Christmas from the horse’s mouth

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We live in an age when few know the Christmas narrative with any clarity. So, this year, on Facebook, I posted six narrative readings from the gospels for the six days leading up to Christmas. But I was sorry to have to omit some other great passages to do with the first advent of our Lord, hence this post.

I have copied over the narrative readings from my Facebook. This is followed by a section called Prophetic readings from the Old Testament and finally Non-narrative readings from the New Testament.

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NARRATIVE Readings from the Gospels

[Reading 1 of 6] 
Luke 1:26-35
. . . God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you.”
Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favour with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.

[Reading 2 of 6] 
Matthew 1:18-25
This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet[e] did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
. . . When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.”

[Reading 3 of 6]
Extra short today.
Luke 2:1-7
“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.”

[Reading 4 of 6]
Finally we get to the part about the shepherds.
Luke 2:8-20
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.  An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.  But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.  This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.  When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child,  and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.  But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.  The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

[Reading 5 of 6]
If you have not grown up attending church,  you probably have not heard about Simeon and Anna, two characters that  the Bible takes care to mention in connection with Baby Jesus.
Luke 2:25-38
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 on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you may now dismiss[d] your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of your people Israel.”
The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four.[e] She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

[Reading 6 of 6]
This reading takes us to the account about the Magi. Personally, I think the Magi or wisemen might have been from among the great sages in India, but we really do not know more about their identity than that they came from the East. See what the Bible tells us about how they found Jesus.
Matthew 2:1-12
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem  and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:
“‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’”
Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”
After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

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PROPHETIC Readings from the Old Testament

[Reading 1 of 5]
This passage comes from the first pages of the Bible, the earliest prophecy about Jesus who would crush the ancient serpents head by His death on the cross.
Genesis 3:14-15
So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this,
“Cursed are you above all livestock
and all wild animals!
You will crawl on your belly
and you will eat dust
all the days of your life.
And I will put enmity
between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush[b] your head,
and you will strike his heel.”

[Reading 2 of 5]
Reading this in its context without divine help, it would have been next to impossible for readers before Jesus’ time to guess its fulfillment in Mary and Jesus. But with Matthew telling us that it is so, we can now appreciate the detail contained in this prophecy.
Isaiah 7:14
Therefore the Lord himself will give you[a] a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.

[Reading 3 of 5]
This passage once struck me with such intensity that I composed a song based on it. (You can hear it sung here)
Isaiah 9:1-2, 6-7
Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan—
The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned.
. . . For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
will accomplish this.

[Reading 4 of 5]
This prophecy, written about 700 years before Jesus foretells the lineage of the Messiah to come. He would be born of the family of David, son of Jesse.
Isaiah 11:1-2
A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and of might,
the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord—

[Reading 5 of 5]
This is another prophecy that fascinates in hind sight. Matthew quotes it to prove to the Jewish reader that Jesus is indeed the Messiah, who fulfilled Messianic prophecies to the last minute detail.
Micah 5:2
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
though you are small among the clans[a] of Judah,
out of you will come for me
one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,
from ancient times.”

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NON-NARRATIVE Readings from the New Testament

[Reading 1 of 4]
This passage from John’s gospel refers to Jesus as the Word, the Logos, the Creator who came to earth as the Avatar or Incarnation.
John 1:1-5, 14
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

[Reading 2 of 4]
This is perhaps the most well known verse in all the Bible and speaks of the great Gift given to us.
John 3:16
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

[Reading 3 of 4]
Galatians 4:4-5
But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.

[Reading 4 of 4]
This is an important passage that speaks about Jesus putting His glory by for a time and taking our form.
Phil 2:5-11
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

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The Chooks: #14 Broody Susie

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Susie has hardly given us a dozen eggs, and she’s gone all broody and silly. She wants to sit in the nesting box all day, AND ALL NIGHT. 

This video was taken this morning. In the evening, when I checked on them, Susie had occupied the other less loved of the nesting boxes. So I’ve removed it as well and put some uncomfortable cardboard boxes in there too, at least for the night.

Short visit to Japan

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If I don’t make a note here about how my time in Japan was spent and what my impressions were, I would probably forget.

** Kojima jeans

**My time at Logos English School in Kojima

** A taste of Japan

I travelled by China Southern, which I found comfortable and pleasant. The planes between Guangzhou and Kansai were much smaller than the large planes that fly between Auckland and Guangzhou. Here are two pictures, both taken in Guangzhou, one of the small plane on my way to Kansai. The next photo is that of the huge plane taken just before I boarded in my way back. 

Serendipitous friendships are given us by God. I met Dr Arpitha in Kansai Airport and saw her off at Guangzhou on her way to Delhi.

