The Shepherd Hope
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 1 Peter 1:3
Join with us this Christmas; our prayer is that one and all may receive the Lord Jesus Christ and bring their praise of the Shepherd hope.
|Sun 3rd Dec
|'Driven out and gathered in', Micah 1-2
|Sun 10th Dec
|'Darkness and Light', Micah 3
|Sun 17th Dec
|'The coming kingdom', Micah 4
|Sun 24th Dec
|'Bethlehem's Shepherd', Micah 5
|Sun 24th Dec
|Church Family Carol Service at 4.00pm followed by tea and mince pies in the Hagan Room
|Mon 25th Dec
|Christmas Day Service at 10.30am
|Sun 31st Dec
|'Do justly, love mercy', Micah 6
|Sun 7th Jan
|'The Shepherd hope', Micah 7
While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:6-7
These words may give the impression that the Lord was born in a stable, but those who have explored the Middle East tell us that we need to refine that impression a little. When the Lord Jesus was born, many of the houses in Bethlehem were one-roomed homes on a split level. Part of the room, just inside the door, was level with the street. The rest of the interior had a raised floor, with steps leading up from the door to it. This - the bigger part of the room - was where the family slept; the lower bit served as their cattle shed. Whatever animals the family owned were brought in at night for safe-keeping (and warmth!). A manger on the floor of the family room was at just the right height for a feeding trough. When he found this out, a missionary in Bethlehem in the nineteenth century wrote, "It is my impression that the birth actually took place in an ordinary house of some common peasant, and that the baby was laid in one of the mangers such as are still found in the dwellings of farmers in this region." Also, the word translated "inn" may be translated as "guest room," as it is in Luke 22:11. Some houses had such a second room, which would have been the usual place for guests. It seems that there was one in the home that billeted Mary and Joseph, but it likely had been given over to other, more elderly, visitors or relatives. The main room therefore served as the maternity suite and the manger as a makeshift cradle.
Our image of the scene may need to be refined slightly, but we still may gladly sing of how "once, in royal David's city, stood a lowly cattle shed where a mother laid her baby in a manger for his bed." This year, our church family Carol Service will be held on Christmas Eve - Sunday 24th December - at 4.00pm. Make a note of the date and time and come to join the celebration then, and in our Christmas Day Service at 10.30am on Monday 25th. "He came down to earth from heaven, who is God and Lord of all." The angels sang for joy; the shepherds ran to see, and the Bible tells us that the baby who was wrapped in rags and laid in a manger is the Saviour, Christ the Lord. O come, let us adore Him!
The Bible does not say who opened their home to Joseph and Mary. We may note, however, that their need was met. God cared for them and provided for them. And we may reflect how God promises the same loving care to all who are adopted into His family through saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Our heavenly Father has supplied our needs; He is faithful. As we come to the end of 2023, we rejoice in how He has provided for us as a church in this past year. We gratefully acknowledge each offering and gift from members, friends and unexpected sources. Many of these - like the homely accommodation in Bethlehem - have been given without fanfare, but have testified to the presence and grace of our God.
We began the year praying that we might enter 2023 confident in God's care and resting in the love of our Father in heaven, and we end the year acknowledging His goodness. If the Lord tarries and spares us to see the new year, let's continue to trust Him for His love and faithful care. If He provides you with the health and strength to do so, make it your resolution to be present each week when our church family gathers in His presence. (That includes Tuesday nights too!). And pray that throughout 2024, by the person of God the Holy Spirit, the Christ who entered this world in Bethlehem will come to enter and dwell in many individual lives as Saviour and Lord.
The Bible says that "the time came for the baby to be born." God willing, we plan to hold a week of special meetings in our church building in January 2024. These will have the overall theme of "It's Time." Among the people connected to our congregation are some who have thought often about coming to trust in the Lord Jesus but who never have got round to doing anything about it. It's time to take that step of faith. There are others who quietly trust in the Lord, but who never have made their faith known. It's time to acknowledge the Saviour. Again, there are some who have drifted away from their walk with the Lord. It's time for that commitment to be renewed. You may feel that you are in none of these positions; is it time for you to consider where you stand with God?
The Rev David Cupples has agreed to be the guest speaker at "It's Time." God willing, Mr Cupples will preach on the morning of Sunday 14th January, and then at the evening meetings from Sunday 21st to Sunday 28th January. The meetings on Sundays will begin at 6.30pm; those on weeknights at 8.00pm. Please pray for Mr Cupples as he prepares to bring messages from God's Word. Pray that he will be sustained in good health, protected from spiritual attack and given a fresh anointing of the Spirit. Pray that the Lord will be at work amongst us, and that many will be led to say (in the words of another hymn), "O come to my heart, Lord Jesus; there is room in my heart for Thee."
Mary may have felt a little disappointed when she had to lay her precious, firstborn son in a manger. Probably this was not the way she had hoped things would turn out when the child was born. Many of us will look back on 2023 and think on the things that did not turn out as we had hoped. Every year brings its sorrows. The Christmas story goes on to tell how the shepherds came to find the Saviour. The angel had directed them to look for the child lying in the feeding trough; no doubt they told Mary about the sign they had been given! God was at work even in this. May you also find comfort in God's wise providence, His loving care and His faithfulness.
And may we know the joy of the Saviour's presence with us always.