Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

Jesus, Light of the World

Jesus, Light of the World

I have just sent this off to Prayerline, the weekly mission prayer news from the Presbyterian Church in Ireland‘s Council of Global Mission. Wycliffe gets an entry every four weeks and this year, I’m delighted that we have the Christmas slot for a week starting 21 December 2016.

Wycliffe’s December contribution for PCI Prayerline

More people than ever before know Jesus’ name in their language this Christmas because of Bible translation. Here is a small sample of the name of Jesus in 3,000 plus languages with some Scripture. Speakers of up to 1,800 languages are still waiting to have the name of Jesus translated for them. #endbiblepoverty

Jezusi (Albanian)

يسوع (Arabic)

Յիսուս (W Armenian)

Езус (Belorusian)

যীশু (Bengali)

耶穌 (Chinese)

Ιησούς (Greek)

Íosa (Irish)

イエス (Japanese)

Иса (Kazakh)

ഈശോ (Malayalam)

Isus (Romanian)

Иисус (Russian)

যীশু (Sylheti)

ܝܫܘܥ (Syriac)

இயேசு (Tamil)

เยซู (Thai)

Ісус (Ukrainian)

Giêsu (Vietnamese)

uJesu (Zulu)

This Christmas Day the Wycliffe UK & Ireland prayer guide asks us to:

  • Thank God for the birth of Jesus. Also thank God that many more people can read about the birth of Jesus through the translated New Testaments that have been launched during the past year.

As you read and hear the familiar Christmas accounts in the Bible this week, ask God how he might want you to be involved in helping the name of Jesus to be translated into new languages and be known by the speakers of those languages.


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Displaced people from the minority Yazidi sect, fleeing violence from forces loyal to the Islamic State in Sinjar town, walk towards the Syrian border, on the outskirts of Sinjar mountain, near the Syrian border town of Elierbeh of Al-Hasakah Governorate.

Earlier this month I posted Room or no room at the inn or no inn… in Bethlehem.  It was a borrowing from Alan Wilson who had beaten me to it this year. Then just a few days ago, I came across Kezia’s post Alternative Nativity which is a poignant mix of Scripture words and contemporary photos.

Here are some extracts from Luke’s Gospel (The Message) and recent photographs that Kezia has put together to focus our thoughts as we approach Christmas and on into Christmas Day and beyond. I hope you will go on to read Kezia’s full post.

About that time Caesar Augustus ordered a census to be taken throughout the Empire. This was the first census when Quirinius was governor of Syria. Everyone had to travel to his own ancestral hometown to be accounted for.

So Joseph went to Bethlehem. He took with him Mary, his fiancée, who was obviously pregnant by this time.

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But there was no room for them in the inn. While they were there, the time came for her baby to be born; and Mary gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him in a blanket and laid him in a manger.

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These are not the cosy images of a school nativity play or Sunday School or even perhaps what might happen in our churches this Christmas.

But then the words of Luke’s Gospel and Matthew’s Gospel have nothing cosy about them either. Perhaps we should acknowledge that current events can help us de-sanitize our Christmas story this year and give us a real insight into the risky and radical arrival of how God the Father translated himself from divine into human in the person of God the Son.

This year, may we all meet the boy who became the man who was crucified and resurrected for you and me.

Thanks to Kezia for permission to re-post. Why not return to the link at the top and read her whole post.

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There are some good short Christmas videos going around and this is one of my favourites which I came across on SU WordLive last week

Enjoy… and think about the closing words of the video:
You’re right to reject that faraway stranger. This Christmas look down to God in a manger!

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No, it’s not a Sixties pop group.


Simeon by Rembrandt

It’s my final blog in the Simeon Series.

Earlier this month, I was booked to speak at Drumglass Parish Bible Study at St Elizabeth’s Moygashel. I checked out their website and found this.

On 8th December we have the first of our visiting speakers when John Hamilton of Wycliffe Bible Translators will be telling us of the work of the mission that he works for. John has always been an entertaining and provocative speaker, and we look forward to hearing him again. Please come and join us if you are free. The offertory will be given to him for his work.

Three thoughts sprung to mind: 1. Always good as a speaker to get unexpected encouragement 2. Hope they weren’t disappointed and 3. The offering cheque arrived in the office and very generous it was too!

But why am I twittering on about Drumglass Parish? Well, the thoughts and stories contained in the Simeon Series were tried out on the good folks of Drumglass – and I thank them for their attention and some great questions afterwards.

