Weekly Blog - Paul Lancaster - Christmas! How Strange
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Posted on: 13th December 2022

Earlier this year the ninth episode of “Stranger Things” was launched (Science fiction series), obviously appealing to a certain clientele. When the word ‘strange’ is used, we either instantly recoil or are curious. Surely not a word to associate with Christmas - its familiar story bringing us comfort and joy, nice warm feelings? Surely there’s nothing wrong with this in an increasingly troubled world? Well, even though the Christmas narratives are so well known, we can overlook how strange they really are.

Here’s a quick list; Zechariah encounters an angel-being, told that his wife (beyond childbearing age) was going to give birth to a son; Zechariah goes dumb; Mary not yet married, visited by an angel, told she was going to give birth to the Messiah - not by normal conception; the shepherds come after a strange angelic encounter; the Magi from the east see a star: Herod disturbed – kills all boys under 2 years of age; Mary and Joseph become refugees etc.

“Why does God turn up in the middle of the night, in the middle of nowhere, to a couple of nobodies, in the middle of a census, to a country in conflict?” Krish Kandiah. All very strange! Not the way I would have organised it! Nonetheless, God reveals himself in all this.

What does this say to us? We can look back at 2022 – it’s been a strange and difficult year. Political turmoil (three prime ministers and four chancellors), war in Ukraine, escalating energy and food prices, environmental disasters, unpredictable personal circumstances, etc. Yet God is always present in our world in its strangeness, expressing His love through humanity in amazing ways - often unexpectedly through the stranger. In fact, Jesus chose to deliberately identify himself with the stranger e.g. the parables of the Good Samaritan, the Sheep and the Goats “I was a stranger and you invited me in “(Mt 25v43).

I have listened recently to a number of people who have offered loving hospitality to Ukrainian refugees. So heart-warming, hearing how they have received strangers. We can’t all do this, but we can look out for and be welcoming to someone who is a stranger to us. “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by doing some people have entertained angels unawares without knowing it. (Heb 13v2)

Let’s not settle for the familiar in 2023, not dwelling on our past experience of God, but be open to “stranger ways” he wants to reveal Himself in our lives. Of course, we can’t make this happen and there is always a need for discernment, also let’s be open to receiving Christ in the stranger, even if they don’t believe the way we do.

Have a great Christmas and may you experience new and unexpected encounters with God in the New Year.

Paul Lancaster, Co-ordinator, Hope For The Nations

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