Christmas time is often a time when families are reunited to spend a happy and joyful time together. It calls to mind the time my son, Murray, was reunited with his grandfather after they had moved hundreds of miles from us. He had not seen my dad for over a year. Previously, he had seen his granddad virtually every day, but since the move, he had not seen him at all! Well, we drove up the steep, long and winding drive to their new home which was perched on top of a little hill overlooking the river below. But about half way up we stopped the car and Murray climbed out, because my dad was walking down the driveway to meet us—he had obviously been looking out for us. At the time, Murray was only about 4 or 5, but I will never forget the scene. He ran up to my dad, flung his arms around him and just laughed and laughed and laughed. It was a scene of utter joy.
The event I’ve described of Murray laughing in joy pales into insignificance compared with the event that will take place when God’s people enter their heavenly rest. There they will see the Lord Jesus face to face and never again leave His presence! It will a scene of absolute euphoria, where I expect that all in attendance will just laugh with pure delight.
Heaven is the final home for all of us who know and love Jesus. Jesus is so special to us because He did for us what we could not do for ourselves – He kept God’s Law perfectly on our behalf and took upon Himself the wrath of God which we deserved. He is our Saviour, He is our Lord. He is the One who died on the cross to make us right with God! That is why we love Him, that is why we want to be more like Him.
Yes, we still struggle to do what God commands. We still miss the mark, we still sin against God and each other but because of what Jesus has done for us, we strive to be like Him. When we fail - and we do, we remember the cross and what He did for us there. We ask Him for forgiveness and we start over again. Jesus is our all and that is why we celebrate Christmas. Jesus came to make things right between us and God. He can do the same for you and then you too will be part of that great reunion in heaven one day. Jesus will be waiting for you and when you see Him face to face, you too will laugh and laugh and laugh out of pure joy because of what God has done for you through the One He sent to us on the very first Christmas.
1 John 1 v9
May you and your loved ones have a blessed, happy Christmas and a wonderful New Year.
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Through the keyhole
When I was a young child, I used to think that pastors were ‘other worldly’. I therefore imagined that life in a manse was likely to be a foretaste of Heaven! Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I’d have inside knowledge one day, but the Lord works in mysterious ways …
I married a businessman. That was intentional. I never chose to marry a pastor. After all, pastors need to have perfect wives! I have limitations (many of them!) and I was aware that it would be likely that our children would display their imperfections too! It came as a shock to me, when Evan felt God calling him into full time ministry. He joyfully submitted, I on the other hand, did not! I dug in my heels and said “no!” I cried, I fought, I pleaded, I resisted … but God won. He always does – He’s irresistible.
So, here I am, unexpectedly holding the key to the ‘manse’ and as a result, I am offering you the opportunity to peep inside and see what life in the manse is REALLY like …
As soon as you walk through our door, you will realise that the full reality of Heaven will have to remain a mystery for now! The manse is just like YOUR home: The dog moults, children leave mud on the floor, tomato sauce squirts onto newly washed shirts, flutes don’t always play in tune and macaroni cheese frequently burns. Occasionally we argue, sometimes we eat too much, we also sigh when the phone rings at an inconvenient time. Our flowers die, pots boil dry, the dog barks, ironing builds up, walls fall down and believe it or not … the pastor even snores! The manse is an ordinary place, with ordinary people. The walls need a lick of paint and the inhabitants need to be licked into shape.
But there IS a difference. There is one crucial difference. At the centre of the manse, there is someone who is EXTRA ordinary. He never gets irritable like we do, He never slumbers (let alone snores), His very presence is peace, kindness and love. In fact, He IS love, all-consuming, reckless love. As we sit around the table at night with our heads bowed and the Bible open, that Presence is with us. He unites us. When our six children take turns to pray, He listens and binds us together. As we link hearts in thankfulness for the food He has provided, He satisfies us.
There is no greater miracle than to observe the lives around our table being slowly, sometimes painfully transformed by the Presence living in us. It’s awesome, radical, redeeming transformation. At the centre, at the altar of our home is Jesus. He’s beautiful, He’s radiantly, spectacularly, gloriously, beautiful. And we unashamedly love Him. We can’t help it. His presence in our home is a guiding light, a pillar of fire and cloud in our desperately sad, sick, hurting and broken hearts and aching world. He heals, He holds, He cares, He loves and most of all, He gives us indescribable hope. That’s why we can’t stop smiling.
You don’t have to live in the manse to experience the presence of God, because it works the other way! God doesn’t live outside, contained by concrete walls, but rather INSIDE of us when we invite Him in. He pulls up a chair at the centre of our hearts and around our table and He prepares us for a banquet. As that beautiful Presence grips us, it’s intoxicating – we long, we hunger, we thirst to be like Him. Adoring children aspiring to be like their hero Dad. The more we cling, the more He changes us, until slowly, slowly we start to reflect Him, and the Light comes on in our dark homes and our veiled hearts.
Oh, He is good, He is so, SO good. Taste and see for yourself? Then and only then, will you really live.