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The Journal

He is with us !

Dear Friends,
The Christmas story is both ordinary and extraordinary. God takes an ordinary young girl and bestows on her an incredible privilege, namely to carry the Son of God in her womb. But equally he takes an ordinary young man, Joseph to be the one who cares for her. God uses Joseph extraordinarily also. Matthew’s account (1:18-25) focuses on how God helps Joseph to understand what is happening with Mary’s pregnancy. It was difficult for him to grasp. What is quite beautiful is that even though he couldn’t understand what had happened he didn’t want to expose Mary to public disgrace. We learn that Joseph was a righteous man meaning that he was seeking to honour God and be godly in the way he related to other people. This righteousness of Joseph is expressed in being gracious to Mary.The Lord sent Joseph a dream explaining that the child will be born through the power of the Holy Spirit alone. It is all about God’s grace. As I reflect on this last year it seems to me that there is a growing harshness in the public sphere in the way people address one another and treat one another. Of course wrong doing must not be hidden and must be exposed so that justice is done and victims can get closure but it does seem that our society has lost the ability to be gracious and merciful and forgiving. As we think about Christmas we see Joseph who is gracious to Mary and we see our God who is gracious and merciful to us - humanity. He comes to us and meets us at our point of need to bring hope and forgiveness. All of us are beset with sin. The birth narratives focus on the fact that Jesus’ name and indeed His mission is to save people from their sins and this is our greatest need. We need grace. We need forgiveness and we need a fresh start with God and with people. My hope and prayer is that the person of Jesus will so impact us and change us that His forgiveness of our sins and filling with His Spirit will result in us being gracious to other people. This doesn’t mean that we have to agree with other people over every matter. Being gracious means treating people with respect and with dignity because they are created in the image of God. It means facing them with difficult truths and doing so in love. This world needs grace because without God we do become very harsh and unforgiving and mean spirited and that is where our society is heading. In the Matthew reading it is also highlighted that the baby conceived in Mary’s womb didn’t involve human agents but was totally the work of God through His Holy Spirit. This is very important because this means that Jesus is without sin and so He can die for our sins as a pure offering and so achieve salvation. Truly Jesus is God with us, Emmanuel and this changes everything because God is with us and we are not alone and this means we have hope. May we rejoice in the goodness of the Lord this Christmas and praise Him for His grace and love shown to us by coming to earth and dying for our sin. Thank you for your support and friendship and may God grant you a holy and peaceful and joyful Christmas.
God’s Blessing Rev David O’Mara 

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Seek and you will find

Dear Friends,
One of the great themes of the Bible is that God goes looking for us to find us. Take for example the shepherds. They were minding their own business looking after sheep out in the cold. Suddenly angels sent by God appeared to them announcing great news of the birth of a Saviour, the Lord Jesus. The good news of Jesus brings great joy that God has come to this world to save us from our sins. In Luke 2:11 Jesus is identified as Saviour and Christ and Lord. As Saviour He rescues us from sin and judgement. As Christ He is God’s King who was promised in the Old Testament and has come into the world. As Lord He is the one who commands our obedience and is worthy of our worship. In 2:14 the angels give glory to God because it is incredible that He has left the glory of heaven and come to share our humanity and save us from our sin. It is too easy to take this message of Jesus birth for granted. This is huge. God has come to us ! After the angels have the left the shepherds decide to go and see this event. Many people have experiences of God but they don’t follow through or act on these and so the experiences are unproductive. The shepherds go and find the Christ and then they spread the word concerning Jesus. God’s message is so good that when it is properly understood and grasped it naturally spreads because those who experience the joy of the Lord want others to also experience this. In v19 Mary also responded to all these events not least the birth of Jesus but also including the shepherds and what they said. Mary treasured and pondered these things in her heart. Our life is incredibly busy and we need to spend time reflecting on Bible truths and seeking to understand them for ourselves and what they mean and apply them to our lives. Christian growth requires that we treasure and ponder and reflect so that God’s truth goes deep into our lives and brings life change ! At our evening service we have the story of the wise men. In particular we learn that their observation of the stars brought limited wisdom. They had a general knowledge about this King of the Jews and this bought them to Jerusalem the capital which is where they would expect a king to be born. The turning point for them finding Jesus was when Herod responded to the wise men’s request and asked his own religious leaders and they referred to the Old Testament and the book of Micah which states that the Messiah will be born in Bethlehem. They then went on their way guided miraculously by the star. God met them at their point of need and they saw Jesus for themselves and worshipped Him. The Scriptures were critical then and they are still today. Through reading God’s Word we find Jesus.
God’s Blessing Rev David O’Mara 

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Wise people still seek Jesus

