For Unto Us A Child Is Born

Unknown years of Jesus - Wikipedia

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).

Pastor Vince gave an enlightening message yesterday in which he expanded on the passage above. This is the season when followers of Jesus focus on the prophecy and the implications of the child born in the City of David two thousand years ago.

One event in the life of this child that is born to us did tells us much of the fulfilment Isaiah’s prophecy. When Jesus was twelve years old (a year short of is Jewish age of majority) He accompanied Joseph and his mother to Jerusalem for the Passover.

Luke gives us some details in Chapter 2:

41 Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. 42 When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom. 43 After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. 44 Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. 45 When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.” 49 “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”

He will be called “wonderful” – filled with wonders – and here we find a child (yes, unto us a child is born) conversing with the teachers of the temple giving answers to their questions that “amazed” them, and “astonished” Mary and Joseph. That is wonder! Not only that, but his understanding showed Him to be a “counsellor.”

The account ends with Jesus pronouncing that He was in His Father’s house – The House of God – making Him “a Son given” and heir to God. Fulfilled is the prophecy that he is “mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” He is more that just a babe in a manger!


Christmas Cheer

Wreath, Christmas Wreath

Mother and daughter

Standing side by side

Which wreath to buy

Trying to decide

“This one’s too little”

“This one to wide”

“One with a pink ribbon –

I just can’t abide”

Finally all tight and green

A pine twisted circle

On their door can be seen


Nights of Oil

Hanukkah Candle Lighting
Cottonbro at Pexels

The nights are coming marked by light

Little twinkles in the window, darkness to defy

Memorial of an underdogs’ victorious fight

And a temple defiled newly cleansed

A single jug of oil, they say

Just enough for one single day

For eight burned by God’s grace

Until by a supply pure it was replaced


The Fayre

Carnival, Mardi Gras, Celebration, Mardi Gras Mask


A wandered forth – for a breath of air

And happened upon the village square

It had transformed since I’d last been there

It now sported – a travelling fayre

There were breathers of fire, and a juggling pair

Their costumes elaborate – and their act had flair

The excitement was more than I could bear

So I beat a retreat away from there



Saturday Mix – Rhyme Time:

“This week I am introducing a new challenge to the Saturday Mix – ‘Rhyme Time.

‘Rhyme Time’ focuses on the use of rhyme to build your writing piece. You will be given six rhyming words* and need to use all of them (but not limited to these) in your response, which should be a poetry form of your choice.

*Homophones can be used as alternatives to the challenge words.

Our rhyming words this week are:

  1. square
  2. air
  3. bare (or bear)
  4. flare (or flair)
  5. pair (or pear)
  6. fair (or fare)”

Feast of Stephen

Today is Boxing Day here in England, and in much of “the British World.” The term is relatively new (19th Century), but the practices linked to it are much older. It revolves around the idea of “Christmas Boxes” which were given to formal servants or others who had provided “service” such as postmen, etc.

Christmas Boxes often contained bonuses, small gifts, and often small parcels old clothes or leftover food from the more “well to do” benefactors’ Christmas celebrations.

This spirit of giving is linked to the day in its more Christian manifestation: St Stephen’s Day.  Many people in the English speaking world know of it as “The feast of Stephen,” as mentioned in the carol Good King Wenceslas.

Wenceslas was known for his acts of charity and alms. In the song he is depicted as  wandering through the snow to give relief to the down trodden,


Good King Wenceslas looked out
On the feast of Stephen,
When the snow lay ‘round about
Deep and crisp and even;
Brightly shone the moon that night,
Though the frost was cruel,
When a poor man came in sight,
Gath’ring winter fuel.

“Hither, page, and stand by me,
If thou know’st it, telling,
Yonder peasant, who is he?
Where and what his dwelling?”
“Sire, he lives a good league hence,
Underneath the mountain,
Right against the forest fence,
By Saint Agnes’ fountain.”

“Bring me flesh and bring me wine,
Bring me pine logs hither;
Thou and I will see him dine,
When we bear them thither.”
Page and monarch forth they went,
Forth they went together,
Through the rude wind’s wild lament
And the bitter weather.

“Sire, the night is darker now,
And the wind blows stronger;
Fails my heart, I know not how,
I can go no longer.”
“Mark my footsteps, good my page,
Tread thou in them boldly;
Thou shalt find the winter’s rage
Freeze thy blood less coldly.”

In his master’s steps he trod,
Where the snow lay dinted;
Heat was in the very sod
Which the Saint had printed.
Therefore, Christian men, be sure,
Wealth or rank possessing,
Ye who now will bless the poor
Shall yourselves find blessing.

(lyrics source:

This giving of oneself ultimately follows the example of Stephen himself, who gave his life in service of God.  He is noted as the first Christian martyr, and his example of piety is a model for us.  We may never be called upon to “lay down our lives for a friend,” in a literal manner, but we can give of ourselves and our resources, as did Wenceslas, and the “box-givers” of the past.



