The start of a New Year gives us a wonderful opportunity to review both our personal and marriage relationships. It’s good to take time to ponder any changes we may like to make and seize the day in implementing them. We can purposefully use some of this time of Lockdown to declutter our lives and focus again on what’s really important and what we want to give priority to.
I came across a wonderful FREE tool from ‘Focus on the Family’. It’s a questionnaire you can take about you and your marriage. After taking you through a set of questions, you get a review at the end summarising areas of strengths and weaknesses, similar in a way to the outcome of a Myers-Briggs Test. This could provide a great opportunity to initiate dialogue with our spouses about our relationships as we look to live and love well and grow and mature together.
Remember in reviewing any results, to do so without accusation, but in love. Look on it as a stepping stone into some honest and helpful discussions we may need to have with one another. It’s important we continue to nurture our marriages as ‘together we really are stronger’.
As couples or individuals, there’s nothing to lose, but plenty to gain. Go on, give it a shot.
From all of us here at ESPS Ministries, we wish you and yours a very happy and blessed year ahead.
I’m sure that none of us imagined that we would be starting this New Year in another National Lockdown. God knows though, and none of this is a surprise to Him. May all of us be able to rest in His divine peace and trust Him implicitly in every way in this season.
As promised, we are releasing today audio versions of all our seminars from our Annual Conference 2020. You will find these on our website in our ‘Conference & Events Section’. (https://espsministries.org/esps-conference-audio)
Fred Drummond (National Director of E.A.) - A wonderful message on ‘The Theology of Lament’ especially applicable in this season.
Rev Maggie Lane - Shares such a beautifully encouraging word for us all on ‘The Power of Perseverance’.
Donna MacNeil (National Director ESPS Ministries) – A motivational message for all who are married on understanding and balancing your marriage alongside ministry life.
Rev Tommy MacNeil – A timely and inspiring look at ‘Covid and the Kingdom’ and ‘How to thrive and not just survive’ during the pandemic.
As together we look forward to all that God has for us in the year ahead, be blessed by holding on and embracing the many promises of God’s word, as in John 14v27.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.
Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
Many of us will be scuttling around with much busyness and preparations for Christmas. Gifts to buy, cards to write, food to prepare. It is indeed a wonderful time of the year for most. But it can also be a lonely time for some. A sore time of memories and the pain of loss. Added to that, this year after various lockdowns and the world-wide pandemic that we are still trying to navigate, Christmas will be very different for many of us. The knock on effect on our health, relationships and finances, may make it hard to sing ‘it’s the most wonderful time of the year’.
Sometimes another perspective can be helpful. The following story from Corrie Ten Boom reminds us again, that it is really all about Jesus. He’s not just a helpless babe, He is our Saviour and Friend. He is faithful and true to his promises and is right there by our sides. Only a prayer away. He truly is the greatest gift for us and to share with others this season.
Corrie Ten Boom shares this precious story in her book ‘Corrie’s Christmas Memoirs’.
Now I want to tell you about a happy and a sad Christmas in my life. Christmas was a feast in our Beje home (Dutch word for tall and narrow house). Mother and the aunts had a gift for making it as colourful and happy as possible. I remember the holly and the mistletoe – the Christmas table with the red ribbons. Sometimes even a little Christmas tree.
Tante Jans (my Aunt) always gave her soldiers a Christmas book, and the bookstore sent us a great number from which to choose the best ones. Even as a child I remember the joy of reading through and looking at all those books. The climax of the feast in the Beje was when we were enjoying Christmas Eve stories and the singing of carols.
Tante Jans could tell a story so beautifully that nobody could stop listening to her. I remember the real Christmas event was clearly stressed by her and Father, who read the Bible from a booklet where you could read not only Luke but also the other Gospels – Matthew 2 followed by Luke 2 verse 20.
All the happenings that followed each other as one great story. Both Father and Tante Jans made it so clear to us that Christmas was for all of us. For me. Jesus came for me. Jesus was my friend, my Saviour.
