Christmas is a time for tradition and there is no better tradition than not being able to wish everyone a happy Christmas before scooting off to Northern Ireland. So before I drown in turkey and Tayto crisps, I thought I’d say a few words of encouragement here.
In Cord this term, we had the pleasure of studying the Pentateuch (selected passages, mind, else we’d still be doing it in 2020). In Exodus 34, God renews his covenant with Israel, after they’d committed the sin of the golden calf. There, he passes before Moses and describes his nature:
“The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”
This is God, and at that time he dwelled among humans in the Tabernacle. He led Israel on their travels via a pillar of fire or cloud depending on what time of day it was.
While I do not wish to push this analogy too far, we too find ourselves in a situation where we have no permanent home. I don’t think any of us can pretend it was an easy year for us. I don’t think I’ll forget those tense congregational meetings, gracious as they were. The elders have done exceptionally well in the circumstances.
Instead of dwelling on that though, I’d like to give some encouragement, because it’s obvious among us that grace is abounding. Whether it’s in the Cord group I lead, encouraging and being encouraged by the other Cord leaders, being invited round to dinner or allowing me to enjoy your Sky Sports subscription, or just chatting about girl woes, it’s clear that we’re all about that grace (with apologies for the reference).
I went on another church’s weekend away (I have already been disciplined by the elders ;))a few weeks ago and I told them what was going on and they said they’d been praying for us and were full of praise of our faithfulness. We must, of course, not become complacent, and indeed things are not perfect, but really all I wanted to say is that I have enjoyed being part of this congregation this year.
John says in his gospel:
And the Word became flesh and built his tabernacle among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
This chapter is full of all kinds of wonderful theology, but Christmas time is for remembering that God came down and dwelt among us, not in a tent with a big cloud or a temple, but in human form. This is the same God Moses encountered on Mount Sinai, described above, and he is with us now, building or no building.
Have a great Christmas, and I’ll see you in two weeks!
And, in keeping with tradition, here’s a picture of a wintry animal: