This is the text of the sermon delivered at my Mom’s Memorial Service on 28 June 2013. It was delivered by my son, Marcus, a Theology student. It was also the first “real” sermon he preached!It summarises our salvation.

You can look up the Biblical references by clicking on them.

 
The Battle Won: Standing by grace in the holy place

 
Reading from Psalm 24. http://biblehub.com/niv/psalms/24.htm
New Testament reading from Hebrews 12:18-29. http://biblehub.com/niv/hebrews/12.htm

 
[Prayer before sermon]
Father of mercies and God of all comfort, help us today to comprehend that we have a strong and certain hope in the midst of grief.  Lord, you have the words of eternal life [Jn 6:68]; where else shall we go?  We ask that your Holy Spirit who inspired these words of Scripture would give us understanding, that according to your great mercy we might know the living hope kept in heaven: imperishable, undefiled, and unfading.  In the name of Jesus, who is the Resurrection and the Life, Amen.

 
Dear friends and family, thank you for this opportunity to remember my grandmother with you and to take encouragement with you in a few precious truths from the Scriptures.  It is the paradox of a Christian’s death that ours is a joyful grief; for, as the Apostle Paul says, though we do grieve, we do not grieve as those who have no hope [1Thes 4:13].

 
The passage we read from the letter to the Hebrews speaks vividly of our great hope and comfort: Lilian Collins, my Gran, has come to Mount Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem, the assembly of all who are enrolled in heaven.  Her name, together with the names of all who trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, has been written there for all eternity.  She stands now, together with a great cloud of witnesses [Heb 12:1], in the very presence of the Father, God Almighty, the Maker of heaven and earth and judge of all; and her standing place there has been secured by the blood of the victorious Lord Jesus Christ, who endured the scorn of the cross [Heb 12:2] to redeem all who would trust wholly in him, to the praise of his glorious grace.  That is why I have titled this message “The battle won: Standing by grace in the holy place.”  Yes, friends, the battle has been won, and she stands by grace in the holy place.

 
My Gran desired that Psalm 24 be the text for her memorial, and I invite you to turn there with me, while keeping in mind this magnificent picture in Hebrews 12 of true worship of the true and living God.  Psalm 24 asks us two very direct questions.   This morning we will consider primarily the first question, which is at the heart of this psalm: “Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?  Who shall stand in his holy place?” [Psa 24:3]  I pray that we will receive further hope, comfort, and encouragement from the Lord as we understand the basis for our confidence that, more alive now than ever before, my Gran now experiences unending and unhindered joy in the very presence of God.  As the English minister and poet John Donne said, “No man ever saw God and lived.  And yet, I shall not live till I see God; and when I have seen him, I shall never die.”[John Donne, sermon XCV, on Job 19:26.]

 
Now, to give you just a little background, Psalm 24 is a song composed by King David, who was king of Israel around 3000 years ago.  It is a triumphant song which David wrote to commemorate the arrival of the Ark of the Covenant at Mount Zion in Jerusalem.[2 Sam 6]  This Ark of the Covenant (or promise) was a gold-plated wooden box, a little over a metre long, containing the Ten Commandments and other reminders of God’s just and providential care and guidance of his people, the Israelites.  Most importantly, it symbolised God himself dwelling among his people, his glory resting with them – even as in the Exodus God had rescued his people from Egypt and his presence and protection were symbolised by the pillar of cloud and of fire.  And when Israel went into battle, the Ark went before them, a picture that God himself was leading them and winning the victory for them.  So the arrival of the Ark at Mount Zion in Jerusalem was a momentous occasion – one of the highlights of the Old Testament – for it symbolised the very presence of God with his people, and his faithfulness to the promises he had made to them.

 
Psalm 24 begins by recognising God as the sovereign creator, ruler, and sustainer of all the universe, and especially of us, the people dwelling therein, whom he has created as distinct from the rest of creation to be in special relationship with him.  Therefore he alone is worthy of worship, worthy of praise and glory and honour.  It is the question of how we ought to worship God, of how we may enjoy his presence, which concerns us in this Psalm; and answering that question will give us confidence in our comfort today.

