Practising for Christmas

Week 4: Nurturing the habit of welcoming Salvation.

Matthew 2: 1-12 – The Magi – Practising intentionality.

Unless you do something about it, in practice, intentionality is just a long word. Simply thinking about doing something never makes it happen. In spite of this fact, we are very clever as human beings, at deceiving ourselves. In a nutshell, that’s what ‘Practising for Christmas’ is all about … trying to take the lid off our own attempts to deceive ourselves. After all, the Bible reminds us ‘the heart is deceitful above all things’ (Jer. 17:9). Mine is no exception what about yours?Churches make ‘mission statements’, but ignore them behind once the discussions and consultations have ended.

Governments make promises, but allow them to become buried under red-tape once elected.

People … well, I pretend I’ve done something when I’ve read a book about it, or think I ‘understand’ an issue.

You may well have your own ways of scheming: we all do, but what we’re not so good at is actually following up and doing something.

The Magi were different … they translated intentionality into practice.

Although they were not 100% sure of where God was guiding them they still started out. From ‘the east’ to Jerusalem was a long way!

Thinking back over this year: can you identify any times when you thought you’d heard from God, but not acted upon it? Don’t go into deep depression over this, but try and identify one step you could have taken and answer why you didn’t – with a view to taking one when the next opportunity comes along.

The Magi kept moving towards their destination. They weren’t always responding to the shortest route directions on their Sat. Navs., Herod tried to sabotage their adventure, they had many moments of head scratching and turning the map upside down, but they got there in the end.

Thinking back over this year: can you identify any times when you’ve been taken off track? Try and identify how you allowed that to happen, as if we don’t take advantage of having a great teacher alongside us (failure), we’re much more likely to repeat the error at the next opportunity. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think the Lord anticipates us finding the shortest route towards 100% Christ-likeness. In fact, I actually believe he grows us through the steps backwards, sideways and any other which way route we take, as long as we keep our eyes fixed ahead: not exactly on the star, as in the case of the Magi, but on Jesus.

Prayer: Dear Lord. Save me from good intentions, which remain plans in my head. Help me to translate those things, which originate in your heart into real life, whether that be by changing my heart, or acting then out in practice. Confirm to me your forgiveness for my sins of omission, so I might live today in the light of your commission. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Practising for Christmas is a series of reflections for advent contributed by regional staff from the four Baptist Associations represented by ‘Seventy-two’. Catch up with previous reflections here.