As I write we are just over 10 days from Christmas and even though we try to avoid the busyness and commercialism that has become the ‘secular Christmas’, it is hard to avoid. We want to take the opportunity for testimony that comes with the ‘festive season’; therefore there are extra services, parties and entertainment. All of them can be legitimate ways of showing that for the Christian Christmas is not tinsel and trimmings, but is in reality a world-changing experience.
Most of you will know that just prior to Christmas we had a shocking series of health issues, Richard Jones suffering a stroke, Mrs Eileen Jenkins and Trevor McMillen both had heart attacks, Sadie Howells ended up in hospital with a severe chest infection and Jo Berry had to struggle with the uncertainty of little Oscar developing unexplained lumps in his neck. It has been a trying time, but also a very encouraging time as different ones have visited and tried to help those immediately affected by these setbacks. It has given us the opportunity of showing Christian love.
It has also been a time of reflection, learning and adjustment for all concerned. While talking with Richard following his stroke, on a number of occasions he said that 1 Corinthians 10:12 – “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” was a verse that had often come to mind. He had learnt in a very dramatic way how vulnerable we are as human beings – physically, mentally, emotionally and most importantly spiritually.
Paul wrote this verse to a church that was struggling with people who thought that they were spiritual giants compared to others. Paul, in a gracious way was showing them that spiritual pride is a horrible place to be. In fact it is a contradiction of genuine Christianity, which is always characterised by humility. That is the initial and main point of Paul’s teaching.
It is important however to see that each day that God gives us is truly a gift of grace and is to be lived in His strength alone. Each of the health issues experienced by our friends highlights the fact that our bodies are subject to attack by viruses and bacteria. For many in our day they are learning the sad lesson that we have to treat our bodies with care. They cannot be neglected or abused without there being an effect. Often when we are weak physically we then realise how closely our bodies and emotions are affected, because we so easily finding ourselves wiping away an unexpected tear or sobbing helplessly ‘for no reason!’ The stiff upper lip is not always so stiff, and where it is people can be misunderstood as cold and unfeeling.
It is in the spiritual realm however that we need to acknowledge our weakness. The Lord Jesus Christ said that He would build His church and that without Him we can do nothing. Spiritual disciplines are vital, but we must never see them as a substitute for our daily relationship with God. The diabetic knows from painful experience his/her dependence on insulin. There has to be that maintained balance so that life is lived on an even keel. Where there is a reduction insulin or an unexpected increase in sugar or activity life can be thrown into chaos and diabetics become unconscious, i.e. totally incapable of helping themselves.
As we begin a new year let us thank God for the strength that He has given us to serve and worship Him through 2012. Let us also be aware that we start another year of walking with God, but also of facing a ruthless enemy. The only way that we can hope to stand is by maintaining direct links with the Head of the Church our Lord Jesus Christ and also with the visible church, His body here on earth. If we choose to rely on past experience then Paul calls us to take heed lest we also fall.
As I draw to a close I would like on behalf of Linda and myself to thank you all for your kind expressions of love and support over the Christmas period. At the same time we pray that each of you will know God’s sufficient grace to help you face everything that 2013 will hold for you and us.
Sincere Christian Greetings,
Bernard Lewis January 2013