businesses seek to attract us with carefully constructed messages that convey the essence of their product in a just a few words. Though the intensity of the advertising around us may be unprecedented, the idea of a short and punchy sales pitch is nothing new. God himself has done it.
Shortly after rescuing the Israelites from Egypt, God needed to introduce himself to a frightened and bewildered people. After the drama of crossing a divided sea, the Israelites needed to know what kind of a god it was who they were following. This was God’s pitch: “The Lord: a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for the thousandth generation, forgiving transgression, yet by no means clearing the guilty, but visiting the iniquity of the parents upon the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation."
There is a deeply ingrained belief among Christians that the God of the Old Testament is a harsh and judgmental god, whereas the God of the New Testament is gentle and loving. This common prejudice draws our attention to the idea that God would punish children and grandchildren for the failings of their parents. We read it, and dislike what we read. But that is only a fraction of God’s self-description. He may visit the iniquity of the parents on the children to the 4th generation, but he keeps steadfast love for the 1,000th generation. In mathematical terms that means God is 250:1 loving, and plans on being so for at least the next 20,000 years.
This is God’s own understanding of himself and of his dealings with humanity. He’s not a total pushover. He has his limits. But when he handed his proverbial calling card to Moses, it read: “God: 99.6% loving and forgiving."

Just published:
by Robert Harrison
the life and loves of a disciple of Jesus