The following post is based on Canon J.John's message live streamed across 11 locations on the weekend
A small school was putting on the highlight of their calendar: the Christmas production. One of the little boys had his heart set on playing Joseph but when the roles were assigned, he was given the innkeeper instead. The big night came and the characters of Joseph and Mary approached the innkeeper and Joseph asked “Can we come in?”. The disgruntled young actor said “She can come in but you can’t!”.
There are many different versions of Christmas out there and many different versions of Christianity so, as with this Christmas play it is important to always go back to the original script and ask, what does it say? It says that being a Christian involves five key things:
To look up.
Psalm 121:1-2 says “I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” Who doesn’t need a bit of help? The Bible says to tune in to God. Different people have different understandings of God but the key thing is to reach out to God humbly. There are lots of things we do not understand and many people ask God to answer all their questions before they come to Him. This is a mistake - it is the other way around. Come to God, let Him into your life and then you will come to understand things as you start to see things from His point of view. The Canon and Killy were once in a building on the 31st floor while fireworks were going off. It was amazing to see them from above -that’s how they must look to God, His sight, His view. When we don’t know where we’re going, where we are or where we have been we need insight, oversight and foresight, which God can give us. God is our help.
To look back.
John the Baptist proclaimed that Jesus was the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29). Jesus is the invisible God made visible, the unknowable God made approachable and the intangible God made tangible. If we were to approach God, He is so Holy we would burn up and perish. But with Jesus we can see God in a human form. In London there is a famous shop called Fortnum & Mason (where the Queen shops) and their sign says “Founded 1707 and trading ever since”. This has slightly more gravitas than a plumber’s van that says “trading since 2006”. Jesus has been trading for 2,000 years with billions of satisfied customers -you should read His reviews. Trading with Jesus will change your life.
To look inside.
The Bible tells us that we need to examine ourselves. Hebrew humour was all about exaggeration so when Jesus said that before we take the toothpick out of our friend’s eye, we needed to remove the telegraph pole from our own eye, He was not being literal but making an important point (Matthew 7:3). We generally think we are all right but like seeing our skin in a magnifying mirror, when we look closer it can be pretty scary. If God examined our soul, He would find some pretty unpleasant stuff. Jesus said in the beatitudes that the pure in heart will see God (Matthew 5:8). The word for pure here, means no mixed motives. Nobody is perfect with pure thoughts, speech and actions all the time but if you examine yourself, with God’s help you can start to change.
To look around.
When you look at the world, there are a lot of things not right. If you follow the previous idea of our impure motives, you start to realise that maybe we are all a bit responsible for the bad stuff in the world. If I am responsible for some of the bad stuff then I have a responsibility to try and reverse it. There are very real needs around me in people’s lives and I have the opportunity to help the broken and neglected. This is both to take responsibility and also to care.
To look ahead.
Jesus is coming back. Sometimes when we are in an unpleasant situation we can wish that the world would end today but really, once Jesus comes back it will be too late. It will be too late to look up and invite God into our lives, too late to ask for Jesus’ forgiveness, too late to examine our motives and change, too late to act for the better in the lives around us.
When Jesus comes back He will welcome His people home. His people are those who asked for Jesus’ help. We could never be good enough to come close to a Holy God so Jesus paid the price to clear our overdraft by dying on the cross. His people are those who accepted the cheque that He signed with His blood, to clear our debts and mistakes and set us free. That was what the cross was all about: the only one in credit, paying our bill. Even if we live to be 100, our life on earth will be a mere blip compared to Eternity, so consider whether you have begun the journey with Jesus. The journey to look to Jesus, to get in tune with God, to be transformed by His Holy Spirit and become empowered to change the world for good. Come with all your questions and meet the one who has the answers.
Something to talk about:
1. The Bible calls us to do all five of these things. Are we neglecting any because we find them difficult?
2. Canon J.John is a brilliant communicator -which of his illustrations did you find particularly helpful? We should be ready to explain what we believe wherever we are.
3. With Christmas approaching, what “version” of Christmas will you be talking about with the people in your world?
Recording of the live-streamed service here