 
David asks, “Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?  Who shall stand in his holy place?”  To ascend and stand before the Lord is to be in his holy, pure, perfect presence, to enjoy the fellowship with God for which we were created – that fellowship which Adam and Eve enjoyed in the Garden of Eden before they rebelled [Gen 3] against God’s good and just rule and sought to usurp his perfect moral authority; that fellowship which was broken because of their rebellion.  To be in God’s holy presence, worshipping him, is the highest privilege and the deepest joy of all, and the fulfilment of our most ardent longings.  As David exclaimed in another Psalm, “In your presence is fullness of joy”[Psa 16:11; cf. Psa 21:6.].  And we learn elsewhere that it was on this occasion commemorated in Psalm 24 that David danced before the Lord with all his might [2 Sam 6:14.], so great was his rejoicing at the prospect of being in the presence of the Lord.  That is the same joy we see in the celebration of Hebrews 12.  And that, dear friends, is the fullness of joy which my Gran now experiences, and this gives us comfort in the midst of our grief.

 
But the question, “Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?  Who shall stand in his holy place?” is no matter of mere formality.  This is not a simple question of etiquette, about how to approach a state president or the Queen, of what to wear, what to say, when to bow or curtsey.  This is far more weighty, as the passage in Hebrews reminds us: “Our God is a consuming fire.”  And we will find unshakeable confidence for our comfort as we answer the question, “Who shall stand in his holy place?”

 
David answers this question, “He who has clean hands and a pure heart.”  But think for a moment of the implications of this.  The great King David himself committed adultery with Bathsheba, tried to cover up the resulting pregnancy, and finally had Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, murdered.  He is hardly the kind of person of whom we might say, “He had clean hands.”  But to take it further, the Lord Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew [Mat 5:27-30; 21-22.] taught that adultery and murder were not simply matters committed by the hand.  Jesus said, if you’ll pardon the paraphrase, that adultery was not jumping into bed with the wrong woman: that was the result of adultery, which we have already committed in our hearts in every lustful glance.  Likewise, murder was not taking a stick and bashing someone over the head: that was the result of murder, which we have already committed in our hearts in every malicious thought.  Jesus’ teaching revealed that we are all at heart adulterers and murderers.  Not one of us has a pure heart, even if we might claim to have clean hands.  Who, then, shall ascend the hill of the Lord?  Who shall stand in his holy place?  Psalm 24 anticipates the answer that not one of us can qualify by virtue of our own righteousness, yet it holds out hope to all who acknowledge they have dirty hands and defiled hearts.

 
You have heard how my Gran did not want a eulogy at her memorial.  She did not presume to come to the table of our merciful Lord – nor, finally, to his throne in glory – trusting in her own righteousness, but in his manifold and great mercies.  Righteousness – that is, the ability to stand in the presence of the holy, holy, holy God without fear of judgement and condemnation – this righteousness is not earned, but rather received.  There are no good deeds we could ever do to merit the favour of God and so restore fellowship with him, because at the end of the day all our attempts at self-righteousness are like filthy rags [Isa 64:6.] before the holiness, the moral perfection, of God.  No, friends, the righteousness that saves is, as verse 5 says, “righteousness from the God of [our] salvation”.  It is righteousness not of our own doing, but of God’s gracious giving.

 
This is why we can be confident in this great comfort, friends, which we can have today that my Gran is in the joyous presence of the Lord.  We must not ask, “Was she enough of a saint to enter heaven and stand before God, the holy God of all the world?” – for she appears before the throne of God not clothed in her own good works, but in the righteousness that God has given to all who put their trust wholly in what Christ Jesus has done.

