Monday, 17 December 2007

A christmas thought....

Christmas is often synonymous with memories of past years. As I near my tenth year as an S.A. bandsman, I could name a few if I sat down to write out a list of them.

One memory I have took place on Christmas morning 2002. (The Belfast Temple Band do an annual hike up to the Royal Victoria Hospital, playing carols to people of all ages, including the kids in the childrens' ward which can be heartbreaking to say the least.) At one of the adult wards we got on to, some wise-guy requested 'O Holy Night', which despite being a beautiful carol is a chronic brass arrangement to play. One gentleman who was standing just outside his bed - and I'll never forget the image of this 60+ year old man wth tears in his eyes, singing every word of the carol.

That man was Sinn Féin politician John Kelly who died earlier this year, succumbing to cancer after a long illness. Evidently it made an impact on him, this band of Christian men and women coming into the hospital and playing carols on Christmas morning. And thats what the purpose of the Salvation Army at this time of year is - to make an impact on people's lives. To change them. Whilst I cannot comment on how closer it brought him to Christ, the words of Christmas carols speak of the message that Christ's birth was what spurred the festive season.

Whatever you do this Christmas, may it be a happy, healthy and peaceful one. But next time you hear the sound of a brass band playing carols, take time out to stop and listen. For it may just have an impact on you as well.

Thought - Love

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud... It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perserveres." (1 Corinthians 13 : 4a and 7)

Every February, hormones and emotions go into overdrive leading up to the 14th date of the month. The time of year, known as St Valentine's Day, allows us to express romantic feelings to people we fancy or just to simply bring some pleasant cheer to friends, not so different from how you would at Christmas. And it can be quite easy, if you're dead serious about your crush, to exclaim how you 'love' them!

The above verses are timeless words from a timeless passage written by Paul to the church in Corinth when they most needed to hear them. Today we associate them with weddings and funerals but also, in the church, with wall decor (i.e. pictures, portraits) and pieces of music. Not so long ago I played a hymn tune with both the brass bands I play with based on this passage, entitled "The Greatest Of These".

Regardless of how often and when we hear them in our lives, the message is still the same. Its unlikely they can be written in any simpler terms, for not only does the scriptures talk about what love is but also what love isn't.

"It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs" (1 Cor 13 : 4b-5)

Have a read through the whole chapter. Look again at the verse extracts printed here. And then replace the word 'love' with 'JESUS'.

It fits, doesn't it? It makes sense all the same and it reminds us yet again whom we must aim to be like as Christians: Christ.

"Jesus is patient, Jesus is kind. He does not envy, he does not boast, he is not proud. He does not envy, he does not boast, he is not proud... he always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perserveres."

Jesus and love are in so many ways similar that the Messiah is not only God incarnate but love incarnate and love personified. And that can't be summed up any better by when we recall the words:

"How deep the Father's love for us, how vast beyond all measure,
That he should give his only son, to make a wretch his treasure;
How great the pain of searing loss, the Father turned his face away,
As wounds which mar the chosen one, bring many sons to glory".

Whatever feelings of love are expressed in the Valentine's season, just remember that there is no greater love than that which was born into the world to die for us. 2000 years on, his love remains no different from what it was on Calvary.