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Thursday, 24 December 2015

Christmas Eve

It's been a busy few days - travelling from the south-west of France to central Scotland.  Until we were about 100 miles south of Calais, the weather was still fine and sunny.  By the time we reached the north of England, it was a case of torrential downpour after torrential downpour!   And there have been those who have asked, in all seriousness, why we would want to go to live in France!  Well, of course, there was a lot more to it than what we wanted - but we are certainly happy with the weather conditions that we enjoy for most of the year!

However, here we are, in N.Lanarkshire, looking forward to the Christmas Eve Watch-night Service that will bring in Christmas Day.

Christmas Eve.  How many pictures those words can conjure up.  For many, of course, it means last-minute shopping; for others it is the excitement of "Santa Clause" starting his round; for, perhaps, too many, it is just another night of loneliness.  I wonder what it was like on that very first Christmas Eve?   We know that, in the hills around the Judaean town of Bethlehem, "...  there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear.  And the angel said to them, 'Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, Who is Christ the Lord.  And this will be a sign for you: you will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.'  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased!'" (Luke 2:8-14).

Most of us have been conditioned to think of that "heavenly host" as cherub-like creatures, with wings and golden curls, holding hymn sheets in their hands, and accompanied by some of their number blowing golden trumpets!  Victorian card designers have a lot for which to answer!

So what did those shepherds see?  Well, it certainly wasn't that row of commercial Christmas-card choristers!  The clue is in the description - "heavenly host".   One of the many titles/descriptions given to YHWH is "the Lord of Hosts".  In some modern translations, that is given, quite correctly, as "the Lord of heaven's armies".  So, the "heavenly host" that appeared to those shepherds was, in fact, a multitude of armed warriors!  That's a somewhat different picture.  If those men were terrified by the sudden appearance of a single angel, I can't begin to even imagine their feelings when faced with a myriad of celestial combatants!

This, I would suggest, takes away some of the sentimentality of the Christmas story.  It also reminds us that this Child, Whose birth the host of heaven announced was, indeed, the King of Glory.  Only a King, surely, would have His birth announced in such a magnificent manner.

I trust that, this Christmas, you will join with me in worshipping the Babe in the manger - remembering that He grew to be the Christ of the cross, Who died for you and for me. 

However, remember something else.  That same Jesus has promised that He will return.  And when He does, He will take those who have placed their trust in Him, and in Him alone, to be with Him throughout the timelessness of eternity as, being His chosen Bride, they share with Him in His marriage supper.  Listen to part of the description as given to John: "And the angel said to me, 'Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.' And he said to me, 'These are true words of God.' Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, 'You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brethren who hold the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.' For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. 
Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! He who sat upon it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war.  His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name inscribed which no one knows but Himself.  He is clad in a robe dipped in blood, and the Name by which He is called is The Word of God.  And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, followed him on white horses.  From His mouth issues a sharp sword with which to smite the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; He will tread the wine press of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On His robe and on His thigh He has a name inscribed - King of kings and Lord of lords." (Rev 19:9-16).

Yes, the same Host of heaven that announced His birth will be there to see His ultimate triumph.  "Oh come, let us adore Him - Christ the Lord."

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