Remembering “The Guy”

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I was driving home from Newbury on Saturday night, and passed literally dozens of Bonfire Night celebrations.   Fireworks lit up the roadside as I bypassed towns from Berkshire to Cambridgeshire. The focus of these displays was the distant memory of the Gunpowder Plot of 1605.

The 16th and 17th Centuries were a time of religious turmoil across Europe, and no less so in England.  The Elizabethan religious settlement had been an attempt to reach a compromise between the Catholics and traditionalists, and the Protestant reformers.  Devout Catholics (as well as extreme Puritans) faced severe penalties for non-conformity. With the ascension of James I, who had a more profound Protestant leaning, many Catholics felt increasingly oppressed.

In 1605, a plot was hatched to remove James, his lords, and the House of Commons by an act of terrorism.  The plotters were going to blow up the Houses of Parliament during the state opening, when the entire governing body would be under one roof.

Put simply, the plan failed. Guido Fawkes (known as Guy) was caught in the act of attempting to detonate barrels of gunpowder in cellars under the building. He confessed under torture, and his alleged co-conspirators were arrested and executed.

Confession under torture was well part of the criminal “justice” system of the time.  In addition, the plot led to more restrictions on Catholics, and public backlash largely made the life of non-Protestants more difficult.

In some ways we have parallels with Islamophobia in the post 9-11 world, or the recurrent rise of Antisemitism. The result then was among other things to mark the event with an annual remembrance in which “The Guy” is burned in effigy, as sign initially of anti-Catholic hysteria, and now of mere tradition.

It is interesting to me to reflect on our modern approach to this.  There would be some who would take the view that the Catesbys (fellow conspirators and ring leaders) and Fawkes were “freedom” fighters.  Others would call for even more sanctions against “the out group.” I imagine some newspapers and social media groups taking the stand, “Free the Westminster 13.” Headlines might read “Guido was framed,” or  “Justice for the Catesbys.” Rival political comment might call for mass expulsion of “Romanists.”

What should we then remember of “the Guy?” Firstly, religious toleration is not a given. “In” groups, and “Out” groups are often defined in imprecise terms. Whatever our denominational backgrounds, there is more than unites us than divides us. It is often the politics of the situation, or the media spin that is the true issue.

Fireworks and bonfires are festive, but let’s remember the issues behind them.



Why Holiday Celebrations?




One of my students asked recently why we observe Christmas, which is not mentioned (or at least sanctioned) in the scriptures, but not Purim and Passover, which are actually mandated.  Okay, fairly deep question and one with several angles for consideration.

On one level we have the idea of the keeping of “days.”  Paul in his letter to the Galatians concludes chapter 3 with a discussion on how the coming of Jesus and that subsequently He and His sacrifice led to an adoption into the family of God, separate from the “Law.”  As such the “letter of the law” (if not its principles) has passed away.  He writes,  in chapter 4, “But when the set time had fully come,God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts,the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir (verse 2-7).”

He goes on to note that some in Galacia had turned to things (false gods) that bound them. He writes, “Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?  You are observing special days and months and seasons and years!  I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you (verse 9-11).”

Paul is suggesting that the Law of the Old Testament, and the god’s of pagan society both enslaved.  In keeping the strict calendar of observances people were binding themselves to functions and forms.

It can be argued, however, that Jesus Himself kept these days.  In fact, He also kept Hanukkah which was not biblically commanded (John 10:22).  While this is true, Jesus commented,  “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them (Matthew 5:17).”  Until His words on the cross, “It is finished,” that fulfillment would not yet be complete.  Thus He kept the festivals of the Law that “all righteousness might be fulfilled.”

Does this mean that observing Purim, Passover, or Sabbath (for that matter) is wrong?  This question, in part, has been explored by a fellow blogger Pastor Mike which makes a thought provoking read.  But on a ride the fence (and simple) note, it all depends.  Are we marking these days as obligation?  Are we binding them on ourselves as law? If so, Paul’s concern of Galatians 4:11 seems to apply.

However, are we doing them as activities of praise and remembrance?  This seems to open a different aspect of consideration.  Jesus said, when we take the bread and fruit of the vine, we should do so in remembrance of Him.  In the Book of Acts and in Paul’s own writings (I Corn. 16:2) this was done on “the first day of the week.”  Is this “day” a “new obligation?” No. The remembrance is, but the day is not.  First Corinthians 11:25 notes it is “as often as you do it.”

Here we can approach the Christmas question.  We do it to celebrate the coming of Messiah.  It is, like the Lord’s Day, a remembrance.  And, for many Christians through the ages, it has been questioned.   Yes, it’s celebration is not scripturely commanded. In fact, some Protestants, and especially Puritans, even outlawed it (Cromwell’s England, and the Massachusetts Colony).   This may have been because the idea of “days of obligation” had come into many “high church” calendars, or merely because it was not found in the Bible.  In either case, they saw it too much like the Galatians’ keeping of days.

In the end, my (very unimportant) opinion is it comes down to heart.  Why do we celebrate Christmas?  To rejoice and remember the coming of our salvation. Why do (most) Christians not keep the Hebrew festivals? They are part of the old covenant, which the coming of Messiah fulfilled (and with that advent, the requirement to keep them passed away).