 
In the New Testament letter of James, which was one of my Gran’s favourites, James writes that “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”[Jam 4:6.]  The proud are those who trust in their own resources for their salvation (their good works, rituals, a legacy, etc.), rather than trusting in God; they will be opposed and condemned by God as rebels against his just and perfect rule.  But the humble are those who realise that the project of self-salvation is futile. They acknowledge that they are indeed rebels against God and deserve his judgement, and they humbly cast themselves on his mercy, trusting wholly in what Christ has done.  God gives grace to the humble.

 
Think again of that Ark of the Covenant, whose arrival at Mount Zion in Jerusalem marked the occasion for this Psalm.  On top of the Ark was fashioned what was called the “mercy seat” or “atonement cover”, and it was there that God had said he would meet with Moses, Aaron, and the high priests [Exo 25:21-22].  They could come into the presence of God only if he were merciful to them, and only if their sins were atoned for, that is, paid for; otherwise, their own sinfulness would render them liable to his just judgement.  They could not approach trusting in their own righteousness, but only trusting in his faithfulness and mercy.  They did have to come in perfect righteousness – but that righteousness was not of themselves.  Instead, it was a righteousness given to them by God, by virtue of their trust in his promises, rather than their merits, and on the basis of the blood of a sacrifice sprinkled on the mercy seat to signify that another had died in their place, to atone for their sin [Lev16; Heb 9:5.].
Friends, in the letter to the Hebrews, from which we read earlier, we are also told that the Ark of the Covenant, all the temple furnishings, its sacrificial system, and its high priests, were a picture pointing prophetically forward to the coming Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ.  He indeed manifested the presence of God, as the Gospel of John tells us: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”[Joh 1:14.]  He alone came with clean hands and a pure heart, not only to Mount Zion, but also to the Mount of Golgotha, to Calvary, to the cross.  There he was crucified as a perfect sacrifice in the place of all those who would trust in him.  By his death he paid the penalty for their sins, and by his resurrection he secured their eternal life with him in glory.

 
The letter to the Hebrews tells us again, “Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf….  He has appeared once for all … to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.”[Heb 9:24-26.]  Because Christ stood in the place of judgement on our behalf, all who trust in him receive the righteousness of the God of their salvation, and may stand in the holy place, in the presence of God.  As the Apostle Paul puts it, “For our sake [God] made [Christ] to be sin who knew no sin, that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”[2 Cor 5:21.]  Those who trust in him are forgiven their sins, clothed in the righteousness of God, and reconciled to God, and will experience the fullness of joy in the presence of God for all eternity.  This is the basis of our confidence for our great comfort and joy today: not that my Gran was a good person, but that she trusted in the only good Saviour.

 
We have not asked the second question Psalm 24 poses, though we’ve already seen the answer to it: “Who is this King of glory?”  Just as the Ark of the Covenant went before the nation of Israel to show that it was God himself who was mighty in battle on their behalf to conquer their enemies, so it is Christ Jesus who has fought on our behalf to conquer the great enemy, sin, and has risen victorious from the grave to show that death, too, is ultimately conquered.

 
The King of Glory is, indeed, none other than the risen and ascended Christ, the Lord, strong and mighty, mighty in battle over sin and death, who has ascended and entered into heaven itself – the only One with clean hands and a pure heart qualified to do so.  For him the gates of the heavenly Jerusalem are flung wide open to admit their King.  But this King of Glory, strong and mighty, will also carry all who trust in him, rather than in their own efforts, up the hill of the Lord, to stand in the holy place.  Our confidence, our comfort, our joy and encouragement rest in Christ alone, the King of Glory.  The battle is won, friends: stand (with my Gran) by grace in the holy place.

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[I very seldom get visual pictures, but this haiku is the result of one. In church the Sunday after I had written this, the sermon referred to Jesus taking the initiative in respect of  Peter’s restoration. I think it’s often the same in Salvation. Sometimes God takes the initiative by sending the right person to one, or by allowing some misfortune to come to us. Personally, I am so thankful that he sent the right person to me; this person has become like family.]

I stumbled Godwards:
On the cross already God
Was rushing to me!

