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Term 4 2015 - A Christmas story. Life - It's yours to choose

With Christmas just a few weeks away we have been doing a lot to build up to the Christmas message. To celebrate the last newsletter of the year I want to retell a story and Christmas message I read from the Reverend Simon Allaby of the 6:19 Trust in the UK.

When Simon was a child he and his family would spend Christmas each year with an aunt and uncle. They had an unused fireplace which his aunt would decorate with a bed of newspaper in the grate and then carefully place gold and silver painted pine cones on top.

When Simon was about eight he was alone in the lounge with nothing to do. Spotting a lighter he decided to light the corner of the newspaper and, after allowing it to burn for a few seconds, he blew it out. He tried it a second time leaving it a bit longer this time before again blowing it out. When he tried it a third time however, once again leaving it a bit longer, it caught properly and the pine cones became a blazing inferno!

Simon returned the lighter and settled on the couch. When his mum walked in she expressed surprise that the fire was lit and asked him who did it? He replied that it must have been his uncle which she accepted. This was a short lived reprieve though because only moments later his uncle also walked in and, in front of Simon's mother, asked the same question. Simon's mother immediately drew the right conclusion and, in spite of Simon's vigorous denials, he recalls being sent to bed early.

Simon learned two lessons that day; first, that he knew the difference between right and wrong and he could freely choose to do what was wrong; and secondly, that if he did so this would spoil the very precious relationship he had with his mother.

The Bible says we are all like that - we know the difference between right and wrong, and when we choose to do wrong we spoil relationships with the people we love, and with God our Creator who loves us with all His heart. In Romans 3:23 Paul says, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." God is perfect and we are not, and that means we are separated from God who loves us, and unless something happens to change this situation it will remain so for eternity.

Many of us know that we have done wrong, and for many this sense of guilt and shame keeps them from approaching God. Even recently I have heard people say things such as, 'God wouldn't want anything to do with me after all I've done.' These people see God as out to punish them for what they've done and they keep their distance from God. The reality, however, is that while God is a God of justice, He is also a God of love whose primary desire is to restore us.

God loves us so much that He is not prepared to leave us as we are - separated from Him and without hope. In Jesus, God comes looking for us, to tell us how much He loves us and shows us the way back to Him. This baby, whose birth we are preparing to celebrate, grew up, went to a Cross and died in our place, for all our sins and wrongdoing, so that the barrier of sin between us and our Heavenly Father might be removed once and for all.

One of the most famous verses in the Bible is John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life." John wrote his Gospel having lived alongside Jesus for three years, and after a lifetime spent reflecting on who Jesus was and what He had come to do, and this verse sums up what he had concluded: Jesus came to show us the full extent of God's love for us, and on the Cross make it possible for us to enter into relationship with Him. But John is also clear that Jesus offers us a choice that we must take if we are to enjoy this relationship. We must believe in Jesus and receive Him into our lives - if we do then we will enjoy eternal life, but if we don't then our relationship with our Heavenly Father will remain broken.

So we find ourselves in a place where to do nothing, or to make the wrong choice, will cause us to remain separated from God's love. But because God loves us so much, Jesus came to show us that there is a choice that leads to life -fullness of life in this world and eternal life in the world to come. That's the Christmas story and that's the Good News we are preparing to celebrate. What choice will you make?