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And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night

Luke 2:8-20 In science fiction, alien life forms are always showing up from another world.  Most often they come to destroy and dominate.  In Luke chapter 2, there is a very different kind of alien invasion: “8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by […]

She wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn

Luke 1:57-2:7 You didn’t choose to be born and neither did I.  Only Jesus has ever chosen to be born.  But if such powers were at our disposal, would we have decided upon the path that Jesus took? Surely not.  Surely we would have opted for powerful parents, fabulous wealth, plush surroundings, an easy life. […]

My soul doth magnify the Lord

Luke 1:39-56 How do you feel about musicals?  Many people dislike them because ‘in real life, ordinary folk don’t burst into song.’  Well, hopefully Luke chapter 1 will win over the doubters because here we read, not one, but two examples of spontaneous lyricism! At the end of the chapter (Luke 1:68-80), Zechariah – the […]

Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women

Luke 1:1-38 Gabriel says to Mary:  “have gratia plena!”  Or at least, that was Jerome’s Latin translation from around 400AD.  In English it would read “Hail Mary, full of grace.”  But that’s not a good translation of Luke 1:28. Jerome’s version sounds as though Mary is a repository of some spiritual substance called grace.  And […]

Thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins

Matthew 1:18-25 Both Joseph and Mary were given strict instructions regarding the name of the Christ-child (Matthew 1:21; Luke 1:31).  Angels had to come – they moved heaven to earth! – just to tell them the vital importance of being “Jesus.” Think of all the advice these first-time parents might have received… “You’re bearing the […]

This is “the life”

1 John 1:1-2:2 Last year I went strolling along a Mauritian beach with my wife.  We bought tropical fruit from a roadside vendor, went for a swim and then lay down on a deckchair sipping a cold beer.  I said to Emma, “This is the life.” When have you said that phrase?  “This is the […]

Filthy Lucre

1 Peter 4:12-5:14 On the surface it’s a quaint archaism.  But it speaks of a deadly trap.  “Filthy lucre” is used four times in the King James Bible and in each case it refers to a grave temptation for gospel ministers (1 Timothy 3:3,8; Titus 1:7; 1 Peter 5:2).  Eg: Feed the flock of God […]

Once and for all

Hebrews 10:1-18 “Out, damned spot! out, I say!” Lady Macbeth’s line is one of Shakespeare’s most famous.  In the first act of Macbeth she helps her husband to murder the King.  By the end of the play she is in mental torment and eventually takes her own life.  In her final scene she is before […]

A two-edged sword

Hebrews 4:1-16 In modern speech a “double-edged sword” is a powerful weapon that “cuts both ways”.  It’s an argument or feature or technology that has a clear benefit and a clear liability.  It’s something that advances both your own cause and that of your opponent. But the bible’s usage of the term is a little different.   […]

Keep the faith

2 Timothy 4:6-8; James 5:7-12 At the end of your days, what would you like to say?  How would you want to summarize your life? Facing death, Paul was able to say he’s “fought the good fight”, he’s “stayed the course” and he’s “kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7). We’ve seen how these three phrases […]