Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures for ever.
Has the Lord redeemed you? Then speak out! Tell others he has redeemed you from your enemies.
For he has gathered the exiles from many lands, from east and west, from north and south.
(Ps 107. 1-3)
On Christmas Eve, in our little corner of a big city, a group of christians from local congregations gathered on a street corner to sing carols, to pray and to hear again from God’s word the story of Jesus birth.
It was a filthy night of weather, we were wet, cold and buffeted by the wind. Barely anyone passed by, nor could they have heard much if they did! But it proved to be one of the most meaningful events in my celebration of Christmas this year, because we were free to do it. We can publicly declare our faith and tell the story of God’s love born into our midst.
No one called the police and reported us for ‘illegal’ activities, no one threw stones or even hard words at us. We are privileged to live under a system of law which protects our freedom to gather for public worship, and it truly is a privilege, a gift and blessing! As we enter a new year and look to the opportunities which may lie ahead, I am challenged by these words from the psalmist. Do I speak out?
I have a story to tell, of salvation and of life lived in the presence of my God. I have been given the good news of Jesus Christ to share; the best gift anyone could ever receive is mine not to hoard but to advertise! There are no legal restrictions on my witness, I need fear nothing from the authorities.
But I do fear ridicule, rejection, giving offence and being misunderstood, driving someone away instead of drawing them near. I look back over many years of living as a christian and wonder just how many opportunities I failed to take through fear? It seems that so many of those around me who do not know God’s personal love for them are people who would be angry, insulted and hurt if I said anything which suggested their lives were somehow lacking. Many of them believe that Christianity is outdated, irrelevant to their lives, a source of hatred and violence down the years which should be discarded. They tolerate my faith because I refrain from offending them, but I know very well that I am not free to challenge their position.
So where is my witness? I try to live in a way which speaks of God’s forgiveness and love, his transforming power and presence in my life – hoping that this might somehow prompt questions. But it hasn’t, not yet, not to me…. And I fear that I am simply written down as a ‘nice person’ (if only they knew!!), who suffers from some misguided religious beliefs but is too polite to make a big thing of them.
The picture at the head of this post is of Galilee, the great lake which in Israel today is called Kinneret after the harp which it resembles in shape. The hills beyond are the Golan Heights, beyond which lies Syria, and a dreadful destruction from which the land may never recover. It is here that Jesus walked on the water; here that he sat by the lake and called fishermen to leave their nets; on these hills he prayed through the night and taught his disciples about the kingdom which he was inaugurating.
I believe in a historical Christ, who lived, died and rose again; whose death bought life for me and all who believe in his sacrifice for them; a Christ whose love and indwelling power can and does transform lives. He is my Lord, my Saviour, the lover of my soul and beloved in my eyes. He is my God, my Father, the source of life and power and the one who will someday make all things new so that I will be at home with him forever.
This is my story, my song; may I be given opportunities and courage to tell it, to sing it, and to be privileged to see God at work in the lives of others this year as He continues to work out His good purposes in this world for His glory.