And so to Simeon and The Five Silhouettes: you see recently I too have been identifying with Simeon, a man who had to wait.

The Five Silhouettes

The Five Silhouettes

Let me explain… the last time someone from Ireland north or south applied to become a Wycliffe member was in the autumn of 2012. For 3 years no one was asking about joining Wycliffe. Why not, I thought. Were my colleagues and I not doing the right things, saying the right things, speaking in the right churches, putting the right message on social media or in our local publications?

On 1 June 2015 we moved to a new office. We put a map of the world on the wall with photos of all our Irish members. Then we had an idea. We all thought of it at the same time. Why not start praying every day for new members? How many should we pray for?

We sensed that God had prompted us to decide on five – the five silhouettes! And guess what? In October we had two people asking to start the application process. We were delighted! We’re praying them – three more to join them!

So… me and Simeon..? Five years is not that long compared to the Kimyal man, the Ndali man, not to mention Bai Laurent the Kouya man who hasn’t appeared in this series – but it’s still very exciting when we see God answering our prayers.

Are you reading this in Ireland? Could you be silhouette 3, 4 or 5? Contact us at Wycliffe Bible Translators UK and Ireland. Are you elsewhere in the world? Find your local Wycliffe organisation on Wycliffe Global Alliance website. You can be part of Bible translation helping to relieve Bible Poverty so that there will be no more Simeons out there.

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“ I tried to start the work of translation many years ago, and now I feel like Simeon, that I have finally seen what I have been waiting for all these years!”

So ends this post! The third in my Simeon Series… another story of people who have had that Simeon experience – waiting for a long time to experience something very important to them.


Laura & Mark Woodward

This time I am indebted to colleague, friend and one time member of the Wycliffe UK Mob Team, Mark Woodward and his wife Laura who write an excellent blog called Every Tongue.

With Mark’s permission I am sharing his post entitled The people back home will not believe these books exist!

Three unexpected guests arrived in our Mbeya office [in the south of Tanzania] this morning, asking to talk with the project manager. They were speakers of the Ndali language, and had traveled from the north of Malawi, having heard that we are translating parts of the Bible into the Tanzanian dialect of Ndali.

After introducing themselves they presented a letter, asking that they be kept informed of the progress of the project, attend advisory meetings, and have access to the books that are being distributed. Their desire for Ndali books was obvious, as they explained how they use Scriptures from the neighbouring Ngonde language in church, despite it being difficult for them to understand.

Baraka, Team Manager Mwaikokesya, the three visitors and Mark

Seeing some of the Bible books that our office has produced in Ndali, their eyes lit up with excitement! They pleaded that they should at least be able to take home a sample of the books, as they think through how to build a sustainable distribution network. “The people back home will not believe that these books really exist!” they exclaimed, “except there are three of us, so they’ll have to believe us!” They continued,

“When Noah sent out the dove from the ark, it returned with a small leaf in its mouth. When we go back home, we want to take with us at least a small leaf so we can show people that this work is happening!”

After discussing how the church leaders could potentially become part of the Advisory Committee for the project, and how Ndali literacy teachers from Tanzania could train their cousins in Malawi, we arranged for these men to take 20 copies of each Bible book that we have printed in Mbeya. They were overjoyed, planning to sell the books in Malawi and return with money to buy more copies and set up a network to distribute the books among the churches of northern Malawi.

And then the punchline, the Simeon experience!

As they were preparing to start their journey back home, one of the men turned to me and said, “I am old, like Simeon in the Bible. Simeon had been waiting for many years to see God save his people, and was overjoyed when he finally saw Jesus when he was a very old man. I tried to start the work of translation many years ago, and now I feel like Simeon, that I have finally seen what I have been waiting for all these years!”

The first Simeon blog was The Simeon Series: who was Simeon?

The second… The Simeon Series: the Kimyal man from West Papua

If you would like to be part of Bible translation so that there are no more “Simeons” out there, contact Wycliffe Bible Translators UK and Ireland or find your local Wycliffe organisation on Wycliffe Global Alliance website

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“Today, the day you had chosen for this to be fulfilled, has come to pass.”

Following on from The Simeon Series: who was Simeon? I want to tell some stories of people who have had that Simeon experience – waiting for a long time to experience something very important to them.