Dear Friends,
As we celebrate the baptism of Angus and Mathilde McGrath today our passage directs us to another child :- the birth of our Lord Jesus and the reaction of the wise men to His birth.
Our passage today is Matthew 2:1-12 and retells the story of the wise men from the East who came seeking Jesus, the King of Jews. From their star gazing they believed that there would be a special King born to the Jews. Whilst they had some general sense of where this special king being would be born they needed to travel to the capital and ask King Herod more details. Herod asked his advisors where this would happen and they referred to the Old Testament Scriptures in the book of Micah written in the 8th C BC. There was a prophecy that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. This was a surprise because it was a small town. The significance of the wise men is that they represent great wisdom and learning and they bow down before Jesus acknowledging His greatness. In a sense they represent the best wisdom the world has to offer and they recognise one who is much greater than they. The gifts they give are very valuable and are fitting for a King. In the background of this passage we see King Herod who seems to want to know about this King so he can worship him. But the wise men are warned to not return to him. King Herod cannot be trusted. We know from history that Herod was intensely jealous and murdered his own wife and sons because he was worried about protecting his own power. The wise men show the proper response which is to bow down and worship Jesus and give Him honour. Today at this baptism we recognise that all wisdom is found in Christ and like the wise men God calls us to lay our life before Him and give Him everything. Only in Christ will we truly be satisfied because He is the source of all wisdom. Tonight we look at the parable of the shrewd manager in Luke 16:1-15. There is a lot happening in this passage but generally we are being instructed by Jesus that life is a gift and we need to be good stewards. IN fact we need to take care of what God gives us including both material and spiritual blessings and be generous towards others. When we do this we will have displayed God’s wisdom because He is generous. God’s Blessing Rev David O’Mara 

 

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Being found by Jesus

Dear Friends,
We thank the Lord for our UTS students who have come to our parish on Mission. It is wonderful to have them in the Parish again. I am also thankful to the Lord for our Carols event yesterday. To be able to serve together and declare God’s love to our local community is so important and I am grateful for people serving in this important ministry. I am sure there are many are testimonies of thankfulness as the students have given testimony at our Healing service, Thursday morning Bible study, Taverners Hill Anglicare Aged accomodation, Lewisham Nursing home and AllKids. Our passage this morning is from Luke 17:11-19. It is the story of the 10 men who were healed of leprosy. Jesus commented on the importance of faith in accessing healing but interestingly spoke about the need to thank the Lord for our blessings. Only one of the 10 lepers who were healed returned to thank Jesus. Interestingly it is to him that Jesus said that your faith has healed you. What does that mean ? It is more than physical healing. This one leper returned because he understood that the source of healing was Jesus and that it is right and appropriate to thank Him for every good and perfect gift we have - see James 1:17. The society we live in encourages us to think that we are the masters of our own fate and the source of blessing. We see that our society is more and more ungrateful and takes God’s blessing for granted. True healing comes when we are reconciled to Jesus and give Him the thanks and the honour which He deserves. In the passage tonight we are looking at Luke 15:1-10 the parable of the lost sheep and lost coin. This parable gives us more reasons to thank the Lord. These parables teach us that God like the shepherd and the woman is seeking something which is lost. That which is lost is us. We are lost because of sin. It is wonderful to see that God comes looking for us and His attitude to us when we are found, that is when we return to Him is that He celebrates with heaven. How wonderful to have a God who rejoices when we are found and that even more than us He wants us to be reconciled with Him. This is something huge for which we can thank the Lord.
God’s Blessing Rev David O’Mara 

 

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New hope from God

Dear Friends,
Today we conclude out short series on Isaiah 6-12. Chapter 12 is bursting with praise because of God’s graciousness in bringing new life to the people of God through the coming Messiah who is both a descendant of the tribe of Judah and also the one who is the source of Judah. This person is both God and human. God comes himself and creates a new community of peace and righteousness. So chapter 12 is a natural celebration of God’s goodness for this new society which Jesus will inaugurate. Obviously this society has not yet been fully consummated but as people come to faith in Christ and begin to live out their faith within the context of the church and the world we see glimpses of heaven and we have a foretaste of all that the Lord is doing ! The primary reason for praise is that God’s anger at our sin has been turned away 12:1. This means that we can enjoy the comfort of the Lord. Isaiah develops this theme and informs us that it is the servant of the Lord who is a tender shoot and root Isaiah 53:1-2 and who carried our infirmities and took the punishment for our sins - 53:4-6. This is of course is fulfilled in Jesus who has taken the punishment for our sin instead of us and this means we can enjoy a relationship with God through Christ. In Isaiah 12:2 the prophet uses the personal pronoun to speak of my salvation and my strength and my song. God has done this work of salvation but each of us needs to ensure that we have personally owned for ourselves 
personally received Christ. In Isaiah 12:2b it is a direct quote from Exodus 15:2 which tells of God’s victory over His enemies in setting the people of God free from Egypt. So the story of the Exodus is the backdrop for this Isaiah 12 and as God led the people out of Egypt he refreshed them with water along the way. It is the same with us - God refreshes us along the journey of faith so that we can draw deep from the wells of salvation. For the Christian we are refreshed when we repent of sin Acts 3:19 and also through the fellowship of God’s people 1 Cor 16:18. Christ also refreshes us through the work of His Spirit because out of Jesus flows springs of living water - John 7:37-39. Notice that this blessing we have received from the Lord is so that we will look outward and declare His glory to other people Isaiah 12:4-5 so that they may also enjoy the goodness of the Lord. At the 5pm service we continue our series on the parables and look at Luke 13:18-21 - the parable of the mustard seed and yeast. Often the work of God seems insignificant but God is powerfully at work in this world through the preaching of HIs Word. Don’t be discouraged when things seem small because God is powerfully at work & that will be evident when Jesus returns.
God’s Blessing Rev David O’Mara 

 

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