December 2008

Here are a few pictures from my time in London.  They’re not the pictures a tourist might take, but just a few shots of Gladstone park, the local park near my Mum’s home where I enjoyed taking regular walks.








Tomorrow I leave for London, to spend Christmas with my mother and siblings there. It’s been a whole year since I’ve been there and more importantly since I’ve seen most of my family, and I am more than ready for this trip. Having lived in Uganda for 2 years from 2006 to 2007, I find I’m no longer used to staying in the US for extended periods of time, so I’m really feeling the need to be a bit more “internationalized”.  Travelling out of the States and to London, another global city, will certainly do that.

Ironically, I don’t particularly enjoy flying much any more – that changed after 9/11 – but it’s a small price to pay to see the folks I love and care deeply for.  I know my time there will slip away quickly but I hope to savor each conversation, each interaction, and each moment of just being together.

In the meantime, may you be filled anew this season with the awe and wonder of the Christ child.

So long!

Today I’ve found myself thinking about the shepherds.  Anglican theologian John Stott tells us that shepherds in Israel had a bad reputation and were regarded as dishonest and unreliable.  Imagine that.  And yet God chose to reveal the good news of his son’s birth first to this unsavoury group of marginal men tending sheep in the dark of night.

And what was their response?  Well, first, they were terrified when the sky opened up and an angel of the Lord appeared to them.  Can you blame them?  Who wouldn’t be terrified?   But the angel reassured them by telling them “not [to] be afraid”  (Luke 2:10) and once they got over their fear, they hurried off to Bethlehem to confirm if what the angel had told them was  in fact true.  A baby come to save the whole entire world born in a stable?  Was that really possible?  And, no surprise, they found the baby, wrapped in cloths and lying in a feeding trough (of all things), just as they had been told. 

So what was their response?   They left telling those whom they met what they had just seen and experienced and “all who heard it were amazed” (v 18).  And we are told they were so changed and transformed by this encounter with the living God, that they “returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen” (v 20)!

Imagine that.  God chose a group of nameless shepherds, men of ill-repute, to be the first news bearers of this history-making, life-altering, earth-shattering event.  How encouraging and yet how humbling.  It reminded me of how God chose women to be the first eye witnesses of the risen Jesus 33 years later.  Women, who were considered so beneath men in Israel at that time that their testimony was not considered admissible in a court of law, and yet they were given this honorable role of telling the world first about  having seen the resurrected Jesus.

And just to finish the thought about the shepherds.  How revolutionary that Jesus – flawless, sinless Jesus – would later claim to be the “good shepherd [who] lays down his life for [his] sheep” (John 10:11).  By doing so, he gave a new dignity and honor to this ordinary of  savory professions.   The Savior of the world come to flip the value system of the world on it’s head in yet another way.  What grace, what humility.

With the Advent season upon us, I’ve been thinking about the fact that the birth of Jesus was accompanied by a variety of signs:  the angels appearing to the shepherds, the star, and of course the baby himself.  And I’ve been asking God to show me signs of Jesus’ birth in my contemporary life.   I need eyes to see sign posts which point me toward the real historical life-changing event that took place more than 2,000 years ago.   Yesterday he gave me such a sign.

A friend, who knew I was heavy hearted because the one year anniversary of  the death of a dear friend and colleague that I knew in Uganda, occurred this week, offered to pray for me.  As we prayed, she remembered that the pregnant surviving wife of Dr. Jonah had had a baby boy, 3 months after his untimely death.  That little boy, named Jonah, after his father is now thriving.  The picture of this long awaited baby, the only son born  following 5 precious duaghters, bringing untold joy and hope to a family still reeling  from the premature death and loss of their husband, father, brother and son, was such a beautiful tangible image of the gift of Jesus!

“And his name shall be called Emmanuel, which means ‘God with us’.”