Luke 15:20 So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way from home his father saw him, and his heart went out to him; he ran and hugged his son and kissed him.
For the full context click: http://niv.scripturetext.com/luke/15.htm

Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates his own love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
(For the full context click: http://niv.scripturetext.com/romans/5.htm

You can read the details of Peter’s denials of Jesus in John 18
http://niv.scripturetext.com/john/18.htm

You can read of Peter’s restoration in chap 20. (And you can understand why Peter was so keen to get to the tomb as well.)
http://niv.scripturetext.com/john/20.htm

Jesus took the initiative. Jesus restored. In God’s economy “broken” is NOT the same as “useless”!

 

[This is a parody of the Blondie song: Maria (there are at least 3 different versions of this song, with different parts left out!)

NEW FEATURE: If I get it correct! You should be able to click links to the text in the Biblos Online Bible. Online text is available in several languages. Select the required language by clicking on the flag at the top of the page. Select books and chapters by altering the address in the URL address bar. Different English language versions are available.]

He walked this earth of ours
Made the birds
Created flowers
Yet He came down to die
He even knows your name
And your heart will never feel the same
Yes, it was for us he died
Oh, don’t you want to take Him?
You want to make your heart His home?
My Saviour
I’ve got to see You
Come inside, make my heart Your home
Redeemer,
My Redeemer:
A million and one sins forgiven

Never felt this way before
And now I want it more and more
Feel Your love and feel Your fire
Won’t You wash me with Your blood
You overwhelm me like a flood
Come and be my one desire
Oh, I want to take you
Yes, I want to make my heart Your home
My Saviour
I’ve got to see You
Come inside, and make my heart Your home
Redeemer,
O My Redeemer:
A million and one sins forgiven

Oh, yes I want to take you
Yes, I want to make my heart Your home
Redeemer,
My Redeemer:
A million and one sins forgiven

I need Him more than air
Want to take Him everywhere
Yes, just want to sing His praises
Adopted child and heir
I feel His Love and feel His care
Yeah, be with Him when I die
My Saviour
I’ve got to see You
Come inside, and make my heart Your home
Redeemer,
My Redeemer:
A million and one sins forgiven
My Saviour
I’ve got to see You
Come inside, and make my heart Your home

Redeemer,
My Redeemer:
A million and one sins forgiven

Col 1:15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation, ​​​​​​​for all things in heaven and on earth were created by him – all things, whether visible or invisible, whether thrones or dominions, whether principalities or powers – all things were created through him and for him.
http://niv.scripturetext.com/colossians/1.htm


Is 53:2
he had no stately form or majesty that might catch our attention, no special appearance that we should want to follow him. ​​​​​​​He was despised and rejected by people, one who experienced pain and was acquainted with illness; people hid their faces from him; he was despised, and we considered him insignificant. ​​​​​​​But he lifted up our illnesses, he carried our pain; even though we thought he was being punished, attacked by God, and afflicted for something he had done. ​​​He as wounded because of our rebellious deeds, crushed because of our sins; he endured punishment that made us well; because of his wounds we have been healed.
http://niv.scripturetext.com/isaiah/53.htm

John 1:12 But to all who have received him – those who believe in his name1 – he has given the right to become God’s children http://niv.scripturetext.com/john/1.htm

Rom 8:15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery leading again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness to our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 And if children, then heirs (namely, heirs of God and also fellow heirs with Christ) – if indeed we suffer with him so we may also be glorified with him.
http://niv.scripturetext.com/romans/8.htm

Matthew 26:28 for this is my blood, the blood of the covenant, that is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.
http://niv.scripturetext.com/matthew/26.htm

Rev. 7:14 Then he said to me, “These are the ones who have come out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb! For this reason they are before the throne of God, and they serve him day and night in his temple, and the one seated on the throne will shelter them.
http://bible.cc/revelation/7-14.htm

This is a parody of the Survivor song: Eye of the tiger. I feel that this is a real fighting tune, and is therefore suitable for the biggest fight ever.