Then, it was Christmas, 1944. Betsie (my Sisiter) had died. I was in a hospital barracks in Ravensbruck (a concentration camp for helping to hide some Jews). Dark it was in my heart, and darkness was around me.
There were Christmas trees in the street between the barracks. Why, I don’t know. They were the saddest Christmas trees I ever saw in my life.
I am sure it was with the purpose of blaspheming that the soldiers had dead bodies of prisoners under the Christmas trees.
I tried to talk to the people around me about Christmas, but they mocked, ridiculed, and sneered at whatever I said. At last, I was just quiet. It was in the middle of the night that suddenly I heard a child crying and calling,”Mommy! Come to Oelie. Oelie feels so alone.” I went to her and saw a child not so young, but feeble-minded. “Oelie, Mommy cannot come, but do you know who is willing to come to you? That is Jesus.”
The girl was lying on a bed next to the window, not far from my bed. Although Oelie was completely emaciated from lack of food, she had a sweet face, beautiful eyes and wavy hair. It was so touching to hear her call for her mother. Oelie had been operated on and the incision on her back was covered by a thin bandage of toilet paper.
That night I told this poor child about Jesus. How He came into the world as a little baby – how He came to save us from our sins.
“The Lord Jesus loves Oelie and has borne her punishment on the cross. Now Oelie may go to heaven, and Jesus is there right now. He is getting a little house ready for Oelie.” Later I asked her what she remembered of what I told her. “What is the little house like?” I asked.
“It is very beautiful. There are no wicked people as in Ravensbruck – only good people and angels. And Oelie will see Jesus there.”
The child added, “I will ask Jesus to make me brave when I have pain. I will think of the pain that Jesus suffered to show Oelie the way to heaven.” Then Oelie folded her hands; together we gave thanks.
Then I knew why I had to spend this Christmas in Ravensbruck in 1944.
In closing, be blessed as you listen to this beautiful version of the well known Christmas carol ‘O Come, O Come Emmanuel!’
In many of our homes, and all around us, preparations are well underway for Christmas.
This year some have followed the idea this year of putting up Christmas trees and decorations just a bit earlier than usual. There are different competitions going on in many neighbourhoods- best outside light displays, best decorated windows, best decorated trees etc.. The shops are full of presents and tempting goodies, the tv is rolling out the Christmas movies and the internet is awash with recipes, fancy wrapping and gift ideas. It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.
Whether it’s a scaled down get together or scaled back spending because of pandemic repercussions, we remain resolute on celebrating as best we can. We are all looking to find a bit more joy and kindness, familiarity and comfort as we embrace the season. And no wonder after such a tumultuous year.
Christmas may be becoming more secularised, but the core remains the same. The wonder of God’s Son being born. The greatest gift to our world. The hope of a Saviour and Redeemer, the blessing of knowing Jesus in our hearts and lives.
Before the pressures and preparations of bringing Christmas to everyone else, there is an ever-open invitation for each of us to embrace. A quiet time, with the Light of the World and King of Kings for ourselves. Just to be, to adore, to connect, to receive.
We know too well how operating in ministerial auto pilot can rob us of personal time with God. It’s beautifully restorative to just sit with a coffee and read the scriptures. Reflecting and listening for the voice of God. I remember a seasoned preacher once said that if you need encouragement and to hear God’s voice- then start reading through the book of psalms until your heart connects. That’s good advice! Or why not mull over the Christmas story in a different translation to your normal. Find a moment in a comfy chair, mute the phone, and play your favourite worship music or Christmas carols. It really is that simple. I know because I’ve done it, even when at times I had to literally drag myself to this sacred space. We never lose out when we do. God is always there. Watching, waiting, longing, loving, protecting, cheering us on. As we court His presence He can never resist. There is no sustenance like it, as we posture our hearts in awe of His Majesty.
Christmas is coming….and our beautiful Jesus is already here.