Hope 2017 is better!

It has a been a sad time in the fading weeks of 2016. So many famous people have passed away in recent weeks I’ve been almost too scared to read the news. Great icons of stage and screen have been passing with frightening regularity, and serves as a timely reminder of just how fragile we human beings actually are.

I was stunned to hear of Rick Parfitt’s passing. I saw Status Quo just over a year ago in Glasgow’s new concert venue The Hydro. They played a great set despite their advancing years and seemed destined to go on forever. The ‘Quo’ are a bedrock of British rock music spanning decades. They were actually formed a year before I was born in 1967! To hear of the passing of Parfitt is sad and his family must be devastated like any family who loses someone so near Christmas.

I just enjoyed Carrie Fisher joking away on the television a week ago, only to hear this complex, funny and talented lady had taken a heart attack, and ultimately did not recover after her flight home from the UK. Now I hear her also famous mum, Debbie Reynolds has died just days after-probably from a broken heart. No matter how much money or fame one has, or doesn’t have- the pain from loss can be unbearable.

Singer George Michael, whose kindness and generosity for others is starting to become known, (hidden for so long from us on his orders), actresses Liz Smith, Zsa Zsa Gabor & quite a few others have shuffled of their mortal coils. It would be easy to feel hopeless and despondent-as many people do in these circumstances. The promises of life and status mean nothing whether you were a king, president or just plain old you and me!

The one-time persecutor of Christians- a man called Paul later commented about his faith, the risks to his life and the lives of others with these words…

Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.
And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:35-39 (NLT)

The one sure thing we have is our faith in the Love of God that Paul so beautifully described in these verses. I don’t know the personal convictions of any of these celebrities-some may have believed in God and some may not have-but I am convinced we should all strive towards understanding what really matters in life. We must frame our existence in a perspective based upon eternal values that are firmly rooted in God’s love for us.

It was a sad way to end 2016. We will all be hoping for a much better new year in 2017. One way to help make that happen would be to re-frame our lives in God’s Love. it is eternal, it is unbreakable and it is certain. Aim for something that is really important-much more important than obtaining lots of money or perceived status- then we can really begin to value what our lives mean. I’m praying for a much better 2017, with God’s love I’m starting in the right place.

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The end of a difficult year

No one would argue 2016 was a great year. There has been so much uncertainty politically in the U.K. and elsewhere in the world that so many are so unsure of their future. There have been terrible conflicts especially in Syria and as I write that particular conflict appears to be coming to an end.

The UK is heading for the so-called #brexit, despite the fact that Scots voted by an enormous majority to remain in Europe, so leading to further constitutional difficulties with the rest of the UK.

Donald Trump ‘trumped’ the pundits and won the electoral college vote to become the President-Elect, and in the UK Jeremy Corbyn also surprised many who were trying to derail his leadership, by winning a handsome majority in what resembled a replay of Julius Caesar being stabbed in the back by his own team.

The one thing that isn’t affected by the crazy events of the world is the love of God. In a fast moving, dynamic world that follows trends, trends that are ditched in a moment, the love of God is a constant. People of faith everywhere hold to this constant in their lives for there is nothing else that matches that assurance in the Rock of Ages.

With further constitutional uncertainty now a fact due to the #brexit vote, the debate will further weaken and split the devolved nations of the UK, certainly those who voted to remain but find themselves being pulled from the EU regardless.

What kind of President will Donald Trump make? Only time will tell. I have a feeling that the difference wont be that noticeable. Despite the shrieks of horror the US President is carefully checked by the US constitution which was carefully designed to limit the power of the executive. I for one hope he intends to make money rather than war. Maybe a businessman will turn around the fortunes of America’s less fortunate and succeed where Obama failed?

I predict a rough passage for the UK leaving the EU. It wont be pretty that’s for sure. Things are falling apart and article 50 hasn’t yet been invoked. The country is already seeing the ill-effects of this decision. I’m almost certain the lies and half-truths that were trotted out against the EU combined to sway the voters of England & Wales to react wrongly against the EU; rather than the politicians at Westminster who have let the country run down to such a state they had no prospects of a decent future.

It would be easy to become despondent but God always has a plan for us. The events of the coming years are shaping up to remind us more and more of the need for the Love of God, the one constant that can be guaranteed always and everywhere in our lives.

Thank God…always.

candy canes nativity service

I want to thank you for your nativity play “Legends, Symbols, Signs, Story of Christmas” it was really good.

In Albany, Georgia, in the 1920s, a candymaker named Bob McCormack made canes as special treats for family and friends, but the confections were difficult to mass-produce. Then, in the 1950s, Bob's brother-in-law Gregory Keller, a Catholic priest, invented a machine to speed up the process. Other members of the McCormack family worked on new packaging to keep the canes from breaking in transit, and Bob's Candies became the world's leading candy cane producer.

The candy cane is a long-time Christmas tradition.  Everywhere we look we see them.  They are used as decorations on Christmas trees and, of course, they are one of the most popular of all Christmas treats. I have heard several stories about the history and meaning of the candy cane.  I don't know if they are true, but I do think that the candy cane can teach us a few things about the true meaning of Christmas.

First of all, if you look at the candy cane like this it looks like the letter J.  Jesus starts with the letter J, so that should remind us of Jesus and help us to remember that Christmas is Jesus' birthday.

If you look at the candy cane like this it looks like a shepherd's crook.  The shepherd used his crook to keep the sheep from wandering away from the flock and getting lost or eaten by a wild animal.  The Bible says, "The Lord is my shepherd."  The candy cane should remind us that Jesus is our shepherd and he will keep us from wandering away and getting lost or hurt.

The candy cane is mostly white.  White is a symbol of purity.  That should remind us that Jesus was the spotless Lamb of God and that because he came to be the sacrifice for our sin, we can become as white as snow.  

As you know, the candy cane has three red stripes.   The Bible tells us that before he was crucified, Jesus was beaten with a whip which made blood-red stripes across his back.  The Bible says that we are healed by those stripes.  The stripes on the candy cane should remind us that Jesus suffered and died, so that we can have everlasting life.

To many people, the candy cane is a meaningless decoration seen at Christmas time or just a piece of candy to be eaten and enjoyed.  I hope that this year, every time you see a candy cane, you will be reminded of the true meaning of Christmas.

Lord,  we thank you that Jesus is the Good Shepherd who keeps us from harm.  We thank you that because of his suffering and death on the cross, we have life everlasting.  Help us to remember that we find the true meaning of Christmas in him.