Festive feeling of faith

Faith leaders share their reflections on the festive period

‘All of us can make a contribution’

Les Isaac is the founder and CEO of Ascension Trust. He also launched Street Pastors in the UK in 2003.

I invite you to join me and others as we embark on praying on the 20th of every month at 20:20 for 20 minutes for God’s mind and His vision to be revealed to us

Rev Canon Yemi Adejeji

IT HAS been a turbulent year, globally. The turbulence has pitted communities, families and nations against each other. On an individual level, it has wreaked emotional havoc as people are daily bombarded with tragedies in the media.

Les Isaac

Featured largely amidst all this has been the many families that have lost loved ones in horrific ways. The word “trauma” has come into common parlance because this generation is experiencing trauma on a daily basis. It came home to me personally this year when a close friend lost his 25-year-old daughter and his 26-year-old son-in- law in a tragic m o t o r incident while on holiday.

We certainly cannot deny the realities of the pain that is permeating the world today but beneath all the pain, we all need to find hope! During my travels throughout 2019, I have witnessed that in spite of all the turbulence, there are people who are demonstrating hope by executing tremendous acts of kindness.

Included is the lady I met in Africa who benefitted from such kindness when her community accepted and supported her, despite her living with AIDS; the man I met in another part of Africa, who is working with his family, and others, to help vulnerable young people and here in the UK; the elderly lady in Portsmouth who began her training to become a street pastor at the age of 79, giving up her comfort to patrol the streets at night to help those who may be in need. She did more training at 83 to become a school pastor.

Such stories are laced with hope. As we enter 2020, may we go armed with the confidence that all of us have the ability to make a contribution that can bring change to our world, nation and communities.

I wish you all a wonderful, peaceful Christmas and a prosperous New Year for 2020, remembering the words of Jesus: “Peace I leave with you; My [perfect] peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be afraid. [Let My perfect peace calm you in every circumstance and give you courage and strength for every challenge.]” John 14:27

‘We must not look at Christmas as some mere historic event’

The Rev Canon Yemi Adejeji, Evangelical Alliance UK and Director of One People Commission.

YEAR AFTER year, there is always a specific day when the Christmas lights will be switched on either in the shopping mall, on the streets, at the restaurants, in the churches and in many homes. The light reminds everyone that it’s Christmas time – the birth of Jesus. His birth brings light that shines into the darkness, because Jesus Christ is the light of the world. His birth switched on a unique light that goes beyond features and buildings but represent a glow that lives and abides with humanity.

Rev Canon Yemi Adejeji

Each time we see the light, we are reminded that it’s Jesus’s birthday season. Through his birth, God fulfilled the promise to redeem us back to Himself by entering the time and history and most importantly engaging us personally in our day-to-day lives. Jesus Christ became our Emmanuel, God that is with us. We have to be careful not to look at Christmas as a mere historic event or be carried away with all the fanfare. It’s a time to reflect by looking upward to God, looking inward to search within and finally looking outward to the world He has created for us. The question we must ask is: Who am I remembering at Christmas and who am I celebrating?

This Christmas prepares us for 2020, unique year ahead. “2020” is a term used to express normal visual acuity, clarity and sharpness of vision from a distance. Perhaps God is asking you and I to write out our vision for 2020 and make it clear to be read and understood. (Habakkuk 2:2).

What could God’s vision look like for you in 2020? I guess we may not know until we ask Him to show us. I invite you to join me and others as we embark on praying on the 20th of every month at 20:20 for 20 minutes for God’s mind and His vision to be revealed to us. May you be blessed with the joy and the light of His birth.

‘The Christmas story is one of liberation’

Bishop Jonathan Jackson, The Rock, New Testament Church of God, Birmingham.

THE CHRISTMAS story in our day can be lost in the new consumer traditions.

However, the deeper message of Advent has even greater significance today and it’s still good news. It is the sign of hope and greatness so take your time to uncover the real gift from God Emmanuel.

The Christmas narratives about Christ’s arrival on this Earth are about liberation. The birth of the Christ Child means that God has inaugurated the long-awaited deliverance of the people of Israel from their enemies.

Bishop Jonathan Jackson

More precisely, God has begun to free the peo- ple from domination and exploitation by the imperial ruler and from their own rulers, particularly the tyrannical king. The people’s liberation evokes brutal repression and invokes suffering, but the dominant tone is one of relief and excitement as the people respond readily to God’s initiative. What the gospels appear to be calling for is a change of practice, and not simply an expansion or adjustment of one’s “horizon”.

Richard A Horsley and Norman K Gottwald’s book The Bible and Liberation is a great place to start understanding the liberating narrative of the Christmas story.

‘No matter what your race looks like, keep running it’

Pastor Richard Jackson, President, North England Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.

AS WE LOOK forward to 2020 and beyond I cannot help but look back at one of the most inspirational stories of the 20th Century.

In the 1992 Olympic Games an athlete, having trained, prepared and done all that he could, lined up alongside his competitors and comrades, each determined to secure a place in the 400m final. However, a situation arose that he could not have prepared for; he could not have known his hamstring would tear moments into the race.

Given this lack of insight into the future he responded to the sound of the starter’s gun like all the others lined up alongside him and shot out of the blocks aiming for a place in the final.

Pastor Richard Jackson

For Derek Redmond, however, this was not going to be the year he reached the final – but it was going to be the year he went into the history books.

With the help of his father he completed the 400m semi-final cheered on by the entire stadium. That moment in time placed him into the history books as an example of courage in the face of adversity.

For each of us, 2019 has been a year of chal- lenge, growth, development and change. And 2020 may well be no different. The race that we have run will be different to the races ran around us, yet there is one thing we must all do – reach the end of the race!

We may need help along the way but no matter how we finish we must finish! We will all face situations that we have not prepared for. No matter what comes our way in the weeks, months and years ahead remember these things; To everything there is a season, a time to every purpose under the heaven – Ecclesiastes 3:1. Therefore no matter what your race looks like, keep running it, and keep striving because you will be rewarded!

My prayer is that each of you will one day be able to be victorious and proclaim… ‘I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge will award me on that day – and not only to me, but also to all who have longed his appearing’ – 2 Timothy 4:7-8

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