[20 June 2011]

 

Coming down, saving the lost,
He left His glory behind Him
Went the distance and He died on the Cross
Son of Man with a mission to save

So many times He’s faced with rejection
He changed His glory for passion:
Don’t lose you grip on the hope for salvation
You must hold on until He arrives

 

It’s the love of the Saviour, it’s the quest for the lost,
Coming down here to challenge the Accuser
The exchange for our freedom is His death on the Cross
And it comes to us all with the love of the Saviour.

 

Day to day out on the street
Still I fail and I’m angry
Should take His love to the people I meet
But there’s still room for us in His grace

 

It’s the love of the Saviour, it’s the quest for the lost,
Coming down here to challenge the Accuser
The exchange for our freedom is His death on the Cross
And it comes to us all with the love of the Saviour.

 

Risen up, Lamb on the Throne
Has the crown, has the glory
Won the battle, now the victory’s He owns
God of God gladly welcomes us home

 

It’s the love of the Saviour, it’s the quest for the lost,
Coming down here to challenge the Accuser
The exchange for our freedom is His death on the Cross
And it comes to us all with the love of the Saviour.

 

The love of the Saviour.

The love of the Saviour.

 

Luke 19: 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.

 John 3:16 For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world should be saved through him.

Philippians 2:6ff [Jesus] though he existed in the form of God did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, ​​​​​​​but emptied himself by taking on the form of a slave, by looking like other men, and by sharing in human nature. ​​​​​​​He humbled himself, by becoming obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross! ​​​​​​​As a result God exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, ​​​​​​​so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow – in heaven and on earth and under the earth – ​​​​​​​and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.

 

Isaiah 53:3 ​​​​​​​He was despised and rejected by people, one who experienced pain and was acquainted with illness; people hid their faces from him; he was despised, and we considered him insignificant. ​​​​​​But he lifted up our illnesses, he carried our pain

 

Rev 5:12 Worthy is the lamb who was killed to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honour and glory and praise.

This is a parody of the iconic REM song: Losing my religion. On Resurrection Sunday 2011 I could not resist the irony. We have not found a religion; we have a Saviour who has found us in our darkness and taken us into the light of His Presence.


Oh Lord, you suffered
Yes, dying for me
And I was guilty
The lengths that you have gone to
Incarnate, crucified
Oh yes it was my sin:
You took it on

That’s me in my darkness
That’s me in the Son’s light
Finding your forgiveness
Trying to keep up your Law
And I know that I can’t do it
Jesus, You have done it all
There’s nothing I can add
I know that you died for me
I know that you rose for me
I know your death has set us free

Every minute
Of every waking hour I’m
Choosing to confess you
Trying to keep your word
Live according to your Truth
Oh yes you’ve done it all
You’ve set me free

Consider this
Consider this:
The Cross of Calvary
Consider this:
The death that brought me
To my knees, saved
And the Grace You’ve given
Stands guarding me now
And You have done it all
I know that you died for me
I know that you rose for me
I know your death has set us free

Sacrificed your life
That was all your love

That’s me in my darkness
That’s me in the Son’s light
Finding your forgiveness
Trying to keep up your law
And I know that I can’t do it
Jesus, You have done it all
There’s nothing I can add
I know that you died for me
I know that you rose for me
I know your death has set us free

Sacrificed your life
That was all your love

Your blood poured out
Your life poured out
That was all your love
All your love

Just your love


Romans 5:8f God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, because we have now been declared righteous by his blood, we will be saved through him from God’s wrath.

Rom 3:23ff for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.

2 Cor 5:21 God made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we would become the righteousness of God.

Rom 10:9 if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Galations 2:16 we know that no one is justified by the works of the law but by the faithfulness of Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by the faithfulness of Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.

Philippians 2:6 (Christ Jesus) though he existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, ​​​​​​​but emptied himself by taking on the form of a slave, by looking like other men, and by sharing in human nature.