A taste of Japan

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In the few days that I spent in Japan, here are some observations that I’d like to note down.

Rice fields are nothing new for an Indian like me, but to have rice fields in residential areas certainly is.

The bigger the station the more crowded it was. Okayama Station was busier than Kojima station.  Sandy referred to these people filled “streets” in the station as concourses.

Queuing is in their blood. Whether at bus stops, outside the elevator, at a store, or at the train station, you can find little queues. Here is a photo I took from inside the train of a queue of people getting in.

If you look closely at the last two in the queue, you’ll see that they are wearing masks over their nose and mouth. This was another common sight all over Japan.

Politeness is the Japanese way. One hears a variant or other of the “Arigatou gozaimasu” a hundred times a day. Giving elaborately wrapped gifts is normal. My friend in hospital received many gifts, including these flowers.

Convenience stores have a variety of meal options. I quite liked this bento, with meatballs, squid, chicken, and rice, from the hospital’s convenient store.

Dinner on my last evening in Japan was an assortment of food that Logos teacher Ashley and I bought at the supermarket. Octopus Takoyaki balls, potato fries, sesame bean-paste ball, Roll with bean paste. Very yum.

We have all heard of the bullet train, which is known as the Shinkansen in Japan. I must say that riding on a Shinkansen was not amazingly different from any other train journey. But watching these majestic trains from the outside is amazing. This is a picture I clicked just as a shinkansen was arriving at a platform.

Hiroshima is the next stop after Okayama. Although I did not visit Hiroshima, just seeing the name of that place evokes sadness.

I took this picture of this brand new car on display at the Shin Osaka station. Most of the cars we have owned in Auckland have been secondhand imports from Japan. I was tickled to see a brand new car in Japan. Maybe in the evening of its life, it will make the trip to Auckland.

Let me end my posts about this visit to Japan with some pictures taken from the train to Kansai airport.

My time at Logos English School in Kojima

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Brent and Sandy have been running this school for many years. Today they occupy a four-storey building/house and have a wonderful team of dedicated teachers. 

The school they run is popular and successful. Every taxi driver I met knew the school  right away. The Japanese people want their children to be proficient in English. Bible is also taught, but free of charge, for those who are interested. Other miscellaneous activities also happen like Zumba!

On Sundays, a bi-lingual worship service is held, comprising Bible readings, singing, communion, a sermon, and prayers.

After worship this Sunday, we had an Indian meal for everyone. I had made the Biriyani, idly, and sambar earlier. The raita (to go with the biriyani) was made in the meeting hall, as were the dosas. 

Because of a bad knee, I had not checked out Level 3, but could.not resist on my last evening in Japan. Here are some pictures of the landing area and classrooms on Level 3.

And finally a peek out of their window.

Kojima Jeans

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I did not plan to be in Kojima, but here I am visiting friends.

When one reaches Kojima by train, as I did when I returned from Okayama this afternoon, it is difficult to miss the message. Kojima wants to be known for its fine denim.

Here are some pictures I took in and around the Railway Station.

Another day, at the station, I saw this taxi waiting, an advertisment for one of the brands, I imagine.

And this board has a story.

Kojima Shopping Street used to be the shopping  hub in Kojima, with shops on the ground floor and homes above the shops where the shop owners lived. A move to bring shops closer to “town” brought most of the shops out of the street and closer to Kojima Station, leaving Kojima Shopping Street a ghost town. But with the city wanting to make Kojima the denim capital and all that, the street has been remodeled, and the empty shops are gradually being occupied by various denim brands. Of course, the street is now called Kojima Jeans Street.

Just as I was leaving Kojima for the last time, I noticed that even the elevator had not been exempted.


Click here to learn more about the Kojima-denim connection

The Chooks: #13 Chicken sitting

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I have to be away for a few days, so PTL and Philip, can you please take care of the chickens for me?

Don’t forget the shoes. You don’t want to wear your usual shoes in there, and you certainly do not want to go in there barefoot.

Open and close the coop. You’ll need to let the hens out in the mornings and close the coop at night after they have gone in to roost.

Give them water. The water dispenser has to be taken into the kitchen and filled upto half. This has to be done about once in two days. Use the yellow water bottle to fill the bowl outside the coop.

Fill the glass bottle with layer pellets and empty into the food dispenser.

I usually give the hens some treats out of the green bowl as well as some wheat.

Clean out the coop everyday. This is the least pleasant of all the tasks, but this is usually fairly straightforward.

Look for eggs. So far the hens have been laying their eggs in one of the nesting boxes. So that’s the only place you’ll need to look. Finders keepers as far as the eggs go.