Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Start Strong, Finish Well

At the beginning of this year I set out to Prove It that I was serious about my new year resolutions.  These included some health and fitness goals to engage in regular and intense exercise, so I resolved to "start the year off strong, and let January set the tone for the rest of 2014."

Starting strong was easy for me as I embraced the warm weather, slower pace of the summer break and a renewed enthusiasm for a new year.  However, along the way I allowed the reality of a busy life and a bad diet to sabotage my efforts resulting in a mid-year slump.  As the kilojoules I ate exceeded the kilometres I rode on my bike my waist line expanded and my new years goals diminished!  

Fortunately, I have not finished the year along this same trajectory.

A discontentment with the consequences of my loss of focus and a desire to correct my course of action stimulated a renewed motivation to end the year well.  Instead of writing off my new year resolutions as unrealised good intentions, I determined to make the necessary changes to turn them into reality...at least in part.  The results?  I could mention the number of kilograms I've lost or the number of kilometres I have ridden, but the real result is a restored confidence in my ability to work towards my goals irrespective of my failures or the barriers faced along the way. 

Here is what I've learned this year...

  • Never totally lose sight of your goals
  • Never allow your failures to overshadow your opportunities
  • Never think it is too late to start again or resume where you left off
  • Always remember life happens
  • Always try again
  • Always finish well

While a new year is an opportune time to set new goals, it is not the only time.  If I had waited until January 1st to try again, I would have entered the new year from a position of failure.  However, finishing well establishes a platform of success to dare to set even greater goals and to start strong!  You could say that my resolve to make and keep new year resolutions is stronger because of a restored confidence that comes from finishing well.

In 2015 resolve to start strong and determine to finish well.  Don't let your failures in between discourage you from embracing every opportunity throughout the year ahead!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Christmas - Magic, Myth or Miracle?

It is interesting to observe the cultural and religious sensitivities surrounding the variety of expressions of Christmas at this time of year - from shopping centres to social engagements, the nativity to mistletoe, Christmas lights to Christmas carols, Santa Claus to Jesus Christ.  From my observation, out of all of these Christmas customs, none seems to attract more controversy than the elevation of Santa Claus over Jesus Christ or vice versa.

For some, Christmas is centred around an overweight, jolly man in a red suit from the North Pole.
For others, Christmas is centred around a new born baby in a manger from Bethlehem.

From a cultural perspective, Santa represents the generosity and goodwill of humankind.
From a Christian perspective, Jesus represents the grace and glory of God.

Beyond the historical origins of St Nicholas, Santa Claus perpetuates the magic of Christmas.
Beyond the prophetic origins of Messiah, Jesus Christ personifies the miracle of Christmas.

To a secular mind, the joy of Christmas is found in receiving gifts from Santa.
To a spiritual mind, the joy of Christmas is found in receiving the gift of Jesus.

Santa Claus is a myth wrapped in a red suit given central place in community celebrations.
Jesus Christ is a miracle wrapped in swaddling given central place in Christian worship.

The North Pole has become a Christmas scene capturing the imagination of some.
The Nativity has become a Christmas story capturing the hearts of others.

Christmas movies seek to engender a spirit of belief in Father Christmas.
Christmas carols seek to express a spirit of praise for the Christ of Christmas.

It fascinates me that a sophisticated secular culture chooses an expression of Christmas that perpetuates a myth rather than an expression of Christmas that promotes a miracle.  It seems that flying reindeer, elves and a benevolent old man who visits every child on earth in a single night are more credible than an angel, a manger and a messianic child who came to earth as a part of God's salvation plan.  

It troubles me that segments of a Christian culture have allowed the magic and myth of Santa to hijack the miracle of the Christ child and to confuse the message of Christmas.  It seems that a cultural expectation of Christmas has become a higher priority for many Christians than a biblical experience of Christmas in their festivities and family engagements.

It challenges me to keep Christ central in every expression of Christmas from our church while engaging with our community so that Jesus may be elevated higher than any other cultural expression of Christmas.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Christmas, A Doorway...

Christmas is a season that captures many meanings and is celebrated through as many customs in the 21st century.  From the commercial to the spiritual, Christmas continues to open a doorway to a sense of joy and wonder for all who engage with this festive season.
At the centre of the commercial and cultural expressions of Christmas is a story that transcends our celebrations by opening a doorway to so much more...
Christmas is a doorway to a SERVANT
"I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered.  "May your word to me be fulfilled."  (Luke 1:38)
Mary was called by God and given a promise that would open a doorway for her to become a servant of His redemptive purpose for humankind.  Her calling to be the servant of the Most High found its fulfillment in two key factors - God's power and Mary's obedience.

Christmas is a doorway to a SON
"You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High."  (Luke 1:31-32)
The Christmas story opened a doorway to two sons.  A prophetic pathway was opened to John the Baptist to declare the coming of Jesus Christ and a redemptive pathway was opened through Jesus Christ to declare the coming of God's kingdom.

Christmas is a doorway to a SIGN
"This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."  (Luke 1:12)
The baby lying in the manger was the doorway to a sign that fulfilled the long awaited prophesy of the coming Messiah.  God became one of us through the Christ Child who revealed the fullness of God in human flesh and was a symbol of hope for all humankind.

Christmas is a doorway to a SAVIOUR
"For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations."  (Luke 2:30-31)
Upon seeing Jesus in the temple Simeon's eyes were opened to the salvation of the Lord.  The Christmas story is the manifestation of God's salvation plan through Jesus Christ, opening a doorway to a Saviour for all who would believe that Jesus is Lord!