Woman creates entire Nativity scene out of cheese!

 

Cheese-nativity

What you see above is made entirely of 40 kilograms of cheddar cheese and cocktail sticks.

Cheese nativity

Prudence Staite, is a food artist who spent five days to make a cheese version of the Nativity – the stable, Mary, Joseph, Jesus, the Three Wise Men, two donkeys, two sheep and a cow. Even the straw is made of cheese–in this case, finely shaved cheese. The Daily Telegraph describes how Staite did it:

She first softened the cheese in a special food processor, then formed each of her figures before putting all of the characters into the fridge again to firm up for display.

The tiny crib that contains the baby even includes shaved cheese as straw.

According to Staite, all the figures were equally tricky to make as the detail on their faces was so small. Her solution: A tiny magnifying glass.

[youtube id=”ACDfW5dxCj0″ width=”580″ height=”337″]

In this video for SWNS, Staite explains how she was able to craft this edible wonder.

Our Greatest Christmas Hope

Christmas hope

Nancy Guthrie:

Our great hope is not just going to heaven when we die, though that is so wondrously good. But God has much grander plans. Our great hope is that Christ will come again, not as a helpless baby in a manger, but as a magnificent king on a throne—a king who will be close enough, and gentle enough, to wipe every tear from our eyes. He will personally put an end to everything that has brought his people pain. He will “raise the sons of earth” by transforming “our lowly body to be like his glorious body” (Phil. 3:21) to live with him forever on a gloriously renewed earth.

The wonder of it made the herald angels want to sing. And as the wonder of it begins to sink in, it makes us want to sing, too.

Read the rest here.

The campaign to send Christmas cards to ‘Britain’s loneliest schoolboy’

Christmas_card_campaign_Skerries_schoolboy

10-year-old Aron Anderson, who lives on the tiny island of Out Skerries hundreds of miles off the coast of Scotland, is literally the only pupil at his school. He gets taught in a two-room building, he has one teacher, and according to the Telegraph his closest friends on the island are ducks, sheep and his dog. The island’s population is 70.

Now, in the wake of his story being widely shared across Britain in the last couple of weeks, an online campaign has been started to send Aron Christmas cards.

Christmas_card_campaign

The campaign was started by Reddit moderator BesottedScot, and it’s been receiving a lot of attention on the United Kingdom and Scotland subreddits.  They wrote in the campaign description:

“I phoned his school last week to let them know that I was planning this, and that I recommended his parent(s) and/or his teacher helps him to open the cards.  I really want him to get a big massive smile on his face, so please, write a wee message in the card to show your support too!  We have 20,000 subscribers on here and if even 1% of you send a card that’s 200 cards to a lonely boy to cheer his Christmas right up. I hope you’ll do me proud and send some nice festive cheer.”

Christmas_card_campaign_comments

Apparently people have been sharing it on Facebook, and it looks as though word has already travelled across the Atlantic to the U.S.

Aron’s mother Denise was reported as saying:

“This is going to be his first winter as the only pupil so it’s hard to tell how it will be for him.  I do feel sorry for Aron being all by himself at school — but he really is happy. Spending a lot of time with adults has made him quite grown-up, but he does enjoy trips to the mainland to meet other children.”

Well Aron might not have many people to talk to on his island, but — if the Christmas card campaign is a success — he’ll soon discover that there are lots of people around the world who want to talk to him.

Sermon: Walking in the footsteps: Herod & Simeon

Christmas slide 2

Here’s my all-age talk from our children’s nativity service.  We kicked off with this video by Dan Stevers:

[youtube id=”Tb9YVx26ljg” width=”580″ height=”337″]

In the Bible we see the contrast of two very different responses, to that of baby Jesus – that of Simeon and Herod.

 

Herod

Herod the Great ruled at Jesus’ birth – king from 40-4BCE. He wasn’t a particularly nice guy: he had killed his wife, his brother-in-law, his mother and some of his sons as he feared they would try to take power from him. Even more horrendous, he planned kill 3,000 people to make them mourn when he dies!

 

When he heard about Jesus he felt threatened, he possibly saw Jesus as the Messiah, the future King of the Jews. There are parallels with dictators such as Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Robert Mugabe – if people didn’t agree with him he killed them. In Bethlehem he killed all the boys under the age of 2 – given Bethlehem’s size it is estimated that he murdered 15-30 toddlers that day.

 

It is a historical fact that after a reign of some thirty-three or so years marked by violence and intrigue, Herod the Great died of cancer at Jericho. The child Jesus, however, escaped to Egypt and lived.

