I found myself standing under a most unusual Christmas tree last week. A giant palm tree strung with star-like lights on its stem and swaying branches, this was a Mauritian Christmas tree very different to the conifer shaped trees at home. Yet, it was particularly lovely and perhaps reminded me of Jesus’ birth more than the tinselled tree in my lounge does.
After all, palm trees crop up often in the Bible. Palm branches formed a carpet for the hooves of the donkey carrying Jesus in to Jerusalem, and in the Jewish feast of Sukkot, families made booths from palm branches and slept under them for a week. So, it’s not too much of a stretch to imagine that the rough stable in which Jesus was born might have had a roof made of palm fronds. And that the swaddled baby lying in a feeding trough could—on opening his eyes—catch a glimpse of starlight through the gaps of that modest covering. Continue reading
Christmas Devotion 2
Our Christmases are busy, bustling times. It’s surprisingly easy to lose sight of the miracle we celebrate: God coming into our midst. Even two thousand years ago in Israel—where people debated and discussed the Promised Messiah—there were few who truly recognised him. But step back into time with me and take a look at two who did.
My fingers graze against the rough walls as I climb the temple steps. I pause at the top to catch my breath, and look back over the sprawl of Jerusalem. In my youth I would have bounded up those steps two at a time, so keen was I to enter Yahweh’s courts. I’m still keen, Lord, just a little slower. The gate ahead of me leads to the broad Court of the Gentiles. Continue reading
Christmas Devotional (1)
“There,” Melchior pointed to a small cluster of mud-brick houses. “We have found him!”
Could it be? Was the greatest of all Kings to be found here, in this dusty, ramshackle village?
I thought back over the long journey that had brought us here. I remembered the first time I looked up at the night sky and saw the star, unlike any I had ever seen before. From that first moment, gazing on its brightness in the western sky, I knew that it was an omen of great significance. Our nights were spent studying the star; our days, discussing and debating its meaning. We poured over our own ancient writings, but all to no avail. Continue reading