Kimyal Simeon
The Kimyal people of West Papua, Indonesia waited a long time for God’s word in their language…
Here is an extract from the New Zealand Bible Society published in 2011:
High in the Eastern Highlands of Indonesia, a crowd waits at the edge of an isolated runway. The silence is broken only by the occasional sound of weeping and wailing. A small plane can be heard approaching.

The wheels touch-down. The plane slows to a stop.

Boxes are handed down and, as if at a signal, pandemonium breaks out. The Kimyal people have the New Testament in their heart language for the first time.

It’s a translation story spanning decades. In 1968, work on the translation was abruptly halted when two missionaries to the Kimyal people, Phil Masters and Stan Dale, were martyred by a neighbouring tribe.

The work lay dormant until 1995 when a translation team under the supervision of Bible Society Translation Consultant, Dr Lourens de Vries, took it up once again.

In the video below showing the Kimyal people of West Papua, Indonesia receiving the New Testament, look out around 2 mins 10 seconds for one of the translation team praying…
The promise that you gave Simeon that he would see Jesus Christ and hold him in his arms before he died. I also have been waiting under that same promise, O God. You looked at all the different languages and chose which ones will be put into Your Word. You thought that we should see Your Word in our language. Today, the day you had chosen for this to be fulfilled, has come to pass. O God, today you have placed Your Word into my hands, just like you promised. You have placed it here in our land. And for all this, O God, I give you praise. Amen.

The Kimyal People Receive the New Testament from UFM Worldwide on Vimeo.

The Kimyal New Testament translation is also a story of mission agency cooperation which is often ignored “back home” – the Bible Societies personnel; Wycliffe/SIL consultants; MAF and Wycliffe pilots flew the New Testaments and visitors to the dedication – and the video above is hosted on the UMF website…
If you would like to be part of Bible translation so that there are no more “Simeons” out there, contact Wycliffe Bible Translators UK and Ireland or find your local Wycliffe organisation on Wycliffe Global Alliance website


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Some thoughts on Simeon, a minor but very significant character in the Christmas story.


Simeon by Rembrandt

But first, let’s refresh our memory of Luke’s Simeon.

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 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 marvelled 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.’

Luke 2:25-35  NIV

And that’s all that the Bible tells us about Simeon: a man who had heard God’s promise and had waited (presumably for quite some time) to see the Messiah face to face. He held Jesus in his arms, he prayed to God and he prophesied. The context suggests that he probably died soon after, but we don’t know that.

Simeon is an intriguing participant in the early life of Jesus – but wouldn’t it be great to know more about him? So I did some Googling and found this in Simeon’s Wikipedia entry.

According to a tradition in the Eastern Orthodox Church, Simeon had been one of the seventy-two translators of the Septuagint. As he hesitated over the translation of Isaiah 7:14 (LXX: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive…”) and was going to correct it to γυνή (woman), an angel appeared to him and told him that he would not die until he had seen the Christ born of a virgin. This would make him well over two hundred years old at the time of the meeting described in Luke, and therefore miraculously long-lived.

Now that’s intriguing too, but not very credible.

Next up in the Simeon Series… some stories of people who identified with Simeon many years later…

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I was about to write my annual Christmas No Room at the Inn story, but Alan Wilson beat me to it – so I’m just going to re-blog his excellent contribution to this great debate. He has entitled this year’s offering The case of the innkeeper: a Christmas conundrum. It’s a good read!

Here follows a few taster extracts, then the crux of his blog – and at the end some links to my past annual efforts.

Alan’s start:

A few years ago I saw an interview with a couple of people who write nativity plays – there’s one with a couple of pizza delivery boys! It’s a great way to include lots of kids, I guess, and it helps to freshen up the old story a bit – if you think it needs freshened up!

Which raises the question of another character – often featured – who possibly does not actually belong in the story. I don’t mean Father Christmas, or David Beckham, or Wayne Rooney, or any other modern day celebrity.

This is one we might even hear preached about in sermons. I know, I have preached about him.

He’s about to talk about the innkeeper, of course!

But what if the reason that there is no mention of an innkeeper is because the story doesn’t even have an inn?

And right now you are scrambling around in your memory because you know what the Bible says. Not sure if it’s Matthew or Luke, but you’re sure it’s there somewhere.

What you are looking for is Luke 2:7 – And she gave birth to her first born son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger because there was no place for them in the inn.

So there it is. An inn. If there was an inn, there must have been an innkeeper.