 

In every century there have been Herod’s who, recognising the Son of God as a threat, have sought to murder him in his cradle. There was Herod’s grandson, Herod Agrippa 1, who tried to persecute the early church. He killed James, the brother of John. He imprisoned Peter, intending to execute him also. But in the end he was eaten up with worms and died. Herod died; Jesus lived.

 

In the first three centuries a succession of ‘Herod’s’ sat on various world thrones, devising all sorts of schemes to kill off the church. Nero, for instance, ordered Christians to be killed. Yet in the end this ‘Herod’ died and Jesus lived.

 

And so the story has gone on. Adolf Hitler was in many ways a reincarnation of Herod. He threw many a faithful German Christian into his concentration camps. In the end ‘Herod’ died, but Jesus lives.

 

Not all Herod’s employ the crude and violent methods of Herod the Great. Some seek to smother Jesus by creating a climate of cynicism and ridicule, and in this way destroy the Christian church. We sometimes feel overpowered by the ‘Herod’s’ present within the media, who seek to create doubt and confusion within the minds of many faithful Christians.

 

But as we’ve seen time and time again, human beings can’t stop God’s plans: Jesus is still alive today.

 

Waiting for Christmas

Children have a hard time waiting for Christmas. Here are some actual letters that were written to Santa:

 

Dear Santa Claus,

When you come to my house there will be cookies for you. But if you are real hungry you can use our phone and order a pizza to go.

 

Dear Santa,

I want a Puppy. I want a playhouse. Thank you. I’ve been good most of the time. Sometimes I’m wild.

 

Dear Santa, (From a 4-year-old)

I’ll take anything because I haven’t been that good.

 

Christmas is often associated with waiting.

 

What Are You Waiting For?

Let me ask you some questions. What are you waiting for this Christmas? Are you longing for anything? What are you expecting to receive? Are you looking forward to anything special this Christmas?

 

In the Gospel of Luke, we find a man in the final acts of the Christmas drama who doesn’t appear in any nativity scenes and yet was critical to the first Christmas.

 

Simeon was waiting for something, actually someone. Luke uses a Greek word of anticipation that identifies him as waiting with expectation for the coming of the Messiah, or Savior. We’re introduced to Simeon in Luke 2:25. “Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon Him.”

 

Things weren’t going real well for the nation of Israel. They hadn’t heard from God for many years and were under Roman rule. But verse 26 shows us that Simeon had good reason for his hope and anticipation: “It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.”

 

Simeon’s expectation focused on the comfort that Christ would bring. Among Jews of Simeon’s day one of the popular titles of Messiah was Comforter, they were longing for the Messiah to come and bring His comfort to them. It strikes me that the desire to be comforted is a universal human need. We all struggle with loneliness, emptiness, insecurity, even desperation. In fact, the Christmas season is one of the major crisis times of the year for depression and suicide.

 

The Holy Spirit prompted Simeon to go to the temple courts at just the right time on just the right day that Joseph and Mary were bringing their infant to the Temple. When Simeon looked at the baby Jesus, now about 6 weeks old, he knew that God’s promise had been kept. Here was Immanuel, “God With Us,” to make everything right and to eliminate rejection, fear, and loneliness.

 

Verse 28 of Luke 2 says that Simeon reached down and took Jesus out of Mary’s arms and began to praise God. Let me pause here to make a comment. Parents, how would you feel if some old man came up to you, took your baby in his arms and started singing out loud? I’m sure this was a bit unsettling for Joseph and Mary. But Simeon didn’t look all that dangerous. As he broke out into praise, he acknowledged that God had not only fulfilled the individual promise to him, but also the promises of the prophets to send the Anointed One to comfort both Jews and Gentiles.

 

Jesus Provides What We Need

Friends, when Jesus came, He provided the very things that Simeon and Anna were waiting for – God’s comfort and His forgiveness. Let me ask you a question. What are you waiting for this Christmas? Whatever it is, Jesus can give it to you.

 

Can any of you identify with Simeon this morning? Some of you are really hurting right now. You feel lonely, empty, afraid, and maxed out. Do you need some comfort? Some consoling? Do you need a fresh sense of God’s presence? If so, you can find what you’re looking for in Jesus. He came to console us right where we’re at.

 

Action Steps

There are three action steps from this passage that will help you experience God’s comfort this Christmas.

 

Become a Marveler

Become a marveler. When Joseph and Mary tried to process everything that was happening, verse 33 says that they marveled at what was said about Jesus. According to the dictionary, to become a marveler is to be filled with wonder, astonishment, and surprise.