1 Peter 2:24 By his wounds you were healed.

1 Peter 2:9 …so that you may proclaim the virtues of the one who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.

1 John 2:1 Jesus Christ the righteous One,4and he himself is the atoning sacrifice1 for our sins, and not only for our sins but also for the whole world.2

1 John 4:15 If anyone confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God resides in him and he in God.

Hebrews 10:10 By his will we have been made holy through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

[There are so many things in life that challenge us: are we living as God intended us to live? Do we see the sense in living according to God’s rules? In life, as on railways, we need to observe and obey the signals which are there for our safety. There are frequently railway accidents, whether in UK, USA or RSA and most are attributable to “human error.” Railways Africa says there are 2.5 mishaps a day on the railways of  South Africa! What about our spiritual life? And yet God still cares for us and calls out to us.]

IN THE BEGINNING

1    In the beginning transport was without form or organization, and the spirit of chaos wallowed in the muddy roads and ditches.

2    So the Lord said: “Let there be rails, aligned according to my Will & to each other; and let there be flanged wheels.” And behold, two parallel rails 4′ 8½” apart stretched out across the land, able to bear and guide the flanged wheels. And the Lord saw that it was in gauge, aligned to His will, and that it was indeed  good.

3    And when the flanges abided by the will of the Lord, they did enable the wheel to remain on the track and roll freely; but when they did not obey the rails of the Lord, they did derail to their own destruction, and rolled not.

4    Then the Lord said: “Let there be rolling stock to run upon the rails, after the fashioning of my imagination.” And so the Lord created trucks and coaches, and he looked upon them and saw that they were good.

5    But the Lord was moved with pity and said: “It is not good that Man or beast should pull so great a burden.”

6    So the Lord created a contraption to pull the rolling stock, and said: “From the worthless, dirty dust of the earth and the clear, living waters of my creation shall be the means of pulling the load.

7    I shall breathe my fire over the worthless, dirty dust of the earth and it shall burn with great heat. For the impulse of my breath shall give life and the fire shall burn.”

8    And the Lord breathed the breath of life into the worthless, dirty dust of the earth, and indeed it did become fire.

9    The fire did impart its heat unto the living, clear water of the Lord’s creation, and, verily, it did become so hot that it remained not water, but became steam.

10    And the Lord beheld how His breath had transformed the worthless, dirty dust of the earth and the water into an enormously powerful energy, the equal of which had not been seen before by the eye of Man, or Person (?). And the Lord was greatly pleased.

11    The Lord said: “What profit is it to have the power that comes from my breathing fire into the worthless, dirty dust of the earth unless it does what my will is for it to do?”

12    The Lord said: “Behold what power has come from the transformation of the worthless, dirty dust of the earth together with the living, clear water of my creation. Behold,” said the Lord (again), “how the steam expands beyond the limits of its water, and behold the power of its expansion. On such power I will establish the steam engine.” So the Lord did add cylinders and pistons, and saw that it was all very good.

13    And the Lord again said: “What profit is it to have the power that comes from my breathing fire into the worthless, dirty dust of the earth and from the expansion of the steam beyond the boundaries of its water and for the steam to act upon the pistons, unless it does what my will is for it to do?”  So the Lord connected the pistons to the wheels, that the power might be transferred from one to another so that his will might be done and the wheels should be turned by the steam.

14    And the Lord saw that it was good, more or less. For he said: “Surely it is not good for one pair of driving wheels to bear the burden on its own, lest it should slip and fail. Therefore shall I add another pair of driving wheels, and couple them that they may work together and draw strength from each other.”

15    And thus the Lord created the coupling rod, and remarked: “How good it is to see the wheels turn together in unity! Power without performance is vanity of vanities, and a wasting of my steam. My steam shall not go forth emptily, but shall accomplish that which my will desires.”

16    The Lord said: “I shall appoint to each engine a driver, that he shall control the engine and have dominion over the my creation.

17    And the Lord’s will accomplished a great deal; for pretty soon there were lots and lots of rails, wagons, coaches, trains and steam engines and drivers, and a spirit of chaos seemed likely to brood over the railways.

