Christmas Unplugged Part 2: Revelation
On Sunday 3rd December at our morning service, we continued our Christmas series 'Christmas Unplugged' with the topic Revelation. In this blog you will find a summary of the talk and then some questions and reflections for you to think through on your own or to discuss in your small group.
To listen to this, click here.
Where’s the tree in the Christmas story? There isn’t one! Actually evergreen trees have been used a decorations for ages in pagan festivals and while we can make a case for the evergreen being symbolic of eternal life, well, come on,,, it’s a bit of a stretch really.
How about the tinsel then? The oh-so-Christmassy tinsel which of course dates back to 1610, where was it was invented in Christmassy Nuremberg in Germany. Maybe it represents the twinkling of stars in the sky and as for the baubles well, at least the ones on our tree are gold – which is definitely in the Christmas story. And shining over it all is the star and yes, there really was a star in the bible so you can definitely have a star, the star is safe…. but what about the angel?
What are we to make of the angels in the Christmas story? Indeed, angels in general? Are they for real, should we take them seriously or are they in the “made up” category, along with three Kings, the tinsel and the ice-dancing walruses? (There are no ice-dancing walruses in the bible, right…?)
Well, angels appear in Genesis and all through the bible and at the very end in Revelation, where the writer, John, has things revealed to him (hence “Revelation”) by an angel. Indeed, the angel cautions John not to worship him but to worship only God. (See Revelation 19:10 and 22: 8 – 9). That’s the reason the person who put up the tree (your obedient servant) didn’t put the angel at the top of the tree, by the way!
Today we’re looking at the start of the traditional Christmas story. And it really does start with visits by angels – and that’s something we can still plug into.
In Luke’s account, (see Luke 1) an angel called Gabriel visits a priest named Zechariah to tell him that his elderly wife Elizabeth will have a son and they are to call him John – this is the John who would become known as John the Baptist.
Luke records that this same angel, Gabriel, also visits Elizabeth’s relative, Mary and tells her that by the power of the Holy Spirit she will give birth to a son who will be called Jesus, and that Jesus is the son of God.
Also in the New Testament part of the bible, we find an account written by Matthew (a.k.a. Levi the tax collector called by Jesus to follow him) of another visit by an angel. This time we’re not told if it is Gabriel or another angel who visits Mary’s husband-to-be, Joseph in a dream. You can read this by clicking here.
As with Zechariah and Mary, Joseph took the words of the angel – which he had heard in a dream! – very seriously. He not only listened but he did what the angel of the Lord commanded him, believing that he had indeed heard from a messenger of God.
He was in a tricky spot and since we know he was “faithful to the Law” it’s reasonable I think to suppose he would have been praying about this. Be aware – when we face problems and turn to God in prayer – that God still speaks to you and me and sometimes we might encounter angels, possibly without even knowing it. Possibly in a dream! Do we ignore it (“it was only a dream…”) or take notice as Joseph did and act on it? We should listen out for word from God and be obedient.
Whether from angels or not, we should listen out for messages that could be from God, even if surprising and alarming! God speaks through the bible, through people, through angels, through signs, through the words that sometimes seem to come into our heads!
We should listen and obey – as Zechariah did, as Mary did, and as Joseph did. Especially if we’re seeking an answer from God about something! If you believe in God, why be surprised if He answers you?!?
After all, what kind of a relationship is it in which we never speak to each other, never listen to each other? No relationship at all.
God is always available for us to talk to. His thoughts and His love always with us. He showers gifts upon us. Will we not talk to Him? Will we not answer? Will we not thank Him?
If we want a closer relationship with God, then let’s keep listening to Him. Let’s keep speaking to Him. Let’s be thankful. Let’s be attentive – especially when what we’re facing seems impossible. Because as the angel Gabriel said to Mary, who wondered how a child could be born to a virgin, “For nothing is impossible with God.”
Questions and Reflections (for you to think about on your own or to discuss in your Life Group)
1. Have you ever had or heard of an experience when someone clearly heard from God? If so, what happened?
2. Think of someone you absolutely love, no holds barred! Imagine all the thoughts you have towards them, imagine showering them with messages and with gifts. Have you considered how God feels when He does this for you – and are you responding in prayer and with thanksgiving?
3. The bible is one of the primary ways that God speaks to us. Are you responding to our “basic training” challenge and praying anf reading the bible every day? If not, can you make a start?
4. What are the things that currently trouble you? Are you taking these things to God in prayer and seeking His answers as you read the bible?
5. Have you ever had a strange encounter that could perhaps be attributed to God sending you a message? If so, what did you do?
6. Nothing is impossible with God. What’s the seemingly impossible thing currently facing you?