 

Are you a marveler this Christmas? Or, are you too caught up in the busyness and stress of the season? Has Christmas become too predictable, too familiar? Have you heard the Christmas story so much that it no longer astonishes you? We hear just enough of the story each year to inoculate us against the real thing, so that we never really catch true Christmas fever.

 

Here’s an idea that may help you recapture the marvel of Christmas. Pick one of the Christmas characters and put yourself in their sandals. Imagine what it must have been like to witness the Christmas story first hand.

 

Become a Mover

Take a look at verse 27: “Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts.” Simeon was a mover, when the Holy Spirit prompted him he didn’t sit still. I wonder what would have happened if he had not responded? Actually, every one of the Christmas characters responded to the Spirit’s leading ­ with the exception of Herod.

 

Friends, when God prompts you to do something, then you need to do it. Don’t procrastinate when God prompts you to do something – you may miss out on a miracle this Christmas.

 

I’m struck by what Simeon told Mary in verse 34. It must have taken her breath away. “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel and to be a sign that will be spoken against…” That’s not really a joyful Christmas greeting, is it? Simeon is not saying, “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.” Rather, he pauses, clears his throat and tells her that Christmas will never be merry and the New Year will never be happy until people get moving and surrender their lives to Christ.

 

Here’s the truth. Christmas splits people into 2 camps. Since Jesus has entered the world, He has divided the human race. You can’t stay neutral about Jesus. You are either for Him or against Him. You’re moving closer to Him, or further away. You either have the Son or you don’t.

 

Become a Messenger

Interestingly, as we work at becoming marvelers, we can’t help but become movers. That leads us to the final action step from this passage: become a messenger. Notice verse 38 again: “…she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.”

 

Do you have family and friends who’ve been caught up in preparations for Christmas? Look at it this way maybe their anticipation and longings really represent an inner search for comfort and forgiveness those things that only the Messiah can provide. God wants each one of us to become messengers of the Christmas story.

 

Conclusion

Let me wrap this up. As you and I become marvelers, the wonder of Christmas will astonish us. Then, as we become movers, our needs for comfort and forgiveness will be met. And, as we take our role as messengers seriously, we’ll be in position to introduce others to the Christ of Christmas — so that they in turn can find what they have been waiting for.

 

Friends, in a nutshell, Christmas is a marvelous, moving, message! How can we not find what we’ve been looking for? And, how can we keep quiet about it? Once you have the Son, you have everything.

 

Whoever Takes the Son Illustration

Many years ago, there was a very wealthy man who shared a passion for art collecting with his son. They had priceless works by Picasso and Van Gogh adorning the walls of their family estate.

 

As winter approached, war engulfed the nation, and the young man left to serve his country. After only a few short weeks, his father received a telegram. His son had died. Distraught and lonely, the old man faced the upcoming Christmas holidays with anguish and sadness. The joy of the season had vanished with the death of his son.

 

On Christmas morning, a knock on the door awakened the depressed old man. As he walked to the door, the masterpieces of art on the walls only reminded him that his son was not coming home. As he opened the door he was greeted by a soldier with a large package in his hands who said, “I was a friend of your son. I was the one he was rescuing when he died. May I come in for a few moments? I have something to show you.”

 

The soldier mentioned that he was an artist and then gave the old man the package. The paper gave way to reveal a portrait of the man’s son. Though the world would never consider it the work of a genius, the painting featured the young man’s face in striking detail. Overcome with emotion, the man hung the portrait over the fireplace, pushing aside millions of dollars worth of art. His task completed, the old man sat in his chair and spent Christmas gazing at the gift he had been given.

 

The painting of his son soon became his most prized possession, far eclipsing any interest in the pieces of art for which museums around the world clamored.

 

The following spring, the old man died. The art world waited with anticipation for the upcoming auction. According to the will of the old man, all the art works would be auctioned on Christmas Day, the day he had received the greatest gift.

 

The day soon arrived and art collectors from around the world gathered to bid on some of the world’s most spectacular paintings. Dreams would be fulfilled that day.

 

The auction began with a painting that was not on anyone’s museum list. It was the painting of the man’s son. The auctioneer asked for an opening bid, but the room was silent. “Who will open the bidding with $100?” No one spoke. Finally someone said, “Who cares about that painting. It’s just a picture of his son. Let’s move on to the good stuff.”

