This feels like a week of 4 Miracles and a Funeral.
I was in Sheffield last Friday, taking the funeral of a good friend. We got to know Alan well when we lived in Sheffield. We appreciated his smily face, his jolly sense of humour and his passion for prayer. But most of all Sam and I will remember him as one of the most consistently kind people we’ve ever met. He showed that in lots of ways, like delivering scones and chocolate cake to our house every week! We thank God for his life. It was a privilege to take his funeral.
At the lunch after the funeral our friend Nigel told us something that had happened when he’d visited York earlier in the year. He’d worshipped with us at The 7 at St Michael le Belfrey and before he’d gone in he’d had his usual cigarette. On the way out he reached for his cigarettes, ready for a smoke, but found he didn’t want one. When he arrived home later that night he felt the same. And so it’s continued for the last seven months and he’s not had a smoke since! He’s very happy, as he’s been a smoker for many years and wanted to kick the habit but found it really hard. He believes God healed him in the worship. Just like that. No-one prayed for him. He went in a smoker and came out a non-smoker. Nice one! Miracle No.1.
Last weekend we had a wonderful Carol Service in York Minster. It was a fantastic mix of carols, songs, drama (with 3 brand new sketches written for us by Riding Lights), readings, prayers, video and talk. Alyson Lamb spoke brilliantly. And we’ve had lots of great feed-back, including this story. Someone came to the service who wouldn’t call themselves a Christian, but at the end felt compelled to pray. This was the first time she’d really prayed to God. She prayed for a friend who’d been in a coma for a number of weeks since a hit and run accident. Amazingly, less than 24 hours later the friend popped up on Facebook to announce he was out of his coma and on the road to recovery! The woman who prayed believes that God heard her prayer and that this is a Christmas miracle. Miracle No.2.
A friend of mine told me at our Grace congregation last night that earlier in the week he had been praying for someone who lived in Kenya who evidently was in some kind of difficulty. Next day the person he’d been praying for telephoned him out of the blue and said he would like to come and see him. The man got on a plane and turned up the very next day – in Yorkshire! My friend was very pleased that God had heard his prayers and that this person had willingly travelled thousands of miles in order for God to meet with him. Miracle No.3.
And miracle No.4? Well, that miracle stares us in the face every year around this time but is easily missed in the midst of the Christmas festivities. It is, of course, the baby in the manger. Jesus Christ. God in human flesh. Heaven coming to earth. For us. To be with us. To show us how to live and love. And to die to win our forgiveness and freedom. Jesus is the greatest miracle of all. These 4 Miracles and a Funeral are all important and I’m really pleased to blog about them, but the baby in the manger is, by far, the most important of them all. Knowing that God sent Jesus is what makes it a truly Happy Christmas for us all.