Daily Update #188 – Christmas
I have included my main thoughts for us all this Christmas within this reflection. However, I hope you are safe
and look forward to seeing you when it is safe again. I remember early in this year someone posted a message,
“We’re all staying indoors, so that when we come back together, no-one in missing.” I am hugely grateful to the
teams that have kept our ministry relevant, vibrant and real this year. We have all depended upon each other
more than we thought and it has been an encouraging response in growing in love through a very difficult and
uncertain time for all.
No one who hopes in you will ever be put to shame,
but shame will come on those who are treacherous without cause.
Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths.
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Saviour,
and my hope is in you all day long.
Remember, Lord, your great mercy and love,
for they are from of old.
Do not remember the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways;
according to your love remember me,
for you, Lord, are good.
In this story, Zechariah is released from silence as he declares John is their child’s name. His initial lack of faith,
(Luke 1:20) is filled instead with joy at the revelation of God’s unfolding plan. He is turned from doubt and silence
for his doubt, to faith and joy. The response in the family about John’s name even disturbs their neighbours, such
was God’s promise over John. In my side of the family, there is a long and very certain tradition about names. The
firstborn son’s middle name is always John and it has been for many generations.
Going much further back, I had two ancestors, brothers who lived side by side in North Chapel, West Sussex, who
both undertook to name their firstborn sons, born the same year as Rowland (John Luff), which was
fashionable at the time. Several subsequent generations decided on Francis as the first boy’s names, even
naming a first born daughter Frances, until a son arrived, whereupon he became Francis (John) and she became
Ada! (I know….)
In the Bible, naming a child signified that there was a relationship with God to remember. For Jewish families the
family name was part of the covenant with God that also included the land. It reminded them that they were part
of God’s plan and that God’s kindness was with them. So it is understandable that there is some dispute in the
family about naming this special child John, which was not a family name. So often, a struggle is needed before
we see God’s path. There is a wrestling match between what we know, the past, tradition, things that are familiar
and safe; and the future, what is unknown, new and perhaps challenging. The Christmas story is that God was
coming as our saviour, because he had promised to in the past
In the nativity stories we see both with Zechariah and Mary that though they are rooted in the past, they are not
stuck there. For many Jewish people, Roman occupation looked nothing like the covenant they wanted. But Mary
and Zechariah perceive that God may be doing something new, it was where they drew their confidence for the
future from. Both had angelic visitations to guide them and they opened their hearts to what God would do,
because he had done these sorts of things in the past.
We do not want to become stuck in 2020. It will no doubt take time next year for change to take effect. But this
year we have also seen new initiatives and new ways of being God’s people. We may have taken things for
granted in the past, which we value much more now. It might be fellowship, or how we worship, a new hunger
for his word, times of prayer and stillness, or nurturing our personal relationship with Jesus. (Hopefully all of
It is, therefore, also likely that we ourselves have already experienced some change. And I suspect it was not
easy, we had to wrestle with our circumstances to find where God was, and what He was doing with us, and in us
and for us. So we can look with confidence to the future, based on what he has done for us in the past.
Wishing you a very safe and Happy Christmas and blessed New Year
Matthew John Luff