 

The auctioneer responded, “No, we have to sell this one first. Now, who will take the son?” Finally, a neighbor of the old man offered $10 dollars. “That’s all I have. I knew the boy, so I’d like to have it.”

 

The auctioneer said, “Going once, going twice…gone.” The gavel fell.

 

Cheers filled the room and someone exclaimed, “Now we can bid on the real treasures!”

 

The auctioneer looked at the room filled with people and announced that the auction was over. Everyone was stunned. Someone spoke up and said, “What do you mean, it’s over? We didn’t come here for a painting of someone’s son. There are millions of dollars worth of art here! What’s going on?”

 

The auctioneer replied, “It’s very simple. According to the will of the Father, whoever takes the son…gets it all.”

 

Puts things in perspective, doesn’t it? The message is the same this Christmas. Because of the Father’s love…whoever takes the Son gets it all.

 

Will you take Him this Christmas?

You’re invited to a birthday party this week. It’s the birthday of Jesus. It’s His party ­ but He wants to give you a present. He wants to give you the gift of Himself. Will you take Him?

Love Actually at Southampton Airport

Christmas can be an emotional time, catching up with family from far away lands.

Southampton Airport has made a video capturing people reuniting with their loved one.  It’s reminiscent of the famous blockbuster, Love Actually, as Hugh Grant opens the film with a voiceover and viewers see people crying and embracing in Heathrow Airport:

[youtube id=”LGLNwilEzqM” width=”580″ height=”337″]

Books I have read: Joy to the World

Joy to the World - preaching the Christmas story

A book I often use to plan my Christmas sermons is Joy to the world: Preaching the Christmas Story by Paul Beasley-Murray.

The book is full of Beasley-Murray’s summary exegesis of familiar passages from the gospels, the Old Testament prophecies and some of the reflections of the Good News in the New Testament letters.  This year I’ve spoken at four Christingle services, four Carol Services, seven assemblies, and four youth services – whilst there is some opportunity for repetition it is helpful to have other peoples suggestions and angles on how to share some of the Christmas story in different ways.

Certainly a helpful resource to keep on your study bookcase.

Books I have read: Shine on, Star of Bethlehem

Shine on, star of Bethlehem

Years ago when I was first in ministry I picked up a copy of Shine on, Star of Bethlehem by Geoffrey Duncan.  The book is a huge worship resource for Advent, Christmas and Epiphany.

Geoffrey Duncan is well known for producing great prayer and worship anthologies, and this Christmas resource does not disappoint.  What makes this resource so helpful is the variety – both in terms of content – be it welcoming prayers to final blessings to full orders of services; but also in terms of style and age – I’ve felt very comfortable using this with children and young people as well as with older adults.

This is one of the resources I come back to time and time again during the Christmas season – if you don’t have it I recommend you get hold of it.

Funny things children say at Christmas

The Nativity

The funny things children say at Christmas according to the Daily Mail

What gifts did the three wise men bring?

  • Rebecca, 5, Merchant Taylors: “They brought Jesus gold and myrrh but I would have brought him a nice warm blanket.”
  • William, 7, Merchant Taylors: “I don’t know what presents the wise men brought Jesus but a Lego set would have been better.”
  • Ellie, 5, Broomhill Infants: “The three wise men brought Jesus gold, frankincense and myrrh – no real presents. I feel sorry for him.”
  • Ellie, 6, Merchant Taylors: “When he was born three kings brought him gold, coins and a sheep.”

Who was the angel Gabriel?

  • Erin, 6, Broomhill Infants: “The Angel Gabriel is a big white fairy. He helped Mary and Joseph look after the baby – kind of like a doctor.”
  • Jay, 5, Broomhill Infants: “There was also an angel called Gabriel, whose favourite thing was to fly around all day.”
  • Molly, 6, Broomhill Infants: “Angel Gabriel was also there and he has yellow wings and a white costume.”
  • Katherine, 9, from St James’ Church of England Primary School, Weybridge, Surrey: “Gabriel was this herald angel. He was a boy but he’s played by a girl in Christmas plays.”

Why do we celebrate Christmas?

  • Ellyshia, 9, St James’ Primary: “I am not really a Christian. I believe in unicorns and pixies.”
  • Ben, 7, Broad Oak: “We celebrate Christmas because Santa comes and gives us lots and lots of presents.”

Where was Jesus born?

  • Charlie, 4, Broomhill Infants: “He was born in a stable a long way away from here in another country. Bethlehem – it’s in England.”
  • Erin, 6, Broomhill Infants: “Jesus was born in the stable – it had lots of hairs.”