18    So the Lord said: “I shall provide signals. And if it be that my signals shall be obeyed, yea verily shall I bring the trains safely to the place unto which they go. But if they shall not heed my warnings and obey the voice of my signals, then they shall be abandoned unto the consequences of their own wickedness.”

19    So the Lord created a special band of ministers which he called signalmen, for he said: “These men shall signal the voice of my will to those who have dominion over the power that I by myself have created.”

20    And the Lord did so. And he looked upon his creation and saw that it was very good; well more or less.

21    For the Lord said: “Men are so willful, proud and stubborn that there is no guarantee that they shall instinctively obey my signals.”

22    Therefore the Lord said: “I by myself have seen that Man (and perhaps Woman (?)) is unreliable when he has dominion, and that his ear may be deaf unto the voice of my commands. Therefore shall I write down my commands on tablets, and each driver shall have one.

23    And I shall establish a Covenant of Safe Operating Practice between myself and those who have dominion over the rails. It shall be for their own safety and for that of their neighbours.”

24    And behold there spoke up one who had within him the spirit of dim-witted arrogance who said thus to the Lord: “How shall we know if your ways be just, or whether they be the usual practices and deceits whereby management doth exploit the workers? And will the unions accept it?”

25    And the Lord said: “I shall invite you to enter into this Covenant with me and shall force you not.

26     “Let it be to you as you shall wish. But if you shall not accept my Covenant of Safe Operating Practice, you shall have no place within my system. But go thou away and think it over. If thou comest back and acceptest my Covenant,  then shalt thou have a place within my system. If thou comest not back, then shall I deem it to be voluntary severance and a loss of all benefits. “

27    Then the Lord said: “Hear me, O workers on my system. If ye hear the voice of my will and do it, then shall ye have safe passage over my rails, and ye shall live. But if ye hearken not to the voice of my will, then may derailment, collision, and injury overtake you; and — what with the current Minister of Health — ye shall surely die.”

28    And the Lord said: “The consequences of not abiding by my Covenant of Safe Operating Practice are like unto this: suppose a signalman should know of danger and set no signal to danger: then, if disaster come to pass, shall the blood of the people on the train be upon his head, and he shall face dismissal, for he hath broken my Covenant of Safe Operating Practice.

29    “But if the signalman should know of danger, and shall set signal to danger: then, if the driver shall not heed the signal — which is the voice of my Will — and disaster come to pass, then shall the blood of the people on the train be not upon the head of the signalman, but upon the head of the driver, if it come to pass that there shall be shrieking of whistles and grinding of brakes and crashing of trains.

30    “And at the Great Tribunal to such a one I shall say: cast him out, for such a one hath no part within my system: there shall be dismissal, no leave pay-out and no pension.

31    “But for those who faithfully abide by my Covenant of Safe Operating Practice there will be employment, safety, and a pension fund that shall not run out. For I, the Lord, have spoken.”

32    Thus was established by the Lord, the Creator and Ruler,  the railway and the community which should serve therein and do the will of Him who had established it.

33    And the Lord did show that his breath could sanctify the worthless, dirty dust of the earth to do great things with the living, clear water of his creation; and that in it there was great power.

34    And the Lord loved his creation, his system and the community which should serve it, and saw that they were more than good and more than beautiful: they were absolutely to-die-for.
Genesis 1:1-5:  In the beginning, when God created the universe, the earth was formless and desolate. The raging ocean that covered everything was engulfed in total darkness, and the Spirit of God was moving over the water.  Then God commanded, “Let there be light”—and light appeared. God was pleased with what he saw. Then he separated the light from the darkness,  and he named the light “Day” and the darkness “Night.” Evening passed and morning came—that was the first day.

