Advent: Spreading the Word

When they [the shepherds] had seen him [Jesus], they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. Luke 2:17-18

Last Sunday night (3 December) the Kew Community Carols took place. Due to extraordinary weather, the event was moved from Petrie Square to our own church building. For many years carols has been a great opportunity for people who wouldn’t normally enter a church to hear about God’s great gift to us in Jesus Christ, and consider what this might mean for us today. On Sunday night, we again participated in fulfilling that mission of the shepherds who first encountered Jesus, spreading the word about this incredible child.

But does it stop with the carols? Is the carols the one occasion where the good news of Christmas can be proclaimed in a culturally-safe environment? Or could we continue, like the shepherds, to spread the word about Jesus during Christmas; at meals, in conversations, during road trips, or while washing Christmas lunch dishes? While sharing our faith is challenging, could there be someone we could share with this Christmas season about the gift that God has given us in Jesus Christ?        

Paul Pallot

Advent: God With Us

Have you noticed that cakes just don’t appear out of thin air? Or that pumpkins don’t just create themselves? And although babies appear to suddenly pop out of nowhere, so much has been happening unseen and unnoticed for 9 months.
Cakes take time, planning, preparation and work. Pumpkins the same; a seed planted, watered, cultivated before the harvest is ready. And babies; well, enough said, really. 

It takes time, patience, work and attentiveness – small steps coming together – for good things to appear.

Are our spiritual lives any different? I reckon we miss so much of what is happening under the soil of our souls because we are so busy, living fast, in a hurry and incessantly looking for the quick fix and the shortcut to happiness and an easy life. There is another way…

Jesus said “come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Could there be any more sublime, winsome and transforming words ever spoken in this world? And to prove he was willing to back up his promise, God came to us in person with this invitation! You can believe and have confidence in the invitation from Jesus to come to him, because he took the loving initiative to come to us. This is what the Season of Advent means: we remember afresh and enter into the mystery of the incarnation: God in human form – a baby!

Make some time, slow down and don’t miss what God is doing, wants to do and will do in your heart and your life as we celebrate again the birth of Jesus. You can’t rush beauty, truth and goodness…

Here are some wonderful Advent Resources for individuals and families to share in over December:​ 

  • Unwrapping Advent:
    A 4-Week Devotional by Margaret Feinberg: Celebrating the Wonder of Jesus’ Arrival Then and Now.
  • Reason for the Season
    24 Ready-Made Family Devotions that will put the focus back on Christ this Christmas.
  • Advent – the Village Church
    This guide contains five weeks of material, with both a study to complete on your own as well as a plan to help families talk about the Advent narrative together.

May the Lord Jesus come to you in a new and powerful way this Advent, bringing rest, healing and transformation.

In Jesus,

Nicholas

Bloom where you are planted

“I’ll never grow up to be a beautiful flower”, said the seed to the soil.

“Why is that?”, asked the soil with concern.

“Because there is so much stacked against me, I can’t do it. There’s a ton of concrete and bricks above me for miles; it’s so unfair!”

The soil thought for a while and said to the seed, “I have an idea. I will support you and hold you, but I need you to send your roots downward, and look up to the tiny shaft of light between the concrete and the bricks. And then make a run for it and don’t stop!”

“But I’ll never make it, it’s too dark and I might sink or get stuck!”, said the seed.

“Trust me”, replied the soil.

So the seed listened to the soil, started to send down some roots to create a solid base, and then looked up and started to reach for the tiny shaft of light. She was terrified! But all of a sudden she burst through into the full sunshine and then the miracle: the seed became a beautiful flower and bloomed where she was planted.

It is likely that you are facing difficulties, challenges, or disappointments in your life currently, or you are most likely to in the future. What is your foundation and what is your vision? For without something firm to stand upon and if you are lacking a vision for the future, you will attract both fear and despair.

In our world there are many false foundations made of sand and many visions made of smoke; ultimately they will sink and blow away. Jesus knew this and offered us a foundation and a vision for life that no one or nothing could ever shake: “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise person who built their house on the rock…it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.” Matthew 7

And what earthly vision could surpass this one: “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21

Make sure your foundation is Christ and your vision is the kingdom of God. Then come what may, you will bloom and you will overcome.

Nicholas Tuohy

Is it time to walk away from Jesus?

