Saturday, December 25, 2010

Numbers 24: 17

The prophet Balaam said: ‘I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near: a star will come forth out of Jacob, a comet will arise from Israel.’

The prophet seems to mix the present and the future. He sees someone who is not yet there. You might think that he is looking into the future. But it's not exactly that.

He sees the one he sees in the present, yet that one has still to come: Balaam is experiencing what science fiction fans might refer to as a time warp.

It's the kind of time warp we find throughout the Bible. Jesus said repeatedly that the Kingdom is with us and that it is not yet with us. He gave a whole series of examples to explain what this means.

His kingdom, he said, is like a treasure which we have already found, but still need to dig out of the ground. It is like a precious pearl which we would like to buy, but we will have to sell all we have to do so. It is like a yeast that has already been mixed in with the flour, water and salt, but still has to do its leavening work throughout the dough.

Jesus and his kingdom are present in our hearts and our minds, in our world. And at the same time (in that this world is not yet perfect – for none of us are perfect) the Kingdom of God is not fully present.

That tension between 'yes-it-already-is' and 'no-it-is-not-yet' is the reason we celebrate Christmas again and again.

Jesus was born among us. In a sense he was even born IN us.

Yet, at the same time he has still to be born. He is among us, and yet we have still to work out the effects of his presence in our lives and in the world in which we live.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Psalm 85

Have you finished all your Christmas preparations?

I know someone who usually starts his shopping on Christmas Eve – he says the shops are quieter then.

I, on the other hand, like to be prepared a bit earlier, so my presents are all bought and wrapped, cards are written, food is in the freezer.

Advent is a time for preparation: not only hectic preparation for Christmas parties, the exchanging of presents, and family reunions, but for spiritual preparation too.

Sadly, people think they’ve prepared everything, yet find they’re NOT ready to meet the Lord. It’s one thing being ready to be in Jesus’ presence at Christmas services, or to be close to Him in occasional acts of kindness; but are we ready to meet Him when we die?

In this Psalm, God’s people were in difficulty and pleaded for help. He’d helped them recover in the past and they’d learnt that he was ready to hear and answer their prayers. They cried out to the Lord before it was too late. They’d turned from wrongdoing to God’s love and he’d forgiven them (verses 2-3).

Please don’t think you’ve ticked everything off your Christmas list, unless you’ve taken time to do business with God. Spiritual things shouldn’t be left to the last minute.