Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas blog readers!

I'm on holiday till 2 January - hooray! So, so pleased.

Today I led the Christingle service by candlelight in our church and I have to say I sensed something very different this year. It felt like something "opened up". I ran the same order of service (more or less) that I have always done EXCEPT for one thing.

I usually have an adult or a family give a testimony of how this Jesus who we are celebrating has changed their life in some way. I had been praying about who to ask to do this; had a great story from a couple last week at the all age nativity service but I didn't feel I should ask them to repeat that, though I did consider it. I felt it would be right to ask the children who I work with. It was unrehearsed and unscripted except that I talked with them about the purpose behind a "testimony slot" in a public service on Monday at our soft play centre party.

Just to elaborate, I work with and oversee a very large number of primary-aged children but as we get towards the older end of the spectrum (ages 8 to 11), there are children I personally see quite a lot of, as they step up to be junior leaders at our midweek club, or get involved in praying for people, or join the missional discipleship group that I run. They take roles in all age services and prayer events as a natural progression on from the things we do as part of our Sunday service.

Ten of the children had learned and presented a "god rods" drama **ask me about this!! under the tutelage of one of my faithful volunteers and at the end of it I gathered around and asked them what difference knowing Jesus made to their lives.

Well......I've got tears in my eyes as I recall what the children said, one after another...He's changing me inside, he's helping me stand up for him in school; I never used to come to church but since I have in this last year I have found someone who listens when I talk to him; he's beside me when times are tough, he's answered my prayers...(and more)

I truly believe I sensed the presence of God in a powerful way. Something was different this Christingle service. Our church building was packed out with visitors. I could count our regular families on two hands but I counted huge numbers of local school families. At the end, one mum came up to me and said her 4 year old wanted to know why Jesus had to die. She asked me right then and there if I could help with the question.

All of my bible college knowledge came to the front of my brain....all the reasons you read about and write about - ...I could almost SEE the weighty tome of Stott's The Cross of Christ in front of me as I talked to her, as well as Moltmann, Wright, Bruce, Borg, McGrath, Volf, Green, Hart, Chalke, Piper, Grenz, Grudem....and yet I could only say what I believe Karl Barth once said: God allowed Jesus to die because the bible tells us that he loved us. I gave mum a "Why Jesus" booklet to help her in her journey of explaining this to her wee one.

I'll be able to hook up again with this mum and child in the playground and give them a preschooler version of "why Jesus".

But doesn't this just illustrate once again, the WIDE open doorway before us in ministry to children and families? Never, ever give up prioritising this as highly as possible in the life of your church...pour yourselves out for the local community in any way that you can that reaches the young as it ALWAYS, always bears fruit.

I'm praying tonight for the outpouring of the Spirit of God over every and any seed that was planted this Christmas season as we love families and children and long for them to enter into a beautiful collision with the one who loves them so.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Nativity Time

I haven't blogged for ages, mainly because I have been working flat out. And I would have been a boring blogger. Plus we have had huge snow....and the car wasn't even over the door for two weeks. It was quite pleasant for a while but towards the end of the fortnight,if I had to trudge up our long road one more time....(the buses were off for two weeks)..I guess I had forgotten how heavy four pints of milk are!

In the past week or so, I have finished the parenting course with a wee group of parents from the local school and had an alpha reunion from my last daytime course. Both of these things have reminded me how much I love people; even when I am feeling tired, just some time in their presence invigorates me. I love just chatting and being myself and when that is coupled with the opportunity to bring something of the Lord Jesus just by being me, I love it even more. A real highlight this week was the midweek kids club Christmas party - I have just the best team running it, and I had planned to hold one of my most favourite kind of events; a social event for the mums and dads to come along to. Two fantastic folks cooked dinner and we served it to the parents in a separate room while the kids had their party.

One of the dads said: "I didn't expect this evening to have been THIS good!" It was a funny moment as he confided that he had come along filled with trepidation, wondering what the evening would be like. I love talking about how our church loves to welcome children and families - which it does - and you know from the interested faces as you say it that that has not always been people's expectations nor experience of the church.

This Sunday is our Christmas family service which I have put together to try and weave together testimony, story and song. I'm particularly looking forward to the Nativity which I have had very little to do with, and is being run by the kids team, and in particular one of our medic students has worked her socks off - it's got a lot of speaking parts in it this year. Another of my kids leaders has choreographed this year's "god rods", which is a worship with sticks thing I brought over from Toronto.

I want to try and weave in quite a challenge to "investigate" Jesus and his claims in the New Year on one of our two alpha courses (daytime and evening) - I still remember so clearly the first Christmas that I knew of God's love for me in a deep and very personal way - it felt so "alive" - the presents didn't matter so much but everything else around Christmas took on a new sparkle.

I love this time, the story of the Nativity has incredible power - it's from the word of God; it speaks over time and space and into a myriad of peoples' circumstances, fears, disappointments and worries. It brings hope, beauty and light into darkness. If you haven't heard about the BBC Nativity drama showing Monday to Thursday this week at 7pm on BBC1, then please check this out. As well as being on prime time TV, it's been scripted by the writer of Eastenders, Tony Jordan - and how about this for his motivation:

Tony wanted to write a nativity that his mates in the pub would watch, and that addressed some of his big questions about the story..


Will post how it goes.....!