Giving birth is really difficult and very painful. This is second-hand information, to be sure; but I have it on good authority that this statement is undeniably and universally true. Enough said on birth, let me extrapolate the point: things that are difficult and painful can be very good things indeed. For is it not life and new humanity that is the result of those difficulties and that pain?

But our culture is pain-averse and is largely therapeutic. That is, we spend much time and many millions trying to minimise and avoid pain, and though much of this is well-intentioned the truth remains that some good things, even great things, only come to us through pain and through difficulties.

Imagine for a moment the silly scenario of an expectant mother avoiding for years, if she were able, the birth of her child. She waddled around free of the pain and difficulties of child-birth, but no life ever came forth! In this imaginary scenario she avoided much pain, but she also missed out on much life. How tragic!

Or what about the young man who had a passion and a calling to become a medical doctor, and yet he was averse to the pain of study and the hours of research and training needed? Sure, when he came to his exams he had experienced little pain and discomfort over the year in his studies, but then he failed. By now you are thinking of the commonly used phrase “No Pain No Gain”, and so you should be. For reasons known mostly to Himself, God has woven pain and struggle into our humanity in a way that we are fools to always try and avoid pain.

True, some pain must be avoided and fought: the pain inflicted by violence or evil words, the pain inflicted by poverty, the pain inflicted by betrayal and rejection, and the pain experienced through loneliness. But not all pain is to be avoided.

In John 6 we read of a time when, due to the heat and pressure rising in following Jesus, many, yes many, disciples turned away. “It’s too difficult”, they grumbled. “It costs too much” lamented others. The result was that “From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.” Think about that breathtaking statement for just a minute: here they were with the Son of God speaking words of life and bringing in the kingdom of God on earth, and they walked away!  And then with the few friends he has left, Jesus turns to them and says “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Only Simon Peter spoke up and said “no”, which wasn’t really very encouraging for Jesus, was it?

Maybe in our culture and society at the moment we wonder if it is too difficult and too painful to follow Jesus. But remember that principle of pain leading to life? Those who walked away from Jesus missed the resurrection, missed the joy of the early church and maybe even missed the kingdom of God. It might be Friday in our part of the world, but don’t forget that with Jesus, Sunday is always on its way.

Nicholas Tuohy

Let God’s Kingdom Come!

Dear friends, our church is making a difference for God’s kingdom in this world.

Every time you pray, every time you gather with other disciples to pray, worship and serve, every time you choose to go Christ’s way, every time you give of yourself and finances to Christ’s mission, you are part of an unstoppable tsunami of believers in Jesus across the globe, advancing God’s kingdom.

Here’s why we need to persist, be faithful and not give up:

1. We’ve won. We are on the winning team: God’s team. This is not arrogance or hubris; think about it: Christ has conquered sin, death and the powers of evil. The battle is over and we are in the mopping up stage. God in His mercy and grace is allowing time for more people to respond to His invitation of love and forgiveness. And we get to hand out the invites! The world won’t end in climate catastrophe, nuclear holocaust, the sun falling from the sky or a meteor plummeting to earth. This age will end when God steps back into view and brings the fullness of His reign of righteousness, peace and joy. There will be a renewed earth and heavens, without sin, darkness or death. Hallelujah!

2. Some haven’t won yet. There are people without hope, without the light of Christ, lost, afraid and burdened by shame and guilt. God wants them too! This is why great Christian fellowship and churches that are great communities can be such a problem: we can forget about the people around us who God longs to welcome home. We have a mission given by Christ and we must take it seriously and to heart. God does.

3. Purpose and meaning. Nothing could be more worthwhile than partnering with God to see lives transformed and healed by the good news of Jesus, peace and harmony in our world, generosity and kindness abounding, and unity and friendship among all peoples. Make sure you work and energy is spent on God’s kingdom purposes and you will be most fulfilled and most satisfied.

As I look around our church I see people serving others through Love Abbotsford, visiting Carrical rooming houses, visiting the sick and shut in, being present at Highbury Common to connect with neighbours, generously giving financially to the mission and ministry of our church, sharing life and love in small groups, serving in worship teams on Sundays, kindly serving others through morning tea and supper, reaching out to new people to include them and make them welcome, opening homes for hospitality, committing regularly to gather in worship, praying for one another, putting people and God before money and status, caring for justice and the needs of the poor, and so much more! We may be one church, but we are part of an unstoppable tsunami of grace, love and justice that is God’s kingdom. As Jesus prayed, so it will come to pass: “Let your kingdom come!”

Nicholas Tuohy