Ezekiel 33:1-7:  The LORD spoke to me.  “Mortal man,” he said, “tell your people what happens when I bring war to a land. The people of that country choose one of their number to be a lookout.  When he sees the enemy approaching, he sounds the alarm to warn everyone.  If someone hears it but pays no attention and the enemy comes and kills him, then he is to blame for his own death.  His death is his own fault, because he paid no attention to the warning. If he had paid attention, he could have escaped.  If, however, the lookout sees the enemy coming and does not sound the alarm, the enemy will come and kill those sinners, but I will hold the lookout responsible for their death. Now, mortal man, I am making you a lookout for the nation of Israel. You must pass on to them the warnings I give you.

Isa 55:3:  “Listen now, my people, and come to me; come to me, and you will have life! I will make a lasting covenant with you and give you the blessings I promised to David.

Isa 55:10 – 11:  “My word is like the snow and the rain that come down from the sky to water the earth. They make the crops grow and provide seed for planting and food to eat.  So also will be the word that I speak— it will not fail to do what I plan for it; it will do everything I send it to do.

Act 10:15  The voice spoke to him [Peter] again, “Do not consider anything unclean that God has declared clean.”

I find the rushing around at Christmas time, and all the decorations quite frustrating. A friend commented that she had not seen a single Nativity set so far this Advent.

I once wrote a rather irritated poem on the subject. I called it “Jangle bells” because the commercialisation of Christmas jars one’s senses.

C71     JANGLE BELLS 2000 — A DIALOGUE:    [20/12/2000

Jangle bells, jangle bells
To and from the banks

(Have all you forgotten
For what you should give thanks?)

Ho, Jangle bells, jangle bells
As we buy and sell

(Come on now, my children,
Get off the road to Hell)

Cash on the mirth
(But what about My Birth?)
Isn’t it quite odd
That some would bring in God?

Ho —  Jangle bells, jangle bells
To and from the banks

(Have all you forgotten
For what you should give thanks?)

Ho, Jangle bells, jangle bells
As we buy and sell

(Come on now, my children,
Get off the road to Hell)

Caught up in the things
On these last few shopping days
You can’t hear the angels sing
As they offer up My praise.

Ho —  Jangle bells, jangle bells
To and from the banks

(Have all you forgotten
For what you should give thanks?)

Ho, Jangle bells, jangle bells
As we buy and sell

(Come on now, my children,
Come, drink now from My Well.)

Nine years later  I see more clearly than ever that the birth in Bethlehem was the first step to the Cross and Resurrection. Bright Star, posted earlier this year does make the same point. That is why the traditional Carols And Nine Lessons services start with the Fall of Man. Hence the prophecies of the Messiah. Christmas without the Cross and Resurrection is as  meaningless as a fairy tale.

We also seldom think of Christmas as a time of suffering on God’s part:
“[Jesus] always had the nature of God, but he did not think that by force he should try to remain equal with God. Instead of this, of his own free will he gave up all he had, and took the nature of a servant. He became like a human being and appeared in human likeness. He was humble and walked the path of obedience all the way to death— his death on the cross.(Philippians 2:6-8). Jesus’s entire ministry was a sacrifice, from the moment of his birth.

A time of peace: “But now, in union with Christ Jesus you, who used to be far away, have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For Christ himself has brought us peace by making Jews and Gentiles one people. With his own body he broke down the wall that separated them and kept them enemies.” (Eph 2:13-14) Our peace, forgiveness and reconciliation have been bought by the Blood of Jesus as an act of mercy and grace.

On your Christmas tree let the star be the (six pointed) Star of David and you can easily see where the superimposed Cross should fit.

The Real Christmas Tree

[C138 SV52]

The real Christmas tree
Is not a green isosceles triangle
Decked out with tinsel and candles
And kitschy flashing lights.

The real Christmas tree
Is not in a shopping mall
In an ambience of tinny carols,
Fake joy and credit cards,
Nor in a lounge, with neatly wrapped
Presents underneath, which might just last a year.

The Real Christmas tree
No longer stands
On a hill alongside a dusty road
Surrounded by sobbing, jeering,
Unwrapped, crude and lacking dignity
And dripping
The blood
That has freed me