Alan continues and flirts with heresy! But his conclusion establishes his undoubted reputation as a solid evangelical Baptist on whose words one can have absolute confidence – otherwise he wouldn’t be a member of Wycliffe Bible Translators UK & Ireland‘s Northern Ireland council, would he?

But before you run me out of town as a heretic, can I remind you that the point remains, and it is this:

When the Son of God came into the world, it was not to a palace, much less a private hospital. He was born in a place that hardly had room for him. His first sleep was surrounded by the smells of animals as he lay in a feeding trough.

And – as a glance at Mark 10 or Philippians 2 reminds us – it was only the beginning. He took on our humanity in its weakest, most vulnerable and most dependent form. He lived as a servant, obedient to his Father with an obedience that went as far as death – even the utter humiliation of death on a cross.

There is still room for us to get onto our knees by the manger.

And we also need to realise that while both the incarnation and the death of Jesus are unique events, fundamental to our salvation, they also serve to challenge us about how we live. There is no room for self-centred arrogance among the servants of the Servant King.

My past blogs on this topic can be found here, here and here.

I wish a happy and peaceful and blessed celebration of Christ’s birth to all my readers!

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Just some piles of books on some shelves in an office. Not terribly attractive looking; no colourful or intriguing cover illustrations to entice the reader to open up these books.

Bibles and New Testaments in the Wycliffe office in Belfast

Bibles and New Testaments in the Wycliffe office in Belfast

But looking more closely, we see that they are Bibles and New Testaments… and if we can zoom in:

No Ordinary Books CROPThey are Bibles and New Testaments in a variety of different languages.

Last Tuesday I had coffee and cinnamon scones with David Bell, the rector of Ardtrea & Desertcreat at my favourite close to Belfast city centre cafe. Afterwards we moved two cardboard boxes full of these books from his car to mine. These Bibles and New Testaments were “coming home” to the office after spending Christmas as a Bible Tree at the Desertcreat Christmas Tree festival (which, by the way, raised a lot of local community interest and a tidy sum towards the new hall fund).

Desertcreat Parish Christmas tree festival 2014

Desertcreat Parish Christmas tree festival 2014

And here is the Wycliffe Bible tree, God’s Word in many languages in its rightful place on top of the pulpit!

Wycliffe Bible tree at Desertcreat Parish

Wycliffe Bible tree at Desertcreat Parish

Around the Bible Tree are red  labels with the name Jesus in many different languages – after all, it was his birth we were celebrating. The green labels have photographs of the two Wycliffe projects that Ardtrea and Desertcreat support – Oku (Cameroon) and Yaru (Indonesia).

Just some piles of books? Not at all. Bibles and New Testaments containing God’s Word in (mostly) minority languages of the world… some of them having become available only in the last few years.

Find out about the languages still without the Scriptures here.

And how you can get involved if you live in the UK and Ireland.


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… is courtesy of today’s SU WordLive comments by Mark Keown.

no room at the inn

What would it look like if God came to redeem us? Luke gives his answer. He comes into a world seemingly controlled by mighty emperors like the supreme Caesar Augustus, ruler of the Roman Empire. Caesar commands and people obey. He has commanded all his people (about 100 million) to return to their home towns to be counted. He is not concerned about the inconvenience. What matters is that he knows his resources. So Joseph, a descendant of David, travels with the heavily pregnant Mary 150 kilometres south to David’s home town, Bethlehem. Looking back, we know that our sovereign God was working in the chaos, ensuring that the ancient prophecy would be fulfilled (Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:5,6).

Luke describes the birth of Jesus in scant terms. They arrive. There is no place for them in the katalyma. This is not an inn with an innkeeper but is ‘either some type of reception room in a private home or some type of public shelter.’1 Perhaps it is the home of a relative, already overrun with returnees. Into these humble circumstances, God’s Son is born in an animal shelter, either on the lower floor or in an adjoining stable or cave. While the situation is unhygienic, Jesus is welcomed with love, clothed and laid in an animal’s feeding trough.

So, when God comes what does it look like? God’s coming is unspectacular, contrary to expectations. It is humble, inconspicuous and unseen by the powers of the world. While emperors shout out commands to their subjects, God comes in obscurity. He is born in a small town among animals. That is our God. It is his pattern to plant seeds that slowly transform; to bring transformation through people who were once babes. He could come with might to smite, but rather comes with love to woo. Whatever the mess, God is at work and he is in control (Romans 8:28).

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